The other way to celebrate.
What would life be without small victories? Okay, sometimes it can be big victories like winning a lottery or landing that dream job! There are those times when the reason to celebrate may be big but the will to do so is smaller. Possibly fatigue, end-of-month budgetary situation or good old-fashioned laziness prevents you from making a big celebration meal. Or even going out to celebrate at a fine-dining restaurant. So how do you still make sure that your milestone is highlighted? By making a quick, simple yet not-so-ordinary dish.
Seasonal produce: meet you
Often, a quick and easy dessert glamoured up with vibrantly coloured fruits makes for a snazzy ending to even the dullest of meals. Even if you have made a custard out of a packet, if seasonal fruits are layered over the questionable sponge cake you got from the bakery around the corner, you are serving a decadent trifle pudding. Be it avocados, mangoes or grapes, whatever is in season, make the best of it – use them to dress up an otherwise ordinary dish. Slice up that super ripe avocado and drop onto your regular run-of-the-mill salad and instantly you give it a touch of gourmet! A good idea is to have some add-ons in your pantry always – yeast, jelly crystals, icing sugar, tinned fruit, condensed milk are some permanent residents in my kitchen. A combination of in-season produce and items from your well-stocked pantry can yield some amazing food for unexpected festivities. Rummaging in my kitchen cupboard I have chanced upon a tin of mixed fruits, some ageing custard powder, an opened packet of biscuits gone soft – with which I can rustle up some version of a trifle pudding and serve it for after-school snacks.
Further, find a way to preserve some of it for future use. I recently heard of a mango aficionado who pureed and froze the fruit in season and found a way to serve up Poori and Aamras on a winter evening. Imagine the sheer delight of eating (and inhaling the scent of) a mango in the month of December! Why didn’t I think of that?
The topping matters.
Be it a pizza or the stuff I pile on an Idli (to hide the fact that it is an Idli), toppings matter. A lot! We eat with our eyes too – more so the kids. Keep shredded cheese of some kind in your fridge always. Cut up spring onions into small bits and store chilled in a paper lined box, coarsely grind up whole black corns and store in a jar, make extra and freeze pie crusts (yes, I make my own) – and populate your kitchen with these ingredients. When that last bit of dosa batter is being used for breakfast on the third day running, you will thank me. Simply sprinkle shredded cheese, crushed pepper, spring onion bits and call it a glam-dosa. Grate a carrot and sprinkle onto the idli before you steam it, along with other flavours like finely chopped coriander/spring onions/capsicum and you have an idli in disguise. These are ways to liven up an ordinary meal and mark milestones and celebrate with these dressed up foods. Its like prying out exactly three strands of saffron and adding it to your regular nimbu-paani, in order to make it special for your guests.