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November 2005

Pomegranate Salad

Pomegranates among other fruit

There is something sensual and romantic about the pomegranate.Subject of poetry, remember the part it had to play in the proposal that Elizabeth Barrett made to Robert Browning:

" -some 'Pomegranate', which if cut deep down the middle.
Shows a heart within blood-tinctured, of a veined humanity!" -

a verse to which he promptly responded with an offer of marriage..

It is also such a beautiful fruit.

Botticelli's Madonna
Still lifes would not be the same without it , nor would Botticelli's "Madonna of the Pomegranate", neither the sentimental rendition of Proserpine by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. It was a popular symbol for the resurrection, for wisdom and fertility, for good deeds and prosperity.


Pomegraates are seen in Dara Shikoh' s (son of Shah Jehan  the builder of the Taj Mahal) "muraqqa" an album of pictures of birds and fruits , trees, animals and portraits. dating back to 1650.

  A_prince_copy_2 Saki_from_dara_shikoh_2

A_prince_from_dara_shikoh_detail_1 Sakiwith_golden_bowl_of_pomegranates_1

In two  portraits of a prince and his saqi , pomegranates feature quite prominently against the background of a vast desert.

Here pomegranates are redolent of  earthly pleasures and require some leisure in which to enjoy them. Almost everyone I know enjoys this pomegranate salad.Fresh, crunchy and a little sweet it tastes as good as it looks.

Pomegranate salad


  • 2 cups of small cauliflower florets
  • 1 1/2 cups of chopped cabbage
  • 2 cups of chopped cucumber
  • 1 cup of chopped simla mirch/capsicum
  • 1 cup chopped spring onions with greens
  • 1 cup cooked sweet corn
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds

Mix all these vegetables and the pomegranate together in  a large salad bowl.

1 1/2 cups Yogurt dressing made from dahi/curds hung in muslin for a few hours to thicken.


  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp freshly ground mustard seeds
  • 1tbsp tomato sauce

Add these last two just before mixing the dressing into the salad, a minute before serving.

  • 1 tbsp vinegar. (Reduce if the yogurt is not thick enough.)
  • 1 tsp salt.

Tastes out of this world with any crusty bread , broon or pau.

Asian Assimilation

Prem's Restaurant has been around since the 80's.He also began the first grocer shop stocking 'different' vegetables like celery, iceberg lettuce, brussel sprouts ( quite mangy ones to be absolutely fair) and broccoli (with a yellow tinge). At that time, the height of the Osho movement, he was catering mainly to ' foreigners' , the followers of Osho who, at that time ,were mostly from Europe , as the cult did not attract many Asians except ,perhaps , the Japanese.
They became more or less permanent residents floating down the Koregaon paths in orange or white robes.They were accepted in true Indian style, as hippies were accepted in the '60's.

Anybody who has travelled for over two weeks knows that initially one tends to react very positively to the local cuisine and then with memories and homesickness comes an overwhelming desire for the 'Taste of Home".

Prem,( meaning Love), being Punjabi ,had no idea what this taste meant to Europeans but having several friends from the ashram who possibly entered his kitchen to persuade his Nepali cooks to add a thing or two to the gravy , some kind of cuisine emerged. I wouldn't call it fusion cooking.

He now boasts 'Bazil'- a casual Italian Kitchen', "Indian Kitchen",( which has a good vegetarian choice besides the Tandoori section) "Chinese Wok' and "Continental". All available in the same place.The Continental is in a transitional state- Chillies in the brown sauce, amul cheese in the Mornay, cloves in the Hollandaise. But good.

We ordered the Pepper Lamb with (chilli),basil brown sauce , baked tomatoes, mixed vegetables and french fries


the Prawn Curry and Rice and -


Kadahi Paneer with Butter Naan.Huge glasses of fresh Mosambi juice went well with all of these dishes.

Today the courtyard at the back, where his restaurant is situated, is packed, especially on a Sunday, with people from all over the world who want a change of one kind or another.Indians who want to try "Western food" , Koreans who like the Chinese food, French who like the Indian food, and students who like everything as long as they can take their time eating it.

Since Prem's does not believe in quick service, you have time to enjoy the outdoor ambience while waiting and waiting and waiting for the food to arrive. Slow Food? Somehow it makes one feel welcome.

Lunch for three with drinks: Rs 650

Prem's Restaurant
North Main Road
Koregaon Park
Ph: 26130985

Bhopla Bhaji-Pumpkin Vegetable Recipe- ages after Halloween

Never made it for the IMBB event. As usual. It wasn' the electricity cut this time, just that we don't buy pumpkins particularly around Halloween. So no left overs. It forms part of our daily bread. Pumpkins grow proliferously in our part of the world, like the cucurbitae family (cucumber and gourds),compared to other vegetables.They do not require artificial and chemical encouragement. As in fertilisers . Nor do they need too many pesticides to survive. In short, pumpkin is a perfect vegetable for our 'hardship' Indian conditions. Sun, heat, undernourished soil, no machines and no money to waste on additives.

When we go to the 'gaon'/village, which is every week, we get to eat the freshest organic vegetables cooked in the simplest way with traditional Maharashtrian masalas/spices. I was not a great fan of Lal Bhopla/pumpkin, till quite late in life.Now it's colour captivates me as well as it's capacity to be turned sweet, spicy or sour.

Take a trip with me, visually, to the village.We have left the spiffy new highway and flyover that leads to the Infotech Park just a few kilometres behind.

No road to speak of, and this is well after the monsoons. Trucks have sculpted the mud track into insurmountable ridges and valleys..a terrain akin to the Grand Canyon. These trucks go into the interior to shave the top soil off good,.but uncultivated and untended fields, whose owners are not resident and in for a nasty surprise when they return to look at their lands.

Oh , think twice, just another day in.....,


Actually the trek across the fields is full of freshness and beauty, if you dont look too far, towards the quarry or the sugarcane factory, the subdivided plots of land acquired by a developer of uncertain background, the fake electricity poles( planted in the ground and connected to nothing) , the BPO buildings creeping up to overtake agricultural lands, you could believe you are in the heart of nature untouched by corrupt human hands.

Pune, the town, looms in the distance, Chinchwad and Pimpri , industrial belts, a smog veiled smudge.We are surrounded by the Deccan plateau,and the Western Ghats, short hills of intrigung shapes .


In this rain shadow area , the trees are always a surprise. Species like ku babool, indigenous to the area, grow like weed without reducing the water table providing valuable shade and firewood.. The rain is collected in traditional 'tanks' to irrigate lands which have no access to river or well water. It lasts to irrigate the rice fields for a substantial part of the year.

Laxmi greets us heartily.Today she is cooking Lal Bhopla Bhaji for the family. A quick and colourful lunch with jowar ki roti, which forms the basis of every farmers meal here. Jowar is much heathier and tastier to eat than wheat chapathis and most rural people realise it fills the stomach in a way that wheat never can.

Ok so here is the recipe for Lal Bhopla: It takes about 15 minutes to make .

3/4 kg pumpkin skinned and cut into cubes.
3 tsps vegetable oil.
1 tsp rai / mustard seed.
1 tsp methi / fenugreek seeds.
3/4 tsp haldi/ turmeric
2 tsp goda masala

Salt to taste

1 tbsp of fresh coriander chopped


Heat the oil in a pan.


When hot add the fenugreek and mustard seeds.


As they pop, add the turmeric and goda masala .


Stir once and immediately add the pumpkin.


Stir well ,


add a bit more of the goda masala if you like.


Cook till done.Sprinkle with chopped green coriander leaves.

Eaten outdoors, in the shade of of the tall hibiscus bushes, it is a meal to remember.