I have posted nothing since November 25. Terrible! But I am in the middle of quitting a job, writing 2 papers and shifting home. So I must be excused, and continue so since I dont know the state of internet availability in my new home in Kolkata…

Happy New Year to anyone out there, and I sincerely hope to post more stuff and more regularly from now on…



Panchratna Shak, or a gravy that doesnt need grinding

Along with the sweet dal, this was the first thing I learnt make in the kitchen. A fairly exotic starting point, considering that this shak (meaning a veggie preparation in this case) comprises dry fruits in the main. This shak is often made during the week of paryushan, a week in September when Jain kitchens do not cook any greens and veggies. I wouldnt quite call this a time of austerity since the veggie absence is made up with an overload of dryfruit and besan preparations like the one mentioned below.

I wouldnt imagine people making this very often in their kitchens, but its a good combo to have up your sleeve. Its ingredients need to be procured and pressure cooked, after which it is a breeze to put together. The spices and resultant gravy is also fairly typical, in that there are sweet and sour and spicy notes in every mouthful – the dates make it beautifully sweet and the dried mango beautifully sour.

I’m sending this in to ‘grindless gravies‘ since this is a gravy that, well, doesnt need grinding!

panchratna shak

Panchratna Shaak

For 5-6 persons, you will start with

Dried dates/ chhuara/ kharek – 20 pieces

Raw groundnut – 1 cup

Cashew – 100 grams (split in half)

Raisins – 100 grams

Dried raw mango – 6 pieces (if salted, wash it with water before putting it in pressure cooker for removing extra salt; and if you live outside Gujarat, I have no clue where you can find it!)

Soak the dates dates, raisins and groundnut separately in clean water for 1-2 hours

Pressure cook the dates, groundnut, raw mango pieces in separate containers till four whistles blow*.

Take a biggish pan/ wok/ kadhai and add 3 tspn oil, ¼ tspn hing, 2 glasses of water, 1 1/2 tsp chilli powder, 1/2 tsp haldi/ turmeric powder, 1 1/2 tsp cumin powder and a table-tennis sized ball of jaggery. Let the whole thing boil.

Add the cashew and raisins, let it cook for 2 minutes and add the other ingredients. Let it simmer for 15 min. Add more water if you feel the need for more gravy. And if the gravy feels too thin, add 1 tbsp of besan.

Adjust the chilli, jaggery, salt according to your tastes, and have it hot with chappatis.

NOTE 1: If you shudder at the thought of such quantities of nuts, replace the groundnut, cashew and raisins with peas. Add a handful of cashew for fun and adjust cooking times accordingly. I think the final shak will still be great, it just wont be suitable for paryushan any more!

NOTE 2: As required by grindless gravy rules, this dish uses the following utensils: A pressure cooker, at least 4 cooker containers, and a wok/ pan. That’s not too bad I should think!

* The reason why the ingredients are cooked separately is to ensure that their colours do not leak into one another.

Date and walnut cake

I know cakes dont quite calssify as Gujju food, or even Indian food for that matter, but I must post these once in a while because cakes are about the only things I make with confidence! And eggless cakes are a Gujju inspired realm of baking for me, since eggs are taboo in my MIL’s kitchen. So an eggless date and walnut cake recipe…

I’ve been tinkering around with date and walnut recipes for a few years now, but hunted far and wide for an eggless version. I found this recipe on aayi’s recipes while surfing around, and typically it stayed in my bookmarked list for ages. Finally, the cake was tried for my husband’s grandad’s 90th birthday lunch.

eggless date and walnut cake
The recipe here is is a mish mash of two versions I tried, the first attempting to mix in bananas and rum along with the dates, and the second attempting to make to healthier. The recipe reproduced below should enable you to make either, or both.

The Ingredients:
Deseeded dates – 18 OR 9 dates and 1 medium mashed banana
Milk/ Rum – 3/4 cup
Sugar – 1/2 cup Oil – 1/3 cup
Whole wheat flour – 1 cup Vinegar – 1tsp
Baking Soda – 1 tsp
Walnut – 1/2 cup, chopped

Soak dates in warm milk/ rum, and then blend it. I like to leave a few lumps in. If using, bananas add and blend it together now.

Add sugar and oil and mix. Sugar granules should ideally dissolve away. Add vinegar and mix.

Sift together flour and soda. Add to date mixture and mix by hand till blended.

Preheat oven to 180C and butter/ line a 9×5 loaf pan. Pour in the batter and bake for 35-40 mins, or till toothpick poked in comes out clean.

Wait till it cools completely before cutting. Tastes better the next day.

Kadhi (or curried buttermilk?)

Kadhi and Khichdi is another staple in many parts of the country, though the specific combination and way of making described below is typically Gujju. The khichdi is always made with dal and rice, though the tempering differs from region to region. The kadhi, is always made with buttermilk, but is sweet only in Gujarat. But no matter what, on a cold winter evening, no other meal combo comes close as the perfect dinner.

We also make kadhi in place of dal some days at lunchtime. It pairs well with the bhindi shaak mentioned earlier. And it works well when you have leftover yoghurt/ dahi that is turning sour.

Khichdi follows in the next post.

Sweet Kadhi (for 4-5 people)


Mix 2 cups of buttermilk/ blended plain dahi/ yoghurt with 3 cups of water. It should be blended smooth, no lumps. Check for the sourness of the mixture, if very sour*, add another cup of water.

Start to boil in a large-ish pan. Add salt and then check sour-ness again.

When warm, add 2 heaped tbsps of besan/ gram flour and blend again**. We use a hand held blender but it can also be churned.

Add table tennis ball sized piece of jiggery (or 3 tsps of sugar), some curry leaves, 2 large green chillies slit in half, 1 tbsp chopped coriander.

Then we temper. In a small pan or whatever, add 2 tsp of ghee/ butter (you can replace 1 tsp of ghee with 1 tsp of oil). When its hot, add ½ tsp mustard seeds, 1-2 clove, ½ inch piece of cinnamon, ¼ tsp methi/ fenugreek seeds, ½ tsp jeera/ cumin seeds. Add to boiling yoghurt mixture.

Check the balance of spices. Add more jaggery, chilli, salt according to your taste.

Let the pot boil for another 10 mins. At the end of it, you should have a smooth blend, which just about coats the back of the spoon. If the kadhi is too thin, add another tsp of besan/ gram flour mixed in a little water. If too thick, add some more water.

As with the dal, the ideal kadhi is neither too thick nor thin, neither to sweet, hot or sour. It should be just right. But of course, ‘just right’ is largely a matter of personal preference.

kadhi 4

* With ‘very sour’ being the taste that makes you screw up your face!

** Besan/ gram flour and buttermilk belong to two separate categories of food (in terms of heating/ cooling/ whatever) that must not be cooked together, according to Jain dietary laws. Also, if the buttermilk is cold, the besan will not mix properly. So, whichever reason you may choose to believe, let the buttermilk turn lukewarm before you add the besan.

2 Reason’s for Posting a Kothmir/ Coriander Chutney recipe

1. There is really nothing spectacular about coriander chutney. I mean every Indian kitchen worth it’s salt must have its own version. But my MIL’s coriander chutney was something else. Like so much else that’s Gujju, this was also simultaneously sweet, spicy, tangy and of course coriander-y.

2. A Gujju friend specifically asked how its made!

dhania chutney ingredients

So here goes, in very approximate terms as usual*:

A generous fistful of coriander/ dhania/ kothmir, well washed, stems separated (1 1/2 cups if I must be more specific)

5-10 stems of mint/ pudina (measuring less than half a cup of the leaves)

3 tbsp of raw groundnuts/ peanuts

1 heaped tsp sesame

1 heaped tsp cumin seeds/ jeera

2 large green chillis (our chillis are about 3 inches long, so that’s what I mean by large)

A table tennis ball sized piece of jaggery

Juice of 1 lemon (our lemons are a bit more than 1 inch across)

A small bell pepper/ capsicum/ simla mirch (optional)

Salt to taste

Grind the cumin/ jeera, raw groundnut, sesame, chillis, jaggery, lemon juice and bell pepper/ simla mirch. When almost ground, add the coriander and mint leaves and grind till fine. Check sweet, chilli, and all other flavour levels and add whatever else suits your fancy.

It keeps refrigerated for 3-4 days.

Note: My MIL says a bit of green garlic (fresh garlic) also goes well in this chutney. And she adds that that quality of the chutney depends entirely on very good quality ingredients.

Dhania chutney

* You can check quantities of the ingredients in the pics. We added all you see there.

‘Punjabi’ Shak

I first came across an entire range of foods known as ‘Punjabi’ food here in Gujarat. It referred to just about all the rich, tomato/ onion gravy based veggies, naan/kulcha/ parathas that was dished out in restaurants in Ahmedabad, and probably in other parts of Gujarat as well . Needless to say such a category does not really exist ( I doubt if one could find a homogenous ‘north Indian’ cuisine) and the foods in this category broadly refers to stuff not usually cooked on an everyday basis in a Gujarati household, and comprising richer gravies and (non-Jain*) ingredients such as tomatoes, onions and garlic.

To come back to the recipe in question, when my MIL makes a gravy using onions and tomatoes, it is called a Punjabi shak (shak being the Gujarati terms for veggie preparations and raw vegetables both). Its simple enough, and tastes great!

Punjabi shak/ Veggies in tomato- onion gravy

Cube/dice veggies of choice (carrots, peas, cauliflower, beans) and boil with a little salt. We had about 4 cups of boiled veggies.

Grind to a watery paste 1 large onion and 2 largish tomatoes. We had 2 cups of paste.

In a wok/ pan, add 3-4 (or more) tbsps of oil/ ghee/ butter, add 1/2 tsp of hing/ asafoetida, and the onion-tomato paste. Add 1 tsp of crushed garlic, add some more if you like the veggies garlick-y. Keep on a medium flame/ heat throughout.

Add 1/2 tsp each of chilli powder and turmeric, 1 tsp of coriander-cumin powder, and 2 tsp of garam masala// kitchen king. Let the whole thing cook till it lets off oil.

You can add 2-3 tsps of sugar/ jaggery. But feel free to leave it out if it hurts your non-Gujju sensibilities to add sweet stuff to spicy veggies, but I personally think jaggery rounds off the spices quite well.

Add the veggies, a fist full of chopped coriander, and let it simmer. Adjust salt, spices at this point and let it simmer for about 10 mins. The gravy should not taste raw, and the veggies should have taken on some of the spice and flavour as well.

Garnish with more coriander and eat!

Punjabi shak

* A pedestrian understanding of Jain food is that it simply does not include anything that grows below the ground, such as onions and garlic. I hope to develop a better understanding of Jain dietery logic in the coming years of association of my Jain family-in-law.

The Fantastic Four

The four ingredients that I have unfailingly used in these early days of cooking are chilli powder, turmeric powder, dhana jeeru or coriander-cumin powder, and jaggery (solid molasses (for want of better description) or gud). There’s also hing/ asafoetida, which makes it the Famous Five actually, but anyways.

This is especially true of daily veggies which are spiced with these ingredients, give or take different quantities.So what I describe for cabbage and ladies fingers/ okra/ bhindi below, could be well adapted to potatoes, cauliflower, bottle gourd/ winter melon/ lauki/ doodhi, and veggies that I dont know the english terms for, like turia and tindoda.

Veggies simply sauteed

Start with finely chopped cabbage or okra/bhendi (These are the two variations I’ve made and you can see photos for). You should have about 6 cups of chopped veggies.

In a wok/ pan/ whatever you have, add 3-4 tbsps of oil. (Add more if you like, it doesnt matter really; the veggies will taste great and about 50 yrs later your arteries might clog!)

Add 2 tsp of mustard, and once it sputters, add 1/2 tsp hing/ asafoetida. In case of bhindi/ okra, add 20-25 grains of fenugreek/ methi seeds instead of the mustard.

Add the veggies, add salt and mix it up. Cover the pan and let it sit till the cabbage is cooked, or in case of bhindi/ okra, till the stickiness is almost gone.

Add 1 tsp each of chilli powder, turmeric, and 1 and 1/2 tsps of coriander-cumin powder. Adjust and add more if you like. (the MIL says that the colour of the veggies is dulled by too much coriander-cumin, so beware. You want the final dish to look bright and yellow, or bright and green in case of bhindi.)

If your making cabbage, add some jaggery, like 1 tsp full. Again, sugar can, but the taste is sharper and not quite the same. No jaggery to bhindi.

Let it cook to your satisfaction. Then eat with previously mentioned dal and rotis/ rice.

cabbage - the parts and the whole

Bhindi - before and after

Notes: Again a case of approximation of spices to suit your taste. I would suggest doing a trial run with the amounts I have written and then adjusting. Also the amount of cooking/ leaving the veggies crisp is entirely up to personal preference.