Surprise and on some occasions shock, is the usual reaction when I tell people that I can cook and in fact enjoy cooking.
I am not sure whether this is true of women in other professions but I can safely say that doctors at least are never expected to know how to cook.
My Mother is a gynaecologist and her hilarious batch mates, even when they come visiting her decades later, actually sneak into the kitchen to check if she is really cooking what they are eating. One of them even said that if he knew doctors could cook, he would’ve certainly married one.
My husband is on that batch mate’s side, and categorically states that he married me because I could cook. He has learnt not to mention this too often however, because when he does, he ends up cooking for the next whole week.
I’ve even had rookie technicians who knew nothing about working in the laboratory daring to trip me up with exotic culinary terms. One such guy who was the prized only son, used to rattle off his exotic lunch menu every day just to watch my bewildered look and gloat over the fact that I could not even identify many dishes, leave alone cook them. One such dish was “Taheri”.
He used to offer me “taheri” every day and I would politely decline. One day I decided to get to the bottom of the matter and asked him the recipe. Turned out it was just a vegetable pulao. Anyway I learnt how to cook it just to avenge myself.
What I now cook is a shortcut of course but it is a great lunch box idea any way.
For the uninitiated, taheri is actually a North Indian Pulao with lots of vegetables. Now in my kitchen the only vegetable that is unerringly present is in a bag in the freezer - frozen green peas. All the others need hard work from lazy me, to revamp into their pulao avatar. My strategy then on busy days is to substitute the sabjis with dal but keep the texture from becoming like khichri.
1. Wash half a katori of moong (yellow) dal well and soak it in water for an hour. If an hour is too much to wait, soak it in hot water for 5 minutes.
2. When the soaking time is up, wash half a katori of rice. The rice has to be cooked immediately – no soaking.
3. Take a pan and heat 2 tablespoons of oil in it.
4. Add a teaspoon of jeera to the oil and fry it till it turns golden
5. Now add the washed rice and the soaked dal. Fry these for a bit in the oil.
6. Add some salt to taste
7. Add a handful of frozen peas (more or less depending on your relationship with peas)
8. If there are some other chopped vegetables like florets of cauliflower or cubes of carrots or chopped beans available add them now and fry them for a bit.
9. Add 1 katori of water. Water added should be exactly double of the amount of rice used.
10. Cook until the rice gets cooked.
The dal and rice remain separate entities in this and do not merge to become a khichri. The end result is separate grains of rice as you get in a pulao.
Serve hot or pack away in your lunch box.
When I make this for my daughter I use ghee – that tastes heavenly.
Non vegetarians who want to make a meal out of it should take a boneless breast of chicken and chop it up into small pieces. Sprinkle a little salt on it and stir fry it in a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan for a minute. Add this to the taheri.