Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Tok er dal / Daal cooked with Raw Mangoes

 Summer is long gone. And with it, so have the raw mangoes ...  from the market at least. We hardly get to see any of them any more these days, except for a few Totapuri ones. I had made this dal at the peak of this summer, when raw mangoes were easily available. But neglected posting it. And one of the reasons, among a few more, is I did not like the pictures.

I find clicking dals and gravies very difficult. So, while I do make dals almost everyday, I have diligently avoided trying to click a picture. Next time, I promise myself and get on with the day.
But this time, I decided to finally make a post of it. For two reasons.
One, it is not every day that I make tok er daal. So if I have made it, and have taken pains to click a few photographs too ... why not?
Two and the more important reason is ... who cares?

I mean who cares if a photograph is beautiful or not.
Except me, of course.
I mean, the blog is my own. And every photograph is like my own baby. I'll love it no matter what.
Every single photograph posted here has a history. And at least 6 or 7 siblings.
I have to choose one from all of them ... agonising over every one of them ... rejecting them kills me every time. And finally pick one. Ignoring the rest that I have put equal amount of time and sentiments in.

So that the reader feels good. Likes what s/he sees here. Does not feel put off by a photo which represents the food I have cooked in my kitchen and am serving here. I try to focus on close shots so that the reader gets to see the actual texture of the dish. And if possible, some of the ingredients too.
Like  a few kalonji+mustard seeds+,methi etc. if seen together will give an idea that paanch phoron has been used. Or say, a fine paste has been used or a coarse one.
If the gravy should be watery thin or dense and thick.
And so on.

But what hurts me is most readers are not interested in such details.
Worse, if the person is a new food blogger.
All they are in search of, these days, is a photograph. That will make their job of making a post on their blog easy.
 And some good text too ... if it is a description of the dish, even better.
One click ... and all your hard work is gone.
Poof! It now bears the name and signature of another.
Even a girl getting married takes more time to change her name and address.

And who better to put the blame on than good old Google.

I have requested, ranted, raved, pleaded ... nothing has come of it.
Instead, I have often been at the receiving  end.
How dare I complain?!
How dare I remind them the photograph is mine?!
How dare I say "Please write your own words, cook your own food and click your own snaps."?!

It was on Google, right?
Google is a search engine. It helps you in finding things you are searching for.
Not read a mind and find out if it is scheming to pick that photo up and use it for selfish purposes.
Believe me, if it could, it would never ever have helped you with your search.

Recently a reader, who proclaimed that she usually never leaves comments any blog but is doing so here, ... I wondered if I should have felt grateful for that ... wanted to 'share' my writings. Now, thanks to FB, a lot of English words have found new meanings and homes. When I requested her not to, she got nasty. And , among other things, declared why did I put things on my blog if I did not mean to 'share' them.
I believe I do not need to answer this.

Plagiarism is rampant all over the food blogging world. And is not restricted to food photographs alone.
People search for things, land on blogs, find lines or paragraphs that suits their purpose and simply copy them and paste them on their pages.  Sometimes in the name of sharing, sometimes in the name of anonymity, sometimes under the guise of ignorance.

From childhood we have been taught never to touch things that do not belong to you, leave alone picking them up and bringing them home for personal use. So, I often wonder what kind of education have these people acquired? These people who blatantly pick up lines, recipes and photographs that are actually other people's work.
If they can run a blog, I am sure they are intelligent enough.
To know good from bad.
To know right from wrong.

The point is etiquette. Social courtsey. Good manners. Goodwill. None of these seem to exist anymore.
Rudeness is now a way of life. You want something ... you get it. Even if it does not belong to you, or you are unworthy of it. Denied, you bare your claws. And show your true side.

Integrity is now an option.

There is, of course, another side of the coin too. Not all coins are flawed. 

I have always encouraged new bloggers by visiting their blogs and leaving lines ... I know how much a comment means to new bloggers. I take time to answer all their queries or mails ... even if it is midnight and I'm dead tired.
And have always got back love and sincerity in return.

When a new blogger, very enthusiastically started a blog a couple of years back, and cooked a huge number of my recipes, but used my photographs, I gently explained to her all about plagiarism. I was so happy to see that the girl took my advice positively and started on her own. Not only did she write down all the credits and links on every post but also kept in touch with me. Today she has a beautiful blog, with numerous recipes of her own .... and with some wonderful photography too.
Am proud of you M.

A little self realisation, a little quiet within .. is all that is needed.
Ethics. Morals.
If you keep these two words on your two sides, never ever will you falter ... be it the food blogging world.
Or life.

Now to my dal ... am posting it no matter how the photographs are.
At least they are mine.

This  dal goes best with plain rice. With some dry side dish like the aloo posto or some plain begun bhaja.

Need :

Paanch phoron - ½ tsp
( Mix  1 tsp kalonji seeds + 1 tsp fennel seeds + ½ radhuni/celery seeds + ½ tsp methi/fenugreek seeds + 1 tsp mustard seeds to have your paanch phoron.
Remember ... methi and radhuni should always be of lesser quantity than the others ... else you will end up with bitter tasting food.
If you don't have radhuni, no worries. Use plain jeera / cumin seeds in its place. )

Tuvar dal / Arhar dal - 1 big cup, washed
Raw mango - 5 to 6 slices ( depending on the tartness of the mango )
Whole red chillies - 2, broken
Haldi powder - ½ tsp
Salt - to taste
Sugar - a pinch ... just to balance the tartness of the mangoes
Cooking oil - 1 tsp ( I use mustard oil )
Water - 3 big cupfuls

How to :

Heat oil in a pressure cooker.
Add the paanch phoron and the red chillies.
Add the mango slices and stir for a while.
Add the dal, haldi and stir again.
Add water and then salt and sugar.
Cover and cook on low heat for 3 whistles.
Remove from heat and cool.
Remove cover and put it on heat again ... stirring till the dal has mixed well.

Serve with steamed rice.

PS: I may have ruffled a few feathers with this post. But if you are tempted to write in rude words, I suggest you refrain. Neither will I read your comment nor will it see the light of the day.
This is my blog and I will not entertain any negativity.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Maacher Dimer Bora / Fish Roe Fritters

Macher dimer bora

Rains. Light rains. Heavy rains. Sudden rains. Lightly showering rains.
Wet breeze. Heavy winds. Lightly blowing winds.
Dark, loud clouds. Threatening clouds. Steady clouds. White fluffy clouds. Stable, raining down clouds.
Green countryside. Foggy. Dancing, temporary waterfalls. Thin streams rushing by.
Dark brown and muddy rivers. Places washed away by their forceful rush. Rumbling, heavily flowing by ... unmindful of anything that comes their way.
Washing away everything somewhere.
Soothing parched earth and souls elsewhere.

Monsoons come with different faces. Different places feel the rains differently.
But everywhere, from time immemorial, it has been a time of celebration.
A time for newness. Life. Growth.
Mother earth springs to life ... the fresh, new green everywhere a proof.
People rejoice the break in the summer's heat.
Farmers rejoice the readying of the soil.

Rui macher dimer bora

No matter where you are ... sitting in your home in one of the tallest buildings on one of the busiest roads in your city, or inside your office, or rushing home in your vehicle ... you can't help stealing a glance outside as soon as you know it is raining.
Neither can you help that small smile flitting across your face.

Yes, the rains do soothe.
And spread some calm, some cheer.
Some good too.

We, all over the country,  tend to celebrate the rains with deep fries or some bhaja bhuji.
Most people will start by making the good old pakoda and move on to other kinds of fries ... both veg and non veg ... as the rains settle down for the two whole months. Or more.
Most evenings teas will have some kind of deep fried things to pair with.

While lunch will be a light khichuri or khichdi, it will have a side of various fried things like the papad, pakode, beguni, etc. Different cultures will have different dishes ... but the essence ... always the same.
macha bihana bhaja

A couple of weekends back I had bought a good sized rohu fish ... around 1.8 kgs. And got a big bonus of dim/ roe alongwith it. I love fatty rohu ... especially fried.

So while I made a few different dishes with the fish, I made some boras with the roe.
Crispy, deep fried and spicy ... perfect for a rainy evening snack.
We had some friends who had dropped in suddenly .... this Macher Dimer Bora saved the day ... nay, evening. Went great with hot cups of adraki chai/ginger tea.

Need :

Fresh fish roe / Rui maacher dim - 1 coffee cup full
1 Onion - chopped
2 Green chillies - chopped
Besan - 2 tsp

( I do not use too much of besan ... love the fluffiness inside the crisp fritter and also the sweetness of the soft onions)
Haldi / turmeric powder - 1 pinch
Salt - to taste
Oil - enough to deep fry ( I use mustard oil)
Fresh coriander leaves / Dhone pata (I did not, but do try to ... adds a great flavour )

How to :

Mix the fish roe + besan + the onions and chilles + haldi powder + salt + the chopped coriander leaves.

Heat enough oil in a deep kadahi or wok.
Pick up scoops of the mix with a spoon and carefully slide into the oil.
Fry the boras on low heat till golden brown.
Remove from oil and keep on a kitchen napkin or paper napkins to drain excess oil.

macher dimer pakoda

Serve hot.
I had some kasundi. Went great!
You can have them with tomato ketchup too.
You can have them as a side with khichdi, for a meal.
Or with some tea. As a snack.

So, this evening, gather your friends ... or your family ... brew some spicy, ginger tea and fry some of these crispy maacher dimer boras.
And revel in love, warmth and laughter ... while the pouring rain smiles from outside the window.


Some other dishes made with Macher dim / Fish roe

Ilisher dim diye ambol / Hilsa roe in sweet and sour gravy 

Ilisher dim makha / Fried hilsa roe tossed with onions and chillies

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Prasad wali Khichdi / Narkel diye Khichuri / Bhoger Khichuri

Just outside of Pune, in the Northern outskirts , is a beautiful temple of the Sai Baba of Shirdi. If you take the Alandi road and keep going straight, it falls on your left. Bang on the highway.
When we had discovered it, on one of our aimless rides, it was just a small hall with the huge deity of the Baba. Slowly, over the years, it has grown in size and is now a sprawling mandir with lawns, gardens, a community center, a prasad hall and numerous other small sized mandirs dedicated to the gods Ganesh, Shiva and Lakshmi. We often went there in the evenings.
Initially, not a lot of people knew about it, so was less crowded and more peaceful.

Once evening set in,  lamps would be lit all around the mandir. After the aarti, we would sit on the low marble parapet, surrounding the main hall and open on all sides. Someone would sing bhajans quietly in a corner. A few devotees would sit around or just walk up for a darshan. Far from the city, it's noise and rush, sitting there in the quiet evening breeze, it always felt wonderful.

On one such visit, after the aarti, as we sat on the parapet as usual, we noticed a group of people under the only neem tree in the courtyard. The tree was old, very big. The base was cemented.
There, two men stood with a big sized vessel. One was handing out small paper plates or donas. The other was serving prasad. We went over and saw it was khichdi/khichuri. Steamimg hot, wonderfully mushy and full of flavours. Heavenly!

This khichdi was very different from the usual ones that I am used to. Be it the Bengali khichuri cooked at home, the khichdi cooked for Jagannath at Puri, which is usually dryish, or the Bhog er khichuri that we get as prasad  during   Durga puja.  I tried to guess what it might contain ... could figure out some ingredients like the whole black pepper, ghee no sugar etc...., but a lot more stayed unknown. So I asked one of the men serving the prasad. He told me to go to the prasad center ... the people there will be able to answer correctly.

And I found the recipe for the simplest yet the most flavourful khichadi I've ever had.
I make this very often at home now, especially during winter or the rains. And haven't made any other khichadi for a long time now.
This can be made in the pressure cooker too ... if you are in a hurry. But tastes best when slow cooked in a kadahi.

Need :

Rice - 3 fistfuls ( I had whole Basmati, but this tastes better with slightly broken rice ... so you may use kani too )
Red Masoor dal - 1 fistful
Yellow Moong dal - ½ fistful
Freshly grated coconut - 2 fistful
Ghee - 3 tbsp
Whole black peppercorns - ½  tsp
Whole red chillies - 2
Black cardamom / Badi elaichi - 3
Freshly grated ginger - 1 tbsp
Haldi / turmeric - 1 pinch
Red chilli powder - to taste
Moongfali / Peanuts - 4 tbsp ( or more if you like )
Water - around 6 coffee mugfuls ( you may need more or less ... add accordingly)

How to :

Wash the rice and dals together. Keep aside.
I don't soak them for a long time ... just wash them when starting to cook.

Lightly heat 2 tbsp ghee in a deep, thick bottomed kadahi.
Add the cardamoms, peppercorns and red chillies.
(The whole red chillies are my addition.)
Then add the grated ginger. Fry a little ... not too much.

Add the rice and dals.
Add water immediately ... on high heat ( do not fry the rice and the dals ).
Add haldi, red chilli powder and salt.

Add the grated coconut and the peanuts.
Cover and cook.
Keep checking the level of water ... it should not dry up. Keep adding water as required.
Check for salt too.
Once in a while, remove cover and give a good stir. And mash up the rice by gently pressing down with the back of a ladle.
The flavours get soaked up better this way and it helps the rice to break down into mush easily.

When the rice is well cooked  and the khichdi reaches the desired consistency, add 1 tbsp of ghee, cover  and remove from heat.
It tends to thicken if kept for some time. So if you are not serving immediately, do make sure the consistency is slightly loose ... slightly, not too watery ... when removing form heat.
It will thicken in 10 to 15 minutes.

This khichdi is not sweetish ... no sugar is added ... as in the Bengali khichuri.
Also, no onions. Absolutely niramish khichuri.

Serve it steaming hot ... almost 'burn your tongue' hot.
With another big dollop of ghee.

This khichadi can be paired with traditional bhajas/fries like  the aloo bhajabegun bhajabeguni, or the good old papad. I had some mirgund (poha papad ) ... so fried them, along with some Punjabi masala papad from Lizzat.

Today, Lord Jagannath returns home after a week long stay at the Gundicha mandir.
Before leaving, he has a light lunch of Khichdi.
I made this prasadwali khichdi for lunch today ... and enjoyed it while watching Jagannath's Bahuda yatra (return journey) on the telly.

Do try this khichdi once ... perfect to enjoy the monsoons with.

And enjoy!!
May Jagannath's blessings stay with you always!

PS: The Bengali Khichudi / Khichuri is here. 

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Ramrochak Tarkari / A simple prasad made of Moong dal vadas

Rath yatra is on.

On Jyestha Purnima or Snan purnima, Lord Jagannath, along with Devi Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra are brought out on the snan mandap and there, they take a good, long bath.
Before that, for 21 days, they have indulged in various water sports and other activities in the Narendra pokhari/pond, including an evening cruise, every evening.

On Snan purnima, one hundred and eight pots of water, which is brought from the sacred well of Goddess Shitala, and has sandalwood paste mixed in, is poured on them. After that they don the Ganesha vesha and are offered bhog. Then they return to the sanctum sanctorum.
And promptly fall ill.
No wonder here ... anybody would ... if 108 potsful of water were poured on them.

So the gods fall ill and retire into the confines of the mandir for a good fifteen days. They are looked after by the Daitas/sevakas  and fed plain, boiled  food during this time.
After fifteen days, they feel better but not too great. So they decide to take a small vacation and go visit their Mausi/Aunt at Gundicha mandir.
This travel, or yatra, from the holy abode to the mausi mandir, in which the vehicle is a rath, is called the Rath yatra.
There are numerous stories associated with Rath yatra, each one more interesting than the other.

For us children, Rath yatra was a time of fun.
And fear.
The fear part first.

This festival falls during the monsoons. While the wind howled and it rained cats and dogs and elephants outside, we kids suffered from a deep fear, that started much before the monsoons started.
Since it was the perfect time for infections to spread ... and stay ... the whole adult world would deem it upon themselves to protect us ... the young. Our small town would be teeming with uncounted number of people coming from far and near ... bringing with them as many viruses and diseases.
So ... the children needed to be kept safe. And how?
The only answer was vaccination.

Every single day at school was a nightmare ... yes, in broad daylight.
Every kid was haunted by that  known fear  ... every moment spent in agony ... dreading that single circular that the office help would bring to the class. And the Sister present would read it out.
"Vaccinations will be done tomorrow. The Doctor will be present in the infirmary from 9:00 am. Class teachers are requested to see that the children get the shots and maintain discipline while standing in the waiting line."
Or something like that.
To us, it sounded more like a death knell.

On the day of the vaccinations, there would be a mad scramble for red pens. Somehow, we believed that that one single dot of red on our shirt sleeves will convince our Sisters that we have already got the shot.
And should be sent home immediately. Which was unlikely as the gate keepers, on that single day, would assume that they are mightier than all asuras put together. Nobody could pass through the gates until the school bus leaves.

For me, it was doubly painful.
Since Ranga kaku/uncle is a doctor, it was his job of vaccinating the whole family. Posted elsewhere, he would come down for a few days every year during Rath yatra.
And it was this visit that we dreaded. Every morning the whole brood would sit down for breakfast with our small hearts going pit pat, pit pat. And quietly eat, almost holding our breath ... stealing glances at Dadu from under quiet, bent heads. If he finishes breakfast and gets up, we all heave a sigh of relief.
No news! Saved for one more day!
Till the day Dadu declares kaku's homecoming news.

On day one, the children get the shots.
Day two and three ... gap. The children would fall ill, fever, cranky, etc.
The adults, especially the moms would be needed around them.
So the women ... not all but half the number, got vaccinated on day four. And some of the male members too. Again a gap of two days. And then the rest of the lot.
Finally the helping hands, the cook, the gardener, etc.

What miserable days they used to be!

But a week later, all would be forgotten and the fun part started.
 Rath yatra!
Mela hopping, visiting the mandirs, climbing up on the raths to offer puja ... everything was so much fun.
Every evening we children would get loaded into the family cars ... Dadu seriously objected to letting loose the cars amongst the uncouth crowds, but had no option ... and with a couple of adults accompanying us, would walk down the big road where the mela/fair is held.
Stalls upon stalls would be set up in rows. All kinds of noises filled the air ... a child beating a just bought, new drum ... whistles, songs playing on the loud speaker somewhere, announcements in between ... of a child lost, a purse found.
The sound of bells, drums , knaasor and chanting from the main mandir along with kirtans and a whoop of "Hari Bol!!!" once in a while.
A balloon bursts somewhere. A group of giggling girls. A bunch of young boys, dapper in their new clothes, walking around with an air of confidence ... they are no less good looking that the prevalent hindi movie's hero.

Rath yatra meant good food too!
All kinds of Oriya pitha preparations ... especially those favourite to Lord Jagannath, would be prepared by our cook. On some days, usually Tuesdays, prasad would be ordered from the Radhamohan mandir and that would be our lunch.
Jagannath's prasad means a whole range of dishes.
Arisa pitha is common.

So is the Poda pitha, the Lord's favourite, a must ... and is usually prepared on the first day of Rath yatra.

I made this Ramrochak Tarkari to celebrate Rath yatra memories.... and some childhood memories too.

This is not a part of  Baripada Jagannath temple prasad ... as it's is mistakenly thought of. It is a prasad of the Radhamohan mandir on Bada bazaar road.
It has potatoes as an ingredient, which is a prohibited ingredient for Jagannath temple prasad.

Need :

For the vadas :

Spilt green Moong dal - 1 cup (washed and soaked overnight)
Whole jeera/cumin - 1/2 tsp
Fresh green chillies - 2 ( more if you like it spicy)
Salt - to taste
Oil to deep fry

For the tarkari/curry :

Ghee - 1 tbsp, 1 tbsp for adding fresh
Whole jeera/cumin - 1 tsp
Whole red chillies - 2
Ginger paste - 1 tsp
Haldi/turmeric powder
Salt - to taste
Roasted jeera powder - 1 tbsp
Potato - 1, peeled and cubed
Brinjal - 1, cubed

How to :
The moong dal vadas/ boras :

Grind everything, except the oil, to a coarse paste.
Heat oil. Sccop out small vadas and deep fry.
Remove and keep aside.

The tarkari :

Heat ghee in a kadahi. Add jeera + whole red chillies + ginger paste.
Stir a little and add the potatoes and brinjals.
Add haldi, salt and water.
Cover and cook till the vegetables are done.
(They should be overdone, actually, and the curry should be slightly mushy ... I was in a hurry, so my curry stayed soupy and the vegetables, just done. )
After the vegetables are done, add the vadas and cover and simmer for 5 more minutes.
Check water ... the vadas will soak up a lot of water ... so add accordingly.

Remove cover and add ghee and roasted jeera powder.
Cover and simmer for some more time.
Remove from heat, cover and let it stand for some time. The vadas will soak up the flavours meanwhile.

 Enjoy this simple dish on the side with this dryish khichdi.
Paired with some papad, makes for a wonderfully perfect monsoon meal!
And ... in case you are wondering ... no ... I'm not from Puri. :-)

May Lord Jagannath bless you with peace, happiness and goodwill!

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Bong Mom's CookBook ... Stories from a Bengali Mother's Kitchen

The first time Bong Mom left a comment on my blog, I did a jig. Or maybe a number of jigs.
Today I have her book in my hands. And am loving every moment reading it as I do when I read her blog posts.

I will not call this a review.
That would be audacity. Bong Mom's Cookbook has always been my refuge when ever I needed a nice read.
Hence I'll call it an experience.
A beautiful experience of getting to read her blog all over again. In the form of this book ... Bong Mom's Cookbook.

I had been offered a copy from Indiblogger, but did not get it finally, for reasons best known to them.
But fretting I was not, as I had already booked my copy from Flipkart, which reached me one cloudy evening, just as we were going out.
 And yes, I did a jig then too.

Bong Mom's Cookbook is a joy to read. Simple, lucid language, heartwarming anecdotes, subtle humour, all combined with a homely feel. Sandeepa successfully blends tradition into modern day living. And takes you on a beautiful journey of memories ... sights, sounds and smells of the kitchens of her childhood, to the new home that she set up after her marraige, to her own kitchen today.
Whether you are a Bengali, or not, you will surely go back to your childhood , more than once, while reading this book.
With short, anecdotes filled chapters, that end with a recipe each, the book holds you in its spell of simplicity.
And while that chore awaits, you tell yourself "just one more page and I'll keep this down" ... and yet you cannot. :-)

Sandeepa takes you on a whirlwind tour, giving vivid descriptions of the smallest details. One moment you will be with her, "sitting on a colourful rug" at her Choto Dida's place, eating crisp, fried rutis fresh off the tawa ...  on another she takes you to her mother's kitchen "atop the hills" where "she made soups with chunk of vegetables" in winters. One moment you are transported to the Sundays of her childhood, where the Mangshor jhol makes the day ... as is wont in any Bengali family;  the next moment you are witnessing with quiet amusement her struggle to present a complete Bengali menu to her guests during her "novice party hosting days".
Not to mention the beautiful chapter on reviving traditions ... her tryst with Pithey making.
Where ever she takes you, it is redolent with a little familiarity ... of memories and spices and food alike.

I like the way the chapters are arranged. Starting with breakfast, on to lunch, dinner and winding up with chutney and desserts.

Bong Mom's Cookbook is not just a or another recipe book. It is not only about recipes.
It is about a Bengali mother, who tries to hold on to traditions, which naturally include food, as much as possible while living overseas, and trying to instill them in her family too.
It is 'Stories from a Bengali mother's kitchen'.
Which she puts down in her blog ... which goes by the name of Bong Mom's Cookbook.
And the book is a reflection of the same.

If you love to read and appreciate simple, good writing, this book is for you.
If you are looking for recipes, this book is for you too.
But if you pick this up with the sole aim of finding a recipe, I'll say you will be missing out on something more beautiful.

I, for one, am happy ... now that I have this book in my possession.
For no more will I be at the mercy of fluctuating internet connections to be able to read Bong Mom's Cookbook.

Congratulations Sandeepa! Looking forward to a sequel soon.

The Bong Mom's Cookbook is available on Flipkart  and Amazon. So go ahead and book your copy, if you haven't yet.
It is also available in book stores in India. Go grab a copy ... pronto!

And enjoy!! 

Monday, 8 July 2013

Niramish Rajma / No onion garlic Rajma


My in laws are Rajasthani Brahmins. Which means it is not only a pure veg preference of food , as in no chicken/mutton/fish/eggs, but also pure veg as in no onion and garlic  too. So while they do eat all kinds of lentils and legumes like the chola, rajma, etc., they are prepared in a very simple way. A little ginger here, a little tomato or curd there ... and a wonderfully simple and flavourful dish is born.

My Ma in law is, naturally, an expert when it comes to rustling up such dishes.
Suits me fine. Considering that I've always eaten dishes made with onion+garlic paste fried masala, to which another n number of powdered or wet masalas like the dhania, jeera etc. were added and then again were rounded off with the garam masala, this kind of cooking was not only a welcome change to my palate but also was a huge help to the novice cook in me.

Just after my marraige, I had tried to impress B and his family with my first dish ... the Chola masala or Chana masala. With N didi, my eldest cousin who lived in the same city, on the phone, constantly guiding me from the soaking of the chana the night before to the end grounding of garam masalas, I finally presented the chola masala for dinner with a flourish.
And with rice!

Rice is a huge no-no for Rajasthanis ... at least among the Rajasthanis in my family.
The Chole did not quite look the same ... read as edible ... as N didi's version does. The gravy was not thick, it was yellow water. And the chanas that were supposed to be soft and all wrapped up in masalas and love and each other, were each standing seperately, turning away from the other ... not at all ready to be friends.
And worse ... it smelt strongly of onion, garlic ... even the ginger. Ma in law did not even touch it. Papa took some on the plate and kept chasing the chana pieces around. B could do  nothing to save the moment.
And I was ready to cry.

Later B told me that to make a dish good, you don't need too many things, especially masalas.
"A bhindi ki sabzi should taste of bhindi too."
I did not understand it then. But later that one line became my guru mantra when I took to the kitchen.
And have been cooking simple dishes ever since.

But this post is not about Chole ... it is about Rajma.
Simple, flavourful, melt in the mouth Rajma. Rajma that has its own flavour and is not subdued by strong garlic and onions.

The best rajma I have tasted so far was at a small, rickety, half slanted shop sitting on the hills of Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh.
Right on the meandering highway in the middle of the hills, with nothing but quiet all around,
the simple local man in the shop had served us steaming hot rajma and chawal in much used but shining clean steel plates, that we ate sitting on the grass covered slopes right there beside the road ... with a gentle sun overhead and some cows and goats grazing at a little distance.

Today, I have my Ma in law's very simple Rajma here. I make it on the days when there are no vegetables in the fridge or when I know I'll be too busy  or tired to cook the next day. All I need to do is just soak some rajma and enjoy garma garam Rajma chawal.
Pure comfort food.

I use the small sized Kashmiri rajma. They soak real quick and are packed with more flavour.
And it tastes best when eaten the next day, or at least half a day later
... i.e. prepare it in the morning and have it for dinner, or make it at night and have it for lunch the next day.

Need :

Rajma - I had 1 coffee cup of already soaked rajma
Tomatoes - 2
Black cardamom / Badi elaichi - 4 to 6 pieces
Fresh green chilles - 2 ... or more if you like it spicy
Red chilli powder - a little
(If you want to you can use a little grated ginger too ... I do, but not in this recipe as I did not have ginger at hand)
Cooking oil - 1 tsp
Ghee - 1 tsp
Water - I used 4 cupfuls of the same cup

How to :

Run the tomatoes + green chillies + elaichi in a mixer together.
Heat oil+ghee in a pressure cooker.
Add the above mixture and fry on high for a while till the raw smell is gone.
Lower heat and add the red chilli powder.
Fry till the masala dries up.
Add the rajma and stir well to mix with the masala.

Add salt and enough water, close the cooker and cook for 6 to 8 whistles, on low heat.
(Remember, the water should last that long ... if you use less water, it will start to burn at the bottom).

Remove from heat and let cooker cool.
Remove cover and check if the rajma is well cooked.
Rajma should always be well cooked ... extra soft and ready to break into mush when pressed.

Seat it on heat again and simmer for a while, gently stirring and mashing a little of the rajma ... it adds to the thickness of the gravy as well as brings out the flavours.
Adjust water till the gravy reaches your desired consistency.

I had enough gravy but by the time I had finished setting up the plate for a photograph, it had soaked up all the water and turned dryish.

Serve hot with steamed rice.
Snuggling up on the sofa on a cold, monsoon day or evening, with a plate of hot rajma and chawal soothes you enough to believe all is well with the world.

I do make the garlic+ginger version of the rajma too. Will make a post some day.
But if you ask me, I find this recipe more flavourful and tasty.