Thayir Sadam – Curd Rice

It’s summer and the mangoes are maturing on the trees. The blazing sun keeps all of us indoors – it’s the sanest thing to do. Appetites are waning and you are perpetually parched.

“I hate summer!” you may be tempted to say. But then you remember the mangoes. And the phalsewala who has started doing his rounds. The trees of Delhi come into their own in the summer. The orange of the Semul in early summer has given way to the crimson of Gulmohurs and the trailing yellows of Amaltas.

In the North Indian plains, the mango blooms in early March. The inflorescence consists of hundreds of delicately perfumed flowers that bring the bees in droves. Naturally, not all flowers become fruit and not all fruits reach maturity. A large bunch will perhaps have a dozen mangoes at the most. Most of the fruit falls to the ground through the growth period. We (my Dad) have two trees of the Amrapali variety which grows into a luscious sweet fruit with deep orange pulp when it ripens in early July.  When it is green and immature it is tart enough to make a good pickle. But the tiny mangoes that make up the first lot of the fallen fruit end up in the compost pit. Continue reading “Thayir Sadam – Curd Rice”

Kohlrabi Pickle

I can’t have enough pickles it seems; the previous post too was on pickling. Pickling is cool (again) and you are likely to see a lot of talk about them. Lacto-fermentation is trending. Me, I’ve always loved a good pickle and the process of making a perishable vegetable last longer. Pickles are a great way to use the abundance from your garden where the entire crop of any one kind tends to ripen all at the same time.

Monjji anchaar, (L) Feb 2016, (R) 2018. Oh, how the monkeys have ruined my once-lush palms!

There is so much nostalgia associated with many seasonal pickles that the mere act of making one brings all those childhood memories flooding back. Kohlrabi, monjji to Kashmiris, is much more than just any vegetable to them. I am not exaggerating when I say that it is a reminder of our homeland, our homes with the kitchen gardens, our community, our market streets, especially now when we have all been removed from it. As for all people who have known exile, the longing for things that represent that homeland only gets deeper. Monjji anchar (kohlrabi pickle) might once have been that pickle found in every kitchen cupboard in Kashmir, but today, for many of us, it is a lot more.

As in desserts, the Kashmiri Pandit cuisine is pretty limited in its repertoire of pickles. We have just one recipe for pickling, only the vegetables get swapped. You may use kohlrabi or cauliflower. If you are feeling very rebellious you could go all out and use onions. Continue reading “Kohlrabi Pickle”

Bitter Lime Pickle

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find. Even in an extremely urbanised city like Delhi, with hardly any real wilderness left, you will be pleasantly surprised how nature escapes the boundaries we set for her. Plants like bathua (lamb’s quarters) and kulfa (purslane) are common enough. I even found a large patch of sotchal (common mallow) growing wild in Purana Qila one time.

Last year K, my house help, put before me a bag of citrus growing on an unoccupied plot in her colony that no one wanted and was only attracting monkeys and their destructive antics. It looked a lot like our santara, the regular Indian orange; the peel and sections were on point. But there was nothing orange-y about their juice. The juice was sour and bitter, in equal measure. Loathe to see beautiful fruit laid waste she brought me a few confident that I would be able to make something of them.

Continue reading “Bitter Lime Pickle”

Caronde Hari Mirch ki Sabzi

Caronde Hari Mirch ki Sabzi

Caronde 02

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. Continue reading “Caronde Hari Mirch ki Sabzi”