A Dish In Time
(This project is a collaboration between Soup and The Goya Journal)
A week ago, I was drinking my tea quite daintily from a vintage tea cup. In my head, I was Isabelle, a rebellious suffragette who was perfectly capable of setting her politics aside to indulge in tea and cake. It was a delightful fantasy complete with a blue brimmed bonnet. But the fantasy was rudely interrupted when the handle of the vintage tea cup broke, leaving a horrified Isabelle in the 21st century dressed in lurid green (tea soaked) pajamas.
I only mention this incident because I have found that beautiful old things have the power to transport you. Take you away from your ordinary lurid green pajama life to places where chandeliers twinkled and state secrets were exchanged over pudding. And just as easily as they take you away, their fragile aspect serves to remind you that nothing lasts forever. And perhaps this is what makes them so precious.
This seems especially true of dishes from the kitchen. They carry life in them. Secret recipes, family scandals, tales of favouritism, adventure and love along with memories of a million sumptuous teas, lunches and dinners. For our latest story, we traced seven antique dishes, some of them over three generations old, and interviewed their current owners to discover the stories behind them. And since no dish is complete without some food in it, we also brought you the recipes of all that was cooked and served in these pieces.
What Joshua Serves In This Dish:
Duck's Eggs in Purgatory
Inspired by Nigella Lawson
3 strips bacon
1 tbsp olive oil
3-4 pods of garlic, chopped
½ inch ginger, chopped
2 tomatoes, deseed and chopped
6-7 basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 Red bell pepper, de-seeded and halved
1/2 bunch spinach, washed and roughly chopped
Cheese, grated (fancy cheese always preferable)
3 duck eggs
Salt & pepper, to taste
Preheat your oven for 5 minutes. Take the halves of red bell pepper, rub with olive oil and salt and roast for ten minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the bacon till crisp in a large skillet. Take out the rashes of bacon and save the rendered fat.
In the skillet with the bacon fat, add the chopped garlic and ginger and sauté. Add chopped tomatoes and cook it down for 5 minutes.
Take out the red bell pepper, peel the charred skin and put the roasted flesh in a mixer and blend. Add the spinach and let the sauce cook till it bubbles and boils.
Make little nests into the sauce with the back of a ladle, crack in the eggs into the dips, sprinkle the grated cheese over it and cook for a few more minutes till the white of the egg sets but the yolk is still runny.
Crumble crisp bacon and top with basil. Toast taftoon (or any other bread) to dunk into this delicious mess.
What Aparna Cooks In This Dish:
Andhra Mukkala Pulusu
200 g each, 3 or more varieties of chopped vegetables as per season (bottle gourd/ pumpkin/ sweet potato)
¼ cup thick tamarind pulp
¼ cup grated jaggery
Rock salt, to taste
¼ tsp turmeric powder
2 green chilies
1 ½ tbsp rice flour
1 tsp ghee
For the Pulusu spice powder:
½ tsp fenugreek seeds
4 red chilies
1 ½ tsp coriander seeds
¼ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp mustard seeds
Fry the ingredients in the same order in a few drops of oil/ ghee till the aromas are released and the mustard pops. Cool and grind into a powder. In older times, the spices were pounded in a stone mortar and pestle.
1 tbsp oil
½ tsp mustard
½ tsp jeera
Curry leaves, a few
1/8 tsp asafoetida
Wash and chop all vegetables into medium sized pieces.
Slit the green chilies vertically keeping it intact.
Place the rachippa on flame and add about a litre of water into it. Add the chopped vegetables and slit green chilies into the pot with a little salt and cook on medium flame till water starts boiling.
Then lower the flame and keep covered till the vegetables are cooked.
Add the ground spice powder, tamarind pulp, grated jaggery, turmeric powder to the pulusu. Check for seasoning and cook covered for another 5 minutes.
Mix the rice flour with about 30 ml of water, add it to the pulusu and stir till it thickens.
Add the seasoning and cover with a lid to retain the aromas.
Turn off the heat, and let the pulusu simmer in the pot in its own heat till it is served.
Stir well and serve hot with plain dal (pappu) and steamed rice along with home-made ghee.
What Mrs Oomen cooks in this dish:
Kerala Fish Fry, Meen Varuthathu
1/2 kg seer fish or pomfret
Curry leaves, a few
1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp vinegar or lime juice
Salt, to taste
Mix the ingredients for the marinade and coat the fish fillets. Leave on for 20-30 minutes.
In the pan, heat coconut oil, throw in the curry leaves and shallow fry the fish fillets till golden brown.
What Daniel Makes In It:
Chilly chicken ( Tangra style)
½ kg chicken
1 onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 green chilli, sliced
1 tbsp soy sauce
½ tsp black pepper
Salt, to taste
1tsp corn starch
Chinese wine, a splash
1 sprig spring onion, chopped
Cut the chicken into medium size pieces with the bones. Marinate with green chillies, soy sauce, black pepper powder, salt, corn starch and egg. Shallow fry until cooked.
Sauté the onion with garlic and green chillies.
Add the chicken, soy sauce and a splash of Chinese wine.
Garnish with spring onion.
What Amreen serves in it:
1 cup water
2 fresh leaves of lemongrass
1.5 tsp tea leaves
Milk, a splash
Sugar, to taste
Bring the water to a boil.
Crush the leaves of lemongrass and add to the water.
Add the tea powder and allow to brew for about 3 minutes.
Add a splash of milk and sugar to taste.
What Mrs Rao Serves In It:
1 kg pork with as much fat as you like
6 large onions, chopped
6 green chillies, chopped
1.5 inch ginger, chopped
10-12 cloves garlic, halved
Salt to taste
Vinegar, a splash
2 inches cinnamon stick
4 powdered cloves
3-4 cinnamon leaves
Water from 1 ball of tamarind
1 dessert spoon of Buffat powder
Cube the pork.
Add salt and vinegar and 2-3 cups of water.
Add the onion, chilli, ginger and garlic to the meat.
Add Buffat powder, clove, cinnamon leaves and tamarind water.
Pressure cook on a low flame till meat is done. Oil not required as the pork cooks in its own fat.
What Kaveri Serves In It:
5 oz flour
3 oz walnuts, chopped
4 oz dates, chopped
4 oz butter
4 oz caster sugar
1 ½ tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
1 oz, or to taste, dark rum
1 tsp vanilla essence
½ tsp baking soda
1 cup water
Chop the dates, sprinkle with ½ tsp baking soda.
Bring 1 cup water to the boil. Pour the boiling water over the dates and set aside. Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
Sieve the flour and baking powder together.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one by one and beat thoroughly.
Add the sieved flour and baking powder, and mix thoroughly.
Add the soaked dates, chopped nuts, vanilla essence and rum, and mix in with a wooden spoon.
Pour into a greased and lined 8-inch loaf tin.
Bake at 180C for 50 mins to 1 hr. Test by piercing the centre with a cake tester, it should come out clean.
Serve warm with thick whipped cream, or salted caramel sauce.
Written and compiled by Meera Ganapathi
Photographed by Mark Swaroop
For more photographs and stories on food, do read The Goya Journal