A delicious heritage

There is, perhaps, no other heritage-type as universally and easily appreciated as the heritage of food. Within this impossibly vast subject is that extra-special heritage of unique family recipes. Understandably, such dishes are usually served and shared with a generous helping of family memories. If I share some on mine, would you do the same?

Each of these recipes dates back, at least, to my great-grandparents’ generation. I picked out their frayed pages recently from amongst my grandmother’s stack of old recipes. Here you are – enjoy!

Mango Foo

Made from the pulp of kairis, a drink of mango foo marks, in my house, the beginning of summer. For a family that, in a good crop year, is inundated with mangoes from our farm, the everyday making of mango foo accompanies the now-familiar experience of having dozens of raw mangoes piled – just right, mind you – in our halls and bedrooms as we wait for them to ripen. And wonder what we’re going to do with them all!

The name is a variation of the dessert Mango fool, made from pureed fruit folded into cream. But, lets face it, ‘foo’ sounds way nicer and more interesting! It tastes better too. The recipe dates to my great grand aunt but that’s only how far we’ve been able to trace it.

Asking around, the connection most widely made to drinking mango foo is doing so whilst studying for all sorts of final exams invariably held during the early summer heat. I’ve been told it’s an acquired taste but I don’t agree; there is really nothing like a chilled glass of mango foo to beat the miserable heat of a Bombay summer.

It’s this simple:

  1. Boil, skin and pulp as many kairis as you like.
  2. Blend pulp with sugar and cold milk until of a thick-liquidy consistency (adjust to taste).
  3. Serve chilled in a tall glass with ice-cubes.


A quirky name for a recipe that is just that quirky. When I asked around if this was a recipe any of my friends had heard of, the most common response was fingers to lips, miming a smoke – for shame. Puff is not a smoke, nor is it solid, liquid or something in between. Its recipe describes it best:

  1. Cook milk with sugar and cardamom until thickened.
  2. Chill overnight.
  3. In a large bowl, beat using an electric mixer, until froth appears on the top.
  4. Scoop the froth into a glass and serve quickly with a spoon.

My mother remembers having Puff as child at breakfast, a treat followed by games of badminton at a time when bungalows in Andheri could conceivably have courts on their lawns. In my lifetime, we’ve just had Puff, followed by a breakfast feast at my cousins’ home. It works just as well. The fun is in the race, in getting to those bubbles before they disappear!

Originally though, Puff is a Parsi delicacy, called Dudh Na Puff. That recipe is slightly different, creating a thicker, heavier form of Puff. In not so distant times, vendors in Bombay would sell Puff door-to-door, in glasses taller than, but reminiscent of, today’s tea glasses [www.parsicuisine.com/puff.php].

‘The next morning we awakened to the metallic jangle of the whirring egg-whisk, and a dazzling display of glasses bulging with foam crowns, arraigned on the window-sill. Mouths salivating, teetering with sleep, we wobbled over to the window and carefully guided the frothing spoonfuls from the glass to our wide-opened mouths. It was the distillation of happiness.’ – A Puff of Air. By Bapsi Sidhwa [available online].

So go on, choose your own particular favourite, quirky, even downright weird family recipes and share their stories. For those recipes that have never been written down, like the biryani my Dadi will serve on Eid in a few days, remember to ferret their one special secret ingredient. But…

When they ask you for the recipe

always miss out that ingredient.

Pass it on to your daughter.

Never write it down.

–   Recipe, never written down. By Imtiaz Dharker.


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