Nearly a month back, Rushina [A perfect bite] called me to tell that I might want to block the 6th of November. Why, I inquired. I need a ‘solid’ reason to take an off from work. We might have a meeting with Sanjeev Kapoor, a few of us, she said. I could not hold myself still. I, like many of my peers, watched Mr. Kapoor on Zee TV’s ‘Khana Khazana’, a cookery program, and grew fond of cooking for reasons other than just loving food. Sanjeev Kapoor revolutionized the way we saw ‘chefs’ and food. His constant reminder, ‘aap khudh bhi banaaein, aur doosron ko bhi khilayein’ (now please cook and share with others) reminded us that the joy of cooking was incomplete unless the food was shared, and enjoyed. Even while anchoring alone, he managed to make it a communal meal. His charisma, two decades later remains intact! Rushina need not have asked me a second time, because I had already blocked the 6th. This was reason enough for a day off from work.
From the moment I stepped in his office at Andheri Link Road, to the time we left, the grin never left my face. I ended up looking like a cheshire cat, but I don’t mind – for once! Mr. Kapoor, is as charismatic in person, as he is on screen. We were fifteen food bloggers in all, but within minutes of entering the studio he managed to put us all at ease, interacting with us, using our first names! He shared some of his experiences and gave us pointers on how to present our passion, on the importance of thinking out of the box and boosting our creativity, about breaking established rules, and the importance of knowing the science of food in order to become a better artist in the kitchen. You can read Mr. Kapoor’s blog post about the meet here.
For more photographs, please visit my facebook page.
A while later, it was time for lunch and autographs, and goody-bags! I love surprises!
And now? We break rules with my twist to a traditional thogayal!
I am getting obsessed with Autumn, and its colours. So much that I could not bear to share the ‘polenta khichdi’ while I had this beautiful, vibrant, red-orange chutney.
Down South, we are obsessed with our thogayals, or thuvaiyals – chutneys as you might know them. To us, thogayal and chutney are different in two ways. One is that chutney is more liquid than thogayal, and two – thogayal has roasted spices while chutney does not. Since taste buds know no rules, and are not particularly keen about names you can interchange the terms. Authentically, while grated coconut, with chillies is chutney, the same becomes a thogayal when it has roasted lentils and spices, and is a little thick. This was to let you know the distinction. Both, are extremely tasty and make great accompaniments in limited quantities to any meal. A formal South Indian meal is considered incomplete without thuvaiyal. Perhaps you should read my ‘pachadi‘ post to know more about the importance of ‘miscellaneous accompaniments’.
I believe the ideal way to enjoy a thuvaiyal is to add a tiny bit to a morsel of rice and gravy and eat them together. Do not mix up or you won’t get the heat, or acidity, which are the hall mark of a good thuvaiyal. And don’t hold back if you feel the urge to take some of the thuvaiyal and eating it by itself. You are totally normal, if you keep licking your fingers. These miscellaneous eats along with pickles, and pachadis are the best elements of a South Indian meal.
My menu, on weekdays usually depends on what is available in hand. Today I found a red and yellow bell pepper, that needed to get used up. Since it was going to be rasam and rice today, I decided on using them in making a thogayal. It is an inspired, though not an original recipe. I hope you enjoy making it.
Do not replace the red bell pepper with green please, at least the first time. The green one does not have the red one’s fruity tones or sweetness, and well – this one is a looker! See?
Recipe: Roasted bell peppers and potato chutney | thogayal
(I used one red and one yellow, but both reds or both yellows are fine too)
Yield: Serves 5-6 portions, if taken as a miscellaneous accompaniment
Allergy information: Free from predictable allergens
Red bell pepper – 1 small
Yellow bell pepper – 1 small
Potato – 1 small
Split, husked, bengalgram lentils | Chana dal – 2 tbsp.
Dry red chillies – 3-4, depending on the heat level of the variety used, and taste
Water – Upto 1/4 cup
Place the peppers and halved potato in a pre-heated oven on a lined baking tray, and roast for 20 minutes at 200 deg. C, till the skin on the peppers char in most places.
Remove, and separate the potato. Wrap the foil over the peppers and rest for 10 minutes. While the peppers rest, proceed to the next step.
In a hot pan, roast the lentils till pink and aromatic. Set aside in a plate to cool. Now roast the dry chillies till darkened. Set aside with the lentils.
Open the foil, and remove the skin from the peppers. Peel the skin from potatoes. Mash the potatoes.
Place the lentils, chillies, peppers and potatoes in a chutney jar, with 1/8th cup of water and grind till ‘almost smooth’. You are looking for a little texture from the lentils, but it should not be big enough to cause a cavity.
Half way through, open and scrape the chutney from the sides into the center, season with salt and continue till you reach the right consistency. The grinding should not take more than five minutes. Add more water only if needed. It has to be thick, slightly coarse and spreadable.
I must warn you, that you might not want to go by the yield. This is addictive. You usually wind up with ‘thogayal, rice and a spot of gingelly oil’, and then find it all gone! And today since the rice was not done, I had it my other favourite way – with toasted bread!
For more recipes from Palakkad, please click here.