Sunday, December 2, 2012

Tondekayi (Ivy gourd) Idigayi - tiny miracles in the kitchen

After spending the last 6 months together, amma, nana left yesterday to go back to Bengaluru. We dropped them at the airport, didn't want to come back home, so went on a very unplanned shopping trip as a time pass and reached home only in the evening. The house seems empty and Flora is trying to make sense of the new scene at home, missing amma who very promptly fed her twice a day, missing the ever running warmth of the room heater in the down stairs room, waiting for one of us to get up and pet her. I guess it is more difficult for her without understanding completely or not being able to talk about it. I got up this morning and the dishes that used to be miraculously arranged in their places were still in the dish washer, there was no coffee in the coffee maker announcing that today is different from yesterday. I miss having them around in the house with amma asking 'what is for lunch today?' soon after she returned home from her daily morning walk. We will mope around a little bit, wait to hear their voices after they land in Bengaluru & safely reach home and then a new routine sets in from tomorrow with school and work, we will march ahead like brave soldiers but that tiny painful nagging inside keeps reminding us that we are again a small nuclear family staying far away from rest of the family..I made this Tondekayi Idigayi last Friday when we all had our lunch together.

Nammamma was not enthusiastic about certain vegetables and Tondekayi/Dondakaaya/ivy gourd was one of them. I don't remember eating this vegetable much at all. One of my cousins got married when I was in my +2 and they had made the Tondekayi+cashew nuts palya with loads of shredded coconut in his wedding and as I was the only representative from my family for that wedding, I came home raving about it to nammamma. But she didn't catch on easily to this vegetable and it remained one of those vegetables that I would see in the market but not necessarily pick up every time.

Post my wedding, Amma taught me how a simple stir fry with tender dondakaaya could make a nice side dish, she would sometimes cut thin roundels or chop them vertically, fry it in an extra dose of oil, finish it off with some salt and a spice powder making an excellent side dish for a rice based lunch or dinner. One day, she made a stuffed dondakaaya which was unbelievably tasty, just the fact that the vegetables were not chopped up but stuffed with the masala made so much of a difference that a bowl full of stuffed dondakaya was gone just like that within minutes. Looking at the finger long ivy gourd, you wouldn't imagine that something like that could be stuffed, right? Also, it doesn't have a crown like a brinjal and so there is the question of how and where do you stuff the masala? Believe me if you haven't seen this before, the stuffing may take a little extra dose of patience and some time but transforms this watery, bland vegetable into some sort of a miracle.

But then again since everyone is rushing through life, sitting down to prepare a whole bunch of (remember what I said about the taste, making a small quantity of this dish will brand you as a very lousy cook in the eyes of your family, so think large quantities) of these can put quite a dent in the precious time. So when I saw this recipe on a TV recipe show, which was the best of both worlds, I was in. The masala had almost the same ingredients as amma's spice powder and didn't make you actually stuff it into the vegetables, what a time saver :-). I made a few changes to the original recipe, added grated coconut along with the other ingredients and ground into a powder, reduced the oil a little bit and actually followed amma's way of cutting the Tondekayi.

I agree with nammamma that the vegetable itself is bland and doesn't homogeneously blend into all recipes but cooked right, this can make some very appetizing dishes.

Back to the name of the dish, idigayi refers to the whole vegetable (iDi ~ whole) and you don't chop the vegetable in this recipe but prepare it in such a way that it absorbs the juices from the masala nicely and cooks to be a delicious curry. Note that this is a dry palya that can be mixed with rice but because of the amount of masala available also goes well with your roti or chapati.
What do you need to make Tondekayi Idigayi?
1 lb fresh, tender Tondekayi - about 3 cups
2 Tblsp of tamarind juice or 1/2 tsp tamarind concentrate diluted with water
1 Tsp crushed jaggery/brown sugar
1 Tblsp salt (adjust to taste)
2 Tblsp oil
1/8 Tsp turmeric powder
For the masala: 
3 Tblsp kadle bele/chana dal
1 Tblsp uddina bele/urad dal
1 Tblsp coriander seeds
1 Tsp cumin
1 Tsp mustard
3/4 Tsp fenugreek seeds
2 pieces of 1 inch long cinnamon
2 cloves
4-5 black pepper corns (adjust to taste)
5-6 dry red chilies (adjust to taste)
2 Tblsp grated coconut
For seasoning:
1 Tsp mustard
3-4 curry leaves
1/8 Tsp asafoetida
1 dry red chili broken into pieces (optional)

How do you make Tondekayi idigayi? 
  • Wash, pat dry and chop the ends of Tondekayis. 
  • Make a vertical slit from one end to the middle of the vegetable, flip it over and make another slit from the other end to the middle. The trick is to make the two slits at a 90 degree to each other so that they don't meet in the middle and actually cut the vegetable open. If you do this right, the Tondekayi will still stay together but will have opening for the masala to seep into. 
  • Heat a thick pan, add all the masala ingredients except for coconut and dry roast until you get a nice aroma and the dals turn pink. Add the grated coconut and roast for a couple of minutes before switching off. Let cool. 
  • Heat the oil in a wide pan, add asafoetida, mustard, curry leaves and red chili pieces (if using), let mustard pop, add the prepared Tondekayis to the pan along with salt. 
  • Mix it in, cover and cook for 3-4 minutes on medium heat. 
  • Open the cover, add the tamarind juice or diluted concentrate, jaggery and turmeric powder. Put the lid on and cook for  another 3-4 minutes until the vegetables look soft. 
  • Meanwhile take the cooled masala ingredients and make a powder in your blender.
  • Add the masala powder to the par cooked tondekayi, mix it well, turn the heat to low, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes with one or two stirrings to make sure nothing is getting stuck to the bottom of the pan. 
  • Taste a Tondekayi at this time to make sure it is cooked through and the masala flavors are in the vegetable, switch off. 
  • Serve warm with rice or roti. 
  • Select tender tondekayi, if it feels slimy while cutting or the vegetable is mushy do not attempt this dish. The vegetable should feel firm to touch and have a white inside. if the inside is pick or red, it is almost too old to be cooked. 
  • Initial cooking with the tamarind juice and jaggery helps prepare the vegetable to accept other flavors, covered cooking also makes the Tondekayi cook faster. 
  • You can soak a small key lime sized tamarind in warm water for about 20 minutes and extract juice by squeezing the tamarind or use the store bought concentrate. Dilute the concentrate in 2 Tblsp of water and add it to the vegetables.
  • You can make large quantities of the powder and refrigerate it. I would skip coconut if storing for long or use dry coconut instead. 
  • The idigayi should have ample masala powder in it, the quantities above are good for the amount of vegetable used, don't skimp on it.
  • Amma uses almost double the quantity of oil and so did the TV show lady but since I reduced the oil, I cover and cook in its own moisture until the vegetable is soft.


prathibha Garre said...

it happens to me most of the times too when my inlaws r parents leave the place after staying for long,it takes few days to come back to normal..lovely palya-idigai,looks yumm

NamsVeni Pothas said...

it happence to me also. staying six months with kids and returned back i feel my stay with kids was a dream. Dondakayi my favorite veg. that too tender one stuffed.
nice dish and sentation.i... narr

Kaveri Venkatesh said...

The house does feel very empty and lonely when parents leave after a long stay..:(
Nice recipe...We generally prepare only the stir fry like you've mentioned in the post..never tried stuffing it...this one looks like a good one...not too time consuming.

Priya said...

Can guess how she will miss her grandparents, even i feel like living in a jungle if someone who is very near to my heart leave my place after staying a long.Dont worry you guys will be back normal sooN;

Palya with ivygourd looks fabulous, i do buy this veggie quite often and should make some palya soon.

Julie said...

Hope u are out of the lonely feel,that does happen with me too:(
Stir fry looks delish!
Join EP event-Garlic OR Turmeric @ Spice n Flavors

Kannada Cuisine said...

Love Ivy :) Tondekayi is one of my favorite?

Jay said...

fry looks deliciously unique..
Tasty Appetite

WeR SAHM said...

dondakaya my favorite too.... love this recipe totally...