Food

Necessity is the mother of invention

11:29 AM

Right now my mind is feeling like a junction where the traffic light broke. I have many ideas, and feel overwhelmed at the thought of processing and organizing them, and when I feel like that, it’s better to write them down somewhere, let them cook and tackle something that is going to be less daunting.
I have a notebook where I write blog post ideas, they sometimes stay there for month, and I go pick one up when I feel uninspired or too wired to write on something that just stroke me.
And today’s post is the result of some picking something in that list.
A couple of months back I vaguely remember mentioning in passing a dish I came up with in my early days of living in India, that was not Indian in flavour but too continental enough in look, and that is this one:


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This is : potato-brinjal-tomato on a bed of rice. Brinjal is for the non initiated how eggplant is called around here.
I came up with it when I lived on my own in Bangalore in 2003, I was renting a room, had a tiny hot plate on a rickety trolley, just one pan and one frying pan, and no fridge. Storing food was out of question, eating Maggi noodles everyday very boring and unhealthy, and going to the local restaurant for a cheap South Indian meal equally boring and unhealthy.
The problem back then was that a) I had no idea how to cook Indian food with the limited tools I had in my bedroom and b) had so much to process living my new life that I wanted comfort at an affordable price.
Some veggies last longer out of the fridge than others, and this is what potato and brinjal just do well, so even if I didn’t use the whole lot at once it was fine, tomatoes have a decent shelf life on the top of a writing desk as well. And we all know rice is easy to store too.
The only seasoning agent in this dish is salt, no fancy spices, nothing. You just chop and dice the 3 veggies in more or less equal proportions, heat a little oil in a non stick kadai or frying pan, briefly stir fry them with some salt, add a little water and cover with a lid to cook for a few minutes (I like my potatoes with some crunch left in them), then you serve over rice. And voila you have a dish that doesn’t cost a bomb, still uses fresh veggies, and which satisfy the westerner in me who actually prefers tasting the actual taste of vegetables with little seasoning in the way.
In my bedroom rental days it was tougher to pull since I had only one hot plate, meaning the rice had to finish cooking first before I started the veggies, but the veggies cooked fast enough so that the rice would not be cold or mushy staying in the pan. And no I didn’t have a pressure cooker in the first 3 months living in India, so rice took a lot of time to cook back then.
Years later this is still my feel good meal, when I am tired and don’t want to cook something fancy but still have the will to cook. I use a bit less potatoes now than I used back then, because they are a starch and so is the rice, and I don’t need both, I add a bit more eggplant which I love, the ones we have in India are smaller and truly egg sized, with a skin that is less bitter and hard than the big ones back in Switzerland. Not that the bigger ones do not exist in India, but I prefer cooking with the tiny ones, that or come in the purple and white stripped variety or the deep purple colour we all know in the West.

To cook the dish you first add the brinjal and potato to the oil and stir fry with the salt, and then add half the tomato and a little water before covering to cook for 3-4 minutes, then add the remaining potato chunks and cook another 2 minutes or so, that way you have half the tomatoes that have cooked down to form a tangy salty stock and still a few chunks to add colours to the dish. And I find the combination of salty tomato stock juice and rice just to be bliss, it brings back memories of my mom making oven baked tomatoes stuffed with ground beef.
As I said I consider that dish comfort food, and a comfort food born out of a necessity at a time that is starting to feel like it was a long long time ago.

3 comments

  1. Navya9:46 PM

    That looks absolutely yummy . I am going to try this :) Thanks.

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  2. It watered my appetite after writting about it yesterday so much so it became lunch :-) Just put the rice int he rice cooker before picking up my daughter in school when we came back the rice was cooked and it took 15 minutes to prepare the veggies from peeling and cutting them to cooking. Ishita LOVES that dish too and she is normally anti vegetables :-)

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  3. I love simple recipes like this. It looks yummy!

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