Garden Gives: Weekend cooking with Fresh Manathakkali and Gongura leaves
Manathakkali or Manithakkali is also called Black Night Shade, one of my favorite plants in the garden. It is called as manathakkali as it means home grown tomatoes or tiny tomatoes. My mother used to tell me that the leaves of these plants are a cure for mouth ulcers(heat boils) and she would mash the leaves of the plant with dal like a kootu, quite often in the summer.
The dried vathal(fruits of the plant soaked in butter milk and sun dried) is good for lactation. When the fruit is fresh, we make this vathakozhambu. The green fruit is bitter and when it turns either red or black in color, it tastes sweet. But using green fruit is good as it has it’s own health benefits. The method to make the vathakozhambu is similar to other types.
Fresh Manathakkali- 1 cup
Red Chilies- 2 each
Curry Leaves- one spring
Tamarind- 1 small lemon size
Red Chili Powder- 1/2 tsp
Sambar Powder-3/4 tsp
Turmeric Powder- 1/4 tsp
Mustard seeds- 1 tsp
Chana dal- 1 tsp
Hing- 2 pinches
Salt- to taste- about 3/4 tsp
Sesame oil(Nallenai)- 4 tbsp (You can also use light olive oil)
Rice flour- 1 tbsp
To be ground to a powder:
Coriander seeds- 1.5 tbsp
Chana dal- 1 tsp
Soak the tamarind in about 200 ml of hot water. You can also substitute 1/4 tsp of tamarind paste for this. Squeeze out the juice from the tamarind, add another 100 ml of water, extract the juice again, filter and discard the pulp.
Heat oil in a thick bottomed vessel(kadai) and add hing and mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds splutter, add chana dhal, curry leaves and red chilies. Stir fry for a minute. Add the manathakkali fruit and salt and stir fry for another 2-3 minutes. Add turmeric powder, red chili powder,sambar powder and stir fry till the raw smell of the red chili powder disappears.
Pour the 300 ml of tamarind water into the pan and simmer for 15-20 minutes so that the manathakkali fruit is cooked through. The tamarind water should have reduced to at least 1/2 of its original volume.
In the mean time, toast(dry fry) the coriander seeds,red chilies, chana dal to a golden brown color. Cool and grind to a fine powder. This powder is my version of the vathakozhambu powders sold in stores. I grind it fresh, but you can also sprinkle some store bought vathakozhambu powder if you want.
In a bowl, mix about 3 tbsp of water and rice flour into a thick paste. Add the ground powder to this paste and add these to the boiling kozhambu. Stir well to avoid any lumps(this will thicken the kozhambu instantly). Let it simmer for 3-4 minutes so that the flour is not raw. Switch off. Serve hot with any thogayal-coconut thogayal is my favorite to go with any vathakozhambu, or you can serve it with any of the karis or kootu.
Indirakka invited us last week to pick fresh gongura leaves from her garden. Actually speaking, I never ever(I mean ever) miss a chance to be at her place when she invites me for lunch.N and I have had the privilage of tasting her delicious food- from festival dinners to diwali snacks, Jenmashtami snacks and so on, the list is endless. I had a fun filled afternoon, sipping spiced buttermilk,with lil R giving tempting looks at kittaiya and his gorgeous coat,with loads of people to carry little R and pet him, it was a wonderful day! Honestly speaking, Indirakka picked the leaves also for me and I just was sitting in the garden She has petted me like anything these past two years, while I was pregnant and now when I am a new mom.
I had a break from cooking this week too! Mrs. G, my other neighbor, had a get together for about 20 people and she cooked all of these,all by herself! We had tomato soup,bread,broccoli stir fry with walnuts,mixed vegetable kari,rasam, paruppu orundai kozhambu,uthappams with 3 different chutneys, yogurt rice,dhokla and kheer. If only you entered Iron chef competition Mrs.G, you will give all the super chef’s a run for their money
Mrs.G’s place is another home where lil R is welcome anytime, he has already started calling her “athai”(aunty) and will happily munch her delicious food along with us or he will crawl behind Mrs.G, following her every move in the kitchen. Two days of hassle free-no cooking this week, thanks to Indirakka and Mrs.G.
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