Generally, South Indian dhal curry is always associated with Sambar, but in Thirunelveli (a southern district of Tamil Nadu) dhal curry or kuzhambu is made using ground coconut and fresh green spices like green chillies. There are several variations of this kuzhambu, but I am presenting the paruppu kuzhambu which has been made in my family for generations. We use red gram dhal, green chillies and coriander leaves, and select South Indian vegetables. It is always tempered with fenugreek seeds along with mustard seeds. We also use unripe mango to give sourness or tamarind extract when mango is not available. I have added fenugreek powder also to enhance the flavour.
January and February are the months when the markets in Tamil Nadu receive the freshest of the so-called English Vegetables. As a child I used to look forward to these months when we used to have peas and cauliflower very often in the menus. The peas are luscious and the cauliflower is so creamy white and crisp. In Palayamkottai (my hometown) Rich Peas Pulav and Muttai Cauliflower used to be prepared every week. My mother had a collection of recipes using these vegetables. One of the favourites was meat cooked along with peas, cauliflower, and, of course, potatoes that are always combined with meat.
Markandam means thoracic cavity in Tamil. It consists of the ribs and the muscles on them. My grandmother used to prepare this breastbone curry whenever we were recovering from an illness. She believed that the minerals from the bones helped to build immunity. That is why it is called ‘Rasam’ meaning extract. Because it is rasam, the gravy is quite thin in spite of the coconut added to it. It is my favourite mutton preparation, and I used to pester my mother to make it even when we were not ill. Having piping hot markandam rasam with piping hot rice in winter is absolutely divine 🙂
Meen Asaadhu is a recipe which my mother had copied from her grandmother’s book but she never prepared. I was always curious about it and tried it only when I was able to get skinless and boneless fish cubes (when I moved near the sea 10 years ago). My great-grandmother had recommended either pomfret or barracuda, but you can use other any other marine fish which could be prepared into cubes. I prefer to use black pomfret.
I have been asked by several friends for a good Mour Kuzhambu recipe. Mour kuzhambu is a good way to use leftover curds and there are various ways in which mour kuzhambu can be made. I have given here the Thirunelveli mour kuzhambu my mother used to make. This is mild and slightly sour, the sourness depending on how the curds are set. My mour kuzhambu is not too sharp because the curds that I set at home is thick and not sour. I have come across spicy versions using ground green chillies but I use them whole. This is an all-season dish, as you can use different vegetables with the same gravy.
In Thirunelveli (where I hail from) Adai is made traditionally by soaking rice, red gram dhal, and green gram dhal, and grinding these in a wet grinder. Red chillies are soaked in water the previous night and are ground along with the batter. I have always found it tedious to prepare adai for breakfast in this manner. One day I was wondering what to do with a cup of leftover dosai batter. A bulb flashed in my head and I thought why don’t I try to make adai using this batter with bengal gram dhal flour (kadalai maavu/basan) which is readily available in India and skip the time and labour involved in grinding. Apart from the batter, I have strictly followed the ingredients my mother used to use in the preparation of adai, including the oil.