Anyone who grows up in a muslim home will tell you that everything and I mean everything happens around the dinner table. Meal times are a thing and none is more important than the meal/s of celebration days.
Recently we celebrated the end of the fasting month (Ramadaan) with the occasion of Eid ul Fitr and we spent some time with a muslim dadi (grandmother) to recount her special memories of times In The Kitchen.
Now remember, dadi’s are synonomous for spoiling their families especially their grandchildren with special treats. All are welcome and no one leaves the home without having at least a little something to eat, on any day.
Dadi started cooking at just 11 years old and it all began with cooked porridge and a ‘chilli egg’ for her dad. She comes from a large family of which she is the youngest child and daughter, so she had many to learn from but her best teacher was her mum. And of course, her oldest sister. Growing up on a farm in the Natal Midlands, the use of ‘fresh’ ingredients was not even a question back then as most of the vegetables came straight from her mum’s garden. An accomplished home cook and baker, her favourite thing to make is Chana Puri.
A tasty bite sized morsel (looks like a mince filled donut) which requires a deft hand and quick reflexes to get them all browned evenly, the same size and the same amount of filling in each one. Let me tell you, even trained chefs will find this one difficult to get right.
A typical Eid table must have:
Badam (almond) milk , chana magaj (sweetmeat made with gram flour and almonds) and of course Naan Khatai (a biscuit made with tasty wheat and gram flour) A special roasted leg of lamb, marinated in spices and saffron
Head must be covered at all times to prevent hair falling into food. (Dadi wears a scarf)
Every good cook should know:
Hygiene is the golden rule, wash everything: hands, fruit, meat, etc
What does taste mean to you:
Spice, not necessarily ‘hot’ but food must have spice
Every kitchen must have:
A Magi mix, it cuts and chops vegetables and even has a dough hook for making roti dough
Must have utensil:
A sharp knife. Mine has been sharpened so many times over the years and is really old, but its mine and I cannot cook without it. It’s so old the name is not even visible anymore.
Secret to the perfect roti:
Divide dough into balls. Roll out into side plate size, sprinkle with ghee and flour. Fold into half and then half again. And only THEN roll out into slightly
bigger than side plate size. This will get your roti to rise and also give those layers inside.
What do you think of our ‘modern’ take on food, pastas and salads for example:
It’s a NO from me, pasta feels like eating plastic, I know you young people enjoy it, but not for me. I’d rather have beans or any tarkari (curry)
“My kitchen is my happy place, makes me happy to make my family happy and they are happy when they eat mums food. Even the oldest recipes are better, no new age food for me.”
Dadi ‘s are generally traditionalists who do things the old school way and I’m thinking that if we all paid a little more attention, we could learn a thing or three from them.