Winter has settled beautifully over Pune . The mornings kick off really cold and all throughout the day the air is pleasantly cool even with strong sunshine. It makes going out, even to do daily chores a pleasurable activity . I mean you don't return home all sweaty and feeling all dusty and gritty. So I am enjoying it while it lasts. Another lovely delight is the wonderful veggies that are available in this season. The greenest of greens can be seen at the grocers and everything is so fresh that you want to buy even those veggies that you wouldn't know how to cook.:))
And to top it all I have found this wonderful little stall that sells organic vegetables.. Yes !! really delicious and fresh and the tastiest of organic fruit and veg is available to me on my daily morning walk route. The spinach and methi are awesome , the ginger and garlic are so packed with flavour that I was completely zapped the first time I used them , but the star attraction for me are the sweet limes. They are sugar sugar sugar sweet. I have never eaten a sweet lime that has so lived up to its name. And of course I must mention the carrots. To look at they are quite unattractive , but they are sensational to taste. We have been eating bagfuls of carrots and practically fighting over them at the dinner table. Last week though I also bought a whole load of green peas from the same place and these too passed taste and freshness test with full marks.
Now in most Maharastrian households you will find that this mataar usal (call it green peas curry) is cooked for dinner at 5/6 times during these cold winter days. Firstly because the best of green peas are available in abundance and secondly and more importantly it is a very comforting and soul warming to eat this hot and spicy usal on a cold winter evening with soft slices of bread ,dollops of homemade white butter (लोणी) ,thinly sliced onions and wedges of lemon.
The bread soaks up this thin runny curry or (रस्सा ) and each mouthful is a delight.
So here goes: (For mataar usal for 4 people)
1/2 kg green peas (boiled )
For the green masala paste)
3/4 cup fresh grated coconut
1.5 cups fresh coriander
juice of 1/2 a lemon
5 to 6 small cloves of garlic
2 tspns jeera
1 large onion (optional)
1 tspn salt
2 tblspns jaggery
5 tblspns oil for tempering
2 tspns mustard
1/4 tspn hing
4 to 5 tea cups of water (start with 4 and add the last one only if you want a very thin curry)
Boil the peas until slightly soft. They don't have to be completely cooked at this stage as we will be cooking them further later
In your grinder put all the green masala ingredients and grind to a fine paste. Don't forget the lemon juice as this retains the green colour of the dish.
In a pan heat the oil and temper it with mustard and hing.
Add the green masala paste to the pan and fry it on a moderate heat for 5 minutes. Adjust the heat so that the masala does not burn
Now add the boiled peas , water and jaggery and increase the heat to high
Bring the usal to a roaring boil and then lower the heat back to moderate. Give it a taste. It will need more salt but do taste it first before adding any. Let it boil on a moderate heat until the peas are completely cooked and the oil in the curry rises to the top.
Give it a final taste and immediately transfer the usal to a glass serving bowl so that the fresh green colour is retained. Leaving the usal in the pan tends to darken it in colour.
As I said before enjoy it with fresh bread, butter and an onion salad.