A few years ago, I met a chef who comes from a line of chefs that goes back a few centuries. Amidst talk of how his dad had been too unworldly to patent those recipes and techniques which are now attributed to five-star hotels and their research, I do remember mentioning secret recipes - you know, we always read about how proud family cooks and chefs always hold back revealing the crucial element that gives “that special touch” – and was taken aback by the intensity of his reaction.
“Oh c’mon, there’s a lot of s**t spread about secret recipes and ingredients and stuff – I’ve read interviews with chefs who claim they’ve made a marinade with 120 herbs and spices – what flavour will come through if that’s really so? They don’t know what they are talking about, these jackasses – you really shouldn’t have more than two or three spices, only that will allow the taste to register,” he said with an expression that was a mixture of weariness and impatience. I paraphrase (though I put it in quotes for effect) but I certainly remember jackasses, marinade, 120 herbs and spices, and the profanity could have been different. It was amusing to watch a suave, until-then-cool person say something so spontaneous but it was probably something he needed to get off his chest.
Chef will probably approve of the dish I’m presenting today. It has just three spices and salt, just a teaspoon of oil and uses three rather bland vegetables that amicably cooperate to let the flavours shine through. It’s an Oriya dish called Santula, and like Dalma, there are varieties of it. I also discovered the book, Healthy Oriya Cuisine, by Bijoylaxmi Hota and Kabita Pattanaik (Rupa, 2007) soon after I mentioned in my previous post that I’ve never come across a book on Oriya cuisine in India – I usually make a beeline for the cookery section in any bookshop and regretfully moon over all those books (I have most of them and can’t buy the rest either because the ingredients are hard to find here or I already own a book on the cuisine) but this time, I struck gold – this was the last copy on the shelf and I grabbed it and hung on to it for dear life!
This recipe is also a rediscovery of the bottlegourd – occasionally, I bring it home but end up giving it away because the thought of the insipid/watery fate it meets at my hands enervates me before I even try – it really came into its own and held its own against the sturdy potato and the sweet yellow pumpkin.
This is my second submission to RCI - Orissa being hosted by Swapna of Swad.
What you need:
Potatoes – 2, peeled, diced
Bottlegourd/Lauki/Sorakaya – 4-inch piece, peeled, diced
Pumpkin: 4-inch piece, peeled, diced
Garlic – 15 cloves, skinned
Green chillies – 2
Mustard seeds – ¾ tsp
Oil (preferably mustard oil) – 1 tsp
Salt – to taste
Pound the garlic and green chillies fine. (I took the easy way out and whizzed them in the mixer.)
In a pressure cooker, place the veggies and salt. Cover and simmer till the vegetables begin oozing water.
Now pressure cook the vegetables with just a little more water – for one whistle. Let the pressure drop naturally.
In a pan, heat the oil, pop the mustard. Once it begins to crackle, add the ground paste. Fry well.
Now add the vegetables, mix carefully, cook for 3-4 minutes and take them off the fire.
Your dream in pastel is ready!
Note: There was a little bit of water in the pressure-cooked vegetables but I didn’t bother draining it – you can choose to do so.
Regional Cuisines of India Garlic Pumpkin Potaotes Oriya cuisine Bottlegourd/Lauki