Step by Step

Snakes Alive !-The Pishwi is back.

Now that plastic bags have, at last ,been banned by the government of Maharashtra, most of us carry that good old 'pishwi' , for generations the  accoutrement of every proud Puneite.You never leave home without it.

A sturdy cloth bag, generally made of khadi, but now to be seen in all colours and fabrics, of medium size, hung from the shoulder to leave all hands free, every man, woman and child owned one. Sensibly so. It comes into use for carrying notebooks, money, glasses,equipment, and vegetables. No man would be thought sissy for carrying a pishwi isnt , after all, a 'hand' bag. And he would be doing what all real men do in Pune -The bhaji/vegetable shopping on the way home.


So I am glad to see it back again. Mainly because low micron plastic bags are not available for use by the local vendors of fruit and vegetables, shops and stores.Which means they are out of circulation, and are not going to clog our street, drains, open spaces, trees, barbed wires, railroad tracks and the Indian landscape,  which was looking progressively more like a surrealistic wasteland of pink, bright blue and multicoloured plastic blowing in the wind.

Snake gourd makes one feel very smart about carrying the old pishwi. It never did fit in any plastic bag. Snap a snake in two and it fits comfortably along the shoulder strap.


Ingredients for a simple snake bhaji:

  • 1 snake (gourd)
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 heaped teaspoon rai/mustard seed
  • 5 cloves garlic chopped fine
  • 2 green chillies slit and deseeded
  • Salt to taste.


Wash, peel and slice the padwal in half along the length . Take out the seeds, and chop into half inch circles.


Heat a teaspoon of oil in a kadhai / or heavy bottomed pan.Put in mustard seeds and when they pop add the garlic and chillies.


Saute till lightly browned and add the chopped padwal. Cover tightly and allow to cook in its own juices for about 12-15 minutes on low heat. Add salt to taste.


Kabhi Khatta Kabhi Meetha- Mango Murabba

I just couldnt resist that. The title I mean. K3M. Every Bollywood movie and TV drama has the K word. Why cant I use it in my little blog? And what better place to use it than to describe the subject of this entry Mango Moramba, sometimes sour and sometimes sweet.


We are nearing the end of a good season. When the breaks the mango season will be over. All we shall have left is (sob) memories and (yaaayyyyyyy) preserves!


You could take the short way out and go across to Bhavnagari Sweet Home , next to the Jain temple on  Sachapir Street . Their speciality is, in fact, Mango Chhunda.( Update:Sad to say that Bhavnagari's has closed down as of July 2006)


One is hot and one, not.They taste pretty good too. A nice accompaniment to chapathi or rice and dahi, which makes a meal in itself if you are having lunch on the run.


Bhavnagari's is a friendly place and the shop boys always helpful. I am always asked how "Boss" is. You know who that might be! Their products are always fresh and tasty and I have never had a problem with their sweets, salties or dried fruit. Some of their other specialities will be featured in forthcoming posts.

On the other hand if you are a DIY specialist like me, you could quickly make some moramba at home with this super simple recipe. As with all preserves, it is a good idea to make just a small batch at a time. 

Ingredients for Kesar Mango Moramba:

  • 2 large green mangoes: weigh after peeling and grating. It should be about 300 gms.
  • Weigh up 1 1/2 times the amount of sugar . Approximately 450 gms if mango gratings are 300 gms.
  • Saffron.
  • Powdered cinnamon.

Wash and soak the mangoes in water for a while.

Peel_mangoes Then peel

Grate_mangoes_2 and grate.

Weigh_grated_mangoes Weigh. Spread out on absorbent paper to drain off extra water.

Weigh_sugar Then weigh up 1 and 1/2 times the amount of sugar.

In a pan melt the sugar with 1/2 cup of water and heat till a syrup is made. See if the syrup congeals on a plate.

Add_mangoes_to_sugar_syrup Then add the mango gratings

Two_spoons a pinch of saffron and a pinch of cinnamon powder.

Keep cooking on a low fire till the mixture thickens. The scent of saffron rises during this process and the mixture slowly gets a yellowish to orange tinge.This takes about 1/2 an hour - 40 minutes.Test as for jam to see if the syrup is thick enough.

Fill_jars Bottle in clean and sterilized jars. Cover with butter paper and put lids on while still hot.

Kesar_muramba_doneThis makes about 500 gms and keeps very well for a long time without refrigeration.

It tastes very good even if I say so myself. Soooo much better than what you can buy and it has the real colour of saffron.

Jamun Jam



Hand carts are a treasure trove of fruits now. Mangoes are all the rage  but other colours catch the eye. A few pushcart fruit sellers carry what are wild pickings, or gawraan as they call it. These are the tastiest berries and jaams from a variety of trees growing on the edges of gardens and in the forests.


I recall a time when jamun were strewn on the sidewalks in New Delhi, and we tripped our way to catch the school bus, picking up a few of the tart, oblong fruit to eat while skipping over other purple spatters, fruit half eaten by crows who had gorged themselves high up in the branches.

These tall, stout and shady trees still exist on Lytton Road, off  Raj Path where we lived, but not a piece of fruit is to be found on the ground anymore. The trees have all been contracted out and harvested well in time.

In Maharashtra,  Jamun (Sygium cumini L) also known as Myrtus cumini and Eugenia jambolanum  grow  well in the Raigad,  Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri districts. It is classified as a minor fruit since most of the trees have been planted accidentally by the ancestors of farmers, who are now happy to find a tree or two on their plots of land. They were grown mainly for shade along roads and highways and in coffee estates to provide shelter for the coffee plants. Cultivation has not been actively encouraged by the government and plantations do not exist.

Though indigenous to India it is not easily available in the market and the fruit now costs Rs 160 for a kilo!! To eat, they remind me of the astringency of a good Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.The same inadvertent ch-tack and pursing of the lips after a bite/sip is inevitable ! You develop a taste for it as with all good things.

The harvesting season lasts from the end of March to the beginning of June so, while they were still to be seen , I picked some up and tried making  jam out of it.

What a feast of colour it was right through the process!


250 gms ripe jamun. About 25.Washed very well.
250 gms sugar
1/4 apple cut in 1/2" pieces
Squeeze of lime.
A pinch of finely ground fennel.


In a clean stainless steel pan with a thick base, place jamuns along with the sugar and heat on medium flame


Stir till jamuns start to soften. Add pieces of apple.


Cover for a few minutes as juice is released and the sugar in tinged with mauve. As the jamuns soften mash them a bit to hasten the process.


Within a few minutes the juice will have been released completely and the seeds can be removed. Add lime juice.. about a half teaspoonful. Cook over medium heat till mixture begins to froth. Add a pinch of finely ground saunf  (fennel seeds) as the mixture begins to thicken.


The jam should have reached the non runny stage within 15 minutes.Test a bit of the juice on a plate to see if it congeals .


Take the pan off the fire and bottle immediately in clean and sterilized jars. Keep a quarter inch at the top of the bottle, insert two rounds of butter paper on the lid and cover immediately while hot.

It tastes pretty good right now and I will be able to give a second opinion within two weeks when the flavours will have settled .

Isn't the violet colour out of this world?