Jump to the Chana Daal Recipe
When we were kids we took a trip to the Northern parts of Pakistan, to Swat and Kaghan with their beautiful peaks and glacial rivers. I would share pictures, but I have some izzat (i.e. self respect).
Those weren’t necessarily my best years.
I don’t remember many details about the trip, but I do remember those delicious bags of chana daal that we would pick up from the nearest restaurant for dinner. When I say bags I am serious. The chana daal or chanay ki daal actually came in clear plastic bags that I would clumsily try to serve myself from, using roti to scoop up what I could, spilling some in the process. It was one of my favourite things about that trip and I really wish that I could recreate that kind of nostalgic magic.
Jump to the Soya Aloo Recipe
Yes, I am a mathematical genius like that. Don’t beat yourself up about it, all of us just aren’t wired that way….
I kid, although now that I am on the subject of math I should point out that baking really helped my fraction game. Half my life my mother would say “Oh yeah, this recipe that feeds 12 people, go ahead and make 3.5 times the amount.” Now if only calculus and baking were somehow related.
This Bhindi Masala is my copy of the one my Nanis cook makes. True Story. Nani, incidentally, is the word for maternal grandmother. My Nani has been Nanna to all of us and Nonni H (H for Hussain) to me. We are coming up on the 9th of Muharram, a poignant day for Shia Muslims, but when I think of the 9th of Muharram I inevitably think of my Nonni. In her prime my Nonni was feisty with a sense of humour and a naughty contained laugh that radiated from the centre of her grey green eyes to the gentle crinkles around the corners. The 9th of Muharram is a solemn night, one where people would stream in and out, soberly praying. The last time Nonni was well enough to be there for the night she mischievously regaled my sister and I with stories from her youth. Of a little girl who would break into the achar (pickles) when her mother wasn’t looking, of the summertime antics of women we knew as grandmothers. My sister and I would burst into giggles at inopportune moments causing our mother to sternly admonish us with her silent glare. It would take all of a second for Nanna to resume her storytelling. Suffice is to say my sister and I did not end the night in my mothers good books.
There are certain Urdu words that I really enjoy saying, those that sound exactly like what they mean. Kurkuri, that delightful word for crunchy and crispy is one of them. The first time my daughter had this Kurkuri Bhindi she was 3 years old and we were visiting my parents in Karachi. Her Nano had made this bhindi and Zara upon trying them said “these sticks are yummy!” It then occurred to me that my daughter had never had Okra except for its cornmeal battered deep fried incarnation. As yummy as the Deep Fried Okra was that way it was far too much work (and oil) for my liking.
I often think about what it means to blog about food, about Pakistani food specifically. A part of me feels that I should keep recipes alive, carrying them forth in their unaltered state, preserving them for generations to come. The reality is that I cannot do that even if I wanted to. My culinary journey is very much shaped by my mother who if you ever meet her you would know is an immensely practical person. I cannot recall her ever saying she would spend hours slaving over a stove to get the onions browned just the way her grandmother did or that any recipe was sacrosanct because of who gave it to her. Adapt, make it easy, and make it work. That seems to be her approach to cooking and it is that philosophy that makes up my culinary DNA.