Hyderabadi mirchi ka saalan is a recipe that I’ve wanted to try, but for one reason or another never got around to making. I’ve never had it anywhere before either. (And on an aside, the next time I’m in Hyderabad, I’m so going to collar a native Hyderabadi and go on a gastronomic tour of the best that this city has to offer. I do understand that it won’t be THE BEST - because I’d really rather not eat non-vegetarian food - and I understand that THE BEST biriyani is definitely not vegetarian. Oh well. I’m sure I’ll be happy with the saalan and other such recipes.)
Anyway, I came across a recipe in Bong Mom’s Cookbook for something approaching saalan without using coconut, and felt very thrilled because I had some jalapeno chillies, once green but now rapidly becoming orange and red - to use up.
The recipe also said to roast the chillies in the oven (which is another thing I’d been meaning to try, and now I have). Of course, I didn’t really notice that Bong Mom’s roasted chillies in her photo were only very mildly brown after 40 minutes. No, all I registered was that the recipe mentioned “30-40 minutes roasting”, and so, blithely blind to any note of caution (such as “these are my toaster oven settings”), I set off to roast the chillies in my regular, fan-driven, electric oven at a blistering 190C.
Boy, was it ever blistering! It very nearly blistered my poor jalapenos to charcoal. Only a serendipitous check at 20-odd minutes saved the chillies from a horrendous death by burning. Perhaps because the chillies had been over-roasted, they felt very insubstantial when I took ‘em off the tray – quite limp to the touch, really, and I wondered if I’d entirely burnt the taste and heat from them as well. (No, I hadn’t, thankfully, as I discovered later. I also discovered that the ideal size – for serving and eating purposes - would have been about 1.5”-2” long, rather than 4” or thereabouts.)
Apart from that, though, the recipe went swimmingly well. I used light soy milk in place of regular milk, and I don’t think it made much difference to the final result... although after I’d poured it in and smelt the milk’s sweetish aroma, I had a few moments of doubt. I needn’t have worried – you couldn’t have said that the dish contained soy milk, once it was finished.
MAN was the curry tasty, though! I had it with plain basmati rice and some sautéed roasted chickpeas. The mild sauce was the perfect foil for the heat from the chillies - but if I was making this dish using bell peppers, I would definitely up the heat quotient for the sauce. It would be too boring for me otherwise... although perhaps chilli-intolerant people would disagree.
Recipe for: Roasted jalapeno curry
10 jalapeno peppers (or bell peppers or long "bajji" chillies, cut into 2.5" pieces)
10 almonds (with or without skin, soaked in water for 30 min)
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic
1" piece ginger, grated
1 medium tomato, cut into small chunks
1 cup light soya milk (or use regular milk)
1/2 tsp nigella seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 tsp oil
1 tbsp kasoori methi
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
Salt to taste
Chopped coriander for garnish
1. Toss the chillies with 1 tsp oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 20 minutes or so at 180C/350F.
They should have brown spots here and there. (Try not to burn them, which I nearly did.)
2. While the chillies are roasting, put the almonds in hot water and let soak for 30 minutes or so. Reserve.
3. Heat 1 tsp oil in a pan and add the onions, garlic and ginger.
4. When the onions begin to soften, toss in the chopped tomatoes.
5. Fry for 3-4 minutes till the tomatoes turn soft, then turn off the heat and let the mixture cool.
6. Grind the cooled tomato-onion masala along with the almonds (you can remove the skin if you like, but I didn't)
to a fairly smooth paste. Mine is pinkish, probably because of the red onion I used, as well as the almond skins.
7. In a pan, heat the remaining oil, then add the cumin and nigella seeds.
8. Let the seeds fry for 30 seconds, then add the ground paste and mix in well.
9. Add the paprika (if using), turmeric powder and kasoori methi.
10. Pour in the soya milk, add salt to taste, and stir till the mixture is homogenised.
11. Let the sauce come to a gentle boil on medium heat (about 4 minutes), then add the roasted chillies.
12. Stir it all gently, let it simmer for 3-4 minutes, then add the chopped coriander. Serve hot with plain basmati rice, jeera rice, ghee rice or any mild pulao. Also good with chapaties.