Tagged: side dish

Lotus Stem (nadroo) chips

Bombay is a vibrant, exciting city but I’m certain that even its most ardent supporters would agree that it isn’t the prettiest one out there. Yet, it had these particular settings, these spots which were serene and sublime. Most of these were by the sea – Worli Seaface, or Marine Drive. One of my favourites was the view from the Mahalaxmi temple. Situated on top of a cliff, the view of the Arabian sea behind the temple is a beautiful one.

One of the other things I loved about that temple was that it was the only one at the time that offered lotus flowers for worship. These lovely pastel-hued blossoms are some of the most graceful flowers there are. I thought of them as a thing of beauty. It was when I got invited to dinner one time at Amey’s house that I learnt that the lotus plant is also delicious.

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Roasted Broccoli & Fennel with spices

Do you find yourself talking back to your television? Amey does when he’s yelling at sports team for fouling a pitch or making an awesome catch. (Two different games. He’s all over the map with sports love.) I used to find it cute in a you’re-so-dorky-and-I-love-you-but-you-will-never-see-me-do-that kind of way. I would laugh and then carry on with the reading a book, Twitter feed, whatever was at hand. (He watches sports. I sit next to him and pretend to care because I love him. That’s our deal. Also, the rocking chair in the living room is the comfy-est seat in the house.)

They say couples take on each others personalities eventually. This was brought home to me in stark reality when I found myself doing exactly what he does. I was watching this cooking show on TV. The chef/host made a meatloaf and gravy with lavish attention, then added a vegetable side. It all looked real pretty when it landed in that platter. But the veggies? They had just been boiled in salted water and were then given the mandatory grinding of black pepper when they were served up. I found myself jumping up out of that rocking chair and yelling, “What the heck is up with that?!”

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Methi Malai Matar

I was the poster child for introverted, preferring always the company of the imaginary characters in my books and looking for a quiet room to read in for them to come to life. Celebrations like festivals, weddings, pujas generally placed me squarely out of my element. I would have liked nothing better than to have been left out of all of them entirely. Inventions of fictitious homework and illnesses only went so far before my mother made it her life’s mission to make me a bit more sociable. I grabbed a couple of books and resignedly went along, consoling myself with the thought that at least there would be fancy ‘celebration’ food.

All Indian events have two things in common. The first is people. Hordes of people. Uncles and aunties coming out of the woodwork. Extended family, family friends from distant places, people you only see at these functions, who come up to you and pinch your cheeks and ask you if you remembered them. There were women dressed to the nines in Kanjeevarams and Paithanis and Benarasis, the glorious sheen of the heavy silks competing only with the sparkle of the gold & diamond jewellery. They would bustle about, sharing the gossip of absent friends and neighbours as one does in rare meetings. Laughter and lilting voices rose from tightly scattered groups. The scent of the rajnigandha would fill the air vying for attention with jasmine perfume and the redolent waves of spice. My nose followed that spice to where the warming bowls stood lined up on the buffet.

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Spiced Coconut & Cashew Chicken

Conventional wisdom about entertaining at home indicates that practice is key to being a successful cook and host. There are unending volumes written on the subject filled with well-heeled advice that stress on planning menus, organizing your ingredients and having practice runs well in advance of the big event. They especially espouse caution when trying out new recipes. There is talk of the importance of being a relaxed host or hostess, and how you are unlikely to be one if you have been channeling the Road Runner right up the moment your guests arrive. All this running around is simply not done, they tell us earnestly.

Do you do everything you are told? Yeah, me neither. I used to, once, a long time ago. Back then, there was an implied threat of getting rid of reading time. But now? There isn’t a chance in hell I’ll do what I’m told. No way, no how.

That’s right. I listen to own tune, chart my course, pave my road. I’m a rebel, baby!!

Sigh. Who am I kidding? Let me proceed to ruin that rather defiant impression I just painted of myself with this carefully annotated bullet-point list…
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Kashmiri Paneer with Spinach

Even though the rains are slow in leaving us this year, it is well and truly spring. In fact, it seemed like spring was here in early February. The weather was nippy and grey, but it didn’t matter really. Not when there were cherry blossoms softly blooming all over the city.

It is ethereal how these trees blossom in what seems like the depths of winter, a sure signal of the coming spring if there ever was one. Dull, dead branches magically unfurl gentle pink buds. Chancing upon one for the first time will take your breath away and leave you marvelling at this majesty of nature.

The first time I saw this tree I was lucky enough to see an avenue of them, covered in blushing pink blossoms, no leaves in sight. Ahead and beyond, there were hibernating trees, brown and withered with nary a leaf. They stood there, graceful, delicate pink blooms fluttering down with every cold gust of wind, a resplendent symbol of awakening life. I will never forget that scene. Every year since then, I look forward to the cherry blossoms blooming all over the city. A harbinger of seasonal flux as sure as the changing colour of leaves in the fall.

The plum blossoms soon follow. They aren’t as readily found but as just as pretty. We found a whole row of them up in Napa last month. Just as elegant a sight to behold.

The cherry blossom blooms last but a couple of weeks before the dark, velvety red leaves sprout and take over for the rest of the year. They signify change and are celebrated. Those few weeks are enough though, to lift a gloomy city’s grey mood. These annual events provide much needed nourishment to the spirit. Best of all, they are simple and accessible to anybody.

Good food done right can be as much of a nourishment to the soul as to the body. Most often, it will be the simple dishes that provide the most comfort. Shallow on your effort and your time, with a satisfaction quotient inversely proportional to either. Some of my favourite foods are the ones that work this way. A steaming bowl of hot dal, this potato vegetable rolled up in a chapati, or this one over some couscous. This fried rice topped with a gently fried egg. Or this soul-satisfying paneer dish.

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