Wednesday, May 19, 2010

'Quick' And 'Easy' Cookies

My culinary skills are restricted to south Indian meals. When the occasion demands I do attempt vadas and neyyappams with some success. Baking is a world I’d not ventured into much, due to the initial enthusiasm getting doused by trays of burnt offerings. I stayed content and passive, blaming my oven’s inability to regulate temperature.

The interest was rekindled with my impending trip to India. I wanted to bake something for my children who live there. My mother used to bake a variety of goodies for me when I was young and the guilt at my own laziness impelled me. Armed with the results of my search for quick and easy cookies, I got ready after many days of putting off. The raw materials were all there except for brown sugar which a commenter claimed gave the cookies their chewy scrumptiousness. I have a thing with recipes, I never stick to them. So I decided that caramel would be a good sub.

A small problem arose when I started beating the caramel into the butter. The entire thing solidified into a rock island in the moat of melted fat. Why hadn’t I thought of this simple phenomenon of physics.. or is it chemistry? My electric mixer, in a coma ever since it was given to me as a wedding present, came out of its dusty box and then began its battle with the rock. Apart from splattering oil all over the kitchen counter, it made no dent in the solid mass that mocked our efforts. A weaker spirit would have dumped the entire stuff into the garbage at that point.

Pushing aside despair, I boiled water in a pan and placed the bowl of indomitable geographical formation in it and stirred and stirred and stirred. Which was actually impossible because the caramel had coated the insides of the bowl and the spoon. Meanwhile the presence of egg in the mixture posed the danger of turning into a sweet scramble. I played with the thought of going at it with a hammer and chisel, but the bowl being glass deterred me. Meanwhile my arms and fingers hurt with the unaccustomed exercise. So I went for the electric mixer again. Only, the cord wasn’t long enough. I then searched for an extension cord among the never–used tools and equipment and got the mixer going. By now I was surprised by my own tenacity to subdue the rock. Until then I’d never really understood the concept of climbing a mountain because it is there. With me, the mixer and heat, I felt I could coax the stubborn thing into submission. Don’t ask me how long it took or how much fuel I spent, but slowly the glacier began to melt and turn into a beautiful creamy consistency. My delight was tinged with dismay to find that now the sauce like substance had begun to thicken into a puddinglike form while the lumps of caramel persisted. I added water, which is probably a sin among bakers’ cults, and continued beating till I got tired of it. I stirred in the dry ingredients just like the recipe said. The dough was supposed to be dropped on to the tray by spoonfuls. That was not possible, now that it was too solid. So I made it into balls and baked them. If they burnt as usual, I knew I’d kill myself.

I'd have put up a pic of the result of my efforts if I knew how to. I even took a photo with my new digi cam :D [What kills me is the thought that someone searching the web for a Q&E cookie recipe will land on this blogpost :)] Anyway the cookies looked great since the chocolate chips melted and gave it a marble appearance - though that was never intended. They were like marble not only in appearance; but then what are teeth for? All these melt-in-the-mouth food weaken the pearly whites I tell you. Eating a cookie brought back memories of a childhood toffee called kamarkatt which defied dental power.

Of course the kitchen counter and stove and the walls are splattered with food, the cord of the mixer got burnt on the stove, the beaters are broken and the gas is over, but I did have an adventure &good fun. Besides I’ve invented the world’s first Caramel Chip Cookies!

I think.

Don’t tell me such cookies already exist. And please don't tell me caramel chips are available in packets................

Post script: I got brown sugar and baked another batch. They are all packed in my box and tonight I leave for India where I haven't got net access. So good bye and good health until Sept.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Id Lee

Some things/people that have merit are ignored. They miss the applause and the honors and remain unknown, unsung. In fact very often many that get the kudos don’t really deserve them. A lot of self- promotion is required in order to be considered for awards and recognition. A person who finds joy in doing what he does well won’t need a citation to feel thrilled. It is the duty of the award givers to notice excellence and honor it.

That is why I feel guilty. I committed gross neglect by making a list of Woman –friendly items, without including the Idlee. This food item is one of the greatest inventions to help….South Indian womankind despite its yodellike/Chinese-sounding name.

Its virtues are many. Cooked in steam and done in five minutes, 16-20 at a time, it is a quick-cooking, low fat marvel. It also contains enough proteins and just enough carbohydrates to keep one healthy and fit. It can be had steaming or not so hot with a variety of accompaniments. It can be recycled into various forms as well.

Having said all that, I remember the time I hated Idlees. My mother would make dosas just for me on Idlee days. Then marriage happened and guess what the staple breakfast was at my husband’s home…..Yes. And then children happened, by which time I’d got less stupid and at an early age I trained the kids to relish the Idlee. Ever since she has been a dear friend. So now life is good. With an Ultra grinder and frequently replenished store of sambar and podi, what’s there to worry?

So here is my Ode to the Idlee:

She lies in repose, a pillow fluffy
Her contours like a young girl's cheek
Unkissed, blushing, soft and rosy
That's Idlee - most modest and meek.

She may seem quiet, humble and shy,
Not glamorous like rolls or cheese
But her appearance doth belie
A wholesome nature, sans grease

She's good for the lazy and busy
She's good for the fitness freak
She's even good for the toothless
So three cheers for the Idlee!

I even have a cute joke in honour of this heroine:

An Iyer and a Britishman were travelling together. The train left Central at 8 pm and at 7 am it was at Vijayawada.
The Britishman had a sumptuous breakfast served by a butler in livery , but the Iyer opened the top box of his 4-compartment steelcarriage and ate two idlis.

Lunch at Waltair station (as Visakhapatnam was then called), was a heavy meal served to the Britishman by the Railway Refreshment stall, but the Iyer only opened the second box of his tiffin carriage, pulled out 4 idlis and ate them with relish. The Britishman was curious as to what was happening, but being a Britishmam, kept his upper lip stiff. But when the scene repeated during dinner at Berhampur, he could no longer contain himself, and enquired, " Sir, what are those white things you have been eating all along? "
The Iyer said, " Sir, these are called intelligence tablets. We South Indians can live on them for days together. "
Britishman: " But how do you make them ? ".
The Iyer described the raw materials, and processes.
Britishman : " Can you please give me a couple?-- you need not give them free. I'll be happy to pay whatever price you quote. "
The Iyer thought and said," Actually I have only three more of them left for breakfast but since I am going to my relative's place, I can spare them for you. But they will cost you 20rupees each ".

The Britishmam paid up immediately, happy that he was so lucky. Next morning at Howrah station as they were about to part ways, he asked, "But tell me sir, are you sure you have told me the entire process without leaving out any details?" . Iyer said "Yes, I told you all details".

Britishman, "Then why are those damn intelligence tablets so costly?" The Iyer said, “See, you took 3 last night and already they started working!"