Thursday, December 1, 2016

recipe of kachri ka achar | traditions of foraging and preserving the best of season


Kachri is a small cucumber that grows wild by the fields in the end of summer season. Some smaller kachris keep growing till early winter and that is how I found them when I went to Tijara farm couple of weeks ago. I love kachri ki chutney made with dhaniya patta and garlic etc and another kachri ki chutney with sesame seeds and keep making it frequently.

kachri

I had heard about the kachri ka achar from my house help and the farm workers at Tijara so I gave it a try this season. I was not very hopeful because I always preferred the chutney more.

But as soon as the pickle got 3 day old and I tasted it I had to change my opinion. This was the most unusual pickle I had ever tasted. The slightly tart and very mild bitter flavour of kachri responded really well to the north Indian pickling process, though I had tweaked the pickling spices to suit the kachri.

Note that kachri grows at ground level and sometimes it get buried after rain or slush caused by irrigation water. Some of the kachri may be covered with a thin layer of dirt so soak it in water and rinse well before chopping it. 

ingredients 

first mix 
400 gm kachri cleaned and quartered lengthwise 
45 gm salt or 1 tbsp and a little more
1.5 tbsp turmeric powder
1.5 tbsp red chili powder
2 tbsp mustard powder

second mix 
200 ml mustard oil
1/2 tsp asafoetida powder
2 tsp nigella (kalonji) seeds
1 tsp Bishop's or ajwain seeds 
2 tsp coarse fennel powder

recipe of kachri ka achar

 procedure

Toss the first mix together in a glass bowl and mix well. Keep it in sun for a day or two till it dehydrates a little.

Heat mustard oil to do the second mix once the first mix start looking a little dry and tip in the spices together. Take the pan off heat immediately and pour into the first mix. Stir and mix well.

Fill in sterilized jars.

recipe of kachri ka achar

The pickle gets ready to eat in 2 days though it can be eaten at any point during the mixing process. After 2-3 days the kachri becomes soft and the taste is very unique and pleasant.

Since I made this pickle for the first time I will wait to see how it behaves and how well it preserves. Now after about 2 weeks the pickle has not changed at all so I conclude that the texture will remain the same for a long time.

I will definitely update here about the shelf life as and when I see changes in the pickle jar I kept for myself. The other jar was sent to Tijara as a gratitude gesture.

Some of the kachri I brought is being dehydrated. Since winter sun is not enough for sun drying I am keeping it in refrigerator for cold drying that may take some time.

Kachri is a nutritious wild food and should be used frequently in everyday food. If the pickle doesn't suit your taste you can always depend on the chutney. Some people say the taste of millet rotis gets enhanced when eaten with kachri chutney and white butter. I have tried that combination and can vouch for that.

Let the kachri ka achar be for bajre ki khichdi or any khichdi we make during winters. 



Wednesday, November 16, 2016

recipe of sem ka chokha | mashed broad beans with chilli-garlic and mustard oil


Sem ka chokha is not very common in the thalis people serve to guests now a days even in Banaras or surrounding parts of the state. The koftas and the palak paneer and matar paneer is preferred over chokha in vegetarian thalis for several reasons.

One, the hosts want to serve good looking food to their guests and two, they are never sure whether the guests would like a simple dish that is devoid of spices, cream and even oil, that too made with a green vegetable.

recipe of sem ka chokha

But I have a special knack of serving such food to people and making them say they liked it. Recently when I made this sem ka chokha at a gathering of people from 3 different Indian states I was a little doubtful about the raw mustard oil used liberally in this chokha.

After I got to hear how good the chokha was, I asked whether they could taste mustard oil in it or not. I was not surprised when the answer was negative for this sem ka chokha as well as another salad that I had made. It is not about the pungency of mustard or any other oil but the overall balance of flavours in the dish that speaks for itself. Such a balance of flavours is a treat to achieve in such a simple recipe.

Sem ka chokha is made using the fleshy broad beans usually but it tastes great with any beans you have with you. Just make sure you adjust the seasoning and add a little potato to the chokha if the sem is not of the fleshy variety.

Here I used the thin skinned variety that is known for being a little fibrous.

sem or lablab beans

Nothing that a few pieces of potatoes can't tackle. The potatoes actually bring a desired creaminess to the sem ka chokha and helps balance the flavours too. 

ingredients
(serves 6-8)

500 gm sem, strings removed and chopped finely
100 gm potatoes, peeled and cubed
1.5 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp minced hot green chilies
salt to taste
3-4 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves
1 tsp lime juice (if required)
2 tbsp mustard oil
1/4 cup water

procedure 

Add the chopped sem, cubed potatoes, salt and water in a pressure cooker and cook under pressure for 6-8 minutes (after the first whistle). Let the pressure release on its own.

Once the pressure drops, open the lid and mash the vegetables roughly with the help of a wooden spatula. Add the minced garlic and green chilies, the coriander leaves and mustard oil and mix well.
Add lime juice if required.

recipe of sem ka chokha

Empty the mash in a serving bowl and garnish with a few coriander springs.

Serve warm or cold.

The sem ka chokha pairs well with dal chawal meals as well as roti dal meals. You might like to roll up a roti with this and make it a quick meal.

Use any beans that you like but make sure you add potatoes if the beans are not too smooth after boiling. I like a generous drizzle of mustard oil in chokha so I might keep a bottle of mustard oil on the table but feel free to balance it according to your own taste.

Sooran ka chokha,  Baingan ka chokha and Gooler ka chokha are similar dishes with minor variations. Each one of them has it's own identity and represents the seasonal variation of the traditional everyday meals in eastern part of India. In other eastern states the chokha is known as sheddho or pitika and the taste may vary a bit but the dish remains as simple and elemental in it's nature.

Try this sem ka chokha and let me know if you like it.