Winter has set in Delhi. We have had some rain this week which has further brought down the temperatures and I am beginning to regret not airing out the winter wardrobe ahead of time when the days were sunny and bright. The sun will be back in our winter soon enough and we will be found lazily shelling peanuts outside during breaks from work, or while waiting for transport. Oh, but there’s a change to that script. Those of us who have got used to Delhi’s awesome Metro may not be able to indulge in this litter-generating activity. Imagine, not-littering might become a habit with the denizens of Delhi! Hope floats!
I was planning to get a head start on the cold weather this year by sharing a winter recipe just as the season’s vegetables started to appear in the markets. Women propose… and life happens. These pictures are, after all, from the year past… In any case, if this recipe does get posted within a week or two, then there is plenty of time for you to try it this season. Yet, I am not sure how many of you out there will attempt a dish that
a) uses turnips as the main ingredient,
b) combines it will lotus root, and
c) uses no spice other than fresh green chillies.
But, I was wrong about haak before, which is cooked in almost the same manner, and I could be wrong about this one. The purpose of this blog is also to record my family recipes for err…the family. You never know - our children may actually want to cook some day! And if they do then what do you think they will want to to cook first? It will be the foods that are more about nostalgia than about glamour. So, it will fall upon daal-chaval, thayir-sadam, and haak-butta to bring back the romance of home-cooked food. Gogji-nadir served with steamed rice and dahi (yoghurt) is in that list of cherished food and memories.
On one hand Kashmiri cuisine boasts some very spicy, fiery dishes like rogan josh, mutsch, and dum aloo, on the other, we have really tame ones like haak, monji-haak, and this one here – gogji-nadir where we are happy to gently braise the vegetables in a watery broth with just a hint of heat from whole chillies. It is these tame dishes that we have done a great job of keeping away from the prying eyes of outsiders, barring a few leaks now and then. It is likely that gogji-nadir might also manage to stay under wraps despite my tell-all recipe here.
But, before I proceed further, in the interest of propriety and in deference to our OCD when chopping vegetables, a lesson in vegetable prep-work is called for. For all those who think that all there is to Kashmiri vegetable prep is hack-into-large-chunks this may come as a surprise that there are precise ways of chopping a vegetable depending on the dish to be prepared, and there is no room for any flexibility here. If one finds neat cubes where one was expecting thick discs, all hell can break loose. And, it has nothing to do with anyone’s mood or hormones. Deviation from the norm can create confusion about what is being served, people! Never was it more apparent than when my poor maid mistook haak for spinach and put in extra labour to chop it fine only to find me staring aghast at the mutilation! I must have muttered under my breath all evening. And The Son, I cannot describe his at being served haak-in-smithereens over his small mound of rice. It just did not taste right, no matter how much the chopping-veggies-to-near-mince Maharashtrians in the family might have done.
For gogji-nadir (and not just any dish that uses turnips and lotus root!):
Turnips: Rinse in cold water. Trim the leaf-end and root of turnips. Peel off any root hair. Halve the turnip down the middle so you have two symmetric pieces. Now, using a sharp knife, make thin slice in a hap-hazard manner. Refer to the picture; you should end up with irregular but thin slices. This is achieved by rotating the vegetable a little in your hand after every few shavings with the knife. Slice on till you have reduced the turnips into a pile; just a couple of turnips create quite the pile.
Lotus Root: Contrary to common logic, slender is not better in the case of this vegetable. Either are as good to cook with, but may not be used interchangeably. For this dish we want the fat ones. Trim the lotus root at both ends and rinse under running water. Let the water run through to remove clogged dirt that might be present (these grow in muck, remember?). Take a sharp knife, hold it perpendicular to the vegetable which you are holding steady with the other hand, and scrape the edge of the knife back and forth (up and down, if you are holding the vegetable vertical) to remove just the outer surface. Rinse. Lay it down on the chopping board and slice, on the bias. The slices should be about 3mm thick. Rinse again, especially if you see dirt clogged holes. (You could use lotus root sliced in this manner with kohl-rabi and make monjji-nadir).
(Turnips with Lotus Root)
2-3 medium-sized blushing turnips
1 length (12″ or thereabouts) lotus root (the fatter the better)
(the proportion of the two is to taste)
a couple of hot green chillies
a couple of whole dried red chillies
1 T mustard oil
a pinch of hing
salt to taste
Prepare vegetables as instructed above. Heat oil in a pressure cooker or a heavy bottomed pan. When the oil starts to smoke, add hing. Add the vegetables and saute, stirring frequently, till the turnips just begin to brown at the edges. Add a cup of water. Break the chillies into two and add to the pot. Season with salt. Close the lid and cook under pressure for 8-10 minutes, or simmer covered in the pan till the vegetables are done. The turnips will disintegrate a bit but that is how it should be. Serve hot over steamed white rice and lots of fresh dahi.