Happy Sankranti to one and all!
I never got a chance to mention about the special people who have always wanted to groom the cook in me. I posted this collage on International Chefs Day on facebook. However, I missed out on writing about it. Hence sharing it on this auspicious day of Sankranti.
I have grown up in Kolkata and rarely did I get a chance to experience the Marathi kitchen and the processes involoved in there. Aai cooked so many varieties when I was little. Right from the Maharashtrian meal to the fish curries, she learned from the domestic help at Kolkata. Hence everything I ate was family traditional Indian food for me then. I learned about the staple diets of each of the States in India while at school. Little did I know that food varied in every region of Maharashtra too.
It was only when I got married that I managed to observe, yes just observe the finer nuances in the cooking. I dreaded stepping in to help fearing mistakes on my part. Unfortunately, I did not have enough experience in that kitchen either…we moved to the UK.
Everyone of us missed out on the traditional fare on our dining tables in our English home. I was left with no choice but to gear up to improve our meals. I started looking for the important ingredients in the meal to make my simplest of bhaaji(vegetable side). I made endless phone calls to my mother and mother-in-law for the simplest of things like ways to knead my chapati dough well enough for the rolling. I spoke to ajji and mavshi for the desserts I loved eating during my visits to them. Thus began my exploration to better meals further to the meals I enjoyed cooking at home. Late Kamalabai Ogale’s book which my dear friend Rupali had presented for my kelvan was the next step to my food inquiry. Cooking through the book is such a beautiful experience. Baking and cake decorating engaged me to a greater extent. I was happy to learn about sugar paste and cake decoration.
Very soon I created a blog to pen down my culinary journey. Further in 2014, I started using Watsapp messenger service to connect with my family in India by setting up a group Age Old Traditional Ways. It is a great respite for me. This is where I go back every day to check with my family with regards to my exploration. It is more like a virtual kitchen for us all. Everyone shares their treasured family recipes and tips. I met a few bloggers in England and this group helped me visualise food with a different perspective . I was able to develop my visual aesthetics about food. Using a camera became a part of my culinary aspect. Hence this learned skill of cooking food seemed to move me in all aspects. I am aware of the fact that a palate is a measure of a cultural experience. I am exploring more and more every day to make my food taste better, aromatic where needed and richer in all aspects.
This gallivanting from my family group, researching Kamalabai Ogale’s experiance in Ruchira and the various facebook groups (one of which is Angat-Pangat started by Saee) is helping develop my culinary palate. I have made a set of lovely friends during this journey. I am thankful to everyone of them for helping me seek this life skill in such a pleasurable way.
I try and relive whatever little I recall from the short visits to my grandparents in my summer holidays and the observations from Jalna (in-law’s). I am learning and trying to dig in as much I can distantly from my relatives in India and of course my lovely friends around the world.
Here are some of my gorgeous(and best) chefs who have groomed me till date..one more lady is missing in the collage. S..D., my sister-in-law’s mother who has contributed in our family group indirectly and supported me all possible ways. I am hoping to get her picture soon and I will update soon.
Winters at home in India would mean perching up by the window, soaking the subtle warmth from the sun. With the fresh vegetables and limes showing up the local markets in the season this was the time of the year when Aai was always busy. She spent most her afternoons mixing her pickles of all sorts. Every year she prepared a variety of sweet and sour ones for the youngsters and the piquant pickles for the elders in the family. These pickles matured through the winter season in huge jars and made our favourite accompaniment with our meals for the rest of the year. I must mention about Aai. She still enjoys pickling and the sun drying of the resources (usrya in Marathi) like vegetables and making papad and kurdai. She makes special batches for all her relatives when they visit her. This post is about the pickles I made recently. Please note there aren’t any measures mentioned. One can add more or less amounts of the ingredients apart from the seasoning.
4 decades later, I see myself enjoying the whole joy of pickling limes and vegetables in my English kitchen. It takes one crazy mind to call up a friend(who has invited you for a meal) to apologise and asking if you could reach late for dinner because you are going shopping first(the shop shuts by 8-8.30 pm) .It takes doubly crazy mind to convince a husband to drive you to a shop…some odd 12 miles away in the sub zero temperature . It takes an extremely crazy mind to cover your PJ like outfit with a large bulky coat and to pull odd socks on and sit there in the car all excited…. not a minute you wish to waste… just to get one glimpse of Mainmula in an Asian store in the next town! This is what happened last month! A friend S,called me from the Asian store informing me about these roots.
Mainmulyache lonche: Nandu mavshi’s recipe
Grind mustard and febugreek seeds. Add in turmeric, red chilli powder, asafoetida and salt. This is the masala to mix in. Or you may use a ready pickle masala.
Chop mainmula into small pieces.
Mix in everything together.
Fill in a jar.
Heat oil and temper with mustard seeds, asafoetida.
Let cool and pour over the pickle and mix well.
Morawala: Aai’s recipe
Wash awala and wipe dry.
Grate them and measure using a cup.
I added equal quantity of sugar to the grated awala.
Keep aside for a couple of hours.
Cook on a low flame till the sugar syrup is slightly more than a one thread consistency. Add in cardamom powder and saffron.
Mix well. Cool and fill in an air-tight jar.
Ambe halad- Oli halad-alyachelonche: Aai’s recipe
Grind mustard and febugreek seeds.
Add in turmeric, red chilli powder, asafoetida and salt. This is the masala to mix in. Or you may use a ready pickle masala.
Grated ginger, mango ginger and ginger.
Mix in everything together. Fill in a jar.
Heat oil and temper with mustard seeds, asafoetida. Let cool and pour over the pickle and mix well.
Bhokrache lonche: Nandu mavshi’s recipe
Wash and clean the berries.
Wipe them dry and deseed the berries.
Grate raw mango(optional)
Mix in the pickle masala mentioned above or any ready masala.
Temper oil asafoetida and mustard. Cool and pour into the mix.
Amsulache lonche: just developed for my sake!
Now this pickle is an adaption of my Bengali palate. I had a batch of amsul in my pantry. The fact that I had no access to bora(jujubes)…topa kuler achar especially was what I craved for. Hence this pure indulgence. I guess if my amsul were fresh enough, they would have been even more moister.
For this I used:
Cumin (roasted) and roasted red chillies and ground
Salt only if needed.
Melt the jaggery and heat it till you see bubbles. To this add in the amsul. Stir. Add in the spices and fill in a jar.
The sweet and tangy taste is what I yearned for…nothing like the topa kul but good old amsul is doing a great job!!