Friday 30 April 2010

Another intermittent ramble about food......stock cupboard options and new veg choices

Some common place things make you think....for example menus and meals at home almost always contain meat of some description - chicken, pork, lamb, beef, fish etc Here if course lots of people are vegetarian - either from choice, religious dictate or through economic necessity. menus here proclaim veg or Non veg, choices for on train food, restaurantsand even people in everyday life use this phraseology. Vegetarian at home is more of the exotic choice, the step outside of the box for most folks. But we'd never say Non veg. It is all a question of priorities and what is the more usual. At restaurants you will also see signs for no onions or garlic, no eggs options on menus, made without eggs on food packaging - no probalems with nut allergies here! Again these dietary restrictions are to enable people to follow their religious requirements on food intake.

The recent rise in temperatures through April even before the Hot season arrives has meant an early hike in vegetable prices and I return to Rayagada from my Andamans trip to naturally a food devoid of much in the way of food, but unexpectedly also to a week long strike which has closed offices, shops, public bodies - everything. This has been called by all political parties to protest the price rises. Consequently my diet this week was always going to have to be somewhat inventive but now even more so than expected. I got home on Sunday evening, and had kept back my final muesli bar from Helen's care package in anticipation of needing something to tie me oover to the following day.

My stock cupboard, never quite as full here as at home because of those dammed ants, still had some muesli left from the large container I bought in Bhubaneshwar at the start of March, augmented by a packet from Hilary before she left Koraput. So brakfast was taken care of. Powdered milk on hand, not really great for a big miilkk drinker, but OK for cereal, chop  up a few dates, add some raisins and cashews, chop up the banana I hadn't finished on the train and voila a reasonable substitute for muesli.

Dinner also saw my planned use of the second last tin of fish from Helen's care  package Sardines in oil. What am I going to do now this is all finished?  I have some small potatoes left in the fridge which were OK so I boiled these and left to cool. I chopped up a couple of small onions and mixed with the sardines and diced potatoes, drizzle with olive oil and lemon. A passible fish salad.  In preparation for a rather bland weeks eating until I can get to market on Sunday, I soak some chick peas/ chana overnight in preparation for a chick pea curry. I am trying not to think about how I rreally don't want to eat hot food in this heat, but needs must.

Oh delight of delights, Tuesday morning saw my sabzi walla come. Good I thought at least I shall manage to get some fresh vegetables. The choice this morning was pumpkin, bringal/aubergine, cucumber, a type of green bean I'd not seen before and another green vegetable I did not know. Not able to face any more bringal I buy the unknown beans and green veg. The prices have indeed rocketed. the pumpkin, 500gram of beens, green veg, cucumber cost 200 Rupees! Have I been done? A word around the office and I reckon that price is about right. I'm also warned that vegetables are going off really quickly now, and that this will get worse throught the hot season even with a refridgerator, that prices will continue to rise and availability, range and quality of veg will go down as the hot seaon progresses. I'm told it will be hard to find vegetables at the peak of the hot season. What then do folks eat I ask? I am told I should buy matar, dried peas, from the grocery shop. Oh dear, the thought of only having pea curry is definitely not appealling. The prospect of the hot season is getting worse by the minute! Maybe this is why children don't like peas! For me, my childhood memory is of shelling fresh peas for pocket money on a Saturday morning, by the bucketful for my mum, and two neighbour families. It took me ages as I used to eat load s fo them, I still love uncooked fresh peas - so sweet and tender. Sadly matar taste nothing like these, once cooked they are more like a mushy pea without the mush!

Come lunch time, I get the opportunity to have a quick word with my landlady. I am informed they unknown vegetables are goarå beans and jåhni, which she really likes. How should I pprepare it I ask? I'm told I must wash, peel the ridges away and chop up into small cubes with potatoes and tomatoes with a little water. Panic no tomatoes! Rescued by Sushila bringing me a handful of lovely red ripe toms. Not wanting to loose them all in trying out a dish I might not like,  I hold some back having vision of a nice cooling cucumber and tomato salad.

So I prepare and cook the jåhni. It is yet another squash like vegetable, a bit like courgette/zuchini with rough ridges running lengthwise. Tastewise it is very similar, Sushila tells me it should be sweet when cooked not bitter, if it is bitter don't eat it. I wonder if this is just a taste thing or something more? Anyway here's the result. I only added salt and pepper to season in order to actually taste the veg. . The result is it is OK.

Like other squash variants I have tried here,  I don't mind the taste of the inner part of the veg but don't like the taste of the skin - too earthy/bitter. I tried påtålå a few weeks back with the same result.It is a smmaller more rounded squash typoe veg with seeds which turn white on cooking.

My conclusion is that it would benefit from some coriander leaves, perhaps some green chilli if that's your choice. So jåhni won't be high on my list of veg to buy but if it is the only one available I can eat it.  Well never say I don't try out new tastes!


  1. Yup, we tried those jahni once, and once is enough. The skin is not only bitter but refuses to cook softer than leather. And those seeds, egad! Like biting down on an exoskeleton. Let the adventures continue!

  2. Wow, I do not think I would survive! Before you know it, you'll be an expert on cooking savory, exotic veggies.

    You'll need to write a cookbook for all of us spoiled folks!

  3. Salam Alaikum, Richard. Did you notice I have started my Arabic course? Slowly, so next time we meet, some Arabic please.
    I have another idea to try with jåhni - I thought about scooping out the innards and using it with rice to make a risotto - what do you think?

    Beej, It is fun trying out all these new vegetables and having to invent and concoct things, but I do miss good old plain cooking, in particular raw or cold food. My "panic" for now is that I am near to running out of breakfast cereal, I can't get muesli here at all and lugged a whole large canister of it back from Bhubaneshwar in early March which has lasted me about a month ( and I managed to keep it ant free), plus a small packet from Koraput which will take me through to mid May then what? Breakfasts are the problem meal of the day - I never will get used to eating hot dinnert type food for breakfast

    Perhaps I should entitle the cookbook "Make Do and Eat? But then I am no Julie Childs, Fanny Craddock or even Nigella Lawson!

  4. I like the no garlic or onion sighn!!


  5. Stagg, they call it "pure veg" here