Blame it on Sooraj Barjatya. Those loud hyper happy families with beautiful decked grand halls, curving stairways, women with stone jewellery, intricate ornate lehengas and all that food! I was a Bihari (or half since my mother is a Bengali), but I longed to be a Marwari.
The food was a big part of this yearning. In the movies, the heroine or mother would make gajar ka halwa (carrot dessert). But, there are so many more food options. My Marwari neighbours would call a maharaj during holiday season... This cook would make food without onions or garlic. Impossible, my grandmother would say, but it would turn out delicious… samosas, dhokla, suhali and kanji wada. If I arrived at the right time of the evening, I would get to taste.
Then, there was a Marwari school friend. Her family owned a chain of sweet stores. Her birthday parties were the food highlights of the year for me. The aaloo ki sabji (potato curry) with home made naan (bread baked in a clay oven).. ohhh I need to go eat something. Will be back…
I always assumed being in a Marwari family would give me this food. So, picture my enthusiasm, after marriage, standing in a kitchen where gatte ki sabji, kadi pakodi, papad ki sabji and all sorts of wondrous dishes were a reality.
You are not wrong if you are thinking these names are all of Rajasthani dishes. Marwar was a kingdom in Rajasthan. Since most of the land is a barren desert, a lot of the emphasis is on dried food that can be stored and last through months without rain.
All these differences from other states and I ended up loving something very similar to a Bihari favourite. Dal Baati. The baati being a synonym to litti. Only, in Bihar it’s served with chokha (mashed potato). In Rajasthan, it’s accompanied by dal (lentils).
Bati, or litti, in Rajashthan is made entirely of aata (wheat flour). I prefer the modified version of stuffing it with sattu (Bengal gram flour).
It is quick. Takes less than an hour and needs no prior preparation or fresh vegetables. So, if there is nothing else at home, I find sattu and make this favourite dish.
Knead 2 cups of aata into a soft dough with a pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon refined oil and water as needed. Make small balls out of the dough. Put oil on your palms, or use a spoon to dab the dough. That way it doesn’t dry up (a neat trick from my grandmother-in-law!)
For the filling, mix 1 cup sattu, a teaspoon of salt, jeera (cumin) powder, chilli powder and ajwain (Google tells me the English name is carom). Saunf (crushed fennel) can also be added. Some people in my family like saunf, some don’t. So, I skip it to be safe. The secret ingredient is mango pickle oil. It adds in a layered tangy aftertaste.
Spread the ball to fit into your palm. The tricky part is getting the dough thickness right. If the dough coating is too thick, it’s hard to cook through. If it’s too thin, it might burst. So, keep the sides thinner than the center. Stuff the sattu and pinch the sides together. Flatten until the balls are snug.
Now, my grandmother-in-law likes to boil these before frying them because it is lighter on the stomach. My mother-in-law fries them directly. Your choice. Might crack a bit, but if you stuffed it right, the oil doesn’t seep into the stuffing. To drain oil, place on a tissue.
Otherwise, you can skip frying altogether. Place them on an aluminium foil and bake for an hour at 350 degrees. Drizzle some ghee or butter so they don’t turn hard stone-like (still tasty, but risky to the teeth). Keep turning sides so it cooks evenly. Bake or fry till golden brown. In winter, place it on a warm crackling fire.
There! All done… Have it with your version of chokha or dal. Some tips for the dal – cook well, keep it thick, for the tadka use ghee, jeera and chilli powder. For the chokha, mustard oil and some burnt red chilli can never go wrong. Mango pickle works wonders on the side.
With the years, I have changed. I have grown to hate big parties, chaos and people. So, Sooraj Barjatya movies are great only on the movie screen. But, one thing that doesn’t change is my love for Marwari food.
For the Baati –
2 cups Flour
1 tablespoon Oil
Salt to taste
For the Stuffing –
1 cup Sattu (Bengal gram flour)
2 teaspoon Jeera Powder
1/2 teaspoon Chilli Powder
1/2 teaspoon Ajwain
1/2 teaspoon crushed Saunf (optional)
Salt to taste
1/2 tablespoon Mango Pickle Oil
Pic credit pixterrazo