Savory Cranberry relish, South Indian style
Its been three years now and I can say that Thanksgiving has become a part and parcel of our holiday tradition. The spirit of the holiday season is so strong, it simply seems worthless to resist.
Those of you who have followed my earlier posts might be knowing that last year, on the very day of Thanksgiving, I couldn’t move and had to be rushed to emergency because of a strained back. So, to me, Thanksgiving is a great time to remind ourselves to take nothing for granted, take the time to reflect, count our blessings and to see the glass as half full.
Thankful I am, for being able to do what I love, for the love and support from all of you, for my wonderful family and circle of friends, lovely neighbors or even the simplest of the things like bright sunshine on cold days and my little girl’s tiny hands hugging me as she says “I love you, Amma”.
We usually have an Indian themed Thanksgiving feast including root vegetables, cranberries, pumpkins and the like, to accentuate the elaborate meal. The day itself is laid back with emphasis on togetherness and family time while savoring every moment!
After much indulgence in a bunch of sweets from Ellu Unde, Coconut Badam Burfi and Walnut Date Burfi in a row, it is time the blog showcases something opposite, something savory, palate cleansing, tangy and spicy! And now that Thanksgiving is almost here and cranberries are in season, don’t you think it is the perfect time for this Cranberry Thokku?
I started cooking cranberries only since last year. Unlike Blueberries, Cranberries are light for their size because they are hollow and devoid of any pulp or juice inside. For the same reason, they are easy to cook. If they pop, consider them halfway done. Eaten raw, they are a mix of tart and sharp with a hint of sweet and a slight bitter after taste. Pretty with a candy like color, shiny and smooth, they are a tiny sensory package.
All of us know how good Cranberries are for the heart.
Did you know? They are effective in easing as well as preventing Urinary Tract infections and reducing the formation of dental plaque and gum disease in turn? Another reason to add this recipe to your repertoire and not just for holiday cooking.
Now what’s this funny sounding “Thokku” you may ask?
Thokku [ Tho kkoo ] is in between Thogayal (chutney) and Oorugai (Pickle) in Tamil. A spicy condiment, it is a chutney devoid of coconut, sautéed in oil long enough to remove all moisture content to extend its shelf life. It is almost always tangy made with characteristic ingredients like tamarind or mango, fenugreek seeds and green chillies.
To tell you in a nutshell, trying to recollect the taste of Thokku gets me salivating without fail!
If you are new to it, here are four ideas for Cranberry Thokku
Simply enjoy mixed with hot steamed rice and a drizzle of ghee or your favorite oil as the first few morsels of your meal. It stimulates the palate.
Smear it on toasts for a savory spread or make your own sandwich with grilled vegetables
Goes well with Dosas of any kind
Mix it up with cooked basmati rice with fried cashews and raisins (or nuts and seeds of your choice) stirred in and garnished with cilantro and mint for a warm and flavorful Cranberry rice
Also, some more recipes from the archive to add to your Thanksgiving feast:
Cranberry Thokku Recipe
Things you’ll need:
8 oz or 1 cup fresh organic Cranberries
2 tbsp peanut oil
1/8 tsp turmeric
a pinch of hing / asafoetida
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp jaggery, crushed ~ optional
a tbsp size tamarind.
8 green chillies, stems removed
1/4 tsp fenugreek / methi seeds
How it’s done:
Soak tamarind in just enough warm water for 10 to 15 mins.
Grind green chillies, fenugreek / methi seeds and soaked tamarind in a small jar grinder or spice grinder to a smooth paste.
Heat oil in a sauté pan or kadai over medium heat. When the oil is hot enough or shimmering, add mustard seeds. When they start to splutter, add asafoetida quickly followed by turmeric and cranberries and sauté until cranberries begin to pop, about 10 mins.
Continue stirring until cranberries soften and begin to lump. Add the chilli-tamarind paste and salt and sauté until the hissing noise subsides and the oil begins to separate.
Add jaggery optionally if you do not like the full on tangy taste.
Let cool completely before storing in an airtight jar.
Frozen cranberries can be used as well.
If you do not have access to a small grinder, substitute red chilli powder and fenugreek powder in place of methi seeds and green chillies and use only tamarind pulp.
Thokku is best stored in glass or porcelain jars. Avoid aluminium, cast iron, brass for cooking and even stainless steel utensils and plastic for storing to avoid the tamarind from reacting with them.
Keep all containers, spoons and ladles dry. Moisture reduces the shelf life greatly.
Do not skimp on the oil unless you plan to consume it within 2-3 days.
Needs to be refrigerated after a week to keep the oil from going rancid.