Winters in Gujarat are extremely pleasant, the atmosphere remains beautiful through the season. The evenings get cold but the day time temperatures remain bearable. The air get heavy yet crisp, the days become shorter and thus harried, as the day breaks getting out of the razai remains a daily fight with one’s self and the urge to remain snuggled is just too overwhelming to be ignored. Yes it does get smoggy and foggy but it is the time when raat-rani (night blooming jasmine) blooms and intoxicates us with its heavenly fragrance. It is the season we wish never ends because on the other side is summers the ruthless and unbearable months of the year.
Just as the winter begins to sets in, brightly coloured vegetables start making their appearance on the shelves of neighbourhood vegetable vendors. Amla, fresh amba-haldi, red carrots, tomatoes, beetroots, reddish, cauliflower, pigeon peas, peas, various flat beans, various greens like methi, palak, tandaljo and one of my favourite tuber the purple yam… the variety of fresh produce is so huge that the vendors literally run out of space to display the seasonal abundance of produce.
The Ratalu or Purple Yam is a much adored tuber of Gujarati cuisine. It is used generously in season’s most popular dish the Undhiyu. Cutlets, pakora, patty are other popular eats we make using the purple yam. My issue was the way it is usually cooked i.e in lot of oil. Hence my Masiba’s Ratalu Nu Raitu recipe stuck with me as it does not require to fry or sauté this vegetable. This has been a winter staple with her family as it happened to be my Masaji’s favourite way of enjoying the Ratalu when it was in season. Masaji was a person who ate to live and thus practiced minimalism in his meals. Garam masala, red chilli powder, sautéing the vegetables were a strict no-no for his liking. Salads, steamed foods, foods cooked in minimum oil, fresh fruits, sprouts, fresh yogurt, nuts and ice-cream (he simply loved them) were the kind foods he ate everyday. And his healthy food habits were the reason he lived an able life till the age of 90!!!
Subtle in flavours, refreshing to eat and no-fuss to make is how I would like to describe the Ratalu nu Raitu which is very easy and convenient dish to put together. It requires whisking up just a few ingredients, chill and serve. A decade back this dish would not have qualified as a lite meal alternate, but in current times when a bowl of oatmeal or cereal with some fruits easily passes as a meal our humble and homemade raita stands a fair chance of gaining acceptance as a one-pot dish to satisfy the odd hour craving for something lite and refreshing or make an elegant side dish with every day meal. Try using freshly roasted cumin powder for it smoky aroma and fragrance. I haven’t added red-chilli powder as it was not made using any such spices. Give it a try as it is given here and make changes to suit your palate after you have tried the original method.
Ratalu Nu Raitu / Purple Yam Raita
- 2 cups thick plain yogurt
- 1 cup boiled and roughly mashed/grated Purple Yam ( boiled in salted water, I have roughly mashed as I like chunkier raita)
- 1 tablespoon ginger and chilli paste ( you may use ginger paste and finely chopped chillies)
- 1/2 teaspoon roasted cumin powder
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper powder
- 1/4 teaspoon sanchal/black salt (or to taste)
- salt to taste (remember the purple yam was boiled in salted water)
- finely chopped coriander to garnish (optional)
- Put the yogurt in a large mixing bowl and whisk it well with a ballon whisk or jherni.
- Add the ginger-chilli paste, cumin powder, pepper powder, black salt and salt. Give the mixture a good whisk once again.
- Now add the purple yam and mix well. Transfer in to a serving bowl.
- Serve chilled garnished with coriander.