The Indian tradition of thrift in the kitchen is one well worth emulating, especially right now. Everywhere in the country, those who are unable to access resources that the more privileged can, have always found ways to make good food out of every part of what they bring into their kitchens. These foods may not find a place in recipe books or even in the larger cultural consciousness, but they speak volumes about the creativity (even if emerging from sometimes desperate circumstances) that culinary traditions are built on.
Since we got some mangoes last week (one of which was used to make a mango phirni), I decided to save the seeds to use in a Gujarati preparation called fajeto. Essentially, the seeds of ripe mangoes are washed in water to extract the last remaining bits of the sweet pulp that cling to them and this water is then tempered with various aromatics to be had as an accompaniment with rice or, more usually in the true Gujarati way, with ras (mango pulp) and be pad wali rotli (so-thin-that-they-are-translucent rotis that I will explain in a future post). It’s such a great way to get every last bit of the one popular fruit that remains seasonal and is one of my favourite of all thrifty recipes.
There are two ways in which fajeto can be made: the more pared-down version uses just water and aromatics. A slightly richer version involves besan and yogurt, so that it’s more like a kadhi with a hint of mango. And before you pull a face at this, let me assure you that had either way, this is one of the lightest, most delicious mango-flavoured anything you’ll ever have.
4 – Ripe mango seeds (One of the seeds, as you can see in the first photo, has a lot more flesh on it. That’s deliberate. You can choose to do the same, or cheat and add a little bit of mango pulp if you want more of that flavour.)
1 ½ cups – Sour dahi
2 tbsp – Besan
2 – Green chillies
1 inch – Fresh ginger
1 tsp – Mustard seeds
1 tsp – Cumin seeds
½ tsp – Fenugreek seeds
3-4 – Dried red chillies
1 – Small sprig of fresh curry leaves
A pinch of asafoetida
Salt to taste
*Wash the mango seeds well in some clean water. This might take a few minutes if you want to get every last bit of pulp.
*Next, mix the besan with the dahi to form a lump-free paste and then slowly add it to the mango water. Pound the green chillies and the ginger together and add that as well, before putting the whole thing on a medium flame.
*Like with any kadhi, you will need to keep stirring so that the dahi doesn’t split. When it comes to a boil, lower the flame as much as you can and keep stirring. This whole part shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes. You’ll be able to tell when the besan is cooked: the fajeto’s colour will have become a shade or two deeper and you will no longer be able to smell the besan.
*Once you’ve turned off the heat, temper this with mustard, cumin and fenugreek seeds, red chillies, curry leaves and asafoetida and add salt.
Enjoy your slightly sweet, slightly sour and wholly summery fajeto with rice or rotis or any other way you please. It is even more delicious when it’s cold, so don’t worry about leftovers at all. I drank a second bowl after lunch so I know what I’m talking about.
[The Back Burner is a biweekly blog that will talk about all things food (with recipes, of course)]