In the land of looms and lores, a.k.a. Kannur, Kerala, a mother-daughter duo runs India’s most enticing food blog – The Malabar Tea Room. Together, Aysha and her mother Kathijah whip up culinary favourites from around the globe using local ingredients and their keen imagination.
What started as a project that the two could work on while Aysha lived away has today evolved into a beautiful assortment of their skills: cooking, writing, and photography. One look at their blog will transport you straight to their kitchen where the scent of spices lingers in the air!
“Mum is an amazing cook, and a food blog was the perfect way to combine her skills with my love for writing and photography,” says Aysha who launched the blog in 2012 with a post about mayonnaise. Since then, their repository of recipes has grown to include exquisite chocolate cake, Keralan fish stew, and gorgeous homemade marshmallows!
“When she got married at 17, [mum] barely knew how to make a cup of tea”, writes Aysha. Today, in a traditional and conventional landscape, Kathija’s recipes break all barriers, turning even the most ordinary ingredients into something extraordinary.
While Aysha dreams up unlikely pairings and combinations, Kathija finds a way to create it, (even though the two used to argue “because our ideas of what made for a good recipe were vastly different – she found my tastes too avante garde and I thought hers bordered on boring”, says Aysha. Now they are pair a force to reckon with in the kitchen. The most prolific example being the ‘Earl Grey and Honey Panna Cotta’, a subtle recipe that makes for a delicious dessert.
Aysha explains, “One of the really awesome things about cooking in a small town is that you learn to look at recipes as general guidelines rather than strict rules. Improvisation is the name of the game.
It’s challenging, but when you find that about half the ingredients in a recipe aren’t available to you, you can either give up, or use your imagination to come up with ingredients that have similar textures or fall under the same flavour profile. Sometimes it doesn’t quite work out, but every now and then it turns out better than we imagined, in which case we blog about it and share it with the world.”
So if you’re looking for instruction and company in turning the most ordinary ingredients into something special, you know where to look.
Written by Tulika Bhogaraju
Featured image source: The Dinner Special Podcast