One funny episode that occurred soon after my marriage. My brother in law's marriage occurred within six months of mine and my sister in law and I, both new brides were quite new to traditional cooking, we were more interested in fun stuff like samosas and bajji's/ fritters, I guess :-). R's grandparents had come out to visit us and we all had gone out shopping together. While shopping as we became aware of the time, we realized that dinner would be delayed if we all hung out till the shopping got done entirely. So my mother in law suggested that the two of us head home and get a start on the dinner. The plan was to have dosai (savory crepes) and chutney as a light dinner. So both of us came home ahead of the rest of the family and started out making the chutney.
Once we started on the chutney,both of us realized that we were not sure about the correct recipe. Both of us knew that there was coconut and chillies but not sure which chillies, is it red? is it green? does anything else go into it?....basically we were clueless. Now this was before cell phones were common, so we could not call up our mother in law to ask her and we were too nervous to wait until everyone was home. So we decided to wing it and hope it worked out well.. The two of us created a chutney with red chillies and coconut and I cannot even remember what else :-) As you know, the traditional coconut chutney uses fresh green chillies not dried red ones, it also need a whole lot of other ingredients that we missed :-(
Anyway we got everything " ready" and the family arrived and my mother in law came to the kitchen to see how things were going. We fessed up to her as soon as she walked into the kitchen and asked her if what we made was okay. She was quite surprised to see the "chutney" we made and a little surprised that we would know how to make this basic chutney. We were so embarrassed that we did not know something this basic and we were having guests too. My mother in law is such a sweet heart, she did not make a big deal out of it and just fixed the chutney the best she could to make it as tasty as possible.
Now I look back at that episode and laugh about it, but at that time it seemed like such a disaster to me and I felt so mortified and determined to learn things the right way. I have since spent a lot of time writing down traditional recipes from my mother in law and learning as much as possible from her. Thogayal is one such traditional south Indian recipe that is a chutney with hummus like consistency. Thogayal is made either out of herbs like cilantro, veggies like onions or lentils too.It can either be mixed with rice or served to pair with dosais (crepes) or idlis (steamed cakes) or any other snack/ breakfast item. This one is versatile enough to be used in a sandwich or used as a dip for veggies or chips.
Ingredients and Method to make Onion chutney (Thogayal)
Onion 2 medium (cut fine)
lime sized tamarind soaked in enough water to cover it fully
Dry red chillies 5 (or according to taste)
2 1/2 tsp split or whole black gram lentil (udad dhal)
1/4 tsp asafoetida (hing)
2 tsp oil
salt to taste
Place the tamarind along with the water in a microwave safe bowl and heat on high for about 10 to 15 seconds until the water is warm.
Extract tamarind juice by pressing the tamarind and pour into another container or bowl and keep aside, discard the pulp and seeds of the tamarind.
Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan and when hot lower heat to medium and add black gram lentil to it.
When the black gram lentil turns reddish add the dry red chillies and asafoetida and saute once or twice
Immediately add the onions and saute until onions are almost transparent. Add the tamarind juice to this and let it boil until the juice is boiled down to a thick consistency.
Cool this mixture and grind in food processor or blender until it is a smooth puree.Add salt to this and mix well. Serve as required
This thogayal can be refrigerated and used within 3-4 days.