Posted on 08/31/2021 at 11:30 AM by Madhu Gadia
August 31, 2021
Jolie Cooks with Madhu Column:
Road Trip to Ames, Meeting Guru, Making Dosa
When I received an email from Madhu asking me if I’d like to come to Ames to do a live “Chat with Chai” on Facebook Live, I wrote back: “When can I come?” Of course, I jumped at the chance to meet my guru in person and talk about Indian food and recipes.
This was the first road trip Ted and I took in over a year and a half. Ames, we found, is only six hours away. We set a date for our adventure and off we went, with me clutching my double copies of her cookbooks for signing.
On a sunny August day, we traveled west from Milwaukee over the southern part of Wisconsin, crossed the great Mississippi at Dubuque, and drove past beautiful fields of ripening corn to Ames, the home of Iowa State University and my teacher of Indian cuisine.
As we arrived at her house on a shady street and walked to the door, I noticed the walkway was lined with tomato, eggplant, and lush green squash vines with huge leaves and tendrils: a perfect approach to a food writer’s home. Madhu welcomed us and led us straight to her kitchen. I looked around in awe: this is where the magic of her 300+ recipes started!
First Order of Business - Chai & Chat
No time now for musing; we sat down at her kitchen table and prepared for our online chat starting in an hour. Since food itself is communication and welcome for Madhu, out came the mugs of chai, the pakoras, chutneys, and gulab jamun, a dessert she had prepared. Her table was a delicious and beautiful tableau. I noticed her pakoras were smaller than the ones I had made with my granddaughter. The smaller size carried the chutneys better and were crispier. I was also surprised that Madhu’s chai was not as strong as the tea I made when I had tested it and I liked hers better.
I felt totally relaxed with Madhu as we chatted before and during the call-in session. She is an excellent teacher and mentor in person and on her website and blog. Very warm and down to earth, she encouraged and partnered with me, letting me stray here and there while backing me up. Never a discouraging word! With her support my attempts turn into successes.
The hour of our video chat flew by as we talked about the beginnings of our Jolie Cooks with Madhu project and what I’ve learned from her. We were happy with the questions our audience sent in and enjoyed the experience, new to each of us.
Fresh Dosa Lunch
I had mentioned to Madhu that the Mysore Woodlands Restaurant on Devon in Chicago was no longer in business. Every now and then Ted and I went there to satisfy our dosa cravings. Dosas are the tastiest, crispiest, thinnest “crepes” in the whole wide world, and we love them with potato filling. Now I needed to learn how to make them myself. Madhu’s response: “No problem.” So… over to her stove to learn how to replicate those awesome dosas! Although you can make the batter yourself, which involves grinding and preparing both a rice and a chana dal component, pre-made dosa mix is now available and Madhu uses it herself.
The secret of making dosas is cooking them speedily on a hot griddle. I took a video of her making them, which she will share on her blog. And I made a few myself. As with every other Indian dish during our project, I’m confident that I can make dosas at home whenever I want to.
Dinner With Friends
We invited our husbands Shashi and Ted, who had been relegated to the living room, back into the kitchen for a Southern Indian lunch. The crispy dosas were stuffed with Madras potatoes and complemented with coconut and sambhar. tamarind chutneys. Madhu also had prepared sambar, the most popular dal in Southern India. Ted and I loved every single bite.
Later that evening we returned for yet another five-star meal. After a glass or two of wine, Madhu ushered me into the kitchen for a lesson in frying puri, those wonderful light-as-a-feather puffy breads. After demonstrating how to roll the dough and quickly fry them, she had me cooking them myself. I was excited to see that mine puffed up like balloons, too. We made about two dozen in all and took them to the dining room table, set for dinner.
Since I’m now cooking entire Indian meals rather than one recipe at a time, I noted that Madhu’s menu included a vegetable, dal, salad, bread, and dessert. She made a spinach dish with cheese (Saag Paneer), a chickpea recipe (Chole), a sprouted mung bean salad, and the puris we had just made. A traditional almond dessert called barfi, topped with delicate silver foil completed the feast. While enjoying the meal we had a lively conversation.
Madhu and Shashi are gracious hosts who made us feel comfortable, welcome, and totally at home.
The next morning we met Madhu for an American breakfast to recap our whirlwind visit before leaving for home. I left knowing that we have good friends in Ames and that Madhu has opened the door of the Indian kitchen for me.
Both Jolie and I were super pleased with our Facebook Live “Chai and Chat.” The good thing is once posted on Facebook, the event is recorded and people can watch it at their convenience. Many of you have seen it; thank you for supporting us.
Jolie and Ted were easy guests. I’m glad they felt comfortable and we all had a good time. Welcoming guests is ingrained in Indian culture - for more on Indian Hospitality, I’m sharing an excerpt from The Indian Vegan Kitchen :
Hospitality is central to Indian culture. The Sanskrit saying "Atithi Devo Bhava," meaning "guest is god," conveys the respect granted to guests. Most Indians take pride in making a visitor feel comfortable and cared for. A visit is considered incomplete…. read more:
Jolie has been working hard to master a new cuisine, it takes commitment, and she has been triumphant. It was great to meet Ted, too; he’s right there encouraging Jolie and devouring everything she cooks, and everything I cooked.
The highlight of the visit was making dosa and puris. Jolie is a good student. All I had to do was show her how to make one dosa, and she replicated, no problem. And then, when we were making puris, I realized because she’s a bread baker (remember she bakes bread with her grandkids), making roti and puri was easy peasy for her. She fried puris like a pro.
One of these days, I will have to learn how to make bread from her. As we now have a friend in Wisconsin.
Jolie’s visit menu:
Dosa (See Dosa Demo; using Prium Brand Dosa mix, other brands available at an Indian grocery store)
Coconut Chutney, New Indian Home Cooking, page 213
Sambhar: The Indian Vegan Kitchen, page
Puri, see recipe
Spinach Paneer (Saag Paneer), see recipe
Spicy Chickpeas (Chole), New Indian Home Cooking, page 124
Sprouted Mung Bean Salad, The Indian Vegan Kitchen, page 190
NEW see sprouted Mung video
Almond Barfi, The Indian Vegan Kitchen, page 204
Disclaimer: "Jolie Cooks with Madhu" is an independent column. The views expressed are Jolie Zimmers's personal cooking experiences and do not represent any product or company. They are not paid or reimbursed by any third party for their viewpoints.