It is that time of the year when Kerala is in the news. Onam, our main harvest festival is celebrated with such pomp and fervor….TV channels beam happy pictures of the beautiful flower carpets in front of every home, golden banana chips frying in huge oil filled urulis in kitchens in preparation for the Onam feast, painted human tigers on roads jiggling their huge potbellies to the sound of drums. But this year no one is even thinking about the festival. As my beloved state struggles to come to terms with devastation wreaked by the recent deluge, our hearts and minds are with those who have suffered.
I have only read and heard stories about Pralayam ( the deluge)….stories in the Puranas that describe the horrors of it. Never in my life did I think that I am destined to witness it for real. When the monsoon started early this season, it refreshed and rejuvenated… filling the minds of one and all with the green shoots of optimism and vitality. But as days passed, the sight of dark and overcast skies no longer delighted us. It was on the 14th of August that the skies almost ripped open, firing pellets of heavy drops to the already rain saturated earth. Our Independence Day dawned with the merciless skies continuing its onslaught, but we willed our spirits to soar as we hoisted the tricolor in the pouring rain and sang Janaganamana at the top of our voice hoping to shut off the by now annoying sound of falling droplets. The dismal downpour continued without any let up and slowly the news of flooding started trickling in. Glued to our tv sets we watched in horror the untamed torrents of water gushing out of the numerous overflowing dams. The worst was yet to come. Already on edge, as the night progressed, sleep was beyond us. In the middle of the night it started….earth shattering sounds of sheets of rain battering from all sides accompanied by furious howling winds lashing the building made our windows and doors tremble and shake like leaves. I was thankful for the safety of the four walls of my apartment, but wondered how it would be for anyone unprotected and exposed to this grave danger. We waited for daybreak and in the faint light I could see vast expanse of water all around. The building was completely inundated on all sides. The only thing to do now was to stay put at home in my apartment till the flood waters receded.
It is at times of distress you seek comfort in basic food… the very food you have grown up on…the dishes with their familiar aromas that trigger memories of happy times spent in the midst of family. These very dishes bring with them flashes of images…of Achan making a giant Urula for us kids to bite on and fight with each other for the last morsel… of Amma squishing rice and curds making it just perfect to enjoy with the crispy Kizhangu upperi….and much later of me doing the same for my girl who would wait patiently with her little mouth open for that best tasting last morsel of the rice, upperi combo.
So here I am with the ultimate comfort food….the preparation of which would take hardly 15 mins…that something which strengthens your core, because it seems to say… you would live…live to cook and relish these tastes for years to come.
For the Morukari
Sour curds : 2 Cups.
Coconut grated : 3 tblesp.
Shallots : 5-6 small.
Jeera/ cumin: 1/2 tsp.
Garlic ( optional) : 2 flakes.
Red chilli pdr : 1/2 tsp.
Turmeric pdr : 1/4 tsp.
Green chilli : 1.
Curry leaves: a few.
Salt to taste.
Coconut oil : 2 tblesp.
Mustard seeds : 1 tsp.
Fenugreek seeds : 1tsp.
Whole red chilli : 2 broken to bits.
- Put grated coconut, shallots, garlic flakes, green chilli, jeera and redchilli pdr in a mixi jar and adding some water, grind to a fine paste.
- Beat the curds well. Mix the grated mixture and beat well. Add salt and keep.
- In a heavy bottomed sauce pan add oil and once hot put in the mustard and fenugreek seeds.
- Once they start to splutter, add the broken chilli and the curry leaves.
- Add the curd mixture and turmeric pdr and stir continuously.
- When it just begin to come to a boil, take off gas.
- Tasty Morukari is ready.
For the Kizhangu
Potatoes : 4-5 medium. Peel and cube them.
Onions : 2 medium, chopped big.
Curry leaves : a few.
Red chilli pdr : 1 tsp full.
Turmeric pdr : 1/2 tsp.
Salt to taste
Coconut oil : 2 tblesp.
- In a heavy bottomed Kadhai on medium heat add oil.
- When the oil gets hot add the cubed potatoes, onions, curry leaves, redchilli pdr, turmeric pdr and salt.
- Keep frying for 4-5 mins. This is to lock in the starch of potatoes so that they do not become mushy upon cooking.
- Now turn the gas to lowest/ minimum position. Cover the Kadhai with lid and allow to cook.
- In between lightly stir the contents with a flat spoon.
- The potatoes would cook in their own moisture. Keep the gas flame as low as possible so that they do not burn.
- Cook for about 15-20 mins like this and you would see the bits of potatoes sticking to the bottom of the kadhai crisping up nicely. Lightly turning them occasionally will help more chunks of potatoes to get to the bottom and crisp up.