Today is my masi, my mother’s sister’s 81st birth anniversary. She passed away in 2013. She was a dear friend. I miss her terribly. My mom has two sisters, both older than her, Suman masi is her real sister and Raju masi is her cousin. Mom and Suman masi were very close when she was alive. Raju masi and mom are still very close. It’s rare to find such sibling love.
Masi was a natural motivator. She loved to cook. She inspired me to bake. She gifted my mom our first Tarla Dalal cookbook in the 1980s, Pleasures of Vegetarian Cooking. We now have a collection of Tarla Dalal cookbooks at home but masi’s gift is a treasure, well used, but kept safely in my library cupboard.
Masi’s cakes were so tasty and fragrant that I had to learn how to bake from her. She gifted me a gas oven when I was only twelve, and was I delighted! Her date and walnut cake was just so good. She not only inspired me to bake but she and my masa gave me a taste of freedom in another city, away from my parents. My sister Sheetal and I used to travel by train from Poona to Bombay to go stay with them during the summer vacation. We were just nine or ten years old. Then my masa and masi would give us a little money every day and send us walking in the early morning to the bakery down the road, so we could buy what ever we wanted to take back home for breakfast. We often took back sweet buns which we slathered with butter and dipped in piping hot tea. Tea! was a luxury then because we had to compulsorily drink milk at home.
She also taught me how to make the most delicious batata vada, a Gujarati and Maharashtrian favourite. Batata vada is spiced potato balls dipped in a gram flour paste and fried to heavenly crispness. My mother says this was my grandmother’s recipe. My grandmother was an ace at cooking, and that’s where we inherit all our cooking skills from, and the Kutchi Bhatia recipes too!
Masi had a whole collection of recipes written down in diaries, on pieces of paper, on envelopes, and cutouts from the Feminas and Woman’s Era magazines of those days. She donated many of these recipes to the SNDT College Library in Bombay. My cousin brother Harsh has her cook books. He is fond of cooking. It was she who along with my parents instilled in me a love for cookbooks, and the pleasures of reading! And to this day I search for a recipe from my collection of cookbooks rather than search for it on YouTube or on the net.
She loved young people. She got along well with them. She had friends, boys and girls, half her age or younger, who she inspired and motivated in one way or another.
She loved life. She was always discussing an ongoing cricket or tennis match with my dad.
Masi passed away in October 2013. She had a severe case of osteoporosis, a degenerative bone disease, and myasthenia gravis, a disease where the muscles degenerate and waste away.
I found this recipe in Samantha Seneviratne’s book, The Joys Of Baking. Masi would have loved it. She had a thing for dates. You must try it out too!
Banana Date Bread With Lime
6 tablespoons/ 3/4 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for pan
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/2 teaspoon regular salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoons finely grated lime zest (from 3 limes)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups mashed banana (from about 2 large bananas)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
6 ounces pitted dates, finely chopped
1 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and flour an 8 1/2 inch into 4 1/2 inch loaf pan.
2 In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
3 With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter, sugar, and lime zest in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the banana and vanilla and fold in the dates. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
4 Transfer th batter into the prepared pan and bake until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with tiny, moist crumbs attached, 55 to 60 minutes. Transfer the pan to the wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Unmold the loaf, and let it cool completely.