Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Mom's Usal

We have always had a tradition of having a festive ("gad-da" in Konkani language) breakfast and lunch on Sundays. The breakfast menu would always be idli-sambar-chutney and lunch would start with fish or prawn fry and crab or any seafood curry or chicken biryani or chicken curry with rice. My mom also prepared a curry called "Usal" which goes very well with idlis. I have always preferred this curry to sambar. It is also very healthy as it is made with fresh peas.
But with all the health tips and health articles floating around on the internet advising on eating more of fat free food, we have simplified our food preparation living in US. Also with my hubby being a vegetarian we mostly prepare vegetables freshly bought from our local farmer's market. This weekend I decided to prepare my mom's rich curry which she specially prepares as a side dish to have with idli's. It also goes great with hot rice. This curry is more liquid-ish in nature and has very few vegetables, so it makes a great sauce to dunk hot idlis. It is a great alternative to the humble sambar and its spicy garlic flavor makes a great treat for any Sunday morning. So here is my mom's spicy Usal recipe.

2 cups green peas (frozen or fresh)
2 medium potatoes or 1 large one
2 medium onions
2 1/2 cups grated coconut
10-12 red chilies or as per taste
2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon garam masala
coin sized ball of tamarind
1 whole garlic (10-12 cloves)
salt for taste
2 tablespoon coconut oil or any other oil

Fry the red chilies for 8-10 minutes on low flame till crisp. Then fry the grated coconut for 5-10 minutes till it is slightly roasted and light brown in color. Roast the coriander seeds till light brown. Fry on low flame taking care not to burn the ingredients. Let the ingredients cool down.
Peel the onion and chop it into medium pieces. Peel the potato and chop it into 1 cm cubes. Microwave the peas if they are frozen. Boil the potato, onion and 1 1/4 cup peas in 2 cups of water. Boil till the potato is soft. Keep aside.
Now grind the roasted coconut, coriander, red chilies, tamarind, garam masala and 3/4 cup of peas into a very smooth paste adding 1 cup wate or more if required. Mix this paste with the boiled vegetables. Get the curry to a boil with more water if required. Salt the curry as per taste.

Peel the garlic cloves and crush them very slightly. Heat oil in a pan and fry the garlic on low flame till it is light brown. Add this seasoning to the curry and cover the curry for 10-15 minutes so that the flavor of the seasoning is absorbed by the curry. Serve hot with idlis or with rice.