Sunday, January 20, 2008

Shaak - Winter Vegetables Gujarati style

Growing up in Mumbai, and particularly in an area where there was a predominantly Gujarati population, I ate a lot of Gujarati food - especially in school; my friend's dabbas were the most delicious ones on the block.
And unlike most of us who carried our lunch boxes packed in the morning, theirs would usually arrive steaming hot during lunch time, delivered by a dabbawalla or a family member.

What with my Dad being a complete foodie, we were also treated to visits to Thakkers in Central Mumbai, where their unlimited thalis were the most sumptuous meals one could imagine. They would lovingly ply us with those rotlis (small sized chapatis) topped with a generous spoonful of ghee, accompanied by a variety of daals, kadhis and shaak, till we could hardly breathe.
In summer there would be the dreamy aamras - golden mango pulp from the freshest Alphonso mangoes - to go with fluffy puris. This for me was even more coveted than the shrikhand (sweetened hung curd) which usually accompanied the puris.

And trains.....yes, trains were an unlikely place, but thats where we got our annual dose of Gujarati snacks, pickles and travel food, when we visited my grandparents down South.

The journey used to take a good 2-3 days then, and while we had lime rice, curd rice, tamarind rice and potatoes packed to last us for about a day and half surviving on station food and (awful) train "meals" after that, the Gujarati families we met (and became instant friends with their kids sharing Amar Chitra Katha comics and video games!) used to seemingly come prepared to feed the entire compartment for the next 4 days!

There was farsaan - theplas, khakras et al accompanied with chundo and green chutney, complete meals of rotlis and dry shaak, and of course sweets. What's not to like! especially since after a point the only way to entertain children in closed compartments is to ply them with food and hope that they sleep it off!

Gujarati cuisine comes from the NorthWestern state of Gujarat and is mainly vegetarian. It changes a lot from the coastal regions to the dryer interior regions, but the cuisine on the whole is centred around wheat breads,pulses and lentils, yoghurt based preparations and seasonal vegetables cooked with spices - either lightly steamed or shallow fried. Many of the dishes have a hint of sweetness to them, but there is a misconception that all Gujarati food is sweet. Sweets are much liked and along with snacks provide for a huge number of interesting regional recipes. While some of them are deep fried, there are also quite a few snacks which are steamed and very tasty. Read more about Gujarati cuisine here and more recipes on one of my favourite blogs; she hasn't posted in a while and I'm hoping she can come back soon....

Its been a long time since I cooked any Gujarati food....I remember cooking a lot of it when I got married and I used to miss the dhoklas, khandvi etc of Mumbai. I even made undhiyu once for Tamil New Year instead of the traditional 7 vegetable sambar, much to the consternation of MIL :)

I came across this recipe of Tarla Dalal recently and given that it seemed to be perfect for the winter vegetables available now, I set about making it with a few alterations.

Initially it sounded a lot like the famous dish Undhiyu - but it's a lot less complicated; the veggies don't need to be stuffed. I haven't come across this dish anywhere else though, atleast not by the name Panchkutyu Shaak - though it says its a traditional Gujarati recipe.

Purple kand in Delhi doesn't seem to be common and I substituted with elephant yam or suran.
Broad beans which are in season,instead of french beans also seemed like a good idea.
I added raw bananas to the recipe and used one big potato instead of baby potatoes and omitted the sugar in the recipe.
I also did not deep fry the muthias, preferring to steam cook them as in this recipe.

The dish with its mix of vegetables cooked together in the spice mixture tasted delicious; in some ways it could be compared to an avial, but it was bursting with a lot more flavour and the dhana jeera powder gave it a very distinctive taste.

Shaak - Winter Vegetables Gujarati Style

Elephant yam or suran peeled and cubed - 1/2 cup
Broad beans - 1/2 cup cut into 3-4 pieces each
Ridge Gourd (turai/Peerkangai) peeled and sliced thickly - 1/2 cup
Peas - 1/2 cup
Raw Banana peeled and sliced thickly - 1/2 cup
One big potato - peeled and cubed - 1/2 cup

Cumin seeds (jeera) - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds (rai) - 1 tsp
Asafoetida (hing)- a pinch

Grind to a paste - 3 green chillies and 2 ' piece of ginger (cut down on chillies to lessen spiciness)
Reserve 1 tsp for muthia.

Dhania jeera powder (a staple in Gujarati kitchens) - 2 tsp
I used 1 tsp of jeera (cumin) powder and 2 tsp of dhania (coriander) powder

Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp

Grated coconut - 1/2 cup
Chopped coriander - 1/2 cup

Oil - 1 tbsp
salt to taste

Methi muthia:

Wheat flour - 4 tbsp
Gram flour (besan) - 2 tbsp
Fresh fenugreek leaves (methi) - 1/4 cup washed and chopped
Oil - 1tbsp
Salt to taste
Ginger green chilli paste - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder (haldi) - a pinch
Asafoetida powder (hing) - a pinch

1. Mix all ingredients of muthia and make a dough adding as little water as is required.
2. Divide the dough into 6-8 portions and make small cylindrical rolls out of it.
3. Steam these muthia for about 10-15 minutes till they are well cooked- this is if you are using a stove top steamer where the water is brought to a boil and then the steamer with muthias kept inside on the stand. If using the microwave steamer, the cooking time will be much less.
4. Once done, cool and keep aside.

For the shaak:
1. Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds, when they pop add the cumin seeds and the asafoetida.
2. Add the chopped vegetables except the peas, ginger chilli paste, dhana jeera powder and turmeric powder. Saute for 3-4 minutes , then add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil, simmer and cook covered till the vegetables are cooked and the dish is almost dry.Halfway through add the fresh peas to the dish.
4. Add the coconut,coriander, muthias and cook for 2-3 minutes - if using frozen peas, then add the peas at this stage.
5. Serve hot with chapatis or rice.


Sagari said...

nice recipe miri and loved your narattion too

Miri said...

Thanks Sagari!

Happy cook said...

I have never made any gujurati food.
From the iondridients it sounds good

Sig said...

I am very ignorant when it comes to Gujarati food, this looks great... I love that bowl too, it is very pretty..