Usili is a popular Tamil Brahmin vegetable preparation where soaked, ground and steamed lentils are mixed with vegetables like cluster beans, French beans, Capsicum, Carrots and even Ivy Gourd. The first two are made regularly in my family, but until I saw Sheela write about this one with Kovakkai (ivy gourd) I hadn't know about this possibility. When I asked mum whether we make this kind in our family, she confirmed that they do and it is delicious.
Ivy Gourd is an interesting vegetable, mainly used in dry curries in Tam Bram cuisine - it is either sauteed in tempered oil and garnished with a bit of fresh coconut shavings or a spicier version is made with potatoes. For both these recipes, kovakkai can be cut into slender strips or into roundels. This is low carb, high in fibre and fast to cook. It is an excellent vegetable choice for diabetics too. Read this report for more details on Ivy Gourd and Diabetes.
1/2 cup toor dal
2 tbsp chana dal
2 dried red chillies
1/4 tsp asafoetida powder / hing
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp salt
1 sprig curry leaves
1 tbsp oil
2 cups length-wise slit kovakkai
1 tsp oil
2 dried red chillis and 1/2 tsp mustard seeds for tempering
Salt to taste
Preparation for Usuli:
Soak 1/2 cup toor dal with 2 tbsp chana dal, either overnight or for 3 hours in warm water. Grind this to a coarse paste with 2 broken dried red chillies, 1/4 tsp of asafoetida powder, pinch of turmeric powder, 1 tsp salt and a few curry leaves without adding any water.
Steam this paste in an idli-steamer or a regular steamer for 10-15 minutes until the lentil paste is cooked. Remove to a bowl once cooled and crumble into small pea-sized pieces. Keep aside.
Place the slit pieces of kovakkai in microwave safe bowl, sprinkle some water and cook them on high for 5 minutes. Keep aside.
In a non stick pan, heat 1 tbsp oil, and put in the crumbled usili. Stir them around on medium flame till golden and slightly crispy. This will take around 5-7 minutes. Keep this aside.
In the same pan, take 1 tsp oil, put in the mustard seeds and broken red chilli pieces. Once they crackle, put it the cooked kovakkai, salt to taste, stir around for 2 minutes.
Add the stir fried usili and stir together for 2 minutes until they have come together.
Serve hot with Mor Kozhambu and rice along with some appalams (Tamilian Papads)
- You could make double the batch, and freeze the lentil 'idlis' for the next time you are making this. Making the Usili is the only time consuming part of this recipe.
- You can also pressure cook the ivy gourd pieces in a cooker-vessel, after sprinkling some water for one whistle to cook them for this recipe.
- Mor kozhambu is the best combination with Usuli as this dish is already heavy with lentils. Combining this with sambhar, which is again made with lentils, makes it a very tough to digest combination. Mor Kozhambu is a Tamil style Kadi made with sour buttermilk and a paste of raw rice, coconut, cumin seeds and red chillies, boiled together with the buttermilk, and a tempering of curry leaves & red chillies.
A Maharashtrian style Ivy Gourd recipe - Tondlichi bhaji with Goda masala
Sheela's Mor Kozhambu with Opo Squash
This goes out to Nupur's A-Z of Indian Vegetables for the letter U (Usili)