Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Moar Canerik Oorugai - Canerik Fruit Pickle

By the beginning of this year, Aparna initiated the 52 WEEKS OF FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY 2018 group on Facebook to have interactive discussions on food photography. Members of the group post pictures under a given theme every week and share it on their social media networking spaces, blog, Instagram and such. I joined the group sometime later and keep sharing my pictures too for weekly themes. One such theme was SEASONAL FRUIT/VEGETABLE. It was around the beginning of summer season, so we had a variety of spring - summer produce to photograph.
On one of my weekly runs to the supermarket here, I found on their refrigerated vegetable aisle, small boxes of a very green fruit. The label read JANEREK. I did not know what the fruit was and quickly clicked a picture of the fruit and label with the phone to look it up later at home. I found that they were Canerik fruits, particularly short seasonal fruits. There was an informative blog post about the fruit that tempted me to purchase a box from the market.

It was very interesting to know that they were a special kind of plum, green in colour and is a native of Asia Minor region. My friend Niv found that they are also called greengage plums. They had a tart taste and were consumed dipping the erik in salt in Turkey, very similar to the Indian gooseberry. They had a firm texture and a brighter green colour, with a plum like seed within. The taste was so similar to the gooseberry and left a cool after feel when you drank some water soon after eating the fruit.
Having bought the fruit that was so sharp in taste that you felt a shock running along the upper jaw right up to your ears, I was left to look for ways to use them. I was discussing this with my mother and she suggested that I could make canerik rice, just like amla rice or lemon rice. That gave me the idea of  making a pickle with the fruit.
When it comes to pickles, my selection is very limited and one of the pickles I really enjoy is the nellikkai oorugai, the Indian gooseberry pickle. One particular way of pickling is to cook the gooseberry to just about soft and add it to curds with other condiments. This way the pickle needs just a day or two for curing. It does not have a long shelf life and has to be finished quickly. So it is always made in small batches unlike the whole amla in brine and the thokku.
I made the rice as suggested by my mother and made this pickle too. I went back to purchase another lot just to make yet another batch soon after I had finished, lest the fruit goes off season.

Moar Canerik Oorugai - you will wonder if it is thayir nellikkai oorugai :)

(Makes a small batch about 150 grams pickle)
15 Canerik fruits
1/2 cup curd whisked well
3 green chillis
2 tablespoons gingelly oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
Salt to taste (I use coarse Himalayan pink salt)

Wash the canerik fruits well and pat them dry. Let them dry on a spread cloth for a few minutes.
Chop each fruit roughly, leaving the seeds attached to some of the pieces.
Wash, dry and chop the green chillis.
Whisk the curd well and smooth. Keep aside.
Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. Once they crackle, add the green chillis and saute them for a while.
Add the salt and the cut fruit pieces. Cook until the fruit is just about soft. When you try to press hard between your fingers, you should feel some resistance before the fruit breaks. Do not cook it to a mush.
Allow this to cool well.
Add the whisked curds to the cooled fruit and chilli mixture and mix well.
Transfer to a clean glass or ceramic bowl or bottle.
Allow a day for the flavours to blend and the pickle is ready.

This pairs well with curd rice.
Try to consume the pickle within a week or can go up to another two days. If the curd gets consumed, you can top it with some more whisked curds to the pickle.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Poondu Mandi Kuzhambu - Spicy Garlic Gravy

On our recent visit to our daughter, we chanced to have lunch in an Indian restaurant that listed many Chettinad type of dishes in their menu. While we all ordered, the staff who served tried to detail to us about their dishes. I had then wanted to try their Poondu Kuzhambu that he suggested to have with steamed rice. That tasted very good and they willingly adjusted the spice level to our liking. Their serving portion was quite large and we packed the same with us.
This was a unique preparation that uses charred tomatoes as base and the water we usually discard after rinsing rice, the 'mandi' or 'kazhuneer' (as in rinsed starchy residue from cleaning rice) to tcook the gravy.
We liked it so much that we wanted to try making the same at home. I checked with a few friends who are from Chettinad, for the recipe. One of them guided me to a blog that had authentic Chettinad style poondu kuzhambu, but it was not the same. I found a video of the preparation, which was nearly the same; it had shallots in the recipe, which was not in the dish we had tasted. I then formulated my own recipe for the kuzhambu and tried to replicate the dish that we had tasted in the restaurant. I share that here today. This may not be an authentic recipe from the region, but a delicious dish, nonetheless.

Mandi is the residual water while rinsing and cleaning rice. Give one brisk rinse in the first round, not removing much starch away. Wash your second and third rinses thoroughly getting as much starch residue as possible. You need to collect this rinse in a bowl. The residue of rice starch will settle on the bottom of the bowl. You may not need all of the water. Carefully, strain some liquid without pouring away the 'mandi’. I will refer to this liquid (kazhuneer) as mandi in the recipe.

Poondu Mandi Kuzhambu

(makes 400 ml medium thick kuzhambu/ served us 4 good servings)

15 cloves of garlic
3  medium tomatoes
(if possible, char the tomatoes over a low flame and remove the charred skin. Not compulsory, but the taste is enhanced. I used the roti jali as mine had small perforations) (otherwise sauté the tomatoes in a pan to a coarse pulp)
1 medium red onion sliced finely
1 &1/2 cup +1/4 cup mandi (divided)*
2 tablespoons gingelley oil / nallennai
1/2 tablespoon coriander powder
1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoons raw peanuts (optional and you may replace by cooked chick peas)
Salt to taste

Grinding spices:
Soak in the *1/4 cup mandi the following for 10 minutes and then grind to a paste using the mandi (you may use some more from the 1&1/2 cups, if needed)
4 cloves garlic
4-5 dry red chillis (depending on heat of the chillis) (the kuzhambu is a slightly spicy dish)
1 small gooseberry size tamarind ( if the tomatoes are too sweet, up this a little)

While grinding, half way through, add the coriander powder and the tomatoes. Grind them to a smooth, thick liquid pulp. Keep aside.

 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds and curry leaves ; no mustard seeds are added
(since the cumin seeds are added in the beginning, it does not require extra oil)
Heat the oil in a heavy bottom pan. Add the cumin seeds. Toss a bit and add the cloves of garlic and sliced red onion. Sauté until onions are  transparent.
Add the peanuts (or chick peas)
Stir the mandi to mix the sedimented rice starch to a uniform liquid.
Add salt , turmeric powder and 1 cup of the mandi, cover and cook until the garlic are soft.
Add the ground pulpy mixture, adjust the liquid by adding some more mandi.
Simmer the kuzhambu for about 15 minutes so the raw taste of garlic, tamarind and red chillis in the liquid subside. 
Add the rest of the mandi and cook further  until the kuzhambu has thickened.

Add the curry leaves and chopped fresh coriander leaves to garnish.
Serve with hot steamed rice or as a side dish for Dosais and Idlis. This kuzhambu can be kept over and had for another day also. If refrigerated it can be kept for up to three days. To reheat, you may add some more of the rice rinsed water or plain water which will thin the consistency a bit.