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 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!