It's only after posting on the blog that I realise how many of my MIL's recipes have been included in our home cooking routine. I'm glad of course, since its always a good thing to carry forward traditional recipes so they aren't forgotten, but its happened very unconsciously. The Mudaliar style of cooking was a bit different from what I had been used to growing up and since I love trying new things I ended up liking quite a few dishes (ok, still can't deal with the omelet with sambar rice combinaton which is a favourite in some of his cousin's homes!) from her repertoire. This Brinji and this Urulai Roast are great examples of the delicious dishes she turns out and much appreciated in our home as well as whoever has tried it out. And of course that one pot wonder called Bisebele Bhath!
The dish I have posted today features an unusual (to me atleast, since I hadn't come across it before) combination of drumsticks and eggplants. Drumsticks (for those in the West who may not know about it) are a vegetable (Moringa Oleifera from the Tamil word Murungakkai) of the genus Moringa. They are thin and slender stick shaped (hence the name) - hard outside and fleshy inside. They are rich in calcium and phosphorus. The leaves are cooked and eaten too when tender and are known to increase breast milk production in lactating mothers. The flowers too are cooked and in some places the roots as well.
Drumstick Sambar is one of my favourites - the flesh takes on the flavours of the tamarind and spices and its just great to scoop it out along with the soft seeds and savour the taste. This dish combines the drumsticks with eggplants in a slightly spicy, tangy, tomato based curry. Its a semi gravy dish we call thokku (and usually much thicker than what's in the pic; this was for the lunch box so made it with a litte more curry than usual). MIL adds sambar powder to the spice mix andI feel it really brings out the flavours. The soft eggplant along with the drumstick make for a great combination, especially dunked in that lovely curry. A must try!
Murungakkai Kathirikai Thokku (Drumstick Eggplant Curry)
Drumstick - 1 big or two small, cut into 2-3 inch pieces
Eggplant (Brinjal) - long variety, cut into long fingers and dunked in salted water to prevent browning
Onion - 1 big, chopped
Tomatoes - 2 medium, chopped
Tamarind extract - 5-6 tbsp (if using readymade pulp, 1tbsp should do)
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Sambar powder - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Curry leaves - a handful
Oil - 1 tbsp
Salt to taste
1. Heat oil in a wide, heavy bottomed pan. Add the mustard seeds and when they pop add the curry leaves. Meanwhile par boil the drumsticks in water for about 5 minutes (they should not be fully cooked)
2. Put in the onions and saute till soft. Add the tomatoes and fry till pulpy, then add the spice powders - chilli, coriander, sambar and turmeric - and saute on low till the oil shows through - about 5-6 minutes
3. Add the eggplant and fry for 3-4 minutes till they soften a bit, then add the drumsticks and salt and 1/4 cup of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, for another 5-7 minutes till the vegetables are cooked through but not squishy.
4. Add the tamarind juice and some more water if needed and simmer uncovered on a medium flame for another 5 minutes till the raw smell goes away and the curry thickens.
5. Serve with rotis or rice.