When i was growing up, Beerakai (the Telugu name for Thurai/Thori/Ribbed or Ridged gourd/Peerkanka)was one of those things that appeared on the table at the end of the month when budgets were running tight, our piggy banks were being raided (always returned with interest by an overly conscientious mother!!) to last till payday came around. We loved it when Mummy ‘borrowed’ money from us – after what can quite equal the thrill to an 8-year old of ‘lending a tanner’ to an adult and seeing it returned with an additional buck or two?!
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My go-to comfort food for more decades than I care to remember – it never fails to “settle” me – whether the organ that needs to be “settled” is my tummy or my soul!
Truly soul food, this was my mother’s – and my beautiful, soft and cuddly ammamma’s, always smelling of some mild perfume that she had, mantra for all ills. I am sure that they must have made me eat chaarannam (rasam and rice) when I had a fever, but my memories of comfort will always be tied up with ammamma’s soft- as- butter skin and the wonderful, soft white perugannam that she mixed with so much love.
I always thought I made a pretty mean perugannam myself, till I visited one of the temples deep in the South where curd rice is offered as prasadam and then – I tasted divinity! A little judicious (and friendly!) overtures to the officiating priest resulted in him calling out to the cook to come and meet this woman who was in awe of his prasadam! Some friendly banter and exchange of family histories later (and here I will give full credit to a hubby who is as patient as they come!), I had the recipe for ambrosia in my hands!
· Hot, soft cooked rice – 2 cup (not Basmati but either Ponni or jeera samba or any of the short grained Indian varieties)
· 1 tbsp table butter
· Cold milk – 1 cup
· Fresh curd – 2 cups
· 1 tbsp ghee
· Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
· Urad dal – 1 tsp
· Asafoetida – 1 large pinch
· Curry leaves – 2 sprigs
· 1 green chili – finely chopped
· Finely chopped cucumber – 2 tbsp – optional
· Chopped coriander – 1 tbsp
· Seedless green grapes – 1 cup (optional but yum!)
Mash the butter into the hot rice along with the salt. Heat the ghee in a pan and mustard, wait till it pops. Add urad, green chili, ginger and curry leaves. Pour over the rice.
Add milk a little at a time and mix till the temperature of the rice comes down to warm. Mix in the curd a little by little. The end product should be of soft, dropping consistency. Add the coriander. Add cucumber pieces. Add more milk and curd if needed. Rest for about an hour.
Dot with grapes… The food of the gods!