Back in Hyderabad for a few days and I already feel calmer and more ‘settled’! What is it about one’s hometown that always does this – to everyone I know? Even a native New Yorker or Mumbai-ite (Mumbaiya?), among the most frenetic places on earth (I actually find myself breathing faster in either of these places!), removed from his native turf (yes, there are patches of turf in these – think Central Park and umm… in Mumbai, think… well, let me think harder and I’ll tell you by and by!) feels calmer when he comes back, even if he/she has been to the remotest, most-uninhabited place on earth!
Something about the native land that re-introduces you to the younger, calmer you after a corporate life is truly rejuvenating, not to mention soporific!
Some years ago, I was sitting on the verandah of our home in Hyderabad staring out at nothing in particular. K, my younger one, about four years old at the time, comes out and sits next to me. Having always seen me rush around in a frenzy as I try to do a million things at the same time (shudder, shudder!), she is puzzled to see her amma so quiet and asks “What you doin’, amma?”
Too lazy to answer, I tell her, “I’m watching the mango on that tree grow.”
“Oh,” she says, as this information is digested and sits quietly by my side…
…five minutes later, a small voice pipes up… “I am also watching. But it’s not growing! Shall I call more people to watch and make it grow??!”
Madrasi hurry? Need to make it happen? Naah, i don’t think so… well, at least not completely because I’ve met people who actually feel the same way about Madras being calm and unhurried! But still, I have a sneaking suspicion that there’s no place like the land of my Nizami ancestors to make time stand still and to find the leisure to watch a mango grow on a tree! After all, why sweat about something that needs to be done today?! Kal, parson, tarson bhi chalega, miyaan! (Tomorrow, the day after, the day after the day after tomorrow will do just as well… !)
And that is how we cook too… slow cooked food, made with love and patience and altogether conspiring to create some truly unmatched cuisine…
I had asked my cousin Devika, if she had the recipe for one of the “lost” treasures of our childhood – her mother’s (Ameenakkayya, the lady with her tastebuds at the tips of her fingers – probably the best chef I’ve ever met in my life!) very, very special…
BAJJILA KOORA/PAKODA KORMA
The first ingredient you need is time – budget two hours!
The second is patience – this requires plenty of patience – particularly if you want to hold back on the fat content!
Reproducing Devi’s recipe below:
- Besan 2 cups
- Onions – 3 medium
- Salt, chili powder to taste
- Ajwain/carom seeds – 1/2 tsp – optional
- Asafoetida – a pinch
- Garlic – 1 flake – grated – optional
- Green chili – 1 minced
Mix all of these together with enough water to make a thick batter. Drop spoonfuls (chinna muddalu!) into hot oil and fry till golden brown. Remove and drain on paper. Set pakodas aside.
- Desiccated coconut/copra – grated – 1 cup
- Coriander/dhania powder – 1 tsp
- Cumin/jeera powder – 1/2 tsp
- Ginger – 1/2 inch
- Garlic – 4 – 6 pods
- Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
- Red chili/mirchi powder – 1 tsp
- Almonds – 2 tbsp
- Poppy seeds/Khus khus – 1 tbsp – optional
Roast all these in a bit of oil and grind to a smooth paste. Set aside – masala paste.
- Cardamom/elaichi – 2
- Cloves/lavang – 4-5
- Cinnamon/dalchini – 2 ” piece
- Onions – finely chopped – 1 cup
- Sour yogurt – 1 cup (if your yogurt is not sour, add 1/2 tsp tamarind paste and whisk together)
- Tomato puree – 1 cup
- Oil – 3-4 tsp
Fry elaichi, lavang, patta, then chopped onions in oil, add ground masala and fryyyy.
Add yogurt a little at a time, fry till oil separates, then add 1 cup tomato puree/sauce and fryyy. (I warned you this would take time!)
Add a bit of hot water if too thick.
Remove from flame and add bajjis.
Anu, my mom/amma believed in looong frying of the gravy. Totally sneered at the typical South Indian style of adding yogurt, stir and turn off method. Or barely fried onion for gravy :)))
There’s a danger point. While I was diligently fryyying the gravy, hubbygee and our guy friends would polish off the bajjis. Haha, once Rima and I climbed a chair and stashed them on top of the fridge smugly, little realizing it was eye level for Madan. He generously doled them out while the gravy was happening
Recipe verbatim from when i wrote it 33 years ago!