Monday, August 15, 2016

chane wala aam ka achar | raw mangoes pickled with whole chickepeas

Kachhe aam ka achar or raw mango pickle is a necessity in Indian homes.

If the stock of aam ka achar has finished, people start feeling seriously deprived.

Last month when I was talking to my sister about her fetish for aam ka achar, she was the one who would even steal pickles and eat it like a candy while reading a book or playing, we were reminded of how the chane wala aam ka achar (raw mango pickle with chickpeas) used to get over sooner.

chane wala aam ka achar

Chane wala aam ka achar was a favourite of all of us and the pickle jar was never out of sight on the dining table. Everyone wanted to keep this chane wala achar closer to themselves so second and third helpings can be taken quickly without anyone else noticing it. How we used to blame each other about who finished the achar.

Those days of chatorapan.

My mother used to make this chane wala achar with both black gram (kale chane) and the garbanzo beans (kabuli chane) but her method was a little different. She used to soak the chickpeas in the water left after marinating the raw mango pieces in salt and turmeric. So the quantity of the chickpeas was always limited. That explains the scarcity of the chane wala achar.

Since my recipe of aam ka achar uses up all the liquids oozed out during marination time, I had to device new ways to add chana to the achar. 

Recipe and procedure of chane wala aam ka achar

During the making of the aam ka achar, the day I mix the the pickling spices (check the recipe and steps), I soak some chickpeas in advance.

The soaked chickpeas are mixed with salt and turmeric powder again and kept overnight. For each 100 gm soaked chickpeas I use 15 gm salt and 5 gm turmeric powder.

Then the overnight marinated chickpeas are added to equal amount of freshly mixed aam ka achar.

aam ka achar

Note the amount of mixed aam ka achar left in the pan here. The chickpeas were added to that.

The chane wala aam ka achar gets ready to eat in a couple days and stays good for at least 6 months. I haven't seen this pickle lasting more than this, if the present batch lasts the whole year I will update this post.

Some people make this achar with grated mangoes too, Anjana's recipe can be referred if you want that type. I sometimes chop the raw pickling mangoes in smaller bits but never have made it with grated mangoes. 

The chane can even be added to sooran ka achar as well and I remember my grandmother used to like that one more.

chane wala aam ka achar

The pickle can be served just as any other Indian pickle and the chickpeas taste really good while retaining their texture.

Do let me know if you try making this chane wala aam ka achar. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

mungodi made from scratch | how to make mungodi at home and guar mungodi ki subzi

Mungodi is made of mung dal (skinned mung beans) after a paste of mung dal is dropped into small pellets and then sun dried to make little nuggets of lentil, it can be spiced or plain. Badi is the generic Indian name for these lentil nuggets and the specific name changes with the kind of lentil used. If it is made of mung, it is Mungodi.

how to make mungodi

There are several names for these Mungodis or generic badis (or wadis) all over the country but in Bihar and eastern UP it is always prefixed with the type of lentil used. So there is Mungodi made of mung, Urdouri or Adouri made of urad dal, Masurouri made of masur dal, others are called as badi simply.

The other significant variety is called Kumhrouri which is made of urad dal and white pumpkin (Ash gourd) which is also called as kumhra, so the nomenclature has a clue to the origin of the badi. I love talking about these with the older women who never tire of sharing their wisdom with anyone. Sepu badi of Himachal is a different type of badi

When I posted about alu mungodi ki subzi many of you asked for the recipe of mungodi as no one makes these at home now and these are not even available in many places. Moreover, the quality of the ready made mungodi is not always good. I have been my grandmother's apprentice for long enough to recreate thing on my own, so here is the recipe of mungodi that can be made at home without much fuss, if you make a small quantity.

Note that making mungodis at home 'used to be' a humongous task but it was so because such things were always made for friends and family too. Huge dabbas were sent to kith and kin, badi, papad and achar were always exchanged between families and friends. Social bonding was real and tangible.

The good old days.

Let me tell you there is one encouraging fact, that we can make the mungodis fairly easily at home. For mungodis it is only one ingredient mostly as these are always made without any spices. But cumin seeds are sometimes added to bring a hint of spice in them.

1 cup of mung dal
1 tsp cumin seeds


Soak the mung dal for one hour.  

Note that soaking the mung dal for longer will result in more water content and flat mungodis that do not soak up the curry flavour when cooked.

Drain the water. Make a coarse paste with the cumin seeds, without adding any water. The paste should look like this.

how to make mungodi

Now make a cone using a plastic bag, reused or fresh. Or use a piping bag with a small hole depending on the size of mungodis you need.

Fill the mung paste in the piping bag, secure the top and start piping mungodis on a smooth surface.

I used a silpat sheet because it is much easier to take the mungodis off the surface. They may stick on plates even if you grease them.

My piping skill needs some brushing up. I have decided on more mungodis now, no cake icing please. 

how to make mungodi

My grandmother used to make mungodis on old muslin saris so it was easier to sun dry them and once the mungodis are dry they peel off easily from the thin cloth. And she used to shape each single mungodi with her fingers, piping them perfectly, using three fingers and thumb.

Time your soaking, grinding and piping in such a way that you lay out the mungodis in good sun at the start of the day. It took me 2 minutes of grinding and 5 minutes of piping the mungodis for this quantity. 

And of course the whole day of fun watching the mungodis dry, updating a few instagram pictures in between.

Once dry enough the mungodis can be flipped. It took an hour this time. Flipping the mungodis ensures faster drying and I was concerned because it is the tail end of monsoon season here and I did not want the mungodis to stay damp.

how to make mungodi

You see I made the mungodis on a whim and the monsoon showers couldn't deter me. It took 2 days to sun dry them while keeping an eye on the sudden showers that are characteristic of this season. I had to bring the mungodis indoors a few times but thankfully there was strong sun in between the showers.

Once dry, the mungodis are lighter and make a rattling sound when tossed around. Damp mungodis wont rattle.

how to make mungodi

Make sure the mungodis are not damp, as it catches fungus really soon.

Note that the mungodis made during the rainy season wouldn't last the whole year, in all probability, it has the tendency to get damp even if dried completely.

If for some reason, for example rains, your mungodis are not sun dried well, try and deep fry them to dehydrate well and keep in air tight containers. The mungodis can be used directly in that case. Else we need to fry them before currying them like in this alu mungodi ki subzi or Guwar mungodi ki subzi which has a hint of fennel.

ingredients for guar mungodi ki subzi 
(2 servings)

1/3 cup mungodis
250 gm guar cleaned, stringed and chopped in small bits
1 medium sized potato peeled and quartered 
1/4 cup whipped yogurt
1 tbsp everyday curry powder 
1/2 tsp fennel powder 
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp red chilli powder
1-2 broken chopped green chillies
1 tbsp minced or grated ginger
salt o taste
1 tbsp mustard oil

guar mungodi ki subzi


To make the guar mungodi ki subzi, heat the mustard oil in a pressure cooker, shallow fry the mungodis in the oil and once the mungodis are light pink and fragrant, remove the pan from the burner for a minute and add the everyday curry powder (or any light subzi masala of your choice), turmeric powder, red chilli powder and fennel powder in that order. Toss and mix while the spices get aromatic.

Return the pressure cooker pan to the burner, add ginger, whipped yogurt and stir to mix.

Now add the chopped guar, potatoes and green chillies, mix well an top up with 1/2 cup water.

Cover the lid and pressure cook till the whistle blows, lower down the heat an cook for a couple of minutes. Let the cooker cool down, open the lid and crush the potatoes with a ladle to make the curry a little mushed up.

Serve hot with drizzle of ghee with our Indian rice or roti meals..

Sunday, August 7, 2016

everyday curries : alu mungodi ki subzi | sattvic khana

Alu mungodi ki subzi is stuff made of nostalgia. Such simpler curries have become so rare these days thanks to the deluge of 'butter masalas' and 'navratan kormas' of the vegetarian world, and of course because no one makes Badiyan or Mungodi at home any more.

No restaurants serve it either. 

alu mungodi ki subzi

Thankfully we do get mungodi and badiyan in the markets, made by small scale industries and home based units and some of them are really good.

Badiyan making is an age old tradition all over the country. Badiyan or dried lentil cakes, if I try to translate this unique wonder, are made of lentil paste with is fermented, then mixed with some grated gourd type vegetable according to the regional choice, some spices and then the paste is shaped like small pellets to sun dry. The pellets puff up to become planoconvex shaped while they dry and then are stored for the whole year. 

Badiyan are generally made of urad dal paste and are made into several curries like this pyaz badiyon ki subzi and even a badiyon ki chutney. I have always believed the badiyan brought the umami factor in Indian curries, the process of making badiyan ensured the lentil paste gets a flavour boost when fermented and sun dried.

Apart from the Badiyan, there is a type called Mungodi which is made of plain mung dal paste and is not spiced. The mungodi has a flavour of its own, something like when mung gets a mild hint of umami and yet retains its mungness. You know what I mean. 


Mungodi can be sun dried or even can be made fresh for some curries. This mungodi wali lauki is made with freshly made mungodis. But freshly made mungodi lacks the umami kick, please note.

The alu mungodi ki subzi is preferred by those who like eating no onion garlic curries or is made often for meals after a puja at home.

One of the kachori walas in Banaras makes such a delicious mungodi ki subzi that I often crave for it. I know I have to recreate it soon.

I shared that the hawan at Kiradu temple complex commenced with a sattvic meal and how much I loved that meal. Alu mungodi ki subzi was on the menu apart from the mirchi ka kutta and I couldn't help but make it again at home. My mother in law used to make alu mungodi and lauki mungodi a lot and I actually started loving it a lot after having tasted her version.

After having a slightly different but equally delicious version of alu mungodi by Suryagarh chefs, I decided to make my MIL's version as that is what makes it more homely for me. 

(2-3 servings)

2 large boiled and cooled potatoes (about 250 gm)
1/2 cup dried mungodis
1 tbsp everyday curry powder 
(or a mix of coriander, cumin, peppercorns and Indian bay leaf powder)
1/4 tsp red chilli powder
2 green chillies broken
1 tsp turmeric powder
pinch of hing (asafoetida)
1/4 tsp cumin seeds (optional, I don't use)
1 tsp crushed or minced ginger (optional, I use it always) 
1/4 tsp amchoor powder 
1.5 tbsp mustard oil
salt to taste 


Crush the boiled potatoes with fingers. It should break into uneven pieces, and some completely crushed coarse mash.

Heat the mustard oil in a deep pan and shallow fry the mungodis in it till lightly browned. Remove from the fried mungodis from oil and keep aside.

Tip in the hing and cumin seeds if using, in the remaining oil. Once the oil is well infused add the crushed ginger. Stir to cook for a couple of seconds.

Now take the pan off heat for a moment and add all the powdered spices at once, stir to mix well so the spices infuse but do not get burnt. Within seconds dump all the crushed potatoes in the pan and stir well to mix. Return to heat and stir for a couple of minutes.  

Add salt to taste, 2 cups of water and all the fried mungodis. Let the curry come to a rolling boil. Now lower the heat and let the alu mungodi subzi simmer for about 20 minutes, covered with a lid, or till the mungodis get soft and almost double up in size.

Finish with amchoor powder, adjust seasoning and consistency, serve hot with rotis, pooris or plain parathas along with other side dishes if required.

alu mungodi ki subzi

Some people add tomatoes to the alu mungodi ki subzi but I like this version with amchoor. You may want to garnish it with green coriander leaves but please refrain as it interferes with the delicately flavoured mungodis. But if you love your dhaniya patta go ahead and top it with some greens.

This kind of badi or mungodi subzis were a staple during rainy season when other green vegetables were not easily available in older times. That is the reason there is no tomato or dhaniya patta used traditionally for alu mungodi ki subzi but there are versions made in winter season when mungodi is paired with spinach and cabbage too.

One can always adjust this alu mungodi ki subzi to taste. The Suryagarh version is cooked with raw potatoes and it had a different consistency and slightly different taste too.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

mirchi ka kutta | मिर्ची का कुट्टा | pounded green chilli relish

Mirchi ka kutta is not a recipe I grew up eating but I had tasted it once in a while cooked by a friend's mother. Back then I was not so enamored by chilies, anything made with just chillies had to be in small servings and it was used just like a spot of heat on the platter. The kind of relish that was put to use only when the food was bland otherwise.

mirchi ka kutta | मिर्ची का कुट्टा | pounded green chilli relish

And then I tasted this mirchi ka kutta that blew my mind away. I loved that it was made from the less hot Rajasthani chillies and that it had loads of methi (fenugreek) seeds. I know the picture that comes to mind is a bitter and hot relish but this mirchi ka kutta is far from that.

As I mentioned in the last post about Kiradu temple complex, the sattvic meal we enjoyed there had this mirchi ka kutta as a side dish and I loved it so much that I took 3 helpings and the last time I asked for a bigger serving so I can enjoy it without worrying for refills. It was really that good.

I called Chef Megh Singh Rathore immediately and asked for the recipe. He rattled a simple recipe and I memorized while polishing the last bits of mirchi ka kutta with soft pooris.

Apart from loads of methi, this mirchi ka kutta has some sounf (fennel seeds) and some rai (small mustard seeds), some crushed garlic and a little lashing of hing (asafoetida). All this is balanced off with a sprinkling of amchoor powder.

mirchi ka kutta | मिर्ची का कुट्टा | pounded green chilli relish

The only similar recipe that I am reminded from my home is a mirch ki kalonji that my grandmother used to make in bulk and refrigerate for the whole week. One mirch ki kalonji used to land up on everyone's plate at meal time. I need to recreate that too very soon. Let it be mirchi ka kutta till then.

ingredients for mirchi ka kutta (मिर्ची का कुट्टा )
(makes enough to fill a 350 ml jar)

15 large Rajasthani chillies or any large green chillies that are not too hot
4 smaller hot green chillies 
6-8 fat cloves of garlic peeled
2 tbsp methi (fenugreek) seeds
1 tsp sounf (fennel) seeds
1 tsp rai (small mustard seeds)
a generous pinch of hing (asafoetida)
2 tbsp mustard oil
2 tsp amchoor powder
1 tsp salt or to taste 
1/2 cup water


Pound the garlic and chillies separately. It helps if you chop the chillies before pounding them in a mortar and pestle. Be careful of any seeds that may decide to fly and land in your eyes while pounding.

mirchi ka kutta | मिर्ची का कुट्टा | pounded green chilli relish

Heat the oil and tip in the hing first. Let it sizzle and then add the methi seeds followed by sounf and rai. Add the garlic when the seeds start getting aromatic. Mix and cook for a couple of seconds.

Add the chillies, salt and mix well. Cook for a minute and add the water. Cook covered on low for 10 minutes. Add the amchoor powder and cook again for a couple of minutes, adding a little more water if required.

The mirchi ka kutta will be moist enough so that the methi seeds swell up after soaking the juices.

Empty the contents into a clean jar or container and refrigerate immediately. It keeps well for a week easily.

mirchi ka kutta | मिर्ची का कुट्टा | pounded green chilli relish

This mirchi ka kutta goes really well with poori and paratha but I love it with khichdi and dal chawal meals too. You can serve it with practically everything, all kind of Indian meals.

It is an interesting amalgamation of flavours ranging from bitterness from methi, aromatic sweetness from fennel, sharp punch of garlic and the flavourful heat of green chillies, everything wrapped up by the tartness of amchoor powder. All strong flavours meld so well you crave for more.

a sattvic meal experience at Kiradu temple complex

Some meals are so special you remember them for a long time to come.

If you try and remember all your memorable meals, I am sure you would recall one or the other happy meal you enjoyed with great friends or family members, may be with strangers too but none of those meals would be had alone. Am I right?

And if you have ever had a meal at an exotic location out of nowhere, it is bound to stay with you forever. I will tell you about one such meal I enjoyed at the temple complex of Kiradu in Rajasthan which is now in ruins. And if I tell you that this meal experience was organized by the good folks at Suryagarh (Jaisalmer) you would instantly know it would definitely be good.

Suryagarh table

Of course Suryagarh food is memorable for everyone. But this sattvic meal exceeded my expectation by several notches. And to think that this sattvic meal was a part of the elaborate hawan and puja they organized at the neglected temple complex to unveil their new trail of the season, the Kiradu Experience.

All food that is prepared for the Gods is made with devotion and it comes through every bite you take. I know you would agree.

Kiradu temple complex

hawan at Kiradu

Kiradu temple complex is about three hours drive from Suryagarh and you drive on a singular road that goes straight till the horizon. There is vast expanse of desert both sides, sand often piled up on the road making small dunes and the driver has to be careful. The topography kept changing along the road and we passed the Desert National Park, spotting peacocks, Green Bee Eaters, Eagles, Falcons and some Chinkaras. There were herds of Camels too of course.

The only noticeable shrubs were the Calotropis that grew really huge. There were other desert shrubs including some tall grasses and the Kair, Sangri too.

The Suryagarh team had arranged for a high tea break at one of the villages called as Kesar Singh ki Dhani. It was such a wonderful surprise to take a detour into a village surrounded with sand dunes, find a few thatched huts, women and kids peeking from their homes and then you are directed towards one of those huts with a small door.

Suryagarh trails

There was a low table set impeccably Suryagarh style, kudos to the team for such ideas and concepts. Now that I am working with them on a small project I know their trails and meal experiences are spectacular, this one was way beyond wonderful.

After having the chai with some of the villagers who joined us, we drove again to find the topography changing and some hills appearing gradually. Kiradu is a place surrounded by hills and is quite green compared to the Thar desert. The ancient name of Kiradu is KiratKup. Kirat dynasty finds a mention in Hindu scriptures and ancient history, I wouldn't go into finer details here but this nook of history is worth digging up.

Located in Barmer district this was an old civilization as we were told by Rajendar Singh Man, an official from INTACH, Barmer chapter. He claims the hills envelope an ancient city that is now buried under the bushes, trees and some sedimentation. Mr Man informed that the occurrence of rounded pebbles of a river bed suggest that this place got flooded by a river once and got destroyed or buried probably due to the forces of water. Forceful damage to the wall sculptures suggests some army had tried to destroy it revengefully. Several Mughal armies are responsible for the damage we were told.

Kiradu temple complex

The temples are beautiful, the history enchanting and the wall carving on them feels alive when you take a closer look. It is believed to have been under the reign of Parmar in 12th century but there is no trace of evidence how the whole temple complex got destroyed and the city got buried slowly. The temple complex was build some 400 years before that.

Kiradu temple complex

We found the stories from ancient Hindu scriptures carved in stone. Presence of some erotic sculptures makes these temples comparable to the Khajuraho temples but the INTACH officials kept lamenting about the sheer apathy of ASI.

Kiradu temple complex

I would want to dig deeper into the history and the art, Kiradu temple complex has ignited an interest for sure. The Iconography of these temples tells stories that need detailed interpretation. I was reminded of the fine work at Dilwara Jain temples that we had visited some 26 years ago.

The Kiradu temple complex had a group of more than120 temples and 5 of them can be seen in partly restored form. There is no facility for tourists apart from the road but that may be a blessing in disguise as this place is free of plastic and empty packets of chips and what not. I wish it remains the same and people who respect the ancient monuments have better access to these.

hawan at Kiradu

Suryagarh did a wonderful job by cleaning the premises and arranging a Hawan. This is an ancient Hindu way to invite the forces of the universe to bless a place or a cause, hoping this Hawan will be a beginning and ASI will take interest in unearthing more of these temples while preserving them too. Note that this temple complex was not accessible to civilians since a couple of months ago as Indian Army had a base here.

This little priest was part of the entourage of Hindu priests (Pandits) who had been invited from Barmer and was a lot more enthusiastic than the elder priests.

hawan at Kiradu

The collective chants of all these priests was good to hear after a very long time. Arvind's family organizes such large scale pujas back in Banaras and I have been part of a few of them. I kept thinking Arvind would have joined the chanting involuntarily as he has been doing since his childhood. My own family was not so much into pujas.

And just like Arvind's side of my family, this puja also commenced into a sattvic meal that was cooked on the spot. Chef Megh Singh Rathore and his team had arrived at the temple complex since noon and had cooked a lavish sattvic meal for all of us, the Pandits and all the workers deployed there. What a meal it was that we enjoyed in open air.

The tables were set old fashioned 'chowki' style and we were served alu mungodi ki subzi, mirchi ka kutta, poori, dal bati churma and pulao along with buttermilk.Desserts were mung ka halwa, some signature suryagarh mithais and some more kheer etc but I got my tripti eating the sattvic meal, desserts became unnecessary.

I will be sharing recipes of the mirchi ka kutta and alu mungodi ki subzi next. I need to keep this memory in the form of food too, after all the memories become tangible when the taste is recreated on our dining tables.

Stay tuned.