In my kitchen of #cookingfail

Ship FAIL

Shipment FAIL

The Internet has spawned its own jargon. One of these is the word ‘Fail’ attached as critique to a thought or an image. The classic is the image of a container ship running aground, boxes awry, with the words ‘Shipment Fail’ emblazoned on it. It originated from people poking fun at a late 90’s Japanese video game that used the phrase ‘You Fail It’ as a game over message. It has now become a way to simply interject disdain, without having to explain anything, while nudging and pointing at an unfortunate scene. The anonymity of the Internet sometimes encourages the worst of humanity, allowing one to mock the Anonymous Other without the moderating influence of having to do it in their presence.

In other words, I love it!! Let’s get started! Here is a litany of unfortunate scenes in my kitchen this month, for the IMK party hosted at the lovely Fig Jam and Lime Cordial blog.

One. Broil the Handle.

Broil the handle

Broil the handle

Starving for an eggless omelette made from chickpea flour, but really, starving in general, I brusquely threw some flour in with some water and neglected to measure amounts. Who needs to measure stuff when one’s instinct is so fine-tuned, I thought. Well, the batter was too wet; it wouldn’t set on the stovetop; so I popped it under the broiler for a few, forgetting that plastic and broiler don’t go well together. Result: flames (I apologize I couldn’t take pictures of the flames, since I was too busy dousing them); and next, ashes.

Two. Disembowel the Bread.

Disemboweled bread

Disemboweled bread

Deeply cut slice from disemboweled bread

Sawtooth slice from disemboweled bread

I usually shape the loaf and score it just fine. This time I tried a new method of shaping that involved making a sort of purse with infinitely rolled in edges. Well, you see the result. The process of baking made this loaf sort of explode from the inside and spill all its guts out. Still tasted fine, though.

Three. Flop the Yeast

Poof and its flat

Poof and its flat

Dosa batter is risen with the wild lactic acid bacteria found on the beans. While sourdough bread is risen with a culture of wild yeasts and lactic acid bacteria. Slight difference; so shouldn’t sourdough starter work on dosa batter? Well, you can’t reason with the microbes, I found. I tried this experiment, and yes, there was rising activity; but here is what I found.

Bubbles arose within a day. But instead of bubbles foaming nicely everywhere, they seemed to explode out of the middle, as you can see. It smelled nicely sour, but perhaps a bit too sour? Still hopeful, I tried making crepes (dosas) and cakes (idlis) with it. That’s when I realized what had happened: there had been so much microbial activity that the thing was as sour as a lemon and all the bubbles had foamed up and gone, so instead of a nicely risen idli, I got a flat goo. Unfortunate.

Note: This was supposed to be my entry for the first ever Novice Gardener challenge at the lovely blogger Angie’s place. The rules stated it must use yeast and herbs. I used both; consider this my late, rueful, tail-between-my-legs entry.

Four. Dough-rolling Disaster

Sticky dough on waxed paper

Sticky dough on waxed paper

Sticky dough shreds waxed paper

Sticky dough shreds waxed paper

I have been doing this for years, you would think I would have figured it out. While making this weekend staple breakfast from my childhood, I found that the dough had turned out a little too sticky. Instead of doing the smart thing and adding more flour, I thought I would try rolling it out between waxed paper sheets. This is the sort of thing that is supposed to work, right? Well I did get the dough rolled into a nice flat circle, but when I tried to peel the waxed paper off, I realized that the two sheets of paper and my dough circle had fused together into a single mass, and there was no separating them, under pain of death. You can see what happened — the paper ripped apart rather than let go. I had a miserable breakfast.

Five. No gluten FAIL

Flatbread that WILL NOT hold together. Fail.

Sorghum flatbread that WILL NOT hold together.

Falls apart more while on griddle.

Falls apart more while on griddle.

Brunt crumbs. Fail

Burnt crumbs. Fail

Ugh. Epic fail.

Ugh. Epic fail.

I am concerned that they may take away my Indian Food Blogger card if I admit this; but I am a disaster at making gluten-free rolled out flatbreads. The other day I tried doing this with sorghum (jowar). Sorghum has no gluten. Gluten is what holds bread together and allows it to be rolled out. How on earth is one supposed to do this?

Other food bloggers seem to have no problem with it. There must be a secret Twitter group that I don’t belong to where they dispense these secrets. Here’s a blogger (Chef Divya) doing a millet flatbead. Here is a blogger (Food Flavor Fascination) doing a sorghum one. And look what I got. Urrgh.
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In my kitchen of alternative uses (May 2014)

Centenarian

My 100th post! (Centenarian from socyberty.com)

I often read the ‘In My Kitchen‘ posts hosted over at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial and am always impressed by the beauty in them. The sense of style, the creativity in food on display there is quite inspiring. I feel like such a clod in comparison! Well, clods like us have our uses too. I would like to own my useful cloddiness.

For my 100th post (purely fortuitous, this) I looked around my kitchen and thought I’d talk about some of the gadgets, widgets, tools, thingamajigs, etc., that I found the most useful this month.

But here is the catch. Clearly a post that goes something like — ‘The Fridge! it keeps things cool. The Stove for cooking’ — would get boring really fast. So the catch is that I want to talk about 10 things in my kitchen that I find tremendously useful in unintended ways. That is, in ways that the manufacturer did not intend.

ONE. Oven light as yogurt maker: Here is a secret — you do not need a yogurt maker to make excellent yogurt at home. If your oven light works, leave yogurt to set all night in the oven with the light on. It shields from drafts and creates a gently toasty environment for the lacto-beasties to get to work. Here is more about the process. You can also use it to speed up the rise of your dough for bread.

An 'X' to remind not to turn on the oven while yogurt is setting

An ‘X’ to remind not to turn on the oven while yogurt is setting

TWO. Oven timer for good parenting: Readers who are parents might concur that parenting is a lot about negotiation. I let you play for 5 minutes if you jump into the bath right after. Read a book for 15 minutes exactly, then it’s homework time. And so forth. I avoid endless arguments like — ‘that wasn’t ten minutes! That was just ONE minute!’ by using the kitchen timer on my oven. And this is how little my kid trusts me — she has to be the one to set the timer. The advantage of the oven timer is that it is at her face level and is easy to set and easy to read. And my, the beep is loud.

Get into the bath, Now!

Get into the bath, Now!

THREE. Sushi serving platter as spoon rest: If you read this post of mine you might know that I scorn the wimpy spoon-rests one can buy at the store. The aspect ratio of the perfect spoon-rest in my mind is a wide and not very deep rectangle so several spoons can be rested on it on just their bowl parts. So I use sushi platters instead. They can be quite decorative. As is the one pictured, a birthday gift from my husband.

Sushi platter as spoon rest

Sushi platter as spoon rest

FOUR. Compost pail as utensil holder: Speaking of wimpy…the usual utensil holders available from, say, William Sonoma, are completely inadequate for the number of spatulas, slotted spoons, wooden spoons, tongs and turners that I need near my stovetop. So I use one of those ceramic compost pails which really are a bit too decorative to consign to collecting rubbish anyway.

Compost pail as utensil holder

Compost pail as utensil holder

FIVE. Coffee grinder as spice grinder: Buying pre-ground spices is a mug’s game because of their propensity to turn into cardboard (turmeric is an exception). One must have freshly-ground spices, but how?! The mortar and pestle is one option, but for a busy weeknight dinner one needs to unleash the grinding power of a thousand suns. In other words, the electrical coffee grinder. Except mine is always used for spices and is always situated on the counter.

Spice grinder

Spice grinder

SIX. Lobster tongs to clean sink traps: My husband came home one day with these precious little lobster tongs that you pinch with forefinger and thumb to pry out whatever one pries out from lobsters. They are about 3 inches long. Given that we never make lobster at home, I thought it was an odd choice. But he knew they would be useful some day, he just didn’t know how. And they are! You know that gunk that seems to collect in sink traps that one is loath to touch, and yet pick out one must? Lobster tongs to the rescue. One has to only once draw out a long hair with gunk all over it and drop it in the bin with one of these to get how useful they are.

Lobster tongs to pick out gunk

Lobster tongs to pick out gunk

SEVEN. Chopsticks as general purpose thingies: Chopsticks are some of the most useful devices known to man. Of course, I know that upwards of a billion people use it every day to eat their meals. But that’s not what I use them for. Instead, they are perfect for a number of kitchen tasks: pushing ground spices through a funnel; stirring flour and water in preparation for making the dough; making little ditches in soil for sowing your seeds.

Stirring flour and water with a chopstick

Stirring flour and water with a chopstick

Pushing through a funnel with a chopstick

My 8-year-old helping with a chopstick

EIGHT. Egg-shell cartons for sprouting seeds: Purely aspirational, this one, but can I please enter it anyway? Please? This idea has been on my mind for years. Imagine neat rows of 12 egg carton ‘pots’ with soil placed in each scoop, and seeds sown in each. Then when it is time to plant, cut the scoops away from each other and the whole thing can go in the garden bed. No need to transplant.

Saved egg cartons waiting forlornly for carrot seeds to be sown

Saved egg cartons waiting forlornly for carrot seeds to be sown

NINE. Coffee cone and filter for oil: There — you’ve done it again, you went and deep-fried something. Delicious, wasn’t it? And now what? Do you throw the oil away? No, you send it through a coffee cone with a coffee filter neatly placed in it, while the filtered oil drains into a jar. It will take hours, but you have time. The result is cleaned oil that you can use again and particulate gunk that you discard.

TEN. Spouse as dish cleaner and lab rat: When I married one of these I could not have conceived of the many alternative uses it has. Its kitchen uses were certainly not on my mind at the time of the courtship. But it turns out, given that one is a cook, the spouse can make a great dish cleaner. Also, my kitchen being a bit of a lab, it sure is useful to have the spouse be the experimental animal.

Hubby (he does in fact have a head)

Hubby (he does in fact have a head)