The symbolic nature of food is a theme that has long held our fascination, spanning cultures, languages and religion. Especially significant is its symbolism at the start of a new journey; to invoke auspicious beginnings. To mark the new year, the Goya Journal asked some of our favourite photographers to share an image of a dish that they will be eating on the first day of the new year — a dish that represents their first step into 2018.
Parizad D's Mutton Clear Soup with Rice
This is a dish that I used to loved eating as a child. It has always been my go-to comfort food, and every time I cook it now, I play around with the recipe a little. So there's always a tinge of nostalgia paired with something new. I like to think of it as a wonderful amalgamation of the past and the present; representative of both where I am in life at the moment, and where I would like to be in the new year.
Vivek Muthuramalingam's Rice Cakes in Genasale Leaves
Last year, I travelled extensively through rural Karnataka, to some very remote corners of the state. One time, we followed a flute-maker to a spot on the banks of Aghanashini river to gather a particular species of bamboo, that he uses in his craft. Later, we retired to a friend's house outside Kumta, in Uttara Kannada, for the night. The lady of the house, a Havyaka Brahmin, had prepared Genasale for us — coconut and jaggery filled rice cakes, wrapped in Genasale leaves (a cousin of the cinnamon, I am told, but not cinnamon) and steamed. It was an incredible way to end a long, tiring day; I even dreamt about the dish that night. The next morning I was shown the Genasale tree, nurtured in the garden especially for this dish. This, among a few other things I discovered on my travels, have made me more appreciative of traditional foods that use locally sourced fresh ingredients (no further than one's garden), that are intrinsically easy to prepare, and full of flavour. I hope to document these as much as I can, and to explore more of Karnataka's hinterlands in 2018.
Joe Cyriac's Appam and Vegetable Stew
My relationship with this dish involved its consumption, not its creation. My mother made this. You see, I live half a world away, in Toronto. As much as I'd love to leap out of bed and prepare a delicious South Indian breakfast, it is difficult to do so when it's -25 degrees Celsius outside. So one must resort to staggering out of bed and consuming a green smoothie, a beverage so devoid of taste and character that it is named for its only defining quality.
Appam and Stew is a quintessential South Indian Malayali dish. When I was younger, the dish was a frequent preparation that I failed to appreciate. I'd like to avoid making that mistake in the new year. It is delicious, nutritious and simple to make. This year, even when it's -25 degrees outside, and I'm thinking of home, I'm going to try my hand at Appam and Stew.
Azra Sadr’s Dhaka Raw Mango Chutney
I was first introduced to this simple but delicious raw mango chutney when my sister came home from one of her first trips to Dhaka. She had scribbled the recipe in one corner of her nearly-endless handwritten recipe book, accompanied by a small drawing of a bowl of chutney, with chillies and mangoes around it. My sister, Ayeshe and I grew up eating everything sour and spicy. We loved watching each other’s faces scrunch up into amusing expressions, laughing hysterically as we rolled on the floor.
I am always looking for my next sour-and-spicy dish, but this is easily one of my all-time favourite. It is slightly sour, mildly spicy, a little salty and bursting with freshness. What I love about it is that it’s so simple and quick to make, and you can tweak it each time with a surprise ingredient. A few pieces of fresh pineapple, or pomegranate with freshly chopped mint, or just a spoonful of pungent mustard oil to bring together and magnify all the flavours. You can eat it with just about anything, or even just on its own — which is how I enjoy it best.
I started the year with this delicious chutney, which travelled from so far, and became part of such delightful and delicious memories. With this, I look forward to a year filled with new adventures and happy discoveries.
Ambica Selvam’s Raw Mango Jam
Every year, on the Tamil new year year, my amma would make pachadi. This quintessential Tamil putandu dish has raw mangoes, jaggery, chillies, salt, and neem flowers. A spoonful of this pachadi eaten first thing after the nievedhyam would mark the beginning of the fabulous New Year spread. But what it truly signifies is reality and harmony. It signifies life as we know it — the coming together of the various flavour in the pachadi, sweet, sour, spice, bitterness and salt. Life (that particular year) would be a beautiful mix of emotions.
After I lost my mother 3 years ago, as homage to that wonderful tradition she brought into our lives, I decided to start a tradition like that for the English New Year too. Inspired by that pachadi, using all elements (except neem flowers — because neem flowers don't bloom until late January), I make a jam. Easy to whip up, and just as sensational in terms of flavours.
The jam is made with raw mangoes, dark jaggery, dried red chiilies, salt and juice of lime. Absolutely simple and extremely versatile. I make this a day or two before the New Year's eve, and it is a part of our first meal. Typically eaten with toast, and some cheese, it is a delicious step forward into the new year.
Zahra Amiruddin’s Malai na Khajla
This is a Bohri dessert often served as part of the thaal. On the first day of the New Year, in Bhendi Bazaar, Mumbai, I ate a plate of Malai na Khajla. Made of puff pastry filled with malai and a lot of ghee, it is sweet and indulgent. It is everything I want for 2018 — to be indulgent and not hold back on doing the things I love. The dessert has a firm shell on the outside and is soft on the inside, and that’s something I want to cultivate for myself too: a tougher exterior. I know it sounds funny, but I’d also like to put on some weight this year!
Naman Saraiya’s Undhiyu
I grew up in Calcutta, in a Gujarati household. More recently, the idea of home-cooking has become important to me. My grandmum, and later my mum, made Undhiyu at least one or two Sundays a month. The idea behind the dish was to use leftover vegetables from the week, bunged together to make a tasty meal. Undhiyu, the version my mum makes, has about ten vegetables in it, and although I might not appreciate all the ingredients that go into it, they work well together in this dish.
I've lived outside of home since I was 11, and the idea of home food, (foremost, made by mum, but also home-cooked meals in general), is important to me. I want to cook more this year. In 2018, I want to eat fresh, hot, home-cooked meals as much as possible. The satisfaction that a home cooked meal can offer, no Michelin-starred restaurant can parallel. (Well maybe it can, but this won’t set you back thousands of dollars!).
Aysha Tanya’s Chemeen Molakitte
One of the misconceptions people have about food writers is that every meal we eat is a culinary triumph, and that we sail from one unforgettable meal to the next, Instagramming each one in perfect lighting.
The truth, for me at least, is far from it. Having reached a point where I’d pick my mother’s stew and puttu over anything a restaurant could offer, I’m quickly learning that there is a lot to be said for traditional recipes that don’t have to be tinkered with — ones that are already perfect. In 2018, I’d like to learn to cook some of these traditional dishes that I’ve eaten a thousand times, the same ones I considered boring and unimaginative. I no longer want my everyday meals to be innovative and exciting, I want them to be comforting and predictable. Not to mention, healthy and nutritious.
The first dish I ate this year was my mum’s meen curry, which is a fish curry that is traditional throughout Kerala. In south Kerala, the souring agent used is kodampuli, but in the Malabar region, it is tamarind that lends it that punch.
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