My husband's grandmother, fondly known as Sangli Ajji in the family, was an exceptional cook. She cooked all the meals with great finesse, expertise and cleanliness.
I had heard many stories about her meticulously stocked store room filled with grains, flours, dry fruits and all the delicacies made by her. This room was always locked and no one was allowed to enter it except my father in law, in the good old days when my in laws were newly married.
Known to rule her home with an iron hand with a very strict demeanour, she was always prim and proper with not a hair out of place and the neatly pleated saree only added to her dignity. Contrary to her imposing personality, I warmly remember her today, as she always had the most wonderful smile for me.
Her Raghavdas Laddus (made with besan and rava) were legendary and unsurpassed and if I ever write a book someday, I will surely include the recipe in it. And so was her Sakhar Bhat (saffron infused sweet rice) and her vegetables cooked with the most amazing spice combinations, at times simply flavoured, yet spectacular!
When she was nearly ninety she came home with her caretaker and cook Ramu, to teach me how to make Raghavdas Laddu and Sakhar Bhaat.
This Masala Bhaat recipe belonging to Sangli Ajji has been in my mother in law's family for generations and is cooked on all special occasions and festivals.
Many a time it is also a part of everyday meals. Masala Bhat can be made with a variety of vegetables like brinjals or eggplants, ring gourd, peas, cabbage and capsicum.
Maybe it is hard to replicate the ways of the women of a bygone era, but it is easy to remember them and revel in the comfort of nostalgia by replicating their recipes.
I will always remember Sangli ajji through her smile, her recipes and her pearls, which were passed on to me by my mother-in-law when I was expecting Hari. These golden yellow pearls are the best I have ever seen and a jeweller told me that these golden yellow pearls are very hard to find these days. The pearl choker with the emerald bead was even worn by Sangli ajji's mother, making it more than 150 years old.
Masala Bhat is very easy to make and yet has a sublime taste resulting from the spices in goda masala. Goda masala, is quite easy to make and is quite handy to have, to flavor different kinds of rice and vegetable preparations. It has been a savior to me when I have wanted to make a quick rice dish with the available vegetables in my stock.
Masala Bhat can be served for lunch or for dinner and can be a part of an elaborate festive menu. It goes particularly well when puris are made on a celebratory occasion. At other times, serve it simply with a salad and yogurt or raita. I assure you that this would make for a gratifying meal.
When it comes to cooking food for my family, I find that the purity of organic ingredients makes all the difference. Visit my recipe page to check out all the recipes created by me as a part of the Organic Mantras Initiative. And you can stay connected with 24 Mantra Organic on Facebook and Instagram.
1 ½ cups basmati rice
5 to 6 baby potatoes, peeled and cut into halves
½ cup peas
½ cup ring gourd, sliced
10 to12 cashews, cut into halves
3 tbsp oil or ghee
¾ tsp mustard seeds
¾ tsp cumin seeds
¾ tsp yellow asafetida powder
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp red chili powder
2 tbsp goda masala powder
3 cups water
5 to 6 kokum leaves (if dry, soak in water)
1 tbsp jaggery
2 tsp salt
Wash and soak the rice in water.
Peel and cut the potatoes, shell the peas and slice the ring gourd. Cut the cashews into halves if using.
In a pressure cooker, heat the oil or ghee. Once its hot drop in the mustard seeds and after the mustard pops, lower the flame and add the cumin seeds, followed by the spice powders- asafetida and turmeric.
Add the cashews if using and the vegetables and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Put in the red chili powder and goda masala powder and the drained rice and mix nicely. Add the water, kokum leaves, jaggery and salt.
Cover and cook until the first whistle. Turn off the heat.
After the pressure drops, take off the lid and allow the steam to escape for 2 o 3 minutes. This helps the rice grains to firm up.
Fluff with a fork lightly and serve hot with your favourite raita or curd.
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