Friday, 7 June 2013

Kumro Phool bhaja (Pumpkin Blossom fritter) and a Jade trip of Konkan in rains


Rains,

Lush green forest laden mountains,

Cascading milky white waterfalls, cloud filled valleys,

Turbulent coastlines, lush paddy fields, colorful insects,rolling blanket of blossoms,

Piping hot bhajiyas at the roadside stall with steaming cup of Masala chai ,  
Long drives, romantic music and getting drenched in endless greenery…

Monsoon brings in a lot of bitter-sweet memories with itself every year. For the nature lovers residing in the western part of the country it’s time to pack their bags and set out to experience the wet and wild. The entire Konkan belt is rich in flora and fauna and monsoon brings out  the best in them. Even the mundane chores like travelling to office and back becomes a pleasure ride as the entire pathway is bedecked in different shades of green – all fresh and sprightly.

This entry will be more of a photoblog instead of the normal writeup.Want to share with my readers the awesomeness of monsoon in the Konkan belt.

Lonavala 2012
I look forward to this time of the year when one can forget every tension in their life just by looking out of the window. The whole of Maharashtra becomes a nature lover’s paradise. The light drizzle and rumbling clouds strikes an instant romanticism even in the most unromantic souls. It’s time for garma garam Khichdi and some vegetable fritters to go with it. The contrast of the chill in the air and the warmth of a homemade meal is something to die for.

The irony is that this is considered to be the low season time for tourism industry because rainy season doesn’t attract the high spending party goers. This is an added boon for the monsoon lovers who can enjoy some of the best nature destinations at dirt-cheap prices. Me and hubby usually try to plan an outing near mid-June when the monsoon had already set in and the backdrop has changed from light brown to dark green. Last year we had visited this amazing place called Wildernest, safely hidden inside the deepest jungles of Chorla Ghats in Goa. Goa usually means sunny beaches, seafood shacks and wild parties. But most are unaware of the breathtaking forest cover that Goa offers. The place was everything beyond our imagination with rooms facing thundering waterfalls, an infinity pool which opened up the cloud laden jade valleys, delectable Konkani fare served in earthen bowls and endless walks through the forest trail – an experience which I would rate as the best-est among all the places I have visited worldwide.
Swapnagandha Valley @ Wildernest

The Room @ Wildernest
Waterfalls visible from Reception @ Wildernest

Mesmerizing Konkan Yatra by rail
This year also with the onset of May we started planning our monsoon destination. We didn’t want it to be a Mahabaleshwar, Matheran or Lonavala trip but something different. And different we have planned. A sneak peak of the place where we will be holed up. Will update details once we complete our tour.



Talking of the rains and not talking about the foods that make the season all the more special would be an injustice to all foodies out there. After getting drenched on way home what could give you more comfort than a bowl of steaming vegetable Maggie (noodles)? Add a handful of scrambled eggs to it and voila you have a royal dish in your hands. Monsoon is the time everyone willfully surrenders to their fritter cravings. Kanda Bhaji (onion fritter), Pale Bhaji (Spinach fritter), Batata bhaji (potato fritters) and all other kinds of bhajiyas make their appearance at the roadside stalls. Bun-maska and masala chai is also a great combination for the hungry souls.  Back in Bengal it would be time for muri makha (a heady mix of puffed rice with different spice mix) ,aloor chop (Potato cutlets) and adda (chitchat). Time would fly and no one would even notice when the evening made way for the night. Let's also not forget to mention about the sliced tangy Kacchi kairi (raw mangoes) seasoned the typical Maharashtra way that you get near any tourist destinations especially outside the historic forts. It was an electrifying experience the time we had some kacchi kairis at the Sinhagad fort.

Kacchi Kairi @ Sinhagad Fort
Along with the food we also have the all important chai (tea). Whether its a masala chai, raw tea or a simple milk tea a rainy evening cant do without it. The shot of steaming cutting chai (small tea cup)  is as intoxicating as a shot of tequila.
Cutting Chai & Bhajjis
 Lets come to the recipe part of this photoblog now. In Bengal we have Bhaja instead of Bhajjis. The essential difference between a Bhaja and a Bhajji is that the later is dipped in batter and then fried whereas a Bhaja may or may not have a coating over it. Simply frying the cut vegetable seasoned with salt and turmeric makes a Bhaja like Potol Bhaja (Parwal fry), Shak Bhaja (leafy vegetable fried), Kumro bhaja (Pumpkin fry), more royal Ilish Mach Bhaja (Hilsa Fish Fry)to name a few. It makes for some great side dish to go with the normal rice and daal. Young or old it will be hard to find a person who will not love any kind of fritter.

The recipe for today is a very simple Bhaja – Kumro Phool Bhaja or Pumpkin blossom fritters. During childhood days we used to get a lot of pumpkin blossoms in the local market. I found these pillowy and buttery saffron yellow delicate blossoms with soft green stems tied in a bunch of 6-8 very attractive as a kid. My father used to frequently get them which was a good thing for me as I loved to devour the piping hot pumpkin blossom fritters freshly fried. There was another blossom fritter that I used to love equally – Bok phool (or Heron flower, as its white and hangs like a heron from the tree) bhaja/ Humming bird tree blossom fritters.  Now a days when I visit Kolkata I can see Pumpkin Blossoms being sold but never saw any Bokphool. Maybe those got lost with our childhood.

Coming back to Pumpkin Blossoms. A pretty simple recipe for those  rain soaked evenings.


Preparation Time: 10 minutes 

Cooking Time: 5 minutes

Serves:2


Cuisine: Bengali

Ingredients: 
  • Kumro Phool (Pumpkin Blossom)-8
  • Besan (Bengal gram flour) - 1/2 cup
  • Rice Powder - 1/4 cup
  • Kalonji (Nigella seeds) - 1/4 tsp
  • Baking soda - 1/4 tsp
  • Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar to taste
  • Refined oil - for deep frying

Procedure:

1. Remove the stigma and the stem from each blossom. Wash the blossoms properly in a colander taking care not to tear them (the blossoms are very delicate)
2. Prepare a uniform thick batter of gram flour, rice powder, baking soda, red chilli powder, nigella seeds, sugar and salt.


3.Heat oil in a skillet. When the oil is hot enough, dip the blossoms one by one into the above batter and place them in the skillet. The blossoms will quickly get fried in about a couple of minutes. Fry them till they turn a shade of golden brown.


4. Remove the blossom fritters from the oil with a slotted spoon and place them over tissue paper so that extra oil gets soaked.

Note: You can try the same recipe with other Squash family blossoms like Zucchini blossoms.


Serve as it is with any chutney or sauce or you can serve it as an accompaniment to daal rice.


It's also my Birthday today. So it's a day of celebrating my birthday, the monsoons and plenty of warm memories to go with it. Today is no-cooking day for me. It will be a dinner of delectable mutton pulav and chicken kabab from a famous Parsi joint in Pune.

Signing off with a few lines I read somewhere:

My kaleidoscope dreams have all been unfurled
Since you Green   have colored my world,
You rescued my heart, Green
You rescued my heart...

Take care everyone and enjoy the rains!

Sending this to Just not the cakes' "Let's celebrate Halloween" event and Pari & Jiya's "Only Traditional Recipe",.













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