Friday, April 25, 2014

Kasauli - a land of amazing vistas and unavoidable peacocks

Kasauli is a quaint hill station in Solan district in Himachal Pradesh, known for its old world British charm. It is a town and a cantonment that was developed as a hill station by the British, for its salubrious climate and verdant stretches of hills. Kasauli's old world charm is preserved, thankfully, due to the "no new development" rule by the Indian Armed Forces. Which makes it possible to see old colonial bungalows, cobbled paths, and old style stores. Kasauli is about 35 to 40 kilometers from Kalka, the nearest railhead, and is off the Kalka - Shimla route. As for what one can do in Kasauli - go on long walks down the winding lanes and enjoy amazing vistas that open up as you turn corners. A very peaceful place, it can be enjoyed in solitude as well as in the company of near and dear ones.
Like most hill stations, Kasauli also has a few places of interest that you can visit, like – 
The Christ Church – It is a colonial style structure, built very close to the bus stand and entry check point to Kasauli. The church is functional with mass held on Sundays. It boasts of old style interiors and stained glass paintings and windows.
Manki Point – It is a good kilometer of hike to this point which has a small temple at its highest point. This area is under the command of the Armed Forces and hence bags and cameras are not allowed from the checkpoint. From the top, one can view Chandigarh and the river Sutlej snaking its way in the plains.
Gilbert Trail - A good walk in the lap of nature which should not be missed by bird watchers and nature lovers.
Sunset Point

Of course, do make a point to walk aimlessly to enjoy the old gabled houses and the market stalls that look at least a century old. We followed a local family who were walking down to their house and stopped a little away from the post office to just sit at a bend and enjoy the views.
The market square is a small stretch with benches on the sides. Mind the pestering monkeys if you are holding something to eat. Enjoy cupfuls of tea and pakoras from shops opposite the benches. In the evening, you are treated with something I bet you will not find anywhere else – old time speakers that belt out songs from the 50s and the 60s like ‘mere sapnon ki rani kab aayegi tu’, ‘yeh kaun chitrakar hai’, gunguna rahen hai bhawrein’, and many other such delectable melodies. It is pure pleasure to sit around the place; it is guaranteed to take you back a few decades. Money can’t buy such an experience, money can’t create such magic….. one can be sure of that.
Mind you, Kasauli is not a place filled with hotels or restaurants. The most famous and perhaps the only new age restaurant is called Ross Commons. Apart from that there are a few dhaabas some good ones. We visited one such small dhaaba in the market place. It had only about 4 tables and had a fixed number of dishes prepared. We ordered a shahi paneer and a yellow dal tadka along with rotis and rice. The rotis came to the table, hot, straight from the fire. The food all in all was simple and tasted homemade and was cheap to boot.  
The only down-side to Kasauli is the strutting peacocks of the two legged kind who drive in from the nearby plains! Just when you have lost yourself to the peaceful and verdant surroundings, the sound of cars vrooming and harsh braking will bring you down crashing to earth. And all you can do is soundlessly curse the testosterone high mundas who are busy preening for the attention of the dressed to the nines peahens!!!
I wish these people would take their loud music, loud screeching cars and loud everything to out of this awesome place.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Tomato Pickle

I am writing here after a long break. A lot has transpired in the duration since my last post. The biggest of all is my shift to Mumbai and taking up a job. As can be imagined, I am not left with much time to write, making me a visitor to my own space. But, after the initial settling down, I have decided to write intermittently at the very least. So here is today's instalment a tomato pickle. With the price of tomatoes relatively low right now, do give this tomato pickle a shot.

This is my mom's recipe and she normally prepares some when the price goes down. This tomato pickle recipe includes some garlic to the tomato pickle for added flavor, but it can be onitted if you do not like it.

Tomato, ripe - 1 kg
Garlic - 10 to 15
Ginger, chopped - 3 to 4 tsp
Red chilli pwd - 3 tsp
Turmeric pwd - 1/2 tsp
Fenugreek seeds - 1/2 tsp
Dry roasted Fenugreek pwd - 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida / Hing - 1/2 tsp
Vinegar - 4 tbsp
Oil - 4 tbsp
Salt as per taste
Choose ripe to very ripe tomatoes to make this pickle. Wash the tomatoes well and with a knife make cuts on the tomato penetrating only the skin. These cuts make it easy to peel the blanched tomatoes. Heat a vessel of water and when it comes to a boil add the tomatoes into it. Leave the tomatoes in the boiling water for a few minutes till you see the skin loosening. This means the tomatoes are ready to peeled. Scoop the tomatoes out. When it has cooled enough to handle it, peel them and add them into a blender jar. Pulse it a couple of times, just enough to crush a little and leave small pieces.
Heat oil in a pan, add ginger and garlic pieces and saute for 2 to 3 minutes then add fenugreek seeds and saute. Add the tomato - pulp and pieces both, the red chilli powder for medium heat, turmeric pwd and salt. Saute till the liquid is completely absorbed and the tomato pulp is thickened. Then add the dry roasted fenugreek powder, asafoetida / hing powder and vinegar. Mix it in well and saute till vinegar is completely absorbed. At this stage the whole thing should come together and form a ball. Our tomato pickle is ready!
My photos will follow in a bit....

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Honey flavored Bread Pudding with Raisins and Cashew Nuts

Bread Pudding is dessert made with a commonly available ingredient - bread. It is popular in many countries in Europe, the Americas', Australia .... Some versions of bread pudding include alcohol - bourbon, rum, some include honey, some others nuts, raisins, dried fruits, etc. Syrup and sauces are also added when serving, to enhance the taste further.   
Today, I have added honey and vanilla essence to flavor the pudding along with some cashew nuts and raisins for that extra bite. I also broiled it for a few minutes for a brown and lightly crisp top.
Bread slices - 7
Milk - 2 cup
Eggs - 4
Sugar - 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp additional (optional)
Honey - 3 tbsp
Butter - 2 tbsp
Vanilla essence - 1 tsp
Cashew nuts - 2 tbsp
Raisins - 2 tbsp
Preheat the oven to 180 degree Celsius. Take some of the butter and grease a loaf pan or square cake pan. 
Cut the crusts off the bread slices and cut into 1 inch square pieces. Put the bread pieces into the greased pan and pour the remaining melted butter into the pan. Reserve a few raisin and cashew nut pieces for topping and add the rest to the bread pieces.

In a bowl, add the milk, sugar, 2 tbsp honey and vanilla essence and mix. Break the eggs into the milk mixture and whisk with a fork till the sugar is mixed in. Pour this on the bread and using a spoon press the bread into the milk mixture till all the pieces are well soaked.
I used granulated sugar and depending on how sweet you want adjust the sugar.

Put the pan into the oven and bake for 45 minutes. After 20 minutes spoon the honey over the pudding and carefully spread it all over the top. Top the pudding with the reserved raisins and cashew nuts and continue baking. Once the 45 minutes is up, change the settings to broil and broil for about 5 minutes to get a browned top. Let it cool.
Cut slices and serve with honey and cream on the side.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Badam Doodh / Almond Milk Shake

We Indians, surely have a thing for milk. The fascination and fixation for milk even produced a legend like Milkha Singh, though it is sheer coincidence that even the name begins with the word 'milk'. Then, there's the fascination for milk-based drinks and milkshakes that come in myriad varieties and flavors, with uses that range from thirst quenchers to desserts to energy drinks and even cannabis (bhang)-based cocktails called as thandai. A good glass of milk, boiled with a clutch of crushed dry fruits like almonds, pistachios, walnuts, dates, and more, laced with cardamom or chironji seeds, served chilled or warm, is surely a comfort drink for a sweltering hot day or a shivery cold night.
Milk - 2 cup
Almonds - 18 to 20
Saffron - a pinch or Saffron syrup - 1 tsp
Cardamom powder - a pinch
Sugar - 2 tsp
Soak the almonds in lukewarm water.
Boil the milk and keep aside. After a few minutes strain it to take out any of the cream that forms on top. Grind the almonds in 1/4th cup milk to a fine paste. Add this paste to the rest of the milk and strain it if you like especially for children. I prefer not to strain it. Then add the sugar, saffron strands and cardamom powder. Mix well and keep in the refrigerator to cool. Serve it either cool or chilled.

For people with lactose intolerence try the same with almond milk. Soak about half a cup of almonds overnight or even upto 24 hours and grind to a fine paste. Then add water and pulse it once more. Use a fine mesh sieve to separate the milk. Grind the leftover nut pieces with a little water and again sieve to get the fine milk, discard any remains. Add the sugar, saffron strands and cardamom powder. Mix well and keep in the refrigerator to cool. Serve it either cool or chilled.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Chena Moru Kootan / Yam in a curd and coconut curry from Kerala

I am continuing to dip into my mother's recipe trove, meaning I am still at my parents' place and enjoying mom's cooking. My pace of posting recipes is just not keeping pace with mom's cooking so, though late I am happy to post a traditional Keralite curry today. I bring a yogurt and ground coconut base curry called the moru kootan, literally translated to curds curry. This moru kootan is made with vegetables like ash gourd / white pumpkin or raw Kerala plantain or just ripe Kerala plantain or yam / elephants foot. Each of these vegetables adds a different flavor to this curry and most times each of us have favorites. I love moru kootan or like we call at home moru ozhicha kootan with just ripe Kerala plantain - this curry is sweet and sour at the same time. And my most disliked combination is when ash gourd is used in this curry because the water content of the gourd makes the curry watery and seems to dilute tastes.
I do not make this curry at home because my husband stays miles away from it because of his yogurt / curd allergy. And demand mom to make it with the plantain when here.
I would of course suggest try making this curry with the just ripe Kerala plantain. This plantain is normally available in any of the Tamil / Mallu shops that is found in most cities in India. If you are in the US, then try checking for this in either a Mexican or a West Indian store, surprising both these regions use this plantain extensively. And try selecting just ripe plantain for this curry never fully ripened ones.

Yam / Elephants foot / Chena - 250 gms
Coconut, grated - 1/2 a coconut
Cumin seeds / Jeera - 1 tsp
Green chilli - 1, slit add whole
Curds, plain unflavored - 2 cup, thick beaten
Turmeric pwd - 1/2 tsp
Red chilli pwd - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Fenugreek / Methi seeds - 1/2 tsp
Dry red chilli - 2 to 3
Curry leaves
Sugar - 1 tsp
Oil - 2 tsp
Salt to taste
When handling chena / yam, oil your hands and then clean it and cut into1 inch square pieces. Else use a pair of gloves to avoid the itchiness some yams have. Slit the green chillies. Beat the yogurt  curds and keep aside.
Add the grated coconut and jeera into a blender jar and grind to a very fine paste.

Into a saucepan or pot add the chenna / elephants foot pieces, little salt, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, slit green chilli. Add water just enough to cover the contents in the pot and cover and cook till the yam is cooked. Not over done and soft but just cooked. Add the ground coconut paste to cooked chenna and mix carefully. Add water if required to get a thick consistency, the curry should be thick but pourable. Give it just one boil and then lower the heat to low. Add the beaten curds and sugar and mix.  Check the taste for salt and add some if necessary. Continue to cook but take the pan off the heat when the bubbles start forming. Do not let it boil.
Heat a pan for the tempering and add the oil and when it is hot add the mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds. When the mustard seeds splutter add the dry red chilli pieces and when it darkens add the curry leaves and immediately take the pan off the heat. Add the tempering / tadka to the curry and keep closed with a lid till ready to serve.
Moru kootan is best enjoyed with rice and spicy fried fish / mezhukuperatty.
My mother's recipe for Chena Moru Kootan goes to
Walk through Memory Lane originally by Gayatri's Cookspot


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Chana Masala using Everest Chhole Masala

This recipe for Chana Masala is very similar to the one we get in Udipi restaurants and is distinctly different from the Chhole of the North India. Although this is also called Chhole, it is not the traditional chhole you get in, say, Punjab. Enjoy this chana masala, for its own without any comparisons to any other, and you will appreciate it.
Chana Masala pairs off well with roti and paratha and tastes good with rice if the gravy is made a tad thin.  
Chana / Chickpeas - 100 gms
Onion - 2, medium
Tomato - 2
Ginger - 1 inch
Green Chilli - 2
Coriander pwd - 1 tsp
Red chilli pwd - 1 tsp
Everest Chhole Masala - 1 tbsp
Coriander leaves - 3 to 4 sprigs
Kasuri Methi - 2 pinches (optional
Oil - 3 tbsp
Salt as per taste
Wash the chana / chickpeas and then soak it in double the water for about 8 to 10 hours. Before cooking, drain the water and wash it once more. Add fresh water and boil the chickpeas in a pressure cooker till soft, for 3 whistles. When the pressure is released take the chana / chickpeas out reserve the water and keep the chickpeas separate. Take about 1/4 cup boiled chickpeas out and grind it in a blender and keep aside.

Chop the onion, tomato and coriander finely, slit the green chillies and julienne the ginger.

Heat oil in a kadai / pan and add the chopped onion when the oil is hot and saute. When the onion turns golden add the coriander powder and red chilli powder and saute for a minute. Then add the chopped tomato, julienned ginger and slit green chillies and saute till the tomato softens. Add about 1/2 cup of the water that the chickpeas were boiled in and mix well. Into this, add the boiled chana / chickpeas, the groind chickpeas and little salt. Let it cook together. Once it boils, lower the heat and check for seasoning and adjust salt as required. Add the kasuri methi and let the tastes blend. The gravy should be thick and not thin. If needed add a little more of the reserved water from the boiled chickpeas and let it come a boil. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves, mix well and take off the heat.
Keep covered till ready to serve. Garnish with a few juliennes of ginger and serve. 
My Chana Masala goes to

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Palak Paneer / Spinach & Cottage Cheese

Before the season changes and leafy vegetables are out of season, try and make it - is my current philosophy. No other season gives better leafy vegetables than the current one, so try and get your fix of greens now. Today's recipe is the very popular Palak Paneer or Spinach and Cottage Cheese. It is the most often, ordered dish in restaurants and made at home. Palak Paneer is best served and eaten with chapati, roti or parathas.
Spinach / Palak - 500 gms
Cottage cheese / Paneer - 250 gms
Onion - 1, medium sized
Tomato - 1, small sized
Green chilli - 1
Turmeric pwd - 1/2 tsp
Clove / Lavang - 1
Bay leaf - 1
Black cumin / Shahjeera - 1 tsp
Cream - 1 tsp (optional)
Oil - 1 tbsp
Butter - 1 tbsp
Chop the onion and tomato very finely and slit the green chilli.
Wash the spinach carefully and put in a colander to drain. Grind the spinach to a paste in a blender and keep aside. Cut the paneer into 1 inch cubes and keep aside else lightly fry it till light golden. I prefer not to fry it and like to use it as is.

Heat a deep pan and add the oil and butter in it. When it is hot add the bay leaf, clove and black cumin seeds. Saute a couple of times and then add the finely chopped onions and continue sauteeing till onions turn light golden. To this add finely chopped tomato and green chilli and saute till tomato softens. Add the turmeric powder and salt and mix well. To this, add the spinach paste and mix well and cover and let it cook. After about 8 to 10 minutes, uncover, stir a few times and check if the raw taste of spinach has gone. Check for seasoning and adjust if salt is required. Add the paneer pieces and mix well. Cook for a couple of minutes and take off the heat. When ready to serve the Palak Paneer take it out into a bowl and top with cream. Serve Palak Paneer with roti or paratha.  

My Palak Paneer goes to - North East West Indian Cooking hosted by Anu.

Amarakka Thoran or Broad Beans / Sem Sabzi

Continuing with dishes from my mom's kitchen, today's recipe is Amarakka Thoran. Amarakka is known as Broad Beans in English and Sem in Hindi. This vegetable is from the green beans family but is flat and broad and about 3 to 4 inch long. In Malayalam, the two beans - cluster beans / gavar and broad beans / sem is so similar in name - kothavarakka and amarakka, that people confuse one for the other and vice versa. I am one of those people, and everytime I have to mention one of these beans I say both kothavarakka and amarakka in a questionning tone and my mom corrects me. At home, there is no question of mentioning this since my husband does not eat either of them and hence is not bought at all.
So today, I bring my mother's recipe for Amarakka Thoran. Thoran is basically any vegetable prepared with fresh grated coconut.
Amarakka / Broad Beans / Sem - 250 gms
Green chilli - 2
Curry leaves - a sprig
Turmeric pwd - 1/2 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Dry red chilli - 2
Coconut, grated - 1/4 cup
Oil - 2 tsp
Salt as per taste
Cut the ends of the amarakka / broad beans / sem and wash it well. Dry and then chop them in 1/4 inch pieces.
Heat a kadai or pan and add oil. When the oil is hot add the mustard seeds and let it splutter. Then add the broken dry chillies and stir a couple of times. To this, add the chopped amarakka / broad beans / sem pieces along with turmeric powder, green chilli, curry leaves and a little salt and mix well. Add a few tablespoons water and cover with deep plate and add some water in it and cook on low heat. Uncover the lid after about 8 to 10 minutes to check if there is sufficient water to cook the vegetable and stir and let it cook. When the vegetable is almost done add the grated coconut and stir and cook till done. This allows the amarakka to absorb the coconut flavor. Take off the heat and keep covered till ready to serve.
My mother's recipe for Amarakka Thoran goes to
Walk through Memory Lane originally by Gayatri's Cookspot

Ulli Thakkali Varatharacha Curry / Onion & Tomato in Roasted Coconut Gravy

Since coming to my mother's place, cooking has been on a low. Mom is completely in charge here, so I decided to feature some of her recipes which are mostly traditional Keralite recipes. And like most mothers, she also does not usually have exact measurements. But she caught on quick and suggested tips to add in the write-up especially for non-Mallu cooks. Today's recipe is one such curry recipe that you will see in Malayali households - Ulli Thakkali Varatharacha curry or translated - Onion and Tomato in a roasted-coconut-paste gravy. Typically in Kerala, coconut is either ground fresh or is roasted and then ground for the curry base. This one here - Ulli Thakkali Varatharacha curry has coconut and coriander seeds, roasted to a medium golden color and then ground for the curry. On to the rest of the recipe....

Onion / Ulli- 1.5 cup
Tomato / Thakkali - 1 cup
Coconut, grated - 1 cup
Coriander seeds - 2 tbsp or Coriander powder - 3 tbsp
Tamarind pulp - 2 tsp
Turmeric pwd - 1/2 tsp
Red chilli pwd - 1 tsp
Curry leaves - 2 sprigs
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 1 to 2
Dry red chilli - 2
Oil - 1.5 tbsp
Salt as per taste
The measures given here for the onion and tomato is post cleaning and is sliced in case of onion and diced into pieces. Measure for both coriander seeds and powder is given in case one or the other is not available. Traditionally, coriander seeds is used.

Heat a shallow pan on low flame and add the the grated coconut. Keep stirring the coconut to evenly roast it till golden in color. Do not let it brown. Traditionally, the grated coconut was grated with a few drops of oil so it does not catch the bottom of the pan and burn. But today, with non-sticks and well tempered iron pans, you don't need to add oil. Add red chilli powder to the roasted coconut after taking the pan off the heat and stir altogether for a minute. If using coriander powder add it along with the red chilli powder to the roasted coconut and stir. Keep it in a bowl to cool.
If using the coriander seeds add it to the same pan and roast on low heat till the seeds change color and its aroma is released. Add it into the bowl with the coconut. Once cooled, grind it in a blender.
Heat a saucepan and add 1 tbsp oil and once it is hot add the onion and saute on medium heat till translucent. Then add the tomato and stir for a minute and add the tamarind paste, salt and turmeric powder. Follow it up with the ground paste and a cup of water and give it one boil. Check the salt and if more water is needed in the curry and adjust as needed. Add a few curry leaves in the curry and take it off the heat and keep covered. Heat a separate pan for tadka / tempering and add the 0.5 tbsp into it. Once hot add the mustard seeds and let it splutter then add broken red chilli pieces and the sprigs of curry leaves and stir it. Take it off the heat once the chillies change to a darker color and pour this whole mix into the curry and keep covered till ready to serve.

We have this Ulli Tomato Varatharacha curry with rice and a thoran or mezhuperatty.
My mother's recipe for Ulli Thakkali Varatharacha Curry goes to
Walk through Memory Lane originally by Gayatri's Cookspot

Friday, February 21, 2014

Methi Matar Malai

Methi matar malai is a dish that combines tastes of bitterness and sweetness and comes out a winner. It is a great vegetable dish to have on a party menu when the other usual suspects are paneer or dal, etc. Methi is a very healthy leafy vegetable and should ideally be included in our regular diet. Methi matar malai is mildly bitter and sweet at the same time and is great to have with rotis or parathas.
Fenugreek / Methi leaves - 2.5 cups packed
Green Peas / Matar - 1 cup
Onion - 2 small
Tomato - 2 small
Cinnamon - 1 inch piece
Cloves - 4
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Black peppercorn - 2 to 3
Green Cardamom - 2
Milk - 1 cup
Cream - 3 to 4 tbsp
Oil - 2 tbsp
Sugar - a pinch
Salt to taste
for paste
Onion - 1/2
Cashew Nuts - 4 to 5
Ginger - 1 inch
Garlic - 4 to 5
Poppy seeds / Khus Khus - 2 tsp
Green chilli - 2
Wash the fenugreek leaves thoroughly and put in a colander to drain out. I prefer to use the leaves just like this, but if you want to reduce the bitterness, mix in salt and keep for 10 to 15 minutes. Later squeeze out the water from the fenugreek leaves and use it. Most of the bitterness would have gone with the squeezed water. I do not salt it and squeeze it out because at home we do not mind the mild bitterness in this dish, especially sweetened with the addition of both milk and cream.
Chop the onion and tomato and keep aside.
Heat a pan and on low heat, lightly roast cinnamon, cloves, cumin seeds, black peppercorns and green cardamom seeds. Roast only for a few minutes till the aroma is released. Add these whole spices to the ingredients listed for grinding to a paste - onion, cashew nut, ginger, garlic, green chilli and khus khus. Grind this to a fine thick paste in a blender jar adding a little water.
In a vessel add the green peas and some water and let it boil till softened and keep aside.
Heat a deep pan and add the oil and let it become hot. Add the chopped onion and on medium heat saute till the onion turns translucent. Then add the ground paste and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring continuously. To this, add the chopped tomatoes and a few spoons of water and saute till the tomatoes start softening. Add the drained fenugreek leaves and salt and mix well, stir till the leaves start shrinking. Cover the pan with a lid and let it cook on low heat. After about 7 to 8 minutes add the boiled green peas and the milk and mix well. Again cover with the lid for about 5 minutes or till cooked. Remove the lid and mix again and check for seasonings and add salt if necessary. Add half the cream and mix it and take off the heat.
When ready to serve top the vegetable with the rest of the cream and serve.  
 My Methi Matar Malai goes to - North East West Indian Cooking hosted by Anu.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Mushroom, Baby Corn, Broccoli Stir Fry

The fresh and crisp taste of a vegetable stir fry have always tempted me. Hence when I see some fresh vegetables in the market, I lose no time in picking them up. The only catch is that, in this case I am the only one eating it since my husband cannot be convinced to eat stir fries. The weekly market continues to give some good vegetables and my pick last week was spring onions, a pack of mushrooms, a pack of baby corn and broccoli with the express intention to make a mixed vegetable stir fry.
The quantities are good for 2 if served as a side with pasta or mashed potatoes else make a meal of it without anything else, like I did.
Spring onions - 4
Broccoli florets - 1/2 cup
Mushroom - 4 to 5
Baby Corn - 4 to 5
Onion - 1, small size (optional)
Butter - 1 tbsp
Black pepper pwd - a couple of pinches
Salt as per taste
Slice the mushrooms, cut the baby corn in half and then slit them. Chop the greens of the spring onion and slice the bulbs. Chop the onion.
Heat a pan and add the butter in. Add the chopped onion, saute for a minute and add the sliced spring onion bulbs. Saute till translucent and add the mushroom and baby corn and saute for a couple of minutes. Then add in the broccoli and continue sauteeing. Sprinkle the black pepper powder and a little salt and stir well. Check for seasoning and add salt only if required since the butter would also have increased the salt content. Take it off heat and serve it hot.


Mind Your Language & a Glossary

Mumbai is truly the melting pot of many cultures and languages. When Mumbaites speak Hindi, it may not necessarily be understood in Hindi-speaking states. That’s because Mumbai’s Hindi has borrowed quite heavily from Marathi and Gujarati languages. For instance, onion is known as pyaaz in Hindi but in Mumbaiyya Hindi it is known as kaanda which is actually a Marathi word. Similarly, aloo is called as batata and matar is called as wataana. Last year, when checking out vegetables in preparation for Onam, I was at pains to explain the vegetables I needed for aviyal and erisseri to the colony vegetable seller. Eventually, I went to INA Market, the haunt of Mallu nurses from the neighboring AIIMS and Safdarjung hospitals, for all those “odd & different” vegetables we use in our curries. Now, a visit to a South Indian store - Rama Stores and the INA Market is a much needed feature just before Onam and Vishu for that essential stock up.

We seem to be the only un-Northernized South Indian family in our area. A week after I first checked with the vegetable vendor, he turned up at my door with a bunch of plantains (not nendrakaaya) saying that he knew that we “Madrasis” use this vegetable. The minute the door closed, my husband and I couldn’t help laughing aloud. We were sure this vendor was thinking – what kind of people we were who never bought anything that he was selling, but who asked for stuff he never carried. We used to ask him for raw plantains, white gourd, pumpkin, drumsticks, and most of all - curry leaves. Getting curry leaves, an absolute staple of south Indian cooking, was a trying experience in Delhi. It took us a few months to settle down on a strategy to source curry leaves. Some of our neighbors had the curry leaf plant in their houses - I wonder why because they never used it in their cooking. We used to ask our maids to stealthily flick a few shoots of curry leaves for us, especially when it was dark. Our vegetable seller too did that for us a few times. That these could get caught in the stealing act made us anxious. Neither of us could muster the courage of doing it ourselves. Realizing the stress building on us, we decided to make it a last resort kind of option; we opted to get our dear curry leaves from Bangalore and Mumbai. So, whenever my husband travelled to Bangalore, he would get a bunch from Thoms Bakery, right opposite to his company guest house in Frazer town. Often it used to get scrutinized at the airport security check. From Mumbai, my mother carefully broke off sprigs from the plant in the society garden, packaged it nicely like a bouquet, and packed it into my husband's bag. I then wiped it with a dry cloth and packed it tightly in a plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator and it lasted weeks together till the next trip came up. 

Over the period we discovered that some of these vegetables that we yearned for was available seasonally at some places. These vegetables fell in between the two extremes- the staple Northie vegetables (like aloo, matar, gobhi, gajar, mooli, etc.) on one end and specialty vegetables (like mushrooms, broccoli, baby corn, red & yellow bell peppers, spring onions, etc.) at the other end.  The former was available everywhere, the latter was available at all upscale markets, but the middle was the problem. In business terms, it neither had the popularity nor the business potential in an area like ours. Discovering some of these vegetables gave us serendipitous joy; buying them was an educative experience. These vegetables were called by names we had never heard of and the word we had defiantly assumed to be the Hindi names were so different here. Like eggplant and brinjal or okra and lady fingers.  

To transfer the learning and for fun, I thought of putting together this glossary of vegetable names across four languages.

Savalla ulli
Yam / Elephant’s Foot
Red Pumpkin
Ash Gourd / White Pumpkin
Safed Bhopla
I continue pointing to it than ask the name
Ivy Gourd
Tindora / Kundru
Snake Gourd
Sweet Potato
Long Yard Beans
Payar / Achingya
Bottle Gourd
Lauki / Ghia
Chhakundar / Beet
Black eyed peas
Vellutha payar
Panjasaara / Pansaara

Life is a learning process and so is this list, I will keep updating it as I know more and better.