With the pandemic showing no signs of letting up, any dream of packing bags and going for that long overdue holiday remain remote. My Google Map Timeline seems to quizzically ask why I am stuck in just one place, Thrissur, all these months. But not one to concede defeat I conjure up an interesting plan to explore the town we are in. So come morning we, husband and I, don our walking tracks and boots and jump right into our car. The car gets parked in a new area every day and we are ready to embark on our adventure trek through the winding narrow lanes which sometimes go steep down or up into areas filled with lush green trees and pretty little houses. Our tryst with nature invigorates and on some days we are lucky to spot a bright blue breasted kingfisher flying past or a green haze of parrots cackling on the coconut tree high up. But then we have our not so pleasant experiences too….like a sudden aggressive growl from behind a house gate that literally make us hop, skip and jump in unison or the grandly named Ford John street after a few yards ahead petering into a narrow marshy and squidgy path. But these one hour walks have helped us gain info about Thrissurians….we can name our house ‘Glen view’ even when the row houses opposite do not promise any view of that sort and Fashion street in a sleepy area of town has nothing fashionable whatsoever.
With Thrissur as the central theme, its specialty cuisine also cannot be far behind. Daily conversations with friends around revolve around food; what with most of the restaurants and eateries closed any new recipe passed on is immediately given a try. So when I told my friend how my neighbor has grown a bheeman/giant Kumbalanga/ashgourd and has been kind to give us a big chunk of it, she quickly snapped her finger and said…try the Kozhi kumbalanga curry. Everything happened in a flash right after…going over her recipe in my head, I went straight to the kitchen. There was a bit of screwing up of nose by the husband on seeing the big chunks of Kumbalanga sitting with the chicken which I ignored. Half an hour later out came the drool-worthy curry to the dining table with puffy chapatis all of which vanished in the matter of a few minutes.
This is one curry you can make when you have just about a little bit of chicken left over in your freezer. Mildly flavoured with spices and made creamy with the addition of coconut milk, the curry’s taste is amply enhanced by the addition of large chunks of Kumbalanga. The gourd pieces cook silky soft, taking on the delicious juices of the chicken and added spices, but hold their shape and don’t disintegrate into the curry. The curry goes well with rice, pulavs, rotis and porottas. And the best part is making it is just child’s play!
Chicken pieces : 1/2 kg, cut into medium pieces.
Kumbalanga/ashgourd : 1/2 kg, peel the skin and cut into big chunks.
Coconut milk extracted from 1 cup of grated coconut : 1 cup of thin milk and 1/2 cup of thick milk. Run the grated coconut with a little warm water and strain to extract 1/2 cup thick milk and again with some more warm water to get 1 cup thin milk. Or you can substitute with ready made coconut powder. Mix 2tblesp of powder to 1 cup of warm water to get thin milk. Mix 2 tblesp of powder with 1/2 cup of warm water to get thick milk.
Onion : 1 medium, sliced.
Garlic : 6 flakes, crushed.
Ginger : 1 and1/2 inch pc, crushed.
Green chilli : 2, crushed.
Tomato : 1, cut small.
Turmeric pdr : 1/2 tsp.
Coriander pdr : 2 tblesp.
Kashmiri chilli pdr : 1 tblsp + 1/2 tsp for tempering in the end.
Garam masala pdr : 1 tsp.
Shallots : 5-6,sliced thin or sliced pieces should be 3 tblesp.
Red chilli whole : 1-2 cut into strips.
Salt to taste and coconut oil to cook.
keep all ingredients ready and keep a heavy saucepan on medium heat. I have used an earthen pan to cook the curry.
Pour 3 tblesp of coconut oil and add the crushed garlic, ginger and green chilli.
Saute on mild heat till the mixture is fragrant and start to just brown.
Now add the sliced onions and saute till the onions turn brown at the edges.
Add the turmeric, coriander redchilli and garam masala powders and saute on very low heat for 2-3 minutes, careful not to allow the mixture to burn.
Now keep the heat to low and add the chopped tomato. Give a nice stir and close the lid and allow the tomato to incorporate into the mixture.
Once you see the mixture pulpy, add the chicken pieces and stir well and saute for 5-6 mts .
Add the gourd pieces and saute for another 2-3 mts.
Add the thin coconut milk and salt and give a stir and close lid and allow to cook till the chicken and gourd pieces are all well cooked.
Now add the thick coconut milk. Taste and adjust salt and once the curry just start to boil, take off the gas.
In a separate heavy bottomed kadhai , add 2 tsp coconut oil and saute shallots and red chilli strips till the shallots turn brown.
Turn the heat to its lowest and add the 1/2 tsp kashmiri chilli pdr. Saute for just half a minute till it is fragrant. Do not allow the chilli to burn.
Add this to the curry. Tasty Kozhi Kumbalanga curry is ready.