Another guest post today – from my friend and to-be-neighbour in Coonoor, Praveena. Praveena’s story of kaakarakai/paavakai (bitter gourd) will find an echo in many hearts – and memories of childhood grievances! Over to Praveena.
Archana’s con mum has inspired me to put this down. My sympathies Arch. Here’s another version of the con mom.
I am not a foodie. But there are things I love to eat, things I eat because I have to and things that I refuse to eat (finally, as an adult you get to do this, but when your kids are not by your side watching your every move.)
But at 7, I was horribly fussy and exasperating. So my poor mum spent considerable time and energy in convincing me to eat. So, there was Kovakka which was the fast-running kai that would make me win races; there was ugh! Bhindi which was maths kai so I could master maths in the confidence that my brains had had enough bhindi to eat. And so on and so forth.
Years later, it was my turn to be a con mom. I was luckier because my son is a foodie – provided the food had North Indian, Italian, Chinese or Thai antecedents.
So, one time, I decided to make paharkai pitlai (a dish that I love). My son, about 11 at the time, walked in hungry and raring to have a go at the food. Straight-faced, I told him it was called pitlai and that it was a variation of an Ethiopian dish!! He lapped it up, loved it and wanted more. Then of course, he also wanted to know what went into it. Bitter gourd? Dhania seeds? Tamarind? Ethiopian? Really?
Not really. But he loves the dish. And here’s how I make it. Tweak the proportions of chilli and salt and gur to suit your palette.
Cooked Toor dal – half a cup
Tamarind water – about 1 cup
Gur – Lemon sized
For the masala
One tablespoon of chana dal
Four Red chillies (or as per taste)
Half a tablespoon of Dhania seeds
One cup of grated coconut
Roast the chana dal, red chillies and dhania seeds in one tablsespoon of oil. Cool and grind with the grated coconut. Keep aside.
Cut bitter gourd (paharkai) into rings and then quarter them. Boil them in water with salt, turmeric and a little tamarind water (quarter cup). Cool, squeeze the bitter gourd pieces to remove water and keep aside. Now add fresh water to the bitter gourd pieces, add salt and turmeric if required.
Add the remaining tamarind water and let the mixture cook. Add the cooked toor dal and allow it to boil some more. Add the gur. Then add the ground masala. Take the dish off the fire after about five minutes.
For the tadka, use mustard seeds, one or two red chillies and curry leaves. Garnish and serve.
Conwomen of the world – UNITE!