Now, I really don’t want to give you more reasons to think I am weird but in the interest of full disclosure, I want to admit that when I went to Delhi on work for a week earlier this month, I brought back fresh vegetables from the farmer’s market. There, I said it. And before you ask, no, the Singapore customs didn’t mind.
I can never ever resist fresh peas. I think I am wired exactly like my mom in that aspect. Fresh vegetables make us go weak in the knees and from the very early days, she managed to plant this idea in my head that frozen vegetables are just not vegetables anymore. So I rarely buy frozen peas but jump at the fresh ones if I can get my hands on them.
It was Sunday and I was talking to amma and as it often does, our conversation turned to food and recipes. I asked her for typical Kerala restaurant-style peas masala. The watery, spicy, peas-laden side-dish served with Kerala parotta in almost every restaurant. She boo-ed me. In her exact words “why do you want to make that at home? They add maida and who-knows-what-else to make it golu-gola” (referring to thickening of the gravy). I said fine, tell me your version.
And she did.
And it changed my life.
I am not kidding when I say this is the best side dish I have ever made for chapatis. Ever. It’s a bit of grinding and sautéing and stuff, but by God, it’s worth it.
I have two types of appam recipes in the blog – Kerala appam without yeast and spongy appam with yeast. Either would go really well with this peas curry. You can also serve it with rotis or chapatis like I did. This idiyappam recipe may be another good idea.
Kerala-Style Peas Masala Recipe
Source: Amma gave recipe verbally, I adapted it
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
2 cups of shelled peas, fresh or frozen (thawed)
2 tbsp of coriander seeds
3 dry red chillies
1 tsp + 1 tsp of oil
1/4 tsp of turmeric powder
2 large onions, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 cloves of garlic
A small piece of ginger
1 cup of thick coconut milk
1 tsp of garam masala or any curry powder
Salt to taste
1 tbsp coconut oil (or any oil you prefer)
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
A few curry leaves
How to Make Peas Masala:
1. In a small pan, heat the 1 tsp oil and fry the coriander seeds and red chillies until nicely browned. In fact, mine turned almost black, just short of burning, and that’s perfect. Take care not to burn it because that will obviously spoil the peas masala. Set this aside to cool.
2. In a larger pan, heat another tsp of oil and add the chopped onions. Once they brown, add the tomatoes, garlic and ginger. Saute some more until the mixture cooks up and looks mushy – about 4-5 mins. Remove from fire, transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool.
3. In the same pan, add the peas and enough water to cover it completely. Add the turmeric powder and bring to boil, then lower fire to a simmer.
4. Grind the roasted coriander-chilli mixture with some water (just to get it ground up nicely, doesn’t need to be a super smooth paste) and add to the peas.
Mix well and continue to cook on low flame.
5. In the same mixer jar you used for the coriander-chilli mixture, grind the onion mixture to a smooth paste. Don’t add water.
6. Add this mixture to the peas and continue to cook for another 5 mins or until the peas are cooked and turn mushy when you apply pressure. Don’t overcook them though.
7. Add the coconut milk next along with salt. Mix and let it come to boil.
8. As soon as it comes to boil, add the garam masala or any curry powder you like and remove from fire. If you think the gravy is too thick, you can add some water along with the coconut milk. Mine turned out perfect with these proportions.
Time for tempering. Heat the coconut oil in a small pan and add the mustard seeds and curry leaves.
When the mustard seeds start to pop, add to the cooked peas curry and mix well.
Serve Kerala peas masala hot with chapatis, appam, puttu, or parotta. It’s delicious!