Tambdi Bhajji- My Red Greens!

I am ambivalent about beets. Some things I just love, some things-not so much. Walk into a grocery store, there are some things I pick up the moment I see them. Then there are some that I give a wide berth to, even though the good marketing people of the store have placed it right in front of the door so that a customer cannot go in without checking them out. With beets, I am somewhere in between. I look at the beets and keep staring at them wondering. Should I or Shouldn’t I? After the third scorching look from the lady who seems to be waiting to buy the beets, I move ahead to buy the rest of the things I definitely want. “When was the last time I ate them? I think it was the time I made Beet Halwa. Maybe I should pick some carrots and make Gajar ka Halwa. Which reminds me I need to pick up a good bollywood movie. With a lots of song and dance. What is it with those movies that do not have songs anymore? How is someone like Salman Khan supposed to survive without songs that he could dance to as if he was crushing mushrooms under his feet? Speaking of which, I need to get some Mushrooms. Where are they? Oh, there they are, right besides the beets. Oh Beets, hmmm, Should I or shouldn’t I?” A quick look back ascertains the lady actually wanted to buy the leeks below the beets. “I definitely do not need leeks this week. But, the Bok Choy looks good. Maybe a chinese stir-fry this weekend. When was the last time I cooked Chinese? …”

Last week, I actually went ahead and bought them, not because of the roots themselves, but for the lush greens that were attached to them. They were beautiful and this time I didn’t have to think before I picked them up. I had an idea how I was going to cook them. My mom made this koddel using Red Amaranth leaves which we call Tambdi Bhajji effectively Red Greens. My brother, then a toddler, fell in love with this koddel, most probably attracted to it by its color. Somewhere down the line, the leaves that were available in the market lost their ability to generate the bright red that my brother loved and my mom, endowed with the wisdom that parents have, to make sure kids do not stop eating stuff that are actually healthy, started adding beets to it. Result,bright red curry and brother still loves it. I do not get the Red Amaranth leaves in my neck of the woods. So I substitute them with the beet greens and add chopped beets to it. Red, Red Koddel that my son was very excited about and gulped down without a fuss. The apple(or is it the beet 🙂 ) doesn’t fall far from the tree, it seems.

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Tambdi Bhajji

Cook (I pressure cook them, can be cooked in a partially covered 2 quart pot on the stove top)

*1 medium sized Beet,peeled, chopped into bite-sized cubes
*corresponding Beet Stalks, chopped into about 2 inches pieces
*One Bunch Beet Greens,washed, drained and chopped
*Salt, to taste

If not pressure cooking, then partially cook the beets and stalks before adding the greens and the salt in.
Meanwhile, grind into a smooth paste

*1/2 cup unsweetened, fresh grated coconut
*4-5 Dried Red Chillies, roasted in a little bit of oil, till it plumps up
*Tamarind, size of a marble or 1/4 tsp Tamarind Concentrate
*Water, as required

Smooth Paste would be till it is a homogenous mixture and the grated coconut does not feel grated anymore.
Once the Beets and the Greens have cooked through-the beets should disintegrate when pressed-, lower the flame to medium-low and add the

*Coconut+Chillies+Tamarind Paste

Let it come to a boil and cook till the coconut foam on top subsides about 5 minutes.
Finish with a garlic phanna (tadka) .

Heat on a low flame

*1 tsp Coconut Oil
*3-4 Garlic Cloves, crushed with their skins on

Heat the garlic and oil together and cook till the skins on the garlic turn golden. Add to the koddel and immediately cover. Mix in before serving.

Serve with Rice, cooked Plain and a Upkari, maybe chilled buttermilk on the side.
Looks like a good ‘red’ entry to JFI-Greens. Also, I nickname it ‘Laal Bhajji’ and send it across to A to Z of Indian Vegetables-Letter ‘L’.
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Note : The leaves of the Red Amaranth available in India are completely red and not striped as seen in the site linked to above. I remember my mom complaining that they are just not that red anymore and can only guess that maybe a variety between the striped and the red one came into the market.

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Sungat Phana Upkari(Prawn Pickle)

Sungat Phana Upkari (Prawn Pickle)

I love this dish. Sungat is Konkani for prawns or shrimps or anything else you want to call them. A rose by any other name ……

This is made with small shrimps, the ones that require an eternity to be cleaned. I remember bapama , mom and sometimes dad sitting and patiently doing the necessary.I use the salad shrimp for this dish and I use the deshelled and de-veined variety. So its a breeze.

Onion 2 medium size chopped finely.
Shrimp About 2 cups.

Roasted Whole Red Chillies 15-18 (told ya , it is HOT!!)
Tamarind Paste 1 tsp
Oil, Salt.

Grind the roasted whole chillies and tamarind paste into a fine paste.Cook onion in a little oil. After softened, add red chillies+tamarind paste, shrimp and salt. Cover and cook till the seafood is cooked through. Remove from flame and top with a tsp of raw coconut oil.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm……

Batata Song (Potato with Red Chillies and Tamarind)

Konkani Curries are mostly a blend of fresh grated Coconut,roasted Red chillies and Tamarind. However, there are those side dishes that skip the coconut part and concentrate just on Red Chillies and Tamarind, hmmmmmmmmmmm…my favorite kind . The heat from the chillies is toned down by the sourness of the tamarind. A little bit of roasted coriander seeds to cool down the palate is added ,however that is strictly optional. 

Traditionally, Coconut Oil is used in konkani cooking. But , You have to use the good variety. (Kind of like extra virgin olive oil). If you cant find the good one ( aka…one that doesnt smell of rancid coconuts), you might as well use any other oil. The red chillies are roasted in a little bit of coconut oil. Normally, in any konkani kitchen, you will find a week longs supply of whole red chillies roasted and kept aside as there is nary a konkani dish that doesnt use it. Any other spice that requires roasting is done as and when required. As for the tamarind, I use the bottled variety.

The recipe below is my bapama's recipes. Hence, I dont have any specific measurements.
Everthing is just eyeballed. However, I have tried to give approximate quantities.
Here are a couple of dishes. Consider yourself warned, you are entering the hot zone.

Batata Song (Potato in a chilli-tamarind gravy)

Before you ask me, let me tell you, I have no idea why this dish is called a song. I dont know if the word song has any other meaning in konkani. All I know is that this simple onion and potato curry zinged with the chilly+tamarind conoctation, makes my taste buds sing.

Onion 2 medium size chopped finely.
Potato 3 medium size boiled and chopped into bite size pieces.

Whole Red Chillies 8-10
Tamarind Paste 1/2 tsp
Coriander seeds 1/2 tsp
Oil, Salt.

Roast Red Chillies and coriander seeds in a little bit of oil. Grind together with tamarind paste and little bit of water if required. Cook onion in a little bit of oil. After it has softened, add the ground paste, salt and potatoes. Add enough water to bring it the consistency of a semi-dry curry. Cook till everthing blends together. Batata song is ready.

The same curry can be made with mushrooms instead of potatoes. The ones used traditionally are small button size ones, the ones that I only find canned here. Baby portabellos most resemble the taste of the mushrooms I have had in India. I have also used the normal white mushrooms that you find in grocery stores here,they work out great too.