Our first session of NamaStay at Home, our new series of virtual cultural
events that brings India to you, was a great success. It was definitely the
next best thing to being there in person, and provided a pleasant break
from all the challenges we are facing now.
From her home in Jaipur, Chef Divya Kalwara showed us how to make three
Indian comfort foods: a perfect cup of masala chai (tea with milk and
cardamom); chapati (whole-wheat flatbread with just two ingredients), and
lassi (a refreshing yogurt drink).
Here are excerpts of the Q and A with Divya, and the recipes she shared.
Many chefs can make good food, but only a few do it with the comforting
feeling of home that Divya Kalwara radiates. Born of a royal bloodline in
Jaipur, Divya’s cooking Is inspired by her ancestry. Her mother,
grandmother, and mother-in-law taught her the secrets of traditional
“Rajputi” cuisine. She also holds a master’s degree in psychology from Delhi
Q: Tell us about yourself and your family.
A: I was born and brought up in Jaipur. My father was a tea planter so we
visited him in Eastern India during our winter vacations. I was always very
keen on cooking so watched my mother as I was growing up.
Three related families live together in our home. My own family consists of my
husband, two sons and my mother-in-law. We run a guesthouse and also
have a farm where we grow or own lentils, millet, cumin and mustard
Q: Can you describe the cuisine you grew up with? Why is it called
A: India is a diverse country and the cuisine reflects the local geography.
Rajastan is a desert area, so we relied more on lentils, lentil flour and
breads than fresh green vegetables, rice and coconut, though of course
now those are available here, too. There are 30 different kinds of lentils.
My mother-in-law comes from Uttar Pradesh, so her cooking is a little
Q: What are some comfort foods that always make you think of home?
A: We love to come home to a meal of lentils and chapati.
Q: What misconceptions do Americans/Westerners have about Indian
A: People think that there is only one kind of curry powder that you can get
in a packet. Curry is a mixture of spices and there are many different kinds.
You can make it less spicy-hot by removing the chili and still have the
wonderful flavor of the spices.