Stories from the countryside of Rajasthan ...
Just before Christmas, I was very lucky to travel to Rajasthan as a guest of British Polo Day, visiting the beautiful cities of Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur. I was captivated by their beauty, elegance and graceful hospitality, their rich culture, their industry and endeavour and of course the extreme contrasts in everything. Everything is full on, from the heat, the dust, the crush and rush of the streets to the cool sophisticated and extraordinary beauty of the palaces and forts.
Travelling by road from Jaipur to Jodhpur, we stopped for a few days in a truly magical place in the heart of the desert kingdom of Marwar. Chhatra Sagar takes its name from the noble man, Thakur Chhatra Singh of Nimaj ,who undertook a huge project over 125 years ago to build a magnificent dam. Collecting the precious waters of the monsoon it creates a lake, sagar, hence its name, Chhatra Sagar, an inspiring family legacy. This water and consequent irrigation transformed the surrounding desert into prime agricultural land where local farmers were invited to settle. We stayed in luxurious tents on the top of the majestic dam. Our magnificent views stretched for miles, to one side the farmland and village, the other to the lake and a nature reserve where we watched many birds, wild boar and antelope coming to drink the precious water. Watching the sun go down, the low light lit up the field walls; made with huge slabs of stone very high in crystal content they shone and sparkled in a truly magical way.
We visited the farm to see the intricate irrigation systems, the goats, the oxen, the potter, the silversmith and the village school, where outside the women collected water in their pots for the home. With bountiful fresh produce from the farm, our food was delicious, some things very familiar and some completely new such as lotus seed and rose petal pudding or sangri, a long slender green bean that grows on an evergreen tree called a mesquite tree, a member of the pea family. The beans are produced all year round in the desert regions and so are a valuable all year round food and have a rather nutty flavour.
We would like to share two simple, but delicious recipes, both starring vegetables we can easily buy. They will add a touch of the exotic to any grilled or roasted meat but in particular lamb. Next Month in Thoughts from Thyme - Part 2 - Recipes from the Palaces.
Caryn Hibbert would like to thank Ed Olver and the team at British Polo Day for their wonderful hospitality and Dave Burt, @London Instagram, for the use of his lovely photographs from their travels in India together.