Monday, 23 July 2012

Oo la la! Santra Bhaat

Orange (Mandarin) and Poppy Seed Rice

Photo by Apurva Nargundkar

Sitting in the balcony of the old Victorian house in the busy market of Badi Chawdi, the sun streaming down on us like depicted in calendar paintings, leisurely watching interesting happenings in the market below us and eating Nagpuri Santras (Mandarins), Mother and I would not have realised that we were living a moment that would be etched forever in our memories.

I was recuperating from typhoid and had enjoyed care and pampering by Mother. She had devotedly cooked the most delicious meals for me and kept me cheered and entertained. I was basking as much in the warmth of her attention as in the warm sun rays cutting the chill in the air. A little earlier we had done recky operations on which cart lined up alongside the kerb in the market had the biggest, juiciest and the best mandarins in the market and had sent for them. Mother and I watched squabbling vendors and shoppers, cows taking the mickey out of pedestrians, monkeys eyeing fruit and waiting to catch a vendor off their guard.

We didn’t have TV and this was the best real time audiovisual entertainment we could get!

And so educative this joblessness was!

I learnt to identify the features of the best vegetables and fruit, to select the best produce, learnt to haggle for the best price, was exposed to the survival tactics and techniques of vendors and shoppers, beggars and stray animals. The Badi Chawdi police station was a stone’s throw away, so we had the most interesting and strange episodes presented to us on a regular basis. One time it was a stolen prize winning sow who spent a night squealing most horrendously in the lock up while feuding parties decided who she belonged to! Pickpockets and small time thieves and cops amiably sharing a cup of tea and chewing tobacco after they were let go with some roughing up was a common sight!

I learnt the most from my mother, though. Always game for experimenting and innovating, she never tired of discussing any subject. That morning I remember talking about what possible dishes could be made out of those delicious mandarins. We were on our sixth mandarin and had probably started getting diminishing returns from the fresh fruit! The first couple of ideas are unrememberable, but on our third dish she exclaimed, “Santra Bhaat!”

Charged, we went on and on extempore about what it should be like! The discussion is as fresh in my mind as the bright orange fruit that I love. Each winter I am reminded of the Santra Bhaat of our dreams. Over the years my ideas of what should go into the dish vacillated.

Then for the last few months, ever since the mandies- as we affectionately call them, started coming home in hoardes, the idea of using them with poppy seeds in a rice began to harass me till I finally made it today, as my post on the Rice Bowl cook-off on Sikandalous Cuisine!

O la la! Santra Bhaat!


1 tsp ghee

1 tsp black poppy seeds
A pinch of salt
1 cup basmati rice, soaked for 30 minutes
1 ½ cups boiling water
1 ½ cups peeled mandarin segments
½cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tbsp fresh / frozen grated coconut
4 tbsp sugar/ sweetener (depending on the sourness of the mandarins)

Heat a heavy bottomed pan and melt the ghee in it. Add the black poppy seeds and let them splutter just a bit. Add the drained rice and toast it in the ghee and poppy mixture for a minute. Add the pinch of salt and then 1 ½ cups of boiling water. Let the rice cook, covering after a while. When the rice is almost done, add the mandarin segments, coconut and sugar / sweetener. Mix well and cook covered on very low heat. Check after a few minutes and add the freshly squeezed orange juice. Cover again for a few minutes and then switch off heat after making sure the grain is cooked and the taste is balanced and to your liking (Mandarins and oranges tend to have different sourness levels).

Serve warm.

P.S This rice is like the Maharashtrian sakharbhaat, except I have not used sugar syrup. Sakharbhaat is used a main dish in a meal and not as a dessert! Hence it is served warm, with some ghee on the top!

P.P.S  While plating, I took advantage of the lots of mandarins lolling around! Oo la la!

This bhaat has rolled into the Show me your HITS "Rice" event cohosted by Vardhini and Sangee!

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