Inspiration hits in the strangest ways. This one was good enough to get Girish to get back in the kitchen after months. The source was a bottle of the famous Grand Sweets Kaara Kuzhambu paste or pickle that we picked up last Sunday at the local Indian store in Singapore.
We were quite blown away by the authentic taste of the Kaara Kuzhambu pickle from Grand Sweets accompanied by a quip from Amma (my mother) that she had a recipe tucked away somewhere in her recipe stash. So Girish was challenged enough to try it this past Sunday and the best part was that the whole family ended up in the kitchen. Amma didn’t find her recipe but we did find this one from the Spicy Tasty blog that sounded quite authentic. Appa (my father) peeled the shallots, Nikhil peeled and chopped the potatoes for the Urulai roast (adapted from Kurry Leaves‘ blog) and Amma and I helped prep for both the recipes with the powders and spices, while Girish “directed” it all by actually cooking the dishes and added his finishing touches. So in essence it was the four of us crowded around in the kitchen to make two dishes and I have to say, we debunked the myth about too many cooks:)
The dishes turned out perfect and quite true to the Chettinad taste. Chettinad recipes have the distinct flavor of fennel, pepper and chilies in their spices and both these recipes pack that spicy punch. Note to those who don’t eat their food very spicy – you can tone down on the pepper and red chilies/chili powder, but keep in mind that the beads of sweat and the clearing of your sinuses that accompany the eating of Chettinad dishes only add to the flavor so you may be missing out on that experience:)
Recipe for Kaara Kuzhambu:
Ingredients: (for 5-6 servings)
- Shallots – 2 cups
- Tomatoes – 2
- Ginger Garlic paste – 2 tbsp
- Green chilies – 3-5 (depending on spice level)
- Sesame oil – 4 tbsp
- Cumin seeds – 1tsp
- Curry leaves – a small bunch or 10 to 15 leaves
- Red chili powder – 1 tsp
- Garam masala – 1/2 tsp
- Sambar powder – 2 tbsp
- Tamarind water – 2 cups
- Coriander powder – 1 tsp
- Shredded coconut – 1/4 cup
- Fennel seeds – 1 tsp
- Poppy seeds – 1 tbsp (optional – I don’t get this in Singapore so didn’t use it. Turned out just as good)
Method of Preparation:
- Peel the shallots and cut both ends. Cut them in half if needed.
- Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a deep bottomed thick pan or kadai
- Add cumin seeds, curry leaves and shallots and fry till shallots are translucent.
- Add ginger garlic paste and fry for a couple of minutes followed by green chilies and chopped tomatoes.
- Saute till the tomatoes are well cooked and you don’t get the raw smell of tomatoes any more, or you see some oil leave the sides.
- Add red chili powder, sambar powder, garam masala and salt.
- Mix well and let it cook for 5 minutes.
- While it’s cooking, make a paste by grinding the coconut, fennel seeds, poppy seeds and coriander powder in a blender by adding a little water.
- Add the tamarind juice to the mixture in the pan and let it boil and become a thick gravy.
- Add the remaining 2 tbsp of oil and leave it for a minute.
- Now add the ground paste and let it cook for 5 to 8 minutes at medium heat. You may need to cook a bit more or less depending on the consistency and the taste.
- Make sure you cook till the raw smell of sambar powder and tamarind goes away.
- Serve hot with steamed rice and urulai roast.
Recipe for Urulai (Potato) Roast:
- Potatoes (half boiled and diced)- 4
- Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
- Asafetida – 1 pinch
- Garlic – crushed- 1/2 tsp
- Onion chopped finely – 1 small
- Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
- Curry leaves – 1 sprig
- Split urad dal- 2 tsp
- Dry red chillies-3-5
- Whole black pepper corns-5 to 6
- Heat a pan and dry roast the urad dal until it changes color to a light brown.
- Now add dry red chillies and pepper corns. Roast until urud dal turns golden brown.
- Allow this to cool and grind to form a coarse powder.
- Heat oil in the same pan – add mustard seeds and let it splutter. Now add asafoetida and curry leaves.
- Add garlic, onion and turmeric powder. Saute till the onion turns golden brown .
- Add the boiled potato and stir carefully. Add salt to taste and saute for 5 minutes.
- Now add the spice powder and mix well.
Note – Do not stir the potatoes too frequently. You can lift the pan with the potatoes and just shake it a bit so the potatoes mix well with the spices and oil. Let it simmer on low heat for about 5-7 minutes. This will ensure an even roast.