A lesson in cooking the deliciously simple cuisine of rural Rajasthan
Rajasthani food can be heavy and rich and this is certainly the case when you are eating your way through a fiery Laal Maas (a meat curry in heavy yoghurt sauce, spiced with hot chillies and plenty of garlic), mopped up with liberally buttered roti.
However, beyond the royal and noble households and festive occasions, Rajasthan’s nomads, pilgrims and hunters, perfected cooking nutritious and incredibly tasty foods with few utensils and ingredients. And it is this cuisine that we get to sample and prepare as part of our hands-on cooking experience in Jaipur.
Rajasthan is largely an arid landscape, vegetation is sparse (and often thorny!) so cow and camel dung are collected, shaped into a large patty and left to dry out in the sun. For many people in rural Rajasthan, these “poo-patties” are still the primary fuel source for cooking and heating in village homes.
Depending on time and interest our cooking experience starts with a short visit to the nearby vegetable
Returning to Dera Mandawa, the cow-poo pattie fire has been lit and as soon as there are hot embers the Batti – balls of dough are buried in the hot embers to cook as our hosts regal us with the tales of life, commerce and the practicalities of cooking sustaining food in this often unforgiving climate.
Once cooked through the ash is wiped from the surface of the Batti bread balls before they are broken in half and smeared with ghee. Traditionally these would be enjoyed piping hot dipped in Dal that has been prepared over the same fire. Skewers of marinated mutton (goat) could also be hung over the coals and basted with ghee as they slowly cooked more up to an hour until the meat is melt in your mouth tender.
While our Batti are in the fire we venture into Dera Mandawa’s rear courtyard which is former days was part of the ‘zenana’ quarters of the house for a hands-on lesson in preparing delicious and simple local home-cooked “curries” and breads from scratch.
Vegetarian and options for those that are coeliac or gluten intolerant group members are easily incorporated into our lesson as we learn to navigate the typical whole and powdered spices used in rural Rajasthani cuisine.
This is undoubtedly one of the many highlights of our stay in Jaipur during the Fabric Food & Fabulous tour.