When it comes to learning from by the experts it’s true that our grandmas, or nonnas, are up there with the best professional chefs. At least that’s what I’ve come to appreciate after watching every inspiring episode of ‘Jamie Oliver and The Nonnas‘. In the show he tours Italy in search of some of the most experienced home cooks in the country. The nonnas he meets have 50 years plus experience in the kitchen, and many of them are masterchef style celebrities in their home villages and towns.
What makes their dishes so special is that they’ve often been passed down through generations, they use regional and seasonal produce (often from their own gardens) and in most cases their recipes are their own creations.
With this new found appreciation of our nonnas on a recent visit to the UK I couldn’t wait to spend a long overdue day in the kitchen with Sudha, my mother in law. Sudha, has been cooking Indian Gujarati food (all vegetarian) for almost 50 years, most of them spent in the UK. Her food is mindblowingly good – and beats anything I’ve ever tasted in an Indian restaurant. Even my ‘I can’t imagine a feast without meat’ brother-in-law was happy and started coming round to vegetarianism after trying Sudha’s biryani.
Like the Italian nonnas Sudha’s recipes and techniques are truly her own – no cookbooks, internet searches or TV shows are involved. In fact she doesn’t even have her recipes noted down anywhere – they’re all firmly imprinted in her own mind. That’s why with this post, the first in a series of her Gujarati recipes, I’m keen to preserve in writing some of her cooking magic. Like all of Sudha’s recipes this curry is made with no onion or garlic – but if you so wish you can add them in….
- 12 small potatoes
- 3 cups frozen peas
- 200ml chopped tomatoes
- 1.5 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 tsp fresh ginger crushed
- 2 tbsp coconut oil or ghee
- 1.5 tbsp black mustard seeds
- 1.5 tsp cumin seeds
- 1.5 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 2 tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp chopped fresh green chilli
- 2 tsp salt
- 1.5 tsp black pepper
- 2.5 cups warm water
- Wash and peel the potatoes, then chop into bitesize pieces.
- Rinse the peeled potatoes to remove the starch, then allow to soak covered in water.
- Add the oil to a large pan and once hot add the mustard seeds and cook until they pop.
- Then add the cumin seeds, fresh ginger and 1/2 tsp of the turmeric.
- Drain the potatoes and add to the pan and stir well.
- Then add the fresh chilli, salt, black pepper, peas and water.
- Cook for one hour on a low heat or until the potatoes are soft.
- Add the final spices – 1 tsp each of turmeric, cumin and coriander powder and 2 tsp chilli powder.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and puree and stir well.
- Cook for another 15 minutes and then serve.
That’s all there is to it – a simple, inexpensive and delicious vegetarian curry. And of course you could switch out the potatoes for sweet potatoes – but before you do check out my post on the nutritional benefits of potatoes.