Sunday, August 26, 2007

Vangi Bhath and Majjige Huli

It had been ages since I had an authentic Kannadiga meal ( Ok, a whole week, since I made huggi-gojju the last weekend), but I was really craving for good old home food. It's amazing how emotions are built into us human beings at a visceral level, so that the sight, or just the smell of the things you love or hate can trigger such strong feelings. We had visited the new Namdhari supermarket in Gurgaon on saturday and picked up the lovely green brinjals which are so reminiscent of meals at my mother's house.

On Sundar morning, I decided that we were going to have Khara Bhath (Spicy rice) with majjige huli - Kannadiga Kadhi. This is a classic combo, often made on festive days at my mother's house, where the festive meal has some staples including a spiced rice dish. Vangi is what eggplant or brinjal is called in Marathi, and I guess the Karnataka-Maharashtra border adopted the word for mutual use some centuries ago. This dish was again one of our staples when students in France, as it is quick to make if you keep the masala powder handy. At a pinch you can improvise by just using sambar powder/ huli pudi, but I like to make this and keep it around, as it is also an excellent topping to perk up something boring, like cabbage or beans sabzi.

Majjige huli, or Kannadiga style kadhi is very different from the North Indian kind, because it has no besan, for one thing. It is preferably made with slightly sour yoghurt, and with a vegetable added in, so that it is light and healthy. It tastes great with any type of Khaara bhaath, and also goes well with just plain rice, or with rotis. You can even serve it as soup, if it is thinned out a little. My favourite kind is made with palak, since I'm a green-leafy lover, but sometimes I just make it plain so it brings out the taste of the Khaara Bhaath better. The vegetables typically added are drumsticks, cut into 2-3 inch segments and boiled or white gourd ( booj kumbalakai in Kannada).

Khaara Bhath (It is called vangi bhath only if you add eggplant)

Masala Powder
2 handsful dry coconut
1 cup dried chillies
1 cup dhania seeds
1 stick cinnamon
1 handful urad dal
1 handful chana dal

Dry roast all the ingredients, with maybe just a drop or two of oil. Let cool and dry grind, adding a pinch of heeng (asafoetida) and turmeric. This can be stored for about a month, but if keeping for longer, park it in the fridge so the coconut doesn't start smelling oily.

Carrots, cut into 2 inch sticks
Eggplant cut into 2 inch long strips ( preferably the long green variety, else the small purple ones)
Green bell peppers, cut the same way
Potatoes, cut the same way

You can infinitely vary the vegetables added in, as per your taste. To make the dish, cook 1 cup rice ( the grains should be fluffy and separate) for 3-4 people. Cook the vegetables separately in an oil + mustard seeds + curry leaves tadka. You can park the veggies in the tadka and then shut the pan for some time, to ensure they are well-cooked. Make sure the veggies are cooked but not soggy, they should have a slight bite to them.

Assemble the rice and veggies, and add the above masala to your taste, along with salt. Khaara bhath is really easy to make and throw together with whatever veggies you have in your fridge at the time. It makes a great one-dish meal for busy days, with a bowl of curd on the side and some chips for added crunch.

Majjige Huli
1 handful coriander leaves or seeds
1 small piece ginger
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp chana dal, soaked for half hour
1/2 grated coconut, or 1 cup dry coconut reconstituted in hot water
1 tsp cumin seeds
5-6 green chillies
2-3 black peppercorns

Grind everything together till it becomes a smooth paste. Bring 1/2 litre sour yoghurt to boil on low heat and add the masala paste to this. Stir to mix and boil, adding water in case you feel the mix is too thick. Keep it boiling for 5-7 minutes. Add a tadka or seasoning of oil, curry leaves, mustard seeds and a dry red chilly for interest.

This meal can be perked up with some papads and a curd rice with lime pickle, for a wonderful Kannada style meal.

I did finally get around to taking pictures of our sunday lunch but they're still on my digicam, so you'll have to wait till I upload them. I had been uploading pics found on google but a fellow food-blogger brought to my attention that this is violation of IP ( Thanks, Anita) so I have taken off all the old pics and will have to get my lazy hiney off the couch and upload my own pics which may take a while!

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