Inspired by the South Indian Rava Kichadi, this Savory Semolina Loaf is a delicious vegan alternative.
They say that the kitchen is at the heart of every home, but it was quite the opposite in mine: my home was at the heart of our kitchen.
If you’ve paid any interest to the ‘About‘ page on this blog, you’d know that my love of food stems from my family. It’s always been about food with us, and if you had any doubts on whether people who love to eat are the best kind of people, you should come meet my folks. All of us cook, including the men, and mind you, in the Indian society, it’s not usual for the men to be gifted or trained in the culinary arts. When it comes to food, the country is strictly matriarchal, and kitchen wisdom is best handed down by women to women, although I sincerely do hope there’s a change coming along on that front.
But my family was quite unlike most others, in more ways than one. My dad’s omelette is the best I’ve ever tasted, and there will never again be another who could make it as well as he did. While my mother cooked purely to nourish us, my father cooked because he loved to cook and that translated into the food directly; his Sunday stir-fry is absolutely legendary.
We lived in a tiny apartment, with the tiniest kitchen you can imagine, but we were happiest when we cooked, together. And every 4 hours, we stopped to plot the next meal together, but it wasn’t out of gluttony though. It was from genuine love of food, where quality, rather the uniqueness of it, was more important than quantity.
Most of the day, the TV was tuned to a cooking show – there are about 60 languages spoken in India, and no matter the language, if there was a cooking show being telecast, my mother saw it. Her argument: you don’t need to know the language to understand food. You see the ingredients. You know what they’re doing. That’s all there is to it. We never could argue with her infallible logic.
While we all had different tastes in the choice of entertainment, and the struggle for the TV remote was as real in our place as it probably was in yours, most of the compromises ended at the Travel and Living channel- it was a common favorite.
It was on TLC that I first saw Nigella Lawson, and let her sweep me into a world where food was much more than what it seemed to be. It was not just for eating, rather it was an experience, and a sensual one at that. She was the one who made me realize my love of food, and I’ve never looked back since.
Right after her show at 9 p.m., Anjum Anand’s ‘Indian Food made Easy’ came on and it was on her show that I saw this Savory Semolina Loaf. While every other show on TLC probably was on British or American food, Anjum was the sole Indian who was transforming Indian food for the global palette. Even more, she was teaching Brits raised on fish n chips to cook Indian food, where each recipe normally involved a minimum of 5 spices, 3 more than their palette was usually accustomed to.
We loved Anjum for the way she made us look at Indian food and this Savory Semolina Loaf has been stuck in my mind for about a decade. While we all grew up eating Kichadi at home, seeing it baked in the oven in a loaf tin isn’t something we imagined possible.
This is likely the longest turnaround I’ve had to recreating a recipe, but I finally checked it off my list. I tweaked her recipe a little to make it taste more like the Kichadi I’ve been raised on, which also happens to be vegan (yaay!), and it turned out quite lovely. Eating Kichadi in slices was a rather interesting and refreshing experience as opposed to the goopy (but tasty) mess it usually is.
Should you wish to try your hand at this semolina loaf, please note that Anjum’s recipe uses yogurt instead of the coconut milk I’ve chosen to use. She also uses a different set of spices for tempering, and both variations are delicious. You could also opt to skip the red chilli powder altogether, if you’re palette is of a more delicate disposition.
And please don’t forget to pair this Savory Semolina Loaf with plain old-fashioned coconut chutney – its creamy sweetness offsets against the soft, yet gritty semolina and compliments all the spices and flavors in play.