Monday, March 4, 2013

Khumb Matar

If you grew up in Northern India, you've probably heard kids refer to wild mushrooms as "Saamp ki Chatri" or a snake's umbrella. The local kiddie legend is that snakes seek refuge under these mushroom umbrellas during the rainy season, and leave their poisonous sting in them. No doubt aimed at keeping pesky little curious buggers from eating those wild mushrooms..... the fable totally instilled a gross dislike of mushrooms in me. Most of my childhood, I never saw mushrooms other than the ones that sprung up on the sidewalks during monsoons.  Yes they came up for sale in the high-end produce stores, but we never got them. My aversion for them was fanned by these old-wives "Jain" tales of how mushrooms harbor live bugs inside their fleshy "umbrellas". And if you ate them, you had to atone for taking millions of little lives :-)) Didn't help that when I came up to major in Botany in college, the first fact about mushrooms we learnt was that it is a "parasitic fungus" - instigating nightmares about flesh-eating, mold-like mushroom spreading it's roots inside my gut and choking my innards to death.......all in all, I hate mushrooms.

Sometime in the 80s, my dad was introduced to mushrooms by a couple of his Kashmiri friends who extolled the virtues of this humble fungus. I remember once conversation where an "uncle" tried to sell my mom on mushrooms by saying that these were the closest vegetables to meat in taste and texture. Suffice it to say that my mom gave the uncle a cold, silent stare that could have moved mountains! That day, it just made uncle beat a hasty retreat... My dad however, was made of  sterner stuff.  He not only tried mushrooms, but actually liked them.  He always had to buy and cook them himself though, since my mom refused to touch them....

After marriage, my MIL tried to sell mushrooms to me. They have the highest protein content amongst all vegetables, she said.  Maybe, she's right. I don't know. I still don't like them. I pick them out of pizzas, and never order any appetizers with mushrooms in them. I do, however, make the Khumb-Matar the way my dad learnt from his Kashmiri friends. 

(Mushrooms and Peas)

Fresh Button Mushrooms 1 package, washed thoroughly, and halved (or quartered)
Fresh frozen Peas about 1/2 cup

Masala to be ground together:
Onion 1 small
Tomato 1 medium
Green chill 1 small
Ginger about a 1/2 inch piece.

Other spices
Salt (to taste)
Red pepper powder (to taste)
Coriander powder 12/Tbsp
Fennel powder 1/4Tbsp
Cumin seeds 1tsp
Turmeric powder 1/4tsp

Oil 1 Tbsp
Yogurt/ Dahi 1/4 cup

  1. Thoroughly wash and halve or quarter the mushrooms. I like to trim the end of the stalk a little bit.
  2. Grind up the masala paste of onion, tomato, green chill and ginger into a fine paste. 
  3. Heat oil in a sauce pan, splutter the cumin seeds.
  4. Add the ground onion tomato paste in. 
  5. Mix in the rest of the spices, and stir fry on low-medium heat till oil separates.
  6. At this point, throw in the mushrooms and peas, give a quick stir and cove the sauce pan with a tight fitting lid. Let them cook for 5-10 minutes in their own juices.
  7. Meanwhile, whisk the yogurt so you have a smooth paste. Stir this in for the last 2 minutes of your cooking time.
  8. Serve hot with a flat bread of your choice.

My two cents:  This is my dad's recipe. I make it, although not that often, for A and my MIL. Baby P has been adventurous enough to taste it, and hasn't complained. But Anya, like me, refuses to even try! So my family's fairly split on mushrooms.  
         Each serving of raw mushrooms does have about 2 times as much protein per serving as other green vegetables. They're also substantially rich in Vitamin B, iron; supply hard to get nutrients like selenium, copper and potassium; but are extremely low on calories.  Some varieties are also high in Vitamin D- a nutrient that no other food source can provide. 
            All this goodness, and I still can't over my dislike...:-)