If there is one thing the writer knows, really knows, and loves, it’s the omelette.
I understand there are some people who actually read this column. I know there are others daring enough to try out what emerges from my random pottering in the kitchen.
What can I say? These are brave people.
Just this morning, I woke up bleary-eyed, grabbed the bag of chopped beans and hurled them with great confidence into my wok, airily throwing together a quick stir-fry with a Naga chilli, garlic, sesame seeds and soya sauce. Only, I had forgotten to blanch the beans. No matter, I thought, with the overconfidence born of praise, I could still pull this off by keeping the beans on the stove for perhaps 20 minutes instead of the normal 5.
Get cracking: An anytime meal, with limitless possibilities.
Thirty minutes later, the beans were still not done, the sesame seeds had collapsed and merged into a blackish paste with the soya, and my wife had an oh-god-how-can-I-eat-that-mess look stifled below her wan smile.
Reluctantly, I admitted defeat and threw the beans into the garbage.
So, you see.
But let me tell you something I do not mess up—ever. Omelettes. Never, ever.
An omelette was the first thing I actually ever cooked as a teen, and more than five years later, it was still all I knew. When I left home and lived in a tiny one-room home in Bangalore as a crime reporter on Rs1,800 a month, all I cooked was omelettes. The onions and chillies shared shelf space (I had only three open, stone shelves) with underwear and banians (vests).
It was a little irritating to pick onion peels from my clothes sometimes, but it was a small price to pay to have my own breakfast in my own little world.
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The omelettes were made on a single hotplate, which I kicked under the bed when it wasn’t in use. Every Sunday, my friends—all of whom lived in proper homes with proper kitchens producing proper meals—streamed in for omelettes and sausages off my floor.
I suppose it was all very romantic for them: squeezing on to my bed, getting served tailor-made omelettes (without sausages, with chillies, no onions—whatever) and generally having a rip-roaring time. The defining aroma of my little room was eggs and onions.
When I went to the US for two years, I cooked omelettes, of course. But by now I had learnt of the world beyond onions, chillies and sausages. I discovered olives (and stuffed olives), anchovies, salami, tuna, spring onions, and even, umm, pig’s feet. Yes, I did stuff an omelette with pig’s hooves once, hoping somehow that it might bring back the taste of Gulbarga paaya (trotters in spicy broth) to Missouri, US.
My Spanish friends taught me the Spanish omelette—which bakes inside an oven—but I soon substituted those boring potatoes with pepperoni.
When I returned to India, I was much more than an omelette fixer. I had cooked biryanis, fish curries (I carried kokum with me), lots of roasts and grills and salads. Vegetables were still some years away, since I needed them only once I got married. For those who came in late, my wife is a vegetarian, something my friends don’t let me ever forget since I had sworn never to marry one.
But omelettes remain closest to my heart, my original love, my USP.
The key to an omelette is the stuffing. I love this part. Thin slices of Cheddar, or Gouda or even good old Amul. Strips of ham. Bits of sausage. Leftover bits of chicken or meat. Keema. Spring onions. Chopped olives. Dhania (coriander) or mint leaves for a good desi omelette. Oregano. Rosemary. Thyme. Super-thin garlic flakes. Small bits of ginger. Or galangal.
Try anything, really, anything.
The posh, anytime omelette
This is an omelette that can be eaten any time, any meal, not just breakfast. Beat the eggs really well. Instead of a fork, use an egg-beater or mixie with a whipper blade, and use it well. The mixture becomes really smooth. When you pour it into a medium-hot pan, throw in your stuffings (including the standard onion/tomato/chilli garnishes) and cover it. Reduce heat to low, and the omelette will rise wonderfully. No need to shake and mess up the eggs with a spatula, as they do on the roadside or at five-star cooking stations. A simple fold, and you will have the fattest, smoothest omelette ever. Two eggs will seem like three.
This is a column on easy, inventive cooking from a male perspective. Samar Halarnkar writes a blog, Our Daily Bread, at Htblogs.com. He is editor-at-large, Hindustan Times.
Write to Samar at firstname.lastname@example.org