Thalaga Kuzhambu

UPDATE: My entry for
Veggie Cuisine's Regional Cuisines of India: TAMIL NADU
I really think that the women in my family live through cooking. The stories that they tell about how they learned to make a certain dish and what occasions they cook it on tell a lot about themselves and our family history. Recently I've gotten to know my mother-in-law a lot better by learning to cook from her, importantly I've learned the dishes my husband loves. She is the best kind of mother-in-law, and by that I mean the kind who shares her trade secrets. I have met no other friend who can claim a relationship with their m-in-laws to the one I have with mine. Knock on wood.

Anyways, My husband's family is from a small group of villages in South India called Tirunelveli, specifically the village Veeravanallur (And yes, every male in their family line is named Veeravanallur). This dish is traditionally prepared there, and usually on the occasions of Aadi Chevvai. The dish should be prepared with 7 vegetables, typically

1. chakaravalli kazhangu - sweet potato
2. katharikai - eggplant
3. shepankazhangu - small dark yam
4. beans
5. carrots
6. parangikai - squash
7. vazhakai - green banana
Do not use things like okra, or bell peppers.

The first thing is to make the manja chadam, or yellow rice that goes with the kuzhambu (stew). In a pressure cooker put rice, a handful of thuvaram parupu, manja podi - turmeric, salt, and sesame oil. Add the regular amount of water for the rice (double). Leave it on high for 7 whistles. You can do this in a rice cooker as well. The second thing is to make the podi, or spice mixture. The best way to learn the spice mixture is to understand the ratio of ingredients, then you can make as much or as little as you want. And of course if you make extra, its one step less the following time you make this dish. For a 2 quart sauce pan 1 = 2tbsp. Roast on low heat:

1 thuvaram parupu - toor daal
.75 ellu - sesame seeds
.75 arasi - rice
Now the following are actual measures for the 2 quart mixture.
8-12 milagai vetral - dried red chillis
1 tbsp of grated coconut (optional)

Roast all of this up on medium low heat, and grind together in the spice grinder. Keep aside. Place the diced vegetables in the saucepan, and just cover them with water. Bring to a boil. To this add a a 1/4 inch ball of tamarind, that has been soaked in hot water and strained. That is only add the tamarind juice. Add manjapodi (turmeric), salt, 1 tbsp of jaggery, and a few karivepilai (curry leaves). Add the spice mixture, and for 2 quarts you should add about 3 tbsp. But taste& smell it and adjust accordingly! Let the vegetables cook and get soft. The final touch is to add mustard seeds that you have spluttered in a little oil. I have no better word to use than spluttered!

Serve this with the manja chadam, sesame oil, and fried appalam and vadam, and maybe even a yogurt and tomato pachadi.

So good!