Last weekend I couldn’t look at my kitchen countertops anymore. They seemed to be filling up with crap everywhere. Out of control. Spoons and spatulas spilling out of a huge bucket, oils and vinegars and peppers and salts littering the space next to the stove, containers filled with coffee and muesli huddling at the endges. Enough was enough. A new strategy.
Honest assessment. What do I need here, what can go? What absolutely needed to be on the counter and what could live inside a drawer? How many wooden spoons does a girl need? (Note: I decided three.) And so there were several hours of rearrangement and clearing. I didn’t touch the spice cabinet – a nightmare by itself, all the little bottles and baggies. Horror. So I stuck with the counters. Step 1. Felt good.
Step 2 happened this morning. The rain was pissing down – the glories of German summer. Or as I learned …wimmer (winter+summer). It just starts in November and extends…to November. I wasn’t quite ready to jump into my running tights and head to the gym, so tackling the spice cabinet seemed a good activity. You can see the result above. We won’t discuss any further the “before” version. In order to hopefully maintain some order I even labeled the shelf sections. Let’s see how long the spices stay in their respective areas. It’s a bit like my clothing. I make nice orderly stacks of t-shirts and pants and sports clothes and 3 weeks later everything is asunder again.
As you might have noticed, the most common spices are the Indian/Pakistani ones. Granted, there are some crossover spices – I mean, where does “cinnamon” really belong? (Indian? Baking? Turkish?), but for the most part I sorted by instinct – “where would I look for something first?”
And to celebrate the order, I made a new Indian recipe. Something called Dhokla, a recipe for it was just published by the nytimes a week back or so. It’s, in this case, a semolina flour version. I decided to try it as the starch in our meal this evening rather than just a standard naan/roti. Dhokla is a steamed savory cake, usually served as a kind of snack in India, from what I learned.
And it worked and came together pretty quickly. Chili and ginger make it like a sort of spicy cornbread. I learned this fast trick – I don’t remember where I read it. To peel ginger, don’t bother with a knife. Just take a spoon and scrape off the skin. It comes off quickly and easily and significantly reduces the hassle and waste you normally get by trying to peel the knobby root.
Dhokla is steamed, not baked. I had to make a sort of make-shift steamer. Which was fine.
Tumeric surprisingly turned it red, not yellow, after it was steamed, although it started out yellow as you can see above. Must have been some sort of chemical reaction? One note is that the recipe calls for 20 minutes of steaming, but in my case it took about 35 minutes until the top was firm. My steamer set-up was slightly different than that described in the nytimes recipe, so perhaps that’s why.
You make a tarka for the cake – an oil in which you quickly fry some mustard and curry leaves and chilies. To serve, pour a bit of this over the top, and sprinkle with some fresh coconut slivers and chopped cilantro.
It’s a snack, but I made it for dinner. The taste? Quite similar to a cornbread, perhaps like a jalapeno cornbread, freshened up with the yogurt raita I served it with, really delicious. Although I look forward more to the leftovers, as usually by the time I am done cooking, I can barely face dinner – I’m sick of the flavors. Give it a day break, and it’s great again though.
Surrounded by a spianch daal, a fresh aubergine and pepper dish, and a saag paneer, we were happy eaters this evening. And tomorrow evening happier with the leftovers.
Now…time for the Football. Go “Schlaaand!”