LANGDA OR HAPUS-CLASH OF THE TITANS

TOTAPURI MANGO ON ACCOUNT OF ITS PARROT SHAPED HEAD

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have the monsoons to thank for turning me into a cook. As children my sister and I spent summer holidays with Aaji and Ajoba at their small farm in Belgaum. The front of the plain, ranch-style house was framed by a lush rose garden interspersed with almond, pomegranate and lime trees. To the left of the house was a strawberry patch, and in the backyard, a vegetable and fruit orchard. Ajoba was a proud gardener whose produce competed for and won local awards.

When it rained, we couldn’t play outside so he offered us two choices – learn Sanskrit shlokas and refine the mind or learn cooking and refine the marriage resumes.

For me the choice was obvious.

The monsoons are a lean period for good produce so the months leading to it, especially May, were spent harvesting. Ours was a frugal household, and since most of what we ate during the rainy season came off the farm, we devoted salubrious afternoons to picking guavas, sapota (chikoo), mangoes and cashew apples.

You will have newfound respect for cashews when I tell you how strenuous the reaping is. First, the fruit is plucked off the tree with a diabolical looking hook attached to a long, wooden pole. Then the under-hanging cashew nut is ripped off. We sold the cashew apple to local feni producers, but kept the nuts. The cashew has a hard outer shell filled with a corrosive liquid. We’d slap our hands with oil and, sitting cross-legged on the tile floor, crack open every one of those 2,000 kernels to reveal a tender, crescent-shaped nut wrapped in wrinkled, brown skin. This skin had to be scraped off ever so gently so as not to break the cashew.

Throughout the monsoon Aaji turned these nubile nuts into lip-smacking fried masala cashews, farasbi kaju usal,moogache kaju dabdab, a Karwari specialty of curried bean sprouts that required us to peel the green husk off every single moong bean. This was the culinary equivalent of a Navy Seal training camp.

Flame red seedless papayas, (Ajoba called them disco papitas) grew abundantly, as did videshi panas (breadfruit), a meaty fruit Aaji sliced into kaape, dusted with semolina and pan fried.

ALPHONSO MANGO CASHEW TART PHOTO D NETTO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Among the many bananas Ajoba grew were the small paper-skinned cardamom-scented Safed Velchis of Maharashtra, Karnataka’s highly-prized Chandrabale red bananas, and the unique Nanjangud (it received protected geographical status in 2005). They were whacked off early and hung up to ripen in ponderous bunches from a disused four-poster bed in the verandah. We took afternoon naps with our adopted stray dog, Brandy under this canopy of carbohydrates. Soft sunlight, a doggy to cuddle and the heady fragrance of sweet bananas made for excellent siestas.

These bananas were turned into hot fritters, halwa and banana dalchini jam. And you haven’t lived until you’ve eaten a caramelised banana jam slathered over homemade white butter on a slice of Swamy Bakery’s coconut bread.

The pride of Ajoba’s garden, however were his mangoes. Some Badami, Raspuri, Totapuri but mostly Langda, the north Indian transplant grew inexplicably well in his garden’s black soil.

Belgaum is disputed territory, claimed by both Maharashtra and Karnataka. Ajoba, who was Marathi speaking, grew varieties of fruit from several states to please his palate and his patriotism. This resulted in delicious politics, the source of which was our maali, Ratan kaka. He had spent much of his life around vegetables that he’d acquired their qualities. A face as shriveled as bitter gourd and gait as curved as a marrow, he was a walking and mostly cussing, hybrid.

But he had veggie magic. Like some potion-brewing druid, he could talk to gourds, resurrect tomato vines even bring brinjal back from the dead. Such talent is alas also opinionated.

Kaka turned his nose up at any produce that wasn’t Kannadiga and because he was born in Maharashtra he was willing to make exceptions for Konkan breeds. When we asked him why Ajoba’s favourite mango was called Langda, (the word means lame,) he explained it was the deformed, treacherous, less good-looking brother of Hapus. Aah, the mango family is ruthless I’d thought, but in fact it was kaka. He despised Langda.

Ajoba had forbidden him from growing Alphonso. Kaka, who was originally from Ratnagiri, the home of Hapuscouldn’t abide this lesser-known mango when by birthright he should have cultivated the King.

If the guavas were pitted, maali blamed Langda for poisoning the soil. If the strawberries were not sweet, it was Landga’s fault. Ajoba showed staunch loyalty to the Langda. The graft was a gift from a close friend and a happy reminder of his days in Delhi. “They have far more character of flavour,” he insisted.

But, there was a deep and dark secret the prize-winning cultivator didn’t want anyone to know – Hapus simply wouldn’t grow in his garden!

So, Badamis and Raspuris were turned into aamras, served with saucer-like puris that flew out of Aaji’s kadai onto our plates at the speed of light. Kala Ishaad was specifically for Mango Sasav- a spicy Saraswat style mango curry. Mangoes were also turned into pickles – methamba with fenugreek, sakharammba with saffron and my favourite, garlic and mango lonche. While Langda was reserved for ice-creams and chilled soufflés.

I’m convinced that the Marathi words ‘salsaleet’ and ‘zanzaneet’ were created for foods eaten during the monsoon  – when it’s cold and wet outside you warm up to a sizzling, spicy dinner inside.

I remember we’d race up the hillock behind the farm to collect ‘Dongrachi Kali Maina’- the black nightingale of the rocks also known as Karvanda, a fruit that thrives in dry weather on prickly bushes. Wet, our clothes stained red by luscious berries we’d return home for a meal of baby eggplants stuffed with gode masala and steamy jowarichi bhakri. I remember my fingers, tender from the thorns tingling at the touch of those spiced eggplants.

PHOTO D NETTO

KESARAMBA CHUTNEY. LANGDA MANGOES WITH SAFFRON

 

 

 

 

monsoons you literally fritter away your time. Love of deep-fried snacks is a genetic Indian syndrome and resisting them is like trying to medicate for a common cold. Give in gracefully.

Onion bhajjis, crisp on the outside soft on the inside, and fragrant milk tea with pudina and ole chaha(lemongrass stalks) are irresistible on rainy days.

Aaji battered up a plethora of bhajjis and pakoras, rice flour chaklis, twisty kodbale, crunchy muduku, sweet corn vadis dotted with green chilies and mounds of masala sev.

She also made delicious guava jam and poached guavas, but it was her guava Sasav with prawns that stood out. Sasav, a thick, sweet and spicy curry that’s utterly delicious over boiled rice is a Saraswat specialty traditionally made with Kala Ishaad mango.

There was also a specialty called ‘shevra‘, or dragon stalk yam, which was chopped and stir fried with a rai-hingaphodni (mustard and asafoetida tempering), colocassia leaves were turned into alu wadi and baby methi was tossed with baby potatoes.

Interestingly, the monsoon brings several bitter vegetables to the table. Karela or bitter gourd, ambadi, chakwat,chuka, red and green Amaranthus leaves called Maath and Kardai (safflower) were all sautéed, turned into usals, rassas, palya bhajis, koshimbris or stirred into lentils and Shevya (vermicelli noodles).

The monsoon months of my childhood were intense lessons in cooking, eating and being blissfully happy.

My marriage resume thus fortified, I married a nice American boy from Minnesota. Ajoba would be relieved to know he loves Langda. Thathastu.

 

DASHERI MANGO AND GARLIC CHUTNEY PHOTO D NETTO

Recipe for Dasheri Mango and Garlic Jam (makes about 1½ cups of jam)

This is more a relish than a pickle and is excellent with pulao, bhaat, curd rice, plain flatbreads or a vegetable dish. It’s also excellent with cheese and crackers, roast chicken and grilled fish. You can use a variety of mangoesfor this recipe.

Ingredients

4 unripe Dasheri,  Langda or Badami mangoes

3/4 cup white granulated sugar

4-5 large cloves garlic, lightly smashed

3 inch cinnamon stick

1 tsp red chilli flakes (not chilli powder)

A pinch of salt

Method

1. Wash the mangoes. Grate them with the skin on. Discard the seeds.

2. Steam the grated fruit and chilli flakes for 5 minutes in a pressure cooker, rice cooker or steamer, without water.

3. Boil the sugar with 1 cup of water in a pan till thick and syrupy. Swirl pan if required but do not stir. Do not let the sugar turn brown.

4. Stir in the garlic and cinnamon. Continue cooking.

5. When the syrup is very thick, add the steamed mangoes. Cook on high heat, till thick, swirling periodically to prevent burning.

6. Remove from heat and add salt and a little water if you prefer a thinner consistency.

7. Bring to a boil on high heat, reduce heat and simmer again for 8-10 minutes until thick and bubbly.

8. Bottle in a clean, airtight, sterilizsed jar while the relish is still hot.

9. Keep it refrigerated.

KOREAN SWEET POTATO AND CHICKEN STEW (DAKDORITANG)WITH QUICK RED CABBAGE KHIMCHI

Korean style sweet potato and chicken stew (Dakdoritang) with Quick Khimchi

Korean style sweet potato and chicken stew (Dakdoritang) with Quick Khimchi

Ingredients

This is my quick version of the Korean dish Dakdoritang. I serve it with a tangy and easy to make Khimchi and sticky rice or just plain white boiled rice.

Serves 5

700-750 grams chicken skinless on the bone

250 grams sweet potato scrubbed clean, washed and cut into 3 inch pieces with skin on

3/4 cup store bought Gochujang

1.5 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 tbsp soya sauce

1 ripe pear peeled

1/2 cup finely sliced red onions

1 tbsp garlic paste

1 tbsp ginger paste

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tbsp sesame oil

Salt to taste

Garnish

1/2 cup chopped green scallion stems leftover from the Khimchi

FOR QUICK KHIMCHI

This recipe doesn't use Gochujang because its part of the chicken stew recipe.

1 small red cabbage finely sliced

6 green onion bulbs finely sliced

1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

1 teaspoon finely grated ginger

1/2 cup white vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon toasted white sesame seeds

Salt to taste

Instructions

Puree the gochujang, pear, rice wine vinegar and soya sauce in a food processor. Toss the chicken and sweet potatoes in it and let sit covered and refrigerated overnight.

Combine ingredients for quick Khimchi and let sit refrigerated overnight. Salt just before you serve it.

Heat sesame and vegetable oil in a large pressure cooker or a stove to cooker pot on high heat.

Saute onions until soft and wilted, add garlic and ginger paste and saute again until fragrant.

Add the chicken and the marinade. Toss well. Pressure cooker on a. slow flame for 2 whistles or cook

at 190F for 2 hours until potatoes and chicken are tender. Add salt to taste.

Serve with sticky rice or plain boiled white rice and top with Khimchi.

http://www.taradeshpande.in/korean-sweet-potato-and-chicken-stew-dakdoritangwith-quick-red-cabbage-khimchi/

HYDERABADI STYLE PRAWNS WITH FENUGREEK

HYDERABADI STYLE PRAWNS WITH FENUGREEK

HYDERABADI STYLE PRAWNS WITH FENUGREEK

Ingredients

400 grams medium prawns shelled and deveined (weight should be 400 grams after shelling)

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

Juice of a quarter lime

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

5 green onion bulbs sliced into rings

5 tablespoons fresh fenugreek leaves stems removed, washed and chopped

3-4 Indian green chillies slit lengthwise

1 tablespoon garlic and ginger paste

1/4 cup coconut milk (optional)

Salt to taste

Garnish

2 tablespoons stalks of green onion finely chopped

Wedges of Lime

Instructions

Combine shrimp with turmeric and let sit 15 minutes.

Meanwhile heat oil in a skillet and saute green onion bulbs 1 minute until they have softened. Add fenugreek and green chillies and saute another minute. Add garlic and ginger paste and cook until fragrant.

Stir in the coconut milk now if you plan to use it and cook until bubbly.

Stir in the prawns and lime juice. Cook until prawns are just tender and edible.

Switch off flame and add salt to taste. Garnish with green stalks and wedges of lime.

Serve with rotis if you have not used the coconut milk or with plain boiled white rice if you have a gravy.

http://www.taradeshpande.in/hyderabadi-style-prawns-with-fenugreek/