Life in a desert


My mother grew up in a desert near Jaiselmer in Rajasthan in a small village called Chelak. She has four siblings, and all of them used to do household chores including taking care of a small shop called a kiryana, where they used to sell things like grains, Lux soaps and Paragon chappals. For them, and my Nani, especially, a life without electricity meant using survival techniques. As you know, in those barren lands, only rough climate ruled. Hence, came in food items that lasted them for a long time. Kadi is one such dish. Made out of sour buttermilk and a few spices, Kadi is an idle menu item that can be eaten with dry bajri ki roti or chapatti for a day or two, without storing in the fridge or reheating.

My earliest memory in the kitchen is nothing but stirring the Kadi. My mother used to temper the spices, put the buttermilk in the pan and ask me to stir it on the slow flame. That’s the secret of a good Kadi. If you don’t continuously stir the buttermilk, it will curdle and its texture will be spoiled. It’s thin in consistency, looks non-glossy (unlike other versions of Kadi), and has a sour taste, which I die for! After the stirring business, she usually switched off the flame, poured some Kadi in a bowl and gave it to me to drink, as my reward. The first cup of Kadi came to me, in the entire house! Do you know how special it felt? I used to go and relax on the settee in our living room (stirring was hard work, after all) and relish my super hot Kadi, sip after sip. Yes, imagine those typical slurping sounds!

As a child, I remember playing the entire day outside, and coming back home, entering the kitchen hurriedly, taking a dry roti from the roti ka dabba (box) and pouring some leftover Kadi kept on the kitchen platform in a small bowl and enjoying every bite. My mum’s Kadi, when eaten at any given time of the day or night, never fails to touch my soul.

When I went to study in Bangalore, for my post-graduation, I used to ask my local guardian to just prepare some Kadi the day before I decide to meet them. And, finally, when the day came, my LG gave me a day’s old Kadi and sukhi roti, with a big smile, and I felt better, but terribly homesick.

If there’s anything I want to eat before I die, it’s my mum’s Kadi. She’s famous for her Kadi in our entire community in Surat. A lot of people wonder, why we eat Kadi so much. I guess, now you know the reason.

Recipe: Kadi

All right, so first things first. There are many versions of Kadi available in all the corners of the country. But this is my mum’s version. And it’s thin in texture and sour in taste! So mind that.

First step is to make the buttermilk. Take your curd, and add double its amount of water to it and whisk it properly. I use my Boss machine to do this. Once its texture is clear with no lumps at all, strain it in another vessel and keep it on your kitchen counter for 6-8 hours. This should make it sour. Once you have your buttermilk ready, you can follow the following instructions.

  1. Mix two to three tablespoons of gram flour in the strained buttermilk and whisk it. Add a teaspoon of red chilli powder to it as well.
  2. Now take a pan or kadai. Add two tablespoons of ghee.
  3. Once the ghee is hot, add a teaspoon of cumin and mustard seeds, some chopped green chillies and curry leaves. You can also add a small pinch of fenugreek seeds, to make it healthier. Now add a pinch of asafoetida, a teaspoon of turmeric powder, salt to taste and some chilli powder and add the whisked buttermilk.
  4. Now is the time to act quickly. Leave all the rest of the kitchen chores and just stir the Kadi. No you can’t talk, no you can’t relax, my dear turtles! Just keep stirring so that the Kadi doesn’t curdle. If it’s going thick, add a small bowl of water to it and keep stirring again. Keep it on low flame, as of now.
  5. After a few minutes of stirring, you’ll see that the buttermilk has cooked. Once hot, its taste will be built, and you can then taste it to check the salt.
  6. Now increase the flame, and let it boil. After a few nice boils, you’ll see the hot buttermilk touching the Kadai’s ends. Switch off the flame. Garnish it with freshly chopped coriander leaves.
  7. At this point, I transfer the Kadi into another room temperature vessel so that it doesn’t curdle. You can skip this, if you want to.

2 thoughts on “Life in a desert

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