Back to my roots


I’m back from a much-inspired Jaiselmer trip, which also happens to be my place of birth. A native place so beautiful, I’m always speechless when I see its beauty.

Walking in the streets of Jaiselmer took me back to my childhood days, when I visited my late grandfather during my summer vacations. He was in his 80s, and his paper-like skin was clearly visible. He loved playing cards, solitaire being his favourite. He always concentrated on his card games, and was a man of few words. But, he had his own way of showing love. When the local ice-cream hawker came into our street, my grandpa bought us kids some dibba (box) malai ice-cream or flavoured ice popsicles. Whenever he stepped outside the house, he made sure to put on his neon pink turban and take his walking stick along. His picture is still set in my eyes; if only our grandparents could live with us forever.

This time, I came to Jaiselmer to attend a big fat Marwadi wedding. On the first day, my mother and the other ladies of our family decided to go to the killa (fort) to visit the temple of Laxminarayan ji. I was sitting in an auto with them and we couldn’t help but smile seeing the Manganiyar kids singing folk songs and playing khamaicha instrument. They made our morning a special one.

I liked how a mirror, a bowl of wet chandan and kumkum was kept inside the temple. Visitors are supposed to put on a round dot on their foreheads with the help of a tiny bamboo stick that you need to dip in the red or the orange bowl.

In the afternoon, I tagged along with my Bhua (my father’s sister) while she was visiting her relatives. It was lunchtime, and while entering the houses, I could smell the aroma of rotis and ghee. It was such a recognizable one, and totally took me back to my childhood when my aunt cooked fresh lunch and fed us in the open corridor near the kitchen, which had a huge jaali (grille) ceiling. Another thing that struck me were the huge wooden partitions that were made on the floors near the doors. These partitions are only seen in years old houses.


Over the next few days, we were terribly busy with the beautiful wedding. I was put up with a few aunts of mine, and I totally loved spending time with them, laughing on amusing incidences. I also loved the traditional folks songs that the ladies in the family sang during the cultural events.

At the end of the trip, however, I did end up buying a few kitchen items. First up were green tomatoes. I love this vegetable, and somehow, I haven’t got my hands on them here in Gurgaon. So whenever I visit Rajasthan near wintertime, I make sure to buy a kilo or two of green tomatoes. The sweet and tangy flavour of its sabzi is to die for!


My mum also got me two packets of papad, kachris (cucamelons) and a box of Ghotua from Dhanraj Bhatia Sweets. In the past few months, I was looking for dried rose leaves here in Gurgaon. And guess what? I found them in a local kiryana store in Jaiselmer. Oh, the smell of the dried roses was mesmerizing and I can’t wait to try them in my recipes.


My Jaiselmer trip, however, was incomplete as we wanted to visit even more places, but because of limited time, we couldn’t do so. And, with a heavy heart, I bid adieu to the city.

Recipe: Hare Tamatar Ki Sabzi (Green Tomato Sabzi)


1.Green tomatoes – 2-3 (chopped)
2. Cumin seeds – 1 teaspoon
3. Turmeric powder – 1/2 a teaspoon
4. Chilli powder – 1 teaspoon
5. Coriander powder – 1 tablespoon
6. Oil – 3 teaspoons
7. Sugar – 2 teaspoons
8. Salt to taste
9. Water – 1 cup
10. Mango powder – 1/2 teaspoon (optional)
11. Asafoetida – 1 pinch


In a bowl, chop the green tomatoes into square chunks. In a kadai, heat oil. Add all the spices, except mango powder. Roast them for a few seconds and mix them well. Add the tomatoes. Let it cook for two minutes. Coat the masala well to your tomatoes. Now add water and close it with a lid. Let it cook for about ten minutes, or till the tomatoes turn soft. But make sure you don’t have mashed tomatoes. Hence you need to cut the tomatoes in medium sizes while chopping. Lastly, add sugar and mango powder. Give it a stir and let it cook for the one last minute. Serve it with crispy rotis.

Timeless goodies

Talk about cookies, and all the classic cookie brands will come to your mind. Chocolate cookies, flavoured cookies with a layer of cream or jam in-between them, sugar sprinkled cookies, so on and so forth. It isn’t surprising that some of us, who used to love our old-style basic atta biscuits, tend to forget about them completely when shopping at a departmental store.

Back home in Surat, we love to eat our dry and crumbly biscuits that are light to digest called Nankhatai. We get them from our local Parsi bakery called Dotivala Bakers. My mum usually gifts a box of them to our family members living outside Gujarat. It’s a heart-warming feeling to enter the Parsi bakery and see the hardworking boys packing fresh breads and biscuits for their customers. The bakery is simple and clean with a quick service, and now you know why Dotivala is iconic and has history behind them. Ever since I got married and settled outside the state, I have been getting a box of it once or twice a year, thanks to my mum’s endless love.

When my husband was a kid, my mother-in-law got atta biscuits from a local baker in Hisar, Haryana. “We handed over some atta, ghee and sugar to the baker in a peepa (a huge square-shaped steel container),” she says. My husband loves them so much so that whenever I visit my mother-in-law’s place, she keeps a fresh batch of atta biscuits ready for him. You must’ve guessed by now that I’m from Gujarat and my husband is from Haryana, dear readers.


When I visited Daryaganj in Delhi, three years ago, I saw a local hawker selling hot batches of baked cookies. I was there at the Sunday Book Market, and after buying some books, I hopped on near the cart. The man who was selling it had his own coal kadai on the cart. His biscuits were flaky and of a perfect mouthful size. I was fascinated to see this. It’s a pity our lavish lifestyles don’t allow us to see such street bakers in our urban localities.

That reminds me, I have to buy a tandoor that my mum uses to make baati. It’s a marwadi dish, made with wheat flour and served with dal. I could make atta cookies in a tandoor, just like the cart wala, right? Another must-buy item for my weekend shopping list. Hope you’re reading this, dear husband. INA Market would be the perfect place to buy it!

When I came back to Gurgaon from my early morning Delhi trip, all I wanted to do was bake some cookies in my Morphy Richards OTG.  And guess what? I ended up burning most of them. What was my lesson? The key to well-cooked biscuits is the time you set to bake them. It took exactly eight minutes to bake my atta biscuits, and during this time, I had to keep a check on them. What I made didn’t taste anywhere close to what the local baker in Delhi or what the Dotivala guys are known for. But the reward was satisfactory.


Recipe: Atte ke Biscuit or Whole-Wheat Shortbread Cookies

In a bowl, mix together a cup of whole wheat flour, half a cup of granulated sugar (you can also use desi khaand), a teaspoon of cardamom powder, and a quarter cup of ghee. Try not to over-mix it. I also added a spoon of ground almond powder.

Take a baking tray and grease and powder it a bit with a sprinkle of flour. Take a spoonful of our mixture and spread it like in a round shape. It’d be best if you use those cookie cutters, but I had none at that moment. Garnish them with sliced almonds.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven. Bake these biscuits for about 6-8 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius.

Note: Open the oven and check the cookies after five minutes. It’s easy to get a golden glow on the top but the crust can burn in seconds. So, start with a small batch of cookies. Once you know what works with your oven, try another batch accordingly.