Sunday, 7 June 2015

Cucumbers for Connoisseurs

Sabudana Khichadi with Cucumbers

Sixty-two years ago, when she first discovered the chemistry of cucumber in khichadi, she was a 16-year-old girl with dreams beyond her years and times.

Her parents had given her the wings, but didn’t dare let her fly - tangled in a twister of their own progressive beliefs, awareness of her creative compulsion and peer pressure and material concerns of providing for their brood.

“Get the girls ‘married off’ as soon as possible – you’ve got five to dispose of!” – was a warning arising out of love and pragmatism to be heeded.

Sitting in the mail bogie of the narrow gauge Barshi Light Railway with a family elder assigned to take her to the big city to have her “shown” or “seen”, she looked around her, animatedly taking in all sights, sounds and smells. 

She had passed the matric examination and had submitted specimens of her work to the J.J. School of Art for admission into a fine arts course, sang on the radio, danced on stage – the impressed uncle gathered this bit by bit, between interesting interruptions as the train stopped dutifully at each station.

A hunch on the part of the uncle to first check out the prospective groom proved right. 

As he returned to their host’s home where they were staying for the night, he was greeted by the sight of her heartily tucking into a sabudana khichadi with cucumbers, instead of the customary potatoes. 

It was the host who asked the uncle about the outcome of the visit. 

Looking at the beautiful child-woman relishing the succulent sago pearls flavoured innocently yet exotically with the dewy green cucumbers, the uncle couldn’t bring himself elaborate much.

“Oh, we won’t be seeing that boy – he looks like a monkey”, was all he thought was enough by way of an explanation. 

The proposal fizzled out with the laughter.

Ever since, sabudanyachi khichadi has been made in the family with cucumbers for the connoisseurs, while others get the pedestrian potato.

Sixty-two years later, her dreams– some achieved and some conceded - translucent with age but fresh in her mind, she suddenly recalls and recounts this story amidst peals of laughter as she and her daughter tuck into some cucumber khichadi at brunch on a lazy long weekend. 

Sabudanyachi khichadi with kakadi


2 cups sabudana, picked clean
3-4 small cucumbers, diced (I used Lebanese cucumbers, but continental cucumbers or gherkins – kheeras will also do)
3-4 green chillies (or more)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
¾ cup roasted and coarsely ground peanuts 
½ cup grated coconut
1 teaspoon sugar/sweetener
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon lemon juice (or more)
2 tablespoons chopped coriander


Pick and wash the sabudana with plenty of water and drain completely. Keep covered for at least 3-4 hours. Overnight is the best. The sabudana absorbs the moisture and swells. Test a pearl by rolling it between your thumb and index finger. It should be soft, non-sticky and pliable. If it isn’t, sprinkle some more water and keep covered for some more time. I usually rehydrate the drained sabudana at least twice by sprinkling water and raking the caked moist sabudana with a fork. 

When you are satisfied that the pearls are separate, soft and pliable, add the ground peanuts, salt, sugar and salt and mix well.

In a heavy bottomed pan, heat the oil and add the cumin seeds to splutter. Add the chopped green chillies and the diced cucumber and sauté lightly. 

Add the prepared sabudana mixture and mix thoroughly. Cook covered for a few minutes. Mix again and add the lemon juice, grated coconut.  Add more salt if required. The sabudana will turn translucent when cooked and let out white steam. Stir gently to avoid lumping.

Serve garnished with the coriander.  

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