2007/08/10

Weekend cooking

Ma came from a family of artists , in that her older sister and her younger sister were artists . The most she came to drawing was sketching "daw", a crow, for us when we were tots and babushka type women on our fingers and thumbs . But that's not to say she wasnt an artist - her embroidery was superb, she was a great dressmaker and she knitted fabulous woollens for all of us . Her greatest forte was cooking - an art which is sadly lacking in us since both my sister and I are great slapdash cooks but ask us to spend time in preparing intricate dishes and we're both out of the window before you can even draw your gun out .

Watching her cook was like watching an artist draw a masterpiece - the right  ingredients , the right temperature , the right flavours  - whether it was plain machher jhol , or doi machh , the humble chorchori , mutton, kababs, the great Bengali mangsher chop and mangsher shingara, a cake or a pudding  . Since we grew up majorly outside Bengal ,cuisine from the North also crept in as did cakes and stuff gleaned from cook books . So we grew up to be great khaata peeta girls - yes I have lost a lot of weight since then , but sadly enough the joy of eating a variety of well cooked barir ranna has gone out of our lives and I realise that no food in the world is better  than the stuff one's  Ma cooked .

Today , being a Saturday and outside food being a no no during the rains , I have decided , after a lot of thought and research to make a biryani.  As I am posting this the yakhni or stock is bubbling on the stove . I have put in 2 large cardamons , two sticks of Kochi cinnamon, four cloves , peppercorn, shahjeera , haldi, onion and ginger juliennes and salt. The chicken has been marinated in an onion garlic ginger paste with turmeric, cumin powder, a dash of chilli powder and two tablespoons of oil. I have also grated some nutmeg to add after the biryani is cooked. All this is very good . The trick however lies in marrying  the rice and the meat together so that the flavours are melded and the rice grains are separate and light and infused with the taste of all the spices that have gone into it and the meat melts in your mouth 
Oh and lets not forget the salt. I'm a whiz at forgetting to put in salt and my daughters are always apprehensive . 
If it looks nice yep , there has to be a catch somewhere - Ma has forgotten to put the salt in.So theyre always ready with the salt shaker .
Boro Mashi was a great cook. She kept herself very far from all domestic procedures which were efficiently handled by the redoubtable Kanan . But she unbent as far as biryani was concerned and her biryani was acclaimed far and wide . The secret was in cooking the meat and rice separately- the meat  till it was soft and dry and  the rice cooked through . Before serving she would mix the two up in a large handi and voila Mashi's biryani was ready . 

No apprehensions about overdone rice and underdone meat .

2 comments:

Dotm said...

Yes, Eve, our Mom`s leave us wishing we cooked like they did. We use all these measuring utensils, while they just used guess work for how much of this and how much of that- or a pinch of this and a dab of that. Still when they were finished everything tasted so delicious.
Since the Dr told me to watch the salt, I stopped using it in most of my cooking, so there sits the salt shaker so everyone can add their own amount of salt. Noone ever complaines which I am happy about.

You reminded me of all those lovely embroidered table scarfs and fancy embroidered pillow cases with the crocheted edges that my Mother used to make for everyone. If you had asked my Mother, she would have said she couldn`t do much and wasn`t very good at most things. Truth was she just had too little confidence in herself. Even in her 80`s she was still winning Trophy`s in the Bowling league she belonged to. I taught her how to crochet and it wasn`t long before she was making many beautiful Doilys, towel tops, and loads of other items. I remember she made an awful lot of mittens and scarfs for all the younger family members. My mom has been gone now for 32 years and I still have some fancy towels she made hanging in my kitchen, some crocheted couch pillows in the living room, Doilys of different styles and sizes on the stands and so much more. I learned my gardening and machine sewing from her. I remember some dresses she made for my older sister and I when we were young. Seems like our Mothers were good at a lot of the same things. I bet you remember many of the items that your Mother made like I do.
Thanks for the memories!

hillgrandmom said...

My mom made fancy stuff when we were all kids. Later, when the grandchildren visited she cooked again. But she was always an epicure.
I am sooooo not into cooking!