Monday, October 20, 2008

Kollu Chutney and Kollu Kulambu!

I used to love those 'Love is....' comic strips in the morning newspaper. Still do. I wish I could get my daily dose of those comic strips now in email. Anybody know of a source? Anyway, here's my attempt at a 'Love is....'

Love is being served with a plateful of kollu chutney, kollu kulambu, rasam and rice when you have a bad cold and can't think straight and when everything else tastes like mud.

If you are from Kongu region or have friends from that region [Coimbatore, Salem, Erode, Tirupur and nearby areas] , you must have eaten or at least heard of Kollu Chutney. Though it is called a chutney, it is more like a Thuvaiyal - very thick and is mixed with rice and a dollop of ghee and eaten piping hot. It is almost always made as a first course followed by kollu rasam as the next course. Very hot and spicy - kollu rasam is a great cure for colds and coughs. Kollu also known as Horsegram/Ulavallu/ Kulti / Kulith / Muthira Hurulikalu etc is a very nutritious legume.

I was looking at IndoSunGod's kollu chutney and it brought back memories from home and I set out to make it the way Amma makes. The ingredients are the same as Indo's, except for the addition of curry leaves and my mom's recipe mentions not to roast the onions, garlic, spices etc and grind them raw for a more intense flavor.

Kollu Chutney
Kollu - pressure cooked with 3 garlic pods - 1 cup
Red Onion - 1/2, chopped
Fresh curry leaves - 10-12 [or frozen like this]
Black Pepper - 2 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Coriander seeds - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
Tamarind - 1/2 inch piece
Red chillies - 1 [optional. I usually omit this one]

Strain the water from the pressure cooked kollu and use it to make kollu rasam. Grind everything together coarsely. If you need water, add some of the water kept aside for kollu rasam. Do not add too much water. It should have the consistency like the picture above.

Serve with hot rice and a dollop of ghee. And of course, thank me!
Kollu Kulambu
After XII std, when we were preparing for our engineering entrance exams, a friend Suba and me used to have lunch at Suba's grandparent's place everyday, after the classes were over. Her grandma is an amazing cook and was so full of love. She'd stand next to us and serve one thing after the other, till we were too full to move. You couldn't refuse that kind of love. And the food! It was the best I ever had! One day, she had made kollu chutney and a kollu kulambu. I was used to the kollu chutney at home, but the kulambu was totally something! Tangy, thick, and finger licking good and with LOTS of onions giving a slight hint of sweetness! After having this at her place, I couldn't take my mind off that kulambu and tried recreating this, the same weekend. My mom was darn impressed too! It turned out pretty good, but just short of her 50 yrs of cooking experience. ;) Ah, well, I'll get there some day!

Kollu Kulambu
Kollu - pressure cooked with 3 garlic pods - 1 cup
Garlic pods - 4, chopped
Onion - 2, finely chopped
Curry leaves - 5
Asafoetida - a pinch
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp

Tamarind - lemon size, soak in hot water and extract pulp

Red chilli powder -1/2 tsp
Jaggery/sugar - 1/2 tsp, not more

Salt - to taste

Put the boiled kollu in the blender and just pulse a minute or two, so the beans break down a bit, but not mushy. It should not become a paste, the beans should like they are broken into halves. Keep this aside.

Heat oil in a sauce pan and add mustard seeds. When they pop, add the cumin seeds and asafoetida. Add the onions, garlic and curry leaves and saute for a few mins. Add the tamarind pulp and let it boil for 10 mins. Add the kollu mixture, red chilli powder, salt to this tangy sauce. Add water if necessary. Let it cook together for 5-10 mins. Add the jaggery and stir well. Remove from flame and serve with hot steamed rice and a dollop of ghee.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Carrot Mini Muffins

Little Miss Mischief is a big fan of muffins and mini-muffins are of the perfect size for my little muffin. She used to jump with joy exclaiming 'Mashay Mashay Mashay' which I think came from Milkshake but she really meant muffins! Oatmeal banana muffins, Carrot muffins, Wholewheat muffins, Blueberry muffins - she loves them all. Filled with nuts and fruits and wholegrain goodness, muffins used to be my backup solution if she didn't eat well during the lunch or dinner.

She's all grown up now [two years!! who would have thought time flew like this!] and has started going to a montessori school. I made some of these carrot mini-muffins [Adapted from this recipe which is from the La Leache League International cookbook "Whole Foods for the Whole Family"] for her lunch box and kept them nut free. I added some sesame seeds and sunflower seeds to add some crunch. Grated carrots and yogurt keeps the muffins moist. Gone are the muffins of the old days where I used to make dense muffins with no tops. I've f.i.n.a.l.l.y learnt the art of mixing the muffin batter just right, that my muffins are nice and light and fluffy! And these days, my muffins have tops too! Nobody would believe me if I said these are made of wholewheat and absolutely no All Purpose flour (maida).

Whole wheat flour - 1 and 1/4 cup
Wheat germ - 1/4 cup
Baking soda - 1 tsp
Baking powder - 1 tsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Egg - 1
Maple syrup - 1/2 cup [I also use honey/jaggery/sugar once in a while - All works great!]
Yogurt - 1/2 cup
Olive oil - 1/2 cup [1/3rd cup works too]
Vanilla extract - 1/2 tsp
Grated carrots - 1 and 1/2 cup
Sunflower seeds - 2 Tbsp
Sesame seeds - 2 Tbsp

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Do this step first.

Then, Mix all the dry ingredients together - Wheat flour, wheat germ, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Use a whisk to break any lumps and mix thoroughly. Keep it aside.

Grease your muffin tins. I used 2 mini muffin tins [which makes 12 each] made of Aluminium. You can line them with mini cupcake liner too. Keep this ready before you mix the muffin batter.

Mix all the wet ingredients next - Beat the egg with fork, add maple syrup, olive oil, yogurt, vanilla, grated carrot and the seeds. Mix again with a fork. [Do not use a handheld blender, It changes the dynamics somehow. A fork works perfectly fine!]

Now mix the dry ingredients with the wet ones - use a wooden spatula, mix as less as you can - just until moistened. DO NOT OVERMIX. This is the key. It is okay for the batter to be a bit lumpy. If you over mix, you take out all the air bubbles and the muffin will be dense.

Spoon into the muffin tins and bake for 15-17 mins. Check by inserting a toothpick in and see if it comes out clean. Cool on wire racks.

These muffins freeze well too. And can be warmed up in the microwave.

1. If you do not have wheat germ, increase the wheat flour to 1 and half cup.
2 . You also can add spices like cinnamon , nutmeg, all spice, ginger powder etc. I deliberately kept it simple to please those tiny taste buds.

I'm sending these muffins too, to keep company to the Wholewheat bread with bran and sesame seeds at the JFI Wholegrains meet hosted by Suganya of Tasty Palettes.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Wholewheat Bread with bran and sesame seeds!

Once in a while, some of the creative genes in my body wake up. I'd love to say, they wake up and dance! But to my horror, they just wake up and create a mess. In the kitchen. Now if only I can overlook the mess they make, then I'd say, some of those times resulted in some yummy things. But there was this instance where the creative genes woke up and left absolute no mess - just some yummy yummy goodness called bread! Made with wholewheat grains, wheat bran and sesame seeds. Ah!

The original recipe calls for 7 oz water and some milk powder. I took that and modified it with 8 oz milk in the first version I tried. By now, you all must have known that I'm no baker... If anybody has any questions about that, let me know. I'll send you some specially made hockey-pucks to prove that. I don't really know if the bread needs more liquid or flour. Or if a new recipe from that really good looking bread book will work or not.

But I know that I can confidently stick to my basic recipe, put everything in the bread machine and shut the door. This time, those creative genes wanted to add more milk... and some bran..and some sesame seeds.... I just closed my eyes and let those creative genes goto work. Well, The garbage chute isn't far after all. But I have to say that this resulted in an AWESOME super soft bread. I can't believe that it's a bran bread! I can't believe it is that soft!! I think I am addicted to this bread!!

Milk - 1 cup (8 oz) + 1 Tbsp warmed in microwave
Egg - 1 beaten lightly

Molasses - 1 Tbsp

Sugar - 1 Tbsp

Butter - 2 Tbsp
[Or Olive oil - 3 tbsp]
Whole Wheat bread flour - 3 cups [spooned in and leveled with a knife]

Wheat bran - 1/4 cup
Sesame seeds - 2 Tbsp

Sea salt - 1 1/2 tsp

Bread machine yeast - 2 tsp

Put everything together in the bread machine in the above order [or the order that works for your machine] and set it to Wholegrain setting. Ready to eat in about 4 hrs.
And oh, I'm very happy to send her [why, I mean the bread of course] off to the JFI-Wholegrain meet, to party all night with her fellow wholegrain friends. Thanks Suganya, for hosting this JFI. I totally believe in Wholegrains and their wholesome goodness and use them almost exclusively (except for that damn white rice!) I'm eagerly looking forward for the round up.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Get Preppy - Sprouts

Sprouted moth dal, ready to be frozen

Every time I make sprouts(just any beans), I make a large batch and freeze half of it. Comes in very handy later. I use it later in many dishes, like this one, stir fried with some spices. Sometimes I throw a handful in soups; or in green beans stir fry. I think I could even grind it and use it in adai or dosas or make pesaraddu. I squeeze out as much air as possible from the ziploc bag before freezing and use it within 3 weeks. Garbanzo bean sprouts can be used as an addition to curries or vegetables too.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Move over baking pan, here comes the cast iron grill!

I Love Fish. I love it more when it's roasted in the oven. You might have seen previous posts on roasted fish here and here. This summer, we craved for grilled food, but we couldn't grill outside since we live in a super high rise building with no balcony!

DH and me were talking about this and about the still unused stove top cast iron double burner reversible grill/griddle that we got for a nice deal at $6.99 from the Real Canadian Superstore. I don't have a picture of the grill. Here's a more fancy one. Mine is simpler and does the job. ;) We tried stove top grilling once. While we liked the grilled food, We didn't like the idea of hovering over the grill till the cooking was done. Then it occurred to us that we could just put that grill inside the oven and crank up the heat and just roast the fish inside the oven. We'd also get the crispiness from the grill, as a bonus. I had also read about roasting food at very high temperature in Roasting - A simple art by Barbara Kafka and was looking forward to try that technique.

After trying that once, we are hooked on this method. Now I don't know if I should call this grilling, or roasting. I think I'll settle for grill-roasting! We no longer use the Pyrex baking dish for roasting meat. The cast iron sears the meat before it begins to roast, so the taste is just awesome. Try this method and you'll be hooked too. And guess what? There's another bonus. My grill is well seasoned now and making pancakes on that is a breeze.

Salmon - 1 pound, at room temperature (note #)
Olive oil (or canola oil) - 2 Tbsp

Seasoned Rice vinegar - 2 Tbsp
[I like Marukan]
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp

Pepper powder - 1/2 tsp

Soy sauce - 1 tbsp
Garlic - 4 cloves
Salt - a tiny pinch [since we use Soy sauce]

Please see Note*

Grind everything (other than salmon) to a fine paste (do not make mayonnaise it like, the salmon does not absorb the flavor if it's mayonnaise like). Marinate the salmon for 1/2 hour - marinating the fish overnight (or even just 4 hrs) in the fridge is even better!

Place the grill inside the oven. Grill side up or griddle side up is up to you. I like griddle side up for fish and grill side up for chicken. Grease it up with a tbsp of oil. Preheat the oven to 450

Remember that the grill inside the oven is super hot now. So, place the salmon pieces on the cast iron grill, carefully. Hear that sizzling sound? I love it! Roast 10 mins on one side, 5 mins on the other side. Serve hot. We enjoyed it with tangy vatral kulambu.

Note* : Do NOT use ginger in this marinade, I've tried the recipe with ginger, it's just okay, Not as wonderful as the marinade without ginger! I find that in this recipe, the ginger masks the garlic flavor completely. So, no ginger please. Also do not use sesame oil, in place of olive oil. It wrecks the flavor.

Note # : This recipe and technique would also work for other white fish like catfish, tilapia etc. The cooking time will be lesser compared to Salmon.

Here's a picture of chicken cooked with same marinade and technique, with the grill side up. It was very moist and tender and full of flavor.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Manathakkali Vatral Kuzhambu [Tangy curry made with dried manathakkali berries]

Manathakkali or manithakkali or milagu thakkali is a type of nightshade plant. In English, it is black nightshade. Looks like it is called Makoy or chukkitti keerai. Indosungod also has a picture here. The leaves and berries are very healthy and is a cure for many ailments. Esp. stomach ulcer! I can't remember the number of times my mom fed me these leaves and berries... These plants were always there in the backyard. And if there were too young to cook, then mom bought these from the lady who came door-to-door to sell fresh veggies and green.

The leaves got cooked with tur dal, sometimes with a coconut based masala; sometimes with just plain dal and seasonings. The berries were dried and stored in a glass container which later became the base for the tangy vatral kuzhambu. As a kid, I dreaded these dried berries and their bitterness. I remember lying to the green grocer lady (after eyeing the greens in her basket) to go away because mom isn't home, when mom was right there in the kitchen. :)

These days, it's just the opposite. I love these leaves and berries. I think that's because it's not easily available here. Or maybe because I crave for the comfort that I had in childhood and resort to the foods I had then. But then...

As a rule, man is a fool
When it is hot, he wants it cool

When it is cool, he wants it hot
Always wanting what is not.

Dried manathakkali/milagu thakkali berries - 1 cup
Tamarind - a small lemon size
Coconut - 3 tbsp, grated or 5-6 pices chopped - fresh/frozen only
Sakthi vatral kuzhambu powder - 1 tbsp [I like this one better!]
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Garlic - 5, chopped lenghtwise
Onion - 1, chopped
Curry leaves - 8
Asafoetida - 1/8 tsp or a pinch
Methi/Fenugreek seeds - 1/4 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Salt - to taste
Jaggery or sugar - 1/2 tsp
Oil - 1 tbsp

1. Soak the tamarind in hot water for 15 mins and extract the pulp. Grind the coconut to a fine paste and keep it aside.
2. Heat oil and add the mustard seeds. When the seeds pop, add the fenugreek seeds and asafoetida. When the fenugreek turns slightly golden, add the manathakkali berries and roast them for a few mins.
3. Add the onion, curry leaves and garlic. Saute until the onions turn translucent. Add the coconut paste and the vatral kulambu powder, turmeric powder, salt and the extracted tamarind pulp. Let it boil for 15 mins.
4. Just before you remove the curry from the heat, add the 1/2 tsp of jaggery. More of jaggery will sweeten the curry and change the real taste of vatral kulambu. That little amount of jaggery helps to improve the taste of this particular tamarind based curry without sweetening it.
5. Serve hot with rice and pappadums. That's what we usually have. It also goes with roasted or grilled fish.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sprouted moth dal

Moth beans/Matki sprouts is something that I discovered while in Pune. First from my friend's dabba; then from fresh vegetable markets. The vendors sold these sprouts in small packets. These sprouts are used in Misal and Usal dishes and just by themselves - sauted with some spices. After trying to use the market sold sprouts (which had tiny stones!) twice, I resorted to sprouting it at home. And never went back to buying these from stores ever.

When my mil visited us, She saw me use this in cooking and gasped! And said it is called naripayar in Tamil. So, when I went back home last time, I looked for it. People were very surprised that I was looking for that. They were growing it in the fields for soil conditioning and selling it. Not using it much! Now, here's a delicious way to use these yummy sprouts.

Dry Matki/Moth beans - 1 cup (Soaked in water overnight and sprouted)
Onion - 1, finely chopped
Tomato -1, well ripe, finely chopped
Coriander leaves - some, finely chopped
Curry leaves - 5-6
Jeera/Cummin seeds - 1/2 tsp, crushed
Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Asafoetida - a pinch
Salt - to taste
Oil - 1 tsp
Lemon juice - from 1/2 of a lime/lemon

Heat oil and add the crushed jeera seeds. When it is well roasted, add asafoetida. Add onions and curry leaves and saute for a few mins. Add the chopped tomatoes and add 1 tsp salt. When the tomatoes are well cooked, Add the sprouts and chilli powder and turmeric powder. Sprinkle some water and cover the pan. Let it cook for 3-4 mins. Give it a stir and sprinkle some more water. Cover it and let it cook. Switch off the heat, add coriander leaves and lemon juice and stir once more. Enjoy!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Whole Masoor dal (brown lentils) - another comfort food!

It was only after I came to the US, that I discovered this dal. First it was the orange colored broken masoor using which my roommate made an amazing dal. I tried to replicate it on my own, after I moved out. But failed miserably. The whole masoor dal didn't turn out any better too. It tasted okay... but okay wasn't good enough. I wanted tasty. Then it was Meenal Mehta's Sabut Masoor dal which gave me some hope and ideas. After a few adaptations, I've finally settled on this recipe which we now make quite often at home. My husband and me love it and my daughter loves it too with a splash of rasam in hers. [That's the way she eats all her dals... I can't complain!]

This recipe does not use any masala powders in it and is very tasty by itself. Sometimes I omit the chilli powder too, and have never missed it. The amount of ginger garlic paste used here, is more than what we normally use in our daily cooking. That, combined with the well ripe tomatoes create some magic in the recipe that you don't really miss the heat from the chilli powder. The recipe is very quick to make, if you have a pressure cooker.

Whole masoor dal
Whole masoor dal, brown lentils - 1 Cup
Well ripe tomatoes - 3-4 (well ripe is a must for this recipe),
finely chopped
Onion - 1, big, finely chopped
Ginger Garlic paste (made with 5-6 garlic pods and 1 inch of ginger)
Curry leaves - 5-6
Hing/Asafoetida - 1 pinch
Red Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp (optional)
Salt - to taste
Olive oil - 1 tbsp
Mustard - 1/4 tsp
Jeera/Cummin seeds - 1/4 tsp
Lime - 1/2

Heat the oil and add the mustard and cummin seeds.

When the mustard splutters, add the asafoetida, curry leaves and onions and saute till the onions get translucent. Add the ginger-garlic paste and saute for a minute or two.

Put the chopped tomatoes in and add 1 tsp of salt. Add the red chilli powder. The salt helps the tomatoes to melt in a few minutes. When the tomatoes are well cooked, Add the dal and 4 cups of water to the pan. Cook until 4-5 whistles.

Add more salt to taste and the juice of half a lemon. Serve hot with rice.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

100% WholeWheat bread - No added gluten flour

Some of you must have read about my really poor baking skills in comments sections of many posts by skilled bakers. I had almost given up on breads until I found out about bread machines. :) Obviously I was thrilled, when a friend of ours gave us her Bread machine before she moved. I scoured the net for all types of interesting recipes to use in the bread machine. One such winner is this 100% wholewheat bread, even without added gluten that many recipes as for. I do not like to use milk powder in my recipes, so I used milk instead. [Do not use the timer feature for delayed bread making, with fresh milk.] You can use butter or extra virgin olive oil in the recipe. I've tried both and I like them both.

Like Megan says, it is not crumbly or dense and is pretty light for a 100% Wholewheat bread. And yes, it slices beautifully. My 21 month old DD loves it and can't keep her hands off it. While it stays fresh for more days, I found that it is even better on the second day or third or fourth than when eaten fresh. I keep it sealed in a big ziploc bag and leave it on the kitchen counter.

After eating homemade bread, I don't like the store bought sliced bread anymore. Too spoilt, am I??

100% Wholewheat Bread, without added gluten flour

Milk - 1 cup (8 oz) warmed in microwave
Egg - 1, beaten lightly
Molasses - 1 Tbsp
Sugar - 1 Tbsp
Butter - 2 Tbsp (or olive oil - 3 tbsp)
Whole Wheat bread flour - 3 1/4 cups
Sea salt - 1 1/2 tsp (or table salt)
Rapid rise/Bread machine yeast - 2 tsp

Put them in the pan and set it inside the bread machine. Use the wholewheat cycle and bake. Mine took 4.10 hrs. Enjoy! As simple as that.

ETA: I've increased the milk to 8 oz + 1 tbsp these days. It results in an even softer and taller loaf.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Ribbon Pakoda

As far as I can remember, no Diwali passed by without my mom's special Ribbon Pakoda. We had to have it to make it a Diwali. Thick, crunchy, crispy, right amount of salt, right amount of heat, not oily at all by any means - the perfect way it should be. Amma used to soak 2 kgs of rice and grind it in her grinder machine and add pottukadalai powder (roasted gram dal) and other stuff and make it deep into the night, just a day before Diwali. Sometimes she used to make it even on other days just because. To make a normal day special. I have never tasted Ribbon Pakoda, better than hers. This I say after trying many many different Ribbon Pakoda recipes from aunties, my grandma, relatives and even those well renowned sweet stores.

Now I had made it once, exactly the same way my mom used to make and it was just awesome. I tried the first time halving her recipe, but even that took a HUGE amount of time to finish making the entire lot. I never tried it again. Then recently I was going to Saffronhut's yummy recipes and found a ribbon pakoda recipe which used 1 cup rice flour. Just 1 cup! No soaking, grinding, nothing. This, I can do - I thought. It should take very less time and effort. But I don't like kadalaimaavu taste in Ribbon Pakoda. What do I do now?? Then something clicked and I realized that I could micro-size my mom's recipe and use rice flour instead. :) Voila! This recipe was born that minute. And guess what? It tasted almost the same way as my mom's. And now, my daughter enjoys it the same way her mom did in her early years.

Rice flour - one 265 ml cup + 2 tbsp
Pottukadalai (Roasted gram dal/dhalia) - powdered - 1/2 of the same cup
Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp (or more if you like)
White sesame seeds - 1 Tbsp
Asafoetida - a pinch
Butter - 1/2 tsp, softened
Salt - to taste

Heat oil in a thick cast iron pan. I used Canola oil.

Sift rice flour and pottukadalai flour and mix together. Add the rest of the stuff (except butter) and mix well and keep it aside. Mix it with the dry flour till it's not sticky anymore and it is well mixed with the flour. Add some water and mix it till it becomes a thick dough. The lesser the water, the better.

Use the ribbon pakoda disc in the murukku maker and make flat ribbon like designs in the hot oil. Drain on paper towels. Leave it out for 20 mins and store in airtight container.

Keeps well for almost a month, if you have that much self control to not eat it until then. :) I like it to eat on its own or with Sambar saadham or rasam saadham.

1. If the ribbons are not forming well and is absorbing more oil, the dough is too watery. Add more rice flour.
2. If it's too hard to press, add 1/2 tbsp of water and try again. If still hard to press, add some more water.
3. Do not add more butter. It makes the ribbons very crumbly.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mor Urundai Kuzhambu (Lentil dumplings in Yogurt sauce)

Mor Urundai Kuzhambu - A mor kuzhambu (yogurt sauce) with paruppu urundais (lentil dumplings) floating in it. Ahhh! I first had a taste of this yummy goodness from a friend's lunch box in my XIth Std. at School. Now, My mom makes awesome mor kozhumbu - the best I've ever tasted. And I love it. I love it to the point that I could keep it in the fridge and have it for the new two days, till it gets over. She teases me often that if she made a huge tank full of mor kuzhambu, I would be swimming in it to my heart's fill. After I told her about the mor kozhumbu with urundais in it, being the foodie that she is, she created an even better version of it. Though the name has mor (Indian style buttermilk), she really uses Ketti thayir (yogurt).

For the curry/kuzhambu
Curd/yogurt - 1 litre
Grated Coconut - 1 cup
Jeera/Cummin seeds - 1/2 tsp + 1/2 tsp
Redchillies - 3+3, can use green chillies too
Raw rice - 1 tbsp
Tur dal - 1 tbsp
Coriander seeds - 1 tbsp
Curry leaves - few
Onions - 1, finely sliced
Garlic - 4, sliced
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida - a pinch
Salt to taste
Oil - 1 tbsp

For the urundais

Kadalai paruppu - 1 cup
Onions - 1/2 cup, finely chopped for the urundais
Green chilly - 1 (not including the above chillies), finely chopped
coriander leaves - a few sprigs, finely chopped
ginger - 1/2 inch
salt - 1 tsp

For the urundais
Soak the kadalai paruppu for an hour and grind it with the ginger and salt, to very thick batter with very less water(masala vadai batter consistency) . Add the finely chopped onions, green chillies, coriander leaves and salt. Make small round balls. Steam these in an idli maker or steamer for 8-10 mins. Poke holes in this using a tooth pick.

For the curry/kuzhambu
Roast the tur dal in 1/4 tsp oil and soak it along with the raw rice for 30 mins. Grind these along with the coconut, red chillies (3), some salt, jeera(1/2 tsp) with very little water and keep it aside. Whip the yogurt with a wire-whisk and add the ground paste to this. Add salt too. Do not add water to this mixture.

Heat oil, add the mustard and remaining jeera seeds. After the mustard seeds have popped, add asafoetida, sliced onions, curry leaves, garlic remaining red chillies and saute for a few mins. Add turmeric powder. Reduce the flame/heat, stir in the yogurt + masala mixture into this. Add the steamed urundais. As soon as the first bubble comes (It will be very tiny), switch of the heat. The kuzhambu should NOT boil. If it boils over, then the yogurt will curdle. So, remember the less heat + switch off at the sign of first bubble.

Serve with hot rice and vegetables.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Hot and Spicy Shrimp

My late-mama (maternal uncle) used to brighten up a room with his presence and be the life of the party anywhere anytime. Once in a while, he used to get an urge to cook and he'd do it without any masala powder or chilli powders. And the end dish would be really good. Lip smacking, tongue tickling, 'give me more, right now!' - THAT good! Once in a while, I try to make some dish like that - without any masala powders. It can't get any fresher than that (unless ofcourse, you grow your own vegetables!). Here is one such recipe. The hot and spiciness comes from ginger, garlic and green chillies. Lots of them!

Shrimp - 1 pound, at room temperature
Onion - 1 very finely sliced
Green chillies -4-6 depending on how how hot they are
Garlic - 6 pods
Ginger - 2 inch
Curry leaves - few
Oil - 1-2 tbsp
Salt - to taste
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Lemon juice - 1 tbsp

Grind the ginger, garlic and green chillies with 1/2 tsp salt. The salt is very important to add whenever you grind green chillies. Keep this aside.

Heat oil in a thick bottomed pan and add the curry leaves. Add the onions and saute this for a few minutes, till they get soft. You can keep the lid closed and the let the onions cook till they are soft and almost mushy. Add the ground paste and saute for a few more mins. Add the prawns and keep stirring. Add the turmeric and salt after a few mins and close the pan with a lid. After 5 mins, open it and add a sprinkle of water if you need. Keep stirring till the shrimp is cooked. When it is almost dry, add the lemon juice and stir once. Remove from heat. Serve with hot rice or roti.

ETA: A friend of mine made this and said she loved it but couldn't get the same caremelised brown color. I used a cast iron skillet with a cast iron lid, which I think contributed to that rich caramelized color. Or maybe it was the onions, saute'd for a longer time.. It adds a great taste too.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Get Preppy - Curry leaves

I get very less time to cook these days. Like every other parent. Or a busy non-parent. I do double a recipe once in a while and freeze it for later, but the taste isn't really as good as freshly cooked. So, I've resorted to prepping some stuff, these day, to help me to cook faster. The fridge and the freezer help me to get my kitchen more preppy. While the obvious advantage is that it saves me a LOT of time - with washing, prepping and then, cleanup, I've noticed that it helps me use the vegetables before they get bad. I'm sharing my preppy methods here in a new series 'Get preppy'. Feel free to share your tips and techniques too in the comments section.

We get fresh curry leaves here in Toronto. Almost every Indian/Srilankan/Pakistani grocers have them. A dollar or two fetches a nice big bag of curry leaves. Fresh. After a few days in the fridge, the leaves get drier and drier. And then they go bad.

I tried freezing them and they froze beautifully. Then, a plan emerged. As soon as I come home after grocery shopping, I got down to work. I separated the leaves from the twigs and washed them well. Then used a salad spinner to get the water out of the leaves. Alternatively, You can dry the leaves on a towel too. I then packed them in a ziplock bag and squeezed as much air outside the bag as possible.

The bag went inside the freezer. As and when I need curry leaves, I open the ziplock bag and take a few leaves and close it tight shut and put it in the freezer rack. Note :: It is very important that to put the bag inside the freezer right away, because if left out, the leaves will thaw in very few minutes. And once they thaw, you cannot refreeze them.

The curry leaves stay green and fresh for a very long time. Almost 2 months.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Toppings maketh a pizza!

Some are crust-people, Some are cheese-people. Obviously, We are toppings-people. We are the kind who think 'Toppings maketh a pizza.'

Thanks to a Wholewheat pizza base from the store, some yummy organic cheese and a pizza stone suggested by this couple, we had our first glimpse of pizza heaven. Absolutely delicious! Yumm! It was a zillion times better than delivery pizza, at least 10 times better than those gourmet pizza places... We got hooked! Thus began our search for the perfect Wholewheat pizza.

Try googling for WW pizza recipe. Many recipes say 'it's 100% WW pizza', but if you go on to read the recipe, most contain 100% wholewheat flour and then equal amounts of AP flour. Does that make it 100% Wholewheat? Hmmm! The search continued. Again, the same guys to the rescue. And some more. And some more. And some more. And with some basic pizza making tips from Dani, (a friend who makes a killer white pizza), I got working following each method. All that work paid off! While there have been many proud smiles, being a beginner with yeasty-beasty-breads, there have been some pouty faces too. Still working on it! Maybe someday I'll hit on a foolproof method and I can share with you all. Until then, check out those above recipes.

ETA: You know, sometimes we call our friends to wish 'Happy Birthday' and talk a long time and put the phone down and then remember that we haven't wished them at all?? That's what I'm experiencing right now. I came here to make a post thanking these lovely people for having come up with such yummy wholewheat pizza recipes, and then I go for a few days and come back to read it to see that I forgot to thank them at all.

Thank you guys! :)

Venn Pongal - A sumptuous breakfast fare

Yep, I got my mojo back!

VennPongal is the fair looking cousin of the rich Pongal. When I wake up on a Saturday morning, with no idli batter, no mood for upma, a 'Noooo way!' for cold cereal, a 'Yuck!' for slimy oatmeal, 'You got be kidding me!' for bread and eggs and 'Nope, I don't want to stand in front of the tava for long' to make besan cheelas or yellow mung dal dosa, the thought of VennPongal brings a beautiful smile on my face. This is a typical breakfast fare in most Tamilian homes and restaurants. The name 'Venn' comes from 'Vennmai' - the white color. A typical side dish would be Coconut chutney and Sambar but I was in a whimsical mood to add some color and a twist in taste to my breakfast.

Rice - 1 cup (Wash it and keep it aside)
Yellow mung dal - 1/2 cup
Ghee - 1 tbsp
Oil - 1 tsp
Curry leaves - a sprig
Pepper corns - 1/2 tbsp (less if you prefer it less hot)
Cummin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Salt - to taste

Heat the 1 tsp oil in the pressure cooker and roast the yellow mung dal for a few minutes. The dal should not change color. Now wash the dal in the pressure cooker under the sink faucet. Add the rice to the dal in the pressure cooker, add salt, 4 cups of water and pressure cook till 2-3 whistles. Let it cool till the pressure drops.

Crush the peppercorns into quarters and slightly crush the cummin seeds, just so to bring out the flavor. Heat 1 tbsp ghee in a small kadai and add the crushed pepper and cummin seeds, add the curry leaves and saute for a few seconds. Add to the VennPongal in the pressure cooker and stir well. Serve hot.

Green Chutney
Coriander leaves - a big bunch, wash and drain well
Onion - a quarter, chopped into big pieces
Garlic - 3-4 pods, chopped into halves
Ginger - 1 inch piece, skinned and chopped
Channa dal - 1 tbsp
Cummin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Pepper corns - 5
Green chillies - 2
Grated Coconut - 3 tbsp
Salt - to taste
Tamarind - 1 small piece, say about an inch

Heat oil and add the cummin seeds. Add the channa dal and pepper corn and roast them for a few seconds. Add the onion, green chillies, ginger, garlic pieces and saute them. Add the coriander leaves and saute them, but only till they wilt. Switch the stove off and add the coconut, tamarind and salt. Grind these to a fine chutney. Enjoy!