To share food is glorious
To taste food is a gift
Food is love
I realise this now because for the first time in my life I experienced stomatitus, extreme inflammation of the mouth and lips.
I was heartbroken, one of my five senses totally ruined and in bits I cried and felt real anxiety at meal times.
I was desperate to nourish my ill cancer body, my mouth too painful and odd to enjoy the luxury of normal tastes that I would take for granted previously.
Gareth would have to watch me struggle to eat then convince me to abandon my meal as he saw how much pain I was inflicting upon myself.
I am very stubborn and tried my hardest at meal times to consume.
I am Punjabi so why can’t I eat a spicy curry, this is in my DNA. I have eaten my mothers ancestral Pakistani cooking since eating solid food, I mourned for my former self before the cancer diagnosis.
Growing up, my home was aggressively centered around food no matter how rich or poor we were my mother would always feed us and guests, guest is god.
I say aggressively because south Asian women are not to be messed with, especially when it comes to feeding you.
My mother would list all the foods possible under the sun until you admit defeat and she would then come out of the kitchen with an unexpected meal or snack.
Of course you would eat it all, it is almost like being kidnapped, no choice but to eat, a kinda cool situation really, scary at times but no complaints.
Now back to stomatitis, I would sit there my belly hungry, my brain hungry for taste sensations. I am a restaurateur, food is my livelihood.
I felt like a sorry shameful mess, how can I run a Pakistani curry house and not taste food, let alone curry?
This is some sort of messed up masterplan, the one true joy in my life….
JUST LIKE THAT
My oncologist had started me on a high dose of Afatanib, the targeted therapy drug to work me down. That is what they want to do, to get you to the most ‘tolerant’ but effective point with the treatment.
At this stage I was truly struggling with the most unsightly skin rash and sore mouth, even my lips would hurt if so much as a tomato went near them.
I lost an extreme amount of weight due to the anxiety, I just love food so much, I eat it 3 times a day and always finished my meals.
I made a career out of it and now I was withering away in a sorry heap at home, starving for taste.
In the next clinic session the oncologist took one look at my skin and made the decision to reduce the dosage.
My mouth took sometime to restore and tadah, I can eat chilli for now, phew!
Yes the Pakistani curry lover can now eat her shaandaar home food!
So please, here I share a recipe close to my heart, Gajar Muttar, it’s so simple.
I keep putting it on the menu at Masala Wala Cafe because I adore it so much.
Its does not sound like much but the delicate sweetness of the carrots against the pungent spices bring me genuine joy and happiness.
I love you food what a privilege to work with you and taste you whilst I can today, I love you I love you.
If you are going though conditions or treatments that affect your taste buds omit the chilli, garlic and any overwhelming flavours. This can still be a delicious, cheap and unforgettable treat.
Power, nourishment and flavour to you all!
Gajar Muttar – Spiced carrot and peas (serves 3-4 , if i’m there 2 people)
Carrots thinly chopped in rounds 1kg
Green Peas 300 gms
1 Cinnamon Stick
Half bulb of Garlic blended or finely chopped
Ginger 2-3 cm blended or finely chopped
1 white onion blended or finely chopped
1 chopped green chilli
Turmeric 1 tsp
Chilli powder half tsp
Coriander powder 1 tsp
Garam Masala 1 tsp
Mustard seeds 1 tsp
Coriander for garnish
Salt to taste
In a saucepan fry mustard seeds then quickly add onions and lightly fry till golden
Add garlic, ginger and a little water as to make sure it does not burn
Add dry spices and salt until all binded and a splash of water, cook and stir for a few minutes
Add prepped carrots and cook for 10 minutes or until carrots are soft
add peas to the softened carrots and cook for 3-5 minutes
Top with chopped coriander
Serve hot with basmati rice or flat breads