Vegetarian cuisine from the Himalayan foothills is author Veena’s attempt at capturing the myriad of flavours and herbs present in the area.
Having done her PhD from African Studies Centre, School for International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, Veena’s book is all about spreading awareness. Be it food, environment, or biodiversity, there is a lot to be gleaned from this treasure trove of recipes.
Apart from boasting a rich body of work, Veena has also travelled to various parts of the world to teach and present papers on Leisure Studies, as also on Pilgrimage Tourism. She has, all along, had an abiding interest in Vedanta.
Currently living in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, one can see the influences from the place in a recipe like Rice Pudding in Sugarcane juice or Ganne ki kheer. The streets of Rishikesh can be seen studded with carts selling sugarcane juice almost all year round. But from about October, one sees a greater abundance of these.
Each cart carries large bundles of the reed along with a hand-operated crushing wheel that works almost continuously to cater to eager consumers. The addition of fresh ginger, lemon juice, and some mild spices makes the juice even more delectable. Other than being tasty and refreshing, the alkaline super fluid is rich in electrolytes such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and manganese and is also known to be a liver cleanser. It helps to quickly replenish the nutrients lost by the body while coping with various antigens that are ingested into it in the process of living. It is supposed to help fight certain types of cancer, as the disease cannot survive in an alkaline environment.
Aside from this, there’s also interesting and healthy new recipes like the Himalayan Lentil and Tomato Soup or Pahadi daal aur tamatar shorba. Inspired by the southern India rasam and suggestions from friends, this recipe uses some local lentils, tomatoes, and gud for a hearty soup. Served with a chunky piece of bread, or rice if preferred, this can make for a meal in itself. The spicy flavour works up the system in summer and the hearty ingredients nourish the body during the cold weather.
Rice Pudding in Sugarcane Juice (Ganne ki kheer)
- ¼ cup or 50 gm broken rice
- 1 cup or 220 ml water
- 1 cup or 220 ml sugarcane juice
- For the kheer, put the broken rice on to simmer with 1 cup water. Soon, it will soften while still being slightly uncooked.
- Then pour in the sugarcane juice and let it cook till the rice is completely soft and blended with the sugarcane juice to a thick viscous and pudding-like texture.
- A little taste gave me the idea of how much more juice to add for sweetness and also how much more to cook so that the rice may be creamy soft and the kheer viscous enough to be pleasing when tasted.
- Even without adding any other ingredient like nuts or cardamom, the kheer was delectable as it carried a full-bodied flavour of the sugarcane.
Himalayan Lentil and Tomato Soup (Pahadi daal aur tamatar shorba)
- ½ cup or 80 gm red lentil (masoor)
- ½ cup or 80 gm yellow lentil (arhar dal)
- 2 tbsp or 25 gm yellow moong dal
- 25 gm tamarind
- 4 or 225 gm chopped tomatoes
- 1 ½ tbsp or 12 gm grated jaggery
- 1-1 ½ tb or 4-6 gm Himalayan rock salt
- ½ tsp or 1 gm crushed black pepper
- 1 tbsp or 8 gm powdered fenugreek seeds
- 1½ tbsp or 8 gm rasam powder
- A bunch of chopped coriander
- A small bunch of chopped amaranth (chaulai)
For the garnish
- 2 tbsp or 20 ml coconut oil (organic if possible)
- 2 dry red chillies
- 1 tsp or 3 gm mustard seeds
- ½ tsp or 2 gm split black gram (white urad daal)
- A few curry leaves
- Boil all the dals together (in a pressure cooker if possible) till very mushy.
- Take a lemon-sized piece of tamarind and prepare the tamarind puree by soaking it in hot water for 15-20 minutes and then rubbing it well through a sieve.
- In the dal, pour in the tomatoes, grated jaggery (gud), and Himalayan rock salt (saindha namak).
- Add the tamarind puree to the daal and cook till the tomatoes are done and blended in.
- Add coarsely crushed black pepper, powdered fenugreek seeds, rasam powder, chopped coriander, and chopped amaranth (chaulai) leaves. Cook for a few minutes.
- For the garnish, heat coconut oil (organic if possible) in a skillet. Add dry red chillies, mustard seeds, split black gram (white urad daal), and curry leaves. When the ingredients splutter, add them to the daal soup and serve hot.
Amaranth seed Pizza (Ramdana ka pizza)
For the base
- Ramdana 2/3 cup / 125 gm
- Water 2/3 cup / 150 ml
- Chia 1 tsp/4 gm soaked in 2 tsp water for 10
- Parmesan cheese, finely grated 5 tbsp / 25 gm
- Salt to taste
- Black pepper ¼ tsp / 2 gm
- Oregano ½ tsp / 4 gm
For the topping
- ½ an onion, thinly sliced
- ¼ tsp or 2 gm garlic, finely chopped
- 1 bunch or 75 gm Himalayan spinach (pahadi palak), finely chopped
- 5-6 pieces or 50 gm water chestnut (singhara), shelled and sliced
- Canned water chestnuts (optional)
- 1 tsp or 5 gm olive oil
- 1 small Himalayan cucumber (pahadi kheera), thinly sliced
- A few slices of red and yellow peppers
- 1 tomato, sliced into wedges
- 50 gm mozzarella cheese
- ½ tsp or 2 gm olive oil
- To prepare the dough, wash the ramdana and run the water out through a fine sieve to remove any dust or grit. Boil the ramdana in water, till soft and cooked. It may be pre-soaked for 2-3 hours for easy cooking.
- The water will dry up in the cooking. More water may be used in case the ramdana is not soft.
- Add seasoning. Stir in the soaked chia. Turn off the fire and blend in parmesan cheese.
- On a greased, flat baking tray, pour out the mixture and spread it into an 8” (approximately) round. Let it set for a few minutes.
- Turn on the oven to 200°C.
- For the topping, pour one teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet. Add sliced onions. Cook for a minute or two till softened, add garlic and then pahadi palak. Cook for 2-3 minutes and then add the sliced water chestnuts. Cook for another 2-3 minutes.
- Add salt and pepper. (Water chestnuts can be sliced easily by cutting the ‘nut’ lengthwise to expose the heart-shaped white kernel inside. The outer shell can then be removed with ease.)
- Smear the cucumber and pepper slices and tomatoes with olive oil and keep aside. Spread the cooked vegetable mixture on the pizza base and top with cucumber and pepper slices and tomatoes.
- Place slices of mozzarella on the topping. Place in the oven and let cook for 20-25 minutes.
- It is possible that the base spreads a little. That is alright. If lifting out the whole pizza proves to be a little difficult due to the soft base, cut it into slices and take them out.