A Summer Tomato Salad and the Winners of Bong Mom’s Cookbook

tomatoes

Hot and Humid.

But the early onset of Monsoons this year brought relief to some and tragedy to many.  Engineers (and politicians) will have us believe we can control Nature, twist, throttle, and contort it every which way, without any consequence.  Nature, then, has no choice but to show us what she is capable of.  Last week, just two days of incessant rains laid waste to much of Uttarakhand, the new state that was carved out of the hill districts of Uttar Pradesh in 2000.  The rivers Mandakini and Ganga reclaimed their banks with incredible force.  My parents were also amongst the many stranded in the state.  They were lucky to not have ventured further up beyond Uttarkashi, though Uttarkashi itself witnessed hundreds of buildings being swept away into the Ganga.  Sensibly, they decided to stay put in the safety of the ashram they were at, and waited for the rush of people to clear.  I was myself scheduled to be in the upper reaches (Bhimtal-Pithoragarh) at that very time for work but the unavailability of train tickets for our team meant we must reschedule the visit.  The official meeting at Dehradoon on Monday happened as scheduled while the magnitude of the disaster was still being uncovered. Continue reading “A Summer Tomato Salad and the Winners of Bong Mom’s Cookbook”

Pumpkin shoots with eggplant – al kanjji te wangun

As we move to bigger urban centers, and into smaller and smaller lots and apartments, we are removed more and more from the food we eat, from the act of growing our own food.  Much of what was once common in every home garden is gradually getting lost, at least to us city folk.  My parents maintain a small garden patch in their urban lot and even in that tiny space my mom forages for amaranth.  Yes, forage; they don’t grow it from seed, it just volunteers!  When we were younger and had a large kitchen garden inside the IITD campus,  kulfa (purslane) was another green found growing wild.

My father and his brothers are avid gardeners.  Even in the constraints of their urban homes, you will find them pottering around.  My uncle, in Pune, gardens out of huge planters on his rooftop growing runner beans, and Kashmiri favourites haak, sotchal (common mallow), and monjji (kohl rabi).  I have been very lucky, despite an urban upbringing, to have grown up in a home with a garden, and knowing a little about how food makes it to the table.  In my own typical city house I grow herbs in pots, I have a curry leaf tree and a lime tree, and grape vines that climb up the pergola on my first floor terrace.

Many wild greens used to be part of a regular Kashmiri diet – abuj, vopal haak, vasta haak, hund, to name just a few.  Today, I would be hard pressed to even identify them.

urban foraging: wild mallow
Sotchal (common mallow), on the left, foreground. Photo credit: Kritika Walia

Continue reading “Pumpkin shoots with eggplant – al kanjji te wangun”

Shukto

calcutta

There is more shared between Kashmir and Bengal than a love for rice, fish, and mustard oil.  There is a shared history.  Eighth century Kashmiri emperor Lalitaditya’s empire is believed to have extended from Kabul right up to Bengal.  But, that was centuries ago.  Even in the last century there was a very strong connection between the two Indian states.  West Bengal seems to have been the first choice for a majority of Kashmiri youth in my parents generation seeking scholarship outside of this remote state in the north.  Nineteenth Century Calcutta was the bastion of contemporary western education. It was routine for teen Kashmiri boys to leave home for this faraway state to study medicine or engineering.  Many generations owe a debt to this state of bhadrlok for their education: in my family my Dad studied at IITKgp, one uncle studied medicine at Calcutta Medical College (established by the British in 1835, it is our oldest medical college), two others studied engineering at Jadhavpur University.  The Government Medical College, Srinagar, was established only in 1959, followed by the REC (Regional Engineering College) in 1960.

calcutta

Continue reading “Shukto”

It’s time for some Deep Fried Bedmi Love

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.

bedmi poori

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!

Continue reading “It’s time for some Deep Fried Bedmi Love”