August 8, 2007

Drumstick Sambar and Raw Banana Curry

So many things that I have posted are one dish meals. But Mallugirl’s post made me think. Amma always made a full breakfast and a full lunch before leaving for work. In fact, at dinner time, all we had to do was make fresh rice. Nothing is as difficult as we make it out to be. We live in better times to some extent than our mothers did. We have access to hygienically packed, processed foods. Although we had a food processor and a cooking range at home, a microwave came only ten years ago into Amma's kitchen. I remember Amma making paruppu usli by grinding the soaked dal on an ammi made of stone. I have trouble bringing my Ultra Grind out and Amma made Idli and Dosa batter on a stone kal oral. Then she got a wet grinder. For all its automation, it was still what I'd consider cumbersome.

A lot of people ask me why I don't hire a cook or just eat out. A friend asked me about a month ago, "Why are you so bullish about cooking your own food? I leave all that to my maid. Stop being so adamant and finicky about cooking. You're a working woman. Learn to enjoy life."

Enjoy. The word can convey so many feelings at once. I don't like dancing and I've been told I don't know how to enjoy life. What is this thing about doing a particular thing in order to enjoy life? Should it not be about doing what I want? I've been a full time working woman for 8 years now. Eight complete years as of today. And in all this time I've cooked my own meals. I have a LOT of support from Amma. I get ready made sambar and rasam powders, tamarind paste, scraped coconut, vangi bhat masala, bisi bele bhat masala, ginger, chilli and garlic pastes, paruppu podi, thengai podi, yellu podi, karuveppilai podi, milagai podi, yennai katrikkai podi, pitti chitni and loads of other things from her. No kidding! And with so much that she untiringly does for me, what I do with the things she lovingly makes for me is almost nothing. But what is more important to me is the fact that I enjoy cooking.

My lunchbox during my school days used to be an elaborate 4 container tiffin carrier. Top most for the vegetable, then sambar-rice, rasam-rice and curd-rice. Amma was a working woman. Yet, she didn't make the kind of stuff that I do (put everything in a cooker and forget it!) She didn't have the luxury of frozen cut vegetables or ready made ginger-garlic pastes. Yet she dished out one healthy meal after another for as long as I've known her. And she continues to do so.

This morning's meal, I owe entirely to her (as I do almost everything.) It is during such rushed mornings that I am especially thankful for the 5 cookers I have received as gifts from her over the years. There is no waiting for the pressure to release so you can cook the next item.

A trip to the I.N.A. market allows you to not only buy exotic ingredients, but ordinary things that you crave. Drumsticks, raw bananas, shallots, sweet potatoes, amaranth leaves, taro leaves... the list is endless. Our trip on Sunday was successful. We brought back a lot of much missed vegetables.

Today being a working day, our meal had to be ready in 30 minutes. And it was. So, this is a totally unplanned entry to Mallugirl’s Express Cooking challenge. The picture was taken just when I sat down to lunch. (I am working from home for the moment.)

The meal comprised:

Drumstick Sambar (Murungakkai Sambar)
Raw Banana Curry (Vazhaikkai Karumadhu)


Drumstick Sambar:

1/2 cup Toor Dal
1 tbsp Sambar Powder
1 Drumstick, cut into 3-inch long pieces
3 Onions, sliced
2 tsp Oil
1/4 tsp Mustard Seeds
1/4 tsp Asafoetida
7-8 Curry Leaves
1/4 tsp Fenugreek Seeds
1 Green Chilli, slit
1 Red Chilli
4 tbsp Tamarind Paste
Salt to Taste


1 cup Ponni Rice
3 cups Water

Raw Banana Curry (Vazhaikkai Karumadhu):

4 large or 6 medium Raw Bananas, peeled and cubed
1 tbsp Oil
1/4 tsp Mustard Seeds
1/4 tsp Asafoetida
7-8 Curry Leaves
1/2 tsp Urad Dal
1/2 tsp Chana Dal
1 tsp Chilli Powder
1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder
1 tsp Sambar Powder
Salt to taste

How do you put it all together in 30 minutes?

Get the bananas out and peel and chop them.

Cook the rice and dal in a pressure cooker using 2 vessels. Add 3 cups of water to the rice and 1 cup of water to the dal.

When the rice and dal are getting cooked, proceed with the sambar.

Heat oil in a pressure pan. Add the mustard seeds and asafoetida. When the mustard splutters, add the curry leaves, fenugreek seeds, red and green chillies and fry for a minute. Add the onions and fry for a minute and then add the drumstick pieces. Add the sambar powder and fry for a couple of minutes more. Add a little water and cover and cook with the weight for 1 whistle. When the pressure is released, add the tamarind paste and salt and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the cooked dal and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

When the drumstick is getting cooked, you can get the raw banana curry going.

Heat the oil in a kadhai. Add the urad and chana dals. When the urad dal begins to change colour, add the mustard and asafoetida. When the mustard splutters, add the curry leaves and the raw banana pieces. Add the chilli, turmeric and sambar powders. Mix well and cover. Allow to cook for 5-10 minutes. Remove the lid and allow the pieces to crispen on all sides.
To proceed, place 2 appalams (papads) in the microwave on high for 40 seconds. Bring out the curd from the fridge. Set everything on the counter or the table. Then bring the appalams out. Eat like there is no tomorrow. Just kidding.

So, this goes to Mallugirl’s Express Cooking challenge as my final entry. My earlier entries to this event have been

Among my 100+ entries so far, a significant number would be quick meals. Maybe it is a sign of the times we live in, maybe it is a sign of my laziness. Here's a list of quick meals on The Singing Chef that didn't become a part of Mallugirl’s Express Cooking challenge:


archana said...

Sambhar rice and raw banana is my favorite meal.
Raaga I really admire you, being a working lady yet you manage to cook so many things.It is really creditable :) Nice entry for Express Cooking :)

Asha said...

Maid and cook are luxury for us here!! I would have cooked even if I was in India anyway,although I would have had a maid to do all the other chores!:D
Sambhar looks so yummy.Good job Raaga.

Roopa said...

wow nice entry raaga!

Anonymous said...

Raaga, I could relae to your post entirely. When I saw the 30 minute event, I thought to myself, "but that's just about the time i have for almost any meal". I have to cook and leave for work - and that's one of the most joyous times of the day.

My amma and my mother in law, both of them routinely pamper me with all the podis, pickles and pastes i could ever need.

Loved this entry.

TBC said...

Nice entry! Like you, I too cook most of my meals in 30 min or so. Unlike u, I have never liked cooking( maybe that's why I never liked spending more than a half hr !). It is only recently that I have started to enjoy being in the kitchen.

Sharmi said...

I loved the look of the plantain curry. I never get it that way, does not come out crisp instead it gets mushy.

Priyanka said...

Oh i have had the raw banana ccurry... an ex-roomie once made it for me... the sambhar also looks yumm... nice entries Raaga

Cynthia said...

This post is a wonderful tribute to your mom.

Raaga said...

@Archana: Why don't you come over for a nice treat someday? A potluck of sorts maybe?

Raaga said...

@Asha: True. I think I learnt that from Amma. I will probably always cook our food. Thank goodness for household help. :-)

Raaga said...

@Lakshmi: What would we do without them mothers? :-) I would probably eat rice and dal everyday.

And you're so right. 30 minutes is all we have most of the time. So whatever it is has to be done in that time.

Raaga said...

@TBC: I've always enjoyed it and never thought of it as a chore. On my bookshelf, you'll find more cookbooks than HR books :-) if that's any indication.

If you can't do what you love, you must learn to love what you do. My dad always said that to me. And maybe that's what you're doing too.

Raaga said...

@Sharmi: Do you steam the plantain first? Don't. You just cook it in its own steam :-) Try it.

Raaga said...

@Priyanka: Your preparations are no less :-) But thanks. And earlier one never got raw bananas in Delhi easily. Now that I do, I make this at least once in 2 months.

Raaga said...

@Cynthia: Thanks. Sometimes I think I may forget to acknowledge the impact my parents have had on my life. And I so don't want to do that. They've given me everything I have and more.

J said...

I have sambhar on my express menu too. Will post it in a few days!

Raaga said...

Yes Jyothsna: Sambar is always a quickie... with a pressure cooker handy.

SeeC said...

Liked your way of explaining 'Enjoy'.

While in India I always eat outside and give a reason 'No-time-to-cook'. But not anymore.

Moms are always great isn't it.

Great combo raaga.

Raaga said...

@SeeC: Moms are the best. I love eating out but it has to be a class act :-) for all other times, I like home :-)

Nupur said...

It truly is the most satisfying thing to cook a good meal for oneself and one's family at the end of the day! Too bad your friend is missing out on all the fun :)
I have never had much luck with cooking raw plaintain in this style...the plantains invariably turn ripe before I get to them, or turn out to be really difficult to peel!

yashika said...

hi chefatwork,
urs is a great blog..
did ur brinjal curry today with rice.. it was awesome..thanks!!
brinjal is one of my fav veggie..
ur snaps and recipes are mouthwatering..


Raaga said...

@Nupur: Sachin figured out a really easy way...he just chops the peel off with a knife... like you'd chop anything.

I agree with you... it is something we're blessed enough to do :-)

Raaga said...

@Yashika: I'm honoured :-) Thanks