So, this Mother’s Day, May 14, let your mom know you care by making her a nice meal. Then plan to do it often throughout the year.
Kids and dads: remember to clean up after cooking.
Here is a menu for a warm, tasty, and nutritious brunch that any desi mom will love.
A savory entrée made from rice cereal, corn meal, garbanzo flour, and vegetables
Dhokla is an example of traditional Gujarati home cooking. They are appropriate for special occasions, since their preparation is time-consuming. One rarely finds dhokla on a fancy restaurant menu.
Dhoklas are made in three steps. First rice cereal, corn meal, and garbanzo flour are soaked in water and lemon juice for several hours or overnight. To this fermented batter, spices, baking soda, and grated vegetables are added. The mixture is then transferred to a pie plate and steamed. The steamed dhoklas are then cooled and cut into small squares or diamonds. They can be served at this stage with a chutney.
In an additional step, the pieces are briefly stir-fried with a little oil and mustard seeds. Stir-frying makes the pieces firmer and tastier even when served cold. People who wish to avoid extra oil can skip this last step.
1 cup uncooked cream-of-rice cereal
1 cup cornmeal
¼ cup garbanzo flour
¾ cup water
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup water blended with ¼ cup yogurt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon each turmeric powder, cumin powder, and coriander powder
2 to 3 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon cayenne powder
½ cup each grated carrots and zucchini
¼ cup unsweetened shredded dried coconut
2 tablespoons corn or peanut oil
¼ teaspoon brown mustard seeds
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Mix the cream of rice, cornmeal, garbanzo flour, water, and lemon juice thoroughly. Cover the mixture and let it stand overnight or for at least four hours. Then add the water-and-yogurt mixture, and the baking soda. Blend the batter well and allow it to stand for half an hour. Then add the salt, spices, grated vegetables, and coconut. Mix well, adding more water if necessary to make a batter that has a pancake-like consistency.
Grease three pie plates. Divide the batter into three parts and pour each part into a pie plate, filling each plate half-way. Then arrange a steaming apparatus as follows: Put two cups of water in a wok or a wide Dutch Oven and place a vegetable steamer in it. Set a pie plate carefully on the vegetable steamer and cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid. Heat over a medium flame and steam for about half-an-hour or until the batter is settled and, when tested with a fork, the fork comes out clean. Remove the pie plate and allow the dhokla pie to cool. Repeat the process to steam the remaining two dhokla pies.
When the dhoklas are cool, gently pry them out of the pie plates. Cut them first into strips and then into small diamond-shaped pieces. The dhoklas are ready to be served with a chutney or raita (yogurt salad).
Alternatively, pan-fry the pieces as follows: Place two tablespoons of oil in a frying pan and add the mustard seeds. When the seeds start popping, place the dhokla pieces in the pan and stir-fry gently for 5 to 7 minutes, turning to cook on both sides until golden brown. This last step makes the dhoklas taste great hot or cold. Serve them with a chutney or raita (yogurt salad).
SHANTA’S TROPICAL CHUTNEY
1 cup chopped, dried fruit (any combination of mangoes, pineapples, peaches, or papaya)
1 cup warm water
1 cup yellow raisins (sultana)
2 tablespoons fresh, grated gingerroot
juice of one large lemon
1 teaspoon salt
more water if needed
Cut the dried fruit into small pieces and soak in the warm water for half-an-hour to soften. If you are in a hurry, you can cook the fruit in water for a few minutes. Then combine all the ingredients, including the water in which the fruit was soaking, in the jar of a blender or food processor, and puree, adding more water if needed to form a thick pudding-like consistency. Allow to stand for few minutes. Serve or refrigerate.
Cucumber yogurt salad
2 cups unflavored yogurt thoroughly blended with ½ cup water; or 1 cup yogurt blended with 1½ cups buttermilk
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon good quality mustard (such as the Mendocino mustard available in health-food stores)
½ teaspoon cumin powder
2 teaspoons minced cilantro and a few sprigs of cilantro for garnish
1 large, 2 small, or 3 tiny pickling cucumbers, peeled
a few pinches of cayenne powder
Add the salt, mustard, cumin, and minced cilantro to the yogurt or buttermilk mixture. Beat well. Slice the cucumber and then cut into small chunks, reserving about 10 rounds for garnish. Add cucumber chunks to the yogurt mixture and transfer to a serving bowl.
Decorate with cucumber circles, a few pinches of cayenne, and the sprigs of cilantro. Chill until ready to serve.
No Mother’s Day brunch is complete without a cup of warm satisfying chai. Here is my favorite chai recipe.
4 cups water
2 cups milk or soy milk
a combination of two cloves, one cinnamon stick and a few cardamom pods, coarsely ground together; or several pinches of ground cardamom and cinnamon plus a pinch of clove
2 to 4 heaping teaspoons of good quality loose black teas; combine a strong Indian black tea with flavorful tealeaves such as Darjeeling
1 tablespoon (or to taste) sugar or honey
Heat the water and milk or soy milk together in a saucepan. Add the spices. Allow the mixture to come to a full boil and turn off the heat when the liquid begins to rise. Add the tea leaves, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and allow the tea to steep for five minutes. Strain and serve with your choice of sweetener.
Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff, author of Flavors of India: Vegetarian Indian Cuisine, lives in San Francisco, where she is a manager of Other Avenues, a health-food store. Her daughter Serena Sacharoff is an illustrator and art student.