T here was nothing spectacular that happened on 13th May 2022. Hardik Patel rebelled against Congress high command, while the Congress brass went into a huddle. The spectacle is known as Chintan Shibir. This, I am told, is a periodic attempt to create a road map for the future by the grand old party of India. Then there were a few incidents. Accidents that were allegedly the fault of the administration, someone killed somebody else for reasons best known to them, and so on and so forth. And of course, the usual tears shed over rising prices of fuel and essentials. Everything that happened was expected to happen and nobody’s morning tea got spoilt bar a small incident. I decided to try my hand at cooking!
I am still baffled by the way the wire entirely ignored this epochal event but then that is a matter of speculation that I refuse to dwell on. It’s not as if I am entirely starved of work. No. In fact, some might even call me a busy man. And the detractors, I am told, call me a busy man without business. This also I refuse to dwell on. But as of now what I am sure of is me being someone who is clueless about his existence. The last sentence, if read by my clients, might jeopardise my living as my bread depends entirely on my being quite sure of my existence. If I am not, how dare I advise others on how to define and communicate someone else’s existence. But then how long can you hide the truth?
So, here was this listless soul made even more listless by the despicable edibles being served on the table in the name of lunch and dinner. With due apologies to my dear wife who is so modest about her culinary abilities that she wouldn’t even flaunt them regularly so as to hide her skill from public scrutiny, I must confess that my tastebuds get titillated just by thinking about the food cooked by my mother and grandmother.
And, dear readers, I couldn’t take it anymore. The humiliation of being berated by friends who cook and flaunt their skills by inviting me over was getting on my nerves, to put it mildly. So on that fateful day, I lit the gas oven. I had seen maa cook this and still remember the taste. A summer dish that cannot go wrong. Hoping that you might like it, I am sharing this experience.
By the way, the kitchen by the standard of lower-middle-class families is big. Yet it was crowded with gawking ladies totally sure that the man of the house would ruin the perfect pieces of katla peti and the milk. But that day armed with my memory and the complete trust in taste buds I was the Don Quixote in the kitchen to out-chef the best chefs in the world.
But they wouldn’t allow me the full independence that I deserved. They quietly put haldi and salt on the fish as I was busy at the grinder mixing six almonds with a dash of milk. Readers, if you are new to the kitchen take it from me. Don’t allow the womenfolk of the household to watch you cook. They would ruin what is fated to be ruined anyway. Do not allow them the credit for ruining it. The haldi might interfere with the colour of the final output which is expected to be milk-white though a tad greyish. A tad, not more than that. Why? Read on and don’t be impatient.
I put mustard oil in the pan and lightly fried the fish. The inside of the fish should be cooked so that it remains soft yet the typical fishy smell is eradicated. I am not used to the expert’s words to describe it. While reading just remember that this is a disgruntled unwilling cook!
Then in a separate pan, I put some white oil and put two dried red chillies, one bay leaf and put two green cardamoms and broke one small cinnamon stick into the oil. Once the flavour filled the room, I put a little bit of oil and then put ginger paste, coriander powder, cumin powder and mixed them well.
And then put the almond and milk mix into the pan and bought it to a boil. It was the time to put chili powder, salt and ground black pepper to taste.
Don’t ask me the proportion. I didn’t measure. I trusted my taste bud.
It was time to put the fish in. And then let it boil on medium flame a bit just to allow the fish and the curry to get used to the marriage. And, yes, I had covered the pan to ward off prying eyes intruding into the process of this holy consummation.
And then I put a dash of ghee, chini (sugar) and garam masala (Bengali) powder and let it simmer a bit more.
Wait. All adventures of Don Quixote had disasters. And I was no exception. As I was cooking there were mechanics in the kitchen trying to bring our 16-year-old micro back to life, there were service people working on AC and then the driver from the garage to take our car for repairing the AC!
So I made a big mistake. Just before putting in the ghee, I had to put kalonji pasted in the grinder with a dash of milk. The paste shouldn’t have so much of the black spice as to turn the curry greyish on the dark side. But I had put two and a half spoon full of kalonji when a little over one spoon would have done the trick.
But you know what! For a first attempt, it wasn’t bad. I have my wife’s word for it. And yes, nobody clicked the final output!