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

Archive for the ‘Maharashtrian’ Category

Puran poli – the long story

In Maharashtrian, Traditions and Customs, Vegetarian on March 25, 2013 at 12:21 pm

puran poli spread for Champa Shashthi

Have you heard of Champa Shashthi?  In my Maharashtrian side of the family it is associated with a ceremonial pooja the beginnings of which are somewhat obscure.  This winter I was visiting friends who celebrate this day with special prayers.  In their family, the day of the pooja marks the end of a period of abstaining from certain foods such as eggs and meat, and brinjals (eggplant).  Minor ceremonies are observed on the two days preceding Shashthi as well.

The celebration of this festival in our family has an interesting story.  This festival is not traditional to the Konkanasth Brahmin community to which my husband’s family belongs.  A long time ago, and I mean a really long time ago, traveling was an activity associated with uncertainty, hardship, and unknown risks, undertaken only for essential business or pilgrimage.  At such a time, a family embarking on one such pilgrimage handed over the Champa Shashthi Puja to their neighbour and friend in the village, V’s ancestor, like a precious thing for safekeeping.  They never returned to claim it back, and that is how we have this untraditional ritual as our heritage.  Our family continues to fulfill a promise made a very long time ago.  I remember my mother-in-law asking me if she should perform the udyapan, a special puja to mark the end, but I assured her I wanted it to continue.  How could I not want to be part of this beautiful legend, our very own legend!

We, my husband, son, and I,  are hardly religious people but I do believe that without religion, you may end up distancing yourself from what is your culture.  Food is very strongly tied to culture and religion.  One day, several years back, I realised we had not cooked sabudana khichdi in a very long time (years!). Since my mother-in-law’s passing no one in the family was observing any fasts anymore!  We brought back the Janmashtami fast and now observe it as a family.  The much loved sabudana khichdi is on the menu at least once a year. Read the rest of this entry »

Bhagar ani danyachi amti

In Maharashtrian, Traditions and Customs, Under 30 min!, Vegetarian on March 10, 2013 at 6:33 pm

bhagar with danyachi amti for Shivratri

Haerath mubarak to my Kashmiri readers, and a very happy Shivratri to the rest of you! There was much feasting at my mom’s last night where we gathered for Mahashivratri puja. Shivratri is the most important festivals for the Kashmiri Pandit community. The festival marks the end of winter in Kashmir. The preparations start weeks in advance and culminate in the final three days ending with doon pooza (walnut puja!) on Phalgun amavasya, which is tomorrow. [Read more about it here and here] For us, today is Salam, the day after Shivratri, the day the youngsters receive Shivratri kharcha (spending money!) from the elders in the family. We got it last night itself from my father!

The rituals are quite elaborate and food and cooking is an integral part. Every family has their traditions and the ceremonies are not complete without the cooking of certain dishes. In the puja last night we had vatuks (vessels for water) that symbolised Lord Shiva and his wife-to-be, Parvati, who were married in the presence of other gods and invitees (represented, in their turn, by smaller vatuks). Only the eldest family member observes a fast while the rest feast. Walnuts are soaked in another vessel, to which are offered tiny bits of fresh food from the meals cooked everyday. Meat and fish are traditional and are part of the puja offerings. In the last 25 years, since their relocation from the Valley, Kashmiri Pandits, on finding themselves amongst Vaishnavites, have started observing vegetarianism during this festival. In deference to tradition, my mother cooked fish the day before Shivratri. Last night’s menu for the Shiv-Parvati wedding: rajma, paneer kaliya, mujj chetin, dum-olu, palak-matar, steamed rice, roti (for the non-Kashmiris!), and modur polav.

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Comfort food: varan-bhat

In Maharashtrian, Rice, Under 30 min!, Vegetarian on February 13, 2013 at 7:50 pm

sada varan bhat

For many of us dal-chaval constitutes the ultimate comfort food.  It is hard to come up with food that is simpler or more satiating.  One such version of dal-chaval is the Maharashrian sada varan-bhat.

Many Sundays during our courting days I would visit V at his home for lunch.  Varan-bhat was frequently on the menu – it was a Sunday favorite with the family.  Sunday used to be the day of the weekly veggie shopping from the Shahadra mandi in the days before Mother’s Dairy Fruit and Vegetable Shops and Big Apple marts appeared in every neighbourhood.  Often I would arrive to find V and his father still not back from the market.  With fresh vegetables yet to arrive for re-stocking the fridge, varan-bhat must have been not only the logical meal but also one that would allow time needed for the sorting of the soon-to-arrive green-groceries.  I remember my MIL following a regimen of washing and drip-drying all the vegetables before stocking them for the week.  Bundles of greens (spinach, coriander, and methi) were  untied, picked over to remove damp or rotting stems, and then packed into bags; other vegetables were trimmed and washed and spread on a cloth to dry off for a while.  If I got there before it was all done, I too would lend a helping hand.  That is when I learnt to do a quick job of picking methi (hold a fistful of the leafy-stems in one hand and pull  at the stem-ends with the other!), and that stems could be left in while using green coriander!

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Calling it a year

In Low Fat, Maharashtrian, Preserves, Random Musings on December 28, 2011 at 12:34 am

It has been a mixed bag this year; from the very bad to very good.  All years are like that but losing a dear friend earlier this year was a dip that was really low.  Even winning Third Place in a National Architectural Design Competition, a rare enough achievement, was tinged with the knowledge that I couldn’t share the news with her, my buddy through those years of design school.  We would meet only a few times a year – mostly on birthdays and anniversaries. I am not a phone person so we never had long chats on the phone either.  Maybe, it was enough just knowing I could call her if I needed to.  Now, I catch myself thinking about her every single day.

UD Studio, 1986I and my friend, 1986

On the work front, it has been the busiest year for me.  The coming year is poised similar.  Which is as well (except that it has meant just ten blog posts, if I get this one in, for the whole year!).  It means I don’t bother the son, now in his third year of college, with daily phone calls.  I usually catch up with him on the weekends though he and his dad chat online more often.  Presently, he is home for the holidays and has promised to not game through the nights so that we can see him at lunch and through the rest of the day.

narthagai limes and mango ginger

Narthangai limes and mango ginger for pickling…from a year ago

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Classic Shrikhand

In Desserts, Low Fat, Maharashtrian, Under 30 min!, Vegetarian on September 30, 2009 at 11:29 pm

shrikhand

My previous post didn’t quite make the cut for Express Indian: 6-ingredients-or-under because I had one ingredient too many and there were some protests that I was breaking my own rules. Little do you know that we Delhi-ites are like that only; we know rules are made so that they may be broken!  Nor are we about to turn over a new leaf just because the Commonwealth Games are round the bend and the honourable Minister of Home Affairs P. Chidambram feels we ought to mend our ways. Some things take time.

Meanwhile, here is another Express recipe, this time from TH’s home state of Maharashtra: second to none, the Shrikhand, a creamy dessert that comes together in no time and involves no cooking.  But do plan ahead, more so if you are planning to make the chukka (hung curd) at home.  Shrikhand tastes best if you allow 12-24 hours for the delicate  flavours to meld.  Some like shrikhand to be really smooth and achieve this by passing the mix through a sieve.  In our house we like some texture to shrikhand and skip this step.  My mother-in-law used to add a few spoonfuls of malai (clotted cream) to the chukka.  Every now and then there would be a tiny nugget of the soured malai that gave the shrikhand an additional richness and texture.  But gone are those days of buying fresh water-buffalo milk every morning (long live low-fat lifestyles), skimming the malai off, adding some yoghurt for culture, and collecting it over the next week or two to make butter and ghee. The buttermilk from churning this cultured clotted cream made the best kadhi. Undoubtedly. Sigh.

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Divali Treats: namak pare

In Maharashtrian, on the side, Tea Party, Traditions and Customs, Vegetarian on October 27, 2008 at 7:17 pm

reading corner
The lights are up!

Yesterday, on dhanteras (the thirteenth day of the Hindu lunar month of Ashwin), I gathered up some enthusiasm to get the Divali cooking underway.  There was no way I could have shopped for gold – the prices are at a record high and the market at a record low.  Making Divali treats seemed to be just the thing to get the festivities off to a happy start. The easiest munchies to make are shankarpare and namak pare, one sweet, the other salty.

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Deep Fried Love: Batata Vada

In Maharashtrian, on the side, Potatoes, Tea Party, Vegetables, Vegetarian on August 24, 2008 at 5:11 pm

batata vada
If you have been seeing Batata Vadas appear in some of the food blogs you read and wondering what is up with that, here is what is at the root of it all – old fashioned indulgence.  A year ago, while discussing this and that on this blog, I and my readers decided a party was in order – an old fashioned yet not completely throw-caution-to-the-winds party.  Celebrating food without worrying about what went into it, or got left out; being intuitive instead of thoughtful.  It lead to a bunch of us frying poori last year, some for the first time!

This year we are experimenting with frying batata vadas, some of us for the first time!  The motive, again, has been to cook and share with friends and family, and remind ourselves that a little indulgence is a good thing.  And, of course, have some fun while we were frying!

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Spicy Nutty Cluster Beans

In Low Fat, Maharashtrian, Under 30 min!, Vegetables on November 5, 2007 at 10:56 pm

vegehaul Oct 2007

Yes, about that stunner gavar recipe. I never cared much for these beans. It may have something to do with the name – in Hindi the word also means ‘a country bumpkin’.

chitkyachibhaji

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My Continuing Discovery of Indian Cuisines

In Eating Out, Maharashtrian, Masalas (Spice Blends), on the side, Tea Party, Traditions and Customs, Travel, Under 30 min!, Vegetables on October 19, 2007 at 2:46 pm

I mentioned earlier the likelihood of my having been a South Indian in previous life. I believe there are people who are offended by this title – South Indian. I know not why. I do understand though, the umbrage at everyone from Southern India being (once) called ‘Madrasi’ by self-centered North Indians. May I add that for my grandma’s generation all non-Kashmiris were Punjabi – likely the only other state they had heard of from their insular position. “So, you married a Punjabi,” she would say.

Southern India is not a homogeneous region; neither is Northern India nor, for that matter, the Eastern or the Western parts of our country. And, just as the cuisine and customs of the Northern plains have a lot in common, the people of Southern Peninsular India also share a long cultural heritage.

While I have established (some might say – followed my tummy to) the general region of my previous birth as Dravidian India, I have not yet been able to point to the exact spot. In my early teens I already knew that Andhra and Tamil food gave me as much comfort as did my mum’s cooking. I relished the everyday-kind dal-based vegetable preparations (which I may not know by their names) served with thick short grain rice; idli smeared with fiery milagai podi was as much ambrosia as was tayir saadam. I discovered Kerala cuisine a little later – in my twenties – though it was confined to the odd fish curry, thorans and pachadis, and the exotic (to me) appams with either avial or ishtu.

flower seller
If you are in southern India be sure to wear some flowers in your hair…strung flowers sold by arm-lengths!

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Axe Soup aka Bottle Gourd Peel Chutney

In Chutneys, Maharashtrian, on the side, Under 30 min!, Vegetables on June 25, 2007 at 1:02 am

doodhi peel chutney
Kulhadi ka dalia is the Hindi translation of the Russian folktale Axe Soup that I read many summers ago. It is a version of Stonesoup, and a story that I find similar to this bottle gourd peel chutney.

You’ve all probably heard some version of the story in your childhood. In Stonesoup the message is more about the pleasure of sharing and the good that comes from cooperation. The Axe Soup carries a subtle lesson about human management – how to use the inherent greed in fellow humans, of wanting to get something out of nothing, to get out of others more than they are willing to give.

But little do we expect to ever come face to face with legends outside of books of tales.

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