Sunday, 4 March 2018

Date and Banana Shankarpaali

Date and Banana Shankarpaali

Even as a kid I used to love reading recipes in magazines, behind the pages of the Kalnirnay, on food packaging, newspaper life style sections... 

The style of writing recipes in those days was very simple - no precise measurements, paranoid instructions and elaborate steps - which made a dish sound so easy to make.

Take for instance, if I had read the recipe for these date and banana shankarpaali (which I haven’t) it would have probably read like this:

दोन- तीन पिकलेली केळी, एक कप बिया काढून बारीक कुस्करलेला खजूराचा बलक, चमचा भर खसखस, चवीपुरतं मीठ आणि दोन मोठे चमचे तेलाचं मोहन. त्यात मावेल तेव्हडी कणीक घालून पीठ घट्ट मळून घ्यायचं. तास भर झाकून ठेवून मग जाड पोळ्या लाटून शंकरपाळी कापून घ्यावी. कढईत तेल तापवून मंद आचे वर शंकरपाळी तळून काढावी.  गार झाल्यावर घट्ट झाकणाच्या डब्यात भरून ठेवावी.

Now imagine if one of my girls were to read this recipe:

Once they got past the Devnagari obstacle, the battery of questions would begin:
·      One banana or two? 
·      What on earth is ‘balak’? 
·      What sort of ‘chamacha’is this – teaspoon or tablespoon?
·      Who the heck is Mohan?
·      How much is ‘maavel tevhdi kaneek’?
·      If kaneek is flour, then how come dough is also kaneek?

Then finally, out of obvious relief that the ordeal of reading the recipe was coming to an end, a sudden flash of humour in Marathi to qualify a statement -

Dude – it should read, “गार व्हायच्या आधीच घरच्यांनी ती येताजाता भरून संपली नसल्यास, गार झाल्यावर घट्ट झाकणाच्या डब्यात भरून ठेवावी!”

And for all those on whom this is lost in translation, here's the recipe in English:

Sugar Free - Date and Banana Shankarpali

2-3 over ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
1 cup pitted dates, mashed or puréed
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
½ tsp salt
2 tablespoons oil
2 ½ - 3 cups atta (no fix measurements here)
Oil for deep frying


In a bowl mix all the ingredients, except the atta. Slowly add the atta and knead a gradually into a firm dough. Keep covered for about half an hour. Then roll out large discs and cut into squares using a fluted pastry cutter. Heat oil in a kadhai and deep fry the shankarpalis batch by batch, on medium heat.

Remove on absorbent paper. Keep in an airtight container when cooled.

These taste best with a cup of tea.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Soul Soup

Time was when fresh green peas were only available in winter and at exorbitant prices in South India. Frozen green peas were a thing out of science fiction. In these antediluvian times, even a few kilos of fresh green peas created a lot of excitement in a family, where our foremothers were pioneers of the zero-waste, sustainable, waste-not-want-not approach to everything that required the expenditure of any resource.

This said approach was invariably applied to the said peas, which were divided into categories based on their quality.

The random prematurely plucked pea pods were destined to go into Aai’s famous pea shell soup, which was another winter must-have.

Tender pea pods were reserved for the privilege of “matar gashti” – literally guarding a field of green peas, and figuratively having fun. There are fewer pleasures in life greater than shelling tender peas and eating them. We were allowed all the tender ones, but with a proviso. We kids had to string and break the shells into pieces for the pea shell soup.

Our interest rarely lasted beyond hastily stringing the pods after the peas had been popped, knowing that Aai would patiently pick the remaining shells that qualified for the soup.

The bigger peas ones were used for cooking – whether it was in a curry, a pulao or a masale bhaat and their shells didn’t always land in the soup, if they were tough and fibrous.

Aai’s pea shell soup was as mysterious as the witches’ charmed soup in Macbeth.

It would go something like this....

"Scales of onion, cubes of potato,
Switches of coriander, and some clo’
And a piece of cinnamon bark,
Root of ginger digg'd i' the dark,
Sliver of blaspheming chilli,
Spoon of oil or perhaps some ghee
Stringed and broken pea shucks,
Dose of cream or any fat that sauces,
Spoonful of freshly squeezed lemon
Make for the gruel in our cauldron…"

At this point, the magical soup reclaimed our attention. Hope it captures yours.

Pea Shell Soup


3 cups tender shells of peas, stringed and broken into small pieces
1 cup shelled peas
1small onion –roughly chopped
1 small potato, scrubbed clean and cut into pieces
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tsp minced garlic + 2 whole cloves of garlic
½ tsp minced fresh ginger
1 small green chilli
A tablespoon of chopped of coriander
1 tbsp oil 
1-2 cloves
½ inch piece of cinnamon
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh cream or coconut cream for garnish


Wash pea shells and scrub potato – if the skin is clean, don’t peel. Place the shells, half a cup of peas, the chopped potato and onion, coriander, green chilli and the garlic cloves in the body of a pressure cooker/ pressure pan. Cover with about 2 cups of water. Pressure-cook the vegetables for about 10 minutes.

When cooled, blend using a stick blender or a mixer. Strain with a large holed strainer, ensuring that no cellulose bits get into the soup extract.

In the same pressure pan, heat oil and add the cloves and cinnamon stick. Add the finely chopped onions, the minced garlic, fresh ginger and remaining shelled peas and sauté for a few minutes. Pour the soup mix into the saucepan and let it simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze half a lemon when the soup has boiled.

Serve hot with a dash of fresh cream or use coconut cream if you want to keep this soup vegan.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Bhajani Stuffed Capsicum

Bhajani Bharleli Bhongi Mirchi (Capsicum with a multi-grain filling)

Bhajani is a handy multi-grain flour made with roasted grains and pulses. Sometimes, some of the grains are washed before roasting. This pre-processing makes bhajani quick to cook and easier to digest. The whole grains and pulses or lentils ensure plenty of fibre, which also gives the finished products a great grainy texture.

There are no fixed ingredients, but rice, wheat, jowar, bajra, raagi and pulses like whole chickpeas, green or black gram, or other lentils or various daals are commonly used. There are no fixed proportions for the ingredients either, but a general rule of thumb is to use more grains than pulses. Bhajani also includes roasted coriander and cumin seeds, which give it a distinct flavour.

Bhajani is used to make breads like thalipeeth and dhapatey, or chakalis. It can be made into mokli bhajani, an upma like dish that is very nutritious and easy to make. It can also be used to stuff all sorts of vegetables like okra, capsicum, snake gourds, tomatoes.


8 small Bhongi Mirchis (capsicums)

1 medium onion, chopped

¾ cup bhajani flour (I used a home made roasted multigrain flour made of rice, wheat, chana daal, whole matki and whole moong and spices like coriander and cumin)

A handful of coriander, chopped

2 tbsp besan (optional)

½ tsp coriander powder

½ tsp cumin powder

Red chilli powder to taste, depending on how hot the capsicum is

¼ tsp hing

¼ tsp haldi

Salt to taste

2 tbsp oil


In a bowl, mix the chopped onion and sprinkle some salt. Rub the salt into the onions to bring out the moisture. Add the bhajani flour and besan, coriander and cumin powders, haldi and hing. Check and adjust the salt. Add 1 tbsp oil and lightly mix it into a crumbly mixture. There’s no need to add water, as the mixture will cook on the steam and firm up.

Wash the capsicums and slice the tops off. Remove all the seeds with a sharp knife. Rub a little oil onto each pepper from the outside and stuff with the crumbly bhajani mixture.

Arrange the capsicums on their sides in a heavy bottomed shallow pan and drizzle the rest of the oil on top. Place the pan on the stovetop and cook covered on a very low flame. Turn the capsicums once to ensure even cooking. Remove from heat when the capsicum skins are roasted and the stuffing looks cooked. This should take about 10-15 minutes.

Alternately, you could try baking the stuffed capsicums in a hot oven for about 15 minutes or until they are done to your liking.

You can serve the capsicums warm or at room temperature with any main meal or even as a starter or snack.