Sunday, 22 November 2015

Kees Krazy Kin

Batatyacha Kees

My mother-in-law who is visiting, is very particular about observing a fast on the occasion of Kartiki Ekadashi, which marks the end of the four-month period of Chaturmaas.

While planning the day’s menu, she casually mentioned that she loved Batatyacha Kees and had craved for kees when she had had her three kids.

That suddenly solved a thirty-year-old mystery for me – of why my husband loves this kees so! He can eat a whole large bowlful of this kees…

And is it any surprise that my younger daughter also is mad about kees…

So here’s to the three generations of kees-krazy kin!

Batatyacha Kees (Potato Kees)


5-6 washed white Nadines or Colibans potatoes (I don’t peel these as they have clean skins)
2-3 green chillies, chopped
4 tablespoons roasted crushed peanuts
2 -3 teaspoon/s oil ghee
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon sugar/sweetener (not required if the potatoes are sweet in taste)
A squirt of lemon juice
Salt to taste
2 tablespoon chopped coriander to garnish (not shown in the photo)


Grate the potatoes using a large-holed grater. I use my food processor. Place the grates in water soon after, to stop discolouration.

Heat oil/ghee in a wide and shallow non-stick pan and add the cumin seeds to splutter. Add the green chillies and then add the grated potato after squeezing out the water.

Mix thoroughly and cook covered on medium heat for a just a few minutes. Then add the crushed peanuts, sugar/sweetener, lemon juice, salt and toss thoroughly using a small fork and with a light touch, so as not to mash the gratings.

Cook for just a few minutes further, stirring minimally to avoid burning from the bottom. The grates get cooked and look translucent very quickly, within minutes.

Remove from heat immediately to arrest further cooking which will make the kees soggy. 

Serve garnished with coriander.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Diwali Stories - 1, Shakun Unde

Shakun Unde

Along with the faral and fatake and the killa and kandil, Diwali for Marathi people was also about reading the Diwali Ank - the festival special editions of reputed magazines as well as those of the publications that mushroomed only at Diwali.

Nothing gave us more pleasure than to relax after the early morning faral - the heavy meal coming straight after a pampering oil bath, and browsing through the Diwali magazines.

The little nip in the air, the lingering heady perfume of that lovely utane, the jasmine oil and the beautiful gulab or chandan Moti soap on our bodies, the strong scent of burnt firecrackers, the mixed aromas of frying from homes around us, the balmy fragrance from the jhendu flowers adorning our homes – if this wasn’t how heaven smelled, I wonder how else!

Other kids around me would run out to burst more crackers or collect unspent ones and try and explode them or collect the "stuff" from inside of them to make their own indigenous fatake.

But a nerdy yours truly would be happier with the magazines - looking at the glossy ads for jewelry, reading recipes and kids' special sections.

My aunt Anuradha Vaidya’s stories, long and short used to be published in several magazines. Once a whole novel had been published and I used to read her works, more out of pride that it was her work, than a real understanding or appreciation of the largely grown up themes.

With Aai busy in the kitchen, this quiet time allowed some indulgent foray into the world of grown ups. I also remember reading a story about divorce, and being terrorised by the word “ghatasphot” and spent many nights worrying if Aai-Baba would ever go down that path.

Once I even attempted reading a short story by G.A. Kulkarni, but beat a hasty retreat – why would anyone write/ publish/ read horror stories during Diwali?

Occasionally, when Aai wasn't looking, a sneak a peek into the double entendre, chavat window cutouts in Jatraa or Awaaz magazine was well worth the risk taken. Also intriguing, especially since it was forbidden, was celebrity gossip from Devyani Chaubal’s Chanderi Chewing Gum.

“ Babi SSSSS! Aey Babi SSSS! Aai’s ‘haak’ would interrupt my postprandial reverie.  

“Shejaari ha faral deun ye!” she would remind me of my annual errand taking steel plates full of sweets and savouries, covered by doilies to our neighbours.

Sigh… time to go… but I would remember this was equally exciting, so I really didn’t mind it … for another adventure in terms of neighbours faral awaited.

And didn’t I lap up all the praise the neighbours would heap on Aai’s innovative faral each year.

 “ What new things has your sugran Aai made this year?” was a question most anticipated; answered by me with equal excitement – for almost every Diwali Aai would make something unusual, rare or different!

Like these Shakun Undas that I made for Shishir’s birthday this week – reconstructed from memory of the one time Aai had made them and a bit of help from the Internet.

Shakun Unde
½ cup chana dal
½ cup gur, grated or brown sugar
½ tsp cardamom powder
½ tsp grated nutmeg
1 tsp lightly toasted poppy seeds
½ cup fresh coconut, grated
½ cup plain flour
½ cup rice flour
A pinch of baking powder
A pinch salt
Oil to deep fry

Pressure cook the chana dal until well done, but not too soft. Drain the water – you use this for “katachi amti”.
Mix the gur or sugar with the boiled chana dal. Add the cardamom and nutmeg.  Process the mixture in a food processor or a kitchen mill (puran yantra). If the mixture is too loose, you may need to microwave it for a couple of minutes to make it firm. Add the poppy seeds and coconut and mix well. Allow the mixture (puran) to cool and shape into small balls.
Heat oil in a kadhai.
In another bowl, mix the plain flour and the rice flour with some water and make a thick smooth batter. Add the salt and the baking powder. Dip the puran balls into the batter and drop into the hot oil.  Batch fry a few balls at a time. The balls will take some time to turn golden brown, due to the rice flour. But once well fried, the balls turn a nice colour.
Drain on kitchen paper and serve warm.


Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Kojagiri Stories

Doodhi Doodh (Vegan Masala Doodh)

As kids we often were home alone with Aai on Kojagiri nights, as Baba used to be away for work. Aai chose to keep a low profile social life, especially when it came to late night events. As a result, our Kojagiri nights used to be quite tame, with Aai making the masala doodh and we all peering into the silver “pela” to see the moon’s reflection in the milk.

Aai would do “aukshan” to Dada, as he was the first-born, but would also include me saying I was her first-born daughter.

Then we would sip on the delicious milk, listening to stories Aai would tell.

How our chests swelled with pride as we listened to the tale of Shivaji Maharaj, pacing the ramparts of the Raighad Fort, on a bright Kojagiri night.

It is said that on this night, goddess Lakshmi visits every house asking "Ko Jagarti?" and endows those who are awake with prosperity.

Legend has it that on a Kojagiri night, the warrior king was looking at the star-studded sky of a Sharad Poornima.  The brightest night of the year overlooked a very troubled state of affairs on the earth. The rapid invasion of the Moghuls and the lack of unity amongst the kings and chieftains worried the great king. 

Suddenly he heard a question – “Ko jagarati? Ko jagarati?”

This was a portent, and he replied “Aham jaagarami! Aham jaagarami!”.

This was the very wise king; the “protector” speaking for his subjects, assuring the higher power that he was aware of the challenges ahead and was prepared to achieve them…

“Ajun ek, ajun ek…” the cry went out – almost an automatic response -to the end of a story.

So  our night wore on, bringing a lump in our throats as we listened to the story Hirkani who risked her life to slide down a steep cliff to be with her child.

Hirkani, the milk maid used to sell milk at Shivaji Maharaj’s Raigad Fort. She would make the trip from her village at the foothill of the fort, leaving her baby at home.

Once, on a Kojagiri day, she got delayed selling milk and missed the curfew time and the gates of the fort closed and the guards refused to let her out.

Worried about her baby, Hirkani, slid down the very steep cliff and reached home to feed her baby.

When Shivaji heard of this feat, he was moved and rewarded her. He also ordered that the cliff that she climbed down as well as a rampart at the Raigad fort be named after Hirkani…

It would be much before mid-night when we drifted off to sleep, our senses lulled by the sweet warm milk and the soothing stories, but our sensibilities kindled forever.

This year, I made the masala doodh for my girls and told them these stories once again. The doodh had to be vegan, since they both have embraced veganism. So I used all plant based products to make it - a milk of human kindness in the real sense, but equally warm and comforting –even more so!

Doodhi Doodh - Vegan Masala Doodh

½ cup raw cashews
½ blanched almonds
1 cup peeled and diced lauki/bottle gourd
2 cups soymilk (you can use any other type of milk – cashew milk/almond milk/ macadamia milk)
Sugar/ sweetener to taste
½ tsp cardamom, crushed fresh
A generous pinch of grated nutmeg
A generous pinch of saffron
2 tbsp charoli/chironji

Soak a cup of cashews and blanched almonds in hot water for about half an hour.
Peel and cube a very tender green lauki/ bottle gourd. Add the soaked nuts with the water and the lauki/bottle gourd and blend it very smoothly.

Transfer this mixture into a heavy bottomed saucepan and let it come to a rolling boil slowly until the bottle gourd is cooked completely. Add the saffron and the spices as well as the charoli while this is still hot, to allow the flavours to infuse.

Add the soymilk at this stage. I don’t like to boil soymilk; it tastes creamier when not boiled.

Add the sugar/sweetener according to your preference. Serve warm or chilled.