My story is simple: I love cooking. I was born in Malawi, Central Africa and grew up watching my mom cook everything fresh and everything from scratch. My dad loved hosting parties and my mom had no problem cooking up a meal for 60 people or more with a few hours notice. Watching her caramelize onions into a golden brown color always amazed me. My mother’s homemade spices filled our home with a rich and earthy aroma that I can still instantly remember. Her Indian cooking was heavily influenced by the Portuguese, Malay, African and Muslim styles which we grew up with and enjoyed both at home and in restaurants in Malawi, Mozambique and South Africa.
My mom was always calm and in control in her kitchen. She could magically make dishes appear for any number of people using whatever ingredients were on hand. She was a master at multitasking and always maintained her composure. Although I admired her talent, and knew instinctively that nobody could outcook my mom, I was intimidated by the amount of time and effort such cooking involved.
As a result, I never really cooked anything until three months before my marriage. I knew that I wanted to cook like my mom and take care of my new family. While studying abroad I missed my mom’s food which I appreciated even more since leaving home. I wanted to learn all the recipes that she had and learn the skills required to make both family meals and the occasional feast. So it was time to head home and take a crash course in cooking.
For three months my mother taught me how to cook everything she could think of. We discussed all the different spices and their flavor qualities and health benefits. She emphasized the importance of not overpowering the main flavor of a dish. My mom also taught me how to pair foods so that a menu covered all of the essential components of a good meal. A proper meal required a dry dish to go along with the requisite Roti (Indian bread) and a curry dish had to be accompanied with rice. She taught me quick tricks to prepare succulent meats and seafood, rich lentils, homemade cheese and yogurt, savory appetizers, and tantalizing desserts. By my wedding day, I was cooking just like my mom, who in my humble opinion happens to be the World’s best cook.
After 14 years of culinary experience my cooking style continues to evolve. During this time I have continued to rely on guidance from my two super consultants, my mom and mother-in-law who are both accomplished cooks. My mother-in-law herself successfully ran a series of cooking classes in the DC area several years back. I now create dishes that cater to a broad spectrum of tastes and have acquired valuable time saving tips. I love cooking these dishes for my family and friends and especially enjoy experimenting with new recipes, methods and ingredients.
In today’s world we all are very busy and hardly have time to sit down to eat, let alone cook. My approach is to cook quick meals that are flavorful and delicious. After a full day’s activities it is hardly practical to spend hours making basic ingredients from scratch. I want to cook a fresh meal everyday for my family without devoting an entire afternoon to the kitchen. That’s why I came up with simple tips and substitutes that make cooking quicker without compromising taste. I use a combination of fresh and prepared ingredient to concoct dishes that are flavorful and healthy at the same time. Ultimately they have to meet the high standards of the most finicky food critics in our house, my two little girls.
On average, it takes me up to an hour to cook our family meals. While you may need to cook longer for larger parties, for everyday meals an hour is all you will need.
Cooking and enjoying exciting food brings families together, which has never been more important than it is today. We all have hectic schedules and are increasingly challenged to find time that we can spend together. Even when we are together there are distractions galore such as cell phones, tablets, laptops etc. It seems we are all always connected to something other than each other. Cooking and eating together provides us with a great opportunity to reconnect with the ones we love and nourish our bodies at the same time. Often when I learn a new dish I will tell my hubby right then that we should have a party to share the new recipe with my friends and family.
Well that’s enough talk for now; time to start cooking!