By Naini Setalvad
We flag off a new series on community cuisine with Gujarat, whose delicious and extensive fare is beautifully aligned to seasonal needs Chalo jamva’ (come, let’s eat) is a phrase that I have heard all my life, as indeed all Gujaratis must have for food forms a vital ingredient in our lives. Conversations are generously peppered with talk about food and more food! Breakfast time conversation is a gentle mulling over what could be the day’s lunch menu, and at lunch the topic veers around the goodies that await at teatime, followed by dinner. A popular saying in a Gujarat household is – ‘cha bagdi toh savaar bagdi, dal bagdi toh divas bagdyo, athaanu bagdyu toh varas bagdyu.’ (If the tea is not perfect the morning is spoilt, if the dal is not perfect the day is spoilt, while if the pickle is not perfect, the whole year is spoilt). Yes, for us Gujaratis, life revolves around food. The kitchen in a Gujarati household is the housewife’s pride. Gleaming vessels in various metals, bottles of fragrant spices, and, of course, large ceramic jars of mouthwatering pickle to last an entire year. A diehard Gujarati housewife is as busy as a bee all through the year particularly in the summers– sifting, pounding and storing grain and spices for an entire year. Not for her the lure of readymade pickles or spices on the supermarket shelves. The rationale is simple – homemade stuff tastes best, is healthiest, and is inexpensive as well. Our cuisine is distinctly seasonal – divided into summer food and winter food after the climate of the region, which has hot summers, and cool winters. There is a clear demarcation of foods between seasons. While I have always loved my community’s food, today as a nutritionist I am amazed at its nutrient value. I doubt if any of us Gujjus realise the science that goes into its preparation and how healthy and nutritious it is. Gujarati food is heavily influenced by ayurvedic wisdom and is therefore naturally aligned to the seasons and is focussed on balancing the body’s needs with the season.My earliest memory of my grandmother is of her saying, “It is summer now, stop eating the khajur paak” or “The monsoon has come, no more mangoes!” Her injunctions always upset me, but today I recognise their wisdom, which fortunately has passed down the generations. Because of her, I know what to have to counteract the harsh summer heat, and how to cope nutritionally with wintry chills. Summer menuThese foods are mandatory in summer in all Gujarati homes.Fruits March to April: watermelon, muskmelon, bananas (occasional). April to mid-June: mangoes. The amount we ate, our skin ought to have turned yellow! The king of fruits certainly ruled our lives. It was revered. My grandmother used to guard her trees and not let us pick even one until it fell on the ground. A true organic farmer will endorse her wisdom. A mango room filled with straw was stashed with this gorgeous fruit, and guarded like the Reserve Bank of India. Nothing was ripened synthetically with chemicals. I only have to close my eyes and feel the fragrance wash over me! Drinks March onwards – buttermilk but never in the night to avoid a cold and sore throat. Curds would be set in the morning, not kept in the fridge. A huge pot of curds would be flavoured with rock salt and cumin to cool the system and aid digestion. April to mid June – kairi bafla or panha (a raw mango drink). It is cooling during the hot summer months and also prevents sunstroke. Green chutney made of coriander, another coolant, is always on the table. Coriander leaves are used liberally as garnish thereby ensuring a good source of anti-oxidants. CondimentsRaw mango pickle / raw mango with red chilli. Rock salt, green chillies and lemons in one corner of the plate. Kachumbar of raw cucumber, onions, coriander and tomato. VegetablesWater-based vegetables, which are light and cooling: gourd (white, snake), turya, gavar, parval, pumpkin, potatoes. CurriesTur dal, moong dal, mango curry – fajita, yoghurt, aam ras (mango juice) with soonth (dry ginger powder). The soonth removes the flatulence which is caused when you mix fruit with food. SnacksChivda, mumra (kurmura), khakhra, dhoklas (urad dal or rice flour) and ponkh (raw jowar seeds) which delights with its jewel-like green colour and is eaten with sev.OthersWhole wheat rotis, steamed rice, ghee, shrikhand (a coolant), peanut oil, tea with lemon grass, adrak, milk and jaggery, gur, bhakhri. Winter menu As the weather changes, so does the food. Out go the cooling foods and in come these commands: “Drink the raab, eat the khajur paak, it is cold, your body needs them!” I never valued these words until I studied nutrition.Fruits Oranges, apples, strawberries, grapes are packed with anti-oxidants, vitamin C and fibre. They help reduce cholesterol, fight free radical damage which helps fight cancer, and combat seasonal colds and coughs through their vitamin C content. Drinks Raab. It is a hot drink made of gunder, ganthoda and dry coconut. Ukala. It is a warm drink made from green tea leaves, tea masala, sweetened with jaggery, water and milk. Haldi milk, soonth pipra milk, kesar/ badam milk, which is made of saffron, almond, milk, sweetened with sugar; organic honey could be used as a substitute.CondimentsChundo pickle (grated raw mango sweetened with jaggery, a heaty substance, or sugar),khajur (date, again heaty) chutney, green chutney, haldi and aamba haldi (mango turmeric root), mustard with chilli (heaty), marinated peppercorns (heaty again)
Tur dal, moong dal, kadhi DessertsAradiya, methi paak, khajur paak, kesar shrikhand. Vegetables Potato, methi, paapdi, brinjal, tandalja, vatana/ popta (green peas) yam, sweet potatoes, radish, carrots.
Snacks Dhani (popcorn), peanuts, almonds, sesame seeds, khakhras Others Tur daana, mogri, bajri rotis, ghee, malai, til oil (heaty and good to heal knee pain, joint pain, high in calcium), tea with lemon grass, adrak, milk and jaggery, ganthoda, white butter.WinterfareOil-free undhiyuIngredients1 ½ kg papdi ¼ kg brinjal (small)¼ kg potatoes (small)¼ kg sweet potatoes¼ kg cucumber½ kg purple yam
2 bunches of methi, washed and finely chopped 2 bunches of coriander leaves, washed and finely chopped1 whole grated fresh coconut 4 to 6 tbsp of green chilli, garlic and ginger paste
250 gm tur dana2 tbsp asafoetida (hing)2 tbsp white til
Rock salt to taste
For the mixture: Spread the papdi and tur dana on a plate. Add a bit of rock salt along with two tbsp of the green chilli, garlic and ginger paste. Mix well. Take the remaining part of the paste and add salt and til. Take one bunch of methi, coriander and grated coconut and mix well with this paste. From the leftover methi, make muthia balls (by adding wheat flour and steaming under a plate). Slit the potatoes, sweet potatoes, brinjal and the purple yams. Fill the mixture in between the slits. Heat the pan. Add half of the papdi, tur dana, potatoes, purple yam and one glass of water. Sprinkle remaining mixture. Add sweet potatoes, brinjal, rest of the papdi and cucumber. Cook on a slow flame. Serve hot.
Purple yam handwa
Ingredients300 gm purple yam150 gm chopped carrots and French beans
2-4 tsp paste of ginger and chilli Salt to tasteCoriander leaves chopped finelyJuice of one lemon 1 tsp groundnut oil
4-6 tsp sesame seeds
Boil the purple yam and mash them. Boil the French beans and carrot. Add all the ingredients except sesame seeds and mix well. Grease the baking dish. Put this mixture in the baking dish and cover it with sesame seeds. Bake in the oven for around 30 minutes till a brown crust forms on the top.Khajur pak Ingredients200 gm khajur50 gm almond chopped100 gm pista chopped 10 gm powdered cardamom seeds5 gm powdered cashew nut and pista together1 tsp gheeMethodSauté the cut khajur pieces in 1 tsp of ghee till it melts. Remove from heat and then add the chopped almond, pista and cardamom seeds to it. Roll it into a roll and cover it with the powdered cashew nut and pista. Refrigerate the roll for some time. Remove it and cut into small pieces.
Naini Setalvad is an obesity and health food consultant, columnist for leading newspapers and conducts workshops on healthy eating.Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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