Friday, September 18, 2015

Bumper Crop!

Finally got time to harvest our grapes. And what a harvest! The picture speaks for itself. This is only half of what we got. Only caveat is that these are the seeded variety. But still sweet and flavorful.

Varutharacha Thenga Chammanthi a.k.a Roasted Coconut Chutney

During my undergrad hostel years, it was always a treat when a day scholar would invite us to her house for lunch or dinner. Since I never had dosa at home growing up and could eat this only at restaurants it was a delicacy for me. I surprised myself the other day when I said 'masala dosa' without even blinking in answer to my daughter's query on my favorite food! Idli is what my grandpa liked and his wishes were command since my dad never bothered to use his veto power.  The homemade red chutney that came with the dosa at the homes of these friends had a certain tanginess and color that I could never reproduce. Yogurt and lemon juice only went so far. When I went to H's house during the first trip to India this year, the lady that came to help Hmom made this dry chutney that I thought was awesome. She said she had added ginger and raw mango though I suspect the fresh grated coconut and the flat stone manual grinder (ammikallu) that my Hmom still keeps added much to the taste. I had it in the back of my mind to give it a try when I got back. Things happened and I forgot all about it. That was until I started searching for Onam recipes and came across this chutney at Marias's Menu by chance. Decided to make it right away and although it called for tamarind instead of mango and I swapped my Krup's Coffee Grinder for the ammikallu, it came out pretty close to what I had been searching for! Thanks to Maria and the lady at Hmom's house this will now be a keeper. I intend to try again with mango instead of tamarind to see how the taste changes.

In The Mix

medium sized shallot cloves - 2-3 sliced
ginger - 1/2 tsp chopped
crushed dry red chili - 1 1/2 tsp
grated coconut - 1 cup
tamarind concentrate - 1 tsp
coconut oil - 3 tsp
curry leaves - 1 sprig

How To Do

Heat oil and add the curry leaves, onions, ginger and crushed chili. Saute till the roasted aroma rises. Takes 2-3 minutes. Add the coconut and mix well. Roast gently for a minute or two without browning. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Add the tamarind concentrate and mix together with a small fork. Add salt to taste at this time. The first picture shows how the chutney looks at this time. The tamarind concentrate made a bit darker than I thought but who cares when busily drooling away;-)

I found that the Coffee Grinder is a good tool to grind without adding any water. Just had to do it in two batches because the cup is so small. But it was well worth it.

As I bit into a dosa wrapped morsel with this coconut goodness, a childhood memory of alippazhams (hailstones) melting away on my tongue flashed through. Because my friends, that is how it felt! It was over so quick that I had to have another piece, and another and another just to make sure it was not all a dream. Coconut chutney in any form is a joy but this is pure heaven I tell ya!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Bunch Of Grapes A Day..

If a bunch of grapes a day can keep the doctor away, then we are all set for a long and healthy life. Now that the grapes are ripe I regularly visit our almost barren backyard (read drought) to go to the little oasis at the far end hugging the backside fence. There I sit down and look up to a sea of grapes hanging down so enticingly. I carefully pluck one ready-to-eat bunch and proceed to finish it happily after removing the seeds and throwing them any which way. Come next spring I wouldn't be surprised if our backyard turns into a proper vineyard with all the seeds that are going in there now! H and I are very pleased about this sweet outcome of all his hard work. We wish they were seedless but apparently the ones with seeds are more organic than the seedless variety. Very yummy too!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Happy Belated Onam - The Festival Of Vegetables And Payasams!

Onam which really is a festival of flowers, normally passes us by without much ado. I have made sure that the kids know about this traditional festival and the story that gives it enduring life. That of the benevolent king 'Mahabali' who was so unfairly banned to the netherworlds only to come back once a year to see his beloved subjects. Lately however some friends of ours have graciously offered to have Onam celebrated at their place. My son calls it 'the festival of vegetables' once he realized that he will not be seeing an ounce of meat at this so called 'party'. Although that was coined out of a little no-non-veg frustration, I really like it.. We all bring a dish or two depending on what is needed. I opted to make a payasam and was going to fly by with the everyone's go-to-in-a-rush semiya payasam. But then I happened to visit the recently revamped local Kerala grocery store and noticed a palada (thick flattened rice flakes)  box on the shelves. That is how the idea of making something other than semiya came about. The recipe instructions seemed easy enough.

On the day of the deed I woke up a little early and started on the payasam. Half way through, I realized that I have really just started. The milk has to reduce for the payasam to have the right consistency and this meant constantly stirring it on low heat for a good chunk of your life. er.. I mean of an hour:-) Guess what? My poor unsuspecting high school sophomore (10th grade) woke up unexpectedly early that day and was quickly roped in to do some slow stirring before he had much time to think. He in his usual responsible manner finished out the assigned time with aplomb despite feeling a little exploited for waking up early! From then on it was easy to assign the stirring duty to my newly minted middle schooler (6th grade) to continue on and finally the Dad, both of whom also obliged without a word. I was able to prepare the beans thoran I had also promised, while all of this was going on.  We got to the end of it much easier and at this stage the stirring was not so constantly needed either! Here is the recipe from the box top that I pretty much followed to the letter. Makes enough for 10 couples and their offspring who may or may not eat the payasam.

In the Mix
readymade ada - 200g
milk - 3 litres (i used 2% milk)
sugar - 800 gram
cardamom - 5 (crush, remove skin and powder using pestle and mortar)
ghee - 3 tsp
raisins - 3 tbsp
cashew halves - 1 tbsp (diced to smaller pieces)
water - 2 litres

How To Do
Boil 1 1/2 litres of the water in a pan. Wash and drain the ada like you would do for rice. Once the water comes to a rolling boil, remove from heat and add the ada. Cover and soak for 20  minutes.
Drain and wash with cold water like you would do for pasta so the ada won't stick. You can melt 1 tsp. of the ghee and toss it with the ada at this time.

Heat 1 litre of the milk and the remaining half litre of the water together in a thick bottomed pan. Add the ada. Cook till the ada is soft, taking care for the milk not to boil over. Keeping the pan on low flame is the safest choice. That and stirring slowly and constantly will do the trick. Now add the sugar, stir well and add the remaining milk. I wasn't sure if the pan I chose will hold all the milk. So I added in steps of half litres. Luckily the pan could hold all of it.

Now that all the stuff is together on the stove, look around for good volunteers sauntering in and out of the kitchen. Grab them and assign divided chunks of the total stirring time. About 1 hour total for this case. Maybe it would have been shorter if I had used full milk, not sure. I think 2% makes it stay at the same consistency even after cooling down so you don't have to add anything later. I also didn't see the pink color at any time. It stayed a nice beige color. Some say the pink is seen when an aluminum pan is used. I used a steel pan.

Keep stirring till you get a nice payasam like consistency. I don't really like it to be that thick. Remove from heat, add cardamom powder and 1tsp of ghee and stir together. Saute cashews and raisins in the remaining ghee, drain on paper and add to the payasam if your folks would like that. I like how the payasam looks after adding raisins and cashews. H and molu tasted the payasam and liked it. 'Nough said.