From time to time living in India I find myself faced with the question: “Can you cook?”
Well, that really depends on what, exactly, you are asking. Following tried and tested recipes from my Dad I can turn out some (if I do say so myself) fairly yummy puddings: treacle sponge, chocolate brownies, fruit crumbles and the like. And while not exactly gourmet cuisine, my shepherd’s pie is pretty passable.
“But”, as my boyfriend’s sister probed me, “can you cook actual food – you know: rotis? Sabji? dahl?”
Hmmmm, perhaps not.
Part of the problem is my inability to recreate home dishes on Indian soil. With ovens few and far between in Indian kitchens (most of the cooking is done on the stove top) whipping up a pie or a cake just isn’t going to happen. When a familiar dish can be created on a gas ring – treacle sponge (which is steamed) or spaghetti bolognese, it’s often ingredients which throw a spanner in the works. Golden syrup is not on the shelves of any of my local shops, and for pretty obvious reasons I haven’t even attempted trying to find minced beef in the markets near my house. All of this, perhaps, reinforces the belief that foreigners are not very domesticated. “In your place everything is pre-prepared, isn’t it, beta?” a not entirely mis-informed auntie recently clucked.
Well, action has now been taken, and on two fronts: learning some Indian staple dishes, and brining a little bit of the west east. While learning how straight-forward it is to prepare rotis has been a revelation and I have discovered a love of shelling peas, I’m perhaps more excited my recent acquisition of an OVEN! (disclaimer: an oven in the loosest sense of the word as it is about the same size as a standard toaster, and doesn’t have a temperature dial)
Acquired from a charity shop back in the UK for the bargain price of ten pounds, it made it’s debut this weekend as a group of us joined together for a Saturday cooking party. With matter paneer courtesy of my friend Sangeeta, and an apple crumble & biscuits courtesy of said oven it was a truly multi-cultural feast. Just a shame that it took three batches of crumble through the teeny-tiny oven in order to feed five people …
Thanks to Susanna for the lovely photos from Saturday, more of which can be found on flickr.