lemon jelly

Things to Re-visit
September 13, 2008, 6:39 pm
Filed under: food, philosophy, recipes | Tags: ,

For the most part, I expect a lot from myself. Maybe my obsessive revisions come with the philosophical territory – sometimes, it seems that you have to be either a genius or a perfectionist to succeed in this business – but, even so, pretty much everyone knows that the prospect of failure when I’ve done my best terrifies me. Rewind to last fall when I got my first and only paper back from Introduction to Kant, then, and it probably won’t surprise you that I dropped the class, turned tail, and ran when I saw the less than stellar grade. Metaphysics, an incomprehensibly wheezy and Scottish professor, and poor grades were just too much to handle in the midst of a bigger crisis of confidence at the time.

Ever since, of course, any mention of anything even remotely related to the transcendental aesthetic, pure reason, or a priori synthetic judgements has pained me – made me wince, grind my teeth, and wave my arms dismissively – that is, up until last Tuesday. At 1:00 pm that day, I bit the bullet and joined the class for a second time, still dreading raspy, brogue-addled run-on sentences and German obscurity but resigned to the fact that a philosophical education isn’t complete without a good grasp of Immanuel Kant.

It wasn’t that bad. In fact, it was splendid. I hung on to almost every word. Maclachlan’s Scottish mutterings made my head light up with the past year’s worth of formal logic, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind. Things actually made sense! A little time and experience has made all the difference. Some things might just be worth re-visiting (we’ll have to see how the first paper goes…).

Bok choy, though, has definitely proved to be one of those things worth re-visiting. I went on this dirt-cheap six-day tour through central China last December, and I swear that greasy, bland bok choy was the only vegetable served on our tour circuit, lunch and dinner, from Nanking to Shanghai. There was even some at one of the hotel breakfast buffets. Not surprisingly, bok choy didn’t make my grocery list after that. But then, a couple of weeks ago, I saw one of my favourite vendors at the farmers’ market selling cute little bundles of Shanghai bok choy and couldn’t resist.

Stir-Fried Bok Choy

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large clove garlic, sliced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger root chopped
  • 1 fresh red chili, de-seeded and chopped
  • 1 small bunch Shanghai bok choy (about a quarter pound), separated into stalks
  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp honey
  1. Heat oil over medium-low heat in a sautee pan.
  2. Add garlic, ginger, and chili to oil and brown, about five minutes.
  3. Turn up heat to medium, add bok choy, and stir until wilted, about three to five minutes. Add sesame oil.
  4. Remove bok choy from heat. Sprinkle with cilantro, drizzle with honey, and toss. Serve over rice.

Makes 2 servings.


Borrowed Pakoras
September 7, 2008, 2:25 am
Filed under: food, recipes | Tags: ,

I got an email from Tahera Rawji this weekend saying that I could share her incredible recipe for pakoras here. She’s yet another reason that I wish I were on the West coast. I bet a cooking class with her would be amazing. I guess I’ll just have to make do with my borrowed copy of her cookbook. Did I ever mention that I’m really bad with returning loans?


Note: Eno fruit salt isn’t actually a salt at all. As the bottle says, it’s an ‘effervescing powder’. Look for it with the antacids at the pharmacist’s. I’ve been told that Ms. Rawji is adamant about using it in this recipe. It acts sort of as a leavening to make the pakoras light and crisp. Also, deep-frying is a method that unnerves me, but I have a few tips: heat your oil slowly, lower your heat once you’ve hit a good frying temperature and keep adjusting accordingly, you know that you’re good to go with the oil when you drop in some batter and the oil bubbles around it (see above).

from Tahera Rawji and Hamid Suleman’s Simply Indian, reprinted with permission

  • 2 1/2 cups gram flour (chickpea flour), sifted
  • 1/2 bunch spinach
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 medium potato, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • a few pieces of cauliflower
  • 1/4 tsp coriander seeds, split
  • 1/4 salt
  • 1/4 chili powder
  • 1/4 garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp Eno fruit salt
  • 3-4 cups vegetable oil (for deep-frying)
  1. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, spinach, cilantro, potato, onion, cauliflower, coriander seeds, salt, chili powder, and garlic.
  2. Use a tablespoon to add water little by little to form a thick paste.
  3. Add the fruit salt.
  4. Heat the oil in a large pot.
  5. Form the paste into balls and slowly deep-fry them.

Serves six.

Toil as Luxury
September 3, 2008, 4:52 pm
Filed under: food | Tags: , , , ,

I know, I know: it’s been forever since I last wrote. But, in my defense, I did offer pre-emptive apologies some time ago, and a lot has come up in the last little while. I was scrambling to get my paper in, of course. It’s a mediocre at best. I premised things beautifully, but everything sort of unravels as you read on. I ran out of time. The summer sun called. The boy got sick. I had a birthday to celebrate. Excuses, excuses, I know.

I just find it hard to dedicate myself to more than a few things at once, so, with so much to do in the past couple of weeks, there was a lot of cereal and soy milk, half-heartedly steamed vegetables, and uninspired legumes going on. It was a shame, especially with all of the gorgeous specimens at the farmers’ market, but I think Jordan and I more than made up for it last night with our Indian feast.

Picture us from about five until eight chopping, dicing, stirring, sighing, spooning, scouring, laughing in my small, sweltering kitchen. From Tahera Rawji’s Simply Indian, we made chapatis (an unyeasted flatbread, tortilla-like but denser), raita (a refreshing yogurt sauce with cucumber, mint, and cilantro), a complex but mild mung bean curry, and the most incredible pakoras ever. If you’ve never had them, pakoras are a north Indian appetizer made from a batter of chickpea flour, spices, and various finely chopped vegetables shaped into balls and then deep-fried. We were well aware of the fact that the goodness of spinach, cauliflower, and potatoes in the batter couldn’t counteract the litre of canola we were frying in, but the pakoras were irresistible right out of the oil, especially with a little mango chutney. What can I say? Cooking is a lot of hard work. You get hungry.

While we laboured, we couldn’t help but complain about how much patience Indian cooking seems to require. You chop and chop and chop. Then everything simmers for inordinate lengths of time. We weren’t even making anything that elaborate, but, even between the two of us, there was still a lot to do. We shuddered to think of the days before instant biryanis. We couldn’t imagine spending this much time in the kitchen on any kind of regular basis. In short, we were pretty happy about gender equality in the 21st century. No one is going to relegate us to tending to pots if that’s not what we want. In fact, kitchen toils of an Indian-feast scale are strictly a luxury these days.

I don’t have a recipe for you today, but don’t worry, there is food in the works.

2008-09-07: see here for the actual pakora recipe. I just got permission from Ms. Rawji to reprint it today.