Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ghassi - a delectable Konkani fare when you really don't want to make the regular huli/sambar

"Ah, music! A magic beyond all we do here!" - Albus Dumbledore
From Harry Potter & Sorcerer's Stone 

Well, that is what I have been doing these past days, more than I normally do. Listening to music, more music and good music. Outside of reading, if there is another activity I most love, it is listening to music. Cooking & music go hand in hand. We have some music going on most of the time at home, no matter what other things we are doing. But last week was slightly different as we went to Cleveland to attend the annual Tyagaraja Aradhana. For those of you familiar with Carnatic music, you would have attended some celebration of this festival wherever you are and even performed as part of it. I grew up listening to the Pancharatna (5 gems of compositions by Saint Tyagaraja). DD has been attending the festival for a few years and really wanted to go back this year. Despite missed practices and last minute chaos with all her intertwined college visits, the program went off well and we came home after enjoying some good, live music.
It amazes me every time that even in the proverbial cold country that Cleveland is, during these 10 days the city seems to come alive with people hustling and bustling across streets and more and more kids participating in various activities. Also, you get to see and display your precious Indian wardrobe and fine jewelry that merely sits at the back of the closet for the rest of the year :-). More than anybody, the grandparents who attended for the first time were beaming with joy the entire time :-). Where there are people, there is food and here is the simple, homely yet delicious lunch served on the first day.
Back home, music still filling the ears and the soul. Lots of travel, extremely hectic schedule at work have marked the last couple of weeks. Trying to balance it all and looking forward to things settling down in a month or so. Will keep you all posted. Cooking continues without a break so does eating, only hiccup is in blogging :-), hope to get better at it as things settle down.

As a vegetarian, what is my typical everyday food? I try to add in as many nutrients as possible yet keep the taste fresh and interesting enough day after day. I plan to have atleast a good serving of proteins which translates into pulses, lentils, legumes in my plant based food world and add in different kinds of veggies (roots, stalks, leaves, fruits and more) so every meal is close to being a complete meal. When you have a 'hard to please' teenager at home, also compounded by the diet restrictions or lack there of of elderly parents - making the same dish over & over again won't fetch you any favorites and you get pushed to cook outside of your comfort zone.
When I was little, nammamma had a pattern to lunches, it would be a saaru & palya or saaru & gojju or a single huli (also known as sambar outside of Karnataka). The rationale was saaru is typically devoid of vegetables but is loaded with lentils while the palya/gojju brought in the veggie servings to the plate. On the other hand a Huli was an 'all in one' dish with both lentils & vegetables. She made food interesting by little tweaks and turns, using seasonal vegetables or with a variety of lentils & whole pulses, sprouted & non sprouted. There were always the tiny, tantalizing chutneys or pudis on the side. This worked perfectly too since we all sat together for lunch & dinner. Things have changed and my 5 member family doesn't always sit together for meals, especially week day lunches when eating out of lunch boxes is the norm for 3 of us.

But I continue to work around the idea of feeding the necessary nutrients to my family at the same time juggling to satisfy different age groups and palates:-). Variety is key to a happy tummy, feed the same stuff for 2 meals continuously, I am sure I will have a coup on my hands :-). I take refuge in this Ghashi when I don't feel like making the standard huli/sambar. This strikes all the right keys and tastes while providing both legumes and vegetables. The spices used are minimal and generate a mild yet tantalizing taste. You don't have to worry about cooking lentils/dals, but can prepare it in a jiffy with a little planning. Even if you didn't plan ahead, look in your pantry and pull out a chickpeas/garbanzo beans can reserved for emergencies like I did(believe me, it was an emergency earlier this week when I came home late in the evening and had the brain power the size of a teaspoon and couldn't really concoct anything elaborate). The best part of this recipe is that it stays well and makes a good lunch box addition. So, go for it whenever you are looking for a change.
Mangalorean cuisine is close to my heart given their liberal use of coconut, I am a nut when it is especially prefixed with coco :-). Broadly there is Tulu food without any meat or non vegetarian and then the Konkani food which makes use of seafood in addition to other meat. My father spent a year in Mangalore alone when we were little kids (since we were all in different stages at school & college and it would  have been uprooting to the family to move out of known and much loved Mysore). He grew a fond appreciation of Mangalore cuisine especially from the Udipi region. We got our Shavige oralu (handy tool to make rice noodles) from there and also some of the recipes rubbed off on Nammamma. Depending on which side of the coast you move up or down, the cuisine also leans heavily with either Kerala dishes or Goan recipes and hence tastes totally different. I have a couple of different variations of Ghashi from my different Mangalorean friends, one uses coriander seeds (which tastes very similar to huli and so I skip that) and another one makes use of fenugreek seeds which is what I have today.

There are different combinations of ingredients for Ghassi too, some popular ones are in the Notes section.
What do you need to make Ghassi? 
2 medium sized green plantains
1 cup cooked chick peas
1/2 cup grated coconut (fresh or frozen)
1 Tsp jaggery/brown sugar
small piece tamarind (about 1tsp of dry tamarind)
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1/8 Tsp turmeric powder
To roast: 
1 Tbsp urad dal
1/2 Tsp fenugreek seeds
4-6 dry red chilies (per taste)
1 Tsp oil
1 Tsp oil
1/2 Tsp mustard
1/8 Tsp asafoetida
4-6 curry leaves
2 dry red chilies (broken into pieces)
2 cloves garlic (optional, I didn't use it)
How do you make Ghassi?
  • If you are using dry chick peas, soak them in water overnight and cook them with a pinch of salt until soft. 
  • I skipped this step and used canned, cooked chickpeas. Drain water completely and rinse it a couple of times under running water. 
  • Peel the plantain, remove ends and chop into bite sized pieces. Keep them immersed in water until ready to cook to prevent them from blackening. 
  • Heat a wide kadai or heavy bottom pan, add a Tsp oil and roast the red chilies until they crisp up (30-45 seconds). Remove them to a plate. 
  • Roast urad dal & fenugreek seeds in the remaining oil until both turn light pink in color (2-3 minutes). Remove onto the plate. 
  • Once cooled, take all the roasted ingredients along with coconut, tamarind, jaggery, add 1/4 cup water and grind to a smooth paste. 
  • Add the chopped plantain pieces to the pan along with 2 cups of water, salt and turmeric powder. Let it cook until plantain is just soft. 
  • Add the cooked chickpeas, ground masala to the pan and mix well. 
  • Let them come to a good boil on medium heat. Adjust consistency with water and salt as you prefer. Switch off. 
  • Heat a seasoning pan with the tsp of oil, add mustard, curry leaves and dry red chilies and garlic if you are using it. 
  • Once mustard starts to pop, add asafoetida, switch off and pour it onto Ghassi. 
  • Serve this warm or hot with steamed rice or rotis. 
  • Other favorite combinations for Ghassi - red pumpkin with cooked black eyed peas, sprouted whole green with potato, raw jackfruit with black chana. Idea is to mix to add vegetables and whole lentils together. 
  • If you want to bring in the authentic konkan flavor, use virgin coconut oil for the seasoning, yummy :-)


kitchen queen said...

super delicious and tempting recipe.

Anonymous said...

This is new to me! Interesing recipe, will surely try this, thanks for sharing


NamsVeni Pothas said...

hats off!! thyagaraja Aradhana Festival. this recipe is simply tasty and mouth watering. it goes with rice and chapathi also( my favorite)

Lakshmi said...

Made this for lunch a couple of days ago - LOVED it.

I tweaked the recipe a fair bit.

Used black chana in place of chhole, steamed the plantains, used only a single Kashmiri red chilli (we have a low tolerance for spice), added cumin in the urad-fenugreek roast.

Ate it with brown rice... Pure awesomeness.