Saturday, April 07, 2007

Vendaikai Pulikulambu - Okra in Tangy sauce

Vendaikai Pulikulambu is very common in Kongu cuisine. Could be because of the fact that, those days, most of the people in Kongu region had their own farms and they had fresh vegetables (like okra/ lady's finger, silk squash, snake gourd, pumpkin, drumsticks, brinjals, raw plantain, tomatoes, etc, etc) coming out of their farms. The usual combination for Vendaikai Pulikulambu went like this - Rice, Vendaikai pulikulambu, Peerkangai poriyal (Silk squash on the side), rasam and curd. Where was the protein? Would the curd (yogurt) satisfy the requirement for protein? Considering the amount of curd used, well, I'd say, yes! These days, I think, addition of a boiled egg or roasted fish makes the above meal more balanced. I prefer the roasted fish over the egg though. (Indosungod, a wonderful blogger who is a thoroughbred Kongu girl and grew up surrounded by Kongu cuisine, tells me that 'Uppu Paruppu' (soft tur dal with salt/varan) is a very good combo for this pulikulambu. I guess, THAT is the protein in the meal. Thanks Indo!)

Okra - 1 lb, chopped in small rounds (I used a packed of Shana Bhindi, frozen, sliced)
Tamarind - a lemon size
Onion - 1, chopped fine
Red chillies - 2 (if it's the hot variety, 3 if you have milder red chillies)
Garlic - 4-5 pods (sliced, if big)
Fenugreek/Methi seeds - 1/4 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Cummin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Asafoetida - 1/4 tsp or lesser, say a pinch
Curry leaves - a sprig, chopped
Oil - 1 tbsp
Salt, to taste

Soak the tamarind in hot water. I put the tamarind in a microwave safe bowl and add some water to cover that and microwave for 2 mins. I let it cool and slightly mash it with my hands and extract pulp from the tamarind. A strainer can be used to filter too.

Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds. When it sputters, add cummin and methi seeds and asafoetida. When they become golden (not brown), add the red chillies, onions, garlic and curry leaves and saute well. When the onions are done, add the tamarind pulp and stir once. Add the turmeric powder and salt and let it boil. After 15-20 mins, when the tamarind sauce has thickened and there's no more raw smell of the tamarind, you can add the chopped okra slices in the curry now. Stir once and let it cook. Here's a tip from my mom. If you want to retain the green color of the okra, let this cook without covering the pan with a lid. If you aren't concerned about the color, go ahead and cover it with a lid. From this time, it should take about 5-10 mins for the okra to cook. When done, Serve hot with rice and don't forget to include yogurt as the last course. Tastes great as a side, with curd rice.

Edited to add: If it's fresh okra, I saute the slices after onion, so that the okra doesn't get very sticky. Since the above used are frozen ones, it is added at the last few minutes; else it gets overcooked.

Thanks Satish for pointing out the missing red chillies.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Thai Brinjals in Tomato sauce

Tomatoes and me go a long way. We've had a love-hate relationship all along.
  • Love - when it was Amma's tomato rice that she used to bribe me with, when she had to goto work on a Saturday when I had that day off [Could you believe it, when I say, those days, I chose 'Tomato rice' over Amma?] ; Love - when she packed her famous tomato pickle in a big glass jar for me; Love - when she made her tomato garlic curry to go with rotis or dosa; Love - when she made a simple Thakkali pachadi to go with idlis or dosas; Love - when she made a tomato Jam from home grown tomatoes; Love - when I learnt to make a yummy tomato soup for the first time (I used to hate tomato soups made at restaurants - way too sour for my taste) ; Love - when I concocted a recipe for Soya chunks in Tomato sauce, on a whim and it turned out very tasty.
  • Hate - whenever my sister offered her own concoction of tomato juice from home grown tomatoes from my Ammamma's garden. [Btw, The hate was with raw tomatoes ; not with my sweet sister]. It was always a big hit with some of my cousins, but to me, it was 'Blech!'.... I used to hate raw tomatoes with such strong feelings. Well, I've never been forced into eating raw tomatoes. Except for this one instance where I forced myself to eat it. It was one of my first few days in England. When I was checking into this B&B, the guy at the counter asked what I usually had for breakfast. I mentioned 'a toast and an omelette'. He asks the next question 'Anything you'd like, in your omelette?' I say 'Onions, Tomatoes'. He says ' Alright, I'll pick up a few tomatoes from the store, I don't think I have any'.... Well, the next day morning, at breakfast, I am shocked to see a huge omelette and a toast. The tomatoes were very beautifully chopped and sprinkled with salt and pepper and sitting NEXT to the omelette. And the guy asks me, 'So, how is it?'........ I say 'Looks wonderful' and bit into that raw tomato, cursing him under my breath. :) What else could I do? Since then, I have learnt to try raw tomatoes once in a while. And discovered that I LOVE salsa and Maratti Koshumber and a few other dishes with raw tomatoes.

So, when RP announced that she's hosting JFI-Tomatoes, I had to participate in it. What better than trying to come up with a new dish? So, here it is - 'Thai Brinjals in Tomato sauce'. A very simple dish, which brings out the flavors of Thai brinjals and ripe tomatoes without being overwhelming.

Thai Brinjals in Tomato sauce
Thai brinjals (eggplants) - 1 lb, chopped and put in water
Well ripe tomatoes - 3-4, finely chopped
Onion - 1, finely chopped
Garbanzo beans - 1/2 cup, boiled till soft or from a can
Asafoetida - a pinch
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Cummin powder - 1 tsp (* see footnote)
Curry leaves - a sprig
Cummin seeds - 1/4 tsp
salt, to taste

Heat a tbsp oil in a pan and add the cummin seeds. When they are roasted, add the asafoetida and curry leaves. Add the onions and saute them. When the onions turn translucent, add the tomatoes. Saute for a few minutes and add the brinjals. Add the chilli powder and cummin powder and salt and cover the pan with the lid. Let the brinjals cook for 5-10 mins. When done, add the garbanzo beans and let it cook for another minute. Serve hot with rice or roti.
This is my entry to JFI-Tomatoes, hosted by the lovely RP of 'My Workshop'.
*Cummin powder - I slow roast 1/2 cup of cummin seeds in a cast iron skillet, without oil, at a low heat, till the spice emits a nice aroma. I grind this powder after the spice has cooled down to room temperature. I store it in a air-tight glass jar and use it within a month.