Tuesday, 22 August 2006

Our Mamta's Kitchen Feast!

I know that as a keen cook's daughter people might assume that I'd naturally be able to recreate all my mum's delicious Indian recipes and that I grew up cooking Indian food at her apron strings.

But I have to confess that while both my sister and I grew up learning to cook from both mum and school (which we enjoyed and did cook quite a bit) we never really learned any of her traditional Indian recipes! We cooked cakes, breads, recipes from the UK and all around the world, particularly Chinese, Italian, Greek, French... but seldom Indian!

That's how the (Mamta's Kitchen) website started actually back in 2001. Neeta and I asked mum to write down all our favourite family recipes because we really felt we should know them too and ensure that they were written down. Mum cooks by instinct and had none of them written down.

So she started out by writing them by hand on cards, each recipe written on two cards, one for each of us. And then one of my cousins who moved from India to Europe asked if he could have a copy too. And then mum's brother suggested putting them onto a website so all of the family could access them and contribute additional ones too.

Since Pete and I were already working in IT, including web design, mum asked us to create a site but we put her off and put her off. Eventually her brother created a site. I think he deliberately made it as ugly as possible (I'm sure he'll forgive me since I do adore him) so that the second Pete and I saw it we'd change our minds and offer to do a site after all! Well it worked and we created Mamta's Kitchen.

I remember at first how hard it was getting mum to write down her recipes with realistic quantities. She'd write down "a pinch" and I'd be standing next to her watching her throw in a tablespoon! But she's a very fast learner, my mum and she quickly got into a new habit of accurately measuring and describing everything. Every now and then people still find little confusions or errors in early recipes and kindly let us know via the forums or email. Mum always welcomes comments, corrections and suggestions!

Of course, we really never expected or intended for it to become a site that the public visited - it was created for the family. But fairly quickly we started getting visitors from all over the world! Numbers really went up when the BBC Web Guide staff hand picked it to be in their recommended websites listings. And these days we get 15,000 to 20,000 visitors a month. Of course we've revamped the site a lot since it first launched and mum's added so much more content.

So... once in a blue moon Pete and I decide to cook some Indian food and resort to the site just like many of our visitors.

On Saturday we'd arranged to go to a friend's for dinner. We always go to her place - it's spacious, beautiful and well located for the various members of our little gang to get to but we felt we ought to take a turn in the cooking. So on Friday and Saturday we cooked lots of dishes ready to take, heat and serve!!!

We did:

Shahi Paneer 1 (which is so delicious I cannot tell you and btw the big Tesco in Watford currently stocks the exact spice mix recommended by the author of the recipe though they are apparently discontinuing it soon so if you want some, go buy it now).

Aloo Matar (potatoes and peas curry which is a good basic curry with a nice tomatoey gravy)

I marinaded a kilo of fresh salmon in a tandoori marinade overnight which we cooked at my friend's house tandoori style, in a very hot oven, just before serving.

Green apple/ mango chutney
(using an apple) not because it goes with anything but because I adore it.

We also did a cucumber, red onion and mint raita

And Pete made some fresh naan bread.

Oh and I popped into a local Indian sweet mart to buy some rasmalai, freshly made jalebis (he let me taste one in the shop and it was still hot) and some ludos!



Monday, 14 August 2006

A lovely foodie Sunday!

For breakfast Pete baked frozen croissants and pains au chocolat - there's a farm shop not too far from us that sells properly made ones that have been frozen at the pre-rising stage. He just gets them out the night before, leaves them out to rise and bakes them the next day! YUM!

For lunch he baked a couple of home-made baguettes (yes, made from scratch) and made his fabulous french onion soup (also from scratch) which we had with some grated gruyere cheese we'd brought back from France last year and still had in the freezer - because it's grated it thaws as you drop the grated fragments into something hot like soup so you don't need to defrost it before use.

In the afternoon Pete made a wonderful lemon drizzle cake. I'd seen the recipe in a magazine on Friday and mentioned how delicious it looked. So he decided to cook it! :D The sponge itself was a normal sponge recipe with the addition of lots of lemon zest (I did lots of zesting). The filling was home-made lemon curd mixed with mascarpone. And before the filling was put in, the sponge was skewered and lots of lemon juice (I did lots of squeezing) and sugar syrup was drizzled over to soak through and into the sponge. Oh my!

For dinner Pete did a simple roast - a prepared chicken breast from Waitrose that has butter and seasoning added for you and cooks to the most moist and wonderful tasting finish with some gorgeous roast potatoes. We didn't bother with the greens as the cabbage in the fridge from last weeks veggie box looked rather the worse for wear and we weren't that fussed anyway since we new we were going to have the lemon cake for dessert.

Oh yummy day!