In a world always intent on mad rushing about, during the holidays and all times in-between, this post celebrates the stubbornly slow.
To honor the terms of a bet I once lost with a dear friend, I baked a cake in her enchanted Mumbai home with an expansive view of the world. We had a few of her famous margaritas. We talked a whole lot, laughed even more, and partook of more of the mouth-watering delicacies emerging from her kitchens than ever seemed possible. We finished with The Cake, alongside her tiramisu. It was a full evening of happy (and slightly boozy) sweetness.
I’m in love with a weed called dill.
With it’s spray bouquet of yellow baby’s breath flowers, its feathery leaves, its versatile flavor that seems a perfect companion to potatoes and chutneys and fish and yogurts and cheeses alike. read more…
सुखदु:खे समे कृत्वा लाभालाभौ जयाजयौ sukha-dukkhe same kṛitvā lābhālābhau jayājayau Treat alike your happiness and your distress, your gains and your losses, your victories and your defeats... --Bhagavad Gita, 2-38
“Dukkah” is a seed-nut-spice mix of Egyptian origin, the meaning of the word itself deriving from the Arabic dokah: to pound or powder. And just as the sacred Gita exhorts me to treat happiness (sukkha) and despair (dukkha) with the same stoic equanimity, this little dry spice mix simply does away with that eternally persistent human binary: my happiness (sukkha) becomes my dukkah.
Asking for pun-pardons and moving on to matters of greater anthropological accuracy: read more…
Cape gooseberries, ground cherries, husk tomatoes–whatever you call them, were always a childhood favorite. They’re one of those delightful garden secrets, tart-sweet juicy bits of happiness to be discovered inside paper lanterns hanging about on garden bushes which one could eat without the need to wait and wash. Imagine! If the garden was an unending treasure hunt, these were golden clues lighting the way.
Physalis philadelphica, they’re called botanically. Physalis is a genus of flowering plants in the nightshade family, related to the tomatillo–which explains the husk. read more…
It’s Jackfruit season, again.
Now that we’re experts at dissecting and dismembering the great beast that is the jackfruit…
Now that it takes us just a few days to consume all the jackfruit’s flesh… read more…
My Manila friends will know and readily attest to my obsession with ubé–the purple yam that is used to flavor ice creams that top that most iconic of Filipino desserts, halo halo. Knowing Manila traffic makes it hard to get about anywhere, let alone to a wet market in search of these somewhat unfriendly-looking masses of yams, I’ve twice had very kind participants in courses I was teaching hand me purple yams as take-home souvenirs to feed my soul. “Half to cook with, half to plant,” I was told.
So, dutifully, I did both.
First, a confession and a disclaimer: I know nothing about growing yams. All the gardening I have done has been learned on the go, by trial and error, in between parenting and professional deadlines. Throw some seeds, stick what’s spoiling or sprouting into the ground, and above all hope–without expecting much. I knew only that the purple yam was, like so much else in life, forbidding and scary on the outside but stunning and other-worldy on the inside:
This post is a photographic update to my post on salt production in Marakkanam some years ago. That time, there had been only a small number of chatty women collecting dry salt from the sides of salt pans and depositing them onto a slowly growing salt mountain. This time, on yet another ride back from Chennai, I stopped to witness a different phase of salt production: the bagging.
The already-built salt mountain needed now to be broken down. read more…
Absolutely essential to any even half-hearted cook’s repertoire is the versatile flatbread. It’s a great way to use up a few stray vegetables left after all our salading and galetting–we had only a few ripe tomatoes and a lone ear of corn to use up–and a straight ticket to the heart of any pizza-loving picky eaters you may have lurking around. With less than half the cheese.
You get badges for thriftiness, efficiency, low-fat cookery, hostess elegance, and doting mommy-ness. Can it get any better really?
We started with a few tomatoes harvested from the garden:
The way I see it, salads have for much too long been too-much lettuce-centric, leaving those of us who live in hot places with cultures of growing mostly cookable greens wanting. No doubt, Aurovillians have figured out lots of ways to grow good salad greens here, and while I admire always their ingenuity, there are plenty other, locally familiar ways to think of fresh salads in the absence of greens–or, indeed, elaborate dressings. Here is one to make with a freely mixed combination of common ingredients, at a moment’s notice. We call it the Mixta Majicama because that’s what it is: a mix-mix salad that’s plain magic, and because we’ve thoroughly enjoyed the addition of jicama–when we’ve been lucky enough to have some around (see below).
I got the idea for this salad from a very beloved aunt who replaced the lettuce with shredded cabbage in her version. But even that, I find, isn’t critical. Our first versions showcased the yellow pear tomatoes emerging abundantly from the garden [which we used as abundantly also in this rustic galette]:
Last year’s garden tomatoes were our humble local country varieties which yielded in such profuse abundance, we had no choice but to chutney them over and over again. This year started us on other adventures, which demanded more showcasing and celebration of the aesthetics and taste of the tomato itself. We started with the grand galette: