Recipes | Three Cornmeal Delicacies from Rajasthan – Perfect Comfort Food for Winter
How true is the saying, “Something that is yours forever is never precious”. I was reading a post on Lonely planet stating ‘ Udaipur tops the list of World’s ‘best’ cities and was amused with the report!
And to think of it, I never realized the worth of living in Udaipur and spending some of the precious moments of my life there. The magnificent gardens, grand Havelis & palaces, historical monuments, rustic old city streets, colorful hand painted homes, tie & dye fabrics….I neglected the overwhelming beauty of Udaipur till I was there…to put it straight, I took it all for granted.
It was only when I got married and moved away, the desire to get closer to my hometown increased manifolds. Yes. home is a place you grow up, leave for good, and grow old wanting to get back to. And thus every trip to Udaipur brought a little bit of my hometown through my lens and the food I cook. These are a few pictures I clicked in 2010 with my P & S during my morning walks near the lake very close my home.
I love to cook food that brings me closer to my home and people. There is nothing as comforting as replicating the simple dishes made by mom…hot Makki Ki Rotis (cornmeal Indian flat breads) cooked on charcoal grill, smeared with homemade butter, black gram lentil curry and coriander chutney for a chilly winter night dinner…Oh, I miss my home, mom and her food.
My fondest food memories by far are the home ground cornmeal recipes. I rarely get to eat this now, as my family is not used to eating this humble grain. I sometimes cook these recipes to connect myself to my roots, the recipes which are more than just food and are beyond memories.
Food, recipes and people of Rajasthan have very well adapted to arid and dry climatic conditions of the land. Water scarcity in the cities made people depend more upon dried lentils, wholegrain, desert vegetables and milk products.
Corn is one of the staple foods in Rajasthan and is used in various forms from flour to grits to wholegrain in making some filling, healthy and scrumptious meals. A hot bowl of Ghaat and a warm sour Raab cooked using cornmeal is a common sight during winter days in many households there. The city I live in now has moderate temperature round the year and a hot bowl of winter soup is not welcomed here, nevertheless I make sure to include these recipes in my menu.
Use fine variety of cornmeal for all the below recipes. Though in Rajasthan, people use much coarser variety of cornmeal. The grain is picked, washed, sun dried and then ground in a stone grinder in most houses to make a filling dish to keep them warm in the chilly winter days.
1. Makki Ki Ghaat..my indigenous Polenta
This cornmeal mush or Makki ki Ghaat is a semi solid porridge style dish and is a perfect comfort food for the chilly winter nights when served with cheese or butter. It was quite late that I came to know about a dish called Polenta from Italy which resembles our indigenous Makki Ki Ghaat.
A traditional Polenta dish made in Italy takes almost an hour to cook and is much more creamier in consistency than the Makki ki Ghaat. An extremely versatile dish it could be served as a breakfast, lunch, dinner or even as a delicious dessert.
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 2 cups water
- 2 tsp. clarified butter or ghee
- Salt as desired
- Pinch of black pepper powder
Method: Bring water to boil in a thick bottom vessel. Add butter or ghee, salt and cornmeal in hot water and keep stirring continuously at slow flame.
It will take 10-12 minutes for the water to get absorbed make a creamy porridge cornmeal. Make sure that the recipe is cooked at low flame and is stirred continuously to avoid formation of lumps.
Remove from heat and serve immediately topped with more fresh ghee or grated cheese if you like. Ghaat is normally eaten plain and piping hot, you can serve it with fresh coriander and mint chutney or any lentil curry.
2. Makki Ki Raab or Cornmeal Porridge with buttermilk
Traditional way for making a delicious Raab recipe is to use an earthen pot, freshly made buttermilk and to slow cook the recipe on charcoal. Given a choice I would prefer the same method to cook my Raab, alas, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride…
I serve cornmeal Raab mostly for breakfast and keep alternating between savory recipe with sweet (palm sugar) Raab.
Here is how I cook my Raab,
- 1 cup cooked Ghaat
- 2 cups buttermilk
- Salt as desired
- A pinch of roasted cumin powder
Method; Pour buttermilk in the pre cooked cornmeal and bring it to a boil in a heavy bottom pan. Cook for a few minutes on low flame and take off the heat.
Add salt and roasted cumin powder and serve warm or ice cold. Store the extra Raab in refrigerator and use it for next day.
Cook the Raab in milk instead of buttermilk, add sugar serve it hot. Extra buttermilk could be added to make it more soupy.
Replace salt with sugar in the above recipe and serve sweet sour Raab for breakfast in a glass.
3. Cornmeal Vegetable Upma
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 3 cups water
- 1 onion
- 3/4 cup chopped mixed vegetables
- 2 green chilies
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp. mustard seeds
- A few sprigs of curry leaves
- Salt as desired
Method; Peel and chop onion, dice green chillies and prep all the vegetables of your choice. I use a mix of French beans, potato, carrots, capsicum, peas in my recipe. Boil water in another vessel.
Heat oil in a wok or kadai and crackle mustard seeds in it. Add onion, curry leaves, green chillies, chopped veggies, cornmeal and sauté for a few minutes on low flame.
Pour hot water in the wok and add salt. Cook for about 10-15 minutes on low flame till you get a dry and fluffy Upma.
A recipe with few ingredients and very little time to slog in kitchen is my favorite and the humble Ghaat or Indian Polenta and Raab tops the list hands down. If Makki Ki Ghaat and Raab are authentic recipes of Rajasthan Cornmeal Upma which I adapted from the semolina Upma from South India is not quite popular there.
- Cooking time for each recipe depends upon the size of corn grits. The above recipes use cornmeal of semolina consistency.
- Add grated cheese in Ghaat recipe and enjoy a creamier and more exotic Polenta.