Thursday, March 29, 2012

Senai Kizhangu Kara kari

I have often repeated that I love all vegetables. I do, yet there were a few that I used to try not to eat. As a younger child, there must have been a random day that I developed itches in my throat and mouth after eating senai kizhangu, the elephant yam. Then on, I would refuse to partake the same whenever it was cooked and in whatever recipe it was used.
Most of my father's clients were farmers and often brought produce from their fields and gardens for us. We have had freshly harvested groundnuts, tapioca, onions and more. Many a time some one will bring jackfruit, pineapple and farm grown veggies. Thus, I may have even be praying that nobody brings yam, lest I have to eat that. However, my parents were not very strict and it would be alright with them if any of us did not want to partake something on a particular day. but repeatedly refusing something was not permitted.
Later after my marriage, the months I spent with my parents-in-law were truly testing time as my mother-in-law uses only two vegetables in particular in her coconut based kuzhambu and one happens to be the senai, the other being brinjal! I could not avoid eating and even if I ventured to voice my distaste for this vegetable, she refused to heed and would drop quite a few pieces on my plate. Seeing no other alternative I would consume it too. Through all this, my allergy seemed to have gone or forgotten. To add to it all this is one of the few vegetables that my husband likes. So I learnt to eat and thus cook it in as many ways possible.
This is one very easy preparations and with a small amount of tamarind dropped in the pan while the vegetable is cooking, the itching can be taken care of.

This vegetable is not available here and so I had to cook while at my parents' home.
350 grams elephant yam / senai kizhangu
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
Salt as per taste
A cherry size tamarind
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/8 teaspoon asafoetida
2 - 3 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon split bengal gram / channa dhal
1 sprig fresh curry leaves

Clean the yam and cut in small cubes. Drop the cubes in some water.
Cook the yam in some water adding turmeric powder to it. cover and cook for about 7 minutes and then add the tamarind to the same and cook further until the pieces are tender yet holding firm when pressed between fingers.

Drain the water and add the salt and chilli powder to the cooked vegetable, thoroughly mixing them.
Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. when the mustard seeds crackle add the channa dhal and the curry leaves.
Then add the vegetable and tossing frequently, shallow fry on a low flame until the pieces are crisp.

Serve as a dry vegetable kari with meals.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ishtu - vegetables stewed in rich coconut milk

Lunch box sharing is a very interesting affair when you get to eat a little of many dishes. One does not heed to what exactly pairs with what when you just want to relish the food with friends. Lunch hours during my college and working years have been thoroughly enjoyable experience. While in college I had never paid attention to the preparation of the dish while it only mattered that we had a satisfying meal packed with love by moms at home and all we did was exchanging gossip with friends and gobbled everything down.
It just got just a little better while I worked. As many of us girls were working away from home and were put up in hostels, we did not look forward to the dubbawala bringing our lunch, for we knew that the food would be just not so good. However, we still survived on those. One of our officers, a lady manager was very kind to cook something special often and bring it for us whenever she had time to cook elaborately and in larger quantities.
It used to be a treat when one of us returned after visiting family who lived in the same city. On one such occasion a colleague had carried this Ishtu made by her aunt and needless to say that it had been the star dish for the day.
Years down, I had forgotten the taste of this dish until I spotted the recipe in the book "Vegetarian fare at the Taj". This book was available for guests in the rooms at The Gateway Hotel, Bangalore and the senior staff there were kind enough to let me carry a copy back.
The book details many recipes cooked and served in many of their fine dining restaurants and makes a very interesting read and has many simple recipes that can be recreated at home.

This recipe Vegetable Ishtew features in Vivanta by Taj - Kumarkom section. I am day dreaming of the bliss that would be when you are outdoors on a kettuvellam and are being served something exotic as this.
I made this preparation with kal dosai on a weekend. It was quite a filling breakfast and just enough reason to laze around!
Recipe fully adapted from Vegetarian Fare at Taj. I have rephrased the same.

Serves two people
1 cup washed, cleaned and cut vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, beans and cauliflower
2 table spoons fresh green peas (or frozen peas)
200 millilitres coconut milk (use the first extract for a rich and creamy ishtu)
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 inch long stick of cinnamon
2 cloves
4 cardamoms
1 teaspoon ginger julienned
1 large red onion sliced finely
3-4 green chillis slit
a small piece of bay leaf
1 sprig curry leaves
2 tablespoons coconut oil
Salt to taste.

Heat coconut oil in a pan and saute the peppercorns, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and bay leaf.
Add the curry leaves, ginger and onions. Saute until onions are translucent. Add the green chillis and a cup of water. (I used the second extract of the coconut milk as it yields more taste).
Drop the vegetables in and cook until they are tender.
Add the salt and finally the first extract of the coconut milk. Cook on a low flame until the stew thickens. Over cooking will break the coconut milk.
Serve hot with appams, idiyappam or like I did, with kal dosai.