In each issue of the Matchless Gift magazine, head chef Maitreya prabhu shares a recipe. In issue 3, he shares a recipe for Kaalan Melagu Masala.
Recipe for Kaalan Melagu Masala (mushroom pepper fry)
300g baby button mushroom, cleaned and stemmed
6 tbsp groundnut oil
2 medium size tomatoes and 2 small tomatoes
1/3 white cabbage
3 tbsp peppercorn whole
1 tbsp fennel seeds
Handful fresh curry leaves
1 heaped tsp hing/asafoetida
1 heaped tsp kashmiri chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 heaped tsp coriander power
1 inch ginger
Clean and prep your mushrooms by taking out the stem. The final weight of the mushrooms altogether must be 300 grams, otherwise, the taste will not be excellent. Make a fine purée, along with the ginger (peeled completely, otherwise the taste will be slightly bitter), of the tomatoes in a blender. Wash the curry leaves. Prepare a fine powder out of the peppercorn and the fennel. These should not be roasted before grinding, and they should be ground during the preparation of the prasadam. The powder can be stored fresh for up to 6 months and preserve its flavor, but it is best used immediately. Black pepper loses its aroma quickly.
Heat 6 TBSP of groundnut oil in a large kadai. A kadai, or a wok if a kadai is not available, is a good instrument to use because of its shape to stir ingredients quickly and avoid burning. Heat the kadai or wok to high heat.
Add the cabbage and cook on high flame until it becomes somewhat caramelized. Add the curry leaves and sputter them for a few seconds. Add the tomato ginger puree, and add the turmeric powder, coriander powder, hing (asafoetida), and chili powder.
Keep the mixture cooking on a high flame for 7 minutes, and the oil from the mixture should nicely float on top of the tomato mixture. This indicates that the masala has cooked the raw smell and taste out. If the oil doesn’t float, the flavor doesn’t come.
At this stage, add the mushrooms. They will release water and cook in the same. It should take 5 minutes, depending on the number of mushrooms (for the amount recommended here, it should take 5 minutes).
The mixture will become more liquid-ish at first and then thicken while cooking. Hot water can be added at this stage if the mixture is very thick and if you want to take it with rice, as the consistency when more watery will be better with rice. If it is semi-thick, it is best taken with idli or chapati, or if it is dry (not so much sauce except coating the mushrooms), it is best taken with chapati. The consistency can be changed by the duration of cooking.
After 5 minutes or when the mushrooms change color completely and shrink slightly, add 2 heaped tsp of the prepared pepper powder. You can add more if you like the flavor of pepper, but fair warning, it does get spicy.