I am breaking the journeythrough the Kashmir Himalayas to share with you a family favourite from the region. ‘Kashmiri’ dum aloo appears on the menu of Indian restaurants more often than it ought to. I don’t imply that it is not worth offering, but that what is offered is not the real McCoy, but an outright imposter. The only thing they have in common is the main ingredient, my favourite vegetable, the potato. You may well say, “What’s the big deal?” If Saveur (their tagline – Savor a World of Authentic Cuisine!) can invent their inauthentic versions why not Indian restaurants! Of course, one is free to try restaurant dum aloo, even like it, but there is nothing Kashmiri about it. All I want is for you, my readers, to make an informed choice.
I used to cook it only occasionally as it involves a bit of frying and uses more fat than my average everyday cooking. That meant cooking a larger batch since “who knows when I will cook it again,” which, consequently, involved consuming even larger quantities of oil. I decided to change that. Now I cook it at least once a month, enough just for two meals. I get my treat and there is no need to binge.
Sometime back there was a discussion amongst some food-blogger friends on cookbooks and their relevance in a world of food blogs and websites. The topic was triggered by the surprising admission of some food-bloggers (aspiring writers at that!) that they only look at and rarely cook from cookbooks. My bookshelf is lined with cookbooks I have been collecting since my teens; they are a weakness. They are my insights into a new cuisine or deeper explorations of a favourite one. I put a moratorium on further cookbook purchases because I am constrained where bookshelf-real-estate is concerned. That ended, as all fad diets do, in a binge. With e-shopping only a click away, I was on Flipkart, ordering away. I am no longer looking for cookbooks titled “All About Baking,” but seek out books that link food to a culture: “Gujarati Cooking”, or “Simply South.”
I have been searching for a recipe for the Goan Sambarachi Kodi ever since I tasted it at O’Coquero. On the Web, I came across only one recipe, the one on the charming Goan Food Recipes blog. While Googling for it yet again (I try to check multiple recipes before attempting a less-familiar dish), I came across a mention for it in Pushpesh Pant’s India: A Cookbook. Now, I am usually weary of cookbooks that want to cover all of India in one book. If you know anything about the diversity that is India, you cam imagine how daunting a task that is. In India, I assure you, we know nothing as “Indian Food.” But Pushpesh Pant is a respected scholar and reading some of the recommendations for the book, I thought, well, his might just be the definitive volume, the exception. To his credit, it has a 1000 recipes and weighs in at over a kilo! With those statistics I was expecting a tome of great research and insights. As usual, I started with the section on the cuisine I know better than any other – Kashmiri. That right there, is the cornerstone by which I judge a cookbook dishing out “Indian” Cuisine. Continue reading “Pumpkin-flower Fritters and Similar Stories”→
My interest in food and cooking is known to most of my friends, family, and colleagues, and even students. Towards the end of the term I bring some food, usually home-cooked, to the class on a day when informal interactions are scheduled. It is a pleasant way to conclude the semester.
Some students stay in touch after they graduate. Some come and visit and we exchange notes as colleagues. A special mention here is Ryan, who remembers to bring me foodie-things from his travels around the country; many times these are ingredients sourced from where they are grown (or brewed!). Amongst the many gifts I have received from him are coffee from a Chikmagalur plantation, his aunt’s home-brewed plum wine, his mom’s fruitcake, Shrewsbury biscuits and ginger cookies from the famous Kayani bakery in Pune, toddy from Kerala, and Mahuwa (the drink!) from Madhya Pradesh. Recently he brought me dried kokum and kokum syrup on his return from a visit to the Konkan. He seems to be partial to the western coast; perhaps because of his ethnic roots. Back from one such visit to the coast last year, he brought me a packet of Goan pork sausage. Until then I had only read about it.
Remember I asked all of you to suggest recipes? Raji had suggested I use it in a pulao, and Ryan shared a recipe for a curry cooked with the sausage and potatoes. The Goan Chouriço, also known as linguica, is an important element in the Portuguese-influenced Goan Catholic cuisine. Though often identified as a sausage, it is made with chopped pork instead of ground meat and cannot be consumed uncooked. The prepared pork is combined with spices and vinegar, stuffed into cleaned cattle gut, and usually dried in the sun. The resulting aged meat imparts a unique taste and aroma to whatever it is cooked with.
The first month of this year is history already. How time flies!
After some fumbling this season, old man winter got into his groove here in Delhi. The weather has been at its frigid best for the past 6 weeks even though we celebrated Basant Panchami (the fifth day of Spring) last Saturday. I even poured myself a glass of kanji while preparing dinner the other day. But, the thaw has certainly started and if you blink the short Spring will be over.
In the fast pace of 2011 many celebrations got left out. No one got a birthday cake :shock:. The blog anniversary was overlooked since there was no time to come up with a theme, announce a party, or be a proper host to all of you. But, it is always party-time at A Mad Tea Party where we celebrate food as just that – nourishment; food that satiates, the kind that engages all our senses. Mindful eating without dissecting what is on the plate.
One-dish-themed blog-events are now commonplace. The poori-party might have been one of the first of that kind but it was quite by accident. None of the subsequent celebrations were a patch on that first party. From that party on, I have made a concerted effort to fry poories more often. Every time the son visits for holidays, poori-bhaji features on the breakfast menu on one of the days. Just the once maybe, but it is sure to be there. Then, for Ram Navmi I indulge the little girl in me who misses doing rounds of the neighbouring homes to gather loads of prasad be part of the ritual to revere the goddess in all girls, by cooking poori, halwa, and kala chana. That adds up to at least three poori-frying sessions a year! And if there are friends or family visiting (and it is cool enough to fry in the kitchen) then it is likely they will get some deep fried love!