So, what Indian food do you miss most?”
That was my American friend from graduate school, visiting me in Berkeley, California, just before we left the organic capital of the US after a five-month teaching stint.
“Nothing,” I said.
His eyes widened. “Nothing?”
“Well, if you insist, home-made dosa, perhaps.”
I explained what dosa was, and he said, “Well, that sounds like something I could miss.”
Don’t get me wrong. I love Indian food as much as any other Indian. But my tolerance for the bastardized, heavy curries that pass off as desi fare in restaurants—Punjabi, Mangalorean or Andhra—is fading. Our home cooking is dramatically lighter, but in general, sometimes, we just do too much with food.
We over-prepare, over-spice and overcook. Too many vegetables are frankly, well, buggered, by ceaseless simmering and tossing, and meats are too many times drowned in curries and soaked in spices.
Quick fix: Serve bork (or pork) atop tzatziki sauce. Photo: Samar Halarnkar
As I said in a previous column (“Minimum kitchen, maximum impact”, 21 April), I learnt in Berkeley—as you read this, I am in New York, preparing to fly home to Bangalore—that a handful of spices are all you need to run a kitchen.
So, on a particularly rushed last week, between editing stories, writing columns and cooking for the family, I put all my speed-cooking skills to test.
One of the things I cooked as I started emptying out my freezer was my packet of “bork”. In my last column (“San Francisco, ’tis hard to leave”, 5 May), I wrote how I had bought a little packet of meat that was half-boar, half-pig, but I never got around to cooking it. I finally did, and the minimalist recipe I used really did bring out the flavour of the meat.
The same goes with snacks. Whenever we had a party in Berkeley, the wife always insisted I make tzatziki sauce, an old mainstay. You can have it with chips of all kinds, and when the party is over, it works wonderfully as an accompaniment to anything from curries to roasts.
This is how, after the farewell party we threw for ourselves in our Berkeley backyard, I considered the leftover tzatziki, a sauce that is used by the Greeks and Turks (like India and Pakistan, another example of enemies with common culinary traditions).
My old friend was visiting, and we didn’t want to buy more food when our aim was to empty the refrigerator. So, out came the “bork” and the leftover tzatziki.
I spread out the tzatziki and laid the roast “bork” atop. We ate it with leftover bread—of course, this was Berkeley bread, studded with sesame seeds and lovingly crafted in a local bakery.
It was a simple, rough and ready meal. Sometimes, when your mind is full of other things, that is all you want.
Roast ‘bork’ on tzatziki sauce
400g “bork” (you can use regular pork, or even lamb)
1 tsp garlic paste
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp chilli powder
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt to taste
Marinate the meat for 3-4 hours with the ingredients listed. Place in ovenproof dish, cover with foil and roast for 90-120 minutes (depending on how tough the meat is) at 275 degrees Celsius. Serve hot on a bed of tzatziki sauce.
1 small cucumber, grated and water squeezed out
1 clove garlic, finely minced
3 tbsp mint, washed and finely chopped
Salt to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
Hang the curd in muslin, until thick. Beat well with a fork until smooth. Add grated cucumber, garlic, salt and mint. Mix well. Drizzle in the olive oil and mix.
This is a column on easy, inventive cooking from a male perspective. Samar Halarnkar is consulting editor, Mint and Hindustan Times.
Write to Samar at email@example.com
Also Read | Samar’s previous columns