“How much spices did you put in, Gramma?”
“This much,” says Grandma, gesturing with her thumb across her fingers.
“How much is that in teaspoons though?”
“I don’t know,” she says, shaking her head, “I don’t use teaspoons and all that, all my cooking is by hand (feel).” Grandma gets a teaspoon out of the drawer, pours the spices into her hand, then back into the teaspoon. “Ah, half a teaspoon is enough, ” she says, nodding her head.
She’s almost hunched over double now, due to her bad back, yet she insists on cooking everyday. And cleaning. She doesn’t do well with sitting still, my Gramma. She wants to know why I need to take pictures of her for the blog when it’s about the recipe and always grins when she catches me taking pictures of her. This is her recipe for mushroom paretal which we always have as a side to dahl. A paretal (pronounced pare-reh-tel) is a style of curry where the liquid is slowly cooked out, so you end up with an intensely flavoured dry curry.
- 500g oyster mushrooms
- 2 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
- 3 dried red chillies, cut in half lengthwise and seeds removed
- ¼ tsp fennel seeds
- ¼ tsp cumin
- ½ tsp black mustard seeds
- ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds (optional)
- 2 small red onions, cut into medium dice
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely diced
- 3 slices ginger, cut into 0.5cm dice
- 1½ tbsp fish curry powder* (Grandma only uses Baba's brand - it's available at Indian grocers)
- ¼ tsp chilli powder
- pinch of salt, to taste
- ¼ tsp vegetable stock powder
- 10-15 curry leaves (optional)
- Tear the oyster mushrooms into smaller pieces of about 1-2cm each, so that when you cook the dry curry you'll have a good spice to mushroom ratio.
- Place the oyster mushrooms in a bowl and pour boiling water over just to cover. Leave for 5 minutes, then drain. I suppose you could skip this part if you wanted, but Grandma says it takes away the earthy mushroom smell.
- To cook the curry, heat the oil in a small pan over a medium heat. It's best to use a nonstick pan as the later steps of making the paretal requires you to cook out the liquid, a process which is tricky in a normal saucepan as the ingredients can catch and burn on the bottom.
- Add the red chillies, fennel seeds, cumin, black mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds (if using) and fry for about 10 seconds until you can smell the spices. Don't fry them for too long - you don't want the chillies to get too dark.
- Add onions, garlic and ginger to the pan all at once. Stir over medium heat until the onions have turned brown at the edges.
- Remove from heat and add the fish curry powder and chilli powder - this ensures that the finely ground spices will not burn and turn bitter.
- Return the pan to the heat, and add 50ml of water so that the mixture forms into a paste. Add the mushrooms to the pan, along with the salt and vegetable stock powder and stir so the spice mix coats the mushrooms. Add the curry leaves, then lower the heat and cook for a further 3 minutes.
- Carefully add another 100ml of water and partially cover the pan with a lid - you want the mushrooms to slowly cook in the spices. Cook over a low heat until the liquid has absorbed and you have a dry curry.*fish curry powder doesn't have fish in it - it's just the curry powder mix used specifically to cook fish.