Our regular helper is away on vacation for a month. In her absence, she had appointed a temporary cook, who came in confidently stating that she knew her way around a kitchen. Well, that's about all she knew. In a day or two, we realised we were eating the most unmitigated, tasteless swill we had ever eaten in our entire lives, including the time before I learnt how to cook! Despite my instructions and keeping ingredients measured out, she managed to get proportions wrong, coming up with ginormous bowls full of slop..er..dal, with barely enough rice for two people to go with it! Vegetables would either be overcooked into mush or undercooked. In the 15 days she worked for us, we had maybe one meal that was edible.
But with the exigencies of daily living - A at a new job involving a hair-raising commute of 120 km per day ( the hair-raising may be the only part of the commute he's excited about ;) ), the odd-even misery leading to daily need to borrow cars from friends or wait on uber and ola, Puddi's annual kuchipudi performance necessitating daily evening commutes to Saket and back at odd hours, and the quantum of housework that we're having to pitch in at, we decided we'd just put up with swill. It was only a month, after all. We'd lose weight.
And then, the previous Friday she didn't turn up, leaving mum to do the cooking - aah, the underrated delight of having a well-cooked meal at home. Saturday I was busy turning out and cleaning up a horde of clutter when I suddenly realised the cook hadn't made an appearance past noon. Upon enquiry, her daughter informed me that she had fallen sick and was at the doctor's. The whole week went by in an unplanned pattern, with orders from homecooks or my parents pitching in. One day, I managed to make the pasta with 'invented sauce' that the kids had been clamouring for. Finally, yesterday when the errant cook did turn up, I realised I didn't want to eat slop any more, even for a day. Even if the process were to be painful, I preferred turning my hand to it and making something edible that provided a little cocoon of comfort and coziness for the family.
Yesterday morning was good old curd rice, followed by homemade banana icecream. On the way back from swimming in the evening, I began ruminating on what would be the perfect dinner to preserve that delicious sense of coolness imparted by the swim. Something light and fresh. Then I remembered a can of 4 bean mix that I had excavated from the pantry and the meal took shape. The rice from the morning and the previous day's Foxtail Millet ( bajra seeds, to you!) were refrigerated in preparation. The fresh scent of coriander and lime pervaded the kitchen, combined with garlicky juices. Umm...Sunday evening bliss!
Ingredients: (Serves 4-5)
2 garlic pods, crushed and minced
1 onion, chopped fine
2 firm tomatoes, deseeded and chopped fine
2-3 green chillies, chopped
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
1 green pepper, diced
Half cup corn, boiled and cooled
1 can 4 bean mix - or 1.5 cups of boiled kidney beans, black-eyes peas etc ( rajma, lobhia...)
1 cup rice, cooked, cooled
Half cup bajra - steam cooked ( optional, only if you're trying extra hard to use these in your diet)
Juice of 1-2 limes ( depending on size of lime)
Handful of coriander leaves, chopped fine
1-2 teaspoons of chilli powder
1.5 teaspoons roasted cumin powder
Salt to taste
Mix everything in a large bowl till well combined. Taste for balance of tart, salt and spicy. Place in the fridge for an hour or so, so the taste develop and mellow.
Enjoy with a chilled chardonnay! Or if you really want to, go ahead, have that Margarita :)