Cooking South Indian Breakfast
Five days ago I fractured my colcaneum, my heel bone. I wasn’t expecting it to be as painful as it was, it seemed that it didn’t matter what position I had my foot it, it still really hurt. For three days I was unable to walk at all, not being able to put any pressure on my foot, but hopping round the house seemed quite funny. It also meant that I was able to catch up on Waterloo Road, that I had recorded on the HD box.
What’s all this got to do with cooking I hear you cry? Well yesterday, I was able to walk a little and so because I was going a little mad decided to do some cooking as this always makes me feel better. Also because it was Good Friday and we fasting from meat (apart from the accidental chicken sandwich for lunch!) I decided to make some South Indian breakfast items.
I planned to make vadai, medhu vadai, sambar, rasam, coconut chutney, aloo masala and poori. These are all foods that we would enjoy eatinig at Raj Bhavaan or Doveton Cafe in Vepery for breakfast, lunch, dinner or any time really. Of course I had cooked all these items before (apart form the vadai and medhu vadai; I had previously always used an instant mix. Shame!) but not with a fractured foot. I started by finding a recipe for real vadai and soaking my dals. Easy! Now all I have to do is wait, which is good, because walking round the kitchen was already starting to make my foot ache. Whilst I was waiting I tried to learn some more Tamil – sentence structure and use of negatives. Illai!
My urad dal was now ready for grinding, I hobbled into the kitchen and got my food processor ready. This is not a grinder, but would do the same job, it may just take a little longer. So I added my dal, chopped cheen chillies and a little water to the processor and turned on, and off to scrape the sides, and on, and off to scrape the side…repeat for what seemed a hundred times. This process took ages to reach the right consistency, but it was now there, add salt, pepper and asafotida and we are ready to cook. However, I am now back to hopping around and thinking ‘health and safety’ thought it best to not have hot oil and hopping. Sit down, bag of frozen peas on my foot and a couple of ibuprofen should make it feel a little better.
I rested for an hour or two and got to work on the coconut chutney, coconut, green chilli and coriander into a food processor with a little water and blend. Then add tempering of dried red chilli, mustard seeds, chana dal and curry leaves, and mix. Time for making the sambar. Toor dal in a pan with water and turmeric and boil until soft. Then chopping onions and getting spices ready. I think I had bitten off more that I could chew. I couldn’t stand any more, it hurt, I had to sit and rest, frozen peas to the rescue. At this point Rob suggested that maybe we should get something else for dinner as he didn’t want to see me trying to cook in pain. (I think he thought it may put me off cooking in the future!) As I was in pain I agreed and chips from over the road it was.
So this morning having rested my foot all night, I got up to make the sambar. Fry mustard seeds, chana dal, dried red chillies, fenugreek seeds and curry leaves until the pop, add in onion and cook until brown. Add tamarind water, toor dal, tomato and veg (peas), salt and asafotida, cook for a little while and sambar is ready.
Now to the medhu vadai. I beat the mixture I made yesterday to make it light and added some curry leaves. I then made the dough into doughnut shapes and fried them, easy. Medhu vadai and sambar, done. We sat down to a South Indian breakfast of medhu vadai, sambar and coconut chutney. Rob commented that they weren’t as good as Raj Bhavaan, but I thought for a first attempt they were pretty good.
It did make me think how long, some of the Indian recipes take to cook, even simple things like sambar that are eaten everyday. It made me think how long some women would spend cooking to prepare breakfast of vadai or dosai, especially when they do not have the same equipment. I thought grinding in a food processor took a long time, imagine how long that would take in a traditional stone grinder. Do our time saving devices, really give us more time to do other things or do we now rely so heavily on them that using traditional methods would just frustrate us? Perhaps we should stop and look at our instant, take-away lifestyle, and realise how priviledged we are.