Monday, October 6, 2014

Baalekayi Palya - smokey & spicy green banana dish, turning a leaf (page) from a favorite book

Another season of Dasara/Navaratri is over and we are already looking towards the fast approaching Deepavali and then the Holiday season starting with Thanksgiving. Where did 2014 go already? Summer cooled down into Autumn and I have started to see leaves change colors around me, I am already an old timer at my new job (honeymoon period over, start delivering :-)) and DD is busy with her senior year of school. Yes, my baby is getting ready to fly the nest come next September :-(. Ah, well I can either whine about next year or enjoy the togetherness until then and I choose the second one.

After all the sweets and other delicacies I made at home and also had to eat at friend's places in the name of Dasara, we are trying to get back to something simple and appetizing this week. I actually wanted to stay away from lentils and oil for a couple of days as we had our filling of both these heavy ingredients with all the usali and sabudana vada among other things :-). I made a lip smacking ginger chutney and steamed some oats masala idlis which seemed to help the lost taste on the tongue majorly. Back to eating vegetables with a side of some spicy chutney helps get back to normalcy.
Over the years, I have acquired a bunch of cookery books, not counting the ones I borrow from time to time from the public library. Some of these books are bought based on extensive research and recommendation while some are purchased as an impulse buy. Some of these books have many dog ears as I go back to them again & again while some of them sit in their pristine, new form as I don't touch them often enough until some day I get rid of donate them as part of a clean up :-). One of the books I love flipping through is Dakshin by Chandra Padmanabhan, I haven't tried a whole lot of recipes (not yet) from this book but I like it for the rich photos it has. One of the recipes that caught my attention on a random flipping is this green banana crumble as she calls it.

It is a simple enough recipe, I have made it a few times enhancing the spice powder to suit our palate and here is the 'modified from original' version of the green banana crumble or palya as I call it :-). If you have a charcoal grill, it is time to bring it out. Bananas roasted directly over flame have that wonderfully smokey flavor in this recipe. If you really don't care for it or are not inclined to spoil your gas stove by directly roasting them on the flame (I do understand this, I totally do), then go for the boil or steam method described below. The dry powder enhances the taste and makes the bland vegetable come alive with the spices. The best part about this dish is it can be eaten just like that and enjoyed as a snack too :-)
Baalekayi or plantain (green banana) is a commonly used vegetable in India. They stand cooking very well since they are firm and have an absolutely delicious taste albeit a little bland. The variety used as vegetable is never eaten ripe as a fruit. We grew bananas at home in Mysore and they were the small, yellow bananas which we ate when ripe but used to get the green variety for cooking. Nammamma's favorite recipe was the kootu or gojju with this vegetable. Amma makes crispy, dry fry(vepudu in Telugu) or an onion flavored soft cooked side dish. I love all of them, here is another side dish (or a main dish depending on how you eat it) made with green bananas that is a perfectly homely accompaniment to a rice-centric meal.

What do you need to make baalekayi palya? 
2 firm green bananas (I use the non-Kerala variety)
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1 Tbsp shredded coconut
Spice powder: 
2 Tbsp chana dal
1 Tbsp urad dal
1 Tsp coriander seeds
1/2 Tsp cumin
1/8 Tsp fenugreek seeds
4-6 dry red chilies
pinch of asafoetida
1 Tbsp oil
1 Tsp mustard
1 Tsp chana dal
1/2 Tsp urad dal
1 dry red chili broken
1 green chili (optional)
few curry leaves

How do you make baalekayi palya? 
  • Wash, pat dry the skin of green bananas and remove the ends on both sides. 
  • Make a few slits using a knife (don't cut the bananas into pieces though) and smear a drop of oil all over the skin. 
  • Roast on a flame turning the vegetable all around until the skin turns black and becomes charred. Keep the flame on medium so the banana cooks to become soft but not mushy. 
  • In the meantime, dry roast all the ingredients listed under 'spice powder' except for asafoetida until the lentils turn pink in color. 
  • Cool and make it into a powder along with asafoetida, keep aside until ready to use. 
  • Once the bananas are cool, peel the skin off. hold the skin from a knife marking and it will peel off easily.
  • Remove any charred particles by washing it in water. 
  • Grate the cooked bananas (use the largest possible gratings, smaller ones tend to make the dish mushy and pulpy). 
  • Heat oil in a wide pan, add mustard and the dals listed under seasoning, let mustard pop and dals turn pink before adding the chilies and curry leaves. 
  • Add the grated banana, salt, coconut and the spice powder and give it a gently mix. 
  • Cover and lower the heat and let cook for about 2 minutes until the flavors come together. 
  • Switch off and serve warm with rice, roti and just by itself. We ate with a yummy spinach pachadi and rice. 
  • If you do not want to roast the bananas, alternatively, you can boil them in a pot of water until they turn soft, about 15 minutes or cut them into halves and steam them in a cooker. Take care not to let them become mushy.
  • Increase or decrease the chilies depending on your heat tolerance
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro and a dash of lemon juice if you like. 
  • Once roasted, dunk the bananas in a pot of cold water for 10 minutes and the skin peels off easily. 


NamsVeni Pothas said...

this is a new recipe. looks very healthy. every one should try it.

Priya Suresh said...

Omg, this smokey plantain palya looks absolutely fabulous, u r tempting me to make some soon.