The de­posed king re­gains his king­dom

Mint ST - - TASTE & TRAVEL -

kitchen. I prefer to be alone, I like my space and I like to work at my own pace.

The wife may not cook, but she has strong views about the kitchen. She likes ev­ery­thing or­ga­nized and planned—for in­stance, past­ing weekly school-lunch menus for the eight-yearold on the fridge, while I am likely to de­cide lunch on the day it­self. Some­one had to re­treat, so I did.

When I heard A was leav­ing, I was at one level sor­row­ful. As I said, she is this ami­able, af­fec­tion­ate young woman who kept the house or­ga­nized and, with great ease, be­came a big part of our lives and vice versa. The wife and she had a close re­la­tion­ship, and there is much we learnt from her, from keep­ing a smile handy to dosa bat­ter-grind­ing tips. The wife read out recipes for un­usual foods— such as multi­grain ro­tis and no-su­gar, co­conut flour cakes—and A im­ple­mented them. Thanks to both of them, our food di­ver­si­fied more than it might have if I had been in sole charge. I am not, you might have guessed, very open to sug­ges­tions. A, too, learned things from us, such as how to roast chicken and the need to al­ways wear a hel­met. But I was also, as I said, happy.

It’s as­ton­ish­ing how much we in In­dia de­pend—emo­tion­ally and other­wise— on do­mes­tic help. The wife has taken over the in­nu­mer­able tasks that she once left to A, and the eight-year-old is try­ing—un­suc­cess­fully thus far—to keep her room from ap­pear­ing hur­ri­cane-hit. My mother ap­pears more con­cerned about A’s de­par­ture than we are, of­fer­ing ev­ery day to keep us sup­plied with food. While that is very sweet of her, I find it hard to ex­plain to ev­ery­one ex­press­ing con­cern that it re­ally is not a mat­ter of con­cern.

Af­ter A left, and the week­end loomed, I found the fridge stuffed with food. As her de­part­ing ges­ture, urged on by the wife, she had cooked up a storm. To me, week­ends are fam­ily time, to­gether time—to watch movies, to cook, to cy­cle or to sim­ply fool around (we are big on joint tick­ling ses­sions).

For­tu­nately, the food in the fridge was con­sumed. As a cool but sunny pre-win­ter Sun­day dawned, I was ea­ger to leap out of bed and re-es­tab­lish my suzerainty over my re­gained culi­nary king­dom. Af­ter observing my en­thu­si­asm with some scep­ti­cism, the wife—who I think is a lit­tle ner­vous at the prospect of los­ing her po­si­tion as over­lord—joined in. She plucked fresh basil from her kitchen gar­den and told me how to har- vest her ro­maine let­tuce with­out de­stroy­ing the plants. I may be a rea­son­able cook, but I have no ex­per­tise with grow­ing in­gre­di­ents. With her time ap­par­ently well spent on In­sta­gram and Twit­ter, she is quite the self-taught ex­pert. Even our daugh­ter now knows that basil flow­ers must not be used and older, thicker stems should be clipped to keep the herb fresh and fra­grant.

In the event, we had enough for a Sun­day feast—some egg-based fet­tucini, fresh pesto with our own basil, salad from our bal­cony, honey roasted chicken and potato wedges. When you have your kitchen to your­selves, your cre­ativ­ity gets a fresh boost. The wife pulled out the air fryer that I got as a gift three years ago—but never used—and quickly learned how to make potato wedges with al­most no oil. With A gone, I was free to ex­per­i­ment with the roast chicken, which had fallen into a rut be­cause I could not ever cook with her.

As we set­tled down to lunch, our neigh­bour walked over with home­made biryani. Ishrat aunty knows the eight-year-old loves her biryani and keeps her sup­plied. That took care of the wife’s need for ad­vance plan­ning. The biryani would be lunch or din­ner to­mor­row. I had made enough chicken, so it could be used for sand­wiches.

The next day, my mother asked, shall I send food? No. At least cha­p­atis? Be­fore I could say no, the wife said yes. Some habits die hard.


Serves 3


6 pieces (legs and thighs) chicken 4 tbsp soy sauce

1 heaped tsp ginger-gar­lic paste 2 tsp red chilli or pa­prika pow­der 1 tsp honey

Salt to taste


Rub all in­gre­di­ents over the chicken and mar­i­nate for at least an hour. Cover with foil and bake at 160 de­grees Cel­sius for 40 min­utes. Open foil par­tially, up tem­per­a­ture to 200 de­grees Cel­sius and roast for 10-15 min, bast­ing ev­ery 5 min­utes with the liq­uid that runs out.

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.


Honey roasted chicken; and fet­tucini with salad and potato wedges.

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