CHENNAI : At a juice shop in Egmore, on a crowded afternoon, Dhivya Darshana and I find a quiet corner.She’s a 20-year-old student in the city, and like most college-going students, she knows the menu in-and-out. So, we go with her suggestion of an ice-cream based shake with figs and chickoo, as she tells me that the most exciting conversations about food, happen over food. “Even at my home, my family would come together every day only during dinner. So, my memory of our conversations over food is always a happy one,” she shares.
Dhivya grew up in Erode, and recalls that the first time she cooked was with her sister, in class 4. “We wanted to make Maggi with vegetables and onions, the way our mother makes. But the minute we added mustard seeds to hot oil, my sister freaked out and left the kitchen. I stood my ground though, determined to get Maggi perfectly right that day,” she laughs.
Today, when she goes back home during vacation, she makes perfect three-course meals for her family, with a passion similar to what her grandmother had. “All of us remember her the most for the food she made. The best was pazham payasam that she’d make with mango, jackfruit, and plantain banana. My mother and I tried recreating it, but it was nothing close to my grandmother’s. We regret not writing down her recipe,” she shares.
That said, Dhivya doesn’t believe in following recipes to the T. She follows Archana’s Kitchen, Hebbar’s Kitchen, Yummly.com, and other blogs, but gives the dishes a twist with ingredients available at home. She also loves the styles of Nigella Lawson, and Martha Stewart, and Gordon Ramsay for his criticism. However, her favourite chef, she admits, is Saransh Goila who runs every day to be able to eat more.
While Dhivya loves continental food and dreams of travelling to explore different cuisines, she shares that she will always remain rooted as a country girl. “My grandfather was a farmer, and my family has been associated with food-related businesses. While they are not as passionate about cooking as I am, I’ve grown up observing the respect they give for food,” she says.
It’s these roots that also make her value simple foods with high nutritional content. Her ragi balls, Bengal gram tarts with baby corn fillings, khakra made with chickpea and sesame seeds are a hit among family and friends. “But the best is arsim-parupu, a simple one-cup rice boiled with dhal and tomatoes. I even shared the recipe with cooks in my hostel, and it’s become a part of our weekly menu now,” she says.
Dhivya’s dream is to start a food processing enterprise in Erode eventually. She is all set to leave for Ireland to pursue a course in the food industry and business this coming academic year. But before that, she says, “I will spend a month at home, to cook for my family. Because it’s most exciting to watch them eat what I make, and look thoroughly satisfied.”
HONEY GARLIC CHICKEN
● Chicken: 2 quarters and 2 breasts, skin on/bone-in, at room temperature ● 2 crushed garlic cloves ● Oil, kosher salt, freshly cracked black pepper ● 1 onion, chopped ● 2 garlic cloves, chopped ● 2 tb unsalted butter ● 1 tb unbleached flour ● 1 tb soy sauce ● 1 tb honey ● 1 cup warm chicken stock ● Freshly chopped flat leaf parsley — to garnish ● White sesame seeds
● Rinse and pat each chicken piece dry. Carefully peel back the skin and stuff each piece with crushed garlic. Two cloves should be distributed evenly. ● Oil, salt and pepper the chicken. ● In a skillet glazed with oil, lay each piece skin side down. Take care not to over crowd the pan and only flip once when it becomes golden brown. ● Brown the other side as well. The purpose is not to cook the chicken here but to develop a golden crust. Take each piece out and set it aside. ● In the chicken drippings, toss around the chopped garlic and onions. Salt and pepper. Take out and set aside. ● Melt the butter and slowly sprinkle in the flour. Mix well to prevent lumps. Cook out the raw flour taste for a couple minutes then tip in the soy and honey. ● Slowly pour in the chicken stock. Mix well. ● When the sauce begins to thicken slightly, return everything back to the pan and transfer it to the oven set at 3500. Braise for 30-45 minutes. Garnish with parsley and fried sesame seeds.