When “What are some of the foods/dishes you prepare today the same way you liked them while growing up?”, I would say all of my mom’s classic recipes. Particularly paruppu usili and mor kuzhambu. Usili is a time consuming dish and was always prepared for a special Sunday lunch. But there are some recipes that are worth the extra time and effort to recreate our childhood memory. And this classic combo is one of 'em.
Vazhaippoo Paruppu Usili – Banana Flower and Dal Sauté
Banana flower is the classic ingredient used in a usili. Though the dish is time consuming, if prepared in stages, as given below, it can be put together in no time. This is my entry for , hosted by Mandira of . JFI is the brainchild of .IngredientsBanana Flower – 1, prepared as instructed below
Toor dal – ½ cup
Chana dal – ½ cup
Dried red chillies – 6
Turmeric powder – ½ + ½ tsp
Asafoetida – a pinch
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Curry leaves – few
Banana flowers are made of layers of bracts which enclose tiny rows of florets. Remove the outer 2 or 3 tough outer layers exposing the florets. Remove the florets, keep aside. Proceed removing each layer, pulling flowers, until you reach the core. The core, which is slightly bitter, can be eaten raw, or chopped finely and added to the recipe.
In a big bowl, mix ¼ cup of buttermilk with enough water to immerse the chopped banana florets. Take each banana floret and remove the stamen, which is woodsy and has a black tip. The stamens of florets in the inner layers are not developed much and are difficult to remove. Leave them be. Chop the florets prepared thusly and add to the bowl with buttermilk water. This will stop the discolouration of the florets and reduce the bitterness. The flower can be prepared to this stage up to 4 days in advance.
Soak toor and chana dal for an hour. Drain water completely and grind to a coarse mixture along with red chillies, asafoetida, turmeric and salt. Steam this coarse mix for about 10 minutes in a pressure cooker. This can be done using idli plates or a wide vessel. Just remember to oil the plates. When they are done, crumble them by hand. This lentil mixture can be made ahead and frozen for up to 3 months.
Drain the chopped banana flower, cook with salt, turmeric powder and ¼ cup of water. Cook until they are just tender and not mushy. Other vegetables that can be used in place of banana flower are green beans, cluster beans, gherkins (tindora), carrot etc. Mix the cooked vegetable with dal mixture.
In a wok, heat oil, splutter mustard seeds. Add curry leaves and vegetable + dal mix. Sauté until moisture leaves. Serve with rice and mor kuzhambu, with a tsp of sesame oil.Mor Kuzhambu - Spiced Yogurt
This yogurt based creamy gravy goes perfectly well with the dry, lentil based usili. Use sour buttermilk to get the desired tangy taste. If the buttermilk is not tangy, mix in 2 tbsp of sour cream. Other vegetables that can be used are carrot, drumstick, chow chow (chayote squash) etc. Vegetables like eggplant, okra should be pan-fried and added to the kuzhambu.IngredientsThick buttermilk – 3 cups
White pumpkin – 1 cup, cubed
Grated coconut – 2 tbsps
Ginger – 1 inch piece
Green chillies – 2 or 3
Chana dal – 1 tbsp
Raw rice – 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
Curry leaves - few
Carom seeds/Ajwain/Omam or Cumin seeds – ½ tsp
Coconut oil - 2 tsp
Soak chana dal and rice for 10 minutes. Grind the soaked dal with green chillies, ginger and coconut to a fine paste. Mix this with buttermilk, carom seeds and salt. Cook white pumpkin with salt and add to the buttermilk gravy.
Put this on a low flame and heat through, taking care not to let it boil. Heat coconut oil, and splutter mustard seeds and toast curry leaves. Add to the kuzhambu and serve.
I like to mix usili with rice with a tsp of sesame oil and mor kuzhambu on the side, while G likes to mix kuzhambu with rice and usili on side. It is darn tasty eaten either way.