Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: DELICIOUS (02/04/16)
TITLE: Preeti's Naan
By Sara Harricharan
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This year, it is my turn to host and that also means making time to cook. My brothers, for all of their inherited awesomeness, cannot be counted on for comfort food. My younger brother and sister both prefer the finer culinary arts of fancy cakes and pastries.
My feet are frozen by the time I’m halfway across the tiled kitchen floor. But it’s too far away to go get slippers and once I turn the oven on, things will warm up.
This will be an all-day adventure. Mostly because I can’t break my sleep routine and partially because Naan requires time to rise at least twice. It takes forever to cook.
I mix it with one egg and a scoop of yogurt. Not exactly the way that Mum made it, but close enough. This is one dish I loved watching her make.
Mixing the dough takes several minutes. Soon it rests in an oiled bowl while I bustle about rustling up the ingredients for a vegetable korma.
Rummaging through the pantry is hard work—as is doing the dishes so I can actually use the kitchen sink. By the time I have a frying pan set on the back burner and the oil spiraled in the bottom, I can feel my feet again.
Thoughts of Carrot Halwa dance through my head. I send a text to my older sister. She doesn’t cook much—having lucked out on a husband with a knack for cooking. But she makes Halwa the way Aji, our grandmother, used to make it.
She starts a new text thread with everyone, so we can argue who is bringing what. I refuse to share what I’m making—which makes them groan and guess correctly.
I like being predictable with this.
The Naan is done rising and I hurry to punch down the dough for the second time. Chopping up garlic and fresh coriander for the tasty topping, I dribble some oil and salt into it as I wait.
Of course, once that is done, the curry simmers and I might as well make some rice. A certain older brother doesn’t care for rotis or chapatis. He’ll nibble on the Naan, but he won’t be happy.
A pot of basmati rice means I now have two out of four burners occupied.
Three, actually, as I add the tawa to the large burner in front. Cooking Naan requires finesse, courage—and a great deal of practice.
Thankfully, the gap between the last time I’ve made it up to now, is nearly invisible. My body remembers the familiar motions, even if my mind can’t place it exactly.
I’m almost done when they arrive. Pouring through the front door, chattering in a mixture of english and our native tongue. There are big covered trays of food.
Spicy, sweet and fragrant.
My stomach rumbles happily as my precious kitchen is invaded.
“Are you making Naan? Oh my goodness, Preeti!”
“Preeti’s making Naan?”
“Is that Korma curry?”
“Mmm—that smells so good.”
“Please tell me you made rice.”
“I haven’t had curry and Naan in ages.”
I snatch the platter of finished Naans out from under one brother’s hand. “I’m still cooking those! No touchy.”
“Not even a quarter?”
I can’t protest when my little sister helps by distracting me with her bowl of halwa, while said brother helps himself to the Naan.
It’s a good tag-team effort, so I let it slide. The last Naan turns a delicious, crispy brown at the edges.
Serving spoons and napkins are found in short order. Chilled cans of soda are passed out. Plates are piled high, as we carry them into the living room.
Seated in the usual sprawl of sofa-coffee-table-and-floor, the chatter dies down for my oldest brother to recite the prayer of thanks.
“Amen,” we echo together.
Everyone digs in, with delighted exclamations and muffled words around full mouths.
“Rice!” comes the happy crow.
“Did you put yogurt in the Naan?”
“I can taste the spices. Just like Mum’s.”
“I like the halwa.”
Delicious. Completely, utterly delicious. A feast for my stomach and my soul, rolled into one, as I happily zone out to the feel of love, wrapped in laughter,
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