Wednesday, 21 March 2018

A Dirge for Dahyatli Bhendi (Sun dried Okra in a vegan yoghurt marinade)

A dirge for Dahyatli Bhendi

Slimy to crunchy and crusty
The okra’s ride is laborious
Baked in Sun and difficulty
To render meals sumptuous

Drying for lack, or adversity
Now labours futile, tedious
Who makes in days of plenty
Our lost heirlooms precious?!

And now it's Marathi translation! 

बुळबुळीत ते कुरकुरीत
प्रवास कठीण भेंडीचा
उन्हात टाकुनी वाळीत
मगच पदार्थ बेगमीचा

दुर्मिळ आता हे खाणे
जिभेचे जुने हे चोचले  
दुर्लभ त्याहून बनविणे
पदार्थ जणू हे हरवले!

And in case anyone wants the recipe of this vegan "dahyatli bhendi" AKA Sun dried Okra in a yoghurt marinade:


18-20 pieces Bhindi or Okra

1/2 cup Soy yoghurt
1/2 tsp methi powder
1/2 tsp hing powder
1 tsp jeera powder
1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
Pinch of sugar
Salt to taste.


Wash and dry the okra and cut the heads and tails. Slice the okra into halves. Mix the remaining ingredients together and marinate the okra for a few hours.

Arrange the okra halves on a baking sheet/ parchment paper lined tray and dry it out in the sun for two or three days, until fully dry.

Store in an airtight container. Fry these in hot oil and serve with dal and rice.

These can be stored for a few months, provided they are dried thoroughly.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Date and Banana Shankarpaali

Date and Banana Shankarpaali

Even as a kid I used to love reading recipes in magazines, behind the pages of the Kalnirnay, on food packaging, newspaper life style sections... 

The style of writing recipes in those days was very simple - no precise measurements, paranoid instructions and elaborate steps - which made a dish sound so easy to make.

Take for instance, if I had read the recipe for these date and banana shankarpaali (which I haven’t) it would have probably read like this:

दोन- तीन पिकलेली केळी, एक कप बिया काढून बारीक कुस्करलेला खजूराचा बलक, चमचा भर खसखस, चवीपुरतं मीठ आणि दोन मोठे चमचे तेलाचं मोहन. त्यात मावेल तेव्हडी कणीक घालून पीठ घट्ट मळून घ्यायचं. तास भर झाकून ठेवून मग जाड पोळ्या लाटून शंकरपाळी कापून घ्यावी. कढईत तेल तापवून मंद आचे वर शंकरपाळी तळून काढावी.  गार झाल्यावर घट्ट झाकणाच्या डब्यात भरून ठेवावी.

Now imagine if one of my girls were to read this recipe:

Once they got past the Devnagari obstacle, the battery of questions would begin:
·      One banana or two? 
·      What on earth is ‘balak’? 
·      What sort of ‘chamacha’is this – teaspoon or tablespoon?
·      Who the heck is Mohan?
·      How much is ‘maavel tevhdi kaneek’?
·      If kaneek is flour, then how come dough is also kaneek?

Then finally, out of obvious relief that the ordeal of reading the recipe was coming to an end, a sudden flash of humour in Marathi to qualify a statement -

Dude – it should read, “गार व्हायच्या आधीच घरच्यांनी ती येताजाता भरून संपली नसल्यास, गार झाल्यावर घट्ट झाकणाच्या डब्यात भरून ठेवावी!”

And for all those on whom this is lost in translation, here's the recipe in English:

Sugar Free - Date and Banana Shankarpali

2-3 over ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
1 cup pitted dates, mashed or puréed
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
½ tsp salt
2 tablespoons oil
2 ½ - 3 cups atta (no fix measurements here)
Oil for deep frying


In a bowl mix all the ingredients, except the atta. Slowly add the atta and knead a gradually into a firm dough. Keep covered for about half an hour. Then roll out large discs and cut into squares using a fluted pastry cutter. Heat oil in a kadhai and deep fry the shankarpalis batch by batch, on medium heat.

Remove on absorbent paper. Keep in an airtight container when cooled.

These taste best with a cup of tea.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Soul Soup

Time was when fresh green peas were only available in winter and at exorbitant prices in South India. Frozen green peas were a thing out of science fiction. In these antediluvian times, even a few kilos of fresh green peas created a lot of excitement in a family, where our foremothers were pioneers of the zero-waste, sustainable, waste-not-want-not approach to everything that required the expenditure of any resource.

This said approach was invariably applied to the said peas, which were divided into categories based on their quality.

The random prematurely plucked pea pods were destined to go into Aai’s famous pea shell soup, which was another winter must-have.

Tender pea pods were reserved for the privilege of “matar gashti” – literally guarding a field of green peas, and figuratively having fun. There are fewer pleasures in life greater than shelling tender peas and eating them. We were allowed all the tender ones, but with a proviso. We kids had to string and break the shells into pieces for the pea shell soup.

Our interest rarely lasted beyond hastily stringing the pods after the peas had been popped, knowing that Aai would patiently pick the remaining shells that qualified for the soup.

The bigger peas ones were used for cooking – whether it was in a curry, a pulao or a masale bhaat and their shells didn’t always land in the soup, if they were tough and fibrous.

Aai’s pea shell soup was as mysterious as the witches’ charmed soup in Macbeth.

It would go something like this....

"Scales of onion, cubes of potato,
Switches of coriander, and some clo’
And a piece of cinnamon bark,
Root of ginger digg'd i' the dark,
Sliver of blaspheming chilli,
Spoon of oil or perhaps some ghee
Stringed and broken pea shucks,
Dose of cream or any fat that sauces,
Spoonful of freshly squeezed lemon
Make for the gruel in our cauldron…"

At this point, the magical soup reclaimed our attention. Hope it captures yours.

Pea Shell Soup


3 cups tender shells of peas, stringed and broken into small pieces
1 cup shelled peas
1small onion –roughly chopped
1 small potato, scrubbed clean and cut into pieces
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tsp minced garlic + 2 whole cloves of garlic
½ tsp minced fresh ginger
1 small green chilli
A tablespoon of chopped of coriander
1 tbsp oil 
1-2 cloves
½ inch piece of cinnamon
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh cream or coconut cream for garnish


Wash pea shells and scrub potato – if the skin is clean, don’t peel. Place the shells, half a cup of peas, the chopped potato and onion, coriander, green chilli and the garlic cloves in the body of a pressure cooker/ pressure pan. Cover with about 2 cups of water. Pressure-cook the vegetables for about 10 minutes.

When cooled, blend using a stick blender or a mixer. Strain with a large holed strainer, ensuring that no cellulose bits get into the soup extract.

In the same pressure pan, heat oil and add the cloves and cinnamon stick. Add the finely chopped onions, the minced garlic, fresh ginger and remaining shelled peas and sauté for a few minutes. Pour the soup mix into the saucepan and let it simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze half a lemon when the soup has boiled.

Serve hot with a dash of fresh cream or use coconut cream if you want to keep this soup vegan.