Maharashtrian Mejwani-an event on Maharashtrian Food
Was extremely happy to be a part of "Maharashtrian Mejwani",a celebration of food from different parts of Maharashtra,part of the Culinary Legacy series at A Perfect Bite Cook Studio that seeks to educate people on traditional food from every community.You can read about some of the Maharashtrian cooking styles here,as covered by India Food Network.Vidharbha,Khandeshi,Saraswat ,CKP and East Indian cuisines are to be covered in events later.
The anchor was film critic and blogger Shakti Salgaonkar-Yezdani,grand daughter of the late Jayant Salgaonkar who started the hugely popular Marathi and English Kalnirnay Calendar,which enlists all days of religious significance and has recipes at the page of each page.Shakti has authored an endearing book herself,called "Imperfect Mr Right".She is currently Wordsmith with Qyuki.She spoke of how she learnt cooking from both her grandmothers.While helping them,she realized why a curry made from hand ground coconut is way better than that from a mixie.It's all about simple things.One of her grandmothers wrote a book on 52 ladoos,which was published in London
Our first speaker was Aditya Mehendale,a scion of the Sardar Raste family of Pune which is related to the Peshwas.His childhood was spent at the Raste Wada which had as many as 30 cooks,each of whom were specialized in one particular cuisine.His grand aunt and mentor Maisaheb Bavdekar was from Kolhapur and married to a family who were direct descendants of the youngest minister in Shivaji Maharaj's darbar.Having spent many days in Kolhapur learning from her,he seemed the perfect choice to talk about Kolhapuri Cuisine beyond Pandhra and Tambda Rassa.He told us that it was a misconception that it was the spiciest cuisine,when actually Nagpuri or Saoji cuisine is! Kolhapur was later taken over by the British and for them,this seemed the spiciest.Being inland,meat is a very important part of Kolhapuri food and every part of the animal is consumed,including the head,tripe,liver,lung and kidneys,giving rise to dishes such as Mundi Rassa and Banga Rassa (made of offals).Royals indulged in hunting and game meat was highly valued.The Kolhapuri Mutton Sukka served for lunch at the event was actually a dish he made for the first time at age of 15 after going for shikar! He also regaled is about the Murrel Rassa made from snakehead Murrel fish which was hunted by a shotgun by Kolhapuri royalty,years ago.Finally he spoke of Khimyachi Parsundi,a dish of minced meat topped with egg.Aditya Mehendale has included all these recipes in his book,Rare Gems.The Kanda Lasun Masala is the basic Kolhapuri spice mix.
Next was my friend Saee Koranne Khandekar,who has a Koknastha Brahmin mom,Deshashtha Brahmin dad and Karhade Brahmin husband.She made the Jwariche Ambil,a savory jowar (millet) porridge which is cooling for the summer.It is offered as prasad to Goddess Gauri and has coconut chips and peanuts.The aroma of the Ambil filled the studio,making everyone hungry,including non vegetarians! Comfort food this! She has published the Gore Family Cookbook as a memento for family get-togethers and to record recipes for posterity
Brahmin food varies according to the community.Kokanastha is coastal hence has fresh coconut and light curries,dairy and jaggery.In everyday food,garlic and onion are not used much.Deshashtha Brahmin fare is different as it is from the plateau region.It has lots of grains and peanuts and fresh vegetables.Karade Brahmin fare is somewhere in between
Chai in pots and poha chivda was served in newspaper cones which Rhea Mitra Dalal found delightful! She was an archaeologist and now foodblogger and caterer.
The next speaker was food historian Dr Mohsina Mukadam,a veritable legend! I was to attend her food walk by Kala Ghoda festival,some years ago,but the seats were all full.Was thrilled to hear her speak.She is a storehouse of information.She talked of how Kokani Muslim fare was a combination of Hindu and Islamic traditions.She showed us Saravle,a Kokani pasta made of wheat and Sandan which looked like idlis but were sweet and made of rice flour.Biryani came in much later and was used for celebration.Fish Biryani is famous.She gave us special Macchi ka Masala (Fish Masala) to try at home.It was a treat to listen to her and have Kurush Dalal add to it.He is an archaeologist and caterer,with special interest in Gastronomic Heritage!
We were served Kokum Spritzer,in keeping with the Kokani talk.This souring agent energizes and how!
Chef Ranveer Brar joined us at the studio!
Kunal Vijayakar signed copies of his maiden cookbook "Made In India" and Aditya Mehendale his book "Rare Gems!
Next was Anjali Koli,the only vegetarian Koli I know! She is actually a qualified environmental technologist who worked in the IT industry and is now a foodblogger and runs an e-store that sells Koli masalas and other ingredients.She spoke of how fish is an integral part of their cuisine and of the use of garlic,Koli masala and coconut in Kanji, the fish curry Kolis have different from the rice gruel of the same name.She chose to demonstrate Thal Chicken Curry.Thal is 7 km away from Alibag and is subject of Anita Desai's book "Village By The Sea.It's her village.Here fish curry is had with rice at lunch and reduced at night and had with rotis.
Next was Pathare Prabhu cuisine and Sokaji (bon vivant in Parbhi) Kunal Vijayakar came to talk on it in his traditional five yard dhotar and pagdi! One of the earliest communities of Mumbai,Pathare Prabhus are known for their modern outlook (no dowry,widow remarriage) yet maintain their traditions.They are said to be descendants of King Ashwapati of Nepal and migrated via Rajasthan and Gujarat,inculcating some of their traditions.Parbhi recipes are simple and quick.Not much coconut.Parbhi sambhar is their spice mix which includes wheat flour and gram flour among other ingredients.Parbhi Methkut is distinctly different from the Brahmani one and is used to cook bombils and prawns.Then we had a demonstration of how Prawn Pathwad is made,based on the recipe in Made In India.Had many people come and tell us later that they were inspired to make pathwad since there would be prawns in it
The right Colocasia leaves are chosen and washed well.These are flattened using a rolling pin and smeared with gram flour mixture with spices and prawns and rolled like a sushi,inspiring people to say that pathwad came before sushi,haha! Pathwad requires less water than the ones made without prawns.These are then steamed for fifteen minutes.The water should be steaming well before the roll is placed and steaming too long will make it hard.Before the slices are cut,the roll has to cool down,else they will open up.
These rolls can be had just like that with tamarind chutney or green chutney....the healthier option!
But Kunal being Kunal wouldn't have it any other way than the Parbhi way... so Soumitra Velkar fried them.
Soumitra is a foodblogger and his wife Manju and he cook traditional Pathare Prabhu meals at home for people.He made Kolambi Pulao (Prawn Pulao),Karandi Pie (Shepherd's pie made with tiny shrimp),Koval (light coconut milk broth flavored with spices) and Gode Mutton for the event.
There was Beetroot Gode Batate and Vegetarian Pulao for the vegetarians.
Mango Sheera for dessert!
Thrilled to have Rahul Velkar with us and he too explained Parbhi food to some of the participants
All participants received spice mixtures and recipes
Putting up this wonderful Maharashtrian Food Event to introduce people from different communities to the food of our homeland was the idea of Rushina Munshaw-Ghildiyal,a Gujarati married to an Uttaranchali.It's a beautiful world we live in!