Thursday, January 22, 2015

When in doubt, gojju!

We Kannadigas are ardent "gojju" experts. 
"Gojju" is a difficult word to translate because it's actually an entire universe where hundreds of recipes have lived and flourished for centuries and the only thing in common between them is a spicy, usually sour thick gravy. (Some linguistics suggest that this word existed over 2 milleniums ago and then it meant a "mess of boiled fruit". Well, in Karnataka, we make a delicious, I mean gojju of even pineapple!)
 Of all the gojjus that regularly appear in the Rajaiah dining table, this sweet and sour one made with karela (bitter gourd in English, haggalkai in Kannada) is an all time favourite. Roasting the karela before making it into the gojju gives it a very subtle but very delicious smokiness.
Karela - along with many other healthy-but-yucky vegetables like lauki, tinda etc - is much reviled. But cooked right, it can be unusually delicious. 
Did anyone ask - how healthy? Well, the bitter gourd is bitter for a very good reason – it is signal of the presence of phytochemicals, a very important group of disease-fighting plant chemicals currently hailed by an ecstatic nutrition-medical community in the West as the supernovas of healthy eating because of the immense arsenal that they pack to both prevent and fight against an awesome gamut of diseases – diabetes, cardiovascular disease, several common cancers.

It is also used by many ancient systems of medicine - including Ayurveda - to help treat diabetes.  

So, onwards karela gojju! Enjoy!

¼ kg karela (remove centre of seeds etc thoroughly and diced into small pieces)
Tamarind, the size of a small lemon (soak in hot water for about 10 mins n extract thick juice)
½ cup jaggery (adjust to taste)
2-3 spoonfuls of sambar powder
Salt to taste

The quantities of tamarind and the jaggery given above are approximations because it all depends on how bitter the karela, how sour the tamarind and how sweet or sour you like your gojju . So, as they say on MasterChef - taste, taste, taste and adjust!)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 dried red chili broken
¾ teaspoon mustard seeds
Few pinches of asafetida
7-10 curry leaves

Roast the karela pieces in a heavy-bottomed pan over a slow fire till the pieces r soft n have a roasted char at the edges. In a separate pan, heat the oil, add mustard seeds n red chili. When the seeds start spluttering, add the asafetida, curry leaves. Now add the karela pieces and sauté for a few minutes. Then add about ½ a cup of water, bring to boil n then simmer till the karela is almost cooked. Now add salt, ¾ of the tamarind extract and the jaggery.  Simmer till the jaggery has completely melted, then taste and adjust for salt sweet and sour. Now simmer some more till the gravy gets a thick, glossy texture (You can add more water if you like.) The longer you simmer, the better the taste. Now taste again and adjust.

Remove from heat and serve with rice/chapatti, even bread. I often use it as a sauce, adding it to puffed rice, chiwda or just to a bowl of curd and using that as a dip with poppadoms or chips!

This gojju keeps in the fridge for about 5-6 days if you store it in a clean jar after it is thoroughly cooled.

Forbidden fruit.....

One of my clearest childhood memories was travelling by bus to my maternal grandmother's home in Karkala in Dakshin Karnataka. As we negotiated the Western ghats and neared "home", at every halt, the hawkers would be buzzing all over the windows like flies. Selling all kinds of forbidden - and now almost extinct - things like goli soda, but especially golden-yellow, juicy slabs of a fruit in grubby glass jars

"Ananas! Ananas!"

More familiarly known as pineapple. 
Like I said,  this was forbidden territory for my hyper-hygiene conscious father and so I never got to eat those sticky-delicious-dripping slabs of fruit, but my Doddamma's (Mom's elder sister) backyard had them growing all over the place.

In other words, the pineapple is a popular fruit in Karnataka.

But the curious thing is that the word "Ananas" (which up until now I thought was a Tulu or Kannada word!) is also part of the botanical name for the fruit - Ananas comosus. And it comes from the word nananas, which Tupi, a set of over 70 South American languages, means "excellent fruit".

So, you guessed right. The pineapple originated in South America, somewhere between Brazil and Peru. And how did it get to India, so far back in time that its name has been integrated into the Tulu language? 
Well, apparently Columbus encountered it in the Caribbean, then brought it to Europe and ultimately, the Portuguese brought it India.

Voila. A much travelled fruit, that.
And naturally, like most fruit, a great source of nutrients, especially vitamin C and some minerals like manganese.

But, here in Karnataka, we eat this fruit in a very unique (some would say strange) way.
We make a gojju out of it. (When in doubt, gojju, is what we Kannadigas say)

Now, now, now. Don't turn your nose up at that as you disdainfully sip your pina colada.
This is actually - and strangely, i\I will have to admit - delicious. Especially when eaten with that other staple Dakshin Karnataka staple - red rice kanji!!

So, here. Try it

1 medium pineapple, peeled, cored, cleaned of all the ‘eyes’ and diced into ½ in pieces

Marble-sized ball of tamarind, soaked and then juice extracted

About 3/4 cup of fresh coconut pieces

¾ teaspoon turmeric powder

2 tablespoons grated jaggery (the quantity of jaggery is completely dependent on how sweet you want your gojju, how sweet the pineapple is etc., etc. So I suggest you add about 75% first, taste, then add the rest if necessary, even increase if you like…)
1 tablespoon roasted gram (this is basically for thickening so you could add besan flour if you don’t have the gram)

Salt to taste

For the gravy:
Roast -  I find it best to roast each of these ingredients separately as each requires different roasting time n heat.
1 tablespoon each of  coriander seeds, urad dal, channa dal (roast till light  brown and you get a roasted aroma)
1 teaspoon each of jeera, sesame, methi seeds (roast till light  brown and you get the roasted aroma)
3-4 dried red chilies - roast till the chilies begin to char black and you get a roasted aroma. (This results in a fairly mild taste, so you can increase the number if you like a 'hotter" taste)

For tempering:
1 -1 ½ tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
7-10 curry leaves
1 dried red chili, broken into pieces
Few pinches of asafetida

 Grind together these roasted ingredients along the coconut, roasted gram n turmeric powder to a chutney-like consistency

Heat oil, add red chili pieces, mustard seeds and asafetida. When the seeds begin to splutter, add the curry leaves. When they begin to crisp up n brown at the edges, add the pineapple pieces. Saute for about a minute, then add about a cup of water, bring to boil, then simmer. Since it is fruit, you can cook it to how soft you want it. (I like to keep it slightly crunchy). Then add the tamarind juice, salt and jiggery. Simmer for another minute r so.
Now add the ground masala paste. Be sure to stir all the time and keep the heat low otherwise, the bottom of the curry will ‘catch” and burn. Cook, for about another 3-4 minutes, stirring regularly. Taste and adjust.
Serve with hot rice or chapatti