Every winter I look at the black-purple carrots that appear in the vegetable markets of Delhi and the rest of Northern India, and make a mental note to track down a recipe for kanji. As far as I know, they are used only in the making of this fiery colourful end-of-winter drink. And every year passes just the same as the previous one.
Now, this blog has given me a lot of readers. Some of the readers have gone on to become good friends. Friends who share their views and opinions – and I am glad you are opinionated – share their likes and dislikes (of people, of colours and pictures on this blog and in general, punctuation and pronunciation, and of course, food related stuff). Some have been willing to risk sharing their blog… only to end up fuming later at some very persistent confusion regarding ‘the real owner of IFR’ as the movement spread! I wasn’t complaining about the unintentional link-love it brought. Especially, since I haven’t exactly been in the thick of it all this past year.
Last year when I spied the purple carrots I thought of one such foodie blog-friend who is Punjabi (and wishes to stay anonymous). We chat now and then and I asked her if she had a recipe for kanji. She promised…but forgot, as did I. And the season passed. This winter the appearance of the purple carrots jogged the childhood memory of the special drink once again… Foodie friend was poked right away. She immediately set a reminder on her cellphone to ask her mother…and I had a message in my inbox soon after – a short recipe for kanji!
One evening that week we, my neighbour T and I, walked down to the neighbouring subzi-market from where I source vegetables not found at my friendly Mother Dairy’s Fruit and Vegetable outlet. We bought 3 kilos of potatoes (to make into chips for frying), a kilo or so of tomatoes for sun-drying, and three purple carrots!
Next morning, I prepared the carrots, measured the ingredients into a glass jar, and in a matter of minutes the kanji was on its way. It sat there on my kitchen window full of promise.
Kanji is believed to activate the digestive system and get the juices flowing, thus making it a great picker-upper for sluggish appetites (how I would love it in the hot Delhi summer!). Purple as well as red carrots are seasonal in Delhi, available only in the winter months which makes kanji an unusual drink for the season. Despite the spices in the drink it is believed to have ‘cooling’ qualities which was likely the reason behind my friend’s advice to “drink only a little, no matter how much you may like the taste!” She also warned it was best to drink it sitting in the sun unless I wished to risk a backache! As you can see, I heeded her advice!
Mrs Chetna Sahni’s
Kali Gajar ki Kanji
(Black Carrot Kanji)
3 purple carrots (about 250gms)
1l+ water in a glass jar or earthenware pot
2 T ground rai (small mustard seeds)
2 t kuti lal mirch (coarse powdered cayenne pepper)
2 t kala namak (‘black’ salt, actually pink when powdered, not the same as regular white salt)
1 t regular salt
Peel the carrots and cut into 3-4 cm long batons. Fill the jar (or earthen pot) with water. Add the spices, the two salts, and the prepared carrots. Stir. Let sit on a sunny sill for 5-6 days. Stir and pour into small glasses. Serve pieces of the pickled carrots on the side.
You may refrigerate the contents after the sixth day or leave it in a cool dark place. It can last a long time (even up to a month…but won’t!) Kanji used to be traditionally prepared in a matka, a round earthenware pot, but it is now commonly prepared in glass jars or regular stoneware martabans. Some times mini vadas made with ground urad dal are also used to make kanji. These can either be added to the gajar ki kanji a day before it is intended to be served or fermented on their own to make kanji ke vade!
It truly is the perfect bright drink for Holi, the festival of colours! The weather starts to warm up just then… The pickled carrots makes a great side to any Indian meal. I even served some with burgers later last week!
Before I leave, Navreh mubarak as well as a very happy Gudi Padva and Ugadi to all the readers!