I’m sitting in an airplane, on my way to Dubai as I write this. This is the first time in weeks that I have had some quality time to myself and it’s peaceful and different. I’m beginning to gather my thoughts better and stringing together my meal ideas in this silent box high above the clouds seems so rewarding. This brief moment of joy I allow myself, this hygge (pronounced hoo-guh) is a feeling of cozy comfort- a sense of joy that I also feel around those I love the most- my family, friends, the one I love. Food plays such an important part in the daily hyggelig moments of my life. I cook and bake the kind of dishes that I’d be most happy serving to my family and friends; my hyggeligeste dish would be a dal-chawal khichdi with a tempering of all the possible garam masalas. Just the thought of it warms the cockles of my heart.
The Danish concept of hygge, so inseparable to Danish culture applies to the whole world, and I think each one of us could do with some hygge-ing. The hygge is a feeling of comfort that I don’t just associate with Valentine’s Day, but to a general way of living. The act of cooking for friends and family- with care, and keeping your diner’s preferences in mind, atithi devo bhavah, if you must, then personalising a dinner table setting, celebrating togetherness and love is something we’ve got to hold on to, and as Indians we do this. Silently, but quite expressively, us Indians have been practitioners of a kind of hygge for centuries; this outlook is a part of our culture, but we have changed since. A modern, more western outlook makes us forget what’s the little things that are going to keep us happy at the end of the tunnel, and from this, stems a need for hygge. What I’m trying to say is that every once in a while we need to slow down, and surround ourselves with people, food, things and thoughts that makes us happy- the core essence of this philosophy. To celebrate this, I’m putting down some of my family’s favourite dishes in this feature, and sharing with you how my mum and I make them.
Sindhi Mutton Curry
This is the Sindhi mutton curry of my childhood. A favourite on Sundays when the house is not whet with smells of curry chawal, this is the dish that always brings my family together. Now I always prefer the mushk (shanks) over the chop pieces in this curry, and fish the few out because of its exquisitely soft texture and almost-sweet taste. If you are making a Sindhi curry, you too must opt for a mixture of chop and shank pieces, but what really makes this dish luscious is the addition of a few gamier cuts like kidney and liver. A large degda of this curry is left undisturbed to cook for an easy hour over low heat before it is served with pao, rotis or rice. The gravy sticks to your fingers as you drench the torn pao in it, but no one ever minds this. Everyone is too comfy nibbling around the chop bone to care.
Mutton 1.5 kilos, shanks/mushk and chops, chopped
Mutton kidneys 2, chopped
Mutton liver 1, chopped
Onions 3 large, sliced plus 1, large finely chopped
Green Cardamoms 3
Black cardamom 1
Cinnamon 1 2-inch quill
Black peppercorns 10-12
Tomatoes 4, medium-sized, roughly diced
Curd 1/2 cup
Ginger and garlic paste 2 tbsp
Green chillies 4, chopped
Red chilli powder 2-3 tsp
Ground coriander 2 tsp
Ground cumin 2 tsp
Garam Masala 1 tsp
Ground turmeric 1/4 tsp
Fresh coriander 1/4 cup, chopped
- Wash the mutton and add in the ground cumin, ground coriander, 1 tsp salt and the curd. Then add in the ginger garlic paste together with the chopped green chillies. Let this sit together for a few minutes while you get on with the onions.
- In a heavy bottomed pan or kadai , add half cup oil and let it heat through. Add in the three sliced onions and fry it till translucent over a medium heat. Once translucent, remove and let it sit aside. Turn the heat to low and in the leftover oil, fry the two kinds of cardamom, the cloves, cinnamon, black peppercorn and bayleaves till fragrant.
- To this, add the chopped onion and fry it till it has turned a deep golden brown over medium heat. Once it has browned very well, add in the marinated mutton pieces and stir-fry the meat for 10-15 minutes. While this happens, get on with the onions you have set aside.
- In a mixer grinder, blitz together the fried onions and the roughly diced tomatoes. Once the meat has browned well, add in the turmeric powder and red chilli powder, followed by the spice paste. Increase the heat to the maximum and fry for 5-6 minutes before turning the heat to its lowest setting, putting on a lid, and letting the mutton cook for 40-45 minutes.
- Check the meat to see if it's done, else continue cooking it for 10-15 minutes more. When ready, thin the gravy out with water, still over gentle heat if you'd like it runnier and adjust salt at this stage. Serve with pao or steamed basmati rice studded with green petit pois or peas and a sprinkling of jeeri or shahi jeera.
- Finish with the 1/4 cup of freshly chopped coriander.
Kapura with Tomatoes (Shashi Kapoor)
Mutton kapura is something of a delicacy for us Sindhis. Many relate to it as a breakfast dish, drowned in a quick and easy tomato gravy with ginger-garlic paste. It's a bit difficult to get at odd hours at a butcher's shop because they actually have to collect enough goat's testicles to sell you as little as 250g. Best to go early! Growing up, I used to call this dish Shashi Kapoor, after the youngest son of the great Hindi film actor Prithviraj Kapoor and I had no idea what part of the animal they were. Either way, I still love it and it's a lot of fun to peel off the thin layer of fat (this can be eaten too) and eat the tender bits underneath.
Kapura or goat's testicles 1/2 kg, each cut into two halves, skin kept on
Vegetable oil 2-3 tbsp
Tomatoes 1 cup, grated
Green Cardamoms 3, crushed
Ginger garlic paste 2 tsp
Pepper freshly crushed
Salt to taste
Ground turmeric 1/4 tsp
Ground coriander 3/4th tbsp
Chopped coriander 2 tbsp plus more for garnishing
Heat the oil in a kadai and add the crushed cardamoms. Turn the heat to low and fry this for a few minutes till fragrant. Next, add in the kapura and crushed pepper. Stir fry this well for 3-4 minutes. Add in the ginger garlic paste and fry for another while minute. Next, add in the tomatoes, salt and turmeric powder. Fry this over a medium heat till oil separates. Add in the ground coriander and stir to mix. Sprinkle over some coriander, add about 1 1/2 cup water and bring this all to a boil by increasing the heat. Once it is about to boil, reduce the heat to low and cover and cook on low heat for 20 mins or till tender. Garnish with some more coriander and serve with pao.
Vegetables In Sao Masalo
My dadi's sao or green masala finds its way into at least one dish every week. If the freshly ground coriander paste is not tucked into the slits of fresh fish, it's being cooked with bread for breakfast, or tossed with leftover rotis to make Seyal Maani. At home, we also use this masala to stuff veggies that are lesser-liked by everyone. Tinda or apple gourd, Karela or bitter gourd, baby aubergines and bhindi/okra get the seyal treatment, and they instantly taste delicious.
Baby aubergines 8-10
Bitter gourd 4-5
Tinda or apple gourd 3-4
For the Sao Masalo
Garlic 8-10 cloves
Ginger 2 1/2 inch piece
Coriander 1 cup, roughly chopped
Turmeric powder 1/4 tsp
Tomato 1, roughly chopped
Garam Masala 1/2 tsp
Ground coriander 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder 1/2 tsp or more
Cumin powder 1/2 tsp
Oil 1/4 cup, for frying
Trim the stalks of the baby aubergines, and trim the underside and cut cross-wise. Salt the aubergines. Peel the apple gourd, trim both sides and cut cross-wise on the underside. Salt this too. For the bitter gourd, peel all the dark green skin till you reach the light green surface underneath. Slit the karela lengthwise, but not all the way through, so as to make a pocket. Salt liberally inside and out. Trim and slit the okra.
Pound together the garlic, ginger and coriander in a mortar and pestle or blitz in a blender. Add the turmeric, ground coriander, garam masala, red chilli powder, cumin powder.
Sauté the pounded/blitzed masala in a wide frying pan over medium to high heat for a minutes, taking care to not burn it. The garlic should be slightly charred. Now add the grated tomatoes and fry this till the oil separates.
Once the oil separates, add the vegetables in the following sequence: first add the tinda and bitter gourd. Fry this for about ten minutes, then add the aubergines and the okra. Fry it together for about a minute before pouring in 3/4th cup hot water from a kettle, so as to not interfere with the cooking temperature. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Let the dish cook on low for 20-25 minutes, or till done.
The baida roti we grew up on were greasy parcels bursting with keema that were sold at the bustling khau gully in Mahim or at the Mahim fair. Its insides were soft from the almost scramble of the eggs pressed together with the masaledar keema, when pressed down to flatten, turned crisp and golden on the outside. This version drastically cuts down all the fat that would swim around the cooking baida roti, but still manages to evoke childhood memories with the flavour; lots and lots of flavour.
Flour 1 1/2 cups
Milk 1/4 cup, warm
Water 1/4 cup
Sugar 1/2 tsp
Salt 1/2 tsp
Butter 2 tbsp, softened
The Lamb Filling
Oil 2 tbsp
Garlic 6-7 cloves, finely chopped
Onion 1, large, chopped
Mutton Mince 250g
Curry powder 2 tbsp
Garam Masala 1/2 tsp
Cumin powder 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder 1/4 tsp
Chilli powder 1 tsp
Salt 1/2 tsp
Eggs 3, lightly beaten
- To make the dough, mix all the ingredients together, other than the butter and knead into a smooth, soft dough. Roll into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Cover with cling wrap or a kitchen towel and set aside for an hour.In the mean time, for the filling, heat oil in a pan. Add the garlic followed by the onion and sauté till translucent. Add the mutton mince and fry for a few minutes.Add in all the powdered spices along with the seasoning. Stir-fry till the meat is cooked through. Add a little water if required. The final mixture should be completely dry. Remove onto a plate and leave to cool.
- Once cooled, add the eggs and mix well. Set aside for later. Portion out the dough into 6 equal balls and knead each with a little bit of the softened butter until smooth. Cover and keep aside
- Clean and oil your work surface. Roll out one portion of the dough as thin as you can. Heat a griddle pan and grease with some ghee. Place the rolled out dough and cook over medium heat for a minute. Spread some of the filling in the centre of the dough. Carefully fold the two long sides inwards overlapping slightly like a parcel. Repeat the same with the other sides taking caution as the griddle pan will be hot to make a rectangular package.
- Once the lower side has obtained a golden brown colour, flip it over and cook for a few minutes till the other side also turns golden brown. Remove from the pan and repeat the same process for the rest.
- Cut the baida roti into small triangles and serve with kachumbar and my dadi's green chutney.
Singhar Ji Mithai
Three out of five family members in my house would turn their noses up at store-bought mithai, me included (unless it's a box full of one minute here, gone the next motichoor ladoo). A mithai that none of us can say no, especially if it's my Nani's, is good homemade Singhar Ji mithai or Sev Barfi as it is more popularly known. Unsalted sev (fried besan/roasted chickpea or gram flour) and unsweetened mawa makes the base for this mithai that is incredibly simple to make, and is a really nummy way to end a meal. A good shower of pistachios or almonds on top and you can cut everyone brownie-sized pieces to dig into.
Crumbled mawa 250gSugar 250gMilk 250 ml, plus an additional 1/4 cupSaffron a pinch, lightly pounded, then left to soak in 1 tbsp milkUnsalted sev 250g (Indian farsan or snack shops sell this sev or fried thin sticks made from gram flour/besan. You want this to be as fresh as possible, and it should be thin. Do not use a salted or a thick variety here)Elaichi/Cardamom powder a pinchGhee for greasing
Grease a thali or a square brownie tin with ghee. Bring the milk to a boil and reduce the flame. Add in the sugar and the elaichi powder and stir to dissolve over medium heat. When all the sugar has melted, add in the crumbled khoya and keep stirring over medium heat till it blends in completely and forms a uniform smooth mixture. Add in the saffron and the sev.Over medium high heat stir continuously for 3-4 minutes till you feel the mixture is semi-dry. Remove into the greased tin/thali and top with flaked pistachios. Let it cool before you cut out squares to serve.
Dadi’s Green Chutney
Coriander 1 cup, freshly chopped
Mint 1 cup, freshly chopped
Onion 1/2 medium, roughly sliced
Cloves 3 large
Tamarind one lime-sized ball of tamarind, rinsed then soaked in 2 tbsp warm water for 5-10 minutes
Salt to taste
Blitz together the coriander, mint, onion and cloves together to make a chutney. Squeeze the bits of tamarind to release the pulp and add this to the mixer grinder together with the salt. Blitz again and taste for more salt.
Dahi Boondi Aloo
Curd 250g, beaten
Potato 1 small, boiled and finely diced Salted Boondi 1 cup (pick this up from a farsan shop or a packet of the Gardenia salted boondi)
Green chilli 1 finely chopped
Pepper 1/4 tsp
Red chilli powder 1/4 tsp
Cumin powder 1/4 tsp
Rock salt 1 tsp
Sugar 2-3 tsp
Mix all the above ingredients together and taste to adjust the rock salt and sugar.