Born and brought up in Mumbai, when Smita Deo married filmmaker Abhinay Deo, son of veteran actors Ramesh and Seema Deo, the biggest challenge she faced in the kitchen was perfecting the Kolhapuri Pandhra Rassa.
Smita Deo at Matunga market. Pics courtesy/Pratik Patki
As a native of Karwar, the new bride was familiar with the cuisine of the coastal region in Karnataka, starkly different from Kolhapuri dishes, which were a regular feature at the Deos’ dining table. “It’s a mutton curry with a soupy consistency, cooked using coconut milk, a few spices, green chillies and cashew paste. I would never get the consistency right, so I kept practising it until a few years ago, when my father-in-law had it and said that it reminded him of his mother’s preparation. That was the best compliment I ever got,” shares the 43-year-old. The endearing story and the recipe, along with 146 others make it to Karwar To Kolhapur Via Mumbai.
(From left) Kolhapuri Missal Ani Kutt; a paddy field en route to Aversa, a village in Karnataka
The autobiographical cookbook, which launches this Sunday, contains recipes from the three regions interspersed with childhood memories and anecdotes from her life today. It materialised after a three-year collaboration with Deepti Kasbekar, who has edited and compiled the title. “The idea of writing a cookbook came to me many years ago but I didn’t want to take the usual recipe route. I wanted to tell stories about how I stumbled upon them too. In 2003, I began documenting them but they felt incomplete because I am not a professional writer. In 2013, I met Deepti in Pune and she gave me directions on writing. Originally, we had 182 recipes,” says Deo.
The Kothimbir Wadi at Vinay Health Home, Girgaum, that the author tried during a food trail and later, incorporated it in the book
While the dishes from Karwar have been passed on via generations down from her great grandmother, Deo learnt the Kolhapuri style of cooking from her mother-in-law. “I have also incorporated dishes from close friends and families, and credited them. For instance, my neighbour Shinde aunty’s Matki Usal and Bharti aunty’s Masoor Amti,” she says. Parsi eats such as Mutton Dhansak with Brown Rice, also feature in the book, since it’s a favourite with Deo’s husband and son, Yug.
A fresh batch of mackerel at Karwar harbour
Cooking up a storm
Deo’s tryst with cooking began at the age of 13, when she served a meal of dal and rice to her family and later, picked up courage to make coffee for a guest. “My mother always stressed on the fact that a woman should know how to cook, however educated she might be. Soon, I began experimenting in the kitchen and came up with my own recipes for biryanis, chicken and fish curries,” she adds.
As a child, Deo would head to her native town twice a year and every visit was replete with memories that have found their way into the book — whether it’s the aroma of food cooked over firewood, a clatter of utensils or sunlight beaming into the kitchen from a small window above the fireplace, along with the details of the dishes eaten on the day. She narrates another anecdote from the book, “My dad’s 75-year-old aunt owned a tree bearing Ishad mangoes, not available anywhere except in certain parts of Karnataka. She guarded it with her life and once, caught us (my cousins and me) plucking from it. We were punished but forgot all about it because she had prepared a hearty lunch of a curry, vegetable and rice.”
Karwar VS Kolhapur
While the cities across the Maharashtra-Karnataka border, are roughly six hours away from each other, their cuisine is vastly different. “Karwari cuisine is mild; it features fresh coconut, coconut oil and very few spices. You’ll also find more vegetables like ash gourd, ridge gourd, red amaranth and pumpkin. It’s less oily than Kolhapuri cuisine, where it’s compulsory to cook chicken or mutton with a thick layer of floating oil.
Meanwhile, the Kolhapuri staples include dried coconut, garam masala, fried onions, ginger-garlic and coriander paste and fewer vegetarian dishes except methi (fenugreek leaves) and brinjal. Also, the food is so fiery that when I cook, my face and hand burn. It took me some time to adjust to the different cooking styles,” shares Deo, adding that being a predominantly rice eater, she was introduced to chapatis only after meeting Deo.
When we ask if her husband dons the chef’s hat at home, she proudly asserts, “Abhinay is excellent at baking Red Velvet Cake, Apple Cinnamon Cake and Cheesecake. On Sundays, when I get bored, he experiments with eggs and toast. He loves everything that I cook, especially Mutton Chops, Fried Fish and Fried Prawns.” Her son is her biggest critic, she adds.
Before signing off, Deo lets us in on a secret, “I gave up non-vegetarian food at the age of eight. I cook it but don’t taste. I just take a whiff and know if a curry is cooked well.”
What’s in the book
From Karwar: Muga Gashi, a green gram curry made on special occasions; Dali Toi, a lentil dish flavoured with ginger, green chillies and coconut oil; Batata Phodi, fried potatoes.
From Kolhapur: Kolhapuri Tambda Rassa, a spicy mutton curry; Kolhapuri Pandhra Rassa, coconut milk-flavoured mutton curry; Peeth Perun Bhaji, vegetables with gram flour; Kolhapuri Fish.
From Mumbai: Sabudana Vada, Dahi Misal, Puri Bhaji, Mutton Dhansak and Brown Rice.
Karwar To Kolhapur Via Mumbai by Smita Deo, edited and compiled by Deepti Kasbekar; Spenta Multimedia (Rs 1,000)
Kolhapuri Missal Ani Kutt (Spicy Sprout Curry With Bread) recipe from Karwar To Kolhapur Via Mumbai
A popular Maharashtrian Street food
For the matki usal:
4 cups of sprouted and boiled moth beans
2 medium onions finely choppedâÂÂ¨
1 tsp ginger, garlic and coriander paste eachâÂÂ¨
1 tbsp red chilli powder
1⁄2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp oil, Salt to taste
For the kutt:
2 medium onions finely choppedâÂÂ¨
1 tsp ginger, garlic and coriander paste each
11⁄2 tbsp red chilli powder
11⁄2 tbsp kolhapuri masala
1⁄2 tsp turmeric powder
3 tbsp oil
Salt to taste
For the garnish:
1 cup finely chopped fresh coriander âÂÂ¨
2 medium onions finely chopped âÂÂ¨
1 lemon cut into 4 âÂÂ¨
2 cups farsan (the readymade spicy one) âÂÂ¨
For the missal:
STEP 1: Heat the oil fuming hot in a kadai and add the onions, they will immediately fluff up. Ass the ginger, garlic, coriander paste, chilli and turmeric powder and sauté for a minute.
STEP 2: Add the moth beans and genteelly sauté it. Add salt, 1 cup of water and bring to a boil and keep aside.
For the kutt:
STEP 3: Heat oil and add the onions, once they turn pink add the ginger, garlic, coriander paste, kolhapuri masala, turmeric and chilli powder and sauté for a minute. Add salt and 1 liter of water and bring to a boil.
STEP 4: Add the kolhapuri masala, turmeric powder and red chilli powders and sauté this for 1 min on a low flame.
STEP 5: Add salt and add 1 liter of water to this and cover, and bring to a boil.
For serving the missal:
STEP 6: Take a bowl as big as the soup bowl. Fill half of it with the matki usal. Then pour the kutt to drown the matki. ThenâÂÂ¨add the 2 tbsp of farsan, 2 tbsp of finely chopped onion and sprinkle the coriander leaves.
STEP 7: In a plate place 2 pavs and the wedge of lemon and place the bowl of missal and serve hot.
STEP 8: This has to be served individually.
This jhanjhanit (spicy) missal serves 4 people.