To celebrate International Women’s Day #PledgeForParity campaign on we’d like to tell you about Thali head chef Asha Prasad. The words female Indian head chef are rarely seen in the same sentence as UK kitchens are male dominated places and in India female participation in the workforce is very low. Household chores including cooking, constitute a women’s work and the role of chef is not always a welcome one.
In the transition from family hearth to Thali production kitchen, Asha brought her family recipes with her, passed down through the generations from mother to daughter. Asha’s recipes clearly differentiate the Thali’s menu from the average high street curry house who prioritise profit over provenance. The legacy of family cooking is evident in Asha’s consideration for feeding Thali customers the very best food possible; carefully choosing seasonal, local, free-range and organic produce.
Asha fell in love with the Thali straight away as it reminded her of her father’s thali restaurant in her hometown, a rural part of India north of Derrida. It was here that Asha learnt the restaurant trade from her father (Thali’s ‘Masala Fried-Potatoes’ are inspired by Asha’s father’s recipe) and the family recipe book from her mother.
Asha’s husband Ramesh Prasad also works in the Thali kitchen. Ramesh does most of the cooking at home because Asha’s job is very demanding. Once a week Asha takes her turn to cook a big pot of Dal & Roti – a quick and easy midweek supper that’s deeply flavoursome and wholesome. This dish is good for the soul, real Indian comfort food. Some dal recipes can be overwhelmingly heavy and full of ghee but Asha likes to give her family something healthier, with no shortcuts on flavour. Best served with steaming rice or freshly cooked roti, this is a marriage made in heaven. To enjoy this wonderful pairing, cook the dal first then quickly reheat while you are making your rotis.
ASHA’S EASY TARKA DAL & ROTI
Share this thrifty and filling recipe with your friends and family on International Women’s Day.
THE DAL (SERVES 4-5)
50gm Toor Dal
50gm Red Lentils
100gm Rose Coco or Red Kidney Beans (canned)
1 tsp Ghee
1 tsp Turmeric Powder
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 Small finely chopped onion
1 thumb sized piece finely chopped ginger
3 tomatoes, roughly diced
A little fresh coriander
Salt to taste
Heat 1 litre of water in a heavy based saucepan. Add the toor dahl, turmeric, cumin powder and cook for 15 minutes, stirring often, until almost done. Add the red lentils and cook for a further 10 minutes until soft. Add the tinned rose coco beans. Turn the pan down to a slow simmer. Now make the tarka. Heat the oil in a pan until spitting hot. Add the cumin seeds, allow them to sizzle for a few moments, then add the ginger, garlic and onion and fry until soft and starting to catch and brown. Add the fresh tomatoes, salt and coriander. Pour tarka mix into the dal, and stir thoroughly.
EASY ROTI (Makes 6)
250 g chapati flour
Half tsp salt
1 tbsp rapeseed oil, plus extra for brushing and frying
Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Sprinkle over the oil, and add enough water to make a soft, (but not sticky) dough (about 140ml) – add a little more flour or water if needed. Knead gently until smooth. Cover and leave to rest for about 30 minutes. Divide the dough into six equal pieces and roll each one into a thin circle about 2mm thick using a rolling pin. Brush the bottom third of one of the roti with oil using a pastry brush, and fold the oiled third towards the middle. Repeat with the top third, fold inwards, then turn the roti a quarter turn clockwise and repeat this process with the top and bottom third. Repeat with the remaining five rotis. Leave to rest again. Heat a little oil in a heavy-based pan. Roll one of the roti thinly into a round shape with a rolling pin, and fry on one side until it puffs up and is speckled brown on the underside. Turn it over and fry on the other side for a few minutes, until it too is puffed and speckled brown. Remove from the pan, allowing the roti to cool for a few seconds, fold into 4 and wrap in a clean tea towel placed in a colander until ready to eat. Cook the remaining roti in the same way and serve warm with the dahl.
Enjoy at lesiure!
29 March 2017