In the Tamil movie Samayalkaran (Chef/Cook) a recently discharged soldier is not recognised by his family and is appointed as their cook. He surprises them with a preparation that is mistaken for mutton curry but is actually a yam curry. In Tamil cooking, yam is usually used to make chips or poriyal (fry), and I was therefore struck by the idea of a yam curry. I was determined to make one for myself and finally came up with this recipe in 2017, a full 20 years after I saw the movie on TV 🙂
This is March, and it is the beginning of summery spring in Tamil Nadu. The supply of all those lovely winter vegetables is dwindling. It is time to make this peas and cauliflower fry and say goodbye to the luscious fresh vegetables. This vegetable fry is a very common dish that appears on the menu in most Tamilian households. The vegetables are easy to clean, and there is no elaborate pre-preparation of spicy masalas. I have made only one change in the recipe. In Tamil cooking, black gram dhal and Bengal gram dhal are used in small amounts along with mustard for tempering. I personally feel that these dhals take away or mask the flavour of the vegetables, especially peas and cauliflower. So I do not use them. If you do not have cauliflower, you can use cabbage instead.
This is a very mild flavoured dish, and it can be served along with spicy gravies, such as Urundai Kari (Meatball Curry and Fry) and Urundaikkari Vellai Kuzhambu (Meatballs in White Gravy). It is also suitable for little children and the elderly as it is very bland. Continue reading
Winter is almost over, but we still get lovely fresh vegetables to make this dish. My mother never made vegetable kuruma, but I always remembered the kuruma we enjoyed when visiting relatives. I tried to reproduce what I had eaten before, but I made the mistake of trying to make it like a meat kuruma which was not well received in the family. I eventually figured out the magic technique – do not use curds, mint, strongly flavoured vegetables like knol-khol (kohlrabi), or strongly pigmented vegetables like beetroot.
Pongal (the Tamil harvest festival) is just around the corner, and it is time to dive back into vegetarian cooking. The vazhaikkai (unripe banana) is regarded as a humble vegetable because it is available all through the year, and the cost doesn’t vary with the seasons. I like to fairy godmother with this vegetable and turn it into a Cinderella with exotic recipes like Vazhaikkai Cutlet. This kuruma is another of my creations, transforming the simple vazhaikkai into a festive special that can be served with Easy Peas Pulav, Potato Pulav, and even with Pooris!
I have come across a wide variety of dishes from many states as students from all across India attended Women’s Christian College, Chennai. This is a dish from Andhra Pradesh. My student M.S. Vani prepared this dish in my dietetics lab session. I was very impressed by its nutritive value, and the dish was novel to me. I got the recipe from her and modified it by adding onion to improve the flavour. I also reworked the cooking method to cook the tomatoes with the onions and boiled the carrots to remove the raw flavour.
Urullaikizhangu Pittu/Puttu is a favourite side dish in my family, especially when it is served along with Vendhaya Kuzhambu. The mild flavour of the pittu and the strong flavour of the kuzhambu complement each other so delightfully that when I announce lunch or dinner people come hurrying to the table.
Cooking with mushrooms was almost unheard of in the urban and semi-urban areas of Tamil Nadu. Therefore, there are not many mushroom recipes available. But in the last 30 years or so cultivated mushrooms have come into the market and now button mushrooms are available in all the supermarkets and high-end vegetable markets. Now that it has taken the fancy of housewives, even Tamil recipe books have at least one mushroom recipe. I have always been fascinated by the Coorg area, and when I came across Cuisine from Coorg by Ranee Vijaya Kuttaiah, I immediately looked for mushroom recipe in her collection, and there it was, the Koomu Curry. I have taken the liberty of making it less spicy (less hot) and also changed the method of frying the masala to make it more flavourful to compensate for the earthy taste of the mushrooms. I have also made it easier by using powders rather than grinding whole spices.