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Chettinad spicy mushroom curry (Kaalaan kuzhambu)

Black stone flower, also called kalpasi or dagad phool, is a lichen that grows on rocks and trees. It is common in South Indian cuisine and can be tasted in cuisines from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Marathi cuisines. It is one of those common herbs, but very few people actually use it. It has a mild earthy flavour, but more than the flavour it imparts a beautiful aroma to the dish. The best way that the use of this herb has been described to me is that you enjoy the dish when it is present and always know that it is absent. I think of it as the "umami" agent for Indian cuisine, it completes the dish making it perfect.

This rich mushroom curry is lovely. The mushrooms are smothered in a rich coconut milk-nut-based curry that is complex and delicious. Of course, the black stone flower completes the flavour profile making this dish perfect. This is a mushroom curry that I loved!

This South Indian cookbook brings to my shelf the unique cuisine of the Chettinad Tamils in South India. This, now popular cuisine, is known to be extremely spicy, complex and distinct. This book is a wonderful collection of recipes that makes this cuisine accessible to us at home.

For more recipes from this cookbook click here.




Ingredients:

3 tablespoons oil

2 + 1 teaspoons anise seeds

1 1-inch piece cinnamon stick

1 small bay leaf

1 1-inch piece black stone flower (Kal pasi or dagad phool)

2 onions, finely minced

3 tomatoes, finely chopped

10-12 curry leaves

1/4 cup cilantro, minced

1 tablespoon ginger paste

10 garlic cloves

1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

2 cashew nuts

1/4 cup grated coconut

2 teaspoon chilli powder, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

2 teaspoons ground coriander powder

1 packet of mushrooms, thickly sliced

Salt, to taste

1 cup water


Heat the oil in a pot on medium-low heat and add the whole spices, anise seeds, cinnamon stick, bay leaf and black stone flower. Sautè till the anise seeds take on a light colour. Add the onions and fry till the onions are lightly golden about 4-5 minutes.


Add the tomatoes, curry leaves and cilantro and cook till the tomatoes have broken down and formed a sauce, about 10-12 minutes. If the mix is too dry add a few tablespoons of water to make sure the paste does not burn.


Meanwhile, add the remaining 1 teaspoon of anise seeds, ginger, garlic, cumin, poppy seeds, cashew nuts, and coconut to a small blender and purèe to a smooth paste with a few tablespoons of water. You will need to purèe for a few minutes to break down the poppy seeds and coconut till very smooth.


Once the tomato mix is dry and the oils have begun to separate add the ginger-coconut paste and fry on low heat till the paste is lightly golden and the oils have begun to separate again. Add the spice powders, chilli, turmeric, and coriander and mix into the paste. Coo for 30 seconds taking care to cook the spices but not burn them.


Add the mushrooms and toss well to coat with the masala paste. Add the water and bring it to a boil. Mix the spice paste well into the water and simmer gently for 10 minutes closed. The curry will thicken and the oils will begin to form drops on the surface. The mushrooms should be just cooked but not gooey and mushy.

Take off the heat and serve garnished with cilantro.

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