How to get that tempering right!

Dear P

My exploits in the kitchen are nothing to be trumpeted around. But I take food seriously, at least the eating bit, you know that. While cooking dinner, I have been listening to #RajaRasoiAurAnyaKahaniyan on #Netflix. It serves as a background score to my supper these days.

Homemade Bagaara Baingan (Aubergine) Photos: I

The title of this documentary loosely translates to ‘Kings, Kitchens and other stories’. The series entails history of Indian food across royal kitchens of different regions. It has opened a whole new world of gastronomy to me. Besides, I have learnt that half the things we call ours, are really foreign. The only nuggets of information that brightened up my day were: Pepper, the erstwhile Black Gold, finds its origins in India and so does Eggplant / Aubergine (Baingan).

Europeans used to take pepper from India and eat it to keep themselves warm in their cold harsh winters. A kilo of it would sell for 1000 pounds back in those days. You should really catch up on this series. It may disappoint you to learn that half the things we take pride in aren’t really ours, but it does go on to show that a globalised world isn’t a new phenomenon.

We have been assimilating the best of cultural influences from around the world. So why did I decide to write this post today? I could have very well spent my night dreaming about all the food I spent my evening salivating over. Well, I wanted to share a secret recipe with you.

1.Why I hadn’t discovered it till now? Luxury of being a Londoner :  You never really miss your home country while in London. It has food options from all over the world. And Indian restaurants are in every second corner. Thanks to the love of curry, Brits love to enjoy an Indian meal every now and then.

2. Why now? Because Germany happened now : Past couple of months, I have spent a lot of time in Germany. And it has been a tiresome task to find a proper Indian restaurant. The ones I tried were not up to scratch. Believe me, I tried restaurants in Frankfurt, Freiburg, Munich, Stuttgart, Heidelberg and a few towns where pizzerias doubled up as Indian food takeaways. It was Stuttgart where I finally lucked out.

3. Namaste India and discovery of the tempering:  We walked inside this kitschy looking Indian restaurant in Stuttgart. Namaste India, it’s called. We were hungry but not too optimistic. We had finally started adjusting our expectations in Germany. The setting was the regular red-coloured decor, godly figurines, fake plants and royal motifs on the walls. The waiter beckoned us towards the seating hall, while taking down order from the sole other couple in the restaurant. He was the only one managing the entire space.

All we needed was palatable food, immediately. What arrived 20-30 minutes later reminded me of my childhood food from Punjab. The subtle taste of spices in my Dal Makhani (lentils) broke the lull of my day. I gleamed with joy with every bite took. I had to ask the waiter to compliment the chef and if possible share her magical recipe with us. And he agreed.

So here goes the secret of their tempering or ‘tadka’ as we call it: fry your cumin seeds, ginger, garlic and onions just as you do, but once you’re done, add yoghurt to that mix and put it in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Once you are done with making your dish, add this to your lentils or vegetables or tomato gravy and cook for a while. You’re good to go. You’d find that if you marinate onions, it adds an edge to your Indian cooking like nothing else does. Now, go give this a shot and let me know if it works for you. 

Love, I

PS: Do try Dal Makhani and every other vegetarian dish in Namaste India. I can vouch for their heavenly food.

Dear Germany, when you make Frankfurt the new London if Brexit really gets executed the way we never want it to, please imitate the London food scene alongside its financial prowess.