Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Whole Masoor Dal, Some Nostalgia for Grindless Gravies, and Other Things



I recently got a pack of whole masoor dal and wanted to make misal or usal with it, as I had taken a fancy to it after seeing some picture on Instagram. Soon enough I tired of that whim as I'd have to sprout the dal and that would involve some waiting. I kept looking for brown masoor recipes but all I came across were recipes for dal (plain brown gravies) which I found unappetising. It then struck me that I could probably adapt the Kerala green gram thoran recipe to these lentils.

When I was in hostel, this dish would appear in our mess once in a while. The first time it did, I thought the cook, Mr Nair, had run out of vegetables for the day and was making do with the green gram. I was not curious about food those days so I kept thinking that till many years later I ate this at a friend's house and realised it was a full-blown dish all its own!

I followed this recipe with one change. I use very little coconut when I cook, and do not enjoy having to grind stuff, all the more so now as my mixie is in poor health. I do have a jar of desiccated coconut, though, and I needed to begin using it. So I looked for ways to make the coconut fresher, and I found this. It involves soaking the coconut and straining it in a colander but I was using only a tablespoon so I used a tea strainer. The next time I make this, I will use the desiccated coconut directly and see if there's a difference in taste.

Talking about mixies ... In 2007, I came up with a food blog event called Grindless Gravies, much to the amusement/annoyance/frustration of the participants. I guess I was pretty anal about the rules and even changed them once or twice. But many indulged me and participated. The round-up is here. So many good memories!

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Then, recently, I came across this recipe for Turmeric Fried Eggs with Tamarind and Pickled Shallots by Yotam Ottolenghi. I adapted it to brinjal (eggplant) and used an extra chilli. I didn't use tamarind at all but combined a lemongrass wok sauce and hoisin sauce to make a dressing. It was very oily but good enough. It was a hit with the Spouse. You can see it in the picture below.



This salad that you see below is a combination of a few recipes for spinach-sesame salad in Korean/Japanese style. It was excellent. I saw so many recipes I cannot list them all here. I even used a couple of Guntur chillies and they smoked up my kitchen so much we coughed and hacked for about twenty minutes straight - and worried that the neighbours would wonder if we had COVID-19.



The next picture is my attempt at making a broken glass/stained glass jelly dessert. Some of the darned jellies did not set well and I could not make it more colourful than this. I found blue and green jellies too, for once. Too bad they did not cooperate!



A fruit vendor who appears at our door every few years and vanishes for the next two or three years brought some wonderful guavas at varying stages of rawness and ripeness the other day. This seller always wants me to buy two or three kilos but of course, that's too much for a small household like mine. This time he handed me a packet with many fruit and I did not feel like refusing him as he was coming after a long time. It was just Rs 50. Later on, I discovered there were eleven guavas inside! I doubled this recipe, added raisins to make up for the jaggery I fell short of and realised I had added too much chilli powder and too many chillies. I then toned it down by adding a cup of tamarind juice. It was still hot, but tolerably so.






Monday, January 04, 2021

Sambaar Kaaram


Yesterday, I had a big thrill from the blog. I checked it for comments after a long time. There was a comment from someone who said she had been using my recipe of sambaaru kaaramu to make her pappucharu taste extra special but could not access the link When My Soup Came Alive: Value-Added Mix to it. Funnily enough, I've had the same problem a couple of times in the recent past but it's not broken most of the time. I decided to put it up again here with a direct headline that is easily found rather than an indirect, pun-filled one that gets lost in the ether!

It's been nearly fourteen years since I put up that recipe. I've looked high and low for information related to it but have only come up with scraps. Beyond the fact that the word sambaaru/sambaaram/sambhaaram stands for spices used to flavour food (or "provisions, preparations, collection, supplies, constituents, ingredients and requisites") and that it can be used for a range of dishes from stir-fries to dals, I know little about it. The link above leads to a discussion on the lore surrounding sambar! My grandmother would say that this sambaaru kaaram and that sambar are different, which is true, in my experience. Sambar powder contains so many more ingredients ... even if the etymology is the same. From what I have observed and read, it's used mostly in farming families of Guntur and Krishna districts of Andhra Pradesh. 

We used to eat it with steaming, ghee-smeared idlis as children, dipping the idli in a spoon of the kaaram served to a side on our plates. When she was alone at home, it was her dinner for the day, my mother says, with rice and ghee, like any other podi or kaaram that we make. Here's the recipe, provided by my grandmother's sister:

(I read somewhere recently that pure castor oil is added to this mixture.)

Dry red chillies: 500 gm (remove the stalks)
Coriander seeds: 250 gm
Fenugreek/Methi seeds: 50 gm
Cumin/jeera seeds: 50 gm
Black gram/urad dal: A little less than 50 gm
Salt, to taste
Garlic: to taste

Dry roast the first five ingredients separately.

Let cool, whiz to a powder in the grinder.

Add salt.

Crush garlic roughly, add to the powder and mix it with the kaaram.

Store in an airtight container.