Of failed experiments in the kitchen…

Now any person who cooks has to know his or her share of failed experiments in the kitchen. It’s almost a rite of passage to fail in your first few attempts, as you try and master your kitchen and the intricacies of cooking. And I don’t only mean the extra or no salt kind of fails that everyone who ventures into the kitchen definitely does encounter, I meant the bigger ones, the ones that come your way even after you have sufficient experience in the field, and have wielded the said spatula for n number of times…

My epic fails have resulted from the far too enthusiastic response to try local and exotic ingredients and recipes, which I set out to conquer, when I had zilch knowledge of how to make them sing..(Please note these were only in my forays abroad, at home, most often than not, mom would a) dissuade me from buying the outlandish stuff and b) come to my rescue when I did fail)

The first was a kind of millet found commonly here in Taiwan. Now back home in India, my mother would make flours out of the said millets and turn them into bhakris. I ventured a bit further and decide to make them into dosas. So how could this kodo-millet go wrong. Well it did. The dosa tasted uncooked, in spite of several attempts to make crispy ones. Undaunted I proceeded to make upma from the grain, and was still unrewarded (far too lumpy and tasteless). Some research tells me perhaps a khichadi might work. But it is now sitting still in my pantry till I pluck some more courage to experiment and do something about it.

My adventures with quinoa were in the similar sphere.  The organic red quinoa I procured from the supermarket looked so deceivingly similar to nachni, that I was immediately sold on its nutritional profile. Dosas and upmas didn’t yield results, so I proceeded to make bread from it. I had eaten quinoa bread available here locally, so I expected similar results from the homemade one. It wasn’t a whole quinoa loaf, and thankfully the wheaty gluten came to my rescue, resulting in at least a raised loaf, but a kachha (raw) taste to the bread. It had to be slathered in some coriander chutney and tomato ketchup to make it palatable. Of course, the bonus fibre made it presence felt the next day! 😉

You have already read about the modak fail, using glutinous rice flour…

Then there was my enthusiasm to try gluten free pizza (Well, I am Aries girl, do I say more?!). Some blogs on the internet were raving about cauliflower crusts and cauliflower rice, so I jumped the bandwagon, seeing that the said vegetable was in season, and hence bought in loads by the Scientist. So here was my plan. Pop home during the hour and half lunch break, have some great cauliflower crust pizza, and pop back. What could go wrong with this? Well, everything.

First it took a very long time in getting the cauliflower shredded. Do not believe the recipe shows where it happens in a jiffy. It doesn’t! I had washed the flower first before chopping and shredding, so that meant that there was extra water in it.(I had read about squeezing all the extra water away, but I could see my vitamins and minerals running away, so I let it be! I was soon to regret this decision). The recipes called for some spices and egg as a binding agent, so I made the flax egg substitution. The first problem was getting to pat this mixture into a round base for my pizza. So I decided to add some oat flour to this (I know I was aiming at the gluten free version and all, but the clock ticking away meant I had to go lunch free, and since I was without any back up lunch plan, it was either that or nothing). The oat flour made it possible to get a pizza crust, but then came the baking problem. The recipe called for 15 mins of baking, and here it was sitting in the oven for over 25 mins, with no signs of being done. Upping the heat resulted in crispy (well, actually charred ) borders but mushy middles. (Looking back now, I should have quickly heated the tawa, and made a pattice out of it, using lots of oil – but that is wisdom in hindsight, sigh). Then cooling this pizza took its own time, and I was risking a lost lunch (and I hate that). I finally did eat this, and  it was delicious (the roasted red pepper and tomato pizza sauce was the saving grace) and get back (just in time) and learnt my lesson. No new experiments in the lunch break – only dal chawal or khichadi will make it to lunch.

And finally, I have to confess I am never at home making pasta! A friend who was leaving Taipei, handed over two wholewheat pasta packets to me, saying it’s easy to make. I decided to trust her, but my non-pasta-making-abilities immediately rose to the fore. First inspite of packet instructions of 30 minutes of cooking to ensure al-dente pasta (and another 15 minutes of my own accord), the pasta remained uncooked. While I am not a past aficionado or  connoisseur who can spot the subtle differences, I have definitely eaten enough of the dish, to know the difference between the cooked and uncooked versions. Next problem was the sauce. A simple tomato-basil-cheese-balsamic-vinegar-garlic (ok not so simple) sauce was my idea of dunking the cooked pasta into. Either there was too little of the stuff, or far too much pasta, I will never know. It took some culinary efforts on part of the Scientist (read adding soy sauce, tomato ketch up and the like) to save the day. Needless to say, only he ended up eating his share of noodles.

Me, I proceeded to ajji’s takeout (post coming soon). And I am changing the sentence at the beginning of the para – I am never making pasta at home!!

So dear readers, help me out. If you have had success in wielding the quinoa or millet, or making some good pasta, I would love to hear from you!

[Updated to add: I’ve had some luck with the cauliflower crust pizza. I tried making quinoa-moong khichadi and it turned out quite tasty BUT all that extra fibre in quinoa made my tummy quite upset for over two days…so well, I think am going to skip quinoa, for now at least!]

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