Category: Food

Ma ke haath ka khana #Mother’sDay

Ma ke haath ka khana #Mother’sDay

One Sunday the Husband said he wanted to eat aloo puri for lunch. The children chimed in their yays and I was game too. Not too tough to put together, thought I, as I put the potatoes to boil and got the dough going for the puris.

Half an hour later I checked on the bubbling curry on the stove. As the spicy whiff of fresh gram masala reached me I thought I’d done a decent job. I dipped a spoon into the pan and tasted the gravy. It was good but a tad less tangy. Also, it wasn’t the ‘right’ orange. So back I went to the fridge, got out some tomatoes, ground them, sautéed them separately then added them to the gravy. I’m not sure that’s the right way to do it but that’s just how I cook – tasting and adjusting, adding spices and ingredients till I get the flavour I like.

Finally lunch was done – a thick rich orange potato gravy, perfectly puffed up puris with dahi and salad. As the children helped lay the table I was happy with myself. Tucking into the food the Husband remarked, ‘We used to have aloo puri every Sunday but that used to be a yellow gravy, it wasn’t so thick nor so tangy but it was way spicier.’

Seriously!

After all the trouble I took to turn it from yellow to orange he says he wanted yellow? And ‘way spicier’? Would the children eat ‘way spicier’?

See, that’s the trouble with ma ke haath ka khana. While I was attempting to get as close as possible to my ma ke haath ka food the Husband was dreaming about a replication of his ma’s.

This, I’m sure, has been the undoing of many a happy marriage.

Mercifully ours stands on sturdier ground than the quality of aaloo-puri I turn out and thank goodness for that. All the Husband got for his pains was my routine dagger look. Gratifyingly enough the children ate on, unaware of this exchange of visual weaponry, gushing all the way.

I wonder now, if I was laying the grounds for more battles when they grew up.

Cooking has never been my forte but H and N don’t seem to think so. They happily eat up whatever I serve. When my dosas stick to the pan they fight for the broken bits insisting they’re the crunchiest, when my cake turns out hard they christen it biscuit-cake and munch on it and when my atta laddoos don’t bind well they scoop up the mixture with a spoon relishing every last bit.

They have made friends with all the various gourds and pumpkins I put on the table no matter how they’re cooked. Sometimes I wonder how they will reminisce about my food when they grow up.
Perhaps one of them will say something like, ‘You remember mom’s lauki?’ 
And the other one will reply, ‘Oh yeah that delicious watery gravy and the smoky smell (from the burnt bits)’.
‘Remember the time we had to scrape off the rice from the pan and it turned all crispy?’
‘Oh yeah,’ the other one will reply and then they’ll shake their heads together ruing that no maid could ever match the flavours of their childhood.

Quite unlike me, my mother is a talented cook, a really talented cook. From delicately flavoured Navratan Pulaos to cheesy Veg Au Gratins she has a knack for them all. Her melt-in-the-mouth pineapple pastries are the stuff of family legends. Once when I remarked to my friend that my mom was a great cook, she casually, rather patronisingly, dismissed it saying ‘all moms are great cooks’ implying that all children thought their moms were great cooks. That incensed me so much that I launched into a huge argument with her.

Now however, I wonder if there’s more truth in her statement that I cared to admit that day. Perhaps we just get used to what we eat through our growing up years. Or perhaps there really is something special in the flavours of our childhood, something that transcends the science and skill of cooking.

What do you say? Is there one thing no one can make quite like your mom?

PS: I still maintain my mom’s a great cook and I love H and N to bits for believing I’m one too.

Food and fitness in Lucknow

Food and fitness in Lucknow

I’ve been trying rather hard to keep an eye on my weight this year with some decent amount of success. But then the children had exams and they seemed to need help the moment I put on my sneakers for a walk. The stress of it all meant walks and exercise took a backseat.

Moving on – right after the exams came vacations. We travelled to Delhi and then to my hometown and that meant F.O.O.D.

The first morning in Lucknow I woke up to a pile of jalebis and khastas at the breakfast table. I’ll probably need to do a whole post on the Lakhnawi jalebis but for now let me just say that they served to kick off my food fest. It would have been absolute blasphemy, not to say inconceivably rude, to not be ru-ba-ru with my old favourites. If you’ve been with me on Instagram you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. While the children waded through cartons of Amul Icecream, I renewed my friendship with Lakhnawi sweets – malai chamcham, kaju pedas and motichur laddoos. That’s not to say I didn’t sample the ice creams. This season the Caramel  Cookies flavour from Amul absolutely topped my list.

Coming back to Lucknow, the chaat here is something else. The pani puris are perfect. As Goldilocks would say – not to hot not too sweet, they’re just right. And there’s matar – boiled and mashed white peas fried over a low flame in lota-fulls of ghee (The chat wallahs actually keep a lota full of ghee on the edge of their giant tawa). When it’s garnished with crisp crushed papadi, green chutney, fresh coriander and long ginger juliennes, it’s a party in the mouth.

Matar

And just when the party’s getting too hot you take up a pattal of sweet cool kulfi topped by pista flakes and two types of falooda.

Kulfi with two kinds of falooda

Then of course there’s the ma-ke-haath-ka-khana, my favourite – jackfruit fried to a crisp in mustard oil and singhade ka achar (water-chestnut pickle) – I’m not even sure many have heard of those. My mom, the strongest advocator of healthy eating and the loudest YOU-NEED-TO-LOSE-WEIGHT voice was torn between serving up my favourite foods and exhorting me to not binge. That was seriously funny.

Deep fried jackfruit fritters

Oh and this isn’t really a food thing but I have to make a mention. Each year sometime in the month of May is the Bara Mangal – a grand celebration of Lord Hanuman. I’ve written about it here. Numerous pandals serving free food and drink come up overnight, every Tuesday for a month. It might essentially be for the poor but the puri-and aaloo-kaddu ki sabzi one gets at these pandals is absolutely delicious. No matter how hard one tries, it is impossible to replicate at home. A bit like the kada prasad one gets at gurudwaras – it never tastes the same at home. So every Tuesday my lunch (and sometimes evening snack) menu had puri-subzi.

 

Aloo puri, the staple at Bara Mangal

To make matters more complicated, my sleepy hometown is slowly awakening to diverse cuisines – national and international. So we also have to do cafes and coffee shops, sizzlers and mocktails, fine dining and lavish buffets.

Sigh!

Did you see that? This was meant to be a stock-taking post on food and fitness but fitness seems to have taken the far back seat! This, right here, is what my problem is. I need focus, focus, focus!

For the first few days I managed to stick to a morning walk. Since my two homes – the in-laws and the parents are really close by the walk worked well because I’d start off from one place and drop by at the other for my morning cup of tea. But then the charm of lazy morning conversations took over and the plan went bust.

Now I’m back home and just as I was gathering the courage to step onto my brand new weighing machine the maid did the disappearing act (yet again). I’ve been spending my days mopping and dusting, lunging and squatting more than I’d ever done in my one hour a day at the gym. So my fitness routine should soon be on track. It is true, you know, what Coehello or SRK or whoever said – The Universe does look out for you if you want something with full shiddat.

What’s more my evening walks are beginning to make me happy. The nights are turning cool with the monsoon expected any day now. The days when the wind Gods are happy it’s an absolute delight to be out in the open with my iPod. Most importantly I get to switch off for those thirty or forty minutes from the chaos up at home.

While on fitness – I’d love some help on healthy salad recipes. Do leave them in the comments. Any other happy low-fat diet ideas would be great too.

Linking up with Shilpa and Bellybytes for #FlavoursomeTuesday. 

Welcoming Winter

Welcoming Winter

Winter it is.. finally. However here in this quiet Western part of India, it hardly comes to stay. Even so, I find myself disliking it more and more. I never was a winter person and have gotten worse over the years. Age is catching up, perhaps.

I go around shutting doors and windows, yet it makes sure to find that one window I forget to shut and comes rushing right in. I find myself shouting at the kids to wear chappals and jackets. I find myself secretly wishing they wouldn’t go down to play. I am reluctant to go down for my evening walk. I have to admit though, that when I do go, I quite like the little nip in the air which is all we can boast of here.

The kids don’t seem to mind the cold at all, don’t seem to even notice it. ‘Was I ever like this?’ I wonder. Like I said I never was a winter person but there are some things about it that I truly loved. Here are a few..

The bonfires

There’s nothing like a North Indian winter to teach you the fantastic camaraderie between a bonfire, roasted peanuts and hot chilie garlic chutney. That sounds just so Chinese – Let me put it this way – Lehsun aur mirch ki chutney. That’s more like it! What a cosy threesome that is! We’d sit around shelling peanuts, eating and chatting for ages by the light of the bonfire. How we loved watching the fire flare up when we threw in a bunch of peanut shells, to be half heartedly reprimanded by our mum or dad.

Makkhan malai

Then there was Lucknow’s own answer to the videshi souffle – the fluffy, frothy, light as air makkhan malai that would melt in your mouth. It was such a Sunday ritual for us. We’d wait for the bhaiyya to come around on lazy mornings. He’d weigh it out and hand it to us in earthenware plates. We’d compare for ages who’d got more, not believing for a moment that 100 gms had to be the same on each plate. One of my more enterprising cousins would shamelessly ask the bhaiyya for an additional dollop and, to the chagrin of the rest of us, he was never disappointed.

The sunshine

And of course there’s the sunshine. Winter in Lucknow came with the warmest sunshine ever. We’d lay out a rug on the grass in our garden and settle down with a book for long hours of lazy reading. The asparagus creeper would be in full bloom and it gave out a sweet sickly scent that seemed to be a huge hit with the flies. They came in hordes and hung around the creeper all through the time it bloomed. Their buzzing had an oddly soporific effect. That and the warm sun would make sure the book fell aside within the hour and we were lulled into the most delicious sleep ever.

And there were other pleasures..

Snuggling into huge heavy cotton quilts with a hot water bottle when temperatures fell.

The thrill of waking up in the morning and wondering whether it was still night. How grown up I felt!

The delicious smell of fog.. quite like that of the first rain showers.

Coming from school and mum handing over freshly ironed still warm clothes to wear. Bliss!

Blowing ‘smoke’ from imaginary cigarettes. We would try for hours to form rings like we’d seen the villain doing in the 70s flicks. The rings never came but the ‘smoke’ was fun enough.

I do miss all of that. Maybe winter wouldn’t be such a bad idea if I stopped trying to shut it out. I’ll go now fish out my woollens, dress up to the T, and go to meet winter in all it’s glory.

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On my other blog: Beat About The Book

Just Wodehouse #BookBytes 18

Just Wodehouse #BookBytes 18

I’m keeping today’s post short and sweet in memory of one of my favourite authors who happens to have his birthday today – Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, ‘Plum’. The interesting thing about this first quote is that Wodehouse is trying to quote Shakespeare but in his own inimitable way. The Bard would probably have turned […]