Radish is available in Tamil Nadu all through the year. I have already posted a Beef and Radish Curry recipe. The radish thuvaram (or fry) is a recipe I have taken from my family cookbook. I recall my mother making it very often. At that time I wasn’t too fond of it because the radish was fibrous. Now we get tender radish, and I’m beginning to love it.
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.
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.
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.
Way back in 1982, I asked my students to plan and prepare a South Indian meal. One of my Tamil Muslim students presented this speciality dish of her family which, despite being Tamil, she referred to by its Hindi name Khatte Baingan (Khatte – sour; Baingan – Brinjal). I was captivated by its flavour and the ease with which she prepared it. It goes amazingly well with both vegetarian and non-vegetarian biriyanis and pulavs.
I had always firmly believed that cakes should be made with butter and eggs. I found this recipe for an eggless butterless cocoa cake in Hershey’s Chocolate and Cocoa Cookbook which I bought in 1987. I decided to bake this cake for New Year 2014 and was greatly pleased by how moist and tasty it was, but my children complained that it was a bit rubbery. Still, it is a very good cake.