As we were growing up I remember my mother telling us that on the 14th of January, India celebrates the end of winter and start of spring, the change in seasons and wind directions. They celebrate with the festival of Uttarayan also know as Sankrant, Lohri or Pongal. In Gujarat, in particular, they celebrate by flying kites and she would tell us how the skies would be filled with lots of kites in different colours and sizes, and tell us about all the foods eaten that were traditionally associated with the season. However it wasn’t until I went and spent my university placement year in India that I really got the opportunity to understand or appreciate what this and other festivals really meant. I have very fond memories of my Uttarayan experience, the sky was really filled with colourful kites flying high. So many thoughts and memories, which are difficult to put into words – reach for your dreams and set your thoughts free to fly high ….
Associated with this festival are certain foods which are quite abundant around this time. There are certain foods that are eaten around this time like sesame seed balls, and various curries made with fresh green vegetables, like Undhiu. Undhiu is a good all round curry made with all the fresh vegetables of the season and some spicy dumplings (muthais), which are the best bits of the curry :). In keeping with this tradition I made undhiu yesterday, still remembering my experience in India, as if it had happened yesterday, even though it was actually 11 years ago. Isn’t it amazing how certain foods bring back fond memories and traditions which remain with us for life. The reason why I enjoy this curry is the fact that the masala mix is also made from all fresh ingredients, unlike the other curries which I normally make with dry spice mixes and a tomato base. I have created my own version of this traditional curry by looking at what my mother and other relatives have used, and by getting inspiration from Tarla Dalal’s recipe and other recipe books.
Today (19/01/2009) as I was looking at Jaya’s site Spice and Curry, and I came across a festival that is being hosted by Preeti (Indian Khana) for Sankranti or Uttarayan, so I thought that since someone has made an event out of a festival I should take part in it also.
Undhiu (green vegetable curry)
Not being able to get the most freshest of produce here in London, I use the frozen mix of vegetables (Ashoka’s surti undhiu mix) as a base and then add the remaining fresh ingredients. I tend to add vegetables, other than the traditional ones, like the green lentils for example. You can keep pre-grated fresh coconut in the freezer for use in this and other recipes, that is what I do. That way some of the ingredients are already pre-prepared hence reducing your preparation time. You could even substitute the fresh coconut for dessicated coconut, however the taste does change. The same applies to the dumplings, known as moothia or muthia. These can be bulk made and then frozen for use later in this and many other curries.
Preparation time: 45 mins Cooking time: 30 mins Serves: 4
1 packet (400g) of frozen surti undhiu mix (e.g. Ashoka Undhiu Mix)
1/2 cup (200g ) cooked green lentils (puy lentils)
1/4 cup (about 50 g ) tindoora (Indian gourd) sliced
1/4 cup peas
1 sweet potato cut to medium sized pieces
1 small aubergine cut into medium sized pieces
1 plantian cut into discs
3 tbsp oil
1/4 tsp each of mustard (rai), fenugreek (methi) and cumin (jeeru) seeds
3 cups water
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cumin (jeeru) powder
Methi muthia (dumplings)
1 cup wholemeal flour
1/4 cup besan (gram flour)
1 cup fenugreek leaves (methi) chopped
1/4 tsp each of chilli & turmeric powder and salt
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbsp oil
3 tbsp water
Oil for deep frying
For the masala
1/2 cup fresh coconut finely grated
1/4 cup sesame seeds ground
1/2 cup fresh coriander finely chopped
6 to 8 cloves of garlic crushed ( traditionally fresh green garlic is used about a 1/4 cup)
4 fresh green chillies crushed
1 inch piece of ginger crushed
2 tsp undhia powder mix or garam masala
1 tsp heaped salt
* To be ground into a paste*
1) Chop all the vegetables and keep aside. Prepare the masala mix into a paste in a grinder and keep aside. Boil the green lentils in hot water for about 20 mins if you are using dry lentils.
2) In a large heavy bottom pan, on medium heat, heat the oil, after a few minutes it should be ready, add the tempering mix (mustard, fenugreek and cumin seeds). Once that starts to pop, put the masala mix into the pan and cook for a few minutes, stirring as you go. As soon as it starts to brown, place all the vegetables into the pan, cover with water, cover and cook.
3) While that is cooking prepare and make the muthia (dumplings). Mix all ingredients for the muthia. Add a little water and mix to make the dough. Prepare small round or oblong pieces of the dough and deep fry in oil at a medium heat. Once golden brown remove from the oil and place on a plate lined with few kitchen papers to absorb the excess oil. Let them cool and keep aside, ready to be added when the curry is cooked.
4) Check the curry for taste, and add the lemon juice, sugar and cumin powder. Once the vegetables are cooked and tender, add the muthia and let them soak for a while before serving. This dish is traditionally served with puri/poori (fried Indian flat bread) and shirkhand (yogurt based sweet dessert).