The comfort food of all a Tamilians (may be other South Indians too) is Thair Saadam, or simply, homemade yogurt with steaming white rice.
The most basic form of this recipe, which is often fed to children by loving mothers and grandmothers, contains nothing else. Just the yogurt and the rice… not even a pinch of salt.
And then the recipe gets more and more sophisticated by adding a little of this, a dash of that, and before you know it, you have a masterpiece.
Thair saadam is a dish unlike any other.
In this version however, we eschew the milled, de-husked, bad-for-everyone villain we call rice and substitute it instead with the trusty cauliflower, the one veggie that’s willing to bend over backward in its quest to feed and please.
Carb count: You’re beginning with a base of 500 grams of Cauliflower Rice containing 25 grams in carb, some of it fibre. The spices are carb free. The yogurt contains about 25 grams. Heavy cream has none! So that’s a total of 50 gms of carb for a dish that serves a minimum of 4 people. 12 gms per serving. Not too expensive for comfort.
One head of cauliflower, about 500 gms, broken by hand into florets, including the stem. Really, all you’re throwing away are the leaves.
– 2 tbsp cooking oil
– ½ tsp mustard seeds
– 1 tbsp channa daal
– ½ tbsp urad daal
– 1 or 2 dry red chillies, split apart
– A pinch of asafoetida (optional, depending on how authentically Tamilian you’re trying to be)
About 10 curry leaves (some people don’t like curry leaves but I love them, especially if they’re slightly crispy)
– 500 gms yogurt
– Two heaped tbsp heavy cream (this is my secret ingredient, makes it really creamy)
– A baby’s pinch of salt
– About 10 pomegranate pods
Boil some water in a large saucepan, and when the water is bubbling, drop the florets in so they’re covered. Leave them in for exactly five minutes. Time it or the cauliflower gets soggy. It should be ‘al dente.’
Remove and drain thoroughly, in a colander. You can pat the florets dry if u can’t wait for them to drain naturally.
Alternatively, if you have a steamer, you can steam the cauliflower florets. I don’t have one, sadly.
Now put the cauliflower in a food processor for a whirl or two till the florets resemble rice.
If you don’t have a food processor or are just too lazy to clean up, simply grate the cauliflower florets by hand. It tastes the same.
Toss in the mustard seeds when the oil looks like it’s steaming, and cover with a steel plate as they pop. The firecrackers will subside soon.
Lower the heat and add the channa daal. It turns colour quickly, so be careful. No more than 30 seconds.
Now toss in the urad daal, curry leaves and asafoetida, frying all of it gently, until golden brown.
Mix the spice-leaves with the grated cauliflower gently. You don’t want the florets to turn into mush.
Separately, mix the yogurt and the heavy cream.
Now all the ingredients together and toss gently as you would a salad, where you’re afraid of breaking the leaves.
Flatten the Thair Saaadam in the bowl (for aesthetic reasons) and sprinkle the pomegranate pods on top.
Mango pickle. My mom actually ate Thair Sadaam with jam, pretty disgusting as it goes, but hey, there’s no accounting for taste.