History elicits a response from those who realise its wealth of knowledge. And yester year actress T Krishna Kumari’s daughter Dipika Maiya realised it growing up with her mother, who was once among the biggest names in Telugu cinema. What she cherishes the most was her trot back from school when she would choose one of three Telugu movies — Chaduvujunna Ammayilu, Gudi Gantalu or Guruvunu Minchina Sishyudu, and how her “ammi” would feed her lunch and narrate stories from her days of acting yore. And this she published as My Mother, T. Krishna Kumari,which along with the rich history of Telugu cinema that is forever connected with her mother, also had some age-old traditional recipes.
Among them is the mutton keema ball curry that her mother would cook for her father, a signature dish that has become a part of the household’s soul food. The beetroot chutney and the famed gongura pachadi were favourites of the family. The tamarind trail was something that was part and parcel of the fare being ground and cooked to perfection in the kitchen, at their farm in the outskirts of Bengaluru. Collecting tamarind was a yearly ritual and then it was dried and pulped and preserved in bottles. From it came the Tamarind Leaf Dal, a unique but lipsmacking regular on the table. Here are some of the recipes that are truly tried, tested and almost revered from Krishna Kumari’s own collection in the autobiographical account that intersperses her life with the food that “aami” made that still elicits mouth watering splurges.
— Recipes courtesy My Mother, T Krishna Kumari by Dipika V Maiya.
500 gm fresh gongura leaves
one tbsp sesame oil
1/4 tbsp turmeric powder l 1/2 tbsp salt
For seasoning A: 1 tbsp gingelly oil
1/2 tbsp mustard
1/2 tbsp whole dhania
five dry red chillies
10 methi seeds
2 gm asafoetida
For seasoning B: Five green chillies, chopped
Five baby shallots
30 cloves of garlic
Pick 500 gm fresh gongura leaves; remove stalks and stems, wash and dry leaves under a fan on a large kitchen napkin. To make the pachadi, saute one tbsp sesame oil and gongura leaves. Remove from flame, as the leaves start wilting or changing colour. Transfer onto a plate, cool and add 1/4 tbsp turmeric powder and 1/2 tbsp salt. Keep aside. In the same pan, on low flame, add one tbsp gingelly oil and 1.2 tbsp mustard. Let it crackle. Now, add 1/2 tbsp whole dhaniya, five dry red chillies, 10 methi seeds, 2 gm asafoetida. Cook until the red chillies turn light brown. Pour over the cooked gongura leaves. Blend in a mixer without water and keep aside. Coming to seasoning B, cook five chopped green chillies, five baby shallots and 30 cloves of garlic until the garlic turns light brown and the onions turn translucent. Mix gongura paste and seasoning B with a clean, dry spoon. Store in a clean, dry container (preferably steel) and refrigerate.
Mutton Kheema Ball Curry
1 kg coarsely minced mutton kheema
12 red chillies
4 tbsp whole coriander seeds
4 tsp cumin seeds
4 cardamom pods
2 tsp turmeric powder
2" ginger root
20 garlic cloves
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp ghee
2 tbsp whole fennel seeds
1 bay leaf
2 cups sliced onions
2 cups tomatoes, minced
4 tbsp mint leaves, finely chopped
First, wash mutton and squeeze extra water out and keep aside. For masala paste, blend or grind chillies with coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and turmeric in a blender. Then, blend ginger, garlic and water into a coarse paste. Mix evenly 1/2 masala paste with the kheema and divide into 15-20 lime-sized balls. Keep aside. For the other half masala paste, fry tomatoes till paste-like. Add 1 litre water with 1 tbsp salt. Let the gravy simmer on a high flame for five minutes. Lower the flame and gently drop kheema into the paste. Do not stir. Simmer for 10 minutes (or more, depending on the tenderness of the meat) without covering the pot. Remove from flame.
To garnish: 3 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
Variation: Chicken kheema can be used too.
Tamarind Leaf Dal
60 gm tamarind leaves (washed and wiped dry)
250 gm or 1 cup toor dal
½ tbsp red chilli powder
¼ tbsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp coriander powder (dhania)
5 green chillies
¼ tbsp fenugreek seeds (methi)
3 cups water
3 tbsp ghee
½ tbsp mustard seeds
½ tbsp urad dal
¼ tbsp fenugreek seeds (methi – optional)
3 dry red chillies,
15 curry leaves
Pressure cook toor dal on low fire for 15-20 minutes along with red chilli, turmeric, coriander powder, green chillies, fenugreek seeds and water. Let the pressure release on its own. Remove the lid, mash the mixture with wooden mortar and add tamarind leaves. Place the cooker on a low flame, without the lid, stir for 5-10 minutes. Allow the leaves to wilt. In a seasoning pan, heat oil and add ghee, mustard seeds, urad dal, fenugreek seeds, red chillies, curry leaves and let them splutter and pour over dal.
To Garnish: l 2 tbsp coriander leaves l 1 tbsp salt l 1 tbsp ghee l For a variation, the tamarind leaves can be replaced with 60 gm each of gongura leaves/tomatoes/spinach/amaranth leaves/cucumber/guntur cucumber (dosakai)/ridge gourd
KK’s tip: If using vegetables instead of gongura/tamarind leaves, add the juice of one lemon.