karmana

I guess it is inevitable that I let my professional avatar spill over onto most other aspects of life too. One example is to ‘structure’ or  ‘categorise’ almost everything around me – which also extends to food. So when I think of a meal I tend to categorise dishes into the standard categories like dry veggies, daal, aamti, salad, chutney, etc etc. But then, once in a while, comes along a dish that cocks a snook at me – gently suggesting that I should learn to sometimes just ‘let things be as they are’. Karmana is one such dish!!

Karmana is a unique dish which, although it looks at first glance like a green chutney, is actually to be eaten mixed with rice – like you would eat a daal or an aamti or a kadhi. It has its own unique taste – which is difficult to describe. So all I can say is – TRY IT!  Simply yummmmy. Karmana-Rice with Kachrya or fried fish is a great combo, incidentally. And what’s more – its also a “make-in-a-jiffy’ dish.

Ingredients:

  • Coconut – fresh, grated – 1 vaati / katori (small cup)
  • Green Chillies – 2 or 3
  • Jeera (cumin seeds) – 1 tsp (heaped)
  • Tamarind – size of half a lemon
  • Salt – 1/2 tsp (adjust as per taste)
  • Coriander – 1 tablespoon
  • Heeng (Asafoetida) – 1/3rd tsp
  • Mustard Seed – 1/3rd tsp
  • Ghee – 1 tsp

Procedure:

Grind the coconut, green chillies, jeera, tamarind, coriander and salt with a little water to a fine thick paste. Then ‘liquify’ it a bit by adding a little water – till the consistency reaches a state where the mix is slightly more liquidy than your typical dosa chutney. It has to be ‘flowy’ enough to easily blend with rice, basically.

Season the above by heating 1 tsp of ghee in a separate bowl / seasoning ladle and adding on the mustard seeds and heeng. Add this to the mix above – and your karmana is ready!

Remember that the mix itself is never heated / cooked. So remember to pour the seasoning onto the mix and NOT pour the mix into the heated bowl that you may have used for the seasoning.

Mix with rice and add a dollop of ghee…the ghee lends it that amazing touch!

Karmana is yet another ‘silent gem’ from the kokani recipe storehouse that you rarely hear of/ find outside of homes. Check it out….

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kadhan – a jaggery and moong dal kheer

I have a weakness for jaggery-based sweets – and kadhan, a jaggery-and-moong dal kheer, comes out tops in this category.  In fact, in my family, I am very rarely asked for suggestions on what sweet to make – ‘cos the answer is always kadhan 🙂

Today is one of those special days when we made Kadhan at home. Today is rather special too – as it is the first monday in the month of Shraavan (as per the Hindu calendar) and it is the festival of  Nag Panchami  as well. My mom always makes something sweet on every monday in the month of Shraavan – so we all quite look forward to these days. And since I have this oh-so-satisfied, all-is-well-with-the-world feeling that comes from having had something wonderful to eat, I decided to pen down the Kadhan recipe without further ado.

This recipe uses Haldi (Turmeric) leaf for added flavour – like in the Shirshira recipe I had posted earlier. The thing about Haldi leaves is they don’t have to be fresh. You can get them whenever you come across them, dry them for a few days in the sun and store them in a dry place. They easily last for a year or so. I know of folks who take dry haldi leaves with them to the US etc too.

Ingredients:

  • Moong Dal (green gram) – 1 cup
  • Jaggery – 1 to 1.25 cups
  • Milk or Coconut Milk (thick) – 1 to 1.5 cups
  • Cashew pieces – 1 tablespoon
  • Cardamom (Elaichi) Powder – 1/4th tsp
  • Haldi (Turmeric) Leaf – 1, cut into 2 or 3 pieces.
  • Salt to taste

Procedure:

Roast the moong dal in a pan till it turns a light pink in colour. Keep aside and let it cool. Wash it thoroughly then add 2 cups of water, a pinch of salt, the cashew pieces and haldi leaf pieces and pressure cook. Usually, about 3 whistles suffice to cook the dal. It is important that the moong dal remains granular even after it is cooked – should not get ‘mashed’.

Allow the cooked dal to cool down. Then remove the haldi leaves and add the jaggery. I’ve said 1 to 1.25 cups so you can adjust how sweet you want the kadhan to be. Boil this till the jaggery is completely dissolved and blended with the dal – stirring occasionally. But take care that the jaggery is not allowed to thicken!

Once the jaggery is dissolved, add the milk / coconut milk and cardamom powder and bring to a light boil. Do not do a ‘heavy’ boil or the milk curdles.

The coconut milk gives it a unique taste that, IMHO, is unparalleled. However, not all of us have coconut milk at hand, so ordinary milk also works fine.

Kadhan can be eaten nice ‘n hot or even chilled.

To paraphrase Nike, JUST DO IT!! 🙂

Shirshira

Having been exposed to the Mahesh Lunch Homes and Gazalees of the world in Bombay, a friend remarked the other day that most seafood preparations from the coast seem to be rather ‘heavy’ and ‘elaborate’. I don’t blame her – after all, most people don’t realise that Konkani cuisine is rather different from Goan and Mangalorean cuisine – which these restaurants specialise in. But I did think that it was time I posted a recipe to quell this perception – and what came to mind is another favorite : Shirshira

Shirshira is a classic fish preparation that is simple, quick and easy to make – and yummy to boot! To give it perspective, my dad said “even I can make it” – since his skills in the kitchen don’t extend far beyond making a mean cup of tea 🙂

The other neat thing about Shirshira is that its a great recipe for the smaller variety of fish – as well as for the more commonplace pomfret and prawns. So if you have scratched your head for a recipe beyond the usual when you come across fresh Mandeli, Modaka (or Verlya), Pedve, Kaanta, etc (apologies for using the marathi names – I dont have the english ones at hand), Shirshira is your answer.

Ingredients:

  • Fish – Pomfret / Prawns / Mandeli / Modaka / Pedve / Kaanta. If large fish like Pomfret-8 to 10 pieces. Smaller variety – 15-18 pieces
  • Onion – 2 medium-to-large, finely chopped
  • Ginger – finely chopped, 1 tsp
  • Garlic – finely chopped, 1 tsp
  • Green Chillies – 2 or 3, sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • Coconut – fresh, grated, 1 tablespoon
  • Kokum/ Aamsol – 4 to 5
  • Coriander – chopped, 1 tablespoon
  • Salt – to taste
  • Oil – 1 tsp
  • Haldi (Turmeric) – 1/4th tsp
  • Red Chilli Powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Haldi (Turmeric) leaf – optional. The Haldi leaf lends this dish (and several others from this region) a unique flavour. 

Procedure:

Marinade the fish in 1/4th tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp red chilli powder and 1/2 tsp of salt. Keep aside for a couple of hours. You can also marinade the fish as soon as you bring it home and put it away in the freezer till you cook the Shirshira. Only thing is remember to thaw it for a 3-4 hours before you start cooking – if you are freezing it.

Mix the onion, ginger, garlic, green chillies, coconut, coriander, kokum, salt (about 3/4th tsp) and oil (1 tsp). The suggested way to do this is to crush all the above ingredients together by hand.

Add the fish to this mix and stir gently – so that the fish don’t break. Transfer to a flat pan and add about 1/3rd cup of water. If you have gotten hold of the haldi leaf, insert that into this mix. Cover the pan and steam (don’t forget to put some water on the lid for effective steaming) for 8-10 minutes – or till the fish are cooked. Make sure you don’t stir more than once or twice – that too gently – or the fish tend to break.

And you are done!!

PS: Remember the haldi leaf is not to be eaten – it is only for flavour.

Shirshira goes well with rice (solkadhi-bhaat/ dahi bhaat) as well as chappatis.

kachryaa – so quick n simple!

When you feel like adding a little extra zing to your everyday meal…or you are simply bored of making the ‘same old dish’ from veggies like raw banana, yam, brinjal (eggplant), potato or even pumpkin, kachrya can come to your rescue. That too in a jiffy…

Most regions in India have a variety of this dish. The recipe below is the way it is made in our part of the world.

Ingredients:

  • Any one or more of the following vegetables : Raw Banana, Yam, Potato, Pumpkin or Brinjal (the large variety only). Wash, peel and cut into thick slices (about quarter inch thick) – squarish/rectangular in shape – About 10-12 slices
  • Turmeric (Haldi) – 1/2 tsp
  • Red Chilli Powder – 1 tsp
  • Asafoetida (Heeng) – qtr tsp
  • Rice Flour – 2 tablespoons
  • Salt – about 1/2 tsp
  • Oil – as required

Procedure:

Add the salt to the vegetable slices and keep aside for 10 minutes. Drain most of the water that gets formed – leaving about 1 tsp of the water with the slices.

Add in the turmeric, chilli powder and asafoetida, mix well and again leave aside for 10-15 mins.

Take rice flour in a plate, roll each slice of the marinaded veggie slice in the rice flour till it is completely coated. Dust the slices so that no thick lumps of rice flour cling to the slices.

Heat 2-3 tsps of oil on a tava (flat pan) and shallow fry the rice flour-coated slices. Cover the tava with a lid and fry on low heat. Usually you can fry about 5-6 slices in one lot (tho it depends on the size of the slices). Turn over the slices after about 5 minutes, when one side of the slices gets done. At any stage, add a teaspoon or two of oil along the sides if you find the oil is not enough – especially after you turn the slices over.

Its important you don’t “hurry up” – let one side get done completely before you turn the slices. Its not a good idea to keep repeatedly turning the slices on the tava – they end up absorbing a lot of oil, rather unnecessarily.

Serve hot. Goes really well with Daal-rice, Solkadhi-rice or even Chappatis/ Rotis.  Kachrya can be rustled up at the last minute for a meal – and always end up adding that “little extra” to make a meal interesting 🙂

Kusbeer or Kismur – a Dry Fish Delicacy

As the monsoon begins its advance into the country, I am reminded of dry fish….and Kusbeer!

For my vegetarian friends, this very same dish can also be made with roasted (not fried!!) papad. Tastes equally good – so read on…

The monsoon season and the heavy rains it brings engulfs the western coast of India for 3 – 4 months. In the earlier days, when there were no mechanised boats and hence deep sea fishing was not possible, no fishing was done during the monsoon. More importantly, this is also the fish breeding season – so fishing continues to be a big ‘No’ even today during this season. In fact, some states have laws against fishing during the monsoons.

However, the kokani palate needs its fish! So that is how dry fish came into the cuisine. Fish like prawns, mackerel (bangda), bombay duck (bombil) etc are dried under the sun by fisherfolk during the summer months – for consumption during the monsoons. Most kokani families stock up on dry fish in the month of May before the onset of the monsoons.

A variety of dishes are made with dry fish. Kusbeer (also known as Kismur in Goa) is one such – which is my favorite! Kusbeer can be made with dry prawns or shrimp – or even dry mackerel.

A couple of ‘fundas’ about dry prawns:

You get two varieties of dry prawns on the west coast of India – ‘Sungata‘ – which are the larger variety and ‘Golma‘ – which are the tiny dry prawns. They are also known as ‘Jawala‘ – should you go looking for them in the market. I have come across packets of ‘Jawala’ in some supermarkets.

The Sungata need to be cleaned – you need to remove the head, tail, etc. I will do a separate post one day – with pictures – of cleaning sungata. For now, if you are not familiar with the process either get it done by your local fisherwoman (yes, they do it for you!) or stick to using Golma / Jawala for this dish – which is less complex to clean!

To clean Golma, first sieve it properly. Remember, these are often dried in the open on the seashore – so they are likely to have sand or fine stones mixed in them (depends on where you buy the Golma from). Hence the sieving is necessary. Then do a round of manual cleaning – check for any left-over tiny stones or any other particles.

Also – it is important to remember that fish are dried with salt. So, take that into account while making any dish with dry fish.

Now you are ready to make the Kusbeer…

Ingredients:

  • Golma / Sungata – 1 cup
  • Onion – finely chopped – 1 cup
  • Coconut – fresh, grated – 1/2 cup
  • Red Chilli Powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Oil – 1/2 tsp. This dish tastes great with coconut oil. So if you like/ have access to coconut oil, best to use that.
  • Salt to taste. Since the dry fish is already salty, you would need less than half a tsp of salt for this dish.

Procedure:

Stir-fry the dry fish in half a teaspoon of oil on medium flame – till they become really crisp. In fact, they give out a lovely aroma which is unique to dry fish as they get done. Keep aside.

Mix the finely chopped onion, red chilli and salt in a separate serving bowl. In fact, they need to be ‘crushed’ together by hand and mixed really well. The term in marathi for this is ‘churadnay‘.  Keep aside.

Just before your meal, add in the coconut and the stir-fried dry fish. Mix really well. Add a tsp of coconut oil and serve!  It is important to mix it ‘just-in-time’ – else the dry fish lose their crispiness.

Eat with chappatis, rotis or rice.

For enhanced taste, you can also add 1 tsp of soaked aamsol/kokum water. Add it to the onion while crushing.

For all ye vegetarians out there:

Instead of dry fish, you can make this with roasted papad. Use your regular Lijjat papad variety. Roast the papads and crush them into tiny pieces. And follow the exact same recipe above. Believe me, it tastes yummm and can add a zing to any meal!

Dhondas – a kind of traditional ‘cake’

Ever wondered how a ‘cake’ can be made out of cucumber? Well…this is what Dhondas is made of  – along with jaggery and rava (sooji). And all ye veggies out there – this will gladden your heart as there is no egg involved!

Dhondas is a traditional sweet made in most GSB households – and a huge favorite. You absolutely MUST try this out….

BTW, the cucumber to be used here is the large variety  – which is at least a 3/4th foot long and a couple of inches in diameter. Try not to use the regular small slim ones that we use for salads etc.

Ingredients:

  • Cucumber (Large) – peeled and grated – 1 cup. Note: Retain the water that you get while grating the cucumber as it is also used for this dish
  • Rava (sooji) – 1 cup. Use your regular rava that is ‘medium’ sized. Not the very fine variety nor the coarse one.
  • Jaggery – 1 cup. If it is in a big lumpy form, either grate the jaggery or cut it into pieces.
  • Melted Ghee – 4 tsps
  • Nutmeg – 1/4th tsp
  • Cashewnuts – 8-9, chopped into smaller pieces.
  • Coconut (optional) – cut into small bits or grated – 1 tablespoon
  • Salt – 1/2 tsp
  • Baking Soda – 1/4th tsp

Procedure:

Mix the cucumber, cucumber water, jaggery, cashewnuts, coconut and salt in a pan and bring to a boil. Basically heat the mix till the jaggery starts melting and comes to a boil. Stir once in a while. Don’t let it boil too much and thicken – the jaggery should remain ‘liquidy’. Keep this mix aside and allow it to cool down.

In a separate pan, heat the ghee and roast the rava in the ghee till it is well roasted. A good indicator that the rava is well roasted is the wonderful aroma that arises :). Keep aside and allow this also to cool.

Then add the mix to the roasted rava, add in the nutmeg powder and baking soda. (Tip : Dissolve the baking soda in 1 tsp of milk, ensuring no lumps are formed, and then add it to the mix). The resulting batter should be of a cake batter consistency. Sometimes, depending on the variety of rava used, the batter becomes very thick and rather dry. If this happens, add a little milk to soften it.

Bake this like you would bake a regular cake. To test if it is done, put a knife straight thru the dhondas and pull it out. If no remains stick to the knife, it means that your dhondas is done.

BTW, here is an interesting aside. In the earlier days when ordinary folks did not have access to an oven, a variety of contraptions were used for baking. My mom was gifted the one in the picture below at her wedding more than 40 years ago – which she continues to use even today.

Cake Patra – How it looks from outside

Cake Patra – an internal view. Taken just after the dhondas was made

This is put on the gas stove and used for baking.  I remember all cakes in my house being baked in this vessel. In fact, the dhondas pictured below has been baked in this….take a look:

Do try out the dhondas and let me know how it turned out 🙂

Solkadhi – The Original Recipe

A friend of mine asked me a pertinent question – when this project and the blog is titled ‘Solkadhi’ how come I haven’t posted its recipe? Point! So here goes…

Solkadhi is a preparation that is quite popular – and made even more so by the many restaurants who specialise in Coastal cuisine from western India. Naturally, many versions of Solkadhi are available in the market. However, as is the case with most dishes across cuisines, the authentic recipes made at home are indeed quite different from the versions available in restaurants. And the purists tend to turn up their noses at the ‘commercial varieties’ 😉

Recipes for Solkadhi also tend to subtly vary across families. I have recorded two recipes  made in my family – plus a ‘shortcut’ one. And then there is a ‘cousin’ of the Solkadhi, called ‘Tiwal’ – which is made without coconut. Am going to note that down too – in a separate post.

About Solkadhi

Solkadhi is made from Kokum or Aamsol – a fruit that is grown in the region. I am not going to digress into details about kokum itself. Instead, here are a couple of interesting posts I came across on the topic – you may want to check them out: ‘Kokum – the kool king‘ and ‘The mystique of kokum

Solkadhi is like a ‘staple’ dish that used to be on the daily menu of most homes in our part of the world. It is like what Curd or Rasam or buttermilk is to many of my friends from other parts of the country. In fact, in our home, over the last few years, my parents have reverted to having Solkadhi with every meal. I was asking my dad what is the ‘big deal’ about Solkadhi. Being the healthcare expert that he is, he explained that it contains ‘fungal diastase‘ – which helps with 1st stage digestion of carbohydrates in the body. It helps reduce the ‘bulk’ in the stomach – which is why it is considered a ‘must’ with heavy food rich in carbs. Given that Konkan is basically a rice & fish eating region, it explains why this must have evolved. Besides, kokum itself is supposed to be an excellent antidote for acidity.

Recipe #1:

Ingredients

  • Fresh Coconut – grated, 1 cup
  • Aamsol or Kokum – 7 to 9
  • Green Chillies – 2, medium length, cut into 2-3 pieces
  • Ginger – 1/2 inch, peeled and diced into 4-5 pieces
  • Asafoetida (Heeng) – qtr tsp
  • Salt to taste

Procedure:

Soak the kokum in about 3/4th cup water adding the Heeng and Salt. Keep aside for a couple of hours.

Now comes the critical grinding-of-the-coconut part. This used to be done on a stone grinder (called ‘Pata Varvanta’ in Marathi) in the pre-mixer days – I recollect helping my mom do this occasionally in my childhood. While most folks have switched to mixer-grinders, those who have eaten food containing spices & masalas ground on stone grinders insist that the same flavours don’t emerge when using a mixer. The fundamental difference is that in a mixer, the ingredients get “finely chopped” – while on a stone grinder, they get ground and pressed together while getting broken down.

Anyways, so in our ‘modern day’ methodology, this is how you proceed : grind the coconut, ginger and green chillies with 3/4th cup water in the mixer. When it grinds to a decent paste, squeeze the ‘milk’ out of the paste and keep aside. Add another 3/4th cup of water to the dry remains and run the mixer again for a minute or so. Again extract the milk – adding to the original extract. Repeat a couple of more times – till basically all the ‘milk’ gets extracted from the coconut and you start extracting only clear water.

Add the extracted ‘milk’ to the pre-soaked kokum above and blend. Keep aside for a couple of hours – it is important to let the Solkadhi ‘be’ for at least a couple of hours before you consume it. And remember to stir the Kadhi everytime you serve it – the coconut extract tends to rise to the top when the kadhi is left untouched for a bit!

And BTW, the kokum is supposed to be thrown away after consuming the kadhi – don’t eat them by mistake 🙂 (It happened with someone I know – so I just thought I should mention it!)

Solkadhi is eaten traditionally with rice – “kadhi-bhaat’ is usually the last course in a meal. While it certainly goes well with fish and meat dishes, it is also lovely to have with your ordinary bhaaji or sabji.

A few important points:

– Although Solkadhi is commonly ‘positioned’ as a drink (and hence is served a tad sweetened), original solkadhi is meant to be eaten with rice.

– A lot of commercial establishments use something called ‘Kokum Aagal’ – a Kokum juice extract that is available in the market- instead of soaked kokum to make kadhi. When in a pinch, you could probably use the “aagal” I guess. The only issue is that most commercial products are sold with sugar added to the Kokum Aagal (so that it can double up as a base for Kokum juice) – and that tends to completely spoil the taste of the Solkadhi.

Recipe #2:

The difference is only in the ingredients used to spice the Kadhi. So the combination of ingredients in this version of the kadhi are:

  • Fresh Coconut – grated, 1 cup
  • Aamsol or Kokum – 7 to 9
  • Garlic – 5-6 big pods, peeled. These should be ‘crushed’ (use a pestle or a stone) before use. In fact, always crush garlic before using in any recipe as the crushing helps release the beneficiary oils that garlic is known for
  • Black Peppercorns – 7 to 8
  • Asafoetida (Heeng) – qtr tsp
  • Salt to taste

The procedure is exactly the same as given in Recipe #1. Instead of grinding the coconut with chillies and ginger, grind it with the garlic and black peppercorns.

BTW, this garlic-black pepper version of the solkadhi is particularly given to people recuperating from an illness or to young mothers. It also goes very well with a non-veg meal.

Recipe #3 – the Shortcut method:

Since one is perpetually short of time these days, here is a short-cut version of the Solkadhi. Again, purists frown on this version…but when one doesn’t have the luxury of time or household help, atleast one can still enjoy Solkadhi.

The short cut version basically uses coconut milk instead of grated coconut.

Ingredients:

  • Aamsol or Kokum – 7 to 9
  • Green Chillies – 2, medium length, cut into 2-3 pieces
  • Ginger – 1/2 inch, peeled and diced into 4-5 pieces
  • Asafoetida (Heeng) – qtr tsp
  • Coconut Milk – 1/2 cup
  • Salt to taste

Soak the kokum in 3/4th cup water with Heeng & Salt plus the Chillies and Ginger for a couple of hours. You can even use ginger & chilly paste. Add the coconut milk after the kokum is soaked. Keep aside for at least an hour or so before consuming.

Enjoy! 🙂

Aambat Batata – a Potato Dish

Continuing on the theme of Devakarya menu from my last post (Ginger Chutney), here is another dish with is also a staple on the menu – Aambat Batata.  ‘Aambat’ means ‘sour’ in Marathi – although, like in most Indian cuisines and, therefore, in Indian languages, there are different types of ‘sour’ tastes – so the actual taste kinda gets lost in translation here. The ‘sourness’ of Aambat Batata is very light…so I guess a closer approximation would be to describe it as ‘tangy’ perhaps? Best is for you to try it out and decide for yourself.

Aambat Batata is a favorite with my sister-in-law. And since she lives outside the country and doesn’t have the time – like most of us – Aai has designed a ‘short-cut’ recipe for her. So am going to give you the original recipe here followed by the ‘short-cut’ one.

ORIGINAL RECIPE:

Ingredients:

  • Potatoes – 3 to 4, medium sized. Cut them into long slices – approximately the length of the potato, about 1/2 inch in breadth and 3/4th cms thick. Tip: If you are dicing the potatoes a couple of hours or more prior to the actual cooking, remember to soak the potatoes in water. It prevents them from darkening.
  • Tamarind – the size of one small lemon. Soak for an hour or so and extract & use the pulpy juice.
  • Coconut – grated, 1 cup
  • Black Pepper Corns – 8 to 10
  • Rice – 1/2 tsp (or 1 tsp of rice flour)
  • Red Chilli Powder – 1 tsp
  • jaggery – 1/2 tsp
  • Salt to taste

For the Tadka or ‘Phodni’ (as we call it in Marathi):

  • Mustard Seeds (‘Mohri’ or ‘Rai’) – 1/2 tsp
  • Asafoetida (‘Heeng’) – 1/2 tsp
  • Fenugreek (‘Methi’) granules – 1/2 tsp
  • Turmeric (‘haldi’) – 1/2 tsp
  • Oil – 2 to 2.5 tsps

Procedure:

First make the ‘Goli‘ or ‘Vaatap‘ – which is basically the coconut-based paste that is the basis of most gravies in this region. ‘Vaatap‘ means ‘that which has been ground

Mix the coconut, black peppercorns, and rice (or rice flour) and grind to a fine paste, adding water only as required. The resultant paste should be thick, not watery! Keep aside. You can also make this ‘vaatap’ on an earlier day(s) and store it in the freezer. Only thing is remember to thaw it properly before you make the actual dish.

Heat the oil in a pan. Add the mustard seeds, allow them to splutter, then add the Methi, Heeng and Haldi. Add the diced potatoes, salt and red chilli powder. Then add enough water to ensure that the potatoes are completely submerged in the water. Steam on a low-to-medium flame till the potatoes are cooked. Remember to cover the pan with a flat lid and pour some water on the lid while steaming. Some varieties of potatoes take a long time to cook – so keep checking and adding   water as required if the potatoes are taking longer to get done.

When the potatoes are near-done, add the tamarind paste and boil for about 5 mins – till the ‘raw’ smell of the tamarind goes away. I asked my mom a silly question at this point – why cant we wait till the potatoes are fully cooked before we add the tamarind paste. She said because the whole thing needs to be boiled for 5 mins after the tamarind paste is added – and if the potatoes have been fully cooked, then they tend to break and dissolve when this boiling is going on. Duh!

Once this is done, add the ‘Vaatap’ – the coconut-based paste – and the jaggery and bring to a light boil over a low flame. As with all coconut-based gravies, make sure you don’t bring this to an ‘active’ or ‘big’ boil.

And your Aambat Batata is ready…

THE SHORT-CUT RECIPE:

The short-cut method basically does away with the ‘Vaatap”

Ingredients:

  • Potatoes- same as the ingredients above
  • Tamarind option – you can use readymade tamarind paste instead of tamarind. Mix 1/2 tsp of tamarind paste in 1/4th cup water and blend well.
  • Coconut Milk – thick, available readymade – 1/2 cup. This is instead of the grated coconut.
  • Pepper Powder – 1/2 tsp. This is instead of the whole pepper corns
  • Rice Flour – 1/2 Tsp
  • Red Chilli Powder – 1 Tsp
  • Jaggery – 1/2 tsp
  • Salt to taste

For the Tadka or Phodni – same as given above in the original recipe

Procedure:

Follow the same procedure as given in the original recipe till the stage where you need to add the tamarind paste. Here, use the readymade tamarind paste option as given in the ingredients above.

Next, instead of the ‘Vaatap’, we are going to use the coconut milk. First blend the rice flour into the coconut milk making sure no lumps remain. Add this to the potato mix in the pan, then add the pepper powder and jaggery. Bring to a low boil over a low flame.

Aambat Batata goes well with rotis, rice and even puris.

Ginger Chutney or Aalyaa Cha Raita

One abiding memory from my early childhood is of a tradition called ‘Devakarya‘  in our family – that continues even till this day. Curiously, in a family that is not into religious rituals in a big way, this is a tradition that has remained steadfast. Apparently, its been handed down the generations and my parents continue.

A bit of background:

My family hails from the “Gaud Saraswat Brahmin” (GSB) community. We have our kuladevata or family deities in Goa. Our family’s kuladevata is Mangueshi, an incarnation of Lord Shiva. His wife is ShantaDurga, an incarnation of Parvati. The story goes that the original sites of these temples were in a place called ‘Kutthaal’ in Goa. To avoid persecution by the Portuguese, a young man belonging to the ‘Dhangar’ (shepherd) community carried the Deity of Lord Mangesh on his head from Kutthaal – through tough mountainous terrain – to the current site of the temple, where it could remain secure. He is known as ‘Mulakeshwar’ and the Mangueshi temple complex has a temple dedicated to him.

Coming back to Devakarya – it is a tradition which is basically to ‘Remember God with Gratitude’. Performed four times a year, on specific days, it involves inviting a ‘Brahman’ (a man), a ‘Savashna’ (a married woman) and a young boy home for lunch. The Brahman & the Savashna are considered representatives of Mangesh & Shantadurga and the young boy of ‘Mulkeshwar’. My mom, who’s family’s kuladevata is Shantadurga, recollects having Devakarya in her childhood home where a Savashna and a young girl would be invited instead. So, I guess, while who gets invited may vary from family to family, the thought behind it is the same – to remember & serve the Almighty.

As Devakarya is performed via feeding Representatives of God, the menu is indeed special and rather elaborate. Pure vegetarian fare – even onion and garlic are not to be used (this type of cuisine is known as ‘Shivaraakh’, btw) – it always turns out to be outstanding indeed! I will try and cover various recipes of this menu over time.

The first on the list is Ginger Chutney or Raita. “Aala” means Ginger in Marathi / Kokani. For whatever reason, this dish tends to get prepared only on Devakarya days. A very simple preparation, it is nothing short of amazing in taste! Try it out….

The Recipe:

Ingredients

  • Ginger – 1 inch, peeled and sliced
  • Coconut – 1 small cup, grated
  • Dry Red Chillies – 2 or 3
  • Sugar – a pinch
  • Salt to taste
  • Curd – about 1/2 a small cup

Procedure

Grind all the ingredients (except the curd) into a fine paste, adding water only as necessary. You can refrigerate this paste for a few days – it stays rather well.

Just before your meal, add the curd to the paste and blend. The amount of curd given above is a rough estimate. Basically, just add enough so that you get a “chutney” consistency. Do not make it very ‘curdy’ – then the base taste would get overpowered by the curd!

This goes with anything – rotis, puris, bread, rice, etc

Kolambi chi Aamti or Prawn Curry

We got some fresh prawns yesterday and wondered if we should make the old favourite – Kolambi chi Aamti – or something else. The aamti thought prevailed.

Kolambi means “prawns”. Most recipes from our region have coconut as a core ingredient. Coconuts grow in abundance along the coast and is therefore, naturally, used in our cooking. So Aamtis in a Gaud Saraswat Branhmin (GSB) household usually have a coconut base. I dislike using the term “curry’ – as it has different connotations. But…sigh…one must live with the limits of translation 🙂

For a really good Aamti, always pick mid- or small-sized prawns. No large fellows for our Aamti – they don’t taste as good. You also get these really teeny-weeny prawns – those are better suited for prawn pickle, not for an aamti.

Cleaning the Prawns:

Fresh Prawns usually need to be cleaned before cooking. Basically de-vein them by carefully taking out the vein that runs along the spine of the prawn. Frozen prawns usually come de-veined – but then, fresh prawns are fresh prawns, right?!

The Marination:

Marinade the prawns in Red Chilly Powder, Haldi (turmeric) & Salt (proportions listed below). Its always best to marinade as soon as you are done with cleaning / defrosting. Keep aside for half an hour. You can also put away the marinaded prawns in your freezer for later use.

A couple of fundas about the Chilly powder & Turmeric:

– Always try and use Chilly powder & Turmeric from a known and reliable source – preferably folks who do the grinding themselves. Chilly Powder & Turmeric are two ingredients that are most adulterated in India. So if you can, please avoid buying it off shop shelves.

-The chilly powder that Aai uses is a mix of “Byadgi” and “Sankeshwari” mirchis. Byadgi is less spicy but adds the colour while Sankeshwari is spicy but less red in colour.

The Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • Prawns – medium sized, 200 gms (12-15)
  • Coconut (scraped) – 1 cup. Do not use dried or dessicated coconut pls!
  • Onion – finely chopped – 3/4th cup
  • Pepper corns (black) – 12-15
  • Red Chillies (Byadgi) – 4
  • Turmeric (haldi) – a pinch
  • Dhaniya (coriander) seeds – 1 tsp full
  • Rice (1/2 tsp). (You can also use 1 tsp of rice flour instead)
  • Tamarind – size of a small lemon. Soak it in water for a while and use the juice
  • Oil – 2 tsps
  • Salt to taste
  • For Marination of the prawns : Red Chilly Powder (1.5 tsps), Turmeric (3/4th tsp), salt (1 tsp)

Procedure:

A. Making the “Goli” or the “Coconut-based paste”:

Mix the coconut, 2 tsps of chopped onion, pepper corns, turmeric, red chillies, dhaniya seeds, rice (or rice flour). Grind to a fine paste adding water as required. Keep aside.

B. Making the Aamti:

Heat 2 tspns of oil in a pan. Add 1 tsp of finely chopped onion and fry till DARK brown. Then add 1/2 cup of finely chopped onions (yes, once again!) and 1/2 tsp of salt and fry till the onions turn transluscent and soft. The funda behind adding the salt at this stage is to soften the onion quickly. Next add the marinaded prawns and stir for about 2 mins. Add 2 cups of water and cook on medium heat. The recommended way to cook is to cover the pan with a flat lid and pour some water on the lid. Cook till the onions are fully cooked. The way to test this is to take a piece of onion out and press it. It should turn ‘pasty’. The prawns get cooked during this time frame.

Then add the tamarind water. Boil for a full five mins after adding the tamarind -else it leaves behind a raw taste. Then add  the “Goli” and let the mix come to a ‘low’ boil on low flame. Dont let the mix get into an “active” or “high boil” mode! Taste and check if salt needs to be adjusted. And your Aamti is ready!

Some Alternatives:

You can use Kokum or raw mango instead of tamarind:

Kokum or Aamsole:

This is a staple from our region – Aamsole or Kokum. Called Aamsole or simply ‘sole’, it is the ‘magic ingredient’ used in a lot of our recipes. Used to lend a type of ‘sour’ flavour to the dish, the resulting sourness is different from what you get if you use, say, tamarind or raw mango. Aamsole are not easy to source – unless you live in Western India.

If you are using aamsole, add the aamsole instead of the tamarind water. Boil for a full five mins before adding the ‘Goli’

Raw Mango :

Use one small raw mango, peeled and sliced (large slices). Add it as above, once the onion is cooked, and boil till the raw mango is cooked. Only then add the ‘Goli’.

For Enhanced Taste:

We sometimes add white radish to the aamti. It adds its own unique taste and flavour to it. Peel and slice the radish and add it along with the prawns.

Kolambi chi Aamti is usually eaten with plain rice. But is actually goes with anything.

Try it out and let me know how it turned out 🙂

Next Post : Ginger Raita (Aalya che raite)