Thursday, October 21, 2010

Back to Basics-3, The Round-Up

Here's the Back to Basics round-up that I hosted for Desi Soccer Mom, its creator. Please tell me if I've missed out on any entries that have been sent to me.

Jaya of Spice & Curry tells us how to make home-made mustard powder, and how to use it too!

Swathi of Zesty South Indian Kitchen lets us in on her recipe for rasam.

Hema of Salt to Taste gives us a recipe for another staple popular in some parts of the South.

I haven't made anything basic for this event, even though I am the host, but I'm directing you to this more than four-years-old post of mine on how to make flavoured ghee. That's what I intended to republish anyway.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Feeding My Inner Malayali

I should have known there was a Malayali in me when, ages ago, I got off the train and a woman came up to me and started speaking in Malayalam ...

I should have known it when, six years ago, in a boat on Vembanad lake, I found myself speaking to the boatman in Malayalam, quite oblivious of the fact that I didn't know the language ...

I should have known when we went shopping and all I remember buying is the kodampuli and an umbrella from a locally famous umbrella store for the gadget-loving Spouse - this brolly came with a light!

I should know, because I often get mistaken for a Malayali, though I don't know what it is about me that is Malayali!

I know there is one in me because I quite like the food from Kerala, and I was inspired to make a curry with something that only Malayalis use, as far as I know.

The inspiration also owed to other factors:

- A 6-year-old stash of kodampuli - yes, from the same trip that took me to Vembanad and had me speaking to the boatman in a language I never knew I knew

- Rediscovering that said stash a few months ago after having thought I had cleaned it out

- And most recently, a non-Malayali friend's experiment with yam, coconut milk and kodampuli which I tasted and really liked last week. Her kodampuli too owed its existence in her home to a trip. Not to Vembanad, but to Thekkady. And while both of us bought it with fish curry in mind, we also used it for non-fish curry. (And no, I don't think she can speak Malayalam or spoke to the boatman in Malayalam and if she did, I don't know whether she knew she didn't know the language.)

I had two green bananas I wanted to stew, and I decided they were 'It'. I didn't check for any further Malayaliness, but decided to adapt a hazy idea of a green banana and tamarind gravy to this recently rediscovered delight. Usually such gravies, much relished in Telugu families such as mine, are made this way. I was too lazy to check, so went by memory and imagination.

This way:

Green banana – 2 medium, boiled but not mushy, peeled, diced
Tomato - 3, chopped as fine as possible
Turmeric – 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Chilli powder - 1-2 tsp *

Kodampuli – 3-4 pieces, soaked in about a cup of water

Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Curry leaves – 3-4
Fenugreek seeds – 4 (yes, 4 seeds)
Cumin seed - 1/2 tsp
Split and hulled black gram/urad dal - 1 tsp
Split and hulled chana dal - 1-2 tsp
Dry red chillies – 2, broken
Oil – 2-3 tsp

1 Heat oil, add the fenugreek seeds and then the urad dal. As the urad turns colour, add the mustard seeds. Once they pop, add the rest of the ingredients under 'Tempering' and fry well.

2 Now add the tomato and saute well. Add a little water, if you like.

3 Now add the green banana and mix. Add the salt, turmeric and chilli powder, mix well.

4 Now tip the kodampuli and the water in which they were soaked into the banana. (At that moment, I hadn't known if that was how it's used; I just did it because the kodampuli looked hard and unyielding even after soaking for 30 minutes, and the water didn't look very different either.)

5 Let it boil, checking now and then to ensure the gravy doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. Add water if the consistency is too thick.

6 At home, tamarind gravies are finished off with a final addition of jaggery. I resisted the urge to do that with this experiment.

I will try this again, with other vegetables.

* Note: I added the third tomato and some more water and boiled it a little more after finding the gravy too hot.

What are the inner 'others' in you - and why do you think they are?

A Reminder: Desi Soccer Mom's Back to Basics is being hosted here - the deadline is October 17, so send in those entries!