Yesterday, I went over to meet my friend Viji (remember the one who gave me the beetroot rasam and the old Tarla Dalal cookbook?). She got back from a 2-week holiday in Switzerland (lucky her!) a couple of days ago and I spent a good 30 minutes looking at all the pictures she’d clicked there.
Turns out Jungfraujoch – those wonderful snow-covered Swiss peak pics in Thomas Cook ads are from this place – isn’t pronounced the way it is written. It is ‘yung-frau-yock’. Well, that’s not what I really wanted to tell you all, but I thought it might help in case you’re a pronounce-it-righto-phobic like me!
To demonstrate how overwhelmingly beautiful the country is she simply offered me some Lindt chocolates. Mmm…Need I say anything at all? But food, it seems, was a little bit of a problem. There were hardly any vegetarian options and how much muesli, cornflakes, fruit, jams, tarts, croissants, bagels, fries and burgers can you eat for two weeks, especially if you’re used to a diet of grandma-inspired spicy curries and tangy rasams?
We got talking about food (a friend of mine in Bangalore, Arathi, often used to wonder how her conversations with me would always shift to food even when we started out with mundane topics like weather or office politics!) and she was soon telling me about a lovely-sounding brinjal dish.
Even though it is called the king of vegetables and there are such interesting looking dishes made with it, brinjal is the only vegetable I’m totally averse to. I often substitute this purple vegetable with kundru (ivy gourd/kovakka/tindora/dondakaya) with reasonably good results.
BRINJAL??? Absent ma’am!!!
I’d not made kundru curry in nearly 4 weeks (my hubby likes it best cut into thin roundels and it takes me ages to chop up so I hardly ever buy it, even though it is quite a favourite with both of us) and decided I’d try the standard ‘ennai kathrikai’ (spicy stir-fried brinjal curry) recipe with kundru instead. My mother prepares parval/potol curry in a similar way.
The traditional recipe calls for quite some quantity of oil (around 3 tbsp of oil for 250 gms of brinjals). I used only 2 tsp of oil and the end result wasn’t any poorer for the lack of it.
Incidentally, the kundru I’d bought turned out too ripe (red inside when cut instead of light green and sour). But I was so looking forward to making this that I went ahead and added an additional chilly than the quantity mentioned below to make up for the sour taste. I was planning to stuff the kundrus, but I was behind schedule (yet again!) this morning so I altered the procedure slightly. Read on.
Stuffed Kundru curry
Kundru – 250 gms
Oil – 2 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Jeera/jeera powder – 1 tsp (optional)
Dry red chillies – 5
Dry coriander seeds – 2 tsp
Chana dal – 1 tbsp
Urad dal – 2 tsp
Black peppercorns – 4-5
Fenugreek seeds – ½ tsp
Coconut grated – 2 tsp (optional)
Ready sambhar powder – 1 tsp (you can leave it out and add 1 more red chilly and an additional teaspoon of coriander seeds)
Hing – a pinch
Chopped coriander leaves – 2 tbsp
Heat 1 tsp of oil. Splutter mustard seeds.
Once they stop popping, add chana dal, urad dal and pepper. Roast for a minute
Add hing, jeera (if using powder, don’t add now), red chillies, followed by fenugreek seeds and coriander seeds.
Take off heat when chillies turn bright red and fenugreek seeds turn a darker shade of golden brown. Let cool. Grind along with sambhar podi (and jeera powder if using) into a coarse powder.
In the meanwhile, wash and nip the ends of the kundru
Make ‘+’ shaped slits for three-fourths the length of each vegetable (I actually cut the vegetable lengthwise till three-fourths along the length from one side then make a cross-like similar cut from the other end. Dunno how better to explain. Look at the pics!)
After this, you can either pressure cook it for two whistles or microwave uncovered with some water sprinkled 4-5 times for 2 mins each time. (Or if you have the patience, cook directly on the wok with water for about 45 mins, which is what I did)
Spoon a little ground masala into each of the slit vegetables (I omitted this step for lack of time)
Heat a teaspoon of oil in a wok. Splutter mustard seeds and cumin (if using).
Gently drop all the stuffed vegetables into the wok and add salt
(I tossed the slit uncooked kundru to the wok, followed by the ground powder. I then added 2 cups of water and let the curry cook covered for 45 mins on medium flame)
Stir fry for 5 mins and check if the vegetable is thoroughly cooked. If not, add some water and cook for a while longer
Once cooked, add chopped coriander, mix well and serve.