No discussion on India would be complete without mentioning its food which is as rich and colorful as its residents. And I am not kidding when I say that travelling from one region to another will not only introduce you to different languages and dialects but also to markedly varied cuisines.
And of course, spices are essential in our cuisine. The spice trade which began during the ancient civilizations was considered to be the trigger for the ‘Age of Discovery’ during which Europe began exploring for new routes to the East Indies.
I still have very fond memories of my Grandma’s kitchen where food used to be prepared the way it should be—from scratch. It was labor intensive but also a lot of fun. I know because I used to help. Water was drawn from the well in the yard, spices were ground in ancient stone grinders, so was flour for bread, batter for idlis (steamed rice cakes), dosas (crepes made from rice and lentil batter) and chutneys (fine and coarse sauces made from fruits, or vegetables and spices.) And when the food was being cooked, the aroma would fill the entire neighborhood. My favorite was the one of rasam (a light and spicy south Indian lentil soup.) It still is.
Now I would like to share with you some of my personal favorites.
I begin with a special Indian Vegetarian Barbecue which I had the privilege of indulging in last time I was in India. I wish to thank my wonderful cousin and her husband for this experience. We were in Khandala (a hill station near Mumbai,) in a private resort bungalow with our very own personal chef and this is what we were served on our first night there. YUM!!
Thick pieces of Paneer (fresh Indian cheese) marinated in spices, tomatoes, onions, green bell peppers, cilantro and mint chutney.
Mounted on skewers and slow cooked over charcoal.
Finished product served with vegetable biryani (basmati rice cooked with veggies and spices)!