Gujarati cuisine has many uses for the ripe mango beyond aamras
Fajeto is one such traditional Gujarati delicacy that makes use of the leftover parts of the fruit
Maambazham (ripe mango) mor kuzhambu, beans usili, yellow pumpkin olan, pumpkin peel thogayal, keerai masiyal and rice," says an older blog post of mine. It has been six years since this meal at my grand-aunt Mythili mami’s home in Chennai. I had made a note of this feast of a lunch on my blog. The memories of mango mor kuzhambu remain strong—large chunks of seasonal, sweet, juicy Banganapalli mangoes, simmered in slightly sour yogurt, flavoured with a paste of coconut, red chillies and cumin seeds, topped with a tempering of curry leaves, fenugreek seeds and mustard seeds in coconut oil. This could be called a sort of kadhi, but this oversimplification would do it gross injustice.
Such is the kind of food she serves, made with utmost care and served with much generosity. Hers is among the best traditional Tamil vegetarian cooking I have tasted. Mango mor kuzhambu has been the highlight of every mango season ever since my introduction to it.
Given my connection with Mumbai, where I grew up, I have had access to Gujarati thalis and tiffin boxes all through my childhood and adulthood. Pardon me for my rather strong opinion but no one reveres this fruit like the Gujaratis do. Be it the Kesar, Pairi or Hapoos, each fruit is lovingly ripened in homes under the watch of an elder, who picks out the ripe and ready fruits for the day’s consumption. One of the few dishes in which mangoes are cooked in Gujarati cuisine is fajeto. While I have made this a few times, I wanted to know the origins of this dish from Gujarati food expert and blogger Sheetal Bhatt, who documents the vanishing foods and food practices of her heritage on her blog Route 2 Roots.
I learnt from Bhatt that the origins of fajeto lie in the Jain community, which functions on the belief that nothing must go to waste. On days aamras is made, there are quite a few mango peels and stones to be discarded. These peels are washed in a bowl of water, extracting every bit of pulp and flavour. This extract forms the base of this dish, which is not quite a kadhi, and not a dal. Think of it as a savoury-spicy-sweet accompaniment to a meal. The menu of choice is aamras, bhaat, fajeto, vaal (broad beans) and bepadi roti, says Bhatt. Bepadi roti is a thin two-layered wholewheat roti. She says that adding besan or gram flour to fajeto is optional.
While we are on the topic of reducing waste, did you know that the mango seed residing within the hard kernel has its own culinary and medicinal uses?
In the olden days, when wood fires were used to heat water for a bath, the mango kernels were thrown into the fire. These blackened kernels were then broken open to extract the seeds. Thinly-sliced seeds tossed in black salt are used as a mukhwas (mouth fresheners).
Alternatively, the washed and dried kernels can be opened using a hammer to access the seeds within. Boil the seeds in water with salt and turmeric for 15-20 minutes and scrape out the skins. Finely sliced seeds can then be sun-dried for 4-5 hours and sautéed in ghee until crisp and brown. Tossed in black salt, this is called gothli mukhwas in Gujarati.
Peel and cube the mango, leaving the peels and seed for fajeto (next recipe).
Purée the mango cubes. Mix in the salt, kasuri methi, amchoor and red chilli powder. Add flour to this mixture and knead to form a smooth dough. If the dough is too dry, sprinkle some water, or, if sticky, add some flour. Use the oil in the final kneading stage. Cover and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
Divide the dough into four portions. In a cup, mix the kasuri methi and amchoor for spreading on the parathas.
Roll out each ball into a 4- to 5-inch circle. Smear with a few drops of ghee. Sprinkle the kasuri methi-amchoor mix all over the surface. Fold over in half, smear with a few drops of ghee and fold over one more time until you get a triangle. Now roll this out into a paratha, either retaining the triangle shape or making it into a circle.
Cook on both sides until golden, applying ghee on both sides. Serve hot.
A recipe from Jain kitchens that follows the no-waste policy
1 cup dahi (yogurt)
1 cup *mango extract
K cup water
K tsp salt
K tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp dried ginger powder
2 tsp ghee
K tsp cumin seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
2 dried red chillies
Squeeze the peels and stones of three mangoes in one cup water*. Whisk together this mango extract, yogurt, water, salt, chilli powder and ginger powder. Place in a saucepan and bring to a simmer on low heat for 5-6 minutes.
In a small pan, heat ghee. Fry cumin seeds, curry leaves and red chillies. Once the cumin splutters, put it over the fajeto. Serve hot with rotis or rice.
Double Tested is a fortnightly column on vegetarian cooking, highlighting a single ingredient prepared two ways. Nandita Iyer is the author of The Everyday Healthy Vegetarian.
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