This simple recipe of cooking Panankizhangu comes from my grandmother’s kitchen in Palayamkottai in the southern part of Tamil Nadu. She used to trim the root. As they were very long she used to boil them in an idli steamer which was large enough to hold these. Living in Chennai I have the modern, compact idli steamer and therefore I devised a method of pressure cooking the roots. Eating this always takes me back to the halcyon days of my childhood.
I was 17 when I first encountered this dish. I was asked to prepare this recipe in the cookery lab of my undergraduate course. This was in 1963 and I used brown channa; white channa was rarely available in Chennai at that time. I was struck by the simplicity of the recipe: no oil is used which avoids having to cook the masala separately (very unusual for an Indian recipe), and uses very few ingredients. It was a big hit when I introduced this at home, and was very convenient as well as my father suffered from hypertension and the lack of oil meant he could enjoy it as well.
The poori is a North Indian dish. When it came to South India it captured the hearts, and stomachs, of all South Indians. It is consumed for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is freshly fried and served across the spectrum of eateries, from 5-star hotels to roadside snack bars. Mothers pack leftover pooris from breakfast as lunch for their children. It makes a filling meal that satisfies everyone.
Stuffing snake gourd with minced meat is a specialty in Tamil Nadu. There are various ways of cooking it. I found this recipe in a handwritten recipe book compiled by my mother. She called it Snake Gourd Cutlet. Snake gourd has a neutral taste like several other gourds (except the bitter gourd). Its shape lends itself to being stuffed with meat or even other vegetables, though I haven’t come across any preparation where snake gourd was stuffed with vegetables. It is a wonderful way of combining a vegetable with meat and the preparation itself is festive and is often served to guests.