Season’s eatings

Inflation would not matter … if we have the will to go back to our traditional foods and customs inlaflation would be just another word

If a time traveller somehow landed in a Goan kitchen, would she be able to tell the season from the vegetables being cooked? In a traditional kitchen, the answer would be a definite yes.

Probably, when the rainfall lashed Goa far more mercilessly, making it difficult for our ancestors to travel too far for their food ingredients, they came up with ingenious dishes that could be prepared by simply sourcing raw material from the monsoon vegetation in their garden.

Taukullo is one such vegetation whose use remains well-known even today, simply because it grows on any available patch of earth that rain can hit. Some mustard seeds and asafoetida are added to heated oil and then the finely chopped tender leaves of taukullo are cooked with water and a dash of jaggery and salt. Some grated coconut to garnish the dish and one could save a trip to the nearest market to fetch vegetables for the day.

Also commonly found during the monsoon in Goa is the growth of the tere (tero) orallu leaves, with raindrops sliding effortlessly over its waxy leaves. Both are known to irritate the human mouth when not cooked the right way. But trust your grandmother to overcome this and turn the tere and allu into an unbelievably tasty delicacy.

Grated coconut is roasted along with garam masala ingredients like cloves, pepper, cinnamon, garlic, coriander seeds and dry chili and ground into a paste. This masala is cooked along with chopped tere or allu leaves and generous amounts of tamarind – this being the key ingredient in cutting out the itchiness that this vegetable can cause. Any of the pulses like masur dal or green gram is added to the curry to add to the flavour and nutrition. A paste of ground fried onions is added later and the gravy, popularly known as tondak is brought to a boil, which is then enjoyed with hot steamed rice on a rainy day.

Ankur is another monsoon growth found in marshy areas, which our ancestors learned to use as food. Ankur, which literally means sprouts (of the vegetation used for cooking purpose), makes for an excellent replacement for tere or allu in thetondak, giving the dish an entirely different flavour. The only difference in this preparation is the need for lesser amounts of tamarind, informs a housewife from Margao, Shantha Dhumatkar.

Seeds of the favourite Goan summer fruit, the jackfruit, is what any wise grandmother likes to dry and store for the monsoon, so that it can be added in place of pulses, just in case the heavy showers affect their availability.

Minus the pulses, the same masala makes a sumptuous dish out of seasonal mushrooms.

Who doesn’t like a plateful of hot pakoras or bhojim with their tea as the heavy showers lash our window panes? But in many a traditional Goan kitchen onions, potatoes and capsicum have a bitter rival in ridged gourds as the main ingredient in the pakora. Leaves of the plant, known locally as

votelao add a zing with its unique sharp taste to the pakora as we know it

today. Votelao was commonly grown in the traditional garden for its medicinal use, especially in the concoction made to cure a cold.

Faglam is another vegetable which grows in the monsoon and is sliced and shallow fried after dipping it in rava, salt, chili and turmeric powder. These fodi make for a wonderful accompaniment in a vegetarian meal,” says Purnima Kerkar, a researcher from Keri, Sattari. She informs that gol bhajji and kuddukechi bhajji are other green vegetables that grow in plenty during the monsoon and are sourced for eating in Goa.

A resourceful lady of the house will always stock the kitchen well in the summer for contingencies during the monsoon.

Salted gooseberries or avalo, raw jackfruit and tender portion of the bamboo shoot come in handy in case of emergencies on a rainy day.

While the jar of salted avallo is opened to make a chutney out of it, when deseeded and ground into a paste along with garlic, grated coconut, salt and dried red chilli, the salted jackfruit is cooked like a vegetable.

“One has to be very careful when storing the raw jackfruit. It is important that no water comes into contact with it when cutting and salting, or else it will rot. After cutting, the raw jackfruit is rubbed with salt and kept pressed under the weight of a stone. The resultant salt water that oozes out is discarded and the jackfruit is squeezed dry. It is then stored in a dry container, layering every layer of these raw jackfruit pieces (ghore) with one layer of salt,” says Dhumatkar. She informs that the tender portion of the bamboo shoot (kil’l), which is salted and stored in a similar manner, is deep fried with rava during the monsoon as an equally delightful replacement for fish, when its supply dwindles in the monsoon.

Who is worried about inflation when there is plentiful of the monsoon and an enterprising Goan running the kitchen in the house?

From salted gooseberries to tender bamboo shoots, STOI samples rare monsoon delicacies unique to Goan kitchens