During the coronavirus lockdown, people rush around buying vegetables which would keep for more than a week unrefrigerated. Yam and colocasia are in great demand (but not as much as potatoes). Yam is known as senai in Tamil Nadu and kolla means globe. Fried yam balls are made by a few families. Though my mother hadn’t bothered to write down the recipe for me, my husband’s aunt used to make these. I never liked it, perhaps because she wasn’t a great cook 🙂 During this lockdown I bought a lot of yam and then created my own version of Senai Kolla. My son usually doesn’t eat vegetables, but even he didn’t mind this 😀
I came across the concept of combining dhal with celery, as Celery Sambar, in a North Indian cookbook. It was a misnomer, as the dish was not a sambar because it did not have either the ingredients or the procedure that makes a sambar a sambar and gives it its distinctive flavour. This recipe was just a curry. It still appealed to me, though, as celery is not used in Tamil cooking, and it tickled both my curiosity and my taste buds. After several attempts I have retained the ingredients but changed the procedure to make it quick and easy. I have also pressure cooked the celery because my son complained that the celery stalks were too crunchy 😀
As my ancestors were originally vegetarians, our meat dishes were very limited – we only had 2 chicken recipes! This is a version of a chicken fry made by my grandmother that I heavily modified. Her masala powder was milder, and only few curry leaves were used in the powder. Being a nutritionist, I saw the potential of using a large amount of curry leaves to increase the nutritive value of the dish, and thus escalated the curry leaf content to half a cup, and to my delight this easy to make product was a very big hit with my family.
In Tamil literature, the goodness of radish tops in our diets in summer is narrated in poetic verse claiming that it helps to relieve hyperacidity, abdominal pain, oedema, dental issues, kidney stones, and anal fissures. I do know from personal experience (to my astonishment) that it does relieve hyperacidity. The other claims will have to be verified 🙂 Radish tops have very strong flavour (naturally, as radish also has a very strong flavour) and a slightly bitter taste as they are greens. Therefore they have to be combined with other mild spices to please your palate. Combining with dhal also reduces the strong flavour of the leaves. In Tamil Nadu, combining dhal with any vegetable without the addition of tamarind is known as koottu, and that is what I have presented here.
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.
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.
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.
In Tamil Nadu, drumstick leaves have been sustaining the health of Tamilians because they are rich in a large number of nutrients. This is the reason why drumstick trees are planted almost in every household. Even hut dwellers have drumstick leaves growing next to their dwellings. I have already given a recipe for cooking drumstick leaves with prawns. This recipe combines groundnuts with drumstick leaves to give equivalent nourishment for vegetarians.
The temperature has crossed 36° C in Chennai, and you can hear the sound of kids playing all day. Yep, it’s the summer holidays, and that’s the perfect time to experiment with different types of ice cream. Papaya is available all year round, and relatively inexpensive. It is also quite nutritious, but as some people don’t like the taste of papaya, I thought of making an ice cream. I was inspired by Hawaiian cookery to make this extremely quick and easy and delectable papaya ice cream.
The Tamil New Year falls on the first day of the Tamil Month of Chithirai (April 14). Most people celebrate with a full vegetarian meal, typically with a neem flower rasam. In our family we have never made neem flower rasam; instead, we make a special vegetarian dish to celebrate the new year. This Vegetable Biriyani and Black Gram Dhal Pakoda Kuruma is a long and involved preparation for the home chef who appreciates the art of cooking. If it is any consolation, you don’t need a wet grinder 🙂