My mind scrambles over memories, gets nudged about and rolls over just re-experiencing the taste, texture, smell of makkai being roasted in ghee, of ginger being grated to be dunked into a kadhai, of brown cardamom crackling around cloves and black peppers breaking into a jig—what are all of them going to do when each recipe comes toge0ther? Celebrate and exult! Let the mouth be filled with the coarse yet soft makkai jajariya, take a step back with the bite of adrak ka halwa, discover yet another way of cooking laal maas made by a farmer in the middle of his field and slump into a khatiya under the tree to fall into a food-induced slumber. My point here is that it’s difficult to pick and choose between what falls under hidden gems from Rajasthan’s cuisine—it creates a riot in my head, causes confusion and rakes up a storm of foodie pride and emotions.

It’s that time of the year when we have a lot of corn available. There are fifty to sixty dishes of corn that can be cooked. The grain lends itself to a myriad range of uses, right from being used to make an appetizer, soup, to a main course, breads to dessert. Corn pakoras are a no brainer, makkai karaab is a hot soup made with milky corn boiled with buttermilk and seasoned with salt, roasted cumin. Corn is also used in some mutton dishes and everyone is aware of makkai ki roti, which is mostly had in winter. While travelling through Deogarh which falls under the Mewar region, I picked up the recipe of corn jajariya which can be loosely translated as corn halwa. It’s essential to use tender, milky corn (not American corn niblets please!) for the halwa, that which can be scraped off from the cob. Once the ghee is heated, add the corn to it and cook it enough till it gives out a roasted fragrance. Milk is added and the mixture is cooked till the ghee starts to separate at which point sugar is added. Slivers of almonds and powdered green cardamom are used as garnish. The texture is gentle and yet it fills the mouth with its graininess. The recipe can be found in The F-Word.

If we step back into history and talk to families which are still preserving hand-me-down-over-generations recipes, they all tell you that desserts were served mostly along with the main meal in the thali and in some cities like Jodhpur and surrounding areas, sweets were the way to start a meal. Desserts had a serious function to perform as digestives and in it could well be a simple mixture of ghee, jaggery, rotis crushed and rolled into a laddoo. Another reason for dessert to be served along with the main meal was that our food in Rajasthan is hot and spicy—in most cases. It’s not surprising that when you are served maas and baati, you are also served churma at the same time.

A little known sparingly served dish is adrak ka halwa. Because of the bite that ginger releases, it can be had in small quantities and since it is heat producing, it’s best had in winter. Ginger also has curative properties which aid not only digestion but also help in fighting cold and cough. Two hundred and fifty grams of grated fresh ginger, same quantity of unsweetened mawa and 350 gms sugar. Once the ghee is heated, ginger is added and roasted till it emanates that heady fragrance. This should ideally be cooked over wood fire since the heat is slow and steady. If being done on gas, the heat should be kept at a minimum. The mawa can be added and this should be cooked with the ginger properly. Sugar is added and the mixture does become a little loose since sugar leaves its water. Cook till the mixture leaves the sides of the wok. Normally traditionalists won’t even garnish the halwa but these days almonds are sprinkled over.

I wait for September since some of my friends fast for the roth teej. Roth teej  falls on  Bhadrapada Shukla Tritiya as per the Hindu calendar, it’s a rather quietly celebrated fast observed by families without much ado. It’s only recently that our Jain friends have opened up their homes for a delicious meal that is prepared to end the fast. It’s probably one of the fine examples of how food is such an equalizer and how it encourages inter-cultural osmosis. The focus is that we must eat only one grain on that day. The meal is roth made of coarse wheat and ghee, water used sparingly to mix the dough and its it’s made on a khejdi which is a handmade clay griddle. Torai (ridged gourd) is the main vegetable, it is first roasted on fire and then cooked. The simply delicious part of the meal is the hari mirch chutney and torai raita. The most understated of all vegetables when roasted and mixed into curd make a dish which I eat by the katori. The mirch chutney is made simply with regular spices but it’s one of those recipes that are made unique because it is so simple. The roth is served with an extra dollop of ghee and bura (powdered sugar). This is one day that calories are thrown to the wind.

In all my years living in Rajasthan, I have tasted so many types of laal maas that it gets mind-boggling. The tried and tested recipe that I use for laal maas is in The F-Word but recently another recipe came my way which is unique and has a thicker sauce. A farmer made it for us, taking about 1.5 kgs, which is a mixture of golboti and nalli. Whole garam masala comprising of brown cardamom, cloves, black pepper, pay leaves is dunked into heated ghee. Once they are done crackling, add five chopped onions and brown them. The mutton is added and is roasted till it reaches a rich brown colour. Salt, dry coriander powder, red chillies powder, turmeric powder dissolved in a cup of hot water is added to the mutton. Cook the mutton till it’s tender, keep adding three to four tablespoons of warm water to ensure that the spices are cooked through and seep into the mutton. Add 100 gms unsweetened mawa mixed in 100gms of curd. Cook on slow fire and add just enough water to make the gravy. It was the most astonishingly flavoured mutton. The mawa doesn’t dull the impact of spices at all. The best way to have it is to take two rotis and serve the mutton on top of them and work your way in.

Mita Kapur is the Founder & CEO of Siyahi.