We eat. So we cook.
There is no better explanation to it. Ever since man invented fire, the subsequent improvement in taste upon roasting over open fire fascinated man and he developed it to what we called as modern cooking. Complete with assistance from most advanced cookware and equipment. We have the food processors to save time and our hands, induction cook tops, microwaves, cooking range etc. Which assist us in our daily endeavours.
All this said, one important factor cannot be easily separated from cooking. That’s human being. Machines can be prefect, but cannot be innovative. Machines of future may be able to create perfectly similar tasting recipes but will never be able to carelessly induce that burnt taste which becomes unique to that dish at that time. That’s where the human factor kicks in.
Cooking is an art. That’s why it’s taken up as a hobby by many.
I started cooking right from the days of kerosene stove(being born and brought up in rural India, cooking gas took some time to reach us). Few things I’ve learnt all along and lots and lots more yet to learn. This blog post attempts to highlight a few. Consider them at your free will.
Once again to remind. Cooking is an art and attempting it without that mindset will give you food, not a masterpiece. Many combination of many equipment and ingredients are required for finishing this masterpiece. You may need to deviate from flow at many times. The most important ingredient for creating this art is dedication. Variety of colors and a blank canvas kept in front of mountains will not automatically translate in to a beautiful painting without the masterstrokes of the painter. Cooking a masterpiece recipe is similar. It’s you, your patience, your dedication and your mind set that matters. Ingredients and equipment come in later.
I hope am not boring you but it’s not going to be brief. After all, if you want your biryani to taste professional, you need to endure this.
Important points to keep in mind while cooking.
Be Flexible :
Unless you are a professional, your recipes ate bound to go off track once in a while. Be ready to improvise/ change your dish/ name of your dish at moments notice. Slightly burnt onion can give a smoky flavour which may be desirable. Unintentional additional tomatoes may give it a sour flavour. Add adjectives “burnt” or ” tangy” to your recipes, as situation permits. This is no joke. This happens all the time. You got to live with it. One point to remember, charred onion and such is undesirable. Also understand how to counter overuse of any ingredient. Cream can reduce the hot flavours and also add smooth texture to your recipe. Sugar gives caramalising effect when used properly in dry recipes and also balances the bitterness. Too much salt!! Well, your recipe is ruined. Have it with steam rice and attempt again another time.
Prepare in advance:
Finish all the chopping, slicing, dicing, crushing , washing etc before you actually start your cooking. Arrange all ingredients in order of their use, as far as possible. Else your cumin seeds well be charred in hot oil before your finish chopping onion.
Use proper utensils:
If you think you don’t need the flat dosa tava or the big iron wok, think again. Everything can’t be cooked in deep bottom pan.
Avoid pressure cooker. I hate pressure cookers. Its supposed to be used for preparing soft mushy food for toothless elderly. Cooker reduces the time spent. But the heart of the recipe is the time spent on it and not the quick treatment it receives via the pressure cooker. Imagine yourself being a gardener nurturing a small flower plant. Would you pour a bucket full of water and expect it to blossom the way you wish? Never will that happen. It requires your attention and tender care and regular attention. It requires your love.
So does your recipe.
Speaking of utensils, you need to have an understanding of how the recipe will behave if cooked in a particular utensil. Some practice and you will understand.
Proper Proportions: Pepper chicken is not a recipe with one kg pepper and 100 gm chicken. People do not wish to eat just the pepper when they are presented with pepper chicken. Use the flavouring ingredients just enough to do their job. Overpowering the recipe with one flavour many not earn it the name it has.
Take time: Allow each ingredient its own time to cook. Potatoes/meat cook late, tomatoes early, fish even early. Understand when is the right moment to add the particular ingredient. If first add fish and allow it to cook and then later add potatoes(just an example. I don’t recall any recipe with potatoes in it), by the time the potatoes are well cooked, the fish will all melt. That’s the exact reason why I hate pressure cooker. Put all in and wait for the whistle. It never comes out the way its supposed to.
Patience is the key.
Devote yourself: If India Vs Pakistan cricket match is being aired, you are better off seeing it as against cooking. You need to set your priorities when it comes to cooking. If you are cooking, there’s nothing else. Cause a slight neglect and the onions will caramelize beyond recognition.
Know your required portion: You need to finalise how many people will be eating it. Combination of ingredients adds to bulk. So balance the quantities else you will have to call every other person from the neighbourhood for lunch. Very less quantity of a very good recipe will result in you not getting any. So, weigh it before you start.
Presentation: The essence of cooking. 80% of the job is done on the table. The first impression may help neglect the pinch of extra salt. Garnish it properly. Hot dishes to be served hot. Use proper serving utensils, befitting the recipe. Use proper serving spoons and keep the utensil covered once served.
Accept Mistakes: Foodies understand the difference between food and a masterpiece. So come out in the open with any mistakes. They will appreciate and forgive. Let the people glorify your masterpiece instead of you attempting it yourself. Also, point out the specifics of your dish. An unconventional method/ingredient used, which renders better effect can be disclosed and reactions/reviews accepted.
Keep Experimenting: Success is not terminal. Its continuous. Keep on experimenting with different ingredients/methods to create something even better. If you stop, you rust.
Keep Cooking. Keep Creating.