Friday, November 20, 2020

Rai, Mohri, Sarson, Sorshe, Sasave, Mustard


Spice no. 4

Mustard we know it as the tiny seeds in the phodni or tadka without which our food is incomplete. It is loved right across India, In the South that extra tadka is the highlight of chutneys and everything else. Bengal and North East's most beloved spice. They cannot function without it, the shorshe bata is a must in fish preparation and the oil has to be Mustard. I  myself being Maharshtriya love my groundnut oil and my palate required a lot of maturing before I learn to appreciate mustard oil. That too thru Kashmiri cooking. I learnt that smoking the oil reduced its punjency and brought out the flavours beautifully when I learnt to make Taher from Anita Tikoo. Then a conversation I recollect with the food writer Marryam Reshi who is married to a Kashmiri that for all their love for Mustard oil but they had very little to no love for the mustard seeds. She even goes to say in her book, The Flavour of Spice that Kashmiris don't use even a spoonful of Mustard in the whole year!

I was in Hampi when I heard the guide tell about the King's Ganesh called Kadle kalu Ganesha and the common man's Ganesh called sasave kalu Ganesha. Such a vivid comparison. Mustard has always been the representation of tiny. Tiny but powerful. Gujaratis befriended it. They use so much besan in cooking as thickner and as a major ingredient for the farsan that Ayurvedic balance is a must with a tadka of rai. Rai is potent gas shooter. It makes everything easy to digest. 

While in Bangalore I met families from the Vidarbh of Maharashtra that made koshimbir with pounded mustard in dahi. A Mumbaikar rarely gets an insight into remote regional Maharashtriya cuisine. So this came as a surprise. Then another of my favorite use of Mustard is in the Sasam from the coasts of Goa and Karnataka. A paste of mustard, coconut and red chilies is mixed with fresh sweet n sour cut fruits like mango, pinapple and grapes and eaten as a palate changer. The same or similar paste is cooked with raw mango to make a curry called sasav. That is true dedication to a spice, when the dish itself is called by its local name.

You can tell a guy is from the North Indian state when his deo is overpowered by the smell of sarson Ka tel. Jokes apart mustard oil is considered a garami wala oil and best for massage in winter. Alleviates aches n pains. 

I stock many different oils in my pantry and one day my friends came to stay over unplanned and my Friends husband was thrilled to have a masoor dal, rice and aloo shedho with a dash of mustard oil on it just out of the blue cooked by me. I need not say he is a bengali. Yes and it surprised me that they had a tradition of eating raw oil too like Maharashtriya enjoy their peanut oil on certain dishes like ukad and chutneys but that is for another story.

Among Kolis we don't use Rai in tadka but it is part of our masala. My favourite is a Khamanga green chili, hing - Mohri Phodni chi sukki batata bhaaji. I could eat it as a snack. You learnt a new word for mustard here.

In Maharshtra we also use Mustard paste to apply on the belly button of a baby with colic as you cannot feed the mustard to the baby and it works like magic. Talking about magic, mustard seeds along with salt and alum or phatkiri is held in the palm of the hand and waved across a person who has travelled or has had an exposure to evil eye and dropped in the hot embers of the chulha. It removes the evil eye is the belief. However its is nothing but aroma therapy at work. The mustard releases the pungent oil and lifts the mood. That's what makes babies smell good after this Olavni of mustard seeds and salt and phatkiri.

While many times we have learnt that a certain spice travelled from across the world and came to India Mustard is home grown and it is native plant across the world so one less dispute for the World. So there is English Mustard, Dijon and far Mexico too. I wonder if our Sarso da saag loving Punjabis were attracted to Canada because it is the largest producer of Mustard or did the Punjabis make it the largest producer of Mustard?

Monday, November 16, 2020

Diwali 2020 in the midst of Covid-19



Back to this gorgeous view that I am blessed with. 

We had a fantabulous Diwali, a staycation at Powai Lake. The videos will come up on TalkativeAnjali soon.

This morning breakfast was homemade Diwali faral brought over by Mangala Vahini, Vijay bhau, Sujal and my DIL Dipti. I did not make any faral. So this was enjoyed even more. 

A generous box filled with her usual repertoire and some new additions. I also noticed the change in taste so I am thinking it is Dipti's hand work. Loved the Phodni in the Chivda, Masta Khamanga. The Karanji was delicate and filled well. My Karanji cover is always a thick one so love Vahini's. The Khari puri is a new addition and so is the barik shev. Her besan ladoo are always beautifully roasted brown. The jaad shev her usual. I noted the shankarpali had a whiff of vanilla essence. Who dun it? Vijay bhau always helps with faral making never seen Sujal do it. He must have done the shopping for the ingredients I guess. Enjoyed everything a lot! 


Thank you for coming over and bringing along Ankita and Akshada. 

Dinner started with 3 types of icecreams as soon as they arrived. Orange Apricot, Pineapple cranberry and Pink Guava with salt n chili sprinkle. I was still rolling out Ghadichi Poli then. 

Rest of the menu went like this Ghadichi Poli with matar paneer because Sujal loves it, basmati rice with Masoor aamti made in coconut milk. Bengali tomato chutney I had saved for them to taste and take away too. Akhrod halwa that we got from the hotel as a send off since we had loved it. A jugful of mattha to close the meal.

After coming back home from the staycation I quickly Swiggyed to replenish my pantry and fridge. Cooked the dinner just in time of their arrival. My dinners are always help yourselves ones.

Though a brief evening it did feel like a Diwali dinner because when together we are loud n cheery šŸ˜

Monday, November 09, 2020

Cooking and Feeding With LOVE


It is such a joy to cook and feed. Right from when I turned adult I have been doing it. If anyone cooks for me a decent meal I consider it an act of true love. There are hundreds of eateries from where one can order and these days we have a good spending capacity. However that is not the same kind of love as when some one gets into the kitchen to cook up a meal for you. The taste may not be good but what is important is you took the trouble.

When I was in college many times I would be famished in the evenings when I would be back home. So I would make snacks for myself and in a joint family one never ate alone so I made more for anyone who would like it. There was one cousin who did not care for anyone and always had a twisted point of view so she said I cooked because I wanted to eat! 

Many decades later I reflect on it. Words don't hurt so much anymore. If I did not like cooking and feeding this blog would not have existed. All that I do in the field of food wouldn't have brought me to where I am.

The Community food fridge has provided me an opportunity to cook and feed people anonymously. I try to use the best quality ingredients and make it tasty so when some one eats it they should feel satiated. After all Shree Gondavalekar Maharaj has said that it is the only desire that can be fulfilled as once your stomach is full you don't desire more. What follows is Trupti.

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Jeera, JÄ«rige. JÄ«lakarra, Cumin


Spice no. 3

Jeera was once upon a time a prized spice. You guessed it right as it wasn't grown widely in Bharat. It was grown mainly in Egypt and the Middle East.

It belongs to the Parsley family and the leaves look like Shepu bhaaji. The Jeera or Cumin we know has a strong warming flavour. If not used carefully it overpowers all other flavours in a dish. It is one of those spices that get a special place because of this bossy flavour in dishes dedicated to showcase it. Like the Jeera rice, Jal Jeera, Jeera aloo etc. Interestingly Jeera is not predominantly native and was very expensive in the past centuries as it was traded in India by the Arabs. Yet jeera was used in fasting recipes. Fasting recipes as you know uses foods n spices which are not eaten everyday. This is to be able to get a shot of new nutrients and a break from the usual grains. Hence began the use of jeera in the fasting recipes. It was a show of luxury too. The fasting recipes did not allow use of mustard seeds which were used everyday and that gap was happily filled by cumin. Plus a little of it made the dish fragrant and warm. 

Believe it or not cumin was used as a preservative not just for food but also dead bodies in Egypt. It was one of the important spices used in the mummification process. This spice later travelled to different continents and finds big use in Latin America. The Orient uses cumin in a lot of its dishes and medicines too. India and China grow 70% of world's cumin and use 90% of it. 

In India cumin finds big use in home remedies for the gut. There is a whole range of jal jeera, Kashyam and rasam where Jeera in the hero. It has been incorporated into the tadka and has become common place. Jeera is one of the 5 spices in panch phodon too.

How can we forget our bhuna jeera that is sprinkled on chaats. However that is a traditional thing to do in the Middle East, it is placed on the table just like salt and pepper for all to help themselves to.

Saturday, November 07, 2020

Mint Lounge: A savoury note to a sweet Diwali


My quote in today's newspaper and @livemintlounge where I talk about the balance of sweet n savory in our Maharashtriya Diwali Faral. 

Thanks @poojabd @prestaurants_ for reaching out to me. Thanks @avantikabhuyan for quoting me.

Read it here.

Monday, November 02, 2020

Halad, Haldi, Haldar, Manjal, Haridra, Turmeric


Spice No.2

Haridra in Sanskrit more commonly Halad, Haldi, Haldar, Manjal. Native to Bharat and most species of Turmeric exsist in the sub-continent. It is a rhizome and not a root which is used fresh or dried and powdered. Turmeric has always been the most accessible spice to everyone in Bharat. It was grown in the backyard of every home through ages. While it was used as spice in food it had great importance in Ayurved too. A lep of turmeric and phatkiri (alum) is the most effective for bruises and cuts. Turmeric being antibacterial worked well to preserve food, heal the gut and any inflammation, whether internal or external. Besides it made the food appealing with the bright yellow color. The fresh turmeric is sliced and made into a seasonal pickle with a squeeze of lime n salt and some green chilies for heat. If you are from the Kokan you are familiar with turmeric leaves used in en-papillote fashion to steam rice and jaggery sweets and fish too. This common usage gave it important place in worship and lifecycle celebrations. 


We know the beauty routines of Haldi chandan uttan or packs of Turmeric and sandalwood which were of daily use. It is well in practice that a Hindu is given haldi treatment twice in a lifetime at the time of wedding and on death. In worship Haridra - Kumkumam (which is made from turmeric) were indispensable. Many are aware about Holi as the festival of color. In Maharashtra we have other festivals of color called Champa Shashti when Khandoba is worshipped and Turmeric is showered by devotees. The turmeric represents gold. It is also showered as a healing medicine on Khandoba as a celebration of his victory after killing the demons Mani-Malla. Another is Somvati Amavasya when devotees celebrate the wedding ritual of Khandoba with Mhalsa by showering turmeric.


The US Patent and Trademark Office had granted a patent to two persons of Indian origin. However CSIR fought the legal battle to revoke it. The usage of turmeric in our food and its application in wound healing has been used through centuries and it is native to India so it lacked the novelty factor for patenting. This was a big victory for India.

There is documented evidence that the first curry had fresh Turmeric in it. We know of the trends that swept the western world with sudden wave of Turmeric latte which is our ubiquitous Haldi doodh that grandmother's gave us when our throats were itchy with cough n cold. Amul has canned it for the young generation to make it Kool. One brand even has an turmeric icecream!

You are on a #MasalaTrail with Anjali Koli. See you in the next post.

On Trail