Cookbook Project featuring Sarita D'souza

Jordan Evans

Cookbook Project featuring Sarita D'souza

Meet Sarita D'Souza! Her journey towards cooking started after she was married, and since then, her passion for creating and exploring new cuisines continues. For the Cookbook Project, she submitted the Manglorean Rice Dumpling Curry recipe that showcases the food heritage and culture of where her husband grew up.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background. 

My name is Sarita D'Souza. I was born and brought up in Mumbai. My husband's name is Henry D'Souza, and he was born in Mangalore. We stayed in Mangalore every vacation for a month. My husband worked for a state bank, so we often moved locations. When he retired, we moved to Goa, where we live today.

Tell us about how you became interested in cooking.

My mother is an excellent cook. But I didn't pick up cooking from her during my childhood. Being the eldest, I was my grandmother's pet. She wouldn't allow my mother to give me any chores because she did not want me to be tired after school and work. Whenever my mother tried to teach me how to cook, my grandmother always found a way to stop it. 

It was only after my marriage that I learned to cook. I visited my mom every Monday and spent hours in the kitchen learning everything she knew. Even in my office, while having lunch, I would ask my colleagues to share recipes. Then I'd come back home to practice. When my children were born, they became my biggest fans. They loved my food, and I loved cooking for them.

Who taught you to cook, or are you self-taught?

My mother and my friends are the ones who taught me how to cook. I also bought many recipe books, especially Sanjeev Kapoor's books. 

Tell me a little about the dish you submitted.

I have now mastered Mangalorean cooking. Typically, we Mangaloreans have dosas and neer dosas which are our staple foods, and this recipe is also similar to that. I will be cooking steamed rice dumplings soaked in a traditional vegetarian vegetable or chicken curry. They are easy to clean up because it is a one-pot recipe.  

What was your inspiration behind submitting this recipe? What are the origins of this recipe? Is this recipe your own or passed down in the family?

I wanted to represent my background with this traditional Mangalorean dish. Like kori roti, this dish is a delicacy in Mangalore and prepared on special occasions and festivals.

What makes this recipe unique to you?

This recipe is special to me because it is one of my husband's favorite dish besides kori roti which is a favorite of my sons too! 

Who is your cooking inspiration, and why?

The person who inspired me to start cooking was my mother-in-law. I went to Mangalore after my marriage, and she asked me to cook. I told her that I didn't know how, but I will surely learn it. I became determined to learn to cook and that's how my cooking journey began. 

I am inspired whenever my husband, children, and friends relish my food. My friends in Goa anticipate visiting my place for a feast every Christmas and New Year. But I mainly keep cooking for my husband. I love it when he is excited about my food. It makes me feel content. 

What is one spice/ingredient you can't do without, and why?

Coconut! We use coconut in almost every dish. I use coconut to make sukkah chicken and fish curry. I also like to use red chilies and spices like cinnamon, pepper, and cardamom. 

Do you have any favorite dishes or any favorite food memories from childhood? 

My mom used to prepare a delicious chicken roast. Today, my sisters and I have mastered the recipe just like my mom. She also used to make an incredible Kashmiri egg masala. When I took an interest in cooking, I made sure to write down all of my mother's recipes, and now I have a book full of them. Whenever I crave those dishes or miss her, I open that book and start cooking.

What is the one cooking tip you have received and from whom?

My mother always said that you must cook from your heart, and the food will turn out better.

What's the importance of sharing a meal around the table?

Eating together is important to me. I love sitting around the table with my family and seeing my loved ones' reactions when they eat the food I prepared. Whenever I cook something good, my husband and children always make a point to voice their appreciation, especially when that food is chicken frankies (wrap). Both of my sons and my husband love this dish. Whenever my sons visit, they ask me to cook it. Even when I'm tired, I always go out of my way to cook it for them.

What's the most memorable meal that you've made?

When visiting my eldest son in the US, a few of his friends came over, and he asked me to cook for them. It was a memorable day because around 10-12 boys ate with us. I made kori roti, Nargisi kebabs, fried prawns, mutton roast, vegetable curry, and a salad. All of his friends enjoyed the food. That was also the first time my husband helped me cook. He stood beside me the whole time. Now, when I visit my son in the US, his friends always ask me to make my famous chocolate curd cake.

Is there a type of food that intrigues you and that you'd like to learn to prepare?

I watch Masterchef Australia, and I like how they prepare the food, especially the presentation. I want to learn how to present the food as they do. 

What do you enjoy apart from cooking?     

Singing! In my spare time, I sing and dance. Lately, I've been unwell, so dancing is challenging. But my voice is just fine. I attend all the singing classes on GetSetUp and host a few singing sessions myself. 

What advice do you have for people just starting on culinary pursuits?

You need two things for your dish to be delicious. 

1. You have to be interested in what you are making. 

2. Put your heart and soul into cooking the dish. 

Your meal will automatically turn out good if you follow these steps. When people are grumpy and pouting when cooking, I feel like something always turns out wrong.

Have you ever taught anyone how to cook?

I have taught many people in my colony how to cook, especially the young girls my son's age. Whenever they eat something that I have prepared, they ask me to teach them how to cook. They are very fond of my neer dosa, a simple dish that doesn't require fermentation. 

What is one kitchen gadget or appliance you can't do without?

I adore a steamer that was gifted to me by my grandmother. It is nearly 100 years old, and I still have it with me. My grandmother gave it to me after I learned how to cook. She was the one who never allowed me to cook, but once I learned, she gave it to me. 

Who would it be if you could cook for or dine with anyone?

Sanjeev Kapoor. He was my idol, and I learned to cook primarily from his books.

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Cookbook Project featuring Sarita D'souza
Cookbook Project featuring Sarita D'souza
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Cookbook Project featuring Sarita D'souza
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