Himachal Chronicles: Palampur and around

Earlier this year, we made a family trip to Palampur, to celebrate my husbands grandfathers 90th birthday. 90 years, can you imagine! And nanaji is a legend, if I may say so. Hale and hearty, and ready with glorious stories of his past, it’s always a treat to spend time with him. For his 90th, he wanted to visit his village in Palampur, the place where he grew up and went to school as a boy,  and his home where he had countless memories of play and family.

Continue reading “Himachal Chronicles: Palampur and around”

Meetha

The last few weeks have been maddeningly hectic. Family came visiting, I went vacationing, then Arjun Singh fell ill and time was spent in nursing.. all in all, action on the blog was lessening.

I'm a poet and I know it.

Anyhoo, I needed to reduce the count of draft posts vs published posts. And I thought I would start by sharing a simple pahaadi recipe with you all. It’s a sweet dish; the simplest sweet treat that anyone can whip up in 10 minutes.

Meetha, or as they say it in our side Mitha. Mitha feat

Mitha is essentially a sugar syrup cooked with fennel and boondi, and the memory of the first time I had it is so vivid in my head. The whole family had gathered together for a family occasion, and my naani had called a pahaadi cook to make the meal. We were eating on pattals (plates made out of leaves) and after finishing the main course I went to have the dessert, which was mitha. My mom told me to have it with some rice, and not knowing the right proportion of eating the dish, plus the fact that I eat rice like a truck driver, I took a ton of rice, and then poured an equal amount of mitha on it. Wrong idea. It was too sweet and too syrupy and too thin for my liking. And I complained. That’s when my mom showed me the right way to eat it. She took about a ladle of rice, and about 2 spoonfuls of the mitha and served that to me. What a world of difference THAT made. The mitha was not overtly sweet, and I could taste the fennel more than the sugar. And the whole dish was sweet rice rather than being sweet syrup with bits of rice.

Mitha4

And as is true everywhere, every household has their own way of making this dish. But my father, the awesomeness that he is, has an APL and BPL version of mitha. For those of you who are still figuring that one out, APL is Above Poverty Line, and BPL is Below..  :/ (yeah, I don’t get his sense of humour too at times)

He actually shared the BPL version with me first because he said it’s not that I am poor, but so lazy that I won’t spend more time than needed in the kitchen. How well he knows me. Hugs to you, dad!

I am going to share both the versions here, and depending on how much time and resources you have, take your pick :)

Mitha5

Version 1

Ingredients

  1. Ghee, 2-3 tbsps
  2. Cloves, 2
  3. Cardamoms, 2
  4. Cinnamon stick, 1 small
  5. Sugar, 10 tsps
  6. Water, 250 ml
  7. Fennel (saunf), 1/2 tsp
  8. Boondi, 2 tbsps
  9. Dry fruits (sliced almonds, raisins)

Method

  1. In a pan, preferably with a thick base, like a wok or kadhai, heat the ghee
  2. To this, add the cloves, cardamoms, cinnamon, and dry fruits. Roast them for a minute or 2
  3. Add the fennel
  4. Then add the sugar and water, and bring to a boil
  5. After one boil, simmer the mixture until it reaches the desired thick consistency of a syrup
  6. Add the boondi, and serve hot with steamed rice

Mitha1

Version 2

Ingredients:

  1. Sugar, 10 tsps
  2. Water, 250 ml
  3. Fennel (saunf), 1/2 tsp
  4. Boondi, 2 tbsps

Method:

  1. Heat a kadhai, or work. Add sugar, saunf and water.
  2. Bring to a boil, and then simmer until it reaches the desired thick consistency of a syrup
  3. Add the boondi, and serve hot with steamed rice

Mitha3

 

I am sharing this over at Angie’s amazing blog party Fiesta Friday at The Novice Gardener

 

Choliya

Pahadis from Himachal use curd in a lot of our dishes. There is Mandra, where curd and ghee are used in equal proportions and it’s a dish fit for kings, ~ mostly cooked in special occasions, it’s not an everyday feature in households (too heavy duty for roz ka khaana). We also use curd to make Palda, where one can cook any sabji ~ aloo, aloo gobhi, aloo matar, gobhi, gajar matar~ and then add curd in the end; this is a dish that serves as an accompaniment to dal and rice and it’s pretty much a regular weekly feature in my house at least. We also have a curd soup (closest match) called Redu that my brother loves. In all his cranky years of not eating anything, Redu (ray-do) was the one thing he would gladly guzzle by the gallon.

However today I wanted to share the recipe for another curd-based dish that we call Choliya. When I was staying with my dad, back in Pune, I was responsible for weeknight dinners and weekend lunches, and Choliya was one dish I cooked every other week; a) Coz I loved it, and b) it was super simple easy-peasy. I remember having it every other week, in summers, when I stayed with my nani, and she cooked it in the most divine manner possible. SLurrrrp.

Choliya is essentially mashed black chickpeas, cooked in mustard oil and curd, and is served with rice. The more khatta (sour) the curd, the more the flavour of the cooked mash and mustard oil stands out. It’s a simple recipe that uses basic ingredients, but offers an alternative to eating dal with rice, or cooking black chickpeas in regular onion tomato masala. I love it.

Choliya1.jpg

Choliya2.jpg

Read on for the recipe:

 Ingredients

  1. 2 cups kala channa (black chickpeas), soaked overnight
  2. Mustard Oil: 2tbsp
  3. Spices for regular tadka:
    1. Coriander powder: 1.5 tsp
    2. Garam Masala powder: 1.5 tsp
    3. Salt, to taste
    4. Red chilli powder: 1 tsp
    5. Turmeric: .5 tsp
  4. Methi seeds (Fenugreek seeds): 1 tsp
  5. Mustard seeds: 1.5 tsp
  6. Curd: 2-2.5 cups
  7. Coriander leaves, for garnish

Method

  1. Boil the soaked channas, either by cooking them in a pressure cooker (3 whistles should suffice), or by boiling them in a saucepan. The channas should be soft enough to mash with a regular spoon/ladle
  2. Mash the boiled channas
  3. Heat the mustard oil until it leaves its mustardy smell.. burn baby burn
  4. Add the mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds, they will splutter a bit so do be careful
  5. Add the mashed channa and cook until it starts leaving oil. This should take about 5-10 minutes. Roast it well.
  6. Once cooked, add the regular spices (salt, haldi, dhaniya powder, garam masala, red chilli powder). Cook for a minute
  7. Now to this, add the curd and keep stirring until the mixture comes to a boil (The stirring helps in not letting the curd split)
  8. Once it boils, simmer it for 3-4 minutes and turn off the gas
  9. Garnish with coriander leaves, and serve with rice

Choliya3.jpg

Maani

Maani_Collage

Growing up, dal and rice was a constant meal feature for lunch at home. How I loved eating dal and rice with my favourite pickle, or even simply curd. But most of the times, my mom also added another accompaniment to this meal : Maani. And when all of this got leftover, the next day for breakfast, she would tudko it all together. Tudko as in cook up some onions in ghee/oil and then add the leftovers to this, heat them through, add salt, and tudke chaawal (tempered rice) would be ready. In fact, in a lot of our family get-togethers that’s all we consume and look forward to. We all purposefully make more than necessary, because we wanted to have tudke chaawal for breakfast the next day.

Coming back to the dish on hand, I grew up eating a sweet and sour version of Maani, which my mom made with amchur (dried mango powder) and very little gur. So it was definitely more sour than sweet, but tangy. However, my mom in law is from Himachal too (yayie!), and in her house, the dish is called Khatta, which means sour. She uses only imli as the souring agent and that’s the version my husband loves. In fact I am addicted to it too and we both fight to finish off the bowl. But I miss the amchur-gur version of it also as it has it’s own unique taste when paired with a simple black dal and rice.

While the dal (chana and split urad mix) and rice are the basic items in the meal, Maani is what adds the zing. It is essentially a sour/sweet and sour dish which is made up of besan (chickpea flour) imli/amchur/gur and small black chickpeas (kala channa), or black eye beans (rongi), or even boondi and potatoes.

So read on for the recipe,

Besan.jpg

tadka3.jpg

Garlic.jpg

 

ImliAmchur1.jpg

Ingredients

  1. Mustard oil – 2 tbsps
  2. Mustard seeds – 1.5 tsp
  3. Fenugreek seeds (methi daana) – .5 tsp
  4. Onions – finely diced, 1/2 of a small onion
  5. Garlic – 2-3 cloves, finely chopped
  6. Chickpea flour (besan) – 1 tbsp
  7. Amchur – 3 tbsp/ Tamarind paste – 2 tbsp
  8. Gur, if using – 2 tsp
  9. Black chickpeas/Black eye beans – boiled – 1.5 cups
  10. Turmeric powder : 1 tsp; Red chilli powder : 1 tsp ; Coriander powder : 1.5 tsp; Garam masala powder: 1 tsp
  11. Salt, to taste

Method

You can choose to make this dish with chickpeas/beans/boondi/potatoes. Do keep in mind that if using chickpeas or beans, do boil them before hand or pressure cook them so that they are soft. And if using potatoes, then chop them and add them at the proper time and cook them through. If using boondi, then no need to take any extra cooking precautions.

  1. In a kadhai, heat the mustard oil to a usable temperature (make it very hot so that it doesn’t sting as such)
  2. To this oil, add the mustard seeds, methi daana, jeera, onions, garlic and green chillies.
  3. Once the onions and garlic are slightly browned, add the other spices ~ turmeric, coriander powder, garam masala, salt
  4. Add the besan to this mixture and cook it until it’s properly roasted (turns slightly brown and gives off roasted smell, not burnt)
  5. To make it sour: Add imli/amchur ; To make it sour and sweet: Add amchur and gur
  6. Add the boiled beans/boiled chickpeas/boondi and water to this mix. Bring to a boil.
  7. Lower the heat and simmer until it reaches the consistency you like. Turn off the gas and finito! Serve with dal and rice.

My father (supervisory recipe checker) did not want me adding any touched up images of the final product. Let the actual colour shine through, he says. So I complied to his wishes.

IMG_6653

Note: If you are making this dish with potatoes, then add chopped potatoes at step 6 and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through. Also, I have added some curry leaves to the tempering (along with mustard seeds and the rest, but that’s just a personal preference, it isn’t mandatory or anything. Whatever tickles your yummy-bone!

Most of the ingredients measurements have been given on a not very precise scale, am being honest. I have been cooking this dish for eons and know what works for me. BUT having said that, I am here to help. If you like the dish more sour, then skip gur and cook it with imli. If you want to try the sweet and sour, then use amchur and gur. And once cooked, adjust seasonings of either to your own personal taste.

I am also linking this post to my friend Pooja’s #bitofthisandlotofthat weekly writing challenge. This week’s theme was childhood memories and while I haven’t delved into a whole specific story behind this,  my mom cooking all of these yummies remains an integral part of all my childhood memories. Plus, I really wanted to kick off posts on Himachali food, so in a way Pooja’s challenge gave me the boost. And I spoke a little about here http://wp.me/p4ALtY-cn

Click here to head over to her blog if you want to know more about the challenge and contribute. And contribute you should. It’s so much fun to read so many collective stories at the end of the week. Am loving her blog and this challenge!

 

The Himachali In Me

Whenever someone asks me, “so where in India do you belong to?” I never really know what to answer. My family hails from Himachal Pradesh, but as my father was in the Indian Army (infact, still is) we never really lived in Himachal, except for the annual vacation visits.  I stayed all over India, in Bangalore, Secunderabad, Lucknow, Missamari, Siliguri, Pune yada yada yada. So the cliched answer would be I am from India. However, if there is one cuisine of India I feel most emotional about,  it has to be Himachali food.

Sure, it could be because it is the food I grew up with. But I also grew up eating idlis, dosa, pohas, vada pavs, momos, dal makhani, butter chicken, tunday kabab, chicken 65, biryanis. So that’s not just it.It could be primarily because I feel that a lot of people don’t know how lovely and unique Himachali khaana is. And oh-so yummy. And I kind of also feel proprietorial about it.  Plus as the years go by, I feel I need to preserve whatever part of my heritage I can. I tried learning the language and am still taking baby steps with it. I want to live in a village up in the hills but in my reality it is not a practical idea. So if  all this translates into me recording a Himachali food diary, in the here and now, so be it. This is a dream I want to make into a reality. (I have this whole road trip charted out in my head, backpacking across Himachal, recording recipes and food habits and making my food journal ~all it needs are the start and end dates, and I wouldn’t mind some company~)

But until that trip happens, let me record the recipes I do know about and share them with you all. Hopefully, you enjoy them as much as I do, or maybe even more.