I stay in Chennai which is relatively warm all around the year barring perhaps the months of December and January. It’s very difficult to keep your system cool – for the simple fact there is no let down on the spice consumed in the various curries Indian cuisine is so famous for. So to balance the acidity of these foods and take a break from the spice, most Indian homes have a bowl of curd on the table served with every meal, it could just be curd or a raita where curd forms the base and is topped with vegetables like cucumber, carrot, onions, tomatoes to name a few and fruits like grapes, pomegranates etc. Raitas could be mildly spiced with cumin, chilli pepper and garnished with a few sprigs of mint or coriander leaves.
Back home from work or even shopping, the first thing I do is open the fridge to check out and see if there is curd or even a small bowl of leftover raita, anything will do as long as it’s cooling.
Below are two raitas which I cook for the family so, so often and I serve it on special occasions too. It never fails to impress the guests and my family – less said the better! be it the cool grape raita or a simple cucumber mint raita or the ones mentioned below- they just love RAITA.
Wah Wah Raita
This is a recipe given to me by my friend, Anu 27 years ago after I got married and moved to Chennai. She had invited me for dinner and I found this particular raita just so irresistible. It is very close to my heart and is a winner every time you serve it. It’s a cooked raita and the magic lies in the slow cooking of the tomatoes and coriander leaves and bringing all the ingredients together to a paste.
- Tomatoes -4 large
- Onions-2 large
- Coriander leaves- 1cup
- Sugar-2 tsp
- Green chillies 3-4 chopped
- Curd -3-4 cups
- Mustard and cumin seeds- 1/2 tsp each
- Raisins and cashew nuts – a few soaked in water
- Curry leaves and salt to taste
- Boil tomatoes in water. Plunge into cold water. Remove skin and chop finely.
- Slice onions finely. Mince green chillies.
- Chop coriander leaves.
- Heat oil and add mustard and cumin seeds.
- Add sliced onions and fry till golden brown.
- Add chopped tomatoes, soaked raisins and cashewnuts, sugar, curry leaves, chopped green chillies and coriander leaves.
- Cook on a slow flame till a paste is formed. (cover and keep for 10-15 minutes, stir occasionally). You could add a little water to help you cook the above paste.
- Add salt and keep to cool.
- Add beaten curd and check for seasoning.
- Serve chilled.
- You cannot substitute tomatoes for tomato purée. The skin of the tomatoes has to be removed before you chop them.
- There should be a balance between the sugar and salt added to the raita.
- The curd for the raita should be fresh and not sour, if sour add a little milk.
- There are lots of people who do not like raisins, just omit the raisins and soak only cashew nuts.
- Do try out a favourite combo of mine – Paneer naan and Wah wah raita- a shortcut to heaven!
The second raita I’m going to share with you is a raita made with the very traditional but versatile pumpkin available in the smallest of vegetable shops. From its shell to the seeds to the flesh the pumpkin is used as a food source. Roasted pumpkin strips, pumpkin seeds served as a snack and finally the sweet flesh baked in a pumpkin pie or even boiled and used as a base for raita!
Follow the recipe and let the goodness of the flavourful pumpkin completely bowl you over.
- Ripe yellow pumpkin- 200 gms. (skin removed and cut into cubes)
- Turmeric powder-1/2 tsp, salt
- Curd- 1-1 1/2 cups (not sour)
- Oil -2-3 tbsp
- Mustard seeds-1 tsp
- Dry red chillies- 2-3
- Curry leaves- a few
- Onion-1 minced
- Green chillies -2-3 minced
- Pressure Cook the pumpkin cubes along with turmeric powder, 1/2 cup of water and salt. (after the first whistle, cook on a low flame for 10 minutes).
- Mash thoroughly. Cool.
- To the beaten curd, add mashed pumpkin and keep aside.
- In hot oil, splutter mustard seeds and add dry red chillies and curry leaves.
- Add minced onion and Green Chillies and fry till brown.
- Cool for 2-3 minutes.
- Add to pumpkin- curd mixture and serve chilled.
- A raita is a perfect blend of salt, sweet and sour and spice. Keep tasting to balance the flavours.
- For a simple tomato and cucumber raita, try and remove the seeds of both as the raita could lose its consistency because of the water content present in the cucumber and tomato.
- Cumin powder, cayenne, Garam masala and chaat masala are the spice powders sprinkled on a raita for added flavour.
- To strike a balance in a meal, a raita is a must.
A recipe has no soul. You, as a cook must bring soul to the recipe- Thomas Keller
Till my next post