Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Puli Kootu (Tangy Vegetable Stew)

Sri Om.
Puli Kootu is my favourite of the kootu family. It's a tangy and spicy sambhar-like stew, with my favourite ingredient - peanuts! It's slightly time consuming, but worth it if you're having guests over for lunch. I love having it as is.

This week, I've been listening to an old favourite by Ilayaraja. Swarnalatha and Mano have done an outstanding job with this number, really suiting Rajnikanth and Meena. From the movie, Veeraa, this song has been composed in a very unique tune; both catchy and melodious. I think it's in the raga, Natabhairavi - 
"Malai kovil vaasalil, kaarthigai deepam minnuthe,
Vilaketrum velaiyil, anandha gaanam solluthe...

Muthu muthu chudarey sudarey, kodu vendidum varangalaiyae
Vanna vanna kathirae kathirae, kodu aayiram sugangalaiyae..."

If you haven't heard this song yet, you must listen to it! It's simply beautiful...

Off to today's recipe..

For puli kootu, you ought to think of the dish this way: if you were to separate the dish into four portions, then -
1/4 part - Tamarind essence
1/4 part - The ground up mixture of coconut and spices
1/4 part - Vegetables
1/4 part - Cooked lentils

Thinking of it this way, it's easier to picture what needs to be done and what the dish constitutes of.

Time req: 40 minutes
Yield: Will easily serve 6 people.

1/2 ash gourd (pooshnika)
1/2 pumpkin (parangika)
1 or 2 chokos (chow chow/benglore kathrikai)
You can use other vegetables too such as snake gourd, eggplant, ash gourd, sweet potato, and other hard ground/root vegetables.
1 cup of toor daal (thoram paruppu)
1 cup of chana daal (kadala paruppu)
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric (manja podi)
1 pinch of asafoetida (hing/perungaayam/LG)
1 golfball-sized piece of tamarind soaked in warm water
A handful of peanuts
Salt to taste.

For ground mixture -
1 tablespoon of chana dal (kadala paruppu)
1 tablespoon of urad dal (ulutham paruppu)
1 heap teaspoon of coriander seeds (dhania)
1 strand of curry leaves (karuvappillai)
4 or 5 dried red chillies (vatha molaga)

1.5 cups of grated or dessicated coconut to grind with.

Method - Short and sweet.
Cook lentils. Boil cut up vegetables in little water. Add turmeric and asafoetida. Squeeze essence from two pieces of tamarind using hot water. Add to vegetable pot. Add peanuts. Dry roast ingredients under "For Ground Mixture" except for coconut. Allow to cool. Grind into a paste with coconut and water. Add to pot of vegetables. Add cooked lentils. Add salt. Mix well. Boil. Done.

In a pressure cooker, first keep the toor daal and chana daal (1 cup each), and cook them very well on a low heat for more than 5 whistles. Otherwise, they won't cook properly. Once they're cooked, they should be so soft that you should be able to mash them. See:
In a small pan, dry roast the ingredients under "For Ground Mixture" EXCEPT FOR THE COCONUT.
Once you have roasted them, keep them aside till it cools down:
Cut up your vegetables in 2cm X 2cm chunks. In a thick bottomed vessel, add the vegetables, and put just enough water to cover the vegetables, and heat it on sim.
Don't allow it to overcook. It needs to stay in its shape and not go mushy. Add turmeric and asafoetida/hing/LG.
Add two small pieces of tamarind to hot water, and allow it to stew in it. Then squeeze out the essence.

Drain it out with your hands, and put it into the pot of vegetables, once most of the water has evaporated.
Add a handful of peanuts.
Allow the mixture to boil.
Now, take the dry roasted spices, and put them into a blender.
 Add the 1.5 cups of coconut.
Add about 1 cup of water, and grind till it is a very smooth mixture.
 Add it to the pot.
Now add the cooked lentils. All salt to taste.
 Let it boil for 10 minutes, till it has thickened. Turn off the heat.

Serve hot with rice and pappadum/applam :)



Friday, 5 April 2013

Arisi Upma (Savoury Rice Khichdi)

"Dheem tanana dheem tanana,
Dheem tanana dheem tanana, dhirana. 

Nadhiye, nadhiye, kaadhal nadhiye,
Neeyum penn thaane? 
Adi neeyum penn thaane?

Onra iranda kaaranam nooru,
Ketaa solvenae,
Nee ketaa, solvenae..."

It was a rainy Friday afternoon, and I didn't have any other plans. All I had to do was sit by my backyard door, and stare out at the trees, bathing so sensually in the rain, to think of Nadhiye, Nadhiye. Rahman topped himself with this song from the movie, Rhythm. My mother and I love this tune so much, that we used it as a base to create new bhajans and prayers. It's a very simple tune in the Ragam Anandabhairavi, which is often known as the Rain Ragam - due to its believed ability to invoke rain if sung properly. There's a keerthanai that I learnt that was believed to do this: Aanandhaamrutha karshini, amrutha varshini, haraadhi poo jithe shive bhavaani!

But this song is a perfect match for this raga, simply for the beautiful way in which nature is praised in the melody. See -

"Vanna vanna pennae, vattamidum nadhiye,
Valaivugal azhagu.. ungal valaivugal azhagu.
Ho... Mellisaigal padithal, maedu pallam maraithal,
Nadhigalin gunamae... adhu nangaiyin gunamae...

Siru nadhigale, nadhiyidum karaigalae, 
Karaithodum nuraigalae, nuraigalil ival mugamae..."

Just perfect. Such a perfect evening of spritzing breezes and rain bucketing down like in the Ganges had to call for something special.
Today's recipe is for Arisi Upma (Savoury Rice Khichdi). I'm not a big fan of rice, I must admit. Because it lacks so heavily in nutrients, and is so high in carbohydrates, I very much limit myself to the consumption of white rice. Instead, I tend to eat more Quinoa and Dalia (Broken wheat) as a substitute.

However, there is one dish that is made primarily from rice, that I absolutely love! Arisi upma is a staple evening tiffin that my mother often makes at home, and we have all loved it since as far as we can remember. Our fond memories of fluffy arisi upma with crunchy bits at the bottom of the pan, devoured with some tangy eggplant gotsu/gojju, definitely classifies as a family favourite.

Arisi Upma
This dish is fairly simple and easy to make, but it is time consuming. So, if you have a good hour to spare on a lazy evening, sipping a glass of iced tea and watching re-runs of Friends and Everybody Loves Raymond, then you ought to make this khichdi to make it special.

I usually keep the mix for the Arisi Upma in a jar, so that it's easy to make when I want it.
Total time required: 1 hour
Yield: Serves 2 people

FOR MIX (This will make a lot of the mix, and you can store it away for later use) -
4 cups of normal raw rice
4 tablespoons of toor daal (thoram paruppu)
2 tablespoon whole peppercorns (molagu)
4 dried red chillies (vatha molaga)
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera)

1.5 cups of the above mix
4 tablespoons of oil 
1 teaspoon of mustard seeds (kadugu)
1 teaspoon of split chana dal (kadala paruppu)
1 teaspoon of urad dal (ultham paruppu)
1 strand of curry leaves (karuvappillai)
1/2 cup of grated or dessicated coconut
A pinch of asafoetida (LG/hing/perungaayam)
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon of ghee (clarified butter)

To make the mix, all you have to do is put the ingredients for "THE MIX" in a food processor, mixie or grinder and grind the ingredients just for a few seconds till it is coarse.

Store in a dry container, in a cool and dry place, like your pantry.

To make arisi upma, heat the 4 tablespoons of oil in a non stick pot, and once it is hot, add in the mustard seeds, chana dal, urad dal, curry leaves and dry red chillies.

Fry this for a little while, then add your half cup of grated/dessicated coconut and asafoetida. Fry for two seconds, and IMMEDIATELY ADD 4.5 cups of water.
Let it come to boil and stir once or twice. Add salt to taste.

Now, add the arisi upma mix little by little, by sprinkling it in the pot.
Slowly stir as you sprinkle the mix into the pan. Once you've added the entire 1.5 cups of the mix, stir the pot gently.
Add the ghee. Stir again gently, and reduce the flame to sim. Close the lid on the pot, and allow it to cook for at least 30 minutes. You could even do this in a pressure cooker, and close the lid and allow it cook for 2 whistles.

After 30 minutes, open it up and stir it gently again. It should be nice and fluffy, and you might even get some nice and crunchy bits at the bottom. Ensure it is soft and cooked, if not, close the lid and allow it to cook for another 10 minutes.

Serve hot with eggplant gojju and onion tomato chutney! It also goes very well with plain yoghurt - my personal favourite!


Sri Om.