Count down to Due date of my Second Blessing

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Maasi Kuzhambu (Maldives Dry Fish Curry)

This is one curry that transports me to my childhood vacations in my mooma's (maternal Grandmother) house. It was to my eyes at that time of life at the end of the world. We had to walk around two km from the bus stop to reach the bungalow. But those times were some of the happiest times of my life.

Maasi Kuzhambu with Idiyappam..mmm delicious.
Maasi is preserved Tuna fish. It is mainly produced in Maldives. The red meat tuna is boiled whole in fish stock, then the flesh is taken apart in large chunks and smoke dried. This results in a horn shaped piece looking like half burnt piece of log.So the whole piece is called kombu (meaning horn in tamil). Good quality Maasi costs around 700 to 900 rs per Kg, so dont be temped by a cheap deal, because that may be a duplicate made from white meat fish. You will know the difference only when you grind it for use.

When split into flakes, the inside is red in colour and there is no strong smell. I usually bring powdered maasi from India. In Middle East, you can find it in stores selling Srilankan speciality foods.

Some people toast maasi before using it thinking it is like kariwaadu (salted dried fish). But that is not necessary as it is already cooked. Anyway, coming to the recipe:

Maasi Powder - 3 tbsp
Chilli Powder - 1 tsp
Pepper jeera Powder - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Cocnut milk powder - 4 tbsp heaped.
Salt to taste
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Sombu (sonf) - 1 tsp
Jeera - 1 tsp
Onion - 1 finely chopped
Tomatoes - 2 nos finely chopped.
Oil - 2 tbsp

Heat oil in a kadai or pan, add sombu & jeera, then add curry leaves. Add finely chopped onion and fry till golden. Add salt and maasi powder. stir a little and then add chopped tomatoes, chilli powder, pepper jeera powder and turmeric powder. Add water and let it boil a while. Dissolve coconut milk powder in warm water and add to the boiling curry. let it boil a few more mins and the curry is ready.

This is served mainly with idiyappam. It also goes well with aappam and my husband even likes it with plain rice and pappadom.

Maasi is an unusual item not known by many fish eating people even. Even in TVM, many of our friends did not know what it was. It is a great alternative to karuwaadu as it is not as smelly. It dosen't contain excessive salt like karuwaadu.

In my moomas place maasi kuzhambu and idiyappam was the standard menu for unexpected guests, with maybe eggs on the side from the hens roaming around the Coconut grove.

I am sending this to Learning to Cook : Dish Name Starts with M and Spotlight - Curries/Gravies guest hosted by Chandrani for Indrani's Event

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Saga of the Pavakkai Poriyal (Bitter Gourd Stir fry)

Pavakkai Poriyal - glistening with green goodness.

There is a long story behind my relationship with this vegetable, for those who don't want to read the story please scroll down for the recipe.

Pavakkai or Bitter Gourd is one veggie which I hate. When I was in school, my mother used to make it at home because it was good for health espescially diabetic patients (my grand parents were diabetic). she used to try to make me eat it saying it good for diabetes. My standard reply was if and when I get diabetes I will suffer at that time, no need for me to suffer in the expectation of suffering. Well cheeky me.
Then I got married to a man who loves bitter gourd. Hmm.. He is MSc chemistry. I should have suspected something when he chose chemistry as his major. Well opposites attract and all that stuff. When I was newly married and so in thrall with his charm, I tried to cook bitter gourd for him. phew! I felt the whole house smelled of bitterness. I put my foot down. Choose either me or pavakkai. Of course since my hubby also likes sweets he chose me. OK OK I made that up. He grumbled once in a while about how good pavakkai is for health and how a "proper" cook will know how to cook it properly.
I took it in this ear and out through the other ear and consoled him with my Biriyanis etc..
After my daughter started school, I joined a job. There was this lady who inspired awe in me. Her name was Madam Mercy. Till date I dont know her last name though I have met her Husband and two children more times than I can count. She is a malayalee. She was super efficient and we could set the clock in our office based on her punctuality. Her house was neatly maintained. She had prayer meetings in her home where she prepared food herself for the attendees. Well you get the idea. If there is a super mom contest, my vote would have been for her. And her lunch box! Always freshly made food with a variety of dishes. Mine was normally thayir sadam and a side dish. She used to share her box generously also. If she knew that I liked some thing, next time, she bought extra for me.
Once I told her that my DH likes bitter gourd and I was a dismal failure at cooking it. She gave me her recipe for pavakkai stir fry and gave me some tips also. She also bought 1/2 kg of pavakkai poriyal on the day we had half day. I took that box home, kept it on the dining table telling my Husband that this pavakkai poriyal by Mercy madam is for you. I went to wash up and when I came back my Husband had polished it off. It must have been atleast two cups. I was stunned!
He only looked at me and told " You told it is for me only no?"
Well If you readers think that finally I started cooking pavakkai for my Hubby, you are wrong. I didn't. Atleast not for another five years atleast.
Now my Hubby's tune changed to " You remember Mercy madam's pavakkai poriyal, why don't you make it like that for me?" Heartless me. Again I consoled him with other dishes and told myself I dont have mercy madams magic with pavakkai.
From the above story you can seee how patient my Hubby is with me.
After coming to Saudi, around four months back, he had gone to the vegetable market. he came back and kept (rather Plonked) the veggies on the counter and said " I have bought pavakkai. Cook it for me. I don't care how, but I want it for tommorrow's Lunch." (Don't you just love macho men) I stared at the green ridges looking like a miniature crocodile on the counter. The pair stared back at me ( I felt like that).
Luckily I have an aptitude for remembering things for a long time and Mercy madams instructions were clear in my head. I thought what the hell. after all two pavakkais. what can they do to me. I followed her instructions as far as feasible. Wonder of wonders. No bitter smell. I even had a few spoonfulls mixed with my sambhar rice. Even I could eat it and my husband gave his stamp of approval whole heartedly.
It took me nearly fifteen years of married life to cook pavakkai to the satisifaction of my DH.

Readers, the moral of the story is try out something atleast once before you decide you are not good at it.

Recipe for Pavakkai Poriyal.
Pavakkai - 2 nos around 20 cm length and 7 cm diameter
Big Onion - 1 nos,
Curry leaves 2 sprigs
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
salt - to taste
Dessicated coconut - 2 - 3 tbsp
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
udad dal - 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida - 1/4 tst
Oil - 3 tbsp.


Note: Please follow the processing steps just as I have noted here. Mercy madams instructions were to slice the bitter gourds at the last min possible and immediately cook them.

Chop onions finely. Wash bitter gourd, slit into two, remove the seeds with a spoon and wash again and keep aside.Heat oil in a kadai, add mustard, udad dal, asafoetida two shakes or a pinch, curry leaves and chopped onions and salt in that order. Lower the flame and while the onions turn translucent, quickly slice the cleaned bitter gourd. It will take hardly two mins. Dump the cut pavakkai in the kadai, add turmeric powder and turn the heat to medium high. stir for around five mins. Add chilli powder and stir for around two mins, then check the pavakkai for done ness. It should be cooked by now, dosent take long. Stir a little longer if necessary. Add the dessicated coconut and stir till you get a nice aroma of toasted coconut.  Check for salt. Serve hot as an accompaniment with rice.

Yes Simple and easy actually. And very tasty according to my husband. When my father and mother come to help for my second delivery, I have to try it out on my Father.

As per Mercy madams instructions, I was supposed to add coconut pieces cut into chip size like corn kernels to the oil before adding onions and fry till golden. This imparts a lovely flavour to the dish but I dont buy whole coconut here. I buy either dessicated or frozen grated coconut. The dessicated coconut flakes added a nice toasted coconut aroma to the dish.

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