A collection of recipes for success, preventing disasters and a medium for improving my writing skills (We are now at www.miceinmybelly.com)
Languages used in describing my food
A lot of Indian food is regional and the names used for them come from the language that is predominant in the state where the dish originates from. Here I will try to describe the languages, their regions in relation to my dishes.
Note: This recipe has a pronunciation section at the end for all underlined words in the text. If you find it useful (or not), let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org
A couple of weeks ago, people all over India celebrated their new year. New year in March/April might sound weird but the Hindu calendar is a lunar calendar which means that it doesn’t coincide with the English calendar which is solar. The lunar calendar often means an exact date cannot be set each year so it varies each year. Whatever date it might fall on, the new year in India brings with it new clothes, new resolutions, more school holidays and lots of yummy food.
The Kannada New Year is called “Ugadi” and is celebrated all over my state of Karnataka (yes, each state also has a different day of celebration – don’t ask me why). Traditionally, this means lots of festive food including special desserts. Mum always calls to remind me what festival is on and I usually respond with “What do I cook for it?”. This time she said “Holige” and so I went ahead and made some.
Holige or Obbattu is a bread-based dessert. An authentic holige consists of dough made with a special flour called “chiroti rava” or super-fine semolina. This dough is stuffed with a mixture of fresh coconut, cardamom, jaggery (palm or unrefined sugar) and ground poppy seeds (“gasa gase” in Kannada and “khus-khus” in Hindi). The stuffed bread is rolled and cooked on a pan with a little bit of ghee or butter. Below is my attempt to make it with the ingredients I could find in my local supermarket.
Holige or pancake stuffed with coconut and palm sugar
Aloo’ means potatoes in Hindi. ‘Dum’ means strength or pressure and in this context, it means that the potatoes are cooked with a lid covering them so they are under pressure due to the build up of steam. The pressure is important as it helps the potatoes soak up the flavours of the sauce they are in. ‘Amritsari’ implies that it came from the city of Amritsar in the state of Punjab.
This potato dish was a novelty when I was a child and I always imagined only special people in the restaurant could make it because my mum never did. My dad who worked in Calcutta, West Bengal when he was younger would rave about ‘Dum Aloo’ or ‘Aloo dum’ but I never got to taste it until I was an adult. All I knew was that you had to use whole baby potatoes to make it and that it was awesome.
In my early teens when mum would let me tinker in the kitchen, I’d attempt to make what I imagined dum aloo should be like. Of course, I only used the simplest of ingredients (onions, tomatoes, potatoes and garam masala +coriander for garnish) back then and mum had to help me fry the potatoes. I like this grown-ups recipe better with a lot more spice and a partiality towards chilli and I try not to fry the potatoes because they can be quite oily.
I have put a map of India on this page to give you a feel for where the food I make comes from. Also, to show you how big a country it is and when I say each state has its only style of cooking and specialities, the map will give you a feel for what I mean. There are currently 28 states and 7 Union territories (think of them as mini states).
A lot of the food I describe to you in my blog comes from the southern states of Karanataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh as that is where my family comes from. These states each have their own language (not dialect) – Kannada, Tamil and Telegu respectively. Some of the dishes I describe have names that are from one or more of these languages. For example, ‘Rasam’ is Tamil and ‘Badnekai’ is Kannada.
Outside of India, the food sold as “Indian” tends to originate mainly from Punjab in the north of India and bordering Pakistan. North Indian food is rich and creamy and is often served with bread such as naan, kulcha, roti or paratha. Occasionally, you will see food from Gujarat which is in the west of India also feature on the menu. Gujarati food tends to be mostly (but not exclusively) vegetarian, has an underlying sweetness and usually has potatoes in one form or another. If a restaurant says “South Indian food” then it usually refers to Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. South Indian food is generally rice and lentil based and lacks the creaminess of its North Indian counterparts. The richness is often added in the form of Ghee or clarified butter instead of cream. Kerala being coastal has a lot of its own unique dishes featuring seafood and coconut though the majority of Kerala food is still rice-based.
In England, I’ve found Indian food to be a bit of a hit-and-miss. In a city as large as London, it is possible to find authentic north/south Indian food but in smaller towns there is a lot that is passed off as Indian food can be quite terrible. I find the proof for north Indian food is in the naan – if it is as thick as your finger, undercooked and greasy as all hell, don’t go back for more. A real naan is cooked in a clay oven called a tandoor and should be light and puffy and non-greasy (unless you asked for a “butter-naan”).
I will add more information to this page as I write my blogs.