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Gomathy, my dad’s aunt, lives in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala. She has written innumerable poems and stories in Malayalam. A couple of years ago, I met her at a family wedding. We were sitting next to each other and I asked her how she got into writing. She said it all started with a jackfruit tree.

I was all ears.

There was a sprawling, fruit-laden jackfruit tree on the empty plot right next to their house. One afternoon when she came back from college, the tree had been hacked. She had loved the tree all through her growing-up years and seeing it felled left her heartbroken. She mourned its loss by crying for hours. She lost her appetite for days. As a cathartic exercise, she wrote a story about the loss of her tree. That story went on to be published in a Malayalam magazine and she has been writing since.

It is jackfruit season now. At the risk of stating the obvious, jackfruit is the largest among all fruits, sometimes reaching the weight of a small-sized human—50kg. If you are seeking a wholesome activity to fill your afternoon, then go buy the whole fruit. Learn how to cut it by watching a roadside vendor going about the job effortlessly or, as for everything else, there’s always YouTube. If you are not feeling that adventurous, you can rely on supermarkets that sell cut and cleaned jackfruit flesh packed in trays.

I am a strong advocate of eating fruits as they are, to ensure we are doing justice to their nutritional abundance, and not messing it up by adding sugar, salt and whatnot. But yes, I do enjoy seasonal fruits like mango, strawberry and grapes in salads, to add a sweet relief from all the greens. But when it comes to jackfruit, given that it is a valuable commodity available only for a short season in Bengaluru, I like to enjoy the ripe fruit as is. That is, with the sole exception of jackfruit chips. I can eat those non-stop. The aroma of ripe jackfruit is rich and fills the air like a thick cloud. I do know people who would rather call this an odour instead of an aroma, and, needless to say, they also dislike the fruit.

Whether you cut your own fruit or buy the ready-to-eat variant from the supermarket, do not throw away the seeds. Remove the membrane and wash off the sticky coating on the seeds. The seeds from the ripe fruit are edible, and match the looks and flavour of Brazilian nuts. Sun-dry the seeds and refrigerate in an airtight box. It will last at least for a couple of weeks, until you are ready to cook with them. They can be roasted, boiled or baked. In a Tamil home, the most common way to use up the seeds is to add them to sambhar. I wanted to try something else this time.

I made a subzi using lots of onions and digestion-friendly ingredients (see warning below) such as ginger, carom, cumin and asafoetida—it turned out much better than expected. The chopped seeds had a unique texture even after being cooked, and had absorbed the flavours of the spices well.

The other recipe idea was shared by my friend Zibi Jamal years ago, when I was writing an article about the sweet dishes from Kerala. Called chakkakura unda in Malayalam, boiled and mashed jackfruit seeds are mixed with powdered jaggery and coconut and then rolled into balls. Jamal has fond memories of eating these as an after-school snack.

I must leave you with a gentle warning that jackfruit seeds cause a lot of gassiness and bloating. However, given that social distancing is our mantra these days as a precaution against Covid-19, it means you can go ahead and eat jackfruit seeds in moderation.

JACKFRUIT SEED SUBZI

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

12-15 jackfruit seeds

1 large onion

1 tbsp oil

1 tsp ginger, finely chopped

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp carom seeds

1-2 green chillies

A pinch of asafoetida

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp red chilli powder

1/2 tsp garam masala powder

Juice of 1 lime

Fresh coriander for garnish

Method

Place the jackfruit seeds in a pressure cooker and cover with a cup of water. Add a pinch of salt and pressure-cook for 5 minutes (i.e. after one whistle, keep on lowest flame for 5 minutes). The seeds should be cooked but if you press with a finger, they should not get completely squashed. Drain and thinly slice the seeds. Finely chop the onion.

In a pan, heat oil. Add the ginger, cumin, carom, asafoetida and green chillies. Stir on a medium flame until cumin seeds splutter. Stir in the onions and sauté on a low flame for 8-10 minutes until soft.

Add the seeds along with salt, turmeric and red chilli powder. Stir to combine. Cover with a lid and steam-cook for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle garam masala powder and combine. Garnish with coriander and lime juice.

Serve with rotis.

CHAKKAKURA UNDA

Makes 16

Ingredients

12-14 jackfruit seeds

4 tbsp powdered jaggery

4 tbsp fresh coconut

N tsp green cardamom powder

Method

Place the jackfruit seeds in a pressure cooker. Cover with a cup of water. Pressure-cook for 8-10 minutes (i.e., after one whistle, keep on lowest flame for 8 minutes.) The seeds should be cooked and should be mashable with a fork.

Drain well, peel the thin brown skin and mash the seeds with a fork. Mix in powdered jaggery, coconut and cardamom powder. Divide into 16 portions and gently roll into balls.

This will be of soft consistency and not hard like a laddoo. Consume immediately or refrigerate and eat within a day.

Double Tested is a fortnightly column on vegetarian cooking, highlighting a single ingredient prepared two ways. Nandita Iyer is the author of The Everyday Healthy Vegetarian.

@saffrontrail

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