My favorite Persian grocery store here carries vegetables the way we used to get them in India. Not hormone injected gigantic, beautiful looking, bright colored watery flesh. I'm talking about vegetables that are small and flavorful - the way they would grow in the wild (not that I've seen them in the wild, but I assume that's how nature intended it be). I picked up a couple of Indian cucumbers the other day and I HAD to make my favorite Kayras! Slurp!
Kayras is a typical Maharashtrian side dish that lies somewhere in between chutney and koshimbir (salad with seasoning). It is made especially for festival feasts and poojas. The memories of eating kayras are somewhat mixed with the fragrance of jasmine, karpur, agarbatti and masale-bhaat! The preparation typically needs cucumber or raw guava (the latter is lightly cooked and definitely ranks over cucumber in my list). The ingredients are simple, but my memory failed me in remembering the method. I've called my mom impatiently very early in the morning to get recipes, but waking her up at 2am just didn't seem like a good idea! After searching online without much luck, I found this recipe that came very close to my mom's recipe. I called her up the first chance I got and verified the recipe - check!
1 Tablespoon tamarind concentrate
1 Cube jaggery or 1 teaspoon brown sugar
1.5-2 Tablespoons ground peanut - lightly roasted and ground
1/3 Teaspoon cumin powder
1 Tablespoon oil
1 Green chili
4-5 Curry leaves (optional)
1/3 Teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 Teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 Teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 Teaspoon asafoetida - more than what we usually use
- Chop cucumber into small pieces.
- Add some water to the tamarind concentrate to thin it out. Add jaggery/brown sugar (I like using jaggery more than white sugar for its earthy flavor), coarsely ground peanuts, salt to taste and toss in the chopped cucumber. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
- Heat oil in a small kadhai/pan and add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, chopped green chili, asafoetida and turmeric powder in that order. Let the mustard seeds and cumin seeds splutter a bit before adding the rest. Don't let the spices burn. You can also add a few curry leaves, but I left them out this time.
- Add this seasoning over the cucumber soaking in the tamarind mixture. The smell and the sound when oil hits watery cucumber - simply amazing!!
- Cilantro is ubiquitous in Indian cuisine - so garnish with some chopped cilantro.
Slightly sweet, tangy, 'khamang' from the seasoning (I have no translation for this word - please try this dish to know what I'm talking about) - I think this is the kind of food I'm going to crave when I'm pregnant! Well, let's not talk about that right now...