As a child I grew up watching my mother cook – the smells, sounds, taste, all so clear in my mind. At the risk of sounding pompous I say that I knew I would be able to cook up a more than average meal when my time came. My mother and her mother (my ammama) are fantabulous cooks. My ammama’s rasam is legendary, and anyone who has ever eaten her cooking will vouch for that. My mother inherited that. I have seen her cook for so many people single-handedly, that a guest once in jest gave her the title ‘dosa factory.’
Having said all this I must state that I am not one of those who love cooking. I fall under the category of those who like cooking perhaps a few times a week. My husband, until very recently would never really comment on how the food tastes, and cooking for someone like that can make it quite boring. However, over the years he now knows a good dish from bad and voices his opinions – a double edged sword, but I’m not complaining.
The husband on a fine Sunday morning asked if I could make Milagu Kozambhu (Pepper gravy). I had never made this before and had infact eaten it just once before. Not wanting to say no, I decided to try my hands at this traditional dish. As I was working in my kitchen I had a thought to dig up all those forgotten dishes that our grandmothers used to whip up on a regular basis and bring them to life.
This series on cooking is an attempt at discovering the treasures that lie in authentic vegetarian Palakkad and Tamil cooking
So here goes the recipe of Milagu Kozmbhu.
Tamarind – size of an amla (gooseberry)
Pepper – 1 ½ teaspoon
Coriander seeds – 1 ½ teaspoon
Channa dal – 1 tablsespoon
Dry red chillies – 4 to 6
Urad dal – 1 teaspoon
Asafoetida (hing) – ½ teaspoon
1. Immerse the tamarind in hot water, extract the pulp, strain and keep aside.
2. Dry roast the peppercorns, red chillies, channa dal, coriander seeds, and urad dal. Add the asafoetida (hing) at the end.
3. Grind these ingredients and keep aside. Do not add water to it.
4. In a kadai add oil, wait till it heats up and then add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. Once the mustard seed splutters add the tamarind pulp slowly into it. If the pulp is too thick add water to dilute it.
5. After one boil or once the raw smell from the tamarind goes add the ground powder into it and keep stirring to avoid lumps. Add salt according to taste. Let this simmer for a few minutes until the oil separates from it.
This kozhambu is eaten with hot steamed rice and ghee. Since this dish uses peppercorns it comes loaded with health benefits. It aids digestion, helps relieve cough and colds, is known to be a powerful antioxidant, and reduces inflammation. Once made, the kozambhu can be stored in the fridge for a few days without worry of it getting spoilt.