Since many of the recipes are from my childhood, and most have been modernized to suit my vegetarian lifestyle, my publisher asked me to include photos of my family around food. Old photos, of course. So I plumaged my parents old photo albums scouring for photos. One of the photos was of my Indian nanny growing up, Morris. May seem bizarre that I had a male nanny, but he was not my full time caretaker. Morris primarily took care of my grandfather who lived in Japan. When my grandfather, known as Bobosh, would come to visit us in NY, Morris would come and stay with us for a few months.
When I looked at the photo of Morris, standing so proudly like a dutiful soldier, I was pulled back to my memories of him growing up in NY. Morris was a small, dark man that resembled Gandhi, except he had more hair, wore clothes (and not a diaper like Gandhi) and had a little mustache.
Morris, was a sweet, quiet Indian Christian with Hindu principles, who was vegetarian. The interesting story behind how my parents met Morris is quite astonishing.
When my parents got married over 60 years ago, they lived in Bombay (Mumbai). One night, in the middle of the night, my mother got up from her sleep and walked into the backyard. She saw a little family living there, like the way nocturnal animals do. They simply needed a place to sleep and found refuge in my parents quiet backyard, without my parents realizing it for years. Until..... that one night.
Sleeping in the backyard were three cousins: Morris, who would later be my Bobosh's caretaker and my nanny; Paul, who would later be my father's bookeeper and Cornelius, who would later be the housekeeper and most of the time DRUNK!
My mother accosted these young very skinny men and somehow, in typical Zina (my mother's name) fashion they became employed. I can tell you that these kinds of stories happened hundreds of times to my parents. If there is one thing I appreciate about them is that they are open to all opportunities and cultures.
As a child, I remember Morris helping my mother cook all the traditional Bukharian dishes which consisted of meat, in spite of him being a vegetarian. He cooked meat like nobody's business. How?.... I have no idea.
Typically the help in my parents house would eat the food that was being prepared, but Morris could not eat any of the food. He would quietly make a simple vegetarian Indian dish for himself, while he was stirring my mother's pots.
The one dish I remember Morris cooking for himself was this Curried Cabbage. I am not sure why I recalled this dish out of all the foods he prepared. I think because when I was a kid, I was thinking at the time, who eats cooked cabbage as a meal? As a child, I suppose those kinds of foods were unthinkable to me. Now.... it's the norm!
So here is the Curried Cabbage that Morris made and has become one of my favorite dishes. First off, it's so easy to prepare as this humble cabbage gets transformed into a delectable dish flavored with fresh coconut and some hot chile. A food fit for a Hindu Prince.
1 head cabbage, Finely chopped
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 Green Chili, finely chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 cup Freshly grated coconut
1/4 cup Coriander, finely chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Sea Salt, to taste
1. Wash the finely chopped cabbage in salt water and then soak for 5 minutes to remove any debris and bugs.
2. In a saucepot, heat coconut oil over medium heat and add the mustard seeds and wait until they splutter. Then add the green chilie, curry powder, and turmeric powder. Add the cabbage and mix well. Cover it with lid and let it cook in its own juices for about 15 minutes or until the cabbage becomes transparent.
3. Once cooked, add the grated coconut, cilantro, sugar, lemon juice and salt. Serve with a side of Basmati rice.