Taste of Rajasthan!!!

Land of the Rajputs, this quintessential place known for its rich culture, tradition, vast deserts, glittering jewelry and its art forms is also known for it’s incredibly lavish food as much as its palaces.

I was always amazed about Rajasthani cuisine when some of my dear friends who belonged to the marwar region served me their delectable vegetarian dishes with such love and affection. One will be mesmerized by the variety of their dishes that will tickle your taste buds and allow you to indulge more.

With 60% of the state covered by the Great indian desert, there’s always been a scarcity for water and fresh vegetables. Much of the food was prepared such that it needed to be preserved for longer days without heating. Dairy was extensively used in their culinary. Curries were cooked using ghee, butter, cream etc so that less water was used. This enhanced the taste as well as made their curries rich and creamy.

The berries and vegetables were sundried and preserved so that they could be used as substitutes during extremely dry seasons.


During earlier times the Rajput maharajs
who went hunting into the jungles brought back their game and used to cook themselves. One such invention in their hunting camps was the junglee maas. It is believed that the maharajs enjoyed treating their special guests with their own cooking skills..

Maas here meant the meat. It could be either a deer or a boar or any pheasant that they had caught. Since ingredients were scarce they just cooked their meat in ghee and generous amounts of red chillies. Over time the meat was either lamb or goat. Laal maas was their speciality because of the redness of their chillies, and was a very spicy dish. It is said that one required courage to eat this. One more version was safed maas, where the curry was simmered for long hours in a white creamy gravy until the meat was tender.


Mughals may not have had much influence over rajasthani food but the pathans did influence the cooking. Barbecuing was mastered and smoked kababs were learnt with perfection. Invasion of the British didnt have much effect on their food but was seen in their table mannerisms.
The cooks of the royal kitchens were addressed as maharajs or purohits. Menar is a region in Rajasthan which is located 30kms away from Udaipur. This is known as the regions of chefs and has produced some of the well known chefs who have cooked for families like the Ambanis, Hindujas and celebrities like Lata mangeshkar. These cooks have manged to migrate out of their small town and passed on their skills over generations.

With the majority of the population following vegetarianism there are many popular dishes indigenous to the region. one such is dal bhati churma. Like every dish this bhati also has a story behind its origin. It was said to be a war time meal of the Rajputs during the reign of Bappa Rawal of Mewar. The bhatis were roundels of wheat dough which were left burried under the sands before the rajputs left for war so that they would be baked well under the sun by the time they returned. They would later gather them and crumble to small chunks and eat by dousing them generously with ghee. Later these bhatis were served with panchmel dal that was cooked with five different lentils. Churma was the crumbled bhati mixed with jaggery served as sweet. Thus was the famous Dal bhati churma which was a meal by itself.
The natives enjoyed preparing a variety of chutneys with locally available ingredients like mint, coriander, garlic. Their popular chutney was the spicy lahsun chutney which the Rajputs enjoyed.
Sweets were an integeral part of their daily meal. When you visited a Rajasthani home one was welcomed with a variety of sweets. Different varieties were served between every course of your meal.
Ghevar is a popular sweet that originated from Rajasthan and one should never miss this served with Rabri. Apart from this there are many popular ones like Balushah, Imarti, malpuas, Dilkushal, Gehun ka Dhoodiyaan Keench, Makhan bada, dry fruits based sweets and many more.
Bhajra ki roti or lahsun ka chutney, dal bhatis, dal dhoklis, bikaner bhujias, pyaas kachoris or marwari bhojanalayas… the list is endless and are lavishly Rajasthani!!


My view of 2.0

When pakshirajan a kind hearted ornithologist hangs himself simply because he could not save his birds against technology that has been destroying the environment,he turns into a spirt / Giantghost along with the spirits of other birds that also died in the process and snatch away all the cellphones of an entire city. The ministry of telecommunication has no clue about what is happening when all the cellphone towers are being destroyed. the situation seems to get worse when various mobile company owners die under mysterious circumstances. Police force and army are unable to save the situation and that’s when chitti, the robot is called for help. How the robot destroys the super power of a ghostbird is how shankar unfolds 2.0 version, creating another 3.0 further.
3D effects and VFX may be appreciated but at the same time, it can give you a headache. The director’s idea was to show how destructive cell phone radiations are destroying nature but sadly it was exaggerated by the technical stunts.

My chicken delight in a jiffy!!!

  1. 250 gms chicken
  2. 1 onion
  3. 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  4. 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  5. 1 tsp red chilli powder
  6. 3 tbsp yogurt(plain)
  7. A pinch of saffron strands
  8. 2 tsps crushed kasoori methi

Grind to paste

  • 2 tbsp grated coconut
  • 6 to 7 pieces of cashew
  • 3 cloves/ 1inch cinnamon/1 cardamom
  • 1/2tsp fennel seeds
  • 3 green chillies

Method

  • Heat 3 to 4 tbsp oil, saute the finely chopped onions, Ginger garlic paste.
  • Add chicken to this. Saute on high adding turmeric, salt and chilli powder.
  • Add the ground paste and keep stirring until it coats the chicken well. 
  • Blend the saffron and yogurt in a mixer and pour over the chicken.
  • Simmer and Cook well until all masalas coat well.
  • Pour some water cover and cook until chicken is tender
  • Add kasoori methi to the chicken and cooked covered for another 2 minutes.

PS: note that cashew thickens the gravy fast.so ensure by stirring constantly.

Serve hot with rice or roti!!! Try….😀

A journey of Sambhar!!

A lentil based broth cooked with vegetables and tamarind!!

Any tourist who visited south India could never leave the place without having to tickle his tastebuds with this mouth watering dish called sambhar.
If dal and rice was staple to the North of India, it was Sambhar and rice to the South. Every south indian was related with idli and Sambhar as it was the best known combination.

A dish served with idli , vada or rice is cooked in the south indian homes atleast 4 times a week on an average. So special and integral to the south Indian menu this dish always left me curious  about where it originated from.  Interestingly, there is some claim that it belonged to the Marathas. Going through some history I found myself  anxious to share about its journey.

Dating back to the 3rd century AD, the sangam period, it was called the Mohanakalavai, a mixture of ingredients in the royal kitchens of the Pandya and chola dynasty. The etymology of the word Sambhar comes from the word chaampu which meant ground paste. Any curry prepared from ground paste or powder was called kolambu( an emulsion) or Sambhar. Some evidences seem to have been found in the inscriptions about chaamparu in the early 15th century.

The other story says it does not originate from the tamils but from the Thanjavur Maratha rulers.
Thanjavur, once a land of the chola dynasty was ruled by the Marathas between the 16th and 19th century.

Chatrapathi shivaji’s half brother venkoji was the founder of the Bhonsle dynasty in Thanjavur.His eldest son Shahuji who ruled the kingdom between 1684 and 1712 was one day trying to prepare Amti, a Maharastrian dish made of moong dal and kokum when his chief royal chef had left. Unknowingly, he seemed to have added toor dal and tamarind instead.
The guest of honour for the day was Sambhaji, son of Chatrapathi Shivaji and hence the new dish derived it’s name from this special person as Sambar. Later on the Thanjavur brahmin community is said to have taken this dish and given a different touch it. Ever since several variations were made and today there are about 50 variations of Sambhar.
Every region in the south prepared it differently in their own style.
Tamilian Sambhar was different to Karnataka or Kerala. And Andhra Pradesh called it pappu chaaru Which was between a sambhar and a rasam.

The consistency of Sambhar was important. The blend of dal(lentils) with the appropriate ingredients used and the seasonings differed with every region. Spices were used in the powdered form..and the basics included chilli, coriander, Channa dal and fenugreek. Some also used pepper, whole turmeric and curry leaves and ground them for added flavours. The proportions of each of these ingredients gave sambhar its unique taste . Most homes pre prepared this mixture and stored it as Sambhar powder for ready use. However, the aroma of the dish was more enhanced when it was prepared with freshly ground powders. The basic recipe of a Sambhar was made with ingredients of lentils and the Sambhar powder cooked with vegetables and tamarind for the tangy taste. Vegetables varied according to their choices. Some regions also used ground coconut paste which enhanced the flavours further.

Wherever it originated from, a Sambhar made from Karnataka, Kerala, Tamilnadu or Andhrapradesh, we all know that this delightful dish  made its way to satisfy the Indian palate perfectly, and we cannot relish an idli or vada or rice without the generous serving of Sambhar.

Indian food and its Popular Foreign influences – A brief history!!!

India has had a very diverse culture and it’s cuisine is no exception. Based on its geographical outline,religion, culture every single dish varied in techniques. Food in India was largely influenced by foreign invasions like Persia, Greece, Roman, Mongol and Western Asia.The use of ingredients varied from region to region. Potatoes were brought in largely by the Portuguese and Arabs during the 16th century. India also being very diverse with its climate from tropical to alpine has had a wide range of ingredients that influenced cooking. Every ingredient used in a specific region was subject to the abundance of that area.

Little is known about what Indians ate during the early civilisation but vegetarianism was largely practiced. India being the land of ayurveda, food was classified as Saatvic (pure), Raajvic ( active or passionate) and Taasmic (dull and gluttonous).

A staple Indian meal consisted of a simple dal made of lentils, rice or roti and a vegetable. Vegetarianism became wide spread due to religious beliefs. Certain Hindu communities, the Jains and the Hindu Buddhists strictly followed vegetarianism. Jain communities also restricted eating roots and tubers purely because they believed in tiny organisms being destroyed while uprooting them.

We all know how popular Indian food is in the western world. It’s also interesting to know how the rest of the world had influenced our cooking. The Indian cuisine shared a strong reflection of various cultures with a 5000 year old history.

When Alexander, The great invaded india in 350 B.C, the northern and eastern parts displayed Greek influence in food. Greek cuisine by itself was influenced by several foreign cuisines. Greece is a country known for organically producing cheeses, oil, fruits, nuts, grains, legumes, and vegetables .The Greek gifted the Indian sub continent with an assortment of ingredients for cooking such as olive oil and lemon. They had also introduced several spices such as Garlic and herbs like Thyme, oregano, basil and mint. The two predominant ingredients brought in by them were fenugreek and fennel which infused a lot of flavour to the dishes. Eggplants and zucchini were also a contribution to India by the Greek.

As mentioned earlier, it was the Portuguese and Arabs who invaded India brought in potatoes during the 16th century. This was the time when even vegetables like tomatoes and chillies  made it’s entry. Vasco da Gama discovered his sea route to  India and made his entry to the Malabar coast  in 1498. The 1st viceroy made Cochin as their headquarters ,discovered Pepper as the king of Spices and started business of pepper and spices establishing even a factory in Cochin. Later  they shifted base to Goa and 400 years of Portuguse colonialism highly influenced Goan cuisine. Beef and pork were their speciality foods and adapted to different styles of preparation. Thinking of Goan food means Vindaloo and was introduced by the Portuguese sailors who travelled with their meat preserved in wine and garlic for longevity. Bread was a significant part of their breakfast and Bebinca was a speciality dessert which was baked with thick layers of egg based batter. Goan Catholic cuisine has a distinct Portuguese flavour. They also used a lot of nuts like cashew which was generously grown in that region and used the fruit of cashew to make feni. It is also known that Bengal cuisine has  had some influence of Portuguese during the late 16th century. It is believed that it was the Portuguese who introduced the art of cheese making in Bengal and has now survived over centuries. Bandel cheese was owed to them.

Interestingly, a particular spice dominated a region. For example, people of AndhraPradesh relished spicy food and chillies were their main ingredient. Guntur, a district in Andhra Pradesh is renowned globally for chilli cultivation and produces most varieties of chillies and chilli powders which are exported to countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, middle East , South Korea, UK, USA and Latin America. Andhra Pradesh which is distinctly known for pickles uses their best chillies from their region. By the end of the 15th and early 16th century the moguls had invaded this region and thereby contributed their bit . That is how we know how popular Hyderabad biryani, Haleem and kubani ka meeta  have become the popular dishes.

With the invasion of Mughals into Uttar Pradesh from Persia, emerged the awadhi cuisine native to Lucknow during the reign of Nawab Asaf ul Daulah, which had a great deal of influence to the Indian gastronomy. Their style of cooking was refined by the use of fine ingredients like saffron and cardamom which simply enhanced the flavours of food. The variety and spread was so lavish which was not only about the number of dishes prepared but by the kind of ingredients used. Butter and cream was also used in some of their delectable dishes. Generous use of dry fruits and fresh fruits like apricots, figs almonds,pistachios, pomegranate and raisins for example were used in their foods which proved royalty. Nawabs were connoisseurs of good food and dawaats ( feasts ) were generously hosted. The preparations always varied according to the occasion. Exclusive to the awadhi were the kababs, kormas, pulavs, kheers, rumali rotis, warqi paratas and kulchas. The list is nevertheless endless.

During the late 18th century, a section of Chinese settled in parts of Kolkata. They were either manufactures or traders or port workers who introduced their flavours to India by opening small Chinese restaurants. Today, it is one of the most popular tastes that Indians have adapted to modifying it to their palates. The north eastern region being indigenous were highly influenced by their neighbouring countries. Around the 13th century, the North eastern India was invaded by the Mongols. Though they were not successful in conquering, there were some settlements which predominently influenced the cuisines of Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur, Assam, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.

When Indian food was all about variety and elaborate techniques with the use of fine spices, the colonial period introduced European styles of cooking. Breakfasts became English serving eggs and fruits.The English brought Tea to India and introduced the making of chai with masala using cinnamon, ginger,cardamom, cloves and licorice. It was the English who brought whisky to India. We learnt the art of baking fine sponge cakes, tarts, pastries and sandwiches. English pork chops were marinated in spices and chillies.soups and salads became part of the meal. Gourmet food was cooked in the courts of royalty. The style of using cutlery and the concept of a dining area was adapted. Plates replaced banana leaves. With all the finese that the British exhibited, they took the chicken tikka masala from india making it their national dish though the Scots claim that it originated from them.

The 17th century period saw the settlement of French who first invaded Pondicherry by the French east India company for trading of Spices. Though the Dutch had also invaded Pondicherry in 1693, it was the French who had a stronghold in Pondicherry, Mahe, Yaman in East Godavari of Andhrapradesh and Karaikal in Tamil nadu.

Unknowingly Indians cooked more French food at home. Steaks or salads, Bouchées or Frappes, crepes or canapes, croquettes or croissants  Indians conceptualized some skills  from the French . Desserts like Creme brulé, souffles or the Pattissere were popular among the Indians. Use of wine and cheese into cooking was adapted. Cafes and bistros originated from the French. They were basically eat out joints that served quick food. Quick and simple making dishes were the french style rather than the heavy sauced up and over powered use of  ingredients. Apart from food a lot of French terms like Entrée, Hors d’ ouvres, Entremets were part of the menu one was very familiar to.

Italian cuisine is another favourite which gained popularity in the 20th century. Though relations between India and Italy dates back to ancient times, trade links flourished between India and the Roman empire during the 1st and 2nd century AD. Caches of Roman coins were discovered across the Indian peninsula especially in the southern India which indicated the existence of Roman settlements. However strong the history remains, Italian food has become one of the favourites of the Indians with pastas and pizzas on the top. Considered one of the best cuisines in the world  found it’s way to suit a normal occasion or a romantic date.

On a conclusive note, However adaptive India had been with its invasions, Indian food has always been unique to it’s flavours and varieties. Every Indian household cooks their staple meal distinct to their culture.