Hurali Kattu

What could be a Kannadiga's answer to Dal Makhani? the rich decadent elixir, just a spoonful of which makes that moment as smooth as silk, as light as a feather and as satisfying as a mother's touch... If I were to pick one dish, it would be Hurali Kattu. Both are rich, luxurious, smooth, very very satisfying besides taking a very long time to cook. On the contrary, Dal Makhani has oodles of fat, butter, cream etc, but Hurali Kattu is more of a poor man's food and has no fatty garnishes. But then it is easy to amp up the fat content of any dish and I typically add a generous spoonful of ghee on my rice-Hurali Kattu. I would recommend serving just like that bowls full of Hurali Kattu and a spoon full of ghee on top.

This dish looks to be of humble origin. Horse gram raised during dry season, piled high in gunny sacks to last the entire season, could provide the scarce protein. Bowlful of beans were washed, placed in earthen pots with lots of water and simmered all through the night over glowing embers of wood fire. The ingredients are very simple, and cooked this way the beans did not need any baby sitting.

However it is not so simple in a modern kitchen. Horse gram is a very tough bean to cook. It takes ages to breakdown. I had my share of unsuccessful attempts to get them to cook. Now, after all the efforts I have a good technique to get the beans to cook and breakdown. So here it goes.

We will need,

Horse gram 1 cup
Hing 2 generous pinch
Onion 1 medium
Garlic 5-6 cloves
Saaru Pudi  2 tsp
Tamarind extract 3/4 tsp
Salt to taste
Ghee to serve


  • Start the previous night. Pick and clean the beans carefully and make sure to discard all the gravel and dirt. Wash multiple changes of water. Put the beans in a deep pot and add about 6 cups of water.
  • Throw in one pinch of hing into the beans and place to pot on high heat. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and cover. Set it aside for the entire night.
  • The next morning, drain the bean and discard the soaking liquid. They say the eating the soaking liquid will cause flatulence and in my family we always discard the liquid that the beans has been soaking in, expect in the case of Idli /Dose, fermentation does something to urad dal in and it is quite easy on stomach. 
  • Transfer the beans to a pressure cooker. Add 6-7 cups of water and the remaining hing and cook on slow flame for about 5-6 whistles for about 20-30 minutes. Adjust the time/whistle according to your pressure cooker and no two are alike. The idea is to let the beans cook in the pressure cooker for a long time. We do want it to break down completely. Remove from heat and set it aside to cool.
  • Once the pressure cooker is cool, open and check if the beans are soft. If they are soft go ahead to the next step, if not add more water and cook again till the beans are soft.
  • If the beans are soft, throw in the rest of the ingredients and pressure cooker again on low heat for 20-30 minutes till the beans completely break down and the mixture resembles a thick and rich slurry. 
  • Remove from heat and stir in desired quantities of ghee. Serve hot with Rice. I eat it like a soup on a cold day. It magically warms up my entire being! 

Palak Panner Butter Masala

There are always times when we find mind blowing food at the most unexpected places, especially when we travel to unfamiliar places.Such foods and the experience of that particular meal leave a lasting impression if you are a foodie like me. I distinctly remember a few unforgettable meals in my life. I am not sure what makes the meal so special, the time, the company, foreign land or perhaps simple hunger, but the experience will leave an indelible mark. One such meal was at a nondescript place somewhere in Mahabalipuram. It was an adventure alright, me and Honey on a trip to US embassy found ourselves with most of the day on hand before we could fly out of Chennai. We took a Rickshaw back to hotel. Honey in his smattering Tamil asked the Rickshaw driver for suggestion on touristy things to do in Chennai. He said he could drive us to Mahabalipuram. I remembered it to be quite a distance from Chennai, but Honey and the Tamil speaking Rickshaw driver bulldozed me into thinking that it was closer than I thought. Then the seemingly never ending journey started. The noisy Rickshaw huffed and puffed and we finally pulled into the sleepy town of Mahabalipuram. We stopped to catch our breath and to give our Richskaw time to recuperate.Our rumbling tummies would not let think of the Pallavas or their temples. So we looked around and our guide suggested a nice looking air conditioned restaurant. But our Rickshaw driver shot the idea down bluntly. He convinced Honey in Tamil to go to some other restaurant. All I could make out was that Honey was sold on the idea. He led us to a small but clean looking crowded eatery. There was no such thing as a table for a party. There were benches in rows like in a class room and people just went and sat where ever there was a spot. Honey found a spot for himself in one of the rows in the end. I found one for myself in one of the middle row. It felt strange to be sitting next to an absolute stranger in a pair of Jeans while all the ladies sitting in that restaurant looked a lot more traditional in Saris and Jasmine flowers in their hair. Of course there was no such thing as a menu, like our own Udupis the waiter just ranted a list in Tamil. I just said "Vegetarian, no Tamil" and gestured with my hands to indicate anything that tastes good. He nodded his head.

Then came a young boy with Plantain leaves. Before I realized there was a mound of rice on it, assorted side dishes. Now I can say with conviction that it was not Chettinad cuisine, me not a big fan of Chettinad cuisine. I did not know the names of any of the dishes, but the moment I ate it I knew I was in foodie heaven. It did not end there. The waiter came back to me with a small bowl in his hand. It was some sort of curry and he said "Special".. That was it, the most memorable dish in one of the most memorable meals I have ever had. I polished the entire bowl clean in a few minutes and asked for more. But the waiter said something in Tamil with a sad face. Looking at my bewildered face, the lady next to me said 'over, no more'. That was sad. But I had enjoyed my meal so much that I forgot the Rickshaw ride from Chennai.

Then there are days when I feel like eating that most memorable dish, something rich, creamy and makes the day extra special by touching a treasured memory. It was on one such day that I prepared this dish. It is buttery and fatty just like the food served in eateries I just mentioned. It is indeed so rich that a little goes a long way. I threw in some spinach to give it some body and Panner to make it extra special. Oh! ok, Panner because Sunny boy loves it.

So here it is Palak, Panner Butter Masala
We will need,

Spinach  1 lb
Peanut oil 1 tbsp

Fennel seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Onion diced 1 small

Turmeric powder 1/4 tsp
Dhania power 1.5 tsp
Chilly powder to taste
Tomatoes 1/2 lb
Garam Masala 2 generous pinches
Butter 50 gram /half a stick
Panner 1/2 cup cut into cubes

  • Wash and chop the spinach and set it aside. 
  • Heat oil in a kadai and throw in the fennel seeds and cumin. Once they splutter, add the onions.
  • Saute the onions till golden in color and throw in the spice powders. Saute the spices for a 20-30 seconds till they are fragrant and add the tomatoes.
  • Cook till the tomatoes are pulpy. Add the spinach and cover till the spinach wilts down about 7-10 minutes.
  • Throw in the Garam Masala, adjust salt and cook for a few minutes. 
  • Throw in the Panner and butter, simmer till the Panner is heated through. 
  • Serve hot with Rotis.