It’s funny how so many memories of great food seem tied up with childhood summers, isn’t it? While i’ve grumbled ad nauseum about Madras, it’s also Madras which has introduced me to foods that are among my favourites today.
One summer, many long years ago, my mother had come with us on a holiday to Madras – usually only the kids were packed off – from many households across the country to ONE aunt and uncle whose job it was to look after us for the summer. The parents who got to do the packing off must have danced celebratory jigs on returning home from the station while the ones on whom this phalanx was descending might have also had one last celebratory dinner before kids started coming out of the woodwork for the next month or so!
And so, one morning, mom decided that we haven’t seen anything till we saw the beloved Marina of her childhood and shook us all out of bed at the unearthly hour of 6 o’clock to take us to the beach. Many hours of fun, frolic and trailing tonnes of beach sand home and being hosed off en masse on the porch before we were allowed to step in through the back door, hunger was at unprecedented crescendos. The aunt with whom we were staying – Kalyani pinni of the legendary hospitality – had anticipated hungry mouths and made a mound of adais over 1 ‘ ( that’s right, one foot – you’re not misreading it!) high with many chutneys and things to accompany it!
The locust swarm descended on the table and in 5 minutes flat, there wan’t an adai in sight and definitely none left for the ‘big people’ who made do with bread and butter!!!
I never grew very fond of them till i started making them myself and now, the combo of adai and avial is definitely of the ilk of Lay’s – no one can eat just one!
The perfect diet food – high in protein and fibre, low on fats and carbs and very filling in the bargain – load up guiltlessly – the diet gods are watching and applauding!
Toor dal – 1 cup
Chana dal – 1/2 cup
Whole urad dal – with skin if possible – 1/2 cup
Rice – 1 tbsp ( i add a tsp of any other millets
– jowar or bajra or barley – for added fibre)
2 green chilies
2 red chilies
1 pinch of asafoetida
2 sprigs of curry leaves
Onions 2 – finely chopped
Sesame oil – about 2 or 3 tbsps
Soak the dals together and the rice/millets separately for about 4-5 hours. Grind together to a knobbly rough puree along with the chilies, asafoetida, salt and curry leaves to a thick, spreading consistency. Let it rest for about an hour. Add chopped onion. Letting it rest for too long will probably make your teeth go unpleasantly ‘ping’!
Heat a flat dosa pan, preferably non-stick unless you’re a purist! Spread one ladleful of the batter into a thick dosa and pour a few drops of oil around. Make a small hole in the centre and pour in a few drops of oil there. Cover and cook on a low flame for 2-3 minutes. Peek under one edge to check if it has browned. Turn over and cook, uncovered, for a further 2-3 minutes. Ta-dang!
Keep making – what did i just tell you – no one can eat just one!
Drumstick (the Indian vegetable, not the chicken spare part!)- cut into 3 cm lengths – 1
Green plantain – 1 – cut into 1 cm long thin pieces to match above
Carrot – 1 – ditto
Beans – a handful – string and snap
Pumpkin – 1/2 cup each of white and yellow – cut like above
Grated coconut – 3 tbsp
3 green chilies
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
Sour yogurt – 3 cups – whipped
Curry leaf – 1 sprig
Coconut oil – 5-6 drops (yes, that’s it!)
Turmeric – 1 pinch – optional
Cook the vegetable together with about a cup of water. Grind together coconut, chilies and cumin into a fine paste. Add this to the vegetables. Add another cup of water and salt and cook till vegetables are done. Switch off, let cool for a few minutes and add yogurt and mix. Smear the curry leaf with coconut oil and drop into the avial.
Enjoy one of the simplest, tastiest dishes to come out of God’s own country!