And like the director who kept making action thrillers because his first action film opened to rave reviews, I keep going back to paati’s style, knowing fully well readers (and hubby) will more easily trust a 75-year-old’s withered hands than this talkative (btw, what do u call a writer who goes off on tangents every now and then?) newbie to traditional cooking!
And today, I attempted yet another of paati’s recipes, this time though, Viji’s paati. I’m increasingly becoming an addict of paati and Viji’s (she makes an appearance yet again!) style of cooking And Viji (a friend with whom I talk food at least 2 hours a day!) is inspired by her paati’s method of cooking. Thanks to these two ladies, I’m increasingly trying my hands at south-Indian food.
So far, my preparations were in a Trishanku-esque food space – neither north Indian nor south Indian (for those of you who don’t know, Trishanku is a mythological character who was caught between heaven and earth). Not that there’s any problem with that. Just that I now realise, it is better to get the basics right first, because, then, experimentation becomes easier and chances of success, greater.
And to add to the excitement of trying out a new dish, Ram announced he was donning the apron again today. He’s becoming an increasingly popular celebrity chef. Just check out the number of responses to his dishes on FB!
And because he’s been such a good boy, I thought I must do something extra special to reward him: I cooked brinjals! I dislike it from the bottom of my heart and haven’t eaten it in the last 20 years, leave alone cook it! But this weekend, I thought I’d make an exception for him.
And that’s how we came up with the wonderful Brinjal Rasavangi (Viji’s recipe: basically, vangi ie. brinjal rasam but is similar to, yet different from rasam. It is eaten mixed with rice) cooked by me and Capsicum and Avarakkai (broad beans) Paruppu Usli (a dry curry made with pulses), prepared by Ram.
Incidentally, although I had given my mother a call for the paruppu usli recipe (I’ve never had the courage to try it out before), Ram knew how to prepare it and needed no help! “I have observed amma cook!” he smiled. And as you start organising the ingredients, say a little prayer of thanks to Viji’s paati for teaching her this dish and to the good Lord who arranged for me to become friends with Viji.
(Quantities mentioned serve two)
Brinjal (I used the small purple variety) – 4-5
Dry coriander seeds – 1 tsp
Chana dal (kadala paruppu/splitBengalgram) – 4 tsp
Green chillies – 3
Fenugreek seeds (vendayam/methi seeds) – ½ tsp
Hing (peringayam) – ¼ tsp
Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
Grated coconut – 2 tsp
Tamarind – 1 small lemon sized ball
Tomato (medium) - 1
Jaggery (optional) – ½ tsp (I left this out, since Ram doesn’t like sweet-sour flavours)
Chopped coriander leaves – 1 tbsp
Oil – 1 tsp
Pressure cook brinjals with 2 tsp chana dal and ½ tsp turmeric powder till 2 whistles
Heat 1 tsp oil and add 2 tsp chana dal. When dal starts to change colour, add fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds and hing. Cool. Grind this along with the tomato, chillies and coconut. Keep aside
Boil tamarind in ½ cup of water. Once cool, squeeze out the pulp and discard tamarind skin
Boil the pulp with 1 cup of water with salt and jaggery (if using) for about 10 minutes
Add pressure-cooked brinjal and dal. Boil for 5 minutes
Add ground spice powder. Boil for another 5 minutes and take off heat
Top with chopped coriander leaves and serve
PS: It is the brown-coloured preparation in the broad glass bowl. It is not a very photogenic dish, but do not dismiss it! Try it out for sure.
Toor dal (thuvaram paruppu/split red gram) – 1 cup
Red chillies – 4
Curry leaves – 5-6
Any vegetable of your choice – 2 cups
(We used capsicum and broad beans. You could also use any variety of beans, cabbage, carrots, banana stem, banana flower and cauliflower)
Hing – ½ tsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Urad dal – 1 tsp
Oil – 1.5 tbsp (25 ml)
Soak dal with red chillies and curry leaves in double the quantity of water for 1.5-2 hours
Drain water and grind coarsely with hing and salt (it should not be ground fine. The resultant paste should be grainy with big grains. Pulse it slowly, 10-15 seconds at a time and keep checking texture)
Steam this paste for around 20 mins till a knife inserted comes out clean (it should look like a cake and shouldn’t stick to your hand while crumbling)
Cool the steamed dal and crumble it well. Keep aside
Chop vegetables finely and cook well with a little salt
Heat oil in a kadhai. Splutter mustard seeds, followed by urad dal
Add crumbled dal once urad dal turns golden brown
Sauté for 15-20 mins. Add chopped vegetables and sauté for another 5-10 mins
Take off heat and serve
Grinding the dal is the most important step in preparing this dish and can make or break it. I reiterate, it must be a very coarse paste
You must add enough oil while sautéing the crumbled dal, otherwise it won’t be cooked well and will sit uneasily in your tummy
It looks very tough to prepare and has taken me 5 years to attempt this dish. But pls don’t make the same mistake I made by waiting this long. It is a time-consuming dish, but not very difficult if you follow instructions well. AND it is well worth the effort! Bon appétit!