Chivda cheap & charred

One of the best things about chivda is its versatility. When recipes are more oral tradition than Martha Stewart, you can throw anything into them, make them yours, compensate for a missed or mispriced ingredient. In December, I started making my own chivda because buying it for $5+ per pound felt like cheating and because the restaurant I buy it from closes at 9 p.m. That’s prime bed-time. I never made it, and then I had to bring Entemann’s to the office breakfast potluck.

Anyway, I love chivda. It’s great at parties. Salt-sugar-sour is a most-compelling taste sensation. It’s just fun to eat, to sift through, to talk about.

I began my chivda chronicles here: The how-to video is great and my six-year-old loved to follow along with Manjula. However, I quickly reversed course on the cereal base. The rice krispies were too sweet and didn’t blend well with the spices. I bought a 500-gram bag of murmura, amplified the spices by a bit, threw in my cherries and waited for the potluck invites to pour in.

Tonight I was missing the shoestring potatoes. I had no cumin seed. That box of cornflakes had been taunting me for weeks. I tried to find a murmura-based recipe that didn’t require either of the missing ingredients, but everything was coming up poha – the seemingly delicate white rice flakes. Finally I found one that called for an 8:2 powa to murmura recipe. I decided to consider the corn flakes poha and move on.

What follows is a cautionary tale and an offer of free, charred chivda.

Curry leaves are fun.

Curry leaves are fun.

*Roast the poha and corn flakes in a large, dry sauce pan. Consider crumbling the cornflakes first. Remember: they heat quickly and burn easily.

*Use split dalia in place of cashews if you don’t have any, but don’t overdo it. Some recipes call for peanuts, almonds, cashews and pine nuts and pipian. Ignore them and just throw in crunchy things that can withstand heat and spice if you want to keep this chivda budget-friendly.

*Add 1/4 cup of raisins.

*Garam masala can be substituted for cumin seed. Sort of.

*If the finished chivda tastes like it looks – slightly charred – add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of amchoor (mango) powder. It will help just a little by souring the charred the flavor.

*Go ahead and use all 12 chilies.

*Curry leaves are fun.

*No matter what the end product looks/tastes like, take it to your office. Someone will eat it.

Well, now I still have no cherries but lots of gently singed chivda. I suppose it would do well on hikes, at camp, with a cup of coffee after a rainy spring trail run. If you’ve read this far, dammit you deserve some of “Angie’s Smokey Blend Chivda.” Just ask.

Carrie Bradshaw on chex mix, cherries, chivda

Tonight at the food co-op it got real. In my attempts to curb a distracting and defeating late-night cookie habit I’ve been turning to dried fruit. Namely, the dried tart cherry. For several weeks now it has ca-chinged at the register @ $16.99/pound. I buy it in quarter-pound increments and drop the glossy, pruny treats into everything from oats to yogurt to my hand.
Tonight they were $18.99/pound. I grabbed a box of cookies — for support — collected myself, decided to keep the peanut-butter-sandwich cremes anyway and found myself a co-op employee.

“Commodities,” he said. “All the prices are going up. We’ve tried to absorb costs as much as we could.”

One of his favorites, the roasted salted peanut, is inching skyward in cost as well.

“Will chex mix be the new caviar?” I tapped into my iPhone like some penny-pinching Carrie Bradshaw.

Reflectively, I drove home with my peanut butter cremes – munching and resigning myself to deleting dried tart cherries from one of my go-to Indian recipes: chivda.

Chivda is this spicy/sweet/sour Maharashtran snack mix. You can make it with rice krispies & corn flakes, jagged and flat rice flakes called poha, or mumra – a puffed rice. There are about as many different recipes for chivda (CHAVE-da) as there are for chex mix, but they’re all better than chex mix. Tempered spices, toasted nuts, dried fruits are the dominant additives. Garlic, coconut, chick peas and other items can play supporting roles. Nobody ever adds M&Ms, but I think pretzels would be okay. Actually, peanut M&Ms might work if the toasted powa/mumra doesn’t melt them first. Golden raisins are preferred, but once you add the turmeric the entire dish glows a toasty yellow-brown and you can’t see them. No fun. Plus golden raisins are a pushover in terms of texture, and they don’t hold up well compared to the dalia (roasted chick peas, I’d use them halved or split – not whole), peanuts and the crack of roasted cornflakes. Curry leaves and green chilies are non-negotiable ingredients. You need oil to heat and pop the mustard seeds, and to adhere the spices that come next to each other and the mumra or poha. Then you’re done.

Cherries have been my signature Wisconsin contribution to chivda since I began blogging for Chutney Challenged the New York Post. Tarter, tougher, redder than raisins they stood up so boldly to everything else chivda has to offer. Until tonight.

Once the kids were in bed, I put on my snoopy flannel pants from T.J. Maxx Manolo Blahnik slippers and Dolce jersey pajamas, busted out my laptop, a box of cornflakes and proceeded to make a budget batch of chivda. If Aidan liked it, I knew it wouldn’t mean much. That guy is a carpenter and he eats anything. But if Big likes my budget chivda…


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