Monday, October 24, 2016

Gorikaayi Huli (Cluster beans stew/sambar) - Comfort food at its best

We all have our comfort foods. How does one define 'comfort food'? For me, it is food that puts any queasiness in the stomach to rest, makes all real and imaginary discomfort go away, takes me right to that unconditionally happy state of mind. Tall order, you say? Think about it. Most of us, reach out for food as a means of comfort first, necessity later. It is true in my case and that is why I have a hard time controlling my eating :-).
I have multiple 'comfort' foods. Pongal/huggi/khichdi, mosaravalakki with pickle, steamed rice and saaru are some of the easy picks for me when someone asks me about my comfort food. The Karnataka Huli (known popularly as Sambar) is one of my favorite foods in the comfort category as well. This is easy to put together with the goodness of both proteins and vegetables, has the right amount of spices to tingle your taste buds and if made at the right consistency, not only can it be mixed with rice, served as a dip/side dish for rotis, or had straight out of a bowl as a stoup (Stew+soup) on a slightly chilly day.

Huli is a very basic, frequently spotted staple of the home style meal in Karnataka. The vegetables that go into it differ based on the season and accessibility and the lentil used is almost always toor dal or split pigeon peas. Nammamma made some kind of huli every 2-3 days as it was not only easier to make but also would eliminate the need to prepare multiple dishes. She used to have 'huli pudi' or sambar powder in large quantities and store them but always used to add to the freshness with grated coconut and cinnamon, cloves or raw onions depending on the vegetable she used that particular day. Here is how it works - Huli pudi + freshly roasted cinnamon & cloves + coconut for huli made with cabbage or radish, Huli pudi + raw onion+coconut for huli made with menthya soppu (fresh fenugreek greens) or eggplants. You get the idea, right? huli pudi and coconut would be the constants in the ever changing mixture to get the right balance of flavors between the spices and the vegetables. She could have mixed the huli pudi with the cooked dal + vegetable and called it done, it would have tasted good, delicious and no one would have complained. But the extra effort she took to make that every day dish somehow more special spoke volumes of her cooking with love. I don't know how she had figured it all, but every time she made huli, it just tasted divine.
The consistency of the huli varies by its intended usage as well. If you are planning to mix it with steamed rice, the gravy is slightly more liquidish and the lentil is cooked until it is mashed totally. If it is used as a side dish for rotti and rotis, the consistency is thicker. Lentil would be cooked to different degrees of 'softness' based on which vegetable was pairing with it. I love the dal to be holding shape when it is mixed with greens especially. It just makes it a better texture to the dish. Huli also makes an excellent lunch box item when mixed with rice and a little bit of twist, I will talk about it another day.

Nammamma always made huli with a single vegetable. Kootu is a different matter altogether where it is ok and infact required to mix and match the vegetables but Huli is always kept pure with a single vegetable. For me, her huli recipes always stayed at the top of the list of "World's ultimate comfort food" :-). I do not make huli pudi and store like she did because of our limited consumption but always follow nammamma's guidelines of the subtle nuances in the ingredients when I roast the spice mix in an effort to bring the same taste to my table.
Cluster beans - how many of you use this regularly? I see a lot of people scrunching their noses up at the mention of cluster beans. I get it, it is not one of the most popular vegetables. It has a unique flavor that has the potential to tip the balance of the dish if not handled carefully. I recommend to add this to your repertoire, give it a chance to be an 'acquired taste', with a little nudge this humble vegetable actually has the potential to grow on you:-). This is a seasonal vegetable and makes its way as the temperatures go down and once it is ready to harvest, it can really flood the market. Nammamma used to get it regularly and we also grew it in the backyard and harvested many, many baskets of the vegetable. I didn't care much for the stir fry she made with cluster beans but huli definitely is something you want to taste and enjoy.
This is my Day-2 recipe of the week as I let this staple dish from nammamma's kitchen make its way to the blog. My favorite way to eat this is to scoop warm ladle fulls in to a bowl and spoon the deliciousness slowly into the mouth. I don't need any carbs in the form of rice or roti to go with it either. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

What do you need to make Gorikaayi Huli?
20-25 (not too mature) cluster beans
1/2 cup toor dal/split pigeon peas
2 Tbsp black eyes beans (optional, I used it as I had soaked them for something else that day)
1 key lime size tamarind
1/4 Tsp crushed jaggery
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1/4 Tsp turmeric powder
4-5 curry leaves
For the spice paste: 
1 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp chana dal/kadle bele
1/2 Tsp urad dal/uddina bele
1/4 Tsp fenugreek seeds/menthya
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
1/4 Tsp cumin
4 black pepper corns
1 inch piece cinnamon
4-5 dry red chilies (adjust based on the heat tolerance)
4-5 curry leaves (optional but recommended)
2 Tbsp grated coconut
For seasoning:
1/2 Tsp mustard seeds
1/8 Tsp fenugreek seeds
1/8 Tsp asafoetida
1 Tbsp oil
How do you make Gorikaayi Huli? 
  • Wash, pick any dirt and drain water from the dal. 
  • Soak it in 1 cup of water for atleast 30mins
  • Wash the cluster beans, and chop tiny portions of the two ends from both sides.
  • Chop into inch long pieces. 
  • Soak tamarind in 1/4 cup of warm water for 20 minutes and extract the juice, discard any seeds & pith.
  • In a pressure cooker, take the pre-soaked dal, pre-soaked black eyed peas (if using), chopped cluster beans, curry leaves, turmeric powder and 2 cups of water. 
  • Pressure cook it on medium heat for 3-4 whistles, switch off and let the pressure subside. 
  • Heat 1 Tbsp of oil, add all the ingredients listed under spice paste, except for coconut. Roast on medium heat until the spices are fragrant and the dals turn golden. Switch off. 
  • Once cool, grind into a smooth paste along with coconut and 1/2 cup of water. Keep this aside until ready to use.
  • Once the pressure subsides, open the cooker lid and either transfer the contents to another pot and continue using the pressure cooker as I did. 
  • Switch on the stove, put the pot on it, add tamarind extract, jaggery, salt and the ground spice paste. 
  • Give it a mix and adjust consistency by adding water as needed. 
  • Let the mixture come to a good boil before switching it off. 
  • Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a small pan, add all seasoning ingredients and let mustard pop. 
  • Pour the sizzling seasoning on top of the huli, cover and let it rest for 15mins before serving.
  • Notice how I said 'not too mature' cluster beans and not 'tender' cluster beans. For this recipe, you want slightly mature cluster beans so they have the flavor. If they are really tender, go ahead and make a palya/stir fry as it will not have the flavor to stand out with the huli masala. 
  • Since I cooked dal and beans together, I pre-soaked the dal for 30mins to speed up the cooking process. Dal generally takes long time and you don't want the cluster beans to be all mushy. Alternatively, you can cook dal and cluster beans separately until they both reach the cooked consistency you desire. 
  • This is one of the special huli recipes which is thicker in consistency compared to normal huli and the lentil is cooked until it is just breaking apart and not completely dissolved. 
  • If you do not have a pressure cooker, use a heavy bottom vessel to cook the dal and vegetable but be prepared for atleast an hour of cook time. You can add the cluster beans half way through the process if you are cooking in an open vessel. Slow cooker works well too which doesn't need any baby sitting, you can dump all the ingredients and let it cook for 4-5 hours. 


NamsVeni Pothas said...

wonderful and tasty recipe

sashi said...

Nagashree, you have fried curry leaves in the picture. Do we also add curry leaves to spice mixture?.

Nagashree Ravi said...

@Sashi - post updated :-), curry leaves is one of those ingredients I miss considering an 'ingredient'. They are my favorite flavors in the kitchen. It is optional for the masale, definitely adds to the taste but dilutes the color of your huli. If you notice my Huli is not the 'red' color, I didn't use the Byadgi chilies this time and the curry leaves brought the natural color further down. Hope this helps.