One of the greatest joys of being raised in a large, multi-regional joint family has been the opportunity of growing up in a rich concoction of cultural and traditional diversity our country has to offer. The variety was in every aspect of life, be it humour, food, language, festivals, beliefs, practices and so much more.Yes, back then as young kids the different foods that were always on the offer was the most obvious aspect of this entire spectrum later, as one moves away from the much obvious and looks back on the advantages of growing up in a large family, one realizes that it has moulded you into person who can graciously absorb change and respect diversity.
Coming back to food, one thing creating this space has made me do is reach out to all the wonderful and wise women of my large and diverse family and collate their heirloom recipes here. This can be the specialites I have loved eating or the foods they think are losing their appeal with the current generation. Most of these recipes are not in form of weights and measures but ingredients, method and care to be taken while creating that particular dish. The weight and measure part requires to be figured out later and that is what I do when I re-create the dish for writing down the recipe and photograph it for the blogpost.
So my quest for searching the native foods of Gujarat took me to Surat last December. It is the time when the vegetable and fruits markets of Gujarat explode with fresh produce. Surat and the southern regions of Gujarat receive heavy rainfall and hence the fertile land and better access to irrigation means lush vegetation and plenty of green vegetables through the year. The quality of fresh produce that is reaped from these regions is of the finest quality. The much famed Surti Papdi , the core ingredient of Oondiya hails from Surat and remains matchless. So the visit couldn’t have been better timed!! And it was quite an enlightening visit as I learnt the intricacies of creating otherwise simple looking dishes. My Masiba and my elder sister who are very fine home-cooks and knowledge banks on authentic Surti cuisine cooked and shared their family recipes as well as food wisdom…….
Surti cuisine is much different from the rest of Gujarati cuisine. It is so famed that we have a proverb, ‘Surat Nu Jalan, Ane Kashi Nu Maran’ means lucky is the person who tastes the food of Surat and breathes his last in holy city of Kashi. The availability of fresh greens, vegetables and herbs means Surti food uses lots of fresh green chilli to spice up the food unlike in other regional Gujarati foods that use red-chilli powder. Fresh and better quality of vegetables means the amount oil used to cook is also very less. This allows the natural flavours of the vegetables to shine through. This is the reason I have always loved food cooked by this wonderful mother-daughter duo and their insights were a treasure I came back with.
The Spinach and Peas Curry I share with you today is seasonal veggie made when fresh spinach, green garlic and Surti Papdi na lilva are in season. Well we the lesser fortunate ones can make do with tender green peas and one or two cloves of garlic. But if you have access to the lilva and green garlic please go ahead and use that. You will need to boil the lilva before adding them to the curry. Care has to be taken to not over cook or cover and cook the spinach mixture or else it will lose its colour, you want the the green of this veggie to remain as bright as possible. And the best part is whether you make it using peas of lilva the amount of oil required is just one teaspoon!!!
Hope you enjoy and relish this dish as much as I have do.
Palak ane Vatana nu Shaak
Serves – 2
- 3 cups palak/spinach, roughly chopped
- 1 cup tender green peas, par boiled ( I have used frozen baby peas that were allowed to thaw in hot water for 5-7 minutes)
- 1/2 cup coriander, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh coconut, grated or chopped
- 1 green chilli (can add more if you need to spice it up)
- 1/2 inch piece of ginger
- 2 cloves of garlic (or a small bunch of green garlic with shoots if you can find some)
- 1 teaspoon oil
- a pinch of asafoetida (optional)
- salt to taste
- In a mixer grinder add the ginger, chilli and garlic cloves and grind well. To this add the spinach, coriander and coconut. Grind the greens to a smooth paste. The paste has to be very smooth, you may add a couple of tablespoons of water to aid the grinding.
- Place a kadai or pan on a medium heat. Add a teaspoon of oil to the pan, one the oil has heated up add the asafoetida and pour in the pureed spinach mix in the heated oil. Cook the mixture for a couple of minutes and add the peas.
- If required add some water (not more than couple of tablespoons) to slightly loosen up the curry. You will need to eyeball the quantity of water as it would depend on how much water the palak has released and the amount of water used to grind the greens.
- Cook for 5-7 minutes and turn off the flame.
- Serve hot with phulka rotis.