Monday, January 30, 2006

Couscous Upma - 1 of 12 new foods to try this year

One of my resolutions this year was to try 12 new foods so that I will start experimenting with new food stuff that I havent tried before. When I frst read about couscous and that it was a healthy grain, I was curious to try it. But never got around doing it at that time. When I visited Yamini, a dear friend, in UK, she mentioned that this is indeed a great grain and very versatile and can be a great substitute to rice. Rice, when eaten everyday gives a nice round belly, which we can probably live without. And then, Indira of Mahanandi fame also got me more interested to try this dish by saying nice things about the way couscous cooks. So, even if I don't like regular upma made with semolina, I decided to give couscous a go and got some organic couscous from my local natural health food store.

couscous - 1 cup
salt to taste
oil 1 tbsp
onion - 1 chopped
frozen green peas - 1 cup
raisins - 2 tbsp
cummin seeds - 1/2 tsp
green chillies - 2, slit lengthwise
lemon juice - 2 tbsp

Heat oil and add the cummin seeds. After they are slightly roasted, add the onions and green chillies and saute them. After two mins, add the green peas and raisins and stir for a minute. Add 2 cups of water and let it boil. When it boils, add the salt and couscous and stir. Indira mentions that the grain doesnt form lumps when added to water and I found it to be very true. Cook it covered for another 15 mins in reduced heat. Stir in the lemon juice and serve hot.

Both B and me liked the crunchy taste of couscous and we'll be making it more often. And now that the experiment worked, I'll be adding a lot more veggies the next time.

Bhindi Kaali Mirch or Black Pepper Bhindi

Bhindi / Vendaikai / Okra / Lady's fingers has always been my favourite vegetable for as long as I remember. My only criteria when it came to Vendaikai was that it shouldn't be sticky. It has taken me years to learn to make it right, only it didn't involve any fancy tricks as I thought it would. I love all forms for vendaukai - 'vendaikai pulikulambu', the tangy curry that mom makes, vendaikai sambar, vendaikai morekulambu (both with fried vendaikai and non-fried ones), vendai varuval (crispy vendaikai poriyal), 'bhindi curry', that I picked up from my friend's mom which uses tomatoes and coconut and coriander powder, 'Bhindi Jaipuri', stuffed vendaikai that is fried - These are some of my favourite bhindi dishes. And yes, there's only one type of bhindi I don't like - the breaded okra! No, sorry, I dont like it. It's too bland and too oily for my preferences!

I picked up the above method (see picture) from Rinki, my roommate for sometime and a dear friend. So, the credit goes to her, if you try it and like it.

Okra - 2 cups
Salt to taste
Olive Oil - 2 tbsp
Black pepper corns - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - a pinch

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a thick bottomed pan and add the chopped okra. You can use frozen too, but it's too delicate to handle and doesnt taste as great as fresh ones. Sprinkle some salt and turmeric powder on it and stir once. The pinch of turmeric powder will not turn this dish yellow, but it will help turn the okra into a beautiful green color. Cover it and let it cook for 2-3 mins. then remove the cover and reduce the heat. Dont keep on stirring or you'll end up with a green mess. after 5 mins, see if it's cooked. If so, Add freshly crushed pepper (slightly coarse) and some more salt and stir once. Leave it on slow fire for another 5-10 mins. The dish will be ready by now and yes, without any stickiness.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Cold Remedies - A quick way to fight cold!

When Indira tagged me to list my Cold Remedies, I was reminded of the spicy Kozhi Rasam (Chicken Rasam) and Kozhi/Kari Varuval (Chicken Fry) that my mother used to cook for us when we caught cold. The rasam is very spicy and it helps fight the cold. You can call it a Tamilian Chicken soup. The chicken fry goes well with this rasam and is very soft in texture but very spicy because of the pepper added. I'll try to post the recipe sometime soon.

Since this rasam takes some time and effort to make, I wanted some easy method to cure my colds and sore throats. Now, I am a person who can easily catch cold for no reason. Maybe my immunity is pretty low? Or maybe I just have a high affinity to catch cold, I don't know. And well, I don't like popping pills.

A midnight google search when I could no longer sleep anymore because of the bad cold I had, gave me this recipe. My cold was pretty bad cold then and my throat hurt so badly. The recipe had good reviews from that site. Since I had the stuff needed to make this concoction and it didnt seem so bad, I decided to try it anyway. And well, I was alright by the evening and this recipe turned to be a keeper.
Here goes the recipe: Mix 2 tbsp of organic apple cider vinegar in 16 oz warm water with 2 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tbsp honey. Stir well and drink slowly taking it sip by sip.
Have this drink once again after 4-5 hours. Usually after two such drinks, you should be alright. If incase you had a really horrible cold and it is still fighting you, drink this once again after another 4-5 hours. If it doesnt work by now, I think you should see a doctor. This recipe is a miracle worker especially if you take it right away when you realise you are going to catch a cold.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Baked Pasta

Baked Pasta is a very delicious dinner dish that can be put together very quickly. We buy our organic or all natural wholewheat Pasta from Trader's Joes(TJ) - Among the types of dried pasta I've tried so far, I've like 'fusili' the best and 'penne' comes next. Since we do not have a TJ in our state, everytime we go cross country travelling, we make sure to stock up from the TJ's in those states. Boy! I miss TJ. All other health food shops are very expensive when compared to TJ's.
Dried Pasta - Fusili/Penne - 1 lb
Tomatoes - 3, chopped fine
Onions - 2, chopped fine
Carrots - 3, chopped into 1" strips
Broccoli - 2 cups (frozen)
Green Peas - 1 cup
Garlic - 2 flakes crushed with a pestle and mortar
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil - 2-3 tbsp
Cheese - Mozzarella/Cheddar - 4 oz, cut in chunks
Dried Basil/Oregano - 1 tsp

Prepare pasta according to the instructions in the package - Toss pasta and about 1/2 tsp salt in about 4 quarts of boiling water and let it cook for about 10 mins. Keep stirring regularly with a wooden spatula. Drain in a colander and toss with 1 tbsp olive oil. Keep aside.
Heat very little oil in a sauce pan and saute the onions lightly. Transfer this to a bowl. Then saute, crushed garlic and chopped tomatoes in the same pan for about 2-3 mins and transfer to another bowl. Wipe the sauce pan with a kitchen paper and add some more oil and saute the carrots and broccoli and green peas and dried herbs for about 2 mins. The saute-ing of veggies is done for making the veggies slightly coated in oil and not for cooking the vegetables. Switch off the stove and toss in the cooked pasta, the saute-ed onions and tomatoes and garlic, salt (the lesser the better) and freshly crushed black pepper and stir once.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Apply aluminium foil on a baking dish and grease it with olive oil. Transfer the pasta from the pan to the baking dish. Bake for 10 mins. Then, top the pasta with the chunks of cheese (the more the better) and bake until the cheese melts (watch closely). Do not overbake. Serve piping hot!
This is my usual recipe and it is a delicious way to eat your 5-a-day. The picture shows less veggies because I was short on broccoli and carrots when I made this dish. And yes, we always use organic cheese for many reasons. You can also add more veggies (root veggies don't work though) of your choice.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Our Pongal Celebrations!

'Somebody' wanted to see how we celebrated Pongal. Since the request was made and the picture was already in my camera, I'm writing this entry, a week later, after Pongal was celebrated.

Pongal is the harvest festival of South Indians. The harvested rice, sugarcane, turmeric, pumpkins and jaggery freshly made from that year's sugarcane - are offered to the Gods along with dishes made out of that year's harvest. The main dish that is made is also called Pongal or chakara Pongal (sweet Pongal). It is made out of rice, jaggery, milk, moong dal and ghee. The word 'Pongal' literally means 'overflowing'. Traditionally, the dish is made in earthen pots and it is allowed to overflow a bit to symbolize the abundance in the harvest and also as a prayer to the Gods to ask for a similar harvest, the following year.

Pongal brings home a lot of memories - The pongal which helped me lose my first tooth from biting into a succulent sugar cane, the days when my mother makes a family affair of preparing a whole feast during the first day of Pongal 'Surya Pongal' (for worshipping the sun god) when we were at home, the next day when we goto Grandma's place to celebrate 'Maatu Pongal' (for worshipping cows. Cows are considered to be very holy in Hindu customs.), where the Pongal is made in huge earthen pots near the fields and with typical pongal rangolis and decorations symbolizing the harvest and the pongal is offered to the cows first before eaten by everybody, and then go to periamma's(Aunt's) place for celebrating the second round of 'Maatu pongal' at her place.

A typical Pongal feast at our place consisted of the special 'Pongal' dish, white rice, getti paruppu(dal/varan), sambar made with brinjals and ash pumpkins (wintermelons) and drumsticks, the orange colored pumpkin poriyal, green plantain poriyal or avaraikai poriyal, yellow cabbage poriyal, rasam, thayir(fresh yogurt), paal paayasam(milk and sago or vermicelli porridge/kheer), two types of vadai (one sweet and one spicy), appalam(papaddum) and bananas. It was a huge meal which was relished with much gusto, enjoying each other's company since Pongal was one of the very few times when we, cousins gathered together and it was fun catching up and pulling each other's legs.

These days, its' a different Pongal altogether. My mother makes Pongal in a rice cooker. Grandma doesn't have a cow anymore, so the Pongal at her place has changed too. All the cousins have grown up and celebrate Pongal at their houses. We still follow our traditions and celebrate Pongal wherever we are.

This year, We celebrated Pongal is a simple way. There were so much going on in the days preceding Pongal that Pongal caught us totally unprepared. Amma called us and told that she missed us and that she made a Pongal feast this year since my sister and bil were home for Pongal. That motivated us and also gave us a taste of what we were missing. So, we got down working and quickly dished out a simple Pongal meal (Pongal, rice, sambar, yellow cabbage poriyal and yogurt) and offered to God and relished our first Pongal, after getting married.

Our recipe for Chakara Pongal - Cook one cup of rice with 1/2 cup yellow moong dal (slightly roasted in ghee) with about 4 cups of water and 3-4 cups of milk. Powder one mound of jaggery and add to the rice, after the rice is cooked and stir slightly. Heat 3 tbsp ghee in a small kadai and roast chopped almonds(I don't use cashews and buying a whole big bag of cashews to use just 2 tbsp in Pongal seemed a criminal waste) and raisins and crushed cardamom. Add this to the Pongal and stir well. Voila! Pongal ready!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Seven Meme

Thanks Tina, for tagging me!

7 Things to Do Before I Die: I have a million things to do before I die. :)

1. Sky diving (Rappelling, Bunjee jumping and white water rafting have been done! yayy!)
2. Learn to swim (My Dad tried to teach me when I was 6. I didn't learn because of a stupid dream. I'm 'still' learning to swim.)
3. Learn a self defense technique (like Karate)
4. Make my own soaps and body lotions for myself (all natural, organic with no synthetic chemicals!)
5. Go on a long trip on my own (Just me and my backpack! I love travelling with people, sometimes I just want to do some trips like this on my own.... say, a journey of self discovery?)
6. Visit a long list of places (Australia, Srilanka, Thailand, South Africa, Andaman and Nicobar and many other places)
7. Stay in a tribal reserve area for a few days and learn about the way they live (needing so less and living harmoniously)

7 Things I Cannot Do (or things I do NOT enjoy doing):

1. Start something and finish it right away. (I always always stop in the middle, very rarely coming back and finishing what I started. Bad, Bad habit!)
2. Gossiping (Not me!)
3. Calculating one's worth based on monetary things
4. Sleeping during the day (unless I'm not well)
5. Deep frying food
6. Cooking in bulk once and eating that everyday of the following week (Argh! No, Moi wants fresh food and in variety!)
7. Big Parties (Dont even think of inviting me if it's a booze party, please!)

7 Things that Attracted Me to Blogging:

1. Wants me to keep trying new dishes
2. A journal to help me make everyday better than yesterday (I try!)
3. Meeting new people
4. Learning new things from other bloggers and visitors
5. Keeping in touch with a few friends through my blog
6. So that I can come back and see how far I've come from where I started
7. That thing called love for food!

7 Things I Say Most Often:

1. 'Ouch!'
2. 'It depends'
3. 'Wow'
4. 'That's nice' / That's sweet /That's beautiful /etc
5. 'Really?'
6. 'Hmmmmmmmm'
7. 'Maybe you are right........ Maybe, not'

7 Books I Love:

1. A book that my mother gave me when I was 2 yrs old (Had the most interesting stories of animals, a single page illustration for each story. Kindled our imagination for the first time.)
2. Polyanna
3. All Enyd Blyton books (Unfortunatley, these arent available in US. I feel sad for these children)
4. The Alchemist
5. What not to wear I & II - Trinny and Susannah
6. The Bridge across Forever
7. Historical novels by Saandilyan (Transports me to those days and it feels like I'm a trespassing bystander to all those happening in the novel!)

7 Movies I Watch Over and Over:

1. Scent of a woman
2. Gods must be crazy I & II
3. Sound of Music
4. Men of Honor
5. Life is Beautiful
6. Amelie
7. The Lord of the Rings

7 Bloggers I’m Tagging:

1. Priya
2. Indira
3. Garam Masala
4. Sailu
5. Mika
6. Chaipani
7. Salt and Pepper

Marathi Mirchi Bhaaji

Bhajji and Bhaaji are different. South Indian bhajjis are vegetable fritters deep fried in oil, where Marathi bhaaji means 'vegetable'. It can be raw or cooked. Like how the hindi word 'Subji' or 'Subzi' is used. I learnt this recipe from Meghana, a sweet, Marathi friend of mine. She brought this for lunch along with rotis and it was so yummy that I almost finished it. ;) Here's Meghana's recipe unaltered.

Green Bell peppers - 2, chopped
Onion - 1, finely chopped
Besan/Gram flour - 2-3 tbsp
Cummin seeds - 1 tsp
Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Salt to taste
Olive Oil - 2 tsp (Any veg. oil will do)

Heat oil in a non-stick pan and add the cummin seeds after the oils is hot. When the cummin seeds are roasted in the oil, add the onions and saute it until the onions turn slightly brown. Add the chopped green bell peppers and saute for a minute. Sprinkle a bit of salt and the turmeric powder and saute for a minute. Cover the non- stick pan. (Note: Do not add water while cooking this particular recipe, It will be a disaster!) After 4-5 mins, Open the cover and stir once. The green bell peppers should be cooked by now, if not, allow for a few more minutes to cook. Add the remaining salt and chilli powder. Stir carefully and then reduce the heat. Sprinkle the besan flour on the bell peppers and mix well. Do not cover this pan. Stir a bit till the besan is completely absorbed and then after 2 mins, stir once again. By now, the besan should be cooked too. Serve with rotis or rice along with yummy dal.

Do not cover the pan till it cools down to room temperature. This dish should be prepared and eaten the same day. Refrigeration & Reheating doesnt work with this recipe.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The secret Sambar Powder recipe (that is no longer a secret anymore)

Recipe for this powder came from my friend's mom, as I mentioned in my previous post. I have found that it is incomparable to any of the store-bought ones.

Dry coriander seeds - 2 cups
Dry Red chillies - twice as much as you can grab with your palms, say 2-3 cups
Poppy seeds - 2 tight fistful [about 2 tbsp]
Dried curry leaves - 1 cup [packed lightly]
Methi seeds - 1 tbsp
Asafoetida - 1/2 tsp

Dry roast each of the above ingredients, slowly in a thick bottomed pan (preferably cast-iron) at very low heat. It is important to roast each of these separately and without using any oil. Allow them to come to room temperature. Add 1-2 tbsp Jeera (un-roasted) to these and 1/4 tsp salt. Grind coarsely in the mixie and store tight in the refrigerator and use within 1 and 1/2 months for best results.

Make Sambar according to these instructions.

ETA: To make the measurements more clear. When I make sambar powder again in a few more days/weeks, I'll measure and update the dry chillies measurements in cups too.

Sambar - A South Indian Veggie Fare

Sambar is one of the most widely available South Indian foods. It goes with Idlis and dosas and also with Rice (and papadums, ofcourse!). Here's a simple sambar recipe, that I learnt from my friend's mom. The 'Secret Sambar powder' recipe also came from her. I used to hate sambar with a passion. But, after eating Sambar at her place, I was so smitten by the taste of that, that I had to have the recipe. :)


  • Any one of the following vegetables, cleaned and chopped - Drumsticks (murungaikai), Radish , Ridged gourd, small brinjals, winter melon - 2 cups
  • Tur dal - 2/3 cup or about 4 handful, pressure cooked with 1/4 tsp turmeric powder AND 1 tsp of edible castor oil (castor oil helps the tur dal cook very smoothly)
  • Sambar powder - 1 tbsp (Click on link for home made recipe or use store bought one)
  • Tamarind pulp - extracted from tamarind, the size of a small marble
  • Onions - one cup, chopped
  • Green chillies - 2
  • Tomatoes - 1/2 cup, chopped
  • Oil - 2 tbsp (preferably sesame seed oil)
  • mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp, cummin seeds - 1/2 tsp, fenugreek seeds - 1/4 tsp, asafoetida - a pinch
  • curry leaves - 2 sprigs
  • Salt to taste and coriander to garnish

Heat oil and add the mustard seeds and let it splutter. Add the cummin seeds and asafoetida. Add the fenugreek seeds and when they turn slightly golden, add the onions, green chillies and curry leaves and saute well. Add the tomatoes and saute till they are cooked. Add the vegetables and after saute-ing for a few mins, add the sambar powder. It is very crucial to add the sambar powder now, before the water is added, for bringing out the best flavors. It should get roasted in the oil, slightly, but be careful not to burn the powder. After 2 mins, add the cooked dal and let it come to a boil. Now add in the tamarind pulp and cover the pan. After 10-15 mins, when the vegetables are cooked and when sambar has come to desired consistency, add the salt. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with rice.

Note: You can omit the 2 cups of vegetables and increase the amount of onions used if you are making this sambar to go with Idlis or Dosas. These days, I watch the salt content in my food, so I usually add it in the end. I've seen that by this way, I can get by using a small amount of salt and still get the same taste.

Friday, January 06, 2006

No-fry Fried fish or Roasted Salmon

Who doesnt love a fried fish? It is the best side dish to go with Fish curries. I havent come across a better dish to go along with Fish curry and Rice. Being a health freak that I am, I used to wish, if only there was a way not to fry fish and still get the great taste! Well, there was.... When I started using the oven, I started baking marinated Chicken drumsticks. Since it was great, I tried the same technique with Fish too. After a few trials, I found a neat way to make Fish crisp and tasty, just like the Fried fish, infact even beter than the fried ones. And the whopping amount of oil you need to prepare this dish is .... hold you breath ... 1 tbsp!

It was only very recently that I learnt that the process wasnt Baking, but Roasting! It is called roasting when it comes to cooking vegetables and meat in the oven. And Baking for all those made of flour. (Courtesy: The book 'The Clueless Baker').

I'm going to write only the process here. It turns out great with any recipe, any masala/spice blends you use. Salmon is great when roasted this way. I've tried Tilapia and Cat fish fillets too, with great results. If it is an oily fish like Salmon, one tbsp of oil for greasing the tray, will do. You'll be surprised by the amount of oil that the fish emits while baking. For other types, add another tbsp of oil along with the marinade and proceed as usual.

1. Marinade: I cut the fish fillets into small pieces, like about 2 inch squares, for handling ease. But you can cut them into any shape you want. Then, I add about 2 tbsp of Shaan Tandoori Chicken Tikka BBQ powder (any Indian stores in US, now available in India too). This has salt in it, so you can omit salt... or add in a tiny bit if you like. Add a tbsp of lemon juice or white vinegar. Mix carefully without breaking the fish fillets. Cover with a saran wrap and keep it aside for about an hour or overnight in the fridge.

2. Preparation: Preheat the oven; Line the grilling tray or baking tray with Aluminium foil and grease it with a tbsp of olive oil (Any vegetable oil will do). Carefully place the fish pieces on the tray and bake at 375 F for 15 mins, turn over, bake for another 15 more mins.. Now turn ON the broil mode of the oven for about 5 mins. Broiling gives the crispiness. You may want to increase/decrease the broiling time depending on your oven.

Serve hot with Fish curry and Rice.

Variations: You can add the masala marinade of your choice - I've tried chilli powder, salt, pepper powder, garlic salt, lemon juice, garlic/shallot paste or a mixture of a few of these items...and it has turned out great, every single time. Though I dont prefer using store bought masala powders for the amount of preservatives/MSG/what not they add, I still store some of them for those lazy times. This Shaan powder is for those lazy times, but it usually turns up very nice!

If you try this, do let me know how it turns out.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Idlis with Prawn curry!

You might find this combination, a bit odd. Idli with Sambar and/or Chutney is the usual combination you'll find in restaurants. But, in South Indian homes where Idli is a standard staple for breakfast, having Sambar and Chutneys every day becomes a bore. So, Once in a while, Kurmas made of Potatoes or Tomatoes or Cauliflower and peas are made to go with Idlis, to break the monotony. Sundays are special days where the whole family is present at the breakfast table. At these times, Sambars, Chutneys or Kurmas won't do. We need something more special than that. As long as I remember, when the whole family gathered around the breakfast table on Sunday mornings, my mother always served us 'Prawns curry' along with Idlis. A very few times, we've had Chicken curry too, to go along with Idlis, but it was made only when Prawns weren't available. Even now, Everytime I see Prawns (aka Shrimps), I remember our 'Sunday Morning Breakfasts' back home. When Meenakshi posted the theme for this month's From My Rasoi as 'Breakfast', I couldn't help making the breakfast dish that always made me feel at home, no matter which part of the world I was in.

My mother's recipe is very simple. I always follow it to the core, without altering even a tiny bit - Because I want to recapture those childhood moments, everytime I make this combo for breakfast.

Idlis with Prawn curry

Prawns/Shrimps - 2 cups
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Lemon juice /White Vinegar - 2 tbsp
Salt to taste
Grated Coconut - 5 tbsp (Fresh coconut (1/2 cup, if used) makes a lot of difference, but frozen or dried one will do)
Ginger - 1 inch
Garlic - 3 cloves of garlic
Cinnamon - 2 small pieces
Greenchillies - 3
Onion -1, finely chopped
Tomatoes - 3, finely chopped
Fennel seeds - 1/4 tsp
Coriander leaves for garnish
Olive oil - 2 tsp

1. Marinate the prawns (shrimps) with turmeric powder, chilli powder, lemon juice/white vinegar and salt for about an hr. Frozen shrimps can be used too. Marinating for an hour helps to the shrimps to thaw and also absorb the flavors.

2. Grind the following together - coconut, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, clove and greenchillies to a fine paste, using some water.

3. Heat oil in a saucepan and add some fennel seeds. Add finely chopped onions and saute well till the onions turn slightly brown. Add the tomatoes and cook till the tomatoes are done. Add the prawns now and saute for some time. Add the ground paste from Step 2 and stir well. Add about 2 cups of water and cover the sauce pan and let it simmer.

4. Garnish with a few coriander leaves and serve hot with Idlis.

Making of the Idlis:

Making the idli batter isn't a easy thing. It is a pretty simple procedure but it is very easy to go wrong. The Idli just wouldnt rise if there's something wrong with the ratio of rice and dal, or the amount of water in the batter, or the warmth needed for fermentation or the mixing of the rice/dal batters. But, with some practice, you'll know if the batters are well mixed, if the ratio is right, if the batter has the right amount of water etc. The usual ratio is 4:1 (Rice:dal), but sometimes it can go upto 5:1 depending upon the carbohydrate density of the rice grain.


Idli Rice - 4 cups (Boiled/Parboiled Rice found in Indian shops are great for Idlis. You even get Idli Rice, in those shops. )
Urad Dal - 1 cup
Fenugreek seeds - 1/2 tsp
Salt - a fistful (Uh! Mine comes to about 1 tbsp)

1. Wash and soak the Rice in water for 3 hrs. Wash and soak the Urad dal along with the Fenugreek seeds for about an hour.

2. Grind the dal first in the Grinder. Grinding the dal first and the rice next, helps in grinding the rice faster and easier, because of the lubrication provided by the little of the dal batter left in the grinder. Add water little by little, while grinding the dal batter. This will make the dal batter very fluffy. Remove this from the griner into a big container. Do not clean the grinder between grinding the dal and grinding the rice. It is ok if some dal batter is sticking to the grinder before grinding the rice. Oh yes, Do not cover this container. Else the fluffiness of the dal batter just goes away.

3. Grind the rice with some water and you can add the salt now, while grinding. The rice batter should be slightly coarse (less coarse than semolina) and should not have a very fine pasty texture.

4. Mix both the batters well using your hands (Clean hands, ofcourse) say for about 10 mins.

5. Preheat the oven to about 300 F for about 5 mins. Switch the oven off. Keep the Idli batter container inside the oven. The batter should be ready after 8 hrs.

6. After 8 hrs, Stir the batter slightly with a ladle in one direction (clockwise or anticlockwise)

7. Grease the idli mould with ghee/clarified butter and pour the idli batter in these idli moulds.

8. If you are using an Idlimaker, Steam for about 15 mins. If you are using a pressure cooker (without the whistle, ofcourse) to steam the idlis, wait till the steam is released through the vent and then steam for 10 mins

9. Serve piping hot!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Sprouts 101

A sprout is produced when a seed starts growing into a plant. Sprouts have very high levels of disease-preventing phytochemicals and they contribute to better health, from prevention to treatment of life-threatening diseases. You can make sprouts out of any seeds - green mung beans, garbanzo beans, moth, alfalfa, radish etc. Infact, sprouts are the only thing that can be grown any season, anywhere. You don't need any fancy equipment and it is very simple to make sprouts. They can be eaten raw or cooked into delicious meals.

Many of my early attempts at making sprouts resulted in absolute failure resulting in stinky sprouts that had to be thrown away. One of my net-friends (A fairy, actually!) told me how she makes it. I tried it and there was no going back. It is the most easiest and non-stressful way to make sprouts without any fancy equipments. All you need is -> A glass bowl or a plastic bowl that is see-through and -> a sieve or a meshcloth

The Method of Sprouting:
Wash the seeds to be sprouted and soak it in water for about 8 hrs or overnight. Drain the water in the morning and wash it once again. Cover it with a fine sieve and leave it alone. Every 2-3 hrs, pour some water into the glass bowl (through the sieve) and rinse and then drain it. This prevents drying and mold formation, that's invisible to the eyes. Well, I don't do it every 2-3 hrs. I do it whenever I see it, say about 2-3 times a day. The glass bowl usually rests in the place where I cannot ignore it. The sieve makes it easy to pour water, rinse and drain away. After another 5-8 hrs (depending on the warmth, humidity, light and seeds), the sprouts are ready to consume. Use it right away or store airtight in the refrigerator, for later use.
NOTE : Never use hot water or warm water to wash or soak the seeds. You are killing the seeds that way.
Happy sprouting!
Adding some more nutrition information I learnt recently from the website.
Longer sprouts have more vitamin C. Sprouting has other benefits too. The iron in pulses is largely bound to phytates, compounds that render iron unavailable for absorption. Sprouting breaks this bond, and the iron is readily utilised in the body, especially since the vitamin C also present creates the right environment for absorption. Maltose or malt sugar, a more easily digestible form of carbohydrate, is formed only when grains and pulses are allowed to germinate. Also, proteins are available as amino acids, the fundamental units of all proteins. Sprouting of whole grams is routine in parts of India like Maharashtra, reflecting the sensible eating habits of our people.

Kadala Curry and Beans

When Priya made her Kadala Curry with Appam, I was reminded of the delicious Kadala Curry that goes along with Puttu, a Keralite breakfast dish made of rice flour. Kadala is brown garbazo beans in Tamil and Malayalam. My recipe for Kadala Curry is very simple. Sometimes I even, allow the brown colored garbanzo beans to sprout for added nutrition and taste. It's more yummy than using the unsprouted ones. And the side dish, the beans - it's a delightful mix of the french cut beans and lima beans. I love this combination. Lima beans and French cut green beans go well together.

Without much ado, here's my Kadala Curry recipe and beans recipe.

Kadala curry
Brown Garbanzo beans - 1 cup, soaked overnight and boiled till tender
Grated Coconut - 4tbsp (frozen or dried will do)
Cummin seeds - 1 tbsp + 1 tsp
Green chillies - 3-4, slit lengthwise
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Onion - 1, chopped
Curry leaves - 5 leaves (optional)
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Black Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Asafoetida - 1/4 tsp
Olive oil - 2 tbsp (Any cooking oil will do)
Salt to taste

1. Make a paste of the green chillies, 1 tbsp cummin seeds and grated coconut along with 1/4 tsp of salt and keep aside. The salt is added while grinding to keep the green chillies from turning bitter after a while.

2. Heat the oil in a sauce pan and add add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the asafoetida and the remaining cummin seeds. After a minute, add the curry leaves and onions and saute till the onions turn brown. Add the boiled garbanzo beans and the ground paste and coriander powder and stir well. After 2-3 minutes, simmer (reduce the heat of the stove), add 2 cups of water and salt and cover the sauce pan. The Kadala cury will be ready in about 15-20 mins time amd smell divine. This goes great with steamed rice or Puttu or Dosas.

Green beans and Lima Beans
Baby Lima beans - 1 cup (I used frozen)
French cut green beans - 1 cup (I used frozen)
Onion - 1 chopped
Olive oil - 2 tsp (Any cooking oil will do)
Red chilli powder - 3/4 tsp
Cummin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste

Heat oil and add the cummin seeds (crushed slightly with your palms to release the flavor). Add the onions and saute till the onions brown. Add the green beans and the lima beans and saute for a minute. Add the red chilli powder and salt and let it cook, covered for about 5 mins. Stir again and cook for a few more mins if needed. Sprinkle water if necessary, but I havent found the need since I cook in low heat and covered. The green beans and baby lima beans is a very combination. Sometimes I make this to stuff between bread slices and grill them in a sandwich maker.