Approximately this time last year, I had quit my IT job in Chicago. Not necessarily knowing where life was going to take me, I moved back to India to be with my family. All I knew was this – if I was going to be doing something 8 to 10 or more hours a day, I wanted to enjoy it.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that if I was going to do something for 10 hours a day and love it, it had to be food. If something as interesting and cutting edge as Big Data and IT wasn’t going to cut it, nothing but food ever would.
Now, I can say for certain that I have taken a step in the right direction!
Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne is one of the top, if not the top hospitality schools, and their recent program, the Master Class in Culinary Arts, which started on February 19th, 2018
I am proud to say I am part of the second batch ever of this course, numbering 21 people.
The Master Class in Culinary Arts, or MCCA as it is called here at EHL, is a 5 month course with an optional 6 month internship. The course is designed for young professionals with a Bachelors degree (in a related field or otherwise) who are passionate about the food industry and want to build a career in it.
So, obviously, it is a perfect course for me!
The first week was intense, with an average of 10 to 12 hour days filled with meeting different teachers, alumni, and of course fellow students. Throughout the 5 months on campus, we shall learn the ins and outs of every step from food preparation to service and managing events, while also learning about beverages, wine, restaurant management and entrepreneurship in the world of food. I can say without a doubt it will be grueling, hectic, intense and a ton of fun! (Seriously, today was my first day in the kitchen and my team of 5 made 1200 pieces of sushi in a little less then six hours – with the help of the leading chef of course)
So what does that mean for the blog?
As you can imagine, 10-12 hour days aren’t necessarily conducive to finding time to write a blog. However, the technical knowledge I gain here will only serve to make my content better, and I will be able to provide you with an insight into the industry itself.
So bear with me and wish me luck as I embark on this new adventure!
(PS: Yes, my classmates and I made the canapes in the picture, technically before our classes even started!)
And yes, I am perfectly happy with my awesome alliteration abilities.
The picture above- with a little shack of a restaurant and a rumble of motorcycles in front of it- perfectly represents a lot of our meals on the road. You see, for a while now I’ve been wanting to write about both the ride and the food I experienced on the motorcycle trip I had some time ago in Kashmir. The issue was that this blog was created mainly to focus on food, not so much experiences. What I realized, however, was that while the food and the ride were somewhat separable, they provided each other with some much needed context. Could I have explored more in some of the culinarily rich stops on the journey? Of course I could’ve, but the mindset we were in when we only had a day or two in most of these places is important to keep in mind. There’s also the fatigue that comes with riding eight to twelve hours a day at high altitudes and varying temperatures, so even if we didn’t voluntarily realize it, we searched for energizing and warming foods on the road. So this post will go over the food I encountered during the journey, and there will be another post on here to talk about the ride itself (coming soon!)
(A note about the food pictures: A lot of the pictures of the food in this post were taken in low light on a phone camera. While they most certainly could have been better, my phone- and I – are not that good at taking pictures in that setting)
So let’s get to it – here’s a look at the food I encountered on the trip!
‘Chai’ and Tea
Fun fact, the word ‘Chai’ literally just means tea. Generally it refers to the traditional Indian tea made with plenty of milk, sugar, and sometimes with spices like cardamom (also called Masala Chai in that case.) So when you order a Chai Tea Latte from your favorite barista, you’re essentially asking for a ‘Tea with milk and sugar tea with milk’ – just so you know. From the get go on our trip, both Chai and black tea were staple pick-me-ups for the road. The Chai here was made with more sugar than usual, but because of the aforementioned altitude and cold we most certainly needed it. Accompanying the Chai or tea were often some of the best views to sip to, although I’d have to say the best ever has to go to one I had in Spiti (another post I want to get around to writing)
I also had the most elevated, highest tea in my life at Pang, at over 15,000 ft. This would have been higher if I had had another at Khardungla (17,000 + ft), which until recently was the world’s highest motorable road. (The Indian Border Roads Organization recently built a road at over 19,000 feet, which to me sounds like an excuse to make another trip!)
Another staple available at every little roadside food shack, from Manali to Leh to Srinagar, was Maggi. For those of you who don’t know, Maggi is India’s most popular instant noodle, but also so much more. Maggi is so ingrained in the modern Indian palate that its what students eat when they’re busy studying for exams, sick people eat to get better, and mothers make their children as a tasty snack or meal. A lot of people have variations in their Maggi recipes, all of which use at least water, the ramen noodles, and the Maggi masala (spice powder). The amazing thing here was that all through the road, the Maggi seemed like it could’ve been made by the same person. It was consistently soupy, warm and delicious. I’m sure many of the bikers in my group and others who have ridden to Leh and Ladakh would agree, Maggi got us through the cold and altitudes of Pang and the Khardung La pass, and it was Maggi that we chose to eat on the cool day ride to Srinagar, enjoying it with the sun on our backs, being warmed inside and out.
Originally, I thought Kehwah, sometimes spelt Kahwa or Kahwah, was a variant of green tea. While Kehwah can have green tea in its preparation, traditionally it is made my infusing hot water with cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, crushed almonds, saffron and honey. Apparently people substituted the saffron for green tea if they didn’t have the former. After tasting the original, neither the substitution nor its popularity over how it used to be made make any sense to me. Kehwah in its true form has an amazing golden color, instead of the green it would acquire from the tea leaves.
If you’d like to make some at home, boil a cup of water with a stick of cinnamon, a cardamom pod and a clove. Add a tablespoon of crushed almonds, honey to taste, and when it has cooled off a little, a strand of saffron. Kehwah is traditionally served duing celebrations, especially weddings.
Trout, Themthuk, Thupka and Momos in Manali
Manali, being the gateway into a lot of the northern Indian regions, has a fair Tibetan influence. The area’s streams and rivers that start in the mountains are home to the Himalayan trout as well, so we planned to get ourselves a sampling of both when we went to Chopsticks in the main market area of town.
Sadly, it was a mixed experience. While the mutton momos (top left) were hearty, warming and tasty, the Thupka (bottom left) and Themthuk (bottom right) were mediocre. I would suggest having the latter two here only if you are not traveling closer to Tibet during your trip. The trout (top right) was served whole, fried and battered. I actually thought the trout had a very delicate, almost sweet, flavor which I quite enjoyed. The batter, however, overpowered this flavor, so I would recommend trying a trout preparation that doesn’t have a batter – like pan-fried, or steamed.
Gezmo’s and Chopsticks in Leh
I was, quite frankly, amazed at how many different kinds of foods are available in Leh. Outside of the expected Wazwan, Tibetan and Generic Indian restaurants, I came across Thai, Chinese, Israeli and Italian cuisines among others. I had some Wazwan food here, but the places I tried were so-so. There were a couple of places that stood out, however.
Gezmo’s is a German Bakery style restaurant in Leh. We had a few different foods in our group here, including Israeli Lafa (which, as far as I could tell, was a really big, stuffed and tasty Shawarma), some pretty good Momos, and a really good chocolate cake. What stood out as the most unique things I ate here, however, was the Yak cheese.
Now, what you should probably know about Yak cheese is, atleast the way they serve it in and around Leh, that it is very dry. So a small bite is no problem, but if you shove a piece of cheese down in one bite, it’ll dry your mouth and generally make you uncomfortable before you drink some water. Its for the same reason that it isn’t a great idea to put it on a pizza the way you’d put mozzarella, in my opinion. Still, tried something new and enjoyed the Yak cheese even though it could be a bit dry and overpowering.
Chopsticks Noodle Bar, not related to the one in Manali, was a very pleasant surprise for us. They had a really nice outdoor seating area which was perfect for a lunch under the sun. While all the food there tasted good, I was surprised and impressed with the Nasi Goreng, and Katsu Curry that stayed true to their originals while they are often changed beyond recognition in India. The mint cooler was legitimately refreshing, and the non vegetarian appetizer platter (chicken satay, chicken spring rolls and fried wontons) hit the spot. I applaud the restaurant for flaunting something different like chocolate chili spring rolls, but I personally wish there was more than a very faint chili flavor to them.
Wazwan is the traditional food of the Kashmir region, and is known for being extremely spicy. Traditionally, the gravies use cooked chilli peppers as a base, seeds and all – as opposed to most Indian curries that come from tomatoes, onions, or both. Wazwan centers around mutton or chicken and is often slow cooked the day before. Be careful where you choose to have Wazwan cuisine, however, because today most places uses generic gravies, a lot of red food color, and even pre-cook some food ahead of time – simply adding the meats to the curry just before serving. Look out for the so-called ‘Kashmiri Naan’ as well, since while Kashmir is known for its dry fruits, and nuts, they are not traditionally put on the breads that accompany local meals.
I’d have to say I only had one real experience with Kashimiri Wazawan, on account of most places we went to very obviously doing one or more of the things I suggested you look out for in the previous paragraph. This experience was at Mughal Darbar in Srinagar.
Now I know a lot is going on in the picture above, but doesn’t it look amazing? This is a good example of what you should expect from Wazwan (even if you are able to order each of these dishes separately).
Let’s break it down. At about 3 o’clock on that platter is a kebab shaped like a hollow tube. These essentially taste and look like Sheekh Kebabs, even though they aren’t always called that. At about 5 o’clock is Waza kokur, or Wazwan chicken, which was good in its own right (to be honest, I focused on the mutton!) At 6 o’clock are my two favorite dishes – Tabak Maaz and Maithi Maaz – both preparations of lamb ribs that had the meat literally sliding off the bone. Finally at around 8 o’clock are mutton Lahabi Kebabs, which are a flattened mutton preparation.
Did I say finally as in, ‘That’s it?’ what I meant is there were also three curry dishes.
Authentic Rogan Josh
First from the left is chicken Rogan Josh (for non-mutton eaters in the group), mutton Rogan Josh, and Gushtaba, which is meatballs in a yogurt based gravy. Note that Rista, another popular Wazwan dish, has similar meatballs in a spicy red gravy.
Kashmiri Wazwan doesn’t traditionally have anything too elaborate for dessert, and we were told that simple fruit is often eaten after the meal.
Who knew that the Indian north would also host a cafe dedicated to the Westerosi north?
I discovered Winterfell Cafe completely by accident when we rode by it on the way to our hotel. Of course, as an avid fan of Game of Thrones, I made sure to give myself some time to check it out. To be honest I wasn’t expecting much out of the place – maybe someone had just put on a few pieces of GoT themed art to attract tourists. I further prepared myself for a disappointment when I had to go up a old, slightly shady feeling flight of stairs to get into the cafe, which was a level above the ground.
Boy was I wrong.
Not only was the cafe a great place for any fan to visit – it had amazing decor with a replica Iron Throne – but it also had some pretty good food!
I had the cottage cheese and American corn sandwich and the chicken mushroom pot pie to eat, and they even had some halfway good coffee (which may or may not actually have been out of a press). The food was Indianized in its flavors, but simple and well made. The coffee cup and sugar it came with even had a nice little logo on them. Well done!
So what food do you most look forward to trying out when you have your own adventure to the area? Seems the most appetizing?
Keep an eye out for my blog post detailing the ride itself, coming soon!
Full disclosure – I LOVEfudge. I first took to it when I went to college in the Midwest United States, where a friend gifted me some rich, delicious, and home-made fudge. I had tried fudge before, but mostly only of the store-bought variety. The taste of fresh fudge made with love, of course, trumps anything you can buy in a store. So thanks to my friend (you know who you are), I wanted, no, needed more fudge in my life, but didn’t have a good recipe! (You may say, “Adit, couldn’t you have asked your friend for her recipe?” In retrospect, yes, yes I could’ve indeed.)
Fast forward a few months to my sister’s birthday. For the sake of this post all you really need to know is that she is the epitome of a chocoholic. As in she loves chocolate so much that she has chocolate withdrawal symptoms if she goes more than a week or so without chocolate. Chocolate is, presumably outside of her big brother, her favorite thing in the world (Disclaimer: She hasn’t ever actually told me she likes me more than chocolate.)
OK, it is a chocoholic’s birthday, so its pretty obvious I’d want to make something chocolaty for her. Now my sister had already asked me to make my brownies (recipe for that coming soon, I promise!) and I was going to make a chocolate cake for her as well, but I wanted to do something she wasn’t expecting.
Given that she was and is a chocoholic, it needed to be chocolate flavored, but keeping in mind the fact that I needed also make brownies and cake it needed to be something easy to do. The fudge was still on my mind too, so was there a way to make something fudgy, chocolaty, and simple that was good for a birthday treat?
Turns out Brazil had an answer for me in Brigadeiros. A Brigadeiro a type of fudge ball that is enjoyed throughout Brazil, and is eaten during a range of events ranging from birthdays and baby-showers to reunions. It is also a comfort food that can be eaten while binge watching TV or in times of heartache.
I can see why! Brigadeiros are easy to make, perfectly bite-sized and delicious! Even without from the cultural significance these hold in Brazil, I would eat these whenever I could!
While traditional fudge consists of sugar, milk and butter, Brigadeiros use condensed milk, butter, and a little bit of cream. The condensed milk, in addition to already being thickened a little, removes the need to add sugar, while the cream adds that extra bit of texture and richness.
Then there’s the cocoa, chocolate and sprinkles. I highly recommend keeping your Brigadeiros small because this recipe is a chocolate explosion in your mouth! Once you bite in you’ll feel the crunch of the sprinkles, followed by the soft and intense chocolate on the inside.
Now, if you aren’t a big chocolate fan, you can make a lighter chocolate Brigadeiro by removing the semisweet chocolate from the recipe below, or make your own flavor! In Brazil you’d get Brigadeiros in different flavors, like fruit, tea, dry fruits and nuts, alcoholic beverages, and Nutella, so the recipe can be used as a template to try out your own flavors!
Brigadeiros are also extremely versatile. As mentioned above they are served for all kinds of occasions and comfort foods in Brazil, but it can also make a perfect bite-sized sweet treat to take with lunch or on a picnic, as long as you can keep it cold. If you’d like to dress up this dish as a dessert, you can serve them to guests pre-plated in spoons for a an impressive looking and satisfying last bite for any meal. The chocolate ones in the recipe here are a great bite to pair with a cup of strong black coffee, and you could even add bits of crushed cookies or flavored chocolate on the inside of the fudge ball by rolling them in. The possibilities are endless!
So how are you making your Brigadeiros? Let me know here, on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter at facebook.com/loveofnom and @loveofnom!
Prep Time: 5 hours required in the fridge
Cook Time: 15 mins to make the fudge + 15 mins to shape and finish the fudge balls.
Makes 20-24 Fudge Balls
4 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp heavy cream
2 14-oz. (400g) cans sweetened condensed milk
3 oz. good quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
3/4 cup chocolate sprinkles
Combine the butter, milk and cream in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low flame and add the cocoa and chocolate. Stir continuously so that nothing sticks to the bottom.
When the mixture starts to stick together and develop a fudgy consistency (about 15 minutes), take off the heat and transfer to a container. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until it has cooled completely and lost its stickiness.
Roll the fudge into balls with your hands, using about a half tablespoon’s worth of fudge for each ball. If the fudge starts to get warm and sticky, put back in the fridge for a few minutes to firm up. The balls should be small bite sized. Put the chocolate sprinkles in a shallow dish or plate, and roll the Brigadeiros in the sprinkles. Chill for another hour before serving.
Variations: While Brigadeiros most commonly are available in chocolate, in Brazil you will find them in multiple flavors and with different coatings. The fudge (condensed milk, cream and butter) will stay the same, but here are a few flavor ideas:-
Vanilla: Cut a vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds. Put the bean without the seeds in when you bring the milk, cream and butter to a boil, and remove it after this step. Add the vanilla seeds in just after you take the fudge off the heat and stir in thoroughly.
S’mores: Embed a marshmallow in each chocolate brigadeiro and instead of sprinkles, roll in crushed graham crackers.
While this recipe uses chocolate sprinkles, you can also use white chocolate sprinkles, rainbow sprinkles, slivered almonds, powdered sugar, cocoa powder (cocoa powder and powdered sugar are a good combination as well), cocoa nibs, or dried coconut as the coating.
You’ve probably had a kebab before. They appear in a lot of different cuisines, from Indian, to Arabic, to Mediterranean, Greek and more. You could say that most of the world agrees that kebabs should be a thing, so if you haven’t ever tried one, I recommend you do so as soon as possible!
You can get kebabs made out of a lot of different kinds of meats, or even without meat in the form of Paneer (cottage cheese) and other options. You can enjoy kebabs, in one form or the other, almost everywhere from places like Mexico, to Germany, to India, to South Korea, Japan and even Australia. But what if you have a different problem? What if you want to eat a kebab, but don’t have any teeth?
Now, if you’re thinking, “That’s the most interesting problem that I’ve never had”, then hold on a second. You don’t have to be toothless to appreciate the food I’m about to share with you.
You see, while like most of you, I (at least at the time of writing this) am not toothless, the story goes that there was once an ancient Indian king, or Nawab, who was. This king was a gastronome at heart (dare I say, nomnivore?) and wasn’t going to let a small detail like being toothless get in the way of eating kebabs. So the royal cooks set out to make a dish I consider the Nawab of kebabs – teeth optional. The result is today known as the Galouti kebab. Galawati means melt in your mouth, and if you ask me, the kebab does live up to its name.
What makes the lamb kebab so tender that it melts in your mouth, you ask? Three things. Raw papaya, gram flour (besan) and a food processor.
Raw papaya is made into a paste and used with this recipe to soften and tenderize the meat. Its enzymes, when allowed to work on the meat overnight, start to break down the mince, allowing for a soft consistency that would not be afforded by other means.
If you’ve ever had a well made croissant, puff pastry or crepe, you know the kind of softness flour can bring to a food when cooked. While gram flour is not a very big ingredient in this particular dish, it is coated on the outside of the kebab, adding that extra softness to the texture.
Finally, yes, I know they didn’t used to have food processors and mixers when this recipe came about. However, the original recipe would call for very finely ground meat, more so than what you would find at your local grocery. If you know a specialty butcher I would recommend getting the meat ground as fine as possible from there, but follow the food processor step of the recipe as well to ensure all the ingredients come together well.
(Note: Raw Papaya is said to cause contractions in women, which can create issues for pregnant women. While the amount in this recipe is not enough to do so, you should check with your doctor before trying this recipe if you are pregnant.)
These melt in your mouth kebabs can be served as an appetizer or main course. Serve hot with onion on bread, naan, or roti if possible.
(Note: Raw Papaya is said to cause contractions in women, which can create issues for pregnant women. While the amount in this recipe is not enough to do so, you should check with your doctor before trying this recipe if you are pregnant.)
Serves 4 as a main course or 6 as an appetizer
Prep Time: 40 minutes + overnight marination
Cook Time: 15 minutes
500g minced lamb leg
1 tsp ginger paste
2 tbsp finely chopped coriander
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground mace
1/4 tsp ground cardamom seeds (seeds from 1 pod, ground)
1 tsp hot chilli powder, or to taste
2 tbsp ground almonds
pinch of saffron strands
4-5 tbsp milk
3 tbsp raw papaya paste
1 tsp rosewater
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) or butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
3-4 tbsp gram flour (besan)
Vegetable oil for frying
Heat the ghee or butter in a pan. When hot, saute the onions until golden brown and leave to cool.
Warm up the milk slightly and add the saffron to it, allowing it a few minutes to release its flavors into the milk. In a large mixing bowl, combine the lamb, and saffron milk with all the remaining ingredients with the exception of the gram flour. Add the onions once they are completely cool.
Combine well, then cover tightly with cling film and store in the fridge 6 hours to overnight.
Working in batches if necessary, run the marinated lamb through a food processor until it becomes smooth in consistency. With damp hands, shape into 15 or so patties and lightly coat with the gram flour.
Heat oil on a medium-low flame. Working in batches again, fry the kebabs until browned. Enjoy hot!
I don’t know about you guys, but I am a huge fan of Pixar’s animated movies. The studio is able to bring alive light but meaningful plots with great storytelling, voice acting, and animation. They also have an attention to detail that often not even live action movies can match up to.
Still, some people might think it’s odd that a movie about a rat, that controls a human’s cooking from inside a chef’s hat no less, is what inspired me to first try out this Provençal French dish. While Ratatouille was what originally got me interested in the dish, what actually got me to make it was the discovery that the dish is extremely simple and healthy to make!
So what is Ratatouille? Ratatouille comes from the Provence region of France, and it’s said to derive from the french verb touiller, which means to stir, or to toss. So at its core it can be interpreted as tossed vegetables, but today Ratatouille almost always has garlic and herbs in a tomato base.
While there are many, many, many variations and types of the dish, most of them, at their core, follow the veggies, tomato base, herbs and garlic template. Recipes include versions where each vegetable is cooked separately and then combined, as well as a version with saffron added to the mix. The dish can have a creamy texture or be baked in the oven. In fact, the Guardian has painstakingly put together different ways of making Ratatouille here. I recommend you check out – it is a really good look into different ways to make the dish. While you can definitely have fun with any of these ways of making Ratatouille, the recipe I am going to share with you is a simple one that you can use to make a quick and light meal, or use as a side with another dish for a more substantial meal.
In this version of Ratatouille, we are going to let fresh vegetables shine. While we still have a tomato base, garlic, thyme and basil in the recipe, we do not want to overpower the veggies we use. We are going to be cooking the vegetables, but we will make sure the peppers have a roasted flavor, the mushrooms sweat but don’t go soft, and the zucchini has a good crunch to it. The recipe pairs really well will crusty bread, especially when it is absorbent enough to soak up the tomato and garlic sauce! Remember that while the olive oil will bring the vegetables together, it is important not to use extra virgin olive oil in the recipe since the heat will destroy its delicate flavor, leaving it with a bitter aftertaste instead (use pure olive oil if possible, but virgin olive oil will also work).
I also encourage you to customize this recipe to your own liking. Don’t like eggplant? Don’t cook with it! Want to use different herbs? Go ahead! Want to deglaze the plan? Use a half cup of light white wine! You could also cut the vegetables thinner up if you like them soft, or lightly steam them and serve with the sauce. Make this recipe yours, and let me know how it turned out!
This is a simple recipe that will take about 20 minutes. Remember to let the vegetables keep a little bit of a crunch, and serve freshly made for the best possible taste!
Serves 4 as a Main Course
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
1 large red onion, cut into rings
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
6-8 medium button mushrooms, halved
1 medium zucchini, cut into discs
1 small aubergine (eggplant), cut into discs
8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved
4 medium tomatoes
1-3 cloves of garlic, depending on size and to taste
3-4 sprigs thyme
A handful of basil
Olive oil for frying
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Note: If your zucchini tends to have a bitter aftertaste, you may it might be worthwhile to rub the ends until you get a white froth-like substance to come out. It’ll make the zucchini a lot less bitter (pictured below.)
Put the four tomatoes into some boiling water until the skins start to blister and peel. Rinse in cold water, then remove and discard the skins. Put the tomatoes, a clove of garlic and salt to taste in a food processor and mix until smooth. Taste sauce and add more garlic or salt if needed, making sure the garlic is properly combined.
Put the olive oil over medium high heat in a large saucepan. When the oil is hot but not yet smoking, add the onions to the pan. Fry until golden.
Add the thyme and both the bell peppers and continue to cook until the pepper starts to brown.
Add the mushrooms and cook until they begin to sweat, then add the zucchini, aubergine, cherry tomatoes and the sauce.
Bring to a gentle simmer and cover until the zucchini has softened but still has a bite to it, or around five minutes.
Add the basil and toss into the ratatouille. Serve with a little crusty bread to mop up the sauce. Enjoy hot!
While eating food is something that almost everyone enjoys, a lot of people seem to be afraid of cooking itself. I understand how working with sharp knives, hot surfaces and/or fire can make you nervous but cooking is something anyone can learn to and love to do! Here’s some of the reasons why I think it everyone out there should give cooking a shot:-
It makes you independent
A lot of people I know have a gripe with education systems around the world today. While our schools focus on teaching math, science, languages and social sciences, most schools I know of neglect to teach us how to balance a bank account, change a tire, sew on a button, or cook for yourself! As a twentysomething who’s lived alone for a time had a few adventures under his belt (all of which will be shared on this blog eventually), I’ve found that these are good things to know if you ever have to fend for yourself or support a family. After all, we all need to eat, so why not learn how to feed yourself? It’s also an important part of a healthy lifestyle because…
You see exactly what you’re eating
In today’s world, a lot of packaged foods have sugars, dyes, salt fats and other chemicals added to what we eat. While some amount of sugar, salt and fat is normal and can be healthily consumed by the human body, the unfortunate fact is that, with a few exceptions the food industry wants you to eat more. In their minds, if you don’t feel full after eating their products, you will come back for more and consume more than you normally would. Essentially the food industry designs food in a way that makes you want to eat more of it.
Now I’m not saying every recipe that I share on my blog is going to be healthy or even that if you always cook for yourself you will be in good shape. I do believe, however, that cooking allows you to understand exactly what is going into the food you eat. Cooking from as close to scratch as possible and using the freshest ingredients is the most surefire way to minimize additives, chemicals and colors that enter your body.
You appreciate where your food comes from
Another issue I have with the food industry is that it is sometimes run too much like an industry. The idea that a whole animal goes in on one end of a conveyor belt in a factory and comes out as sausages and hot dogs isn’t too far away from the truth. When you work with meat, you are a little less removed from the fact that what you are eating was once part of a living, breathing animal, and when you bake your first loaf of bread you being to understand what your local baker does on a commercial scale. More importantly you begin to understand what you should expect to understand from certain kinds of foods and how they would be made, so that you can appreciate it when it is made to perfection in a more traditional way or when a chef adds their own twist on top of a classic.
Take the Gulab Jamun recipe I posted last Friday. Majority of the feedback on the recipe and its accompanying post had to do with people not realizing how easy these are to make at home (since they had tried these outside but never made them at home) or telling me how Gulab Jamun is made differently by those around them (this is because the dish is popular but made in very diverse ways in India.) The biggest differences were that some people made Gulab Jamun from Khoya (a natural dried milk powder), or with cardamom in the syrup instead of rosewater. Don’t fret, as soon as I understand how they are used and how they change the flavor of the dish, I’ll post a recipe using Khoya and Cardamom. (You can read the original post here.)
You realize it isn’t as hard as you thought, and you can make food exactly the way you like
As I said in the last paragraph, people were genuinely surprised at how easy it is to cook Gulab Jamun. Once you learn to cook, you’ll realize its not hard to whip up a quick, nourishing meal and it will you the money and time required to eat out or order in. The fact that restaurant where you get your tacos may charge extra for guacamole or not quite give you the right level of spice becomes moot when you can make tacos with enough guac – and yes, this means we will be doing tacos on here sometime!
I want you guys to keep in mind that I don’t consider myself an amazing cook. The first time I tried to cook, my ‘brownies’ were more burnt than gooey. But with a little bit of practice, we can all learn to cook and enjoy the experience – trust me, if I could anyone can.
It is the easiest, most foolproof way I know of bringing joy in the world around you
Now all my romanticism surrounding food aside, your body releases satiety and happiness hormones when you eat. So scientifically speaking, when you cook for someone, you are bringing a little bit of joy into that persons life. If I were to bring my romanticism back in, I would tell you that the feeling of having cooked for someone, and for them to enjoy what you made, is one of the best I have ever felt. Think about the fact that you are creating something that is more than the sum of its parts when you cook, and knowing that you made something that brought happiness to someone is a great feeling
Do it enough and people will honestly ask you to make food. Getting to that level is a whole other level of joy. Remember the brownies I burnt the first time I made? My little sister, the one person in my life who will always call me out when I mess up my food (or anything else for that matter, that’s what siblings are for), occasionally asks me to make some chocolaty, gooey brownies. Friends of mine will know me for it! The feeling of being known for making good food is priceless!
So, fellow nomnivores, grab an apron and roll up your sleeves. Lay out the cutting board and put the pan on the heat. I am going to prove to you that there’s only one thing you need to cook, to amaze and to bring joy with your food.
If your food fanatic friend wanted to show you a dish involving miniature milk doughnuts in a rose-infused syrup where would you expect to be taken?
The closest hipster joint?
A hole-in-the wall place that no one has ever heard of?
An experimental cuisine place?
Maybe that one place that’s into molecular gastronomy?
How about a Michelin starred restaurant?
Now let’s say that your foodie friend didn’t want to you have any dish involving miniature milk doughnuts in a rose-infused syrup, but the freakin’ best dish involving miniature milk doughnuts in a rose-infused syrup in the world. At least he says that when he takes you back to his place. What would you think?
That he went out and got the dish with all those cool things in it from one of these fancy places, but he doesn’t want to share where he got it from?
That you are about to take part in some sort of food experiment of his?
That this is some sort of ruse or surprise for something else and the delicious sounding rose infused whatchamacallit doesn’t exist?
That this is all getting a little creepy and you should maybe tell a friend where you are?
That your friend is an overly ambitious cook who presumes to know too much about cooking? (spoiler alert: he’s not – probably.)
Imagine now (just a bit longer, I promise) that he brings out for you something that looks like this:-
Looks pretty good, doesn’t it?
You bite into it, enjoying the slight crunch you feel when you bite into the doughnut and the soft center within, all of which is soaked with a rosy sweetness (literally)
What if I told you this isn’t some newfangled kind of cuisine, your friend isn’t the world’s greatest chef (I think, although in any case you have to give him kudos for knowing this dish in the first place) and that this dish, in some form or another has been around since medieval times?
So put on your rose-tinted swimming goggles (see what I did there?) and let’s dive in!
Gulab Jamun are, in short, traditionally milk doughnuts in a rose-flavored syrup. They are one of the most eaten sweets in India, if not the most popular Indian sweet dish (although I haven’t counted or anything so it could be anything, really).
There’s a theory out there that Gulab Jamun was accidentally made by the personal chef of an Emperor called Shah Jahan. Shah Jahan is, the avid historians among you may recall, the man that commissioned the Taj Mahal (you might say he was kind of a big deal), so the fact that Gulab Jamun was made for this Emperor makes its history all the more rich.
Today you can get Gulab Jamun in almost any Indian restaurant, but unfortunately its popularity doesn’t mean you can get good Gulab Jamun just anywhere. It seems more and more that with the exception of stalls that make the Gulab Jamun fresh in front of your eyes, (and sometimes even here – they may not be fried as recently as it would look, or the dough might be older than it should be.) Gulab Jamuns are often offered as a stale, reheated dessert that is reused in buffets for Indian restaurants abroad and served on demand but not fresh in even the ‘best’ Indian restaurants. A perfect Gulab Jamun, in my opinion, has a slightly crunchy but not hard outer shell and a soft but thoroughly cooked center from its deep frying. The Jamuns (doughnuts) should be put into the rose-infused sugar syrup as soon as they are fried so that they do not dry, and absorb enough flavor to become sweet and actually taste like roses!
I used to like the store or restaurant bought Gulab Jamun cold out of the fridge, since that way they seemed to concentrate the flavor (and also so I didn’t have to heat them up – not gonna lie), but since I started making these fresh I’ve come to enjoy these warm off the pan. It’s a whole other level of awesome, especially on a cold or rainy day!
The key to good Gulab Jamun lies in making sure that as much syrup as possible is absorbed into the Jamun. For this it is important to not overcook the doughnuts, and to immediately put them in the syrup after frying so that they do not dry out. Enjoy freshly made if you can!
Serves 8 for a small dessert
For the Jamuns
150g dried milk powder
75g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
50 ml whole milk
Oil for deep frying (Vegetable, Canola, etc)
For the rose syrup
300g caster sugar
2.5 tbsp rosewater
Put all the dry ingredients for the Jamuns in a bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the melted butter.
Mix until the ingredients come together, then add just enough milk to bring the ingredients together in a stiff dough. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then gently simmer until it forms a single string when poured from a spoon, about 8-10 minutes. Take off the heat and add the rose water.
With a light, damp hand, roll out the dough into balls roughly the size of a ping-pong ball. Keep the raw balls under a damp kitchen towel to keep them from drying out. Do not make the balls too compact, since this will reduce their softness and make them less absorbent of the syrup after frying.
To deep fry, heat up oil in a karahi, wok or other deep circular cooking pot. There should be enough oil to submerge three-fourths each ball. Over medium-low heat, deep fry no more than three to four balls at a time, turning continuously with a slotted spoon to ensure even browning. We want the outside of each ball to cook but remain soft while the outside becomes golden brown. When golden brown, remove the balls with the slotted spoon, briefly drain them by holding against the side of the pot. Immediately dunk and coat the doughnut in the syrup to keep it soft and allow it to absorb syrup.
Allow the doughnuts a few minutes to absorb the syrup, and enjoy hot!