Monday, February 04, 2008

Cooking Up a Storm

I don't want to be one of those girls who put up posts of the food they feed their boyfriends but this case, I think I can make an excuse because my camera is in the office and I forgot to bring it home last week. ^_^ But suffice to say, I have been cooking up a storm here at home. Since both the Boyfriend and I are on a shoestring budget, we've decided that home cooking is much easier and much cheaper than eating out. So yesterday, armed with recipes downloaded from the Internet (www.desicookbook.com, a repository of Pakistani dishes) and a tip from Shailaja on a certain brand of garam masala, we headed on down to Mustafa's Centre along Syed Alwi Road in Little India, to check out what we can get.

We settled (or rather, he settled) on cooking shaljam gosht and aloo keema. This is where the cooking gets really interesting - for Filipinos, we're more of the slice and dice, fry and boil kind, and I've realized how simple our dishes are compared to the sub-continent's way of cooking. There are a hundred different spices, some of which I've only heard of but never knew what they were until we were walking down the cramped aisles of Mustafa's, peering down rows and rows of produce - everything from ready-to-eat paneer and dahl to gravy powders to rice flour to frozen naan and chappatti - looking for a certain kind of product. O_o

For example: aloo keema (or potatoes and minced meat) requres at least three spice powders: turmeric, coriander, and red chili. It also requred something called garam masala, which is something I've only been recently acquainted with - it smells lovely though, and I'm glad it comes in a convenient powdered form. Shaljam gosht (or turnips and mutton) requires turmeric, coriander, red chili, garam masala, cloves, and black cardamom - and The Boyfriend found it quite amusing that I had never seen a turnip my entire life (well, I don't even know if we have it in the Philippines, right?) and had to help me identify which one it was in the vegetable bins.


(This is a turnip.)


That's another thing: Mustafa's is so much like a Third World shopping centre - narrow aisles, a confusing layout, and the claim that they sell everything under the sun for a cheaper price. The cheaper price I definitely agree with, since most of the spices we bought were for a dollar each, and the fresh herbs (coriander leaves, cloves) were around SGD 1.50 for a large bunch. The thing was, we got caught up in the meat section, since there were very limited choices for halal meats. I still prefer Giant Hypermarket at Vivo City in that regard - their delicatessen is clean and well-lit, and their selection of halal meats are better than anywhere else we've been to. At least we're not just limited to mutton and lamb, since I prefer cooking beef and chicken rather than the more expensive meats.

Oh, and Mustafa's is also open 24 hours. So if you feel like cooking at three in the morning and you have absolutely no ingredients in the fridge, head on down to Mustafa's.

Anyway, so I spent most of yesterday evening cooking up a storm and the kitchen certainly smelled quite nice and fragrant. ^_^ Today I attempted to make banana custard, raspberry jelly, and leche flan. Thankfully, the custard and jelly we bought beforehand when we did the groceries, so it was all a matter of mixing the custard with milk and sugar and bringing it to a boil. The jelly I just needed to mix with boiling water and then left to settle in the fridge in its own mold. The leche flan was quite a challenge, though.

But now everything is cooling in the fridge and I think that by tomorrow, the jelly and the leche flan would have settled and we can have them for dessert. ^_^ I also placed the leftover sugar syrup in one of those extra glass jars that used to house pesto mix so that we can drizzle it over the leche flan tomorrow, yum yum. Oh why oh why do I have to go to work tomorrow when I can just stay at home and cook the day away?

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