Amma(my mom), tells me I shouldn’t spend any money on her for Mother’s Day. She says, every day is mother’s day. Ironically, since I became a mother some years ago, Amma herself gets me a gift on the very day, Mother’s Day – for being a mom she says. I think it is her way of thanking me for giving her grandchildren.
I still do not get my mom a gift on this occasion, but I do make her favourite foods for her. Amma prefers traditional Saraswat vegetarian fare and some fish; she does not like restaurant food, and at home always puts her family’s needs before hers, which usually means many meat dishes. She also seems to eat the leftovers that no one else wants so they are not wasted. Growing up, we always had tasty wholesome foods on the table. Amma knew quite a bit about nutrition and healthy eating well before it became in vogue. She always liked to cook and did it with no complaints. Her only demand was that we try what was made and finish whatever was on our plate.
I cannot imagine cooking 3 meals a day, every single day for a family with varied tastes, likes and dislikes. From experience you come to learn that it is not a nice feeling to have your cooking criticized. Still, we did it to our moms and continue to do it at restaurants, dinner parties or any place there is food. Cooking is taken for granted by most eaters!
When getting a recipe from Amma, I am reminded that cooking is more of an art than a precise science. Even when I measure ingredients out with her, she changes the proportions last minute before putting them in the pan. Now, my mother only has to cook for herself and my father. The type of cooking has also changed — coconut laden curries are out and grilled foods and salads are the norm in a household, trying to ward off cholesterol and hypertension. But when her children descend on her, Amma still cooks up a storm. Somehow with ease she manages to please everyone – children, grandchildren and beloved son-in-laws leave her home with stomachs a tad too full.
My daughter joins me in the kitchen now and together we cook for the person who is an inspiration to us both. This is what we made for Amma on Mother’s Day:
Pan Fried Prawns, Pulao, Mung Dal Pachadi, Channa Payasam.
Pan Fried Prawns Ingredients: 1 kg large prawns, shelled and deveined 2 tablespoons chilli powder 2 teaspoons sea salt 1 teaspoon asafetida 3/4 teaspoon turmeric rice flour for coating oil for frying
Directions: Add first four ingredients to prawns and marinate for one hour. Coat lightly with rice flour and place on pan separately. Sprinkle oil for cooking. Turn when lightly brownish. Cooks in 5 minutes. Do not over cook.
Chana Dal Payasam Ingredients: 1/2 cup rice – soak for at least 4 hours 1/2 cup thick coconut milk(about 3/4 cup coconut) You can also use a readymade variety. 4 tbsp softened jaggery(grate or mash with spoon) 2 tbsp chana dal 2 tsp cashew pieces 1/2 tsp cardamom powder 2 tsp raisins(optional)
Directions: Grind the soaked rice to a coarse paste by adding some water. Cook chana dal and cashews in cooker with a little water. Dal should be completely cooked but should not be mashed. Heat the rice paste with enough water on medium flame, constantly mixing so that there are no lumps. The mixture is cooked when the mixture becomes slightly transparent. Add chana dal, jaggery, cashews and raisins. Mix well. Cook on low flame till jaggery gets melted. Mix well. Add more water if consistency is too thick. Add coconut milk and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Add cardamom powder, mix well. Garnish with whole cashews.
Simple Pulao Ingredients: 1 cup Basmati rice washed 1-2 hours a head 1 big onion chopped ½ tsp garlic + ½ tsp ginger + 1 green chill (minced) 1 cup cut veggies—French beans+ carrots+ cabbage+ cauliflower+ peas 1 tbsp raisins 7- 8 cashews **1 tbsp garam masala 1 pinch of saffron 3-4 tbsp butter 1 tsp salt 1 tbsp lemon juice 1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
Directions: Add 1 1/2 cup of hot water, saffron, pinch of salt and 1 tbsp butter to the rice Cook rice in rice cooker. In the thick skillet fry cashews in remaining butter, add onion, fry till transparent Add garlic, ginger and chillie and fry for 2 more minutes. Add garam masala, vegetables, and raisins. Do not overcook. Add rice, lemon juice, and salt to taste. Garnish with chopped coriander
**Garam masala: 4 cardamoms, 1 tsp fenugreek seeds, 15 black peppercorns, 7-8 cloves, 2 one inch long cinnamon sticks, Powder all in grinder to a smooth powder
Mung Dal Pachadi Ingredients: 1 cup yellow mung dal, soaked for 2-3 hours 1/2 cup grated cucumber ½ cup grated carrot 1 tbsp chopped coriander 1 green chili, finely chopped ½ tbsp lemon juice Salt to taste
Add all ingredients together and mix well. Serve with pulao. This is a great source of protein, especially for people who do not prefer raita made with curds.
Published in Pune Mirror, May 8, 2011