Veppilakatti is a spiced leafy chutney powder, which is very famous among the Palakkad Iyers. The name 'veppila' meaning neem leaves, doesn't say about the ingredients. I am ignorant why the name. Anyways, these fragrant balls make a great side for curd rice. I'm sure those who have tasted this once will know, what I am talking about. For the others, when you read the ingredients, you can imagine it. This is a very traditional dish, which is rarely made at home, these days.
Wild lemon leaves (Vadugapuli narangathilai) is the star ingredient in the recipe. Its not the narthangai/citron which is bitter. The leaves has to be picked carefully since the tree has lots of thorns. The picked leaves are washed and patted dry. Tender leaves can be used as such. For the rest, the thick vein in the middle has to be removed. Handful of curry leaves is also used. Traditionally, these leaves along with salt,will be pound in the mortal using the olakkai, i.e the long wooden pestle used to pound rice. After pounding the leaves, next comes the mixture of red chillies, green chilly, hing and tamarind. These will be pounded almost fine. Finally the leaves are added to it and pounded together. This will be done in batches. Pounding will release some juice from the leaves and salt. The spice and leaf mixture will be transferred to a big vessel and mixed well. Then it is made into balls and stored in air tight container.
With the arrival of mixer grinder, Amma used to powder the spice mix in the mixer and pulse the leaves coarsely. Then do a final pounding in the mortal using the pestle. Now a days, hardly anyone bothers to do all this, since it is readily available in the markets. I don't like the store bought ones. This time, I had asked my uncle to send some through Amma. Thanks to my mama and mami, I got a huge batch of home made veppilakattis. These are the pics I clicked when Amma got it for me. Its made partly using the mixer and the rest in the mortar. Pounding in the mortar does increase the taste since the ingredients are blended better than in a mixer grinder.
The recipe I am giving is like an approximate one. This will fairly give an idea of what all goes into it and the proportions.
Naaragathilai/ Wild lemon leaves - 1/2 kg
Curry leaves - a handful
Green chilly - 15-20 nos
Tamarind - Orange sized
To roast in oil
Red chilly - 250 gm
Hing/Peringayam cube - 50 gm
Heat 2 table spoon of oil in a kadai. When the oil is hot, drop the hing pieces. It will get fried and the pieces will turn crisp. Remove and add the red chilly. Roast for few minutes. Leave it to cool. Powder the hing and chilly in mixer grinder. The add the green chilly and tamarind to it and pulse again. Remove the spice mix and keep it aside.
Pulse the lemon and curry leaves along with salt, in the mixer till it is pound into small pieces. Finally blend the leaves and spice mixture. This can be done in batches. Take all the mixture in a big vessel. Mix it well and shape into balls.
As I mentioned before, this can be eaten along with curd rice. You can drizzle some gingely oil on it and have as a side for idly or dosa.