How the lockdown helped real food reclaim Instagram. A collection of happy food short stories.

Alu roll deconstructed

"How come I have never had alu rolls before," asked Kainaz after I made the same for what I call the #FinelyChoppedBreakfasts today. Instagram has taught us to think in terms of hashtags and I like to conjure up  my own. K loved the alu rolls and it turned out to be another glorious #LoveYourLeftOvers meal. Something which has became the lockdown speciality in the #FinelyChoppedKitchen.

That's it with the hashtags, I promise! Or did I speak too soon?

"It is because you did not know me during those #EndOfTheMonthBrokeInCollege days in Calcutta," I replied. 

No, no we do not speak in hashtags at home. I was just messing with you.

Remembering rainy days in Kolkata on a rainy day in Mumbai

The alu roll at a place called Karko, in the uglier, post fire built section of the very old 'New Market' in Kolkata, was manna during the hungry days of my youth. At a time when one's appetite was at its most active and the wallet at its most empty. During the end of the month with ones travel allowance, from which one saved money for 'play,' spent.

"This is breakfast and lunch," said K at the end of breakfast. Yes, the alu roll is quite a hunger buster of a combo.

Ananya Banerjee's Bangla Nostalgia menu which also starred very soft dal puri made from her grandmom's recipe, the alur dom of course, a silken bhetki shorshe with Gobindobhog rice, keemar boda which reminded me of the tikias at Zeeshan in Kolkata and the ones one got outside the now shut Jamuna Cinema and a very inspired nolen gurer flan which won K's heart. No: +91 98204 00222

For the alu rolls, I used some of the alur dom that I had set aside from the fabulous 'Bengali nostalgia' meal set that content creator, author, youtuber and restaurant consultant turned #LockdownHomeChef, Ananya Banerjee, had sent for a tasting last evening.

And the last of the idFresh ready to cook Malabar Parathas that I had bought from Benzer Stores in Bandra recently. The parathas turned out to be very crisp and I wondered how I would 'roll' them. Then I remembered an old Kolkata roll maker's trick. I placed each paratha between my palms, held it parallel to my chest and then squeezed it like one would a harmonium. With a spunk that was more Raj Kapoor in Awara, than Hemanta Kumar doling out soulful Rabindra Sangeet. Yes, there was music in the kitchen this morning and I am not just talking of the beat of the Mumbai rains.

Using the Samir Biswas Kolkata sketches that we had bought from Kolkata's Oxford Book Store as a prop

I tossed some sliced onion and capsicum in a pan first with a bit of oil, then added alur dom and mixed it together. I used this as a filling in the rolls. With finely chopped green chillies, a squeeze of lime and a dash of tomato ketchup in mine, without which my life seems incomplete, added in at the end before I rolled it all up.

The sauce of nostagia


It's been all about nostalgia, simplicity and frugality in our kitchen during the lockdown. Necessitated by the fact we have to do all the cooking and cleaning between the two of us. Nor do we have as easy an access to produce as we had before. Though between my occasional masked grocery shop runs and K's online shopping skills, we have not done badly at all.

Add to this, some of the home chef meals that we have enjoyed of late and the food sent by friends from their homes and, as K says, "we have had some of the best food in our lives during the lockdown."

I agree and no, neither of us was being carried away with emotion when we said this!

Goan succour from Candies

Take the breakfast and tea set which I ordered in from Candies yesterday. Consisting of the Goan Catholic kitchen favourites of mutton potato chops, mutton puffs (which I saved for evening), and the #SoftestChickenSandwichesInTheWorld as I call them, which you get at Candies. I was craving for a puff or a chop the evening before when it was raining and placed an order for breakfast as they had run out of stocks by then. I did feel a bit guilty about the delivery person riding in the storm to deliver yesterday morning (with apologies to Jim Morrison), but the food was what Mark Knopfler would have referred to as 'heavy, heavy fuel.'

Before I became hashtag obsessed, rock music, tennis and cricket analogies would spice up my writing. Based on memories from the 80s and 90s. From the time of Becker and Gavaskar and Ganguly, not Kohli or Rafa.

The Grover parathas


Then there was the lovely, fresh parathas, paneer sabzi and kali daal that our friends Anu and Manoj Grover had sent over a couple of nights back. You might have seen me refer to these food gifts of love that they often most kindly send as the #parathaexpress or #GroverParathas.

Their food urges me to take out the stainless steel thalis and bowls at home to eat on, as the food reminds me of the Punjabi food that I had at my PG when I moved into Mumbai, which was run by a Punjabi Hindu family, and the food I ate at Crystal, the Punjabi vegetarian restaurant at Mumbai's Girgaon Chowpatty.

Meals that helped Mumbai feel like home to me 20 years back. As do the food sent by the Grovers make it feel like home now.

A toast to my childhood in Kolkata


At times I wonder if Instagram posts of mine such as the one where I spoke about having the lovely todka that K made the other night, with toast on the side - the we way would have toast with dinner as kids as my mother did not make rotis back then - act as a tacit distress signal for Anu to quickly send over a stack of hot parathas.

As they say, put your prayers into the universe and the universe will respond!

Luchi shada alu by Shaswati with a shot of espresso


When I miss home, then there is our friend Shaswati down the lane who cooks and sends us Bengali dishes such as the luchi which my didu makes for me when I visit her.  Paired with alur torkari/ chhechki. Shaswati's only regret was that she could not fry us one luchi at a time and feed us as she would if she would have called us home. The way rotis were brought to us at my PG dining table too.

One had to spend a fair bit of time convincing Shaswati that even these felt like heaven!

Mangsho bhaat Sundays


Talking of Shaswati, credit goes to her for my making the most tultule (tender) mutton that I have made so far when I made mangshor jhol to have with bhaat on Sunday. Observing Sundays the way God meant it to be. Over mutton curry and rice, using a recipe that is unique to each kitchen.

She was the one who introduced me to Mohsin of Janta mutton who sends us such lovely, fresh mutton on Sundays in Bandra. You too can order from him at: 9820420136

People often ask me about the recipe of the 'salad' I make. I do not know what to say. It consists of sliced onion, tomato, chillies on the side, cucumber if you have it, with black pepper, salt (I use pink salt as I have it at home), and if you want, lime juice added on. Let's call it 'the 80s show!'

The song of dal, rice and alu sabzi


While the mangshor jhol bhaat, with the mandatory alu (potatoes) and green peas (I add theme because I like them) was majestic and fit for a Sunday, the mushurir dal sheddo (orange masoor boiled in the microwave with Nigella seeds, onion, turmeric, chilli powder, salt and a dob of ghee), rice and the Maharashtrian batata kaachrya, that K had made the other day using a recipe from Madhura's Kitchen, would spell love in any Indian language.

Tendli by Kainaz


In case you thought I do all the cooking at home, that's not true. 

Kainaz often looks up recipe sites, heads to the kitchen, often while on work calls, and comes out with some rather meticulously made dishes. Take today's South Indian style tendli (ivy gourd) for example, for which she ground grated coconut (id Fresh again), dry red chillies and mustard seeds together in our mortar and pestle, added soaked cashews and channa dal too, and cooked it. It made for a lovely meal with the leftover Gobindobhog Ananya had sent, microwaved boiled moong dal that K made, a lockdown discovery of ours, while the rains came crashing down outside.

Bengali moong dal and Gobindobhog rice and South Indian tendli


At the end of the meal, K looked at me and said, 'liked it? Now write good things!'

Liked it? Now write food things!


My diet and Instagram feed had begun to reflect a higher proportion of home cooked, simple regional Indian meals in recent times, but it is during the lockdown that this has come to the fore.

From what I see, this is true of so many others on Instagram too. The food there is now increasingly presented shorn of the smoke and mirrors, bells and whistles. Food has become the hero again. A change from the the over-engineered and strategised content that one would see there.

It is all about real food now on Instagram. Food its most pristine, pure and delicious form, Or so I would like to believe.

I would love to hear what you think about the resurgence of food realism. Have you experienced it too? How do you feel about it? Am I living in a fool’s paradise?

Posting on Instagram at the end of the #FoodocracyIndia podcast which Baby Loaf sat through

It has been raining heavily in Mumbai over the past few days and we have been giving Loaf a lot of assurance while he perches himself on the easy chair in our bedroom.


We diid have a bit of fun when the sun came out for a wee bit today
I have some news for you. I am thrilled to announce that I am conducting a workshop for home chefs on 20th July 2020. Here is the registration link which will tell you about what is in store and how to join. Please do join if you are planning to start your home chef business or share it with anyone you know who plans to: 


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Comments

Shaswati said…
Lovely write up as always and thanks a lot for the mentions of my humble attempts. I think this lock-down has really made me realize how much I depended on outside food for variety in taste. Really grateful to the universe that am being able to source most of the ingredients that I need and rustling up various things in my kitchen.
Sanjay N Lulla said…
Floored by the alu roll. Will surely try that but in besan stuffed parantha. @K the tendli looks out of a royal kitchen and is a must try. Tendli with finely chopped salad roll anyone?

Very appetizing write today. Calls for hing kachuri with alu sabzi for tea. Cuddles to Ḍēlā moshay.

Best happy eating
Kalyan Karmakar said…
@sanjay hing kochuri plus alur dom sounds like a dream

@shaswati thanks so much. yes, the lockdown has made one realise the value of what's in our hand and you have been rustling up some lovely food