Banana Blossom curry (Vaazhaipoo curry)


The banana tree is a true giver, all parts of the plant : the tender bark, the leaves, the flowers , the fruits…. either are edible or they aid in cooking. Banana blossoms, rich in antioxidants , flavonoids and vitamin E are found to stabilize blood sugar levels and elevate mood among other health benefits. Prepping the flower for cooking can be cumbersome, but its unique taste is completely worthy of the time and efforts.

Image

If you are new to cooking with the blossom, this post can show you how to properly prep the flower. The blossom can be used in stir fries, salads, stews and curries. The most popular concoction is the “vazhaipoo vadai” (crispy patties made with chickpeas and the banana flowers). Though the flowers can be used in any curry, here I have given my mushroom curry recipe, replacing mushrooms with the banana flowers.

Without further ado, here is how to prep the blossom for cooking :

[Either use  food prep gloves or rub sesame oil on your fingers before working with the blossom to avoid staining.]

  • The petals are layered on top of one another and as you remove each petal you will find the cluster of tiny flowers inside.

Image

  • Actually in a fresh banana blossom , the flowers are slightly pinkish (as shown in the image below). However, the blossoms I get here are either refrigerated or frozen before they make it to the stores, so the black color. However, the color doesn’t affect the taste.

Image

[Image from : http://www.moorheadandrutter.com.au]

  • As you remove the layers you will notice the flowers getting smaller and tender.

Image

  • Finally you will end up with this beautiful tender bud, which can be either eaten  raw or sliced up and used in cooking.

Image

  • Once you have removed all the flowers, each flower must be individually prepped by removing some unwanted parts (similar to deveining a shrimp).

Image

  • Each mature flower has  a stamen and a sepal (a wax paper like layer). It is important to remove both , as the stamen and sepal will stay raw even after cooking, resulting in an unpleasant texture and taste.

Image

Image

  • It is time consuming but if it is any consolation, only the outer 4 or 5 clusters will have stamen and sepal. The middle clusters won’t have a prominent sepal. The inner flowers are very tender and they can be used as such.

Image

  • Soak the cleaned flowers in diluted buttermilk until you need them.

Image

This concludes the prepping of the banana blossom. No matter what you choose to make with them, the above steps have to be done first.

Now for the curry recipe :

I normally make this curry with mushrooms. The cooked flowers have a similar texture to mushroom, so I figured this would be a good choice. You can add the florets in any curry of your choice.

To make the cooking sauce for this curry, you will need :

Image

  1. Pearl Onions – 5 or 6
  2. Ginger – 1 inch piece
  3. Garlic – 4 or 5 cloves
  4. Green chilli – 1 (optional)
  5. Dry red chiilies – 3 or 4 (use red pepper flakes instead)[use only 1 or 2 chillies for milder curry]
  6. cloves – 3
  7. cardamom – 1
  8. fennel – 1 tsp
  9. cumin – 1 tsp
  10. coriander seeds (dhaniya) – 1 tsp
  11. roasted gram dhal (pottukadalai) – 1 tbsp (replace with cashews or grated coconut)

I know thats a lot of ingredients, but they result in a very aromatic curry. No fancy ingredients anyways 🙂 . Grind all the above ingredients with little water to make the cooking sauce.

Image

  • You will also need :
  1. onions – 1 medium (chopped)
  2. tomatoes – 1 large or 2 medium (diced)
  3. curry leaves – few
  4. turmeric powder – 1 tsp

Image

  • In a pan , heat a 2 tsp of oil, and saute the onions and curry leaves. Then add the tomatoes and cook until tomatoes soften.

Image

  • Add the banana flowers (that were soaking in buttermilk) to the pan and saute.

Image

  • Add the cooking sauce , turmeric powder, salt and mix well.

Image

  • Add about half a cup of water and cook until the flowers are tender and oil starts to separate. It will take about 15 – 20 minutes in medium heat.

Image

I like this curry for its flavors and also that it goes well with rice, rotis, idli and dosa. You will definitely appreciate the unique taste of banana flowers in this curry. Hope you try it 🙂 !

Advertisements

Podimas (with green plantains)


Every state in India has its own version of thali meal. A thali meal is a complete meal with many components, including rice, lentils, curries, soups, stir fries, deep fried sides, desserts and pickles. Tamilnadu’s meal looks something like this :

Image

Picture Courtesy : http://boffinnews.blogspot.com/2012/02/tamilnadu-special-foods-meals-special.html

The thali meal cooked at homes on regular days usually has 2 or 3 vegetable sides and on special days the meal is prepared with 4 or 5 vegetable sides and the wedding thali meals come with about 7 or 8 sides. Bigger the occasion, more the number of sides. The beauty of the meal is that each side is cooked by a different method of cooking.  There are thorans (stir fries), koottu (vegetables cooked with lentils), varuvals (vegetables shallow or deep fried with jacked up spices), aviyal (a wet mix of a combination of vegetables cooked in a yogurt and coconut base) and then the podimas or puttu (steamed and shredded vegetables with coconut seasoning).

Here is the method of preparation for podimas (which is also called as ‘puttu’ sometimes). I have used raw plantains for this recipe, this can also be done with potatoes or carrots or yam. This is a very simple recipe, but the trick is to get the texture right.

  • I am using “naattu vazhakkai”, the unripened plantains that we get in Indian stores. Any green plantain can be used.

Image

  • Steam the plantains with their skin on, either in a steam basket or in an idli maker. You can also drop them in boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. If the plantains are overcooked, the dish wont turn out that great. Once the plantains are steamed , allow them to cool down completely , peel off their skins and grate them. If you are using potatoes, shred the steamed potatoes with hands instead of grating, and avoid using the potato masher.

Image

Image

  • For seasoning , you’ll need :
  1. Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
  2. Urad dal – 1 tsp
  3. channa dal – 1 tsp
  4. cumin – 1 tsp
  5. fennel – 1 tsp (optional)
  6. onions – 1 medium , chopped
  7. green chillies – 4 or 5 (use red pepper flakes instead)
  8. minced ginger – 2 tsp
  9. curry leaves – few
  10. grated coconut – 3 tbsp

Image

Image

  • In a pan, heat 2 tbsp of oil and splutter the mustard seeds, fry channa dal and urad dal to golden, fry the cumin and fennel. Saute the ginger, onions, green chillies and curry leaves.

Image

  • Once the onions brown lightly, add the grated coconut, toast for a few seconds and turn off the heat.

Image

  • Add the grated plantains to the pan and mix gently with the seasoning. Make sure the heat is off while you are doing this. The shredded plantains are delicate as they are already steamed, continuing to heat or going hard with the spatuala can easily mush them. This is the most important step in the recipe. Gently mix everything together, and then turn the heat back on to warm the podimas.

Image

And now your podimas is ready to be served as a side to rice and curry. This goes well with any curry like sambar or rasam , but my favorite way to serve this is to pair up

with super spicy curries like vattha kuzhambu, kara kuzhambu or pulusu.

As I said already, this is just a method pf preparation, try to cook your favorite vegetables this way and let me know how it goes 🙂

Image

This is a very mild side. If you are looking for a spicy plantain recipe check out Spicy Plantains.

Chicken Kola curry


“Kola”s are the Indian meatballs.
Image

Minced chicken (If you don’t get minced chicken, just grind boneless chicken without adding water).

Image

Roasted channa dal (pottukadalai) and fennel. grind them together and make dry powder. Or you can use besan and fennel powder.Image

This will be used to bind the kolas.

Image

chopped onions, chillies, coriander leaves and ginger garlic paste

Image

Sauté the onions, chillies, ginger garlic paste and cilantro.

Image

Add them to the minced chicken.

Image

Add turmeric powder, chilli powder , a pinch of garam masala and salt.

Image

Add the roasted channa dal+fennelseeds powder to the chicken and mix well.

Image

Make even sized balls (kolas) out of the meat and set them aside.

Image

Now for the gravy:
red chilies
coriander seeds
fennel seeds
cumin seeds
raw rice

Image

Fry the spices in a spoon of oil.

Image

Grind them with 3 tbsp. of grated coconut.

Image

Make it to a smooth paste and dilute with water.

Image

chop some onions, garlic, chillies, tomatoes and curry leaves.

Image

Use a shallow pan(so that all the kolas can be placed in a single layer). Saute the garlic, curry leaves ,chillies  and onions.

Image

Add the tomatoes and sauté until they soften.

Image

Add the prepared masala.(Picture 14)

Image

Add some tamarind water and salt.

Image

Bring the curry to a good boil and then place the meat kolas in the curry. This is how its traditionally done. If you are concerned that the kolas might break, you can shallow/deep fry the balls first before adding it to the curry. But then the kolas won’t be as juicy as the traditional way.

Image

Once you have placed all the kolas in the curry, reduce the heat, cover and cook until the kolas are done..

Image

Make sure the kolas are cooked all the way before removing from heat.

 Image
Serve with rice. For the vegetarian version, make kolas by grinding soaked thur/moong dhal .
Image

Fish in cocount curry


My hometown is a small fishing town in the southern tip of India, so my love for fish shouldn’t be a surprise. Nothing compares to the taste of freshly caught fish cooked within hours. I became a vegetarian few years back and I have to say it would have been impossible if I am still living in my hometown. This curry is a traditional recipe and brings back memories of my school days, sharing lunches with friends, I had a couple of friends whose moms made awesome versions of this curry 🙂

Image

Fish – cleaned , cut and rubbed with turmeric and salt. (I have Tilapia here)

Image

Tamarind water (Even after all these years of cooking I can’t rightly judge how much tamarind I will need. I usually make a good amount of tamarind water and add to the recipe as needed and save the rest in the fridge and try to use it within 4-5 days).

Image

chopped onions, diced tomatoes and a generous amount of curry leaves.

Image

In a pan, add 2tbsp of sesame oil. Fry 1 tsp of mustard seeds and 1/2 tsp of fenugreek.
Saute the onions and curry leaves.

Image

When the onions lightly brown, add :  2 tsp of turmeric powder and red chilli powder (according to your heat preference) directly to the oil. This will instantly cook the chilli powder and take the raw smell out of it.

Image

Once the oil separates, add the tomatoes.

Image

When the tomatoes soften, add the tamarind water.

Image

Add about a cup of water and salt. Allow this to boil and reduce a little bit (until the raw taste of tamarind goes away).

Image

Add the fish pieces and allow it to cook for 5 mins. That’s all it will take for the fish to cook.

Image

While the fish is cooking, we can make the coconut paste. You’ll need :
grated coconut – 3 tbsp.
chopped onions – 1 tbsp.
garlic – 2 cloves
cumin – 2 tsp
curry leaves – some
(If you like a little punch, you can also add 1 tsp of black pepper. )
Image
Grind them all with water to make a paste.
Image
Add the coconut paste to the fish curry, stir in without breaking the fish .
Image
Sprinkle some more curry leaves, cover with lid and simmer for 10 mins. Allow the curry to stay in the pan for at least 30 mins before transferring to the serving dish.
Image
Serve with rice. You can drizzle a tsp of sesame oil in the curry before serving. Fish, curry leaves and sesame oil are like soulmates, they work very well together 
Image