Lungi securely tied up, a prisitine white banian with sleeves (in the days before t-shirts were invented!), talapaaga (turban) in the form of a rolled up towel tied around his head and giving many instructions to his underlings (us three children – bring this, bring that and the other!), my father would sit down to the arduous process of making shrikhand! To help himself along, he would commence the intense physical process by singing – loudly and completely off-key – from his repertoire of three songs – “Nandaamaya, guruda nandamaya” being first choice!
A conversation about gender roles with my fiercely feminist daughters this morning also led to a discussion on where we’d got our feminist genes from. While my mom fought for her right to a career outside of the home (unusual in her generation), my own definitions of gender were definitely shaped by my dad as well. While she did the cooking when there was no cook, it was my dad who took over the vegetable cutting (a big job in a family which was known for its large appetites!), tiffin dabba packing, ironing school uniforms – till we grew old enough to do it ourselves, the daily puja paath, the tying up of my hair in a pony tail when my mom was late – our school regulation two plaits with blue ribbons was beyond him so I used to take a note to school to be excused (aside: convent schools those days were terrorist organisations – going by the sheer number of rules and the punishments for infarctions and the number of notes we had to carry to be excused from stuff!). It was another matter that that pony tail tied by my dad was always so tight that i used to come back with a headache – at the ripe old age of seven!
I go back even further and realise that it was my grandmother – my dad’s mom – appamma – who laid the foundations for an equitable division of labour between her five daughters and five sons, teaching all of them to handle household tasks so the burden would not fall only on a few. Continuing that tradition, there were some things that ONLY my dad would do – one of these being the making of shrikhand. Those being the days when milk was not easily available, shrikhand appeared on the table only on special occasions – when dad was in the mood! Yogurt needed to made with a large quantity of milk, then strained, then whipped – and for the quantities that we could put away – at least 3 litres of milk was needed. Even after the mixer made an appearance in the house – sometime in the ’70s, my dad would continue to do the beating of the yogurt by hand – insisting that this was the only way to get REALLY good shrikhand. Very much my father’s daughter, I still cannot get myself to make shrikhand with a mixer!
Some years ago,when Arch, my older daughter was studying in Delhi and feeling very homesick, I wanted to send shrikhand to her with my husband who was planning a trip. Puzzling my head over how to make it last (it doesn’t freeze well), I managed to get hold of a blood bag (the kind of bag that is used to transport blood and plasma during wartime!) – unused, of course – and put a dabba of chilled shrikhand in it to send off. It puzzled the security guys at the airport no end but we managed to get cold shrikhand across to her to ward off homesickness blues!
Here it is.
- 2 litres thick, fresh yogurt
- Sugar – 16- 17 tsp (sorry am not good with cup measures!
- Saffron strands – 1/2 tsp
- 1 or 2 tbsps milk
Tie the yogurt up in a thin muslin cloth – an old dupatta is great . Place the bundle in a large strainer or sieve over a large bowl so that the whey can collect underneath in the large bowl. Put the whoel thingummy in the frig for a few hours or overnight. This way, the whey gets strained out and the curd doesn’t go sour.
The whey can also be used to knead chappathi dough later.
Empty the thickened yogurt into a basin. Add the sugar, milk and the saffron and keep beating with a ladle- breaking up any lumps against the sides of the basin. Takes about 20 – 30 minutes of whipping to get the silkiest of shrikhands. Shrikhand tend to thicken up so incorporating milk helps to keep it the correct consistency.
Serve with pooris or if you’re on a diet, with rotis. Then keep sneaking spoons through the day!
p.s. while i have mentioned pooris in the passing, letting them play second fiddle to the shrikhand, i have to admit that on one memorable occasion – just over a month ago, i realised while i watched pooris almost float up to the ceiling – they were that light – at the home of a friend’s mother in Mumbai, that pooris could do an item number on their own and didn’t really need an accompaniment! Thank you to Dipika for letting me meet her mom (Vibha Divetia) with the magic fingers and to Gujjus in general for mastering this art – no one can make pooris like them!!