A forgotten kitchen

Let's explore the world of fading food traditions & culinary delights

Amba haldibimblichironjidorhalim, lotus nuts, kalonji, anchovy, buckwheat and the list goes on. Do these sound rare, unconventional and possibly, avant-garde even? Have you ever used them? Probably yes and no! These are simple and yet special ingredients that have adorned our kitchens shelves for ages, probably with different local names.

India is a treasure trove of rare delicacies, fine cuisines and exotic food. To know more, start right in your own backyard, I mean your natal home, inside your grandma’s and mother’s exquisite kitchen. You will be surprised to discover some gastronomical delights, alluring recipes and healthy encounters with the palate.

Culinary inheritance

Ever heard of pyaaz ki kheer from the Nawab Gharana of Hyderabad, boti ni akuri from the Parsi cuisine, singhare ki kachri from Lucknow, pathra vada from the Konkan region, murassa from Murshidabad, chitua from Central Asia, dubkis, Sufiana pulao, pindi miriyam from Andhra, clams coconut suke from Goa, menthe hittu from Karnataka, sukku pal, milagu kuzhambu and my list goes on? Is an exotic culinary dream floating in front of your eyes? These dishes may sound unfamiliar, complex and elaborate, but they are amazing dishes that are part of our own culture, evolved over the years and brought to our homes by our ancestors.

There is tremendous value in inheriting your ‘food culture’ from your ancestors, in reviving the forgotten recipes and fading food traditions. In fact, a food tradition is not just a tasty recipe, it comprises a whole ecosystem including the storage mechanism of kitchen products, choice of purely organic or natural ingredients, the recipe and preparation itself, the art of serving which is a quintessential part of the tradition and finally, the practice of eating together as one family. The serving of food even today resonates with an emotion of love and affection. Most people continue to say, “no one can replace my mother in the way she cooked and served food.” Precious, isn’t it?

Technology replaces tradition

Over time, food technology has gained impetus and beyond imaginable acceptance. This has completely changed the dynamics of cooking, serving, eating in nearly every home across the country! As lifestyles evolved, as families became nuclear to a large extent and women moved out of their homes, traditions witnessed a whole lot of transformation. One of the biggest outcomes of food industrialisation is processed food. Food that can stay longer, re-used and refrigerated. You do know that processed food is essentially engineered for overconsumption, high in sugar and fructose content, contains artificial ingredients and harmful chemicals, high in refined carbohydrates and very low on nutrition, don’t you? Phew!

Some people believe that change was inevitable, and we should move ahead with the times. However, a whole lot of us believe and would like to endorse the view that while it is important to move ahead, it is equally and more critical to take some key elements of our past into our future.

Save endangered traditions

Start digging up your grandma’s cookbooks. You will not only find some great recipes but also a whole lot of wonderful stories around it. My grandmother knew over 90 varieties of pickles, 100 plus sweets and what else! When I started asking around, people’s eyes gleaming with delight came up with many such secrets, on 12 different ways to cut a fish, three different ways to cook dal, over 30-plus exotic mango recipes, methods to make the rare gosht halwa, and many other endangered dishes from the great Lucknowi cultures, Nawabi cultures, ancient brahminical food, Indo-French Puducherry, seven-layered roti and lots more! All these were organically grown, stored and made, of course with love!

In fact, each family, each sub-sect, each culture made food in its own unique way with perhaps the same ingredients. What they applied was ingenuity, innovation and a core vision of cooking up a fabulous meal! So, what are YOU doing to save these traditional cooking cultures, be part of it and above all, hand it down to the next-gen? Not all hope is lost here!

Our ancestors had a holistic philosophy about food. At one level, it was essentially to appease your taste buds, bring family members together and above all, to eat healthily. The ancient Ayurvedic food and healthcare tradition recommends you use these five spices regularly in your kitchen — cumin (promotes digestion), turmeric (anti-inflammatory), ginger (stimulant, analgesic), black pepper (digests fat, expectorant) and coriander (balances pitha), on the theory that you can eat all you want but you must ensure that the maximum nutrients reach the body and food is well absorbed into the bloodstream.

I read about people trying to resuscitate the country’s fading culinary traditions. It feels wonderful to be acquainted with such a fascinating food culture, charismatic cuisine and tradition, food with finesse and royalty that is a part of our ancient history. It is time you inherit and get started on that tasty dish right away!

 

Kallu Tambittu Unde

Ingredients

  • Kadle bele (chana dal): 1 cup
  • Uddina bele (urad dal): 1 cup 
  • Hesaru bele (green gram): 1 cup
  • Togari bele (toor dal): 1 cup 
  • Godi hittu (refined wheat flour): 1 cup
  • Dry coconut: 1 cup
  • Powdered jaggery: 2 to 3 big cups
  • Roasted groundnuts: 2 tbsp
  • Roasted white sesame seeds: 1 tbsp
  • Cardamom powder: 1 tsp

Method

  • In a large base tawa, take the four dals and dry roast them. Roast the wheat flour separately and set aside to cool.
  • Roast the dry coconut, groundnuts, white sesame and cardamom and put them in a blender till it is a fine powder.
  • Take a separate saucepan, boil 3 cups of water and add the powdered jaggery and set to boil on low heat till the jaggery melts completely. Stir well and filter the syrup to remove the impurities. Boil the clear syrup again until it turns thick and brown. Let it cool.
  • Take a large dry bowl and add the roasted dals into it. Now add the finely roasted dry coconut, cardamom powder, white sesame powder and blend the two with your hand gently. Once it is mixed completely, slowly add the jaggery syrup and develop the right consistency to make laddoos. Your kallu tambittu unde, full of proteins and fibre, is ready!

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A forgotten kitchen

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