The summer heat is already hitting us now. Winter this year was all too brief and intense, and I sure hope the summer would go on quickly too this time, if not intensely. I always was a person who loved our winter chills better than the summer heat. It sometimes touches 40 degrees Celsius here at the peak of the season and the plants outside visibly wilt under the sun.
The area where I live is always inundated with gusts of dust blowing right into the house and sticking blackly to one's burning skin. Temperatures here have always been at extremes -- be it day or night, be it winter or summer.
During this time, visions of lovely watermelons which have already arrived in the markets, and luscious cool cucumbers swim before one's eyes; anything to stave off the thirsty heat that has arrived once more. Salads and raitas appear with greater frequency now on the dinner plate. And not surprisingly too.
Cucumbers can be pretty versatile, though they are best eaten raw. Here is a chutney recipe I had first eaten in a tiny restaurant when I was doing my rural posting several years ago. I then came across the detailed recipe for it in a magazine later on. It is a South Indian side dish, perhaps Udupi in origin. People who belong to that region might recognize the dish, though I don't exactly know what it is called in the local language.
The dish itself is a cross, in taste, between chutney and pickle. It is delicious and cool, especially when refrigerated for a bit before eating. We eat it with rotis (the South Indian rotis with onions and chillis and spread on banana leaves before cooking) and dosas too, even though it is actually had with rice, as a side offering.
This is the way I make it:
I chop up finely one to one and a half medium-sized cucumbers. If the skin is unusually waxy or bitter or damaged, I peel it off. I place this in a small pot.
I grate about a cup of fresh coconut meat. I place this in the small blender jar. To this I add quarter spoon of turmeric, half a teaspoon of mustard seeds, about three to four red chillies depending on its spiciness (it should not be fried), a small piece of tamarind soaked in a bit of water beforehand. Some amount of coconut can be substituted with roasted bengal gram (hurigadale). I grind this to a smooth paste with requisite amounts of water.
I add this paste to the cucumber. I add necessary amount of salt and mix well.
For the seasoning, I heat half a teaspoon of oil in my seasoning pan. I allow half a teaspoon of mustard seeds to splutter and I mix this into the chutney. On hot days keep it in the refrigerator for a bit before serving; the delicious coolness is irresistable. Store the excess in the refrigerator, but don't keep it beyond the second day, preferably finish it by the second morning.
The cucumbers can be replaced with finely chopped green mangoes, carrots, tomatoes, or chow-chows (chayote squash) after a bit of cooking. I've not tried any other version yet, but will do so for greater variety. Cucumber is great for summers because of its high water content and there is no necessity for cooking.
This is my entry to theAFAM: Cucumber eventhosted by Neha of Tasty Recipes for the month of March.A Fruit A Monthis a food blog event started by Maheshwari of Beyond the Usual.