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.

Gucchi Pulao-Kashmiri Pulao with Black morels

Gucchi Pulao-Kashmiri Pulao with Black morels

Gucchi Pulao-Kashmiri Pulao with Black morels

Ingredients

This recipe came to me from a Wazwaan Ghulam Mohammed. Wazwaan is a traditional Kashmiri cook who specialises in large banquets. He lamented that very few people made this dish anymore because Morels are very expensive and being exported all over the world making them even more inaccessible in the valley. Gucchi pulao is reserved for special occasions such as weddings and births. The pulao is subtly flavoured so as not to interfere with the delicate yet distinct aromas and taste of Gucchi.

Serves 4

10 dried black morels or Gucchi

2 cups Basmati Rice washed and completely drained

FOR THE STOCK

4 cups good quality, strained mutton or chicken stock or vegetable stock

1 inch stick cinnamon

4 black cloves

2 badi elaichi or black cardamom

1 dried bay leaf

1 teaspoon sabut saunf (aniseed)

3 elephant garlic cloves or 6-8 regular garlic cloves peeled, lightly smashed

TO SAUTE

2 cups vegetable oil

2 tablespoons ghee

4 Kashmiri shallot (Pran) or regular shallot peeled and thinly sliced

Instructions

Soak the morels in a cup of warm stock of your choice and reserve.Drain and squeeze dry. The slice in half. Add the leftover liquid to the stock you will use for the rice and reserve the sliced morels.

Heat the stock with 4 cups of water and 1 teaspoon salt. Add the cloves, cardamom, cinnamon stick, aniseed, bay leaf and garlic to the stock and cook on high heat until reduced to 4 cups of liquid.

While the stock is cooking fry your onions in hot oil until crispy. Drain and reserve.

When the stock has reduced drain out all the spices and garlic with a slotted spoon and discard. Keep the stock on a low simmer.

Heat the ghee with 1 tablespoon of oil from the oil you used to fry the onions in a skillet and when warm saute the halved morels on medium heat for about 30 seconds. Add the drained rice and saute again for a minute on a medium flame until all the rice is coated in ghee and oil.

Add the rice and morels to the hot stock. Add half the fried onions. Cover and cook until rice is fluffy.

Fluff the rice with a fork, season with more salt if required and garnish with remaining onions.

Serve immediately.

http://www.taradeshpande.in/gucchi-pulao-kashmiri-pulao-with-black-morels/

OLD FASHIONED COOKED WHITE FROSTING FOR RED VELVET CAKE

OLD FASHIONED COOKED WHITE FROSTING FOR RED VELVET CAKE

OLD FASHIONED COOKED WHITE FROSTING FOR RED VELVET CAKE

Ingredients

Also known as a boiled frosting this is a traditional frosting used on red velvet cakes.

For 2 8 inch velvet cakes

40 grams all purpose flour or maida

2 cups plain whole milk

1.5 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

400 grams unsalted butter, softened

225 grams icing sugar

Pinch of kitchen salt

Instructions

Heat 1/2 cup milk and slowly in a small skillet dissolve the milk and flour to a smooth paste. Add 1 cup milk and stirring constantly bring to a boil and cook until you have a thick smooth paste like a béchamel. Remove from the fire and stir in remaining half cup milk and continue to stir. If you are unable to get all the lumps out process it in a blender. Any bits of flour will make the frosting lumpy.

Whisk in vanilla and salt. Pour into a bowl to allow it to cool about 15 minutes then use plastic wrap to cover the surface. Press the wrap down over the frosting to prevent a skin from forming. Chill.

Remove the cold frosting from the fridge and using a stand or hand mixer beat until the mixture is smooth. Then add the butter and beat again until well incorporated. Add the icing sugar and beat until fluffy and glossy. and looks like white buttercream frosting. If you live in a warm climate return the frosting to the fridge for a while to thicken up and then frost your cake. Otherwise ice your cooled cake immediately.

ICING YOUR CAKE

Remove 1 cup icing and reserve. Keep refrigerated if you live in a warm climate.

Brush excess crumbs or broken bits off both the cakes. Reserve them.

Place one cake on a flat clean surface or a serving dish and layer the top with 3/4 cup frosting. Sprinkle any crumbs over the frosting if you like.

Place the second layer over the frosted cake. Frost all over until completely covered and smother using a long flat icing spatula.

Clean you spatula. Then take the reserved frosting out, stir and apply to an areas of the cake where the frosting is uneven, has bits of red crumbs visible or has thinned out. Chill the cake for 1 hour to allow the frosting to set. If you have a lid that can cover it use it other wise keep it in the fridge away from anything string smelling.

http://www.taradeshpande.in/red-velvet-cake-with-traditional-white-frosting/

The Khitchdi

Khitchdi Rice and Lentil Porridge

Khitchdi Rice and Lentil Porridge

Ingredients

The word Khitchdi has been spelt in so many ways throughout it's history -Kedgeree, Ketchery, Kitchery, Cutcherry that one is only certain what it means when it is described as a mixture of rice and dol/dhal/doll/dal/dholl in various references by some of the most famous scholars, adventurers and traders to have visited the Indian sub-continent over 700 years.

Ibn Batuta, a Moroccan scholar who visited Tughlaq's court- considered the richest Muslim ruler of his time and who gave Batuta the title of Qadi, or judge, spells it 'Kishri' and describes it in his fascinating medieval travelogue, Travels (1340 A.D.) as -a buttered mix of Munj (moong) and rice eaten for breakfast.

In a 1443 reference in 'India in the 15th century', Abdurrazzak, a Persian scholar describes "Kitchri'' as a meal fed to the Maharajas elephants.

Afanasy Nikitin, a Russian merchant in his 1475 chronicles on India describes 'Khichiris' prepared with sugar and oil as a meal fed to Indian horses.

In 1648 Albertus Jacobus Van Twist the Governor General of Dutch East Indies elaborates in his memoir that this meal feeds poor labourers.

In 1672 French adventurer Taverniers and Balls, 'Travels in India' mentions Baldaeus, a Dutch minister who travelled to India as eating Quicheri and Kitzery.

In 1772 Hamilton writes about Kitcheree "some doll and rice, being mingled together and boiled...the common food of the country. They eat it with Butter and Atchar."

There are also several late medieval references to Kitcheree being eaten with atchar (pickles) and salted fish in Bengal.

Today Kedgeree in Britain is a colonial era buttered rice eaten with smoked fish and boiled eggs.

In a 1907 copy of The Handbook of Trinidad Cookery I found 2 recipes for Kedgeree, one employs gill- a British Imperial measure in use when America was colonized. Trinidad moved hands from the Spanish to the British in 1889, enough time for the British version of Khitchdi to take root. Khitchdi and versions of it are found in British colonies across the world.

Cynthia Nelson, a resident of Barbados and a Guyanese food lover recounts in her column, 'Tastes Like Home' her mother telling her of Hindus in the Caribbean who fed the groom khitchdi when he first came to the bride's home.

Khitchdi could certainly qualify as a national dish- a dish born in India with ingredients native to the subcontinent- rice, moong and ghee, a one pot mash of boiled ingredients that was eaten for centuries by the common man within India and without and by Indians who moved abroad. Served with ghee or oil, sugar or dried fruits, pickles, fish- it was a meal that nourished hungry bellies.

My second edition 1903 Hobson Jobson alludes to a single pot of 'khichri' that was atleast 880 kgs, larger than the Khitchdi -(800 kg), which has just been cooked to beat a Guiness world record in 2017.

Hobson Jobson is a remarkable compendium of Anglo-Indian terms first published in 1896 that covers millions of words from India's British Raj, some no longer in use and some so differently spelled today, you'd never guess what they meant.

A reference to the Nawab of Tonk (Rajasthan) in an 1880 report by an Indian Mirror correspondent describes him as having donated 3000 rupees for the supply of 2 colossal pots of 'khichri' made with rice, dry fruits and sugar for a religious festival in Ajmer. One pot contained roughly 80 maunds and the other 40 maunds (a varying post Akbar era measure used in the sub-continent) 1 government maund =37 kg however it could be as little as 11 kg also. So that would mean the bigger pot contained atleast 880 kgs of rice and combined these 2 'tremendous' pots contained at minimum over a 1000 kgs of rice. The cooking of these were observed by the Nizam, Ajmer's commissioner and various civil servants- leading me to wonder if maund here was the government standard of 37 kg per maund.

While the item is described as 'khichri' it contains sugar and dried fruit so it appears by modern standards to be more like a cooked kheer though no mention is made of milk. If not the largest khichri, is this the world record for kheer? Also which religious festival was this? Any thoughts?

In a 1934 book The Mystery Chefs Own Cookbook by John Macpherson, an American of Scottish descent, a chapter is devoted to national foods. Macpherson says curry is India's national food and to be fair all through Victorian times Indian food is referred to as curry. He also describes Stroganoff (named after a Russian noblemen) as Russia's national food. I don't know if Russians today would agree-I'd say it was probably Pirogi or Pelmeni dumplings. This book was written while India was still colonized and Russia's Tsarist rule had come to an end, only 17 years before this book was published. So Khitchdi or no Khitchdi, he hybrid curry is still the first thing that comes to mind the world over when one thinks of Indian food.

Abu'l Fazl describes a recipe for 'khichri' in 1590 A.D for 7 dishes recorded in the Ain E Akbari. Fazl was one of Akbar's Nav Ratnas. Here is the recipe and my adaptation-

5 ser of each rice, split dal and ghi and 1/3 ser salt

1 ser is approx .93 kg

My interpretation and adaptation

1 cup rice

1 cup moong dal

2 tbspns ghee (plus more for garnishing)

salt to taste

Optional improvisations

1 /2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

8 fresh green curry leaves, torn

2 teaspoons of peeled and minced garlic

Instructions

Wash the lentils and rice and immerse in 8 cups of water in a pressure cooker. Add turmeric.

Heat 2 tbspns ghee. Add cumin and cook 30 seconds. Add curry leaves and garlic and cook 45 seconds. Pour spiced ghee over uncooked rice and lentils and steam 2-3 whistles until fully cooked and soupy. Salt to taste. Garnish with more ghee and serve with papads, yogurt and assorted pickles.

References Hobson Jobson (1903), The Mystery Chefs Own Cook Book, Tastes Like Home (C. Nelson) A Handbook of Trinidad Cookery 190

http://www.taradeshpande.in/the-khitchdi/

BUTTER CHICKEN

BUTTER CHICKEN

BUTTER CHICKEN

Ingredients

On Diwali in 2017 I had the good fortune to meet the owner of a south Mumbai restaurant best known for its legendary Butter chicken. Butter chicken is one of India's most popular dishes world wide. Often called Chicken Makhani the general impression is that it has butter in it. The original creators of this dish Moti Mahal's Kundan Lal Gujral uses white butter in his recipe. But a conversation with this Mumbai restauranteur who has been dishing out butter chicken to hungry Mumbaikers for nearly a century revealed that they use no butter in this recipe at all. He went on to give me an 'andaaza' recipe (andaaza means approximate) and made me promise that I wouldn't reveal the name of his restaurant and would tweak it enough to make it just slightly different from his version. I went home and tried 4 different versions of his recipe. The recipe that follows is one that is easier for home chefs like you and I to prepare for our families in a regular kitchen.

Chicken Tikka masala is a British creation and quite similar to Butter chicken except that it uses chicken tikka (kebabs) instead of shredded Tandoori chicken and tomatoes from a can. Food historians argue that butter chicken was turned into Chicken Tikka Masala by a British chef who used a can of readymade tomato puree and cream and dunked chicken tikka in it. Possibly tracing the roots of some of these recipes will never quite lead us to an exact answer but eventually the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

SERVES 8-9

FOR THE RED SAUCE

1.25 KG RED PLUM TOMATOES, WASHED AND QUARTERED

2 TBSP VEGETABLE OIL (NOT OLIVE OIL) OR GHEE

1/4 CUP TOMATO PASTE

20 GRAMS GARLIC WHOLE (omit for Jain)

3 INCHES OF PEELED GINGER ROOT COARSELY CHOPPED

6 WHOLE GREEN CARDAMOM PODS

3 INCHES OF CINNAMON STICK BROKEN INTO 2 PIECES

6 WHOLE CLOVES

1 TEASPOON KASURI METHI OR DRIED FENUGREEK LEAVES

1.5 TBPS TANDOORI MASALA PASTE- A GOOD COMMERCIAL BRAND

50 GRAMS CASHEW PIECES UNROASTED, UNSALTED

FOR THE BECHAMEL

2 TBSP MAIDA OR ALL PURPOSE FLOUR OR RICE FLOUR

2 TBSP VEGETABLE OIL OR BUTTER

1 CUP WHOLE MILK

1/2 CUP HEAVY CREAM

25 GRAMS MAWA OR SOLIDIFIED MILK SOLIDS

500-600 GRAMS SHREDDED TANDOORI CHICKEN OR USE CHOPPED TANDOORI CHICKEN TIKKA

OR 500 GRAMS FRESH PANEER CUT INTO 1 INCH CUBES

SPRIGS OF CORIANDER TO GARNISH

Instructions

COMBINE ALL THE INGREDIENTS FOR THE RED SAUCE EXCEPT THE CASHEWS IN A DUTCH OVEN LIKE POT OR LARGE SAUCEPAN. ADD WATER UNTIL THE TOMATOES ARE COVERED BY ABOUT 2 INCHES OF LIQUID.

SET THE PAN TO SIMMER ON A MEDIUM FLAME FOR 25 MINUTES OR UNTIL THE TOMATOES ARE TOTALLY PULPED. STIR FROM TIME TO TIME.USING A SLOTTED SPOON DISCARD ALL THE WHOLE DRIED SPICES- CARDAMOM, CLOVES AND CINNAMON.

ADD THE CASHEWS AND KEEP COOKING UNTIL THE TOMATOES ARE COMPLETELY PULPED THICK AND FRAGRANT. ADD MORE LIQUID IF REQUIRED.

REMOVE FROM THE FIRE AND COOL.

PUREE THE COOLED TOMATOES TO A PASTE.

ON A MEDIUM FLAME IN A NON-STICK SKILLET HEAT THE OIL OR BUTTER AND ADD THE FLOUR. STIR TO BLEND AND COOK UNTIL FLOUR IS BUBBLY BUT DO NOT BROWN. ADD THE CREAM AND STIR WELL. STIR IN THE MILK AND COOK 1 MINUTE. ADD THE MAWA AND STIR TO BLEND INTO A SMOOTH THICK PASTE.

STIR THIS HOT BECHAMEL SAUCE INTO THE TOMATO PUREE AND MIX THROUGHLY.

ADD THE CHICKEN TIKKA OR SHREDDED TANDOORI CHICKEN PIECES AND SET ON A LOW FLAME.

STIR REGULARLY TO PREVENT ANY BURNING. COOK 30 MINUTES OR SO.

REMOVE FROM FLAME, POUR INTO A SERVING DISH, GARNISH WITH CORIANDER SPRIGS AND SERVE HOT WITH NAAN OR PLAIN BOILED RICE.

http://www.taradeshpande.in/butter-chicken/