Today is the third day of Sankranti festival and is called ‘Kanuma’ ..traditionally its the day devoted to giving thanks to cattle. Cows and bulls in the villages are adorned with bells on their neck and offered prasadam (food offering). Non-vegetarian delicacies are cooked and all the younger members of the family pay their respects to the elders and the elders gift them money and clothes. According to tradition followed since our forefathers, the new sons-in-law of the family are treated to lavish lunch spread with authentic Andhra non-vegetarian flavours like gongura mamasam (mutton cooked in red sorrel leaves), chepa pulusu (fish cooked in spicy tangy tamarind sauce), kodi kura (chicken curry), royallu vepudu (prawns/shrimp fry) and many more.. on ‘Kanuma’ day.
We had a very sumptuous lunch spread this afternoon with non-vegetarian delicacies being the ‘theme’. During the festive season all the woman folk of the family lend a helping hand in the kitchen and since it’s a large family gathering everybody puts in their best effort to prepare the best tasting food possible that isn’t too hot and has a nice balance of spices with aromatic flavors. They say “Too many cooks spoil the broth” ..well that quote sure doesn’t apply here as many cooks add a lot of love, spice and flavor to the dishes being cooked this festive season. Its fun and that’s what celebrating festivals is all about – a day of sharing, caring, laughter and relaxation.
Today I tried my hand at cooking a traditional Andhra fish gravy recipe, Chepa Pulusu, which is amma’s speciality dish. Chepa Pulusu is fresh fish cooked in a tangy tamarind sauce with freshly ground spices. This particular dish tastes best the next day (after the fish pieces are soaked in the tamarind and spice juices) served with hot steamed white rice and sliced onions. Must say that everyone enjoyed the dish though I felt it was no where compared to amma’s Chepa pulusu. I have come to realise that when I cook traditional recipes, they are so close to my heart as I have grown up eating amma’s cooking and observing how she combines it all together to make the most tasteful dish one can ever eat. I guess it’s the hand of amma’s love.
7-8 fish fillets (mackarel or catfish or tilapia)
1 cup finely chopped onions
4 slit green chillis
1 1/2 tsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp cumin pwd
1 tsp coriander pwd
1 1/2 tsp red chilli pwd
1/4 tsp turmeric pwd
10-12 curry leaves
1 big lemon-sized tamarind pulp (soak tamarind in 1 1/2 cup of warm water and extract thick juice)
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves (optional)
salt to taste
1/2 cup oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp methi seeds (fenugreek)
Heat oil in a wide vessel and add the mustard seeds and let them splutter.Add the methi seeds and let it brown.Add the curry leaves and stir for a few seconds.
Add the chopped onions and fry on medium heat till the onions turn transparent. Add ginger-garlic paste and fry for 3 mts. Add the turmeric pwd, coriander pwd, cumin pwd, red chilli pwd and salt and fry for a minute. Add the tamarind extract and bring it to boil.
Now carefully place the fish pieces in the vessel and cook covered for 3 mts. Add the green chillis. Turn the fish pieces over and cook. Cover and cook on low heat for 10 mts. Let the sauce thicken and till the oil separates or leaves. Adjust salt and garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
Note: Do not stir too much lest the fish pieces break and be gentle while stirring the fish pieces. Serve it after a couple of hours of cooking so that the fish pieces absorb the tangy flavour of the tamarind sauce and spices. In Andhra, we generally prepare this pulusu with Koramenu, Vanjaram, Thella chepa or Bocha. Generally we dry roast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds and dry red chillis and make a powder for this dish.You can use the ready made powders also to save time. But if you have time to spare it would be best to dry roast the spices and make a powder.