So, put up your hands, whoever is an industrious cook out there! You know, the kind who likes to do everything the way it was meant to be done, and never looks out for any shortcuts. The kind who likes to clean the kitchen, wipe down counters, wash the dirty dishes after they finish cooking; the ones who dutifully listen to every gem of advice given by mothers about how a kitchen should be managed and how all the spices should be returned to the same shelf after the cooking has been done. The ones who like to do things by the book.
Because More than Just Biryani, isn’t that kind of a book. Of course you will learn exactly what kind of a book it is very soon but until then, let’s rewind a bit and check out the lazy cook, the author of the book. Moi. Me. Okay?
All the adages about the busy ants and the lazy grasshopper and strict admonitions about what epithets I will earn in my in-laws home if I continued my lazy ways refused to stir me out of my lethargy. It’s not that I am, what is called affectionately, a ‘lazy bones’ kind of person. But yes, if someone wants to make me do something, I’d rather read a book or watch a movie or just not move from where I am sitting.
So, I never ventured to the kitchen when Ammi was making the regular dishes or even when she was making biriyani, feeling content to let the delicious aromas tingle my senses from afar. But the moment Ammi took upon herself to make something different, my curiosity would be piqued.
I was mostly drawn towards the kitchen when I found out that she was baking something. Ammi didn’t bake much, but I wanted to, oh so badly! My mother’s sister, khalajan, used to give us delicious baked goodies whenever we visited them in Vellore. Crumbly sweet nan khatais, buttery sponge cakes topped with royal icing, black forest cake and on occasion, chocolate pancakes as well!
My infatuation with baking grew to enormous levels when I was in 7th standard, at the ripe age of 12. I wrote letters to khalajan, asking her to give me recipes for the cakes that she baked and promptly tried them out at home.
Picture this scene. I would measure everything as khalajan wrote, do everything as she suggested and yet, when the time came to cut the cake, the knife would not budge. On occasion, hammers were also hunted out to break open the cake, which no one would really want to eat, for fear of dislodging fillings or even teeth.
It took many tries of rock hard cakes and burnt biscuits before I finally gave up and decided not to bother with baking. But the allure was never too far and then, I looked up those recipes again when I was older, and I understood quite a few things which had escaped my 12 year old brain.
For instance, a double boiler was not a regular pan, ‘double’ the size of an ordinary pan. A heaped teaspoon did not mean I had to make a mountain out of baking powder atop a teaspoon and hurriedly drop it in the flour before it collapsed. And many other such notions became clearer to me.
If the internet had been available back then, I’m sure the occurrence of my kitchen disasters would have at least been halved. But unlike today’s generation who have Wiki How to’s to help them out and websites of Indian and international chefs offering video instructions as well, I had to rely solely on my imagination. And err…I write books for a living, so I had/ve plenty of that.
Anyhow, you can check out the recipes that are there in More than Just Biryani here.