Of epic failures in the kitchen and why I’m a good guest!

Something funny has been happening for the past few months since I started this blog – every time I’m invited to someone’s home for a meal, they start apologizing as soon as they start laying the table: “Sorry, this may not be as good as yours”, “sorry but… you know, you’re a food blogger and all that… ” and so on… with two results…

a) I feel guilty! Then I have to apologise for my blog and hem and haw nervously ‘ heh, heh, not really’ while i hop around from foot to foot, giving them the impression that either I’m demented or that I need to use the loo urgently!

b) I’m scared people will stop calling me over and I have to eat ONLY what I cook – then where will I get my stories from?

Quite an existential dilemma, don’t you think?

So, for all you who are following this and feeling nervous to invite me home, let me give you the tale of one of my (there have been many!) most spectacular failures in the kitchen!

Having decided to marry a Tambram, off I went to the shops – trousseau, you think? Naah, THAT was done very quickly – barely a day! The shopping expedition was for something that I’d been assured was the Bible of Tambram cooking – Meenakshi.V.Ammal’s Samaithu Paar (literally ” Cook and See”) causing me to wonder irreverentially (bet I’d have been accused of being a Leftist, Rightist or Centrist – ALL wrong things these days! ) whether we were supposed to only cook and see but NOT eat!

This book has been touted as THE one book for all new brides and so on; plus I was very young so I had very high hopes indeed. Since I didn’t know too much cooking, I had no way of judging how good the recipes were but spent many edifying hours over – sample this: “Winnow out the paddy removing the chaff completely. Then roast a little in an earthen pan to a red colour. Pound with a wooden (or iron) pestle to remove the husk. Winnow again. Grind the roasted rice in a machine or hand mill and keep, so it can be used, as and when required”! or “Remove the fire wood from the oven” or “Turn the paddy using a small-sized bundle of coconut splinters” – phew! as opposed to today’s instructions “Order online one kg of aval/poha/atukulu/beaten rice” – that’s what the latter bit is about, by the way! 

Learnt many interesting and yummy things from Meenakshi Ammal maami but one recipe that i tried out was such a disaster – i followed instructions to the “T” – i promise – was one for something called “moar sambar” or “buttermilk sambar”. The instructions are as for regular sambar except that the souring agent is buttermilk rather than tamarind – the result was the worst dish I’ve ever made in my life and I had to throw the whole thing down the drain!

Lesson: Buttermilk and dal make very strange bedfellows!

Now having put you off buttermilk and yogurt cooking, let me give you one that will convert you back again – an incredibly simple, low fat but rich tasting curry with yogurt.


  • Potatoes – 500 gm – peeled and cut into large chunks or baby potatoes – boiled and peeled
  • Yogurt – 250 gm – whipped well – at room temperature. 
  • Green cardamom – 3 – pounded – with skin
  • Black cardamom – 1 – pounded with skin
  • Somph – fennel seeds – 1/4 tsp
  • Red chili powder – 1 tsp
  • Turmeric  – 1/2 tsp
  • Cinnamon – 1 ” stick – whole
  • Bay leaf – 1
  • Dried ginger powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Ghee – 1 tbsp
  • Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Sugar – 1/2 tsp
  • Kasooti methi -1 tsp
  • Salt

Heat the ghee in a pan and add the sugar and let it caramelize a bit. Add the jeera (cumin) and fennel seeds.

Add the bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamom, red chili and turmeric.

Add the potatoes. If using large potato chunks, pour a couple of tbsp of water, cover and cook till almost done.

If using boiled and peeled baby taters, add them and stir. Roast without covering for a few minutes.

Take off the fire, add salt, ginger powder, kasooti methi and gently pour in the yogurt, stirring constantly. If the yogurt is poured in while the cury is too hot, it will curdle. Return to the fire and continue to cook till potatoes are tender but not falling apart. Goes superbly with puris.

And do feel free to call me over – I’m a good guest 😉