When I first arrived here, I was somewhat mystified by a dish that I encountered at almost every dinner party: it was called a "baked dish," or, more simply, a "bake." It consisted primarily of boiled vegetables in white sauce, with a dusting of grated cheese on top, the whole thing put in the oven for the cheese to brown. it was the westernised housewife’s gesture to western food (in fact, you had to be westernised to be able to produce it, since ovens are not standard items in Indian kitchens). You would arrive at the dinner table, often laid out like a buffet, to find a delicious range of Indian dishes, and then... the bake, in all its blandness.

Well, things have changed a bit now, though bakes have not disappeared. In fact, I am about to post a recipe for one myself:

Back in the days, mes enfants, when there was no cable TV, and we all had to make to with creaky old Doordarshan, the government-owned TV channel, there was a short-lived show in which celebrity women came to demonstrate their recipes. One of the guests was the recently-retired film star Poonam Dhillon, who made a baked dish which she said her mother-in-law had taught her. I was in the odd position of being a westerner who didn’t know how to make a baked dish – I mean, I could make assorted western items, including a couple of casseroles, but they somehow didn’t appeal to the friends I tried them out on. So I took careful notes, and made Poonam Dhillon’s baked dish, and it was a success. It was pretty good, in fact, because the green coriander, chillies and ginger livened up the white sauce. (I had to be careful, because my mother-in-law was alive and living with us at that time, and the only person officially allowed to eat eggs in our vegetarian house was our dog.)

I made the baked dish a couple of times and then forgot about it. And Poonam Dhillon has since, I believe, gotten divorced and returned to act in TV serials, and maybe she has forgotten about it too. But I have preserved it, and I found it in my cookbook the other day, and here it is:

Poonam Dhillon’s Baked Dish

2 green pepper
1 bunch green coriander
2 packets mushrooms
4 potatoes
2 or 3 onions
3 or 4 green chillies
piece of ginger
2 tomatoes
6 eggs
cheese, grated
salt, pepper, turmeric powder

Make a white sauce, add salt, pepper, and a bunch of green coriander, chopped.
Saute mushrooms, add to white sauce. Chop and saute green pepper, onion and ginger in butter. Chop chillies, tomatoes. Boil and mash potatoes. Scramble the eggs lightly, add onions, green chillies, ginger, tomatoes, salt, turmeric powder. Assemble the baked dish: butter a shallow baking dish. Spread half of the mushroom and white sauce mixture. Spread the egg mixture on top of this, then add the remaining half of the mushroom/white sauce mixture. Spread the mashed potatoes over the top, and then sprinkle generously with grated cheese. Bake in a 250 Centigrade oven for 10 minutes, grill for 10 minutes more to melt the cheese. OR, microwave for 10 minutes.

No comments: