Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Kadala Curry or Chick peas gravy - of roasted coconut, curry leaves and fennel seeds

My Kerala experience is from the one house boat trip we went on a few years ago. I loved the place, its serene beauty, lush greenery, vast pockets of water, sudden showers from above and people crossing the waters on natively built rafters. Our chef on the boat treated us to many wonderful Kerala delicacies including the Puttu and Kadala curry and the lacy appams. I came back loaded with bags of fresh chips, wheat halwa and other goodies. Though it was a short trip,  the memories are etched forever.

My SIL is from Kerala and her mom is one of the greatest cooks I have come across. This aunty is very elaborate, follows the traditional methods of cooking to date and spends long hours in the kitchen dishing out one yummy dish after another. She has always humored me with recipes whenever I have asked her for some. I have tasted one of the best Puli inji in her kitchen. She tells me that a good avial is not only defined by what vegetables go into it but also by how they are cut as each different kind of vegetable has to be cut and cooked separately to reach the desired consistency. The sweet lady that she is, she hands me a packet of fresh home made jack fruit or banana chips for me to carry whenever I visit.

The other day, I was home waiting for a garage door repairman to come and fix something. It was a rainy day and the grey skies just made me miss home terribly and everything and everyone connected with home. I was really not in the mood to cook much as we had had a dinner party over the weekend and been eating off of left overs, I badly craved for something yummy in my tummy that would also soothe me down. I found some plump black chick peas and knew exactly what I would make for lunch. I just followed my instincts to recreate a magic I had a few years before.  I had a few hand written notes for this recipe, had a general idea of how it is cooked and had seen many versions flashing in the blogosphere but I have not followed any specific recipe here rather gone with the way my senses guided me. While I do not claim this to be the authentic Kerala Kadala curry (notice, I didn't call it Kerala Kadala curry :-)), it surely is a great tasting curry. For that matter, you may never find one authentic recipe of this dish since there are so many variations based on which pocket in Kerala it came from and who cooked it.

As I was finishing up cooking, my garage door guy finished up fixing the door and came in to collect his check. As soon as I opened the door, his first reaction was, "God, what is this awesome smell", so I asked him if he wanted to try some and shared a piece of puttu and the curry. He sat there spooning it down and told me stories of how his wife cooks a red curry and a green curry and how old his kids are, how the younger one is starting full day kindergarten in the Fall etc. And I gave him my 5 minute gyan on why there is no such thing as 'curry powder' and the name curry is a misnomer at best :-). Seeing him enjoy the curry made me feel totally gratified. Well, that story was just to prove a point and encourage you all to try this delicious curry in your own kitchens.

What gives the most flavor to the kadala curry is the roasted coconut - be patient and roast it over medium heat. Fennel seeds bring in the 'oh so heavenly' aroma to the dish, I have used this spice in a few other recipes and am totally in love with it. Fennel seeds have the right instinct of being all encompassing yet not overbearing and when used in the right amount, they wield the power to make you crave for more. I have seen recipes using garam masala and coriander powder but I skipped both and used a few fresh whole spices to create the magic. It was like walking into your lush green back yard (complete with a few coconut trees swaying and curry leaves on a tree exuding the fragrance), the only thing missing was the vast Vembannad lake and the sultry climate but my Seattle rains and the grey skies more than made up for its absence.

And once the curry was made, seeing that it turned out so good, I made some puttu with brown rice flour on an impulse. Now, I have made puttu before and keep a packet of puttu flour handy but had never paired it with the Kadala curry. They are a match made in heaven, what makes the marriage rock is a bowl of home made yogurt on the side and your gastronomic journey is totally blissful.
What do you need to make Kadala curry? 
1 cup dry black chickpeas
1 cup coconut
1 Tsp fennel
1/2 Tsp pepper
1/2 Tsp coriander seeds
4 dry red chilies (adjust to taste)
2 cloves
1 inch piece cinnamon
10-12 curry leaves
3 Tblsp oil (divided use)
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
2 Tblsp roughly chopped onions
2 Tblsp roughly chopped tomatoes
2 Tblsp finely chopped onions
1 inch piece ginger grated or chopped fine
How do you make Kadala Curry? 
  • Soak chick peas in 4-5 cups of water overnight, they will plump up to double their size. 
  • Drain water and cook the peas in pressure cooker until soft (mine took 3 whistles) with 1/4 Tsp salt and 3 cups of water. 
  • Heat a kadai and roast grated coconut on medium heat for 8-10 minutes until the coconut turns light brown and gives out a wonderful nutty aroma. Keep aside.
  • Heat 1 Tsp oil in the same kadai, add the fennel, cloves, cinnamon, coriander and red chilies. Fry on medium heat for 2 minutes or until the spices are fragrant. Add the curry leaves and fry for 30 seconds. Keep aside. 
  • Heat 1 Tsp oil, add the roughly chopped onion and fry for 2 minutes, add the tomotoes and continue to fry for 4-5 minutes until onion and tomatoes wilt and turn limp. Keep aside. 
  • Once cool, Grind all the ingredients from step 3, 4 & 5 together into a smooth paste adding some water from the cooked chickpeas. 
  • Heat remaining oil in the same kadai, add the finely chopped onion fry for a minute, add the grated or chopped ginger, mix it in and let them cook for another minute or so until onion cooks and turns slightly crispy - The crunchy onions here take your dish to the next level popping up in unexpected bites, yumm :-)
  • Add the cooked chickpeas, ground up masala and salt. adjust the consistency with water (use the chick peas cooked water to start with) and let it come to a good boil. 
  • Add a few fresh curry leaves on top when it is boiling for added flavor. 
  • I served it with puttu but it goes equally well with rotis or plain rice. This is not a very spicy hot dish but extremely flavorful because of the ingredients.
  • Take time and roast the coconut on medium heat until it turns light brown and gives out a wonderful nutty aroma. 
  • You can add red chili powder and/or garam masala while boiling the curry to suit the taste but this dish was perfect as is and I didn't add anything. 
  • You can fry pieces of tomatoes before adding the boiled chickpeas instead of grinding them but I usually grind up tomatoes to avoid DD picking at tomatoes. 
  • Do not skimp on curry leaves, get fresh ones and load the curry with them. 
  • Use black or brown chickpeas (smaller than Garbanzo beans) in this recipe as they taste better. 
Since this protein rich curry is so loaded with legumes, I am sending this off to My Legume Love Affair 60 hosted by Nupur of One Hot Stove. This event is one of the longest running events in the blogosphere started by Susan, The Well Seasoned cook and now maintained at Lisa's Vegetarian kitchen. See you all there with your own creations.


NamsVeni Pothas said...

nice recipe and tasty

Priya Suresh said...

Wonderful platter, kadala curry with puttu makes a fabulous combo, wat an authentic dish.

Nupur said...

Thank you for sending in this wonderful entry. I so enjoyed reading this post, with memories of home cooking, and how you promptly shared the curry with the repair guy and enjoyed a conversation. Home cooking always leads to good things :)

kitchen queen said...

delicious and tempting kadala curry.

Chitz said...

Ahh.. True.. U cant term Kerala dishes as authentic they vary in prep in the diff parts of the state.. But loved to the core, that u recreated this magic.. It looks so Keralish.. Loved the platter.. Awesome :)

Nagashree said...

Coming from a Keralite, I take that as the ultimate complement :), thank you dear.