Food, like music has this strange but lovely ability of bringing back memories. One such childhood memory was triggered recently at the recently hosted Bohri food festival at The Resort, Madh Island.
When I was in school, I had just one close friend, with whom I shared all my stories. Hussain Rangwala, a boy equally reserved and simple. We hopped to school together, ate lunch together, had our bus ride to and fro to school together and went to tuitions together. Well, it was Hussain’s mother-Fiza aunty under whose tutelage we shone however bright we could, in school. She left us a few year’s back after succumbing to cancer but her positivity, zeal for life and humility has stayed with us. May the Lord bless her soul.
There were so many lunches that she cooked for the two of us. The taste was so different for me then. We usually cooked Maharashtrian meals most of the time, with a sprinkling of pizzas, pastas, Chinese and Indian meals. But Bohri meals had never been part of my mother’s experiments ever. So for me it was a meal I waited for always. My eyes twinkled with glee on seeing the grand’ Bohri Thaal’ being laid and the entire family was being seated around it. Happy and homely, as I would feel in their home, we enjoyed the family time.
Her style of making chicken roast (she called it roasht), bohri mutton biryani, falooda, laal batata (not-so-bohri; but her specialty), kalamro, and mutton undhiyo was special. Yes, a dish that we know as predominantly vegetarian was made with mutton. But one dish that stood out was ‘Dabba Gosht’. This was a unique recipe from her kitchen. She added ‘roux’ to this recipe. One of those nouvelle international twists to the humble gosht delicacy. But the roux she made was made with ghee and maida, and not with the ‘oh-so-francaise’ buerre et fleur. She was such a gorgeous cook and human being, who left us with so many fond memories.
Last Sunday, we drove to Madh Island, to witness a Bohri Meal pop up by Umaima Abdulally at The Resort Madh Island.to their usual brunch buffet, they had an extension of 3 dishes- Gol Paani, Dabba Gosht and Kalamro. Two of those dishes instantly rang a bell in my mind. We skipped the entire buffet and just wanted to spend some time by the beach with some Bohri Food, which was the main drawing point.
Gol Paani, was made with jaggery, lemon juice, and water. Added to that were some ‘sabja seeds’. A coolant which was unusual in the city that is literally clamped in the claws of ‘ Nimboo Paani’. Sabja seeds added a ‘cool’ twist to the same. We were told by Umaima, that it is a drink that is usually had while breaking their fasts, being an instant energizer and blood sugar leveler. After ample conversation with her, we moved onto digging into the dabba. (Chaffing dishes in this case). In homes, it is usually layered in aluminum container (which gives the dish its unusual name) of in bake proof deep pans, usually topped with sliced tomatoes and boiled eggs. Fiza Aunty made this dish with noodles and placed a plain omlette on top on special days. The omlette, twist was just because I did not like the ammoniac smell of eggs cooked along with other meats. The omlette was then splashed with hot ghee. Umaima, had added some macaroni instead. The base was the same beautiful, delicately spiced cashewnut gravy scalded with some ghee ka tadka. But what I missed was Fiza Aunty’s technique of emulsifying the gravy and holding it together. Also, the fact that I have always eaten it cooked with Lamb, chicken-on-bone was a surprise.
Kalamro, is one of their most iconic desserts. It is usually made aa a delicacy during the month on Rabi-ul-awwal to celebrate the birth of Prophet Mohammad. It is a jugalbandi of rice, curd, sugar, pomegranate seeds, rose petals, raisins and charoli. I have eaten many version of this. Some with an addition of malai, some with mawa and some with poppy seeds too. But I feel the one with just curd, tastes most authentic. Like they say in food, there is no wrong or right. Most families have their own takes and twists, which cannot be countered or challenged.
Well, on that note, allow me to sign off and share Umaima Abdulally’s recipe of Dabba gosht with chicken.
Preparation Time: 1 hour 15 minutes (1 hour margination time)
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Chicken, cut into medium pieces – 500gms
Ginger Paste – 1 teaspoon
Garlic Paste – 1 teaspoon
Chilli Paste – 1 teaspoon
Oil – 20ml
Broken Cashewnuts – 100grams
Milk – 20ml
Boiled Macaroni – 100grams
Tomatoes – 2 nos
Eggs – 2 nos
Ghee – 30ml
Foil container or baking dish – 1
Clean chicken and marinate with ginger paste, garlic paste, chilli paste, curd and salt for 1 hour.
Soak cashew nuts for 10 minutes and grind to a smooth paste.
Boil chicken till it is soft and tender. Drain the chicken and retain the liquid.
In a non-stick pan, heat oil, crackle jeera and saute cashew nut paste till oil oozes out from the sides.
Add in the cooked chicken liquid, little milk to form a smooth gravy. Mix in the chicken pieces and cook for 15 minutes.
Remove from flame and mix the macaroni
Transfer the chicken into a baking dish. Top with sliced tomatoes and beaten egg.
Heat ghee and pour on the egg layer. Bake the dish or 5 minutes till egg layer is cooked.