Sunday, March 17, 2013

BOlu gojju(curry without vegetables) - when the spices took over

Gojju as far as I know is a very Karnataka recipe, it is typically a curry with ground spices and boiled or stir fried vegetables in it. I have other gojju recipes on the blog, check it out if interested. But today's recipe does not have any vegetables in it.

I am not sure how many of you are familiar with this dish. You may have some version of it or call it by a different name but it goes by 'BOlu Gojju' in our family. This funny named dish (BOlu~empty/bald since it is devoid of vegetables, gojju~curry)is one of my doddamma (my mother's older sister) and amma's signature recipes. My doddamma was one of those cooks who made everything taste divine (remember the mosaravalakki?), I can't even pick a favorite from her menu as I would eat every bit of everything she cooked. The only issue I had with her was her extreme 'rules in the kitchen' - do not touch this with wet hands, do not touch this without wet hands, don't ever serve food with right hand, do not put plates in the same pile as the dishes, etc, etc..:-). Nammamma being the flexible one, I almost had a free reign in the kitchen and used to be terrorized by Doddamma whenever she stayed with us.

Once when I asked doddamma how she made such delicious stuff with barely any ingredients, she looked up at me and said, "We barely had ingredients to use but had to feed a big family", I think necessity is truly the mother of invention. Times changed and by the time I was old enough to notice her cooking, there was plenty in her kitchen. Whether she made a vegetable curry, a saaru, a ghee laden dessert or a simple bolu gojju they were all finger licking good except that she would never allow you to lick your fingers :-). Me & my little brother have spent many a school vacations with this doddamma as my cousin was transferred to many rural medical facilities and doddamma moved with him and his young family. Rich, unadulterated milk from the villagers, fresh vegetables brought to the door steps every morning all no doubt made the food much tastier but I can never forget those breakfasts in her kitchen - golden crisp akki rotti with a dollop of home made benne (butter) and a side of yogurt so thick it would not fall down if you tipped the cup over, a menthya dose with a heavenly aroma served with more benne and coconut chutney made in the traditional stone grinder, or avalakki vaggarane (seasoned poha) on a green banana leaf with a mouth watering midi uppinakaayi(baby mangoes pickled whole).

I think the bolu gojju was invented on a day either in hot summer or cold winter when there were no vegetables in the backyard, and there was no one at home to fetch it from the store. Or it was simply a day at the end of the month for a family on a regular income and they had to wait until the next pay day to hit the grocery store. Or it was a day when the mother just couldn't find a vegetable in God's green land to satisfy the conflicting needs and wants of her family and she decided to skip the vegetable all together and cook up something different. OK, those are all 'imaginations uncontrolled' as to how the humble bOlu gojju was born :-), I get carried away sometimes, and this is one of those times.
When I was writing this draft earlier this weekend a very tired BH was almost dozing off at the other side of the bed. I wanted to pick his brain for a few minutes and also subject him to a preview of the draft. He doesn't get caught easily on these chores, so attacking him when he is least expecting it and defenseless seems to work. In that dreamy state and to get a relief from the nagging, he said the bOlu gojju was born when the spices went on a strike as they were all tired of making up a perfectly harmonious gravy only to be out done by some vegetable. I think that might have been it, do you agree? So they told the lady of the house that she should create something where all that would be visible was the masala and its lasting taste and the kind hearted woman agreed with them and thus the Bolu gojju was born on a day when both the cook and the spices boycotted the vegetables.

The ingredients list though looks like a tall order, notice that they are all very common spices found in most Indian pantries. Amma usually made this with Pongal as a side dish. It is a perfect complement to the bland pongal.  This tastes so awesome you don't need to wait until you make pongal or even until you have run out of all your vegetables :-). And you don't even slog infront of a hot stove for more than 5 minutes.Don't go by the pictures, they don't do any justice to how the dish tastes. I can eat it anyday, it tastes good with hot rice or akki rotti too.
What do you need to make Bolu gojju? 
2 Tblsp grated coconut (fresh or frozen)
1 cup boiled black chana or black chickpeas
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
small piece of tamarind
1/2 Tsp crushed jaggery or brown sugar
1 Tsp salt
1.5-2 cups water
To Roast:
1 Tblsp chana dal
1/2 Tsp urad dal
1 Tblsp white sesame seeds
1/8 Tsp fenugreek seeds
1/8 Tsp cumin
1/4 Tsp coriander seeds
2 pieces of 1 inch long cinnamon
1 clove
6-8 black pepper corns
1-2 dry red chilies
How do you make Bolu gojju? 
  • Dry roast all ingredients under 'To Roast' on medium heat in a heavy bottom pan, stirring frequently not to burn any ingredients for 5-7 minutes. 
  • When the dals turn light pink and fenugreek gives out its roasted aroma, switch off, keep aside to cool down.
  • Grind all the roasted ingredients with coconut, salt, tamarind and jaggery. Add water to bring it to a thick flowing (not dropping) consistency. 
  • Add the chopped onions and boiled black chana. Mix well. 
  • Seasoning is completely optional for this gojju (remember, you made this because your pantry & refrigerator were almost empty :-)). If you do like it, you may season it with a Tsp of mustard and 1/4 Tsp fenugreek roasted in a Tsp of oil until they pop. Throw in a couple of curry leaves. I did it just for the picture :-). 
To prepare the black chana:
  • Soak a handful of dry black chana (black chick peas) overnight in water. 
  • Drain, wash and pressure cook with a cup of water and a pinch of salt until it is soft, takes 3 whistles in my pressure cooker. 
  • Switch off, let cool, drain the cooked peas and use it in the gojju. 
  • I normally soak a bigger quantity and end up making some quick usili with the remaining peas. 
  • Roast the masala ingredients on medium to low heat so they get roasted well without any raw smell. This is key to a great tasting gojju as it is not cooked or boiled afterwards. 
  • If your tamarind feels wetwhen it comes from the package, add it to the other ingredients and roast it to remove the raw smell. 
  • Since there are no vegetables added and the ground masala itself constitutes the bulk, plan to scale the proportions up or down depending on the servings you need. The above yields a medium soup bowl full of gojju. 
  • Adjust black pepper and red chilies depending on your spice tolerance and the variety of red chilies you use. 
  • I have not used garbanzo or kabuli chana or white chick peas in this recipe any time, may be because I associate this gojju always with black chana and it is as much about recreating the memory in my kitchen as much as enjoying the food. Try the substitution at your own risk -) if you have to.


Akila said...

Looks delicious
Event: Dish name starts with R till April 15th and a giveaway

NamsVeni Pothas said...

nice narration about Bolu Gojju. i love all Gojjus whether it is Bolu or any other one. they are very tasty

Priya Suresh said...

Bookmarking this gojju,an excellent dish to prepare when we ran out veggies,thanks for sharing dear.

Wer SAHM said...

nice authentic recipe from ur doddamma....will try this sometime...

prathibha Garre said...

Never had this combo,sounds nice

Saranya Balaji said...

Excellent dish dear...Glad to tell that am a new follower of ur blog...

Kaveri Venkatesh said...

A very new one to me...sounds interesting

Sreemala said...

"Gojju" caught my attention and then this whole thing turned out to be something totally interesting and different! Must try it tonight. Thanks for an authentic recipe Nagashree, miss you around here.

Kannada Cuisine said...

I can almost smell the aroma of the Gojju, ah! just like a whiff of fresh air. Delicious

Vani said...

Looks good, N!

Nupur said...

OK.. Thats something like reallllyy new to me...

Very unique idea.. I am so looking forward to make this now... @:)