Saturday, October 02, 2010

Old is Gold

The other day, I came back from work a bit early from a slightly crazy fear ridden day, what with the Ayodhya Verdict impending like a large doomsday and everyone waiting around at work with bated breath for a snippet of news such as bombs, riots and sneaking a look out of the window once in a while. The window sneak paid heavily as every time someone glanced outside there was some shop shutting down or the conspicuous fading of traffic on the usually busy street. As the clock hand grew nearer to the verdict hour, the streets had a eerie silence and one of us stepped out to check the other offices... The building was deserted?

All right, total panic, everyone just took off. Weird how fear takes over our senses and thinking. We lose all perspectives and logic and just do what everyone else does. Anyway, point was since I was not in some warrior mood and pretty much welcomed the early holiday from work, I set off for home.

Not surprisingly, Dad too had got home from work with a similar story, offices deserted, streets empty etc. etc. Well that was it, Mom, Dad and Me, right there at home, in the middle of the afternoon, with the television on and the remote being clicked carelessly to surf between a dozen news channels, all airing the same thing, the proceedings.

Since we all had nothing better to do, we just sat around the television, with the very predictable verdict playing on. Bored as we were that a perfectly interesting day was turned to rubble, we started talking amongst ourselves. For the first time, in a long time, I had actually had a conversation with my parents. A delightful, airy, fun filled conversation with no discussion about problems, stresses, this one did this and this one did that. It was just - talk. We spoke for hours till the sun set, evening set in, the warm and jolly mood got even more delightful as dad poured out his drink and I set out to make a summery cocktail for Mum and Me. Now, I do not know if it was the sudden coincidence of all three of us being together at a unobtrusive time with the city in tension, but there was a warm feeling which set me thinking - we hardly ever spend time with the people who are closest to us. We get so busy in our own little world, that spending time, most importantly, quality, no nonsense, enjoyable time with the family, is completely lost.

When we were in a Joint Family, no matter what, as per tradition one meal was always with the family, everyone included. Tradition is the key; to maintain a lifestyle rich of culture and values, one must incorporate a little time for the people who matter most to us. I love spending time with my family, immediate yes, but also the far off and the occasional.

Tradition too can be incorporated in daily cooking. I have learnt that certain things need to be done in a certain way. I set out to make Thai Curry that night. The recipe called for a pungent curry paste to be prepared for the Red Thai Curry. I had all the ingredients, I also had the mixer ready to whizz it all up (simplified as electronics make our life now). But our conversation was still animated and underway, and someone mentioned how my grandmother used to make chutneys, pastes, korma masala - all without the help of electronics in the hey-days, using a stone pestle. I suddenly remembered her old stone pestle. I made a quick visit to the garden storehouse and located the cobwebby but rough hewed stone pestle still intact. I cleaned it up well and set about making the perfect, aromatic, Red Thai Curry paste ever.

For easy locatable ingredients, I have done away with the exotic ones and tried using locally available ingredients all in the same family. In effect, Galangal is replaced by Ginger, Kaffir Lime by Lemon Zest and Juice, Thai Chillies with our Desi red ones.

(Makes 1 cup)

2-3 Fresh Red Chillies (De-seeded)
2-3 Dry Red Chillies (Washed, Soaked in Hot water and De-seeded) - reserve the water

10-12 Garlic Cloves (roughly chopped)
1.5" Piece of Ginger (roughly chopped)
1 Lemon (Zested - ensure you avoid the white pith)
and the Lemon - Squeezed separately
2-3 Stalks Fresh Lemon Grass (Chopped fine)
1 Large bunch - Coriander (Only the Stalk part)
Rock Salt to taste
1 tablsp White Pepper whole
1 tablsp Coriander seeds whole
1 Large Onion (roughly chopped)

Place all the ingredients on a wet stone pestle and proceed to smash it with the pestle using smooth circular motions. It's best to use your hands and very little or no water to collect the coarse mix while crushing. Keep grinding and crushing till you get a smashed up paste and start pasting it more with the help of a little red chilli water as and when needed. Check for salt and lemon and grind into a smooth paste.

Adjust the heat of the paste with less red chillies or more depending on personal preference.

You can store this curry paste in your freezer compartment for over a month.

I just read an excellent recipe for Thai Red Curry, so I'll save the trouble of reiterating the perfect Red Thai Curry. Make use of the paste with this recipe and you cannot go wrong. Here's the link from a fellow blogger and an excellent cook - The Perfect Bite (Thai Curry)

As they say Old is Gold, I assure you, you will change the way you look at certain recipes, if you change certain methods of cooking the traditional way (time permitting of course). I am sure, many of my readers will have some sort of stone pestle lying around somewhere (I still have a larger one being used as a planter now, I plan to bring that out in case of larger portions). If you have the time (and the arms) make use of it to grind many pastes / chutneys. It will certainly add that flavour and flair to your recipes. 

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