Pooris are usually served with the potato masala that is used in Masala Dosai. In my family, hailing from Thirunelveli, the potato masala we serve is completely different, and spicier, than the usual masala. We include tomatoes and chilli powder, which transforms the flavour. We serve this potato masala with chappatis too.
Prawns always help add flavour to vegetable dishes. This recipe comes from my Burma repatriate friend. When she told me that her mother combines prawn with bitter gourd I was shocked and sceptical about the taste of the product because the bitter gourd, as the name suggests, has a very strong, bitter flavour. Still, I got the recipe from her and decided to try it at home. To my amazement and pleasure, I found that this is one of the most delectable preparations of prawn with another vegetable.
We usually cook our greens in India – we do not make salads with them. The south has a variety of greens: Amaranth, Drumstick, Agathi, Ponnanganni, and of course the Palak, which we call Pasalai Keerai. We use all these greens in Tamil Nadu to make poriyal (fry). I have chosen greens from the Amaranth family because they are easily available in all the stores or brought to your doorstep by street vendors. I used to be woken up at 5.30 in the morning by the clarion call ‘Keeraiiiii!’ from an enthusiastic vendor.
Just like brinjal, drumsticks are one of the most commonly used vegetables in Tamil cooking. Most houses in Tamil Nadu have a drumstick tree and when in season they not only use the drumsticks in almost all the preparations, but also sell or gift them to their neighbours. Home-grown drumsticks are tastier than store bought, but I get mine from the stores as I don’t have a drumstick tree. In Thirunelveli, the vegetarians combine drumsticks and brinjal to make this very tasty fry; the proportion of drumstick used is much less than then brinjal due to the drumstick’s strong flavour.
Ireland is famous for Coddle (amongst many other things like leprechauns). There are many versions of this dish as it is made from leftovers, but the main ingredients are bacon, sausages, and potatoes. It makes a very good 1-pot meal. We love sausages in my family, and I was very keen to try this easy-to-make sausage ‘curry’ :D. I found a recipe in Best of Ireland and modified the method of cooking to suit the Indian kitchen. I follow the book’s suggestion and usually serve this with Irish Soda Bread.
January is the harvest time in Tamil Nadu. Pongal is the harvest festival and is the most important festival for Tamilians. It is celebrated on the first of the Tamil month Thai, which usually falls on January 14th or 15th. Pongal is the name of the dish made to celebrate the harvest and gets its name from the boiling over of the rice. Traditionally it is cooked in the front yard of the house on firewood, in a new mud pot. I modified the traditional recipe for those who do not have front yards, firewood, or mud pots.
Keerai Chaarru means greens extract, but it is a misnomer as the juice of the greens is not extracted. It is a simple soup-like curry using very few ingredients – for an Indian recipe 🙂 This is an authentic Thirunelveli preparation. My students, friends, and acquaintances have not heard of this dish at all. Though it is a very simple recipe, one can go wrong in the consistency and sourness as I did when I made it first. I had watched my mother make it but somehow hadn’t registered the proportion of the ingredients. I have now standardised the recipe and get it right every time with this method.