I don’t like the monsoon.
Where people think of red earth and pouring rain, I picture dirty motorcycle tyres and muddied clothes.
Where people think of hot pakoras and chai, I see sweat pouring down my forehead in a muggy kitchen.
As you can tell, I don’t like the monsoon. Did I already say that? You see, my mind goes soft during the great sweep of the rains across the subcontinent. I get irritable, fidgety and prone to long periods of stupor.
Click here to view a slideshow on how to make the pudina anda.
So, I just don’t cook that much in the monsoon. I look for short cuts and the paths of least resistance.
I took one such much-trodden path last Sunday after escaping Mumbai’s sodden mess—only to land in Delhi’s equally sodden mess. I kept my freezer, laden with meat and fish, firmly shut and closed my mind to its possibilities.
I opened my vegetable tray and considered the red and yellow peppers, the eggplant and the spinach. You know I don’t like vegetables, so why was I even looking at them? I was really losing it.
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That’s when my mind’s eye flashed back to a childhood monsoon favourite, the pudina anda, or eggs with mint. It’s quick, it’s easy and it delivers a delicious, filling and steaming meal that fits the QIQO (quick-in-quick-out) philosophy that I use with my kitchen during the monsoon.
In these days of non-stick pans and drops of oil, it’s hard to duplicate the slightly blackened and crusty bottom layer on the pudina anda that emerged from the Halarnkar kitchen in the 1970s. Still, the healthy version works for me, and the nice thing is that these eggs go with almost any kind of bed you lay down.
In the 1990s, my steamed eggs, atop a layer of onions, tomatoes and mushroom, were a party staple. Perhaps it was the cholesterol, perhaps it was the dowdy image that eggs gained, but I don’t think I have dished up eggs for dinner since the turn of the century.
As a lazy day, monsoon brunch, nothing could be more apt though than the pudina anda. Since it seemed too light to serve as a meal, I crumbled in some leftover shammi kebabs. Once I wolfed the lot down with wholewheat toast, the water-addled world suddenly seemed like a much better place.
Steamed eggs with mint and kebabs
4 bunches of fresh mint, either chopped or leaves picked off stalks
2 large onions, sliced
2-3 shammi kebabs (or leftover chicken or keema)
2 green chillies, chopped
1 tsp sesame seeds
In a non-stick frying pan, gently heat 1 tbsp of olive oil. Drop the sesame seeds in and wait for them to pop. Sauté the onions until soft, add the mint and keep sautéing for a minute or two. Remember a large quantity of mint will quickly shrink. Crumble the leftover kebabs. Add the chopped chillies, some salt and pat down into an even bed. Reduce flame to low. Break eggs over the bed of mint and onion. Grind fresh pepper over and close pan with lid until eggs are done. You can either keep the yellow slightly runny or let it cook completely. Cut into wedges and serve immediately with toast or chapati.
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 email@example.com