Tuesday, February 9, 2010

From Delhi to the Kitchen

Who knew I would get to love the kitchen so much. Naturally, there are several parts to my love story with the Kitchen, but here, I'll just give a background to one such.

I came to Mumbai in 1991 from Delhi and have been a Paying Guest (PG) for most part of that time in the city (till 2007). Though mostly this arrangement was a choice of convenience, I must add that I also did not have the requisite funds (or the creditworthiness) for most of this part, and these lackings quickly and efficiently extinguished any unsurfaced aspirations for my 'own' space. Being a PG in Mumbai gave me almost no opportunities to engage in the kitchen, save once. This was during my stay with an old couple in  South Mumbai who gifted me a small electric plate, some pots and pans and provided me an opportunity to try my hand at cooking.

During this phase in Mumbai , I was also a NPG (Non-Paying Guest) for 3 years, having stayed as a guest with a family, the relationship with whom is not the easiest to define. Soumitro Mukherji, my gracious Bengali host, is technically my cousin-in-law. His cousin is married to my sister (or my real sister, as we would say in Delhi). My sister has never met him, and its likely that she may not meet him in this lifetime. One day after about 4 to 5 months of my NPG-life, I was speaking to this Wisconsin-settled sister over the phone, and I answered her concerned query about my place-of-stay. When I said, "With Soumitro and family", I think she may have misunderstood this to have been an overnight arrangement, for, after I explained that I was staying with her extended in-law family for considerably longer than she imagined, she was quite livid. She understood only after I explained to her that my proximity to this family was despite her.

Shomi (pronounced Show-me), his wife, Mousumi or Mou (pronounced to rhyme with Joe, with an accent and extension on the last alphabet.), their two lovely daughters, and I, lived in this luxurious 3-bedroom duplex flat in Lokhandwala.

It was in this house in Mumbai that I first publicly demonstrated my recently-learnt skills in making a lachha paratha. Mickey (or Sourabhi as she now likes to be addressed), the elder of the two girls loved the paratha reinforcing my kitchen-courage.

The lachha paratha is a wonderful fluffy bread, made with a simple technique and can be had with almost any Indian tari-wali subzi. I prefer it most with Railway canteen ke aloo, a simple yet tasty dish which is the result of experiments on tips from the cook in a railway-station canteen. The recipe that goes so well with the lachha paratha is given below.

Railway canteen ke aloo

Main ingredients:
- 4 semi-boiled, medium-sized aloo (potatoes) [roughly broken by hand into two/three pieces]. Retain the
- 1 medium sized onion [chopped fine]
- 2 medium sized tomatoes [chopped fine]
- 1 bunch tender coriander leaves [chopped fine]
- 3 large garlic pods [crushed well]
- 1 index-finger size ginger [grated fine]
- 2 green chilli [full]

Other ingredients:
- 1 tsp cummin seeds
- 2 tbsp mustard oil
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp red-chilli powder
- 1/2 tsp cummin powder
- 1/2 tsp coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp of homemade garam masala
- 1 Maggie veg masala
- Salt to taste
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 clove pods

1. Heat the mustard oil till it begins to smoke and then add the cummin seeds.
2. Add bay leaf. cloves
3. Quickly after it, add the pierced green chillis (to avoid it bursting)
4. Add ginger, stir for a few seconds.
5. Then add the chopped onions. Fry till transluscent
6.Add chopped tomatoes and all masalas. Fry till the paste begins to leave oil at the sides
7. Add the semi-broken potatoes and fry for 1 minute
8. Add 2-3 cups of water depending on the consistency you prefer (use the water that was used for boiling the potatoes)
9. Add 3/4 of the chopped coriander
10. Cover and bring to simmer.
11. Add 1/4 tsp of garam masala, 1/2 tsp of coriander powder (optional)
12. Add remaining chopped coriander as garnish.

Serve hot with lachha paratha, rice or bread.


  1. They say every man has many faces, i got to see one such today! I am not close to being associated with the kitchen, but what i know with surety is that i would definitely like to try out this Lachha Parantha with the Railway Canteen ke Aalo sometime in my life! Would be one grand treat!

    Very very impressive Sir! Now people will finally know what is it thats been cooking in your head! - Its FOOD!

  2. You debuted in the kitchen with a lachha paratha!
    I am hugely impressed.
    For most it begins with boiling an egg or making Maggi. God you're ambitious. :)
    BTW the blog is a neat idea. And this is one sincere post. More power to your pen.


  3. Thanks a heap. I started with the Maggie & a boiled egg too too!