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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Jawl - Bhaat

Steamed Rice soaked in Cold Water, with Lemon and Fritters

        This is a summer delight! "jawl" means water. "Bhat" means cooked rice. So, literally, it is 'water-rice'.

Jawl-Bhat ("Water Rice"?!!)
          Indian Summer can be deadly, especially if you are outside under the scorching sun for a long time. Even indoors it is not really comfortable. Our entire house is not air-conditioned. We have ceilings fans and we have comforting food! Jawl-Bhat is one example!

To make Jawl-Bhat. I cook steamed rice, drain the starch and then, leave it to cool. Then I add cold water and salt and squeeze a lemon to it and mix everything well. Usually a green chili is eaten with it, too, which I can do without. (My taste buds are rather d-e-l-i-c-a-t-e!)
          Common side dished to go with this are thinly cut and fried potato, lentil fritters and / or onion fritters. You can check my posts for recipes of fritters.

Onion Fritter:-

Cabbage Fritter:-
Plantain Balls:-

Jawl Bhat and Peaji and Lalshak (red leafy vegetable)

Friday, August 5, 2016

Stuffed Baby Aubergines (Bharali Vangi)

 Bharali Vangi (Stuffed Baby Aubergines): A Marathi Delicacy

           As I visited Mumbai about a month ago, I asked a friend there to recommend authentic Marathi(of the Indian state of Maharastra) vegetarian dishes. He did recommend this as we met, Bharali Vangi, and ordered many more famous Marathi dishes and did not let us pay, not even share the cost! 
           In Mumbai we had it with Bajri Roti ( handmade thin flat bread of millet) and I liked it very much. So, after my returned I searched for the recipe and watched a few videos on YouTube in order to learn how to prepare it. This is my first try.
Bharali Vangi
             "Vangi" means aubergine. "Bharali" literally means ''filled" i.e. stuffed. But believe me, the preparation is NOT simple.

Goda Masala

          This is a unique spice blend of stone flower, nagkeshar (mesua ferrea) coriander seeds, dry coconut, white sesame seeds, red chilli powder, turmeric, bay leaf,  cloves, and cotton seed oil, originally from the state of Maharashtra, in the western part of India different. The ingredients may slightly differ depending on different regions. 

M-- , who helps me learning Marathi language, gave this to me a few days ago as we met up to take a late afternoon walk in the British built part of Central Kolkata, where footpaths are wide and empty and clean, the areas are green and grand colonial buildings, some are of red bricks, proudly stand, and statues remind us the glorious sacrifices of our freedom fighters. It was a very rainy day, much to our relief. The sky was overcast and it was dark already in the late afternoon.  

          I was late to reach Esplanade where M-- was waiting for me. She felt sleepy and bought hot tea in a mud cup as I finally appeared before her. The first thing she did was dragging the Goda Masala packet out of her cotton fabric bag. She brought it for me from Mumbai. "Goda" means ''sweet". What do we say in Marathi when we meet a child? -- 'kiti god!' (with the 't' dental and the 'd', retroflex, literally, meaning "how sweet!"). Assuming the spice would taste something near sweet relying on this linguistic evidence, I, impatient with my curiosity, over-enthusiastically scooped out one teaspoon of Goda Masala as soon as I cut open the packet today and poured it into my mouth! And... uuuhhh.... no! I know... you are laughing LOUD at me now!

The Stuffing

The Ingredients of The Stuffing, and The Seasonin
         I chopped a medium sized onion, a large tomato, two small green chilies and a few cloves of garlic. I also chopped a small coconut. I sauteed all these in ground nut oil. I roasted about 75 grams of sesame seed and 50 grams of roasted ground nut that I ground coarsely. I also chopped half of a small onion thinly for seasoning which consists of mustard seeds, cumin seeds and a small green chilli, too. In the photo below you can see clockwise the tomato-onion-garlic-chilli mixed in the blender, sauteed coconut, the goda masala packet, roasted sesame seeds and coarsely ground ground nut in the tiny bowl.I blended all the ingredients in the photo above and the result is the paste below:
The Stuffing Ready
         Then I cut the aubergines (about 350 grams) as shown in the photo below. It is important to make sure that the head of the aubergine is intact. Then I stuffed  with the paste above. The second picture below shows the baby aubergines ready to get cooked. Don't they look beautiful? 

           Now I heated a little ground nut oil, added the seasoning and then the aubergines, let them cook for a little while and changed the sides slowly and carefully. I added now the paste left after stuffing, stirred very cautiously and cover the pan and let it cook for about 20 minutes. 
              I had it with steamed rice this time. But it goes very well with roti.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Delicious Loofah

Sponge Gourd with Nigella Seasoning

This is another quick recipe.
This is also very similar to my ridge gourd dish posted earlier.
Sponge Gourd
This is about 500 gm sponge gourd. If you want to have it as your main vegetable, you must buy more because the volume reduces considerably after cooking. This was only a side dish for two of us.

I rubbed the sharp side of the knife on its skin and the upper layer of the skin was off. 

Then I cut them into very thin slices.

Just like I did with the ridge gourds, now also I heated oil, added nigella seeds and sliced green chilies into it and then added the vegetable into it, added turmeric powder, stirred well to mix it, let it cook for a few minutes with occasional stirring and then added salt and let it cook till totally done by covering it. It there is a lot of juice even  after the vegetable is thoroughly cooked, let it cook unless the liquid dries without the cover. During this you have watch and stir occasionally to make sure it does not get burnt.

I had it with thin roti.

The Loofah 

Sponge Gourd, luffa aegyptiaca, eaten only when unripe, green and small, is not really a very popular vegetable and we won't cook it for our guests or for a feast. I belong to a community notoriously non-vegetarian in the otherwise lacto-vegetarian India and offering only green vegetable dishes to guests is quite uncommon. Our popular plant-based dishes are spicy green jackfruit curry or stuffed vegetables or pointed- or ridge gourd prepared with poppy seed paste along with at least one and usually more non-veg dishes. Sponge gourd is very commonly left in the plant to ripen and then get so dry that the hardened brown skin can easily be taken off and inside the pulpy part is dried out and vanished and only the very fibrous natural loofah inside is left.  But after becoming vegan, I try cooking more and more vegetables which we are very lucky to have easily available in our country.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Fascinating Food in a Fascinating City 2 -- Street food and A Heritage Walk

         Our First Day in Mumbai

          Mumbai is strikingly similar to Kolkata in many ways, also in its food culture. In Mumbai too, food is available everywhere almost always and the price is reasonable. I noticed local people thronging street side food stalls for snacks which are mostly deep fried food items. The most popular, as per my perception, is definitely Vada Pav. Samosa and other fritters with pav are also very popular. And you will always spot a small crowd near the pani puri vendors.
          As soon as we landed in Mumbai, we started eating. We started very early from Bangalore, long before sunrise, when it was still dark and the city was still fast asleep because we had to catch an early morning flight. We were hungry by the time we got out of the airport after collecting baggage and refreshing ourselves a bit.
          Right in front of the departure gate of the domestic terminus there is a food court. During our previous visit we had food there which in my opinion was overpriced. Luckily I discovered that there was a canteen run by the airport employees union and we inquired if we could also buy food from there. This canteen was less costly than the food court. This time we had breakfast there. That's how my Mumbai food experience started.

Huge Dhosa at the Canteen of Airport Employees Union
          Dhosa is a pancake made of farmented batter of a type of rice and Urad dal (split black gram). It is originally from southern India but it is immensely popular all over India and even abroad. It can be of various types depending on the ingredients and region. We had masala dhosa; in this context "masala" means the stuffing of the dhosa which is mainly boiled and mashed potato seasoned mainly with mustard seeds.

           Interestingly there I discovered something else, too, a translation of a quotation by Rabindranath Tagore which says that work and rest are inseparable like the eye and eyelid:
           It is relevant and significant to have such words on the wall of an employee union's canteen since not always all employers remember it. And an overworked employee cannot be the most productive one, neither the most motivated one. A good work culture ensures that work life does not engulf personal life and that the workers are not exhausted. There are countries in the developed world where a manager cannot make a team member work beyond certain hours.
          After reaching our hotel, we had our much needed rest, a delicious slumber. Refreshed in the evening, we took a stroll in the neighbourhood. Our hotel was in Fort, a heritage area of Mumbai and so, we had a lot to see within the walking distance.
          Very close was a Persian agiary and within a short distance another. Out of respect, we did not click photos and of course, we saw the buildings from outside only.
          We walked along Dadabhai Nauroji Road and at the southern end on Hutatma Chowk (Martyrs' Square) stood the beautiful Flora Fountain.

 Our country is huge and full of great diversity and how little we know about each other! Before this visit I knew nothing about this fatal struggle of Marathi people leading to the creation of today's Maharastra state. In 1960,  here 105 members of United Maharashtra Committee were killed as police opened fire on their peaceful demonstration.

The Martyrs' Memorial Statue at Hutatma Chowk, Mumbai
At Hutatma Chowk on the other side of the road I had my first Vada Pav and made Mom have one, too!
Vada Pav
Vada Pav is a popular totally plant based Maharashtrian fast food. It is actually a big round potato fritter put inside a small loaf of bread slit open and spread in the middle with red hot spicy and a little tangy dry chutney (or thick paste like chutney, as we had it in Khandala). It may sound humble and may cost only 12 INR but it is really tasty and fun. It is a must have. Many times on the internet I have noticed that Vada Pav called "the Indian Burger". Why do we always have to compare our own cutural elements with Europe and rename it accordingly? For a change, how about calling a burger "the American non-veg Vada Pav"?

Then we walked till Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station which is a grand example of colonial architecture. It was originally named as Victoria Terminus.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai
Just opposite was the building of BMC (Bombay Municipal Corporation, though I like the Marathi name "Brihanmumbai  Nagarpali ka" ) head quarter.

In this area beautiful old buildings are everywhere and the footpaths are wide and there are lot of trees, too. Compared to the centre of an Indian metropolis, it was relatively less crowded and calm; or do I feel so because I'm from one of the most populated cities of the wold?
There was a bus terminus adjacent to the gorgeous CST station where we took but to reach Gateway of India.
Boats on Arabian Sea, from Gateway of India, Mumbai
We spent the evening there till about 20:15 p.m. It was dark then and we set off for our temporary Mumbai-home and on the way I enjoyed my second Vada Pav and this time I spared Mom!


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Cauliflower Curry

Alu-Phulkopir Torkari: Traditional Bengali Cauliflower Dish

       Cauliflower is mainly our winter vegetable. Nowadays, though, thanks to technology, we can find at least some small cauliflowers here and there in the market throughout the year. Of course, the off-season products are very costly. I cooked this dish a few months earlier but could not have the opportunity to post it. Cauliflower is one of my most favourite vegetables and I cook this dish quite often.
       I cut the potatoes into small and the flower in comparatively bigger pieces. The quantity of potato is much less than the flower and you can even prepare this dish without potato. I heat oil ( this time I used mustard oil) till the smoking point and sautee the potatoes and keep them at one side. I add the seasoning cumin seeds and chopped green chili to the oil and then add the cauliflower pieces. I stir and let it cook and after a while add cumin powder and turmeric powder and stir a few more times to mix everything. I cover it now and let it cook for a while on low flame, but not for long to make sure that it does not get burnt because I do not add water at this point. Now I add a little very thinly sliced tomato, usually a half of one big tomato if I cook a small flower and fresh green peas (we almost never use frozen peas), stir a little and now add water. I let it cook by covering the pot till everything is done and then add salt ( and ideally a little sugar which I didn't use), mix well and let it cook for may be one minute.
        I like it with thick gravy. If you prepare it often, you can guess how much water to add and when and how often you must start. I had it with steamed rice but it also goes very well with Roti or Luchi
Cauliflower and Potato Curry

Before Adding Water

Rigde Gourd With Potato and Nigella Seasoning

Jhinge Alu Kalo Jire Kancha Lonka Phorhon Diye

         This is a traditional, simple and quick recipe and totally vegan. We peel the ridge gourd and potato and cut them into small pieces. Then we heat up oil, (mustard oil traditionally but rice bran oil this time). We add nigella seeds and sliced fresh green chillies and add the vegetables and stir well. WE let it cook for a few minutes and stir as required. Then we add turmeric powder and stir and mix well. Then we cover it and lower the flame and let it cook. We don't need to add water since juice comes out of the gourd. 
         After the vegetables are thoroughly cooked, we add salt and we do not add sugar though traditionally at least a pinch of sugar is added to every dish.
          We mix the salt well and let it cook a little more especially a lot of juice is still there because we eat this with lentil soup and rice and we don't want it watery.

One can also take a little more time and after heating the oil, sautee the potato cubesm keep them separate and then after adding the seasoning add the gourd pieces and sautee well adding cumin powder in addition to turmeric powder. But I like it simple, and more importantly, quick.

Ridge Gourd, whole

Fascinating Food in a Fascinating City 1 -- at Dadar on Friday

     Ten years ago during my short stay in Pune, Maharastra, I didn't get much opportunity to taste Maharastrian delicacies. I was a student, poor, almost monolingual as far as speaking skill was concerned, and disgustingly shy and timid. My only Maharasteian food experiences were once an invitation to have a home-cooked meal from my ex-colleague and some from a dozen of the famous Puranpoli (a kind of thin sweet flat-bread) prepared at home as a gift for my European roommate by a street vendor whose tea-stall my flatmates frequented. So, when we were invited to have dinner by a Mumbaikar in Mumbai, I expressed the wish to test dishes that are typically and famously Maharastrian. And thanks to our host, we had a very memorable food experience.

ALu Vadi

I don't think any community other than Maharastrians makes this wonderful snack.
ALu is taro leaf. ALuvadi can be translated as taro leaf roll or the fritter of rolled taro leaves.

ALu Vadi

I had ALuvadi for the first time whem I visited Pune on the occassion of my ex-roommates wedding! Her Mom herself prepared ALuwadi for us.
After my return from Mumbai I have checked many blogs and read how these are made. Now I have to prepare them myself! This is my most favourite Marathi snack.

Kothimbir Vadi

This was a new experience. This one is basically a fritter of coriander leaves and chick pea flower.

Kothimbir Vadi with Coriander Chutney

Bharali Vangi with soft Roti of Bajri

I was so engaged in eating that I forgot to take photos. Vangi is eggplant. As the name implies, it is a stuffed eggplant dish of baby eggplants. Goda masala is used in this dish. My friend M_ introduced goda masala to me. She is going get me some, too. After that I will cook bharali vangi myself.
At home we usually eat rice for every meal. We are originally from East Bengal, now in Bangladesh. The people originally hailing from "western" part of undivided Bengal, regularly eat roti of atta (unrefined wheat flour") for dinner. So, roti from Bajri was something new for me. And I never knew that roti from Bajri atta could be so soft.

PaNas Biryani

PaNas is jackfruit. Green or unripe jackfruit is popular in many parts of India and the main ingredient of many famous vegetarian delicacies. It is called "mutton for the vegetarians".
This jackfruit biryani, though not a traditional Marathi dish ( that's what M_ said), was an excellent adaptation of the traditional non-veg item. We finished it before I remembered to take out my camera again.

Aam Ras

We ate on. The traditional Marathi Aamras (mango pulp) followed.

All these culinary delights were served to us by the Restaurant Gypsy at Dadar and chosen from their menu by our host whose taste, I must say, was excellent.