So, I’m still rather preoccupied with feeding and watering the family. It’s getting better, I’m getting better at it, though I must admit the tension does rear its head occasionally. Still, yesterday, we had an impromptu lunch for friends – impromptu as in we decided to ask them at around 9.30am; two said yes, and it was on. We didn’t cook all of it – we made the rice, a stir-fry, roasted garlic-butter mushrooms and a dessert of apple pie rolls and whipped cream, and jelly – and ordered in a Thai yellow curry and pad Thai, but it did happen.
Which works a little to reassure me that we might still master this no-maid situation.
I tell you all this so you will understand why all my five faves this month have something to do with food and cooking (click on the links to go to the recipes and sites).
Haute Chef is a service that sends you ingredients for dishes listed on the website, clearly marked with the level of difficulty. The whole kit lands up at your door with an ice pack to keep the set chilled.
The landing-up-at-your-door is the only difficult part here. Because they have to prep each box on order, you have to pre-order, often up to a day in advance, though they also have an express order option at an extra Rs 50 if you want it within three hours. They seem to be based in Malad and we are in Colaba, so I do tend to get strange – though admittedly always polite – calls explaining why the delivery boy will be late or even early by a couple of hours.
That apart, your box comes with extremely fresh and clean ingredients, carefully measured and packed, down to butter and olive oil, and a recipe instruction sheet that is carefully detailed. All you need is a knife and cutting board to prep the fresh ingredients, a pan or two, and salt and pepper, though, sometimes, you even get sent freshly-ground pepper. You get credit of Rs 25 each time you order.
We’ve successfully put together a restaurant-quality Goat Cheese & Red Bell Pepper Salad with Pine Nuts & Sundried Tomato Pesto, and an excellent Gnocchi Salsa Rosa with Wild Mushrooms, as well as a Beetroot Risotto with Chives and Pine Nuts (full disclosure: I found the chives under the microwave two days later and it was still brilliant without it). We have not been as successful with the oriental dishes – the Nasi Goreng, Massaman Curry and Burmese Khao Soi were just okay.
Haute Chef is from Chef Ranveer Brar, whom I’ve never met, though Shraddha from my office, who used to be with BBC Good Food (how I miss that magazine!), tells me he is very nice and very well-put-together too!
Big Basket also has special perforated plastic covers for coriander, mint and curry leaves that really do keep them fresher than if I removed them and stored them loose, and what really works for me is that I can just keep adding to the basket on my phone app as I run out of stuff through the week, so it’s almost like a traditional shopping list.
My Spice Rack
Both Kevin and I hate assorted spice and condiment bottles cluttering up the window sill, so this spice rack with 16 little jars on a revolving base is ideal. It’s great to have everything at hand when you’re cooking, and you can instantly tell when anything is running low. Each bottle comes with three ways to pour out the ingredient – small holes, bigger holes and a large hole (I’m sure there is a word to describe these holes, but it escapes me just now). The quality is not the best; we had to send the first piece back to LimeRoad, who replaced it without any quibbles, and we’ve since discovered a shop in Lohar Chawl, Crawford Market, where we can get replacements for the little jars.
We bought our spice rack off www.limeroad.com but I’ve found it on other sites as well.
From the site, I have cooked, among other things, the Kadale Manoli (the channa and tendli dish with coconut that is served at Mangalorean roces), an excellent mutton stew, and a Sonay Sukke (chana with coconut).
I also love Shireen Sequeira’s stories about Mangalore, Lent and how the kitchens used to be laid out in the good old days.
So, it’s the wrong time of the year to say this – but I’m loving the idea of a Made-in-Goa website. A friend at work told me about Pedro Pao, and I got onto the site and ordered rosary bead Goa sausages, prawn balchao, vindalho paste and racheado paste. The balchao was excellent. Lent crept up on me, so the sausages await being used in a pulao (I’m thinking with this recipe) and I think every day of contacting the site and asking their advice on how to use the pastes.
It’s worth talking about Pedro Pao’s system of payment – though it may have changed since I used the site. Elton (I think that’s his name) calls when you order on the site, takes down your address, and sends your parcel along. No, you can’t pay cash on delivery. You need to do a money transfer; the bank details are pasted on your parcel. I asked Elton if this was not an unnecessarily risky way to conduct business – no, he said, we are a very small enterprise and no one has cheated us.
Main photograph: Ruth Black/ 123rf