Cut and paste

The Family makes a wonderful chana masala. Every time she makes a bunch I lap it up. When I meet a long lost friend from her years in the US, the second thing they say is how much they miss her chana masala. She uses very little oil these days, but the taste has remained the same. I asked her what the secret was, and she said “Cut and paste, that’s all.” Cut the onions and tomatoes. Puree them separately. Fry the onion paste till it is done. Add the tomato paste and cook it. Add a ginger and garlic paste; she makes it in bunches and stores them in jars in the fridge. Give them the same treatment. Add in the masala. “Which?” I interrupted. “The usual. Turmeric, jeera and dhania powder. Cook. Add the chana. Cook. Sprinkle powdered garam masala towards the end of the cook. Add some tamarind paste for the sour tang, or sometimes a bit of amchur (the mango gives a very special taste). You are done.

“No tea?” I asked. No, she likes the colour as it is. “It always tastes better the second day,” I told her. She’s noticed. Maybe if she smashes the chana a little during the cook, she muses. I don’t mind eating it the second day. “You didn’t say anything about the microgreens,” I persist. She’s still trying them out, and hasn’t arrived at something satisfactory.

The real secret is the time. She gives each ingredient the time and temperature it needs. You have to treat your food with respect and attention. I won’t be able to reproduce the same effect, because I haven’t felt the odour or seen the colour which tells me when to turn the heat up or down. You cook with your whole being, fully in the moment. It is zen. It is such a wonderful way to relax, almost up there with washing dishes.