Be warned. Various disparate threads of thought are gonna appear in this post. I do not claim some overarching sublime semblance of connection between all the stuff I’m gonna say so don’t try to find one. Today was a weird taste day, where I craved for creamy comforting pasta in the afternoon and spicy deep-fried vegetables in the evening. But before I go to the cooked food, could I please unbashedly show off my latest birthday present…
AHhhH! I love cookbooks. Not the flimsy little books that just have a series of recipes. I’m talking thick, heavy tomes. Hundreds of pages of words that transport you to the origins of the food, the nitty gritty details of cooking it, gorgeous pictures, lovely, rambly recipes that make you want to run out to the kitchen and start creating your own culinary works of art. And Feast is all that and more. I love watching Nigella Lawson’s television shows…(I’m watching an episode of ‘forever summer’ right now actually!) …She’s so put-together, and yet earthy and real. Even when she’s elbow-deep in flour or marinade, she still looks like the perfect kitchen goddess. And yet, she’s messing her hands, which gives her more than a few points in the ‘real woman’ department. And her food looks scrumptious always. So when I was at Kinokuniya a couple of days ago with my aunt, I immediately headed to the food section. Seeing me admire the selection of Nigella’s books, my aunt told me to choose one as a birthday gift. Isn’t she just amazing? Anyway, I know its a little -okay, very- childish to choose the biggest thing one sees, but what can I say? Size does matter…a little. *grin* This book was lovely, a gorgeous cover, an author who I know won’t let me down, and as thick as an encyclopedia with almost 500 pages. So I picked it up and literally skipped (although my prances were slightly impeded by the weight of the book) all the way to the cashier. In fact, I was so excited that I actually waited in line at the information counter for a full three minutes before realising I was in the wrong queue. *slaps her forehead*
And though I told myself I won’t open the book until my exams are over, that resolve lasted all of four hours after I got home. Before I went to bed, I gently tore open the plastic wrap, just for a peek. And I only putted the book down two hours later. haha. It’s a gorgeous book, really. So many stories, so many enticing recipes that seem amazingly do-able. mmmm, can’t wait to start some Nigella-style cooking next week.
But today, I made pasta. Simple, no recipe pasta that just involved throwing things together. Garlic, black pepper, nutmeg, mushrooms, cream, parsley and some fusilli. A yummy, creamy pasta that was so soothingly calm to the tummy.
Chopping parsley and slicing shitake
Sauteing mushrooms in butter with crushed black pepper and salt
A fast delicious lunch: fusilli enveloped in a fragrant cream sauce studded with chopped garlic, mushrooms and parsley
Then, two hours after my satisfying meal of meltingly rich and thick pasta, I had a craving for spiced fried ladyfingers. Really, c’mon, that was just weird. What kind of stomach pairs cream pasta with fiery hot grease? sigh. apparently mine does. So anyway, I went to the market and bought a packet of veges (On a sidenote, I love my market auntie who stays open till 5pm everyday just so weird people who are struck by sudden dinner cravings can get fresh produce anytime).
This is a recipe given to me by another aunt of mine, who’s currently in Dallas with her family. She’s a fantastic cook. She’s a vegetarian, but the variety of food she comes up with is mindblowing. And every one of them is lip-smackingly delicious. This snack was made for me by her, given my love for ladyfingers and a general boredom with curry-like sauces and stirfries. So she thought, why not fry sliced ladyfingers till they get crisp? Almost like a crunchy vege-chip. And seasoned with a tonne of spices, it’s mmmm. Last year, when I went over to my cousin’s house for a dinner party, I offered to make these as a side-dish for the largely meat-based dinner. it was a hit. And I ended up giving the recipe to my cousin. Isn’t it surreal, the way family food traditions are so lovingly passed from one person to the next, securing their existence for generations to come? And today, I present this crazily simple and addictive recipe to you. Perhaps some traditions will transcend familial links?
Fried spiced ladyfingers
(I guess this would probably serve 3-4 persons but honestly, I eat all of this in one sitting. And I don’t share.)
1 packet lady fingers, about 12-13
1 1/2 tsp chilli powder
3/4 tsp ground turmeric
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
vegetable oil, to fry
Heat oil in a wok or frying pan.
Lop off the stems and ends of the ladyfingers and wash them well. Slice into 1-inch slices and throw into a bowl.
Sprinkle in salt and spices. It looks alot, and it is…I love the flavor burst when you crunch into one of these. But if you’re afraid the fiery heat is too much, just reduce the chilli powder to about a teaspoon and it should still be good.
- Drizzle about a tsp of water just to get the spices wet enough to stick to the sliced vegs.
- Stir everything together, kinda evenly coating the vegs. I say kinda cos this really is a fail-proof dish that doesn’t require one to fret over specific details. Just a few stirs with a large spoon is perfect.
- Deep fry in batches for about 5-7 minutes, until they are brown and crinkly. Dish out onto a paper towel-lined plate and let the oil drain off for a little while. As soon as you’ve waited a reasonably decent amount of time -I’m thinking a minute- crunch into them whilst they are still hot! Enjoy.
Note: This is not at all healthy but you could try convincing yourself all that vegetables -although fried- provide your body with much-needed fibre and vitamins, as I often do.