A few years ago, when my daughter Archana was studying in Delhi, I decided I wanted o experience a “Delhi winter” – that everyone seems so scared of. So off we went – realizing another long-cherished dream – to do a journey across India by train. Nursing hangovers from a well-partied New Year’s, we caught a train from Chennai Central and steamed ( I know, I know – electric engines don’t steam but then steam is sooooo romantic!) into Delhi some 36 hours later – 4 hours late and completely, blindingly smogged out. It WAS cold, but not bone-chillingly so and coming from the city of hot-hotter-hottest seasons (aka Chennai), the cold was refreshing!
Over the next week, we ‘did’ Delhi – from Hauz Khas to Akshardham to Lotus Temple to Haldiram’s. Two of my favourite memories, though – are of eating huge jalebis in Chandni Chowk and the sheer heavenliness of “Paranthe wali galli”.
Arch and I sit down in this tiny joint which looks like it can’t hold more than four diners at a pinch and miraculously seems to hold at least twenty! Opposite the bench on we sat, sharing a table with us, was a couple of sisters-in-law – who ordered something called ‘paapad ke parathe’. She must have seen me look surprised ‘cause the next thing was her hospitably sharing her paratha with me when I said I hadn’t even heard of such a thing! Maybe it was that spontaneous gesture of hospitality but along with the asli ghee ke fumes, I was soon encased in a warm and loving fug..
Artery-clogging (am sure there must be a self-cleansing mechanism in there) parathas arrived with the most fabulous carrot pickle and dahi. Very soon, like Oliver Twist, I was asking for mo’e. And then, this little boy, a server, takes my plastic pickle bowl, opens a large jar of pickles, puts his whole hand in and then takes out a fistful of carrot pickle! My hygiene-conscious heart nearly gave up it’s ghost that day but my tummy shushed it!
Here it is – my take on gajar ka achar with winter root vegetables:
· Carrot – 1 large
· Turnip –2 tender ones
· Radish (preferably the red variety) – 1 tender
· Knolkhol – 1
· Mustard powder – 1.5 tbsp
· Chili powder – 1.5 tsp
· Turmeric – ½ tsp
· Kasaundi paste – 1 tsp (optional – for extra mustardiness)
· Salt – about ¾ tsp
· 1 large pinch asafoetida
· Gingelly or mustard oil – 2 tbsp
· Juice of 2 lemons
Pick the tenderest and freshest of winter root vegetable. Wash, dry and peel. Cut into thin slivers – about an inch long and 3 mm square. Toss all the ingredients together and leave to infuse for a couple of hours. This pickle can be refrigerated for upto a week. Serve as a side with paranthas.