Tondekai Palya/ Sauteed Ivy Gourd

Tondekai or the Ivy gourd is one of the most popular vegetable back home. It is not something you buy in the market, after all they are the most abundant crops that can be easily cultivated, even in a small patch in the back yard!!! As a kid, back in my home town of Madhugiri in Tumkur district, i remember our farm had a huge, long running hedge fence and through out the hedge fence these tiny like cousins of cucumber grew abundantly. When ever we went to our farm, we would just pluck the green tender ones and eat it! They are super crunchy and yummy. I can never forget those days. And while getting back home, we just used to tear some into our bags/or pockets or sometimes even a small towel!! and take it home.. my grandmother would churn out these yummy palyas for the next meal. Nothing can beat the taste of fresh vegetables, i long to got back to those days and enjoy my time in our farm. The mangoes, the yelchikai, (i dont know what it is called in English) and there was one more sweet, waxy,tiny fruit... kare hannu(the last time i had it was in 2001 when my cousin got married and we were at our home town and the fruit was in season) figs, and of course nerale hannu more popularly known as jamoons. These were some of the vegetables and fruits we never purchased. we just happened to pick them and eat it! Now everything has a price.. and a few are price less because they do not enter the markets at all!
Now coming back to tondekai palya. This particular genre of palya is prepared using a blend of spices called palya pudi. The spice blend is particularly versatile and is used in Massappu/maskai curries as well. My grand mother always used to prepare huge jars of this spice blend and use it through out the year. But me.. i m lazy, so i make it in little quantities and store it in an air tight container. It will last me a couple of months. But making a fresh blend is definitely worth the effort. The freshness of the spices will make the dishes extra special.
So this week my agenda was making palya pudi and using it in with two of the most popular vegetables.

Palya pudi:
Dhania 1 .5 tbsp
Channa Dal 1.5 tbsp
Urad Dal 1.5 tbsp
Jeera 1 tsp
Methi 1/4 tsp
Red Chillies 10 and above
Clove 2-3

Toast all the spices one by one till fragrant. Cool and then grind it coarsely in a coffee grinder or spice grinder. Pounding it in a mortar-pestle will make it taste better!Store in an airtight jar.

For the Tondekai palya
Tondekai/ivy gourd 1 lb quartered length wise
Oil 1/4 cup (I know that is a lot of oil)
Peanut or til or dry coconut 2 tbsp toasted and ground
Mustard seeds
Curry leaves
Tamarind a size of a lime soaked in warm water and squeezed
Jaggery size of a lemon
Palya pudi 3 tbsp

Heat oil in a pan/ wok. Toss in the mustard seeds, hing, curry leaves. once the spluttering stops, toss in the tondekai. Add salt and toss. Pound the jaggery into a coarse powder and mix it with the tamarind extract. Sprinkle the palya pudi and ground peanut/till/dry coconut all over.Toss to coat well. Add the tamarind-jaggery mixture, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. The Tondekai should still have some crunch left but should be tender. Turn off the heat and serve it hot with chapati or Bajri/sajje roti.

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