Thursday, April 27, 2017

recipe of alu ke gutke, let the simplicity rule

There are some recipes so simple that the experts miss the point. You know how simplicity is always misunderstood, people want to add more value to the things they do to create something good and miss the greatness in the simpler things. In the case of alu ke gutke recipe something similar happened.

I had posted pictures of alu ke gutke on instagram recently and had been getting requests for the recipe after that. I intended to write the recipe here but since the alu ke gutke is quite simple I gave a quick recipe to one of my friends. She went on to google the recipe to make it, not realizing someone can screw up such a simple almost one and a half step recipe, she forwarded me the link and I was aghast to find a recipe with all the spice powders and hing-jeera and what not.

Alu ke gutke needs to be shared here I decided.

alu ke gutke

So here is the unpretentious recipe of alu ke gutke that is the best representative of the frugal ife in mountains. Alu ke gutke is made in every pahadi home in Garhwal and Kumaon region, potato being the main crop and not much variety of vegetables available to them at higher altitudes.

Writing this, I am reminded of a small trek we did in the hills of Sattal few years ago, we just followed a track that started with a faded signboard with a name of some nondescript temple and after an arduous one hour trek reached a temple surrounded with a well tended garden. We met a baba (a saint) and got to know he is from Banaras who went there several decades ago and has settled down in that temple, we were offered a plate of this alu ke gutke with hot ginger chai, free of cost. One of the most satiating meals I must say.

Alu ke gutke is available in the hills at almost every chai shop, served with a cup of hot chai if you wish and often topped with mooli ka raita. A very unusual combination but works wonderfully when trekking or even driving in the hills.

The frugality of alu ke gutke is such that it uses all dry ingredients, just 6 ingredients including salt, apart from the occasional chopped dhaniya patta when it is in season. It tastes best with the pahadi potatoes, cook it in the plains only with the new potatoes or forget about alu ke gutke, it is not alu ke gutke if the alu is not right.

The second important, non-replaceable ingredient is jakhia that imparts a subtle flavour and a delectable crunch that stays even if the alu ka gutka is cooked hours before you eat.

jakhia seeds

Jakhia (Cleome viscosa) is a herb that grows in the foothills of Himalayas as well as in the tropics throughout the world, the leaves are used as a vegetable and all parts of this plant as medicinal ingredients, the use of the seeds in a tadka like this is seen only in Uttarakhand.

Jakhia is antipyretic and anti-inflammatory and is used for many minor health issues, the spices in Indian kitchen have been known to be curative and healing, their usage has evolved over several generations if not centuries.

If you don't have jakhia, make jeera alu instead. Alu ke gutke needs good quality potatoes, preferably baby potatoes and jakhia, the other ingredients can vary minimally. Like you can use green chilies instead of red dry ones and dhaniya patta can be a choice, no other changes please.

500 gm boiled, peeled and cubed potatoes
2 tbsp mustard oil
3 broken dry red chilies
1 tsp jakhia seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
salt to taste
chopped coriander leaves for garnish


Heat mustard oil, tip in the red chilies and the jakhia and let them crackle for a couple of seconds.

Add the turmeric powder and immediately dump the potatoes over it, add salt and mix everything nicely. Keep stirring and cooking for 5 minutes, sprinkle chopped coriander leaves and it is done.

Serve hot or cold.

alu ke gutke

It tastes great as a side dish with meals or as breakfast starch if you want some potatoes, it is better than any fries or hash browns trust me.

Served with tea it has a unique way of satisfying you. The potato lovers would agree but the simplicity of this alu ke gutke does the wonders if you ask me.

Monday, April 17, 2017

everyday subzi : alu parval ki rassedar subzi

Alu parval is a summer time subzi that is on our table at least once a week. Alu parval bhujia is a popular recipe on this blog and even the parval ki mithai gets great feedback but strangely the alu parval ki rassedar (with a thin gravy) subzi has not been shared on the blog as yet, even though I make a few versions of it.

A few people pointed out at this lapse a few months ago but it was not parval season back then, though it was available in the markets, we don't eat any vegetables out of season as a rule so this recipe also comes when parval is well in season.

parval or pointed gourd

This version is alu parval ki patle rasse wali subzi (आलू परवल की पतले रस्से वाली सब्ज़ी) is suitable for summer dinners, keeping it light and soupy, to be consumed with thin rotis.

alu parval ki rassedar subzi

Made in pressure cooker, this one is a simple recipe inspired by the subzis made by the poori subzi stalls where the vegetables are not fried before currying keeping it light yet flavourful, frying the vegetables and bhuna masala separately is a normal practice in home cooking.

(2-3 servings)
300 gm small sized parvals (pointed gourd), preferably heirloom variety
2 small potatoes boiled, peeled and crushed by hands (not mashed)
1 tbsp everyday curry powder 
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp ginger paste or minced ginger
1/2 tsp chopped green chilies
1/4 tsp red chili powder (optional)
couple of tejpatta 
1 tbsp mustard oil
salt to taste
1/4 tsp amchoor powder (optional)


Scrape the parvals using a paring knife, removing just the waxy layer, not peeling the green skin. Cut into halves length wise if the parvals are small, else crosswise.

Heat mustard oil in the pressure cooker pan, add all the spices, except amchoor, at once and stir to mix and cook. Wait till the spices get aromatic, add the parvals and toss and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the crushed potatoes and salt, toss to coat everything together. Pour 300-400 ml water, depending on how thin you want the curry, cover with lid and pressure cook till the whistle blows.

Switch off the gas and let the pressure release on its own. Open the cooker, adjust seasoning and add amchoor powder if needed.

alu parval ki rassedar subzi

Serve hot with thin rotis, some tomato chutney and some raita or plain dahi. This alu parval ki rassedar subzi is mildly spicy and very flavourful. We generally don't add coriander leaves but you can add if desired.

These subzis never need a garnish as I feel the herb garnish changes the taste. Some people like a sprinkle of bhuna jeer powder topped over this subzi over each individual serving. Try that and let me know if you like it.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Kumaoni food at Abbotsford Nainital

Nainital is not just a hill station known for the beautiful Naini lake. This quaint little town is known for the wild life, the wild life conservators, educational institutions, clubs and the lush green pine forests with a blue hue that reflects magically in the Naini lake too.

Naini lake

Incidentally this is my birthplace too and there are many childhood memories attached to the lake, the sepia toned pictures in our family album have kept the memories alive. We have made a few quick trips to Nainital in between but I have been meaning to go and stay there for a relaxed holiday to get more insights into the culture and cuisine.

I got a chance to get a glimpse of the cuisine in the meanwhile, when EatwithIndia organised a culinary tour of Nainital is association with Abbotsford, the heritage home of Janhavi Prasada who graciously hosts guests in the ancestral property that has been converted into a home stay.

Kumaoni food at Abbotsford Nainital

Along with Sonal Saxena of EatwithIndia we reached Abbotsford a little ahead of lunch time few weekends ago and what we experienced was nothing short of an ideal hillside holiday sprinkled with great food.While Delhi had already started getting hot around that time it was great to feel the nip in the air even during noon time.

After a customary welcome teeka, flowers and Rhododendron drink we headed straight to the lunch table set up at the Cafe Chica lawns.

The first thing served to start the lunch was sana hua nimbu and it was the best I had tasted till date. I took the recipe and created at home after I returned in fact. 

I was not particularly hungry but the Kumaoni home style food was so delicious I overate after ages, so much that I skipped dinner that day. The sticky hand pounded rice had come from Janhavi's aunt's farm and the kapha (Kumaoni spinach stew) felt like the best pairing with that flavourful rice. The other dishes like gahat (horse gram) ki dal, alu gutka, ganderi ki subzi, kheere ka raita, bhang ki chutney and bhatt ki chutney were all so flavourful we all took multiple helpings, mopping everything up with mandue ki roti.

We went for a long walk towards the Naini lake after lunch, enjoyed boating, walked around the markets and the mall road after lunch.

Naini lake

Janhavi cooked a country style chicken curry on wood fire for dinner and one of the guests Kunal Mandal conducted a quiz that I participated despite splitting headache. We talked about how and why we need to conserve regional traditional cuisines so the ingredients and cooking techniques are not lost forever. I couldn't stay on for dinner but heard it was as good as the lunch.

Next day Janhavi took everyone for a farmer's market walk and then to the boat club. Once back the lunch was laid down again in it's finery.

Kumaoni food at Abbotsford Nainital

These were all Janhavi's family recipes, cooked expertly by their family cook who takes care of the home stay kitchen too. It's very rare that cooks can recreate family recipes so expertly but Abbotsford has kept the mark high, the food is to die for.

Kumaoni food at Abbotsford Nainital

The mooli ki kadhi, home style mutton curry, methi chaman, khatta meetha kaddu, bhune tamatar ki chutney etc were all great, bursting with flavour and made so well. Thanks to EatwithIndia we got to taste all such homely food from the region, that too from the repertoire of a family. We tasted delicious Singhal, a spiral deep fried sweet pastry made by the cook and it was delicious.

The Cafe Chica at Abbotsford is quite popular among locals and travelers, although it is located at a steep climb but the view is worth it.

Abbotsford Nainital

The alfresco seating is the best as you get to see lot of birds and the cheena peak in the background.

 I stayed in the Juliet room. Here is how the room looks.

Abbotsford Nainital

The full length window opens to this breathtaking view.

Abbotsford Nainital

My stay was short but I resolved to go back really soon to soak in the mountains, Abbotsford will be a natural choice now. All the rooms are different as it has been a private home, it actually adds to the warmth the homely hospitality extended by the people behind Abbotsford.

Abbotsford Nainital

This short weekend trip packed so much and yet left us hungry for more.

Thank you EatwithIndia and Abbotsford for this cherishable experience. The taste of the best Kumaoni food I have had till date, will be etched in my mind forever.