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Winter Warmers 4: Srilankan style “Puttu & Kuzhambu”

In this 4th post for the Winter Warmers Series, I wanted to share with you two recipes close to my heart. It’s actually the food that I crave when I return home after a long holiday or time away from home. You can’t beat the comfort that comes with this meal and the flavour and texture combination of these together are just divine!

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So the first is for ‘Puttu’ or ‘Pittu’. This is a healthy but really delicious main dish made with steamed rice flour and is found very commonly in Sri Lanka and Kerala. It’s usually the centre of the meal around which sits various other accompanying dishes and the Puttu soaks up all the flavours from each and is filling too!

The second recipe is for ‘Kuzhambu’ or ‘Kulambu’. This is accompanying dish to the Puttu and is made with a tamarind gravy into which sits sauteed vegetables. My favourite type of Kuzhambu to go with Puttu is ‘Kathrikkai’ (Aubergine) Kuzhambu as the aubergine just melts in the mouth and this vegetable absorbs the tamarind and spices so well to give this amazing aroma….yummm!

So I hope you enjoy these recipes and do let me know if you try them out yourselves or eat them at a Sri Lankan restaurant near you ūüôā

Suji x

Puttu

(serves about 2 – 4 people)

What you need:

  • 2 cups steamed red rice flour
  • 1 cup shredded/grated coconut (0r dessicated coconut soaked in 1/2 cup water)
  • Salt to taste (about 1 tsp)
  • Hot water – keep about 4 cups aside but you may need more or less depending on the consistency

How to make it:

1. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl and make into a loose dough (but you don’t have to knead it like bread). Then, flour your hands and then roll the dough between your fingers so the dough looks like large¬†breadcrumbs.

I quite like this You Tube video showing a Puttu technique using your hands: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8JZC1vQikA

OR

1. Put the ingredients into a food processor and pulse, adding the water a little at a time to get the same consistency.

If either method makes the dough too wet then you can just mix in a little rice flour.

2. Mix in the coconut and then place in a steamer. I usually cover the bottom of my steamer with a thin & damp cloth/muslin. The cloth must be big enough to then wrap¬†up the Puttu mixture. You don’t need to tie the ends of the cloth, just place it over the mixture.

3. Steam until the Puttu is cooked fully, approximately 10 Р15 minutes (the aroma will be so nice and you will start to smell the fragrance of the coconut too!), and serve with a delicious curry like Kathrikkai Kuzhambu (see recipe below) or Soya Chunks & Beans curry.

If you have roasted moong dal flour, then you can add about a tablespoon of this with the red rice flour to give an even more aromatic Puttu ¬†ūüôā

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Kathrikkai Kuzhambu (Aubergine in a Tamarind Gravy)

Aubergine is called “Kathrikkai” in Tamil and is a great vegetable to use in this kind of tamarind gravy or “Kuzhambu” as we call it. It¬†is a comforting¬†dish served with hot steamed Pittu or Rice. Chickpeas are not traditionally added but I think they compliment the Aubergine and provides a good portion of protein. The Aubergine is also traditionally deep fried, which obviously tastes yummy, but not healthy. So roasting the aubergine is a great way of still keeping the flavour and texture without a great amount of oil. The only thing with roasting is that you need a little more time, but it will be worth it in the end, I promise you!

This dish tastes great the day after cooking it, as it gives the aubergine time to soak in all the flavours. This is one¬†time¬†when I think Srilankan curry powder is a must and I, personally, think it really doesn’t taste the same with other masala’s.

What you need:

For roasting:

  • 3 medium aubergines¬†(about 500-600g)¬†

  • 1 teaspoon Turmeric powder

  • 1-2 teaspoons salt¬†

  • Oil – enough to coat all the aubergine

For the curry:

  • 1 cup of cooked chickpeas

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil¬†

  • 1 large¬†onion , diced¬†

  • 2 – 3 cloves of garlic, finely sliced or chopped

  • 2 sprigs curry leaves¬†

  • 2-3 green¬†chilies, slit lengthways¬†

  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds

  • 1 teaspoon Fenugreek seeds

  • 1 teaspoon tamarind paste (alternatively, the juice of a lemon sized tamarind soaked in water)¬†

  • 2 teaspoon¬†Srilankan curry powder

  • 2 teaspoon chilli powder¬†(or more if you like it quite spicy)

  • 200ml thick coconut milk¬†

  • 250 ml water¬†

  • Salt to taste (approx 1 – 2 teaspoons)

How to make it:

1. Cut the Aubergine into strips of about 1 inch in width and about 3 inches in length. Be careful not to cut the¬†aubergine smaller than this as they may burn. At this point you can place the aubergine in a microwaveable dish and heat in the microwave for about 3 minutes. This is so they won’t absorb too much oil in the oven.

2. ¬†Add the salt and enough oil so all the aubergine is coated well. Place in the oven at 220 degrees Celsius for about 30 minutes, turning them over half way through and adding a little more oil if they look too dry. You may need to adjust the timing of this according to your oven and you need to keep an eye on them so they don’t burn too much.

3. In a separate pan, heat 2 tablespoon of oil. Add mustard seeds and when it splutters add the green chillies, fenugreek seeds and curry leaves. Add the sliced garlic¬†and saut√© for about a¬†minute. Then add the diced onions and¬†cook for about 5 minutes until the onions are translucent and cooked through. They may turn brown¬†at the sides but that’s ok – it adds to the taste!

4. Add the salt, curry powder, red chilli powder and mix well. Then add the tamarind paste and simmer for about 5 minutes. Now add the coconut milk and¬†water. Cover and cook until it thickens. Add the pinch of asafoetida and the roasted aubergine, chickpeas¬†and combine gently. At this stage, if you are not vegan, then a splash of double cream makes a really yummy, rich taste. ūüôā

5.  Cook for another 5 minutes and serve with hot Pittu or rice.

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The food chemistry behind the Alchemy festival

So I sit here after a couple of days after this years experience of the Alchemy festival, not just with content after eating the delicious food, but with great inspiration and in awe that this might be the best food festival at the Southbank so far! I mean, how are they going to beat this next year?! Kerb’s¬†return to the Southbank has definitely started with a bang! It’s a wonderful spicy adventure with street food and drink from India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan and is running until the 25th May 2015. ¬†If you haven’t been before, you are truly missing a delight for your taste buds! For me, as a frequent visitor of this festival, the fusion of music and food comes hand in hand. Delicious food for my tummy and melodious music to soothe my soul. However it has been a new experience for me behind one of the stalls this time and I have a new appreciation for the hard work that is involved in making each food stall a success. Hats off to you all! It’s a tough, tough job but you would never know it from all the big smiles that exude from the traders on these stalls and the friendly chat and absolute pleasure they display when making the food that they are all passionate about. All the street food traders are obviously passionate about food but I have had a privileged first hand experience in learning how much hard work is involved in bringing fresh, high quality ingredients to the customers at this festival. Papi’s Pickles¬†celebrates the rich heritage of both South Indian and Srilankan food and their dishes and pickles use not only seasonal produce but also local, organic and Fairtrade ingredients for street food markets, events as well as pop ups. And that’s not the end of their passion! They are also a social enterprise seeking to work with unemployed Srilankan and South Indian women, and they really have achieved so much considering they have only been running for about a year. ¬†Abi, the founder of Papi’s Pickles is a truly inspirational lady and entrepreneur along with the rest of the team who have developed the enterprise¬†to get this far in such a short period of time. It has been an absolute pleasure working with the ladies at Papi’s Pickles ¬†and you really do have to visit their stall to here their inspiring stories and taste the yummy dishes¬†they have bought to this years festival. Definitely one organisation to keep an eye on¬†ūüėČ ¬†They have a unique menu¬†including¬†pick-your-own-filling Uthappam’s, Kichdi with Srilankan Wambatu Moju and not forgetting their “to die for” Kulfi!

Abi from Papi's Pickles

Papi's Pickles

Papi’s Pickles

Delicious Uthappam by Papi's Pickles!

Delicious Uthappam by Papi’s Pickles!

Kothu Kothu¬†brings the very famous “Kothu Roti” which is made with theatrical flare in front of your eyes!¬†It was a pleasure speaking to Dharani who tells of her inspiration to start her own business and her determination to make a mark¬†on the street food scene with her tasty dishes. And what a delicious mark she has made! I was very impressed with the vegetarian kothu roti I ate, which also comes with the traditional lime wedge and of course, extra chilli ūüôā

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Kothu Kothu

Beaming smiles and lovely chat were served alongside the most delicious food¬†from the team at Jaffrey’s Indian streetfood. The pakora’s are one of the crispiest I have ever eaten and I was particularly intrigued by the pureed aubergine sauce and chilli sauce which were refreshing and flavour-packed condiments served with the pakoras. Yum yum yum! ¬†Perfect with a cup of hot chai which you can also get in a couple of the stalls there.

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Jaffrey’s Indian streetfood

Jaffreys indian streetfood

Or perhaps you may prefer one of the asian-inspired cocktails served at the Bar there. Some great flavour combinations which you can see in my photo below. Another little gem I discovered was the Ice Kitchen corner stall – the pistachio and rose ice lolly was out of this world! They have really fresh and clever flavour combinations that I haven’t come across with your usual ice lollies¬†and I can’t wait to get a copy of their¬†recipe book. 20150517_171147

This festival is like the “Mecca” for London foodies and for me it was a great pleasure this year to have met some fellow foodies Nessy Sam, Trishna Shah and Mallika Basu who I had previously connected with on social media. Along with the new stalls at the Alchemy festival this year there are also some familiar faces including Dosa Deli, The Peckish Peacock and Horn Ok Please. ¬†You really are spoilt for choice and I am definitely not missing the chance¬†to go again¬†to try the rest of the food and drink¬†before the end of the festival (and attempt to grow a second stomach too!). I am already thinking about what other dishes I am going to try out on my next visit and unashamedly drooling while doing so. I know…but you will understand the greediness I experience if you have already been to the festival ūüôā I really am no alchemist, but I’m sure¬†some of this is pure food ‘magic’!

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