Teriyaki Noodles

Teriyaki Noodles

Before whatsapp groups happened, how did women show off their Krishna Jayanthi decorations to relatives and friends? Did they just do something simple that appealed to them and let that be? Wow. That must have been peaceful and boring. Those days, they didn’t try to make it look pretty. A heap of mangoes would lie in a corner of my grandma’s Poojai room, left there to ripen slowly. A motley set of photos and figurines lined the window sill and wall around it in no particular order.  The Kamakshi Amman vilakku (lamp) stood in the middle. A stack of Sami-books lay in a corner. A godrej bero stood in a corner unrelated to everything else in the room. This was the set-up the whole year round. I can only imagine what my Ammama would have said if I had asked her to make it look cute for a picture. Remember this is the family that cannot sit together for a family picture, the family that will not change out of lungis and crushed cotton sarees, children were always just in jattis, a family where some will grumble about photos shortening their life-span and others who cannot smile and still others who’re just too busy for this shit. If I had asked my Ammama to pretty up the poojai room for a picture, the old lady would have kicked me out on my butt and given me the toilet brush and phenoyl bottle and asked me to start from there. She took no nonsense. She ran a big busy house. She cooked round the clock, served coffee, Maltova and Horlicks to different people at different times of the day without anyone asking, remembered to sprinkle sugar on my upma for my school tiffen, told me stories and dozed off midway but started off right from where she left off once I woke her up and let me plait her beautiful long hair while she took her afternoon nap. She didn’t care what people thought of her. I think the world of my Pattamma Ammama. I am not there yet. I still feel I need to show the world when I’ve worn a saree.  When I get to her state of un-care I would be fully free. Her unique brand of cynicism and wit have rubbed off on her grandchildren as also her love for good food and cooking. This teriyaki Noodles...
Chicken Alfredo pasta

Pasta in Alfredo sauce

I finally get excited about the Aadi sale happening all over town. I have terrible luck with discounts. So I am pleasantly surprised that the dressy slippers with glittery brown straps I like, is on 50% discount. I can’t remember when I last bought something like it. It must have been my marriage. I’ve since donned several different sizes of round, I’ve all but lost interest in clothes and consequently in shoes, bags and mirrors. Having finally lost some weight (although nowhere near my goal weight yet), I finally feel a faint interest well up again. I tell myself it’s time I dress better. I buy the dressy slippers to wear with sarees. The next day is the paal kudam festival at our temple. I wear the glittery strapped slippers right out of the box. I’ve never done that. I never wear stuff as soon as I buy them. I let them sit awhile, get a little old and familiar and not as precious before I wear them. This time though, I thought a change was in order. I was putting off things too much. I told myself I had to jump in and do things. I was feeling chirpy. Not normal. I left my slippers outside next to a flower-seller’s shop thinking to myself how pretty it looked. I returned a couple of hours later to find that my slippers were gone. The rest of the family’s slippers were intact. Only my new dressy slippers with glittery brown straps were gone. I asked the “poo kaari” (flower-selling woman) nearby about it. She didn’t for a minute ask me what I was talking about. She seemed too ready for the question. She told me it wasn’t her job to take care of our slippers. She wouldn’t look me in the eye. I knew then that the “poo kaari” shared my taste in dressy slippers too. I returned home barefoot. I was at my rotten worst the rest of the day. I swore. I cried. I threw a fit. Jagan, at the receiving end of all of this, offered to buy me the exact same slippers the very same day. I again swore, cried and threw a fit and then agreed. I went to the same shop and bought the same pair at 50% discount again. Jagan told me “You weren’t meant for the discount”. My maamiyaar told me that I’ve...
Chicken parmigiana

Chicken Parmigiana

Morning when I am working in the kitchen, I make a mental note that I am out of maida, mustard seeds, urad dal and basmati. I’ve used the last onion but still 3 more days before the weekend when I usually stock up on veggies. I need to clean the oven and take stock of the top shelf. I have a number of once used sauces, yeast and spices that I am afraid may have morphed into something else altogether.   I am doing poojai and I realize I need to take down all the frames and give them a good wipe down one of these days. I go to the bathroom. No, I don’t think I should get liposuction done. I’ve once again forgot to bring the new soap in. There is only a small sliver of the soap left and it looks strangely the same size as yesterday. What did Hasini and Yuvan use to bathe earlier? Did they? I have to enquire about this later. I also need to bring that new soap. I make do with the razor like soap for today. I come back from work late. I resolve to leave earlier in future. In bed, I scroll through about 27 videos of stretchy cheese on Instagram and feel my eyes getting hot. I put away the phone. I should be reading. I pick up the book I’ve been reading for 6 months. I want to go to the bathroom. I feel lazy. I decide to go after I finish the chapter. I fall asleep in 5 minutes. I didn’t finish the chapter, so I didn’t go to the bathroom. I wake up late. I wake into my onion-less kitchen. I make a mental note that I am out of maida, mustard seeds, urad dal and basmati. I need to clean the oven and take stock of the top shelf. I have tons of things to do. I am nowhere near. I need time off to simply catch up. I don’t really believe I can be caught up with everything but I believe I can and should get better. Do you guys have any tips for me?  How do you guys manage? I’d love to hear your tips and how you catch up with life. Please share in the comments. One of the few things I manage to catch up with is food. I made...
Aglio e olio

Aglio e Olio

I was watching the Bigg Boss show over the weekend. One of them (doesn’t matter which one) said that he wanted to call the other his dad. Then his dad would be his periappa, his periappa his thaatha, his thaatha a mama? I know Vijay TV shows are primed for drama. Judges on shows often become the dad, mom, brother, sister, grandfather or grandmother. No, not yet wifes or husbands. However this phenomenon is not restricted to TV shows. I see this everywhere around me. The auto and cab men are “Anna” (brother). The flower selling lady and the maid are “akka” (sister). I’ve seen people call their in-laws “Amma” (mom) and “Appa” (dad). How does that work? How do you manage that kind of love? Or conversely how do you manage that kind of insincerity? I am willing to believe it is love. I am just not comfortable with having to call them that. On one side is the insensitive undermining of important relationships. The woman who will make a new tiffen for me at 10 pm because I threw a tantrum about dinner, the woman who will hunt down all the lizards in the house for my sake, the woman who never made me feel guilty about waking up late (and left me totally unprepared for the rest of the world) can only be my amma (mother). No mother -in-law, aunt, teacher or anyone else can be my amma. I can call no one else “Amma”, not even Jayalalitha. The other side of the argument is the basic sincerity that I feel I owe to the auto guy, the courier person or my mother-in-law. I wouldn’t want to say something I didn’t mean, not even to the HDFC woman who calls me every day at 11 in the morning asking me if I want a personal loan. This atrocious metaphorical substitution for when you want to make someone feel extra special, when you are lazy to look for the precise descriptor, when you err on the side of dishonesty is a special kind of low that is unique to this age we live in. This is not even just about people referring to other people. Look at the food world. Cauliflower rice is not rice. It is cauliflower mince. Oothappam or dosa or flatbread topped with cheese and veggies do not make a pizza. They are vegetable cheese...

Eggplant Parmigiana

The whatsapp had been going off non-stop with first the news about Jayalalitha’s death and then about controversy theories about her death and then the cyclone. Amidst this mayhem there were these messages – “Yes Ma’am” “Yes Ma’am” “Sure Ma’am” “You are looking so beautiful Ma’am” “You are so sweet, Ma’am ” “Your handwriting is too good” “Please be safe Ma’am.” No, these were not students. These were mommies falling over each other in being sugary sweet to their kindergarten kid’s teacher. I cringed. But then I laughed. I remembered that Jagan by a strange twist of events was part of that mommy-teacher watsapp group and was witness to these exchanges. I imagined how these converstions would look juxtaposed with car mileage/gearbox debates, porn pictures and topic –less but expletive filled ribbing. As expected, he was traumatized by these mommy exchanges and asked me if women talk this way all the time. Poor guy. I suggested he take a combiflam and exit the group.   Mommies, really? Really? Do you really have to? I wanted to tell Yuvi that he was out on his tiny ass. Don’t expect sweet nothing texts from me – “Yes Ma’am, okay Ma’am, I love you Ma’am, I miss you Ma’am” because your number work is untidy, because I would like you to speak in the assembly. I know I am not setting it up for you to be the teacher’s favourite in school, the sweet mommy’s boy who teachers will remember from the top of their mind when it comes to choosing the house prefect, choosing the one to give the school address. I am not giving you a step up. I am not giving you privilege. I am sorry. I can’t bring myself to. I know how much I hated those teacher’s favourites in school. Plus I am simply un-equipped for being that sweet. I did not tell Yuvi as much. I suspect he may share it with his sweet, beautiful teacher with good handwriting. We were eating eggplant parmigiana for lunch, Yuvi and I. He slurped the pasta noodle in.  Do you like it? He made a sign with his hand to say it was. Spaghetti pasta in marinara sauce wasn’t one of his favourites. Really? “Yes, it is. Very nice, but little bit not nice.” I smiled. I realized he wasn’t going to be any better than me in lying. But...

Chicken Pasta salad with creamy mayo dressing

“STOP FIGHTING and STOP SHOUTING. Why do you shout that way? I don’t like shouting” –  I shout, louder than both of them. “I don’t want to hear any complaints about each other. Go, brush your teeth. Your teacher also says the same thing? Yes, she is right. I don’t want complaints either. Be friends. Better, stay away from each other. Brush your teeth. I don’t know where the white race car with the skull sticker is. Find it yourself. No, I will not buy ice cream again today. No, I am not giving my phone instead. Switch off the TV. Brush your teeth. Close the fridge. I can’t make lemon juice now. Close the freezer. No Poori. Same tiffen for everybody. Brush your teeth. I don’t have time. No, I have to go to office. I can’t stay at home. Brush your teeth.” Yes, Summer vacation. I think back to my summer holidays. What ever was I doing? Cartoons were only on Sunday – Duck tales and Mickey mouse in the morning, He-Man in the evening. What did I do the rest of the time? I played out in the sun the whole day, running about, making up games, leaves were money, the Ashoka tree was the shop, the gate was the school. Nobody called us in for lunch. We were on our own. We fought, ran, chased each other, fell down, scratched our knees, got up and ran again. We could play carom pauper the whole afternoon and not be bored. What is really weird is that the grandparents of our little ones, the same ones who didn’t bother to check on us while we sweated outside in the sun, the ones who didn’t check if we had eaten lunch, the ones who bought us one Mango 2-in-one bar once in 6 months, stops the Kwality Walls vandi every day to buy Jiggly jelly and Cornetto for our kids. Strange. We are the in-between generation bewildered, muddled trying to please everyone, satisfying no one. Summer is pushing me towards salads, muskmelon juice, mangoes and lassis. I am always trying to simplify meals – one-pot meals, one dish meals. I had a wonderful idea of making an all-in-one Chicken pasta salad that could be a meal in itself – chicken, pasta, fresh crisp vegetables and creamy mayonnaise dressing. I could have the whole thing done in 20 minutes and...

Basil Pesto Pasta with mushrooms and lemony chicken

In other updates, I’ve been wildly successful this year in getting things done. I got myself a new scooter. I’ve started composting at home. And I got a scooter.    I bought myself a pretty little notebook-cum-planner that I am constantly jotting down things in. I am so excited to cross things off that sometimes I haven’t listed a task at all but I’ve completed it. I go back and write it in and strike it off because I’ve rocked and I need to register it somewhere. Call up hasini’s friend’s mom – done order idli rice – done make idli – done pack idli – done eat idli – done transfer money for gift – done Trim eyebrows – not done I like to believe I’ve been productive.  I strongly urge all of you to get yourself a planner. Marking off things gives a great sense of accomplishment. Apart from making uncomfortable calls, I managed to wade through my stash of card pins and change my card pin, collect my old books and drop them off and even score off a couple of small DIY projects I’ve been postponing forever – I made a thennai olai broom (coming soon on the blog) and made a batch of homemade orange peel face pack. Would you believe that? All this buoyancy could also be the effect of having completed the tax formalities for the year. It always gives me a high. I managed to score off this basil pesto pasta which has been on my to-try list for as long as I’ve known pasta and pesto. If you don’t have basil on hand, you can use coriander but it won’t be the same. The aroma of the pesto is breathtaking. It’s fresh, herby flavours marry well with the sharp lemony chicken and I love the way fried mushrooms round out everything. I would put fried mushrooms on anything, just as I’d put a fried egg on anything. I did just that with the leftover pasta. I reheated the pasta stove top, added bonus was the golden fried cheese, plonked a fried egg on top and devoured it.  Just skip the chicken if you want to make it vegetarian. You could easily substitute cauliflower (parboiled and marinated) or paneer for the chicken. Making the pesto is the easiest part. Just combine everything together and grind to a smooth paste. For day-in-day-out professional chutney makers...

Thai style curried noodles

I was driving to work one morning, my usual steadfast yet stylish way, slowing down at junctions, honking as necessary and being good. Two groovy guys on an Activa, the driver with bleached hair and tight T-shirt and a thinner version behind him, veered in front of my car in a big sweeping arc from a side road. I wished to roll down the window and hurl a boulder but steadfast and stylish that I was, instead I braked appropriately and slowed down to let them go.  These guys were apparently part of the group that can’t accept women drivers. These are also the type of guys who will leer at women on roads, pass filthy comments, whistle for chauvinistic dialogues in films, over-take you on the road, then go very slow, wait for the woman to go past and then again zip past her. They did exactly that and went even further. I don’t know if it was their horn or one of them cried out that way but it was the most annoyingly, shrill, sick howl I’d heard. They did that not once but twice when they were close to my car. I didn’t want to shout, swear or complain. All I wanted to do was bash them up. I played out the Kaaka Kaaka Surya scene where he thrashes the guy in my mind. We were near a signal and I saw a bunch of traffic police at the junction. The Activa had sped past me and they were nowhere in sight. The policemen had cornered many two-wheelers along the side of the road for various reasons. When I inched closer to the junction, I saw that these two were also among the few the police had stopped. God is great! All I wanted to do was break into a dance. I played out the scene in OKOK where Udayanidhi dances outside the theatre in my mind of course. I am sorry if you were here for the Thai style curried noodles.. in just a moment. My point is karma. It is really hard to NOT do something about something that bothers you. But I have begun to not do it. You should notdo it too. If you are wont to go to that get-together and you’d rather go to office or even back to school instead, don’t put forth your views honestly, don’t express your feelings, don’t argue about...

My Lasagna search ends in my kitchen

Is it possible to be possessive about cheese? To covet cheese? What about knives? Tell me it is normal. I guard my best cheeses for the very best recipes, the foolproof ones, the ones I know would work. I then made this Lasagna. Cheese well spent. A short while back, but for quite a long time I was going crazy. Reading that sentence makes me think I really am. I really was going nuts. You know that famous saying “Order Lasagna and you’ll know what the restaurant’s worth!” You didn’t? It is not a saying. But it could be. It should be. Just saying.Well, I ordered Lasagna everywhere I went but I didn’t get any. I got hybrid, indigenous versions that tasted like baked korma pasta which made me even more determined to have my lasagna. At “That Mad#$%  place” the lady told me that that was how they made Lasagna at their restaurant, it was their signature Lasagna and that was how they’ve been making it since they opened (opened when? 1930?). Tell me something – When you order oothappam at a restaurant wouldn’t you expect to eat that slightly thick pancake like thing made with slightly sour dosa batter topped with onions, green chillies maybe, maybe a sprinkling of milagai podi, the oothappam we’ve always known? Would you take a toasted idli topped with onions if it is their signature oothappam, if that is what they call oothappam, if that is how they’ve been making it since they’ve opened? Would you take idlis dunked in kara kuzhambu as somebody’s signature sambar idli? Imagine my horror, my disappointment, my misery. Time to take things into my own hands. The best way to make lasagna I’ve learnt is to ready the components the previous day. First the Bolognese sauce – It is a cinch to make if you give it the time, if you can wait, if you can resist slurping it all up. It needs to cook slow and long and scents your kitchen. It is quite heady, divine really. With the Bolognese in the fridge, I slept a little more confident that the Lasagna would turn out well. I made the béchamel sauce, grated up the cheese and cooked the pasta sheets. I cleared the entire dining table to lay out my Lasagana cast – Bolognese sauce, very slightly warmed with a ladle, cooked pasta sheets carefully spaced out...

The Best Macaroni and Cheese

One of the running themes on my blog apart from my fixation with tamil cinema, joint-family drama, maamiyaar stories, good food and good eating are my ‘weight-loss’ attempts. But this time I have decided to get down to business, to cut to the second half of the film, to get to the chase. Last weekend Hasini and I got on the merry-go-round at the beach, the mini-version of the giant wheel that has the cradle like hanging seats (the one that Kaipulla sits in in “Winner”). What was I thinking? At the beach and without the extended family around (by extended family, I mean the maamiyaar/mother-in-law) I fancy myself a little girl too. I help Jagan dig pits to get to wet sand, stuff myself with masala kadalai, bajji and ice cream and then when Hasini pleads to get on the vertical merry-go-round, I join her.  The merry-go-round guy eggs me on “Vaanga vanga, neenga kuda varalam” (You can get on it too). For a moment, I forget that I am notoriously woozy headed, that I am overweight, that the poor fellow might break his arm. But up we go, and every time he has to let people get on or off the wheel, he has to keep us up. He grunts, exerts his full strength and then realizes it is beyond him, shouts out to his friends for help. I expect his entire kuppam to come running, but a slender little teenager steps in from the neighbouring merry-go-round to give him a hand. When I finally get down, I vow to return a fit and svelte mom. It may be months before I bite into chocolate, lick mousse cups clean, eat biryani and bajji, order ghee roast or slurp basundhi. Now before I go on a diet, a diet that defies all things that I believe in life (and my belief in life can be summarized in two words “eating well”) I want one last cheesy, gooey fling. I want to go crazy. I make an over the top macaroni and cheese (courtesy: Food52), chock full of all my favourites – roasted cauliflower, sweet corn and chicken, all stirred into the most luscious béchamel sauce and loaded with grated cheddar, topped with breadcrumbs and baked to cheesy bubbly perfection. Amen!   Prep time: 20 mins (does not include cooking chicken, roasting/blanching vegetables)Cooking time: 40 minsServes: 5-6 Ingredients Macaroni –...