The queen of Hyderabadi khana – Ameenakkayya!
I haven’t mentioned her earlier but Ameena Nemali was my inspiration to learn to cook! Anything she touched turned to culinary gold – even the humblest ‘mamidikai pappu’ (raw mango dal) which is the month-end, budgets-are-over staple in every Telugu household, tasted divine when she made it.
I have spent many, many lazy weekends, reading and playing wordgames with cousins and generally gassing away till the lunch or dinner call came. Everyone else would chatter as they filed in but to me – a foodie in the budding even then – the table needed to be approached with a feeling of sanctity; anything less was a desecration to the lady’s art!
Her repertoire seemed limitless – Andhra cooking to super-thin dosas with chutney and please-can-I-have-more sambar, Kayasth cuisine to bakes and finally what she was most famous for – at least in my eyes (!!) – Hyderabadi khana! The memory of her pakoda kurma with fried rice still makes my eyes water – imagine what the actual stuff did to the salivary glands of a ten-year old! I shall always regret not writing down more of her recipes…
Tried for years to reproduce her kurma – with no great success till finally, i think i made the breakthrough quite recently!
Have substituted the pakodas with vegetables for a low-fat version but for those of you who can’t touch your toes anyway, what does an extra pakoda or two matter 😉
2 cups of assorted vegetables cut into large chunks – potatoes, cauliflower, carrot, beans, peas and even the humble knolkhol!
2 large tomatoes
2 large onions (i know American onions are enormous – these are Indian onions! Should be slightly larger than a large egg.
4-5 cloves garlic
Ginger – 1/2 ” piece
2 green chilies
Chili powder – 1 tsp
1 tsp poppy seeds (khus khus)
2 tbsp cashew nuts
Dry coconut (copra) – 2 tbsp – if you don’t have this, try roasting fresh coconut for a few minutes on a very low heat.
2 black cardamoms – badi ilaichi – these will give you that ‘smoky’ flavour
1 ” piece cinnamon
2 green cardamoms
1 cup thick curd – whipped
Oil – 1 tbsp
Ghee – 1 tbsp
Grind to a fine paste the onions, garlic, ginger and green chilies. This is paste 1.
Heat the poppy seeds on a low flame for about 3-4 minutes – there’ll be a slightly ‘nutty’ smell hanging around NOT emanating from you. Switch off and let cool. Grind together with a little water the poppy seeds, cashew nuts, copra and black cardamom with a little water. This is paste 2.
Heat the oil and ghee in a large frypan and drop in the cloves, cinnamon and green cardamoms – ouch – don’t stand so close! They splutter!
Add paste 1 and keep stirring till onions no longer smell raw. If the paste keeps sticking to the pan, add a few drops of water and keep stirring – this is the only part of the recipe which needs a bit of patience – even an Indian student in Amreeka can make it! Add the chili powder and fry a bit. Add about 1/2 cup yogurt one tbsp at a time and fry till it is incorporated into the gravy.
Then add paste 2 and two cups of water and stir about. Now add the vegetables. If using cauliflower, let everything else half cook before you add – otherwise the caulis will overcook and generally taste yucky! Add salt, cover and cook til vegetables are almost done.
Chunk the tomatoes – i usually cut each tomato into just 4 pieces and drop in. Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes more. Switch off and add the rest of the whipped yogurt. Voila!