Cooking at residence has at all times been my mantra. I like cooking for my household and associates. From avenue meals to positive eating meals, I prefer to discover the components that go right into a dish in order that I can replicate it in our kitchen at a later time.
Opposite to what most individuals suppose, we aren’t consuming Bengali meals at residence day-after-day. In reality, the Z-Sisters gained’t have it that method and I’m guessing neither the Bearded Biker and I might too. A minimum of, not on a regular basis. A meal or two over the weekends does revolve round Bengali meals or a little bit of Kolkata nostalgia – generally Chinese language the best way its made at in style meals kiosks in Kolkata – Karunamoyee or round Metropolis Centre in Saltlake, or in one of many legendary Park Road eating places like Bar-B-Que. Though the look, really feel or style of the previous is totally totally different from its latter counterpart! Then there’s Italian meals. I consider that I cook dinner Italian meals fairly nicely. A minimum of, that’s what the Z-Sisters say. I discover cooking Italian meals extraordinarily simple. Additionally, they prove so unique simply by including contemporary herbs or a do-it-yourself sauce. Presently, I’m making pesto fairly often from contemporary basils which can be plucked at beck and name from our backyard. I stir them into pasta or grilled rooster, drizzle slightly olive oil … and Eccoci… our scrumptious meals are prepared (another publish, another day)!
Exploring regional dishes from South India
To simplify this blogpost, I’ve determined to concentrate on the brand new flavours I’ve been exploring after settling down in our Chennai residence. In the course of the weekdays, the Z-Sisters bombard downstairs round 11:30 am – 12:00 pm, demanding lunch. Huge Z was fortunate to have attended faculty bodily for 2 months till the colleges have been closed down by the Tamil Nadu authorities as soon as once more, as a safety measure. Lil Z has been attending on-line education for over a yr now. The Bearded Biker can also be going to mark a yr of working from residence. I simply informed him the opposite day, that I get spoilt with the considered them staying at residence and coming collectively throughout mealtimes – a form of a contented thought for me. Initially, I might cook dinner acquainted and easy-to-make dishes throughout weekdays – stir fries, fried rice, hotpots and grills. The weekends have been reserved for barely extra elaborate affair. Because the time Matree, our fantastic live-in girl has joined us, I’ve been on a spree of exploring regional delicacies. Matree is a Tamilian, born and introduced up in Kerala-Karnataka border and is an distinctive cook dinner. Though fairly younger, she jogs my memory of conventional residence cooks like my dida or mum-in-law who insist on utilizing freshly floor masalas and doesn’t consider in quick monitoring the steps in cooking a dish.
Cooking from scratch
I had supposed to show Matree Bengali cooking … progressively in fact, similar to Lady M however have now determined to maintain my mission on maintain. We’re having fun with the number of regional dishes a lot, that I don’t wish to overburden her by educating her on Mustard Oil, Jharna Ghee and different nuances of Bengali cuisine. Additionally, Matree’s inventory appears to be countless as of now and she or he effortlessly strikes throughout the totally different states of South India. Like conventional residence cooks, her necessities for kitchen utensils are additionally very conventional. Whereas for years, I had ‘managed’ with a espresso grinder for grinding my contemporary masalas or non-stick woks for the tempering, Matree insists on what she is used to… a Preethi mixer grinder or a correct tadka pan for ‘thaalippu’ or tempering. The chai needs to be ideally made in a saucepan (no brown sugar for her), the contemporary milk is boiled in a Pigeon Milk Boiler and the curries are made in a heavy kadai. Each different day, we now have an Amazon supply for Matree’s checklist. I had simplified my kitchen life by giving up on all of the miscellaneous devices and utensils that I believed required a little bit of TLC (tender, love and caring). Since my intention is to delegate the every day cooking and all kitchen associated actions to Matree, in order that I can re-focus on my writing, I’m pampering our Amazon spree to the hilt. The pantry room adjoining our principal kitchen resembles a ware home retailer… new pots, pans, ladles and a complete lot of kitchen gadgets. Initially, my favorite instruction to Matree was, “Handle”. It meant utilizing no matter we already had, which by the best way was already proliferating out of the kitchen boundaries into the cupboards in our lounge and eating room. Now I’ve realised, that for Matree to function at her full potential, she couldn’t be requested to ‘handle’. One couldn’t compromise in conventional cooking and every thing needed to be performed from scratch and at residence – be it fermenting the Appam combine in a single day or making Idi Appam noodles at residence.
Each evening earlier than winding down, as Matree and I resolve on the following day’s menu, I ask her to think about a neighborhood dish that we haven’t tried but. I additionally go away the regional menu pairing to her… if I counsel one thing that doesn’t go nicely, she is going to typically reject that. I’m in no hurry that she has to study Bengali cooking … and I even have on a regular basis on the earth simply to savour all the brand new style and flavours that she’s bringing to our desk. Solely as soon as, I couldn’t resist placing her puri making expertise to check to make completely phulko luchis to go together with our weekend’s kasha mangsho!
Past Rasam… scrumptious snapshots of our residence cooked meals… 50 shades of rice, lentils and Poriyal. Curry leaves for thaalippu or tempering, and naturally as garnish.
“So, you may be consuming Rasam now?” “Are you consuming Curd Rice and gun powder?” “No extra Mustard fish… solely idli, sambhar and dosa?”
We’ve been such a vocal non-vegetarian household and completely drowned with stereotypical questions like above… as if coming to Chennai was a culinary exile. To be truthful, I didn’t anticipate to study so many non-vegetarian preparations as I’ve performed over these few months. A fast search on Google would reveal that 97.65 p.c in Tamil Nadu are non-vegetarians. A formidable statistics that may any day lure us, the non-vegetarian Bengali household with West Bengal holding the proportion at 98 p.c!
My notion had been laid astray by many of the Tamil associates we now have had, and by the way most of them have been Tam Brahms who’re vegetarians. If solely we had some affiliation with anybody from the Chettinad area or the coastal space, we might have been ready for the scrumptious onslaught of non-vegetarian meals that was in retailer for us.
RASAM. Soup model! The urge to have an genuine Rasam made at residence turned virtually like an obsession after listening to umpteen variety of instances by actress Deepika Padukone that her favorite meals is Rasam and Rice. Furthermore, with Rasam having gone ‘viral’ within the US because the “immunity boosting soup”, due to chef Arun Rajadurai who labored in Anjappar Princetown, I needed to study what made Rasam so particular. I’ve determined to sit back my Rasam within the oncoming summer time months!
Idli, Masala Vada, Masala Dosa and Uttapam served with sambar and contemporary coconut chutneys. The totally different coconut chutneys make for an attention-grabbing style variations and I learnt that the Thengai chutney is the white coconut chutney with solely the thaalippu or tempering of roasted Bengal gram, inexperienced chillies, mustard seeds, urad dal, curry leaves and asafoetida. The crimson coconut chutney had roasted Sambhar onions (shallots), crimson chillies, garlic, ginger, roasted chana dal and curry leaves. Contemporary coriander leaves, inexperienced chillies and a splash of lime went into the making of the inexperienced coconut chutney together with the standard tempering. The Idli Upma (final picture above) is a simple snack preparation made with left over Idlis and including the standard thaalippu or of mustard seeds, curry leaves and channa dal.
Idiyappam with Rooster Stew with coconut milk
The Bull’s eye Appam with a fried egg within the center is certainly a culinary positive artwork… and may be had with both the refined tasting Mutton Stew or the spicy Mutton Sukha, each preparations having contrasting style profiles. Cooked within the Kerala model, the rooster and the mutton stew tastes surreal with a thick coconut gravy and the refined perfume of bay leaf, ginger, fried onions and entire black pepper.
Lemon rice cooked within the Tamil model, paired with a crispy fried spicy okra.
Ven Pongal with Sambar and a Poriyal made with beans (first image above) and with Kara Kulambu or Kara Khuzambu (second image above and in addition beneath), an especially spicy and tangy preparation of a mixture of greens.
White rice makes the right accompaniment to the spicy Kara Kulambu. Like many variations of Sambar, Matree generally has her personal renditions of Kara Kulambu – like within the above, the place she’s added inexperienced mangoes, drumsticks and contemporary coriander leaves.
White Rice with Tamil Dal, spicy Bittergourd Poriyal and Papad
Curd Rice with Masala Cauliflower Poriyal
Bisi Bele Bhath with do-it-yourself potato chips and Papad is Matree’s favorite. Bisi Bele Bhath is a spicy lentil and rice dish that has its origin in Karnataka. With plenty of greens thrown in, I felt that Bisi Bele Bhath may very well be described as a spicier model of Khichuri.
Ambur styled Biryani cooked in a stress cooker. Originating within the area of Ambur, this spicy Biryani is paired with Khattay Baigan, or brinjal curry and cucumber raita.
Poriyals are shallow fried or sauteéd vegetable dishes that may be made with each potential vegetable. Cabbage Poriyal with contemporary grated coconut and bittergourd poriyal (first and second picture above). In reality, amongst all of the Poriyals I tasted up to now, my favourites are the carrot-bean poriyal and the spicy bittergourd poriyal.
Kadala Curry, a wealthy Kerala model black chickpea curry with triangular formed homey Parathas with raita, the ‘Princess Raita’ as Matree calls it. She cooked the above dish in coconut oil and added slightly coconut milk, making it actually particular for Maha Shivaratri
Malabari Parotta is the regional variant to Laccha Paratha in the best way it’s ready. Its magnificence lay within the layered method during which the dough is rolled out and the refined flakiness as ghee is added when the parathas are cooked.
Meen Kuzhambu / Kulambu is a fish gravy cooked in tamarind, coconut milk and spices. I learnt to cook dinner this from an genuine supply and whereas mine tasted fairly much like the one Matree cooked later (the second image above), she made hers with items of inexperienced mango that added a complete new layer of spunk to the Vanjiram or Kingfish gravy.
Fried Vanjiram or Kingfish, Kerala model
Kerala model Spicy fried prawns and Kerala model Coconut Fish Curry with the right accompaniment of do-it-yourself Malabari Parota.
Final however not the least… Gun Powder or Idli Milagai Podi, the spicy powder made with coarsely grinding roasted spices. This powder is kind of versatile and may be sprinkled over something to spunk it up – a plain curd, the curd rice, uttapams and others.
Plugging in a little bit of nostalgia… alibi a neighborhood goli soda. And desserts to satiate my Bengali candy tooth
Panner or Paneer Soda. The phrase ‘Paneer’ means rose-water in Tamil, therefore lending the title to the rose-water scented Goli Sodas… the style of Paneer Soda could be very near considered one of my favorite drinks from my childhood… Bijoligrill’s Ice cream Soda.
Javvarisi Payasam or milk pudding made with tapioca pearls as we celebrated Puthandu, the Tamil New Yr at residence.
Badusha, fried dough balls glazed in sugar syrup
Sakkarai Pongal that we first had throughout Pongal, the harvest pageant that’s celebrated in January
Earlier than I crossed into the borders of South India… meals sensible
Earlier than Matree joined us and led us on a culinary curler coaster journey of South Indian fare, our Indian meals comprised of no matter I conjured up on every day. Generally, the menu would merely pop up in my head the earlier evening, or generally it might be a immediate makeover out of the inventory in our fridge. There have been many such dishes, sharing just some of them (not Bengali meals this time, excepting flexing the phulko luchi earlier on) …
This was a nostalgic spin off on a lunch we had at a small freeway eatery whereas travelling from Jaipur to Agra two years again. The above unfold gained my household’s hearts – prepared made retailer purchased chappattis, aloo or potato sabji, cauliflower sabji, lengthy inexperienced peppers cooked within the method of a pickle, a masala egg bhurji or scrambled egg cooked in a spicy dry gravy.
Grilled rooster marinated with spices, inexperienced chillies and contemporary herbs like coriander and mint leaves
Rooster Bharta cooked within the model of Punjabi Dhaba at Ballygunge Phari in Kolkata
Sourcing meat, fish and meat … and tremendous contemporary greens
After resorting to the favored grocery store Nilgiris for groceries and its sister counterpart, Veggies for contemporary vegatables and fruits initially, we now have now expanded our horizon a bit.
From all of the conversations throughout the neighborhood WhatsApp group, I’ve realised that there are a lot of entrepreneurs and begins ups who’re engaged in producing artisanal merchandise and contemporary natural produce of the best high quality. A number of these vegatables and fruits with non-Indian origin, “fancy greens” as Matree calls them, are all grown someplace in some farms in India proper now. Orders may be positioned over WhatsApp and merchandise are promptly delivered residence.
Referrals inside identified circles and word-of-mouth are the prime instruments of publicity for a lot of those home-grown manufacturers. We’re loving the standard of the produce and largely sticking to purchasing native produce of the season. Ansio units up a weekly vegetable market inside our neighborhood and I’ve already been initiated to a whole lot of regional greens like drumsticks, yams, various kinds of bananas and others.
We purchase our fish from J Okay Fish Stall in Adyar as they appear to have a great inventory of in style Bengali fish which can be flown in from Kolkata every day. Whatsapp conversations with the Bearded Biker and his maachwala, the fish vendor ensures rapid residence supply of Bengali fish delicacies like Hilsa or “golda”, the freshwater big prawns. The opposite day we purchased contemporary fish like Vanjiram or Kingfish, Sankara or crimson snapper and squids from the fishermen straight off the seashore in Kovalam. There couldn’t have a extra thrilling escapade for fish lovers like us. We order our rooster by on-line apps like Licious and Tender Cuts, sticking to the previous for many of the instances. An area butcher simply exterior our gate has sealed the Bearded Biker’s approval for meat – tender goat that I’ve perfected in gradual cooking ala mum-in-law’s model. Sunday afternoons at the moment are largely reserved for gradual cooked goat curry with large chunky aloo, or potatoes peeping out. The Bearded Biker has discovered unbelievable pork provider in SSD Meat World & Restaurant in Kilpauk, a bit far-off from the place we stay. The restaurant serves in style pork dishes like sorpotel, vindaloo, chilli pepper fry and pork roasts, whereas they’ve their very own farm is the place the prime quality meat is sourced. We just lately found one other place – a sort of a sanctuary very near the place we stay, The Farm. It’s a B&B cum restaurant house positioned amidst rice fields, coconut groves and plantations. Other than promoting contemporary produce grown in their very own natural vegetable gardens, their product checklist is kind of spectacular, specifically with the dairy merchandise like Mozarella, Feta, Labneh and so forth. We just lately began shopping for contemporary milk from a dairy farm known as Arunodhyam on suggestion from our neighbouring resident. Anju, the founder, spoke to me at size to share her story – how the dairy farm and the milking amenities is predicated out of her seaside residence. Initially, she was delivering to a couple of her associates and its solely throughout the lockdown interval, extra folks acquired to know her due to phrase of mouth that led to her consider growth. Just lately, we ordered farm contemporary watermelons, water apples and okras on repeat mode (photographs beneath) from Sri Durga Farms at Thirukazhukundram, a ardour challenge based by Maha and Raja, residents of our neighborhood. Day by day there are messages within the residents’ whatsapp group, some pal or the opposite has some natural farm and rising one thing unique… orders are instantly positioned and the merchandise delivered residence promptly. As soon as we ordered oyster mushrooms that have been completely sensible!
What evokes me to cook dinner?
I consider that cooking entails an change of power between the one that’s cooking any dish and the one that’s consuming it. It’s an act of demonstration love and affection and needs to be carried out as a ceremony – one thing that’s performed from one’s coronary heart. Matree listens to music – Tamil love songs whereas she cooks. She additionally entertains calls on her cellular. Initially, I had been barely skeptic concerning the latter however after observing her for a couple of instances, I’ve realised that she discusses what she’s cooking and there’s a lot of happiness in her voice that it’s virtually infectious. When she serves the meals, there’s at all times a way of pleasure and she or he appears so pleased to cook dinner. After we plan the menu for the following day, there’s a whole lot of enthusiasm in sharing what she is aware of greatest. She additionally has some ‘imprecise’ dishes in her repertoire – Indian pasta and Indian noodles (the picture beneath) made with Indian spices. Have you ever ever heard of Indian Mac and Cheese ? Nicely, simply now you probably did!
I’m as impressed by cooks like Matree as I’m by movie star cooks like Gordon Ramsay. My cabinets are stuffed with signed cookbooks and my ‘to-cook’ checklist is full of inspiration from the online, meals bloggers I interact with, meals addas with household and associates over whatsapp … and naturally, our travels. A few of which, I shall reserve for a future publish. In the meanwhile, what’s heartwarming is that when one begins celebrating native festivities at residence, it’s signal that you’ve got settled in nicely in a single’s new residence. As is obvious from our Tamil festive sapaddu final week as we celebrated Puthandu, the Tamil New Yr!
Unblogging all of it… Ishita
Some posts from my latest Chennai Chapter: Celebrating Bengali New Year and Tamil New Year at home Celebrating Pongal with Sakkarai Pongal and other dishes Kovalam Beach | Buying fish at the seashore and a recipe of Beer Battered Squid Finally calling Chennai home Chicken Chettinad cooked in a claypot Homemade spicy Chicken 65
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