Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sautekaayi saasve (raw cucumber curry) - cooking a delicious dish without actually "cooking"

She gets up at the crack of dawn, takes a bath and enters the kitchen. The kitchen is her work shop where the artist and the scientist in her compete and collaborate with each other to bring out the best. It is a large family that she has to feed and the demands are varied. A husband who goes off to work in the morning and doesn't return until evening, he doesn't carry a lunch pail with him so the first meal of the day has to be nutritious and sustainable (add fibers, lentils or pulses that digest slowly and release energy over time), an older daughter who always rushes out in the morning (what is it with college kids and getting up late in the morning:-)) without time for a sit down breakfast (make something that is quick and easy to eat, and no there were no cereal bars available at the time), oh she needs a lunch box too as she doesn't get home until late in the evening (something that is not too dry nor too watery to carry easily on the bus). And then there are 3 younger ones in different grade schools that need to be fed nutritious meal as well(in goes vegetables, some ghee to make it rich and healthy). All taken care of? well not really, this dish was made just last week and this vegetable was in 2 meals ago, the same old, same old is not going to cut with this family..
Sounds familiar? I am sure it does ring a bell with most of you reading it. I try to close my eyes and imagine this routine of nammamma for decades. At the beginning of her married life, she was part of the larger, joint family with parents in laws, sister and brother in laws that she took care of and towards the end it was the extended family of sons and daughters in laws and the grand children. The routine kept changing shape like boggarts do depending on the phase of life she was in but the busy schedule itself didn't change much. There were hardly any back up plans or substitutes for her work and much was taken for granted..
I was probably the pickiest of all her children. While the rest of the family was happy eating what was prepared, I would be the one troubling her to make 'something else' but never telling her what I really wanted :-). Her immediate reaction whenever I said I was hungry was to make something and feed me, I get it, I am a mom now and that is a very easy to idenitfy with 'mommy nerve'! After a long day of being in the kitchen, all she probably wanted to do was to sit back, have some 'me' time and read a book. The moment one of us started the hunger siren she would be scrambling to get something infront of us. Even with my nitpicking, there were always a number of favorites that I would never say 'no' to and she knew the trick very well :-). Spicy dishes have been my weakness and if she offered me something from that genre, I would immediately back off my protests and sit down to eat. I think that was the beginning of reverse psychology moms so effectively use on kids :-)
This Sautekaayi saasve is one such dish I never refused. The recipe is unimaginatively simple. There is no cooking involved - chop the vegetable, grind a spice paste with all raw ingredients, mix the two together. You have a tantalizing side dish/salad ready to eat in a matter of minutes. This recipe is from the heart of Malenadu/Malnad (known for its simple, homely and mouth watering dishes with a big emphasis on fresh coconut  and mostly sweetened with jaggery:-)). Malnad cuisine is a great example of food made with easily available ingredients and the vegetables are almost always from the backyard as the region is blessed with abundant rains and fertile soil. The food is saatvik, onions and garlic are rarely used.

Saasve is the Kannada name for mustard. The dish is also called saasve in this case as mustard is the central flavor in it. Coconut and roasted gram add body and taste to the curry while mustard elevates it with a unique flavor. Since there is no cooking involved (if you discount the seasoning ofcourse), this is also called hasi (raw) gojju (curry). I like to eat it as a 'dressed up' salad but it is great to mix with rice or have with rotis.

What do you need to make Sautekaayi saasive? 
1 big cucumber (I used the English cucumber which are tender and hardly have any seeds)
To Grind:
small key lime sized tamarind
1/2 Tsp jaggery
3/4 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp roasted chana/kadle
3/4 Tsp mustard
1/2 Tsp cumin
1-2 green chilies (adjust to taste)
1/2 cup grated fresh coconut

1 Tbsp oil
1/2 Tsp mustard
1 dry red chili (broken into pieces)
pinch of asafoetida
2-3 curry leaves

How do you make Sautekaayi saasive? 
  • Wash, pat dry the cucumber. 
  • Peel and chop into tiny pieces (see picture for to get an idea of the optimum size, smaller or bigger is your choice :-))
  • Take all the ingredients listed under 'To Grind' and grind to a smooth paste. 
  • Mix the ground paste with the chopped cucumber. Add water if needed to bring to your desired consistency. Remember cucumber leaves additional water when mixed with salt, so start with a slightly thick gravy. 
  • Heat oil on medium heat, add items under 'seasoning' and let mustard pop. Switch off the stove.
  • Add the seasoning to the gravy, mix and let it sit for 10 mins before serving. 
  • How easier than this can making a curry get :-))
  • If you are using regular cucumbers that are mature, remove the tiny bits from both ends, peel and remove the seeds before chopping it. 
  • Soak tamarind in a couple spoons of water to soften it up before grinding. 
  • I like to refrigerate this for about an hour before eating since I mostly eat it by itself as a salad. The resting time helps the flavors mingle together. 
  • This curry needs to be a balanced on all the tastes - sweet, sour, salt and spice. Feel free to adjust to suit your palate. 


NamsVeni Pothas said...

wonderful and healthy dish. we can never refuge to eat.very strong taste

Sreemala said...

Oh wow! Nagashree- the challenges your mom faced sounds way too familiar at this phase of my mom-hood! Add a dash of (read- plenty) "Oh rice again?" or "Indian food again" kind of comments by a constantly hungry teenager (also a marathon and cross country runner) who can easily devour 5000 calories AND a picky eater,Ms.N, almost like you but can't please with spicy food :)
Thank you for a simple yet very tasty recipe.Have always enjoyed southekayi in any form, specially this one!

Nagashree Ravi said...

@Sreemala - First of all, loads of love to both the hungry teenager and little Ms.N. It definitely is all rolled into the job description of being the mommy :-), enjoy!!

Sujatha Shankar said...

I too enjoy this as a salad...its amazing how simple dishes can b tasty as well as healthy.....