Sunday, March 20, 2016

Gongura (Sorrel leaves) Pappu - exotic comfort made super easy

Didn't I show you my front yard beauties just a couple of weeks back as they popped up along with spring? The flowers are so many now the little tree is bent heavily towards the ground with the weight but still proudly showing off the seasonal bounty. We lost an hour last weekend as most part of US of A sprung forward making me grouchier than normal on the following Monday morning. We were playing board games with DD and a cousin well into the midnight on Saturday and by the time we turned in we had already lost the hour :-(. Oh well, never mind my whining, I do this every spring. You are all such good listeners that I don't have to worry about getting chided :-). The past week has helped catch up some sleep and also tame the body clock so it is like the time change never(almost) happened :-). And the cheery weather always makes me a chirpy, cheerful girl, so all is good!!
Last week was also spring break for the little girl, she was home and we had a great time together though both parents were incessantly coughing and sneezing on the kiddo for the entire week. Kashaya brewed non stop on the stove, cooking was lack luster on the days when the allergies and germs took over the best of me but we fought it back as well as we could. Tired that she was and happy to be home, DD slept through oblivious for most part. I am thankful the germs didn't get transferred to the little one and she went back to school safe and well. By the time she was getting ready to leave I was back to usual self and was able to cook the stuff she loves most and also get some things ready for her to take.

Now that we are back to being the twosome, BH & I threw ourselves in front of the big screen to watch a few movies. "If you don't mind, it doesn't matter" - is an old saying you repeatedly hear but somehow it seemed way more powerful coming from a 5 year old in the movie "Room". This movie made it to Oscars with Brie Larson taking home the well deserved Best Actress award recently. She makes the movie come alive and gut wrenching as does little Tremblay. If I had seen this movie some years ago when I was naive, low on worldly reality, I would have dismissed it as a movie maker's far fetched imagination running wild. Having seen multiple news coverage on similar incidences, I have sadly come to believe people do exist in this world that are capable of doing unimaginable damage to another fellow human being.
The movie is about a young adbucted girl and forced to confinement in a backyard shed for 7 years. She gives birth to a son and they live in the 'room' until the mom plots an escape with her 5 year old. Rest of the movie is about their adjustment to the 'world' as they call it and the never stopping happenings in the world. All I could think of was the unstoppable resilience in the human nature and the hope to overcome hurdles. By no means a light Saturday watch but if it makes someone take positive action to prevent such incidences in the society, it makes it for a well spent 2 hours.

I didn't mean to spoil anybody's appetite, but it is better to be safe than sorry. Let us not forget that most people are kind but be wary of the unkind ones as you send your loved ones out. Spread the love not the meanness.

Marrying into a Telugu family also meant embracing dal or pappu as my soul food. No daily meal is complete without this on the menu. Though I grew up with a protein rich side dish in the form of saaru, huli, tovve etc, eating pappu on a regular basis came only after the marriage :-). Luckily for me, I love lentils and BH is open to experimentation so our food has a much wider variety in terms of lentils used and how they are cooked. Pappu - the quintessential staple of Andhra cuisine which is essentially a concentrated dose of either toor(split pigeon peas) or moong (green gram) dal is the region's response to the dals from the North of India. Andhra kitchens boast of a variety of pappus ranging from plain, roasted dals to exotic variations.
Gongura are the green leaves that are sour/tangy by nature. Pachadi made with these leaves is a delicacy in Andhra. I generally end up making gongura pachadi (a few different ways) whenever I get these leaves home. Of late, our rice consumption during the weekdays is so low that the pachadi gets eaten happily the day I make them (usually weekends and we have rice for lunch) and the rest goes into the refrigerator and becomes that invisible container. And after a few days of ignoring, the freshness is lost, and finally I either force serve it with everything I make or it ends up in the green trash :-(. So one fine day, I decided that I would not succumb to the lure of the pachadi but will try the pappu instead. It was such a hit that I had to ask myself why I hadn't made it before. Needless to say, this pappu is a regular feature in the kitchen now and BH simply loves to eat it from a bowl, no sides (or mains) needed for him to enjoy this :-)

I make most of the pappu variations on a regular basis but some of them are better favorites than others at home. Today's Gongura pappu or dal with sorrel leaves is one such item.  Some bravehearts add additional tamarind juice to this pappu but we are happy with the tang from the leaves itself. You need to balance the salt and spices with the tangyness from the gongura in this dal for it to be really delicious, otherwise you will end up with a super tart pappu. Andhra cooking is also unique in that we use green and red (dry) chilies together in a lot of recipes, the flavors and taste they impart are different and I do this especially in pachadis and pappus. Sauteed in oil, these do not increase the spiciness a lot, so I also use a little bit of red chili powder at the end. Feel free to cut down on or eliminate any of these 3 heat sources from the recipe to suit your taste.
With today's recipe, I have also added a clove of garlic (which if you are a regular reader here will recognize as an ingredient I don't often use) as I am trying to incorporate into my cooking slowly as I keep hearing its health benefits. The fact that BH loves it makes an added incentive. As I gingerly put my feet into the world of garlic, I chose to add just a little and in a form that doesn't release too much flavor and smell. Cutting it into slices versus making a paste makes the flavor mild and I could easily pass the pieces onto BH's plate when they showed up in mine :-). I kinda liked the very slight hint of garlic, so there is still hope for me (becoming a garlic lover someday) in this world :-). If you don't like it, by all means omit it, doesn't affect the taste of the dish.

What do you need to make Gongura pappu? 
3/4 cup toor dal
1 Tbsp chana dal
2 packed cups chopped gongura leaves
1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
1 garlic clove sliced vertically (optional)
1 dry red chili - broken into pieces
2 green chilies
1/4 Tsp turmeric powder
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1 Tbsp oil
1/2 Tsp mustard seeds
1 Tsp chana dal
1/4 Tsp fenugreek seeds
Garnish on top:
1/2 Tsp ghee (clarified butter)
1/2 Tsp red chili powder (adjust to spice tolerance)
1/8 Tsp asafoetida
How do you make Gongura pappu? 
  • Pick leaves from the stalks, wash thoroughly and let the water drain
  • Wash the 2 dals in water, pick any dirt, add 2 drops of oil and turmeric powder. 
  • Pressure cook with 1.5 cups of water until soft. 
  • I start the cooking at medium high and after the first whistle, simmer down the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. If you are more familiar by the number of whistles, use that method. 
  • Switch off and let the pressure subside. 
  • Heat a wide wok or pan, add the oil followed by mustard, chana dal, fenugreek seeds and the chilies. Slit the green chilies before adding to avoid its popping. 
  • Once the mustard pops and the dal turns golden, add garlic slices if using and the thinly sliced onion. 
  • Saute for 1-2 mins until onion sweats a little and turns translucent. 
  • Add chopped gongura leaves and stir it in. 
  • Saute for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently until the leaves wilt and become mushy. 
  • Add cooked dal, a cup of water and mix everything together. 
  • Adjust the consistency with additional water if you like. 
  • Add salt and let the dal come to a good rolling boil. Switch off. 
  • Heat a small pan with ghee in it, once the ghee is hot, reduce the flame and add red chili powder and asafoetida. 
  • Switch off and pour this on top of the dal, cover the vessel and let it rest for 10 minutes before stirring everything together. 
  • We ate this tangy, spicy pappu with undrallu made with red matta rice. Super delicious :-)
  • Toor dal tends to get mashed up completely and I like my dal to have a texture. Adding a spoon of chana dal gives that texture I am looking for. You can make the dish with only toor dal also.  
  • Indian cooking uses pressure cooker very effectively for lentils, if you do not own one you can cook the dals in open vessel on medium heat for about an hour. Use slow cooker as another alternative. 
  • If you are cooking in an open vessel, it helps to soften the lentils by soaking it in water for 30mins to an hour before cooking. 
  • You can skip onion and garlic in this recipe if you prefer, I like onion in my dals and usually add them.


NamsVeni Pothas said...

what a menu... mouth watering. perfect diet for a lazy weekend. I like this dish with less sower in taste

Vinodini Ramanathan said...

Gongura has always been my personal favorite... have never tried cooking it though. My aunt is expert at making the gongura pacchadi.