Tomato Pickle | Andhra Tomato Pachadi

My Mom-in-law’s recipe

The year has been moving not in days or weeks but in months. I have been occupied with a few projects (non-food and non-blog related) one after the other that kept me away from the blog. For a couple of months, I was less at home and more in my little girl’s Montessori, compiling their yearbook. It is her last year there before she moves to public school later this fall. Last day at school and saying goodbye was more painful for me than for her!

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Palakura Pappu | Palak Dal – Andhra style Spinach and lentils

Andhra style Cooked Spinach and Lentils with Garlic tempering

[paala koora pup pooh] (Telugu)

{L -> R – cumin and mustard seeds, garlic, red chillies, tamarind pulp, toor dal, spinach, split yellow dal}

Pappu meaning “Cooked lentils” (in Telugu) has a special place in South Indian food culture, especially the Andhra cuisine. It is not surprising as lentils play a vital role as one of the main sources of protein for vegetarians in South India.
A homely Andhra meal is never complete without a portion of “pappu”, be it just plain cooked lentils out of the cooker or one, slightly elaborate. So much so that, in fact, in colloquial Telugu “Pappu suddi” is a term coined and often times used humorously to refer to someone as a simpleton or “one who does not know beyond his pappu”, to be precise.
Pappu is usually served as part of the main course preceded by some spice mixes or “Podi” to be eaten with steamed Rice and a spoon of Ghee and succeeded by Rasam/Sambar and ‘Koora’ – vegetable curry and finished with ‘Perugu Annam’ or Curd (yogurt) rice with a pickle. Plain pappu eaten with Avakkai – a kind of mustard based pickle typical to Andhra, is a popular combination, the topic on which is a Pandora’s box in itself. Just like how Kannadigas are adept at churning out chutneys of every other vegetable, Andhrites are experts in their own right in concocting myriad vegetables and leafy greens with lentils. Think of any vegetable or leafy green and there will be a pappu made with it. Brahmin versions of pappu come with “inguva” (asafoetida/hing) “popu” (tempering) as opposed to garlic and onion.
Andhra is well-known for its spicy cuisine, but this lentil and spinach dish however is neither exorbitantly spicy nor way too dull. Simple, wholesome and completely satisfying is how I would describe this Spinach dal, where the garlic tempering brings out the spinach flavor in a brilliant way. The same recipe can be conveniently adapted to cook with several different leafy greens.
Many prefer to include tomatoes too, as spinach and tomato are such a tasty blast in combination. I know some others who refrain from combining the two as it is believed to have an opposite effect on each other when coupled. Not that I give in to just about any hear-say, but I was told, it seems the condition precipitates in those with a tendency of kidney stones.
Should tomatoes and Spinach not be eaten combined? Is there really a scientific reason behind this, may be something to do with acid and alkali pH balance? Yet to figure out how much meat is there to that.
Do you believe or practice some kind of food combining? Tell me what you think or know about this food combination. Use the comments box.

Things you’ll need:
To pressure cook:
  • 1/2 big bunch of spinach, washed and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup Toor dal
  • 1/4 cup Yellow dal/split moong dal
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
for tempering:
  • 2-3 tsp peanut oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp jeera/cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp urad dal
  • 2 red chillies seeded and torn into 2″ pieces
Other:
  • lime-size tamarind soaked in lukewarm water
  • 1 tsp jeera / cumin powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder (adjust according to taste)
  • salt
How it’s done:


  • Wash the lentils with water until the water runs clear. Pressure cook all the ‘to pressure cook’ ingredients for 3 cooker whistles and keep aside to cool.
  • When the cooker has cooled, give the lentils and spinach a good stir to blend and mash well.
  • Place oil in a medium pot over high heat. When the oil is hot enough, add mustard seeds. When they start to splutter, reduce the heat to medium-high and add cumin seeds, minced garlic, urad dal, torn red chillies in that order and sauté until garlic and urad dal turn golden brown. Do not let the garlic burn.
  • Pour in the lentil-spinach mixture over this tempering onto the sides, carefully avoiding the sizzling oil and rising steam.
  • Squish the soaked tamarind with your fingers to get a nice pulpy juice. Add this to the lentils, then add jeera/cumin powder, red chilli powder and salt and give it a good stir. Add more water if needed or if the dal is very thick. Bring it to a boil and simmer for a few mins stirring in between (to avoid the lentils from burning at the bottom).
  • Serve hot with steamed rice and “appadum” (papad) or chapati/roti.

Note:
Alternatively, bring the spinach lentils mixture to a boil along with tamarind juice, cumin powder, red chilli powder and salt and simmer. In a kadai or small pan, prepare the garlic tempering and pour the hot tempering over the simmering dal and cover immediately. Switch off and keep aside.
This dramatic technique of dunking tempering into the liquidy dal infuses the aroma of the seasoning ingredients like no other which is why “tempering” a typical Indian term I so often find myself using or encounter on other Indian food blogs, is the signature of South Indian cooking.
The only reason I sometimes don’t take this approach is backed by an ounce of laziness or smartness to save myself from washing an additional utensil, whichever!

Tips:

  • Use baking soda in water to thoroughly wash spinach (or any leafy greens). In earlier days though, I remember my mom washing leafy greens with potassium permanganate.
  • If you do not like, substitute garlic with a pinch of hing.
  • A small cast iron wok / kadai works really well for tempering.

Menthi Pudina Pachadi | Fenugreek and Mint leaves Chutney – Andhra style

Fenugreek and Mint Chutney

[puh cha di ~ Telugu; may thih  ~ Hindi]

I hate to confess. In my newfound fervor for blogging, here’s the scene behind the closed doors – the laundry basket brimming with soiled clothes waiting to be picked up for a wash, washed clothes given the silent treatment inside the dryer, living room screaming to be re-claimed from my toddler’s toys scattered all over and I dare say anything further than this, lest I start to feel a panic attack. They have a way of making me sluggish, I’d rather say overwhelmingly so. Not so funnily enough, instead of attending to the chores left to be deliberately forgotten, all I want to do is blog more and cook less today.
When the clock struck 11:oo subtly reminding me of the upcoming lunch hour, I wanted to wash my hands off with just a one dish wonder. Well, my toddler has to eat, so rice has to go in the cooker. How about just a little something with rice then?
Skimming through the refrigerator, I found a bunch of methi leaves promising me that perfect escape from kitchen slavery. It reminded me of the flavorful chutney my mother-in-law had made long back and how I had licked it off my plate. Quick to realize that I ran short of methi leaves, I picked up a small bunch of mint leaves as well and made this recipe. The outcome surprised me, as mint and fenugreek aromas did not wage a war. Instead, they were sitting hand in hand in perfect harmony giving a well-balanced sublime flavor, that kept me asking for more. The nuttiness of the peanuts and the silent sweetness of the jaggery lifted my soul as they sank into the depths of my gut.
Don’t wait until your laundry fills up to try it. It is a perfect accompaniment for Dosa, Idli, Chapati or simply steamed rice (as shown here).
Things you’ll need:
  • 1 small bunch of Fresh Methi / Fenugreek leaves
  • 1 small bunch of mint / pudina leaves (an addition to the original recipe)
  • 1/4 cup Peanuts roasted
  • marble sized Tamarind
  • marble sized Jaggery
  • 3-4 dried Red chillies
For tempering:
  • 2 tsp peanut oil
  • 1 tsp Mustard seeds
  • a pinch of Hing / Asafoetida

How it’s done:
  • Peanuts are easily roasted, heated in the microwave for about 2 mins in 30 sec intervals. Just remember to check in between. Or they can be dry roasted the regular way on a kadai or skillet.
  • In a kadai or small skillet, temper mustard and hing in 1 tsp hot oil. With a spoon, scoop out only the spluttered mustard and hing and keep aside.
  • Add the remaining oil to the kadai / skillet. When hot, add in the red chillies and tamarind and sauté until the red chillies are brown. Do not burn the tamarind. Scoop them out and keep aside.
  • In the same skillet, sauté the methi and mint leaves until all of the sizzling stops. They can be sautéed separately as well. Spread them out on a plate and let cool.
  • In a blender, grind all the ingredients except the tempering, together with salt,  jaggery and some water to a smooth paste. Add water just enough to let the blades move. Too much water tends to ruin the flavor, not only the consistency.
  • Remove into a bowl, garnish with the tempering and serve.

{Just washed fenugreek leaves}

{Roasted Ingredients}

{Menthi koora Pachadi ready for tasting}
Tip:
If methi and mint leaves are not sautéed well enough, the chutney can turn out bitter.