I have been extremely worried out Maa – she and Mashi have been alone ever since our house-help left for her native as soon as the lockdown was announced, local shops still remain shuttered and the e-marts are yet to revert to normalcy. I have been making frenetic calls to friends and family, desperately seeking information, any pointers whatsoever, regarding neighborhood shops who are continuing home delivery of essentials.
Maa shares none of my vehement anxieties though, she believes I am fussing over needlessly.
I have enough supplies to last for a month, she calmly asserts, at the end of my impassioned soliloquy on how distressed I am thinking of her.
Can you double check if you have all your medicines ? I plead, even insisting on doing a video call to personally review her stocks.
The same dismissive chuckle.
Stop worrying now. By the way, what are you cooking this morning ? She asks, keen to divert the topic of discussion.
Rita Aunty’s Junglee Pulao, I answer.
Cooking with leftovers, I add as an afterthought.
J is one of S’ childhood friends and Rita Aunty his mother.
In her late sixties, or maybe early seventies, Aunty is an epitome of grace. Her piano recitals are mesmerising (I still remember when, on S’ repeated requests, she had played Chopin’s Nocturnes the first time S and I visited her and I was left enthralled) and her food is divine. She’s an encyclopaedia on Anglo-Indian cuisine, it was she who introduced me to Bandel Cheese and her Duck Vindaloo and Mutton DakBungalow are sheer delight. (And of course you remember her sublime Steamed Ginger Pudding the recipe of which I published last Christmas ?)
And how is she doing ? Maa enquires. Is she in Kolkata ? Or with J in Mumbai ?
I am suddenly stung with pangs of intense guilt, it had completely slipped my mind to check on her since the lockdown began.
Let me hang up, I tell Maa and immediately dial Aunty’s number.
That unmistakable voice.
How are you Aunty ? I check.
First you tell me how S and you are keeping.
It’s already mid morning when I hang up.
I am cooking your Junglee Pulao this morning. I inform.
Fridge clearance, I reckon ? Aunty laughs.
Yes, I nod in approval. S adores it.
You stay safe Aunty, please shout for any help you need.
Even these clouds shall pass beti, Aunty assures, have faith in the Almighty.
Rita Aunty’s Junglee Pulao. A sublime symphony of luscious chicken and fragrant rice. A medley of seasonal vegetables. A pot-pourri of spices. And a relish of the delectable Devil Chutney.
Food heaven !!!
Typically cooked with leftovers, chicken and / or vegetables, Rita Aunty’s Junglee Pulao is the perfect panacea for that lazy lockdown morning when you want to whip up a quick meal with all those leftover curries piling in the refrigerator.