Earlier this year our brother in bhakti-yoga, Sadhumarga Prabhu, translated into Finnish “Cooking for Gaura Nitai”, a cookbook compiled by the students of Bhaktivedanta Academy Gurukula in Mayapur, West Bengal. The book contains nearly 100 lunch recipes, showcasing the diversity of Gaudiya Vaishnava* culinary tradition.
The book presents several kinds of rice; raita (salad); shukta (bitter preparations); saag (green vegetables); dal (legumes); cacchari (simple vegetable dishes); fritters like pakora, bora, kofta and bhaji; ghanto (stew-like vegetables); dalna (rich vegetables dishes in gravy); chutneys (sweet and fiery “jams”); and finally sweets, including all famous Bengali milk delicacies. There is also a chapter on Ekadasi, the eleventh day after full and new moon, during which we fast from grains and legumes.
Sadhumarga has also added a chapter in which he contemplates the relationship between health and culture – and the wholesome role of physical, mental and spiritual purity; the cleanliness of ingredients and environment; cooking techniques; and our attitude. Despite the small size, the book is packed with information and since I read it a few evenings ago, I’ve been inspired to improve my cooking, as well as my character. I’m not sure how I’m doing with the latter – it seems to take a longer practice – but I prepared leafy greens and potatoes with coconut according to the book’s instructions, and served the dish with rice, raita and roti (bread) yesterday – and, it was a success! Gradually I will be going through the recipes, and post some of them here on the blog, too.
There aren't exact measurements in the book but the recipes only list what ingredients and in which order they are used. I found it very nice. It forced me to look at each item attentively to see how it contributes to the process and result, and focus on cooking more deeply than I would’ve done otherwise. I tried to understand the idea of the recipe, and once I got it, I took the liberty to change some details within it. For example, I used kalonji instead of radhuni seeds, and a mixture of greens from our garden instead of just spinach.
By the way, “Sadhumarga” means “the path of saints”. I am happy to follow his direction, course of action and conduct in the kitchen to reach the goal of life.
*Gaudiya is another way of saying Bengal; Vaishnava is a devotional order dedicated to Sri Vishnu.
LEAFY GREENS AND POTATOES WITH COCONUT
(Serves 6 to 8 persons)
6 to 7 liters (24 - 28 cups) lightly packed green leaves and stalks (spinach, Swiss chard, radish greens, and baby beets and beet leaves)
6 medium size summer potatoes
2-3 Tbsp ghee
4 cm (1 ½”) piece of ginger (finely grated, juice squeezed out)
1 tsp jeera seeds
1 tsp kalonji seeds
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp pure hing powder (or ¼ - 1/2 tsp Vandevi hing)
2-3 tsp Himalayan salt
Wash and chop coarsely the greens.
Wash and cut the potatoes into sticks.
Wash, crack open and finely grate the coconut.
Blanch or steam the stalks and greens (and baby beets) until they are soft.
Heat up the ghee in a wok or pot. Add the grated ginger and fry it until it turns light golden. Add the jeera and kalonji seeds along with ground pepper and hing. Fry for 20-30 seconds then add the potatoes.
Fry the potatoes until they get some color and become almost cooked. Finally add the greens, coconut and salt. Cover and cook until the potatoes are tender but not mushy.