I was uninspired and bored with my own cooking—so I turned to my 11-year-old daughter. Fortunately, she was in a good mood. With preteens, it’s hard to say. Sometimes, she has dark scowls for no good reason, at other times she has the sunniest disposition.
I explained my predicament. Since she is a Halarnkar, she understood. Like me, she likes culinary variety and likes to be involved in the food coming out of our kitchen, especially if it happens to be dessert. Now desserts were never my thing but they are part of her repertoire, with all that whipping, stirring and baking.
I have no interest in desserts, having believed for decades that the taste of a fine meal should linger, not change entirely to something sweet. In recent years, I have been partial to a good tiramisu, crème brûlée or rasmalai. But this is maybe once a month.
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“Leave it to me, appa,” she said, aware of my wariness. While I worked one night, she scoured my library of recipe books that I almost never use. I assumed she might emerge with stir-fried pork noodles or something similarly comforting.
She walked in with her nose buried in a 383-page tome called The Family Meal, a book on home cooking by Ferran Adrià, a Spaniard who was the culinary mastermind of a legendary restaurant called El Bulli on a bluff overlooking the sea near a town called Roses in Catalonia.
“No, no, that won’t work,” I said testily. “It’s too complicated and the ingredients are hard to find.”
“Appa,” she said sternly, “you wanted me to find recipes, I have.”
When your child has been given a task, you should be glad it’s done. It is best not to quibble, I have learnt, because your children, sometimes, are sharper than you are.
Sure enough, her selections were spot on—easy-to-follow and simple recipes. Of course, she had chosen a dessert. The main course was a lamb, which I hastily converted to chicken, having spent the week eating lots of pork, undoubtedly clogging my already dense arteries.
Cooking with your child is a good way to put childhood angst on the back-burner and have fun—just be ready to go with the flow and mess. We lacked some ingredients, so we did an early morning round of shopping, catching up on each other’s lives during the drive to the store.
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When we returned, we got to work, helping and giving each other unwanted advice. She got to brown the chicken and I learnt how to add dark chocolate to hot cream—something I had never done. She was my sous chef and I was hers.
When we were done, the kitchen was a war zone. As she prepared to skip out to her next distraction, I summoned her. Cooking isn’t just about the final product but the finale, which is cleaning and scrubbing and getting the kitchen back to normal.
Normally, the daily clean-up at night involves much bargaining and, occasionally, flashes of defiance. But on this father-daughter day, she was all honey and light. While I washed, she dried and put away the dishes, the smile never fading. Let it be said: Cleaning is as effective at bonding as cooking.
MINT AND MUSTARD ROAST CHICKEN
750g chicken pieces
1 cup of mint, washed and dried
1 tsp pepper
2 tbsp kasundi mustard
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp oil
Salt to taste
Finely chop 1 tbsp of mint and set aside for garnish. Use main part for cooking.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil gently in non-stick pan, add the chicken, turning over until lightly brown. Remove and place in oven dish. Drizzle mustard over all pieces, then soy, Worcestershire sauce and main part of mint. Cover with foil and bake at 170 degrees Celsius for 40 minutes. Open once and turn the chicken pieces. After 40 minutes, turn oven up to 200 degrees Celsius and roast chicken for 20 minutes until fully brown. Remove pieces and arrange in a dish. Pour sauce from oven dish over the chicken and garnish with finely chopped mint.
FERRAN ADRIà’S CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES
120 g dark chocolate (we used Amul)
125 ml whipping cream (we used Amul)
2 tsp butter
30 ml brandy
4 tbsp cocoa powder
Break and pound chocolate into small pieces and keep aside. Boil cream in a pan, remove and pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let the chocolate melt, then stir with a spoon or a whisk until it becomes creamy and smooth. Then, stir in the butter, stir in the brandy until everything is smooth. Cover the vessel with cling film and refrigerate until firm. Use a teaspoon to scoop out truffles, drop them in cocoa powder, roll to coat and serve.
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Our Daily Bread is a column on easy, inventive cooking. Samar Halarnkar is the author of The Married Man’s Guide To Creative Cooking—And Other Dubious Adventures. @samar11