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Archive for the ‘Vegetarian’ Category

Patali Gur er Payesh

In Bengal, Bengali, Desserts, Vegetarian on June 13, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Some time last year, I was finally able to lay my hands on three beautiful blocks of Patali gur (also called Khejur gur or nolen gur in Bangla) from West Bengal.  Even though Sroboshi no longer worked with us in the office in Delhi, she sent the promised gur, that had arrived with her parents from Kolkata, through a courier from Bombay where they had all moved to.  It is always a busy time here and more often than not, I put such gifts into the refrigerator, where they hide reside till their time.  Only destiny decides when that might be.  This one was languishing in the office refrigerator along with some dried shrimp that had been stored there all winter as well.  Come summer, the refrigerator was required for mundane purposes, such as providing chilled drinking water, to all of us in the office.  TH put his foot down, and I had to remove the offending package – the shrimps.  With that I re-acquainted with the blocks of patali gur.  They were in double packaging and looked as good as new.  These were removed to the fridge in the kitchen downstairs.

patali gur

Patali gur is an unrefined sugar made from the sap of the date palm.  You might compare it to jaggery made from sugarcane, but it would be inappropriate.  I am not about to take sides here; they are not as different as chalk and cheese, but I will say that they may not be substituted for each other, and that I love them both.  Patali gur definitely has a more intense caramel-ly, smoky flavour than jaggery.

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Bong Mom’s Shorshe Dharosh

In Bengali, Tea time Reading, Vegetarian on May 26, 2013 at 3:43 pm

BOOK REVIEW AND RECIPE FROM
BONG MOM’S COOKBOOK By Sandeepa Mukherjee Datta

Bong Mom's Cookbook 2

Pour yourself a cup of tea, find a cool spot [Delhi is HOT at the moment] and watch, through the window of this charming book, as the Bong Mom goes about her day in her suburban US home.  Weekday stories of hectic mornings with two girls to ready for school, and stories of relaxed Sunday mornings with phulko luchi and aloo chorchori.  It is not a cookbook but food is the central theme that ties the stories together.

A Bong Mom’s Cookbook could be a glimpse into your own life, more so if you are a foodie, and who isn’t one?  I could relate to the anecdotes about childhood summer holidays filled with food memories.  Isn’t it amazing how some memories are so clear in our minds?  And their associations stay with us forever. Read the rest of this entry »

Pumpkin shoots with eggplant – al kanjji te wangun

In Kashmiri, Vegetables, Vegetarian on May 8, 2013 at 5:36 pm

As we move to bigger urban centers, and into smaller and smaller lots and apartments, we are removed more and more from the food we eat, from the act of growing our own food.  Much of what was once common in every home garden is gradually getting lost, at least to us city folk.  My parents maintain a small garden patch in their urban lot and even in that tiny space my mom forages for amaranth.  Yes, forage; they don’t grow it from seed, it just volunteers!  When we were younger and had a large kitchen garden inside the IITD campus,  kulfa (purslane) was another green found growing wild.

My father and his brothers are avid gardeners.  Even in the constraints of their urban homes, you will find them pottering around.  My uncle, in Pune, gardens out of huge planters on his rooftop growing runner beans, and Kashmiri favourites haak, sotchal (common mallow), and monjji (kohl rabi).  I have been very lucky, despite an urban upbringing, to have grown up in a home with a garden, and knowing a little about how food makes it to the table.  In my own typical city house I grow herbs in pots, I have a curry leaf tree and a lime tree, and grape vines that climb up the pergola on my first floor terrace.

Many wild greens used to be part of a regular Kashmiri diet – abuj, vopal haak, vasta haak, hund, to name just a few.  Today, I would be hard pressed to even identify them.

urban foraging: wild mallow
Sotchal (common mallow), on the left, foreground. Photo credit: Kritika Walia

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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 »

A Quick Soup

In Under 30 min!, Vegetarian on March 14, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Beetroot soup

Summer is here and the days of soup are almost behind us. But summer also means an urge to eat lighter and spend less time in the kitchen cooking that meal. That is when a soup is just what you need.

My father is a good gardener but he is no cook. He is fastidious when it comes to brewing his cuppa (and he needs many through the day) and always prefers to have it in a clear glass – something he must have picked up either from his Punjabi neighbours when he arrived in Delhi in the 60s, or from the way chai is served at any construction site in India. My Dad has spent a lifetime out in the sun, always preferring his time on a site to the time behind the desk.

He has never had to cook but seems to harbour an impression that he is a good one. His forays into the world of food are primarily limited to growing and consuming it. Lucky for him, his wife is a great cook. As mom has grown older I have noticed that my Dad feels a tad guilty about not helping in the kitchen. Which is why, I think, after his retirement he started to make his tea himself so that he could at least contribute less to the extra work he was creating. 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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Jam and Treacle Tarts

In Baking, on the side, Tea Party, Vegetarian on September 5, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Jam and Treacle Tarts

This weekend, I finally snapped out of my laziness and decided, after a long gap, to fire up the oven.  The extended rains have brought lowered the temperature enough to consider outside of subsistence food and I thought I might bake some tarts.

The pages of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland are replete with mentions and tales of much food.  Just as there is purpose to every word of fantasy and nonsense in Alice, it is there to the bits about food as well.  It is as much a tale of wonder for children as it a reflection of the times.  The frequent discussions about food in the story are but a contrast to the scarcity of food in Victorian times.  And, like most of us today, Alice too seems to rely on something to eat or drink to alter her size all the time!

Jam and Treacle Tarts

Jam and Treacle Tarts

In modern times we are equally obsessed with food but for different reasons.  We are constantly trying to put food in some category or another and then assigning a value to the food as well as to the diets they fit into.  Some foods, and some diets then get to be regarded as inferior/superior.  Whether a people are vegetarian or eat meat, has all come out of pragmatism and to put values on these seems ridiculous.  I have the same view of raw-food and similar such other diets.  A good diet for anyone is surely one they can stick to without harming themselves or others?  If you are going to eat the shark to extinction, then there is a problem.  For me, a good diet is also one that does not require me to analyse food excessively before I can decide if it fits into the way I ought to eat.  That would make shopping for food such a chore! Read the rest of this entry »

Pachranga-style Mango Pickle

In on the side, Pickles, Punjabi, Vegetarian on July 25, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Pachranga-style mango pickle

I know you have had enough with green mangoes. But, it is mango time here in Delhi: all kinds of ripe mangoes to eat – Chausa and Lungda varieties have arrived, and green ones to pickle and make into chutney. This season I have made a sweet-sour mango chutney and three kinds of mango pickle: Maharashtrian-style amba lonche, Andhra-style fiery pickle with garlic, and also a batch of Punjabi-style mango pickle. I have attempted the Punjabi pickle after a gap of many years since the husband’s loyalties had shifted to the famous Pachranga brand. There was no point competing with this well-known brand and if he preferred it to the home-made recipe, that much less pickle making for me.

The Punjabi-style mango pickle though, is the pickle I grew up on.  As kids we would rinse out the pieces and eat just the pickled mango, sucking on the stone-skin for a long-long time till there was no saltiness left. That was the only mango pickle we had known until one day, mom bought home a bottle of Bedekar’s amba lonche (a lot like this one, except that the mangoes are chopped fine instead of being shredded).  It was nothing like our mango pickle!  And because it was so different, it became a favourite immediately. Read the rest of this entry »

Green Mangoes

In on the side, Preserves, Under 30 min!, Uttar Pradesh, Vegetarian on June 28, 2012 at 7:43 pm

mango chutney 03

Mangoes are definitely the silver lining of the Northern Indian summers.  Unlike in some southern Indian states (and further east of India) where mangoes are available year round, in Delhi we have access to both green and ripe mangoes only through the summer.  Or, maybe, I should say that we have seasons other than summer and therefore, our fruits and vegetables change as the seasons roll!  Another silver lining of living in the heat and dust bowl that is the North India Plain!

The superior pickling mangoes, such as Ramkela, arrive after the first monsoon showers.  Evey year I make batches of mango pickles though the quantities I now make are more proportionate to the moderate amounts we consume.  Amongst the mango pickles I make is the Punjabi kind to which I sometimes add karonde and chickpeas.  The Andhra-style mango pickle with garlic and loads of chillies is a favourite of ours, especially the son and I; it makes a great combination with besan-paranthas.  Since the last few years I have also started making Shilpa’s (actualy, Varada’s!) konkani-style shredded mango pickle.  At the start of mango season, I also make a quick pickle from the fallen Amrapali mangoes in my mom’s backyard using my own pickling spice mix, or, sometimes, the K-Pra brand amba lonche spice mix from Maharashtra. Read the rest of this entry »

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