Tuesday, August 4, 2009
I love the humble peanut. Peanuts take me back to my mom’s native place-Naravalapalli- where beautiful ladies sat in the fields, and bumped groundnuts to the ground cracking them open and separating the peanut from it. They do this so fast that you hear a tap, a crack and a gentle throw amidst giggling and chattering—in a quick sequence. It is a beautiful amalgam of sounds.
The groundnut plant freshly plucked off the wet earth has the most amazing tasting peanuts: soft, crunchy, fleshy and tasty all at once. The wet earth stuck to the shell lends the nut an earthy aroma-an aroma of purity, innocence and a lush countryside.
Peanuts add so much texture and life into a dish. I hate the process of toasting, skinning and halving them before adding them into the puliyogare, pulusu atakulu, or any dish for that matter. Peanuts must be whole, shiny maroon, and lurking around aplenty in the dish!
Move aside peanut butter, I think the most beautiful, gorgeous delicacy that this nut lends itself into is the Senigivithnalu Chutney Pudi, or Kadalekayi Chutney Pudi.
In the Naravalapalli home, we would be greeted by Ramakka and Narayanamma heaving and pounding the roasted and skinned peanuts with tamarind, jaggery, roasted red chillies, rock salt and a truckload of garlic! Their breath is a hum which is in sync with the pounding (thump-hum-thump-hum-thump-hum)-it’s beautiful; I could hug them right now for doing it so well!
And by the end of it, a big bowl of fresh, crackly, crunchy and spicy pudi awaits you at dinner. In my father’s family, eating modestly is the norm-dad and all my uncles being picky, unadventurous eaters-but in the village, it is a different tale altogether. We scooped out huge tablespoons of the pudi on to our dinner leaves (no, no plates please) and mixed it up unabashedly with the rice and ghee and tucked in. And if dinner is served on the terrace under the stars…..ah the joy is unmatched.
While the mixer in our kitchens simply cannot recreate this flavor, it is still a top-of-the-charts recipe. This one is from my maternal aunts and mom: Indira, Shamantha, Manjula and Malathi. A true-blue Naravalapalli original-don’t miss it!!
1 cup peanuts (the larger the nuts, the better)
5 pods of garlic
2-3 medium size red chillies
1 small ball of tamarind
1 small lump of jaggery
1 tsp rock salt
Oil for roasting
Roast the peanuts in a kadai, without using any oil. The skin must be browned, and must separate easily from the nut. Place the roasted nuts on a plate and rub your hand against them, in sweeping movements, so the skin loosens, and you can blow these away.
Heat some oil in the kadai and roast the chillies and garlic in it. Add the tamarind, jaggery and salt and roast it all for another minute. Leave it to cool.
Blend this mix with the peanuts in the mixer. A brief run will do, as the texture must be crunchy. Store in an airtight container. Keeps well for a week, keeps you well for that week!