My mornings start with a stroll to the kitchen to look around to see what’s there; and then making breakfast for myself. This was not always so. I used to go to a café every morning earlier. I missed having people around me, and going out helped. I wrote The Travelling Belly — fuelled by soft chicken sandwiches, masala omelettes or fried egg and buttered toast and steaming mugs of cappuccinos — at Candies, the friendly-neighbourhood café in Bandra, Mumbai.
Six months back, I decided to overhaul the way I ate to be fitter. Eating more meals at home was the cornerstone of my strategy. I decided to write at home from then onwards, and make my own breakfast. One thing that I missed was a good omelette. While I have been making them since my college days in Kolkata, my omelettes would often break. One day I decided to use the small and round saucepan that my aunt-in-law had given us. I saw an Instagram video put by my friend Nikhil Merchant and realised that sauteeing the stuffing that I put inside separately and then adding it back once the omelette was ready helped. I did just that: poured the whisked egg into the pan. The pan was so small that there was no space left once the egg covered the surface. I cooked it on low heat as I had seen Nikhil do. Voila, the eggs formed perfectly. I added the sauteed vegetables on top and had a lovely omelette. My omelette conundrum was cracked and I began to make a variety of omelettes in the morning.
Gadgets have always been my friend in the kitchen. My wife had once gifted me an oven as I wanted to break the mental block that I had when it came to baking. I had attended Pooja Dhingra’s baking classes back then. I made chocolate chip cookies and chocolate brownies in the oven. My wife loved them. Much to her chagrin, I never made them again. Baking, as a process, never excites me. The oven was not relegated to a corner of the loft though. I began to make a series of roasts in it – fish, chicken, potatoes, and brinjals too. I would experiment with spice rubs, start the oven and then go for our evening walks. Dinner would be ready by the time my wife and I were back. Later, I discovered the air fryer, and used that often to make grills – it took less time. Most recently, I have begun using a grill pan and making a variety of things such as fish ghee roasts, stir fried vegetables in soya sauce, chicken marinated in lalmaas masala from Jaipur. The dishes take very little time to cook and add a lot of variety to our table.
No, it’s not just about time-saving tools. The stone mortar and pestle that I had lugged back from Chiang Mai and the cast iron saucepans I bought from the MahalaxmiSaras Festival, in Mumbai, are tools that come handy when I have guests at home and want to impress them.
Yes, I owe a lot to my kitchen tools — modern and traditional — for egging me on to be experimental. Is this a guy thing? Do you know of men whose way into the kitchen was eased by the kitchen tools that they used? Do you have stories of your own? Please write to us at www.timeskitchentales.com with your tales.
How to Get over your kitchen fear…
- Go to the local market and check for produce which is in season. Go to wet markets (a market selling fresh meat and produce). Interact with the vendors. It is super fun.
- Online videos and blogs often share recipes in a manner which is easy to follow by beginners.
- Visit markets when you travel and bring back spice mixes, pickles, to add a whole new dimension to your meals back home.
- Look at online sources such as Instagram to get ideas on how to present day-to-day meals in a fresh manner. Learn how to make simple meals seem more attractive.
- Do post your own efforts in the kitchen on social media as a personal pat on your back after having cooked a meal. You deserve it.
How can you be a part of this? Keep a lookout for this space – where we will introduce fresh topics of discussion every week. Find us at: www.timeskitchentales.com and share your stories. The most inspiring stories from the repository of ‘Times Kitchen Tales’ will be shared in this column.