Sunday, November 3, 2013

sevian..... the story of the indian vermicelli

Sevain : story of the Indian vermicelli
I grew up in a rural Punjabi setting and one of the most fascinating sites that I remember was my grandmother deftly rolling seviyaan (indian vermicelli ) on an inverted ghada (pot) I used to think she was quick till I entered the google and youtube age and saw that there were Chinese chefs who could make upto 5000 lo-mien noodles a minute, by hand of course !
It's here that I decided to study a little more of this historically intriguing culinary delight.
Here's a plausible story about how “Seviyaan “ became a household name in India.
Noodles are now established to be of Chinese origin, after much tussle with the Egyptians. The earliest “Fossils “of noodles have been found in Chine, on the banks of the yellow river and they date back 4000 years!
It's from the Mongols (mughals) Chinese origins that the noodles came to India and gradually got absorbed in the culture, eventually to find a way to the commoners home in form of sevain.

Heres a traditional Sheer Khurma recipe from My Lucknowi repertoire
Sevain                                                                                   50gms
Ghee                                                                                     3tbsp
Chironji whole , Pistachio and almonds slivered                      4 tbsp
Raisins and dates soaked in water and chopped                     2 tbsp
Milk ( buffalo milk preferred )                                                8cups
Green cardamom seeds                                                         1 tsp
Sugar                                                                                    100 gms
Saffron                                                                                  ¼ tsp
1 . Reduce the milk to half on low flame
2 . Roast the nuts in ghee along with green cardamom 
3 . add milk to the nuts and the dry fruits , simmer for 5 minutes
4 . add the vermicelli and sugar and simmer for another 5 minutes

5 sprinkle saffron and serve at room temperature 


Quinoa … the “wonder grain” and other stories
             The supermarkets, newspapers and magazines these days are obsessed with preaching the benefits of Quinoa, ihe Inca grain that has made the Andes farmers super rich. I know I sound like I have something against this 800 year old grain or the farmers from Peru and Bolivia but its not so. 
              What is "so” is the fact that in today’s world of trends, internet and food fads. we somehow forget the torchbearers. In this case I am talking about “Amaranth“, the 7000 years old seed (not grain) which was a staple of the Aztecs. We have all tasted amaranth greens as “chulai” in our saag or amaranth seeds in “Ramdaane ke Laddoo” .(a typical jaggery and popped amaranth seed candy). 

              Red Amaranth leaves have now become a western India classic known as “laal math”in Maharashtra or “taamri bhaaji” in Goa. The seeds are Gluten free like Quinoa, can be treated in all ways that quinoa can and have exactly the same Nutritional value as quinoa. Yes the advantage is that Quinoa can grow in moderate drought conditions and has been of interest to the Indian Farmers for this reason, but in this rush to the supermarkets to applaud the wonder grain we should stop by a street vendor selling ramdaane ke laddu, eat one and smile for “Amaranth the torch bearer” 



Amaranth seeds - 1 cup
Black pepper (whole)  - ¼ tsp
Black cardamon seeds - ¼ tsp
Red chilly (whole) - ½ piece
Roasted Chana dal flour - ¼ cup
Garam masala - 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Ghee - 1 tsp

Method :
1. Boil the amaranth seeds with double the water and whole spices for 25 minutes, till it absorbs the water. 
2. Drain the excess water. Blend the amaranth mixture to a paste.
3. Add the garam masala and then the roasted chana besan to bind the mixture. Make patties. 
4. Coat with popped amaranth seeds or bread crumbs. Shallow fry in ghee and serve hot.

A new look at bitter...

Bitter is better
The tastes as we know it are Sweet, Sour, Salty, Umami and bitter . Of The last two, one is less known and the other less liked. Well lets talk about the less liked taste today, lets talk about Bitterness .
Ever since we grew up we have related to bitter as the taste of medicines or poison and that subconsciously triggers our brain to spit out something unexpectedly bitter. But every region in India has used bitterness of foods to their advantage, whether it’s the Kashmiri’s love for Sounchal (the bitterish wild spinach) or the Rajashthanis love for Methi ki launji and who can forget the 2400year old “karivrnta” , the bitter gourd or karela as we know it today… what would a Shukto , a starter that every Bengali Lives by , be without karela in it ? . Bitter has been as much a part of our food as the other tastes. Yet surprisingly we are still grasping to come to terms with the” real” chocolate which is of course bitter. Oh and if you want to feel good heres some more facts, bitter foods are high on free radicals, they protect the liver , reduce diabetes ,  aid digestion and  improve hunger.

Heres a simple recipe for your “bitter” appreciation
Methi ki lounji

1/4 cup seeds soaked for 2 hours
2 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/4 tsp asafoetida
2 whole dry kashmiri red chillies
2 cloves
1 stick cinnamon
1 cup chopped jaggery
1 tbsp raisins
salt to taste

Dry Masala 1/2 cup
With equal quantities of Amchur . red chilly , dhaniya jeera powder
Heat the oil in a pressure cooker, add the cumin seeds, asafoetida, red chillies, cloves and cinnamon and sauté on a medium flame for a few seconds.
Add the soaked methi seeds, 1 cup of water, jaggery, raisins and dry masala mix well and pressure cook for 1 whistle.
Allow the steam to escape before opening the lid.
Boil on a medium flame for 5 to 7 minutes, while stirring occasionally.
Remove from the flame, allow it to cool completely.