A few months ago, a friend of mine came over to teach me how to cook a few Indian dishes, which we then shared with a bunch of our friends. I wrote about the Baingan Bharta that we made, back in September, but there was one more dish from the evening that I have been meaning to make again ever since. While we were cooking, I was making sure to take some notes so that I would remember the spice and flavour combinations. I wasn’t overly organized, so I scratched it down on a paper bag that I had lying around the kitchen. I have held off throwing out the paper bag for months for this chutney recipe. When she first described a cashew date tomato chutney, I had no idea what to expect. Little did I know that the sweet, slightly tangy, mildly spiced side dish would actually enhance all of the other ones. With every bite I took of the dal, the baingan bharta, the kofta, I added a bit of the chutney to the spoon and it enhanced every single one of the dishes. I don’t really know why it’s taken me so long to get my act together and re-make it but this was the week, and I was so happy that I could finally recreate it.
As I mentioned in my previous post, a few weeks ago my friend came over and we cooked an Indian feast for 16 people. While I was happy to have everyone over, I was mostly interested in learning about how to make tons of different dishes from my friend who is an expert Indian cook. Although she would probably disagree with me, there is a knack that you have to have with spices and balancing flavours to be able to cook like she does. While I might have that knack with different cuisines, I can’t tell you how excited I was at the prospect of some of her skill rubbing off on me over the course of the day. Although we didn’t measure anything, throwing spices, tasting and adjusting as we went (totally my style of cooking when it’s not for this space!), I took some notes as we cooked so that I would remember the base flavours of every dish. There are some pictures of most of the dishes we cooked, below, but I am sharing the recipe for only one of them today. It’s taken me until now to finally recreate (and accurately re-measure!) one of my favourites of the night: the ubiquitous eggplant dish, Baingan Bharta.
One of our friends is a complete expert when it comes to Indian food. Since we’ve been here, she’s hosted a couple of feasts at her apartment. It’s mind blowing to me that she can make so many diverse, vegetarian (!) dishes, all by herself. On the surface most of her food seems super simple but as soon as you eat it, you know someone with a knowing hand cooked them. A couple of weeks ago, we decided we would host one of these feasts together. I will be an extra pair of hands (grasping at as much knowledge as humanly possible) but she is definitely in charge of the recipes. Even though our dinner is a couple of weeks away, I got so excited about it, that I had her bring me to a specialty Indian grocery store to show me the spices, produce and other treats that I have sometimes come across but have no idea what to do with. I restrained myself and came home with a few new spices and different types of lentils to play with. With no capability to freestyle, the first thing I did was dust off my old copies of Vij’s at Home and Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick and Easy Indian Cooking. I’ve promised myself that I will cook Indian once a week so that I can actually work through the dozens of recipes that I have marked with post-its.
One of my main issues with moving to Calgary was the fact that I would have to experience a real winter once again. While London and Vancouver are not reknowned for having the best weather (can someone say overcast and rainy?) I really didn’t find either city to be as bad as most people would like to have you believe. I could wear real shoes, my parka was completely useless, and I didn’t need to wear a ski mask walking around the city (yes, I was known to do this all the time during the winter in Montreal. It’s a little scary, but it’s also a lot cold!). So, as October creeps to an end and it is already below zero at night, I am trying to embrace the impending freezing next few months.