Indian festivals have a close relationship with food. There’s always a vegetable, grain, meat dish that’s traditionally eaten on a specific festival whether it’s til gud or khichdi on Makar Sankranti, rewdi-moongfali on Lohri or sewai on Eid.
In our house, there hasn’t been a Diwali when my mother has not cooked jimikand, also known as sooran or elephant foot yam. In eastern UP it’s a tradition to eat jimikand around Diwali. There’s an interesting reason behind it and Sangeeta Khanna has nicely described it on her blog banaraskakhanha.com. Yam grows from corms (bulbo-tubor) and after harvesting it grows again from the leftover corms in the ground. This property of the vegetable falls in line with the ideology of storing and increasing wealth during Diwali and hence considered auspicious.
Folklore apart, jimikand also comes with a great deal of nutritional benefits. It’s rich in protein and carbohydrates, helps reduce bad cholesterol or LDL, lowers blood sugar, helps prevent cancer and maintains hormonal balance in women by helping produce estrogen (remember Samantha’s meds in Sex And The City 2 were made of yam?).
Jimikand is also one of the riskiest vegetables to cook; you might end up with an itchy throat if you don’t know the trick. Rub a little mustard oil on your hands while cutting it and always marinate it in lime juice and boil it to neutralise the effect. The desi ones that you get in north are trickier to cook. The Bombay variety is comparatively smoother.
My mother would cook the vegetable in different ways. The one recipe that I loved and has become a part of our Diwali dinner is the chokha or bharta. She would simply boil jimikand, mash it, squeeze in lime juice, and add green chillies, coriander, chopped ginger and salt. She would also make shaami style kebabs, kofta or a simple subzi with onion and tomato gravy. I recently had a jimikand pickle at a family Diwali lunch and fell instantly in love with it. I am trying to get hold of the recipe (my mother’s maternal aunt had made the pickle).
The recipe that I’ve shared here is the subzi for which I deep fried the jimikand in mustard oil. You can skip that step if you’re not fond of mustard oil, but that’s what gives the dish a typical eastern UP taste.
Jimikand – 1/2 kg (peeled and cut into cubes)
Paste of 2 medium sized onions
Tomato puree – of 2 large tomatoes
Ginger-garlic paste – 2 tsp
Garam masala – 1/2 tsp
Dhanajeera powder (this is a mix of coriander and cumin powder) – 1 tsp
Turmeric – 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Mustard oil – enough for deep frying
1. Heat oil in a kadhai and deep fry jimikand. Remove from oil when brown and keep aside.
2. Keep 1 tbsp oil in kadhai and drain out the restFry onion paste till dark brown; add ginger-garlic paste, tomato puree, turmeric, dhanajeera and garam masala and cook for 10 mins.
3. Add water to get the desired consistency. Add salt to tasteThrow in fried jimikand and let it cook for another 15-20 mins. You can also pressure cool it if in a hurry.
4. Garnish with green coriander and serve with rotis or rice.