Ruchira is a collection of recipes collated together by Late Kamalabai Ogale. There are great many recipes mainly traditional Marathi recipes and a few recipes from other States of India namely, Gujarat and Bengal are also included in the book.
If you haven’t got a copy of Ruchira please do grab one .
Inspired by Late Kamalabai Ogale’s recipes I set upon a task a couple of years back. It all started when I needed a costructive destraction from my day job as a special needs educator. Cooking through this book I managed to hone my culinary skills ad got back to my job everydaywitha greater zeal than the previous day. Very soon, Ruchira became an essential for my cooking just like the spices in my pantry. It became a habit for me.
I began cooking all the traditional Marathi recipes from her book. It is a long journey I knew. Even though I was attempting to cook just traditional Marathi recipes from this book, it was going to be a challenging task.
Here I an today….no not finished yet but now that I have taken a sabbatical from my day job, I aim to get to the end of the challenge very soon.
Please keep checking my blog to get the updates and see how I am doing. It will be great to hear from you when I feel demotivated. Since the recipes are in the main book, I will just be posting the photographs on my blog. I will post the photographs under each of the categories. This will help me keep track of the challenge. I have been cooking each of these recipes as a part of my meals many a times. Hence there are many photographs of the whole meal. Please check the captions of the photographs which have the names of the dish abd that should explain why I have same photographs multiple times. Eg: a photograph with a meal is posted twice because it has a bhaaji and a koshimbir from the book. I have tried categorising the photographs roughly according to Ruchira cookbook index. I have around 250 photographs of the recipes tried and taste and other 35 which I haven’t got evidence of as those were tried during my initial blogging days(I regret not having used my camera then…)
Olya chutnya(Wet chutney)
Goadache padaarth:(My favourite part…hence I have attempted a few non-traditional Marathi desserts too from the book)
Ruchira Videshini project towards the end:
I started cooking through Ruchira as an experiment. In no time, I was hooked on to the range of recipes the book offered. With my full time job, cooking regularly through this book was slightly tricky. I made an effort to cook during my school breaks and holidays. Towards the tail end of the cooking-through, my health was poorly. I had to make up my mind to choose the job I loved doing and my love (family, cooking and above all myself)! I am glad I chose my love to focus on. Cooking for my family and myself has put me back in the momentum I had lost. I am in the pink of my health now and the project can show the results!
I am always naturally inclined to create stuff be it crafts, painting, dancing and anything which challenges me. Cooking somehow clicked only with this book. Every recipe posed as a challenge in a different ways. Working through each of them, creating and presenting them was such a wonderful experience. Slowly as I started overcoming the challenges, cooking seemed very interesting. Blogging was a kind of recording these experiences. Late Kamalabai Ogale is my inspiration in the kitchen! I would have missed out on such essential life skill had I not chanced upon this book.
I still do not believe the fact that such beautiful moments have actually happened in my life. Such moments which I will cherish lifelong and narrate to my next generations through possibly through a blog or a book if it happens to me. It is certainly is a dream come true…out of the blue my wish has been granted. I would now like to believe in Paulo Coelho’s quote
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
I was a girl who had made up her mind never to enter the kitchen and waste her time. Little did I know this essential life skill would turn out to be my happy activity later in my life. Since I was adamant not to learn cooking, my mother felt hapless for sure. However, I believe she must have had the assurance from her past experiences that I can’t do without getting myself in the kitchen.
Some 10 years back, cooking was just a necessity for me. Now, it is an emotion, a happy emotion. It helps me express and communicate. This emotion though is different from the other emotions I have. In this case, I do not need to explain. One just needs to taste.
After we moved to the UK, I started experimenting with English desserts. Isingcakes & more, my blog came into existence to record these bakes. Being an Indian, who believes in beginning anything shubh with a sweet, I thought I should make an Indian dessert to start the traditional section in my blog. It was then that, I recalled about Ruchira in my kitchen drawer. This book was authored by Late Kamalabai Ogale. Checked out the recipe for Sheera(Semolina halwa), cooked and blog posted about my experience. It is not that I had never made Sheera before or my mother had never made me one. However there was this urge to flip through, read and create. We all loved it. There were days when I churned out exactly the same as Kamalabai Ogale stated in her book and at times, I adapted the recipes to my needs and ease. I started baking instead of frying, introducing new ingredients in place of those mentioned in the book merely because they either weren’t available easily or the fact that I just needed to experiment. Anything that got created was chronicled in the blog in the form of a photo. Gradually I had both my baking and traditional sections filling in with my tried and tasted recipes. My family and my blogger friends supported me with this idea.
This culinary journey saw me learning many more skills. I met a bunch of bloggers in the UK. The group helped me learn about food photography. Rather than just point and shoot, I worked on manual shooting with my camera. I could understand my camera finally. Photographing food made me love my food all the more. The props, the colours, styling and processing added another feather to my achievements. I had never ever thought I would fall so head-over-heals with cooking, food photography and styling. I am honing my skills with constant practice. This is when I realised the same bhaaji(vegetable preparation) I served in a simple vessel or at times kadhai(yes, I was terribly lazy, serving it on a proper server) made so much of a difference when plated with care and style. I enjoyed eating and my family enjoyed it equally.
Then began my next step. I focussed on cooking my food with the right ingredients, cutting the vegetables just right, cooking it the right way and presenting it in a pleasant way. Inspired by Kamalabai’s recipes and adapting them a few ways or coupling them with other techniques I was introduced to the whole new world of creation. Every meal served was idolised and enjoyed to the most. Personally I feel it is so much of a symbiotic effect. Treat and respect your food well, you will receive the same. Kamalabai has said in her book “समाधानाचा जन्म स्वयंपाक घरातून होतो” (True satisfaction is born in the kitchen).
I had to chase Ruchira for: Best flavours-best ingredients-best creations! Hence procuring and upskilling came into focus. I recall my drive to the Asian storefor the sugarcane pieces when and bhokra. The best was the drive at 7.30 pm in the evening while it snowed out there. I didn’t even bother to change.I quickly wrapped myself in my heavy winter coat and hat, literally whisked Rajesh to the car to be driven to the stores for a bunch of Mainmula to pickle!!
While at the school I came across different strategies to identify my learner’s needs and help them. Some were visual, few others kinaesthetic and while quite a few were good listeners. Guess what, I identified what kind of learner I was! Loncha (pickling) process in England was rather adventurous. We all have an acquired taste for fermented or pickled vegetables or even fruit.. it is but delicious rot. Variables of salt, oil, time and temperature creates substantially different food with characteristics different to the starter. Good bacteria take over and create these. I learnt only when I made it! Such a kinaesthetic learner I am!
A few of my friends pointed out that my journey was Julia and Julie esque. I was not aware of the film then.I was following Anneliese from Rising to the Berry who was baking her way through Mary Berry’s book. I thought I will just carry on with the same.Finding it absolutely inspiring. I am an ardent follower of Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood and watch their Bake Off series. So my world of cooking carried on, quite unaware of the fact that I was actually heading towards the same theme. One day, I was surprised to receive a comment on my blog by the editor of DNA. Initially, I thought it must be another of a spam comment. However, I just checked with my husband and my brother in India. They have always guided me when it came to technology and such matters. I just kept thinking why would anyone from media contact me. Surely must be spam. However, I just sent an email to the address the comment mentioned. To my surprise, it turned out to be the actual editor. He pointed out to the fact that this is like Marathi Julie cooking through another Marathi Julia. I was chuffed! A few emails and telephone conversations resulted in a mention in DNA on the 5th April 2015! I still do not believe my eyes when I read the article! A few more articles have mentioned this project in other publications. However, it is the first mention that is absolutely special.
The first thing I needed to do was watch Julie and Julia to see how we relate. I could relate to Julie yes, learning through the book just the same as I am through Ruchira. In my case, cooking works as a therapy after a hard day at work with my students. I so wanted my Julia that is Kamalabai Ogale to be alive. I just wished I could show how I have changed from a girl who would claim that I would never enter the kitchen to the one who now is frustrated when at times she doesn’t get to cook for because of other commitments. Ruchira is a Cookery Geeta which is guiding me through the concepts and ethics of traditional cooking. Just when, I wished for this, I heard Anneliese was to meet Mary Berry in a show and cook with her!! I was absolutely pleased for her. It is with such dedication and passion that Anneliese baked through the book and what a wonderful feeling it must be for Mary Berry to see her reader learn from her book. Anneliese, I thought was such a lucky girl! While in my case, I will never ever get a chance to meet Kamalabai though.
While all these thoughts kept my mind thinking and work got busier, I had a message one morning. It was from Kamalabai’s great grand-daughter and mentioned Ushatai (Kamalabai’s daughter) wished to speak to me!! I left a message with my number to call. She called up immediately. I hardly had the chance to think about the whole situation. I was a bag of nerves and mixed feelings? I did not know about her reaction. I could not hear clearly when she called. The call which was from Australia kept dropping. Ushatai mentioned, how Kamalabai Ogale’s book got such a good readership in just a week of publication. I could just catch a few phrases, when the call disconnected. I waited for the call again, but in vain. This definitely made me all the more anxious. I got a message on my page explaining, why the call got disconnected. I proposed me calling up instead or a Skype talk. Skype talk was agreed for the next day.
The next morning, we started our chat. Ushatai as she wanted herself to be referred as said, she read the article in DNA and wanted to speak to me. She was happy to know that I am learning so well. I conveyed that I could cook just enough to feed myself and my family. But through Ruchira, I know there is more to cooking I let her speak as I wished to know what her feelings were regarding the whole project. She began with, “अग, तुला सांगायचं म्हणजे…. …” (a very casual chat one would begin with someone you know for ages). I found myself relaxing with every topic we discussed. Ushatai conveyed how Kamalabai Ogale gave her daughters the best she could. She wanted her daughters to learn and educate themselves as their mavshi(maternal aunt). Just because Kamalabai Ogale did not get the opportunity, she thought her daughters need to learn and rise to the best standards. Cooking will come to them when needed she thought, hence kept her daughters away from the kitchen and allowed them time to focus on education. Ushatai said, we owe everything to her and Baba. They were the biggest blessings to them. The countless sacrifices made by the Ogale couple and the nurturing provided the children with the necessities of life. Kamalabai spent most of her time cooking for the family. The best of meals was provided in her family.
Ushatai mentioned about Kamalabai as such an adaptive lady who, would find solutions for all the issues arising in the situations. Be it her new kitchen she moved in when she travelled to Mumbai or the kitchen, when she visited her daughter in Australia. One of her experiences she mentioned was when a few ladies in Australia wished to know how Mande is prepared. Mande is a Marathi speciality prepared in North Maharashtra essentially like a puran poli but stretched delicately like a roomali roti and roasted on a heated clay pot turned over the flame. Now, there was no access to such equipment in Ushatai’s Australian kitchen. Interestingly Kamalabai got hold of a Chinese wok and made use of the same by turning it over the flame to cook her Mande. Ushatai sounded such a kind hearted lady to me.
Within no time, I was so much comfortable to carry on my conversation on Skype. This is when I informed her about my profession as a teaching staff in a special needs school and my family of 3. Cooking and blogging is what I do in my leisure. Ushatai further mentioned that Kamalabai never thought of having a book of her own. When Kamalabai went to Australia to stay with her to help her when her Ushatai was carrying her child, that is when they decided to hand write the recipes. Ushatai started enjoying cooking during her mother’s presence, This is when she started chronicling the recipes. As Kamalabai cooked with her judgment, with no standard measures in her mind, Ushatai stepped in to measure the ingredients using vaati/pela to help her remember. This is how the hasta likhit(hand written) was formed. Shri Mukundrao Kirloskar supported in the publication of the book. The first publication the charged at Rs 15 a copy. The family was slightly apprehensive about the selling of the books so reduced the costs to Rs 12. To their surprise, the first publication was sold out in a week and the second publication printed the next week. Ever since then, the publications have received overwhelming support from the readers.
Ushatai chipped in “tujhi aai kuthe aste…mala tichyashi bolayche ahe”(where does your mother live, I would like to speak to her) I mentioned about my mother and spoke how I moved from Kolkata to Kolhapur and then to Pune and adapted to Marathwadi style of cooking when I got married into a family from Jalna. I am not sure about what Ushatai’s conversation is going to be with my aai..But I would like to hear about it once they have a chat. It almost seems like a teacher meeting up with a parent conveying the progress thus far 🙂 When I asked her about her visit to UK. Ushatai loves travelling she said. She has travelled all around the world. However, with her recent illness and the fact that she is wheel chair bound, has stopped her moving around. “पण अग, तू ये की ऑस्ट्रेलियाला. आता तुला एक घर आहे इथे.” (You could come over to Australia, you now have a house here). So much of an assurance, care and love this message conveyed!! What more could I ask for. I was so thankful to God and to Ushatai’s granddaughter to have helped me connect to my Julia or should I say Mary Berry this way. Ushatai was in praise of her grand-daughter too whose name incidentally is Ruchira. She cooks well and is a clever girl.
The day we had a chat, my colleague Jane was celebrating her 25th wedding anniversary. Her husband loves curries. Hence, Jane asked me to cook an Indian spread for the two. Ushatai asked me casually, आता काय करणार आहेस, आजचा काय प्लान आहे? (What is your plan today?) I think my very close friends took a while to be so close to me …here I had Ushatai whom I had connected merely half an hour back..and we were chatting about our daily chores. When I mentioned about the Indian spread I was cooking, Ushatai suggested making वाफवलेली फरसबीची कोशिंबीर (salad made with steamed french beans) which was her mother’s favourite hence her’s too. After sharing the recipe for the koshimbir, we bid adieu to each other of course on committing on catching up once my son is done with his GCSE exams. I made the farasbichi koshimbir too and was so chuffed with the minimum resources bring out such delicious koshimbir!
Today as I cook through the book, it is a beautiful feeling. It is as though I am tasting the past. Many a times, I feel I should have been born in her time. I would have so loved tending to the fire constantly putting the wood in chul(clay stove) and constantly changing the draft using the phunkni. Understanding the original recipes has been the main challenge. Quite a few recipes are in a colloquial language which is tricky for someone bred outside Maharashtra. Yet, having an experience of aai, ajji, mavshi, atya speaking in the kitchen and using the terms mooth bhar, avdi pramaane and nehmi pramaane, the experiment was all the more interesting. I had to decode these terms too in terms of taste. Gradually I could figure out that simple ingredients bring lots of flavours.
I used the regular labour saving devices but I realised the taste differs. The added heat in the grinder changes the taste of food whilst the same food had a different taste and texture while grinding on paata varvanta or even khalbatta. Hence I decided to stick to the roots. I have a set of traditional devices and tools in my UK’s kitchen. Most of my photographs are tagged with a hashtag myUKkitchen. It has everything from vili, khal batta, sup, pata varvanta, jaate, puran yantra, chakli sorya and even a tiny shegdi which I like using as a chul. What I have learned in the whole journey is the fact that there is no fast way to good creations. Slow and patient cooking leads to beautiful flavours and textures in our food. That is when all the ingredients speak out and the food is expresses directly from the heart of a cook.
People ask us why didn’t we put on weight (not that we haven’t widened in terms of our girth, but yes ) or who eats this spread? Do you give it your neighbours? No. We eat it. We cook with love and savour it. A spread cooked judiciously with organic ingredients doesn’t lead to obesity. Each ingredient gets the due respect and lose ourselves in the process of eating as well. We LOVE creating and eating food!
Today I see food from a very different perspective. When one is a child or as a newly wedded bride, all apprehensive about the nuances in the new family. We all have powerful memories of someone cooking for us.This act goes deep in our hearts. My visits to Tai(paternal ajji) at CIDCO, Aai’s kitchen, summer breaks at ajji-mami-mavshi-atya and even Jalna after my wedding are now but memories to me. These memories act like precursors to the work I am doing. Food has the strength to take one back to that moment. What I realised during the whole journey is the need of learning. It is very important to learn and revive. I am learning and seeking different aspects as well in terms of presenting Marathi food in a grand way trying not to step out of the framework of traditions. This way, I am just not listening to the generation that came before us but opening the whole new art form for another generation. Reinterpreting memories into modern, divine presentation is my recent passion. I visualise the end product. I edit the photographs but not the thoughts from the generations in the past.
Finally, I feel a part of the Human species which is the only species who can cook. Once one learns to cook, you become human! Looking at traditions to see what it has to offer. Connecting with the roots and the producers. Hence we had Two Hands supporting last year for the farmers. Imagine if we stopped cooking the process and the knowledge gets lost… doesn’t help the community. What will the next generation have to feed themselves? I need not give answers to this… there possibly may be options available but not fulfilling the Human needs. Cooking should be important and pleasurable.. The next generation needs to know it is a regular but imperative skill for us humans. Cooking is again cooperative adventure hence the get together we planned and the fund raiser on the 23rd April 2017(Fannie’s Last Supper esque.
Suranga Date has written a beautiful poetry which I will cherish life long
Check this out folks! Suranga tai came up with such a beautiful poetry! The menu has been looked upon by her lovely eyes and the words are such a joy to read! Do visit her blog for more of her work
एका राणीच्या देशात , दुसर्या राणीचा उत्सव !
एकीची ६५ वर्षे, दुसरीची ४७ .
दुसर्या राणीचे नाव रुचिरा ;
तिचा अर्थ सुंदर व चविष्ट ,
आणि कै कमलाबाई ओगल्यांनी
लहानाचे मोठे केलेल्या या राणीला ,
हाताशी धरून ,
देवांच्या प्रीतीने ओळींनी केलेले
जवळ जवळ २५० पदार्थ !
आता व्रताचे उद्यापन, आणि
त्या निमित्त रुचिराचे पृष्ठनृत्य
जेवणाचा प्राण असलेला साधा भात,
“चल ग सखे!” म्हणत वरणाला घेऊन अग्रभागी;
“किती हा खोडकरपणा ! चला!” म्हणत
डाव्या बाजूच्या मिठाला आणि लिंबाच्या फोडीला
जातीने बरोबर घेऊन आलेले सोनेरी तूप !
“इश्श्य! ” म्हणत तेलात वलयाकार फुलणारे पापड ,
आणि जोडीने कुतूहलाने उमलणाऱ्या कुरडया ;
आणि २२ कॅरेट सोन्यात , तेलात ,
कांदे बटाटे वांग्याला गूंडाळणाऱ्या भजी !
निरनिराळे लवेजमे घेऊन येणाऱ्या चटणीबाई;
कधी घरंदाज लसूण-खोबर , कधी पारंपरिक पूड ,
कधी सिनेमातल्या हिरो सारखी दाणे चटणी ,
आणि हळूच मागून येऊन पुढे बसून
“हम काले है तो क्या हुआ, चवदार है !’
गाणारी आमसूल चटणी .
अचानक वाहात आलेला आंबटगोड
बोरांचा कायरस ,
ठसक्यात आपली जागा पकडणारी खमंग काकडी ,
आणि आपापसात कुजबुजणार्या चटण्या .
शुभदिनी पितांबर पिवळा रंग घेऊन आलेली ,
मिरची-कढीपत्ता-कोथिंबीर आलंकृत बटाट्याची भाजी,
आपले गतायुष्य विसरून चक्क छान मसाल्यात
रुळलेली खोबर कोथिंबीर युक्त मुगाची उसळ ,
आणि त्याच मुगांनी पावन केल्या पाण्यानी
नारळाच्या दुधाशी जमवून घेऊन ,
जिरे मिरचीने सजवून बनवलेले कळण.
यूरोप खंडात आशियाचा झेंडा व्यवस्थित रोवून
विश्रांतीत एक भारदस्त सुसंस्कृत श्रीखंड;
आणि लगबगीने “आलेच हं ” म्हणत
फुलणाऱ्या पुर्या ,
आणि शेगडीच्या तव्यावर श्वास घेणाऱ्या पोळ्या.
अचानक एक खमंग व्यक्तीचे आगमन ,
आणि शहाजिरे-दगडफूल प्रभुतीने कार्यरत केलेल्या
सुंदर सोनेरी मसालेभाताचे,
जुनी ओळख दाखवत वरणभाता शेजारी बसणे ;
“हो ग ! ते दोघे एकाच गावचे ना ! ” म्हणत
मेतकूटाने दह्यात पडणे,
आणि आला मिरची कांदापात लोकांना
येण्याचा आग्रह करणे .
रुचिरा राणीचे ह्या ताटाकडे कौतुकमिश्रित कटाक्ष ,
जेवायला आलेल्या मित्रमैत्रीणीनी
“माय केअर” साठी केलेली मदत .
उगीच आपलं वाटतं ,
६५ वर्षे राज्य करणाऱ्या राणी एलिझाबेथला
तिच्या समारंभात असे जेवण चाखायला मिळाले असते का ?