Coconut chutney

Which came first? Idli or Coconut chutney?

Idli and green coconut chutney are a made for each other item. It’s difficult to imagine one without the other. Distinctly south indian, coconut chutney is almost always made with the purpose of eating it with idlis or dosas and it does perfect justice to that role. The hot and pungent taste imparted by the green chilies in the chutney perfectly complements the bland, slightly sweet & salty taste of idlis and dosas.

Coconut chutney is a simple dish to make. However, for it to have that zesty oomph, you have to be careful to not over-fry the green chilies. If the green chilies are over-cooked even a little bit, it kind of ruins the taste of chutney. Here is the traditional, south indian style coconut chuntey I make at home.

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¾  cup fresh grated coconut
8-10 hot green chilies (if using jalapenos, use 2-3)
1 small bunch cilantro/green coriander leaves/hara dhaniya
1 table spoon chana dal (adds good texture and taste to the chutney)
2-inch piece ginger, grated or cut into small pieces
7-8 curry leaves
1-inch diameter ball of tamarind without any seeds
1 tea spoon salt
1 tea spoon oil
½  tea spoon mustard seeds
¼ tea spoon hing
3-4 dry red chilies

  1. In a small pan, heat oil.
  2. Add chana dal and fry for 2-3 minutes on low heat.
  3. Add green chilies, ginger, cilantro, curry leaves and tamarind. Cook for just about 1 minute.
  4. Take it off the stove and cool a bit.
  5. Add coconut and the green chilies mixture to the blender jar. Add salt and ½ cup of very warm water.
  6. Blend until smooth.
  7. Empty the chutney into a bowl.
  8. Do a vaghar/tadka with oil, mustard seeds and hing. Take the vaghar  off the stove and immediately add the dry red chilies to the hot vaghar. Pour the vaghar on chutney.
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Bendekayi/Bhindi/Okra Gojju

Bendekayi/Okra/Bhindi Gojju

Bendekayi/Okra/Bhindi Gojju

Gojju, Huli, thokku, thovve, kootu… not exactly pleasant or attractive names, but don’t let their names turn you away from making or eating these dishes. In my teenage years I discriminated against them purely because of the way they sounded. Now things are different. My palate has evolved, rather matured, I am very open to different things and have come to love and appreciate these traditional gems.

One of them is the Gojju from Karnataka. It really is a concoction in the sense that many ingredients go into making the paste, which is the main part of the dish. This spicy paste, when boiled with a vegetable, tamarind juice and jaggery makes your roti or rice just come alive. I am blogging this recipe with my North-Indian and Gujarati friends in mind. A lot of them love the taste of South Indian curries and I think they will like this recipe. Apart from providing a new and different way to include more vegetables in your diet, these tasty concoctions bring a nice variety to a meal and enhance the overall enjoyment of your thali.

No hard and fast rule on which vegetable to use for gojju but some popular ones are eggplant (baigan/brinjal), onion, bitter melon (karela/haagalkayi), okra (bhindi/lady fingers), and green onions. Generally only one vegetable is used. In all cases, the vegetable is cut into medium size pieces and shallow fried in very little oil until it is almost cooked. I prefer the gojju to have a slightly sweet taste. If you don’t, put a little less jaggery.

2 cups okra/bhindi cut into medium size pieces

½ cup fresh grated coconut (little more or less ok)

2-inch diameter ball of tamarind

1 table spoon jaggery/gud

¼ tea spoon turmeric/haldi

1 cup water to add to the gravy

For masala paste:

½ tea spoon fenugreek seeds/methi seeds

½ tea spoon mustard seeds

½ tea spoon sesame seeds/til/yellu

1 tea spoon jeera

1 tea spoon chana dal

7-8 dry red chilies or a combination of green and red chilies

1. Cut okra into about 1 inch pieces.

2. Soak tamarind in ¼ cup warm water for a few minutes. Crush the tamarind softly with your fingers  and  extract juice. Throw away the pulp.

3. Heat 1 table spoon oil, and do a vaghar/tadka with ¼ tea spoon mustard seeds.

4. Add cut bhindi pieces and turmeric and cook on medium-low heat.

5. On the side, fry all the ingredients for masala powder in ½ tea spoon ghee or oil for about 3 minutes.

6. Grind the fried masala along with fresh coconut to a fine paste by adding about ¼ to ½ cup of water.

7. When bhindi is almost cooked, add tamarind water and cook for 2-3 more minutes.

8. Add the masala paste, jaggery and salt to the Bhindi and bring everything to boil.

9. Add about ½ cup to 1 cup water to make the gravy a little less thick. Boil for another 3-4 minutes and  shut off the stove.  Gojju will thicken slightly after it cools down.

Gawarphali Subzi

Last year I told myself that I was going to try new recipes and new foods.  So far I have done pretty OK on that front.  When I saw fresh and tender cluster beans (gorikayi/gavar/gwarphali) at my local Indian grocery store, I enthusiastically bought some with a determination that I was going to make something different, something other than the south-indian style rice I make out of them. I searched the web and came across this interesting Gwarphali recipe on bawarchi.com.  After reading it I knew it was worth a try. It had an interesting blend of spices and promised a thick gravy.  I made some changes to the recipe to suit my taste. I skipped capsicum altogether and cooked gwarphali on stovetop rather than in  a microwave. The result was a very tasty curry. So there you go, it’s a good idea to try something different.

Gwarphali ki subzi

Gwarphali ki subzi

The recipe calls for a long list of ingredients but making of this curry is no more different or difficult than most Indian curries that we make on a daily basis.

Fresh cluster beans

Fresh cluster beans

2 table spoon oil

2 cups gwarphali/gavar/gorikayi/cluster beans pieces

2 tomatoes

1 tea spoon garam masala

1/2 tea spoon dry mango powder/amchoor

1 tea spoon red chili powder

tea spoon coriander powder

1 table spoon wheat flour

1 tablespoon fresh grated coconut (optional)

2 table spoon peanuts

1 table spoon chopped cilantro

a few curry leaves/kadhi patta/mitho limdo

1/4 tea spoon haldi/turmeric, 1.5 tea spoon salt

For vaghar/tadka: 1 tsp mustard seeds/rai, 1/2 tsp cumin/jeera & 1/4 tsp hing

1. Snip off ends of gwarphali and cut each into 2 pieces. Boil these beans in about 3/4 cup of water until they are just about cooked. Don’t overcook them. Once cooked, take them off the stove.

2. Heat oil and do vaghar/tadka with mustard seeds, jeera and hing. Add curry leaves and peanuts.

3. Add chopped tomatoes, turmeric, garam masala, red chili powder, mango powder/amchoor, salt and coriander powder. Cook on low heat for about 3 minutes stirring a few times in between.

4. Add cooked gwarphali and fresh coconut to the above mix and sprinkle about 1 tea spoon of wheat flour. Mix well and let the curry simmer until most of the water has evaporated. Spread chopped cilantro on top.

You don’t have to use fresh coconut but I thought it really added to the taste of this curry.

Capsicum curry

In my cookbook collection, I have a book called “100 easy-to-make Gujarati Dishes” by Vanamala Desai and Veena Shroff. This petite, unassuming book has some very unique and tasty recipes. The first one I tried was capsicum curry and just loved it. I tried many recipes after that and each one of them was truly wonderful. The book, which until now received only casual glances, has became a prized possession.

Capsicum curry has no gravy but contains a nice coating of chickpea flour and spices. Indians, especially south indians, oftentimes eat rice with chutney or some chutney-like dish before moving on to their daal or sambar. I did the same by mixing this curry with hot, steaming rice, and a tea spoon of oil. I quite relished it. This curry turned out to be quite spicy (I like it that way.) if you prefer medium spicy, use 1/2 tea spoon of red chili powder.

Capsicum curry and Paratha

Capsicum curry and Paratha

2 bell peppers/capsicum (red, green or 1 of each!)
3 tea spoon besan/chickpea flour/chana no loat
1 tea spoon red chili powder
1/4 tea spoon turmeric/haldi
3 table spoon oil
1 tea spoon sugar
1 tea spoon mustard seeds/rai
1/4 tea spoon asafoetida/hing
1 tea spoon salt
Half lemon (optional)
In a small bowl, mix together besan, red chili powder, salt, turmeric, sugar and 1 table spoon of oil. This is the masala powder.
Cut capsicum lengthwise into thin strips. I used one green and one capsicum. Heat 2 table spoon oil in a pan and do tadka/vaghar with rai/mustard seeds and hing. Add the capsicum and cook it uncovered on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. Now sprinkle masala powder all over capsicum and cover the pan. Do not stir capsicum after adding the masala. Cook for 5 more minutes and take it off the stove. Mix well. If you like, you can add lemon juice from half a lemon (about 1 table spoon.)