When I traveled to India with one of my favourite friends – years ago now – stepping out of the airport into the thickness of midnight humidity, the cacophony of touts waving signs and the smell of cow dung, smoke, and spilled chai felt not like stepping into a foreign country but rather into a place of strange familiarity, like I had entered a dream I’d had before and suddenly remembered.
While other people’s bodies notoriously reject India – they become gaunt from days or weeks of stomach upset – mine embraced the country and every bite I took wholeheartedly. I returned from India to a closet of clothes that no longer fit exactly right, and decided to continue wearing my traveler’s uniform of long skirts, a wide leather belt, a tunic and a colourful pashmina.
We ate rooftop breakfasts of pakora and chai on our first bewildered, overwhelmed days in New Delhi. There were nightly feasts of butter chicken and paneer masala scooped on wide swaths of blistered naan. Clay cups of fresh lassi quenched our afternoons. There was cup after cup (after cup after cup) of sweet, milky chai – procured on a quick dash from train to platform and back during a long-haul cross country rail trip, savoured after each meal, drunk as a sip of familiarity in our constantly changing travelscape.
Every so often I light a stick of incense and stand by a simmering pot of spinach, cheese, yogurt and spices, just to tide me over until I find myself in India again.
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. cardamom
- 1 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp. garlic, chopped
- 1/2 cup tomato, roughly chopped
- 6 cups baby spinach
- 1/2 tsp. paprika
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3 tbsp. plain yogurt
- 8 oz. paneer cheese, cut into cubes
- Saute onion, cinnamon, cardamom and ginger in a splash of olive oil until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and tomatoes and reduce the heat, allowing the mixture to simmer. Add the rest of the spices and the spinach, cooking until it's wilted.
- Remove the mixture from the heat and blend half of it in a food processor. Return the blended half to the saute pan. Add yogurt and paneer, and return to the stove to bring the mixture up to serving temperature again.
- Serve with rice or naan.