Comfort Food

Jharkhand Food Series – 02

Who else remember the onset of those dreamy winter mornings, when the world seemed covered in a lazy, chilly, misty blanket. Where the soothing green grass slept lazily wearing it’s beautiful dewy diamond dress, glittering merrily in the sunbeam’s tryst. The calm mornings, where the socks clad feet would be tightly wrapped around the soft, thick double blankets.The never-ending quest of warming up by blowing air out of the mouth and soaking it up quickly in those colorful gloves filled hands. When the chilly air sent shivers down the spine and the constant struggle to keep ourselves warm. Days when the hardest thing seemed to be saying goodbye to that comfy, warm blanket and start the day.

The days would start on a very hasty, lazy note. But, the eyes always glistened seeing those baskets full of fresh, colorful picks from the vegetable market. Winter brought colors to the kitchen and in our lives too. Remember those lovingly hand-woven colorful shawls and sweaters? That was love. Pure love! Those were the days when each season brought with them a totally different produce. Back then, there were no air conditioned supermarkets around selling exotic vegetables throughout the year. We had to wait and then taste the yummiest seasonal produces. Each season added their own beauty. Each day the kitchen saw the burst of colors amalgamating beautifully in the carefully, skilled cooking. Oh, how I loved those days. Winter was the time for comfort, of warmth and for good food, for the touch of a friendly hand and for the talk beside the fire. It was the time for home. It was the time for rustic recipes.

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Amidst all those different delicacies, what I looked for the most was the humble “aalu ka jhor”. This piping hot baby potato gravy generously poured over the ghee laden rice tasted nothing simple. It was pure heaven on earth. It tasted of the hard work of the farmers, it tasted of the simple joys, it tasted of togetherness, it tasted of rustiness of my village mud. It tasted of my roots. Roots which have lost in the transition of time, roots which were replaced among multi flavored and complicated ingredients. Roots which are struggling to be held and given the respect it truly deserves.

So you see, each time when I paraded to the vegetable market holding one of my parent’s hand, those baby potatoes never failed to bring a huge smile on my face. Those tiny, round, brown babies knew it can brighten any gloomy, dark, winter days. My old folks always believed in the magic of fresh harvest and fresh produce. No vegetable was tucked inside the fridge and left over to become dry and tasteless. Everything was cooked fresh either right from our home garden or from the vegetable vendors who brought the produce from their fields early morning.

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Aalu ka jhor was cooked during lunch at our home. When the chilly mornings were over and the breakfast was already sorted out, Maa and grandma would sit in the garden together laughing and chirping like sparrows cutting a big basket of these potatoes effortlessly with a sickle. Lunch was always a grand affair. But somehow, whenever aalu ka jhor was cooked, the other stuffs were kept to its minimal. Nothing fancy on those days. Just the humble potato curry and rice. Might be a stir fry on the side.

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I remember coming back from school tired and hungry. And when Maa served lunch, I couldn’t contain my happiness seeing this bowl full of sunshine. It was comfort, it was pride, it was love, it was contentment. This gravy is nothing ordinary. The baby potatoes were shimmered in a thin freshly harvested and pounded rice paste with loads of garlic. Not much spices just the humble basics.

Winters, when time and days seem gloomy and cold, little things can bring joy and happiness to life. We just have to look around, dig deeper and listen to our heart. Imbibing the generosity of nature and trying to come a bit closer to our roots can create a huge difference in our lives. Try to teach your kids and make them believe in what touched your heart once. Show them the cultural roots. Might be they won’t feel the same emotions but we can try. Isn’t something better than nothing always? On this note, sticking to my roots and trying to create magic and memories together, I wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and a very hearty, welcoming, generous and loving year ahead. Be blessed, stay blessed! ❤. ♡. ♥.

In case you would love to replicate the recipe, here is the method for you 🙂

Aalu ka Jhor (Baby potatoes shimmered in thin rice paste gravy)
Preparation time: 20 mins
Cooking time: 30 mins

Ingredients:

  • 2 kilos of happiness and love (Mandatory! Do not skip this ingredient :))
  • half kilo baby potatoes
  • 3-4 spoons of raw rice
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tbs coriander powder
  • 12-15 pods of minced garlic
  • 2 green chillies (can be increased or decreased according to your taste)
  • 2 glasses of water (can be adjusted according to consistency)
  • 2 tbs of oil (mustard oil is preferred)
  • 1 tsp of cumin seeds for tempering

Preparation:

  1. Swell up your heart with happiness since you are going to prepare a humble rustic Jharkhandi dish today 🙂
  2. Soak the raw rice in little water for half an hour.
  3. Wash and cut the baby potatoes in halves. Do not remove the skin.
  4. Now, switch on the gas stove. In a pressure cooker, add all the potatoes, one glass of water, 1 tbs of salt, 1 tsp of turmeric powder and close the lid.
  5. Let it cook for 10 minutes or till the potatoes get cooked but is not mushy.
  6. While the potatoes are getting cooked, grind the soaked rice in very little water. This mixture needs to be coarse and not fine. Take it out in a bowl and add half cup water to it and set aside.
  7. Coarsely grind the garlic pods and the green chillies in a mortar-pestle. Set aside.
  8. After the potatoes get cooked, take out the pressure and set it aside. Do not throw the water.
  9. Lit the stove and put a wok on it. Best to use an iron one since it gives a very rustic taste to the dish.
  10. Add a spoon of mustard oil into it. Once the oil gets heated up add the cumin seeds and watch it dancing in happiness.
  11. Reduce the flame and add in the chilli-garlic paste. Cook it for 30 seconds.
  12. Then add the cooked potatoes along with the water it was boiled in.
  13. Add the ground rice paste to it and let it shimmer in low flame for about five minutes.
  14. Adjust the consistency of water and salt at this time. I generally add half glass of warm water at this point of time since I like my curry to be on the thinner side. Also mash couple of the potatoes for a better consistency.
  15. Add in the coriander powder and let it cook happily for about ten minutes.
  16. Keep stirring the curry in intervals since it has the tendency to stick to the bottom of the cooking vessel.
  17. Once the curry comes to a boil, give it extra five minutes to soak in the flavors.
  18. Switch of the gas and cover the curry with a lid. Let it sit for ten minutes so that the potatoes imbibe the rice flavor.
  19. After ten minutes, pour the curry generously over a heap-full ghee laden rice. Smell, eat, smile and enjoy 🙂

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