Sunday, June 29, 2008

VATTAL KOZAMBU - A tangy gravy made with sun dried berries


- Tangy Gravy made with sun dried berries
This is a very tangy and spicy gravy (kozambu) which can be prepared in no time. It tastes good with plain rice, chutney rice, and podi rice. The taste of dosas, idlies, ven pongal, uppuma, curd rice and numerous other dishes is enhanced when served with a spoon of vattal kozambu.
When Tara bought us a boxful of fresh dough nuts from Krispy Kreme we never thought that we would finish the entire box by the time we reached home. They were so fluffy, warm and so tasty and melted in our mouths, leaving us craving for more. We were so full that we decided to skip dinner that night. However,the sight of vattal kozambu in the fridge, tempted us to eat a meager morsel of vattal kozambu rice. After dinner we felt relieved and the feeling of heaviness had vanished!
Pati (grandmother) prepared Vattal Kuzambu in Kall Chatti (stone vessel. see pic) and stored it for many days as an emergency supplement for other side dishes even in our pre-refrigerator days.

We loved those moonlight dinners, when Pati sat in the courtyard , under the star and moon lit sky, with a 'kall-chatti-ful' of vattal kozambu rice. All of us sat around her in a semicircle with our cupped palms outstretched for a portion (Tuttu) of the vattal kozambu rice. She served us so lovingly. Her animated stories about princes and monsters made dinner time much more interesting that we never took notice of the fast emptying of the kall chatti. Many a time Pati had to mix more rice as we wanted to keep eating till the story got over!

Tamarind – enough to roll into a size of a ping-pong ball
Sambar powder – 3 tsps
Salt -2 tsps
Jaggery – size of a big marble
Sesame oil – 4 tbsps
Asafoetida – ¼ tsp
Mustard seeds – ¼ tsp
Fenugreek seeds – 1 tsp
Bengal gram dal – 2 tbsps
Dried Red chillies – 2
Curry leaves – 10
Vattal of your choice – 1/2 to 1 tbsp, as per taste.
Vattals are sundried berries and vegetables. Some popular vattals are 'manathakali' - tiny pepper sized berries, 'chundaikai' - larger and very bitter berries, and kottoranga - dried beans.

If you do not have vattals, you can simply add any fresh vegetables such as carrots, brinjal, pumpkin, cucumber, bitter gourd. A tablespoon of groundnuts adds to the taste.

1) Soak tamarind in hot water for 20 minutes. Extract a thick juice, discarding the fibre and seeds and keep aside.
2) Heat sesame oil in a pan and throw in asafoetida and mustard seeds. When they splutter, add fenugreek seeds and Bengal gram dal and roast till golden in colour. If you want you can add ground nuts at this stage as well.
3) Next add the broken red chillies and the vattals. Fry until they are crunchy and crisp.
4) Slow down the flame and add the sambar powder and fry for two seconds.
5) Add curry leaves and stir.
6) Immediately pour in the tamarind juice.
7) Increase flame and add salt and jaggery. If you are adding fresh vegetables, you can do it now.
8) Let the kozambu boil and thicken until it gives out a very pleasant aroma. Remove from fire when the oil separates.

To eat this with rice, mix the kozambu with hot white rice, and a spoonful of ghee.