What can you say about a chef who says that he was trained in the kitchen by "innumerable thrashings"? That he is a perfectionist? That kitchen training can be tough? That his food is damn good? All of the above are true. It would have to be to survive and come out alive and cooking on the other side.
One of the best things about the book Prashad Cooking With Indian Masters are the stories of the chefs whos' recipes and words of advice are contained inside.
I've seen plenty of chefs' tales out of Western cuisine. Stories that would make Cinderella in her scullery look like she had it easy. This is the first book that I've run across where some of the great chefs of India tell how they got started. Some are the descendants of master chefs, others trained botanists (which somehow makes sense when it comes to cooking), some come from doing research into ancient cooking techniques, some are engineers and computer scientists who found themselves happier behind a stove. Others trained in France, and then there are the "kitchen rats", kids who were never happier than when they were hanging around a stove and willing to take their knocks to learn.
I've got to say that this is my new favorite book, though I've had it for a while. I've only recently started actually using it to cook. Printed in India, it doesn't have the standard recipe index and to learn, one must work ones' way through and really study how the dishes are made. Anyway, it's easier than a thrashing.
Since I've been spending my time watching Olympic events on TV every night after finishing my writing, I felt it was time to get my act together, step up my game and try a dessert from this book. After all, what's better and puts one in the Olympic spirit more than vegging out on the couch with a bowl of something deliciously sweet, watching all those athletes skidding across the ice on their rotundas. It's almost as good as a workout!
I was also eager to use my flameware casserole from Clay Coyote for an actual Indian dish. I've used this wonderful piece of flameware for oven baked polenta. It's always turned out superbly delicious with absolutely no stirring or standing or work! Pretty nifty I think. Why not use it for a classic South Indian Rice Dessert? It's a famous dish from Avadh, a region in the modern state of Utter Pradesh and is usually served at festive occasions. Our friend who'd just returned from Trivandrum said that his friends' wife had made the dish for him. It's called Ananas Ka Muzaafar and is a dessert that dates back to the courts of the Mughal emperors. This version comes from Mohammed Naseem, Manjit S. Gill and Chandra B. Tewari.
Dum Pukht style in the oven, it'll be ready just in time for the judges' scores. Here's how to do it.
1.) Cut a fresh pineapple. You will only need two rings. Cut the rings into little wedges , set the rest aside. Save any juice left from cutting.
1.) Rinse and soak 1 and 1/2 cups of Basmati rice in water for 2 hours. Then drain it.
In a pan or pot add:
1.) 2 and 1/2 cups of sugar
2.) 2/3 cup of water
Mix well on medium heat.
When it's boiling add in:
3.) A pinch of ground nutmeg
4.) 4 tsp of fresh lemon juice
Stir the mixture until the syrup thickens then add in
5.) 1/2 tsp ground saffron
6.) 1/2 tsp kewra water
7.) 1/2 tsp of fresh pineapple juice reserved from pineapple cutting.
Pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees.
In a large pot heat 5 cups of water
1.) The drained rice
2.) the ground seeds of 5 green cardamom
3.) 5 cloves
4.) 5 drops of yellow food color
Boil it until the rice is just barely cooked, about 8 minutes.
Heat the sugar syrup over low heat , add in the cooked rice. When the syrup and rice come to a boil, toss in the cut up pineapple. Mix it well.
Pour the rice and pineapple mixture into a clay casserole dish and cover the dish tightly with crimped foil and a lid. Make sure it's sealed tightly.
Slip it into the oven and relax for an hour.
Just before the dish is ready to come out of the oven warm about 1/3 cup of clarified butter.
When you are ready to serve, peel off the foil lid and drizzle the rice with the clarified butter.
Serve warm. This dish can also be made using mango. I'm really looking forward to trying it that way.
So, I've finally busted into the Dessert chapter of Prashad and am now ready for more sweet adventures. I'm glad it didn't cost me a thrashing to learn this dish, but if anything were worth it, this royal delight would be it!