The veteran and much-venerated playback singer, Asha Bhosle is a fabulous cook and a successful restaurateur with a worldwide chain named after her (Asha’s). In a food-filled interaction with the Cinema Journal, Bhosle, while raving about her sister Lata Mangeshkar’s mutton coriander, talks about her favourite dishes, diet, and more. “Lataji is a fan of my cooking and often tells people that no one can cook like me. I think she particularly likes my shammi kebabs which she requests once in a while,” the veteran singer says. Excerpts:
First thing I have in the morning: Strong tea with milk and sugar. I can’t have light teas. And no sugar free substitutes for me.
Breakfast includes: Papaya, followed by toast with butter and some more tea. Sometimes, I sprinkle a little sugar on my toast. If I’m going for a song recording or have a heavy duty day, then I may also have two fried eggs, sunny side up, or a proper meal with chapati and vegetables.
Dietary preference: I’m a non vegetarian. I prefer seafood, especially deep fried fish and I enjoy mutton, though I don’t have it often. I’m not a fan of chicken. Dal, rice, chapati and vegetables are the mainstay of my diet. I prefer all kinds of green vegetables, but I rarely eat potato.
The secret to my good health: The secret is to eat everything, but in small quantities. It’s only when we overdo our eating habits that we tend to expose ourselves to illnesses. Neither do I consume alcohol nor do I smoke.
To safeguard my throat I avoid: Sour items. No citric fruits or juices.
Lunch is: Roti, rice, yellow dal, green vegetables.
A must-have accompaniment with my meals: I like having fried papad sometimes with dal-rice; mango and green chilly pickles are my favourite. But I believe that a perfect dish shouldn’t need accompaniments. When I cook and if someone asks for pickles or lemon or extra salt, I’m disappointed.
Sunday lunch: Something special like biryani or dhansak made with long-grain rice, or a spicy Goan fish curry or fried fish.
Dinner time: Dinner has to be light. Too much food before bedtime is difficult to digest and may keep you awake.
I can cook: Good Indian food or so I’m told by my family, friends and lately the diners in my restaurants called Asha’s — presently there are 10 of these based in Dubai, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Birmingham, Doha and Bahrain.
Favourite dessert: I must have dessert after every meal. If no dessert is available, I eat a small piece of jaggery. Though gajar halwa is more popular, I prefer dudhi halwa.
Favourite beverage: Tea with milk and sugar. I don’t have aerated drinks though when I was much younger I used to enjoy Vimto once in a while.
Childhood memory: My pure vegetarian Gujarati mother would make this amazing chicken curry and rice pulao for my 100 percent non-vegetarian Goan father. When I was a child, he fed me this concoction under the disapproving glare of my mother. My mother is no more, but we cook her famous curry on special Sundays; and then just one whiff transports me back to 1938... being fed by my father. Those were the best days of my life.
Food item that best describes me: Perhaps, the Indian Alphonso mango — sometimes sweet, sometimes sour; used in pickles and also consumed as a dessert. Does it remind you of me?
Muscat Gosht Recipe
(Boneless tender lamb cooked with clarified butter in a spicy, rich onion and tomato gravy)
1 kg lamb boneless cubes (3 into 3 cms)
250 gm onions (sliced)
350 gm tomatoes (sliced)
75 gm ginger paste
75 gm garlic paste
6 gm black peppercorns
8 gm cinnamon (whole)
10 gm whole Kashmiri red chilli
5 gm cloves (whole)
7 gm black cardamom (whole)
150 gm ghee
30 gm Kashmiri red chilli powder
Salt as per taste
For garnish: 20 gm red/yellow bell pepper julienne, Coriander sprig
Preparation: Begin with a clean cooking pot, add all main ingredients (mutton, sliced onions, sliced tomatoes, ginger garlic paste, black peppercorns, cinnamon, whole red chillies, cloves, black cardamom and salt). Stir well, cover and cook on slow heat for two to three hours or till the mutton becomes tender.
Add ghee and red chilli powder and stir well. Cook for another 10-15 minutes till the gravy reaches a thick consistency. Check seasoning. Garnish it with red/yellow bell pepper julienne and coriander sprig.
(Note: Make sure you don’t add water. The whole process of cooking should be on an absolute low flame)