Beyond that stereotypical image of “butter chicken and paneer tikka” eating country, India in fact is home to startling and beautiful kaleidoscope of wonderful flavours, spices and taste that distinctly defines the region from where it is originated. This 15th August, as our nation celebrated 72nd Independence Day, I took the opportunity to curate a special Freedom Thali for Instagram feed, that represents true color and flavour of India. It was my humble attempt to bring all the flavours under the tricolor, often many of them are poorly represented in mainstream Indian cuisine.
If you are not following me on Instagram, then I would earnestly request you to follow my feeds on Instagram, as I publish totally different content, curated and created specifically for Instagram . Instagram is almost like “blog ella” (no, there is no such words exists, I made up this one, like novel and novella) to me.
I had tried to encompass some of the lesser known regional dishes, skipped the stereotypical ones, and cooked up a five course meal comprising dishes from each region, at the same time I regret about the fact that I could not manage to include every states in its fold.
Here goes, my 15 item dishes that broadly represents the regional cuisines to an extent –
Starting from North – Kashmiri sabz pulao is one of my favourite way to cook pulao, with aromatic spices, veggies, apricots, plums and other dried fruits, this dish is always a jewel in the crown of any lavish meal spread.
Ignoring the ubiquitous Punjabi chole bhature, I had opted for the all time favourite Punjabi Dal tadka, also happens to my one of the favourite way to cook dal on special occasions.
From the vast range of “ UP ka khana” I had chosen my favourite ones – Banarasi khasta kachori / bedmi puri and Mathura ke dubki wale aloo. Kachori and aloo ki sabzi is quite common street food across many parts of India but nothing beats that Mathura ke dubki wale aloo with its distinct flavour. Ever since I had discovered this special potato curry, I am almost hooked to this.
From East I have chosen Bengali begun bhaja or fried eggplants. Ridiculously simple and spartan. And from the evergreen Posto et Al – I have chosen Potol Posto, the one we prepare with pointed gourd, ignoring the famous aloo posto that is almost a stereo typical representation of the state . Yes, beyond fish and roshogolla there’s exists a wide array of culinary delicacies from Bengal.
From North East– I have chosen steamed Momo. The one food from that region which has successfully invaded the mainstream Indian cuisine and loved by all. Wish I had known few more dishes from that region but I am totally blank about it. To explore North East cuisine is also one of my future goals too.
From West – my favourite Rajasthani Gatte Ki Sabzi that I had learned to make eons ago. And we totally loved this dish in our family.
Gujarati kadhi -that beautifully complement and complete this freedom thali.
Goanese sol kadhi or futi kadhi the one without coconut milk. I had overstock of kokum leaves in my pantry and I really don’t know how to use that much kokum. Sol kadhi feel so refreshing and rejuvenating after a day of hard work.
From South – there is so much to explore and share . Because of time constraints and other factors I had opted for Parippu Usili, so simple with basic flavours. I reach out for this green bean dish often whenever I get bored with my regular bean sabzi.
And Rasam – an important part of any South Indian meal. We love the basic tomato rasam in our house and this time I had tried out this Milagu rasam or pepper rasam. We totally loved it.
From Center – Chattisgarh – not many people know that I belong to this beautiful verdant central state of India. Having been brought up there ( spent 20 years of my life there) I had watched closely the lives of Chattisgarhi people , mostly tribals. Food of Chattisgarh is mostly tribal cuisine, with staples like boiled rice, tamarind water, bamboo shoots, wild mushrooms, sometimes jungle fowl or kadaknaath chicken – an indigenous breed of that region and red ant chutney.
However the state’s culinary culture is also vastly influenced by people of neighbouring states who had came here seeking livelihood. Andhra, Odisha, Bengal and people from various regions of north India has greatly influenced the Chattisgarh cuisine.
For obvious reasons recreating the tribal cuisine is beyond my scope, hence opted out for this ridiculously simple snacks called Farra, made usually with rice flour and leftover cooked rice. The small shapely dumplings would be steamed then, lightly sautéed on pan with some tadka and enjoys with green chutney.
It is customary to finish an Indian meal on sweet note, hence chosen this ancient dessert of our country called paramanno or kheer. This time it is millet kheer.
Millets are one of the few ancient and indigenous grain of our country. But because of socio- cultural, economic, political and industrial advancement we had lost our touch with this healthy grains. Instead adopted the staples that were once foreign to this soil.
Millets score low on ease of cooking, taste, bland flavours and it’s struggling to find a hold on people’ s advanced palate. Honestly, I had tried fox tail, ragi and little millet number of times and each time I had tried hard to make it delectable, but alas! I was yet to fall in love with the millet….when I got an invitation from prestigious IHM for a food tasting session on Uttarakhand food festival. This Uttarakhand food festival was part of promoting regional cuisine under the theme “ek bharat shreshta bharat” of dept of tourism and national council.
Apart from the usual meal, what caught my attention there was this – “jhangore ki kheer” . Jhangore is barnyard millet, native to that region and that kheer ultimately changed my perceptions towards millets forever. The kheer was infused with screw pine flavours and rose petals, millets were literally melt in mouth and not the grainy kind and was delicious to the core. I could never imagined millet kheer could taste that heavenly.
As I could not procure barnyard millets, I had tried out the same recipe with fox tail as well as little millets. The secret lies in cooking the millet to perfection.
- Millet of your choice or barnyard, fox tail, little millet : 1/4 cup
- Water : 3 cups
- Milk : 500ml
- Dried fruits roasted ashews, pistachios, almonds, raisins : a generous handful
- Sugar / jaggery : 1/4 cup +/- depending upon the sweetness and type of sugar used
- Screw pine essence / rose essence : few drops
- Saffron strands : few
- Cardamom powder : a large pinch
- Bay leaf : 2
- Ghee : 1 tbsp
- Wash and dry roast the millet on a griddle till it leaves a nutty aroma.
- You can directly boil the millet in milk also, in that case you are going to need more milk.
- I prefer to use partially boiled or half boiled millet for kheer.
- Cook the millet in water as given the measures in open pan or pressure cooker.
- In open pan it will take around 20 minute.
- Once the millets are almost half done and cooked, drain the water and keep the millet for later use.
- In a deep bottom pan bring the milk to boil.
- Add the millet, along with bay leaves and cardamom powder.
- Cook (on medium low heat) till the milk reduce to almost half and by that time millet should be fluffy and fully cooked through.
- Keep stirring in between every 3-4 minute , else millets and milk will become separate.
- Meanwhile in a separate pan, warm the ghee and fry the cashews, raisins, almonds, pistachios till nicely browned.
- Add the sugar and roasted dry fruits to the millet. Continue cooking on low heat till nuts become little soft. Add more warm milk at this stage if requires.
- Give a nice stir and see if everything is incorporated well or not. Switch off the heat.
- Millets should be soft and fluffy and should not get separated from milk.
- If you are using jaggery, then add that now, because if you continue cooking the milk with jaggery, it will curdle.
- Add the essence, saffron, close the lid and keep that for an hour.
- Serve warm.
- If you are going to keep that in the fridge, then remember to warm the millet kheer before serving.
- Cold millet kheer wont taste that good.