This has nothing to do with the popular rock band or for that matter me taking a bullet for my Valentine in a metaphorical manner of speaking. Valentine’s Day is quite the bat signal in Gotham for the likes of a bachelor. A precarious time for singles out there. The perilous questions one has to dodge of getting ‘too serious’ or for that matter ‘having the talk’ of where relationships go in general.
My advice to avoid this entire drama- fly far away, meet a lovely lady in Andhra Pradesh-visiting 6th century undiscovered caves and ask her if she’s busy for the evening. No she wasn’t Lady Lara Croft though that fantasy still remains in at the top of my travel list. Ladies love adventure. So when a wanderer on a ‘bullet’ (read Royal Enfield), comes along with a camera and a penchant to cook a meal, it’s a surety that one is not meant to be alone this day.
The menu for dinner was working up the local flavors of the region to give her a taste of the state. Going ‘glocal’ for the global traveller. A gracious friend and foodie willingly allowed me to use his kitchen for this feat. Keeping in sync with the theme, I started out with a salad signifying the color ‘red’. Beetroot Thoran also known as ‘poriyal’ in the south of Andhra is an Ayurveda recipe with a 180 calorie count serving that requires 2 cups of grated beetroot, 4 tsp of grated coconut, 1 sprig curry leaves, 2 chopped green chilies, ¼ tsp mustard, ½ tsp cumin, 1 tsp urad dal, 1 tsp fresh grated ginger, 1 garlic clove crushed, 1/8 tsp turmeric and salt and oil as needed for additional taste. Heat a little oil in the pan, I normally use coconut for its health properties and add mustard and cumin and allow them to crackle. Add ginger,green chillies and curry leaves post and fry till the ginger gives you that flavorsome taste. Add the dals, red chillies and garlic cloves. Fry until the dal is golden brown. Add the grated beets and turmeric and sauté till lightly cooked. To speed up the process cover the pan. Add the grated coconut and fry for about 2-3 minutes and serve. It makes for a great salad option and can be had plain though locals prefer it with rice or chapatti.
As a starter option, Miss Croft wanted to help and participate. Cooking together does add spice to any equation. All you men reading this, try it at home with your ‘better half’. It makes you a rather dishy offering to your respective partner. Obviously groceries were an issue with my friend not having had the time to shop. A cabbage at the far corner of the kitchen had me work up a Cabbage vada.
Vada or vadai is a deep fried snack made from ground lentils that make for the perfect snack. Here’s what you need. ¾ cup chana dal, 2 /1/2 cups finely chopped cabbage, 1 tsp ginger paste, 1tsp garam masala, ¼ tsp red chili power, a handful of mint and coriander leaves, 2 green chilies chopped, 2 tsp rice flour (you can use more depending on the quantity you wish to make. This serves 10-12 vadas) and salt as needed.
Wash and soak the chana dal for 1.5 hours and drain completely. Cut the cabbage in quarters and dip them in hot water and leave for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse well and shred the cabbge into very small size bits. Mix with coriander leaves, salt, green chilies, the dal, curry leaves and pulse the remaining chana dal to a coarse mixture without adding any water. Add this to the cabbage mixture along with garam masala and red chili powder. Mix well and set aside for 10 minutes. Add 2 tsp of rice flour to the mix. Take a small portion of this mixture and check if it can be formed into a ball. It has to bind well or else add another tsp of flour and mix. Post which fry until golden brown and drain with kitchen tissues before serving for excess oil. In all honesty, the vadas did burn a little but even if I served her haggis at that time, she would have scored a 10 for effort.
I cheated on a fruit dessert with Figs. Also known as the forbidden fruit, it’s filled with antioxidants, flavonoids, fiber and potassium. Cleopatra couldn’t have enough of it, and the Greeks consider it sacred associated with love and fertility.
So men, the moral of the story lies in your ladle. Start cooking now.