I never saw my grandmother with a cookbook. Nor do I remember seeing any cookbooks on the shelves of the Delhi house. Nani was not the cookbook type of cook. She had a wide repertoire of dishes that she cooked with utmost finesse and each one of those dishes were carefully prepared with her own personal signature ingredient to specifically highlight the particular dish.
As my mum and her sisters were growing up, Nani handed down these recipes to them. Not in writing however, because Nani believed cooking could not be learned by reading. In the hot kitchen, which was located on the veranda behind the house, the adolescent girls were administered into the art of cooking. While they assisted her with the chopping, peeling or grinding of vegetables and spices, Nani would narrate the recipes to them, guiding them resolutely through the cooking of an entire meal.
Precise amounts never existed in Nani’s recipes.
“A pinch” of saffron here “a handful” of coriander leaves there, stirred into a few “cupfuls” of dried lentils were the only amounts given to her amateur pupils.
“Cooking is an art that comes from deep within you. It is not rocket science which needs precise amounts. To develop this art all one needs is good taste!”
That was Nani’s logic. No one argued with it.
Several years later, as a young teenager, I found a leather portfolio in the bottom drawer of my mother’s desk. It was bound with an unattractive cord, its only purpose to keep the bulging contents from straying. Normally, I would not have been interested in its contents but the sheer thickness of the portfolio made me curious. As I untied the cord, the portfolio with a sighing heave, spilled papers of all sizes and colors all over the floor.
Noticing mum’s cursive sometimes illegible handwriting I took a closer look. She had scribbled recipes on small pieces of paper, some crumpled and ripped from notebooks, others, on envelopes or on index cards. I even found one on the back of a boarding pass.
Like Nani, mum did not own any cookbooks, but she was in the habit of writing down recipes she found, or particularly liked. Unlike Nani, mum was a keen baker and believed that precision in baking was the key to perfection. So, as I discovered there were exact amounts for flour, sugar and butter on those pieces of crumpled paper. I noticed a stack of papers, neatly tied with some red twine, still in the portfolio. As I pulled out the stack, mum came into the room and saw me sitting in the midst of a pool of paper. She took the stack out of my hand and put them aside and helped me fill the portfolio again. Finally, she held the stack of paper in her hands and told me “these are Nani’s recipes.”
She told me how everyday she and my aunts would help Nani in the kitchen, Nani showing them how to cook her famous “saag paneer” or the perfect crispy cauliflower “parathas”. Mum would run back and forth from the kitchen to her room, where she would jot down the recipe. She often got a scolding from Nani for being so erratic and for not focusing properly, but what Nani could not have known, was that mum wanted to make sure she remembered each of her recipes to be able to create them exactly the way Nani did.
“The scolding was worth it!” she smirked
My mum bid farewell to me a few years later. I was 19, leaving home for the first time to study and train in Europe. Before I left, she handed me a thick book and told me it would help me in times of need. Without looking I thanked her and hurried to board the plane. Once seated, I took the book out and looked at the cover. It made me grin. I was holding the first cookbook my mother ever bought. The inscription, written in her curly, flowing streaks, still echoes in my ears today.
“Cooking is an art and a science. Use your good taste to experiment!”
These are my mum’s wise words – and I won’t argue with it!
These muffins are just that – an experiment of good taste with some of my favorite ingredients and spices. Cardamom, cinnamon and ginger add a brilliant warmth while the cranberries give the muffins the perfect tangy yet sweet bite. The pistachios add a delicate nutty crunch, making the muffins piece of art.
The muffins taste superb warm. We’ll usually enjoy them for long lazy Sunday brunches, with a slathering of sour cream butter and a fruity preserve. They are also perfect for a teatime treat or for surprise lunchbox goodie.
I recently wrapped up a photo project for the German magazine Laviva, which hits the stands here in Germany today. It is a fantastic seven page spread where I had a great time working with the Editor in Chief and the Photo Editor. Here is a little peek ...
Over on the Plate to Page website our guest writer this week is the incredibly talented Prop Stylist Paula Walters. In her article she shares with us how what her profession requires and how a typical day would look like.
More magnificent muffins from WFLH:
|Strawberry Lime Polenta Muffins||Whole Wheat Granola Goji Muffins||Orange Chocolate Muffins|
All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2011 Meeta Khurana Wolff unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First