As last year IT launch, The Bombay Canteen readies to turn one tomorrow, mothers to those in its core team share a special menu created in their personal kitchens
It's 10.30 am. As soon as we step into The Bombay Canteen, Sunita Seth, the mother of Sameer Seth (partner at the restaurant) warmly asks us, "Would you like some tea or coffee?" while the silver-haired Beryl Cardoz chuckles, "Or maybe something stronger?" Brand consultant Radhika Misra’s mother Iti chirps in, "Oh, she’ll have that when she is off duty," as Cynthia Zacharias and Renu Bhanage (mothers of executive chef Thomas Zacharias and partner Yash Bhanage respectively) join in the laughter. Though some from the group are meeting each other for the first time, their bonhomie sets the mood as they gather to celebrate The Bombay Canteen’s first anniversary (February 11), by creating a special menu straight from their home kitchens across India.
(From left) Iti Misra, Beryl Cardoz, Cynthia Zacharias, Renu Bhanage and Sunita Seth with their creations -- Ulta Pulta Pineapple Cake, Macher Kochuri Aar Aloo Dum, B**f Cutless, Pressure Cooked Sardines on Toast and Dahi Gujiya Chaat
Mum’s the word
Cardoz, who grew up in Goa and has contributed Pressure Cooked Sardines and Toast and Chicken Xacuti to the menu, admits, "I couldn’t make a cup of tea when I was young. I have perfected the recipes through trial and error, and all of them are my creations. I have six children and not once have we bought a cake for birthday celebrations. I would bake a cake each time." Pune-based Bhanage, who currently manages an 800-tree mango farm with her husband, recalls her initiation into cooking, "Before marriage, you are not even expected to cook. You learn cooking when you have children. When my kids were in school, they would return home for lunch; I would attempt different dishes and they would get excited. That motivated me to cook better. In those days, we didn’t even have ovens; I would bake a cake on a stove and that aroma still lingers with me." Ulta Pulta Pineapple Cake and Konkani Kolambi Curry will be her contributions to the anniversary menu.
The mothers indulge in friendly banter at the Lower Parel eatery. Pics/Datta Kumbhar
Hailing from a vegetarian household in Delhi, Seth’s contribution to the menu includes Dahi Gujiya Chaat and Phool Gobi Mussalam. "The Mussalam is an adaptation of the non-vegetarian recipe and was typically cooked in my house during celebrations. My mother was an expert at making gujiyas and I have learnt the dish from her," she says.
Meanwhile, Zacharias has substituted prawns with crabs in a Kerala-style curry titled Crab Mappas. "One of Thomas’ favourite dishes are beef cutlets, so that’s also on the menu but it will be made using carabeef," she shares, adding, "Earlier, you didn’t have access to so many ingredients, you had to learn to improvise." And the other mothers agree. "Post marriage, I lived in a small district of Guntur in Andhra Pradesh and I had to even get vegetables from Bangalore because nothing was available. My husband was in the export business and I had to host dinners at home, so I learnt to cook," recalls Misra, who has written a cookbook of handpicked recipes and their stories, sourced from friends and acquaintances. For the menu, she has whipped up a unique Macher Kochuri or fish stuffed puris served with Aloo Dum, tempered with the typical Bengali spice mix, Panch Phoron, lugged all the way from her Kolkata home.
"We love our fish in all forms," she smiles, as Cardoz curiously interjects, "Isn’t the fish head supposed to be a delicacy, especially at Bengali weddings?" and instantly, the conversation veers towards cuisines from their respective states, food culture, coastal ingredients such as bamboo shoots, mangoes and coconuts, the variations in cooking styles, the number of dishes that can be made with the modest poha (flattened rice) and also, how some Goans even use turkey in their Xacuti. As the mothers share notes intently and we, too, soak in the hour-long conversation that is a great culinary crash course, Cardoz says, "The most important ingredient for any dish is love." A statement that echoed among all at the Lower Parel restaurant, which has become one of the city’s most favourite hangouts in the past year.
Beryl Cardoz with Pressure Cooked Sardines On Toast (with tomato, onion, coriander, nimbu). Pic/Datta Kumbhar
Born to Goan parents in Iran, Cardoz grew up in Hubli, Karnataka and later in Goa in a family that loved food, and her six children, including chef Floyd Cardoz have inherited the trait. Having moved to the city in her early 20s, Cardoz initially worked as a secretary with Macmillan Publishers and also as a singer in the band, The Ken Mack Band. “I wasn’t a reckless singer, I sang because my voice merged beautifully with the band. Now, of course, I can’t sing,” she laughs.
Iti Misra with Macher Kochuri Aar Aloo Dum (Bekti stuffed puris, served with baby potatoes cooked with 'panch phoran', tamatar and red chillies). Pic/Datta Kumbhar
A sales and marketing professional for British Airways, Kolkata-born Misra learnt cooking out of compulsion when she had to shift to Guntur, a small district in Andhra Pradesh post marriage. By now, having developed a strong passion for all things culinary (“I have also tried many kinds of meat including kangaroo meat”), Misra has penned yet-to-be-published cookbook that includes a handpicked collection of recipes from her friends and acquaintances, and the stories associated with them. “From Jewish to Anglo Indian, I have covered a variety of dishes. The recipes are traditional but what’s interesting are the people who have spoken about them,” she shares.
Sunita Seth with Dahi Gujiya Chaat (Chironji stuffed urad dal dumplings, mint and tamarind chutneys, spiced yoghurt, nylon sev). Pic/Datta Kumbhar
Pune-born Seth grew up in different parts of North India, including Agra, Delhi and Lucknow due to her father’s various Army postings. Armed with BA from Loreto College and MA from Agra University, Seth has been an English teacher for the last 30 years. Slightly apprehensive when his son, Sameer, wanted to quit banking and venture into hospitality business, she laughs, “As a mother, I thought it was a passing phase and wanted him to have a backup too, because it’s important. However, he was clear he didn’t want to be part of a hotel but set up a restaurant. I am glad he went to Cornell University and met Yash (Bhanage). As mothers, we hope and pray that the team sticks together.”
Cynthia Zacharias with B**f Cutless (with green chillies, cloves, ginger, served with cucumber challas). Pic/Datta Kumbhar
While her mother and grandmother were famous in Kochi for their culinary skills, Zacharias’ (a Syrian Christian) interests lay in Maths and Economics. Post graduation from Stella Maris College in Chennai, she did her MBA from Cochin University and later, also worked as a stock broker for a decade, apparently one of the first women to work in the Cochin Stock Exchange. “Thomas’ love for cooking is actually inspired by my mother, as he would observe her in the kitchen a lot. My friend used to run a cooking class and he wanted to get himself enrolled in it. He must be 10-12 years old; he was the first male student in the class. He learnt to make fried rice and noodles, and he became an expert at making Chinese fried rice,” she recalls.
Ulta Pulta Pineapple Cake (baked with caramelised pineapple, brown sugar, served with vanilla ice cream)
Drawn into the world of finance during the 80s, Mumbai-born Renu Bhanage soon decided to quit her career and pursue Interior Design and Architecture at Rachana Sansad school. When she isn’t busy with her own successful interior design practice in Pune, she helps manage a 800-tree mango farm with her husband. “During the mango season, I make Kairas, a raw mango-based sweet and tangy dish. I also send it for the boys at The Bombay Canteen,” she smiles.
From: February 11 to 29, 12 noon to midnight
At: The Bombay Canteen, Unit 1, Process House, Kamala Mills, SB Road, Lower Parel.