#KhaaliFridge? What’ll you cook?
What do you do when you need to serve a meal to your family (or guests), but realise that you have run out of vegetables completely? Eat out, Swiggy or Zomato food, use some ready-to-cook mixes, or cook something simple that doesn’t call for any vegetables (or meat, in case of non-vegetarians)?
The first three options are palatable in today’s age, but that wasn’t always the case. In the lives and times of our grandparents, I’m sure there were often times when there would be no vegetables at hand, and a tasty meal still had to be cooked and served. Sun-dried fruits and vegetables, lentils and legumes of different types would take centre stage at such times.
Tamilnadu’s heritage ‘budget’ recipes
Tamilnadu has a whole host of such traditional dishes which can be made without any veggies – I call them ‘budget recipes’, as they were often resorted to when finances were tight, often towards the end of the month – and one could not afford to splurge on fresh vegetables. Mananthakali Vattalkozhambu (a tangy dish made using dried nightshade berries and tamarind), Paruppu Thogayal (a chutney made using lentils), Puli Pongal (a sort of rice dish soured with tamarind), Milagu Kozhambu (a tangy-spicy gravy made using black peppercorns) and Vepampoo Rasam (rasam made with dried neem flowers) are some examples of such dishes. These might be dishes typically cooked with a budget constraint, but they are far from bland or boring. In fact, they are outright delicious!
Introducing Paruppu Thogayal, Tamilnadu style lentil chutney
Today, I present to you our family recipe for Paruppu Thogayal, lentil chutney made Tam-Brahm style. Toor dal forms the base for this chutney, dried red chillies providing the spice factor, with a bit of tamarind added in for sourness. Sometimes – I think when there was a coconut tree in the backyard 😛 – there would be some fresh grated coconut added to the thogayal for flavour. This is such an easy thing to make, one requiring minimal ingredients, but very delicious, like I was saying earlier.
The simple thing that it is, Paruppu Thogayal is a hugely comforting dish. When served with some steamed rice and Milagu Kozhambu or Vattalkozhambu, drizzled with some sesame oil, it makes for a complete, fulfilling meal, all of it made using only ingredients from one’s pantry, with zero fresh vegetables in the picture. Quite innovative our ancestors were! This is actually a detox meal, light on the tummy, a refreshing change from the usual.
This Paruppu Thogayal is completely gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan too. It is packed with protein too, considering it is made using toor dal. You could call this a Sattvik dish too, as it is made (usually) without any onion or garlic, and is a simplistic thing using the most basic of ingredients.
The Foodie Monday Blog Hop group explores #KhaaliFridge
I’m sharing this recipe with the Foodie Monday Blog Hop group that I’m part of, on Facebook. Renu of Cook With Renu suggested an interesting theme for the group this week – #KhaaliFridge. On her blog, Renu has a fantastic collection of healthy dishes and baked goodies from around the world. You must check it out! I so want to try her Sprouted Horsegram Salad, Sweet Mango Chilli Sauce and Tandoori Paneer Biryani!
This week, all of us in the Foodie Monday Blog Hop group will be showcasing recipes made using only ingredients from one’s pantry, food that one would make when they are face-to-face with a refrigerator that is completely empty. I loved the theme; it made me revisit so many traditional Tamilnadu ‘budget’ recipes. Allow me the liberty of saying this again – our ancestors were definitely very wise, and very creative to have come up with so many delicious, beautiful dishes when their circumstances were, probably, not all that great!
Traditional Paruppu Thogayal recipe
Here’s how we make the Paruppu Thogayal at home.
Ingredients (serves 5-6):
- 1/2 cup toor dal
- 2 Salem Gundu dry red chillies
- 1 Bydagi dry red chilli
- 1 tablespoon fresh grated coconut
- 1 teaspoon oil
- Salt to taste
- A small piece of tamarind
1. Soak the tamarind in a little hot water, for at least 10 minutes. This will make the tamarind softer.
2. Heat the oil in a pan. Add in the toor dal, the Bydagi chilli and the Salem Gundu chillies. Turn the flame down to medium. Saute till the toor dal begins to turn brown, taking care to ensure that the ingredients do not burn.
3. Add the grated coconut to the pan. Saute all the ingredients together for about a minute, on medium flame. Switch off gas. Transfer the sauteed ingredients to a plate and allow them to cool down fully.
4. When the sauteed ingredients have cooled down entirely, transfer them to a small mixer jar. Add in salt to taste and the softened tamarind, along with the little water it was soaked in.
5. Grind the ingredients in the mixer jar together, to a smooth chutney. You may keep the chutney a little coarse, if you prefer it that way. Your Paruppu Thogayal is ready – serve it with hot steamed rice with a dollop of ghee, or as an accompaniment to rice and Vattalkozhambu or Milagu Kozhambu.
1. In some families, a mix of chana dal and toor dal is used to make this Paruppu Thogayal. We use only toor dal.
2. Some people add in black peppercorns while making this chutney. We don’t.
3. Garlic cloves are also added in by some, while making this Paruppu Thogayal. We don’t use them.
4. Adjust the quantity of dry red chillies as per personal taste preferences. We typically use a mix of the spicy Salem Gundu dry red chillies and the less hot Bydagi dry red chillies.
5. Some families completely omit the tamarind in Paruppu Thogayal or add a very minimal amount. This is because the thogayal is traditionally served as an accompaniment to Vattalkozhambu or Milagu Kozhambu, which are spicy and sour already. I add tamarind to taste, because we consume this thogayal with idlis, dosas and plain steamed rice too.
6. If the tamarind you are using has seeds or impurities, make sure you remove them before using them in making the thogayal.
7. Sesame oil aka nalla ennai works best in this Paruppu Thogayal.
8. Do not add much water while grinding the chutney. The Paruppu Thogayal is supposed to be quite thick, unlike other regular chutneys. It is typically made into a ball and then served, as in the picture above. If you find it hard to grind the chutney using just the water from soaking the tamarind, you can add in a couple of spoons of water – remember not to add too much.
9. Some families omit the coconut, while making Paruppu Thogayal. We do use it.
10. Traditional Paruppu Thogayal does not have any mustard seed-curry leaf tempering added in.
Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!