Monday, May 25, 2015

Stuffed Baalekayi (Green plantain) - nutty, fragrant and addictive

Hope you all had a good Memorial day weekend here in the US and a good weekend elsewhere in the world. Been reading a lot about the memorial services and remembrances (some good, some not so respectful) in the news. I am in principle not for wars, I do believe that no provocation is big enough for the menace and havoc of wars. We have enough destruction by natural calamities now a days, my opinion is that we don't need any man made wars to add to the share of grief and loss in this world. But I respect people that go off at different stages in life to fight wars, leave their families behind, believe in the cause and give their everything. I do not have any service men (or women) in my immediate family and always have wondered about lives of people that is dedicated for the protection and safety of the rest of us. I am grateful for all those people.

Memorial day also officially starts the summer here for us, lot of backyard barbecuing and lemonades, biking on the trails and boats in water :-), kids are going to be out of school in a couple of weeks. Mine is going to be done with high school in a few weeks, pushing the final weeks with loads of projects and exams.
Switching topics, I recently read an article here and it made smile. When I moved to US a decade and half ago, the two things that I missed most was my family and food. Thinking about the loved ones and memories around home food made me ache so much that I would burst out crying at the drop of a pin. Years have passed, I have grown to love this home of mine and the aches are not as intense as they used to be. One thing I missed a lot was going to the vegetable markets in the evenings and bringing home bags full of fresh vegetables. I have always loved veggie shopping, my dad used to take me on his scooter to the markets in Mysore for special occasions and we would come home with vegetables peeping out from every side of the scooter :-). He had this way with vegetables and I believed that he talked to the veggies and picked the freshest and tastiest of them all. When I was studying engineering, vegetable shopping was my chore in the evening. I would take my 2 wheeler and a few cloth bags every couple of days and bring back all kinds of seasonal fruits and veggies home. Nammamma sat in the huge living room, sorting, cleaning and prepping those in the night as we worked on our studies and other things.

We didn't go looking for 'phoren(foreign)' vegetables during those days. Most everything was locally grown and sourced and hence retained their freshness. I try to do that even today, not buying something exotic but get stuff that haven't traveled across the globe to fill my plate. I have had to go without some of my favorite Indian vegetables for days and I would rather do that than picking up a stale looking or artificially cheery vegetable. Same applies to other groceries too. I try to find alternatives where needed and not harp on the unavailability of some items.
Back to the above linked article, I find it amusing to see people back home paying premium to buy things like avacado or quinoa. The article nails it when it talks about millets being the home grown alternative to importing quinoa all the way across the world. Sometimes the health fads are totally over rated and misleading. I sit here away from home missing nammamma made ragi hurittu while my friends in Bengaluru/Mysore fill their pantry with quinoa and oats from the super markets. A song I have sung many times over comes to mind.. ..Iruvudellava bittu iradudaredege tudivude jeevana .. yaava mohana murali kareyito doora teerake ninnanu..Extremely rough translation with my apologies to Dr. G.K. Adiga, the lines mean, "life is all about wanting things that are not here.. ", See the bee in the flowers below, it keeps hopping from one flower to the other in search of the elusive 'Best'
Back to the recipe, I love green plantains, one of my favorite vegetables. When I think about it, I actually love all veggies, really no exception. When cooked to retain their individuality, every vegetable is delicious in its own way. This is not something I find easily in grocery stores here. They are available most days but I don't feel like picking them up once I see their limp skins and lackluster appearance. Once in a while, they are really green and fresh and inviting. I got 3 of them last week. Recently, a friend mentioned a cookbook to me, knowing my love for cooking, somehow all conversations ultimately lead to food. I was introduced to 'Prashad', an Indian Vegetarian cookbook authored by Kaushy Patel who runs a family owned restaurant in England and has won Gordon Ramsey's "Best restaurant 2010 award". I haven't held this book in my hands yet, looking for it still but found a website that the restaurant owners run and found a couple of recipes they have shared on their blog. I can think of so many ways to consume the raw plantains but wanted to give a try to this new recipe (new to me). This raw plantain recipe called Kehra Na Revaya captured my attention for 2 reasons - ofcourse it uses one of my favorite veggies and it is a very typical gujju masala that is used in the stuffing, yum!!.

I have stayed very close to the original recipe except to skip the gram flour since we had a lot of other lentils and dals in the mix that particular day and I didn't want to over do the lentil intake :-). Instead of the gram flour and to make up for the volume, I used 2 Tbsp fresh coconut. Slightly sweet and yet tongue tickling with the spiciness from green chilies & ginger, this is my new favorite way of cooking raw plantains, it tastes delicious with plain rice and a rasam.
What do you need to make stuffed raw plantains? 
3 medium sized green bananas or plantains
1 cup peanuts
1 Tsp sugar
2 Tsp coriander powder
1/2 Tsp cumin powder
2 Tbsp grated coconut (fresh or frozen) or 2 Tsp gram flour or besan
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 Tsp turmeric powder
1-11/2 inch piece ginger (more if you like the flavor)
4-6 green chilies (adjust to taste)
2 cloves garlic (skip if you don't like garlic)
1/4 Tsp asafoetida
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
3 Tbsp oil
1/2 Tsp mustard
1/2 Tsp cumin
6-8 curry leaves

How do you make stuffed raw plantains? 
  • Wash and wipe the green bananas. Remove the ends. 
  • Cut the bananas into 11/2 inch pieces and slit then vertically from one side and stop 1/4 inch or so before you reach the other end. It should not get sliced in the middle but hold the piece together. 
  • Dunk them in a pan of water to avoid discoloration. 
  • Roast the peanuts on medium flame for 5-7 minutes until they develop light brown spots on the skin. Let cool. 
  • Using a mortar & pestle or an electric blender, pulse green chilies, ginger, coconut and garlic (if using) into a coarse paste. 
  • Make a coarse powder of roasted and cooled peanuts. 
  • In a bowl, mix together chili-coconut paste, peanut powder, cilantro, coriander powder, turmeric powder, salt, asafoetida, sugar and 1 Tbsp of oil. 
  • Using your fingers bring them together and let it rest for 10-15 minutes so the flavors infuse well. 
  • Gently handling the plantain pieces to open them, stuff as much of the masala as possible without breaking them. 
  • Prepare all the plantain pieces and reserve remaining masala for use later. 
  • Heat the remaining oil in a wide pan on medium heat, add mustard, cumin and curry leaves. 
  • When mustard pops, place the masala stuffed plantain pieces in the pan in a single layer. 
  • Cook on medium high for 2-3 minutes until the bottom sides of the pieces develop a golden brown, flip each piece over to the other side. 
  • Add all the remaining masala in between the pieces along with a cup of water and let it cook for another 2-3 minutes. 
  • Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes until the pieces are cooked and reach a softness you desire. Keep flipping the pieces over to different sides every 5 or so minutes. 
  • Remove the lid and cook uncovered for a few minutes until any remaining liquid evaporates. 
  • Enjoy with steaming hot rice or rotis. 
  • This recipe used plantains along with the skin, so make sure to wash them thoroughly. 
  • Cooking time varies depending on the quality of the plantains and also size of the pieces you have cut, mine took 20 minutes to soften and yet hold their shape. 
  • Be gentle when you flip the pieces over so as to not break them. 


NamsVeni Pothas said...

really wonderful recipe with Balekai. very tasty . I love it.

Lakshmi Grandhim said...

Bookmarked it for trying!

Anonymous said...

How quintessential Indian ... Green bananas a tropical southern mixed with a favor from western states. Yummy Tummy Timmy Tom😃