A very Happy New Year to all who celebrate today. Happy Vishu to all Malayalees across the world! All family members taking time off from busy lives, praying and eating together, tables rich with culinary treats– these surely are some special features of festivals. Celebrations always involve good food. Contrary to popular thought, festive food need not all be time consuming to prepare, nor be calorie-rich.
Today, I would like to share a lip-smacking, simple recipe which you can use to grace the table at any festive menu. This recipe has distinct south Indian flavours, so you can tweak the seasonings to accommodate the demands of your palate or cuisine. (Read notes)
The key point here is how the vendakkai / lady’s finger / bhindi / okra is cooked - crispy ‘fried’ okra is first readied by slicing it thin, drizzling with a quarter tsp cooking oil and grilling it for 10 minutes. This then is lovingly folded into a bowlful of thick skim milk yoghurt, seasoned with salt.The dish is finished off with a fragrant tadka of mustard seeds, curry leaves and pinch of hing in some oil. The grilling ensures that you save fuel, oil and time. The crisp texture encourages even die-hard okra haters to try it out. The chilled yoghurt is just so perfect for this blazing summer season. While this recipe is an accompaniment, you will soon find yourself eating a chilled bowlful on its own. Here is what you need -
- Okra / Lady’s finger / Bhindi / Vendakkai – 200 gm
- Skim milk yoghurt – 500 ml
- Salt – 1/4 tsp
- Sugar – a pinch
- Cooking Oil – 1/4 tsp
- Cooking oil – 1/4 tsp
- Mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp
- Curry leaves – 3
- Asafoetida Powder (Hing) – a pinch
- Wash the vendakkai by immersing in a bowl of water, drain on colander and spread out to dry on a kitchen towel. Snip off the tops and tails, and slice into even thin disks.
- Preheat the grill to 250 C.
- Place in a single layer on a baking tray. Drizzle 1/4 tsp oil over the disks, and spread in a single layer.
- Once the grill is ready, place the tray of vegetables inside, and grill for 10 minutes. Toss and scrape the contents at half time to ensure even browning. By the end of 10 minutes, the Vendakkai would have shrunk to half – size pieces, and would have browned evenly without being charred. You may need to watch the grill in the last minute to ensure correct browning without charring.
- Let it cool in the tray. Meanwhile, whip up the skim milk yoghurt with salt and sugar.
- Prepare the seasoning by heating oil in a small pan, adding all the ingredients for seasoning in order. Pour over the whipped yoghurt.
- Gently fold in the cooled Vendakkai into the yoghurt, chill for half an hour before serving.
- Serve with steamed rice, sambar, papads.
- Avoid mixing the grilled vegetable too vigorously into the yoghurt, it will darken the colour of yoghurt.
- You can experiment with flavours by adding roasted jeera powder, coriander leaves instead of hing and curry leaves.
- Can be used as a dip for crudites or rolls too by seasoning with a tbsp of chopped, fried onion, a pinch of red chilli powder and a tsp of chopped fresh parsley instead of above seasonings.
- Grilling the vegetables as opposed to deep frying them helps to cut down on cooking oil used.