Living in Madras for the past 25-odd years, I’ve sort of grown used to the dosa-idli-heat, Tamil is the oldest lingo chauvinism, Rajni vs Kamal debates, the DMK -ADMK-PMK political scrambles, sundal-on-the-beach stuff… just noticed too that my list up there both begins and ends with “food items”! The stuff that makes most places bearable! Sometimes though, nostalgia does overtake the here-and-now dosa-chutney combo and makes me want to go back to my mirchi-ka-salan, khatti dal combos of Hyderabadi friends-ke-tiffin-dabbe!
Maybe it’s the Nawabi influence but even the poorest households in Hyderabad have men and women with fantastic “kairaasi” – the ability to turn humble ingredients into dishes fit for a – Nawab! In fact, the best baghara baingan (eggplant gravy) i’ve ever tasted has come from the household of an office boy in my brother’s studio!
I have written some stories of this baghara baingan in one of my earlier posts but as always – there are more!
At my wedding reception at a hotel, my most-hospitable-but-not-the-best-of-organiser parents had sent out hundreds of invitations without really keep track of them. The result – the crush at the wedding reception was over 3000!! The hotel , having been informed that there would be about 1800 guests to dinner, threw up their hands by the time they crossed the 2000 mark! More guests were streaming in and food was fast running out! My brother decided to jump in to the rescue – organising a bunch of his friends and family and herding them into the kitchen to make – baghara baingan – a dish that requires long and careful preparation! Reasoning that a bunch of hungry Madrasis ( husband’s people!) would probably not know a baingan from an anda (eggplant-egg – back to our egg saga of the last few days – AGAIN!!), they proceeded to boil up – yes, boil up – some eggplants and throw them into a rudimentary gravy and serve it up as baghara baingan! Result : the numbers of Hyderabadi guests at the table declined drastically but the hapless Madrasis soldiered on! Must have wondered why so much was made of this Hyderabadi dish!
Today was about nostalgia for another favourite – closely related to the baingan – presenting
MIRCHI aur TAMAATAR KA SALAN
- Large green chilies – washed, dried and slit leaving both ends intact – 10
- Tomatoes -2 + 1 – chunked
- Onions – sliced – 2 large
- Garlic – 10-12 flakes – peeled
- Ginger – optional – 1 tsp minced
- Peanuts – 3 tbsp
- Sesame seeds – 2 tbsp
- Dry coconut – copra – 2 tbsp
- Poppy seeds (khuskhus) – 1 tbsp
- Dhania – coriander – seeds – 2 tbsp
- Jeera – cumin – seeds – 1 tsp
- Red chili powder – 1.5 tsp
- Turmeric pwd – 1/2 tsp
- Oil – 3 – 4 tbsp
- Lavang – cloves – 2 – optional
- Tamarind paste – 2 tbsp
- Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
- Curry leaves – 2 sprigs
Dry roast the dhania, jeera, peanuts, sesame, poppy and coconut separately. Grind togther with the cloves to a fine powder. Set aside. Heat one tsp of oil and fry the onions, garlic and ginger till golden brown. Grind this along with one tomato to a very smooth paste.
Heat the rest of the oil and fry the chilies for a minute. Set aside. In the same oil, fry the ground onion paste till golden brown. Add the ground masala powder, turmeric and chili powders and fry for a few minutes more. Add the tamarind paste and 1.5 cups of water and stir well. Bring up to the boil and simmer for ten minutes till the raw smells of tamarind and tomato disappear. Add the fried chilies and cook for 7-8 minutes more. Add the two chunked tomatoes, cover and simmer, adding more water if needed for a medium thick gravy – for 3-4 minutes. Serve with hot rice and nothing else 🙂 – even the Madrasis will drool!