Category Archives: Food

Cooking with the Time & Talents Club


The smell of dried Bombay duck infiltrates the air.

Mum is making the Parsi dish Tarapori Patio, a ruddy pickle made from the quintessentially Bombay fish, the curiously-named Bombay duck, assertively spiced and humming with the tang of vinegar. An old cookbook lies next to her, the pages brittle, dog-eared, covered with scrawls—“Add chopped coriander, 1/2 cup”; “easy for tiffin.”1

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By Meher Mirza | Photographs by Meher Mirza.

This kitchen treasure is Recipes from the Time & Talents Club, an iconic Parsi cookbook passed down from generation to generation. Mum’s came to her as a Christmas gift in 1975 through a dear old friend, her elderly piano teacher. There is an inscription within, scribbled in auspicious red—“Music has made my contact with you, but maybe cooking could become more important in the future. So here’s wishing you all the best for a bright and happy future. With love, Vera Aunty.”

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Vera Aunty’s gift was the springboard from which my mum’s cooking took off. “Of course, I consult many Parsi cookbooks,” Mum says huffily, then relents to add, “but this one is for the ages.”

The history of Parsi food traces back to the Muslim conquest of Persia in the mid-7th century C.E. and the subsequent pressure, violent and otherwise, on the native population to convert from Zoroastrianism to Islam. A small number of Iranians fled, finding refuge across the Arabian Sea on the western coast of India, the modern-day state of Gujarat. From there, this Iranian diaspora seeped across India, enriching their adopted homeland’s cultural and economic landscape. Never a community of overwhelming numbers, there are less than 70,000 of us today and most live in Mumbai.2

Parsi food, therefore, is matted with influences, from the flavors of pre-Muslim Iran (a predilection for dried fruits and nuts, rose water, pomegranate, saffron, and a love of sweet-sour meat dishes) to British and Dutch cooking (thanks to their various imperial presences in western India) to the indigenous cuisine of Gujarat.

And when it comes to Parsi food, there was no greater influence than that of the Time & Talents Club. The Club, started by Gool Shavaksha in 1934, was peopled by a clot of upper-crust women, mostly Parsi, who yearned to be socially responsible at a time when many women were strangled by a lack of agency. The Club provided them an imprimatur of respectability, and its proceeds were shared with the poor. Such charitable pursuits were considered appropriate for women from respectable families; no doubt the Club was considered a passing fancy by several men. Yet it endured and grew.3

Although it may not have had the heft of government cultural organizations, the Club was keen on boosting Mumbai’s cultural scene. In 1963 they opened and oversaw the Victory Stall near the Gateway of India, once a culinary landmark, feeding the citizenry with their beer-soaked Parsi lunches and donating the proceeds to the widows and orphans of Indian soldiers. Club members wrangled concerts for the Mumbai public with the Berlin Chamber Orchestra and the Warsaw National Philharmonic, and they trundled in the maestro Yehudi Menuhinas and the famed pianist Benno Moiseiwitsch to perform for city audiences. Perhaps the ladies’ greatest triumph came when they secured a performance by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra (whose music director at the time was Zubin Mehta, a Parsi son of Bombay) at the grand Shanmukhananda Hall. (This was despite the orchestra’s complaints of cockroach-infiltrated hotel rooms and, more terrifyingly, a bomb threat, though the latter was resolved by a quick call by a member of the Time & Talents Club to the police commissioner.)4

Almost everyone I know is connected to the Club in some way. My pediatrician juggles saving the lives of sick children with managing the Club’s many events. My great-aunt was a lifelong member, despite her husband constantly teasing her that it was “The Only Time & No Talents Club.”

But the Club is most heavily stamped onto our community identity through its cookbook. My London-dwelling cousin uses it as a emergency plan for when homesickness strikes. My friend Dilnavaz Contractor built her Parsi food pop-up around the book, inscribing into it her own personal inflections along the way: “The recipe for Parsi vegetable stew is one I fall back on every time. It’s a crowd pleaser. The one I secretly love though is the kharia ma chora (goat trotters cooked with beans), although unfortunately, only Parsis seem to like this one.”

The first edition was put together in 1935, all the profits from which went to charity. It was a time when India was still struggling to throw off the British yoke; a time of unrest and revolution, but therefore also a time of cross-pollination. Eased in with typical Parsi dishes such as caramel custard, patra ni macchi (chutney fish swathed in banana leaves), and the offal dish bhujan (heart, kidneys, and liver), were such recipes as undhiyu (a Gujarati dish made of root vegetables) and the south Indian mulligatawny. If Bhicoo Manekshaw (who later became an iconic Parsi cookbook author and chef in her own right) sent in her recipe for the voluptuous Fish Roxanne (fish crisped on a pan, then served in a bath of melted butter, caviar and lime juice), and Pinky Gindraux proffered her Pork Chops in Mushroom Soup (requiring the chops to take a long soak in butter and mushroom soup); then Khatta Tyabji sent in her recipe for mutton biryani, while Mani Kumana volunteered her recipe for Hyderabadi corn salan.

As one traces the various publications of the Time & Talents Club, it becomes clear why Niloufer Ichaporia King, author of the recent Parsi cookbook My Bombay Kitchen, calls the Club’s cookbooks a “perfect window into Bombay’s changing food-of-everywhere culinary culture.”5 During World War II, the ladies published a booklet of anti-waste recipes, including one that transformed a beloved Parsi egg dish (akuri) into an eggless one made with rotis cooked in masala. When I sift through my mum’s 1975 edition, I find Parsi regulars such as chicken farcha, and colmino saas (prawn sauce), but I also find snows, soufflés, and chiffons. The book is also sprinkled with food-related limericks and witticisms of both Gujarati and English origins, such as one epigram clearly of its time: “A woman who cannot make soup should not be allowed to marry.”

As later versions unspooled through the years, I encounter the further waxing and waning of culinary fashions: fewer snows and soufflés, more microwave recipes. The regressive sayings were tactfully weeded out. In this way, the older Time & Talents cookbooks become capsules of a vanished past.

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Some things remain the same, though. There are always helpful tips throughout. The cooking instructions are crisp, almost clipped. There is no pandering to modern proclivities, such as pictures of the recipes. Even the latest edition, duly updated for modern living, is an oddity in an age that prizes a completely different vocabulary of cooking—it has neither the aggrandizement of restaurant cooking nor the glossy, flattened photographs of Instagram. It is simply good home cooking, mother’s cooking, standing stolidly in its own lane.

1. The Time & Talents Club, Recipes (Mumbai: Bombay Chronicle Press), 1975.

2. Rashna Writer, “Parsi Identity,” Iran 27 (1989): 129–31; Sayeed Unisa, R.B. Bhagat, T.K. Roy, and R.B. Upadhyay, “Demographic Transition or Demographic Trepidation? The Case of Parsis in India,” Economic and Political Weekly 43 (Jan. 2008): 61–65; PTI, “Parsi population dips by 22 percent between 2001-2011,” The Hindu, July 26, 2016.

3. Anisha Rachel Oommen and Aysha Tanya, “This old Parsi cookbook is as singular as the community whose recipes it documents,” Scroll.in, June 13, 2018.

4. Vidya Prabhu, “Nostalgia Lane,” Indian Express, May 9, 2013.

5. Niloufer Ichaporia King, My Bombay Kitchen: Traditional and Modern Parsi Home Cooking (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 21.

About Meher Mirza

Meher Mirza is an independent food, culture and travel writer with a special interest in exploring the anthropology of Indian food and culture through a postcolonial prism. You can follow her on Instagram @bigmlittlem.

https://parsikhabar.net/food/cooking-with-the-time-talents-club/19948/

Scrambled Eggs with wild garlic


Wild Garlic is a favorite of mine. In India it is actually cultivated for consumption. It has the same health benefits that garlic has.

  • Called as Garlic Chives (Garlic Organic)
  • “Leelu Lasan” in India.
  • Field Garlic
  • Crow Garlic, or Onion Grass.
  • Allium Vineale
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Popular nurseries sell these

The flat, tender leaves have a flavor midway between garlic and onion. Delicious in salads, spreads and flavored vinegars. Grows best in full sun. Perennial in Zones 3-10. Start early indoors or outdoors after danger of frost. We searched the world to find the best organic seed-Burpee fully guarantees that not a drop of synthetic chemicals was used to make these excellent seeds. Certified Organic Seed.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch Wild Garlic ( Leelu Lasan, Field Garlic, Crow Garlic, or Onion Grass. Allium Vineale )
  • 2 tsp Clarified butter or Ghee
  • 4 Eggs
  • Salt to taste
  • Chop very fine the clean and washed garlic stems and bulbs.
  • Fry on low heat in butter or clarified butter(ghee)
  • Next add the beaten eggs.
  • Add salt
  • Cook to desired consistency.

Courtesy: Rita Kapadia
http://www.parsicuisine.com/scrambled-eggs-with-wild-garlic/

Celebrated Parsi chef Anahita N Dhondy is today the toast of Asia


Chef Anahita N Dhondy was selected in the ‘Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2019’ list for her contribution towards food sustainability and for popularising the Parsi cuisine.

Chef Anahita N Dhondy promotes sustainable food.

Chef Anahita N Dhondy was at a vegetable market in Hyderabad picking up fresh veggies for her restaurant when the news reached her. She was selected in the ‘Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2019’ list for her contribution towards food sustainability and for popularising the Parsi cuisine.

“It was overwhelming. The congratulatory messages poured in and I was touched by the warmth. I never thought that my work would be recognised at the national level,” says the 28-year-old, who runs SodaBottleOpenerWala, a chain of Parsi restaurants in the country.

Chef Dhondy promotes Indian millets, which are nutritious and inexpensive homegrown grains, in dishes in the restaurant and in her recipes on social media.

“I am grateful that people are recognising sustainability in this sector,” says Dhondy. She has represented India and SodaBottleOpenerWala at the EAT Forum 2018 and the Chefs Manifesto in Stockholm and London in 2018.

These days she is busy conducting workshops in schools to promote Zero Waste and Clean Plate campaigns which is also in line with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“I am teaching youngsters how to reuse food and work towards zero waste of food materials. We have to respect our farmers and environment,” she says.

Smitha Verma

https://www.indiatoday.in/mail-today/story/celebrated-parsi-chef-anahita-n-dhondy-is-today-the-toast-of-asia-1500868-2019-04-13

Mumbai-based chef Mahrukh Mogrelia shares the recipe for Patrani Machhi


That Parsi food is all about sweet and sour flavours is a completely wrong notion, says fifth generation Parsi chef Mahrukh Mogrelia. “Not all our food is sweet and sour. There are a lot of fresh herbs and homemade spices that go into Parsi cooking,” shares Mahrukh, a resident of Nana Chowk in South Mumbai, whose Parsi food pop-ups are extremely popular among her guests. The 49-year-old elegant cook, who has been rustling up delectable dishes since age seven, was in Kolkata to usher in Navroz, the Parsi New Year, with a flavourful week-long festival at The Westin Kolkata Rajarhat. 

Parsi chef Mahrukh Mogrelia

The guests were served authentic Parsi dishes including Chicken Farcha, the Parsi version of Kentucky Fried Chicken, lip smacking Mutton keema cooked with sweet onions, tomatoes, chillies and a hint of coriander and shallow-fried Tatrela prawns coated with green chilli, garlic, cumin seeds, coriander and mango-ginger. There was also a wide array of dessert options including the Lagan Nu Custard, Kopra Pak and Sev. 

On the sidelines of cooking up a storm, she shared with us a simple yet yummy fish recipe, the ever popular Patrani Machhi. “Fish is considered extremely auspicious by us, and we have fish on all festive occasions,” she says. 

So, here is the easy-to-make Patrani Machhi recipe for you: 

Patrani Machhi

Patrani Machhi 

Ingredients: Ten pieces of any fish, it can be betki or a silver pomfret | Two cups of grated coconut | One cup of chopped coriander leaves | One tbsp cumin seeds | One tbsp sugar | Juice of one lemon | Salt to taste 

Prep time: One hour 

Method: 

● Wash the fish, apply salt and turmeric and keep aside for a while. 

● Grind and mix all the ingredients into a fine paste. Take a banana leaf and apply a little cooking oil on it, and put the paste above and under the fish evenly. Then wrap the fish in banana leaf and tie it. 

● Sprinkle some vinegar on it before steaming the fish till it is cooked. 

● Serve with plain rice and daal or enjoy as it is. 

Sharmistha Ghosal

sharmishtha.g@ newindianexpress.com 

https://www.indulgexpress.com/recipe/2019/apr/05/recipe-mumbai-based-chef-mahrukh-mogrelia-shares-the-recipe-for-patrani-machhi-13841.html

@sharmidas  

Dotivala Bakery completes 158 years


Dotivala Bakery completes 158 years — one of the longest surviving businesses in India.
Considering India just celebrated its independence of 70 years from the British Raj, this makes the bakery one of the longest surviving and thriving business in modern day India.
During their reign in India, the Dutch established in Surat a warehouse on Dutch Road, in which five Parsi gentlemen were employed as bakers. When the Dutch left India at the end of their rule they handed over their ovens to one of them, Mr. Faramji Pestonji Dotivala whose descendants over time developed and perfected the Surat biscuit recipes. The Dotivala bakery in Surat continues to this day, making it one of the longest surviving businesses in India.

Click Here for the full story – http://www.parsicuisine.com/dotivala-bakery-completes-158-years-one-of-the-longest-surviving-businesses-in-india/

Cillie’s – A sweet token from the Parsis of Karachi


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The 100 years old house in the Parsi Colony - Cillie: A sweet token from the Parsis of Karachi

The 100 years old house in the Parsi Colony

Cillie's menu and cake


Cillie’s menu and cake

The Parsi community in Karachihas always been a minority, but one that has left an inimitable legacy. Late Jehangir Framroze Punthakey, in his book, The Karachi Zoroastrian Calendar, called the Parsis, “the makers of the Karachi of today.” They belonged to the elite in Karachi, with the city’s first mayor, Jamshed Nusserwanji, also belonging to a Parsi family. Be it institutions like The Mama Parsi Girls’ Secondary School and the BVS Parsi High School, or infrastructure facilities such as the M.A. Jinnah Road, the Parsi community has significantly contributed towards Karachi’s history and heritage. While families like Minwalla and Avari invested into five-star hotels and fine-dining eateries, others chose to adapt a humbler approach towards satisfying the appetites of Karachiites. In the latter category, Cillie’s has remained the market leader for creating delicious baked goods.

Situated inside a 100-year-old house in Parsi Colony, Karachi, Cillie’s stands as a reminder of the inclusivity and tolerance that used to exist in Karachi post-partition, and how the minority communities still survive here in peace and harmony. Upon entering the neighbourhood, which once housed many Parsi families, most of whom have now migrated to the West, a prominent shift in the city’s energy can be felt. With low fenced houses, and single and multi-storey buildings, the locality stands in stark contrast with its adjacent areas of Saddar and M.A. Jinnah Road, which are full of the pollution of a bustling and congested metropolis. Driving into the quiet and calm streets of the Parsi Colony, the visitors are transported to a different zone, where their eyes do not meet high-rise glass buildings, but are instead welcomed by old brown stone structures with big windows and balconies, showcasing architecture from the late colonial period.

In a city known for its rising crime rates, the houses of Parsi Colony confidently keep their gates open and their walls low, without any of their guests worrying about security. Cillie’s too, keeps its main gate open for visitors to walk in without hesitation. Moreover, even though the house has no signboard for the bakery, one can always rely on passerby’s for directions and be guided straight towards the popular destination near the community park. Though the structure is multi-storey, the business itself functions through a small window on the ground floor. With four delicate steps leading up to the window, and a swing placed on the porch for visitors to sit on as they wait for their cakes, Cillie’s looks nothing like a mainstream confectionery, yet immediately gives a warm homely feeling.

The staircase leading upto the house

The staircase leading upto the house

Can you spot the window which has delicious secrets hidden inside?

Can you spot the window which has delicious secrets hidden inside?

The business started in a house in Garden East, nearly 50 years ago, and was founded by a Parsi lady named Cilly, who now lives in Texas. However, the bakery was moved to its current location thirteen years ago, when the owner sold the previous house. The house in Parsi Colony is owned by a sweet lady named Bakhtawar, who greets the visitors personally, and even takes the newbies through the variety of desserts that they serve, ensuring great customer service.

Serving a range of desserts at surprisingly reasonable prices (some of which are as low as Rs.300 for a full cake), including plain cakes, butter icing cakes, and ice creams, Cillie’s was actually the first bakery in Karachi to introduce fresh cream cakes. Though their menu now has 16 different flavours of fresh cream cakes, their classic plain cakes remain hard to beat. The marble cake, especially, is soft and succulent, and serves as a perfect combination with evening tea.

Marble cake

Marble cake

While all desserts are entirely homemade, along with the mousses and creams used for the cakes, only a few delicacies are available for walk-in customers. All other orders need to be placed at least a day before. Since Cillie’s does not have a dedicated social media profile, their main source of publicizing the place remains word of mouth, along with the strong network of fans that Cillie’s has acquired over the years. In fact, the delicacies remain so popular amongst the Parsi Community that Naushad Mehta, Cilly’s son, has opened an outlet of Cillie’s Cakes in Houston, USA as well, and word has it that their products taste equally delicious.

Chocolate fudge, chocolate cream, and peach pineapple cakes

Chocolate fudge, chocolate cream, and peach pineapple cakes

Karachi may have witnessed the birth of numerous new and fancy cafes and bakeries in the last few years, but to say that the best flavours of the city are hidden in quiet corners like Cillie’s would not be an exaggeration. Cillie’s is a perfect representation of the strength of the Parsi community and how dedicatedly they have always served the people of Karachi. Though only a few Parsis remain in Karachi now, the community and its contributions need to be preserved as much as possible, and given the same level of respect as their Muslim counterparts.

Written by: Farheen Abdullah
Posted on: January 03, 2019

https://www.youlinmagazine.com/story/cillie-a-sweet-token-from-the-parsis-of-karachi/MTM4MQ==

Café Spice Namaste, London



On our adventures across the world, each country has their own version of what Indian food is. In the UK today, Indian food is massive with National Curry Week celebrating more than 200 years of Indian restaurants in the UK this year. We were invited to meet super Chef Cyrus Todiwala OBE DL to talk about Indian cooking and to also try the imaginative food at his restaurant, Café Spice Namasté.

Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala’s family-run Indian restaurant near Tower Bridge has been open since 1995. On a rainy November Saturday, the room is packed full of locals, regulars and those in the know. Looking at the menu, what amazed us were the broad range of ingredients on offer. Alongside the main menu, there is also always a seasonal menu which included game meatballs (made with grouse, pheasant, mallard, venison and partridge), pheasant tikka, British apple bhaji and much more.

Cyrus takes ingredients very seriously using local British produce from hand-picked suppliers, many of which only supplying one or two items. Cyrus said, “Ingredients are the main basis upon which we build our cuisine and menu, and are therefore crucial. They have a major impact on the quality, taste and ‘personality’ of the food we prepare.”

Make sure you try the home made pickles to start off. For starters, a goat Dosa hit the mark. A white lentil & rice pancake filled with diced goat in a thick curried yoghurt made sharing very difficult! The other highlight was a salmon tikka from the highlands of Scotland marinated in a delicate green masala sauce. If you are in a group, ask for the mixed grill where you can sample all the tikkas.

The term vindaloo is often associated with tears and having to down a glass of milk in pain to show off your chilli prowess. Here, the real pork vindaloo is on the menu and it’s hot but not fiery hot with the deep chilli flavour coming through. My vegetarian companion particularly loved the smoked aubergine cooked with shallots, tomato & yoghurt and the lentils sizzled with chopped garlic and cumin.

After dinner we asked Cyrus what was next for Indian cuisine. He said, “Indian cuisine has great heritage and culinary background. I feel that lots of new regional restaurants will emerge. What restaurants must also realise is that dining habits are changing and they must keep abreast of new developments including allergies, better sourcing and sustainability.”

Overall, what struck us most was that Café Spice is so authentically different. Cyrus and Pervin have built an award-winning institution, holding a coveted Michelin BIB Gourmand for 18 years which says a lot about the experience, which is what this was – an experience. Dinner was like a voyage of discovery which we want to go on again and again.

http://www.tntmagazine.com/london/food-and-drink/cafe-spice-namaste-london

Read more: Café Spice Namaste, London – TNT Magazine
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World Egg Day: What the eeda? Understanding the Parsi love for eggs


From tomato per eeda to fried kera per eeda, we try to analyse the unending love affair which Parsis have with eggs.

 

A Parsi dish prepared with mangoes and eggs at Soda Bottle Opener Wala. (Source: sbowindia/Instagram)

Eggs play a starring role not just in Parsi cuisine, but in Parsi customs too. In Bapsi Sidhwa’s novel, The Crow Eaters when a newlywed Parsi couple enters their house, a number of rituals are performed and in what is a prominent step, the mother of the bride breaks a raw egg on the floor after circling a silver tray around the girl’s head seven times. Not just at weddings, “a similar practice is performed during Diwali too. An egg is drawn around the main door or entrance to the house” says Kainaz Contractor of Rustom’s Parsi Bhonu. “The use of eggs in a wedding and navjote celebration is mainly to ward off bad luck, calamity or the evil eye and to bring good luck.”

But has it always been the case, or is the Parsi obsession with eggs a recent phenomenon?

Turns out, this egg mania finds its roots in ancient Iran. According to Contractor, “in ancient Iran and in the entire Caucasian region, eggs were seen as a symbol of fertility and new life”, which is the reason behind eggs becoming a key part of Parsi cuisine.

As a practice integral to their customs, Parsis are supposed to observe abstinence on the eleventh month of the Parsi year, Bahman, when they do not eat meat – yet, eggs are allowed at this time. “The month of Bahman is the equivalent of the Christian Lent. Zoroastrians abstain from eating meat. Since vegetables were limited in variety and availability, fish and eggs became the mainstays of the month.” Even if vegetables have long surpassed these limitations with respect to both availability and variety, eggs never left the Parsi plate.

Contractor also believes that from a culinary point of view, eggs are a major part of Parsi cuisine because they are “very strong believers that any dish can be made better with eggs, especially vegetables, making it more appealing to children and hardcore meat lovers. In fact, one of the signature starters at our joint is a crisp-fried egg topped on spicy kheema pao and egg and cheese balls with mashed potatoes and spring onion.”

However, culinary anthropologist Kurush Dalal feels that the very concept of associating Parsi cuisine with (mostly) eggs is what is a classic case of “overgeneralisation”. “Eggs are well packaged and have a good protein content. That is why they find their place in Parsi food. It is nothing new. It is an absolute misconception that Parsis break an egg into almost everything. You will never find eggs in Dhansak or Patra ni Machi”, he explains.

Written by Priyanjana Roy Das

Click here for the original article in Indian Express

Mango: The King of Fruits || Outside and In with The Cooks Cook


Today on episode 4 of Outside and In with the Cooks Cook we explore the Mango! Well known as the King of Fruits it can be used in all sorts of cooking as shown by guest chef Niloufer Mavalvala.

Lassi Recipe:
Pickles Recipe:
Mango Stew Recipe:
Cake Recipe:

#TheCooksCook #ParsiFood #MangoRecipes

 

Niloufer Mavalvala

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