Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Vaalacha Birda ( Vaal beans In a coconut sauce)

So, finally this summer I shopped and packed and visited India. It was a fantastic few weeks and my son and I were left wanting more! 

Source: Google image search

The highlight, or shall I say one, of the highlights, was enjoying Alphonso Mango, the Hapoos! 


Ah! After the longest time, ever I had the pleasure of biting into this superlative fruit. Slices, 'aamras' were a daily feature and I can greedily say, I could have had some more! Mango lovers will understand and agree.

On most evenings, my son, my mom and I would walk down to the local market to buy vegetables, Pav, fruit. It was noisy, dirty, colorful all rolled in one and a wonderfully unique experience for my 8 year old. He loved going to the market with his favorite Ajji (Grandmother), ie. my mother and coaxing her to buy him some little thing, everyday,  making a stop at the the store that also has a 'chaat' corner to enjoy what he fancied on that particular day (dabeli/ pani puri/ sev puri/ gulab jamun/ jalebi) and coming home in an auto (which he hailed). 

The nicest thing about these 'vegetable markets' is, well, it isn't actually a market, the vendors just sit by the roadside with their wares and a weighing scale and you buy what you want. In one corner, I spied this old lady with a toothless smile selling sprouted beans and hurried over to buy 'vaal'.
I never fancied this in my younger years, but now, I like them. 

Sprouting and peeling these beans is a labor intensive job, so if you get these, prepped, swoop and grab. As I gleefully picked up my bag of sprouts I found myself humming, "...it happens only in India!" 

I also stopped by Majestic Book Depot (Thane W) and treated myself to these two books. The cookbook (left) has a fine collection of recipes which include Maharashtrian, Punjabi, South Indian etcetra, from across India. The book (right), on festivals and traditions observed  is also useful, it details many rituals observed during festival time as well as some recipes. I found both books delightful and a great addition to my book shelf.
Humkhass Pakasiddhi (left) and Varshache Sanwaar (right)
The first recipe I tried from the cook book was Vaalacha Birda. 
While the recipe is great and a keeper, I wish it was written well. 
For someone new to trying Vaal or this recipe, it is confusing, for ex: the author could have clearly specified what needs to be ground for the dry masala and then the coconut masala. I got my Mom to help me out there. 
I have adapted the recipe to my understanding. The end result however is a lip smacking curry that can be relished with fulkas or even better, a bhakri

You need:
About 3-4 cups Vaal ( sprouted and peeled) (author suggests about 1/2 kg)
7-8 cloves Garlic
1 tsp cumin, ground
1/2 Coconut, scraped / about 1 cup frozen shredded fresh coconut -pulsed to make a paste
4-5 pieces Kokum
2 medium Onions chopped
Salt to taste
 Jaggery to taste
2 tsp Fennel seeds 
2 tsp Coriander seeds 
8-10 dry Red chilies (I used Byadgi)
2 tbs oil
3-4 Garlic cloves ( if you have bigger cloves, use less)
1/2 tsp Mustard seed 
Dash Asafetida 
1/2 tsp Turmeric

Wash and set aside the Vaal beans.
 
Grind together the garlic, cumin and coconut, set aside.
Now grind together the coriander seeds,the fennel seed and the dry red chilies to a dry powder. 


Add 4 heaping tsp of the powdered masala, 1/2 tsp turmeric and chopped onions to the beans and mix gently. 
If the red chilies powder isn't very hot, add 1 tsp hot red chilies powder, this is optional.
Powdered masala added to Vaal beans, chopped onion and coconut paste on the side 

Heat 2-3 tbsp oil in a deep and heavy bottomed pan,
Add mustard seeds, asafetida and 4-5 garlic cloves and sauté till the garlic is golden reddish in color.
Add in the beans, stir gently. Keep a plate on the pot and add 1\2 cup water to the plate. 
Keep 3 cups of water to boil separately.

Cook the beans till they are cooked but not mushy. They should be tender when pressed between your thumb and finger.

Add boiling water to the beans, now add the crushed garlic and powdered cumin and coconut paste. Add the Kokum, salt and jaggery.

Boil and Cook till done. Be careful and ensure that the beans do not become overly soft and pasty.
Vaal Birde


Serve with soft fulkas, smeared with ghee or with bhakris (jowar, bajri or rice, any of these can be paired with the beans).


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