Of summer picnics & Mum's Chitrapur Saraswat Radish Raita!

Of summer picnics & Mums Chitrapur Saraswat Radish Raita!
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Grated radish mixed with yoghurt and flavoured with a simple tempering

If you’ve grown up in the Middle East in the 90s, you must have a special place in your heart for picnics – family picnics, beach picnics and even school picnics. In a region so bound by societal rules, it was difficult for us as children to venture out on the streets to meet friends or play together. So, recreation either meant going to someone’s house or going for picnics.

School picnics were a given. Every year, the three divisions in each standard would go for a picnic where we would put up plays and sing songs and in general let our hair loose. One particular picnic on a hot summer day, when I was just about 11 years old, comes to mind. I still remember preparing for a group song and skit and having won the 1st place our division couldn’t be any happier.

As we all sat down on the lawn to eat the food that our mothers had lovingly prepared, I opened my dabba (those stainless steel vessels that fit into each other surprisingly well) and was elated that my mother had made her special mutton curry. And, then I went on to open the rest of the dabba, fully expecting rice. But, I was rather surprised to find that Amma had filled them with what looked like thayir sadam (the quintessential South-Indian curd rice) but was not. For some reason, she had filled the rest of the tiffin with my favourite radish raita that was a special dish in our household. Grated radish mixed with yoghurt and flavoured further with a simple tempering.

I still remember chomping away happily on my mismatched meal like they were a match made in heaven. That memory of more than 18 years ago came back to me this summer, all the way back in the Middle East, when I went grocery shopping.

So, to tell you about the salad – it’s a typical Amchi or Chitrapur Saraswat preparation especially in the summer months, when radish available aplenty and yoghurt helps cool down our systems. Chitrapur Saraswats trace their origins to Kashmir and then to Goa before they moved further down to various parts of Karnataka. The Amchi cuisine has is an eclectic mixture of south-Indian and Goan flavours. Our dishes are usually simple, with the more complex flavoured ones requiring the roasting of spices and chillies and coconut before being ground into a fine paste or a coarse masala – depending on its requirement.

Some of the core ingredients used in the cuisine, that allow it to stand apart from the rest are fresh coconut, fiery red byadgi chillies, tamarind as a souring agent and jaggery as a sweetener. The typical tempering requires curry leaves, mustard seeds and red chillies with a generous pinch of hing/asafoetida.

So, coming back to the Radish Raita – the preparation is fairly simple and result is delicious. Here’s how you go about making it:

Ingredients:

2 cups of freshly grated radish

1 tsp salt

3-4 tbsp yoghurt

For the tempering:

1 tbsp oil

¼ tsp split black gram or urad dal

¼ tsp cumin seeds or jeera

½ tsp mustard seeds

4-5 dried red chillis (preferably byadgi)

A generous pinch of asafoetida or hing

A handful of fresh curry leaves

Method:

1. Mix the grated radish with the salt and set aside for at least 15 minutes. This ensures that the bitter juices from the salad are extracted out.

2. Squeeze the radish fairly well and mix in with the yoghurt; dispose off the juices or you can use them for other purposes like tenderising meat or even home remedies.

3. Mix the radish with the yoghurt and adjust the salt to taste.

4. Now in put the oil in a tempering ladle and heat. Add the udad dal, jeera and mustard seeds and wait till the latter splutters.

5. Now add in the red chillies. Cook for a while before adding the curry leaves and finish off with the asafoetida.

It pairs beautifully with, well my Mum’s mutton curry, and other spicy gravies and rice. And it is not too radish’y’, if I may say so!

Photo credit: Shanti Padukone

A writer and editor by profession, my passion lies in food and exploring its horizons. It has always been my comfort, challenge and satisfaction. I absolutely love ingredients, which have been the muse to my writing and inspiration to my cooking. Through my blog Riot of Flavours, I talk about my world of cooking and eating and seek to promote my native cuisine the Chitrapur Saraswat Cuisine from Karnataka.

Follow Shanti on Twitter and Instagram @riotofflavours

Shanti Petiwala

Shanti Petiwala

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