Tuesday, April 14, 2020

L is for Loon Kalari #AtoZChallenge

A Punjabi phrase today. 
Loon means salt and kalari roughly translates to crispy.
(this photo was made in the salt marshes of Thar Desert, called the Great Rann of Kutchch)

You've all met Beji, my grandmother, by now. Just in case you've  missed out, yesterday's post should work as a quick introduction.

Beji's satvik kitchen had a few rules:
1. No meat or fish
2. No eggs
3. No mention of eggs, meat or fish within her kingdom of kitchen.
4. No onions and garlic
5. Food had to be prepared fresh--an hour or so before meal times.
6. Absolutely No leftovers. So, her andaaza (estimation) of how much food needed to be prepared was always spot on. This was despite her ability to feed guests or visitors who'd turn up without any prior arrangements. She was Annapurna incarnate.

Papaji, who adored Beji and didn't do anything she didn't like had a slightly different take on food. He ate meat and eggs with great relish. He absolutely loved cooking  the forbidden foods of Beji's kingdom on his own chulha which he had built at the back of the garden; as far away from her kingdom as the limits of the house would permit.

Whenever Phuphaji (his son-in -law) visited, he'd start gathering all the ingredients in preparation for the cooking of meat for dinner.

Mutton was cooked with such flair and gusto that the men's excited voices mixed with flavourful aromas of khade masale (whole spices) roasting in ghee would rise with the steam of the bubbling curry and reach us inside the kingdom. I don't remember ever asking for the meat but I do recall Mummy making copious trips to the kitchen to fetch rotis for the men who sat huddled over their non-satvik feast in the shed.

For all her strictness, Beji broke one of her non-negotiable rules for her husband's sake and she broke it often.

The one about no leftovers or baasi khaana.

Beji would save a couple of rotis wrapped up in a ponda (kitchen towel) inside the roti wala dabba (a brass food storage box) from lunch or dinner for the following morning.

Papaji always started his morning nourishment with a bowl of sprouts in the summer and a handful of soaked almonds in the winters, usually outside in the garden. He'd then call us to join him for breakfast and make his way to the kitchen and sit cross legged on the floor opposite the gas stove; ready to eat.

Beji, would be busy making paranthe as round and as big as the entire tawa. If they were stuffed, they were really stuffed. So stuffed that the filling inside would burst out onto the tawa's edge and get crispy and insanely tasty. The stuffings followed the seasonal calendar and would range from crumbly paneer to grated cauliflower or radishes to spiced, boiled potatoes. Sometimes, she'd make namak and ajwain ki paronthees (salt and caraway panathas). These she would slather with dollops of ghee and scrunch up the flaky paronthee with her right hand so that the bread would end up looking like a pile of tiny bites....Oh! how heavenly those bites tasted!

Her pièce de résistance, however, was 'loon kalari' aka salt crispy. Loon Kalari, or noon kalari as I used to call it when I was little because the two Ls tangled up my tongue, is one of those skills they don't talk about in culinary schools and that's a shame. For this skill can upgrade a day old roti into a first class breakfast fit for kings. You don't believe me. Try it.

Recipe:
Ingredients: 
  • a day old roti--tandoori or makki works best but if you must, tawa roti will suffice.
  • home made desi ghee -- the milk (from which first cream, then butter and then the ghree will be extracted) should come from a local dairy.
  • Powdered rock salt
  • Red chilly powder--chillies dried in the veda spread out on a chaddar and later crushed and powdered in imaam dusta (mortar and pestle) while keeping nose and mouth covered with dupatta to prevent inhaling the hot powder.
  • Home made white butter --churned with a madhaandi (wooden churner)
Method: 
Warm the tawa on medium heat. Rub half a teaspoon of ghee on it. Place the day old roti on the tawa. Let it get crispy. Meanwhile, slather another teaspoon of ghee on the other side. Sprinkle salt and red chillies to taste. Turn. Once happy with the crispiness, remove. Transfer to a steel thali. Drop a dollop of freshly churned white butter on top.

Serve with a tall glass of garam, garam, cha.

This was my grandfather's definition of swarg (heaven).

Papaji would break a bite off this food of the gods, dip it in the butter on top and hold it out to us: Seema and I, "Aaah...munh khol pttar, pehli girayi tere waste...hor ikk tere waaste...Ah! (Open your mouth wide, the first bite is for you and this one is for you.)

He only ate his food after we'd taken our girahis (bites) or bhog (an offering to God) as he would sometimes call it.

"Hunn ayeega mennun asali mazaa khaand da."  (Now I will truly enjoy my food) He'd say as we'd sit there on the floor, Seema and I, one to his left and the other to his right. I'd sometimes rest my elbow on his salwar clad knee and wait for the next girai.

Beji used the loon kalari technique on other foods too and the results were always mouthwatering. She'd crisp chunks of home-made paneer on tawa for a quick side dish with daal and rice. She'd also do the same to julienne ginger. I loved to eat loon kalari ginger rolled up in a roti.
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Looking back at my grandparents as an adult, I realise how perfectly well they knew and practised the sacred bond of marriage.

Whenever I read Kahlil Gibran's words about marriage, Beji and Papaji come to mind:
"And stand together yet not near together. 
For the pillars of the temple stand apart, 
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow." 
(Quote borrowed from The Prophet  by Kahlil Gibran)
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Is there a simple cooking technique you use or know of that can transform food easily?
Were there any kitchen rules you had to follow when you were little?

43 comments:

  1. Hari OM
    Oh a recipe... see ya later!!!&*> (walks away drooling...) Actually, I do something a little similar (didn't know there was a name for it) with my paneer or things like bhindi (okra). Delish!!! Now I need to make some roti and let it sit and try this version... YAM xx

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    1. This reminds me we haven't had bhindi in a while:)

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  2. Since I am not into cooking in a big way, I don't have any substantial tips to offer!

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  3. I have always loved Kahlil Gibran. I'm not the one who cook, my husband do it so much better than me ;)
    L is for Landscapes

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    1. You are lucky to have a husband who likes to cook. Mine knows how to but.....:)

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  4. That sounds amazing, I've copied and saved recipe for future use!

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    1. Cheers Keith. You can do the same to slices of bread. Try it.

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  5. Oh, you've made me teary-eyed and hungry at the same time!
    Kitchen rules when young were limited to summer holiday visits to grandparent's house. My granny followed maddi (not touching anybody or anything until her cooking and pooja were done). This meant I couldn't step into the kitchen even if I took bath. So I sat on the threshold (the colored wooden beam was quite comfortable) and talked to her as she cooked inside. It was one of the best times of my life.

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    1. Thank you for sharing this beautiful image of the time you spent with your granny Srivalli. Precious indeed.

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  6. Lovely. I am drooled over by the recipe as well as this post. You bind memories so well. My posts too are about my nostalgia. When I chose this theme I thought - readers might find it boring so I keep it crisp & short snippets. I love how despite length- you keep readers intrigued.

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    1. Cheers Vimoya. Thank you for saying that. As you know by now, I am pretty verbose when I write/speak and often I get so lost in my world of words, that I forget if the reader/listener is even paying attention or not. So your comment makes me happy.

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  7. You nailed ‘L’ very well Arti while leaving us salivated with the recipe 😀. We gujaratis used to make ‘khakhra’ (thin-crispy like papadums) from our leftover rotis. Our rotis are very thin and small in compared to Punjabi ones you mentioned. These thin ghee applied rotis get rubbed off on tava with wee bit oil until they become crispy. Khakhras are very popular breakfast dish for gujaratis....I still love them and often buy readymade ones now. I feel amazed at how every one has a recipe of repurposing chapatis into something new–and quite delicious.

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    1. Achcha... I didn't know that khakhra is the Gujarati versions of Loon Kalari:)
      I love those shop bought ones too and they come in such yummy flavours: jeera, hing, pudina...mmmmmm!

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  8. I smiled throughout this post. Food brings us together like nothing else!! I could taste white makhan here :D

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  9. OMG Just finished my Vishu (mini)sadhiya and promised to myself i wont even think of food for 24 hrs, but your post erased my promise and those hot hot roti aroma still dancing under my nose, giving me a feeling as if i haven't eaten for ages. The ajwain and namak parantha i make it often too! Its delicious.
    Men who cook have a distinct charm about themselves {atleast for me}.Unfortunately for my mom but fortunately for us (& all our neighbours), my Appa was one hell of a great cook. His dream job was to cook and feed others.So every Sunday it was a ritual he would start by going to the fresh vegetable market, buy all the required vegetables,spices, come back and start his romance with food. I would happily tag along (as he would treat me with garama garam vada sambar at his friend's restaurant). By Wednesday itself he would have planned his Sunday menu. That excited. I called my mom unfortunate because, her forte'was not cooking, but it was expected out her to cook and cook at par with her Mother in Law and Husband, was impossible hi nahi, naamumkeen. Because Appa was a good cook, to cheat him with any shortcuts in kitchen was like 'aa bail mujhe maar'. My poor Amma! Though our relatives thought she was so lucky to have a man cook for her, only she knew her battles. He was the chief chef, all the other chores of cleaning,grinding & clearing was outsourced to her.
    All that you mentioned about fresh food, satvik,no left overs were true of our household too. Only exception to leftover was rice.Since we were rice eaters, down south people would leave the left over cooked rice soaked in water overnight. This would slightly ferment in the morning. That shall be then mixed with buttermilk, crushed green chilly & salt. This was called "Kanjhi" or Porridge. This would be a staple filling breakfast daily for both my parents, before they left for work.Kids & Sr citizens would only eat fresh food.When our elders melted the collected cream turned butter to make ghee, the residue of this ghee would be mixed with rice & a pinch of salt. There would be one huge orange sized ghee-rice balls reserved for both my sister and me every every time without fail, just like your Papaji's heavenly treats to you & Seema. It is simply divine.I have carried forward this practice to my kids.
    We had a very flexible living room. Depending upon the time of the day / night, it would be converted into dining , living or bed room (sometime cinema hall too). So when we were in this dining room, all five of us had our fixed places. My dad would only eat if my sister was to his right and me to his left, his wife opp to him and his mother to my left.
    We had many RULES to abide by eat Karela, Baingan & Bananastems once a month by order and some rules to break and take chances. Like this one,adespite being Vegetarians,Appa introduced us to eat Eggs against my Amuma & Mom's wish.We couldn't wash that tawa in the kitchen sink,it was this discarded tawa kept only for eggs which the ladies never touched.
    My Appa believed one must try everything in life time, make your own choices but not blindly, let experience guide you & you are sure to turnout more confident.

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    1. Did you make one Vidya?
      Your Appa and Amuma were amazing.
      I'm glad to see that you could sense your mother's predicament and frustration. It's not easy to thrive in anyone's shadow.

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  10. Hi Arti,

    First time on your blog here. It is quite interesting how you have shared a recipe by giving the back story to it.

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  11. I remember taking ajwain parathi in tiffin and after reading this I want to eat one right now !

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  12. I swear I fall more in love with your grandparents with every post Arti. The Gibran quote is lovely.

    And I admit I have to battle the rumbling sounds my tummy makes with every delicious morsel of food you mention. So delightful!

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    1. Ah! They were both such delightful souls Deborah--oozing with love for the children in the family.

      Sorry about the rumbles---hope you manged to fix something tasty to appease the tummy:)

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  13. Loving your stories. They have become my bedtime stories, the last thing I read before I fall asleep so that the images are fresh when I close my eyes. I love the relationship between your grandparents.

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    1. Thank you Namratha. This is so beautiful to read.

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  14. While we do eat leftovers, it's generally just reheating the meal as is rather than transforming it into something new. Sounds like your grandmother was an amazing cook. Weekends In Maine

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  15. Wow my mouth started watering reading the description of how to make Loon Kalari from leftover roti.... Somehow mothers and before them grandmother's they have magic in their hands... The taste which they add to the food... Even if I try them multiple times with the same ingredients I can never achieve that taste :)

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    1. Their secret ingredient was their unconditional love for us Ira. That's hard to duplicate.

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  16. My kitchen rules is "leftovers are optional." At my grandparents' house you had to finish everything even if it was going bad because throwing food out was a sin. In my kitchen if something has gone bad we throw it out.

    The Multicolored Diary

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    2. Obviously this goes with the rule "don't make too much food at once." I envy your grandma's skill at guessing how much is enough :D

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    3. Cheers Zalka. I think most women from that generation had these amazing approximation skills.

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  17. Reading your stories takes me years back to my own grandparents and as I write this I can feel a lump in my throat. Sometimes I wonder if our children will ever know the flavour of such tales. Maybe they will have their own stories.
    My grandfather was very fond of non vegetarian food and he was a wonderful chef. I loved the chicken cooked by him. In fact it's rather strange but once he stopped cooking I turned into a vegetarian without really realizing it. Some zaayakas are maybe peculiar to people and not food really. Oh you opened a trove of memories. Thank you!

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    1. I'm sure our children will have enough flavours of their own to cherish Sonia. As long as the basic tenets of loving and nurturing are present, childhoods will always blossom with happy moments--of memories in the making.
      Our grandfathers sound very similar:)

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  18. So many decades after and the taste still comes alive on your lips when you think about those times. I wasn't even there and yet. I can imagine how tasty it would have been! Thanks a lot for the recipe. I'll definitely give it a try but I know for sure that it will be no way near as tasty as your Beji's. :)

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    1. I hope you try it Shweta. Let me know how it turns out.

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  19. Wow, what a meticulous mention of 'Loon Kalari'. My mother used to make khakhra with the one day old chapatis or parathas, they were super hit, in those times there was no ready made khakhra were available like these days.

    And yes, my mother kitchen had the same rules like your Beji's, total Satvik kitchen. I remember at certain age my brother wanted to have a curry of onion (garlic was unimaginable to ask also), so somehow my mother allowed him to cook, she gave him a separate pan, as the pan would stink after onion cooking, and so me and my brother we ate Onion dry sabji with tomatoes and ginger in it, and it tasted heavenly to us.
    Well even till date, my mother's kitchen maintains the same set of rules, as the food is offered to laddoo gopalji first, and it is believed that deities only eat a satvik food from a satvik kitchen.
    Love, Nisha

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    1. Thank you for sharing your mother's kitchen with me today Nisha.
      That onion bhurji sounds delicious....mmmmm.
      Might make that today for dinner:)

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  20. OMG Arti -I’m drooling away here ! What fabulous memories and especially smells which take you back to those totally uncomplicated times ! God bless your grandparents !

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