10 January 2017

Thiruvadirai KaLi

          Just as with Karthigai, there are several stories that surround Thiruvadirai, also known as Thiruvadhira or Arudhra Darisanam. The day is celebrated with great fervour at the famous Chidambaram temple dedicated to Lord Nataraja. It's celebrated on the Purnima thithi in the Tamil month of Margazhi, which is also said to be the longest night of the year.
         Most south indian households prepare Kali-Kuzhambu (the 'L' in the Kali is stressed and not like the 'L' in Goddess Kali). Now this is a unique combination, because Kali is sweet and the kuzhambu or stew is pretty much like Sambhar, while some make it in a different style.
 Here's the recipe for the Kali, quite simple but very delicious.
Ingredients :
Rice - 1 cup
Channa dal (Bengal gram) - 2 tbsps
Moong dal (Green gram) - 1 tbsp
Grated Jaggery - 1 3/4th cups
Cardamom powder - 1 tsp
Ghee (Clarified butter) - 2 tbsps
Cashews - a handful

Method :
1. Dry roast the rice over low heat till it turns light brown. Keep aside.
2. In the same wok, dry roast the lentils till they let out a roasted aroma. Take care not to let them turn dark. Keep aside and let cool.
3. Now dry grind the rice and lentils together to a coarse, semolina (rava) like consistency.
4. Add the jaggery to the wok, along with 1.5 to 2 cups water.  Let simmer on low-medium heat till jaggery dissolves. We dont need a thick syrup consistency here.
5. Now add the rice-lentils powder while stirring simultaneously, taking care to avoid lumps. Stir till well-mixed and transfer to a pressure cooker vessel.
6. Pressure cook on high up to 3 whistles, lower the flame and let cook for 5 minutes more. Once pressure is released, remove and spread the Kali mixture in a wide plate or tray. Once slightly cooled, crumble the mixture till it looks more like an Upma. Sprinkle the cardamom powder and mix well.
7. Heat ghee and roast the cashews till golden brown. Add to the Kali mix and give it a good toss.
Serve warm with the kuzhambu or stew.

Note : If your rice tends to become too soft then use 1.5 cups to 1 cup rice. If your rice variety is aged and soaks more water, then use 2 cups.
2. For best results, once jaggery is dissolved, filter the jaggery-water mixture through a medium-netted sieve and re-add to the wok. This will remove any impurities.

6 January 2017

Green Pepper Pickle

          Fresh green peppercorns are the pre-dried form of the black peppers we use. These have a milder taste that hits the back of your tongue and a unique spiciness that has you wanting more!
         The green peppercorns are usually soaked in brine or pickled with other ingredients. These are known to be good for digestion. Coupled, rather pickled with ginger and lime, their digestive properties multiply.
         During my first trip to Coorg, apart from the weather and sights, I was looking forward to 2 things - coffee and pepper!! Imagine my delight when we spotted fresh green pepper, ready to be plucked at one of the home-stays (Violets homestay, Madikeri is where we got this). Back in town, the first job, even before unpacking was to pickle the pepper :) Follow my culinary tales on instagram - www.instagram.com/akshayam21
Here are 2 ideas that my mother used. One is the basic version we've used for ages, the 2nd is Kerala-style, adapted from a blog.
Ingredients :
Fresh green peppercorns - 200 gms
Rock salt - ½ cup
Juice of 6-7 big-sized lemons
Water - 4 cups
Turmeric powder - 1 tsp
Method :
1. Wash the peppercorns thoroughly but gently. There is no necessity to remove them from their stems. Drain and spread them out to dry on a clean muslin cloth.
2. Bring water to a boil and add the rock salt and turmeric. Let cool to room temperature.
3. Transfer the dried peppercorns to a clean pickle jar and slowly pour the cooled turmeric-salt water on top. Follow it up with the lemon juice and stir.
Note : All the peppercorns should be fully submerged.
4. Tie the mouth of the pickle jar with a clean, dry muslin cloth and cover with the jar lid.
5. Stir once daily for the first 4-5 days and let rest for about 10-12 days. Use as desired after that.

Ingredients :  (This one's inspired from Pachakam.com however, we omitted the garlic)
Green peppercorns - 250 gms
Ginger, diced - 50gms
Garlic (optional), sliced - 2 tbsps
Fenugreek powder - 1 tbsp
Lime juice - 1 cup
Dry red chilies (long variety) - 25-30
Mustard seeds - 2 tsps
Sesame oil - 2 tbsps

Method :
1. Wash and pat dry the green peppercorns as directed above.
2. Heat the sesame oil in a small kadhai and add mustard seeds, let splutter. Now add the dry red chilies and fry a bit. Remove the oil from the flame and add the fenugreek powder. Mix well and keep aside.
3. Add the green pepper, salt, chopped ginger, garlic and lime juice to a clean, dry bowl.
4. Pour the seasoning over it and stir well but gently. Transfer to a clean glass bottle or ceramic jar. Note that the green pepper needs to be fully submerged in lime juice, so add more of it if needed.
5. Stir once for the next 4-5 days and refrigerate after a week. Use as desired after about 2 weeks.