From Nonna's Kitchen: A Trip to Mumbai
One of my favorite aspects of cooking with Nonnas is not just the recipes I learn but also the stories behind the food. Each dish comes with a rich history of, not only, the family that makes it, but the region of origin. Recently, I had the immense pleasure of cooking with Khurshid Mehta, a lovely Indian woman who immigrated to the U.S. in the 80’s with her husband and two young boys. She was born and raised in Bombay (now Mumbai) India. She is a proud Parsi woman and shared many stories of Parsi traditions and food culture.
As a young immigrant mother, she began working at a Chase bank branch in the service department. Hard work and dedication paid off, she recently retired, ending her long tenure, as a highly respected Vice President. Khurshid is an example of immigrant work ethic and perseverance. She would work all day and would come home to cook delicious food for her family. She now spends her time traveling and doting on her three beautiful grandchildren.
Khurshid taught me an immense amount about Indian cooking in our short time together. I learned that the use of curry powder is actually a British tradition. Instead, in India, each woman creates her own blend of spices to encompass their ‘curry.’ Some use more cumin, or more coriander based on their personal taste. Most importantly, the base of each curry is not just spices but a delicious 50/50 blend of fresh ground garlic and ginger.
Khurshid also talked about how she grew up with an incredibly diverse group of friends and neighbors. Each friend, based on his or her religion would have different food cooking in the kitchen each night. As children, they would apartment hop together looking for the dish that pleased them the most. I love how regardless of religion, the hunt for delicious food and friendship superseded differences of belief. She talked about how harmoniously people of so many religions lived, and celebrated each other.
As far as her beliefs, she explained to me that good thoughts, good words, good deeds are the pillars of the Zoroastrian religion. If I may, I would like to add good food.
Here is one of the delicious recipes I learned in my Heirloom Kitchen cooking with Khurshid. These turkey kebabs (little meatballs) are a great appetizer or as a snack with your favorite beer.
Bapaijee Khurshid’s Turkey Kebabs
1 lb ground turkey or beef
1 small onion, chopped very fine
garlic ginger paste (recipe below)**
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon chili powder
1 to 2 green chili peppers, finely chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1 tablespoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon chopped cilantro
1 ½ slices bread, soaked in water and squeezed dry
½ cup plain bread crumbs
vegetable oil for frying
Put all the ingredients (except the bread crumbs and oil) in a large bowl and mix well. Allow mixture to sit for ½ hour to allow all the flavors to marry.
After ½ hour, begin to roll meatballs. Wet hands with oil and take portions of about 3 tablespoons and roll into small balls.
Pour breadcrumbs in a shallow dish and lightly coat each meatball
In a large cast iron skillet, heat oil to 350 degrees. Add oil ½ inch up the pan. Gently fry meatballs, rolling them so that each side is browned. About 7 to 10 minutes. They should be lightly browned.
Place on a paper towel lined plate and serve hot. (Can be frozen for up to a month)
**Garlic /Ginger Paste
4 cloves garlic, skins removed and soaked in water for an hour
½ piece of ginger, skin removed
Grind ginger and garlic in a food processor until a fine paste forms.
You can make a large quality like K does, 1 lb garlic and 1 lb ginger. Stays in the refrigerator for frequent use!