Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Badanekayi Koddel: Aubergines in a Sweet, Spicy and Tangy Gravy


The pre monsoon weather is in the process of composing quite an impressive show here.

Mornings, even when they start out bright and cheery give way to moodier shades as the day marches on. If you are lucky, you will be able to get away with just a mellow drizzle at the end of it. If not, there will be a medley of heavy rains, lightning and thunders. Not to mention occasional power failures.
The weather has brought forth another issue. This here is Ginger's Kitten, whom I call Poke-Poke. (Because that is what he does all the time, or at the very least, in the few hours when he is awake. Frankly, Poke-Poke is well past the kitten stage though he seems strongly opposed to the idea of growing up for some reason or other.)

Poke-Poke is terribly afraid of growling skies. When the weather gets working on what it is supposed to be doing, Poke-Poke will scramble on top of something (like a dangerously narrow exterior protrusion of a window sill) and cry incessantly till the skies are calm once again or he will just sit under a sheltered nook somewhere with wide open eyes and then refuse to budge. Either way he gets scolded – by our Landlady, their House Help, The Techie and almost every one of our neighbours. (By everyone except me, in short. My sister now accuses me of being fond of the whole ‘beastly’ category of cats – we have always been a Dogs only sort of family.)
I guess it is time to tuck away Poke-Poke and talk about the recipe.

This is not an entirely new recipe; it is just an offshoot of the Basale Koddel (Curried Basalle Alba) recipe posted sometime ago. The 'Koddel Base' is something that goes well with quite a few vegetables like Raw Bananas, Drumsticks and Aubergines. So when the kitchen had an unusual abundance of aubergines (I wanted to try a few recipes and ended up buying more than I needed), I thought I will make Badanekayi Koddel. (Badanekayi is Aubergines in Kannada.)
I know I could have just given this as a variant in the 'notes' of the older post; but as I was fiddling with the camera anyway, I thought I will write it up as a separate post. (Besides, the colour scheme seemed to blend well with that of Poke-Poke's shot above. Not the best of reasons for writing up a recipe post, but still.)

I liked this version just like the other one. The Techie,who is not much of an Aubergine fan, contented himself with the gravy alone of the koddel.

PS: This post was written a few days ago - just that I didn't get time till now to give it a final read and publish it. (In case you are wondering about the disparity in the description of the weather :))

Ingredients:

 To Boil Together:
  1. Aubergines, chopped - 1 and a 1/2 to 2 cups. (I cut them into about half inch thick slices and then each slice into 6 'sectors'. 
  2. Onion, sliced - 1/2 cup
  3. Tamarind Paste - A scant tsp. 
  4. Jaggery, grated - About 1/2 tbsp. (Adjust to taste. You can start with a lower quantity and add more at the time of boiling the curry.)
  5. Salt
  6. Water - 1 cup
To Grind:
  1. Coconut, grated - 3/4 cup 
  2. Onion, sliced - 1/3 cup
  3. Garlic, chopped - 1 tsp.
  4. Coriander Seeds - 2 and a 1/2 tsp. 
  5. Dried Red Chillies - 3, chopped. (I have used Kashmiri Chillies, which are very mild. Koddel recipes normally use twice as many chillies and usually specify using spicier 'Byadgi/Bedgi' chillies (native to Karnataka).) 
  6. Cumin Seeds - 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. (I used 1/4 tsp. as I don't like a prominent note of cumin in curries.)
  7. Fenugreek Seeds - 1/4 tsp.
  8. Mustard Seeds - A pinch
  9. Water - To grind 
To Season:
  1. Mustard Seeds - 1 tsp.
  2. Garlic, chopped - A scant tsp. 
  3. Curry Leaves - 1 stalk
  4. Oil - Enough to fry the ingredients to season.
Directions:

Cook the ingredients mentioned under 'To Boil Together'.

Grind the ingredients mentioned under 'To Grind' to a smooth paste and keep aside.

Once the aubergines are done, add the ground masala to it and allow it to come to a boil.

Meanwhile, heat up a small pan with some oil and add the mustard seeds. Once they sputter, add the garlic as well as the curry leaves and fry them.

Now tumble the whole contents of the small pan into the boiling curry. Increase the heat and bring the koddel to a rolling boil. Taste and adjust the flavours (jaggery, tamarind and salt). Also, add more water if required.

Allow the curry to boil vigorously for about five minutes before switching off.
Serve with rice and other sides.

Notes:
  1. The colour of the curry will vary slightly depending on the type and amount of chillies, tamarind and jaggery used. 
  2. You can use 2 to 2 and a 1/2 tsp. of powdered coriander (depending on the freshness of the powder) instead of whole coriander seeds in the masala.
  3. As the ground masala is 'raw' (that is, the ingredients are not roasted or sauteed before grinding), it is better to consume the curry within a couple of days.

Monday, 25 May 2015

The 'Lesser Granary' Door



"   Rice is a beautiful food. 
     It is beautiful when it grows, 
     precision rows of sparkling green stalks shooting up to reach the hot summer sun. 
     It is beautiful when harvested, 
     autumn gold sheaves piled on diked, patchwork paddies. 
     It is beautiful when, once threshed, 
     it enters granary bins like a (flood) of tiny seed-pearls. 
     It is beautiful when cooked by a practised hand, 
     pure white and sweetly fragrant.   "

Shizuo Tsuji

It would also be entwined in tales of reclaiming land from the backwaters by our ancestors for those of us in Kuttanad. 
This is the door to the second granary.

As you will notice, it is less ornate than the primary one. (The ends of the arc in the metal work have broken off.)

Notes:
  1. This is the second part of an earlier post titled 'Door to the Granary'. 

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Tomato Rice


Ten years ago, my Dad, sister and I found out the hard way that we had to assimilate quite a bunch of basic skills to survive. The first and foremost in that list was to learn to cook a few basic recipes that are actually palatable. The new house help who had replaced the one who used to work for us when my mother was there just didn't know the recipes that we were familiar with; worse still, we didn't have a clue either. We were just a bunch of people who just used to occasionally peep into the kitchen to see what smelt so good.

Sigh.
Amidst our numerous misadventures in the kitchen, my Dad thought it would be a good idea to get an Electric Rice Cooker. We soon realized that it was an unfortunate decision. The rice that was cooked in it never turned out well - I have a suspicion that it is primarily due to my Dad's obsession with cooking more rice than we (and the five dogs that we kept) would ever need in a day. The cooked rice, if one can call it that, rarely passed the 'pebble grade' and we soon got rid of the electric power gobbler.
The only good thing from the rice cooker episode was the free recipe book that came along with it. We cooked a few recipes from it and adapted some. Most dishes turned out decent enough. The tomato rice especially, which I don't remember my Mom cooking ever, came out well. I can no longer find the book at home and I have forgotten its exact recipe for tomato rice. But the basic technique of pureeing the tomato and then cooking the masala till it forms a thick paste is something that I never changed.

And here is how we cook it now.

Ingredients:

For The Rice:
  1. Basmati Rice - 1 cup, soaked, washed and drained.
  2. Tomatoes, chopped - 1 and 1/4 to 1 and 1/2 cups. (Use tomatoes that are not too sour.)
  3. Onions, sliced - 1 cup
  4. Ginger Garlic Paste - 2 tsp.
  5. Coriander Powder - 1 and a 1/2 tsp.
  6. Chilli Powder - 1 tsp.
  7. Turmeric Powder - 1/4 tsp.
  8. Coriander Leaves, crushed using a mortar and pestle - 1 tbsp. 
  9. Cinnamon Stick - 1 inch piece 
  10. Cardamom Pods - 2, split opened.
  11. Cloves - 2 
  12. Salt - To taste.
  13. Water - 2 cups
  14. Oil
To Garnish:
  1. Fried Onions (Reserved from the initial frying of onions.)
  2. Raisins, chopped - 1 tbsp. (Optional. Use more of less to taste. Also I chop them as I like it more that way in this rice. Alternately, use cashew nuts.) 
  3. Coriander Leaves
Directions:

First, blend the tomatoes without any water and keep that aside.

Now, you need to fry the onions. Heat up some oil in a wok, add onions and fry them till they turn a golden brown. Drain off excess oil and keep them aside. 

In the remaining oil, fry the raisins or nuts if you are using them. Drain off excess oil and keep aside.

Into the same pan, add the whole spices and when they sputter, add the ginger garlic paste. I use freshly pounded paste with no water. If your paste contains water, add a third of the fried onions first and then saute the paste to reduce sputtering.

Once the raw smell of the ginger garlic paste is gone, add a third of the fried onions to the pan, followed by all the ground spices. Stir around for a minute and then add the blended tomatoes.

Cook the masala for a few minutes till the water content of the tomatoes is much reduced and the masala forms a thick paste. (Take care not to burn the masala.)

Once the masala comes together, add the minced coriander leaves followed by the drained rice and some salt. Sauté for a couple of minutes. Add water and bring the contents to a boil. Check for salt. Cook covered over a medium low flame till the rice is done.
Garnish with the reserved fried onions, fried raisins (and/or nuts) and some coriander leaves.

Notes:
  1. You can cut down the amount of onions by about two thirds if you don't want to do the fried onion garnish. Just take one third cup of onions, add them as specified in the recipe and saute till they brown well.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Nutmeg on Tree


A glimpse of home, again!

Looking at it like this on the tree, one would hardly expect the burst of colour within a nutmeg; which is why I just love opening it.
I had a great time publishing a 'Who am I' post with a shot like this in the old blog. I didn't go that way this time as those who used to visit us there will anyway know the answer :)

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Basale Koddel: Mangalore Style Basella Alba (Malabar Spinach) Curry


Basella Alba is not a familiar ‘green’ in our house. In fact, the first that I ever heard about it was when I accidentally came across the leaves on my online store. (Wiki however tells me that the Malayalam for Basella Alba is ‘Vallicheera’. So I guess it’s just that I never happened to cross paths with the climber in Kerala, though the name sounds very familiar.)

Considering that I don’t really care much for green leafy things in general, it is surprising that the slightly weird looking, thick stemmed vine interested me at all. Except for my Mom's 'Cheera Thoran' (Stir Fried Amaranth Leaves with Ground Coconut) and a few other curries made with home grown leaves, I have always left all that is green and leafy quite alone. Now that I think about it, nothing even remotely resembling spinach has entered my kitchen in the last couple of years, but for a rare occasion or two (much to The Techie’s delight). It sounds quite bad, but it is the truth. I put the blame partly on the fact that the store bought greens taste quite different from the leaves that used to come from my mother's kitchen garden.
Basella Alba however was strangely alluring, probably because while reading up on it, I saw quite a few people describing it as a hideous looking vine. I just had to see what was so repulsive about it. Then again, I have made a pact with myself this year to try out a few local recipes. So I went ahead and ordered a couple of bunches of 'Basale Soppu' (as it is called in Kannada).
While I wouldn't really go as far as to call them an eye sore, they do hold your attention, with their stout stems and comparatively thick leaves.

(I apologise for the sad looking leaves. The grocery people, for ease of packing had zigzagged the lengths of vines and tied them up with a chord. Good for them in terms of packing, but bad for me as the leaves all got bruised by the time they reached me and it was impossible to do anything to make them all right.)
One of the recipes that I wanted to try out was this Mangalore/Uduppi Style Basale Koddel, where the leaves are cooked and then simmered in ground coconut gravy. It sounded quite good, and for a change did not have any sort of lentils that seemed to be a permanent fixture in almost all gravies made with Malabar Spinach Leaves. I’m delighted to say that the curry, with its sweet and tangy notes, has become a new favourite of ours.

Source: Slightly adapted from Sushma's Kadhyaa.

Ingredients:

 To Pressure Cook:
  1. Green stemmed Basalle Alba (Malabar Spinach), chopped - 3 cups (Use both stems and leaves.)
  2. Tamarind Paste - A scant tsp. (Or to taste.)
  3. Jaggery, grated - About 1/2 tbsp to 3/4 tbsp. (Start with slightly less than 1/2 tbsp. and add the rest if needed at the time of boiling the curry.)
  4. Salt
  5. Water - 1 cup
To Boil Separately:
  1. Onion, sliced - 3/4 cup
  2. Water - 1/2 cup
To Grind:
  1. Coconut, grated - 3/4 cup 
  2. Onion, sliced - 1/3 cup
  3. Garlic, chopped - 1 tsp.
  4. Coriander Seeds - 2 and a 1/2 tsp. (It is okay to substitute this with the same amount of ground coriander seeds. However, if your coriander powder is very fresh, reduce the amount to 2 tsp.)
  5. Dried Red Chillies - 3, chopped. (I have used 2 Kashmiri Chillies, which are very mild along with 1 of another mild variety. The original recipe uses 'Byadgi/Bedgi' chillies (native to Karnataka), which look somewhat similar to Kashmiri Chillies, but have less wrinkly skins, are lighter in colour and are spicier.  The original recipe calls for 7 to 8 Byadgi chillies. Also see Notes.)
  6. Cumin Seeds - 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. (I used 1/4 tsp. as I don't like a prominent note of cumin in curries.)
  7. Fenugreek Seeds - 1/4 tsp.
  8. Mustard Seeds - A pinch
  9. Water - To grind 
To Season:
  1. Mustard Seeds - 1 tsp.
  2. Garlic, chopped - A scant tsp. (Optional.)
  3. Curry Leaves - 1 stalk
  4. Oil - Enough to fry the ingredients to season.
Directions:

Pressure cook the ingredients mentioned under 'To Pressure Cook'.

Grind the ingredients mentioned under 'To Grind' to a smooth paste and keep aside.

Boil the onions in water and once they get cooked, add the cooked leaves followed by the ground masala. Let the curry simmer on a low heat.

Meanwhile, heat up some oil and sputter mustard seeds. Add the garlic if using, followed by the curry leaves. Tip all the fried things along with the oil into the simmering curry.

Allow the curry to boil vigorously for five minutes, check for salt, jaggery and tamarind. Add more if required. Adjust the consistency if needed before switching off. (Boil the curry again for a few minutes if you add more water.)
Serve with rice and other sides.

Notes:
  1. The colour the curry will depend on the type and number of chillies as well as the type of tamarind and jaggery used. As long as it tastes fine, you shouldn't worry about the exact colour of the Koddel.
  2. Note that neither Kashmiri nor Byadgi Chillies are as spicy as the smoother and shinier skinned varieties like the 'Guntur Teja' or even the berry like 'Gundu Chillies'. So be careful if you are using a different variety of dried chilli.
  3. If you are not sure of the number of Red Chillies that you can tolerate, start with one or two, grind and do a taste test. Keep in mind that this will be added to the sweetened and cooked leaves. If you think more spice is needed, you can put more chillies and grind the mixture again (If your grinder is good and will grind the extra chillies well.). Alternatively, wait till the curry is cooked, taste and then if needed, add a small quantity of dry roasted Red Chilli Powder. (Dry roast by heating up a small heavy bottomed pan and adding the chilli powder after switching off the flame. Quickly stir the powder around - it can burn very quickly - and just add it to the curry. Mix, taste and bring to a boil again.)
  4. The curry is better consumed within two days as the ground masala is 'raw' (that is, the ingredients are not roasted before grinding) and it might not keep for long. (It is also the reason why it is important to boil the curry well as mentioned in the directions.)

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Sapodilla (Manilkara Zapota)


A breather from all the 'staged' shots here and a bit of sunshine...

It is funny how I now long for things I never liked when I had them in plenty. 'Sappottakka' is one of them.

We had an old tree back at home, whose spreading branches would be laden with fruits when the season arrives. The fruit was never a favourite of mine, and even if everyone else liked to have a slice now and then, more fruits would go to waste than get eaten. Unless, someone who likes them visits and take a few batches off our hands.
The bounty back home is no longer near and ironically, I love Sapodillas now. We rarely get vacations in time to gorge on the fruits at home; so we buy them here occasionally. Nothing, however beats home grown.

Notes:
  1. This is a shot from our last vacation when the fruits on the tree were still young (which accounts for the small size of the fruit in the photo).  
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