Bombay Aloo

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“What is that?”,were my thoughts when I saw it on the menu in the UK. In 21 years that I spent growing up in Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay), I never came across a dish named so. But when I ate it, I knew instantly what it was!

Bombay Aloo will mean different things to different people and just like any curry, every family will have their own version.

Here is my dad’s version. Bombay Aloo served in England tastes closest to what my dad used to make.

Serves 2 – 3

Ingredients:

5 diced potatoes

1 1/2 tsp turmeric

2 1/2 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp mustard seeds

2 tbsp oil

Salt and Sugar to taste

Coriander to garnish

Method:

Boil the potatoes. I used the pressure cooker. Two whistles and then I let it rest.

In a pan, heat the oil. Add the mustard seeds. Once they pop, add the drained potatoes. Add all the spices and gently fry until everything is mixed. Don’t mix too much, you risk mushing up the potatoes. Cook until potatoes turn slightly golden and spices loose its raw smell. Garnish with chopped coriander. Serve hot!

Baby Ro’s First Holi on Spring Equinox

It was Holi last week – but baby Ro was running a temperature. The mood in our household wasn’t of the celebratory kind. So we decided to postpone any festivities.

But today is Roshan’s first spring equinox (that’s right, winter is officially over!) And since Holi – the festival of colours – is celebrated to welcome spring, it made total sense to combine the two.

Holi has a lot of different symbolic importance in Indian culture. There are various mythological stories in which the death of the devil who tried to kill baby Krishna is celebrated by lighting a bonfire and throwing colours at each other.

I have very fond memories of Holi from my childhood. We’d fill up balloons with coloured water and throw them at absolute strangers, passersby and friends days before Holi. Most people took it in their stride in the spirit of the festival. On the day itself we could throw colours at each other, play with water pistols and go around the community in groups to flush out any of the shy and colour-less. We’d also partake in a massive afternoon feast – lot of sweets are devoured.

The fun didn’t just stop at that. Sometimes we would have community events that locals would have been planning for days. We’d enjoy some amazing performances later in the day.

Also, no matter how much we tried we would never get rid of the colours completely even after several showers. As kids, I remember it being an unspoken competition amongst friends to see whose colours lasted the longest.

Oh how can I forget to mention love! Holi is also a lover’s paradise. The raw engagement of skin to skin in the whole colour application process brings about an air of flirtation, romance and teasing. Oh how I love Holi!

I am so glad I can give my kids a taste of this festival of colours, Holi. They had such great fun. I hope I can take them to India one day to enjoy the real deal. Although perhaps the romance bit can wait a little longer…

English Is A Funny Language

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When I first moved to England, I was overwhelmed by everything. I wanted to fit in so badly that I never questioned any cultural habits I was adopting. Now my family back home mock my mannerisms, calling me “one of them”. I guess I have integrated very well!

This realisation was revisited last month when my mum and aunt visited my family home in England and I saw them struggle with two of the most abused words in English in the UK – “Thank You” and “Sorry”.

Saying thank you and sorry to people here is a routine thing, whereas in India those two words are never used so loosely. In fact, if you say sorry to someone who just took money from you for your purchase, you are sure to get told off or laughed upon. It isn’t because Indians are impolite, but because somehow there is more value to those words than I can explain in words. They are not formalities.

In my lifetime, I have rarely said thank you to my mum but now I expect my children to thank me when I put food on the table for them. So when this time my mum and aunt visited me, they observed and tried to absorb the English culture as much as they could. They kept thanking me for cooking, for taking them out, etc.

Now this gesture would mean nothing or nothing in the sense that it won’t grab my special emotional attention if it came from an Englishman because I know it is a routine thing. But when my mum and aunt did it, it struck me quite strongly how awkward it is between us to thank each other (they fed me all my life and now they are thanking me? Oh please, I am ashamed!) and how much effort it takes from their part to simply say those words.

Now I use the term, “abuse” after careful consideration. I think these words are being abused because when we are taught English, an appropriate response to “thank you” is often “don’t mention it” or most commonly used in India is “You are welcome”. Also, a natural response to “Sorry” is either “That’s ok” or “Oh don’t be”.

In contrast, people in England respond to thank you and sorry with another thank you and sorry. So to explain this further: one awkward experience we had at the supermarket with my mum was when my mum stood at the entrance waiting for me to get the trolley. A man totally engrossed in conversation with his spouse (I assume) came from behind and accidentally pushed pass my mum. Of course, he was English and polite so he said sorry. My mum’s instinct was to say, “Oh that’s ok”. And the disgust on the man’s face was unforgettable. My mum was obviously confused.

I explained her that an appropriate response to sorry is strangely a sorry. And then I faced a look of disgust on my mum’s face. She is an English teacher back home and this was utterly unacceptable fact. But she went with it for the rest of the trip as she believes in integrating like me.

Going back to the Indian culture. We are very intimate people and we rely on family and friends for our day to day needs. We often operate on a barter system of love and affection expressed very physically in the form of feeding someone, teaching someone, looking after them or simply welcoming someone in your intimate space which could be your home or heart. Saying thank you makes things very formal, and within Indian households formalities have no place because formalities are for outsiders. Hence, thanking your relative for feeding you could almost offend them or baffle them.

There is also this hierarchy system that rules us. We believe in mutually accepted roles and obligations. It is understood that it is a parent’s duty to feed, clothed and love their children, and it is a child’s responsibility to maintain their pride. If all those things are in tune, we are good. There is no need for thank you(s) or sorry(s).

In India, finishing a plateful of food that was served to you is a big thank you to the person who cooked (hence not finishing food is considered very disrespectful), wearing that pretty dress your husband brought you with elegance and pride is thanking him for buying you the dress and finishing your studies and standing on your feet is a big thank you to your parents for looking after you all these years. It is all emotional and not formal.

Having said all of that, I love English culture. I love the fact that they say “I love you” so easily without any awkwardness. Those are the three words that can never be abused no matter how or how often you use them. In India, we don’t even say I love you to our parents and loved ones so easily. Love is to be felt and expressed not told or imposed. I am sure the western influence is changing that notion now but when I was a kid, we never said that to our family. But I love the liberty I feel in saying I love you to my lovely children and husband every day, numerous amounts of time. I love to see my husband’s eyes lit up every time I say it to him and my children melt in my arms with warmth and a sense of security. It is simply marvellous!

Lastly, a very big thank you for reading my post (and I hope to see some appropriate responses to that).

Rajma (Red Kidney Beans)

Rajma or Red Kidney Beans curry is one of the most loved North Indian recipes. My memories of it takes me back to my school days when my babysitter was a North Indian woman. She used to cook and feed me rajma and rice on a regular basis. It is a very simply and healthy recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

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Ingredients:

2 tinned red kidney beans (or soak up the dry ones overnight and then boil them until cooked)

1 onion, finely chopped

1 – 2 inch of ginger, chopped

3 tomatoes

1 cinnamon stick

2 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp turmeric powder

3 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp chilli powder

2tsp garam masala

2 tsp oil

salt and sugar to taste

coriander to garnish

Method:

Grind the tomatoes and ginger into a puree.

Heat the oil in a pan and then add the cumin seeds and cinnamon. Once the cumin seeds turn light brownish in colour, add the onions and cook until translucent. Then add the tomato puree along with the spices, sugar and salt. Let it cook until the oil separates from the tomato mix. Then add the beans, a bit of water and simmer it for 30 mins. Add more water if the curry starts to dry out. You want to almost overcook the beans, that helps the curry to form a smooth and creamy consistency. In the end, add chopped coriander and serve hot with parathas or steamed rice.

Enjoy!

Masala Fish Pakoras

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You know the feeling when you crave for a certain tasting food but cannot think of A recipe? That is when such genius is created!

This recipe is an experiment that turned out to be an epic dish!

I wanted to eat simple dal and rice, but with a side of something fishy, spicy and crispy! And this is what I invented!

Ingredients:

2 fillet of haddock or any white fish (diced into bite size pieces)

2 inches of grated ginger

5 to 8 cloves of grated garlic

2tsp turmeric

3tsp chilli powder

2tsp garam masala

1 lemon juice

2 tbsp gram / chick pea powder (also known as besan – use plain flour alternatively)

1tbsp Corn powder

2tsp dried fenugreek leaves (optional)

Salt to taste

Oil

Method:

Mix all the ingredients together and leave it to marinate for about 2 to 3 hours (only if you can plan ahead – I didn’t marinate).

Heat oil in a pan, and start frying the pieces of fish. Turn and toss until it’s cooked from inside and looks lush and crispy from outside. The trick is to put the fish in the oil when it’s hottest and then turning down the heat slightly, tossing and turning to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Serve as a side dish or complimentary snacks with some cold beverages!

Let me know how you like your fish!

 

 

Bharli Vangi / Stuffed Aubergine/Eggplant

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Yet another Aubergine recipe (they are my favourite!)

This is a very comforting Maharastrian recipe from the state of Maharashtra where I was born and raised!

The benefit of being raised in Mumbai is that you are exposed to a lot of different authentic Indian cuisine and if in Mumbai, you cannot escape from Maharastrian cooking!

Traditionally, you will be using baby aubergines and slit them in the middle, and fill them up with the stuffing; and use the leftover stuffing in the gravy. But because I couldn’t get hold of baby aubergines, I had to make use of the normal ones. And that meant chopping them into cubes and simply making the curry, rather than stuffing them. By all means carry on with the stuffing if you get hold of baby aubergines…

Ingredients:

For the masala:

1 Onion

4-5 Garlic cloves

1 inch Ginger

2tbsp Coriander Seeds

1tbsp Sesame seeds

1tsp Cumin Seeds

4-5 heap full of Decicated Coconut (Traditionally, dried coconut)

3 tbsp of Peanuts (Main ingredient)

For the Gravy:

Oil

1tsp Mustard Seeds

3-4 Curry leaves

2tsp Asafoetida (found in any Indian grocery shops, also called hing)

2 Tomatoes (chopped)

1tsp Turmeric

1tsp Chilli powder

1tsp Coriander powder

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 Lemon

1 Aubergine

Handful of Green Beans (Optional)

Coriander to Garnish

Method:

Roast all the masala in a hot pan until golden brown and grind it coarsely. Set a portion aside for the stuffing and carry on grinding the rest into a fine paste.

If you are using baby aubergine, at this stage you’d want to slit the whole aubergine in the middle and stuff the masala, then gently fry them in hot oil, until it goes soft from the outside.

In a separate pan, heat the oil. Add mustard seeds, let it crackle. Add curry leaves, asafoetida and the rest of the paste. Fry until it loses oil at the edges, then add turmeric, chilli and coriander powder. Add the aubergine (stuffed or diced), tomatoes and a little bit of water (Add more water if it dries up before the vegetables are cooked). Add salt, pepper and half a tsp of sugar (optional). Once the aubergines are nearly cooked add green beans and lemon juice. Let it simmer gently until everything is cooked and the gravy is reduced.

Garnish with coriander and serve.

Best served with rice or chapatis.

Let me know if you try this recipe at home or any variations!

 

 

 

Hot and Sour Aubergine

 

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This is one of the recipes I adored as a guest in a jain friend’s home. People following the religion of Jainism are vegetarian and do not consume any root vegetables. Hence, their food has always been a mystery to me as I come from a culture where garlic and onions are considered as essential ingredients in most recipes.

Anyhow, every Saturday we’d follow a religious day and only eat vegetarian, that meant not eating root vegetables either. So, my mum would often pick up inspiration from jain recipes and this is one of the things I grew up eating. It is easy, quick and the spices are easy to find.

Ingredients:

1 whole aubergine, diced

1 tbsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp tumeric powder

1/2 tsp chilli powder (more if you like it hot)

1tsp cumin seeds

1 1/2 tsp sugar

Tamarind paste (to taste) or vinegar/lemon juice

Salt to taste

2 tbsp oil

Method:

Heat oil in a pan and temper cumin seeds. Add aubergine and the spices with a splash of water. Cook the spices until the water has nearly evaporated and then add more water, tamarind paste, sugar and salt. Let it simmer until the aubergines are cooked and the water is dry.

It has a sticky constancy, not too dry, not to runny.

Serve with rice and dal. It also makes a nice side to be served with pasta or a bed of couscous.