I used my sensory memory to create this recipe based on the curry leaf tree in my paternal grandmother’s garden. Each time I went to her home, the leaves of this large tree would be heavy with the fresh, zesty and distinctly mouth-watering scent of curry leaves.
This recipe feels like home to me. It is one that I created based on “andaza” (what I call the art of sensory cooking) when I first moved away from Pakistan. Andaza is the title of my food memoir, and it is also the key way I learned to cook – I used my sensory memory to create this recipe based on the curry leaf tree in my paternal grandmother’s garden. Each time I went to her home, the leaves of this large tree would be heavy with the fresh, zesty and distinctly mouth-watering scent of curry leaves. Warmed by the sun during the day, in the evening they would really come to life. I added turmeric to this recipe because it’s a spice that is used in so many of our vegetarian recipes in Pakistan.
Food has always been my anchor and given me a sense of belonging and freedom. Growing up on merchant ships for the first 10 years of my life, my mother gave me a sense of home by cooking on board, exploring world markets and bazaars and trying unusual food. Back in Pakistan, I found that all the women of my family cooked, each with their own style. My paternal grandmother with her Northern Indian style, my maternal grandmother with her Punjabi cooking, and my mother infused both local Pakistani and international styles to come up with her own way of cooking.
Recipes were shared through conversations and never written. I learned by hanging around the kitchen with grandmothers, aunts and my mother, and overhearing conversations about cooking. The kitchen was also a place of freedom for me, a place where women came together, free to express themselves and share – unlike Pakistani society where expectations were difficult for a girl coming of age. I found the kitchen offered me a place to truly be myself.
500g small baby potatoes
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
½-1 teaspoon salt, to taste
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
½ teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
¼ teaspoon nigella seeds (kalonji)
3 dried long red chillies
10-11 fresh curry leaves
3-4 teaspoons full-fat Greek-style yoghurt
handful of coriander leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped dill
1 green finger chilli, chopped – optional, for more heat
Boil the potatoes until cooked through, but not overdone and falling apart. Drain well, then toss them with the turmeric and salt.
Put the oil into a saucepan and place over medium heat. When it is hot, add the mustard, cumin and nigella seeds and stir until they begin to pop. Add the red chillies and stir for a few seconds, then add the fresh curry leaves – stand back, as they will splutter a lot!
Once the curry leaves turn shiny, add the potatoes and fry until they are coated in all the spices. Lower the heat, then stir the yoghurt into the potatoes and turn off the heat.
Sprinkle with the coriander, dill and green chilli (if using), then cover until you’re ready to serve. I usually eat this dish with chapattis or parathas.
This dish is best eaten fresh – either hot or warm, but not reheated – with a squeeze of lime juice.
ANDAZA BY SUMAYYA USMANI IS OUT NOW.
Published in ed#686