I am sure we all hold dear in our childhood memories, the food prepared for us by the first cook we ever knew – Mom. Her cooking has always more than nourished us; made with love, affection and so many other emotions that only a mother can feel for her child – it has a mystical quality! There is always a dish for the rainy days in life to pick you up from the dumps, the special tidbit for your birthday, mouth watering preparations for festivals……the list is endless… so much so, the food and person simply merge into a single frame. So, I dedicate this Mother’s Day to my mom by making one of her signature concoctions – red, hot Sabudana Khichadi.
My mom has an instinctive cooking style; her implements never include measuring cups, spoons or recipe books. She just tosses a fistful of this or a pinch of that into the kadhai, as she stands by the kitchen counter with her saree pallu tucked, her bangles jingling, and you see the maestro, effortlessly putting together a delicious meal! I believe [hope?! ], some of that has rubbed off on me. I distinctly remember growing up watching her cook and getting impromptu cooking lessons along the way. All along on this website, you will find me writing about her cooking every now and then.
My mom and even my dad (yes, he has his fair share of forays!) are both very good cooks and I grew up on fresh, home-cooked food, that I oh-so miss! Today, the best part of travelling back home to Pune is to sit back, relax and enjoy all the mom-made food, like pohe for breakfast, everyday Maharashtrian family-style lunches and dinners, delicious comfort foods, or those special occassion spreads, that my mom whips up in her kitchen. So for Mother’s day this year, I am sharing one of her unique creations – this dish makes it to the top of menus for fasting days, special occasions, family gatherings and also for some of my girlfriends in India to satisfy their pregnancy cravings! For me, my sister or brother, it just rules! Check it out…
(Pearl Sago /Tapioca Pilaf)
Sabudana (Pearl Sago or Tapioca) is the star ingredient in Maharashtrian cooking, especially on religious fasting days. The most favored sabudana concoction is the khichadi, which is definitely on the fasting menu but is also a popular breakfast or snack preparation. The most common and traditional recipes are the ones presented on Divine Taste, Indian Dhaba and Evolving Tastes.
…And what’s so special about my mom’s recipe?! Well, it’s the best sabudana khichadi … ever! While I guess it’s natural for me to think so, I think I can back it up. She uses red chilli powder (not green chillies), which not only adds a spicy kick to the khichadi but also gives it a beautiful deep red color! She likes to “marinate” the sabudana with all the condiments for sometime, which, I think, gives a chance for it to absorb all the flavors and makes this khichadi truely divine.
My mom sometimes adds potato kees to the khichadi. Potato Sali (or Kees, according to the Marathi terminology) is also a special fasting food item and is made by sundrying shredded boiled potatoes that are rehydrated by soaking in hot water before cooking, just the way the dried porcini mushrooms are used in cooking. Maharashtrians usually make a quick stir-fried version of it (like this one made by My Foodcourt). My grandmother sends me homemade kees every year, but if I run out, I get it from one of the local Indian foodstores. For this particular dish, it compliments very well to the overall flavor and texture.
Try my mom’s signature recipe and I am sure it’ll be your favorite too!
1 cup sabudana (If you can’t find sabudana, you can use Israeli/Pearl Cous Cous and follow the cooking instructions for it. Once cooked, use it in the same way as the soaked sabudana in the recipe below)
1 tbsp red chilli powder/cayenne pepper
¾ cup roasted peanut powder (see concoctions 101 for the recipe)
¼ cup grated coconut (fresh or frozen, thawed) + some for garnish
1 tsp sugar
3-4 tbsp oil (canola, vegetable, sunflower or corn) or ghee (clarified butter)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 cup potato sali (optional)
½ lemon, juiced
scant ¼ cup water
cilantro/coriander, for garnish
In a sieve or a colander, rinse thoroughly the sabudana under cold tap water till the water coming out of the sieve is clear and not cloudly white. Let it sit for about half an hour and repeat it once more.
Combine red chilli powder, roasted peanut powder, grated coconut, salt and sugar along with the soaked sabudana and mix well. Let it sit and “marinate” for about an hour or so.
If using, immerse the potato sali in hot water and let it soak in the meantime (for about an hour or so).
Heat oil in a kadhai, wok or deep sauté pan over medium high and add cumin seeds. When the seeds start to splutter, add the potato sali and sauté for a couple of mins.
Add the sabudana mixture and stir to mix it in well with the potato sali. Adjust the salt, sugar and red chilli powder seasonings. Stir in the lemon juice and sprinkle some water. Cover and simmer for 10-15 mins, stirring occassionally.
Garnish with grated coconut and chopped cilantro and serve warm with a side of cool yogurt or cucumber raita.