Tastes like home, Part 2: Kerala style Parippu Curry, traditional lentil curry from Kerala

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All our 16 year old selves have been found guilty of wanting to grow up, be independent and leave home eventually. The rules, the curfews, and the choices our parents made were never good enough for us. Life was “boring” as we called it. Especially for an upper middle class teen like me, the city wasn’t as “happening” as I would have liked and incessantly dreamt of a “cool” life in a bigger city.

My dream was to find my way, by hook or crook, out of that lovely, green corner I was born and raised in, which is home to the most beautiful rain I have witnessed; where it is commonplace to wake up listening to the birds outside your window at dawn; where it is the norm to know the entire neighbourhood by their first names; where twilight is welcomed by the soft scents of agarbati, where my happy family sat on the verandah, watching the sun go down, sharing a joke and laughing to our hearts content, where Amma would make a stern reminder about our homework at 7 PM on the dot as though she had some sort of alarm clock embedded in her system. A couple of hours of fiddling with my homework would mean dinner time and food would miraculously appear on the dining table and all I ever had to do was show up, washed and clean. Amma would serve the usual staple of some boiled rice, sautéed seasonal veggies tempered with a hint of coconut and some spicy fish curry or even some fried fish on the good days. My sole duty was to quietly wipe my plate clean but no! I would choose to make a fuss, making a face at the veggies and maybe even throw a verbal tantrum as I grew older. All this would last till Amma’s patience snapped or when she would just beckon to my dad to come take care of the situation, when all of a sudden, silence would fall like those thick velvety curtains back in my school auditorium. To think this was the life I wanted to run away from…

Somehow, in our eternal pursuit behind what will be instead of what is, maybe we lost out on the sweetest fruits of life. Today as we sit, laboring away at a corporate job, staring into the computer screens for hours at a stretch, nibbling at a sandwich made of some dry bread for lunch, struggling to pay our bills, craving for a warm plate of mom-cooked food, how many of us can say honestly that we are indeed happy? And how many of us would trade the lives we lead now to go right back to your wooden study desks at home racking your brain to somehow make sense of the quadratic equation staring back at you from those single lined note books, while you fiddled with the new gel pen that you proudly got for yourself after saving up 10 rupees from your pocket money?

Well, one can wish. As somebody once said, we are the oldest we have ever been and the youngest we will ever be, and keeping that in mind let us resolve not live in the past or whine about the present. I have realized that there are few things a warm, tasty meal cannot solve. Let me arm you with a simple recipe to combat that yearning to go right back in time to your mom’s kitchen waiting for her to serve you dinner. This is a Kerala style lentils dish that is extremely popular in my part of the world. This goes best with some hot, white rice with a generous spoonful of ghee drizzled on it.

Things you will need:

1. Moong dal (aka Mung bean, green gram)- half cup (peeled and spilt)
2. Coconut- 2 table spoons (grated or desiccated)
3. Cumin seeds- ½ teaspoon
4. Turmeric powder- ½ teaspoon
5. Green chilli- 1
6. Ghee- as your heart desires
7. Mustard seeds and dried red chillies (curry leaves if available) for tempering

How to go about it

1. In a pressure cooker, dry roast the moon dal for about 4 minutes or till you start to get the lovely, roasted aroma of the dal.
2. Add three times the amount of water and a tablespoon of ghee to the dal and pressure cook it for around 4 whistles on a medium heat. (dal: water = 1:3)
3. In the meanwhile, grind the coconut, green chilli, cumin seeds and the turmeric powder to form a nice smooth paste. Keep that aside.
4. After 4 whistles, keep the pressure cooker aside to let the pressure release naturally.
5. After the pressure is released, using a whisk, mash the dal very well to make the consistency even. You may also use the back of a large spoon for the same.
6. Add some more water if you feel the dal has become too thick for your liking. Put the cooker back on the heat, sans the lid, add the paste, stir well and bring to a boil.
7. While that is being done, heat a bit of ghee in a pan and temper the mustard seeds and dried chillies (and curry leaves if available). Add this to the dal, mix well and enjoy your happy meal.

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