Lost connections. And loaded hot dogs.

I have lost a lot of connection with food.

Actually, that is incorrect. I should say that I’ve lost a lot of connection with cooking. Or baking. A month ago, I baked two apple cakes (no photographs to show you, unfortunately), one for home and one for my in-laws to-be. They both came out tough and bone-dry. I discovered that a tad too late, while one of the cakes was already on its way to its new home, 60 kilometers away. Oh well.

Yesterday I cooked a whole vat of khichdi and another vat of dum aloo without a single grain of salt. Yikes.

We did finish our meal. But mum, at the end of her meal, scrunched up her nose and looked at me sideways. She sighed and remarked on how I might have lost my touch due to zero practice in the kitchen, in the last two years. Now that I think of it, I’m sure it has been more than just two years since I have spent proper time in the kitchen.

To be real, the last time I really got it on in the kitchen was last Christmas, when Diya and I whipped up a batch of, undoubtedly the best — yes, I’m using that word — hot dogs ever. Or rather, the best hot dogs I’ve ever had so far.

I haven’t mentioned much about my friend Diya, she who is a master of making curry with canned tuna and the official ambassador of New Places to Eat Out At, out of all my friends. She also makes a mean flourless chocolate cake, the recipe for which I have been trying to pry out of her for quite a long time.

I had anticipated that Christmas last year was going to be a quiet one. Over the last two or three years, the Christmas Day Feast that Mum and I usually throw, have fizzled out quite a bit. We still cook a substantial lunch, but not for the twenty odd people we usually cooked for years prior. So last year, when Mum was travelling, I invited Diya over and asked her to bring a pound of bacon along with her.

We’re not technically hot dog people, although I am partial to a soggy, steaming hot, processed-pork one that I usually come across at my local movie theater. In all honesty, we wanted to try making mustard aioli and shredded bacon, and we need something to carry both. In came sausages clad in molten cheese, in a bed of buttered bread lined with caramelized onions.

These are silly easy to make. I mean the onions can be cooked down with a pinch of salt and a spoonful of sugar, till they become all jammy. The bacon can be fried up and shredded by hand. The aioli can be slurried together in a bowl. The sausages can just be grilled or bunged into a greasy pan till cooked through. And then it’s just a matter of assemblage.

sausage

Loaded Hot Dogs

Ingredients:

1 tbsp salted butter,
2 tsp white granulated sugar,
2 medium sized red onions, sliced finely,
2 tsp of apple cider vinegar,
Salt to taste

1 large egg yolk,
1 clove of garlic, finely grated,
1 tsp of chilli flakes,
1/4 tsp salt (table salt is fine, but kosher salt or sea salt will work better),
2 tsp grainy mustard (we use Bengali kashundi, which is extremely spicy and pungent),
1/2 – 1 cup extra virgin olive oil (you’ll be able to taste the oil, so choose a good-quality one),
Lemon juice, to taste

4-6 rashers of fatty bacon
4-6 hot dog sausages (pork is best, but lamb and chicken will do too)
4-6 hot dog buns, warmed and buttered
4-6 slices of cheddar cheese (the pre-made ones are fine, you can also use pepper jack)

How to:

  1. To make quick caramelized onions, heat the butter in a non-stick pan. Add the onions and sugar when the butter starts browning (don’t let it burn!). Pile the onion strips in the center of the pan. Cover and cook on low for twenty minutes till onions are brown. Check every five minutes to note the moisture in the pan. If it looks too dry, sprinkle a teaspoon of water the edges of the onion pile. Repeat every five minutes. Add the vinegar and salt and stir them in. Cook on low heat for another twenty minutes, while repeating the moisture method above. By the end of 40-50 minutes, the onions should be a bit jammy and sticky, but not too gelatinous. Remove from heat and keep aside.
  2. Slightly warm a stainless steel bowl. With a metal whisk, whisk together the egg yolk, garlic, chilli flakes, salt and mustard, till combined. Start pouring the olive oil from a height, in a thin stream, into this egg yolk mixture, very slowly, while whisking vigorously. There are tons o mayonnaise making methods and videos online, so check one out. You can also do this is a food processor or with an electrical whisk. Whisk the entire oil in vigorously, till it forms a creamy, pale yellow emulsion. I did this with an electrical whisk and the creamy emulsion formed after I used up about 1/2 a cup of olive oil. You may need more or less. Stir in a teaspoon of lemon juice and taste. The aioli should be tangy and garlicky. Adjust the quantity of lemon juice if necessary.
  3. In a super hot pan (cast iron would work best), fry up the bacon rashers till crispy. you can also do this in the oven. Take out of the pan and set aside. Once cooled, use fingers to shred the bacon in rough strips.
  4. In the same pan add the sausages and cook till done, and a toothpick inserted in one of the centers comes out with clean juices. Alternatively you can also grill the sausages. When the sausages are done, take them off the heat and layer the cheese slices one by one on top. Once the cheese has melted, you can start assembling the hot dogs.
  5. In warmed and buttered buns, add a layer of caramelized onions, one or two sausage(s) with melted cheese on top. Top with shredded bacon and aioli.

 

P.S.: I realize that with my last post, I may have dropped a big bomb on your heads, along with additional, smaller bombs as well. What I’m grateful for, and love about my readers is that even if I appear out of nowhere, you are always there for me. I’ve received a few emails asking me about how everything came about and whether the man I’m marrying loves food as much as I do (he’s a food-loving hog!). I will post more on this on a later date. I promise.

New, newer, newest

Sometimes it’s not lack of time that prevents me from coming here.

Sometimes it’s just a loss for words.

One thing I was sure of, at the fag end of 2017, was that my life would remain within the set lines of the coloring book I had imagined it to be. I would be able to color within the lines with whatever color I want, and the color would never stray out to the unknown edges of the page.

I was wrong.

The eight months of 2018 have left me dizzy and out of breath. Sometimes with food and sometimes without. In fact, I came very close to saying goodbye to this space. My little haven for a life living in gluttony. A space where I have felt safe to share all the good and the bad that comes with being a displaced Bengali girl. You’ve heard me through the hum of good food and the through the disappointment of the burnt and ruined bits. So I can’t say goodbye. On the contrary, I have a distinct feeling that I might be spending more time with you in the near future.

With reference to the photograph above, you should know that I was initially here to talk about hot dogs. Not your everyday grab-on-the-go-dogs-in-soggy-bread kind. But super special ones that we made for Christmas last year. Yes, that’s how long I’ve been holding on to that recipe. You’ll have to wait for the next post for the entire story on that. But first, here are the new, newer and newest:

The first new thing that happened this year, wasn’t technically a twist of Fate, but Fate in her happy, merry way pretending to work hard. I published a book.

Yep, you read that right. My stint as a commissioned editor a couple of years ago, led me to work with a most interesting group of young writers who were looking for help to self-publish their books. And 2017 was spent editing numerous manuscripts, designing book covers, working closely with PR professionals on the nuances of book selling, and realizing the immense amount of talented writers that exist out there. What resulted was a comprehensive resource box of advice that I compiled into a book and published it in May this year. I’m more than happy to report that it’s doing rather well.

Did I ever think I’d be working…maybe I should say semi-working…in the publishing industry? No. But here we are. Besides that, I’m now on the mission to publish my fiction pieces in as many literary journals as possible, while I work on The Book. Remember, The Book? Yes? No? Oh, who knows.

Next came art. Another industry I didn’t ever think I’d have a foot in. But I find myself now standing knee-deep — both knees — in it. Out of having nothing to do but work and a serious bout of bad mental health, I turned to art. I do that though. I turn to food, art, design, literature, till I turn mad with all of them dancing off my head.

Last year, I plowed through a 100-day art challenge and sold off half of them, the proceeds from which went to relief for Syria. It wasn’t pretty, the challenge. For someone who hates seeing things through, or more accurately is totally lazy, committing to a 100-day challenge was something to write home about.

But this year art took center stage and I have a sneaky suspicion that it will be standing squarely in the center for a long time. February this year, I started taking commissions from people (I’m going to be fancy and call them “clients” or “friends” and “family”) who had followed my work through the 100-day Art for Syria Challenge.

After a quick holiday to Thailand, Bali and Singapore (that included a barrage of chicken rice, seafood barbecue, pork hotpots, babi guling and plates and plates of nasi goreng), one thing led to another, a dead Instagram account led to a busy one, commissions led to a group exhibition (!!!!!). A group exhibition led to another. And now I’ve popped off my work to International galleries and art curators for upcoming shows.

That escalated quickly. Yikes. For sure.

It was almost like walking through a surreal, time-stunted painting, earlier this month when I put up a small collection of paintings at a group show in The Birla Academy of Art & Culture — an institution I’ve had immense respect for since I was a wee kid, walking by it on my way to school. There were people who visited and then proceeded to stand and stare at my work. They even talked about it and some of them wrote about it in newspapers and pointed cameras at it and broadcasted the coverage on the telly.

Unreal. Unreal. Unreal. I kid you not, all I did was float through it, numb with the idea that my work was actually being noticed.

The coming months hold a lot of promise.

I jest. It holds fear.

For you Londoners out there, I’m on the list for ArtRooms London that’s in January, 2019. There are a couple of group shows that I’m also going to be a part of, the dates and names of which will be released later. I’m currently collaborating with a UK-based art consultant (I’m shamelessly going to boast about how they’re one of the biggest ones in the industry) in an effort to make abstract artwork by new artists more accessible to new collectors across the UK. I might just dry and shrivel up into a bean of a human with all the work. One of my followers on Instagram suggested that I should start vlogging (yeah right! I laughed out loud at that one) about my art and process and all that fancy shit on Youtube.

Can you imagine a socially anxious, untalented hack trundling through the art world and recording it at the same time for all the planet to see? No?

Neither can I.

But wouldn’t it be something if I meet you at my next show?

Well, now that I’ve rattled off every boring thing that I’ve been up to for the last year, I’m going to ask you to hold on. There’s more news. The newest of them all, actually. And this is the one that scares me most, right out of my stinky evening-walk shoes. But I’m about to dole out the band-aid rip off treatment on this one because there’s no other way of saying this:

I’m getting married.

You heard that right.

And that’s all the news for tonight folks. Let’s talk about hot dogs in the next post!