Western India includes Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra. While I’ve had some amazing food from Maharashtra, I’m not too big a fan of Rajasthani food (mainly because it’s too hot). However one region I find that has an amalgamation of lots of cultures is Gujarat. Here one can find hot, spicy, sweet, sour and even bitter tasting food eaten with relish.
I grew up in Kutch, Gujarat where cultures blend together beautifully. Kutch boasts of population that mainly consists of Sindhis (people who came to Kutch as refugees from Sindh region), Kutchis and Gujaratis among others. As a consequence, Sindhi food made its presence felt in my early days. I remember these aunties in the neighbourhood who used to cook mouth-watering food. They’d always bring some to cute little me. 🙂
Here are two recipes I decided to try my hand at yesterday. While the first is a healthy dal mixed with a bit of green and can be eaten with any kind of bread or rice, the second is a flat bread. You could eat it any time when you’re feeling a bit peckish– tea-time, for lunch with curries and other veggies, you could spread some jam or butter over it and eat it and so on. I remember eating this bread mostly with a bit of sugar sprinkled on top. Enjoy!
1) Sai Bhaji
Prep Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2.5 hours
- 3 Tbsp. Split Bengal Gram, washed and soaked in warm water for 2 hours
- 2 bunches English spinach, roots cut off, washed and chopped roughly
- 1 handful of fresh dill leaves
- 2 large tomatoes chopped fine
- 1 handful fenugreek leaves (if you are unable to find fresh leaves, you can buy a packet of “Kasuri Methi” and follow the instructions given on the packet before adding it to the recipe. Available in Indian stores.)
- 1 large potato cut into 1″ cubes
- 1 large onion cut into 1″ cubes (to be used later and not mixed with the rest of the vegetables to boil)
- 1 cup chopped (1″ cubes) eggplant/aubergine (optional)
- 8-10 French beans, tops and tails cut off and strings removed (optional)
- 1 carrot cut into 1″ thick circles (optional)
- 1 cup chopped (1″ cubes) elephant yam (optional)
- 1/2 Tsp. turmeric powder
- 1 Tsp. coriander powder
- 1″ piece of ginger grated
- 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1/2 Tsp. cumin seeds
- 2 finely chopped green chillies
- Salt to taste
- Fresh Coriander leaves to garish
Mix the Bengal gram, vegetables, coriander powder, turmeric powder and ginger in a deep pan/pressure cooker. Add ½ cup water and cook till is done. The hint of the dal being done is when you can mash it to a pulp. Do NOT use the blender to mash it, but do it gently with an egg beater. It is meant to be a thick dal but if you feel it is too thick or dry, add some water and stir it for a bit. Add salt to taste and stir. Leave it aside for the time being.
In the meanwhile, heat the oil in a small pan on medium low heat. Add garlic and let it pop until it turns golden brown. Now add cumin seeds to it along with green chillies. Cover it with a lid and let it pop for about 10 seconds or so. Add onions to it and fry them till well done. Add this mixture to the resting dal and stir to blend well. Garish it with coriander leaves and serve it piping hot with Chapattis.
2) Koki Roti (Onion flatbread):
- 2 cups – Wheat Flour
- ½ cup Zucchini (optional)
- Salt to taste
- 2 – Onions
- 2 – Green chilly
- Coriander Leaves
Chop onions finely and add finely cut green chillies, small cut pieces of Zucchini & coriander leaves. Add them all to the wheat flour along with salt to taste and 5 Tbsp. oil. Mix all the content properly and add a bit of water to it from time to time as you knead the mixture. Make sure the dough is soft but not too soft. You can store this dough in the fridge for about 3 days.
Take it out 30 minutes before you plan to make Koki flatbread. Divide the dough into small rounds and roll them with a bit of flour into about an inch thick round bread one by one.
Take an omelette pan heat it on low flame. Place one rolled bread on to it and flip it when one side is done. Spread a bit of butter on the done side and wait for the other side to be cooked. When the other side is done as well, flip it again and spread some butter on this side too. Now take it down and place it on a plate and roll the next Koki to cook. The entire process of cooking the Koki roti takes not more than a minute once it’s rolled.
Serve it with curd/ pickle/ poppadum/chutney/butter/tea/ cooked vegetables/dal, etc.
*Thanks to Sindhirasoi.com for the Koki photo*
Not that I’m a very good cook, but sometimes, when the mood takes me I do indulge in a bit of cooking. I don’t cook very well, I think but this time around, my hard labour bore good fruit.
You see, I’ve spent the last two years learning more of Indian cooking than in all my life. So here’s something new that I learnt a week back, and to my delight, I found that it was quite delicious! Thought I’d post the recipes out here, one by one, for Indian food enthusiasts. Mind you, it’s Indian food- not hot but surely full of fragrant and wholesome spices. I also cooked something yesterday that was purely North Indian (Punjabi) food, but that’s for later. So here goes!
1) ONION RICE: (serves 4)
1 cup rice (we use Basmati rice)
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tbsp. oil
1 large onion (sliced)
1 red carrot (shredded)
2 garlic cloves (mince them)
1 tbsp. ginger (peel and mince it)
1 ¾-2 cups cups water
Salt to your taste
Put a medium saucepan on heat. First of, heat oil over medium heat.
Add cumin seeds and once they start popping, add onion and carrot. Lower the heat. Stir it while it cooks and the onion becomes pink and tender. It would take about 15 minutes for it to start looking golden brown on low heat.
Add garlic cloves and ginger; cook 2 minutes. The heat now should be on medium.
Now add Basmati rice to it. Stir it so that the rice is coated with the cooked mixture. Add water and salt. Bring to a boil once and then reduce heat and let it simmer. Cover it with a lid and cook until rice is tender. It should take about 20 minutes for the rice to be cooked. You need to check in between to make sure the rice is not dry. If it dries and is not yet cooked, add a little more water.
If you are cooking in a pressure cooker, close the lid after adding the rice and stirring it once. Give it one whistle and turn off the heat to let it cool. Onion rice is ready!
2) Sarson Ka Saag: Eaten mostly during the cold season, it’s origins come from Punjab and is widely eaten in both India and Pakistan. Normally it is accompanied by flat bread, jaggery and clarified butter as well as home made butter, but we can also eat it with Onion rice. Ideally, flat bread made of cornmeal flour and this Saag is the best combination, but one can also try the normal rotis (flat bread)
Cooking time -40 minutes
Serves – 4
- 500 grams Sarson (Green mustard leaves) – 500 grams
- 250 grams Tomatoes
- 2 Green chillies (optional)
- 1 inch Ginger stick
- 2 Tbsp. Oil
- A pinch of Asafetida
- 1/4th tsp. Cumin seeds
- 1/4th tsp. each of Turmeric powder and red Chilli powder
- 1 Tbsp. Corn meal flour (alternative is also gram flour, called “Besan”)
- Salt to taste
- 1 Tbsp. Butter/Ghee
Wash mustard leaves properly so that there’s no more mud on any of the leaves ( much like you wash lettuce) Let water run through it twice and then strain them in a colander.
Cut the leaves in thick long pieces and cook them in a pressure cooker or deep bottom pan with one cup of water. If you’re using the pressure cooker, give it one whistle. If using a pan, cook until the leaves are soft. Drain excess water, cool them and grind them. Let them remain a bit coarse after they’ve been ground. Set the bowl aside.
Make a paste of tomatoes, green chillies and ginger.
Pour some oil in a frying pan, adding Asafetida and cumin seeds to it when it’s just starting to heat. Let it roast for about 30-40 seconds. Then add turmeric powder along with corn meal flour and stir. After about a minute, add the paste made of tomatoes, green chillies (optional) and ginger. Add red chilli powder to it and cook it until oil starts separating from the paste. Those who like it a bit hot can add 1 chopped onion and two cloves of garlic to the paste.
When you see the oil separating from the cooked paste, add one glass of water and salt. Now add mustard leaves and stir it well so that everything is nicely mixed together. Cook it on low flame once you see the water evaporating completely for about 5-6 minutes.
While serving, garnish it with home-made butter or fresh cream with a sprig of coriander on the top. Sarson ka Saag is ready!
Khushi woke up in the morning and stretched herself with a smile on her face. The smile disappeared though the moment she realized where she was. She was in the drawing room, sleeping on the sofa. It took only a second for previous evening’s events to come back to her and she sat stiff on the sofa, wondering what would happen the next. What would she do if – heaven forbid- she found out that Arnav was serious about keeping the kids with him? Why was he doing this? What-
“I see you’re back to deep thinking. I missed you in bed.” The mocking drawl brought Khushi up short from her musings. Her heart gave a lurch as she saw Arnav standing on the stairs, his hair ruffled. Above his trousers, he was bare chested and looking as sexy as a handsome man could in the morning.
“Where can a man find spare towel in this house?” He asked coming to stand close to the sofa. Khushi scrambled on to her feet. Belatedly she realized that was a mistake, since now Arnav was very close to her, standing a mere inches away. Stammer took hold of her tongue as she said, “Y-y-you can find it in the cupboard below the stairs. I must rush, I need to wake the kids and get them ready for school.”
“School?” Arnav raised puzzled eyes from her body to her face.
Khushi’s face flamed at his blatant eye wandering but she kept her wits about her this time. She said, “They both are in play school right now. They will be in a proper primary school the next year.”
Saying so, she almost ran away from him, scared and at the same time annoyed with herself for being scared. Truth be told, she wasn’t scared of him, never had been much, but she was most certainly scared of her own reactions to him. Last evening had proved to her already how weak she was where Arnav was concerned. She couldn’t let him roughshod over her- not at any cost! Her life was set here, with her sons and he was not a part of it. A sadness welled in her at this thought but she fought it away with grim determination. Yes, he had no part in their lives. He had a son and long lost love with him and they were his life, not she and her sons.
She kept on chanting this thought in her mind, deliberately hurting herself inside as she got her sons ready. No body looking at her getting her sons ready for school could say that she was not cheerful.
She packed the lunch boxes into their bags and filled their water bottles, looking disheveled. Although the day was only beginning, she felt as if she’d been up for hours and yet, she had been neat an hour back, when she’d bathed and dressed. But that’s what happens when you run behind kids, thought she with a smile. As Aayush tried to ruffle his hair, Khushi automatically reached down and smoothed his hair back into position. He groaned and glared at her but didn’t say anything and Khushi smiled wide. “Okay now, you’re sure you’ve got everything needed for today?”
“Sure Mommy!” Cried both
“How sure?” Khushi raised her eyebrows and asked naughtily. This was their daily routine and they all loved it.
“Two thousand times sure.” They replied back, grinning.
Khushi gave them both a smacking kiss on their cheeks and said, “Alright, time to scram. Go, go, go!”
Both the kids rushed out as Savita hollered from outside. It was her turn today to take her daughter and Khushi’s sons to playschool. But something weird happened then, that Khushi had not expected.
They turned back, and looked around. Khushi looked at them, puzzled. And then, she felt Arnav behind her. She turned to look at him, her breath nearly catching in her throat. Arnav had just taken a shower and had a towel round his waist. Save that, he was all man in his glory; water clinging at places on his body and his hair. A wave of desire rose inside Khushi but she stemmed it immediately, knowing if Arnav saw it, he’d take his chance.
Arnav came to stand beside her. In an instant, the kids came to him. Aarush was a little slow but Ayush had no such doubts. He flung himself in Arnav’s arms as Arnav bent to hold him. A hug and a kiss was given to Ayush and then, not wanting to be left out, Aarush also came forward to be hugged and kissed. Arnav ruffled their hair and said, “Get going dudes. See you later!”
Aarush looked at him intently, “You’ll be here? You won’t go away?”
Aranv nodded his head and said, “Yes, I’ll be here.”
“Good. I want to show you my books when I come back.” Said Aarush and then they both went off.
To say that Khushi was astounded was an understatement. Her sons were so much like him, and them together like this—it made Khushi very emotional; emotional and scared. She had almost cried when Arnav had hugged Ayush and Aarush with love. No one could doubt his love for them or their acceptance of him; and yet they’d only met yesterday evening. She knew Aarush was still hesitant but Ayush – he had accepted his father in his life completely. Oh, to be a child and accept everyone unconditionally!
It scared Khushi; this feeling. Feeling wary of his next move, she moved a little away from him. As it was, she could smell the spicy notes of his aftershave; she knew he preferred The One from D&G. She remembered the time when he’d put it on and smile his shark smile. She loved kissing him after he’d put it on; loving the scent of it on him and then rubbing on to her. They’d always ended up in bed. She gulped and tried to not stare but couldn’t help herself.
“I’m your husband Khushi. It is your right to look at my body and covet every inch of it, but when you do that, I can’t resist you- you know that.”Arnav’s husky reminder put Khushi back on alert, with her nose and cheeks going red.
She turned around so that her back faced his front and said, “Go, get dressed. I need to open shop. You can go now, back to where you came from.”
In a millisecond, she was caught by her shoulders and turned around, to face an angry Arnav.
“I told you yesterday night what I wanted and what I meant to do. In case you had any doubts, let me repeat Khushi Singh Raizada. I’m your husband-legally wedded husband and it is my legal right to see to it that my wife and kids are with me.”
“Wh-what are you talking about? Surely you can’t be serious Arnav!” Khushi tried to get free of his hold, “Chhodiye humain!”
“Not happening.” He said and pulled her closer to him. When Khushi pushed him, he let her go for a second. In the next instant, Khushi was upside down, like a sack of potatoes on his shoulder. She pummeled his back with blows, saying, “Put me down this instant Arnav Singh Raizada.. or else!”
“OR else?” Arnav’s chuckle reverberated through her backside as he held her firmly and walked upstairs.
With each step, Khushi’s breathing got faster. What was he doing? Where was he taking her? Surely not— !!! HE wouldn’t dare! She fumed and growled, “You put me down now! This is not your house, samjhe aap!”
Arnav had almost reached Khushi’s room when she spoke. He stopped immediately and put her down. Her words had cut him but he didn’t let it show. She tried to turn away from him but he caught her again by the waist and pulled her close to him. There was not a single part of his body that wasn’t demanding release at this time, yet his heart was hurting. His amber eyes were icy now with anger as he looked into her eyes and saw her flinching, her body in his arms, trembling.
He said, “Khushi Singh Raizada, yes- this is not my house but it isn’t yours either. Your house is with me- in New Delhi. Your home is Shanti Van, not this two floored building. I will make sure you learn some obedience before we go back.” Khushi opened her mouth to refute but he merely said, “Make no mistake my wife, this time around I’m beside you and you will come home with me, even if I have to resort to other measures to do so.”