What were the dishes we kept returning to over this year? From old favourites to new discoveries, home cooks and food enthusiasts tell us they had plenty cookin'.
This is the first in a three-part year-ending series that looks at 2022 through the lens of food. In part 1, home chefs and amateur foodies recap a year in cooking.
1. ROHINI BHOWMICK | Home chef, Thane
As someone whose parents have enjoyed an iconic status as hoteliers with the Taj group of hotels, I’ve always been privy to some of the best confectionery (and food). I owe them for helping my tastebuds evolve and tell the difference instantly when a baker (shop) uses vegetable oil, margarine or actual butter in their bakes.
I realised soon enough that no-one makes apple pies here, and the few that are made either have an overpowering taste of cinnamon or are too mushy or then the pastry dough is too soggy and pasty. (Though one does find innumerable shops selling Apple Crumble, which is just not the same.)
Making an apple pie is a true test of patience, as it's a very laborious dessert to make. Prep needs to begin 24 hours prior to an order being delivered. The pastry dough is made from scratch essentially with flour, sugar and butter and some more ingredients. It’s rested and rolled out at intervals and then put in moulds. The apple filling is made with high quality gala apples which add a bit of crunch. There’s butter, caramel, a hint of cinnamon with some lemon lending tartness to an overall experience. The pies are then covered with a lattice, a process that cannot be rushed. An egg wash before it goes into the ovens, or heavy cream if a client is strictly vegetarian. Every batch takes 90 minutes to bake evenly. And another 90 minutes out of the oven for it to rest.
Over the years, my family and friends loved the pies and bakes I’d make and they felt it was time to roll these beauties out of my kitchen too. Over the past 12 months, at Spices and Friends, we have taken orders for 750+ pieces of apple pies. And every time, the feedback has been more than overwhelming.
Insta: @rohinibhowmick @spicesandfriends
2. GITIKA SAIKIA | Home chef, Mumbai
I always wanted to introduce smoked pork in a non-curry dish like how we get pork khorika or pork skewers at several restaurants in Assam and North-East in general. But I was very hesitant and uncomfortable with the idea because I wasn't sure how the end product would turn out. The pork skewers that you eat in Assam come right from the flames (or chulha) to your plate. But because [mine] is a delivery menu, by the time it is packed and reaches the end consumer, the meat tends to become chewy. Some may like it, some may not appreciate the texture.
But I was very keen on trying it. So I got smoked pork from home (in Assam) the last time I went there. The pork was smoked to a certain temperature. I noticed it didn't get chewy by the time I double smoked it here in Mumbai. The smoked pork in North-East has a rather bland taste. It has very few elements in the marinade; it's just plain salt mixed with crushed chillies or bhut jolokia chillies or sometimes just turmeric. I didn't want it to be that simple -- I made a masala and ensured the pork was smoked again while blended with that mixture. I also ensured that if I was using any raw element such as garlic, it doesn't stand out. In a way, I wanted the smoked pork to complement the herbs I used in the masala.
This smoked pork dish was part of my Tupula Bhaat menu and it worked really well. I got a lot of good reviews and feedback, people shared posts about it on social media asking why it wasn't part of my regular menu. That gave me a lot of confidence and I am hopeful I will be able to do more with smoked pork on my menu in the future. I am glad I could end with a high in 2022, of a journey that I started in 2014 with my pop-ups here in Mumbai.
3. SIBENDU DAS | Former journalist, content creator and food explorer, Kolkata
My Dida or maternal grandmother, who had migrated from Sylhet district of current Bangladesh to the Indian state of Meghalaya during the 1947 Partition, passed away in 2022. She used to make this Kankrol-er Pur (stuffed and shallow fried spine gourd) which I absolutely loved. My mother has learnt it from her. And this year, it was my time to recreate the recipe in my kitchen, with my mom's guidance.
Semi-steamed spine gourd is cut into halves. The inner flesh and seeds are scooped out; the hard seeds are discarded and what's left is mixed with a mash of raw mustard paste, green chillies, a few cloves of garlic, salt and a generous dash of cold pressed mustard oil. It is finally stuffed back into the hollows of the spine gourd shells, to be shallow fried with a thin besan / gram flour batter, with a smattering of white sesame seeds. It's a mouthwatering delicacy. The trick is, however, in the proportions, which takes many attempts, and honestly I haven't yet reached perfection. But it always surprises me how such a homely recipe transforms a simple seasonal vegetable like spine gourd into a gourmet delight.
It brings back a flood of memories — my annual vacations to my Mama Bari (maternal uncle's home) from Kolkata to Assam, sitting cross-legged on mats on the kitchen floor and relishing these culinary masterpieces — the sharp tang of the pungent mustard hitting the "brahmatalu" as my Dida used to say.
4. DEVKI NEHRA | Journalist and food lover, Gurugram
I moved away from home earlier this year and have had to learn to cook for myself because ordering takeout as a fully-functioning adult is a big no in my books. And because of this, I’ve been on the lookout to procure and teach myself low effort, minimal ingredient recipes.
The simplest and easiest thing I can now whip up is moru curry, Kerala’s version of kadhi but a thousand times tastier. It’s a no-fuss dish that needs basic pantry staples. I have revisited this dish far too many times, and I often eat it with plain rice and vangyache kaap (crispy semolina covered eggplant). It’s a great crunchy accompaniment to the tangy, creamy moru curry.
5. MIKAEL HARIS | Aspiring patisserie chef, New Delhi
As a series of lockdowns came to an end earlier this year, it was time to make food that brings everyone together, as opposed just making things for feeding myself, since meeting friends and sharing the joy of food together seemed like a reality again; 2022 was a lot about bringing the “normal” back. And there are only a few things that hit home like chocolate does, and so a dessert that I often get back to making time and again has to be a chocolate one; the particular one I’m talking about here is called the Crousti-Chocolate Entremet, something that I learned through Le Cordon Bleu resources.
This French dessert comprises an almond meringue sponge base, which is cakey and chewy (almost like a macaron) at the same time; a dark chocolate mousse that is light and airy but with an intense chocolate flavour that reaches your soul; and a crunchy magic layer in the middle, made of baked crepes mixed in with hazelnut praline. I often make this dessert and share its love and magic with myself and my friends.
6. SAYANTANI MAHAPATRA | Food blogger and photographer, Kolkata
I like to experiment with local/hyper-local ingredients and try to use them in baking and cooking in innovative ways.
This year I used mahua in Christmas plum cakes. I got this idea while talking to a self-help group in Bankura who have made many sweets using mahua. Mahua looks and tastes pretty much like raisin, hence I soaked it in rum for quite some time and baked traditional plum cakes with it. Before 2022, I somehow could never source mahua here in Kolkata, but I got lucky this year. These boozy cakes won hearts and were loved by my friends.
I also love to make pithes and was trying to master the art of Nokshi pitha, an intricately designed, fried and syrup-dipped pithe. The designs on top are made with a toothpick.
I grew up in Santiniketan and my mother was a student of Kala Bhavana art school. She had learnt this Nokshi pitha from one of her classmates. Later, I also wanted to pursue it and over the last couple of years, after several trials and attempts, I was quite pleased with the result this year.
7. SHELLY TRIPATHY | Home chef and entrepreneur, New Delhi
Post COVID, I have realised how much we need to work on our own immunity, and our ability to tackle seasonal changes and several resulting diseases/allergies. Thus, in every food that I make I try to bring in seasonality using various herbs. But some herbs cannot be consumed throughout the seasons, hence changing them as per seasons require a lot of research.
In 2022-23, if there's something that I have aced then I must admit they are my gond laddus. This dessert has anyway gained immense popularity for its health benefits not just in India, but across the globe. For me, it initially started as a means of reviving a traditional obsolete recipe. I brought in the elements from the Ayurvedic Lakshmivilas Ras such as condiments like pipli and other herbs from old times. I also made these rich in Omega 3 and wholesome as a superfood for the kids, at the same time making it easy for digestion.
I have sold this in the summers, in the monsoons, during the winters and springs as well. For small children, growing kids, women, men and elderly -- the results have been an eye opener.
8. ANIRBAN DHAR | Scientist and researcher, Paris
Figs are available everywhere during the summertime in Europe. These delicious, colourful and aromatic fruits are the epitome of summer. They somehow remind me of my summer vacations in Tuscany some years ago.
I have enjoyed making roasted figs many times this year; each time I played with the ingredients to tune the delicate flavor of the figs in a different way. Sometimes agave or maple syrup replaced the honey, other times it was plant-based coconut, almond or soy yoghurt was used instead of Greek yoghurt. All these variations yielded great results. I always use organic ingredients and I would suggest the same to everyone as I feel it produces better aroma and taste.
All you need for this recipe are ripe figs, halved; orange, grated zest and juice; Greek yoghurt (coconut, almond or soy yoghurt for the vegan version); honey (agave, maple syrup for the vegan version); butter and some roughly chopped unsalted pistachios.
9. ANAGH MUKHERJEE | Visual artist and writer, Mumbai
In 2022, my biggest attraction has been cooking meat with my homemade pickles... especially recreating my grandmother's Kul'r Aanchar, a mouth-watering punch of salt, spice and everything nice with the tender gooeyness of the 'kul', broken down by the sugar.
It takes a summer to make batches of these aanchars and then when used in cooked meat, especially pork and lamb, they are a burst of flavour. I have been experimenting with more home-made pickles, gastriques and compotes like ginger and mango murabbas, gooseberry pickles etc.
10. SANDEEP BHOGRA | Finance professional and food enthusiast, Gurugram
I am 50 and I stay with my grandmother (Chaiji) who is 98 years old. It is my pure love for the food cooked by her that has made me preserve her recipes. I had known that my grandmother is from Faislabad (previousy called Lyallpur in the pre-Partition era) in Pakistan.
This year, through an unknown energy, I have been drawn towards Pakistani food channels that transported me to the very gullies and mohallas of Lahore and Karachi that probably I would never be able to venture into, not at least in this lifetime.
I discovered that Pakistan’s favourite dish is Naan with Chaney (a smaller variety of white chickpeas they call 'desi chaney'). These are smaller than the big swollen variety which we call Kabuli Chana in India. In Pakistan, they don’t call them chhole so often as we do in India. Desi chaney comes from Pakistan's Mianwali region. These are often cooked with chicken or boiled eggs or keema koftas. A plain version is also made, with ghee floating on the top as always. There are umpteen varieties of this dish such as kali mirch chane, khoye wale chane, desi murg chane, chikar chole, etc. I have experimented with all of them in my kitchen this year and loved them all.
The recipe for these dishes has a common thread. No tomatoes, no onions, no red chillies etc. Rather its curd, lot of coarse (not ground) black pepper, green chillies, garlic (less of ginger) and a lot of ghee. Interestingly, I was also using desi chaney to find a connection with my childhood through another dish called Pindi Chaney. While growing up in Rajouri Garden, I used to relish them with umpteen stuffed kulchas or bhaturas. Surprisingly, I have failed to find much mention of this dish on several Pakistani food channels, though the dish has originated from Rawalpindi in Pakistan.
It’s a dry dish (black in colour) that uses desi chaney and desi bartan (iron kadhai) along with dried amla/tea leaves to get that deep almost black colour and the texture. That and the alchemy of ginger, ghee, green chillies, baking soda, asafoetida, anardana and dried mango powder (amchoor) to create the magic that makes up for an excellent pindi chana , that's best enjoyed with steaming hot bhatura.
11. SMITA MALLICK | Home chef, Bhubaneswar
I run a home kitchen called Smita’s Soul Food. Though my place offers food from around the world, it is mostly known for sushi. Initially prawn nigiri was not a part of my menu as the seemingly simple recipe is actually quite technical and it demanded me to have really good knowledge of the star ingredient, i.e. the prawn itself. So with regular visits to the local fish market I learned to identify the wild prawn from the farmed ones.
And then with focused practice and flavour retention techniques, I became quite confident of my nigiri and added it to the menu by mid 2022, which was a year after I started. As orders kept coming in, it gave me more real world practice and my consistency improved. And today I can confidently say that I can make perfect prawn nigiri every single time.
12. SAMITA HALDER | Home chef, Gurugram
This year during summer, a client requested I send her Gondhoraj Murgi (chicken cooked with gondhoraj lemon). Later, when I posted a picture of the dish on my Facebook page, I received numerous orders. I cooked almost 12 kg of Gondhoraj Murgi in one day and got them delivered. Some of the clients were reputed food experts and they got back to me saying they had never tasted anything like that before: the freshness, the subtle spices and lightness made the dish perfect. In fact, I recently cooked this dish during one of my three-day-long food festivals at a club here.
And eventually, just like Chingri Jhuro, Gondhoraj Murgi has also become my signature dish. Despite being a summery dish, I have been regularly getting orders of it in winters.
For this recipe the spices used are minimal: few onions, boiled green chillies, black pepper, yoghurt, and that's all. Of course, the star ingredient is the gondhoraj lemon, it must be fresh. I also add some zest and kaffir lime leaves, but the main trick lies in knowing when to add the leaves. If we boil it in the gravy, it will become bitter.
13. ARUNAVA GHOSH | Corporate lawyer and traveller, Kolkata
I learnt cooking at a very early age from my mother. I had always been a foodie, and so to ensure my tummy was full, I took up cooking as one of my hobbies. I added a great deal of effort into this hobby during the COVID lockdowns; there was ample time to experiment and hone my skills.
Right from my growing-up years when I was just about trying new things in the kitchen, I developed a special taste for Asian flavours. Naturally, Asian cuisine became my go-to comfort zone during lockdown cooking. However, with 2022, our pre-COVID normalcy started resurfacing: offices began to open, everyday rush returned and consequentially there was little to no time for anything else.
With me, my everyday cooking took a big jolt. While I had got into the habit of cooking elaborate Asian platters during lockdown, in 2022 I was barely able to make anything. I needed something quick and delicious. And then came along, what became my go-to fancy-cum-comfort food this entire year: honey soy glazed fish with herbed rice and crushed cucumber salad.
This dish is full of flavours: sweet and hot in equal measure. It is a one-pot dish and takes the shortest amount of time to cook (and consume).
To make this all we need is honey, soy sauce, minced ginger-garlic and pepper. We sauté the fish fillet (preferably salmon) and keep it aside. In the same pan we add the minced ginger and garlic along with crushed pepper. Then we add honey, soy sauce and salt to taste. Pour the sauce over the fish and it’s done. And, to make herbed rice you just need to add parsley, salt and pepper to white rice and toss well.
14. AVIK ROY | Fashion professional and educator, New Delhi
2022 wasn't easy for me. Well, come to think of it, who was it easy for ? I doubt it was for anyone. For me, 2022 was a year of distance. It took me away from my loved ones, 1900 kilometres to be precise. Suddenly in the month of March '22, this 'Bhaat e Maach e Bangali' found himself thrown into a fathomless pool of rajma, chhole and paneer in West Delhi, Tilak Nagar to be as accurate as I possibly can!
'Bhaat' was there but the 'Maachh'? That went for a toss. Reason being unavailability and this Bengali's 'pitpiteh shobhab' (finicky attitude) that simply wouldn't compromise with the quality of fish.
That's when I discovered this easy-peasy smooth-as-silk fish called 'basa'. I know, in Calcutta we wouldn't give it a second glance, but in Delhi I did! No bones, doesn't take long to cook, doesn't require frying and tastes good. I got hooked on to this Fish Stew with 'Basa Maachh' that takes not more than 10 minutes to cook once all the vegetables are peeled, diced and ready to cook. You could substitute milk with coconut milk and tamarind water for a mouth watering south Indian tang or stick to milk, black and white pepper combination for a more North Calcutta twist. Choice is yours and happiness belongs to your tummy.
15. SAMARTH MAHAJAN | Filmmaker, Mumbai
Left with no option but to break my patriarchal outlook towards cooking, the pandemic taught me the all-important life skill. One of the biggest pleasures was discovering my love for cooking Dal-Pakwan – a Sindhi combo of chana dal and something like a khasta mathri. It fits both into a snack as well as a main course, and is an interesting mix of healthy (courtesy the dal) and unhealthy (the deep-fried maida). The whistle of the pressure cooker, crackling sound while frying pakwan, and the tangy garnish of ginger juliennes and lemon, became comforting triggers.
This Christmas was the first in three years that I am spending with my friends again. This has been a year of recovery, coming back to life, and reclaiming the “normal”. Amidst the normalcy, life took over, lethargy set in and I found myself falling out of touch with cooking again. A holiday, the idea of cooking for loved ones, an urge to show gratitude towards what the testing times taught me, came together to make me revisit the comforting Dal-Pakwan.
16. SACHIN KHATWANI | Home chef, Lucknow
I run a cloud kitchen from my house in Lucknow. Being a pastry artist, my cooking and business mostly revolve around delectable cakes and pastries. But I do dabble in many savoury foods in my cloud kitchen. The challenges of a cloud kitchen also bring opportunities for me; several clients ask to be "surprised" and that gives me tremendous creative freedom.
Being a Lucknawi, how can one not savour kebabs and kormas? They are some of this iconic city's specialties. Over the past few years, I have been experimenting with lot of kebabs. However, this year I tried something and it turned out to be not just one of my most favourite kebabs but also of several of my clients. I made kebabs out of banana flowers and served them with chilli chutney and cucumber slaw.
The idea behind this dish was also to familiarise my vegetarian friends with Lucknawi flavours. In North India, hardly anybody uses banana flower in their cooking, and that's where my inspiration came from: to use ingredients that people are not aware of. In addition to this novelty element, these banana flower kebabs are a healthy option/alterative to the quintessential vegetarian kebabs that are laden with ghee or dalda. So, I aimed at offering a different kebab for a regular day.
17. MOUMITA MUKHERJEE | IT professional and homechef, Kolkata
2022 has been a year of Oriental one pot meals for me. A clear choice for a few reasons, firstly the easy obtainability of ingredients due to online shopping apps, secondly the ease of creating a dish mainly due to the quick fix nature of the recipes. Also the abundance of choice in one pot meal recipes makes Thai, Korean, Vietnamese or Chinese meals an obvious selection. Add to that the usual heat quotient or sauciness which makes it interesting for the Indian palate as a whole.
As a working mother, juggling between work-from-home IT job and family, these meals were primarily a convenient choice. These recipes remind me of my times in Thailand and Indonesia... the fragrance of lemon grass, kaffir lime or the spunkiness of East Asian chilli pastes or sauces.
My choices of recipes have ranged from soups, salads to quick fix fried starches. This includes common recipes like Sriracha fried rice, Cong You Ban Mian and Ginger hoisin noodles; filling meals like lion head soup or Gaeng Jaed Woon, or light lunches like Thai cabbage salad, Smashed Cucumber salad and Laotian Rice Ball salad.
I have a firm belief that this preference for Asian one-pot meals, which came out from a state of compulsion in 2022, will continue even longer.
18. ANKIT SAINI | Management Consultant and food explorer, New Delhi
Trite as it may sound but truly, necessity is the mother of invention. Having relocated back to Delhi post COVID pandemic and with the ever-daunting task of finding a good cook a challenge, I started to find ways to continue my ‘almost’ vegan journey through self preps that are quick, nutritious, filling and appealing too.
Naturally, I started to experiment with different ingredients for salads and dressings -- prepared from extremely accessible stuff that I used to pick on my way back from my office at Connaught Place. From occasional quick Guacamole to fresh olive corn pepper salads, and sometimes even sautéed egg plants with an Italian tinge -- it quickly became a rage and friends and colleagues started to look forward to my daily Instagram stories. Today, I have a dexterous and diligent cook but still I dabble in salads every now and then.
19. AVINASH PATNAIK | Home chef, Bhubaneswar
I remember last year while returning from my walk, I saw this beautiful kadamba tree (Neolamarckia cadamba) laden with flowers. Staring at those flowers, I kept wondering whether they were edible or not, and the very next moment my friend shared a WhatsApp image of a kadamba flower and asked me to make a dish out of them.
She knew about my interest in the practice of making dishes from flowers, wild and foraged plants. She shared a few videos on the edible use of the kadamba flowers adding how during her stay in Jharkhand she had tasted a chutney (relish) made from these ripe kadamba fruits. One can eat these ripe kadamba fruit directly; they are sour in taste with peculiar adaptive flavour.
In parts of Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh ripe kadamba fruits are consumed as chutney. These fruits are sour in taste and have an adaptive flavour, so one needs to develop a palate for it. Plus these fruits have several heath benefits and are loaded with antioxidants.
This year I made this no-cook, easy local recipe and utilised this seasonal fruit to make kadamba chutney. I also ended up making kadamba tarkari which is cooked like any other vegetable dish with plenty of nutrients stored inside it.
20. SOUMYA GOPI | Home chef, Bengaluru
Post COVID, we saw most of the people exploring old recipes with supposed health benefits, just like the one in the picture I've shared: rice gruel (kanji) with accompaniments. It’s a super healthy meal to take especially when you are down with cold or fever. We also saw a lot of people sharing posts about pothichoru (rice , curry and accompaniments) wrapped in a banana leaf. All these meals are part of old eating practices. But now with the trend of recreating vintage familial meals, these recipes have resurfaced in public memory.
Usually rice gruel is had with leftover fish curry, or chammanthi (spicy ground coconut) along with some stir fried vegetables. A lot of restaurants also serve kanji these days; they even use traditional earthen pots and dishes to serve the food, which adds to the meal's innate health benefits.
Seeing this nostalgia overdrive around, even I couldn't resist myself. 2022 saw me making kanji very often. That whole idea of a comfortable and familiar food, loaded with so many plus points healthwise, seemed like the best plan.
[In my photo: Broken Red rice gruel (Kanji) with pickle, prawns crackers, chammanthi (spicy ground coconut), payar mezhukkupuratti (stir fried green gram with shallots and crushed red chillies) and green chilli.]
21. SREENANDA SHANKAR | Dancer and actor, Mumbai/Kolkata
Before the COVID-19 lockdowns, I didn't know how to cook anything. I would literally Google the time needed to boil eggs. But when you are put in situations where there is no choice and you have to learn, you learn! I got very paranoid during COVID thinking what if I never get to eat so many things that I have eaten and liked, and ever so many that I haven't had so far.
Years ago, during one of my pre-wedding rituals called 'aibhuro bhaat', my best friend's father had cooked a mutton curry that instantly clicked with me. It was this very village-y, homely, grandma-like mangsho (mutton curry). Years later, I learnt that recipe from my friend (his father is no more) and according to him, I have surpassed his father. It is the quintessential Sunday mangsho'r jhol with a lot of mustard oil and no jeere-dhone (cumin powder and coriander powder) and no extra spices, it is a completely comfort dish.
And I think, if there's anything I have made the most in 2022, it is that mutton curry. All my friends and even my mother have repeatedly asked me to cook it; they all just love it.
22. PRIYA VIJAN | Home chef and nutritionist, Bengaluru
I run a home kitchen that caters plant-based confectionery. I teach about plant-based food from the health perspective.
I have taken a keen interest in understanding how our body reacts to certain foods -- dairy and gluten allergies topping the list. Being allergic to dairy myself I understand the nuances of having limited food options. I connected with people who are celiac and have gluten intolerances, that pushed me to work around vegan and gluten-free breads. My food always has purpose - to nourish!
It took me 1.5 years to get the recipe of a gluten-free sourdough right. I started my research in 2020; after several trials and errors (around 30 odd shots) I finally nailed it this year. Right from the starter to the final product, everything was just perfect. It is the longest time I have spent in acing a recipe. I have received positive feedback from all my clients. They found my bread far better and cleaner than what they get in the market, which is usually loaded with starches.