Here’s what I have to tell you as a blogger who loves food enough to make photos of it and write down a recipe for a post exactly like the one you’re reading right now. Ready? Okay. You don’t need props or the latest wooden utensils. You don’t need to learn Snap Chat. Really. I tried it for a week this year and a week last year and while I had a blast using all the filters (mostly being SIA), I think it’s okay to have a one or zero-dimensional social media presence.
Lately, I’ve been feeling incredibly rushed by food media. As a result of my clicking habits on facebook, I get an abundance of food posts on my feed (the irony). I scroll past these lush scenes of glamorised consumption and it sends a message to my brain that this is the right way to be, to eat, to shop. I know it’s not so I’ve trained (forced) myself to say “this is bullshit” and move past it. Not everyone has that same power.
Last year when Tasty became a thing, it seemed like this would be the next sensible step in bolstering the dusty old blog. Those videos with the perfect time-suck formula made us all believe that yes, it actually is so easy to cook when in reality it always has been. The videos are quick, no more than 60 seconds and the mise-en-place is always impeccable and in a style that is so far removed from how I cook. I have been told I should make videos too out of genuine concern for where this blog is going. As a confident woman in progress, I have recently started making peace with how my voice sounds in recordings. But this is not why I’m canning this option. Trust me, I am fully capable of making videos. What I’m not okay with is doing something just because everybody else is doing it. It doesn’t feel right to me. I’ll be late to the party but I will be coming as myself every single time. Just so we get this straight, I’m not calling other people frauds. I would never do that. I’m trying to show you that there are alternatives to everything.
I just recently figured out the perfect spot to take food photos. My setup (if you can call it that) consists of a nice camera and a shelf that we unmounted from the wall after buying this house, which serves as my table. It is literally (and typing “literally” is literally necessary) a foot wide. I am not making videos. Sorry. Not my thing. I will compromise and occasionally give myself a moustache in Instagram stories. This blog isn’t lost.
This blog post is more for the people like me – anxious, worried, busy (in a day job way) women who are just trying to get by. They want to start blogs but opt not to because it’s unrealistic to keep up with this circus. I hardly do much and I still need discipline to make this work. I enjoy photographing food and writing out my vulnerabilities. They don’t run my life but I want to show you that they are still there and I can function despite them. There will always be something precious about the time I started this blog and had just one expectation from it – to be funny. If you’ve read some other blogs and feel like you aren’t able “be like them”, I urge you to go look at more of my archives (noooooooo). I could be embarrassed about it but I taught myself so much in these past 4 years and met so many cool people too. There is nothing embarrassing about showing up and doing the work no matter what the template might appear to look like.
I do this all for myself first, but I also do it for my friends and family who have unknowingly moved mountains to help me to get to this place. My friends in Bombay who bought me my Diana F+ that taught me so much about photography when I moved to the US. I had no idea what ISO was before that. My other friend Lisa M whom I met through the Lomography group in Seattle because of my camera, went on to introduce me to Rain City Rock Camp for Girls. It let me practice my photography in a real world sense, which gave me the confidence to keep trying. Mandy at camp was the first person to tell me I could take good photos. These are all people I thought were too cool for me to even talk to at various points of my life but instead, they ended up being pillars for me to find out more about this person I was becoming. This could not made possible by social media or a new plate or a puppy dog filter (though those are SO CUTE). Maybe facilitated in some basic capacity, but the choices were mine to make.
My hope is that I always have the kind of blog that makes me happy to be read by people whom I care about the most. I want that group to grow too but I also want us to never be strangers as it does. My blog is me. In my opinion you just need one thing to make your work the best and it’s already beating inside of you
I recently started a Tiny Letter newsletter the reason for which I have explained in my first one that came out last week. If you’d like to be a subscriber, click here, enter your email and get in queue for the shiny new welcome edition. You email will stay safe and all you’ll get from me is insider food blogger scoop, inspiration, valuable topics we need to debate more and top secret recipes. The best feature in my opinion is that you can hit reply to any of my newsletters and write to me directly if you have any ideas or feedback you’d like to share.
Eggplant koftas with a poblano sauce
Koftas are one of the foods that has become part of Indian cuisine over years of invasions and assimilation during the reign of the Mughal empire in the 12th century. It is of Persian origin and you can eat similar versions of it all over West, Central and South Asia. It’s most commonly seen in Indian restaurants as part of a vegetarian dish called malai kofta (“malai” meaning cream) – which was my favourite thing to order when the first “Indian restaurant” opened in our neighbourhood in Goa. In a malai kofta, the koftas are usually made with potatoes, cashew nuts, raisins and spices and served in a creamy gravy. I switched it up by adding eggplant, almonds, chickpeas and spices and no gravy because my dream is to make everything snackable.
This recipe brings the best of late summer goodness together in one delicious meal. You will need to turn on your oven on for this one but not for longer than 30 minutes. I’m trying to say that it’s worth it. Those little flowers you see in the salad were part of an onion blossom I pulled apart. They are so Dr Seuss. The things you learn when you grow things…
I usually make extra koftas so I can use them as snacks or to add to rice bowls, curries or salads. Same goes with the sauce or any sauce for that matter. This would be the perfect amount to last the whole week. You can do a fry party and cook them all on one day. Refrigerate them and eat them all within a week.
The poblano sauce can be made a day or 2 ahead of time and will stay good in the fridge for up to a week. You can make it with other mixes of peppers if you want to change the flavour of the sauce.
For the eggplant koftas
- 1/2 kilo or 1 lb eggplant, cut in half lengthwise and then half along the breadth
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup chickpeas
- 2 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1 tsp ground coriander seeds
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2-3 tbsp almonds, hand-chopped into small pieces
- 4 tbsp red onion, minced
- 1 cup (or 12 tbsp) chickpea flour
- Vegetable oil, for frying
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with aluminium foil.
Brush the eggplant with olive oil and place them on the foil, skin side up. Roast for 20-25 minutes until the skin is slightly wrinkled and the flesh is soft. Let the eggplant cool and then scrape the flesh into a colander or strainer and let the excess water drain for 5 minutes. Toss it back and forth to speed up the process.
Add the drained eggplant (you should have a heaping cup) to a food processor. Toss in the ingredients upto the lemon juice in the list above. Mix on low for 15 seconds and then scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix again until the ingredients come together as a smooth paste.
Add the eggplant mixture to a large bowl and mix in the onions. Add about half the chickpea flour mixture and stir it in until no spots of flour are left. Repeat with the rest of the flour and place the bowl in the fridge for 30 minutes to let the mixture firm up a bit. You can also skip this firming up part if you’d like to fry it directly.
Cover about 1/4 inch of a deep heavy-bottomed skillet with vegetable oil and place on medium heat. Let the oil heat up and then form the eggplant mixture into bite-size patties (about an inch in diameter) using your fingers or 2 teaspoons. I scooped some of the mixture into a spoon and the passed it back and forth a couple of times until it was somewhat round. As you shape the mixture, gently drop the koftas in the hot oil. Fry them until they brown on all sides. Soak the excess oil on a paper towel and serve with the poblano sauce.
For the poblano sauce
- 1 poblano
- 1 small jalapeno
- 2 tbsp red onion
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1/2 cup each of dill and cilantro
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
- Salt, to taste
Set the oven to broil (about 530 degrees F) and line a baking sheet with aluminium foil. Place the poblano and jalapeno on the baking sheet and place in the oven for 5-8 minutes. Turn the peppers at 2 minute intervals to ensure that it gets charred on all sides. The peppers are ready when they are blistered and dark on most of the skin.
Carefully seal the peppers in the aluminium foil and let them sit for 10 minutes to steam. It doesn’t have to be perfectly sealed. Open the foil packet and peel the skin off the peppers. Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds.
Place half* of the jalapeno and the whole poblano in a food processor along with the rest of the ingredients. Process the ingredients until they become a creamy sauce. Scoop the sauce into a jar and refrigerate or serve immediately along with the koftas.
*Save the other half of the jalapeno for a salad or if you feel daring, add it to the sauce.
For the accompanying salad
Cherry tomatoes, peppery greens, fresh herbs (I used mint, dill and basil), slivers of red onion, lemon juice and olive oil all tossed together with a pinch of salt. Add as much or as little of all the ingredients. It’s not really a recipe. It’s merely food that goes well together.