With Ramzan coming in a couple of days, I thought it would be appropriate to post this Tamil Muslim Mutton Kuruma. When it comes to non-vegetarian cooking, especially mutton, the best dishes can usually be found in Tamil Muslim cooking. They have their unique flavour, and Tamil Muslim cooks are hired to prepare meat dishes even for non-Muslim celebrations. I had previously posted my modified versions of a few of Fathima Shajahan’s recipes. This dish is also from her A-1 Muslim Samayal book. I have taken the liberty of modifying certain steps to make cooking easier. This is a flavourful dish which looks as rich as it tastes and is a wonderful complement to my Birinji Rice.
When we moved to Chennai née Madras in 1957, the first thing we did was to visit the beach. An integral part of the beach experience is sundal (dried peas snack), which is usually sold by mobile snack sellers who offer it along with many other traditional Tamil snacks. The speciality of the Madras beach sundal is that it is flavoured with coconut and unripe mango and served in a newspaper cone. As a child, the flavour was absolutely divine even with the inevitable sand from the beach. The green chillies made it so spicy that I used to cry into the sundal but still loved it 😀 I have now recreated the beach sundal but made the flavour a lot milder so that you can enjoy it in your living room minus the tears and the sand 🙂
Though Easter follows 40 days of vegetarianism, Tamil people don’t have a great spread for the festival. I wanted to offer an alternative to the traditional chicken or mutton biriyani, and I chose this Bacon and Sausage Pulav as it is the same meat-and-rice type of dish, but is also very different and very mild flavoured. This is a scrumptious one-dish meal, and it only needs ketchup as an accompaniment if required.
I first enjoyed these Vengaya Pakodas in Madurai in 1955, where there were known as Udhiri Pakodas (Crumbly Pakodas). We were served these when we visited my aunt Cynthia on weekends, which she bought from a nearby hotel. When we moved to Chennai, the Udhiri Pakoda had metamorphosed into Onion Pakoda and tasted even better. I tried for decades to replicate the recipe and finally arrived at my own method which gave the same flavour.
Paruppu Usili, a dry dhal curry, is combined with finely chopped vegetables such as cluster beans, beans, etc. It is a special and auspicious vegetarian preparation which features in wedding feasts in Tamil Nadu and is the first to be served on the plantain leaf along with pickle and salt. There are different versions of usili, but I created this version with radish tops because of the many medicinal values attributed to them, some of which I myself have benefitted from. The traditional combination of red gram dhal and Bengal gram dhal results in a lot of flatulence and discomfort, so I have used only red gram dhal. I have also left out the curry leaves because the radish tops have a very pronounced flavour which clashes with the curry leaves. Usili can be packed as a side dish along with rice in a lunchbox (as it is dry), and I eat it as a snack because of its high satiety value combined with enticing flavour 🙂
I am celebrating my 250th recipe on this blog! I wanted to follow Indian jubilee traditions by posting a recipe of a sweet but I then thought of creating something which is unique in using a minimal number of spices and with a short cooking time. I also wanted it to be low fat with minimum wasted nutrients. The result is this fried chicken which is mouth wateringly delicious, quick and easy to make, saves fuel, and is good for health – it sounds impossible, but it is true!
Freshwater fish dishes are relished only in interior Tamil Nadu. People in Chennai are not familiar with the taste of these fish and sometimes even mock those who consume it. But now that even marine fish are cultivated in freshwater lakes and can be bought online, the lake pomfret costs Rs. 300/kg while marine pomfret costs Rs. 800/kg! Therefore I have been developing recipes using freshwater fish. In this recipe I have combined the strong smelling radish with the mild flavoured lake pomfret and also avoided using chilli powder. Instead I have used mustard powder to give it a slight bite. This mild fish curry is a great success in my house – not with my fish hating son of course 🙂 It goes very well with chappatis, unlike the traditional fish curries.
When people think of combining vegetables and dhal in Tamil cooking, they primarily think of Aviyal. There is another dish, Saalna that is a complete contrast to aviyal both in the type of vegetables and spices used. Saalna does not use strong flavoured vegetables like drumsticks and cluster beans. It also uses cloves and cinnamon, instead of cumin and garlic like aviyal. It may not be as famous as aviyal, but is no less delicious. It is an ideal dish to celebrate the harvest and can be served with Venn Pongal.
The coolest month of the year for Tamilians is January, and we are very happy to get the freshest of vegetables during this period. This concept of combining prawns with vegetables is new to my family because we made only two prawn dishes – Fry and Moli. My friend Jacintha, who is a Burmese repatriate, gave me this recipe though she said it isn’t a Burmese recipe but just a family favourite. I have used the same ingredients and quantities she gave, but have made the procedure simpler and easier. I serve it with Naan, Peas Pulav, and Mushroom and Capsicum Pulav.
The Madras Curry Powder was developed in Tamil Nadu in the kitchens were food was cooked to suit the palate of the British during their Raj. It is quite different from the ‘garam masala’, the North Indian curry powder, which is mentioned in most so-called Indian recipes. Although the Madras Curry Powder has many spices in common with garam masala, it is also has fenugreek seeds, turmeric and, may be, curry leaves, which are typical constituents of Tamil cooking. This powder, though very popular in Britain, is available in very few shops in Tamil Nadu and has never been part of Tamil cooking, which has its own extensive range of curry powders. May be it is too mild for our palate :), and I doubt if people even knew about it since it was made specially for the British. I myself stumbled across it only a decade ago in an exclusive spice shop, which caters a lot to foreigners. Nevertheless, I find it a very versatile curry powder which can be used for both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes.