Thursday, March 22, 2018

Chinna Vengayam Pulikaichchal

Few days ago I picked up a big bunch of shallots, yes you heard it right, bunch - because the vendors gather them with lot of their dried stem roots still attached to the bulb and make a bunch. That is how they are sold in the local markets here. The shallots made a very colourful subject to photograph. I had just then got a wood carving man to make me a small container of sorts with a piece of broken tree branch. They both made a vibrant combination in the picture.

I shared the same on my Instagram feed and many suggestions were there to use them in delicious dishes. I cooked them in a few and was left with a rather large batch that I cannot finish before leaving for my holiday. I ended up making this pulikaichchal that is more preserve like and would stay fresh for days if refrigerated. It was reminded of this by my sister, who does not like and will not have onions and garlic; she would smell it however much we mask the taste.
My father's clients would bring produce from their farms and crops like groundnuts, tapioca and shallots used to be brought soon as they have been harvested. They will still be wet and soil soaked and fresh. My mother would then simply spread them on a newspaper in the corner of a room and use them in batches. She cleaned them as and when she was cooking them. She would often make this dish because it works well as a side for dosais, idlies, pongal and also rice. Painful as it may seem to peel and cut those fresh pungent shallots, the taste of the dish makes it all worth the effort.
When we did not have a refrigerator also, this dish used to keep good for days together, provided we are not careless in the use of utensils and serving spoons. Cooking it in some stoneware utensil will add to the flavour and one might simply store in the same too. I have, with me here, a very heavy bottomed stainless steel pan that is ideal to cook on even heat and slow cooking happens easily.

Chinna Vengayam Pulikaichchal 

Makes 300 ml of pulikaichchal

200 grams of shallots/ Madras onions/chinna vengayam
2&1/2 tablespoons tightly packed tamarind bits
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida powder (or a 1/2 centimeter square of asafoetida dissolved in little water)
1 heaped tablespoon coarse crystal salt (I use pink Himalayan salt) (adjust to taste)

1/4 cup gingelly oil (divided - to saute the onions and for cooking)

For the spice powder:
7-8 dry red chillis (adjusting to the level of heat tolerance and the heat of chillis)
(+3 Kashmiri chillis for the colour, because my red chillis are very brown)
3 &1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon channa dhal
2 teaspoons sesame seeds (white or black, cleaned)

For the tempering: 
1 teaspoon gingelly oil
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 teaspoon channa dhal
1 teaspoon urad dhal
2 dry red chillis broken in small bits
15 curry leaves washed clean

Soak the tamarind in water for about 20 minutes and extract the pulp. I repeat the process to extract all the pulp and the last batch of water does not even get the colour.
Dry roast the ingredients given for the spice powder, each separately and on low heat so they are evenly done. Cool them and make a coarse powder. Keep aside.
Peel the shallots and cut them in small pieces.
Heat a few spoons of the gingelly oil and add the onions. Saute them until they are translucent, not very brown.
Add the tamarind extract, turmeric powder and salt. Top up the water just a little more and cook on low heat, to remove the raw taste of tamarind.

When this is simmering, heat the oil for tempering in another pan and add the ingredients listed under there. Once the mustard seeds have crackled and the dhals are golden, transfer this to the simmering mix.
Add the rest of the oil and the spice powder.
Cook for some more minutes blending them well.
Allow it to simmer and the oil will separate forming a layer over the pulikaichchal.
Remove from the stove and let it cool.

Transfer to clean glass bottles or bowls with lids for storing.
Serve as a side dish with dosais, idlis, pidi kozukkattais and arisi upma. You can mix with steamed hot rice and eat as a dish by itself too.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Kalasida Avalakki

In general it would be easy for our friends to assume that I might have picked up traditional dishes from Managalore - Udupi cuisine having been married to a Mangalorean for 30+ years. Even more so because I have spent a good few years living with his parents. Sadly, that is not to be. On the contrary, they had adapted to living in Coimbatore and other than an occasional neer dosa and shavige, on special weekends, I had not known traditional fare in that household.
We were at our friends' place one evening when she had made this for tea and while serving mentioned that it may not be new to us and both my husband and myself would have had it many times. I did not even recognize the name of the dish, even when they gave other names by which people call it. Mangalore masala avalakki, avalakki oggarane, and so on....nope none of which I had heard of. My husband went on to discuss how it used to be a teatime snack in his office in Mangalore and I still drew a blank. However, it was one very tasty snack and I loved the crunch with so little oil added in the snack. My friend showed me how thin is paper avalakki and told me to find them in Bangalore where most stores stock them.
I bought some red paper poha online and brought it here. I messaged her to share the recipe. In a few minutes my phone notified me with her message and that very evening, as luck would have it, having all the ingredients I tried the recipe. We enjoyed it and I promised myself that I need to post the recipe here, for my repository.


I looked up for more information on this dish and found that in the Udupi region it is called Bajil and mostly paired with sajjige as a filling breakfast during weddings and ceremonies. When I read out bajil, my husband said that he vaguely remembered that his father would mention it but he had never tasted the combination.
It is a quick and easy recipe to make. The sweet and spice flavours mingle so well that one cannot resist picking just about a spoon more and more. Keeping the recipe basic, one can find ideas to serve this dish.

Kalasida Avalakki
Recipe by my friend Ms. Lalitha Burde

For 4 to 5 servings
2 cups Paper thin poha/ aval /beaten rice flakes
2 tablespoons roasted peanuts
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
 4-5 dry red chillis that are low - medium in spice level (Byadagi or Kashmiri chillis)
Salt to taste
Jaggery powder to taste
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 &1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 teaspoons urad dhal
Few curry leaves
2 - 3 tablespoons fresh grated coconut

Dry roast the coriander seeds, two of the dry red chillis, few of the curry leaves until aromatic. Crush coarsely and reserve.
heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds, allow them to crackle.
Add the peanuts and toss around so they are roasted to a crunch.
Add to these the urad dhal and allow it to brown until they are golden.
Quickly add the rest of the red chillis (broken in small bits), curry leaves, turmeric, asafoetida and salt.
Add the crushed coriander mix.
Toss them for a couple of minutes more and switch off the heat.
Transfer this to a serving bowl and add the coconut and jaggery powder. Mix with your hand slightly crushing them so the flavours combine.
Put in the paper avalakki and sprinkle some water. Bring them all together so the spices coat the avalakki while not crushing hard. Adjust the water, salt and jaggery according to taste.
Serve this with hot tea.

This dish stays fresh for another day also at room temperature. If you find it too dry by then, Sprinkle some water and heat just a bit in a microwave.
A very delicious snack to go with tea is ready with just about ingredients from your pantry.
You may sprinkle mint chutney  and top with some sev or pretty much serve like bhel.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Tomato and Pumpkin Soup

Do you think that it is easier to cook a meal than it is to plan? I do, especially a light meal for those 'not so hungry, but I need to have something' days (and nights). Not again the regular fare of upma or noodles, shouts an inner voice and then I have to push myself to think something more appetizing. soups are my to go dish to put on the table.
We started this exercise of having soup one night a week for some months now. That is, I made it an exercise to disguise all those 'resistance meeting' vegetables and make them a welcome dish. Pumpkins might be somewhere in the top of I listed those vegetables, while I like them in some good curry, not always. The other day in the market, I saw that my vendor had some nice looking tender and small in size pumpkins. I just picked one ignoring a pair of rolling eyes.
Back from the market, I thought it out a bit hard and came up with this idea of adding tomatoes and nutritional yeast to the pumpkin and serve a soup. Then it struck me that I could make it vegan friendly and make a cream to top the soup. I happened to have in stock cashews and pumpkin nuts too. Little more thinking and a very flavoursome soup was ready.
I had just joined a group of food photography enthusiasts who are doing weekly themed food photography. It was a coincidence that the theme of that week was soup and I was glad that I had a picture to share.

Tomato Pumpkin Soup

Serves 4 hefty servings

For the soup:
6 medium tomatoes (ripe and red)
1 cup of diced pumpkin (skin, inner strands and seeds removed)
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon peepramul powder
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Water as required

For the cashew pumpkin cream:
2 tablespoons broken bits of cashew nuts
1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
1/4 teaspoon sugar (optional)
Warm water to soak and grind

Basil leaves

For the cashew pumpkin cream:

Soak the nuts and seeds in warm water for about 30 minute. Drain and grind to a fine paste adding water as required.
Transfer to a bowl and adjust the water to desired consistency. Add the sugar and refrigerate for use later.

For the soup:
Heat one and half tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and toss the pumpkin in the oil.

Cook the pumpkin just about soft not mushy.
Boil some water in a pan and drop the tomatoes. Boil them just enough to remove the peel.
Keep the water simmering while you clean the tomatoes. Put them back in the water and add the pumpkin to it. Cook further until both the vegetables are done.
Allow to cool and blend in a blender to a smooth puree.
Add some water and put the puree back on fire. Mix the nutritional yeast and the peepramul powder in water and pour into the soup. Add salt and pepper adjusting to taste.
Simmer the soup for another 3 to 5 minutes.
Transfer to a serving bowl. Top it with the rest of the olive oil.
Take the soup in individual serving bowls and add the prepared cream. Garnish with basil leaves.

Serve hot and enjoy a warm bowl for yourself.