My mum insists she hates cooking. She’s an artist, a dreamer. She says she’s rather spend a day at the art gallery or reading a book or listening to music rather than think of the zillion meals she has to put on the table for the family. She’s not much of an innovator in the kitchen, and although she loves food, she’s not the type to try cooking something new on a whim.
For a mother fitting that description, you’d imagine two sad children subjected to eating boring, repetitive meals for years on end. And then, you’d see us—my brother and I. And then you’d know there’s more to the story. We’re (ahem) well-fed, sensitive to flavors, and come with very discerning palates. Of course, we’ve got Amma to thank for it, given the great variety of food she brought to the table every day. She makes the creamiest white sauce I know, the most comforting potato curry, and the warmest of pound cakes.
She has her own collection of trusty cookbooks, some in Marathi. She goes to Ruchira for traditional Maharashtrian recipes, a book called Cakes and Cookies for the obvious, Tarla Dalal’s The Delights of Vegetarian Cooking for old-world Western food and clever ideas, and a book called Party Party for Chinese and, (drum roll, please) Ragda Pattice. In spite of making recipes from these books for at least two decades now, she still refers to them. Maybe that’s how she gets the flavors right every time—that’s how a mother manages to give you the same, familiar feeling of comfort. Every time.
For those of you who don’t know, Ragda Pattice is that lovely mélange of flavors wafting from Mumbai’s street food stalls. It is a curious combination of curried peas, potato patties, raw onions, and sweet, sour, and spicy chutneys that is served hot to the waiting customer. At home, we crave this lovely dish when it rains cats and dogs, and when the soul needs a pick-me-up.
This is a recipe for Ragda Pattice from a Marathi book called Party Party, albeit with a few changes made by yours truly.
For the Ragda:
- 2 cups dehydrated pigeon peas, soaked in water for 6-8 hours
- 2 medium onions, chopped roughly + 1 medium sized onion sliced.
- 2 tomatoes, diced roughly
- 1-inch piece of ginger
- A small bunch of cilantro + for garnish
- 4-5 cloves of garlic
- 1 tbsp. fennel seeds
- ½ inch piece of cinnamon
- 2 cloves
- 3 green cardamom pods
- 8-10 peppercorns
- 4 green chilies
- 1 tbsp. coriander seeds
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- ½ tbsp. red chili powder
- Salt to taste
- ½ tsp. turmeric powder
- 4 tbsp. oil
For the tamarind chutney:
- ½ cup tamarind paste (or ¼ cup dried tamarind soaked in 1 cup water and pulped)
- ½ cup jaggery
- 1 tsp. cumin seed powder
- ½ tsp red chili powder
For the Pattice:
- 8 medium-sized potatoes
- 4 slices odd a-old bread
- ½ tsp. turmeric powder
- Salt to taste
- A mall bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
- A little oil to shallow fry
- Place the re-hydrated peas in a pressure cooker and cover with enough water just to cover them.
- Add salt and turmeric and cook until soft and mushy.
- Meanwhile, grind the ginger, cilantro, garlic, fennel seeds, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, peppercorns, green chilies, coriander seeds, turmeric powder, and cumin seeds to a coarse, pesto-like paste.
- Grind the onions to a fine paste.
- Puree the tomatoes.
- When the peas are cooked, stir in the pesto-like herb and spice paste.
- To make the Ragda, heat the oil in a large wok. Tip in the onion paste and sauté until lightly golden.
- Add the pureed tomatoes and cook until the oil begins to leave the sides of the wok.
- Add the red chili powder.
- Tip in the cooked and seasoned peas. Adjust seasoning and enough water to obtain a thick-ish curry. Simmer gently until evenly cooked and until the flavors amalgamate.
- For the chutney, simply place all the ingredients in a saucepan and cook gently over medium heat until you get a sweet and sour syrup.
- For the pattice or potato patties, boil, peel, and mash the potatoes.
- Soak the bread momentarily in a basin containing water, and give them a good squeeze. Crumble and add to the waiting potatoes. Add the finely chopped cilantro.
- Season with salt and turmeric powder and knead to a dough.
- Pinch off lemon sized balls of the dough and shape into patties.
- Shallow fry in hot oil until golden on both sides.
To assemble the dish, place the pattice at the bottom, and ladle on the steaming hot ragda. Spoon over the tamarind chutney, top with sliced onions and cilantro, and eat on a very cold or depressing day.
Note: This is also often served with a green mint chutney and sev (very fine chickpea flour vermicelli).