Varan Bhat : The taste of Maharashtra


Maharashtra’s delectable cuisine is rich in flavor and known for its distinguished presentation. Lentil and rice or “daal chawal” as it called in India, is a staple food all across India. Varan (sweet dal) is a simple comfort food eaten on daily basis in all Maharashtra homes. It is a cooked with yellow split peas, mashed, and spiced with a bit of turmeric and asafetida with a tiny amount of Jaggary.

A traditional varan is called “gor varan” or “sweet varan”

There can be many variations to this basic lentil like moong dal varan, fenugreek seed varan, cumin flavored varan, etc. Traditionally varan is served on a mound of hot steaming rice (Ambemohar or Basmati variety) with a spoon full of ghee (clarified butter) along with lemon and salt on the left side of the thali (plate).

During important functions and weddings it is an important starter for the main course and the rice is pressed into a flower shaped mould and inverted on the plate before varan and ghee is poured on top of it.

Here I present two scrumptious recipes comes from my mother’s kitchen. She is a great cook and we have always loved the two variations of healthy varan that she makes so lovingly.

1. Gor (sweet) Varan

Ingredients:

1-cup pigeon peas lentil

1 tsp. Turmeric

1/2 tsp. Asafoetida

2 cups water

Salt to taste

Lime, sliced

Jaggary size of a small walnut (grated)

1 tsp. Ghee (Clarified butter)

Method:

Clean and wash the lentil several times.

Add 2 cup of water, asafoetida and the turmeric powder and pressure cook until soft. Transfer the cooked lentil into a pot. Blend the cooked lentil until it mixes thoroughly.

Take a pan and pour the lentil in it to boil, add salt and Jaggary. Boil until the ingredients mix and remove from heat.

Serve hot on top of rice with a spoonful of ghee and a slice of lime.

Variation: add a tempering to the lentil. Heat oil; add mustard seeds, when it pops add cumin seeds, chopped onions. Cook until onions become transparent, add spices – cumin powder, coriander powder, as needed, then add chopped tomatoes, and cook for 5-7 minutes.

Add all this to the cooked lentil.

2. Ambat Varan (Sweet and Sour Varan)

“Ambat” means sour. This sweet and sour lentil recipe is a specialty of my mother.

Ingredients:

1-cup Pigeon peas lentil

1 tsp. Turmeric powder

1/3 tsp. Asafoetida

1/4 cup tamarind pulp (thin)

3-4 tbsp sugar or Jaggary

1/2 cup fresh Cilantro leaves chopped

For Tempering:

2 Tbsp Oil

Four cloves of fresh Garlic

1/4 tsp. Asafoetida

1 tsp Mustard seeds

1 tsp. Cumin Seeds

1 tsp. Red Chili powder

1/2 tsp. Turmeric powder

1 green chili – seeds removed and cut lengthwise into two parts

5-6 Curry leaves

Method:

Add 1 cup of water, asafoetida and the turmeric powder to nicely washed lentil. Pressure cook until soft and transfer the cooked lentil into a pot. Add 2 cups of water. Blend the cooked lentil until it mixes thoroughly.

Add the tamarind and Jaggary and cilantro leaves and bring it to a rapid boil. Add salt and let it cook for 8-10 minutes. Bring down the heat to medium and keep it boiling.

In another small pan, heat the oil until hot.

Add the garlic cloves and cook until golden brown. Now add the asafoetida, mustard seeds, and cumin seeds.

Once the seeds start sputtering, add the red chili powder, turmeric powder, curry leaves and green chili.

Cook for a few seconds and then temper the boiling lentil with this mixture. Bring it to another rapid boil.

Note: The sourness and sweetness needs to be adjusted, as the tamarind you use will vary in its tanginess.

Garnish with more chopped cilantro leaves. Serve with plain rice with a spoonful of ghee (clarified butter) and a squeeze of lime.

I am sure all of you will love the aroma and the flavor of these two very simple yet delicious lentil preparations.

Remembering DAD and The Gift of Life


DAD AND MOM Just after their wedding

DAD AND MOM Just after their wedding


This is a NaBloPoMo post 4 under the theme Heroes

Today is my father’s third death anniversary and Sitting here alone praying for yet another life which is fighting to beat death I think of what he taught us as children. The biggest gift that my father gave us was the power to discern. To judge the right from wrong.
He always said that life is beautiful gift that has been given to us and we should respect and love it in all it’s forms. That our aim in life should be to blossom from within.

Dad was one of those rare people who left the comforts of a pampered Indian male’s life to fight for gender inequality and the orthodox system of favoring the male child.

He gave up all his rights to ancestral property and material benefits because he thought there were treasures much more valuable than these and led a simple life , never turning his desires into his wants.

All through my childhood and in later stages I wondered why my dad was different. Unlike all fathers why he did not earn and made mom work but slowly I recognized how much he cared about what mom wanted to do. When it became a choice about who will quit the job to bring up the family .. He did.

Mom excelled in her field and dad brought us up with the best education of humanity he could provide. We were a middle class family and the only wealth was his teachings, mom’s unconditional love and total support.

He not only practiced what he preached but also completely trusted the universe and the healing abilities of the human mind and body.

Three years ago when I watched him lying on his hospital bed in Pune, I wondered who was this person I am looking at? The myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS, formerly known as “preleukemia”) took life out of him.
Silently waiting for his last journey he his eyes saw more death in the eyes of those around him.

Many a times he would slip into a state of delirium or go back to his childhood or teenage days, recounting stories to me. I felt he transferred a lot of insight and strength into me as we were very close.

He would want me to sit beside him and remember some nazm or sher from Firaq or Faiz and in quivering voice explain it to me. I with welled up eyes would hear but my mind would only listen to the sounds of my childhood, of happy evenings spent together playing chess or our long nature walks, even the long hours of conversations on life which I at that time detested sometimes calling them sessions , urging mom to rescue me.

Later I understood that at least some part of what he said I subconsciously retained and it helped me become a better person.

I dropped my surname coz he wanted me to be known by my name and not as someone’s daughter or belonging to some caste etc. I was initiated to become independent and courageous since childhood and he sent me on a trekking expedition when I just turned 13.
Never in my life I felt that my parents treated me and my brother differently, in fact I was given a higher status and persuaded to do every that is considered “For Boys only”.

He himself did everything in the house from getting us ready to school and cooking to managing finances and almost anything a homemaker would do. I think he did a better job than many women.
Not that mom did not do anything but in her life as a working woman she never had to bother about the home when dad was around.

There were negative elements too and every life in the house was open to debate and discussion. We were friends. Religion was not forced on us and he always told us to respect other people’s beliefs and listen to our inner voice.

Some people thought ours was an abnormal family as each one had a right to decided his or her own course of life but in reality we all were individuals with a choice to lead our lives in the best possible way. He and mom always said that they were their to guide and offer advice and support but we must learn to choose our own path and make our own destiny. Something rarely parents do.

Today I miss his physical presence but the gift that he have me lives in me and guides all my decisions in life.

A young life is about to end any time now unfortunately as I write this and my prayers are with him. He chose to squander the gift of life and did not use his power to discern. Drowning himself in alcohol for no apparent reasons or maybe just to avoid facing his own self. The lives attached to him are affected deeply and his own beautiful life is coming to an end. I have spend my childhood with him and known him like my self and all I can say is a gifted life wasted.

My prayers are with him and all the love and remembrance of happy times spent together.

Please do not squander your life as it is a gift. Love it respect it each moment and never do anything that is against your inner. Justify your existence on this earth as a human being and look within each day to see if you have done something that makes it difficult for you to face the mirror.

Do not forget to connect to people you love and especially those who love you and say your thank you and sorry before it is late.

LIVE ..DO NOT EXIST.

Day 2 : Heart Vs. Mind


It was a crazy day today with so much happening at one time that I just went bonkers. I was not sure I will be able to sit and write a post today but something was bothering me from within. A trapped creativity and some thoughts which are better out than in.

The devious mind was overpowering the love filled heart and forcing it to change the course. The poor heart was getting drained by the already filled emotions and then the continuous nagging by the mind.

I decided to leave things to the universe and let the heart rule over the brain ..once more.

I know my inner voice is my personal source of wisdom. So I decided to march to my own drum beats and listen to my gut instincts. The devious mind tried to persuade me to follow it’s dictates but I knew that my happiness and inner joy lay in following the heart. For it is said it is better to love and fail than never to love at all.

To some this may sound foolish but I have seen that when you don’t let the mind rule your heart then you take the best decisions of your life. Guilt free, conscious decisions.

“The heart is always right– if there’s a
question of choosing between the mind and
the heart– because mind is a creation of
the society. It has been educated. You
have been given it by the society, not by
existence. The heart is unpolluted.” Osho

***

“Falling in love you remain a child; rising in love
you mature. By and by love becomes not a
relationship, it becomes a state of your being. Not
that you are in love – now you are love” Osho

*****
“Be thankful for what has been given to you – and life is giving you so much that your thankfulness is always going to fall short.”Osho

Today was also a day to thank the person behind all my creativity. I feel that a heartfelt thank you is must, it is important to show your gratitude for the good that has come your way through someone. I got this opportunity today and poured out all that was buried deep in my heart. With moist eyes and chocked throat I said what I wanted to for so long.

The heart feels good. I have done my bit. Never leave for another day what you so much long to say to someone, for that another day may never come and then the pain is beyond comparison.

Tagore has put it so beautifully and I quote :

From Fruit Gathering

XLVI

The time is past when I could repay her for all that I received.

Her night has found its morning and thou hast taken her to thy arms: and to thee I bring my gratitude and my gifts that were for her.

For all hurts and offenses to her I come to thee for forgiveness.

I offer to thy service those flowers of my love that remained in bud when she waited for them to open.

*******

I am glad I did what I did today for if I leave the earth tomorrow I will have no regrets.. And I am glad I wrote this post for it cleansed me of all the tiredness of the day.

Think about this and try to incorporate it in your life. Stay connected to your inner and to the universe.

Post 2 for June NaBloPoMo