My answer will and always will, be hilsa

“What’s your favourite kind of fish?” asked Priya.

dog

Her mouth was full of badly made chicken patty and her legs were propped up on the center table, on which lay few more chicken patties, more horrible than the other. The 6-month-old puppy that hardly looks like a puppy anymore, sniffed around for scraps.

We’d tried to get as much work done on the Help Center article for our travel website, as possible. Curiously, it has given us a lot of clarity. Priya, someone I haven’t introduced to you, is a childhood friend. We met when we were both in the sixth grade, at a dinner party her family threw. She talked my ears off and I just sat there wearing a kimono.

Nineteen years later and we’re partners in a travel start-up, yearning for a nomad life and 26-inch waists. I mean what is the point of running a travel website, if you can’t travel and look fucking fantastic while doing it, right?

On Sunday, we were watching Dipa Karmakar on the vaults during dinner, when the topic of fish came up. In all honesty, we’re Bengalis — we’re always talking about fish. We could be sitting in our grandfather’s armchair complaining about the heat or traipsing the Salt Flats of Utah solo, but we would always talk about (or even better, eat) fish. It can’t be helped, you know. Throughout our school days, we woke up early to Continue reading My answer will and always will, be hilsa

with a bucket-load of mayonnaise

I feel like I’ve been lying to you all this while, dear readers.

I give you cake and beef stew, brownies and silky caramel. I give you smoky mushrooms and baked and caked coffee and then I make it seem as if that’s what and how I eat every single day of my life. Which is far from the truth really. I don’t cut thick slices of cake after every meal on weekends or even have a baking routine. I don’t make deep amber stews for lunch every day. Every other day my oven remains switched off even.

In fact, I’m one of those people who will quite happily settle down with a piece of toast slathered with store-bought mayonnaise and topped with thick-cut fries that came from the ‘Frozen’ section of the supermarket. There was also the time when I contentedly tucked into fake fake(!) crab. Also let me tell you that a suggestively fat keilbasa – the kind that comes vacuum packed – along with a whole bar of Lindt 70% and a tumbler of Diet Coke is a perfectly acceptable dinner. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.

I understand that this is the exact opposite of what I probably should promote as a food fanatic, and that too, one with a blog (how did that happen?!). Cooking from scratch is where all the action is and it is where I want to be – most of the time – if I can only get over my predilection for shortcuts and quick fixes. And besides, I spent the first two decades of my life pumping mayonnaise and two-minute noodles into my bloodstream every time I found myself alone and having to think about my next meal. Old habits, darling, die hard.

I spent most of 2009 working in small architectural firm in Mumbai. One of those cities that claim to never sleep. And every morning before leaving for work, I actually packed myself a wholly homemade lunch – something that I still find hard to believe! During the course of eight months, I had wrestled twenty recipes for chicken in my repertoire, along with two potato salads, a twangy mushroom pilaf and most importantly, a plethora of vegetarian concoctions (my soul sister and then-room-mate Fauri, was a staunch vegetarian and I didn’t want her to murder me in my sleep for all the birds that I seemed to be consuming).

 But every now and then I found myself – and find myself now – slipping back into the comforting arms of microwaveable chicken wings and canned tuna, which incidentally, tastes fantastic on savoury digestive biscuits. In my defense, I have no issues with £5 shoes, junk food or white lies as long as they look pretty, taste good and make everyone happy. It hasn’t changed much since then, but I’m trying, dear readers. And I’m telling you all about it. I’m laying it all out right here for you to see. Please, don’t judge.

Potato and Tuna salad for lazy-bones, with a bucket-load of mayonnaise

This salad obviously requires a minimal amount of cooking, is smothered in mayonnaise, or Ranch, if you have any lying around and canned tuna. Its so easy, that you might even feel ashamed of yourself while you eat it, but it will see you lovingly through to the bottom of the bowl.

Note on potatoes: The best potatoes to use here would be either Jersey Royal or King Edward. If these are difficult to find where you live then go with small new potatoes or red-skinned ones. Try not to use Yukons or Russets because they disintegrate pretty quickly on steaming.
Steaming/boiling time depends on the kind of potatoes you’re using, especially their sizes. For bigger potatoes like Jersey Royals, its best to scrub them, halve them and boil them in water for 20-25 minutes or till tender. The amount of water used should just be enough to cover all the halves and the pan should be covered while cooking. The cooked potatoes should be cooled before the skins are taken off and then chopped into bite-sized chunks. For smaller potatoes like new potatoes, you just need to scrub them and then boil till tender.

Note on cumin and fennel: The best way to go about using any spice is to dry-roast the seeds in a non-stick pan till they give off a faintly nutty smell. These seeds should then be ground up finely before use.

2 lbs (1 kg) Jersey Royal potatoes, quartered and steamed (see head note)
1 1/2 cups of mayonnaise
2 tbsp of honey
2 cans of tuna packed in brine or sunflower oil [the brine/oil needs to be drained off]
1 tbsp of ground cumin
1/2 tbsp of ground fennel seeds
1 cup of chopped coriander leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste

Steam/boil the potatoes (see head note). After they have been cooled and cut into bite-sized chunks, combine all the ingredients except for the fennel and toss them together. Sprinkle the fennel on top before serving. The salad is best eaten cold.