…And Barbeque Sandwich
I have come across many cookbooks, got quite a few in my collection but the book ‘Heaven on Tongue‘, the latest addition to my collection stands out for many reason. What do I like about the book? There are quite a few reason but let me highlight a few.
Its hard to resist anything fried till golden, crisp and tempting!!! Moreover it is the season to indulge!!! Festive celebrations are just round the corner. The weather is turning cold and wintry with rains making their appearance every now and then.
Taking in the cool air and winter shades of nature during our drive to office is enough to charge one to gear up for the long celebrations next week.
The land of spices and aromas always fascinated me. The natives of the place are considered as ‘master chefs’. The region is well known for its architecture and temples too. The 18th century mansions comprise a spacious rooms and courtyards. They are embellished with imported marble, crystals, exquisite mirrors and teak that give it a magnificent look. The temples were built as per vaastu shaastra and by Tamil dynasties like Cholas.
I can`t wait to visit the land of food paradise – Chettinad, a region of Sivaganga district of Tamil Nadu! Traditional, this small community have been traders and bankers by profession. The natives of this plave are known as Chettiars. So much has been told about their mouthwatering and addictive cuisine. With vast varieties of spices that go into making their delicacies, it is no doubt that its ‘flavor‘ is spread far and wide. The rich spices give a magical spin on the dishes that make them so addictive. The cuisine is one of the spiciest in India. Popular dishes of the Chettinad region are kara kulambu (South Indian sambhar), paal paniyaram, vellai paniyaram, kuzhi paniyaram, kozhakattai, seeyam. Gravies and stir fries are generally had with rice or rice based dishes like dosa, appam, idiyappam, adai and idlis.
With all the popularity given to the cuisine, I was eager to taste their delicacies. But a visit to the place was no where close to sight. So I had to manage with the existing situation. Why not try one of their specialties on Prathi Ruchi kitchen? I did a bit of browsing to get familiar with the basic of the cuisine – the basic spices and techniques. Spices commonly used are marati moggu (dried flower pods), saunf (fennel), dagad phool (stone flower), cinnamon, cloves and of course red chillies. And lots and lots of chillies! Then there is black pepper. Chettinad cuisine is incomplete without pepper. Tamarind is what gives the sour element to most of their dishes. Lentils are used in plenty. Pickles in brine with fruits and vegetables are again a specialty of this region. The base for all their food is meals need to be healthy but economical at the same time.
Then I picked a dish which tempted me right from its name – Chettinad Urulai. Urulai is nothing but potatoes. Stir fried potatoes coated with aromatic spices. Serve them as a side with rice and sambhar or as a starter too. Either ways they taste finger licking good.
- 1/2 kg baby potatoes (aloo) OR 4 medium sized potatoes
- 3 tsp ghee
- 3 tsp oil
- 2-4 curry leaves
- 1 medium onion
- 1/2" 3-4 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp red chilli powder or 2 to 3 whole dry red chillies
- 1 tsp coriander (dhania) powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin (jeera) powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric (haldi) powder
- 1 tsp tamarind (imli) paste
- 1/2 tsp peppercorns
- 1/2 to 3/4 tsp fennel (saunf) seeds
- 4 curry leaves
- fried curry leaves and green chillies
- lime wedges
- Peel and cube potatoes. If using baby potatoes, peel and halve them. Prick with fork. Immerse them in water to avoid discolouration. Drain before adding the paste.
- Grind together ingredients under 'masala paste' to a thick paste, adding little water only if needed.
- In a mixing bowl put the masala paste, potatoes (drained), 1 tsp oil. Mix and let marinate for 1 to 2 hours or even overnight.
- In a pressure pan put the marinated potato mixture, little water (about 1/4 cup). Pressure cook upto 2 whistles or till cooked but still firm.
- In a wide pan put ghee, curry leaves, contents of the cooker. Cook over low flame till evenly roasted. In between shake pan gently to stir but not to break the potatoes.
- Serve as a side dish with rice meals or as a starter.
- You can substitute tamarind with 2 tbsp curd (slightly sour).
- If you do not have much time to marinate, you can marinate for upto 15 mins too.
- Adjust chilli powder/ dry red chilli as per spice level desired.
Think Italy and you are your mind is instantly flooded with images of well dressed Italians, the Collosseum, the gondola and of course great food! Pastas and pizzas topped with layers of melting cheese, fresh out of the oven are a sheer delight to indulge in!
What are the reasons that make Italian cuisine so popular and acceptable worldwide? The liberal use of olive oil?; the freshly plucked tomatoes?; the aromatic herbs used in cooking?. Probably all of them and many more reasons make up the highly addictive Italian cuisine!
We travel far and wide. We travel the world. We revel in the artistry in landscape, architecture, culture worldover. Its a way to take a break, to get away from the madness of everyday chaos. A hiatus to just sit and gaze at the river bank and watch as birds to a quick landing to grab their meal from the river is a wonderful thing. To stare at the snow capped mountains cleanses the mind. Or to count the twinkling stars in the sky obliterates the tension from your mind!
Sometimes the things you want most are unreachable. It may be the simplest of things or the most complicated ones. It may be minute or humongous. But you want it, badly. You chase after it. You almost reach it. But it slips through your fingers. The harder you try to hold on to it, the further it goes. Frustration creeps in. You become surrounded by vast emptiness.
You are a traveler, trying to reach your destination. You travel for days and months and years together. The criticisms and roadblocks along the way are like stones on the path that hurt your feet or like the blazing sun that drains you of your spirit and vigor. The scorching heat can get unbearable. Like a thirsty traveler, with no water you still continue to travel. You choose different paths along way, hoping it leads you to your goal. But it is still elusive. Along the way you even lose hope of ever finding the right route. You may not be able to see the path, but that does not mean its not there. It is just covered with barriers that need to be demolished. You either give up or you run harder as one last attempt to reaching it. And after all the sprinting, running and chasing, its yours!
Its a rainy day, its Sunday. I can`t help but remember the past, the chaos and activities in the kitchen back then…
When the weather got chilly and cold, the kitchen would turn into a shrine, a sanctuary. It was a place for debates, battles, experiments. A place for laughter and fights. And in the process the fridge was invaded. The pantry invaded. Ransacked. Contents pulled out to check what`s left and what combinations can be out together to make an edible & tasty meal!
Then there would be the rajma that had been soaked last night. It was almost a regular tradition for a weekend. A feast of rice and rajma accompanied by creamy raita or crispy papads and pakoras or finger licking dip.
The rains pouring outside is a relief after the unbearable heat! There is something soothing about the soft spluttering of the rains & makes me all dreamy! The trees are all so much greener, the birds chirpier & happier and the smell of freshness in the air is intoxicating. Reading a good book & having some crispy pakoras are all I want to usually do the whole day when it pours outside..!