Stuffin the Oven

Here’s another Tale of my Oven…

Let me tell ya, pizzas ain’t the only thing to come out of her. Fact of the matter is we only make pizzas when the evening yawns ahead of us with absolutely nothing happening and we’re not more than 15 people for dinner. On an average day here is usually what goes in:

Nagaraj lights the fire by around 5 pm so it’s hot and perfect by 7 pm. With a single firing we manage dinner, breakfast and ample lunch. I start prepping the goodies from a cook-list that we make ahead. Which is fine and dandy when you’re merely speculating, usually on an evening in town, while dreaming of being at the farm.

Example of a Cook-List

Fish with saffron, green peppers and tomatoes (Day 1 dinner)
Rosemary dinner rolls (Day 1 dinner)
Baba ganoush (Day 1 dinner)
Sweet potatoes & potatoes with paprika butter (Day 1 dinner)
Pear and almond pudding (Day 1 dinner)
Apricot & Almond Scones (Day 2 Breakfast)
Maki dhal (Day 2 Lunch)
Dum Aloo (Day 2 Lunch)
Shoulder of pork with star anees, ginger and red wine (Day 2 Lunch)

Sounds like an event? You’d be surprised at how easy it actually is when you have a nice, big and hot oven. Just add a salad and you're done. And remember you’re cooking for three meals, not one. The oven cools down very, very slowly. So once you get dinner out, you can add whatever you like that requires slow cooking and feel reasonably safe. The scones I pop in early morning if there is still enough heat in the oven.

Roast Pork – wash and place the 1 kg shoulder in a large dish, fat side up. Add a handful of thinly sliced ginger, 4 sliced onions, 4 – 6 small pieces of cinnamon, 4 –5 whole star anees, 4 – 6 dry red chillies, a table spoon of peanut butter or roasted and ground peanuts, salt to taste and enough red wine to cover the meat. You can use beer instead if you like. Use your hands to mix the marinade together and rub the peanut butter into the mix. Cover and seal with foil and place in oven overnight.

Fish – wash and smother a whole seer or rohu or Indian salmon with chopped green peppers (I also add 1 green chili for some fire), onions, garlic, tomatoes, a good pinch of saffron, salt/pepper to taste, a large slug each of olive oil and white wine. Cover and seal with foil and place in oven. It will be done in about 20 minutes.

Rosemary dinner rolls – I make these by feel. Place ½ kg of flour (white & whole wheat mixed, or I might use white/ragi etc) in a large bowl. Separately mix 1 packet of dried yeast granules with a tablespoon of sugar and add ½ cup of warm water. When it’s frothing, add to the flour. Mix in and then add just enough water/milk mixture to make a nice firm dough. I then add some fresh rosemary spears, grease my hands with some olive oil and give it a good kneading. Leave to rise for an hour. Knead down and let it rise again and then form into little rolls and place in oven. They’ll be done in about 10 mins.

Brinjals (for baba ganoush), potatoes and sweet potatoes are all wrapped in foil and put in oven. Mix 200 gms of softened butter with a teaspoon of paprika and put aside in order to slather onto the potatoes when they’re done.

Pear-Almond Pudding – Thickly butter your baking dish and sprinkle with a dense layer of brown sugar and powdered cinnamon. Slice pears and place on this. Beat 4 eggs with ¾ cup of ground almonds, ½ cup of sugar, a pinch of salt and a cup of whole milk. Pour this over the pears in baking dish and place in oven. Cover with foil. It will be done in about 15 mins.

Dinner’s done! Of course you have to mush the brinjals for the baba ganoush and add chopped onion, garlic and parsley etc The point is the oven has done most of the work already.

Basically the pork needs the longest time in the oven and the fish and pudding the least. So once I take out Day 1 dinner, I bung the pork, maki dhal and dum aloo in and forget about till lunch the next day.

The Maki dhal and Dum Aloo are essentially one pot dishes. I bought some lovely clay pots, in different sizes and with covers, from a potter in Magadi. I put all the ingredients in with enough liquid, seal the pots and leave them in the oven overnight.

For the maki dhal, here’s what goes in the pot:

½ kg rajma
100 gms whole urad dhal
100 gms chana dhal
2 tetra packs of tomato puree
4 chopped onions
4 table spoons of fresh ginger/garlic paste
3 table spoons of kasuri methi
8 dried red chilli
1 tables spoon of ginger julienne
250 gms of curd
250 gms of cream
Salt to taste and enough water to nearly fill the pot. Then I cover the pot and seal it with some aata/water.

For the dum aloo, here’s what goes in the pot:

1 kg of peeled potatoes in great chunks or if they’re medium sized – leave them whole.
3/4 teaspoon of asfoetida
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp saunf seeds
2 onions – grated
2 chopped tomatoes
4 cups curd
4 bay leaves
2 tsp fresh ginger/garlic paste
½ cup ghee
1 cup milk
Salt to taste and enough water to cover the potatoes with two inches to spare. Then I cover the pot and seal it with some aata/water.

When I unseal the pots for lunch the next day, I just check for salt and add chopped coriander and serve hot with rice, rotis and a cucumber raita - the cucumbers fresh from Rame Gowda’s field.

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