The nostalgia of winter foods

Yesterday, while editing a winter foods story for Delhi, I had this sudden craving for sitting wrapped in a blanket and munching on moongfali (peanuts); crisp moongfali encased in warm kernel which is broken with the thumb. Salt and spicy coriander chutney would be standard accompaniments to the peanuts. We would always rummage through the kernels to look for a few stray peanuts, even after finishing quarter kilo of it.

Kali gajar ki kanjiThis and many other food memories that are so typical to winter, zoomed past as I read through the paragraphs about roasted shakarkand, dilli ki aloo chaat and bedmi-aloo; the ones that I am willing to recreate in Mumbai even at the slightest hint of cold. But, it’s never the same; sarson ka saag is never as fresh, the taste of radish is never as sharp and the kanji never gets the same pungency as when kept in the winter sun. Worst of all, there is no kali gajar here to make the kanji.

I remember as a kid there were vegetables that we’d only get in winter and my parents made sure that we ate them all. Mom would get singhada (water chestnut) to make kachri. She would boil the singhadas, peel and crush them and then cook it in desi ghee. This crunchy, buttery kachri would then be garnished with ginger, green chillies, coriander and lime juice. Sadly, the dish is not so common on the streets in north India. However, if you go towards Ramnagar in Uttarakhand you might still find some street vendors making it.

Vegetables like red carrot, cauliflower, radish, turnip, green peas were only available in winter, unlike Mumbai they are still seasonal in north. My mother would use them all in a spicy rai ka achaar where all the vegetables are boiled and then preserved with mustard seeds and oil. This pickle with paranthas would make an ideal breakfast.

The joy of eating aloo paranthas with white butter; the comforting aroma of a simple subzi made with spinach, beetroot, turnip and tomato; the crisp sound of the brittle gajak is all lost in the sticky muggy weather of Mumbai. Sigh. I miss being in north in the winter.

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