Rainy days and Mondays…
…always get me cookin’!!
This is both a Monday and a rainy day! So what’s cooking? Well, there’s lobia, paatra vadai with cabbage leaves, chunda (an old maid of mine visited from the village with mangoes), pulihaara mix (I don’t think anyone can make pulihaara like my mom – except maybe me, modesty certainly NOT being my middle name)! Might still bake some stuff later on…
Rainy days as a child always meant hot, roasted peanuts with lumps of jaggery to bite deliciously slowly into as you nibbled the nuts (always strictly shared out between the three of us – no Shylock could have been more watchful that the other one didn’t get more!!) If mom was home from the hospital, there were potato and onion bajjis and if there were no potatoes or onions at home, my ever inventive mother came up with the strangest things that you could batter and fry: potlakai (podalanga/snake gourd cut into rings) – super hit; baingan (eggplant) – uh-uh – middling; and even jackfruit – super flop! To my mind, however, besan (chickpea flour) was always associated with bajjis only until one day…
…the fiancée of a cousin came visiting from Rourkela (Rima, remember??!!) where she had grown up and introduced us to the joys of paatra or paatra vada – for the first time, realised that we could actually steam stuff using besan! The early ages of the twenties and the thirties (our ages, i mean, not the 1920s and 30s – we’re not that old!) when waists still stayed slim never brought this steaming stuff to mind – after all, when you can deep-fry, why steam?? So bajjis and pakodas it stayed till expanding waistlines, groaning weighing scales and shooting cholesterol levels all combined in a cacophony worthy of a Star Wars finale to finally push deep-frying out. It makes a rare appearance now and is always welcomed with the love due to a prodigal hero! Also some trepidation – what if the returning hero decides to actually move back in??? Horror!
Today the prodigal returnee is still far (may make an appearance tomorrow!) and so we shall stick to the steamy but still yummy counterpart.
Have experimented till I found the easiest way to make these – there are versions which involve many layers and rolling up and steaming and cutting and frying but this one takes barely any time, therefore is loved!
Also no arbi (colocasia/chaamagadda) leaves available in Madras so cabbage it shall be!
- Cabbage leaves – 12 – i used a Chinese cabbage – but you can use whatever you want. Wash and carefully separate the leaves, dunk each into boiling water for a minute and then lay them out to dry. ( i know some people i want to do this to, too!)
- Besan – chickpea flour – 1 cup
- Dhaniya (coriander) powder) – 1 tsp
- Jeera (cumin) powder – 3/4 tsp
- Chili powder – 1/2 tsp
- Green chili – minced – 1
- Turmeric – 1/2 tsp
- Asafoetida – 1 large pinch
- Kasooti methi – 1 tsp
- Oil – 2 tbsp
- Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
- Curry leaves – 2 spriges – chopped
- Coriander leaves – 1 tbsp – chopped
Mix everything except the cabbage leaves into a thick batter (idli batter consistency). Spread out each leaf and smear the paste over it – can slather it on – no need to be too refined about this! Fold the thinner sides in and then roll up the cabbage leave starting with the thick edge into a sausage. Repeat till batter is exhausted or you are! Place a single layer of these in a steamer and steam in the cooker or a steamer – without the weight – till done – about 7-8 minutes. Switch off and let cool. Heat a little oil in a large, flat saucepan and add mustard seeds and curry leaves. Gently place the paatras in the pan and cook, uncovered till brown on the bottom. Turn over ever so gently and repeat. Sprinkle coriander on top and serve as a side with rice or a snack by itself with tamarind chutney or – if you have Gujju genes – ketchup!! 😉