The First Naming

When I lift Agastya up to inspect my cooking, he looks at me expectantly.  I say “that’s matar paneer.”  He solemnly repeats the phrase “matar paneer” as if at a naming ceremony, and proceeds to ask for the dish by name several times, “Mommy, I want matar paneer,” as he grows hungrier in readiness forContinue reading “The First Naming”

Matar Paneer

This morning I wake up bright up and early.  I am going to make my mother-in-law’s matar paneer for the first time.  Her delicious recipe comes from various North Indian neighbors, such as “Singh Bhabhiji” from her old residential colony in Bombay.  So I call mummy who is back in Vizag to talk about theContinue reading “Matar Paneer”

Kattu, toor dal with garlic

In the winter, Agastya starts sniffling.  One sniffle turns into the next and we start on a progression of back-to-back colds. Sometimes they start with a fever, sometimes with runny sneezes and sometimes with a bad cough.  They last a week, sometimes two, and a new cold often starts before the old one finishes.  IContinue reading “Kattu, toor dal with garlic”

Paneer Butter Masala

I like looking at cook books, but the Indian cooking ones usually scare me.  The list of ingredients will be long and complicated and some recipes will say something to the effect of “two medium tomatoes” and “one large onion” and “a generous pinch of cumin.” I am unsure of what that means, having hadContinue reading “Paneer Butter Masala”

Andhra-style potatoes

My husband introduced me to the food from his native state of Andhra Pradesh when we were dating.  The cuisine and its cooking style was a revelation for me.  For instance, a simple sookha aloo-pyaaz or dry potato-onion dish tasted completely different because of the cooking process, the treatment of ingredients and a slightly differentContinue reading “Andhra-style potatoes”

Stir-fried Okra

Sometimes when I am in the kitchen, the strongest association that I have with the food, in this case okra, is the memory of a two-and-half year old Agastya hovering around, helping in some way or just getting involved in the vegetable that I am making.  My mother has always claimed that all little childrenContinue reading “Stir-fried Okra”

The Empty Kitchen

              My kitchen feels oddly cold and empty.  Everything is in its place.  There is no mad confusion of spices, profusion of dry lentils and messy spread of vegetable peels on the countertop. My mother-in-law has just left today for India, after almost three months of being here inContinue reading “The Empty Kitchen”

Cauliflower

Sometimes my tiny toddler clambers into his dad’s lap at dinner time and proceeds to messily eat everything on the plate, small fingers moving busily from table to mouth, with a look of intense concentration on his face.  This, in spite of having finished his own dinner just an hour ago.  During such moments, IContinue reading “Cauliflower”

Pappu Charu

“What will your mother-in-law say? You don’t even know how to boil dal,” my mother would fret during my growing up years in Calcutta.  Strangely, she never actually required me to enter her kitchen or help with chores in any way.  “No, no, go study,” she would say.  Perhaps we both had an inkling ofContinue reading “Pappu Charu”

Khichri

Khichri, a dry (khilwa) or moist preparation consisting of rice and lentil in equal parts,  is one of my favorite foods.  With a pressure cooker, it is an easy one-pot meal to prepare.  My simplest khichri is rice and moong dal, with some salt, turmeric, heeng or asafoetida and ghee or clarified butter.  I then add any vegetables that I haveContinue reading “Khichri”

Masala Chai

There is no “right way” to make Indian-style spiced tea (masala chai) flavored with ginger and cardamom.  You can vary the ingredients based upon taste, and create your own unique formula for masala chai.  I like to use milk from organic pasture-fed cows as the milk is sweet and naturally flavorful.  I also believe that thisContinue reading “Masala Chai”

Eggplant

I wait all year for July when luscious firm glossy dark-skinned eggplants start appearing in the local farmer’s markets.   I see them piled in wicker baskets, and their tender freshness brings me to my first summer with Agastya and his paternal grandmother, Lakshmi. My South Indian mother-in-law had just flown in from Visakhapatnam to spendContinue reading “Eggplant”

Santara ka Kheer

This slow-boiled milk dessert or kheer is traditionally made in winter in my Calcutta home with tangerines or santara that have been peeled, segmented and then the inner skin removed.  It is usually served during the festival of Diwali.  The kheer arrives at dinner on the main Diwali day, resplendent in a large silver bowl, the bits of orangeContinue reading “Santara ka Kheer”