Sunday, December 2, 2007

Vaazhakkoombu upperi (A dry vegetable side dish using Plantain flower)

Its one of the most popular recipes of Kerala. I especially loved the taste (it brings back lots of good ol' memories of mom's cooking). I have never actually noticed how my mom chops the Plantain Flower (Vazhakkoombu) for making this dish, so I took for granted that it just has to be chopped as it is without removing its first few outer leafy segments. These days after my India visit I became an expert in preparing the plantain flower for cooking. My fil taught me the exact way , which was by first removing the few outer leaves of the PF (Plantain flower) and as you remove you will notice the short segments below each leaf. Don't throw it away. Collect those. They are to be chopped later. After removing the first few leaves. Cut the sharpened tip of the PF to get a flattened surface. Then with your knife start putting small cuts on the surface and on the sides too. Then put the PF horizontally on the chopping board and slowly chop away the cuts you made on the PF using the knife. This ensures you get very small pieces. (I used to cut the same way for raw papaya when mom used to make Papaya upperi). When the cuts are no longer visible on the flat surface you get after chopping away, again make the cuts and repeat the same process, all the while managing to hold the PF steady and taking extra care not to cut your fingers if the knives are very sharp (I use a bit blunt knife to make the cuts and a sharper knife to chop away the cuts ;) (That's my idea, not my fil's ;) .......As and when you chop away the bits of PF, put the chopped bits in water. At the end chop the short segments I was talking about and add it with the rest of the chopped PF. Chopping PF stains your hands black, but I found a nice tip for avoiding that and that is to use a stainless steel blade knife. Drain the water. In a vessel heat 2 teaspoons oil,mustard seeds , cumin seeds (wait for them to splutter).....then add dry red chili, and curry leaves....then add the chopped up PF, salt to taste and on medium heat, cover the vessel and cook until done. It cooks pretty fast. It turns pale and the raw taste is gone when it is cooked.

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