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Potato pinch spurs lauki love

Potatoes and other essential veggies may have become too dear for the kitchen, but the Ranchi homemaker is undeterred, finding out smart ways to slay the price demon.

So what if the staple tuberous crop has vanished off the lunch plate, thanks to a ban on supply by the Bengal government, and tomatoes and onions are acting pricey too, mothers and wives are experimenting with other less popular vegetables to dish out wonderful culinary creations.

So, kundri bhujia has replaced aloo fry that used to be served with rotis or parathas during breakfast, while oal ka dum has become a part of the menu at least twice a week. Before the price hike, the dish used to appear on tables only once a month.

“It’s too difficult to do without potatoes as everyone loves it. But we have no other option but to settle for other veggies. Onion and tomato prices are equally high. Hence, I am trying to prepare dishes with less expensive vegetables like lauki, kundri and jhinga,” said Manasi Biswas, a resident of New Nagratoli and mother of two school-going children.

An ardent cook, Manasi added that in a family with six to eight adults, one kg of potatoes would be finished off within two-and-a-half days.

“If the family is non-vegetarian, the stock will last for even lesser period. So these days, I am cooking more of lauki with chana dal, chola etc,” she added.

Sangeeta Kapoor of Tharpakhna has let loose her imagination to come with unique delicacies like soyabean paratha instead of aloo paratha.

“These days, I am making more of besan and chana items like karhi and gatte. They are really tasty and my children are loving them. With the prices of almost all vegetables hitting the roof, it’s a really big mental task to sit every day in the morning and decide the menu keeping in mind the family’s preference and the budget,” she said.

Experience might have come handy for seasoned homemakers like Sangeeta and Manasi, but the kitchen newbies are also faring well.

Take for instance Aparna Sahu (25), who is pursuing a computer course but is equally passionate about cooking.

“My mother has handed over her kitchen to me as she is fed up of planning food sans potatoes, onions and tomatoes. So these days, I am trying my hands at low-fat delicacies. Yesterday (Thursday), I prepared baked brinjal with curd sauce and today (Friday), it was kurmuri karela. My father, who does not like brinjal at all, loved the dish that I served with hot parathas,” she smiled.

While Aparna is doing the new with common vegetables, newly married Yogita Samar (27) is impressing mother-in-law Nisha Sinha with poha, upma, uttapam for breakfast and a variety of kofta made with lauki and kachcha kela for lunch.

Homemakers may well do to look up for more such innovative recipes without the quintessential aloo on the Internet as there is no sign of prices of potatoes coming down. On Friday, wholesalers at Pandra Bazar Samiti received no fresh stocks.

“Today (Friday), potatoes are selling for Rs 26-27 a kg in the retail market. It is likely to touch Rs 28 by Saturday,” said Anil Sahu, president of Aloo Pyaz Thok Vikreta Sangh, Pandra Bazar Samiti.

Prices started increasing a fortnight ago after the neighbouring Trinamul Congress government of Bengal imposed a ban on transportation of potatoes outside the state.

“This is the second time since May that prices of potatoes have sky-rocketed. Price rise is mainly due to obstacles from Bengal. Besides, we have not received lal aloo from Uttar Pradesh for over a month now, so we were basically depending on Bengal. Now that Bengal too has stopped delivery, hard days are in store for us,” Sahu added.

While tomatoes are selling for Rs 60 a kg in Ranchi, onions are priced Rs 27 a kg.