I came across this dish when it was presented in a cookery competition in the Women’s Christian College in the 1970s. I was fascinated by the colour, texture, and flavour of this methi with potato. However, the recipe won only a 3rd place in the contest. I asked my student Samyukta for the recipe, and she wrote it out for me immediately. The original recipe was very spicy as Samyukta is from Andhra Pradesh. I have toned down the spice to give it a more subtle flavour.
The term ‘Vendhaya Kuzhambu’ is actually a misnomer. Vendhayam is fenugreek. The amount of fenugreek used in this curry is very very small, but in Thirunelveli (where I’m from) this garlic and shallot curry is always referred to as vendhaya kuzhambu. It is usually served with plain boiled rice, but I particularly enjoy it with idlys :).
January 14th is the birth of the Tamil month of Thai, and in Tamil Nadu, it is also Pongal, the harvest festival. It is a grand celebration with several vegetarian dishes marking nature’s bounty. Aviyal is a vegetable curry that is served for lunch. There are several versions of aviyal, and I am presenting here the aviyal made in Palayamkottai, Thirunelveli District. It uses many of the vegetables indigenous to Thirunelveli.
The Sivappu Kulambu is known for its beautiful red and enchantingly transparent gravy. Despite its deep red colour it can be made mildly flavoured based on the chilli powder used. I have used Kashmiri Chilli Powder which gives it a very subtle touch on your tongue. It goes amazingly well with chappatis and parattas.
I developed this chicken and capsicum curry to dish up a non-vegetarian preparation in a hurry. It is very mild and can be served to both children and the elderly, or anyone who is on a bland diet. Because it is not very spicy it goes better with fried rice or noodles rather than bread or chapathi.
Another prawn dish extended this time with a root vegetable, colocasia (seppangkizhangu). Colocasia is available all over India, like the potato. When boiled they develop a slimy texture. In Tamil Nadu colocasia is combined with prawn as the sliminess acts as a thickening agent so that we don’t have to use coconut, which is quite often used in prawn preparations and is the most common thickening agent. Also, the neutral flavour of colocasia does not dominate the dish and brings out the flavour of the prawns as well as the spices used.
Tamil Nadu is famous for the Paruppu Urundai Kulambu, which is steamed dhal balls cooked in a savoury curry. My mother had a recipe using Bengal gram dhal for the balls, but the curry she had suggested was very vague. When I prepared her recipe at home, it was not popular and we also had attacks of flatulence. In my eternal search for recipes, I found many using either red gram dhal or a combination of the two dhals. I chose to use only red gram dhal because it is the least digestively offensive. The curry that I have used is a combination of ideas taken from several recipes.