I have stayed in Delhi for more than 12 years. We shifted there when I was a little under 4 yrs old from Bijapur, Karnataka. So I can say that 'Hosh sambhala toh apne aap ko Dilli mein paaya!' I did most of my schooling there and had a lot of friends as one generally has at that age. So when we were about to leave Delhi, I was upset and it felt odd to be moving to a completely new & different place.
When we came to Bombay the language shock was the first thing I experienced. Being used to the 'Haan ji, Pehle aap etc' Hindi, it was a very odd to find people referring to someone elder to them by saying 'Kya be' and 'Tu kya kar raha hai' etc not to say anything about the Tapori language! But slowly I got used to it and even my day to day language started sounding like theirs :) but I made sure to talk the 'North Indian' Hindi whenever I was talking to someone from that region, partly because I did not want to lose touch with the 'Real Hindi' and partly because of my experience I knew they would not like it if I called them 'Tu'. But for a long time I could not get used to calling elder people by their names. In Delhi even if the person was just a year elder to you it was either 'Didi' or 'Bhaiyya' and Uncle/Aunty for the others. But here in Bombay the word 'Bhaiyya' took on a totally different meaning and whenever I called someone Didi they would give me looks which said 'what a weird girl!' and some actually laughed on my face.
But after staying in Bombay for more than 10 years I became a complete Bombayite! I remember one of my school friends from Delhi was supposed to visit me after my 8 years stay in Bombay. I made sure I was talking the proper Hindi and tried my best to sound the way I did when I was in Delhi. Everything went fine. While leaving she said ' Hey you haven't changed at all, but your language is totally corrupt!' Imagine that after all the efforts I made!
Coming back to the food part of this post, I always liked the way potato was cooked in dry sabjis in North Indian cuisine. No gravy means no water added but the potato was always perfectly cooked with all the spices blending in perfectly. At our place potato was generally cooked with 'Rassa' or if it was dry, it was pressure cooked first. So i missed that North Indian touch very much. I remember the lunch times at my Delhi school very vividly. None of us ate what we got from home but always exchanged the tiffins to enjoy what we didn't get at home. R1 liked the Upma/Dosa/Idli/Wada that I used to carry, I liked the Aloo Gobi/Pakodi wali kadhi/Rajma that another friend R2 used to bring, M liked the curd rice/lemon rice from J and she in turn liked the Aloo parantha/Pulao etc from R1 and so on. This arrangement kept us happy and all our Moms were also worry free as all the tiffins would return empty :)
When we came to Bombay I missed these happy times a lot and also the great food! I knew I could not bring back those times but those dishes could be created...right? So as soon as I developed an interest & started cooking I tried to recreate those dishes as I remembered them. The earliest attempts were disasters to say the least. Either the potatoes would be half cooked or burnt, the cauliflower in the aloo gobi would be completely mashed & so on. My mom tried to give me some advice but I never paid attention, after all I had been eating those dishes for so many years & not my mom! She would warn me of the result if I did a particular thing but I went ahead & did it anyway.
One such episode was when I made Aloo Methi for the first time. Now the view that I had was that the Methi would be sort of mashed & the Aloo has to remain firm but get cooked. So when my mom offered to chop the methi for me, I said whats the need to chop it when it is going to get mashed anyway! You should have seen the look on her face when I said that. You should also see the look on my face today when I remember what a fool I had been! Thank God I had enough common sense to at least pluck the leaves out!!! So the Aloo Methi was made without chopping the leaves...My brother D happened to come in the kitchen and saw the bhaji and on being asked how it looked said 'It looks just like the roads & footpaths of the Dadar Bhaji market in the rainy season!' Now the seriousness of this comment could only be understood by those who have actually seen the Dadar market in the rainy season. For those who don't have an idea, believe me its not a good sight. The wholesale bhaji market in the morning leaves enough rubbish(rotten vegetables especially the leafy ones) on the road to cover it completely & when it rains and people walk on the same road plus the vehicles....you must have got the picture by now...Now imagine my first Aloo Methi effort being compared to that!
Anyway, I have come a long way from there. I now make very good Aloo Methi after I 'chop' the Methi leaves :) Here is my recipe which I have arrived at after various trial & errors.
- 1 bunch of Methi (Fenugreek) leaves, plucked and chopped !
- 1 medium sized potato, peeled and cut into big pieces
- 1-2 tblsp Oil
- 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
- 1-2 Green chillies, finely chopped
- a pinch of Hing (Asafoetida)
- 1 tsp Haldi (Turmeric Powder)
- 1 tsp Lime juice
Heat the oil in a pan. Add the mustard seeds. When they splutter add Hing & Haldi. Toss in the potato pieces and stir. Cover & cook for approx 5-7 min (stirring in between) or until the potatoes are nearly cooked. The flame has to be slightly lower or else the potatoes will get burnt.
Now add the chopped methi leaves and mix properly. Add salt and cover again and cook for 4-5 minutes (again stirring in between) till the methi leaves are cooked. Again the flame has to be low. Turn off the flame and add the lime juice.
This tastes best with hot Phulkas.