Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Puttu with Kadala Curry - my strong favorite

Preface 

During each summer vacation, when I would return home from college, even before I could unpack my stuff, my mother would ask me what special dishes I would like her to prepare. With twinkling eyes and a refreshing smile, despite being worn out after a long train journey spanning more than 30 hours, I would immediately utter - Puttu and Kadala curry. 

Post marriage, while cooking for my better half, the number of occasions on which I reminisce my mother's cooking has only increased. How would Amma have prepared this dish? What secret ingredient would she have added for that unparalleled magical taste? During school and college days, there just wasn't enough room to make gestures of appreciation or even acknowledgement of her efforts in the kitchen.  But being an avid food lover, the constant urge in me to improvise, experiment and excel in my own kitchen and win accolades from my husband makes me recount all that she has done for me carefully over so many years. 

My mother and I share recipes on phone even now. I pick up the traditional aspects of cooking from her and in turn share with her some information I acquire from the "online" world that would help her cater to my brother's taste buds. My brother belongs to an entirely different generation in that he is 11 years younger than me. So traditional dishes like paruppu urandai sambar, vazhapoo usili, vazhathandu morkozhambu, avial, keerai molagoottal, lemon rasam etc do not figure in his hit list. My mother's penchant to cook new dishes and make a delectable spread for her son made her foray into lesser known domains of North Indian food, desi-chat, Chinese (the Indianised version, of course) and even Italian; I must admit, she turns victorious in all her efforts every time. 

Heading back to my favorite dish - Puttu and Kadala curry, Puttu is a dish from Kerala made of rice flour. Traditionally, it is made by steaming rice flour on a rocket-like apparatus - a pot containing water with a long cylindrical tube attached to its mouth. The cylindrical structure, containing the rice flour to be cooked, is covered with a lid bearing holes that let steam escape. 

Kadala curry is the side dish for Puttu, a gravy consisting of black channa.

On Onam day - Sep 9, 2011, I made Puttu and Kadala Curry along with Palada Pradhaman payasam. The festival did not fetch a holiday from work and I had no time to prepare the complete Sadhya/feast. 

It is my husband's notion that the conventional apparatus used to make Puttu creates a very tightly packed, dense and less moist version of the dish. He quite comically equates eating this version to initiating an exosmosis process in one's body. He never relished eating Puttu and so I refrained from preparing it.

However, my mother broke the myth with an apparatus that looks like Aladdin's magic lamp. This small cup shaped apparatus with a lid contains rice flour (puttu mixture to be steamed). It can be placed on top of a pressure cooker or any steam vent/source. The steam coming from the pressure cooker is used for cooking Puttu. The Aladdin lamp puttu maker consists of a small cup with a handle, a covering lid and a small, flat plate with holes placed inside, at the base of the cup.

Below is a picture that shows the apparatus at work in my kitchen -




Puttu preparation

All we need - Puttu podi, grated coconut, luke warm water with little salt added to it.

Puttu podi or rice flour used to make Puttu is available in most stores in major South Indian cities. In Bangalore, brands like - Double Horse, Nirapara and Manna are available. I prefer Nirapara puttu podi, there are two versions - white rice flour and red rice flour. The latter, prepared from unpolished red rice, is  rich in vitamins and effective in reducing bad LDL cholesterol.

I usually mix equal quantities of white and red rice flour in a flat, big plate. Mean time, I heat a glass of water with 2 tsp of salt added to it till water is lukewarm. This water is carefully sprinkled over the rice flour. ensuring the flour does not get over wet and has no lumps. The puttu podi made moist with salt water is left aside for 10-15 minutes.

Place the mini plate with holes inside the cup apparatus at its bottom first. Add a layer of grated coconut on this plate. Fill the inside of the cup with puttu podi kept aside. Add another layer of grated coconut on top of the rice flour. Close the cup with the lid. Add few glasses of water to an empty pressure cooker and heat it till a prominent stream of steam comes out. The set up is now ready, place the lamp on the pressure cooker, right at the point where one would place whistle while cooking rice/dal.

Leave the set up for 10 minutes. Remove the cup from top of pressure cooker and invert the contents of the cup onto a plate or inside a hot pack. The puttu - end product, if steamed and cooked well, will fall well as a single entity without breaking upon inversion. If the puttu powder is uncooked, then it will crumble apart and break loose.

Repeat the process of filling the cup's contents and ensure that enough water exists in the pressure cooker for adequate steam generation.

The volume of Puttu this puttu maker makes in a single attempt is less, therefore this apparatus may work well for a small family. For a big family, the conventional rocket apparatus would save lots of time as the volume of Puttu it makes in an attempt is much much more. My mother procured this Puttu maker from Chennai, am not sure it is available in Bangalore. 

Kadala Curry

To soak overnight (preferably 8 hrs atleast)

1 cup black channa (black chickpeas)
1/4 cup green gram whole (this helps in adding volume to the gravy)

To begin with, black channa and green grams mixture is cooked under pressure (3-4 whistles).
A pinch of turmeric, salt and little (1/4 tsp) ghee is added to channa before placing it in the pressure cooker. Ghee ensures that the black channa is soft and well-cooked, it leaves a nice aroma as well.

For Gravy

1. 4-5 red chillies (for medium spicy)

2. 3 tbsps full coriander seeds (dhaniya seeds)

3. 2 tsp fenugreek seeds (methi seeds)

4. 2 garlic pods - finely chopped (may add more if you like garlic)

5. 2 thin slices of ginger (even 1 slice would suffice, ginger leaves a prominent taste, so keep it minimal in this gravy)

6. 1 medium sized onion (cut into big chunks)

7. 1 small sized tomato (chopped into big chunks)

8. 4-5 sprigs of coriander

9. 4 full tbsps of grated coconut

Dry roast gravy ingredients 1-3 in a pan. Once the chillies change color and leave an aroma, transfer contents of pan to mixer. Now in very little oil, fry onion chunks with cut garlic and ginger until the raw smell goes. Add a pinch of turmeric and little salt while frying. Once onion is fried well, add in the tomato pieces with their juice and fry well again until the raw smell goes. Add sprigs of coriander. Transfer this into the mixer, allow to cool. Add grated coconut directly to mixer without frying. Add little water and grind well in mixer to get a smooth, well blended paste.

In the wok

All we need- 1 medium sized onion finely chopped, tamarind water, cumin seeds (jeera), oil, salt, chilli powder (if required), garam masala powder, finely chopped coriander for garnish, pressure cooked black channa and green grams, gravy in mixer.

Process 
Add 3 tsp of oil first, add 1 tsp of jeera when the oil is hot. Add finely chopped onion (1-medium sized) into the wok and fry till it turns golden brown. Add salt to taste.

Transfer the cooked black channa/green gram mixture to the wok along with water that was used to boil it (While adding water, take care to ensure that the gravy does not become too watery) Give the contents a good boil.

Transfer the contents of the mixer to the wok. Stir well and check for adjustments in salt and spice.

Take a gooseberry sized ball of tamarind and makes its extract in luke warm water. Add this tamarind extract to the boiling mixture in the wok. Give the contents of the wok another boil.

Add just one pinch (2-3 specks) of garam masala powder. Garnish with finely chopped coriander and turn off the stove. Do not boil for a prolonged interval after adding tamarind extract, this increases the sourness of gravy. Likewise, do not heat excessively after adding garam masala powder, it would lead to loss of aroma/flavor.

Kadala curry is ready to be served with puttu. This gravy can also be served along side Idiyappam and Appam.
Footnote

I have no pictures to upload of the dishes prepared as they disappeared in a jiffy into hungry tummies.
My friends' mother has the receipe for a non-coconut version of kadala curry on her blog with nice pictures, am sure it will help immensely, please refer-
http://lakshmisindiancurry.blogspot.com/2010/08/kadalai-curry-black-chickpeas-curry.html
Please feel free to refer to other recipes on her blog, they are well illustrated and explained carefully that anyone can weave magic in the kitchen.

This is my first attempt in writing down a breakfast/main dish recipe. I work with hand approximations, mere estimations in head and barely use the spoon. So it is quite an ordeal to think back/recollect how much tsp/tbsp of the ingredient I actually added. And when it comes to providing illustrations, I do not stop to click pictures at important junctures while cooking. And even if I do, they are on my unimpressive Nokia 3110C mobile camera. 

I sincerely appreciate the patience and efforts with which my friends' mother (http://lakshmisindiancurry.blogspot.com) and owners of many food blogs I follow, post their recipes, imparting valuable knowledge to many like me. I hope to churn out more recipes with more precise details and lively illustrations in future.

1 comment:

Padhu said...

Thank you for dropping by my space I love puttu and kadala curry -unbeatable combo.
Enjoyed reading your write up