Thursday, September 30, 2010

A series of homely feasts

I have hardly been food-blogging but that doesn't mean I haven't been eating. In fact, for the past three or four days, I have been relishing the most amazing food - all home-cooked, healthy and simple, but so soul-satisfying. I have literally been pigging out on the fruit of my own labour, which is rare. Usually when I cook something, I can't really tell how it tastes and have to depend on the palates of others! All I can do is to taste during the cooking process and ensure the flavours are as I like 'em.

So it started with an experimental saaru on the weekend. I have always loved the flavour of garlic. And years ago, one of my aunts served us the most delicious tomato-infused saaru that I have ever tasted. Going through the cookbook dakshin, I came across a recipe for tomato saaru and since we had bought a large quantity of lovely, ripe red tomatoes, I thought the time was right. Of course, I didn't follow the recipe at all!

I diced 4 tomatoes and sliced two green chillies lengthwise. Then I decided to add garlic to the mix - 8-9 cloves of skinny Indian garlic. I sauteed the tomatoes, the garlic and green chillies in a tsp of home made ghee. I added this to the regular mix of tamarind extract and dal ( whizzed in a blender along with 1 cooked tomato) and saarina pudi( rasam powder), skipped the Mysore touch of jaggery and topped it all with a tempering of mustard seeds and curry leaves in ghee. Divine!

One day we had Zuni stew made with pumpkin of just the right stage of ripeness and sweetness. So simple and so deeply satisfying.

A couple of days ago, I had a great craving for Moollangi huli ( Radish/ Daikon/ Mooli Sambar), a traditional favourite during winters. We had bought the first moolis of the winter a few days ago so they had been calling to me! Mom suggested adding methi( fenugreek) leaves to the sambar to add even more flavour. green-leafies junkie, I was only too pleased, thugh having no methi on hand I made do with kasoori methi( dried methi). That adds the bitter flavour but is much less flavourful than fresh methi, so I guess this dish will have to be made all over again as soon as methi hits the market. The sambar turned out every bit as delicious as my fantasies, so I ended up gorging on it. ( Made the same way as any sambar - cut the mooli into 1/2 cm slices, boil in water until just tender, add cooked arhar dal, tamarind extract and sambar powder and top wth a tempering of mustard seeds and curry leaves).

We had also brought home a copious harvest of brinjals (eggplant/ aubergine) of various kinds - the long, slim purple ones, the small purple ones, the big purple ones and so on. I read a delicious sounding recipe for Rasavangi ( eggplants in gravy) in Dakshin and decided to give my favourite veggie a new twirl. Fab, fab, fab. Reminiscent of Gojju - the tamarind-jaggery-spice mix which we have with khichdi, yet with much more body ( green chillies, fresh coconut + coriander seeds, ground together; + a bit of arhar dal). Yum, yum, yum!

Yesterday, for Bojjandi's 2nd birthday lunch, I decided to make pooris with vegetable korma. My grandma has a recipe for korma eschewing onions and using cashews, but since we love onions, I decide to go for the hotel version. Easy to make, and wonderful!

1 cup diced carrots
1 cup beans, cut into inch long pieces
2 potatoes
Half cup green peas
2 tomaoes, diced
1/2 fresh grated coconut
2-3 green chillies( depending on degree of hotness)
Handful of coriander
1 inch fresh ginger
1 small onion
1 tbsp poppy seeds
2 inch piece of cinnamon
6 cloves
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tsp oil
2-3 bay leaves

Cook the rest of the vegetables in salted water until cooked through but still firm. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Meanwhile, grind together the coconut, chillies, ginger, coriander and onion with a little water to make a smooth paste. Dry roast the poppy seeds, cinnamon, cloves and fennel seeds and blitz together into a fine powder. Add the paste and the powder to the cooked vegetables and let simmer for a few minutes. Heat the oil in a small wok. Add the bay leaves and saute for half a minute. add to the vegetables.

The Korma tastes fabulous with pooris, dosais, idlis and especially set dosais.