When ker berries and sangri beans come together to be cooked in Rajasthani households, it makes for an aromatic pairing with almost anything. The desert vegetable comes from the arid regions of Rajasthan and thus, made its way popularly into the kitchens of the dry state.
Chef Pannalal Kumar who hails from Chittorgarh introduced Delhi to the flavour and aroma of this lesser known slow-cooked recipe that is becoming a rarity even in cities in Rajasthan. “It takes a lot of time to cook. Both ker and sangri come from different plants and are dried for a year. They need to be soaked for 12 days and cleaned and later soaked in buttermilk and boiled. A blend of spices is then made to cook 'ker sangri' which has several health benefits.” He says slow-cooked traditional Rajasthani recipes are easily made and found in villages in the state as people cook them early in the morning and even share them with their neighbours unlike in cities where families prefer quick recipes and purchase readymade pickles and dishes from the market.
Chef Pannalal learned the art of cooking from his grandfather and became a chef himself after his elder brother, too, chose the profession. His mother’s cooking style and recipes also greatly influenced his own style. “When in Delhi, I wanted to give people more than just dal bati churma from Rajasthan, so, I prepared a buffet of different and lesser-known Rajasthani cuisines and the response has been phenomenal,” he says.
His recipes include mattera hara pyaaz, bharwan kaccha tamatar, Rajasthani chaats, ghewar, badam halwa, moong dal halwa, methi papad sabzi, pyaaz and moong dal kachori, khoba wali roti, gluten-free breads like jowar roti, missi roti, bajra roti and so on.
To present his Rajasthani spread in Delhi, the chief ingredients had to be sourced from Rajasthan as some ingredients like ker and sangri, cannot be found in Delhi’s local markets. “We also sourced bajra from Rajasthan as it has a unique flavour, different from that of Delhi,” he says. He says that all Rajasthani food is preferably cooked in mustard oil while the desserts are cooked in ghee. Kumar who works at Raffles Udaipur also had a unique twist to the popular dal bati churma. While the batis are popularly laced with ghee, his batis were found dipped and floating in a bucket full of ghee for the flavour. “We usually cook batis on chulha using cow dung as the cooking fuel for retaining its true flavour,” he says.
The culinary trip to Rajasthan can be experienced at Novotel Delhi, Aerocity’s Food Exchange till July 23.