What are your cooking goals for the year? Just putting them down makes me feel like I am organized, like I am the planning kind. I like that kind of illusion. And I always like a fresh start. So I wrote down some of my cooking goals for the year. The general theme has been to keep it simple, to take it easy and to experiment more. I’d love to know what your goals are.
- Make just enough chutney for now. Extra chutney in fridge will never see the light of day.
- “Dosai/Idli do not make a school lunch”, said Hasini. I have to agree. When I scramble out of bed 30 minutes before the school bus arrives, this is what I pack. I’ve also packed mini dosai, vengaya dosai, oothappam, podi idli, jam sandwiches and sugar & ghee sandwiches with no remorse.
- Everything need not be from scratch. It can be from the store. And that is fine. It is ok to not bake your own bread, make your own pasta and manufacture your own cheese. I remember a time when I would put off buying bread because I thought that if I did then I wouldn’t bake my own bread, but I never baked bread as often because I simply didn’t have that kind of time. I am more accepting now. I bought vathals instead of waiting till summer to make my own batch. I am still obsessed about making my own podis and idli/dosa batters.
- I cannot and will not make thali meals (rice, kuzhambu, poriyal kind of meal) more than 3 times a week. And that immediately means I have to do # 5.
- Move out of my comfort zone and experiment more. Make at-least 2 new recipes every week. Currently on my to-try list are Murtabak, Aviyal, vada pav, Hyderabad biryani and Adhirsam among others.
- To not repeat a chutney/side dish again in the same month. I am on a quest to banish the cooking routines that I tend to slip into all too easily. Coconut chutney, tomato chutney, kara chutney on rotation mode, lemon rice and potato fry on Mondays, dosai for dinners, biryani on Sundays. Not this year. Breakfast can be kanji in a mug, chaat for lunch and soup for dinner. Lord, give me the strength to defend my menu.
- I’ve started to plan the menu for a week. It takes me about an hour to do that, sometimes an hour and a half. I am referencing my cookbooks, researching the internet and looking up my notes. I also check my pantry and fridge to check what I have and what I need to buy. Spending that time however frees me up for the rest of the week. I wake up with a plan knowing what I am going to make and that I have what I need. I am not racking my brain every night and I am also cooking a greater variety of meals each week.
This Milagai thuvaiyal is from “The Chettinad Cookbook”. I wrote this down one Sunday when I planned the menu for that week. It is a really simple chutney, modest almost but with a lovely subtle- tart, gingelly oil flavoured taste. It requires the most basic ingredients but with an ever so little twist. It calls for red chilli powder instead of whole chillies. Make sure to cook this chutney till the oil separates from the sides. Serve alongside idli or dosai.
- Red chilli powder – 4 tsp
- Shallots (sambar onions) – 1 cup
- Tamarind – a small marble sized piece
- Salt to taste
- Mutstard seeds – ½ tsp
- Split urad dal – ½ tsp
- Gingelly Oil – 2-3 tbsp
- 1. Grind together shallots, tamarind, red chilli powder and salt to a fine paste without adding any water.
- 2. Heat a pan. Add oil. When the oil is hot, add mustard seeds and let splutter. Add urad dal and fry till the dal turns golden brown.
- 3. Pour in the ground onion mixture and stir well. Cook on low heat till the oil separates around the edges. Switch off. Serve with idli or dosai.