When winter comes to Pune, well, whatever little winter we do have left given the rapid deforestation and urbanisation our erstwhile sleepy hill station has witnessed, it is time to make a beeline for Mandai. Mandai, literally means market place and the old one in the heart of the city the Tulshibaug Mandai is where most true blue Punekars go to for their weekly vegetable shopping.
The cooler months in Pune bring out the best in the vegetables. Fresh, crunchy and flavourful. Grown in the agricultural areas surrounding Pune, they arrive farm fresh by truck each night and are ready to be taken home by the morning. And green peas in winter are exceptional. They are tender, plump and sweet and just burst in your mouth with crunchy goodness. There used to be a time when we lived in Bombay and visited Pune for winter holidays. During pea season, a madness overcame the family. Peas used to be bought by the tens of kilos by enthusiastic, greedy mothers and aunts to be taken back to Bombay and frozen for future use. It used to be great fun too. The dads , uncles and kids would gather around the dining table and be made to shell those great mountains of peas while the ladies prepared the evening meal and plied us with hot tea and snacks from the kitchen.
Then, there would be a marathon menu for weeks based on peas featuring the maharashtrian matarachi ussal, golden fried ghughra, pea parathas, tikkis, and even the gujarati dhokla with crushed peas. And if that wasn’t enough, we’d get peas in almost any curried vegetable mom could get us to eat! After a few weeks of this insanity, mom would take a quick peek at the depleting stock of her precious peas and start devising plans to take another holiday to Pea Central, Pune. Here we go again!!
But my favourite way to start of the pea season is the Green Pea and Coconut curry. It tastes the best with really fresh peas and the addition of a little sugar or jaggery takes the natural sweetness of the peas to another level. That, combined in a spicy coconut curry is just unbeatable.
Recipe : Green Pea and Coconut Curry
2 cups fresh green peas, shelled
¼ cup fresh coconut, grated
1tbsp fresh ginger
3-4 green chillies
½ cup fresh coriander leaves
½ tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp mustard seeds
A pinch of asafoetida
½ tsp sugar or jaggery
Salt, to taste
- Grind the coconut, ginger, green chillies, coriander leaves, cumin to a smooth paste.
- In a pan heat ghee and temper with mustard seeds and asafoetida.
- Add the green peas and sauté for a few mins.
- Add ½ cup water and cook covered for 4-6 mins till the peas are half cooked.
- Add the ground paste and ¼ cup water. Add sugar and salt and mix well.
- Cook covered till the peas are cooked and the gravy is semi thick.