Date Chutney

Date Chutney

Most people buy cookbooks, but Ms Tasneen Padiath, 37, managing director of a research advisory company, has a personalised one handwritten by her mother.

The yellowed diary planner dates back to 2001 and is a treasure trove of about 100 recipes written by her mother, a 62-year-old university lecturer who lives in Kochi, India.

On the pages are recipes for south Indian dishes such as mutton biryani, chickpea curry, egg masala, pumpkin erissery, ghee rice and stir-fried beef.

Ms Tasneen, who is a Singapore permanent resident and has been living here for seven years, says: "I was always interested in eating my mother's food, so she would quietly write the recipes in the hope that I would pick up cooking one day."

For 14 years, her mother would write recipes in the planner whenever she visited Singapore or the United States, where Ms Tasneen was based for eight years.

However, Ms Tasneen was too busy to step into the kitchen due to a hectic work schedule and work trips.

Her interest in cooking was piqued five years ago during a month-long break in India, when she fished out the planner and asked her mother to teach her to cook the southern Indian fare she missed when she was abroad.

One recipe she learnt is date chutney, which was her grandmother's.

She says: "It has a unique flavour - sweet and umami, which is a perfect accompaniment to Indian food that is rich and spicy."

When she was young, date chutney was served as a dip to accompany dishes such as mutton biryani and fish only during festive celebrations, such as Hari Raya Aidilfitri, as dates were not readily available in India then.

These days, she whips up date chutney at least once a month for dinner parties. It accompanies dishes such as fish masala and mutton biryani. She adds that the chutney is special to her as it is seldom found in restaurants here.

She relishes the versatile flavours of the chutney. She adds chilli powder to turn up the spice level or jaggery (cane sugar) to sweeten the concoction. "Nobody can be unhappy with this dish," she says with a laugh.

However, she notes that it is challenging to get the amount of water right to achieve a sticky consistency for the chutney as well as figure out when the green chillies are cooked.

Ms Tasneen, who is married to sales coach Kartik Krishnamurthy, 38, has tried 60 per cent of the recipes in the planner. Each one required up to three attempts to get right and she would call her mother to get the specific amount of ingredients in the recipes.

She says the pages with more stains hold the recipes she uses the most often.

These recipes include ones for fish curry and spinach paneer.

There are recipes in the book which she has not tried.

On her to-cook list are mutton chops, chicken liver masala and pineapple souffle.

The mother of a four-year-old girl and two-year-old boy says: "Cooking is a way to bond with my mother as it gives me an opportunity to know her better.

"There is not much time left for me to learn from her, so this is one of the things she has to teach me."

This article was first published on March 22, 2015.
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