Thursday, 16 September 2010

Close Encounters of the Olfactory Kind

What do you do when your olfactory senses are assaulted by a concert of banquet aromas
nearly everyday? You sit and wonder if an invisible genie is laying out a feast for you in the overgrown part of your garden and you can 't even see it!
All sorts of delicious .nose tingling smells come wafting over our vegetation (pictured above) at all hours. Vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies nudge our noses , heavy , light, spicy, tangy and savoury. We can identify each dish by its redolence.

Ah, today its pooris and an assortment of sabzis.

Hmmmmm- it biryani they are cooking

Mama can you smell the jhal farezi ( aromatic lamb) ?

Now its the turn of pakoras and party snacks.


I think this one is chaat.



This culinary jigsaw was finally pieced together when Jags our helper told us that beyond our campus there lives a cook who runs a catering service from his house. He takes orders from people , cooks the food at home and delivers them on location.
Home delivery party food is becoming very popular in the cities. It is very convenient for those living in small flats, or are deficit in time or talent. Many conservative Hindus will not allow non-vegetarian food to be cooked in their kitchens. Ordering food from outside is fashionable and snobbish too.

You just give them your menu and the number of people and you will have your desires home delivered.


Chefs, cooks , khansamas and restaurants are cashing in on this demand. Meanwhile we are the uninvited virtual guests at the parties our neighbour caters for.
I wish food had no smell. My doggie Sheeba strongly agrees.

Here is an article about the Persian influence on Indian ( Punjabi in particular) food which I procured from the India Today website. The mogul painting are very beautiful.

Would it surprise you to know that the all-time favourite combination among Punjabis—seekh kebab and naan— originated in Persia, and not in India? Fans of the food in Punjab and, in fact, all over India, have the Mughals to thank for introducing these culinary delights to us.
Seekh kebab is served under a heap of rice in Iran. Naan is the bread that the Iranians buy from their local bakers, who are called naanvas.A great deal of Punjabi cuisine is a blend of Indo-Mughal-Persian food. And it often comes as a pleasant surprise to people of both regions to find that there are so many similarities in their gastronomic culture.When Pakseema, an Iranian Ph.D scholar at Panjab University in Chandigarh, wanted to make her favourite Iranian dish, she spent half an hour describing to a shopkeeper the special metal stick she would need to cook it. The shopkeeper told her he didn’t know what she wanted, but offered to sell her the seekh that is used to make kebabs in India.
A 16th century Mughal miniature painting of Babur carving a chicken
Pakseema was taken aback and delighted, as she had planned to make seekh kebabs, her favourite Iranian dish. She explains that in Iran, seekh kebab is eaten with rice, placed first on the plate and topped off with a heap of rice. Naan, in Iran, is the bread that is bought directly from the bakers, who are called naanva (naan baker).Paneer, every Punjabi’s ultimate comfort food, also originates in Persia and was introduced to Punjabi cuisine by the Mughals. Along with it came palak paneer and saag paneer. In Iran, paneer is generally salty and is eaten spread on bread for breakfast. Another favourite common to both cultures is the samosa, known as pirashki. More popular in India as a vegetarian item, the Iranian version is stuffed with mincemeat or gosht and nuts.

Using the dum pukht method to cook goshtSpeaking of nuts, we also owe our taste for almonds, pistachio, walnuts and kishmish, or raisins, to the Persian influence. Even our very own halwa (pudding)is not ours and has come into our cuisine from Persia and is known there by the same name.A lunch hosted by Afsaneh, another Persian scholar pursuing an education at Panjab University, surprised her Punjabi friends as she served gosht kormeh, kormeh subzi and dum pilau (rice cooked in steam).

Kulfi and falooda are equally popular in Iran as an after-meal dessertDum pukht, known as dam pokhtak in Iran, was another Mughal introduction. A popular preparation from Isfahan, in Iran, is the preparation of rice with gosht cooked in the dum pukht style—biryani, which took on an indigenous flavour in India. Special cooking units, until then unknown in India, were set up, enabling royal chefs to prepare unique gastronomic fare for the emperor during the Mughal period. These were called tandoors, known as tanoor in Persia.



Today, Punjabi cuisine is famous for its tandoori chicken.When Pali Singh went to Iran from Punjab after her marriage 47 years ago, she was thrilled to find the familiar lassi, or doog, as it is called there, available everywhere. As time went by, she found many similarities in the cuisine and culinary culture of both regions. She was amazed to find that methi sabzi, known as shamlile, was one of the main ingredients of kormeh sabzi.
Even the concept of sweetmeats after the main meal was introduced by the Persians. The most common being kulfi and falooda, eaten in tall glasses in Iran. Even jalebi found its way to our hearts from Persia! Sherbet, served during Indian summers, originated in Persia. An interesting miniature painting in Nimat Nama, a Persian recipe book written some time between the late 15th century and early 16th century, shows the preparation of sherbet under the supervision of the Sultan of Mandu.It is amazing how, within a few centuries, Persian flavour is so deeply embedded in our local cuisine that it is now famous internationally as the food of Punjab.Seema Bhalla, Art Historian
Here is a video of Chef Sanjay making roomali rotis or Hanky Chapatis. They are so named as they are very thin and large like round hankies. The chefs twirl the rotis in the air to increase their size. Its a combination of cooking and juggling. Enjoy.





A few days ago I took these photos of my mother cutting up okra and reading her Bible on the veranda.


Of course Sheeba is our faithful companion. She likes to be photographed.


The scent of the Delicious food being cooked in our neighbourhood reminds me of what the Old Testament sacrifices must have smelt like The Temple in Jerusalem on the Day of Atonement was filled with the smells of meat being cooked on an open fire. With so many animals being sacrificed on that one day the whole city must be overcome by their fragrance.
The sacrifices were pleasing to God not so much for the smell but for the sins confessed.
Inhaling the aroma of fragrant food gives me a tiny insight of the enormous pleasure God must experience when his people confess their sins. "For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death,to the other the fragrance of life." 2 Cor 2' ;15-16 (New Testament)

11 Fertilize my soul:

Khyra And Sometimes Her Mom said...

I'm SO craving some of these items!

There are Indian restaurants near my town - but none here anymore -

I'm trying to smell all those wonderful aromas!

Thanks for sharing!

Dani said...

very interesting post....I am not familiar with some of the food names and can only imagine the scents but am intrigued...the video is great too.....we don't have any Indian restaurants here but believe there are some in the large cities..far from us though.......

Holly, the Old Western Gal said...

You are as cruel as that caterer, Amrita, tempting me with these delicious but unfortunately virtual scents -- How I would love to sample them myself and also send a giant basket of delights to your house, for you and yours, including of course the noble Sheeba!

sarah said...

I love hearing about and seeing different cultures...this post is soo interesting.

Zimbabwe said...

I like cook the chicken with coconut milk, apples, bananas, tomatoes and curry. It looks like Indian, but I guess that not exactly :).
When I was teenager, my school was in the neibourghood of old chocolate and sweets factory. In this part of my city everywhere there was sweet smell of carmel. Unfortunately, this factory doesn't exist now...

Amrita said...

Hello ladies thank you for your conversations, they are such a delight to read.

Hi Holly I think I shall have to charge Mr Cook a tax for taxing our noses so much. But I notice he has not received any order in the few days. Weekends are big. Sheeba goes into a tailspin as soon as she smells the Postman bringing your pkts.

Hi Zimb living near a chocolate factory must be hard too- all those yummy smells. Europeans chocolates are good. I like the slightly bitter ones. Some relatives who visited Europe brought us some.

Amrita said...

And ladie s you should try Indian restaurants in your area. The food in there is not too spicy , its according to Western tastes. They can tone down the spices for you. But try the hanky (rumali) chapatis, they are very light

Julie said...

I would have a hard time staying on my diet smelling all that delicious food all day. It sounds wonderful. Love the photos of your mother and Sheeba

Amrita said...

Hi Julie I agree with you 100%

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

I am glad I had just finished eating supper when I read this so that I wasn't tormentingly tantalized. I have had many of these dishes; they are very tasty.

Amrita said...

Dear Elizabeth, you are no stranger to the Middle East and Asia an d I know you 've tasted all these foods.