Padwal fritters – Pathare Prabhu style Fried Snake Gourd Snack


I love my seafood and non vegetarian food. Yet, there are those few days, when Pathare Prabhu households turn vegetarian. Every Monday, each Chaturthi of the Hindu month, Navratri, Ganpati and a few days of Shravan are such occasions when even the most hardcore carnivores in our clan go cold turkey with non vegetarian food, albeit temporarily!

It’s funny how these mandatory vegetarian meals are prepared with elaborate attempts to make them resemble non vegetarian ingredients. For instance, typically on Ganesh Chaturthi, Parbhu households will cook ‘suran’ aka yam in a curry and try to make it as close to mutton godé as possible.

This recipe I’m sharing is usually reserved for a vegetarian Monday and is supposed to be a clever alternative to fried ‘karandi’ (small prawns)

Ingredients 

Padwal (Snake Gourd) – peel the exterior and slit in two halves lengthwise – discard all the inner fibrous bits and chop into ½ cm pieces.


Salt to taste

Haldi, Red chilli powder, Prabhu Sambhar (or any garam masala) to suit your appetite for heat.

Rice flour for dusting

Oil to deep fry

Method

Heat oil in a kadai over a medium flame – if your oil reaches smoking point, the gourd will burn and turn bitter. If it isn’t hot enough, this will absorb a lot of oil and again ruin the dish. The perfect ambient temperature is key!

Add salt to the slit padwal and let it rest a minute. Drain off any excess water that seeps out. However, do this step only last minute – if you leave the salt on for too long, the gourd will lose a lot of moisture and again, the texture’s ruined.

Add the powdered masalas and mix well till all the gourd bits are coated. Next, quickly dredge these in a plate of dry rice flour.


This is what the ready to fry gourds will look like.

Next, dunk these into hot oil and deep fry for around 4-5 minutes over a medium flame.


Once done, drain off any excess oil over tissues.

Serve immediately with a hot mound of ambemohar rice, plain yellow varan and a generous dollop of homemade lonkadhi tuup! 

Also makes an interesting vegetarian snack for a party. Goes really well with a drink.

Prawn Patwad – the PP obsession with prawns continues…

There are many variants of this dish across the West Coast… Parsis refer to these as Patrel. They’re called अळु वडी in Marathi and Patrode in Konkani.

All variants are essentially colocasia (or taro) leaves stuffed with a spiced besan filling and use tamarind to negate the toxic effects of the oxalates present in them (which may cause allergic reactions ranging from a minor throat itch to anaphylactic shock and seizures depending on the individual if eaten raw.

Yet this is a delicacy widely enjoyed by many across India… Cooking the leaves minimises the toxic effects and the use of tamarind renders them completely harmless.

Like all things #pathareprabhu these are non-veg and made with a stuffing of minced meat, deboned bombil or as in this recipe with prawns.

Warning: this is not a quick fix recipe. Needs some time and patience, not too difficult and simply delicious!

Ingredients: (for 1 roll)

Colocasia leaves – 5 nos (there are 2 variants commonly available in the markets, the tender green ones which are used to make a curry and the purple stemmed ones which are used in making these patwad)

Besan – 1 cup – traditionally one would use ground chana dal soaked overnight. I find that the coarse besan available in Marathi stores (used for laddoos) works really well and reduces effort significantly

Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp

Dhania and Jeera powders – 1 tsp each

Red Chilli Powder and Parbhi Sambar – 1 heaped tbsp each

Ginger-Garlic paste – 1 tsp

Tamarind pulp – use a lime sized ball and extract pulp. You will need around 4 tbsp

Onion – 1 finely chopped

Coriander – 1 cup finely chopped

Karandi (tiny prawns) – 1/2 cup de-shelled and cleaned (if using large prawns, just chop them fine)

Oil – 1 tbsp for the dough and for deep frying

Salt to taste

Water as required

Method

Mix all the masala powders (turmeric, dhania, jeera, red chilli, sambar)  and add some water to make a stiff dough.

This needs to rest for a couple of hours (2 at least) so that the besan soaks well.

Add the onions, prawns, salt, a tbsp of oil and a tbsp of tamarind pulp and enough water to make a paste from the previously stiff dough. The paste has to be a spreading consistency (just slightly stiffer than say a kanda bhajia batter).

On a large flat surface use a rolling pin to flatten out the taro leaves. These have several prominent veins which may get in the way of rolling the ‘unda’ (patwad roll).

Use the largest leaf first – this should preferably not have any tears or cracks. Lay out the flattened leaf bright shiny side face-down on a flat working surface.

Splash the leaf surface with a tbsp of tamarind pulp and spread evenly (like you would butter a slice of bread).

Next spread out an even layer of around 2 tbsp of the besan-prawn paste over the leaf.

Use a smaller leaf and stick this on top of the first leaf. The second leaf (again shiny side face down, veiny side face up) needs to be inverted over the first leaf (you’ll now have tipped ends of the leaves on either side.

The next step is optional and I find it really helps in sealing the besan paste in the final roll.

Tear off one leaf and stick bits onto the exposed part of the first leaf (refer image below) till the entire exposed besan is covered  with leaf.

Repeat the same ‘paste spreading’ procedure 2-3 times to yield a roll with 3-4 entire leaves and bits of the 4th or 5th leaf.

Now carefully fold in the open sides to ensure that there is no open edge at the sides.

Start folding the leaves with stuffing into a tight roll.

Steam this roll in a steamer for around 20 minutes. Insert a sharp knife into the centre- if it comes out clean – you know it’s done…

What you see in this image is a beautiful antique steamer (fully functional) which belonged to my  Aaji and is at least 75 years old.

Let the steamed rolls cool completely before using them any further. If you try to cut them while they’re still warm, they tend to break.


Cut the cooled rolls into 1 cm thick slices.


Deep fry the slices over a medium flame till they’re golden brown and crisp.

Enjoy these crisp packets of goodness with some fresh green chutney and / or ketchup (the purists will kill me for the ketchup… But they really go quite well)

P.S. – you may notice that a lot of these images look professionally shot… Well they are. These images are courtesy APB cook studio where this batch was prepared as part of the buffet lunch catered by yours truly at their Culinary legacy series’ Maharashtrian Mejwani event, put together by their Chief Foodie – Ms. Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal and her team.

Please do visit the APB Cook Studio Facebook page for more pictures and details of the grand event held last week.

And last but not the least, the first image of the fried patwad were clicked by my dear friend and blogger Sassyfork, without whom I wouldn’t be part of this event…  Do visit these pages for details on the event.

Bhujane – Gholiche 

This is my favourite food. I’ve had as long as I can remember!

Bhujane (भुजणं) – is the Pathare Prabhu staple and every PP’s comfort food / go-to dish. Ready in a jiffy and tasty like you can’t imagine till you’ve had it!

It’s the simplest recipe ever and needs ingredients available readily in every Indian home… Although the perfect bhujane is only something your mother/grandmother makes. As much as you’d like it’s impossible to replicate the taste of a bhujane made with love and gobbled up with a mound of steaming white rice at the end of a long tiring day.

Here’s how you can fix some for yourself –

Chop an onion as fine as you can and add it to the pan you’re cooking your bhujane in…

To this add 2 tablespoons of crushed garlic (crushed to a paste), salt to taste, a chopped up green chilli, a handful of chopped coriander, half a tsp of haldi and 2 tsp of red chilli powder and a healthy glug of oil (around 3 tbsp)

Now crush these together with your fingertips till the entire mix is a homogeneous paste. This is critical as if you don’t mix the ingredients together sufficiently – the resultant curry will be a runny mess rather than the perfect gel it ought to be.

Now slide in your Ghol fish pieces and coat them in the masala

 

Add just enough water to cover the fish pieces (around 1/2 cup) and being this to a boil on a medium flame.

 

As soon as its bubbling, turn the heat down, cover and cook the mix on a  slow flame for around 4-5 minutes.

Remove the lid and without stirring with a spoon, tilt and turn the vessel so that the oil and the rest of the mix comes together.

 

This is critical as any stirring could break the fish… At this point, switch off the flame and let the curry cool down a bit.

Serve without reheating at room temperature with steaming hot white rice.

चिंबोरीचं खडखडलं! The Crab Curry you cannot resist…

I’ve always wondered why such a regal dish has such a strange name… Aaji used to tell us it had to do with the sound the shell made against the vessel while being cooked which seems like a plausible explanation.

There’s 2 kinds of crab we commonly get around Mumbai. There are the sea crabs referred to in PP lingo as होरी (hori)

and then there are the tastier and more expensive ones , the mud crabs or चिंबोरं (chimbori)

Note the shape of the upper shell carapace. This is a female chimbori and in all probability is filled with ‘Laakh’ or bright orange coloured roe… This bit I think makes it worthwhile to buy the female crab (मादी) over the male (नर) which is fleshier but (obviously) has no roe!!!

The khadkhadle experience begins with buying the chimbori in the first place…

The koli (or more likely the Kolin) will try and convince you that they were out all night risking their life trying to catch one… But the carnivore in you’s gotta persevere and stick to a rate. The fisherfolk’ll be nice enough to break the pincers (फांगडे) for you… Once that’s done, the rest of the cleaning process happens at home (slaughter included… If you’re weak willed, stop reading NOW).

So once you got the squiggly-wigglies home, don a pair of rubber gloves and  carefully break away a leg at a time… At the end, you should be left with two piles looking like this – you want to rinse these off under running water using a toothbrush to get rid of any muck residue on the shell.

Unlike a restaurant or many other people I know, our prep just involves cutting these into half and getting rid of the sandbag (entrails) of the crab… And they’re ready to use…

The rest of the recipe is fairly simple…

For around 5-6 large sized crabs, you will need

3 heaped tbsp of garlic paste

1 pinch of Hing

1 tsp haldi powder

1 tbsp red chilli powder

1 tbsp PP sambhar powder

1/2 cup oil

Salt to taste and water as reqd

Method

Heat oil preferably in a brass vessel add a pinch of hing.

Once it splutters, add the salt, dry spices and , cook till the raw smell goes away (a minute)

Add crabs and a bit of water and cook covered on a medium flame till the shells change colour to a bright orange.

Serve this salty spicy connoisseur’s bliss with plain rice and watch the partaking people demolish endless mounds of rice… You just won’t know when to stop!

Tomatochi Sheer (टोमटोची शीर)

Shire (शिरे) simply means coconut milk. The PP community uses a few words and terms which are quite different compared to the regular colloquial Marathi…  Shire being one such instance. (Most Maharashtrians would refer to coconut milk as नारळाचे दूध… And barring the PPs, very few coastal regions would be aware of the existance of coconut milk… Typically, before the advent and eventual popularity of Thai food, mostly the expression ‘coconut milk’ would draw a blank!)

Coming back to the topic at hand.. ‘Shiryache’!

No PP meal is complete without shiryache (coconut milk gravy). On vegetarian days, typically Mondays, Chaturthi or some specific religious events there are vegetarian versions. Shiryache is very versatile… There are versions which can be had as ‘fasting food’, some are cooked using seasonal fruits and vegetables, some with prawns (कोलंबी or करंदी) and go by the name ‘sheer’ (शीर) or ‘sambhare’ (सांभारे).

The shiryache is never too spicy. On the contrary, more often than not, it has a sweet undertone balancing out the spice of the fish/mutton/chicken/veggie which usually form the hot and spicy elements in the meal. This goes well with chapatis, pav but I personally like it best with a mound of steaming hot white rice!

Another peculiarity is that once made, the shiryache is rested for at least 30 mins to an hour (in a process which PP’s refer to as निरसायला… I’m not sure that word is used by any non PP). Shiryache is usually not served piping hot. The entire flavour and taste of the dish is apparent only when served lukewarm or at room temperature! It needs to be treated delicately even when reheating as it can split if it boils over ruining the texture and look of the dish!

This recipe for tomatochi sheer is simple to prepare, is a lovely colour and has a nice mild flavour. You could even serve this as a soup. Leave the prawns out of this recipe and you have a lovely vegan version. Here’s the recipe (Serves 4) –

Ingredients

  • Ripe Red Tomatoes – 4 large nos (Roughly chopped)
  • Green Chillies – 2 nos (Roughly Chopped)
  • Coriander Leaves – 2 tbsp (washed and chopped)
  • Besan – 1.5 tbsp
  • 1/2 Grated Coconut
  • 1/2 cup peeled, shelled and cleaned prawns
  • 4 cups of water
  • Methi seeds – 1/2 tsp (optional – most traditional recipes would exclude this.. It’s just something that I personally like)
  • Red Chilli Powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
  • A pinch of hing (asafoetida)
  • Oil – 1 tbsp
  • Salt and Sugar for seasoning

1

Method

  • In a heavy bottomed vessel, heat a tbsp of oil. To the heated oil, add a pinch of hing and methi seeds and splutter for a couple of seconds.
  • Add in the tomatoes (set aside a tbsp for garnish), chillies, chilli powder, coriander, turmeric, besan, salt to taste and around 1/2 tsp of sugar.
  • Cook these stirring once in a while on a medium flame and add 1/2 a cup of water. Once this reaches a boil, cover and simmer over a low flame for around 5-7 minutes till the tomatoes are cooked and the besan loses its raw smell.

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  • Remove the lid and cook further for around 5-7 minutes on a medium fame, till most of the liquid evaporates. The idea is to extract the maximum flavour from the tomatoes at this point. You will notice that by now the besan has cooked and thickened this mixture,
  • Once this cools, run the mixture through a blender till smooth. (This step is optional. Many prefer the chunky texture in the final dish. I set aside a few chopped tomatoes and add them in later to get that effect.)
  • I will attempt to explain the process of extraction of shire from the grated coconut. You need to make 2 extracts ( first thick extract known as आपशीरे  and 2nd thin extract which we refer to as पाणशिरे…)
  • In the same blender, add the grated coconut and a cup of lukewarm water. Blend these for a couple of minutes and strain into a bowl. Extract the maximum liquid you can from this grated coconut and water blend into a bowl (this is the आपशीरे) and put the coconut back into the blender.
  • Add 1.5-2 cups of lukewarm water again to the blender and blend the same coconut again for a couple of minutes. Again repeat the process of straining and extracting the liquid from this blend into a separate bowl. This is the thin extract or पाणशिरे.

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  • Alternately, to simplify matters, you could use cans or tetrapacks of coconut milk readily available in stores. I find that these seem to alter the taste a bit but work just fine if you’re short of time or just plain bored.
  • Add the thin extract and the reserved chopped tomatoes and prawns (if using) to the tomato-besan blend and on a medium flame, bring this to a boil stirring continuously. As soon as it starts bubbling gently, reduce the heat and simmer gently for a 3-4 of minutes still stirring the mix. The tomatoes and prawns should be cooked by now.

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  • Add the thick coconut milk extract. Mix well. Continue to simmer  for 2-3 more minutes stirring continuously without allowing the mix to come to a boil. If it boils over, the coconut milk tends to split. If this happens, there is no way I know to rectify the dish (although it just affects the look… the dish still tastes almost the same)
  • Adjust the salt+sugar seasoning. Most PPs generally prefer to add a couple of teaspoons of sugar and have this really sweet.
  • Now take it off the flame and let it cool down till its lukewarm or at room temperature. This resting phase is also important as the flavours get stronger as it cools down.
  • Tomato sheer is best served with a spicy gholiche bhujane (more on this later) and steaming white rice.

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Bajirao Ghevda – The King of Beans

This is a traditional PP recipe using a very elusive ingredient (at least in Mumbai markets) called Bajirao Ghevda (बाजीराव घेवडा). Till a few years ago, this bean was relatively easier to find. This is available at a select few places and only a handful of vendors stock it in vegetable markets typically at Khar, Dadar, Vile Parle etc. I am told that it’s quite abundant in Alibaug. This veg is seasonal and is available only in the months of Jan – Feb at these places. The beans are broad which makes it easy to fill them with loads of stuffing. They are quite fleshy and have a lovely flavour of their own. You can taste them distinctly despite the stuffing. This is a pretty versatile recipe. You could replace the bean with Capsicum halves or Snake Gourd (पडवळ). Any fleshy veg with a cavity to hold stuffing works fine. Likewise, the filling may be varied each time you make this dish. FrJom a completely vegetarian filling, to chicken/mutton mince, prawns (कोलंबी or करंदी is what most PP homes would typically use.) Here’s what the bean looks like (This recipe is for around 12 beans – approx 4 portions)

Bajirao Ghevda

For the Stuffing –

3 medium onions – chopped fine

a handful of coriander leaves – finely chopped

Green Chillies – finely chopped

Salt to season

Red Chilli Powder – 1 tsp (you could add more if you want it hotter)

Pathare Prabhu Sambhar (I will do a separate post on this some day. Most PP homes make their own, there are a few people who sell this commercially but the distribution is restricted to PPs and those who have some PP connections/roots)

Coriander Powder – 1 tsp

Cumin Powder – 1 tsp

Prawns (If using कोलंबी, chop/break into bits. If it’s करंदी which in my opinion adds a lot more flavour, use whole.) – 1 Cup

Besan – 4 tbsp (This will vary depending on how much water leeches out of the onions when making the stuffing)

Method

Top and Tail the beans and open them out from one side to create a cavity for the stuffing. Set aside for now. Chop the onions, Coriander, chillies really fine and mix with a tsp of salt. Set aside for a couple of minutes till the onions leach out their moisture. At this point, add the besan and combine really well. Add all the powdered masalas and prawns to the mix. Check the seasoning and adjust the consistency of the stuffing with a little more water or besan. The stuffing must be of a dropping consistency (slightly thicker than pakoda batter.)

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Now stuff the mixture into each bean and place in a steamer. These will need to be steamed for around 15 minutes, till the beans as well as stuffing are cooked.

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Once the colour of the stuffing changes and the once running / dropping consistency mixture clings to the bean you’ll know it’s steamed.

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Now shallow fry each one of these till they’re brown and crisp on either side. You could serve these with ketchup or green chutney as a starter.

Personally, I like these as an accompaniment to my meal of steaming hot rice with some mild shiryache (शिर् याचे)… A separate post on shiryache coming soon…

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The Rambling Gourmet

I’m a self-confessed foodie juggling between my passion for food, cooking, all things culinary and my fulltime job! This blog is an attempt to chronicle my culinary experiments and thoughts around food.

I belong to an ingenious clan of Maharashtrians called the ‘Pathare Prabhus’.

The PP (Pathare Prabhu) community – native to Mumbai has a unique culinary tradition, which is quite unlike most Maharashtrian cooking. Unfortunately given the slowly diminishing number of PPs and our hectic urban lifestyles, this unique cuisine is growing rarer by the day.

My weekend experiments in the kitchen are not so surprisingly very heavily influenced by my PP roots and my 3 year stint at catering college (after which I competely digressed into financial services) many many years ago which triggered my interest in cooking and gave me a little understanding of cooking techniques.

I like to believe I’m fairly open to new tastes and attempt eating most things edible (although I draw a line at the squiggly wigglies on Bangkok streets).

I aspire to document whatever I know of our PP cuisine in addition to my clumsy attempts in my home kitchen.  I’m hope this space helps me to connect with like minded foodies and helps me along my culinary journey!