Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Secret- All Purpose Paste

Earlier this month, I was away in Kerala, visiting an old friend. Su and I caught up with each other after a gap of 10 years and we decided to celebrate with some heavy backpacking through God's Own Country. The trip took on an added edge when the summer heat began to hit us hard and I was just about ready to pack up and go home when we landed in the quaint hill station of Munnar. This is hilly land thats covered with tea plantations as far as the eye can see.

And in this green landscape, we visited a tiny home where the lady of the house offered us lunch. And what a lunch it was! There were three different vegetable dishes, two curries, rice and dessert! I noticed that two of the vegetables had been prepared in almost the same fashion but they were really tasty. I got the recipe- a ridiculously simple one which can be used with just about any vegetable. I tried it on some fresh Chinese Cabbage and its just as good.

The only thing the recipe requires is this Spicy Paste-

All Purpose Spicy Paste

1/2 cup of shallots
1 big dried red chilly
2 pinches of salt
2 tbsp oil

Grind the shallots and chilly together in a mortar,pestle or in a food processor to get a slightly coarse paste. Heat the oil and add the paste to it. Season with salt and cook till the paste begins to darken.

Thats it! This paste can be used with fresh vegetables like you would a salad dressing. Or like the lady in Munnar did, just steam vegetables like peas or beans or carrots and mix in some of this spicy paste just before serving. It's as simple as that! This paste can also be used a base for curries. Its easy to pre-make and refrigerate, just like pasta sauce. Just add a tbsp of oil on top before putting it in the fridge.

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