So, this is how it goes. Think of a style of cooking. Think of the main character – the meat or sometimes the veggie. For example, you could come up with Malwani and Fish. Or the other way around. Next step is to Google for recipes. After a few rounds you start getting a hang of which recipes to trust. Go as authentic as you can, and keep an eye out for smart recipe writers who will tell you a few substitutes for ingredients which are rare.

Now, add in some friends. Normally, this involves just calling people at the last hour and asking if they would want free dinner, conversation and drinks. On most occasions, you will find some takers. Now, add in some music and get started.

This is my recipe for a perfect evening. There are variations, mostly atmospheric. Sometimes, a bottle of wine comes with the guest and on other occasions – a new CD is unwrapped. I have realized that cooking itself is not so hard. On most occasions, you can cook much better than any restaurant, and there are no major screw-ups which cant be redeemed. There are a few tricks you learn along the way – and you develop your own style like in any other activity.

Yesterday, it went like this. I had come in good time from office, and my wife asked me if I wanted to cook. The answer to this question is almost always a resounding ‘Yes!’. We agreed that the cooking has to be Indian, and the meat has to be from a well fed goat. We quickly ordered mutton and put it through marination – garlic, ginger, turmeric (haldi) – since we were leaning towards the North Indian styles, this should work for most dishes.

I thought of Rajasthani first – Laal Maas- but somehow the look of the dish didn’t appeal . Then somone suggested Rogan Josh. Everyone agreed. I looked up a couple of recipes – and stumbled upon this one. It seemed straightforward and for what it is worth – illustrated!

I have someone to help, so a bit of parallel processing can happen. Onions were cut, cumin was roasted and powdered. As I went along, some adjustments were made to the recipe. Though garlic was already in the marinade , I added some more after the onions were done. Toned down masalas a bit – though I think could have reduced a tad further based on the final dish. I am a big fan of slow fire cooking and for this one, I pulled out the Moroccan tagine we bought from our trip to London a few months back. The tagine – for the unaware – is an awesome invention.. It aids slow cooking, and retains flavors like no other vessel.

There was a small episode in the middle (whats home cooking without one?). I added salt and then my help mentioned that salt was there in the marinade too. A small hell broke loose as everyone blamed the other, before wisdom prevailed and we figured that it wont hurt to taste the gravy on the stove before panicking. It was fine!

We opened a single malt, to go with the cool Mumbai evening, and hooked up Jazz through the laptop. As confidence increased, that the Josh was going to be fine, I messaged a friend to land-up. He hemmed and hawed about wife and kids being tired and then eventually said – what the heck – they can rest, I am coming over.

By this time, the kitchen and the living room start smelling like heaven. Someone or the other keeps opening the lid of the tagine, to check on the dish, to stir it a bit and to take in a whiff. There are arguments about how much more time there is to go – and what defines ready. The meat had started coming off the bone (wow!) and the tummies were grumbling now.

We made kachumber (salad) like in the recipe including the vinegar. Hot chapatis were popped out, and within 15 minutes, everyone was making satiated sounds. The party was over, or at least the food part was. My test is simple, if conversation subsides, and people have a glazed far away look, and chapatis pop out faster than you can count – the dish is a hit. Everyone loved it, and I was a happy man.

So try this at home – no cuisine is too hard and no dish is inaccessible. Happy cooking!

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