For most of us our food journey starts from our mother’s kitchen. Retracing the mother-child memories with food and mom’s recipes brings back fond memories of dishes. There is something very charming about mother’s recipes passed down to the next generation. One can call them heirloom recipes.
Chef Parul Pratap of Music & Mountains says that his mother was a stellar cook. He says, “I know everyone thinks that of their mother but I always heard it from everyone who has eaten her food, even just once and now, when family and friends who knew her eat my food, they always talk about how I inherited the ‘cooking gene’ and I love that. I can’t pick just one recipe, her mutton curry was legendary, shami kebabs, paneer kofta, baked fish but it’s her chicken stew that really hits home for me, she made it when we had the sniffles or on exceptionally cold days and I associate this dish with the warmth of her hug.”
Childhood memories of food for Pratap was all about travelling and his mother cooking up those dishes at home. He says, “My parents travelled a lot so we had a fair bit of global food at home and that was out of the ordinary for the 80’s-90’s. My most fond memories were perfectly ripe mangoes with warm phulkas, homemade achaar (pickle) with mathri with sweet milky tea, Sunday afternoon kadhi chawal with batter fried aubergine slices. My mom started this trend of breakfast for dinner and it was so much fun that I did the same for my daughter, we would have fluffy omelettes, sausages, bacon, grilled tomato, baked beans and buttered toast for dinner and I loved it. Dinner was mostly together, even if my parents were due to go out later in the evening, it was a time to catch up on the day, discuss school, friends, worries and joys and also next day’s meals, she was Punjabi, what can I say?”
Chef Ankur Gulati of the Claridges, Delhi who was born and brought up in a Punjabi house where food is always the centre of attraction, he holds his mother’s recipes close to his heart. He says, “In Punjabi households, we live to eat and not vice versa. During breakfast, we would discuss what is being made for lunch and we would often discuss dinner, hence food was given great importance.”
For Gulati, there are not just one but many memories of his mother’s cooking. “To name a few, her pineapple upside-down cake, tea cake, aloo parathas, French toast, cheese stuffed omelettes, bread pakora, chicken pulao, kheer made with nolen gur (date jagery) and the list goes on but what fascinated me the most and what actually made me inquisitive was how she turned the night’s leftovers to delicious dishes. The night’s lahsuni palak would become gosht saagwala by afternoon, this was so interesting and I very much wanted to learn this trick from her. This inquisitiveness is what led me to take up the job of a chef.”
The best childhood mother’s food memory of Chef Gulati is the famous Bengali dish Chingri Malai Curry (prawns cooked in coconut gravy). because every time she made the dish it tasted better than the last time. Eventually he also picked up her recipe.
Chef Gagan Sikka, Sous Chef, Loya believes that her mother’s simple yet incredibly tasty dishes became a source of inspiration for my career. Some of her techniques that fascinated him about his mother’s cooking includes rijhana (cooking dal and water separately), adding extra dhaniya (coriander) to garam masala, drying seasonal ingredients like pudina, raw mango, cauliflower and turnips and making fresh pickles.
“My mother used to make amazing kathal ka achar (jackfruit pickle) and lemon pickle, murabba with amla and mango, making Amritsari Wadi from scratch at home, using an in-house tandoor for parathas, kulcha, and missi roti, and welcoming the end of winter with black carrot kanji,” narrates Sikka.
Talking about his best mother’s recipe, Sikka says, “Chawal Wadi ki Sabzi, a dish prepared with rice, wadiya, and a flavourful onion tomato gravy. Although it is now considered a lost recipe, I have always found it to be incredibly delicious. The combination of tender rice, savoury wadiya, and the rich and tangy gravy creates a taste that is both satisfying and refreshing, making it a truly cherished dish in my memory.”
Read More: Food Friday | Serving the memories of mom