I knew Rushina as a food columnist much before I began blogging. Later, while I was still new to the world of blogs and ‘blog friendships’ I discovered her blog and felt an instant connection with her posts. I spoke to her on phone and nervously asked whether she could share tips on food writing as it was a relatively new thing in India back then. It was the beginning of a friendship that has blossomed into sisterhood since. Rushina is now the proud owner and culinary guide of ‘APB Cook Studio‘.
In January, Rushina brought out her first cookbook, ‘A pinch of this, a handful of that’. I received an adorably autographed copy of the book at the launch. I have read the book through, marked some of my favourite parts and re-visited most of them a few times already. The doodled autograph probably gives you an idea about the kind of person Rushina is – thoughtful and observant. The book exudes that warmth.
Of the many cookbooks I own, this one occupies two very special places – my bedside table, and my heart. ‘A pinch of this, a handful of that’ is a compilation of traditional and contemporary recipes. It follows a memoir style of writing, with each section dedicated to the people who have influenced and helped Rushina evolve as a cook and person – her parents, nani (grandmother), maharaj (the cook) and so on. The book is dotted with family anecdotes and Rushina’s own reflections on her relationships with certain key people in her life. Many sections will take the reader back in time and down the memory lane. The recipes will make you want to get into the kitchen, and start cooking.
The book has over 250 recipes, and it appealed to me that several are inherently vegan or are vegan friendly. Rushina belongs to a Gujarati family where the kitchen was ruled by the ‘maharaj’. Maharaj is the title given to professional male cooks and literally translates as ‘king’, and in this context the king of the kitchen. Traditionally most maharajs were vegetarian and would not allow non-vegetarian cooking in kitchens manned by them.
I am a huge fan of cookbooks that are a pleasure to look at. In this case the photographs are very few and they do not do justice to the Rushina’s cooking. Nevertheless, it makes a very good read for all ages as the recipes are well written, easy to follow and the author has ensured that there are enough recipes for the novice, the experienced, the traditional and the modern cook . It is the kind of book that you can go to bed with and ensure mouth watering visions.
Since Holi is just round the corner, it feels right to share the recipe for ‘ghugra’ from the book. In the North, holi is celebrated with ‘thandai’ and ‘gujiyas’. The North Indian gujiya is a crisp hand-pie filled traditionally with dry fruits smothered in khoa, a form of thick, condensed milk. This was the kind of Holi I grew up with and the kind of sweet I used to make. While I have come up with a vegan version, I make it rarely owing to the calories and effort involved. That said, I know I shall share the recipe when I am feeling indulgent towards the tummy. 🙂
In Gujarat, Rushina’s home state, Holi is celebrated with ‘ghugra’. Ghugra is the savoury version of gujiyas and the filling is made with crushed green peas and coconut combined with mild Indian spices.
- Ghugra is very addictive so make small ones. Mine were about 1.5 inches in length.
- I used my own recipe for the crust. The recipe for the filling is based on the recipe given in the book.
- For a healthier version substitute maida with whole wheat flour and bake instead of deep-frying.
- I made 25-30 ghugras by scaling down the recipe for the filling. Given here however is the recipe from the book with a yield of 100 ghugras.
- The filling is versatile and left overs can be used as a topping for open faced sandwiches.
- I used about 3-4 tbsps. of sunflower oil for 500g flour.
- I used about 3/4 cup of water to knead 500g of flour. Allow the dough to relax for some time (10-15 minutes) if it offers resistance to kneading and then continue. Too much water will make the ghugra chewy.
- Fry on low flame throughout. Test the correct temperature by frying a small portion of dough. If it comes up immediately it means that the oil is very hot. If it gently rises to the top, but gets riddled with bubbles as it fries there could be two reasons – either the water content is high or the temperature of the oil is high. Frying at low temperature (rather optimum temperature) ensures even colour, cooking and crisp texture of the crust.
- Saute the filling till moisture is minimum. Excess moisture can render the crust chewy. If the first batch turns chewy, allow the shaped ghugras to dry for 3-5 minutes before frying.
- Fresh green peas can be substituted with tender, fresh pigeon peas (lilva tuvar) when in season (Winter).
Recipe: Vatana Na Ghugra | Savoury hand pies with green pea filling
(Green Pea Fritters)
Reproduced with permission from ‘A pinch of this, a handful of that’ by Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal
Time 2 hours | Makes: 100 pieces
3 kg refined flour (maida)
3 tsp salt
1 tbsp oil
1 kg green peas
200 gms coriander leaves
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp asafoetida powder (hing)
100 gms green chilli-ginger paste
1 tbsp lime juice, dried mango powder (amchur) or citric acid crystals
20 gms beaten rice (poha)
400 gms fresh coconut, grated
Salt to taste
To cook the fritters
Oil for deep-frying
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Add the oil and rub with your fingers, till it resembles breadcrumbs. Add water, a little at a time and knead to make a firm dough. Set aside.
Shell the green peas and crush them lightly. Reserve.
Wash the coriander leaves in several changes of water. Drain well and chop fine. Reserve.
Put oil in a kadhai or wok on medium heat. When hot, add the asafoetida powder. Add the crushed green peas and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining filling ingredients and mix well. Taste and add more salt, if required.
To assemble and cook the fritters
Pinch off walnut-sized balls of dough and roll them out into rotis in a lightly floured surface.
Spread 2tsp. of filling along one half of each roti, keeping the edges of the roti free. Fold the other half over the filling and pinch the edges together to seal.
Put the oil for deep-frying in a kadhai or wok on medium heat. Fry the fritters in batches, till golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot with green chutney.