I am amazed by the journey we have travelled, starting with Sanjeev Kapoor’s Khana Khazana on the new exciting Zee TV in 1993 and Star TV's Yan Can Cook. Anyone can cook now! Watchers have now become presenters and their repertoire of dishes is astounding. Some tread where even the most experienced cooks would fear to! Food has gone viral and global, changing the coordinates and blurring the lines between the foreign and the local.
But my pet peeve is that a lot of food enthusiasts make dishes in isolation, taking the dishes out of their real life/time context?
Cooking is after all an organic process wherein one step always leads to another or one dish is a result of another or has been a cause of or impetus for another.
In real life/time, cooks have so many things to take care of such as the mise en place and workflow (there is no way we can afford the luxury of getting everything chopped, measured, pre-made/mixed/fermented/baked, etc.)
And not to forget the packing/ putting away or storage of dishes and the punitive, gruelling cleaning up! This is the only part of cooking that most of, and certainly I don’t like! And so, we glare in disapproval when presenters casually use pot after pot and discard pan after pan, use and throw scores of spoons of various descriptions into the sink and yet lick their fingers! No, no, no!
And we frown hard at presenters discarding the whey from hung curd or paneer, the water from boiled pasta, the seeds of continental cucumber, the peels of bottle gourd and ridged gourd, stems of herbs and greens! How we cringe when clean washed potatoes are peeled without a reason!
Yet, do we actually save, wash and dry pumpkin seeds on the kitchen window sill, so we could munch on them when dried!
Brought up in a family of great cooks who also firmly believed in the maxim ‘Waste not, Want not’, I follow quite a few of the family tips and recipes for making most of every things that’s available in the fridge or the pantry. Rarely would people go shopping for ingredients just for one dish or one cooking event. The shopping lists were not dictated by what was cooking; instead what was cooked was geared around what was available, in season or grown at home!
Maharashtrian cuisine has chutneys made of stir fried peels of vegetables like doodhi (lauki), ribbed gourd (tori), lemon or yellow cucumber and raw peels of green cucumber and ripe banana peels, to name a few. These peels are an excellent source of nutrients, chlorophyll and dietary fibre. Not only do they add to the variety of fare, but they taste delicious, too!
I wonder how many people still make these dishes.
I dread the day I have to watch a demonstration of the making of peel chutney and worry about what the chef will do/ has done with the lauki flesh!
Lauki/ Doodhi Peel Chutney
1 cup chopped tender lauki peels, chopped into small pieces
2 tablespoons chana dal
2 tablespoons urad dal
2-3 red/green chillies, chopped (you could use more!)
2 tablespoons freshly grated coconut
2 tablespoons dry roasted and skinned peanuts
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp chopped coriander
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon oil
Salt to taste
Sugar to round off the taste (optional)
Tempering/ tadka made with 2 tsp oil, ¾ teaspoon mustard seeds and a pinch of hing (optional).
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a kadhai, add the lauki peels and sauté on a medium flame for a few minutes. Add the dals and the peanuts and allow them to fry on low heat till they turn a light golden brown. The moisture from the peels will not burn the mixture quickly and in the time it takes the dals to brown the peels will also get cooked. Add the chillies and cumin seeds just before removing from the heat and allow the mixture to cool.
Place the cooled peel and nut mixture in a blender and add the fresh coconut, lemon juice, coriander, garlic, salt to taste and sugar (optional). Add half a cup of cold water and blend into a slightly grainy paste. Add the tempering.