This is my 100th blog post and that's all thanks to my fellow food-blogger friends and readers who have encouraged me, all along the way.
I've been promising to post the recipe of Chettinad Tomato Paruppu Pacchidi for a while, but then I wanted my 100th post to be something very traditional.
It is Thalagam. Please don't confuse it with a sambhar or a curry. It's neither. But one taste of this and the flavours will get etched in your taste buds forever. I actually made it for the first time last evening with no thoughts about posting this as my 100th. I just followed my craving, called up mom, told her I want to eat Thalagam NOW. Scribbling down the approximations dictated by mother, I set out in pursuit of that perfect taste.
If you are wondering what Thalagam is all about, this is what it is. A medley of vegetables cooked in a paste of roasted red chillies, sesame seeds, mustard seeds, split black gram and grated coconut. A swish of tamarind puree rounds up the bold flavours together. The result is a spicy, mildly sweet, tangy curry offset by the nutty taste of roasted sesame seeds. This almost belongs to the Sambhar family and yet not quite for two reasons. One, it is made on special occasions like Thiruvadirai festival to eat with a sweet floury dish and two, you don't add dal (cooked lentils) in this curry.
I managed to take pictures step-by-step this time. I hope that makes it much easier for you to try out this 'steeped-in-Tambram-tradition' recipe atleast once. Once is enough. After that the taste will pursue you for life, pursue you enough to make this often. I can promise that much.
2 cups of mixed vegetables (Traditionally yellow pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, arbi)
1 tsp oil
1/2 cup thin tamarind extract obtained from medium lemon sized ball of tamarind
Salt to taste
For the spice paste:
4 dried red chillies
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 T udad dal (split black gram dal)
4-5 slices of fresh coconut
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds (Methi)
Roast these ingredients in a spot of oil for a minute or two and keep aside.
1 T sesame seeds- roast this separately as it browns much faster than the other ingredients.
Cooling the roasted ingredients before grinding to a paste
The essence of thalagam - spice paste
Cool the roasted ingredients. Put them in a coffee grinder or mixer and grind to a fine paste with 1/4 cup of water. Keep the paste aside.
1. In a non-stick pot, heat a tsp of oil. Throw in the vegetables. Saute for a minute. Add 1/2 cup of water to the pot and cover with lid. The vegetables will cook in 10 minutes or so.
Sauteeing the vegetables (I used these vegetables because I didn't have the traditional ones on hand. Unplanned cooking you see! )
2. Once the vegetables are cooked, add the ground spice paste and the tamarind extract. Put in the required amount of salt, about 1 1/2 tsp, a pinch of turmeric powder to the boiling thalagam.
3. Keep the flame on low, cover the pot with a lid, keep it at a slow simmer for 8-10 minutes so that the vegetables can soak up the flavours of the spices.
4. After 10 minutes, remove from flame and serve with steamed rice or broken wheat.
I added a small block of jaggery to the thalagam as I was missing the sweet tinge that pumpkin lends to it. Despite not using the traditional vegetables, the taste of this one came very close to what my taste buds remembered from the years.