Thursday, September 10, 2009

Economy of Instructions & Ingredients

Browse through the food and drink section of any book store in India and you'll come across stacks of cook booklets. These booklets cover a mind boggling range: Microwave Party Cooking, No Sugar/Oil/Salt recipes, Fast foods (that is, food that is allowed when observing a religious fast!), Blood Pressure Cooking (?) etc.
Most of these booklets are the size of a largish postcard and have one recipe per page. While one can't take short cuts when listing ingredients, brevity comes in when providing cooking instructions.
Take this one for example:
Grind the first 5 ingredients to make a paste. Prepare the tempering and pour over the paste. Cook the rice. Create layers of the rice and the paste. Serve hot.

Clearly these recipes are not for the novice cook as they seem to assume that the reader has some basic knowledge of cooking.
Come to think of it, these recipes are absolutely tweet-ready.

Ask my Aai for a recipe and you get a list of ingredients. She (correctly) assumes that I have the smarts to estimate the quantity of said ingredients. Since I have watched her cook for years she also assumes that I have learned something by osmosis. Correct, once again!

After sampling some of the late-summer sweet corn, she suggested we make corn pulao by 'adding corn to our usual party pulao'. Economy of instructions!

Do not let the pale appearance fool you. This flavourful pulao is fantastic on its own but is a simple and uncomplicated part of any party menu where everything else is vying for ones attention.

Corn Pulao
1 cup rice, wash and set aside
1 cup fresh corn kernels
5 cloves
2 leaves tamaalpatra (tej patta)
1 inch piece of cinnamon
1 tbsp oil
salt, to taste
2 cups (or more) hot water

Heat the oil and when hot add the spices.
Saute till they start to darken (about a minute).
Add the rice and corn and saute for another minute.
Stir in the water and cook uncovered still most of the water is absorbed.
Add the salt and give it a good stir.
Put the lid on and cover till the rice cooks through.

Five ingredients, not counting salt and oil. Economy of ingredients!
The pulao is making it way to Anita's party.
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