On the first weekend of every month, amma would take me for a trip to Subiksha supermarket to buy provisions. I used to hate that ritual. Thoughts about spending that evening shopping and collecting huge bags of lentils, spices soaps, horlicks and other necessaries for the house petrifies me every month. If I get lucky, it would also be a day for a color book or a painting box or a fancy ruler/pencil/eraser at the Murugan stationary store on the way. She wouldn't buy anything for herself, she feels shopping just for the heck of it is a waste of time and money. She would always ask me about how people find time for window shopping. She is a simple women with practical dreams.
Subiksha supermarket was located at the left side, diagonally opposite to a wine shop. The roads were always busy as the famous Station road of West Mambalam was right behind it and further away was the more so famous Ranganathan street with a railway station separating both the streets. Most part of this lane sells vegetables and fruits - plump pumpkins, round oranges, juicy apples, crisp cucumbers, beautiful red tomatoes, piles of okra that would click when amma snaps its tail. That's how she tests for freshness till date. If not in a good mood, the vendor would snap back,"Just touch the vegetables madam, don't break them open".
Its a narrow alley always packed with thousands and thousands of people. Cows would block the traffic, two-third of the road on both sides occupied by the pavement shops, crows scavenging on the dirts, non-stop honking sound, scooter and bicycles on a bumper-to-bumper distance and pedestrians would walk in the middle between the vehicles that inche their way in that tiny street. I hate it. Amma wouldn't stop at Subiksha alone, she will say we should walk till the end of Station road to buy fresh greens and vegetables. Even though I would fuss and make faces, amma wouldn't budge. After a point I would surrender as my attitude and grumbling would annoy her mood, already irritated with the dirt and noise in the surrounding.
Shopkeepers would sit on a small stool, elevated high from the platform, screaming out their prices and promising to offer a better deal if bought in bulk."Come madam! Fresh, fresh" called the vendors pointing at their produce. Amma found Station road greens the best and freshest of the lot. When I complain to walk till there, she would say that the one our regular Keeraikari (Lady who sells greens and herbs) brings are wilted and few days old.
At one end of the lane was the sugarcane juice stall, amma would order two and say "No ice, no water, just the plain juice". After sipping the delicious juice till the last drop, we would walk back to the provision store to pick up our stuffs. Before that, we would stop at the Music shop to check whether any new Carnatic songs cassettes arrived. We would head back home tired and hungry. Chapati and dhal for dinner today, she will announce as appa and I would help her unpack the groceries.
Finally amma learned to make good chapatis, I thought to myself that day. She has come a long way in the art of chapati making. South Indian families atleast the Tamilians I know weren't familiar with the process of chapati making. Even the ones we get in Saravana Bhavan are different. Achi, amma, perimma, who ever it is,their chapatis would be sticky, oily, bulky and I have always wondered how my North Indian friend's mom would make soft, fluffy,easily tearable, chewable ones. Well, over the years my mom had learned it well and she is a pro now.
Here I am sharing my post about making good chapatis and also methi murgh (chicken cooked with fenugreek leaves) to go with it.
3 cups whole wheat flour (atta)
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 cups water ( use per requirement)
1. Whisk the flour and salt in a large deep bowl. Sprinkle handful of water over the flour. Mix with the hand. Keep adding water little by little until you reach a soft dough.
2. Keep massaging them with two hands to smooth out the dough. More the kneading, the gluten will break down well. Roll them into a ball and set aside covered with a moist kitchen towel or damp cloth for 30 minutes.
3. Roll out the dough into a long cylinder about 8cm length. Slice them into 1cm cubes and roll each into a ball.
4. Set a pastry brush, oil, flour on the work station. Sprinkle flour on the surface and place one ball. Flatten them to a circle and sprinkle flour on top. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a circle of 2 cm radium.
5. Spread oil over its surface with a brush and fold them into a triangle.
6. Sprinkle flour again on the dough and on the surface to avoid tearing.
7. Roll out the triangle to form a large triangle and set aside until you are done with the remaining dough.
8. Heat a flat tava ( saucepan) for 5 minutes on medium flame. Keep your hand on the surface, if you cann't keep the hand for more than 2 seconds, then you are ready to get started.
9. Place the chapati carefully without tearing them apart. Cook for 2 seconds and flip them over. Cook for 4- 5 minutes and then turn them over for the other side to cook for 2-3 minutes. Brush little ghee or oil on its surface as they are done.
10. Set aside and serve with your side dish for the day.
1. Cover with a damp cloth to avoid cracking on the dough.
2. Use the flour and never store it for days together.
3. Don't add too much oil during its making.
4. Once cooked, covered the hot chapati with a damp cloth until ready to serve.
Methi murgh - Chicken cooked with fenugreek leaves
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds chicken - cubed
2 cups fenugreek leaves (fresh) - chopped
1 large red onions - chopped
1 large tomato - chopped
1 tablespoon garlic - minced
1 tablespoon ginger - minced
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder ( highly spicy)
2 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
Salt to taste
1. Heat oil in a large cooking pan. Once the oil ripples, add the ginger-garlic paste and saute for 30 seconds.
2. Then add the onions and a teaspoon salt and let it cook covered for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the turmeric, red chili and coriander powder. Saute for a minute till the raw smell disappears. Then mix in the tomatoes and saute for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add the chicken and mix well to combine. Cook covered for 10 minutes. After that add the fenugreek leaves and cook covered on medium-low flame for further 25-30 minutes.
4. Don't add any water and let it cook in its own water. Sprinkle garam masala and check for salt.