~ Danny Meyer
The world has seen a lot in the last few months. Failed banks, frozen lending, bankruptcies...a stock market like a weary phoenix, rising from its ashes then plummeting again. In turbulent times like these, don't we all need a little comfort food?!
Comfort food, as it turns out, is a global phenomenon. A case in point-- When I am asked what is the one thing that I would want to eat to make me feel really comfortable and soothe my ruffled seams; without batting an eyelid I say Kadhi-Chawal ( Mildly spiced creamy chickpea-flour based curd gravy tempered with mustard and curry leaves, accompanied by plain steamed rice).
**For a variation of the 'kadhi' see this.
And what makes it comfort food?
It's our soul food and I think these are the kinds of food you hanker for. Something that you've had as a child, as a baby. Something that goes down easily. Something that will always be true.
We all have memories of a very special dish that we ate when we were kids. Every time we eat it we feel safe and warm. We are back home. Actually, we don't even have to eat it - just smelling it triggers happy feelings. It then, not just remains food-- it's the taste, the smells, the memories of home!
Studies suggest that comfort food applies the brakes on a key element of chronic stress.
Stress or no stress, at some point in our lives we all crave comfort food. Each kitchen has its own story to tell and its own set of comfort foods. Be it the country side or the huge mansions, the city or the hamlets....all have their fair share of foods/Sunday meals that bind a family together.
I remember how after a really l-o-n-g time when I was returning home from Florida, I called up mom from the New York airport only to request her to prepare my favourite kadhi-chawal, and nothing else but that. It wasn't that I had any issues with food in U.S. Infact it was only here, that I first did try Thai and Mexican. The best pizzas were at my office cafeteria...forget Dominos' or Pizzahut! Mac n cheese ...aah!
Applebees' and Red Lobster are still my reigning favourites when it comes to fun-food. Ybor street dotted with its varied cusine houses, lured me to try the Middle-east and Lebanese dishes too. Yes, I was in a cultural melting pot but oh! how I missed home food. (By home food I don't mean the stuff that Indian restuarants' in foreign land, dish out claiming to be Indian.)
However something is amiss at times....and you CRAVE it badly! Thats' soul food...a.k.a. comfort food...mom's cooking!
The dish I talk about here is only second to my all time favourite Indian Comfort Foods.
Its Dahi Aloo. Dahi= curd, Aloo= potatoes, in Hindi.
Dahi Aloo (Baby Potatoes in a Tangy Creamy Curd Gravy):
250 gms baby potatoes,boiled and chopped in halves
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2-3 curry leaves
1 whole dried red chilli
1/2 tsp aesofoetida
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp ground coriander seeds/coriander powder
1 cup curd, beaten
1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
1 tbsp cooking oil
1 cup water or less (depending on the consistency of the gravy)
salt to taste
In a wok, heat oil. Add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds and curry leaves. Once they splutter, add the whole red chilli and ginger-garlic paste. Add the boiled potatoes. Mix carefully.
Now add the turmeric powder, coriander powder and aesofoetida. Stir. Take care not to break the already soft potatoes.
Add the beaten curd and mix thorougly. Finally add water and stir. Season.
Cover and simmer for a minute, on medium flame.
Serve hot with steamed rice or parathas/chapatis.