This is the first time in 3 days I am using my computer. It has been that kind of weekend. We had family over for lunch on both days. So I was making preparations and cooking since Friday evening. There was cutting to do, pastes to make, peppers to grill, nuts to roast and sauce to make. And that is just a partial list. But it was all so much fun. I had dinner at 11 on Friday night and didn’t have breakfast on Saturday morning, but none of that mattered when the table was laid and I looked with peace at all the food I cooked.
Each dish was a different color and different flavor. The brinjals were stuffed with a sweet and mildly spicy dark brown paste of roasted sesame seeds, peanuts and coconut paste made according to this recipe by Indira of Mahanandi. I used to make this recipe a lot in the US but this is the first time I was doing it here. I roasted and ground the ingredients and took the help of the cook to stuff the brinjals and fry them. The chicken was cooked in a light brown, smooth, spicy gravy redolent with the taste and smell of poppy seeds and garam masala. I used a new spice, star anise for the first time and absolutely loved the flavor. I know it is a part of garam masala but somehow I never used it as it looked exotic. Recently I read somewhere that star anise goes very well with meats so I put some coarsely pounded star anise along with the rest of the whole garam masala at the start of the cooking and the smell in the kitchen was completely refreshing. This recipe is a childhood favorite which my mom used to cook occasionally when she wanted a change from the usual weekend chicken curry. The gravy of the paneer, corn, mutter and makhana subzi was a beautiful burnt orange color from tomatoes, roasted red peppers and cream which gave the gravy a sweet and smoky flavor. This subzi was my mom’s suggestion and the creaminess of the ghee-roasted makhanas once they were in the gravy was a pleasant surprise which was new to me as I have never cooked with makhanas before. I improvised a little with this one and decided to put in roasted red peppers along with the tomatoes as I thought the smokiness would pair well with the sweetness of the different veggies. I used minimal ground spices, no garam masala and spiced it up with red chili powder, black pepper powder and kasuri methi. I think the methi rounded out the sweetness a little bit. The list is incomplete, but you get the idea. The hubby called the whole meal an eclectic mix!
In case it isn’t completely obvious, I loved the whole experience. I love cooking for people. It’s a natural high. The different spices, the different vegetables, their colors, the smells, the tastes. It’s a complete sensory catharsis. I try to cook dishes that I think my guests will enjoy, but honestly sometimes I succumb to my desire to cook “interesting” food and hope that my guests will enjoy it! Either way from planning to execution, I enjoy the whole project.
Before having the baby, I would get nervous about such get-togethers – will I be able to finish on time, what if I don’t finish on time – and end up not having as much fun. But I also had a lot more time then and so I could avoid the tension by taking all day if necessary. Having a baby teaches you a lot and I am sure all new moms will agree, the biggest of them is time management. Everything revolves around the baby’s schedule when they are young. There is only so much time and you get to do what you want and need to do in that much time. I have become that person now. I worked as hard and quickly as I could, but still couldn’t bake dessert on either day. So I compromised and got some sweets from the sweet shop. But I didn’t let that get me down. They were both amazing days filled with chatter and laughter and singing and playing. I got to meet my cousin and her two adorable sons and chat with her. The baby got to meet his cousins, a new aunt, a favorite uncle, one set of grandparents, another grandma and great grandma and was thrilled to bits by all the attention and company. So what if there was no cake?
How things change. This weekend the only thing that threw me off my game was the fact that we didn’t have enough stored water! I wasn’t even worried when we returned from our friends place on Saturday night and discovered that we were locked out of our apartment at 1:30am. We went right back and crashed at their place and found a solution first thing next morning. We even managed to get into the apartment before 10 so I could prepare for the Sunday lunch. I wasn’t worked up, because each of these days while I spent all this time and effort preparing the food, I also knew that it is just an excuse for our family to sit down together. So even if I had served them two things instead of five, while my desire to cook would not have been indulged, they would have had as much fun.