Hesarakalu huli (Green gram curry)

My mom’s little sister makes this curry so well. The use of fresh cilantro, charred onions and curry leaves roasted in ghee brings out the true taste of this vegetarian dish. Yum!
            I spent summer vacation in the village with their family when I was 12. They had a huge house, a joint family, where 3 brothers, their wives and children, cows, goats, helpers and maids lived. It is a very common style of village living, even today. Vanja aunty has 3 daughters, and we played all day in the acres of vineyards, and Sapota (juicy fleshy brown tropical fruit) orchards. On a hot summer day, it would be swimming in their huge, newly constructed well. Uncle would tie empty plastic cans to keep us kids afloat in that deep water. Swimming in a pool is something; these large wells are a whole other thing. So deep! I never cared that they mocked me to be a city kid. The fear that green little garden snakes may emerge from the rocks (man spooky or what? ) kept me on the steps most of the time. Gallons of hot water boiled in mulberry wood after a tiring swim was so relaxing! The only thing I could not stand was waiting for the bathroom in the mornings. Why did they have just one for so many people?
Vanja aunty is still the same. Mother Teresa as we call her goes out of her way to help people in need. Her talkativeness, quick cooking, and sense of humor, are to die for.
What I used: Serves 4
1 cup hesarakalu (whole green gram)
1 medium tomato chopped
1 medium onion, half chopped, half kept by the burning stove to char.
3 scallion sticks finely chopped
1 tsp curry powder
1tsp whole dry tamarind or ½ tsp tamarind paste
2tsp fresh or dry coconut (optional)
4 sticks of fresh cilantro
½ tsp hing
Salt to taste
For tempering:
1tsp ghee/oil, ½ tsp each – mustard and cumin seeds, 3 or 4 curry leaves and 2 whole red chilies.

Dry roast the hesarakalu, till they are nice and hot, browning a bit. Add 3 cups of hot water, and salt; bring it to a boil on high heat. In about 10 minutes, the grams should be cooked to a little soft texture. Be sure to put half an onion right next to the burner so it chars. Set aside.

In a blender, add 1 tsp of the boiled gram, charred onion, 2 tsp raw chopped onion, tamarind, curry powder, coconut and fresh cilantro. Make a paste.
Ina  medium saucepan, add 1tsp ghee. On medium heat, add mustard and cumin, cover. When the splattering reduces, add curry leaves and red chilies. Now add all the remaining chopped onions. Cook to a brown. Add tomatoes and cook till soft and pulpy.

Add the masala paste. Cook for a couple of minutes. Now add the cooked grams and add salt. Cook it on medium high for 5 minutes till all the vegetables and grams cook to soft texture. Don’t walk away from the curry, or it will burn. Add in the chopped scallions. Bring the heat back up to medium. Cook for a minute or two. 

Garnish with cilantro. Serve with soft cooked rice or ragi mudhe.