mostly about food and cooking, but also the stories about the Bread and the Butterflies!

A Peanut Chutney from Marathwada

In Maharashtrian, on the side, Travel, Under 30 min!, Vegetarian on October 1, 2016 at 7:10 pm

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There is this chunky peanut chutney from the Marathwada region of Maharashtra that’s a bit like a well-kept secret, a hidden gem, in a plethora of side dishes served all over Western and Southern India. Maharashtra has a portion of the thali reserved for these itsy-bitsy additions to the daily meal that make them special. Davi kadey, Marathi for on-the left-side, is the side of the thali reserved for a multitude of condiments, from salt to pickles, from a wedge of lime to chutneys of all kinds, a side that is almost completely missing in my Kashmiri thali. Exceptions only prove the rule. I think we allowed rice to find its way into that corner as well.

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A lunch with three things on the left side: peanut chutney, green tomato chutney, and cucumber raita.

As a new member of a Maharashtrian household I used to get pretty impressed with this approach to daily meals and the care taken by home cooks like my mother-in-law to make sure the offerings varied. Now I know better; she had a huge repertoire to chose from. There truly is a mind-boggling variety of condiments to be found all over peninsular India. The peel thogayal you find on a South Indian thali is an expression of exactly the same sentiment. Some can be elaborate like alu wadi, while others nothing more than a couple of ingredients combined in a few quick steps that occasionally involve stir-frying to develop a different dimension of an otherwise ordinary ingredient, this bottle gourd-peel chutney, for instance. Heat from chilies, red or green, or dried, is usually an indispensable ingredient in most chutneys.

Caronde Hari Mirch ki Sabzi

In From the Garden, Fruit, on the side, Pickles, Under 30 min!, Uttar Pradesh, Vegetarian on June 21, 2016 at 7:56 pm

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The summer bounty of produce from the garden that can be made into chutneys, pickles, and jams has started. The first to arrive are the fallen mangoes that I usually make into a quick-pickle or a sweet mango chutney. But, this year, owing to Mum’s house crawling with workers (we are renovating) there weren’t many left for us. In fact, most of the low-hanging fruit disappeared from the trees while still quite green.

The army of kids of the caretaker in the neighbour’s house have also been very kind to pluck a good portion of the higher-up fruits off the tree that abuts the common wall. I will likely have fewer mangoes that will need to be processed into jam. They have also had a free run of the carondas from the bush that is planted in the front yard. Limes have started ripening; I plucked a few from my tree this morning.

My dad remembers his ‘foraging’ days in Kashmir and lets the children be. The caronda shrub is heavily laden and has yielded enough for them and us. I shared some with friends and neighbours as well. There should be an even bigger crop around September, after the rains. That is when I will make Caronde ki Chutney to keep till next year. To start the season off I made this simple caronde-mirch ki sabzi, more a pickle than a sabzi really, that takes all of ten minutes to put together. It makes a great accompaniment to North Indian food and is just the kind of side to perk up those taste buds overwhelmed by this muggy weather.

Preserved Labneh (Labneh Korat)

In Dips and Spreads, on the side, Preserves, Under 30 min!, Vegetarian on May 28, 2016 at 4:08 pm

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Labneh is a staple in my fridge. It is versatile and we love to lather it on to toasted bread or roti for a quick breakfast on the run, or serve it with crackers over drinks. Imagine my delight when on my recent trip to Jordan I discovered that it was possible to ‘pickle’ it! This meant I could share my love for both, labneh and pickles, with friends in one jar!

At home, we are not drinking much milk these days and I end up turning most of it into dahi.  When I run out of containers to make dahi in and it’s staring at me from every shelf in the fridge, it’s time for labneh-making. Now, it seems I have an even better deal with these labneh balls. I have served them earlier as cheese balls rolled in nuts and spices but didn’t know that I could put them in a jar, drown them in olive oil and have another pickle of sorts on my hand. They have their own name too – Labneh Korat (Balls of Labneh!). They make a handy addition to a breakfast or mezze spread.

So here is this traditional Levantine recipe for my pickle and preserve loving readers. To prepare the labneh for making balls it needs to be drained longer than for making a regular creamy spread; 12 hours or overnight should do the job. Place a large piece of muslin over a non-reactive pot and tip dahi into it, mix in a good amount of salt – most of it will drain away anyway with the whey. Tie into a bundle and hang to drain overnight. Untie and transfer the drained dahi into a bowl. Taste and mix in more salt, if needed. Labneh served in Jordan is extremely salty which also helps preserve it for longer. Preserved this way it can stay for six months to a year!