My husband loves Saturday afternoons. Weeklong he dreams about that delicious half an hour of sleep on that half day.
I love sleeping too, but for me afternoons spent lazing in the winter sunshine of Assam always won hands down when pitted against slumbers on full stomachs at the forbidden hour.
I would have loved my husband's company in the garden, but I knew I had an invincible opponent in “Siesta”.
I had reluctantly resigned myself to spending the delightful afternoons in the garden alone, but Ramlal changed it all.
He was short, plump and dark. He had a sing-song nasal voice and wore a soiled kurta, and he had all the ladies on campus vying for his attention.
I never imagined that tall ENT surgeons, proud Officers of the Indian Air Force, would feel threatened by Ramlal – but that is just what happened.
A few weeks into our stay in Assam, I was curious and baffled when my husband started suggesting going out for lunch and doing a host of other things on his precious afternoons. Then, I realized with devilish delight that his sleepless afternoons were engendered by envy for Ramlal.
As Ramlal breezed in with his bicycle load of the fresh and juicy home grown vegetables – he was almost like the Pied Piper in his ability to attract the ladies. A scuffle inevitably ensued over his cauliflowers and radishes as he smiled complacently.
As ladies indulged in closely contested matches to place one of the ten cauliflowers from his garden that week on their tables, even cauliflower worshipping husbands (like mine) were jealous.
A sigh of relief always followed his receding form as he departed having peddled his produce, and contented burps always followed the Gobhi parathas the next day.
Ramlal was then forgiven, forgotten and even reluctantly blessed until the next Saturday afternoon.
The relinquished Saturday siestas led to football matches in the lawn and I had several reasons to thank Ramlal.
Baingan Ka Bharta
I hate to admit this but cooking vegetables flawlessly has always flummoxed me. I was delighted when I learnt to make Baingan ka Bharta because it was the one dish that uncomplainingly turned to pulp and still tasted good. Until then I had been turning everything else into pulp with my cooking endeavours as well but they were just silently making their way into the dustbin.
Anyway now the Baingan ka Bharta has made me the invincible queen of the kitchen. The best part of it is, that the baingan can be roasted in advance and converted to bharta in a few minutes at a later time, tasting as fresh as ever and making you look like a magician.
1. Take a nice big fat baingan (brinjal).
2. Take a handful of cloves (laung) and pierce the baingan with their pointed ends and leave the cloves there. In effect studding the entire surface of the baingan with cloves.
3. Now turn on the gas and place the clove studded baingan on the hob on the naked flame. Go about other work as it roasts. Whenever you remember next, walk over and turn the baingan slightly so that by the end all the sides have been roasted.
4. Check that the whole baingan has been done by inserting a knife into it from various angles (much like you’ve seen magicians piercing their wives at magic shows). If you find no resistance to your knife, you’re good to go.
5. Let the baingan cool for a bit and then remove the skin by dipping your fingers into a bowl of water at frequent intervals.
6. This peeled baingan can be left in the fridge for whenever you want to exhibit your skills as a magician in the kitchen.
7. For the tadka. Peel and roughly chop an onion and wash and roughly chop a tomato. Also chop up some ginger.
8. Heat oil 2 tablespoons of oil in a kadhai, add chopped ginger followed by the onion and tomato simultaneously.
9. Sprinkle salt so that they cook really fast.
10. Add a chopped green chilli and then put the baingan in.
11. Break the baingan with the ladle and mix in the masala. Don’t mix too much.
12. Generously sprinkle as much fresh dhania (coriander) as you like into the baingan
And ta-daaaa your bharta is ready. Dig in!