The Cuisines Of India - Rajasthani Cooking

Only a Brahmin may cook in a Marwari kitchen and they must bathe and change their clothes before doing so. If a non-Brahmin even enters the kitchen, all the utensils, pots etc. will have to be cleansed before they can be used again. So that no other person may touch a pan or spoon, serving dishes are not used; individual meals are served on thalis, which is the word both for the dish (a metal tray, usually containing more tiny metal dishes) and these days, the meal itself.

A typical thali may include a salad of white radish, fresh ginger and green chilli, vegetables such as spiced aubergine, potato and cauliflower cooked with cumin and ginger, a dal, a yoghurt dish and a desert. In the centre will be Indian bread such as roti and papadums may be served, signifying the end of the meal.

In contract to the strictly vegetarian Rajasthanis, historically, the Rajput warriors of Rajasthan cooked meat and rice dishes similar to those of the Moghul emperors. However, the exception to the Muslim diet was that the Rajputs hunted and ate wild boar, even cooking the fat and skin with coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger and fried onions and using it to flavour a dal.

Many Rajasthani dishes are based on what the warriors could eat while engaged in campaigns. Sometimes a pot containing a chicken and spices will be buried in a pit lined with dried cow dung, used as fuel. The pit will be sealed with more lit cow dung and the pot will be left to stew for some hours.

Many other dishes are curries based on gram flour or pulses and some are enriched with yoghurt or dried fruites. Some favourites are:

Aloo Methi is a Marwari speciality, very tasty despite not even including onions or garlic because the potatoes are spiced with cumin seeds, asafoetida, ground coriander, red chillies, turmeric, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds (methi), coriander seeds, ginger, nigella seeds, green chilli, the whole finished with a mixture of yoghurt and dried mango powder. As you can see, the lack of onion and garlic hardly matters when there are so many other flavourings!

Rajasthani Bhindi are ladies fingers stuffed with a spicy mixture of chilli powder, gram flour, cumin powder, ground coriander, fennel seeds, mango powder, turmeric and garam masala. Cumin seeds, onion seeds and green chillies are then sizzled briefly, the stuffed ladies fingers added and fried until crisp.

As in the West, a favourite to end a Rajasthani meal is rice pudding, but Mewa Ki Kheer is a little different.

Heat 1 tsp of ghee and add 50g basmati rice which has been soaked for an hour and drained well. Cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes then add 1.5 litres milk and simmer until the rice has absorbed the milk (about an hour). Stir in 3tbsp almonds, ground to a paste, 100g sugar, 50g fresh grated coconut, 25g raisins, 50g pistachio nuts slivered and 50g slivered almonds. Cook for another couple of minutes until the sugar has dissolved.

Remove from the heat and stir in ½ tsp ground green cardamom seeds.

Chill, decorate with slivers of almonds and pistachios and serve.

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Liz Canham

As well as a love of http://www.lizebiz.com/trk.php?c=13834&u=AD" target="_blank">Asian Food and Cookery, Liz seeks to help newcomers to the world of internet marketing with tools, tips and training from her Liz-e-Biz.com website.