Though colocasia is not a favourite, like potatoes, it is used in a variety of preparations, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. I call this dish varuval because it is deep fried, though it is not crisp and doesn’t crackle like chips. The carbohydrate in the colocasia is slimy in nature and also very soft. Usually, colocasia is sliced thin and deep fried, giving it a chewy texture. I have cut the colocasia only into 2 chunks, making the outside of the deep fried colocasia crisp and the inside soft. I have also created the masala by adding roasted and powdered sombu to the usual turmeric and chilli powder mix to add a bit of wallop to the flavour.
In Tamil Nadu, the term Chenna Kunni refers to tiny shrimps. These are salted and dried in their shells. There are 2 varieties: small and very small. For this pickle I have chosen the very small variety so that it will blend easily with the other ingredients. I love to make sweet pickles, and I decided to try it with chenna kunni. The spice mix I have used is not the usual combination found in prawn pickles. Additionally, it gets its unique sweetness from the caramelisation of sugar, unlike other pickles where the sugar only adds a conventional sweetness to the taste. To my delight I arrived at a product which is new and most delectable.
When I was leafing through the book Cuisine from Coorg, I was intrigued to see a different combination of spices in the making of Yarchi Pulav (yarchi means meat in Coorg). The method of making this pulav was in the traditional way of straining the rice when three-fourths cooked, then adding to the gravy for further cooking. I feel that this method is very tedious especially when you do not have a very large kitchen. Therefore I changed the cooking method to boiling the gravy and water, and then adding the rice to it. In this way, you shorten the cooking time and avoid a mess in the kitchen. I have used spice powders because they are easily available now. I have also introduced curds to marinate the meat to tenderise it. This has made this recipe much easier to prepare.
We in Thirunelveli are quite indifferent to the names of North Indian dishes. The P in Parathas and Pooris is always pronounced as a B, giving us Barotta and Booris. The term barotta was picked up from the chopped up parathas served as street food in bus stations. A similar technique was applied to use the leftover pooris in households.
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.
Prawns always help add flavour to vegetable dishes. This recipe comes from my Burma repatriate friend. When she told me that her mother combines prawn with bitter gourd I was shocked and sceptical about the taste of the product because the bitter gourd, as the name suggests, has a very strong, bitter flavour. Still, I got the recipe from her and decided to try it at home. To my amazement and pleasure, I found that this is one of the most delectable preparations of prawn with another vegetable.
January is the harvest time in Tamil Nadu. Pongal is the harvest festival and is the most important festival for Tamilians. It is celebrated on the first of the Tamil month Thai, which usually falls on January 14th or 15th. Pongal is the name of the dish made to celebrate the harvest and gets its name from the boiling over of the rice. Traditionally it is cooked in the front yard of the house on firewood, in a new mud pot. I modified the traditional recipe for those who do not have front yards, firewood, or mud pots.