Chilly, rainy winter? This besan roti and muzaffar will surely warm you up!

Published: January 21, 2019
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Since I have only spent time in a Punjab village setup, I can vouch for their sociability, the entrepreneurial skills and of course the food! PHOTO: ARHAMA SIDDIQA

Pakistani winters always remind me of winters spent in my village, the simple life as I call it. No artificiality, no hypocrisy, just contentment. Since I have only ever spent time in a Punjab village setup, I can vouch for their sociability, entrepreneurial skills and of course the food! This is not to say other provinces do not have these characteristics,  just that I wish I can someday explore the unique elements they too are sure to have.

Bringing our attention to the food, my mind recalls one village winter delight among many – besan ki roti (gram flour bread). Almost everyone has tried pakoras (fritters), a must-have for the iftar table in Ramazan in almost every desi household. Pakoras, along with a cup of chai, are also particularly popular during cold monsoon evenings.

Using almost the same batter as the pakora, kneaded with wheat flour and cooked in desi ghee, is besan roti. One roti coupled with chutney and a cup of steaming chai is fulfilling enough to get you through the chilly evening. Not only is this absolutely delicious but it also has various health benefits. Besan has a low glycemic index, high protein content and nutritive value and is also gluten-free. Besan also helps with weight loss and diabetes management.

Besan Roti

Ingredients:

Besan: 2 cups

Wheat flour: 1 cup

Oil: 3 tbsp

Red chili flakes: 1 tbsp

Salt: 1 tsp or according to taste

Coriander powder: 1 tbsp

Ginger and garlic paste: 1 tsp

Coriander leaves: 3 tbsp

Mint leaves: 2 tbsp

Green chilies: 2

Onion: 1, medium-sized and chopped

Water: as required

Desi ghee: as required

Method:

1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and knead well.

2. Set aside for 15 minutes.

3. Take one ball of wheat flour and roll it out like a normal roti.

4. On a warm tawa (skillet), add in a spoon of desi ghee and like a paratha, fry the roti till golden brown.

Enjoy it with chutney and chai!

Although I don’t have an avid sweet tooth, there are days when my taste buds crave some form of sugar and the urge is uncontrollable. Simply swiping the sugar bowl isn’t particularly appealing and my mind knows that unless this craving is fulfilled, I won’t be able to sleep.

This was my situation two years ago. It was the middle of January and the weather was extremely cold. The clouds hung low and the breeze sent shivers and chills down my entire body. It was too cold to even take a short walk to my car. I suddenly began craving something warm and sweet, but not creamy or cheesy. Something light would do the job.

My mother assessed my situation and told me to hang in there for 15 minutes. She came back with a bowl of steaming vermicelli, but not the milky kind. One spoon and I could literally feel the warmth returning to my entire body. My day was suddenly so much better.

The Oxford Companion to Food by Alan Davidson says the following about vermicelli or sawaiyan, as they are known in the subcontinent:

“An Indian noodle term derived from the Sanskrit name for noodles, sevika, which further derives from an unrecorded word meaning thread connected with the root siv, which refers to sewing.”

Sawaiyan are crisp fried noodles and refer to a sweet dish of vermicelli prepared from besan. They are cooked using a small amount of milk and dates, along with a variety of dry fruits to make it a truly rich and an aromatic dessert. They are a must-have on the table during Eid festivities and can be used in many different forms. Some popular dishes made using sawaiyan are falooda and sheer khurma.

The dish my mom made is called muzaffar and has a slight twist to it as it involves a lemon-milk combination which did not make sense to me till I actually made it myself. When I did finally make it, I realised to my surprise that this combination actually enhances the taste of the delicacy! The key to this dish is to cook everything on high flame, and have all the ingredients in front of you beforehand.

Muzaffar

Ingredients:

Vermicelli: 250 grams

Sugar:  1 cup

Water: ½ cup

Ghee: ¾ cup

Almonds and pistachios: 2 tbsp, sliced

Fresh milk: 500 ml (only fresh milk, not the packet one)

Green cardamom: 1 tsp, chopped

Saffron: ¼ tsp (optional)

Yellow food colour: 1 pinch

Kewra water: 1 tsp

Lemon juice: ½ a lemon

Method:

1. Cook water and sugar together for 10 minutes.

2. Heat ghee in a separate pan and fry vermicelli till dark golden in colour.

3. Add milk, and cook on high flame for one minute.

4. Add the lemon juice and stir till the milk dries up.

5. In the sugar syrup, add colour, saffron and cardamom.

6. Add the syrup to the vermicelli and cook till the syrup dries.

7. Remove from the stove.

8. Garnish with almonds and pistachios.

Enjoy!

All photos: Arhama Siddiqa

Arhama Siddiqa

Arhama Siddiqa

The author is a LUMS and University of Warwick Alumnus and is currently a Research Fellow at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI). She calls herself a bibliophile,a dreamer and an avid foodie. She also has a Instagram food blog: @chakhoous (www.instagram.com/chakhoous/) . She tweets @arhama_siddiqa (twitter.com/arhama_siddiqa)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Muhammad Raza

    I am already feeling the taste and aroma of both dishes,,,Recommend

  • Parvez

    You disappear …and then reappear…. and that was a delightful description of the humble ‘ besan ke roti ‘ and ‘ vermicelli ‘ both as you rightly say are brilliant for the cold weather along with a well made cup of tea. Roti in its various, various forms is found just about everywhere….but vermicelli is a bit unique to part of the globe, I’m trying to think of other places that use this and i’m struggling.Recommend

  • Hamsid

    haha Its turning out to be a pattern now these hiatuses of mine =pRecommend

  • Hamsid

    vermicelli actually reminds me of sweet noodles which can also be made using gur ( brown sugar) in desi ghee , those are super nice on a cold winter evening or rainy dayRecommend

  • Parvez

    True….but what I was struggling with was to find an equivalent to vermicelli in say Japanese cuisine or German cuisine etc.Recommend

  • Parvez

    I’m sure you have your reasons …. but don’t disappear altogether. Its fun to read you.Recommend

  • Areeb Khan

    aye thats true , come to think of it there aren’t any actually , which is strange ,
    OK i seem to be logged in as someone else =p please excuse!Recommend

  • Areeb Khan

    i am struggling with blog ideas though so feel free to give me advice!Recommend

  • Parvez

    Ha, ha …Areeb Khan…. I’d have guessed it was you.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Yesterday was watching a fascinating TV show on food history …. stuff like who came up with the idea of tabulating and preparing a code for kitchen management and elevating cooking to the status of a respected profession and that to in the very early 1900’s ….yes, he was a Frenchman G.A Escoffier……and stuff like that. We have a rich history as far as food and cooking goes but somehow we have not been able to tell our story. Now that’s an ambitious project for you.Recommend

  • Hamsid

    I actually have to write something similar for a magazine, about the origins of food , how it ended up on our tables, why do different cultures have different food and what affects that ( apart from weather conditions of course) am trying to streamline right now though , will share once its done, do drop me an email so I canRecommend

  • Hamsid

    and sorry for the extremely replies , have been caught up with workRecommend