Everyday Maharashtrian food is simple, quick, healthy and very flavorful. Poli or chapati (wheat bread), bhaji (vegetable), koshimbir (salad), bhaat (rice) and amti or varan (legumes/lentil stews) is pretty much on the daily menu in every home. Primarily vegetarian, with lots of fresh ingredients, minimum usage of oil, mild or sometimes no spices added and with very few seasonings, Maharashtrian food is high in nutrition value and brings out the true flavors of the of the ingredients used.

But this everyday food doesn’t always have to be humble and modest, right? So I thought of dressing this ordinary food up a little and giving it a new look and feel! I preserved the same high nutrition value and retained the true flavors of the food using some new techniques and making some cosmetic changes.

Take a sneak peek inside my makeover studio! Read on…..

Gajar-Kakdi Koshimbir

(Carrot-Cucumber Salad/Raita)

Growing up, we have always had kakdichi koshimbir (cucumber salad/raita) in some form or the other at least once a week. My mom made it several different ways: with yogurt or with lemon juice, may be with some peanut powder or sometimes with some other veggie like carrot, tomato, onion, etc. My favorite used to be the citrusy and crunchy one with lemon juice and peanut powder. This was the first candidate for my “Extreme Makeover” challenge!

The usual way of making this refreshing koshimbir is to dice or shredded the cucumbers and the carrots but I shaved the two into thin long strips and they got a glamorous new look! The light green cucumber and the deep orange carrot ribbons beautifully compliment each other in color, texture and flavor. The lemon juice adds a citrusy zing, the peanut powder gives it a little crunch and thinly sliced green chillies make it a hot and yummy 😉

Without further ado, presenting the all-new Gajar-Kakdi Koshimbir……

Serves 2

2 pickling cucumbers

(I wouldn’t recommend the large slicing cucumbers for this salad)

2 carrots

1 small green chilli, micro sliced

3-4 cilantro sprigs, leaves finely chopped

2 tbsp, roasted peanut powder

salt

1 pinch sugar

1/2 lemon, juiced

Peel the cucumber skin and then continue peeling it on all sides till you reach the seeded part. Discard the seeded part or snack on it with a little salt and pepper. Similarly, peel the carrot skin and continute peeling it into thin shavings till you reach the core part and cannot feel further. (Peeler with a lateral blade might be easier than the one with a longitudinal blade)

In a bowl, combine the cucumber and carrot shavings with the green chilli slices, cilantro, peanut powder, salt, sugar and drizzle the lemon juice on it. Mix well and serve refreshingly chilled.

Flower-Batata Bhaji

(Cauliflower & Potato Roast / Subzi)

This was another regular on our table back home that was a winner especially amongst us kids. Cauliflower and potato are a classic combination for making a stir-fry kinda bhaji or subzi. When preparing this concoction stove top in a frying pan or kadhai with bare minimum spices and seasoning, the potato finishes cooking a bit faster than the cauliflower. So while the potato gets a little mushy, the cauliflower is just al dente. This makes it a great stir fried accompaniment for the poli or chapati.

How did I give this unpretentious and delicious recipe a brand new makeover? Instead of stir frying the two vegetables, I roasted them. I tossed the two with raw tadka (made without heating the oil) and then left them alone in the hot oven for sometime. Roasting the cauliflower at high temperatures makes it sweeter and even more crunchier and roasting the potatoes at high heat makes them crisp on outside and tender on the inside. The golden brown color on the surface of the vegetables due to roasting jazzed up the overall look.

With its appealing new look and an appetizing new flavor, this madeover bhaji is a winner of all time!

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Serves 2

1/2 large cauliflower, broken into medium sized florets (about 3 cups)

3 small red potatoes, cut up into 1 inch cubes

2-3 tbsp oil (EVOO, canola, sunflower, corn, vegetable)

1 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)

1/2 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)

1/2 – 1 tsp red chilli powder (for desired level of heat and spice)

salt

fresh cilantro/coriander (dhania), finely chopped

Preheat oven to 425 deg F (220 deg C).

Whisk together the oil, turmeric, cumin seeds, red chilli powder and salt in a mixing bowl.

Add the cauliflower florets and the potato cubes and toss well so that they are evenly coated with the oil mixture.

Place the tossed vegetables in a aluminium foil lined baking dish (makes it easy to clean!) and roast in the pre-heated oven until lightly golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Garnish with cilantro and serve hot.

Varan

(Split Pigeon Peas /Toor Daal)

Varan Bhaat is particularly very near and dear to a Maharashtrian. So is it for me!

Varan is Toor Daal in it’s simplest form. (Read PuSiVa‘s post on it). Typically, varan is made by pressure cooking toor daal with a pinch of turmeric and hing(asafoetida). When cooked, the daal mashed up and mixed well to a pulp-like consistency, seasoned with salt and a tiny bit of sugar or even jaggery (that’s typical Maharashtrian cooking!) and is simmered over the stove. When ready it is ladled over steaming grainy rice, topped with a dollop of ghee (clarified butter) and sprinkled with some lemon juice.

Some other ways I love to have varan is by putting ghee and dipping bites of poli in it or simply slurping it up as a soup. However I have it, this simple concoction tastes like home to me, anytime! (Here’s how Nupur has her “Waran Bhaat” )

For the makeover challenge, I put an exciting spin on the classic recipe. I cooked the toor daal as usual and then in the simmering stage, I poured over a little hot chilli – garlic infused oil (i.e. tadka with chilli and garlic). The hot green chillies added a bright color along with a spicy kick and the garlic gave it a wonderful aroma.

With a makeover, the varan got a fabulous new look, but it is still the same old comforting food, at heart!

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Serves 2

1/2 cup toor daal

1½ cups water (See ratios and proportions)

1/2 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)

1 pinch asofoetida (hing)

1 tsp sugar/jaggery

1-2 tbsp oil (canola, sunflower, corn, vegetable) or ghee (clarified butter)

1/2 tsp mustard seeds (rai/mori)

1-2 small green chillies

2 medium garlic cloves, smashed

salt

fresh cilantro/coriander (dhania), finely chopped

Wash and drain the toor daal in a stainless steel pressure cooker vessel. Add the water, turmeric, asofoetida, salt and place it inside the pressure cooker. Cover the lid and bring the cooker to a full pressure, letting it whistle for 3-4 times, then reduce to low heat and simmer for 10 – 15 mins. Toor daal needs more cooking time as its a little tougher as compared to other daals.

When the cooker cools down, remove the vessel and mash the cooked daal using the back of the ladle or a whisk to a pulp-like consistency. Transfer it to a medium sized pot, add some water if needed and season it with salt and sugar or jaggery. Simmer for 10 – 15 mins.

While the daal is simmering, heat the oil/ghee in a small frying pan. Add mustard seeds along with the green chillies and smashed garlic cloves. When the seeds splutter and the chillies and garlic are slightly fried (just about a min or so), remove from heat and pour over the simmering daal. Stir and continue to simmer.

Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve hot.

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8 thoughts on “extreme makeover: maharashtrian food

  1. Basanti,

    Kudos to your `Extreme Makeover Concoctions Studio’ ! Your other-than-the-ordinary style has converted the routinely humdrum Gajar-Kakdi Koshimbir into trendy fashionable 5-star recipe under Raita / Salad catagory in our own amazing national Tricolors ! Chakh-de India !!

  2. Gajar-Kakdi Koshimbir khup sundar (beautiful) / chavista (tasty) ahe. Tyat Pandhara (white) Mula (. .white raddish?. .) adhik misalun paha, Tirangi Koshimbirichi chav ani paustikata (nutrition) ajoon wadhel (increase). Mula Bhajila changale (good) poshakmulya (nutritional value) aahe.

    Mom, great idea about adding the raddish. The tricolor salad just like the Indian flag colors (orange, white and green) will not only look beautiful, but also be very healthy like you said!
    ~Vasanti

  3. I never thought I could just pop cauliflower and potato in the oven with the tadka!

    I got this idea after I had roasted cauliflower, a side dish that they served in my office cafeteria. Just used the same concept to make a desi version and it worked wonders!
    ~Vasanti

  4. so after our conversation the other night about Indian comfort food, compared with the comfort food of other cultures, I was totally in the mood of the some simple, hot, dal-chawal. I decided to try the varan. This dal is true comfort food. Alon with some achar (indian chutney) and yogurt, I was oh so comforted :)..its simplicity defined – simple to cook, simple ingredients, simple, yet delicious, flavors. Kudos!

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