Wednesday, June 29, 2011

#126 A Bat Mitzvah, Shallots and Bittergourd Theeyal

It's been pretty warm in my neck of the woods but who's complaining? I have been taking in the Summer sun and enjoying the outdoor weather recently with very little time to cook a creative or appealing meal.  I am not the kind to enjoy winter--- that kind of weather does not trigger or motivate the culinary cells in my brain any way. Snow used to be welcome only on those days when the girls were school-going youngsters and it led to school closings. On such days, I stayed home and had a good time making snowmen , hot cocoa and curling up beside the fireplace & reading books with the girls and laughing with them. Shoveling snow was not my cup of tea!!

The last few days have been hectic for us, what with a Bat Mitzvah to attend in a small town about 2 hours away. It was a short drive down to the beautiful small town and back. Walking around the quaint town with antique shops and cafes it relaxed me since I did not have to deal with my daily commute to work, hours in front of the PC or ad hoc meetings. I also found fresh fruits and a nice bag of Shallots at the farmers market that I picked up immediately.
A Bat Mitzvah is a Jewish celebration for a young girl coming of age and is celebrated at around 13 years. We had a good time with the festivities and ceremony. One has to work real hard to get to that level of reading the Torah in Hebrew with fluency. The fun part was lighting candles with family, breaking challah bread and then the grand feast that came afterwards. By now you're wondering how this recipe is related to Bat Mitzvah---nothing whatsoever!! I was just getting to the point on what inspired me to make theeyal, that's all:)

Next morning being off work, I decided that I would make theeyal with the fresh shallots. A Kerala speciality that is bound to make Malayalees utter Ooo's and Aaah's, this curry takes more time to prepare than many others I have slaved over. Normally I would shrug off at the thought of making Shallots Theeyal even though it is one of R's favorite Kerala dishes. All that slicing and sauteing turns into an awesome dish. This time it gave big and beautiful rewards!! The curry, vegetables and steamed rice were a total knockout meal for both of us. The lush gravy enhanced the rich flavor of fried shallots and bittergourd sections so much so that it certainly felt like being back home again for a short while. The kitchen was filled with the aroma of roasted coconut.....and as Ina Garten/Barefoot Contessa once said "How bad can that be?" so here's how my Theeyal came to life.....

Shallots- 5
Bittergourd-2 large
Oil 2-3 Tblspns
Tamarind Extract- 1 tspn
Haldi powder- 1/4 tspn
Salt and water as needed.
Season with mustard seeds, red chillies and curry leaves.
Dry roast and grind to a smooth paste:
Grated coconut- 3/4 cup
Coriander seeds- 1 tspn
Sliced Onions- 1/4 cup
Methi seeds- a pinch
Dried red chillies- 4

1. Place all the above ingredients starting with coconut and the remaining dry roast ingredients in a saucepan.
2. Roast over a medium fire until it turns a very light golden brown color, keep stirring so that it does not burn.
3. When the mixture turns almost darkish brown turn off the fire and cool (refer to the above photos). Cool and toss into a high power blender. Grind to powder and then add just enough water to blend well into a very smooth paste or gravy.
4. In the meantime, slice bittergourd across and scoop out the seeds. Slice into sections about 1 cm thick.
5. In a greased cookie sheet add the bittergourd with a pinch of salt, chilli powder and 1 tspn oil.
6.Broil until light brown. Keep aside.
7. Place a pan on the stove, add the rest of the oil, seasoning whole spices and let the mustard seeds splutter.
8. Then add the shallots and saute until they are translucent. Add the ground coconut paste at this time.
9.Now add tamarind extract, haldi, salt and bittergourd slices. Add enough water to create a gravy.
10. Finally cook down the gravy and simmer until the gravy is thickened and smooth.
11. Optionally, you can add the seasoning at the end by pouring it over the theeyal for fabulous flavor.
(It may not be true, but I would like to think I used less oil by seasoning first)


  1. That looks so thick and rich - I don't experiment too much with Indian food, I should really get into it more - thanks for this!

  2. What an yummy theeyal! love to have it with hot rice rite now..:)

  3. yummy looking combination of flavours


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