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.

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Madness

It feels like I’m about start leaking marbles from my ears. Can you see it? Can you see the veins against my temples starting to split at their seams? In a moment, I’ll leak and be declared insane.

You, darling reader, would be happy to know, that I have survived a meltdown. Of elephantine proportions. There is a chance I’m exaggerating, but allow me this. Saying that I have “been busy” would be an understatement. You already know that I have been in this state of busyness, for a while. But last week was it for me.

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Seriously…

It started two months ago with a small idea of reviving the “book”. Which in hindsight has proven to be a bigger task that I have ever come across, but we all know that I’m prone to biting off more than I can chew. The “book” has been on and off for the last ten years. Even before I graduated from college. Back then, it was mostly about friends and the comic heights of being a student of architecture. It then moved on to life inn Mumbai, graduate studies in Nottingham and then finally London.

I’d write pieces. Stow some away. Some I would use and put them in the blog here, mostly the ones related to food. The others would just sit quietly in the vastness of Google Drive. Right after we traveled back from our SE Asian holiday, an ad-man friend, Richard — who comes as a complete set with the sculpted beard and curled up mustache — asked me to review a short story he had written and was thinking about submitting it to a literary magazine (!!!!). As expected, the piece was brilliant. But more inspiring than anything.

“Do you think you can take it on?” I found Priya asking me, a week later. We were discussing Richard’s piece over Skype, and how I felt hungry and tempted to fire up that old Google Drive account and retrieve all my forgotten stories.

“You know where we are with the company,” she continued. I did know. I do know.

We have a Bali retreat coming up (in a week’s time!) and in my anxiety I have chewed off all my finger nails. Priya’s daily routine now includes rocking back and forth on her office chair, every morning, for two hours, imagining all organisational disasters that could possibly happen during the retreat. There’s an Egypt trip coming up in December, which adds to the frenzy. We’re about to announce our 2018 dates. The website is being pricked and prodded and torn apart by an SEO expert. The Indian banking system is a nightmare to navigate. We’re rapidly running out of money we had set aside for marketing. The affiliates’ program is about to be launched. Bloggers and influencers rule the world. Our tech guys are more scholars than executors.

Continue reading Madness

Lemon cake to comfort us

Hellooooo.

I have cake!

And some news. But I will totally understand if you skip the news and scroll right down to the cake recipe.

The travel startup I started with Priya, a while back is in its final stages of conception. We’ve named it Altertrips.

You know, after the words “alternate” and “trips”. Get it?! Ha ha, LOL.

cake_1

After 12 years of being an aspiring nomad, of changing jobs and countries and continents and holidays, certain acute aspects of the travel industry has started to bother me. And we’re looking to address that problem.

As we’re inching towards the launch – December, yikes – my palms are getting sweatier, my fingertips are bloody with all the nail biting, I’m hoarse after continuously yelling at my co-founder and my tech guys (I’m quite sure they’re ready to strangle me by now, but that will be a battle for another day).

I will talk to you about it soon, in another blog post.

Let’s just say for now, that it has been lesson after lesson, on life and on overcoming obstacles. We’ve been deeply humbled, overwhelmed, excited, triumphant, confused and angry at times. Sometimes all of that at the same time. And the intensity strengthens as we near, what we will call from now on, LAUNCH DATE.

But until then, we have lemon cake to comfort us.

Continue reading Lemon cake to comfort us

we do nice things with roast chicken here

fenugreek roast chicken

When you’re single, envious of your married friends, self un-assured and plummeting towards 30 like nobody’s business, you start making promises to yourself. About your future no less. Yep. You have very little clue where you are in your present, but nevertheless, you make promises about your future. The word you’re looking for is “optimism”.

When it’s late enough in the night and you find yourself tossing and turning on your bed trying to find a cool spot on your pillow, or you’re hungry enough to constantly keep opening up the refrigerator door as if something suitable to eat would magically pop up any second — that’s when those promises show up at the forefront of your mind. And they refuse to go away till either you resort to counting imaginary sheep, or till you’re distracted by something smothered in chocolate or by someone with an invite to the latest bistro (apparently) in town. Oh but I’m rambling.

I made myself a few promises, quite a while ago, notably while eating greasy strands of bacon over the sink at midnight after returning from work. It was cold and damp like most English evenings, the house was as quiet as death and it was a quick dinner after a long day.

Continue reading we do nice things with roast chicken here

I’ve been thinking

We’ve had quite a mellow week. I love weeks like that. They start amicably and end weary, but happily. The weeks that start with the rustle of newspapers, a simple bowlful of cucumber and tomato salad or mayo sandwiches. And then goes on to a lunch of plain – and sometimes under-seasoned – lasagna at the office cafeteria.

Weeks that don’t come with the threat of deadlines and that end with a warm eggplant hash for dinner. Instead, they come with laundry that needs to be done and put out to hang till dry. And then for good measure we’ll pull out an umbrella and keep it within arm’s reach, just in case the city decided to pull an 8th April.

These weeks are sometimes likely to be punctuated with a soft cake and glasses of cheap port. Weeks like these call for spending time with your mother over out-of-season cocoa and introducing her to things like Touch and a salad that uses tinned mackerel.

These are seven days that end with happiness, food, family and with you. I would like to mention here that I’m trying to act all dignified and grown-up right now, but its difficult to hide your excitement and to stop flapping arms when you know people like reading about [or maybe even making?] the food you eat.

A quick shout out to Jeannie of Jeannie Richard and Esti of Coffee Camera Love who think I deserve the Versatile Blogger Award [gasp!]. Thank you! You guys really know how to make my day.

I know I keep coming back here to talk to you about food. And it doesn’t even begin to quantify the amount of food-oriented thinking I do throughout the day. I think of sandwiches and yet I haven’t told you anything about them. We love sandwiches here.

I try my hand at pastry but when I look back at it, I feel like I haven’t cooked anything real. For starters, I haven’t baked bread yet [!]. I haven’t yet made homemade ricotta. And even though I make sure I know where my chicken is coming from, I haven’t ever spatchcocked any. I understand that many of my readers may have done all that already and that makes me bite my lips and look at my feet.

Now that I’m typing this I’ve just realized that I’m a dabbler. A dabbler who doesn’t know how to bone a duck or is too chicken to make puff pastry from scratch. I have been happy to look and salivate at a pork terrine for the last two years but haven’t even had the guts to attempt one. But this is about to change. At least, I hope it is. If I ever have the chance to give my 23 year-old self a piece of my mind, I’d tell her to suck it up and dive into making a three-tier wedding cake instead of dilly-dallying with watery tomato soup.

I will see you next week. And it will be good.

Have a happy weekend you lot.

P.S.:- the photographs were taken with my dad’s old Yashica that I’ve been tinkering with. And those trees below are what my folks see when they wake up every morning. When on earth is that going to happen to me?