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.
A long time ago, perhaps in my first year of B.Sc, I had an essay by Winston Churchill on his school life where he mentioned his dislike for dumplings. This made me very curious to know what dumplings were and why they engender such hatred. I went through many British and Australian cookbooks and discovered that dumplings seemed inoffensive and harmless. I tried a few recipes and my family loved them – maybe in Churchill’s school days, British schools didn’t even add pepper to the dumplings! The popularity of dumplings at home made me create my own recipe for Dumplings in Chicken Stew.
Thuvaram is a kind of a fry or poriyal which is popular in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu. There are 2 varieties of thuvaram: one uses the vegetable and very few seasonings; the other includes a small amount of red gram dhal and coconut ground with garlic and cumin seeds. Pudalankai (Podalankai/Podalangai) or snake gourd is suitable for the first type. Later on I’ll be posting the second variety also.
The yam that is commonly available in the markets here in Chennai is Elephant Yam, cut into large chunks. Yam is sliced into thin pieces and made into chips in most households. My mother also used to make that, but I used to dislike it 🙂 It did teach me that yam could be diced and fried, and I developed my own, simple yam fry that is easy to make. I am sure there are several recipes with various spice combinations available, but mine uses the minimum of spices for a mild flavour.
This dish is a family specialty. A Keerai Kadaiyal is usually made with mashed greens tempered with mustard, red chillies, and asafoetida fried in oil. I feel that it takes away the flavour of the greens compared to this recipe. The onion, garlic, and green chillies boiled with the greens not only bring out the flavour of the greens but also enhance the taste of the kadaiyal. It is always served with fish curries like Live Viraal Meen Kuzhambu, Ayirai Meen Kuzhambu, and Unripe Mango and Katla Curry.