Every family has some special recipes that they cherish. These are the dishes full of stories that bring back the feeling of warmth, comfort and simplicity every time they are made. While for many of us they just remain the delicacies cooked by mothers or grandmothers and are lost with the changing times, some make a point to carry forward the family legacy. Here we speak to some chefs, who have either recreated the heritage recipes or dishes of their childhood.
Some are presenting these in their menus in a new avatar making a personalised statement while others are re-producing them as authentic as they can be for food lovers’ delight. Culinary journey of Balaji Natarajan, Executive Sous Chef, Park Hyatt, Chennai, is loaded with childhood memories of his grandma’s food. So, he has dedicated some dishes to his family and traditions.
Balaji takes pride in introducing his native region and its traditional cuisine. “I am a ‘Kongu Tamilian’ belonging to a region called Kongunadu in Tamil Nadu. This cuisine is a collection of recipes from more than 50 cities in Tamil Nadu, unlike Chettinad cuisine—food of only one city of Tamil Nadu called Karaikudi,” he says. “Kongunadu cuisine does not involve marination of any raw material. Addition of roasted groundnut paste to curries and Khormas creates a very different flavour.”
As a child, Balaji spent all his time in the joint family set-up in Sathyamangalam. From that memory, he shares one of his family’s recipe of Kambu Paniyaram. “Kambu means pearl millet, Paniyaram means a dumpling,” he says. “Kambu Paniyaram can be enjoyed any time of the day.”
He says his grandma used traditional stone grinder called ‘Attangal’ to grind the millet batter. ‘Aruvamanai’ is traditional equipment used in villages for grating coconuts and for cutting vegetables. Kuzhipaniyaram Karai is a traditional cast iron pan with mould used to make Paniyaram dumplings.
Balaji says, “Kongunadu cuisine is neither very spicy nor oily and healthy to eat.”
A dish that makes Chef Ajay Anand, Director of Culinary, Pullman and Novotel New Delhi Aerocity, emotional is Lahore ki Pinni from the house of Madan Lal Halwai in Sadar Bazar of Old Delhi. “I remember my early childhood years when my grandfather would take me to this shop. The shop was set up on the auspicious occasion of Lohri in 1948, after the family migrated to Delhi from Lahore. Lahore ki Pinni has been on their menu since the first Republic Day in 1950 and no Delhi winter of mine was complete without biting into the delightful Madan Pinni. The sense of joy I get after biting into something so simple yet so memorable is awesome.”
Going back to their roots, celebrated chefs are digging into history and making utmost efforts to preserve our rich culinary traditions. Chef Arun Sundararaj, Executive Chef, The Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi, says, “At Varq, we constantly endeavour to offer unique and meaningful experiences by frequently curating special menus inspired by flavours from different corners of the country.
For example, we crafted a special menu ‘Lost Recipes of the Royals’ which brought forth forgotten recipes from the royal kitchens of four erstwhile kingdoms of India—Kashmiri Dogras, the kings of Travancore, the Nizams of Hyderabad and the Mewars of Rajasthan. The menu featured regal dishes like Pattode ke kebab, Tujji chicken, Paneer gulnar kebab, Nizami saada aash, Cheera ada curry, Noori Hyderabadi biryani and desserts like garlic kheer with broken wheat porridge. We familiarised ourselves with the various cooking techniques used in these kitchens. For Saada Aash, the Nizami lamb soup is simmered for seven hours and tempered seven times before it is served. Khichdi Rafat is the Nizami royals’ twist to the humble khichdi cooked with tender pieces of chicken, duck, lamb, almonds and aromatic spices.”
Talking about his favourite recipe, Arun says, “Duet of Paasley Angeera and Murgh Hawa Mahal is my favourite. Inspired by the kings of Mewar, the dish is our take on the signature Rajasthani lamb chop and cooked the traditional way on charcoal.”
Desi Citiwala Kukkad is one dish that steals the show in the genre of heritage recipes at Hotel Fairmont, Jaipur. Executive Chef Manpreet Singh Mallik says, “The dish is inspired by and dedicated to all the home cooks, mothers, dhabas and the real rustic cuisine of India. While conversing with the guests we realised that they often want to taste the traditional foods.”
He adds: “So we selected chicken-based dish. We have tied up with a local farmer from a nearby village to source our desi murga. The masalas are hand-ground in a mortar and pestle (imam dasta), and then carefully cooked in pressure cooker. This dish is cooked on the bone, which ensures all the flavour remains in the curry. We serve it in a tiny pressure cooker, while it is still hot.”
Madan Pinni recipe by chef Ajay Anand
● Urad Dal: 200 gm
● Suji: 50 gm
● Khoya: 100 gm
● Jaggery: 150 gm
● Ghee: 250 gm
● Gond (consumable): 40 gm
● Cashews: 30 gm
● Almonds: 30 gm
● Melon Seeds: 30 gm
● Green Cardamom Powder: 5 gm
● Carom Seeds: 3 gm
● Ginger Powder: 5 gm
● Pistachios: 15 gm
● Kamar Kass: 15 gm
● Saffron: 0.5 gm
● Shilajit: 5 gm
● Black Pepper: 5 gm
● Nutmeg: 5 gm
● Soak urad dal and keep aside for two hours. Grind it coarsely.
● Take half the amount of ghee in a pan and heat it mildly. Break gond into fine pieces and fry them until they turn light brown and puffy. Take it out in a plate.
● Now add all the dry fruits in pan and fry for 1-2 minutes until they turn little brown and take them out in the same plate.
● Fry kamar kass just for 1 minute and take it out in a separate plate.
● Reduce the flame and add carom seeds and ginger powder to ghee and sauté for a while.
● Add rest of the ghee to pan. When ghee melts completely, add suji and cook it for a minute and then add urad dal and cook on medium flame until it turns light brown and you can smell its aroma.
● Place melon seeds, spices, all fried dry fruits, jaggery and kamar kass in a mixture grinder and grind them finely to make a powder. Take out grinded dry fruits in a big bowl and add spice powder. Mix all ingredients nicely. Also add green cardamom powder into it and mix thoroughly with the spices.
● Now add grinded spices to dal mixture and mix well. Make its balls (pinnis) with hand and decorate them with cashew and almond.
Kambu Kuzhi Paniyaram
● Pearl Millet/Kambu: 500 gm
● Idli Rice: 90 gm
● Urad dhal: 50 gm
● Salt: to taste
● Groundnut oil: 200 ml
● Jeera (cumin seeds): ½ tsp
● Mustard seeds: 1 tsp
● Dry red chilli: Two
● Shallots: 30 (finely chopped)
● Green chilli: Two (chopped)
● Curry leaves: 1 or 2 sprigs (finely chopped)
● Fresh ginger chopped: 20 gm
● Asafoetida: ½ tsp
● Grated coconut: One (Half to be added while grinding, half in to batter after grinding).
● Wash pearl millet/kambu, rice
and urad dal separately. Soak all of them together in water for about
four hours. Grind them into a course paste. Just before removing the
batter, add fresh grated coconut
and run it for 3 to 4 minutes and remove the batter.
● Transfer the mixture to a separate container; add salt and mix well.
Allow to ferment for about 24 hours
at room temperature. Usually we
use the batter for making dosa on
first day and the same batter is
used for Kuzhi Paniyaram on second day.
● Heat oil in a kadai; add mustard seeds, jeera and red chilli. After it crackles, add chopped onions, green chillies, ginger and curry leaves. Fry
till the onions sweat.
● Once this is done, add the seasoning mixture and grated coconut into the fermented batter. Give it a mix.
● Heat the Kuzhi Paniyaram pan; add 1 to 2 tsp oil or ghee into each hole.
● Pour batter into all the holes and allow cooking in medium flame. Turn on the other side using a satay stick. Allow to cook till both sides turn golden brown and crispy.
● Remove from pan and serve hot with any spicy chutney.