Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sunday Afternoon and Some Chilli Chicken

Sunday afternoon for any Bangali (add ‘bheto’* to that) means ‘MANGSHER JHOL’**. Yes, in CAPS. With alu, potatoes, cut into halves. Doom struck my family a couple of weeks ago when the husband was diagnosed with high cholesterol levels which effectively translated into an embargo on red meat. Since then, the humble chicken, which by the way I consider vegetarian, has been making its foray into the kitchen a tad too often. And it’s only this Sunday that a sudden bout of nostalgia made me crave for some chilli chicken.
Rewind to the days of yore when chowmein and chilli chicken occupied the status of gourmet cuisine for many of us. Come birthday parties and we would customarily have chowmein-chilli chicken on the menu. Come another birthday party two days later and the same menu would follow. Make no mistakes. We were never bored of this sacrosanct combination. The challenge however lay with the moms who had to ensure that the chilli chicken was without the chilli for “beshi jhaal hole bachchara kikore khaabe!” (Google Translate would tell you that it means "How will the kids eat if it's too hot"). Sigh! How simple was life and its complexities…
 
Forward to 2014 and I was faced with a similar challenge. The husband’s taste buds do not make much room for chillies and allied products. Besides, I was attempting chilli chicken for the first time. Having checked a couple of recipes on the internet, I decided to take the plunge and create my own version of chilli chicken. The decision was primarily driven by two factors. First, I have never been very good with instructions anyway (innovation anyone :P) and secondly and more importantly, I was too lazy (read healthy) to fry all the pieces of chicken before cooking the gravy and wanted a shortcut which is very me and works perfectly well!
 
The chilli chicken turned out pretty neat and therefore I decided to document and share it here. I hope you try it out sometime, Sunday or otherwise J
   That's me in action...the stool on which I stand on helps me get the extra edge!!!



Here’s what I used:

·      About 750 grams of chicken with bones (I love the bones way more than the meat and never cook without them)

·       3-4 teaspoons of vinegar

·        About 4 teaspoons of soy sauce

·         2-3 teaspoons of red chilli sauce

·         2-3 teaspoons of green chilli sauce

·         1 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper

·         I teaspoon of cornflour

·         3 large onions chopped not too finely

·         1 large garlic and a few extra pods which I had spare

·         4 green chillies

·         Coriander leaves

·         2 teaspoons of refined oil

·         Salt to taste

 Here’s what I did:
  •  Made a rough paste of the garlic pods. Marinated the chicken pieces with 2 teaspoons of vinegar, 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, garlic paste, pepper and salt for about one and a half hours. You may also consider making a paste of the green chillies and adding it to the chicken at this stage. I avoided this because of aforementioned challenge.

·     In a pressure cooker (shortcut again), added the oil and saut├ęd the onions till light brown.

·      Added the chicken and cooked for a while.

·      Added the sauces and the vinegar and cooked again. The chicken by now had started releasing water. Kept cooking till the water dried up considerably.

·     Once the chicken looked cooked, added about two teacups of water. At this stage, I also stirred in the cornflour with a little bit of water (remember Sanjeev Kapoor saying “no lumps”). Like I mentioned, we are ‘bheto bangalis’ and wanted a little bit of gravy to go with the rice. You may adjust the amount of water depending on whether you want it runny or on the drier side.  Added some more salt (be careful, the chicken is already marinated in salt and soy sauce is also salty).

·      Once the water started to boil, put the lid on and cooked for about fifteen minutes on medium flame. I have a Hawkins pressure cooker which does not blow prominent whistles but just lets the steam out on its own whims. So, I cannot comment on the number of whistles but roughly fifteen minutes it was.

·      Opened the lid, poured out the contents and topped with lots of chopped green chillies and coriander leaves.
Just a click before we eat
The husband approved and so did my hungry self. Content with the chilli chicken and life, proceeded towards the bedroom for a round of Sunday siesta.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz………..

*"Bheto -bangali" signifies a rice-loving Bengali. Most bongs seem to somehow fit into this category
** Meat curry, rather a soupy meat curry. Sure-shot recipe to make any Bong eat twice his normal capacity.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Colour Purple - Memoirs of a First Time Voter on a Sunny Thursday


So I voted. For the first time. Yes I know. I am 27 which means I had been eligible to vote for the past nine years but unfortunately that never happened. Well, that is another story and let’s not go there for the time being. Instead, let me just blabber about my excitement as a first time voter and the sheer high that I have been getting admiring the purple stain on my otherwise unpolished unmanicured index finger.
But before I go there, I must applaud the initiative of registertovote.com because of which I am able to do all this blabbering in the first place. Having nothing better to do on a lazy Saturday afternoon I decided to log in and fill in my details on this site.  Voila, two days later a man stands at my doorstep, takes my documents and a funny passport sized photo (I am sure mine isn’t an exception as far as the passport photo is concerned) and in another two days ensures that I have the chance to brandish my newly made election card in front of my family's amused eyes.
The eve of my election day ended in office with a rather entertaining performance by my highly dramatic and talented colleague who derives sheer happiness from mimicking Rekha in ‘Khoon Bhari Maaang’ from time to time.  Election time however made him shift his allegiance to Juhi Chawla and her high voltage performance as a shrewd neta* in the recently released ‘Gulaab Gang’ (“Kiske denge aap vote, jiske haath mein hai remote”. Mast slogan hai re baba!!). I came home and decided to bake a lemon cake in honour of the midweek holiday the next day. Overbaked on the exterior and undercooked on the inside was not much of an honour but nonetheless and watched Sherlock till three in the morning without worrying about the alarm the next morning.

Being the responsible citizen that I am , I woke up the next morning earlier than usual (eleven o’clock instead of the usual twelve o’clock or so on weekends) and did a search on the candidates in my constituency and browsed through the newspaper with Modi staring hard at me from the front page (“Your one vote can make a majority”) and Rahul Baba and a horde of empowered women smiling at me from the last (“Mahilayon ko sammaan, mahilayon ko ek lakh rupye ka aasaan loan”). In between I had Virat Kohli, Gul Panag, bespectacled college-goers and sunglassed homemakers inspiring me to go and vote while I enjoyed my freshly-made parathas with achaar and baby gulaab-jamuns on the side. Satiated with the brunch I dabbed some sunscreen and set off. On the way I once again checked out my funny photo on the election card, laughed to/at myself and the credentials of the netas in my New Delhi constituency.
The atmosphere outside the polling station was sort of happening. Trying-to-look-alert cops, aunties buying veggies after having voted, journalist with cameraman in tow (I adjusted my hair thinking they might want a byte but no such luck :P), above average looking hunks in slept-in bermudas, I-am-Marxist-at-heart Bengali uncles (I stay in C.R. Park, a predominantly Bong neighbourhood in Delhi) unanimously agreeing on the cons of ‘Kamal’, ‘Jhaaru’, ‘Haath’and so on. I entered trying not to look like a first time voter. I was asked to proceed to Polling Station Number 107, the one with no queue, no crowd at all. I was somehow drawn to Polling Station 117 since it had the longest line. Being a first time voter, I wanted to stand in one of those serpentine queues, get all tanned and sweaty, observe the movements and the nuances around as I waited to get my finger stained. But that was not to be. Four people ahead of me- an octogenarian dida, unshaven husband-wife in red pants duo (red pants in a polling booth, my Marxist allegiance re-kindled),a slightly bewildered thin young  girl (a first time voter I guessed going by the amount of time she spent in front of the machine).

The finger–staining moment arrived. Must say I was slightly disappointed since I felt the colour was not quite adequate. I wanted an extra coat and had almost asked for it when I checked myself thinking that it would not quite be the done thing for a first timer. Standing in front of the polling machine, I wanted to take a good look at all those fantastic and never seen on TV/ FB/auto-posterior symbols that dotted the machine sharing space with the stalwarts. My anti-climax moment however seemed to have arrived before even the climax could set in. I quickly pressed the red button beside the symbol I was looking for (as if I had an option), heard the high pitched acknowledgement emanate from the apparatus and proceeded outside. All done in a matter of seconds.  Just like all major twists in life.
The rest of the day comprised oiling my hair, undoing and re-doing my ‘what’s the point it’s always a mess’ wardrobe, arguing with my mother about the speed of the fan and eating watermelons. I spent the evening watching the dancing fountain show in my neighbourhood Kali Mandir. I am going to end my post thus with a picture of a dancing fountain instead of my inked finger. After all, life is definitely more than just the colour purple. What do you say?

P.S. The indelible ink seems not so indelible since it is almost non-existent after my shampooing session. But kya kare, milaawat ka zamaana hai bhai.
Picture Courtesy: www.eyefriyadh.com