“Hang on… I think I’m getting the hang of this… ” Famous last words of every born-to-be gambler! And I promptly proceed to lose every cent of what I’ve won so far…
We are at a casino in Reno, having been taken there for a visit by the California cujjins. Long drive through Yosemite and Sequoia and we are tired – all five of us. But as we trail though the lobby to our rooms, my eyes brighten…we are in a casino, after all! And casinos might have hotels attached to stay in, but their primary purpose is gambling, right!
Flash back to forty five years ago. A slightly bored seven-year old (no new books to read meant instant boredom!) is hanging about disconsolately. We’re at an aunt’s place for lunch and I normally love going there because I have so much fun hanging out with my cousins (the same California bunch!) but no one is around (meaning to say, there are no other kids around – everyone’s busy doing something else someplace). The adults have set up their usual card table and are busy with rummy, their favourite game.
I am bored!
A little while later, one of the uncles wanders out, having “scooted” out of a bad hand. This selfsame uncle has, on several occasions, saved my life – by eating all the mirchis out of my bajjis – all in all, a “good egg”! I am happy to have someone to chatter away with. One of the cousins re-appears. Life begins to look seriously up! I have been pontificating (I didn’t know the word then, so that’s my excuse for holding forth!) on how boring adults were in general because they preferred playing endless games of rummy to playing hide-and-seek or the word-ending games we were so fond of!
The uncle doesn’t protest… in fact, he seems to agree with me! And promptly offers to teach me to play rummy! Over the next hour, he and the prodigal cousin (responsible for much of my out-of-school education!) proceed to baptise the innocent seven-year old – into a born-again gambler! The bug has bitten and I figure just how much fun it is to wait in thrilled anticipation for a new game – what are my cards going to be this time?
Many decades have passed and the gambler’s instinct still stays strong. Thankfully, it doesn’t have much of a chance to surface… except on occasion, like this visit to Reno… where the spirit of generations of gamblers hangs about, whispering in your ear, “Your luck is about to turn!”
I have my couple of hours, choosing the poker tables, after carefully examining and rejecting the slot machines. Win some, lose some and go to bed a happy soul – I can last a few more months!
Life’s a gamble, after all, much like cooking is for a lot of people – and don’t invite me to dinner till you’ve honed your skills at the slot machines!
Much of the time, I know what I’m making but I like the occasional new dish – because it satisfies some deep-rooted instinct to gamble… I think…
Here’s one which paid off – inspired by a post by Val Weaver in the Artisan Bread Maker’s group…
FOR BREAD DOUGH
- 1.5 cups plain flour/maida
- 1.5 cups whole wheat flour/atta
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 sachet yeast
- Milk powder – 2 tbsp
- Oil – i used sunflower oil – 2 tbsp
- Warm water to knead.
Prove the yeast and mix the ingredients together well. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead into a smooth, very elastic dough – about ten minutes. Cover with a wet napkin and leave to double in size (about 45 minutes).
Knock back and roll out on a floured surface to a large rectangle about 3 mm in thickness.
FOR SPICY MINT AND BASIL PESTO:
1 cup basil, 1 cup fresh mint, 5-6 cloves of garlic,1 green chili (Serrano pepper), 1/2 cup walnuts, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, 1 tsp sugar and 1/2 cup Parmesan (I had run out of Parmesan so I used Cheddar) – blitz together in the mixer to a reasonably smooth paste.
- Butter – 2 tbsp
- Cheddar or Parmesan – grated – 1/2 cup
Spread the butter over the rolled out dough with your fingers. Spread the pesto on top leaving a border of 1/2 ” all around. Sprinkle the grated cheese all over.
Roll into a cylinder lengthwise.
Cut longitudinally into half.
Braid the two halves together keeping the pesto-ey side up (important for appearance!)
You will now have a braid with many strands of green showing up.
Form into a ring and pinch edges together, tucking them underneath neatly.
Carefully, asking other peeps for help, lift into a large, greased, baking tray.
Cover with a cloth and let rise again – 15 – 20 minutes.
Bake in a preheated oven at 190 C for 40- 45 minutes.
Serve with a shorba (thin tomato soup).
Let the dice fall where they may!