Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Medley of Veggies--Ghada

Every January, for as long as I can remember, my Mum would traipse the vegetable market, to pick out the choicest of winter veggies to make this delicious amalgam called Ghada. She would look for konephal, suran, vaal paapdi, surti paapdi, harbara, shenga, kasra, beetroot, knolkohl, ooos and other hard- to-pronouce wonders. I would accompany her on some forays, dreading the bargaining, the crowds and the heavy bags that I would have to lug around.  These market  undertakings were supposedly to hone my skills for the world of marriage! How hated  these trips! Being dragged to Bhaji Galli (a street where they sell just veggies) as a teenager, is not conducive to "marketing" life lessons. But enough of my feelings! 

Gujaratis have their undhiya. Keralites have aviyal. Bengalis have chorchori. Ghada belongs to the Pathare Prabhus, a sub-sect in Bombay. Their cuisine is distinct, its markers being special masalas, techniques and idiosyncrasies of characters....I mean the chefs!  Back to this one-pot concoction, chock-full of greens, root veggies and spices. In essence, it is labor of love. You  amass over ten different veggies. You sort and clean. Top and tail paapdi. It would be nice to get fresh  konephal (purple yam) or suran (brown yam), but I come up empty. Shenga (drumsticks) do not appear in stores till the summer. So frozen versions are substituted. No fresh green harbara (green channa). No knolkohl, so I use turnips.  As for kasra, it is a small black hairy ball that grows like a water chestnut. It has a nutty flavor, has to be peeled and cooked and tastes like a very crunchy water chestnut. So I definately strike out there. A can of water chestnuts will add that texture. Ooos (sugarcane) is a rarity at best. And that is the hard-to-find section! The rest is easy. Potatoes, onions, carrots, peas, spring onions, beets, turnips, small eggplants are peeled, pared and prepped. Coconut is squished with cilantro and masalas. The aroma transports me back to Mum's kitchen. Sitting on the floor with a villi, a scimitar-like curved knife with a base that rests on the floor. You place your foot or knee on the base to anchor it and use two hands to chop and cut. An old, ancient, prehistoric, totally unwieldy instrument of impracticality that is still used in India. The other memories are better though. Measuring out masalas, shelling peas, scraping carrots. As a child I am given the easy tasks, but as I grow adept in my kitchen skills, I am accorded more detailed work. 

The huge brass handi is layered with oil and veggies, seasoned and put on a  sigdi, a free-standing stove made of wrought iron that is fueled by charcoal. The ghada bubbles away for what seemed like an inordinately long time. Eventually we eat the fruits of our labor, digging to to the bottom of the handi with long spoons to ferret out the veggies of our choice. A huge mound of freshly fried pooris sits enticingly. A dish that has taken so long to prep and cook, is demolished in record time.

Makes enough for 5 to 6 people

Clockwise - paapdi,onion,plantain,potato, purple & brown yam,peas,eggplant beetroot, drumsticks.Center-turnips, springonion

2 medium-sized Onions

1/2 cup fresh grated Coconut
1 teaspoon Chile powder
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric powder
2 teaspoons Sambhar powder (see recipe below)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 green Chiles
1 cup fresh Cilantro
1 teaspoon Sugar
6 baby Eggplants
1 large Potato
1 large Beet
1 cup Paapdi
1 cup frozen Peas
1 large Carrot
2 Spring onions
1 Turnip
1 Plantain
1/2 cup frozen Pearl onions
1 cup frozen Purple yam (ratalye)
1 cup frozen Brown yam (suran)
1 cup frozen Drumsticks (shenga)
1 small can Water chestnuts
1/4 cup Canola oil
1/4 teaspoon Hing (Asefotida)
2 teaspoon Kosher salt

Peel and chop the onions.

The green chiles and cilantro are cut very fine.

Mix with grated coconut, chile powder, turmeric powder, sambhar powder, salt, green chiles and cilantro in a bowl. Squish the mixture well.

Chop the stems off the eggplants. Make two deep slits, taking care not to cut through the eggplant. You want to go about three quarter ways. Stuff them with some of the above onion masala. Keep the rest of the masala aside.

Peel potato and cut into large chunks.

Peel beet and cut into large chunks.

Top and tail the paapdi. Pull the pods apart and tear in half.

Defrost peas, pearl onions, yams and drumsticks.

Pare and cut carrot into large chunks.

Trim and chop spring onions into fine rounds. Use the greens too.

Cut the plantain into two inch chunks. Keep the skin on. Make small slits at at one end.

Heat oil in deep saucepan on medium heat.

When hot add the hing and wait for 10 seconds and lower the flame.

Gently place the eggplant into the oil.

Scatter beet, potato, turnip, plantain chunks.

Season with a little salt.

Add the yams, drumsticks, carrots, peas, paapdi, spring onions, water chestnuts and pearl onions in layers.

Season as you go. 

Spoon the rest of the onion masala over the veggies.

Raise the heat to a medium high flame and watch for small bubbles of steam on the sides of the saucepan.
It should take 5 to 8 minutes. Cover with a lid. lower the flame and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir the veggies 5 minutes into cooking time. They should not stick to the bottom of the pan. A stir every 5 minutes will ensure that they do not stick.

Give the ghada a good stir to mix all the veggies after they are cooked.

Serve it with pooris.


Needless to say, all the veggies have been thoroughly washed before chopping!
The veggies used in the above recipe can be substituted. But you will lose some character and taste.

Sambhar powder is a special blend made specifically by Maharashtrians. To be honest, I have never made it. I buy it in Bombay. Here is Mum's recipe.

We sit to eat with that requisite mound of pooris and ghada. Aromatic steam rises as I remove the lid. An unvieling of flavor assaults our senses. The proverbial long spoon is produced and all dig in. The kids exclaim at the different tastes. Spicy, sweet, masala-coated fingers break off chunks of poori to scoop up the soft cooked veggies. They are converts for the moment!