turnip kuzhambu

 Kuzhambu is a South Indian curry that has countless variations. I came across this particular recipe while watching Foodistan. Foodistan is a television cook-off between chefs from India and Pakistan. I am not one for encouraging nationalistic identities, but if one has to fight for something, it’s better to battle for culinary supremacy than utterly pointless stuff like land and borders.

Foodistan is a less fancier version of Iron Chef America, but so much more mouth-watering. Obviously, I am biased but how can one not salivate at the sight of biryanis, kebabs, pulaos and various south Asian curries being prepared. It’s a terrible idea to watch any food show right before sleeping. Not only do they make you want to eat a second dinner, you also wake up hungry because you dream about food all night. On at least two occasions last week, I HAD TO order buttered garlic naan with chicken tikka masala at almost midnight because otherwise I wouldn’t have fallen asleep. Thank goodness for NYC restaurants!

My reactions to Indian cooking shows are bound to be a little exaggerated, because I don’t live there anymore. I don’t have anytime-access to the sights, smells and flavors that people in India take for granted. And this is true of all expats, no matter where they come from and where they are. There is no gol-gappa stall next to my apartment. I can’t just go to the market next door and eat a plate full of chola-bhatura or paav bhaaji. Of course, I can get these things in NY, but they are never the same. Eating out is never the same. Alas! Sigh! Boo hoo! Ok, enough!

Let’s get back to the Kuzhambu. I have realized that turnip is one of my favorite vegetables to put in a sambar. It soaks up the flavors of tamarind and other sambar flavorings so well. In one of the team challenges on Foodistan, the Indian side made Aatukkari Kuzhambu, a lamb curry. I hardly eat meat and don’t particularly like lamb in any case…so I thought why not make the Kuzhambu with turnip instead! If you don’t like turnips (what? why?) and want to look at the original lamb curry recipe, it’s here. Here’s my adaptation:

Ingredients

  • Turnip, 1, chopped
  • Onion, 1 medium, sliced thinly
  • Tomato, 1 medium, chopped
  • Ginger, a little bit
  • Garlic, 1 clove
  • Vegetable oil, 1 tbsp
  • Black mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp
  • Whole dry red chillies, 2
  • Urad dal, 1/2 tsp
  • Curry leaves, 4-5
  • Garam masala powder, 1/4 tsp
  • Black pepper powder, 1/4 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 of one star anise
  • A very tiny piece of cinnamon
  • Fresh grated coconut, 1/3 cup
  • Tamarind paste (or tamarind soaked in water), 1 tsp
  • Jaggery (gud), 1/2 tsp
  • Coconut milk, 1/2 a can
  • Few sprigs of fresh cilantro

Method

  • Heat oil in a pan on medium heat. Add black mustard seed and red chillis. Sauté and let the seeds splutter. Next add the ural dal and curry leaves. Don’t let them burn.
  • Add the onions, ginger and garlic. Fry (bhuno) them till the onions turn brown.
  • Add the tomato and cook until the oil separates.
  • Add garam masala powder, black pepper powder, salt, star anise and cinnamon, and sauté for 30 sec or so.
  • Add grated coconut, sauté well for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add tamarind paste and jaggery. Mix well.
  • Add coconut milk, a few sprigs of finely chopped cilantro (stalks included), water and turnip and simmer till the gravy is blended and the turnip is cooked. Add water depending on your desired consistency. Do not over-boil the gravy or over-cook the turnip.
  • Adjust the seasonings and garnish with fresh cilantro.
  • EAT! (with rice)

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