I was asked by my dear brother in-law some time back if there is such a thing as a vegetarian paella and I said yes just replace the meat or fish with vegetables. I had never made it before but always enjoyed the passionate description given by TV chefs when they make or try paella. Every time I would say to myself I should make it but never did venture out to try and find a recipe or recreate a traditional paella with just vegetables.
So as he was coming around for dinner one day I thought let me try making it. I looked at various different traditional recipes. Some had just seafood and others with game and seafood mixed together. Certain things that came out of my research were that there is usually wine, saffron, and specific types of rice used. However the method changes per region and family recipe, much like the Indian biryani or the Creole rice dish jambalaya, which I make often. So I started thinking of the vegetables that I could use, or that would have similar colours to a seafood paella – orange, black, green, red etc. It turned out to be a tasty dish which we all enjoyed.
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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.
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