Fresh raw water chestnuts or Caltrops are in season and thankfully we get them here in the capital too. Apparently Delhi has a lot of 'rainwater' bodies around the city too and the singhada comes from those and from far flung areas as well. We do get a deluge of singhade during this season and we end up buying a couple of kilos every week. The reason for another singhada post just after the Singhade ka achar.
And no, we are not fasting during Navratri though we used to look forward to this fasting season eagerly every year. Times change, no regrets.
We eat a lot of singhade every season. The most common way to eat is this simple stir fry with cumin seeds and lot of freshly milled pepper. This recipe is common in singhada growing areas of Eastern UP and Bihar, as my family learnt it from a family friend who had their own ponds of singhada around Chandouli in Banaras.
This jeerey wala singhada was more of a tea time snack or an evening snack for everyday and a meal for fasting days. People don't wait for fasting days when singhada is in season. By the way, the same recipe is made with baby potatoes of the new season too, to be served as a snack and that is very different from jeera alu.
Jeerey wala kachha singhada recipe
(2 large breakfast servings or 4 snack servings)
650 gm raw tender peeled water chestnuts (1 kilo singhade after peels removed)
1 tbsp ghee
2 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
1 tsp or to taste freshly milled pepper (or crush in mortar and pestle)
pink salt (sendha namak) to taste
lime juice if required (we never use it but you may like it)
Halve the water chestnuts so they make bite sized pieces and cook quickly too. Cutting them into halves ensures absorption of the salt better. Note that medium mature singhadas taste great in this stir fry. Very hard and mature ones are suitable for boiled snacks and curries.
Heat the ghee in a deep pan (kadhai) and tip in the cumin seeds. Let them crackle before you dunk in all the peeled and halved singhade. Add salt and stir fry in medium heat for a couple of minutes. Cover and cook for a couple more minutes.
Add the freshly crushed peppercorns, stir and cook some more till the singhada pieces start looking glazed. It is ready once you see the singhada pieces getting glazed with a slight change in colour.
You can add some lime juice or a hint of amchoor powder if you wish.
Serve right away.
Sometimes I add a little chopped coriander greens to it and skip adding pepper.
Both the variations are very different from each other because minimal seasoning results in a very fresh flavour that changes even if you change one ingredient.
You can add garlic chives or thyme too if you wish, I generally don't deviate from our traditional seasonings for this one. Though I use singhada from Chinese type stir fries too.
Now coming to a singhade ki subzi which is cooked in a true Banarasi way. During fasting or otherwise too, Banarasis love to cook the curries with milk and khoya when there is a special occasion. This is one of those milky curries that taste so good with kuttu or singhade ki puri that you may want to observe fasting forever. We have it with singhade ki roti mostly.
Kachhe singhade aur Makhane ki subzi
500 gm peeled and halved raw water chestnuts
100 gm or 2 cups of makhane (fox nuts)
2 tbsp khoya (preferably home made khoya)
1 cup milk
1 tbsp everyday curry powder (mix of coriander seeds, cumin, pepper and tejpatta)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder (optional, some people don't add this)
pink salt to taste
handful of chopped coriander greens
2 +1 tsp ghee (total 1 tbsp)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
Heat 2 tsp ghee in a deep pan (medium heat) and tip in all the makhana in it. Keep stirring to roast them evenly. They get roasted in about a couple of minutes and get crisp. Remove from pan and let them cool on a plate.
Heat 1 tsp ghee in the same pan and add the cumin seeds. Add the everyday curry powder , bhuno for a few seconds till it gets aromatic and add the crushed khoya. Bhuno till everything gets mixed well and aroma emanates.
Add the chopped singhade, milk, salt and let all these simmer together for 5 minutes. Add the fried/roasted makhane and simmer again till the makhane shrink in size and get soggy with the gravy. You may want to add a little more milk or water to get a desired consistency. I added some water to get a thinner curry that I like.
Once a thin layer of fat comes on top the curry is ready. Some people deep fry the makhana in ghee and this curry looks totally submerged in ghee and that is tasty too, but we can't afford to have those curries any more at this age and with this almost sedentary lifestyle.
This light yet so delicious singhade aur makhane ki subzi is just my type. I often have it as a meal in itself. Try doing that and let me know.
Many people have been pointing at severely polluted water bodies in the periphery of the city where all the sewage goes and more waste is dumped, where they say singhada is grown. But when you think of it, this plant cannot grow in polluted water bodies with so much of rotting organic and chemical waste. Singhada or water chestnuts (Indian) grows in shallow ponds and marshes where water collects after the rainy season.
Of course all water bodies and even soil is polluted but we need not to worry about the water chestnuts coming to us from sewage dumps. This crop needs immaculate and accurate methods of seed saving after the crop is harvested and then the germinated seeds are broadcasted (a method of sowing) in newly filled up shallow water bodies around farming areas after monsoons and in private ponds and lakes too.
Water chestnuts are safe to eat. We should worry more about the synthetic colours in cake frostings and even in some health drinks and fruit juices these days.