Sunday, July 26, 2015

Halasina kaayi (Tender green jackfruit) Palya (Dry curry) - some 'home alone' ramblings

My pantry doesn't seem to be shrinking at all, I am on a voyage (read my last post) to clean up my pantry and refrigerator and until then I have promised myself I am not going grocery or produce shopping. The refrigerator is pretty much bare (used up most stuff and threw out some) and it is no longer easy to just stick your hand in the dark inside the refrigerator and come up with something edible and yummy :-). The progress on the pantry has been really slow for various reasons primarily that my family has decided to or having to go on out of town trips while I am the only one at home. While DD is still getting pampered in India, BH is travelling this week on business which leaves me all by myself at home except when I am at work. Well, I did caution you in the title of the post itself that today it is all about me being home alone, I will try and make this sound less 'whiny' and 'clingy' than it feels to me :-). Let us move onto other things in life..
I didn't cook much this past week, whatever I made on Sunday night before BH took off was enough to give me company until almost Wednesday and I ate salads for a day. Even large doses of boring things on netflix, didn't motivate me to get up and cook something during the evenings. Friday was a work from home day and as I was contemplating on what to put together for lunch, I discovered this can of tender jackfruit in the pantry shelf. I must have got it on one of my trips to the store and never found an opportunity to cook with it.

What is a vegetable that is called fruit? Tender jackfruit :-). Yep, that is how rusty my stand up comedian skills have become with no one home to target or practice on :-). But when I say that jackfruit is one of the most delicious fruits in this creation and jackfruit also makes an equally delicious vegetable when it is young, tender & green, I am not exaggerating. I am sandwiched between 2 jackfruit crazed ladies - nammamma and dear DD, they both can eat this fruit anytime, anywhere. While I am not that big a fan of the ripe fruit (Mainly because I don't even stand a chance with even one of them around cut jackfruit), I love the tender green ones used as vegetables even more.  This is a big part of coastal Karnataka & Malnad region recipes - everything from papads to curries to dosa to idli to snacks are made using both the tender and the ripe ones. Unfortunately for me no-one in the family appreciates this vegetable like I do. BH feigns allergic to halasina kaayi or all matters related to jackfruit and I don't feel good about cooking it around him. So with both BH & DD being away, I decided to treat myself to the simple deliciousness of this stir fry and after making sure the expiration date was still long ways away(it is a critical precaution to take especially when you pull out things from the back of the pantry :-)), I set about making the dish.
One of akka's friends in Mysore had this tree in their backyard that yielded deliciously sweet fruit when ripe. The fruits are gigantic and they would normally get distributed among friends but the tender ones were more sought after since they would cut when small in size. While the friend's mom generously shared atleast part of one fruit every season, the tender ones rarely made their way to us :-). If it was my friend, I probably would have come up with some sneaky barter to get hold of the unripe ones but akka never bothered. On the bright side though, the vegetable markets would be flooded with this fruit and vegetable during the season in Mysore. Nammamma made a Huli (sambar) from the vegetable with some black chickpeas thrown in and this simple stir fry as a side dish and I loved both. Making it from a tender jackfruit is labor intensive and I took the easy way out with my store bought can of tender jackfruit and totally avoided all the sticky glue, oiled knives experience :-)
Andhra weddings typically serve a side dish with tender jackfruit. I had never eaten the dish in my long married life but had heard enough from various family members on different occasions about 'Aava pettina panasa pottu koora' (I know it is a mouthful, so let me break it out, aava - mustard, panasu - jackfruit, essentially indicating the ground raw mustard mixed in with chopped jackfruit). I went to a niece's wedding couple years back drooling just by the thought of eating this during the wedding but was majorly disappointed with what was served :-), It had pieces of jackfruit floating in a gravy which was not very tasty and completely masked off the jackfruit taste, personally a 'no-no' for me. It seemed like someone's desperate attempt to serve a non vegetarian dish in a pure vegetarian fare. So instead of attempting the curry with gravy, I made this simple sauteed version from nammamma's kitchen, it turned out so delicious and I had a bowl of the palya with a glass of buttermilk for lunch and repeated the dose for dinner too :-).
The little heat from the red chilies, slight tang from tamarind, hint of sweetness from jaggery perfectly complement the inherent taste of jackfruit.

Note: Sorry for the sub standard pictures today. I never thought of blogging about this dish when I started making it and so no intermediate steps either. After tasting a spoonful, I felt so happy and wanted to share this deliciousness with all of you, grabbed the camera and shot as well as I could at the time. Sorry about it and don't let the pictures dampen your enthusiasm to make this dish at home. It is delicious. 

What do you need to make Halasina palya? 
2 cups chopped tender jackfruit
1/2 cup grated coconut
1/4 cup thinly sliced onion
2 Tbsp oil
1 Tsp mustard
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
1 Tsp cumin seeds
1/8 Tsp fenugreek seeds
1/8 Tsp asafoetida
1/4 Tsp turmeric powder
4-6 curry leaves
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste, note canned ones have some sodium already)
3-5 dry red chilies (adjust to taste)
small piece of tamarind
1/2 Tsp jaggery/brown sugar
How do you make Halasina Palya? 
  • I am going to assume you have cleaned jackfruit pieces to start with :-)
  • If using canned ones, pour out all the preservative brine, wash thoroughly under running water atleast a couple of times. 
  • Cut the pieces into bite sized chunks unless you want to chop them up small and end up with a spaghetti squash consistency :-). 
  • Add coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin and red chilies along with a couple of drops of oil in a pan. 
  • Roast for a minute and half or until the seeds sizzle slightly and give out a whiff of aroma. 
  • Add asafoetida and mix. 
  • Take them out into a blender jar, add coconut, tamarind piece and jaggery and blend them to a coarse mix. Do not add water if you don't have to. 
  • Heat the remaining oil in the pan, add mustard, curry leaves and let mustard pop. 
  • Add sliced onion and let it sweat a bit for 1-2 minutes. 
  • Add the jackfruit pieces, turmeric powder, salt and the blended spices and give a good mix. 
  • Lower heat, cover the pan and let it cook for 20-25 minutes (stir once every 8 minutes or so to avoid burning) and have the flavors mingle well. 
  • Check to see if the jackfruit pieces are tender and absorbed the flavors, switch off and serve hot or warm. 
Notes: 
  • Skip onion if you do not like but it enhances the taste delightfully. 
  • Do not go overboard with coriander, cumin as they tend to take over the flavors. Keep in mind you want to taste jackfruit more than the spices. 
  • Add extra red chili powder if the spice mix is not hot enough. 
  • Cutting the pieces too small makes them break apart, I like the bite a little bit and hence made them bigger pieces.