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www.myjhola.in is a personal blog that records Indian cooking (specifically Maharashtrian) recipes and culinary traditions as well as my baking projects for posterity. Subscribe to my YouTube channel for a glimpse into my kitchen. Or, if you're not so much into food, perhaps you might like to look around the Fiction section of the blog. I hope you enjoy this space!

As grandmothers go, she fit the bill perfectly. Her softly starched, block printed or sheer woven Chanderi sarees would whisper as she walked slowly around the house, depending heavily on her walking stick, her arthritic feet protesting every step. The four thin bangles around her wrist had thinned with age and hung loosely over her paper-thin skin and seldom made their presence heard. A lingering freshness of Yardley Lavender calmed you down as she hugged you after a hot, hurried walk to her dark, softly illuminated house from school. Her wavy hair was neatly pulled back in a bun that got scantier over the years but always looked just as graceful, a bobby pin or two holding it in place. A smile that reached the eyes—her loving yet mischievous eyes, a sense of beckoning that only grandmothers are capable of. Except, she wasn’t my grandmother.

Phyllis Marr came into our lives as Radha Gore—my maternal grandmother’s aunt; and therefore, my great grand-aunt. Together with Madhav Kaka, they formed our third set of grandparents; and perhaps the most accessible of the lot because they lived in the same suburb and we got to see them more often. N-16 was just a ten-minute walk from school and thus, closer than home. When one was particularly ravenous after school or had run out of rickshaw money or was too lazy to walk home, one hop-skip-jumped to Radha Kaku’s house. Invariably, a parent would come and pick us up later or we would get a royal ride home in Madhav Kaka’s roomy old Ambassador with pretty lace curtains that fluttered gently, gracefully, in a barely-there breeze as he drove slowly along Vashi’s generous, tree-lined roads.

There were always two things on the table at N16—a spray of fresh flowers and leaves from her little garden, and food. The kitchen was hardly ever silent—food was always being made. Or being planned. Or being eaten! All my memories of her are associated with food. Something for an after school snack. Something for the way home. Something now that you’re here.

I distinctly remember a time when Amma had to go away to be with my aunt, who was very sick and my brother and I stayed back so we weren’t in the way and were fruitfully occupied at school. Baba would have to go to work all day and our paternal grandmother came to help for a few days. School hours ended at 6 p.m. and after a brief half-hour break, I would have to go to Bharatanatyam dance class in the same premises. Usually, Amma would come by with a change of clothes and a snack, and I would slip into dance gear in one of the deserted classrooms. While she was away, Radha Kaku offered to do snack duty. I carried my change in the schoolbag. At 6 p.m., I would walk out of the school gates and step into Madhav Kaka’s Ambassador. I would be handed a cool, damp face towel to freshen up. Kaku always carried these on train journeys and long drives, neatly packed in a plastic bag. Those were the days before disposable wet wipes came into the market. Once suitably freshened up, the lace curtains on the windows were drawn up and I would change into my Co-Optex material salwar kameezes stitched by the local darzi, in the car. (I could have just as easily dashed back to school to do this, but one didn’t ask questions back then.) By the time I settled back into my seat, a napkin (with an embroidered flower in the corner nonetheless) would quietly make its way to my lap. A picnic basket full of variously sized dabbas would be opened and a degustation would begin. First, the mandatory milk—a glass bottle with a sunset colored plastic screw top lid, Bournvita embossed proudly across its diameter, filled with the malt powder-flavored milk. The bottle would have been kept warm by wrapping it snug in a napkin. I would have attempted feeble protests had Amma brought it along but with Kaku lovingly beta-beta-ing me along, I couldn’t.

Next, the main course—warm aloo tikkis with a tiny dabbi holding ketchup or vegetable sandwiches with a fresh green chutney and crisp vegetables. Or cheese toasties. Or a paneer filling inside a warm, soft phulka, freshly made. These, I would wolf down in part hunger and part greed. Kaku’s cooking was always mildly spiced and full of flavor and warmth. Quiet sophistication whispered out of the simplest of dishes she made. Planning and cooking meals came naturally to her or so she made it seem because she never looked flustered or in panic when sudden guests arrived. Standing at the stove, she never looked anxious about how the dish was turning out to be. She was always confident and happy that she was cooking for somebody. Even when her arthritis had severely reduced her movement, she would meticulously monitor the cooking or muster up the energy to sit at the dining table and line a pie dish or stretch pizza dough or dress a salad. She taught me the importance of birthday cakes. She always made the effort to bake a cake for everyone’s birthday—even the house help’s. I usually got a pie because Amma would have baked me a cake and Radha Kaku would have probably not wanted to repeat a dessert. I remember this once she hand rolled each individual letter of “Happy Birthday” and stuck it on the crust of the apple pie before baking. With her severe joint pains, this must have been painful or at least, annoying but she knew it would make a child feel special so she did it. It is something that has stayed with me all these years. I still make sure, no matter what, that every single person in the family gets a homemade cake for their birthday. And the joy on their faces is something I owe Radha kaku.

****

The above piece is an excerpt from a story I wrote for an anthology of grandmother stories for children. It’s called Grandma Tales. (Since the book came out, I can’t get over the fact that I share space with one of my favourite writers and Sahitya Akademi Award winner, Jerry Pinto!)

****

This is an heirloom recipe (first printed in a limited edition, privately circulated book I collated for my family–The Gore Family Cookbook), handed down to Radha kaku by her mother and can be traced back to at least a century, and probably has Scottish roots. Like all old-fashioned cakes, this one does not have any raising agent such as baking powder, and any lightness is only achieved by incorporating air by beating the eggs and creaming the butter and sugar well. Nevertheless, the dense texture of the cake is its endearing characteristic. Look how the early versions of Christmas fruitcakes in India had Petha as an essential ingredient to make up for the limited variety of locally available dried fruit!

Christmas Fruitcake

Ingredients:

  • 250 grams mixed dried fruit (apricots, sultanas, figs, dates, cranberries, etc.)
  • 500 grams glace cherries, chopped
  • 450 grams mixed candied citrus peel, chopped
  • 400 grams Petha (preserved melon; substitute with equal amounts of other chopped fruit as above or with tutti fruiti), chopped
  • 250 grams dried black raisins or blackcurrants, chopped
  • 250 grams golden raisins, chopped
  • 175 grams preserved or candied ginger, chopped
  • 500 grams slivered almonds
  • 450 grams fine semolina (rawa) *I usually replace this with almond meal
  • 450 grams plain flour (maida)
  • 900 grams eggs (weighed with shells on; about 18 eggs)
  • 900 grams butter at room temperature
  • 800 grams soft brown muscovado sugar
  • 1 nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 8 grams mace, freshly and finely ground
  • 2 teaspoons finely ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons finely ground green cardamom seeds
  • 1 liter dark rum or cognac

Method:

  1. Soak all the dried fruit, candied peel and candied ginger in half the rum or cognac for a minimum of 3 days (the more the better—mine is soaked for a year). Petha does not require soaking.
  2. Sift the semolina, flour, and ground spices twice.
  3. Place the sugar and butter in a food processor or stand mixer with the paddle attachment and cream them together until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat at a low speed, incorporating one completely before adding the other. If, at any point, you find that the mixture is curdling, quickly add two tablespoons of the flour mixture and continue.
  5. Add the flour and spice mix, one large spoon at a time, mixing gently but surely to preserve the aeration.
  6. Add the petha, slivered almonds, and soaked fruit a little at a time and mix well.
  7. Pour the batter into greased and lined tins. Bake at 150 degrees centigrade for one hour or until the top is a rich gold and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  8. Cool completely, and wrap in absorbent paper or parchment. Do not wrap in plastic.
  9. Keep for a month, allowing the flavors to mature.
  10. Prick with a skewer and drizzle more rum every few days for a deeper flavor.

Write to me at myjhola@gmail.com for business inquiries or just if you wanted to reach out!

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www.myjhola.in is a personal blog that records Indian cooking (specifically Maharashtrian) recipes and culinary traditions as well as my baking projects for posterity. Subscribe to my YouTube channel for a glimpse into my kitchen. Or, if you're not so much into food, perhaps you might like to look around the Fiction section of the blog. I hope you enjoy this space!

It struck me as I was throwing out a ziplock bag full of once-frozen strawberries that had now turned a bag of red liquid with bits of mouldy berries floating in it. I had frozen them last season in the hope of conjuring up an Almond and Strawberry Tea Cake off season or making virtuous smoothies of them; it is almost time for strawberry season again, and here I was—holding a bag of unused strawberries, saved for almost one entire year for the perfect occasion—and never used.

The universe is my witness—I have spent much, much more money on food and books than I ever have on clothes, jewelry, travel, or anything else that fits the “indulgence” definition. And suddenly, in just 48 hours, I lost tens of thousands of rupees in food. Just like that.

Out of the blue, my refrigerator slipped in coma. It is a young one—only about three years old. 500 liters. For 36 hours after making the complaint to Samsung and following up god knows how many times and recounting the problem to every new over-eager call center executive I spoke to, I never heard back from them or the service center or the mechanic they had assigned. By the time I completely lost it and yelled on the phone and asked to speak with a senior executive (none were available, as usual), and a new mechanic finally turned up, diagnosed the problem and sent a separate team to fix it, it was almost three full days. Vegetables, fruit, and dairy went bad at lightning speed thanks to the sudden heat wave we’re experiencing in Mumbai right now. I remembered how my grandmother used to say they had to boil milk several times during the day and keep it in the coolest spot in the house in trays of water to prevent it from spoiling, and I did the same with a prayer on my lips. In 2017. Not that it helped.

But this is not about terrible customer service. There were greater valuables in that fridge—three types of sourdough starters, which I am still bringing back to life, about 20-odd bottles of jams that I had made over the past few years in varying stages of aging (in my world, a small jar of a 3-year old apricot jam or 4-year old marmalade is very, very precious), black cherries in syrup, a wine jam, fruit soaked for Christmas, cheeses of the perfect vintage, imported curry pastes, wonton wrappers, unusual bread flours, chocolate, and god knows what else. That day, as I threw out all those precious cheeses, cold cuts, and berries, and wiped the condensation off the jam jars, I realized what a hoarder I had been. Priding myself on collecting these artisanal foods for years, saving them for just the right occasion, and never deeming any occasion fit enough for them! And here I was, losing them one by one.

I didn’t set out writing this piece to bring in a metaphor for life, but it is quite obvious, isn’t it? We live most of our lives saving money, food, wine, and our selves for better times, better celebrations. We convince ourselves that every day is not worthy of celebration. That we must struggle and suffer the mundane in order to “deserve” an “occasional treat,” in order to justify an indulgence. That is how most of us bred in the urban middle class think. Our fables and epics, our grandmothers’ tales and our middle class moralities preach the vice of hedonism and the virtue of sacrifice. And then, one day, when the fridge dies on us, we wonder what we did with all that we had.

This afternoon, I popped open the vacuum seal on the last bottle of my 3-year old apricot jam and ate a spoonful. I may have shed tears; happy ones.

Write to me at myjhola@gmail.com for business inquiries or just if you wanted to reach out!

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www.myjhola.in is a personal blog that records Indian cooking (specifically Maharashtrian) recipes and culinary traditions as well as my baking projects for posterity. Subscribe to my YouTube channel for a glimpse into my kitchen. Or, if you're not so much into food, perhaps you might like to look around the Fiction section of the blog. I hope you enjoy this space!

Sitting pretty–picture courtesy Harini Prakash

Easy Vegan Chocolate Almond Cake Recipe

Ingredients for the cake:

  • 1 and 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 and 1/4 cup soft brown sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups unflavoured soy milk
  • 1/3 cup chopped (pure, not compound) dark chocolate or chocolate pellets (I used a 53 % Callebaut)
  • 1/4 cup unflavoured vegetable oil (I used rice bran)
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar or synthetic white vinegar
  • 1  teaspoon pure vanilla paste
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

Ingredients for the decoration:

  • 1 cup chopped (pure, not compound) dark chocolate or chocolate pellets
  • 1/4 cup unflavoured soy milk
  • Flaked almonds
  • Edible glitter

Method:

  1. Toast the flaked almonds in a pan over very low heat. Alternatively, leave them in an oven at about 100 degrees centigrade for 10-15 minutes until uniformly toasted.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade. Grease and line an 8-inch round cake tin with parchment.
  3. Place all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl (flour, ground almonds, cocoa, coffee, sugar, baking soda, salt). Whisk together to combine. Set aside.
  4. Place the chocolate and the soy milk in a bowl and microwave for 30-50 seconds (stopping every 30 seconds to mix and to ensure that the chocolate does not split). When smooth and combined, add the maple syrup, oil and vanilla and mix well.
  5. And the wet ingredients to the dry and combine using a spatula, ensuring there are no lumps.
  6. Now, quickly add the vinegar and fold well, ensuring the effervescence gets uniformly distributed. This is what will make the cake light.
  7. Immediately pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 30-40 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  8. Invert the cake on a cooling rack and allow it to cool completely.
  9. Brush the cake lightly with a simple sugar and coffee syrup if you want it extra moist and to get rid of loose crumbs.
  10. Make the ganache by simply microwaving the chocolate and the soy milk together for 20-40 seconds, stopping and mixing every few seconds). Mix to achieve a smooth and glossy ganache.
  11. Pour the ganache all over the cake and its sides. Use an offset spatula to create patterns in the ganache, if liked. Decorate with the toasted almonds and edible glitter.

Write to me at myjhola@gmail.com for business inquiries or just if you wanted to reach out!

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www.myjhola.in is a personal blog that records Indian cooking (specifically Maharashtrian) recipes and culinary traditions as well as my baking projects for posterity. Subscribe to my YouTube channel for a glimpse into my kitchen. Or, if you're not so much into food, perhaps you might like to look around the Fiction section of the blog. I hope you enjoy this space!

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www.myjhola.in is a personal blog that records Indian cooking (specifically Maharashtrian) recipes and culinary traditions as well as my baking projects for posterity. Subscribe to my YouTube channel for a glimpse into my kitchen. Or, if you're not so much into food, perhaps you might like to look around the Fiction section of the blog. I hope you enjoy this space!

I first documented this recipe for The Gore Family Cookbook; I am reproducing it here:

Mothi Aai’s Mohoricha Loncha

This recipe is a staple in the Gore kitchen, and children are often initiated into pickle appreciation with this sweet-sour-pungent pickle. Long train journeys were made bearable armed with dabbas of curd rice and dollops of Mohoricha loncha. Look for Totapuri or Rajapuri mangoes so you can control the quantity of jaggery, and use good quality Kashmiri red chili powder for that vibrant color.

Ingredients:

  • 3 and ½ cups raw mango, peeled and diced
  • 1 heaped cup chopped jaggery (more if you use very sour mangoes)
  • 3 tablespoons ground yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 and ½ teaspoons ground fenugreek (methi) seeds
  • 1 heaped teaspoon asafetida (hing)
  • 1 and ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 heaped teaspoon freshly ground coriander seed powder
  • 3 tablespoons Kashmiri red chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons table salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup water, boiled and cooled completely

Method:

  1. Place the chopped mango in a large nonreactive bowl made of glass or ceramic. Add the salt and combine. Leave aside while you prepare the other ingredients.
  2. In another bowl, place the jaggery and ground mustard and tip in the boiled and cooled water. Using a whisk or wooden spoon, mix vigorously until almost all the jaggery melts and the mustard appears frothy.
  3. In a third bowl, place the ground methi seeds, asafetida, turmeric powder, coriander seed powder, and red chili powder and mix to combine. Heat the oil over high heat and add to the spices. Mix thoroughly and add to the chopped mangoes. Tip in the jaggery and mustard mixture and mix well. Cover the bowl well and leave it for a few hours for the flavors to mingle and for the salt and jaggery to be completely dissolved.
  4. Check for sweetness/saltiness and adjust before filling into jars. Refrigerate if you live in warm and humid climates.

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My Jhola | Traditional Indian food recip.. by Skoranne@gmail.com - 1y ago

www.myjhola.in is a personal blog that records Indian cooking (specifically Maharashtrian) recipes and culinary traditions as well as my baking projects for posterity. Subscribe to my YouTube channel for a glimpse into my kitchen. Or, if you're not so much into food, perhaps you might like to look around the Fiction section of the blog. I hope you enjoy this space!


Write to me at myjhola@gmail.com for business inquiries or just if you wanted to reach out!

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www.myjhola.in is a personal blog that records Indian cooking (specifically Maharashtrian) recipes and culinary traditions as well as my baking projects for posterity. Subscribe to my YouTube channel for a glimpse into my kitchen. Or, if you're not so much into food, perhaps you might like to look around the Fiction section of the blog. I hope you enjoy this space!

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