At the end of a more-than-full work day we all deserve to put our feet up and get the much needed rest. Recharge our batteries. Good wholesome food contributes much to this recharge. Many of us also admit to the therapeutic qualities of the act of cooking itself!
The last couple of weeks have been more fast paced than ever for me. Work, work related travel, sister’s visit, Ganesh Chaturthi and the Pun Pooza, and the continuing house renovation, all came to a head. As if I didn’t have enough on my plate already, the maid had to make a sudden visit to her hometown – an extended three week visit. Which isn’t so bad actually. Now I can multitask – plan the meal as I brew my evening cup of tea, have all the burners going and cook the veggies as I temper the dal, or roll out roti, and not have to deal with less-than-perfect food prep. Much better.
Last night, after a grueling 11 hour work day (when I was lucky to have two additional people helping out!) I knew I needed a special meal. TH brought me a Toro Bravo while I was still at my desk. It needed to be a rice-night (that means, rice as the main starch for me), I could tell. Nothing short of the comfort of good old Kashmiri food would do. Though it was late, I prepared dum aloo along with my nani’s special mung dal and served it with steamed rice (and roti – for the undiscerning).
How about this for Crusty?
Today, it is pizza for a lazy Sunday lunch.
Such special meals have been many, just that the time to share with you has been hard to come by. One such meal, a couple of weeks ago, comprised pumpkin, usually the last vegetable to get used from my weekly stash of groceries. It is not on the son’s list of edible foods. Me, I love all my veggies. While prices for most vegetables have gone up three-fold in the last month, many ringing in at Rs60(!) per kilo, this one continues to sell for under Rs10 for a kilogram. I, for one, am not complaining.
That night I wanted to do something different. I again needed it to be a rice-night. Which meant that baakar bhaaji, very much a favourite, wasn’t going to cut it. And I was not in the mood for the fiery Kashmiri-style dum-pumpkin either. I think, that night, I really needed to be in touch with my past-life-Tamil-self. Yes, I have zeroed in, with the help of my Madrasi friend, to the place of my past-life-roots within Southern India. I drew on those roots that night, and put together something wonderfully fragrant and mild-tempered in the Madrasi fashion (don’t kill me for saying that, please) – you know the kadipatta and mustard seeds combo, and had myself a colourful meal made in heaven. There was yellow pumpkin, fuschia beetroot rasam, with white rice (and roti – for the undiscerning, of course). Lifted my spirit right up. We polished off in one sitting what normally constitutes two meals for us.
It was so good that I made it again the following week. And this time I knew I must use restraint and take pictures before serving it.
When I shared the recipe with my Madrasi friend (who is sick of me raving about the kuzhambus, rasams, pitla, and kootus that I have been dishing out lately), and asked if it sounded remotely Southie… She was disgusted to admit that it sounded a lot like pumpkin poricha kootu to her! I was thrilled! The garlic makes it more Kerala than Tamil Nadu, but it’s still Madrasi to a lot of us!
Here it is, the pumpkin kootu of my dreams, from my dreams! In this dish I prefer to use the less-ripe pumpkin, with greenish flesh rather than the fully-ripe sweeter yellow kind.
500gms (about 1 lb) pumpkin, peeled and cut into 3/4″ cubes
1/2 t turmeric
For the coconut masala:
2 T fresh grated coconut
1 t cumin seeds
2-5 hot green chillies
1/2 t turmeric
1-2 cloves garlic
for the tempering:
2 t oil
1 t cumin seeds
1 t mustard seeds
pinch of hing
few curry leaves
Pressure cook the prepared pumpkin, with half a teaspoon of turmeric, till soft but still holding shape (about 5-7 min.), or cook with a little water in a pan till tender. Using a little water grind all the ingredients for the coconut masala. Add this masala to the cooked pumpkin and simmer for a few minutes to blend the flavours. Rinse out the grinder and add that water to the simmering stew.
To prepare the tempering, heat oil in a cast iron ladle or pan. Add mustard and cumin seeds to the hot oil; remember to cover to catch all the spluttering mustard. When the spluttering stops, add hing followed by the curry leaves. Cover quickly because the addition of curry leaves also causes fine oil sprays all over! Once the curry leaves have done their magic, pour the tempering over the cooked pumpkin (which is now off the heat) and seal tight with a lid for a few minutes to let the fragrance infuse the curry. Serve over warm rice.
Just a reminder:
Do please contribute generously to Srivalli’s fundraiser for her young maid, Anita Lakshmi, who is in urgent need of heart surgery. A little help will go a long way and make it possible for her to receive the medical attention she requires but cannot afford. She has two young children who are totally dependent on her alone. You can make your contributions through Chip In or send cheques in Indian rupees. Read all about it on Srivalli’s blog. There are also raffle prizes to be won!