29 September 2006

Traditional South Indian Meals - 1

With the festival season on now, yours truly is on a cooking spree... traditional dishes, no onions or garlic... yummy time..

Of course I miss being in Singapore, where I could get every vegetable I wanted, whether in season or not. And did I mention these were fresh veggies? No frozen stuff at all! Ah well, now I can still make a nice traditional meal with what is available in this neck of the woods!

This is one of my alltime favourite combinations- morkuzhambu, beans parappu-usli, and brinjal pittla. Pittla is one of my favourite dishes... ever. Mom makes lovely pittla with karela or white pumpkins. I don't get the latter here and hubby won't eat the former!

This combination is great for entertaining too. Hearty, filling and does have a festive feel to it. I used to make this whenever we invited some of our more orthodox friends who wouldn't eat onions, garlic etc.

serves 4

3 tbsp Chana dal
2-3 green chillis
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 cup grated coconut

1 cup white pumpkin (cut in 1"cubes and boiled)
2 cups sour yogurt
1 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 pinch hing
2 cups water
Curry leaves
salt to taste

Soak Chana dal, green chillis, coriander and cumin seeds for 30-45 minutes. Drain and reserve water. Grind to a very smooth paste with the coconut (use reserved water if needed).
Heat oil. Temper with mustard seeds and hing.
Add boiled pumpkin and saute lightly.
Add water and the ground spices and bring to a boil.
Beat yogurt till smooth.
Reduce flame and add yogurt to the spice mix.
Add salt to taste.
Add curry leaves.
Stir until well combined and bring to a simmer. Serve hot.

Note: One thing to remember is, NEVER boil after adding yogurt. Take the pan off the stove as soon as the mix begins to simmer. Otherwise the yogurt tends to curdle. That's why I boil the spices in water first, so that the chana dal gets time to cook fully, AND yogurt doesn't curdle.

Beans parappu-usli
serves 4

500 gms french beans (strung, cut, parboiled in salt and drained)
1 1/2 cups tuvar dal
1/2 cup chana dal
2-3 red chilis
1 pinch turmeric
salt to taste
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 pinch hing

Soak the dals and red chilis for about 45 mins.
Drain and grind to a coarse slightly dry mix with turmeric and a little salt.
Steam the dal paste.
Let it cook, and break it into crumbs with your fingertips, taking care never to mash it to a paste-like consistency.
Heat oil, temper with hing and mustard seeds.
Add cooked beans. Fry for 4-5 minutes.
Add steamed and crumbled dal. Mix well.
Adjust salt to taste. Cook for 5-7 minutes till well combined.

Note: The dryer the dal is ground the better. After steaming, if the dal is dry enough, I grind it to a dry powder in a food processor. Takes lesser cooking time this way, and way less oil too.

Brinjal Pittla
serves 4

1 cup groundnuts cooked
1 cup tuvar dal cooked (discard excess water, or save for rasam)
1 lemon sized ball of tamarind (dissolved in water)
1 pinch haldi
1 pinch hing
salt to taste

Grind to paste or powder:
2 tbsp roast dhania
1 tbsp roasted and crushed chilli
1 tbsp roasted chana dal

For tadka:
4 tbsp oil
chana dal
2 urad appalams
1/2 cup grated coconut

salt to taste
1 - 1.5 cup diced brinjal

Soak the brinjal in tamarind water, and bring to boil with haldi, hing, salt and the podi/paste.
When the vegetable is cooked, and the raw tamarind smell is gone, add the groundnuts, cooked dal, salt and bring to boil. Keep aside
Heat oil. Fry the appalams. Break and keep aside.
In the remaining oil make tadka of mustard, hing and chana dal.
In the same vessel, roast the grated coconut till browned.
Add the tadka, appalam and coconut to the pittla.
Mix well and let soak for at least half an hour before serving.

Notes: Pittla can be made with white pumpkin or bitter gourd (karela) too.
For white pumpkin pittla, cut pumpkin into 1cm cubes, and cook with salt and a pinch of haldi first. Then start as with recipe.
For brinjal pittla you could add 1-2 tbsp of the podi used for brinjal curry, instead of the masala paste suggested here.
For karela pittla, fry karela pieces till light brown and then start the recipe as above.

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