Tag Archives: Cooking

So You Want To Be A MasterChef : Part Deux

Some time ago, Superfoodie Achala Srivatsa had shared some mouthwatering tips for ordinary morsels mortals like you and me craving to make it big in the world of Reality TV Cooking Shows. That post had stood out on this boring blog because of its delicious wit and wholesome advice, much the same way a three-tiered cake stands out at a bland wedding. So, it was quite expected that her pointers were going to attract attention, stir the pot, so to speak. It did. The most important consequence being this companion piece, written by Achala’s and my dear friend Adam Murphy, that garnishes the original post (which can be found here) with some new ingredients just as essential for success in the chef-eat-chef world of competitive cooking.

Kindly don’t forget to thank Adam for this recipe in the Comments section below. He already says ‘You’re Welcome!’

Over to Adam. Bon Apetit! 

 

The winner of MasterChef Namibia. She described her winning recipe as a delectable melange of Champignon Bordelaise and Pea Soup.

The winner of MasterChef Namibia. She described her winning recipe as a delectable melange of Champignon Bordelaise and Pea Soup.

Inspired by Achala’s wonderful piece about MasterChef, I humbly offer up a complementary “Glossary for Success” for those who may now be contemplating lining up for the next MasterChef auditions.

These are the secret “safety words” of the culinary fraternity that can slide even the most amateur of home cooks past the judges, time and time and again. Sprinkled lightly, these words are your express pass deep into the final rounds of televised competition.

  1. “Deconstructed” (adj.): use liberally to cover up the fact that you either: a) didn’t have time; or, b) didn’t collect the right ingredients; or, c) burnt a critical component required, to put the dish together properly.
  2. “-inspired” (suffix): code word for “I didn’t care much for your actual challenge, so I made what I wanted to from the start, but included one ingredient of the thing you actually wanted me to make”. Example: “Please enjoy my key-lime-pie-inspired crab cakes.”
  3. “Riff” (noun): charming colloquial term used to pass off the thing that you thought you were asked to make, until you saw what everyone else was doing and realised that you had no idea from the start. Example: “This is my ‘riff’ on Croque Madame, replacing the ham with crocodile meat, and serving it as more of a salad than a toasted sandwich. I call it ‘Croc Madame’. Enjoy.”
  4. “Elevated” (verb, p.t.): pretentiously elaborate way to say you added something that has no place ever being in that dish. Best used when specifying the unnecessarily-exotic origin of said ingredient. Example: “I elevated my chicken risotto by shaving a few slivers of pickled Bolivian cucumber on top. Please enjoy.”
  5. “Re-fire” (verb): a far less embarrassing – and decidedly more “chefy” way to say, “I #%&@ed up and am starting over”. Example: “I’m re-firing that plain white toast right now, Chef.”
  6. “Ensalata de…” (prefix): use with straight face instead of just admitting that the best thing you could think of was another bloody boring salad. Example: “This is my Ensalata de Salmon. Enjoy.”
  7. “Classic” (adj.): use to cover up the fact that you haven’t a drop of creative talent in your body, so just made the recipe exactly as expected. See also, “traditional”.
  8. “Rustic” (adj.): sloppily put together or unprofessional looking – perhaps still served in the cooking vessel because you ran out of time for plating. See also, “down-to-earth”.
  9. “Accompanied by…” (adj.): subtle note to the judges that your actual dish is pretty gosh-darn horrible so they should focus on the thing you put beside it. Best used if the accompanying item is an alcoholic beverage of some type. The worse your main dish tastes, the boozier the cocktail should be.

With this new vocabulary and Achala’s power tips, you’re well on your way to being the next MasterChef. Culinary talent optional.

A Fond Farewell

Over the past year, I have made several friends in the blogging community. One of the nicest and friendliest persons I have come across is Akanksha Dureja. Several weeks ago, she asked me to write a guest post for her blog – the charming Direct Dil Se. I had been mulling over the right topic to choose for her, which was a trifle difficult task given the eclectic choice of subjects that she chooses to write on.

And then, I heard the happy-sad news – Akanksha was moving to the UK for work for a year, most likely longer. The news made me, as I am sure all her other friends too, happy because it is always nice to see your friends flourish in their careers. But sad, too, because it is never easy to part with them. My guest post for her is my way to say Au Revoir, Akanksha – until we meet again.

I know what most of you are doing now – planning your next holiday in the UK, right? After all, no more worries of booking expensive hotel accommodation or paying through your nose for pricey meals! (Oh, did I mention that Akanksha is a great cook?)

 

Do read my post on Direct Dil Se. My first attempt at writing a modern day fairy tale. With the hope that the reality for Akanksha will be even more joyous and eventful than the one I have described!

Akanksha Dureja : The London Diaries

 

See you later, Alligator!

See you later, Alligator!

Choco- Raspberry Delite Anyone?

Part-time Market Researcher but full-time Observer and Thinker Achala Srivatsa is back with this absolutely hysterical essay that will have you rolling on the floor like a, well, a rolling pin. If you are a foodie (and by that I mean you don’t entirely mind popping something solid in your mouth occasionally) you have got to read this! 

 

(Stolen from The Healthy Voyager website given my own lack of artistic talent))

(Stolen from The Healthy Voyager website given my own lack of artistic talent))

Practically everyone I know claims to be a foodie these days (a broad term that could mean anything from “I eat like a pig and Darshini is my  second home” to “You must try my sous vide salmon with chanterelle duxelle and a hint of wild fennel pollen” or “my rajma recipe is a closely guarded family secret”). Our home-grown NRI friends who visit for 2 weeks also call themselves foodies, which essentially means they spend 2 weeks running around to every local restaurant and immersing their being in assorted deep-fried products dipped into condiments that are off the charts on heat and ferocity. Much of those two weeks are also, not surprisingly, spent reading War and Peace in a toilet. But I digress.

India is now neck deep in cook books of an astonishing range and variety, not to mention cookery shows of every description. Do you want to make a refreshing drink to be enjoyed by the pool? Chances are someone on some channel is muddling together mint and sugar as we speak.

I discovered this the other day as I browsed at my local book store. It was truly educational and here for your benefit is a summation of the fruits of my labour.

  1. At one extreme is the new bride’s go-to guide for all things South Indian. Written by a  “Maami Rajammal” with the picture of a formidable looking woman (usually with a slight moustache) to lend authenticity. This book will tell you how to make “curds” from scratch, the recipes for 20 types of chutneys using the peel of a ridge gourd and 15 different rasams. Recipes will sternly instruct you to “ take a good amount of tamarind…” Precisely what that means is, literally, anyone’s guess.
  2. The next category I uncovered was a slew of slim paperbacks on snacks, for every occasion (Tea Time Snacks/ Pre bedtime snacks and so on). These appear to be aimed at young mothers with recipes focusing on fried thingies of various descriptions. A half-hearted attempt at amping up the health factor can be seen – “Add a cup of sprouts”. Clearly written quite hurriedly, I was charmed by one recipe that started off calling for a cup of chopped onions, later forgetting about the onions completely.
  3. Then you have a series of books that claim to offer specialized cuisines – Rajasthan, Punjab etc. Some of these seem authentic, others not so much. Call me a cynic but I look askance at “authentic” recipes that call for a cup of tomato ketchup.
  4. Cookbooks on the Woman’s Era lines – easily recognizable by the way they fiercely hang on in a limpet-like fashion to  recipes from the ‘70s – “Blancmange”, “Raspberry Delite”, “Chocolate-Pista Surprise” and so on. Bellbottoms and beehive hairdos! By the way, if you know what a blancmange is – consider yourself officially old.
  5. The ethnographic school of cookery – Where Jamie does Tuscany and works up a froth over fresh zucchini flowers, baby artichokes, dusty purple grapes exploding with sweetness blah. Do NOT read these books. Let me tell you what happens – First you identify a recipe you get all excited about – let’s say enchiladas with a chipotle sauce . Then you walk into your local supermarket and hmm, chipotle seems to be a problem. But hey, you are a creative cook, so a little improv is in order. So you shift gear – from chipotle to badgis from Central Karnataka, from fingerling potatoes to whatever’s available, from Vidalia onions to your local pyaaz and for some reason the end product tastes strangely like a dosa. Mexican food’s over-rated anyway.

 

Frustrated at every turn, stuffed to the gills with stuffed karelas drowning in sweet ketchup, I turned to our local Food Channel for inspiration. Here’s what I found.

  • Sanjeev Kapoor’s wooden, sickly smile every hour on the hour –  either fusing cuisines  feverishly – here cooking biryani with truffle shavings, there grating paneer on to pasta or cooking “healthy” sweets with ghee and sugar substitutes.  Is it just me or have others realized that  ever since he’s shaven that moustache off, he has this – “I could give you this recipe but then I’d have to kill you – or myself” look on his face. A bit tough for a TV chef that.
  • Wanna be Sanjeev Kapoors – with the same puppet like movements and and stilted manner of speaking always ending with “ab aapki mint coriander hing mojito lassi tayar hai
  • Indian women with strangely accented English teaching (presumably) a befuddled western audience how to make “potatoes spiced with a hint of cumin” and such like.
  • Two men checking out every dive, dhaba and Udipi hotel in search of…mediocre food? Almost every time I watch this, the two have a conversation somewhat like this…“This idli is…round and white” or “the fried dal tastes pretty much like dal that’s been fried”. My point is – so why is a 30 minute program based on a restaurant that seems to be a non-event?

 

So anyway, I have decided to have another crack at those enchiladas. I hear my local supermarket’s just started stocking chipotles.