Give me a traditional south indian thali meal, and I will surely overdose on steaming hot rice with ghee and pachadi or/and chutney podi…..this is a given. I once took a visiting friend and my mother to a famous typical Andhra style restaurant in hyderabad, amma sat open mouthed as I heaped rice with ghee and gongura pachadi onto my banana leaf, not once or twice, but three times…..i obviously had a tough time reconciling with how much I ate for the next few weeks!! But my mother always recalls that incident whenever we swap stories of excesses….she’s never going to let me forget!!
A short walk away from my last work place, there was a modest Mess that served up terrific Andhra style meals…..we’d look forward to our monthly visits there and dread the amount of food we’d collectively eat….again for me, the pachadi would decide how miserable I felt for the rest of the day. We obviously quickly learnt to indulge in this on a day when our group had a relatively lesser workload, because it was humanly impossible not to feel like a beached whale once we were done eating.
Though chutneys and pachadis or a vegetable based relish of some kind is a must at most indian traditional meals, I haven’t been very inquisitive with them. Somewhere stuck in my head is the feeling that these are extremely difficult to make items. You need to be able to get the right blend of all the spices and delicately balance all the flavours. While I take my baby steps in pachadi making, this feeling is reinforced…that you need to balance everything…although I am now somewhat beginning to discover that they aren’t very difficult if you learn to use your tastebuds as a guide!!
Beerakaya tholu pachadi is made by using the peels of the ridge gourd. Said to be rich in iron content, it’s a good way of using a part of the vegetable that would otherwise get binned. We eat ridge gourd quite a lot when its available (I wonder why I haven’t posted about it here yet!!) and each time I peeled the skin off I wondered when I would get down to grinding it to a chutney….while chatting with Srivalli one day she sent me a link to the one she had on her blog and a few days later, I made my version of it. while I try my best to follow a recipe, I cant but help make modifications. Sometimes because I don’t have the same ingredients, but more likely because I cant recall the exact recipe (I try and write them down in my big black book!!)and then resort to improvise .
This pachadi is great with steaming hot rice with ghee (clarified butter), dosas, idlies and even as a sandwich spread. The flavours are subtle and makes it very difficult to stop licking it off your fingers!!
Beerakaya Tholu Pachadi
1 c ridge gourd peels, washed and drained
2 T onion, roughly chopped
4 dry red chillies (adjust according to taste)
1 T each black gram (husked) and Bengal gram
2-3 pods of garlic
1 t tamarind (smaller than a lemon)
Salt to taste
A pinch of asafetida
1 t coriander seeds
1 t fenugreek seeds
1 T cumin seeds
1 T oil
½ t oil (preferably sesame seed oil)
A few curry leaves
1 t mustard seeds
In a heavy bottomed kadai or wok, heat the oil and fry the garlic pods till golden, set aside. In the same pan, fry the black gram and Bengal gram till they turn golden, add the dry red chillies and onion and fry till the onion turns translucent. Add the rest of the ingredients except the salt and stir fry till the peels of the ridge gourd wilt and the raw smell leaves it. the whole process of frying all of the ingredients will take about 5 minutes. Take it off the heat and cool. Combine all in the jar of the food processor, add 1/3 cup water and salt to taste and process till it comes together as a paste. It should not be completely smooth. Dish it out into a serving bowl. In a small pan/ metal ladle heat the oil, splutter the mustard seeds and toast the curry leaves till crisp. Pour it over the pachadi and serve with steamed rice, dosas or idlies.
This is best eaten fresh, though am sure will keep well for a day or two in the fridge.