For the past few years, I have been drawn irresistably to the Himalayas… grand, beautiful, splendid… many more eloquent voices than mine have described this patch of divinity on earth – this punya kshetram – with far greater felicity than I possess… to me, it is the one place on earth where one glimpses, however faintly, the possibility that the veil of maya can actually be lifted… a place set on earth to remind us to look upwards where we can go rather than downwards… where our feet get stuck in the morass of the many pettinesses that we choose to live with…
Is it any wonder then that the hillspeople are amongst the gentlest on earth… when they live with this every single day?! Waking up to beauty, living, breathing it every minute, closing their eyes upon it every night… sigh… are you wondering whether you’ve stumbled on to the wrong blog? This is a food and funny story blog, right?
Thank you for having allowed me to wax lyrical over one of my favourite places on earth and now let’s move on the serious stuff… the funny stuff, I mean!
Today, we set out from Binsar (beauty!!) where we’re staying to visit the ancient temple of Jageshwar – a cluster of lovely cairn-like temples built some 1200 years ago… chiefly will be remembered today for having to hop around from one foot to the other as we walked around clad in socks – so cold that the ground was covered with ice in some parts – ice that’s been lying around for over two months now and is refusing to melt… brrrr…
On the way back, the driver – a helpful soul called Girish who promised to bring us some sarson ka saag from his home because restaurants here do not serve it 🙂 – suggested that we stop off at an another temple called Golu Devata ka mandir. Now this Golu Devata is a prehistoric hill god who has been worshipped here for millennia and is now identified as one of the forms of Shiva – in the form of the Dispenser of Justice. Because he is the dispenser etc., people come from all over the hills here to pray and ask for justice to be granted in court cases, land disputes and so on. The custom is you buy a bell from one of the many little shops outside, say your prayer to Golu Devata and then tie the bell to one of the many lines provided for it – there are millions of bells hanging here!
Noticing some stamp paper documents tied up here along with thousands of letters, I idly started reading some of the letters. One was from a young chap seeking the answer to the eternal riddle… it went like this: “Dear God, everything is great with me – thank you (good mannered lad evidently!). Only one request – please provide me with a problem-free girlfriend!!” So I closed my eyes and answered him thusly, “And when you do find one, please provide the answer to Socrates and Confucius too!”
There was a letter from another young kid, again thanking god for many things (this is a well bred race!) and asking only to please, please, please be granted an iPhone!
Simple souls, simple prayers, simple, wholesome and absolutely delicious food! That’s what these foothills of the Himalayas are all about!
Here is a recipe for an awesome spinach dish made by the chef at the resort we’re staying in – Mahindra’s – a magician called Dharamvir Singh – the very Kumaoni…
PALAK KA KAPA
- Finely chopped spinach – 2 bundles
- Whole wheat flour / Atta – 1.5 tbsp
- Mustard oil – 1 tbsp
- Whole coriander seeds/dhania – 1/2 tsp
- Cumin seeds/Jeera – 1/2 tsp
- Jeera powder – 1 pinch
- Red chilies – 1 or 2
- Green chili – minced – 1
- Asafoetida – 1 pinch
- Garlic – 1 flake – minced – optional
- Turmeric – 1 pinch
- Ghee or butter – 1 tsp
Heat the mustard oil in an iron pan, if you have oil. Add the dhania, red chili, garlic and palak/spinach. Toss and cook for about 3 minutes till palak wilts.
In another pan, heat the ghee or butter. Add the atta and let it froth up. Fry till golden yellow. Add the green chili, jeera powder, turmeric, asafoetida and salt. Add water and let it come to a boil. Add the palak and continue to cook till thick and done but palak is not overcooked.
The spices used in this dish are all very light and the palak kind of sings it’s own aria with very minor notes from the spice!
Serve with hot rice or tandoori roti and ghee. Go straight from the hills to heaven – you’re not too far off!