The inspiration for this recipe came from one of my students who was presenting a lecture demonstration on a diet for diabetics using bitter gourd. Bitter gourd is popularly known to be good for diabetes (it isn’t!) which is why she used it, but she sprinkled sugar all over it! I pointed out that this would not be suitable for diabetics to which she responded cheerfully that bitter gourd by itself is, well, bitter, and the sugar would make it palatable. I had to lower her marks as she had missed the point totally, but I came up with an interesting idea for a Sweet and Sour Bitter Gourd Curry.
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.
I have adored ice cream from childhood. I have always wanted to make ice cream at home so that I can have rich and creamy ice cream whenever I wanted it. Store bought ice cream is never satisfying as it has a lot of air in it, and it isn’t the all that healthy due to the added colouring, preservatives, stabilisers, etc. I came across a recipe in Hershey’s Chocolate and Cocoa Cookbook, but it used ingredients that are not available in India. I have modified that recipe extensively to adapt it to what is easily available in Indian stores. It is a very easy and simple recipe that uses only 4 store bought ingredients and is also vegetarian.
I was very fond of vendaikai/lady’s finger because I was told that I would excel in mathematics if I ate it. Liars! I used to ask my mother to prepare vendaikai pachadi because I liked the taste of it. My mother used to make vendaikai pachadi with tamarind and coconut. I discovered that if I cooked it with unripe mango instead of tamarind for the sour taste and left out the coconut from the recipe, I arrived at the most delicious salad (fried) of lady’s finger and mango.
In Thirunelveli, stuffed eggplant is known as Ennai Kathirikai, which actually means eggplant fried in oil. This dish is considered to be exotic, maybe because the masala is roasted and ground and the brinjal is stuffed with it. It is usually served in vegetarian feasts. The leftover stuffing is fried in the leftover oil and in the tamarind juice used for cooking the eggplant and served along with the stuffed brinjal, and therefore nothing is wasted during the preparation of the dish.
I came across this dish when it was presented in a cookery competition in the Women’s Christian College in the 1970s. I was fascinated by the colour, texture, and flavour of this methi with potato. However, the recipe won only a 3rd place in the contest. I asked my student Samyukta for the recipe, and she wrote it out for me immediately. The original recipe was very spicy as Samyukta is from Andhra Pradesh. I have toned down the spice to give it a more subtle flavour.
May is the month when neighbours share the mangoes from their trees with their friends, and I received several varieties of mangoes. This Festive Unripe Mango Pachadi is very popular in my family. Though this also has jam-like consistency, it is called pachadi because it is tempered with mustard in ghee. We always serve it with Biriyanis, Pulavs, and Kuska Rice, or quite often with the humble sambar rice.