Comfortably Comforting

Comfort can take many forms but when it comes to food, we each have our own comfort foods and nothing can be better than taking a bite of something familiar, well loved and known to make you smile. Also, comfort food has its roots in our childhood because that is when we shape our memories and form our opinions.

Sometimes comfort food could be a bowl of kheer – all that fragrant rice cooked in milk with crushed cardamom and slivers of almonds, and oh! I find myself talking about sweets again! Before I go into memories of my favourite sweet comfort foods, here are a couple which are a must to any list, be it comforting or otherwise. When I actually started making them, I realised that it’s not entirely a comforting experience for the cook because they can so often be touch and go. If you’re not careful with the ingredients, you could easily mess up. And no one finds mess to be comforting.

When I was small, my cousin Azeem and I ate all the shaami meant for everyone in the family which Ammi had kept on the dining table just before lunch. Now, I really don’t know how true this is because I do not recall doing it. But I can easily imagine the scenario. Shaami is after all something that deserves that kind of attention!

Shaami is a favourite with everyone, right from the little kiddos to all the adults at home, grandparents and those older too. Traditionally, shaami was made on a sil-batta a grinding slab and oblong shaped stone which was used to grind the shaami batter(actually it takes on more of a dough consistency).

How many times I have sat in my grandmother, Amma’s house in Vellore, watching her as she squatted on the ground, moving the oblong stone up and then sliding it down rhythmically, grinding the meat and dal in the process. Just remembering that makes me feel wistful about the good ol’ days because today, even with the mixer-grinder, making shaami becomes a headache. For me at least. And if my mother, mother in law or grandmother had been as lazy as me, we would never have even discovered what shaami was! Thank goodness all of them are/were industrious. And before I digress more, here’s the recipe for shaami.

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Ingredients

Channa dal – 100 gm

Meat – cleaned, deboned – ¼ kg

Onions – 1 big

Whole red chillies/green chillies – 2

Coriander leaves – a handful

Garam masala powder – ½ tsp

Ground coconut – 2 tsp

Adrak-lehsun paste – ½ tsp

Salt

Haldi – a pinch

Method

  1. Put all the above ingredients in an open vessel like a kadai.
  2. Save a little bit of the raw meat separately.
  3. Add just enough water to immerse the dal and meat. Don’t add too much or too less.
  4. Cook on medium flame until the water dries up.
  5. Let the mixture cool.
  6. Adding a little bit of the raw meat, grind the mixture in two batches in a mixer.
  7. Don’t add too much water while grinding. In fact, avoid using water as far as possible.
  8. When the shaami dough is ready, oil your palms.
  9. Take small, walnut sized rounds, and between two palms roll it until smooth and there are no cracks.
  10. Start rolling it oblong and then make both ends taper.
  11. Finally flatten the shaami along the base of your palm gently.
  12. Heat oil in a kadai and fry the shaamis.

Be careful as they might break and sputter. If by any chance they start disintegrating in the oil, mix a little cornflour into the shaami dough.

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