Wednesday, June 13, 2012

World Food Week yet again

Many years ago, before I entered the time-sucking world of parenthood or the convenient zone of maids cooking for one, I used to do all the cooking. And as usual bored of anything routine, I used to do one week of pan-Indian cuisine, i.e. cuisine from different states of India every day for a week, and one week of world food – food from different countries every day of the week. Those bit the dust along with cooking as a daily activity with the arrival of Chubbocks, but he is turning out to be quite the gourmet. He loves trying out different types of food, will try to guess the ingredients in various dishes and point out interesting recipes he spots here and there. In fact, he spotted a cheesecake pie recipe in one of his storybooks from school and we ended up making it – super simple and delicious! He’s my partner in watching Masterchef Australia and drooling at the amazing food they dish up. So this summer, one of my resolutions was to try and teach him to cook a few dishes. I have to say, this has been a pretty sad effort so far, what with my travel and overload of work and so on, but we have managed to try one or two things together.

Another big issue in my house is the appetite of Puddi, in particular. She gets bored of food and can take an hour or two to eat a piece of toast. Plus the kids do get bored of a steady diet of daal-chawal which is what happens when I don’t have time to cook up anything more interesting and leave it to the maids to decide the menu. While usually tasty, it does get very routine and boring, even for me. So I hit upon a solution – I asked Chubbocks and Puddi to create the menu, starting with breakfast, then lunch and dinner. We’ve been doing this for about 4 weeks now, give or take a few slips due to travel or work. We decide upon a week’s worth of food at the beginning of the week, and that way they don’t get to protest at whatever’s dished out. We do keep it a little flexible so we can move things around if need be, from one day to the next. But it really helps everyone in being more organized – the maid knows what has to be ready for the next day’s breakfast in advance, I know what veggies to shop for and therefore don’t end up greedily buying up everything in sight at the veggie shop as I used to, and the kids get to enjoy their favourites and quite a bit of variety. What’s interesting is that I find them naturally turning to suggest daal chawal or rice and raita after a day of more exotic fare. I’ve also started taking the kids veg and grocery shopping with me so they understand how to pick out veggies and fruit and how not to go overboard at Spencers .

This week we ended up with a menu that resembled world food week all over again. On a day when we had rajma chawal for lunch, we decided to put the rajma to good use as stuffing for veg tacos, with guacamole, tomato salsa and mango salsa on the side. Then we had noodles on the menu on Tuesday. As it turned out, we had gone grocery shopping on Monday and I spotted Pad Thai noodles at Spencer’s so I decided we should do that with a curry sauce, instead of the usual Maggi + soy sauce + veggies. I also spotted rice pancakes and decided we could do a nice little starter with those.

This is what our meal looked like:

Rice wrappers

Bean sprouts – 1 handful
Spring onions – 2 or 3, diced small
Half a Cabbage – shredded and steamed ( I was lazy/ creative – used up south Indian style cabbage sabzi left over from the previous day)
Peas – ½ cup, steamed if not soft and ripe

Mix the filling ingredients together. Put each sheet of rice pancake into hot water and immerse for about 10-15 seconds. Pull out and spread onto a sheet of aluminum foil. Put one tbsp of the filling in the middle. Wrap the long ends of the pancake over the filling, one over the other and then wrap up the short ends of the wrapper to seal in the filling. If you like deep-frying, go ahead and deep-fry the parcel; else serve with sweet-chilly sauce from Thailand.

Other fillings we tried out:

Math dal left over from the previous day, with some spring onions and Bikaneri Bhujia sprinkled on top

Basic barfi, heated in a microwave

Pad Thai Noodles with Curry Sauce ( a bit like Khow Suey – recipe from Tarla Dalal’s Thai cooking book)

Pop the noodles into a big bowl of cold water and let them sit for about 20 minutes until translucent and soft.
Steam cook 2-3 cups of assorted veggies – broccoli, baby corn, peas, corn, red and yellow peppers, carrots, beans…

For the curry sauce:
1 cup coconut milk
½ cup roasted peanuts
1 small onion, chopped fine
4 pieces garlic, chopped fine
1 tbsp red curry paste
Sugar and salt to taste
1 tbsp oil

Smash up the roasted peanuts until fine but not powdered.
In 1 tbsp oil, put the onions and garlic to cook until translucent. Add the red curry paste, coconut milk and roasted peanuts and simmer for 10 minutes.
To serve, arrange the noodles in the center of the dish, with the steamed veggies all around. Garnish with some bean sprouts. Serve the curry on the side.

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