The holiday season is often filled with family get-togethers and fun conversations.In my family as I suspect is the same with many others , very often the talks involve serious discussions relating to food ,at all levels. Over one such meet up recently we got chatting about what we do when we are ravenous and the pantry is completely devoid of snacks.
While one cousin spoke unabashedly about unleashing her appetite on white bread spread liberally with salted butter and mixed fruit jam , another spoke about downing half a tin of condensed milk with cream crackers or bread. How we laughed at our gluttonous tendencies which we were careful not to reveal to our children ! Many in my family are also known for their insatiable need for milk powder and baby cereal. So much so,one of the sisters has to carry it in her trouser pockets during travel. How on earth does a grown woman manage to surreptitiously chow down a packet of dehydrated milk is a secret known only to the likes of her ! She claims to have passed on the technique to her own off-spring; it’s only fair that such talents must be nurtured from young! 😉 We’ve all collectively decided on a milk powder gift hamper for her birthday 😀
Listening to all of their ravenous tales it was apparent just how much our food leanings have to do with our growing up years ! While it was fun listening to their favourite foods,I on the other hand love to soak in the slight chill of a December evening with a hot beverage and a warm spicy snack. My sister-in-law echoed my thoughts when she spoke about conquering hunger pangs at 4 pm with a slice of bread toasted on the tava with a thick layer of homemade coriander thokku. Apparently she and my mother were ravenous and this is what they rustled up. She said that it hit the spot and was just so delicious ! That triggered off a whole bunch of memories.
Not only was it mum’s favourite tea time snack growing up but it was also many a time a weekend snack that brought such comfort.The olive green chutney would be spread on thick slices of bread and placed on a hot pan to which was added a drizzle of home ghee.The wet chutney would sizzle a bit and get a crunchy coating from the ghee.It would be flipped over deftly a few times so as not to let it burn or stick to the pan. It would be served at just the right warmth and I’ve forgotten how many times my mother and I have eaten this right through my growing up years with me chattering away non-stop.
There’s another reason why this chutney in particular is special.I would love to hear stories about when my mother was at boarding,how the girls at hostel craved for home food.It was referred to as ‘tuck’,she said. One item that was consistent in the parcel of food sent for my mother was apparently a bottle of this coriander chutney. She says it saved her and her roommates from near starvation many a time.
When I first started experimenting with different chutneys , I made simpler( read healthier )versions of this coriander chutney .I used lemon,lentils and what not to substitute for the traditional chutney which I thought was far too oily to be indulged in. Naturally my efforts didn’t quite hit the mark .I had no choice but to turn to my grand–aunt Sarojini who makes the most delicious “kothumalli thokku” that I have ever tasted.
She was amused but went through the process with me nevertheless.It was then that I realized that the by following the right technique,the cold pressed oil that was used acted more as a preservative than a cooking medium. Whenever I follow her instructions precisely I’m rewarded with a bottle of intensely aromatic,tangy,spicy thokku. It’s on the days that I’m not paying enough attention,if I’ve added too much water or salt at the wrong time,that it tends to go a bit off balance. So now this thokku has gotten even more special becasue I will think of my grandmother’s youngest sister every time I make it and all the affection I feel for her will be infused into the making of her awesome coriander chutney !
Each time I make this delicious amalgamation of flavours that tantalise the taste buds I make sure to set aside a bottle for my mother. After all what would my holiday food memories be if not for her!
For authentic home made coriander ,onion and tomato thokku:
Alamelu ammayi brand retails at 10 Biryani Mandi