Friday, May 22, 2009

Coconut Chutney: Round Two

The Cuisinart has been sucking up valuable counter space ever since round one. I left it there to remind myself that I needed to go back in for round two while the coconut was still fresh. And since I have today off in addition to Monday, I decided 9:15 a.m. was the time to jump back in.

I went with a different, seemingly simpler recipe this time: fried coconut chutney. Here it is as it appears in the book “Tiffin Varieties.”

And here’s my mise en place (that’s French for “make sure you have everything before you begin, Einstein.”) Clockwise from top right, we have the coconut with a green chile on the rim, salt, black gram dal (hulled, which is why it’s white), tamarind paste, curry leaves and mustard seeds. Alert readers will notice that the recipe above does not call for curry leaves, but since they're an essential ingredient in most Southern Indian dishes, I made an executive decision to add them.

And thus began today's theme of improvisation. My coconut was still in biggish chunks, and I’d need to grind everything together later on anyway, so I put the coconut, chiles, curry leaves, tamarind, salt and gram dal in the Cuisinart and processed it until all the bits seemed small enough. I also added a little oil to help with the frying, and because it was bone-dry.

Once in the frying pan, the oil didn’t seem adequate to keep everything from browning, so I added some water, which cooked out relatively quickly. So I added more, and decided to continue on that track for 15 or 20 minutes.

From the mutating smell wafting up, I could tell the ingredients were melding nicely, so I took a small taste. Friends, either Mrs. S. Mallika Badrinath is a sadist, or I added way, way too much salt. But what I could taste around and behind the salt seemed right, so I rummaged through the Indian mystery shelf of the pantry to see if the bag of dried, shredded coconut I remembered was a mental invention, or actually there. It was there. On a higher shelf was the can of coconut milk I’d bought months earlier, just in case I felt like making piƱa coladas or coconut curry.

Here are my coconutty saviors:

After the fried mixture had cooled a bit, I put it back in the Cuisinart with the supplementary coconut products and whizzed it around briefly. It was still fairly salty, but because I have great faith in the Joy of Cooking, I added chunks of potato to the new mixture to hopefully soak up some of the salt, and set it to simmer on medium for a bit.

I just tasted it. It’s much better, but it’s not spicy enough, so I added another green chile, cut lengthwise, which I’ll take out later. I think it will be okay in the end, but I’m really glad I also decided to make dal. Faithful, simple, delicious, difficult-to-screw-up dal.

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