This is was a chutney borne out of my experiments in the kitchen with ingredients left over in the refrigerator. It was one of those days when your heart craves for steaming hot crisp dosas accompanied with garam sambar and chutney, only to realise that you are basically out of a couple tomatoes and coconut slices! Ditto with the cilantro and the mint was already dry and on its way out! I was left with a bag of fresh carrots and of course ginger that keeps for a long time so I decided to marry them off together to make something flavourful. Carrots are packed with beta carotenes and I always love this Ginger Carrot Creamy Soup so I decided they would complement each other in this chutney…they did and how!!!
1 Inch Ginger peeled and sliced in to long pieces.
2 Carrots peeled and diced.
1 tomato diced.
Small gooseberry sized ball of tamarind.
1 Tsp Jaggery.
2 Green Chillies.
1/2 Cup Peanuts. (Use roasted de-skinned variety to save time)
- If you only have the raw variety on hand, roast the peanuts on a dry tava for a couple minutes and when cooled remove the skin. Set aside.
- In a kadai, add a tsp of oil and when its hot, add the split green chillies, ginger, and allow it to saute for a few minutes.
- Then add the tomatoes and saute until they are mushy.
- At this point add the diced carrots and allow to mix well.
- Add salt and then the tamarind and jaggery and when they all come together switch off the flame.
- When all the ingredients cool off, puree in the mixie to a smooth paste.
- Transfer to a serving bowl and season in oil with mustard, urad dhal and curry leaves. I was in a dash and clicked this pic before seasoning it!
- Serve with soft Idlis or Spicy Chettinadu Cauliflower Masal Dosa.
The first time I ever had Corn Au Gratin was at Mathsya Restaurant on Mount Road, Chennai. I had no idea what an “au gratin” was and the only real reason I ordered the dish when my other cousins had chosen Matar Pulav and fried rice was I liked the way that it sounded all fancy and french! But when I got the dish all I could see was white gooey mass cleverly filled in a serving dish with a lovely golden crust with a splash of green chopped cilantro. But the minute I dug in to it, I was transported to food heaven….it was a celebration of soft, white sauce, a dash of pepper, pieces of sweet corn, with clear undertones of butter and cheese….there was no looking back. I now had a new favourite dish. I tried it in every new restaurant we would dare to try. This was officially my new benchmark for my judgement on a restaurant.
The next best time that I can definitely recall was at Eden, Besant Nagar, Chennai. It was called “Corn Florentine” and was just priced at 150 rupees! It was absolutely amazing, hot, and gooey filled with cheese and I am guessing spinach. My daughters loved it and enjoyed the textures and tastes! When we came back to the US she wanted me to recreate the dish for her at home. It is an easy dish to make, with ingredients available at home. If you already have the bechamel sauce made ahead, all you need to do it add corn and spinach and cauliflower and bake! That simple! I promise you, it would never be disappointing. Such a lovely wholesome dish filled with corn and spinach and any other vegetable you like served with warm toast!!!
1 MediumOnion Finely chopped.
1 cup Finely shredded cauliflower.
2 Cups Fresh Corn.
Salt to taste.
1 – 1 1/2 Tsp Pepper Powder.
1/4 Tsp Dried Oregano.
4 Tbsp Butter.
4 Tbsp All Purpose Flour.
1 3/4 Cup Milk.
1/3 Cup Shredded Cheese. (Anything cheese that melts easily but not get too sticky – I used a combination of Asadero, Mozarella and sharp Cheddar.)
- In a wide mouthed kadai add 1 tsp of butter and allow it to melt slowly. Add the finely chopped onions and let them saute well.
- Meanwhile pop the cauliflower in the food processor and give it a quick pulse. I prefer to pulse the cauliflower as this easily blends in to the dish without sticking out, yet providing valuable body and soul to the dish.
- You can omit the cauliflower if needed.
- Once the onions are sauted add the cauliflower and corn. Add salt to the veggies and allow them to cook for a couple minutes. Switch off and set aside.
- In a clean kadai add the 4 tbsp of butter and allow to melt. Slowly add the all purpose flour and whisk briskly under medium low flame.
- Allow the flour to cook in the butter and whisk briskly until it turns a light yellowish shade.
- Slowly add the milk and continue stirring. The roux mixes in to the milk and you get a lovely creamy off white sauce.
- Keep stirring until all the flour has dissolved in to the milk.
- Add the pepper powder, salt and oregano and stir it well.
- Now add the shredded cheese and allow to slowly melt.
- Switch off the flame and set aside.
ASSEMBLING THE AU GRATIN:
- Preheat the oven to 350F/ 180 C and grease an oven proof pan. I used a 9 inch cake pan.
- Add the cooked veggies to the white sauce and stir well. Taste at this point to check if the spice from the black pepper and the salt are fine. Adjust the levels now as you cant alter anything once the dish is baked.
- Pour in to the baking pan and top with bread crumbs. This renders the au gratin with a lovely crusty top filled with gooey goodness inside, but can be totally omitted if you prefer to.
- Top with more shredded cheese and pop in to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes DEPENDING ON THE STRENGTH OF THE OVEN , THE CAPACITY, THE BAKING DISH ETC.
- KEEP AN EYE ON THE AU GRATIN TO MAKE SURE YOU DONT LET IT BURN OR OVERCOOK.
- When done, keep outside to cool for a few minutes.
- Serve piping hot au gratin with warm toast on the side.
- The consistency of the white sauce before baking should be creamy and silky. When you dip a ladle in to the sauce, it should coat it well and not be runny.
- The consistency of the baked au gratin should be a little soft and gooey but NOT runny.
- Add chopped spinach if you have some in your refrigerator. Corn and Spinach Au gratin has a totally out of the world taste!
- The first time I made au gratin I had used little pepper so this made the final dish a little bland. Pepper is the only spice and taste in this dish, so go ahead and spice it up!
- Adding one or two garlic pods before adding the onions to the butter give it another twist to the au gratin altogether!
During my initial days of my banking career, before marriage, I had to report for work an hour before the other staff came in, so I could learn the ropes without the disturbance of customers at my desk . Some of my colleagues commuted from afar, so they used to be at work at 8 AM and so breakfast at work was inevitable. Many of them used to get idlis for breakfast every single day and the sides for the Idlis would be a variety of chutneys and sambars. Pudina chutney, tomato garlic chutney, red chilli chutney, andhra tomato sesame chutney, tamil nadu white coconut chutney, onion chutney, tomato thokku etc. Every day a different side or chutney, rendered in itself a totally different taste to the idlis. I always enjoyed going to work early and settling in, taking in the peace of the mornings, checking mails, and having a healthy breakfast reading the news on the paper on my desk, and grabbing my cuppa. When I think back on those days of crazy deadlines, sales targets, customer interactions and late meetings, I cant believe it is a world, that I have left far far behind!!!
Whenever I make chutneys, I always recollect those days with a smile….
1 Cup Roasted and Peeled Peanuts.
1/2 Big Red Onion or 1 Medium Onion.
3 Dry Red Chillies.
3 Garlic Flakes.
Small pinch of jaggery.
Small Tamarind Piece soaked in 1/2 cup water.
Pinch of Turmeric.
1 Tsp Broken Urad Dhal.
- Add a spoon of oil in a kadai and allow to heat. Pop in the chopped garlic and red chillies and a pinch of turmeric and saute it for a few minutes.
- Now add the chopped onions and saute them well.
- Switch off the flame and allow to cool.
- Warm the tamarind soaked in water in the microwave for about a minute.
- In a mixer add the roasted peanuts (with skin removed), the contents of the kadai, jaggery, tamarind with the water, salt and pulse to a smooth chutney consistency.
- Season with mustard, urad dhal, curry leaves and hing.