Food from the Mountains of Kumaon

Yes, I am still holidaying in Uttarakhand! So far, I have visited Binsar, Kausani, Ranikhet and of course, Almora, which is my base for this trip. Next stop, Nainital and thereafter Amritsar! In my earlier post, I had published a photo-essay on the colourful market of Ranikhet. In this one, I’ll focus on the food of the Kumaon region, known as pahadi food (or food from the mountains). Disclaimer – all the food you see in this post has been made by my mother-in-law; my contribution has been to photograph it and eat it :)

Last week was the fag end of the Navratri festival, followed by Dussehra. So here are some of the festive goodies rustled up for Dussehra breakfast, which are made at most pahadi homes on that day. Images are followed by quick recipes. Since these recipes are hand-me-downs, there are few proportions; go with your instincts and let me know how they turn out!

Pue – these are fried dumplings made out of rice flour or semolina.

Soak 1 cup of semolina in a mixture of ½ cup of yogurt and ½ a cup of cream. Allow it to soak for 3-4 hours. Add some ground fennel seeds, powdered black pepper and some jaggery (dissolve jaggery in some milk and then add). The batter should a similar consistency as that of idli batter; slightly thicker than pancake batter. In a large pan, mix equal parts of ghee and oil and heat on a high flame. Drop little dumplings of the batter in it and deep fry. Drain off excess oil and allow to cool on a plate lined with paper napkins. Serve warm.

Aloo ke Gutke – these are potato wedges cooked in mustard oil and flavoured with local spices, including jambu, which is used extensively in Kumaoni food. Jambu is a kind of dried Himalayan Chives. It’s available at Gourmet West, the in-house food store at Westside, Mumbai. I’m sure you can find it at other gourmet stores as well.

Cut potatoes into wedges. Heat mustard oil and make a tempering of asafoetida, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, dried red chillies and jambu. Add the potato wedges, turmeric, coriander powder and grated ginger. Cover and cook till the potatoes are done. Add garam masala powder and aamchur powder (dried and powdered unripe mangoes – readily available in stores). Serve hot, garnished with fresh coriander.

Kheere ka Raita – this is a cucumber salad with yogurt and liberally flavoured with mustard.

Grate large yellow cucumbers and drain water out of it. Add turmeric, grated ginger, coriander powder, cumin powder, red chilli powder and salt. Grind about 1tsp of red mustard and add to the cucumber. Mix in enough yogurt. Leave to marinate for couple of hours so that the mustard flavour develops. The longer you marinate, the bigger the mustard hit! 

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