When a dinner invitation arrives, and you know it’s from an astounding cook, you look forward to some great heritage food and company. It’s not the variety or lavishness, but the love with which food is cooked that makes it tasty. In my journey to discover heritage dishes, offerings to the gods and unconventional dishes, I have come across lots of passionate foodies, experimental recipes, interesting history behind the dishes and more. The richness and variety, the aroma and texture of dishes in each state of our country is so unique and so vast and to get to taste all the dishes, would take a lifetime.
So, one must never waste any opportunity to taste heritage dishes, especially home cooked. It is from enterprising housewives, grandmas and village folk or Khandani (family) cooks, that one gets an insight into the vast variety of heritage food and different cuisines handed down from one generation to the other, in different parts of India. Each season has its distinct dishes, based on natural factors and what is cooked in a particular season is normally avoided in others. Authentic cooks always design their food on local availability of the raw materials and vegetables of the season. Each dish and ingredient it contains has a medicinal value or health benefit, making Indian cuisine far advanced than others. So, when Dheena promised some heritage food, we quickly took up the offer.
Dheena Nambiar and Rajeev Nambiar’s home is a plush pent house in Kotturpuram, beautifully done, with oil lamps burning 24 hours, as an offering to the divine. The table was set aesthetically and colour co-ordinated with the dishes. The variety of food was amazing — from Anglo Indian to Hyderabadi, Karela biryani, stuffed Anglo rolls, Hyderabadi salan, mun chetti fish curry with red par boiled rice and homemade mini pizzas with desi topping. However, the delicacy which stood out was the fish curry and the Kannur Pazham Pachidi , which was introduced by the Arabs who used to trade on the Kerala coast, and made a similar dish with dates and fruits. In South India, it is served at weddings and all big occasions. Today, I share the recipe.
Dheena’s Tutti Frutti Pachidi
Serves : 4-5
Preparation time: 20 min
Cooking time: 15 min
Calories per serving: 220
Medium-sized apple: 1
Pomegranate seeds: ¼ cup
Melon cut into small squares: ½ cup
Grated coconut: ¼ cup
Raw mango chopped into tiny bits: 1
Pineapple small pieces: 1 cup
Semi ripe papaya cut into squares (Those who don’t like papaya can avoid): ¼ cup
Green moong dal sprouted: ½ cup
Hung curd: ½ cup
Green chillies: 2
Black pepper powder
Raisins: 2 tablespoons
Seedless grapes: ¼ cup
Broken cashewnuts: 1 tablespoon
Broken walnuts: ½ cup
Seedless dates: 5
Lime juice: 1 tablespoon
Powdered brown jaggery: ¼ cup
Honey: 2 tablespoons
Chaat masala: 1 tablespoon
Chopped green coriander and mint leaves (pudina): ¼ cup
Red chilly powder: ½ teaspoon
Rose essence: 1 teaspoon
Chop the tomatoes into large cubes. Remove the seeds from the centre and puree them in a mixer. Add red chilli powder. Keep aside.
Heat one cup of water in a heavybottomed pan, and add the jaggery (brown) to it. Cook on medium flame till the jaggery has completely dissolved in the water, and the syrup becomes slightly sticky.
At this stage, add the tomato puree to the pan. Keeping the flame medium, cook till the mixture gets slightly thick and the raw smell of the tomatoes has disappeared. You will need to stir intermittently.
Remember that you don’t need to get this mixture very thick — it should be liquidly. Meanwhile, get the other ingredients ready.
Peel the bananas and chop them into rounds. Chop the apples into small pieces. Peel the mangoes and chop them into cubes. Keep the chopped fruits in a large mixing bowl. Cut the grapes in half (seedless) and add to it.
Add the pineapple pieces in the bowl. Add the melon and papaya pieces.
Add lime juice, so fruits don’t lose their colour.
Semi-grind fresh coriander, green chillies and mint. Add to the bowl.
Add the sprouted moong dal.
Add the chopped cucumber. Make sure the cucumber is not bitter. Remove seeds if possible.
Chop the cashewnuts, walnuts, dates, and almonds into slivers. Add this to the mixing bowl.
Add the raisins to the mixing bowl too. Keep aside.
Add honey, salt, chaat masala and black pepper powder.
Add the hung curd, after smashing it well.
When the syrup in the pan has thickened, switch off the gas and add the rose essence. Mix well.
Let the syrup cool to room temperature and then pour it over the cut fruits and other ingredients, in the mixing bowl. Stir gently, once.
Cover the mixing bowl and let it be for 10 minutes. At the end of this, the syrup and the fruits would have become well integrated. Add the grated coconut. The juices from the fruits would have made the pachidi runnier by now, and that is fine. Stir gently and transfer to a clean, pachidi bowl. Sprinkle the pomegranate seeds on top.
Serve at room temperature or cold, both taste good.
Kitchen wisdom for the day:
Any fruits that are in season can be used to make this mixed fruit pachidi.
The original recipe does not contain certain ingredients like chaat masala, moong dal or green coriander and chilli paste. It is my version, to improve the taste.
Chopped walnuts and other nuts add great nutritive value to the pachidi.
Increase or decrease the quantity of jaggery you use, as per your taste preferences and depending upon the quantity of fruit you are using.
This pachidi can be eaten on its own, as a dessert, or served as part of a plantain-leaf meal. You can serve it either chilled or at room temperature. Also, it tastes great with rotis and paranthas.
If the tomatoes are too tangy, use just one instead of two. Bangalore tomatoes are the best.
In TamBrahm weddings, this pachidi is very popular.
I used Malavayapayam hill banana as it is the tastiest to make this pachidi.
Ideally, the taste would be sweet, spicy and salty — in equal proportions. You could experiment with your own combination, depending on your taste.