Saturday, April 18, 2015

'Call it what you may' - Coondapur Spice Powder and the Thengaipaal Masala Kuzhambu

As a newly wed, I pictured myself  learning all dishes that my mother-in-law might cook and pick up skills. Such plans flopped as there was always a routine kind of cooking in the household and even on special days most things remained standard. This was because my mother-in-law had taken ill at a young age, the family took to eating simple meals that was easy on her - to cook and to digest. However, there is one 'special' kuzhambu that will be cooked when guests were around or on days neer dosa or shavige were the meal option.
It was an exercise that both my parents-in-law will take on and kind of make it an elaborate affair that I was in awe. My part was just to slice several onions that will go into the kuzhambu. It was a simple dish wherein she would toss the onions in oil and add a special spice powder and cook in thick coconut milk. I have tried checking if she made the powder herself, for I did not think that they ever bought it. She used to get in bulk from her sister and family and store very carefully and use frugally. I did not ever get to pick it up, thus. By way of conversation, she mentioned that one of her sisters had a recipe that she was making the powder in bulk. Now, I grabbed the chance to request her to get the recipe for me which she obliged. I scribbled it down while she dictated over the phone. The irony is that I  had the recipe listed as "Coondapur Powder" in the instruction manual cum cookbook of my old Sumeet mixer grinder. I just did not relate the recipe to my mother-in-law's birth town :) . I still call it Sumathi chikkamma powder after the aunt who shared the recipe. Call it what one may, this is a flavour packed spice powder that enhances the coconut milk's taste. For records, I shall keep it Coondapur Powder and the thengaipaal kuzhambu with the spice mix.
I usually do not add garlic to the powder as I can add or omit when I make the kuzhambu. The original recipes add the garlic while the spice mix is made and stored. I have added the garlic in this write up as an option.

Coondapur Powder
(Recipe as given by my mother-in-law's sister)
Makes  approximately160 grams powder without addition of garlic and 200grams if garlic is added.
(I have given in weights and in volume)

50 grams/500 millilitres Byadagi variety dry red chillis (for deep red colour and moderate heat level)
40 grams/ 125 millilitres coriander seeds
40 grams/ 60 millilitres (heaped to make approximately 62&1/2 millilitres) black pepper corns
20 grams/  1/8 cup +1 &1/2 tablespoons cumin seeds
10 grams/ 1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
4 grams/ 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
40 grams. 2  numbers large size whole garlic pods (optional)

Add few drops of castor oil or any cooking oil to the byadagi red chillis and roast them until brittle. Transfer to a flat dish and spread.
Dry roast, on medium to low flame, separately, the coriander seeds, black pepper corns, cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds until they waft aroma.
Transfer to the same dish and allow to cool.
Add the turmeric powder.
If you are using garlic in the powder, peel the garlic and ever so slightly toss it in the heated pan for a few minutes. The original recipe grinds the garlic raw with other ingredients.
Allow to cool a bit and blend the roasted ingredients to as fine a powder as possible.
Do not over grind if you are adding the garlic as the powder may become sticky lumps.
Use this powder in any masala gravies just as you may add garam masala.

Thengai paal Kuzhambu with Coondapur Powder
Serves 4

4 large red onions sliced very fine and/or any vegetable of your choice
(I have used potatoes, turnips, carrots and tomatoes one or combined)
2-3 green chillis chopped
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 cup thick coconut milk
1/2 cup second extract of coconut milk
1 and1/2 tablespoon Coodapur powder
5 cloves of garlic
( Additionally you may use whole spices like cardamom, cloves, bay leaves and cinnamon for extra flavour)
Salt to taste

2 teaspoons cooking oil
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
2 sprigs curry leaves
5 shallots peeled and sliced fine

Heat the oil in a heavy pan. Add the sliced onions, garlic (other spices, if using) and chopped green chillis. Saute' until the onions are very pink and shiny.If you are using other vegetables, cook them first and then add them to the above.
Drop in the spice powder and toss then add the second extract of coconut milk. add the salt and cook for a while.
Pour in the thick extract and cook on a low flame until the raw taste subsides and the coconut milk thicken in a gravy.Take care not to curdle the coconut milk by over cooking.
Remove from the fire and transfer  to a serving dish.
Heat the oil for tempering in a pan, add mustard seeds. Once they crackle add the sliced shallots and toss until they are crisp. Drop the curry leaves and toss few more seconds. Add this to the kuzhambu.

This kuzhambu ideally pairs as a side for neer dosa, shavige and ghee rice.

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