JFI for August - Chillies (Spicy recipe inside)

Firstly, please accept my apologies for the delay in the announcement. The heavy rains in Bombay have disrupted my phone and internet connection since 10 days now, and I have no idea when it is going to be reinstated. I'm doing this quick post from my parents' house where I am visiting for a few hours today.

JFI or Jihva for Ingredients is Indira's brainchild and each month our avid food blogger community and other food lovers join to celebrate one Indian ingredient.

Since it's raining hippos and elephants here, we have been eating hot and spicy stuff the whole week. Since no Indian kitchen would be complete without chillies in some form or the other, Jihva for August is CHILLIES.

You could spice up your dish with:
Fresh Green Chillies
Fresh Red Chillies
Dried Red Chillies
Red Chilli powder in any form
Chilli flakes
Jalapenos or
Chillies in any other form.

Get innovative and do something spicy. And hey while you are at that, don't forget your gloves!!


Rules for participation:
Prepare a dish with any form of chillies and post it on your blog on August 1, 2007 with a link to this post.
Send me an email at saffrontrail@gmail.com titled 'JFI' with the permalink to your post alongwith a picture of the dish, preferably in 100 x 100 pixel size, by August 2, 2007.
Please also include the name of your blog, recipe name, as well as name and location (if it's ok with you) in the mail.

You may come back to check the round up by August 7.

Here's my first spicy recipe, a TamBram original for Pavakkai Pitla. Nothing like chillies to completely mask the bitterness of the poor ol' bittergourd.

Pavakkai pitla is a sambar variety using bittergourd and peanuts in a fresh ground masala with coconut base. The spices, coconut and tamarind mask the bitterness to a great extent while adding layers of flavour to the dish. The soft cooked peanuts will make this dish endearing to anyone who doesn't like karela. The same can be made with brinjal pieces instead of bittergourd.

Pavakkai Pitla ( Bitter ground in spicy tamarind lentil gravy)
Total time: 45 minutes
Serves 4
Pictures coming up soon!

2 medium bitter gourds
¼ cup fresh groundnuts (peanuts – not the roasted variety)
¾ cup yellow lentils (tur dal)
1/8 cup or one lemon sized ball tamarind soaked in 1 cup water for an hour
1 tsp salt or to taste
For tempering: ½ tsp mustard seeds, sprig of curry leaves and 1 tsp udad dal

Roast on medium flame with ½ tsp oil
3-4 broken dry red chillies
3 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp chana dal
1 small piece (large pinch sized) asafoetida

For spice paste
Place the cooled roasted spices in a small mixer, grind along with ¼ cup coconut pieces using upto ½ cup water.

Preparing bittergourds
Wash and lightly peel the bitter gourds. Top and tail them. Cut into half length wise, scoop out seeds and fibrous material with a small spoon. Cut each half into half lengthwise and then make slices of 1 cm thickness.

Cooking lentils, gourd and peanuts
Place the washed yellow lentils in one container with 2 cups water. Place the sliced gourd and peanuts in another container with ½ cup water. You can place the containers one above the other in the pressure cooker, lentils at the bottom and gourd-peanuts on the top, pressure cook for 3 whistles and then on a low flame for 5 minutes.
Cook soaked yellow lentils by boiling in 3 cups water, until soft – approximately 30 minutes.
Cook gourd slices and peanuts with ½ cup water, until both are soft – approximately 15 minutes. Keep them aside.

Preparing tamarind extract
Squeeze tamarind well in soaked water, to obtain two cups of tamarind extract.

Assembling the pitla
Bring the tamarind extract to a simmer in a deep steel pan. Add the ground spice paste to the simmering tamarind extract along with mashed lentils and bittergourd-peanut mix.
Stir well and bring to a boil.

For tempering – heat 1 tsp cooking oil, add ½ tsp mustard seeds. Once they splutter, add a generous tsp of udad dal. On a low flame, stir till golden, add a sprig of curry leaves and slide the tempering over the pitla. Place a cover on the pitla pan until it is time to serve.

Serve hot with steaming rice and a dry curry along with some vadams or papad.
A perfect match to the pavakkai pitla is the vazhakkai curry, which is a dry curry made with sliced plantains.