Autumn is a time for luscious produce. Large, tender and fresh gourds are the hallmark of Autumn. We find them throughout the year these days and it is getting difficult to know what is ‘in season’ and what is not, but, I can spot the healthy ones. At this time of the year they do not squish nor are they spongy. They are crisp and juicy.
P, was away on a short trip to his village. His village is one of those old time villages that are fast getting wiped out. It is close to a forest, has a few roads still waiting to be tarred, and there is this quaint tall and aged hill right behind the house, that is dotted with cashew and sandalwood trees. It tells you that you are approaching the forest. The air is thick with natural earthy smells, and after a sudden shower, you will feel that a little bit of nature has come in to the house. In the front porch, used to stand a giant jackfruit tree, doubled over by the weight of its own fruits. I hear it has been cut to make way for a taxi to be parked. Sad.
The flooring in the house is of red oxide. There is no concrete fence to safeguard the house. Just some bushes and wire to hold them in line. On one side of the house is the kitchen garden. This is where the seasonal vegetables are grown. Unlike us, the village people do not get much variety. What is consumed, is what is in season. When he returned, P was armed with vegetables from the garden – one of each kind, all organic. A pumpkin (mathan / pooshnikkai), a large cucumber (vellarikkai), a yam (chenai) and some okra (vendakkai) have been battling with one another, vying for my attention ever since. The cucumber won today. It was large so I shared half with my cousin, G. She said she was going to use it in making ‘kootu‘. I wasn’t sure what I would do with mine till this morning.
I had a pot of cashew yogurt in the refrigerator, and since raita is something one misses as a vegan, I decided to make some and share with you. This is not your regular Indian raita – North, or South! It has strong tones of the West in fact, especially after generous additions of Megha’s pink mustard. My very talented friend Megha has been retailing some excellent bottled products for a little over a year now. She gave me a bottle of pink mustard last year to try and I loved it. It is only when Nivedita commented on my facebook page that I realized that it does have the Tamilian flavour of mustard. Some influences stick to you. 😀
I have told you before, that my father was always on the move being in a position that took him across the length and breadth of the Country. Well, you see, when you move around like I did, you pick up a little memory and a little taste from everywhere, and each one becomes a precious part of you. When they lived in Kolkata, I was really too young to know or perceive much, being a toddler, but somewhere I think a connection was being made. The love for mustard cannot be explained otherwise. Till last year, I thought it was only mustard oil that I loved in cooking. I used Megha’s mustard, and realized that I was wrong. Before that I had tried French and Dijon mustards and I did not like them. But the pink mustard made a convert of me. My first bottle got over and I replenished it with a second one last week. And I made this.
Recipe: Cucumber raita with vegan yogurt and mustard
Yield : Serves a large soup bowl and a little more
Vegan yogurt – 1 cup, thick
Juice of a lemon, or more as per taste
Sea salt, finely ground – To taste
Pink organic mustard – 2 teaspoons (or use your favourite mustard)
Large, green, firm, Indian cucumber | Dosakaya | Vellarikkai | Kakdi | Kheera – 400g (grated with a large eyed grater)
Squeeze the grated cucumber retaining very little juice. Add yogurt, a teaspoon of lemon and half the mustard. Mix well. Taste and add more mustard, and lemon juice as preferred. I need that much mustard. Pink mustard is not very over powering, and it is a good thing to start with if you want to experiment.
When serving season adjust salt. Don’t look further. That’s it. The dish is done!