I have always been fascinated by the idea of Caramel Chicken. I came across both English and Tamil recipes but I found them to be impractical. I have combined and modified the recipes to make it easier to prepare and reduce wastage. I decided to use country tomatoes instead of the hybrid variety for their acidic flavour. The caramel chicken goes very well with Dinner Rolls, fried rices, and pulavs.
When I flip through my collection of cookery books, if a photograph of some preparation fascinates me I try to make an Indian dish to suit our palate and kitchen. I came across a photograph of sausages and potatoes, beautifully presented but in a curry form – curry meaning western style bland curry. Therefore I decided to combine sausage and potatoes in what the Tamilians call a poriyal, meaning fry. The cocktail sausages available in India are quite spicy; therefore I decided to keep the add-on spices to a minimum. We usually get chicken sausages, but if you’re lucky you might find pork sausages in the stores. I have used chicken sausages to prepare this dish, but you can also use pork sausages.
Dill (Sombu Keerai) is only occasionally available in stores in Chennai, and almost never in summer. When it is available, though, we get it in large bundles, and we have to think of what all we can make using dill. I have previously made Vegetarian Scotch Eggs using dill, and now I am also including dill in Potato Cutlets, giving them an unusual flavour for a Tamil cutlet. I serve it as a side dish, and there will be no leftovers – guaranteed 😀
In Thirunelveli, we make two kinds of curries using prawn/fish and coconut milk. I have already posted the recipe for Meen Asadhu using marine fish. Moli uses totally different kinds of spices for seasoning and does not include coriander powder. To me, both taste absolutely divine :), but I prefer moli for prawns. This is a quick and easy preparation if you are using reconstituted coconut milk and also purchase already shelled and deveined prawns. I serve this with either plain rice or chappatis.
In Tamil literature, the goodness of radish tops in our diets in summer is narrated in poetic verse claiming that it helps to relieve hyperacidity, abdominal pain, oedema, dental issues, kidney stones, and anal fissures. I do know from personal experience (to my astonishment) that it does relieve hyperacidity. The other claims will have to be verified 🙂 Radish tops have very strong flavour (naturally, as radish also has a very strong flavour) and a slightly bitter taste as they are greens. Therefore they have to be combined with other mild spices to please your palate. Combining with dhal also reduces the strong flavour of the leaves. In Tamil Nadu, combining dhal with any vegetable without the addition of tamarind is known as koottu, and that is what I have presented here.
Coorg cuisine is famous for pork dishes. I have already posted Chillikana Pandi. A friend from Coorg told me that pork dishes are a must in their wedding feasts. This curry uses a variety of dry and green spices, and also kokum (Garcinia indica), which is a type of tamarind substitute. Kokum has a smoky flavour which usually appeals to those from the West Coast of India, and is not part of Tamil cooking. I had tasted kokum in some fish curries which my colleagues brought, and I was intrigued by the flavour, though my family didn’t really care for it. Pork blends very well with the flavour of kokum, and we all love it.
Thirunelveli’s knowledge of kovai kai, in the ’60s, was limited to a story where two men appeared before a judge claiming that a parrot was theirs. The judge asked them to prove it and the parrot’s owner took some kovai kai from his pocket, which immediately attracted the parrot, convincing the judge that the parrot was his. We always believed that kovai kai was only for parrots and it was not available there in stores. For all I know it is still not available. When my father was transferred to Chennai, my mother spotted this in a store and came home and said, ‘They are selling kovai kai which only the parrots eat!’ We didn’t buy it because we didn’t know how to cook it. When my sister got married she found that her in-laws, who had been posted in Andhra Pradesh, cooked kovai kai at home. I had eaten that once in their house and started cooking it once I had my own establishment. I do not know if this is the exact recipe, but it is fairly close to what I enjoyed there.