Atul Kochhar in Last Bites

The mas­ter of mod­ern In­dian cui­sine checks out with a child­hood feast

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page - Man­goes have to be eaten chilled, so the flavour pops out Atul Kochar

My last meal would be ex­actly like the meals I used to have with my brother, Vikas, and sis­ters Indu and Seema, in our child­hood home in Jamshed­pur. We’d cook to­gether. Our fa­ther, Raj Kochhar, was in the cater­ing busi­ness, and our grand­fa­ther was a baker, so we all helped with ev­ery­thing – cooking was in our veins.

I’d have red kid­ney-bean stew (ra­jma masala), the way my mother, Sudesh, al­ways makes it. It’s the most com­fort­ing any­time dish to have with rice or bread, some mango pickle and a side of pota­toes with okra. In­di­ans like to bite a raw green chilli with their meal, so we’d have some of those, and some black pep­per pop­padoms. To drink, we’d make Pun­jabi mattha – buttermilk with a pinch of salt and ground cumin.

We’d lay a makeshift ta­ble on the bed in one of our rooms, with a sheet to sit on (pur­ple or ma­genta with big, bold pat­terns: we grew up in the funky 1980s) and news­pa­per in the mid­dle to put all the food on, so we wouldn’t have any­thing to clean up.

It would be a riot, just like it was then. We had a big dining ta­ble in the room next door, but this was how we al­ways ate, es­pe­cially when our par­ents weren’t around. I can just see my mum and dad walk­ing through the door, sur­prised and a lit­tle an­gry that we were on the bed again!

We’d have Bol­ly­wood ra­dio play­ing on a bat­tery-pow­ered tran­sis­tor, and old-style lanterns too – at that time there were of­ten power fail­ures, so we were al­ways pre­pared. We’d eat at about 8pm, lis­ten­ing to the one pro­gramme we never missed: Bi­naca Geet Mala with DJ Ameen Sayani. We loved him! He’d crack a few jokes and tell you who’d been up to what in Bol­ly­wood then play some tunes – we’d al­ways wait with bated breath to hear what was num­ber one.

We’d have fresh man­goes for dessert. We would wash them and then put them in a clean jute bag plunged in the cold-wa­ter tank so they were nice and chilled – man­goes have to be eaten chilled, so the flavour re­ally pops out. You should never cut a mango – they have to be sucked. If they were small and juicy, Vikas and I would prob­a­bly have a com­pe­ti­tion to see who could eat the most.

Look on­line for Atul’s red bean stew recipe

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