Part 4 – Cutting them up
We had plenty of dishes to make which meant that we had plenty of veggies to cut up. After Chef Kurma showed us what he wanted us all to do in terms of cutting up, people with great enthusiasm jumped to the task.
People had been advised early on to bring their own cutting board and knives for this part of the operation. As we were cooking in a commercial kitchen, we had plenty of cutting boards and knives. Another good thing about using such kitchens is that we were at no loss for sufficient quantity of utensils. They have plenty of varieties of everything.
No, that’s not carrot being grated. It’s turmeric. This was the first time that I had seen it being used in this format. All my life, I had seen turmeric in powder form. Belonging to the ginger family, this perennial plant can be used fresh like above and grated to give that bright orange pieces. In fact, in Europe they used to call turmeric as Indian Saffron as it was seen as a good substitute for the real and expensive saffron. Also, a town called Sangli in Maharashtra (India) could possibly be the world’s largest trading centre for turmeric. Some of the people in the kitchen knew turmeric only as a spice used in South Asian cooking. But they were in for a surprise when they learned that it also acts as an antiseptic for cuts, burns and bruises. It’s also an anti-bacterial agent, anti-inflammatory agent and the ancient medicine of Ayurveda, proclaims that it contains Fluoride which is good for the teeth. It’s used in today’s cosmetics as well as research is underway to see if it can be used in the treatment of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and liver disorders. WoW ! Talk about health benefits !
And Mr. Aroma made its presence. Mint is a classic in terms of its fragrance. We were going to use some of this in our paneer dish. I think I first came across mint in chewing gums, chocolates, tooth paste and herbal teas. But I can’t recollect it being used much at my home for cooking. Like turmeric, it too has medicinal properties. It’s used in many cultures for stomach pain, chest pains and is known to aid in digestion. Most of the people in the room was aware of its benefits and were only happy to see it there.
One of the dishes we were to make was the delicious and exotic “Gujarati Fenugreek-scented Pumpkin Curry”. I love pumpkin. Especially, when its on those traditional pizzas. At home as well, our family would make many varieties of pumpkin dishes, none of which I can recollect. But it was while trekking in New Zealand’s Frank Joseph glacier that I noticed backpackers bake and roast them in oven. That’s when I really paid attention to this vegetable. At least once a week, I consume a delicious bowl of pumpkin soup made by a lovely Greek lady near my work place. In Middle East, I was introduced to it’s seeds which after it was roasted was eaten like a snack along with a glass of rich Arabic tea. Magical, it was. Talking about magic, I believe in Harry Potter’s school, the students were given pumpkin juice.
The chili is back ! But in it’s green form. We were going to use this in 2 of our dishes – the Toor Dal Soup and Matar Panir. I adore this vegetable ! or is it a fruit ? Anyways, almost every dish I have ever had at my family home or relatives in India, has had them. Like I said in my last post, my grandma had it right next to her during her meals along with a tea spoon of salt. She would dip the chili in it and take a bite, boldly. And then let out a “hisssss” sound to indicate that it was hot. And then to prove her bravery, she would do it again. It was also an important item for many of the mango and lime pickles and a must for the South Indian curd rice. Long time ago, once in Pune, I had ordered for a South Indian curd rice in a nice hotel. I reminded the waiter that it needs to be made with green chilies – the real way. When the meal reached my table, the entire rice was covered and cooked in green chili ! It was the super hottest curd rice I ever had! Only 3 spoonfuls and I was done !
We also cut up some tomatoes, carrots, eggplants and cauliflower. The mint was chopped up. Peas were collected – the frozen variety this time. And some minced up Ginger was prepared too. Now, we need to fry that ghee and start cooking them up !