Baba tells me that Bobby Darin’s Dream Lover would play repeatedly at picnics with his friends in 1960s Lahore. But for real affectation, there had to be some Françoise Hardy. Baba also tells me that if you didn’t know her hit La maison où j’ai grandi, or at least pretend to know it, then you were essentially a nobody.
And there were no picnic invitations for nobodies.
For a March picnic in Lahore, the dastarkhan would be laid out under the shade of the mango trees, and everyone would tuck into spicy beef kebabs, dipping them into a verdant yoghurt and mint sauce. The girls, with their Twiggy-esque hairdos and aquamarine dusted eyelids, would take delicate sips of coca-cola with the straws bobbing up and down in the small bottles. There would be finger-thin cucumber sandwiches with just the right amount of slathered butter and a waxy, creamy potato salad made by my grandmother, Mader with her homemade mayonnaise.
As the kebabs and sandwiches disappeared, a bowl full of chikoo and a paring knife would be placed on the dastarkhan. Brown and potato skin-like on the outside, the knife would slice through each chikoo revealing its malty sweetness. Everyone would take a half of the chikoo and suck out the caramel-sweet flesh.
The flasks containing sabz chai-green tea- would emerge, poured into small glass mugs, the fragrance of cardamom mingling with the Spring air of Lahore. Everyone would drink the tea while biting into thumb-size pieces of dried apricot as Bobby Darin played on in the background.
Wishing my Baba a very Happy Father’s Day.
Borani is a a cold yoghurt-based Afghan dish. Borani Kachalu is a dish of potatoes sautéed in a garlic and ginger-infused tomato sauce. A creamy yoghurt with aromatic dried mint is poured over it and mopped up with naan. I find this to be the perfect picnic food- a sort of Afghan-style potato salad if prepared with small fingerling potatoes (or other small boiling potatoes), slathered with yoghurt instead of mayonnaise.
Photo credit of chikoos: The Famous Tourist Destinations
Serves 4 as a side dish
*1-2 tbsp olive oil
*1/2 tsp fresh minced garlic
*1/2 tsp fresh minced ginger
*1/2 cup (8 tbsp) tomato sauce/passata or crushed tinned tomatoes
*1lb fingerling potatoes, sliced into 1/8 of an inch thick disks
*1/8 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
*1/8 tsp cayenne (add up to a 1/4 tsp if you so like)
*3/4 cup yoghurt thinned with 2 tbsp water (not of the thick Greek genre)
*1 tsp dried mint + extra for garnish
*Place large frying pan on medium heat and add olive oil.
*Once the oil is heated through, add garlic and ginger and sauté 30 seconds till fragrant.
*Add tomato sauce, turmeric and cayenne and stir for one minute and add potato disks.
*Stir for 2-3 minutes, ensuring that each disk is coated with oil and tomato sauce.
*Sprinkle some water on top of potatoes, and cover pan with a lid or with foil and turn the heat to low.
*Allow potatoes to cook in their own steam for 15 minutes. At the 10 minute mark remove the lid/foil and insert a knife into the potato to test for doneness.
*When done, a knife should slide through freely. The tomato sauce should look thick, coating the potatoes.
*Allow potatoes to come to room temperature. In the meanwhile, prepare the spiced yoghurt.
*Add 2tbsp of water to yoghurt and whip. Add dried mint and salt to taste.
*When ready to serve, arrange potatoes in your dish and drizzle with yoghurt. Dust with dried mint.