I can’t do fad diets because I don’t believe any good can come out of giving up these basic pleasures of life. I don’t let anyone tell me what’s good for me or my body, because the key to eating right is moderation and a return to more local, natural foods, as opposed to imported and processed ones.
When I’m thinking about meal plans, I make a quick calculation in my head- suppose we had rotis with ridge gourd sabzi (toori) for lunch, last night’s potato aubergine gravy dish made a reappearance, and there was enough cucumbers, yoghurt and fruit for later. This means, for dinner I’ll probably go with rice, incorporate a pulse, maybe a lentil or a bean, put something green on the table- could be a salad, could be a sabzi, then finish with something like a cheat dessert, or not. There’ll be two meat days where I can pick between one white and a red meat, and two days for fish, where I have a sea of choices waiting for me to throw a net into. This way, I’ve given my body a little bit of everything, and there’s enough ebb and pull of energy flowing to get me through the day.
Don’t pull a complete 180 on your eating habits, just be a bit more conscious of what you’re eating. Asking simple questions like where does my everyday produce come from, or how my body will benefit from eating more unpolished rice will not only help you make informed choices, but will also open you up to a host of new regional ingredients that you’ve been missing out on for years. You never know, the cure to some of the world’s toughest diseases could be hidden in some magical leaf, grain or pulse that simply went out of fashion because we either didn’t know how to cook it, or didn’t cook it enough.
Horse gram or kuluth/kulthi/gahat/muthira dal, typically a poor man’s staple looks similar to masoor and has been touted as a cure for kidney stones. We see it being subjected to everything from dry roasting to slow cooking, each region of India cooks it differently. In Himachal Pradesh, they use the dal to make khichdi, Mahrashtrians make Pithla (a horse gram curry made using dry-roasted horse gram which is blitzed to a powder), Usal and Ladoos, Ulava Charu or slow-cooked horse gram biryani is a mainstay of Andhra cuisine, and then there’s horse gram rasam (kollu rasam), more stews and chutney. In Coorg, the Mudre Kanni or horse gram curry is also famous for its rich taste and was also cooked long and slow over a wood fire. While it may have gone out of favour, horse gram is still grown across the country and is available to us readily. The recipe for this Kulta Kaat or horse gram and field marrow/Madras cucumber curry is adapted from Ruchik Randhap’s original Mangalorean recipe. I’ve played with the proportions of tamarind and jaggery in the recipe, upped the chillies, and gone with coconut oil instead of ghee. You can also make a Basale Ghassi, another Mangalorean dish with horse gram, malabar spinach and tomatoes using similar ingredients.
Dry Byadgi Chillies 5, long
Black peppercorns 6-7
Garlic 4 cloves
Ginger 1-inch piece
Freshly grated coconut 3 tsp
Tamarind 1 golf ball-sized ball
Horsegram 1 cup, soaked overnight
Field marrow/Madras Cucumber 1, diced into large chunks
Water 4 cups
Gur 3-4 tsp
Salt to taste
Curry leaves 1 whole sprig
Garlic 3 cloves, bruised
Coconut Oil 2 tbsp
Grind all the ingredients for the masala in a blender and ser aside.
In a pressure cooker, combine the horsegram with water, some salt, and pressure cook it for as much as 6 whistles. Open and check to see if it’s done. If it has not, subject it to 2-3 more whistles.
Remove 3 tbsp of the cooked horse gram, pound it to a smooth paste and set it aside for thickening the dal later. Add the madras cucumber to the cooked horse gram and cook it over medium heat or for one more whistle, if pressure cooking.
Add the ground masala to the curry together with some water if it seems to dry and the 3 tsp of gur. Adjust with some more tamarind or gur if required. Bring this mixture up a boil. Once it is just boiling, add in the ground horse gram you had set aside for thickening before. Pour this into the curry and let it cook for 2-3 minutes.
In a small pan for tempering, heat the coconut oil, and add the crushed garlic and curry leaves. Let it sizzle for a few seconds, then pour this into the dal and put a lid on it to trap the flavours. Serve this hot with red rice or regular white rice.