Vellarikkai Puli Pachadi (Cucumber In A Tamarind Coconut Gravy)
Posted Sep 15 2009 4:47pm
I have mentioned before that our traditional meals (lunch) consist of rice served with a main dish of vegetables in gravy, accompanied by a dry (or semi-dry) vegetable preparation. There are time tested combinations of gravy and dry (or semi-dry) vegetable preparations. One could try experimenting with new combinations but nothing comes anywhere near the old tried and tested combinations. Rice served with mulagootal and a thogayal or a puli pachadi is one of these. I have already posted the first two preparations and it is the turn of the puli pachadi now.
A pachadi is a semi-dry (or semi-wet, with very little gravy) vegetable preparation. In Palakkad cuisine, we have two types of pachadis. One is a Puli Pachadi (which is the subject of this post) and the other is a Thayir Pachadi (made with yogurt) also referred to in some homes as Kichadi (not the rice and lentil preparation somewhat like Venn Pongal).
Puli pachadi, with its spicy and tangy overtones with just a hint of sweet, is the perfect accompaniment to the slightly bland mulagootal. This puli pachadi can be made with vegetables like okra (vendakkai) or eggplant (katharikkai) or pumpkin (mathan), but for this post, I've made it with a vegetable we call "vellarikkai' (or vellarikka in Malayalam).
I searched, a lot, for the English name for this vegetable and came up with Indian Cucumber, English Cucumber, Lemon Cucumber and Yellow Indian Cucumber! After looking at the various pictures, none of these seem to be the same as "vellarikkai" except perhaps the yellow Indian cucumber. This link tells me that vellarikkai is a cucumber whose botanical name is Cucumis sativus L. and belongs to the CUCURBITACEAE family. My vegetable seller calls it "Sambhar Khakhdi" which basically means cucumber used in sambhar.
This vegetable is definitely a part of the cucumber family, and is has a green and yellow/ orange striated pattern on the outside which becomes less green as the cucumber matures. It is white on the inside with slightly larger seeds than the usual cucumber we use in salads. This cucumber is not eaten raw, but cooked. Does anyone know the English name for this vegetable?
Here is the recipe I use to make this vellarikkai pachadi.
2 cups sliced vellarikkai (thin, about 3/4" by 3/4" pieces)
tamarind, the size of a big grape
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp powdered jaggery (or sugar)
salt to taste
For the coconut paste:
3 tbsp fresh grated coconut
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 or 3 green chillies
1 sprig curry leaves
For the tempering:
1 tsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 1/2 tsp black gram lentils (urad dal)
Soak the tamarind in 1 cup of warm water and keep aside for about 15 minutes. Then, using your fingers, rub and squeeze the softened tamarind to extract the pulp into the water. Remove the solid part of the tamarind and pour the tamarind water into a pan.
Add the vegetable pieces, salt and turmeric powder and stir a couple of times. Bring to a boil and then simmer till the vegetable is cooked. The whitish coloured vellarikkai pieces will turn translucent when cooked.
I usually do this part of the cooking in the microwave (about 7 to 8 minutes at 100%). I cook the vegetable in the tamarind water without the turmeric and salt as I find that turmeric discolours my microwave. So I add the seasoning after microwaving and on the stove-top.
In the meanwhile, grind all the ingredients for the coconut paste with a little water to a smooth paste (not watery, like you would for a chutney), and keep ready. You can leave out the curry leaves from this paste and add it to the vegetables while they cook. I add it to the paste as it lends a lot of flavour, and it doesn't have to be picked out from the pachadi while eating.
The amount of water in the cooked vegetable would have reduced to about 1/4 a cup. Now add the jaggery and the coconut paste. Mix well and let it come to a boil. Take the pachadi off the heat after a minute. Pour the pachadi into a serving dish. Prepare the tempering by heating the oil and adding the mustard seeds. When they splutter add the lentils and stir till golden brown. Pour this into the pachadi. Stir the tempering into the pachadi just before serving. Serve this pachadi warm, with rice and mulgootal or mulagushyam.