The Lasagna Adventure! My dear old Nana always had a truism to dish out when an obstacle had us whining that life was difficult, and hence, we could not be expected to accomplish a particular this or that. Of all the maxims in her stock and store, ‘Never venture, never win’ was probably a favorite. Unafraid to take up a challenge thrown at her, she expected the rest of us to be of the same mettle. It sometimes irked me terribly when she did not pay the attention I felt was due to my expressed incapacities and the platitudes were salt rubbed into a festering wound. So, we often plodded on. If we failed the first time, we were told to ‘try, try again’ till we got it right. Well, as more often than not, I tend to connect a memory to a culinary event or vice versa, and this account, therefore, is no exception. My sister, by far the better culinarian of the two, can cook up a storm and since we are going with idioms and phrases and pithy statements, in true Nana style, permit me to say that she can also do it in ‘two shakes of a duck’s tale’. I am the more reticent of the two when it comes to expressing myself in the kitchen. I play it very safe. I repeat what I have seen done. These days, recipes on YouTube and the Anglo-Indian Recipes Facebook page have me stepping out, albeit tentatively, of my comfort zone and actually experimenting.  I love Beef Lasagna but have never made it at home. On Sunday, with encouragement from a certain Frenchman (who is quite adept in the baking department)  I decided to experiment. Never venture, never win’, I advised the apprehensive cook within me and took the plunge. The béchamel sauce turned out perfectly (I do know how to make that, so not a problem), the tomato purée was a breeze, the beef bolognese was super yum and now it was just the ‘simple’ matter of getting the lasagna sheets ready. After all, I cook different other kinds of pasta all the time, don’t I? Google said they could be used uncooked or partly so. Apprehensive that the uncooked sheets might not work, we decided to boil them for a few minutes quite unprepared for the disaster that would ensue. Within a few seconds all the sheets wedded one another and attempts by the two attending chefs to pull them asunder, proved futile. The hot water was strained out and cold water added without much success. Amid frosty glares and sarcastic barbs about each other’s skills, we began to work on separating the sheets. Partly successful, we layered the bottom and middle rows with fairly intact pieces while the bits and strips made up the final layer on top. Finally, covered with grated cheese, no one would ever guess the real state of affairs. Well, sauce, purée, beef bolognese and cheese added, the baking trays looked pretty good and we put them into the oven with a prayer on our lips. Half an hour later, we took out heavenly dishes of golden crusted lasagna and all that was left was to determine if it tasted as good as it looked. Empty plates at lunchtime spoke for themselves and I guess it was a veni, vidi, vici of sorts for us in the kitchen that afternoon. We felt we had won the war! Further research into the art of cooking lasagna has shown us where we went wrong. The next time, we intend to win the battle too!

Rainy Days and Toothsome Ways!

bingo sites with fluffy favourites Lately, we have been having some glorious days in Pondicherry, with regard to the weather. The sun that scorches us in this part of the world, for months together, has bowed in deference to its cooler counterpart even though it is not monsoon time here. Apart from dark skies, drizzles and sheets of rain being the best time for hot coffee and good books, jumping in puddles and four feet together, it is also a great time to put together some toothsome fare. An all time favourite at home is prawns. The constant demand is for masala dry fried prawns with or without fried potatoes and Pondicherry coconut milk pepperwater. Prawns in a curry does not meet with the same enthusiasm unless it is tomato prawn curry which with rice boiled well and fried ivy gourd (kovakai) is such comfort food on a damp day that you cannot resist a second helping. Quite uncomplicated, the curry would require you to temper cooking oil with mustard seeds and curry leaves into which you would add finely diced onions and a few slit green chillies. Once the onions are translucent, add Kashmiri chilly powder, turmeric, corriander powder (double the quantity of the chilly powder) and powdered fenugreek (the same quantity as the chilly powder). When these ingredients are well fried, add a large quantity of boiled and puréed tomatoes. Mix together and then put in the prawns. Once cooked well add thick coconut milk, stir and remove from the fire, immediately. Sprinkle finely chopped corriander leaves on the top and it’s ready to serve. We are enjoying both, the climate and the food, and are quite the contented lot at the moment.