Padma Lakshmi Shares the One Recipe That Helped Mend Her Broken Heart

03/11/2016 at 04:16 PM ET

In her new memoir Love, Loss, and What We Ate, Padma Lakshmi shares the recipe for her grandmother’s kumquat and ginger chutney — the dish that helped raise her spirits following her following her divorce from Salman Rushdie. As she writes in her book, cooking helped “bring some sunshine” back into her life. 

“I kept trying to remember who I was, you know, separate from this really horrible and lonely time in my life,” Lakshmi told PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly editorial director Jess Cagle when she sat down with him to talk about her new book.

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When she moved into the Surrey Hotel in New York City in 2007 after the split, the Top Chef host used the kumquats and curry leaves her mother sent in a care package to make this dish, which also calls for fennel leaves, fresh ginger, kaffir lime leaves, and curry powder.

“I always remember that chutney from my childhood,” she said. “I remember the smell of the citrus, I remember the spike of the ginger, the herbaceous curry leaves that would crunch when you bite into them.”

Watch more of The Jess Cagle Interview with Padma Lakshmi on People.com all week.

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Kumquat and Ginger Chutney
Serves: 8 to 10

2½ pounds fresh kumquats, quartered and pitted
2 tbsp. kosher salt
½ cup canola oil
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 dozen fresh medium curry leaves, torn into small pieces
3 tbsp. minced fresh garlic
8 small green Serrano chilies, chopped or sliced in half lengthwise
6 whole fresh Kaffir lime leaves
½ tsp. sambar or Madras curry power
½ cup water, plus more if needed
2 tbsp. light brown sugar

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1. In a large bowl, mix the kumquats with the kosher salt. Let them rest for 2 to 3 hours, or overnight in the fridge, if possible.

2. Heat the oil in a deep pan for a few minutes on medium heat. Add the fennel seeds. When they size and darken slightly, after about 2 to 3 minutes, add the curry leaves, ginger, and chilies, frying and stirring for just a minute or two. Then add the kaffir lime leaves and kumquats. Stir well. After 5 minutes add the curry powder and stir again.

3. After 5 minutes more, stir in the water and sugar.

4. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook covered for 10 minutes; stirring intermittently to ensure the chutney does not stick to the bottom of the pan. If this happens, stir in more water, ¼ cup at a time, but the mixture should remain thick and gooey. Cook until the chutney has a chunky jam-like consistency.

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