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Recipes for my Grandchildren

Recipes for my grandchildren. That's my blogging group topic this week. I don't have grandchildren. Well, I do, but not actual descendants. On the Indian side of the family, I have an adorable baby granddaughter named Araina, who looks like an angel. As she is my nephew and niece-in-law's daughter, I'm really her great aunt. But I love her as if she was my own grandchild. Having said that, Araina, already has four doting grandparents and she's the centre of their lives, so I'm a spare grandmother. I come in on her paternal grandfather's side. The paternal grandmother, like me, is one of four siblings, so this baby is inundated with grandparents. That's the Indian way. It's one of the things I actually love about Indian life. We don't say cousins here. All cousins are brothers and sisters. Parents' cousins are also honorary uncles and aunts. Grandparents' siblings and in-laws, are also grandparents.

When it comes to cooking I'm not the best, but I can get by. I didn't cook much in my pre-marital life. When I lived at home, as a young, working girl, along with two of my siblings and my mother, our family usually assembled weekly for a Sunday dinner, depending on who was in Dublin that weekend.  The rest of the week, we were all busy with individual lives and projects. My mother always made sure the cupboard and freezer were well stocked with food like rice or potatoes, vegetables, and handy protein items like fish fingers, tuna and frozen burgers. When any one of us reached home, throwing together a 'meat, potatoes and two veg-type meal' in a short span of time was entirely possible.

When our son left home a few years ago to live in a student flat in Ireland, we, meaning myself and himself (or 'my husband and I' as the Queen might say) faced the same worry as other Indian parents. 'How will he manage his food?' Yes, my friends, food is a focal point of Indian family life. I'm Irish for sure, a Dublin woman and proud. But I raised my family in north India, so I'm a compound of cultures, so to speak. An Irish mammy who cooks curry every single day. Your typical north Indian meal has four main elements and numerous other attachments. I gave my son a crash course in this before he left home. I'm sure he listened enthralled as I described how to wash rice and soak it a couple of hours before turning on the heat on an induction cooker. I'm sure he hung on to my every word as I lovingly instructed him in the noble art of taking half a cup of dal beans (lentils will do just fine, moong beans are even better if you can get them in Tesco's) and washing them, soaking them and cooking them in salt and turmeric before boiling and tempering with a mixture of  hot butter oil (refined will do!) with some jeera seeds, asafoetida and chilli powder which should not burn. Otherwise, the whole house would be coughing in agony. That's not even the half of it. But that's as far as I got.

The third element in a north Indian meal is the bread. Which is made from scratch. You take the wheat

Image by M Ameen from Pixabay 
flour and some water and knead a dough. Then you take balls of dough off and roll them in flat circles like pancakes and cook them on a flat pan called a tawa until they're puffed and ready to eat with your ....oh, yeah, the curry. No point in making the breads if the curry's not ready. Now there are simply hundreds of curries that can be made and they're all different depending on which part of India you're from. There are gravy-type curries and dry curries. I learned to start cooking them with gravy. And there are at least two main types of gravy. Yet a basic curry gravy would consist of  one or two onions, grated and fried to golden brown, to which some a grated tomato or two is added. I've seen this basic mixture made hundreds of times now and no single cook seems to agree on when is the best time to add the spices. My in-law family always creates this mixture. Take a quarter of a teaspoon of turmeric powder, and the same amount of chilli powder and the same amount of  coriander powder, to which some salt has been added. Sometimes, I skip this stage and just use a teaspoonful of curry powder. Much easier. When to add the spices? When I'm cooking alone, I decide myself. When I'm cooking with someone else, I let them decide. I've always found it better to add my my curry powder mixture to a little water before adding it into my tomato-and-onion mixture. Some people prefer to add the spices when the onions are frying, long before adding tomato. I can't tell the difference once I'm eating the curry, but it could be because I'm not the most expert Indian cook. Once your basic curry sauce is prepared, you can put whatever you want into it. Chopped boiled potatoes, cooked chickpeas or kidney beans, frozen vegetables, cooked, chopped chicken, anything. You can also make an 'onion-free' version of this sauce as some Hindus avoid onions on certain days and stages of life.


Image by ElasticComputeFarm from Pixabay 

When I reached Athlone in 2017 with my son, the place where he would be studying for the next two years, I knew he could make his and rice, but I wasn't sure about his curry and rotis (breads). Then we visited Lidl, the supermarket down the road from the student flats, We got a pleasant surprise there. I found that Indian-style rotis/chapatis(flatbreads) were available in packets. You could buy six or twelve at a time. They were actually based on a Mexican recipe and called 'tortilla wraps'. They may have contained baking powder and a few herbs, yet my son and I enjoyed them wholeheartedly and found them to be a perfectly acceptable substitute for the freshly hand-rolled rotis. If my husband had to live in Ireland, he might find these a bit bland. However, he loves pitta bread, so that is an acceptable roti substitute for him. But the curry sauce was the thing I dreaded most. Manek was trying to figure how to make a curry sauce, but I wasn't sure if he was really 'getting it', so to speak. But another visit to Lidl put a stop to that fear forever. I noticed a product in Lidl called 'Kanpur Garden Curry Sauce'. They had a mild and a medium version. I looked in vain for a very hot version, but had no luck with that. . We took it home, heated it up and added some frozen vegetables which we had already thawed with hot water into it. There it was. The curry was all done. Thanks to the tortilla wraps and the curry sauce, I knew my son would be able to survive, eating the food he loves. Take the easy way out would be advice that I would give to any grandchildren I might have in the future. By all means cook what you want. But we're not always in a creative, cooking mood and sometimes we need to cut corners, especially when other things are going on.

A Photo of My Microwave Soda Bread

In comparison with India, Irish food is quite simple. In Ireland, we have good meat, plenty of potatoes and vegetables like turnips and peas. There are a few Irish items that I adore, however. One of them is Irish soda bread. I'm not sure how it came about but apparently, the Irish found it difficult to get their hands on yeast for bread-making. So they used baking soda to make bread. I don't have a regular oven, just a microwave with convection action. But I learned how to make soda bread in the microwave and this is a recipe I'll be happy to share with my future grandchildren, if they are interested. Here it is.



IRISH MICROWAVE SODA BREAD

Ingredients

4 standard cups of flour

Half teaspoon of salt

Half teaspoon of baking soda

Buttermilk, use as required.


Method

Strain the flour with the salt and baking soda. Mix it around to ensure it's evenly spread. Take a cup of buttermilk and introduce it to the flour. Add a few drops every so often as required. Knead the mixture by hand, only adding enough buttermilk to make a firm dough. The finished dough should be soft but firm and not too sticky. Many experts recommend not to over-knead soda bread as they say it becomes too tough. 

Put your loaf on a greased baking sheet. Cut a deep cross in the loaf.

For a gas or electric oven, preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. whichever is relevant to you. It can be baked for forty five minutes to an hour, but you need to watch it. 

If you need to make it in the microwave like I do, ten minutes on full power is enough. Make sure you use a microwave-friendly baking sheet. I use a microwave-compatible glass plate. As the microwave can dry out food, it's a good idea to put a microwave-proof container about the size of a glass, filled with water, inside the oven while your bread is baking. Make sure to remove it when your bread is baked.

This is a a very plain recipe. You can do a Google search for Irish soda bread and find a lot of fancier recipes including honey and other interesting ingredients. You can use those if you'd prefer.  A word of caution. If you can't finish the loaf straight away, you can break it into quarters and freeze the rest. It should keep for a good while. Defrost each portion as you need to use it. 


TRADITIONAL DUBLIN GUR CAKE

Thanks to 'Your Living City' Stockholm.
Gur Cake was always a popular piece of confectionary in Dublin. It's not exclusive to Dublin. It's found under different names in various corners of Ireland and the UK. The British might know it as Chester cake. It's a handy way to use up stale bread. I read somewhere on the Internet recently that Dubliners call this cake 'gur cake' because it was a favourite of Dublin young people known as 'gurriers'. That's impossible. The word 'gurrier' is used to describe a rough, criminal type and it's not at all flattering. I think it got its name from the fact that unrefined, brown sugar, known in India as 'gur' is the main ingredient. The Hindi word word 'gur' doesn't rhyme with the English word 'fur'. In Hindi, the north Indian language, 'gur' rhymes with the English word 'good'. Except that instead of finishing the word with a 'd' sound, it's finished with a hard 'r' sound instead. It's almost a 'd', but it isn't. 

My friend and namesake, Marie Perry in Dublin, recently published her grandmother's own recipe for this delicious cake, on Facebook. I grabbed the recipe to try it out one of these days. When I realised that this post was about recipes for grandchildren, I know that this is one recipe I would dearly love to hand down. Mrs Perry and I are not relatives, to the best of our knowledge, although our family trees may intersect at some point. In Ireland, 'Marie' and 'Maria' are more or less the same name. I'm often called 'Marie' rather than 'Maria' by my sisters. I was born into the Perry clan, while my friend married into it. As this is Marie's grandmother's recipe, she calls it after her grandmother. It's interesting how Irish people often call their grandmother 'nanny'. In India, mother's mother is always called 'nani'. That's the name my children called my late mother. Many thanks to Marie O'Farrell Perry for sharing her grandmother's recipe.

NANNY PALMER'S GUR CAKE

Ingredients:

Pastry:

500 gram plain flour

250 gram margarine

Cold water

Filling:

300 gram of stale bread 

350 ml of fresh, strongly brewed tea

150 gram of mixed fruit like raisins, sultanas etc

150 grams of dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons of mixed spice

1 egg


For the Pastry:

Mix the flour and margarine until you have a mixture that resembles breadcrumbs. Add water until the pastry consistency is fine. Break into two pieces and roll one half for the bottom of the tray and one half for the top. 


For the Filling:

Remove the hard crusts from the bread. Place the bread into a medium-sized bowl and pour the tea over it. Allow the tea to soak in and soften for a minute or two, then mash well by hand or with a fork. The mashed bread mixture should be stiff rather than liquid. So pour off excess liquid. Then stir in the fruit, sugar, spice, and egg. Mix it well and leave it for an hour. 


Baking the Gur Cake

When you're ready to bake, preheat your oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6.

Place the filling on the first layer of pastry. Then top the filling with the second layer. Prick the filling with a fork and brush the top with a little milk or egg wash.

Bake the cake for about 35 minutes until golden brown. Then enjoy this cake with a big mug of tea. Yes, it's a Dublin recipe all right. 

NB: 'Mixed Spice' refers to a spice mixture that's often used for making English cakes. It usually contains nutmeg and cinnamon.


Handing Down Traditions

As I said earlier, there's no harm in cutting corners, sometimes. But these are two traditional  Irish recipes I would love to hand down to my children and my grandchildren.


Thanks to Pixabay  especially to Bruno /Germany from Pixabay for the blog banner image, and also to Living City Stockholm for the Traditional Dublin Gur Cake image.

Please Visit the Other Blog Friday Group Members

The other seven bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are  Ramana, Sanjana, PadmumRaju, Shackman, Srivatsa and Conrad.  This week’s topic was suggested by Sanjana. 

Comments

  1. A pity that my travelling days are over as otherwise, I would have caught the next plane to Lucknow to visit you to see quite how you will feed me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Please come! Have you taken a vow not to leave your native place like a sadhu?

      Delete
    2. I have indeed become a Sadhu but, that is not the reason for my inability. It is physical limitations due to my aging prostheses and COPD.

      Delete
    3. May the Lord restore you to the fullness of health, Sadhu baba

      Delete
  2. What a well-written post! I loved reading about your adventures with North Indian food, and reading your recipes. I'll have to try some of them out for myself soon! Well-written take on the topic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Sanjana. I loved writing this post although I worried initially as to what I would write.

      Delete
  3. Marie-sounds like being raised in the South where families lived near my grandparents so that my uncles and aunts were my third parents and my grandparents my second parents. Like you, I can cook, if I have to, but my granddaughter takes after her mother, my daughter, and is a better cook than me. Loved reading your post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey, it's great to see you again over here, Judy. Are you back to blogging again?

      Delete
  4. Wow! I suspected that an Irish and Indian cultural mix would tells some culinary magic. I was not disappointed!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am glad you enjoyed the post. I basically cook Indian now, with a few Irish recipes thrown in.

      Delete
  5. Happy reading...am going to try out your Microwave Soda Bread! When I saw the name Gur cake..I knew there must be an Indian Raj connection.
    Strange...I have also written about my son's first trip abroad!
    Bless you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope that soda bread works out for you, Padmini. Remember, you can freeze it if you can't eat it all at once. I always have to freeze at three quarters of mine. It tastes well with butter. Too dry without it.

      Delete

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