“A way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” I totally disagree to this adage. Why would good food will only make a man happy, why not a women or a kid? I am not trying to sound like a feminist. But on a serious note, I have fallen in love with my aunts and uncles who have cooked scrumptious meals for me. Infact, I have become a secret admirer to many home cooks. I have a special place for them in my life. It has to be re-phrased to something like “A way to a foodie’s heart is through their stomach” Does it sounds better? Please excuse me for this attempt. Anyways you guys got an idea of what I meant right?
What would you do if everyone in your family cooks so well and each dish tastes so exotic? How to ape their signature recipes? What’s their secret? Yes, these are things that will run through my mind while eating their food. I am blessed to have a born in a family of brilliant cooks. There are certain dishes which will taste good only when they make it, even though you try to follow the recipe as such.That’s called as “Kai pakuvam” in Tamil, literally translates to “the magic behind the hands”. Lamb chinthamani
by my Erode aunt, creamy custard
by S mama, Karaikudi chutney
by K mami, Pacha millagai sambhar
by my MIL and the list of my favourite dishes continues with amma’s and achi’s recipes.
S perimma, my mom’s eldest sister is an excellent non-vegetarian cook and the point to note is that she is a pure vegetarian and comes from a family of vegetarians. She was married at the age of 19 and learned to cook meat dishes only after being married to her purely carnivorous husband 🙂 She has keen interest in cooking and have seen her cookbook diary pinned with handwritten tips and withered pages of Mangaiyar malar (Tamil magazine) recipes tucked inside the book. Whenever I go to her house, I eagerly wait to taste what she has made for the day.Be it her chicken briyani or moor kozhambhu, her puri- thengai chutney (deep fried flat bread with coconut chutney) or simple poriyals (stir fries), the dishes will be well balanced with spices, perfectly garnished with herbs and salt and finally served with all her love. That’s the secret I think – her unconditional love and her magical hands. She passed down her recipes of my favorite dishes to me and one such fool proof dish is this kathirikkai chaalna. Just follow the steps, you will end up in a restaurant style curry and your family is sure to get surprised.
After checking out the recipe for my corn pilaf
, many have contacted me asking for the eggplant curry recipe. This curry goes by the name “Kathirikkai chaalna”, it has coconut, tamarind, jaggery and every possible spice in your kitchen rack in it and is served as a side to briyani in my family. For a change, I served it with pilaf and they complimented really well with pulao/pilaf too. The smell of peppercorns toasted in oil and its spicy kick while biting it balances so well with the sweetness of the jaggery and earthiness of sesame seeds . Curry leaves and cilantro adds an excellent freshness to the aromatic base curry. The whole eggplants with the stems on it looked attractive in the serving plate.
Kathirikkai chaalna recipe is very similar to “Yennai kathirikka kozhambhu” , a common side dish served with mutton briyani in Mudaliyar household. Around the time I was getting married my amma gifted me the cookbook “Aharam- Traditional cuisine of Tamil Nadu” by Sabitha Radhakrishna as a reference book for the Mudaliyar dishes I am going to cook for S. It’s an amazing book for those who want to learn dishes predominant in Arcot district. On a personal front, most of the recipes were known to me and I also had my handwritten dairy which carried recipes of all my relatives. Still, I do use that book to cross-check the list of ingredients.
Baby purple eggplants/brinjal – 6
1 medium onion – thinly sliced
1 tomato – chopped
1 tablespoon ginger – minced
1 tablespoon garlic – minced
2 tablespoon jaggery or brown sugar
12 curry leaves
1/4 cup cilantro
1 lemon size tamarind or 2 tablespoon tamarind extract
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 cup peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoon coriander powder
1 cup water
Salt to taste
For the puree:
1 small onion
1/4 cup coconut – I used dessicated one
1 inch cinnamon
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
3 tablespoon peanuts
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
2 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 green chillies
1.Wash the eggplants clean. Retain the stem and at the bulkier end, make a 1inch slit like a X. This way the curry can enter the vegetable and can make it even more flavorful. Pat dry and set aside.
2. Puree the ingredients give under its list.
3. Soak the tamarind fruit in 1/2 cup warm water for 15 minutes and using hand, squeeze the juice out of the fruit. Discard the fibrous solid material. Save the tamarind water.
4. Heat oil in a large cooking pot. Once the oil ripples, add the mustard seeds and let it pop. Then add the pepper corn and roast it for a minutes. Add the curry leaves and let it crisp.
5. Now mix in the onions and eggplants and let it brown, approximately 6-8 minutes on medium flame. Add the tomatoes, turmeric, chili and coriander powder. Saute till the raw smell disappears.
6. Add the masala puree and cook till the oil separates out, approximately 20-25minutes. Pour the tamarind extract and salt. Stir well to combine and cook for further 10 minutes. Sprinkle cilantro and mix well. Switch off the flame and serve hot with rice dishes