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
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)
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