September 18, 2013

Cherunaranga Khichadi/ Thayir Pachadi (Steam Cooked Limes in Seasoned Yogurt)

I
have been on a bit of a short break from blogging , one of the many  these past few months, since my last post earlier this month. As usual, I’ve just been busy with lots of small stuff that needed to be done. Add two festivals - Vinayaka Chathurthi and Onam, my daughter’s week long vacation from school and hearty dose of sheer laziness to the mix and you’ll have some idea why I haven’t got around to sitting down and writing a post.
I have been doing a fair amount of cooking and photographing some of it for the blog all through this time, but just haven’t got around to editing the photographs and been able to write up posts to accompany them. I find that I spend a fair amount of time on writing for the blog, and it’s not easy to keep coming up with new material or re-invent myself every time. This is especially true when one does not have a gift for writing.
Right now whatever little talent I have for writing seems to have temporarily deserted me, so I’ll keep the post short. My recipe for today is what we at home call a Thayir Pachadi or a Kichadi. A Thayir Pachadi or Khichadi is a yogurt based side dish made with a variety of chopped vegetables and sometimes fruit.  Please note that a Khichadi (South Indian preparation) is different from the Khichdi (North Indian preparation) that’s usually made of rice/ wheat/ tapioca pearls.



 
This is a dish similar to the North Indian Raita yet different. While both dishes have a healthy amount of thick yogurt in them, the North Indian Raita tends to be lightly spiced while the South Indian version usually tends to be slightly more (but not too much) spicier, usually also has ground chillies and coconuts and is tempered. This South Indian Thayir Pachadi/ Khichadi is a bit unusual as it does not have coconut, but uses coconut milk instead.
Thayir Pachadi/ Khichadi (or the Raita) is an everyday dish made with vegetables like English cucumber,  Indian yellow cucumber, tomatoes, beetroot, okra, and for festive occasions with fruit like pineapple, grapes, mangoes, etc.
Now the Thayir Pachadi/ Khichadi is a very intrinsic part of a festive meal in Kerala, and with Onam around the corner (I’m talking about the situation 2 weeks back) I was trying to plan my festive menu. Cooking up more or less the same dishes every Onam can be boring and predictable so I like to change the menu a bit every year.
This year I decided to experiment with the Thayir Pachadi/ Khichadi and the Payasam, which is a sweet preparation (and I will blog about next). Some time back I had come across a recipe for a Khichadi made with steam cooked limes from Lakshmi Nair’s Malayalam cookbook Pachakaruchi.



 
Lakshmi Nair is a popular cookbook author in Kerala and her food show on television is very avidly followed by many, for both her traditional and other recipes. I was a bit hesitant to try out this recipe – I mean doesn’t the combination of sour Indian limes and yogurt sound a bit crazy?

However a couple of reviews of this recipe I found on the net seemed to suggest that this was a much loved preparation that had made it back to their tables more than once. That gave the courage to experiment on my unsuspecting family.

I wasn’t expecting much, but I must say I did like it. The sourness of the limes was quite balanced out by the salt, yogurt, coconut milk and the sugar. The only thing would be to use the thin-skinned ripe yellow coloured limes for this Thayir Pachadi/ Khichadi. The thick-skinned ones would leave an undertone of bitterness in the yogurt which is not very pleasant. Even when you are careful about picking out good limes, you might still end up with the occasional bitter tasting lime. Also make sure when you steam cook your limes, that they are cooked till soft.
Cherunaranga Kichadi (Limes in Seasoned Yogurt)
 

Ingredients: 

4 largish limes (you may use lemons too)
2 green chillies, chopped
1 1/2 tsp minced ginger
1 cup thick plain yogurt
1/2 cup coconut milk*
1 tsp sugar
Salt to taste
2 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 dried red chillies, broken into 2 or 3 bits
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/4 tsp asafoetida
2 sprigs curry leaves 

*If using fresh coconut milk, use the first pressed thick coconut milk.
 

 Method: 

Wash and pat the limes dry. Steam cook them whole, until they’re soft, a bit opaque and tender to touch. Allow them to cool. Then cut each lemon into half and each half into small pieces (fours or sixes). Sprinkle some salt (about a tsp) over the lime pieces and toss them to coat well. Cover this and let them sit for about 24 to 48 hours.
 
 

Make the Khichadi about a couple of hours before serving. Put the yogurt, coconut milk and sugar in a bowl and lightly whisk till smooth. Add the cooked lime pieces, ginger and green chillies and mix well with a spoon. Taste and add more sal, if necessary.

Refrigerate the Khichadi till ready to serve it. Just before serving, heat the coconut oil in a small pan. Add the mustard seeds and let them splutter. Add red chillies, fenugreek seeds and the asafoetida, stir once or twice and turn off the heat. Add the curry leaves and pour this into the Khichadi.

Serve on the side with rice. This recipe serves 4.

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