Saturday, November 7, 2009

Hot, Hot, Hot ,Stuff on A Cold Fall Day


On a cold, cold rainy day what's better than something spicy hot? Chilies! I also feel the same way on hot, hot days. I like my food spicy which is why I particularly enjoy cooking dishes from South India. When I first started cooking Indian food some 20 years ago i started with a lot of northern dishes and over the years have worked my way down to Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Goa and beyond.
I'm always looking for tasty vegetable dishes for lunch (which is our main meal of the day) and since I've been keeping this blog I hate to repeat myself so I'm not falling into the usual thing of, "oh it's Wednesday, time for Gujarati pureed vegetables" again.
We've had two days of iron grey skies here in Wine Country, and off and on rain. I keep running out to the woodpile and picking up kindling. What better thing to come in to the house to than a warming bowl of Sagu. A Sagu is a type of slow simmered curry cooked with coconut. Either coconut milk, or grated coconut such as the one I made yesterday.
One of my favorite cookbooks is Dakshin, Vegetarian Cuisine From South India by Chandra Padmanabhan. This book is filled with tasty, spicy treats and I love cooking form it. As I've said before vegetables are very forgiving and are perfectly willing to stand aside in a recipe and let another player take the starring role if that's what one happens to have on hand. Which is the case with this dish. It's a Mixed Vegetable Sagu and mixed is the operative word here. Use what you have. It will still work wonderfully. I did, and this is what I came up with in my adaptation.
1.) slice lengthwise and then chop across into 1 inch bits. 1 cup of zucchini.
2.) peel and thinly slice on the round 2 carrots
3.) chop 1 yukon gold or boiling potato into 1 inch pieces
4.) 1 cup of green peas fresh or frozen.
When all these veggies are peeled and chopped, set them aside
In a spice grinder or blender, mix
5.) 4 green chilies
6.) 1/4 tsp black peppercorns
7.) 3 tsp of ground coriander
8.) 1 tsp of cumin seeds
9.) 1 stick of cinnamon
10.) 2 cloves
11.) 6 Tbs of dried unsweetened grated coconut and
12.) about 1 Tbs of water
Grind this mixture until you have a paste.


Set the paste aside for later.
In a deep skillet or Karhai heat
13.) 2 Tbs of ghee
When that is nice and hot pop in
14.) 1 tsp brown mustard seeds
15.) 1 dried red chili pepper broken in half
16.) a few fresh or frozen curry leaves (I used about 6)


When the mustard seeds start to pop toss in
17.) 1 finely chopped onion
Stir the onion around for about 3 minutes then add in your chopped vegetables and
18.) 1/2 tsp of turmeric, salt to taste and finally enough water to cover your vegetables. Bring them to a nice simmer and leave them, to cook about 20 minutes or until everything is tender.


While your vegetables are simmering away in their bath take a small pan. Add a dab of coconut oil and stir fry
19.) 2 Tbs of cashews until they're golden. Set them aside.
When your vegetables are nice and tender,add the spice paste you made earlier to the broth they're in. Cook that a bit more, about 5 minutes or so and you're done.
Sprinkle the dish with chopped fresh cilantro and the cashews you've just fried.
This spicy dish is a meal in itself served with some Indian bread or as a hot little side dish to jazz up the same old same old. Make sure to serve something cooling with it, especially if you or the ones you are cooking for aren't used to heat.
This Sagu brings a nice kick to a cold fall day and really warms the core. feel free to try it with chayote, and green beans (the original recipe) instead of zucchini, add in whatever you have on hand. The secrets in the spice paste, so it's all good!

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