Well we are neither ready nor steady and as always it will got to the wire and I am sure that there are ways to arrive at events you organise with an ironed shirt and brushed hair but I have never smelt that perfume.
But chutni’s and sauces are being made and spices ground and the smell of cumin roasting reminds you why i do it all. And for a while now I have been doing it and having for the first few years relied on ignorance, instinct and outside intervention, lately I have tried thinking a bit about the mixtures and the levels and the times. It is then you realise how little you know and really with dealing with the way with the foods its is not really about knowing because somethings are in the blood and the bones and no matter how much you look and try to learn it will never be the same as the effortless ease of hands that have a certainty passed through generations.
So if you come and eat from my stands you will be disappointed if you are looking for the real Bengali tastes as that is not were I am from or what I am but so much I have learned from the ways there and filtered through an angular loose canon of an imagination you get what you get and if it doesn’t work it is not through a lack of respect from what I do.
Like all things it is all about timing and volume control. Some things can be done in advance, some things should be done in advance and somethings should not be done at all. The chutni’s like a day or two to settle and that good for me as these are very simple things that make what I do taste less simple and give you more time to stare into space and think how much there is to do.So there is always the chaat masala- just roasted cumin powder, amchoor- the dried green mango powdered for the sour, black salt and chilli dust. I do just the simple version as they go on dishes with much other stuff going on but you can add easily black pepper, ajhwoan, pomegranate seed too.
Then the gram masala- the other all around mix that everyone have there own take on. Today we make with the coriander, cardamon, clove, black pepper, bay leaf, cinnamon. The spices that warm the body from the inside out.
Tamarind is the calling card of most of the chaats. Lately, without knowing my tamarind sauces have been getting sourer and when you taste one and your left cheek starts to twitch so much your eye ball almost fall out that you realise that more palm sugar is needed. So in future they will be sweeter and welcomer- accessible to anyone who knocks.
Hari chutni is a wonder sauce no doubt. The corinander pounded with chilli, lime, cumin, salt, garlic of you wish, sometimes ginger and even peanuts too. It is thinned with just water to the thickness you like. In the fridge it will see you to the future and out of it will keep you and your sandwiches, rices, snacks and late night eating investigations well covered.
We been doing a date raison and ginger chutni for a while and it can turn up pretty much anywhere. Adapted from Manjula’s Kitchen site and she is a beautiful constant of wisdom gained from experience. A kind of Indian Delia Smith in that her recipes work and are easy to follow. Best to learn from the masters and for me they the one that do it everyday- the mothers.
And there be spuds too- as the Bengali’s have a love for the potato like only the Irish and seeing it’s st paddy’s day and to celebrate the beautiful similarities to the two ways of looking at the world I shall nip out from a sharpener and hope the gods shine on my will power and self control. So here’s to Curtis Mayfield, Christi Moore, Donald Lunny and the radio dj’s on 6 music that soften the Sundays in the kitchen.