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Friday, June 05, 2020

The Back Burner: Spicy peanut powder for a quick meal

This won’t keep for too long, even when stored in an air-tight container, so use it within a couple of weeks of making.

Written by Pooja Pillai | Updated: April 18, 2020 7:40:39 pm
peanut podi Spicy and garlicky Rayalaseema-style peanut podi. (Source: Pooja Pillai)

The days are getting longer and hotter and it’s become nearly impossible to stand in my small, unventilated kitchen to roll out the full roti-subzi-dal type of meal at lunchtime. This is when my small collection of podis (chutney powders) comes in handy. I usually try to have molaga podi (also known as gunpowder) in stock, to eat at breakfast with idlis and dosas, and about 10 days ago, I had dug out some grated coconut from the back of my fridge and dry roasted and ground it with some other ingredients (recipe in my next post, I promise) to make chammanthi podi, which is one of the richest and most complex podis in terms of flavour. It is a personal favourite and I have it with dosas, idlis, curd rice or even just plain rice.

But, seeing as how much I love this podi, it got over pretty quickly, so today I rustled up another one that doesn’t sing with the same deep flavour notes as the chammanthi podi, but still packs a punch: Rayalaseema-style peanut chutney powder. It’s a pretty simple podi that requires very few ingredients, the most important being, obviously, cheap but nutrient-dense peanuts.

Peanuts are incredible, by the way, and an absolute essential in any Indian pantry. They’re so versatile, making a great addition to salads and dry subzis (roasted/fried and roughly ground) and gravies (ground to fine paste). In many places, like parts of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, they’re an important source of protein, finding their way into dals, stuffed vegetables and chutneys of all types. In fact, chutneys are how I enjoy peanuts best, and one of my most fondly-remembered meals is the simple lunch, comprising jwarichi bhakhri and a thecha (chutney) made of green chillies, peanuts and garlic, that I had one hot afternoon in rural Satara, Maharashtra. Washed down with a large glass of cold chhaas, it satiated me in a way that few meals have.

Anyway, onto my peanut podi. These are the ingredients.

peanut podi ingredients Cumin and coriander seeds; skinned, roasted peanuts; red chillies and garlic; tamarind (Source: Pooja Pillai)

Peanuts (skinned) – 1 cup

Dried red chillies – 3-4 (can increase number depending on how fiery they are)

Garlic – 3-4 pods

Tamarind – a small knob

Cumin seeds – 1 tsp

Coriander seeds – 2 tsp

Salt, to taste

If the peanuts are already roasted, great. Otherwise, roast them first, and while they cool, dry roast the cumin and coriander seeds (together) and the garlic, tamarind and dried red chillies (separately). Make sure the garlic is slightly blistered only, and not burnt (unless you enjoy the bitterness of burnt garlic). If you like the taste of raw garlic, you also have the option of not roasting it. In these days of social distancing, who cares how your breath smells, right? Right.

peanut podi Hot rice, topped with peanut podi and drizzled with ghee. (Source: Pooja Pillai)

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Anyway, once all the ingredients have cooled, grind them together to a coarse-ish consistency. Take breaks as your grind, because if you grind the peanuts in one go, they’re likely to start releasing their fats. Which is fine, I guess, if you want it more pasty and less powdery, but podi means powder, so use your own judgement. You can taste the powder once it’s done and add salt as required. If you’re having it with rice, add some ghee or – if available – gingelly (sesame) oil. Good gingelly oil has a beautiful nutty flavour, so this is the recommended combo.

This won’t keep for too long, even when stored in an air-tight container, so use it within a couple of weeks of making.

The Back Burner is a biweekly blog that will talk about all things food (with recipes, of course)

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