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An ode to mom's cooking

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor's latest book, Cooking With Love, lists numerous recipes from his mother's kitchen. The Guide got the chef to talk about his love for his mom's cooking and share recipes of the favourite dishes he relished as a child 

What was the inspiration behind compiling this book?
The inspiration is the food that is in the book. I have dedicated the book to my brother Rajeev who came up with the idea of compiling our family favourites. We worked on this book for over five years. Together, we are thanking our mom for her unconditional love. It is also my humble way of thanking my mother-in-law for sharing her culinary legacy.

How much of a role did your love for your mother's cooking play in you becoming a chef?
It has played a great role. When I was growing up I saw my father and mother cook together. Then my elder brother showed his interest by joining them in the kitchen and helping them out. I, too, followed as the whole family was in the kitchen! For me, seeing men cook was a normal thing. And, of course, the food cooked by my dad and mom is what inspired me to always cook with the special ingredient called love and then, with the passage of time, become a chef.

Did you start off by trying to make your mother's recipes and then experimenting with it?
I have imbibed the essentials of good home cooking from my mother's cooking. If I cook any of her dishes (as I have done on my show Khana Khazana), it is done according to her recipes and there is no experimentation with that.

What was your favourite dish as a kid? What is it now?
Rajma Chawal and Kadhi Chawal. Then and now! You will find the recipes Rajma Masala and Punjabi Pakorewali Kadhi in the book.

They say that there is something special in a mother's cooking? Have you been able to get the taste of a dish exactly as your mother makes it?
Yes, I agree. There is something special in a mother's cooking. The recipes in the book have been documented during the trials of the recipes done personally by my mother and my mother-in-law. I would say whoever cooks them now following the recipe would get them right. Of course, we can allow for 5-10 % deviation as each cook's style is different.

Does your mother enjoy your cooking? What is her favourite dish made by you?
I love treating my mom once in while with whatever she wishes for. It is usually something vegetarian. But more so, I relish the food made by her as she still cooks for me and my family.

Which is the most difficult recipe from your mother's kitchen?
For me, there is no difficult recipe. Everything is simple if you go step-by-step. It is just that some recipes need more ingredients and more time to cook. But that is the cook's choice: cooking Undhiyo will take time whereas in the same section on Main Dishes we also have Quick Pressure Cooked Vegetables.

Lauki ke kofte
The uniqueness of these kofte lies in the fact that they are stuffed with pieces of tamarind with the seeds in them. The tamarind gives it a tangy flavour, while the seeds help retain the shape of the kofte.
Ingredients
Kofte
750 grams bottle gourd
5 tablespoons gram flour
teaspoon red chilli powder
Salt to taste
12 pieces of tamarind with seeds
Oil for deep-frying
teaspoon garam masala
powder
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander

Gravy
3 tablespoons oil
2 medium onions, chopped
5 medium tomatoes, pur eed
teaspoon turmeric powder
teaspoon red chilli powder
1 tablespoons coriander
powder
Salt to taste

Method
1 For the kofte, peel and grate the bottle gourd. Squeeze to remove excess water. Add the gram flour, chilli powder and salt, and mix well. Divide the mixture into twelve equal portions.
 
2 Stuff one piece of tamarind into each portion and shape into a round kofta. Remove the tamarind seeds if desired.

3 Heat sufficient oil in a non-stick kadai and deep-fry the kofte, in small batches, for two to three minutes, or until golden brown and crisp on the outside. Drain on absorbent paper and set aside.

4 For the gravy, heat the oil in a non-stick pan; add the onions and saut e until light golden brown. Add the tomato pur ee and cook till the oil rises to the surface.

5 Add the turmeric powder, chilli powder and coriander powder. Continue to saut e on medium heat for one minute. Add two tablespoons of water and saut e till the oil rises to the surface again.

6 Add two cups of water and bring to a boil. Add the salt, lower the heat and simmer for five minutes. Keep the gravy hot.

7 To serve, arrange the kofte on a serving platter and pour the gravy over them. Sprinkle garam masala powder and garnish with the chopped coriander.

(Instead of tamarind, you can stuff the kofte with dried plums or dried pomegranate seeds.)

Gujarati kadhi
My mother-in-law recalls that while the family was posted in Delhi, they had a group of Punjabi friends, who used to drink this kadhi by the glassful! Punjabi kadhi is quite thick and so this light, sweet and sour version was a treat!
Ingredients
2 tablespoons gram flour
2 cups yogurt
1 teaspoon ginger-green chilli paste
Salt to taste
2 teaspoons ghee
teaspoon mustard seeds
teaspoon cumin seeds
8-10 curry leaves
2 dried red chillies, broken into large bits
A pinch of asafoetida
3-4 cloves
1 inch cinnamon
1 small radish, cut into thin strips
1 small potato, cut into thin strips
1 medium ripe banana, cut into thin round slices (optional)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander

Method
1 Whisk together the gram flour, yogurt and ginger-green chilli paste till smooth. Add three cups of water and salt, and mix well. Set aside.

2 Heat the ghee in a deep non-stick pan and add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves, red chillies, asafoetida, cloves and cinnamon. When the seeds splutter, add the radish and potato, and stir to mix. Add one cup of water and cook on medium heat till the vegetables are tender.

3 Add the yogurt mixture and continue to cook, stirring continuously, till the mixture thickens slightly. Adjust the salt. Add the banana and sugar, and mix lightly. Serve hot, garnished with the chopped coriander.

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