Vendakkai Pachadi – Okra in a Spicy Tangy Coconut Gravy Why is Okra Slimy and What can you do?- Science in the Kitchen

Reposting this from October 2018.

After a long time, I decided to make Pachadi as a side dish for rice and Molagootal. I looked up a few of my recipe books including Samaythu Par and could not find the recipe. I then looked online and could find variations but not what I wanted. So I called my parents to get the recipe. This I assume is the Palakkad version of the dish.

Okra is also called Lady’s finger in some parts.

You could prepare the same dish with eggplant or white pumpkin too.

Why is okra slimy? Here is some science behind it!

I came across an article on NPR that talked about okra and then visited the blog, botanist in the kitchen. Here is the explanation as to why okras are slimy. Okra is slimy because of a water-soluble mucilage. It is an adaptation to retain moisture and store water in hot ares where they grow. Though there is no information as to why exactly it is slimy, there is enough information as to how to remove the slime while cooking.

In India, our mothers and grandmothers have been using acid to remove the slime. Tamarind is used in the south, but sometimes yogurt or lemon juice is added, depending on the recipe. The viscosity (the measure of a fluid’s resistance to flow, in this case, the thick, sticky, semifluid consistency) reduces at high heat around 90ºC. Then even when it is cooled, the mucilage does not return. Another popular way in India and Africa is to add an acid. Viscosity is at its peak at a neutral or alkaline pH, by adding an acid the mucilage becomes acidic and the viscosity reduces.

Ingredients:

300 grams okra/ ladies finger

1/2 cup white pumpkin or madras cucumber (optional)

tamarind paste 1 1/2 tsp (or fresh tamarind 1 inch diameter piece soaked in warm water and pulp removed)

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

salt to taste

1/4 tsp jaggery/ brown sugar (optional)

To grind to a paste:

1 tsp mustard seeds

1-2 green chillies

1/2 cup coconut

To temper

1 tsp oil

1/2 tsp mustard

1/2 tsp urad dal

a pinch of asafoetida

a couple of curry leaves

Directions:

Wash and pat dry the okra. Cut into small pieces.

In a pan, add the vegetables, tamarind paste, a cup of water, salt and turmeric powder. Let the vegetables cook.

Grind the coconut, chilli, and mustard to a paste.

When the vegetables are cooked, add the paste and let it cook for 10 minutes on a slow flame. Add brown sugar if you feel it is too sour. It has to have the right balance of sourness from the tamarind and the spiciness from the chilli

Heat oil to temper. Add urad dal, mustard, asafoetida, and curry leaves. When mustard splutters, add it to the gravy and mix.

Serve as a side dish with rice and molagootal (or any gravy without tamarind).

Source:

Roasted Rainbow Carrots

One day, while I was grocery shopping, I saw these ‘rainbow’ carrots. They were carrots of different color. It piqued my interest and I bought a bag. The lighter colored one was not as sweet and had a mild taste of radish. You could make this with regular carrots too. It is really easy to make.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (1/2 kg) carrots
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 425F (220C)
  • Peel carrots
  • Cut into half lengthwise approximately the same size
  • Toss carrots with oil and spices
  • Spread on a pan in a single layer
  • Roast for 20-30 minutes. Stir every 10 minutes
  • Serve hot as a side

Sweet Potato Toast

One day, while I was grocery shopping, I saw a box of sweet potato slices in the frozen section. I decided to try it at home. It is easy to make, healthy and for those who are on a low carb keto diet, whole 30, have gluten or dairy allergy or just want to eat less carbs, this is great. I had just made sundried tomato pesto and used that as a spread. I also added avocado on that and made my version of avocado toast, which is the ‘in’ thing to eat. My son commented that I was eating like the millenials. I had some baingan bharta which I used as a spread too. Top it whatever catches your fancy.

Ingredients

  • 1 Sweet potato
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 375ºF (190ºC)
  • Slice sweet potato , 1/4 inch thick
  • Place on a pan in one layer
  • Drizzle with olive oil
  • Bake for 15 to 20 mins
  • If you do not have an oven- parboil teh sweet potato, slice and pan fry with a little oil.
  • Top with whatever you want and have it as breakfast, snack or as dinner.

Cauliflower Steak

This is a really simple dish that looks like you spent a lot of time. Makes a great side or a main. I served it with tomato chutney, sun dried tomato pesto and yogurt sprinkled with some spices.

I roasted this on the oven but you can roast it on a grill or a pan.

Ingredients

  • 2 big cauliflowers
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • a mixture of 1 tsp salt, 2 tsp cumin powder, 1/2 tsp chilli powder, 1/2 tsp pepper

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 425ºF (220ºC)
  • Cut cauliflower in half lengthwise
  • Cut 1 inch thick slices. The outer slices will fall apart. You could save them for another dish or grill them too.
  • Drizzle olive oil
  • Sprinkle the seasoning mixture on both sides and place on pan.
  • Bake 15 minutes each side
  • Serve as a side or a main dish

Roasted Stuffed Zucchini

This is an easy dish to make and a low carb, keto friendly dish.

Ingredients

  • 2 small zucchinis, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1 8oz (200 g) packet mushrooms, chopped fine
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp italian seasoning
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 tbsp bread crumbs + 1 tbsp chopped nuts (optional) + 1 tbsp parmesan cheese( optional)

Directions

  • Heat oven to 375ºF (190ºC)
  • Slice zucchini in half, lengthwise and scoop out the middle.
  • Wipe dry, sprinkle a little salt and pepper on it.
  • Place on oiled baking pan
  • In a pan heat oil. Add onions and garlic and stir fry till golden brown
  • Chop the scooped out zucchini and add to pan with mushrooms.
  • Stir fry till cooked and dry. Add spices.
  • Mix ingredients for bread crumbs
  • Spoon in the mushroom mixture into the scooped zucchini
  • Sprinkle with bread crumbs and bake for 20 minutes.
  • If bread crumbs start to brown, cover with aluminium foil to avoid burning.
  • Serve with tomato sauce on the side

Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup

When I saw this recipe online on Martha Stewart’s website, I knew I had to try it. If you are following my blog, you will find a lot of eggplant dishes. As I read this recipe, I knew this would be a perfect winter soup. However, I wanted to use the lovely heirloom tomatoes and fresh eggplants from the farmer’s market so made it on a cooler evening and froze some for a cold winter night. It may not last in the freezer till then though. It was all that I thought it would and more. I improvised the recipe. The recipe calls for removing seeds but I did not. The recipe calls for curry powder, but as an indian, I would say there is no one curry powder. You could add 1 tsp curry powder instead. I found some nice peppers too in the market and roasted them too with the tomatoes. I used just a bit as they were spicy. But, oh so good!

I usually salt and rinse eggplants as this removes the bitter taste of the eggplant. This step is optional. Roasting the tomatoes and eggplants intensifies the flavours.

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant, washed and diced
  • approximately 3 pounds ( 1 1/2 kgs) tomatoes, halved
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
  • 8-10 cloves garlic
  • 2-3 carrots, diced
  • 1 red chilli/ pepper (not dried) – optional
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 cup chopped coriander leaves/ cilantro
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 425ºF (220ºC)
  • Salt eggplant and let it sit for 15-30 mins. Rinse and pat dry (optional step)
  • Add tomatoes, carrots, red pepper and garlic in one pan. Toss it with 2 tbsp oil, salt and pepper. Place on top rack
  • Toss eggplant and garbanzo beans with 2 tbsp oil, cumin, coriander and chilli powder. Add it to the second pan; spread in a single layer and place below the 1st pan
  • Roast for about 45 minutes. Toss mixture every 15 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and peel and discard tomato skin
  • Add tomatoes, carrots and garlic to a pot. Using an immersion blender, blend to a puree until smooth. You could add to a mixer/blender and blend.
  • Add 3-4 cups of water and bring to simmer on a medium heat.
  • Stir the eggplant mixture into the soup and cook for a few minutes.
  • Taste and add salt and pepper.
  • Sprinkle cilantro (if freezing; leave out cilantro)
  • Serve with bread (optional)