Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Wish each one of you dear friends a very Happy Holiday Season and a very Happy New Year!

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See you all in the New Year.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Carrot Onion Oothappam (Indian Pancake)

Do we appreciate the common and mundane as much as we do the interesting and the extraordinary? I certainly don't! my response to a query "How is it going?" is usually "the same old nothing interesting". Once the mundane turns to awkward you understand in a second that the mundane is far more comforting than we give credit for.

Taking the bus or train to work is mundane as it can get, hop in the bus or train, read a book, fall asleep, dream do whatever, a routine as boring as it gets, till your reverie is rudely interrupted by an abusive passenger who picks on another passenger and starts abusing him loudly and gets on his face,. everyone around him is hoping that the abuser does not turn his attention on them and get very busy with what they are doing. Luckily the passenger did not let the abuser get the better of him and was smart enough to ask the driver to call the cops (the driver should have called the cops long before it reached that point but).

The second the word COP was mentioned the abuser started sweating and wanted to be let out of the bus, though it was on a busy highway. The driver was asked to get the bus on the shoulder and wait for the cops, they came asked a bunch of questions and took the abuser off the bus to question him, meanwhile a cop who checked his bag found a gun, a real small one. Fortuntely he did not see the need to pull it out. Anyway the abuser was taken off the bus and we rode the rest of the way in silence. The minute we got off the bus we burst out laughing, like we had stopped breathing for the entire time, happy for the moment the mundane returned.

Carrot Onion Oothappam
Well Oothappam, is a mundane everyday breakfast back home but here for us it is usually dinner :) nothing spectacular nothing fancy but comforting just the same. On a cold winter nothing to comfort like good old oothappam.

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1. Slightly sour idli batter
2. Grated carrots
3. finely chopped onions

1. Mix ingredients 1-3
2. Pour a laddle of batter on a hot dosai pan (griddle)
3. Spread it around in a circle
4. sprinkle a few drops of oil
5. Flip and cook on the other side

Serve with some Tomato/Onion chutney or even with sambhar or idli podi

Another comforting picture on a cold winter day. Shrimp Gravy cooking!

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Sweet Potato, Black Eyed Peas Soup

We got the first snow of the season! The roads were clogged, it took 3 hrs to travel 10-15 miles which normally takes about 45 minutes during rush hour. Unlike our brethren up north we don't deal with snow that well bringing pretty much everything to a stand still around here. DD was disappointed that her school was not closed, if they had she would have used the time to do some important activity like playing on her DS or the Computer :( Kids!!!

It would be appropriate to say that winter heralds the start of the soup season. Soup the comfort food that brings a warm glow to the insides. Tasted this wonderful hearty soup on Thanksgiving at our friend's house. Thanksgiving and winter also brings sweet potatoes into sharp foucs. There is mounds of them piled high in the grocery store but not many dishes that I know of where they can be readily used. Boiled is how we most often eat them. The Sweet Potatoes are left chunky but soft and with the addition of the black eyed peas to give some texture, a perfect one pot meal.

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Recipe Source: Land O' Lakes

Serves 4 as a Main Course
1. 3 Medium Orange Sweet Potatoes skin removed and cubed
2. 1 1/2 Medium sized Ripe tomatoes
3. 1 Cup Black Eyed Peas
4. 1/2 Onion Chopped
5. 5 Garlic cloves chopped
6. 1 tbsp tomato ketchup (or tomato paste)
7. 1 tsp pepper powder
8. 1 tsp red chili powder
9. a handful chopped corriander leaves
10. 2 1/2 Cups Chicken Broth (any broth would work)
11. 2 tsp butter or ghee
12. Salt to taste

1. In a heavy bottomed pan, heat the ghee and saute the garlic and onion till soft.
2. add the cubed potatoes and saute for a few minutes
3. add the tomatoes and black eyed peas and saute for a minute
4. add the pepper powder, chili powder and tomato sauce
5. add the broth and bring it to a boil, adjust salt
6. Reduce the heat to medium and let simmer till the potatoes are cooked. It should retain its shape and not fall apart
7. Just before turning off the heat add the chopped coriander leaves

Tastes fantastic with a side of garlic bread.

Novel Reading:
Critical - Robin Cook
More my kind of book, medical mystery

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Tori Ambat (Pigeon Pea Curry)

I made a deal! Yes to cook and post since she does not get Pigeon Peas fresh or frozen in her part of the world. Purnima of Cook was commenting on the other Pigeon Pea dish I had cooked and it brought back memories of her shelling them as a child. On checking how she remembers them being cooked, she gave me this delicious recipe. I have never seen fresh pigeon peas in their pods but I do get the frozen ones. The dish is also heading over to JFI-Toor Dal hosted by dear Linda. Purnima,the smell of the pigeon peas cooking was wonderful so was the dish. The family loved eating it with both chapathis and rice.

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1. 3/4 Cup Pigeon Peas
2. 1 Potato peeled and cubed
3. 1/4 Red Onion chopped fine
4. 1 tsp ghee (Purnima said coconut oil)
5. 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
6. salt to taste

1. a cherry sized tamarind ball
2. 2 tbsp coconut
3. 2 red chilies (I did not have badegi chilies)

Blend the above to a smooth paste adding a bit of water

1. In a sauce pan boil the pigeon peas and potatoes with salt (1/4 cup water)
2. When the potatoes are almost cooked add the paste and bring it to a boil
3. In a separate pan heat the ghee, season with cumin, add the onions and saute till slightly brown and add to the peas,
4. Cover with the lid for the flavors to blend in.

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Tori Ambat, Anita's Sookhi Gobhi Aloo, Chapati

Serve with chapatis or rice.

Novel Reading
The inheritance of Loss - Kiran Desai
I have read so much about the book, it having won the Booker Prize and all. The prose is beautiful but the fact that the tale is sad all around is what bothered me and the cynic in me also sees hypocrisy, the main reason why I don't want to read English books by authors from the subcontinent.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Kathrikkai Kadaisal (Mashed Brinjal)

My post on weekdays are usually done at night, but sometimes I do them in the morning, just before running off to work. This dish like this post is quick and easy, perfect for a quick meal on a weekday night.

Don't be fooled by the looks of my picture, my photographic skills have not done justice to this tasty dish.

Winter time, we tend to watch a lot of movies and read a lot of books, the reason I love public libraries ? couple of months ago I was in a video store looking for the movie, they did not have it, but our public library did! It is our favorite haunt especially during these cold winter months. And the movie, "Mr Smith Goes to Washington", a good one to watch if you are a novice running for political office! :). Even otherwise it was fascinating to see how graft greases the wheels of the political machinery. Democracy in action! Nothing new but interesting just the same.

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Kathirkkai Kadaisal (Mashed Brinjal)
1. 2 long Eggplants chopped (any eggplant would do, I used the long ones)
2. 1/2 Red Onion chopped
3. 4 cloves garlic chopped
4. 2 Red Chilies split in half seeds removed
5. 1 Tomato Chopped (1 or 2 depending on how tomatoey you want it)
6. seasonings : curry leaves, cumin , mustard
7. 1 tsp oil

1. In a Pressure cooker heat a tsp of oil, add the seasonings, when the mustard starts to pop
2. add the onions and garlic and saute till translucent,
3. Add the red chilies, tomatoes and saute for a minute
4. Add the eggplant pieces and saute for a minute more
5. Add salt
6. Pressure cook for 2 whistles or 5-6 minutes

Let the steam escape, open and mash with a mathu or the back of a spoon.

Serve with idlis or rice.

Mathu as it is called in Tamil is used for mashing, this is also used to mash dal, greens etc., What is it called in other languages? Is it common in North Indian kitchens too? What would the English word be?

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Small one purchased in the US is called "Crack and Peel" - use it to pound garlic, ginger, spices etc. , the tool with the long handle called "mathu" in Tamil is used to mash dal, greens and the kitchens I have visited are never without it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Spicy Burmese Potatoes

We were off to New England for a very delicious and fantastic Thanksgiving feast. Great food, wonderful company what more could anyone possibly ask for? The roads were a different story, we thought we were being smart driving on Thanksgiving day, looks like so were a million others :) But this getting caught in traffic is fast becoming a Thanksgiving tradition! Now that we are back and after the long holiday it is becoming a challenge to get back to work, thought I'd postpone that event a little bit more and do a blog post instead!

DD2's baby sitter 'V' cooks some amazing Burmese dishes, I assume they are because she is from Burma and I am not very familiar with Burmese cuisine. She cooks this amazing potato dish with almost the same ingredients that go into our regular Potato Masal but tastes very different. Can be made dry by reducing the onions and tomatoes by since this is going to Sra's Grindless Gravies event this had some extra onions and tomatoes. Sra the food processor was used to chop the onions and garlic so I will let you be the judge :) Oh nevermind I used a knife to chop the onions and garlic.

Grindless Gravies
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1. 6 Medium sized potatoes peeled and cut into cubes
2. 3/4 Red Onion and 4 garlic pods chopped in a food processor chopped fine using a knife
3. 2 tomatoes chopped
4. a handful of finely chopped corriander leaves
5. 1/2 tbsp chili powder
6. 1 tsp turmeric powder
7. Salt to taste
8. 2 tsp oil

1. In a wide mouthed pad heat the oil, add the chopped onions and saute till they are brown.
2. Add turmeric powder, chili powder and mix
3. Add the tomatoes and saute till they turn mushy
4. Add the potatoes, cover and cook
5. add corriander leaves and salt and cook for a minute or two.

Tastes great with rice or rotis.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Green Toor Dal (Pigeon Pea) with Chinese Potatoes

Me and food events are jinxed, either I can't find a good recipe for the event or I am too late to even get in the game. When Linda announced JFI-Toor Dal, made a mental note to "better not miss this event" So I am proud to announce that I am well in time and participating in the event.

One very good thing about commuting to work using public transportation is the amount of time I have in my hands. I devour newspapers for which I had to find time before and also end up reading a lot of mystery novels, my favorite kind of (pulp) fiction. I am going to keep a running count of the books I read and the authors as a way to keep track of them. I remember reading a novel a few months back about a author I thought wrote very well but can't remember either the name of the book or the author. By keeping track of them in this blog (no way I can't handle another one) I can refer to them whenever I want.

Now before Linda flings a book at me let me get to the recipe. Linda hope you are also accepting recipes with Green Toor dal.

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Update:What is Chinese Potato?
Chinese Potato is called Arrow Root : Cook's Thesaurus
It is called Koorka in Malayalam : InjiManga

1. 1/4 Cup Frozen Pigeon Peas
2. 1/4 - 1/2 Cup Cut Chinese Potatoes (I used the cooked frozen ones)
3. 1/4 onion chopped
4. 1 tsp grated ginger
5. 4-5 garlic cloves
6. 1/4 cup tamarind pulp
7. Seasonings : mustard, cumin seeds, methi seeds and curry leaves

1. 6-8 small onions + 1/4 red onion
2. 3 green chilies
3. cumin powder 1 tsp
4. 1/2 tbsp corriande powder
5. 1 tomato

Saute the above in the order listed and blend to a paste

1. In a pan heat oil and add the seasonings, when the mustard starts to splutter
2. add onion and saute till translucent, add the garlic and ginger and saute a minute
3. add the pigeon peas and potates and saute them a little bit
4. add the blended paste, salt and about 3-4 tbsp of water enough for the peas and potatoes are cooked
5. Add the tamarind juice and heat till the required conistency is reached.

Serve with rotis or rice. Goes well with both.

Mystery Novel
Magic Time - Doug Marlette
A Deeper Sleep - Dana Stabenow (Kate Shugak Novel)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Chicken Paella - Spanish Biryani?

Self Analysis of my blogging and cooking motives is something I want to keep away from. Why? Do I look forward to cooking new dishes so that I can post them on the blog or is it because I want to feed my family new and delightful goodies? I strongly suspect it is the former but like I said I don't want to over analyse. The family for quiet some time thinks that blogging is the only reason they get to taste new delicacies, not that they are offended, they are simple happy is what I would like to think of the fact.

But I confess, Paella is something I would not have tried if not for the pleasure of blogging about it. Besides the payback of enjoying this wonderful dish blogging gives the added pleasure of talking about the pleasure. Ever since I saw the dish being cooked at the DuPont Farmer's Market and having tasted it, is a wonder that it did not happen sooner. One main reason was not having the right pan, even toyed with the idea of buying the enchilada itself but I wanted to try the dish before buying the pan. Kind of a chicken and egg problem. I used a 16Qt stock pot which had a big flat surface.

Biryani - Paella
What is the commonality between Biryani and Paella? Both refer to the frying that is involved, one of the rice, meat and other ingredients and the other of the frying pan. In my opinion both are flavorful one pot dishes perfect for a party or just a relaxing weekend meal. There is nary a cuisine which does not have its own version of Biryani.

Recipe Source: Fine Cooking - Paella (Taunton)
Followed the general cooking guidelines from here but additions like chili powder and cilantro in place of rosemary was to suit the Indian palate. Added mushrooms because there were in the Paella I tasted. I did not have Saffron so had to leave that flavoring out, can't wait any longer. Could have added peas too.

To Note:
1. Use a rice that can hold its own after absorbing the liquid and the long cooking time. Read this article. So Basmati is not a suitable one. I chose Risotto rice and was perfect.

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1. 1 lb Chicken thighs with bones (cut into pieces of desired size).
2. 1 Medium red onion
3. 2 Tomatoes
4. 25 Green beans kind into desired size
5. 15 Crimini Mushrooms cleaned and cut into about 3 slices per mushroom
6. 6-8 stalks of coriander leaves
7. 1 tbsp chili powder
8. 1 1/2 Cups Risotto Rice
9. 3 3/4 Cups Chicken Stock (I used Vegetable Stock as I did not have Chicken stock on hand)
10. 1/2 head of garlic, remove the excess skin and make a slit on the outside + 5 cloves garlic sliced
11. 1 tsp pepper powder
12. 1 tbsp oil
13. salt to taste
14. 2 tbsp milk

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1. Sprinkle salt and pepper powder and let the chicken sit
2. Mince the onion in the food processor, set aside
3. Mince the tomatoes in the food processor

1. Heat a little bit oil in the pan, add the head of garlic, brown the chicken and set it aside.
2. Add the green beans and mushroom, bit more oil if required and saute them till they are half cooked, set aside
3. Now add the rest of the oil onions, sliced garlic and saute till they turn brown, At at this point I fished out the head of garlic and removed the skin and added the whole cloves to the pot
4. Add the tomatoes, salt and let them cook till all the raw smell goes and the color is bright red
5.At step 2, set the pot of stock to boil, when boiling add the chili powder to it.
6. Now add the rice to the pan and make sure the bottom is covered.
7. Spread the green beans and mushroom evenly, add the chicken
8. Reserve about a 1/4 cup of the stock and add the boiling stock to the rice
9. Let it cook on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes till the rice starts to plump up and the liquid has all been absorbed. Test the doneness, at this stage I had to add the rest of stock and let it cook for 3-4 minutes more
10. Now cover the layer of rice with aluminum foil, since I was using a deep pot I also closed the lid and let it cook like that for about 3-4 minutes again.
11. Add the milk, mix the rice, place the foil back, turn the burner all the way down and cook for another 5 minutes.
12. Switch off the heat, Don't touch the foil yet, leave it as is for another 10 minutes

That was one super tasting rice dish, even the kiddies asked for seconds. I was excited with the results and now seriously considering buying a Paella pan. I am hooked.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Almond Chicken Curry

Fall day, a bowl of hot spicy chicken curry, parathas, a sunny window seat and a mystery novel, these are a few of my favorite things. Kind of getting carried away by the whole thing but for one minute snafu, fall is the not exactly my cup of tea, the shrinking daylight hours, gloomy days, chilly windy days all conspire to make me feel blue and any upliftment in the way of food is always welcome. That is where the Almond Chicken Curry comes in.

One day as I walk by the office kitchen this delicious aroma of wonderful chicken curry wafts where usually it is a smell that is a mixture of frozen dinners, pasta, chinese food, whcih makes me want to eat lunch too, but this was special and made me want to rush home and cook right away. Well my friend says her friend cooked it for her and she askes her friend and he text messages the recipe over to her and she to me. He had used cashews, I substituted with Almonds it being the Good Nut and all.

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1. 1 1/2 lb Thighs with bones cut into bite sized pieces and clean with some turmeric
2. 1 Red onion chopped fine
3. 6 garlic cloves
4. 1 1/2 inch ginger
5. 15 whole almonds
6. 1 tbsp red chili powder
7. 3 cloves
8. a small cinnamon piece
9. bay leaf
10. 1/2 tbsp oil

To Make a Paste
1. Saute the garlic and ginger
2. Soak the almonds in some hot water and remove the skin
3. Blend to a smooth paste

1. In a hard bottomed pan, heat oil and fry the chicken till they start to brown, set aside.
2.Add the remaning oil, add the clove, cinnamon and bay leaves, when they start to turn color, add the onions and saute till brown. (for a smoother creamier gravy chop the onion really fine or blend to a paste and then saute)
3. add the chili powder followed by the
4. almond paste, and about a cup of water and let it cook
5. now add the chicken and salt and cook till the chicken is cooked through and desired consistency is reached. I wanted mine slightly watery but if you want it thicker reduce the amount of water.

Serve hot with some parathas near a sunny window and a mystery novel

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Pumpkin Paratha

Yes seems I am not done with the pumpkin dishes just yet and is raining pumpkin around here, that was one big pumpkin,DD2 did good at the pumpkin patch :) Half turned into delicious halwa, the other half landed in the fridge. Parathas seemed like a great way to use them easy but for the grating, it is a great exercise while watching TV the more boring the show the more vigorous the grating gets. These pumpkins I know are not grown with cooking in mind, they are hollow inside and the flesh stringy and not very sutiable for curries or stir frys. But since the texture didn't seem to matter for the Halwa or the parathas they morphed into delicious dishes.

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1. 1 1/2 Cups grated Pumpkin
2. 2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
3. 2 tsp red chili powder
4. salt to taste.

1. Combine all the ingredients amd make a pliable dough, add a little bit more
wheat flour if too moist. I did not squeeze the liquid out of the grated pumpkin.
2. Make small round balls, press and fry them.

Serve hot with curry of choice, family enjoyed with some Almond Chicken.

Rolling parathas, don't come as naturally as a dosai but no worries, our blog friends come to the rescue.

1. Asha's version of Radish parathas
2. Musical has another neat way, stuffed parathas.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Yellow (Halloween) Pumpkin Halwa

The food blog world has been agog with Deepavali celebration for about two weeks now but for some inexplicable reason I forgot about Deepavali on Deepavali day, lame excuse for not cooking any sweets for the festival. The pumpkin that DD2 brought home from the pumpkin patch has been sitting on the counter top for a couple of weeks now. We are not big time or small time for that matter pumpkin carvers so after a brief visit outside the house for Halloween night it has been sitting on the counter top. It seemed criminal to throw away a perfectly good pumpkin in the trash. Pumpkin Halwa with the Halloween Pumpking for Deepavali seemed like a grand idea.
When I suggested cooking with it, DD2 was not too pleased with her kumpkin (that is how she calls it) being broken and cooked. So I did the unthinkable when she was sleeping and removed all traces of it. Cracking open the pumpkin is the hard part, once open removing the skin is an easy process.

The Halloween Pumpking thus became Pumpkin Halwa, it did turn out delicious. Add sugar, milk, honey to anything and delicious it has to be by default. But do people cook with the Halloween pumpkins or is it just for carving? Taste wise it did taste perfectly pumpkinish like it should.

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The recipe is pretty simple and comes from this website, followed the exact instructions.
Recipe Source: Easy Indian Food

1. 3 Cups grated pumpkin, skin and seeds removed (the food processor worked beautifully)
2. 1 Cup Milk
3. 1 cup sugar
4. 1/2 cup honey
5. 15 Cashews broken
6. 3 Cardamoms powdered
7. Ghee - 2 1/2 tbsp

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1. In a wide mouthed pan heat about a tsp of ghee and roast the cashews and set aside
2. Add another couple of tsps of ghee and the grated pumpkin and saute till the raw smell goes (about 15 mts)
3. Add the milk cover and cook till the pumpkin turns soft (another 10 minutes).
4. Add the sugar, cardamom powder and honey, mix and cook till all the moisture evaporates.
5. Add the remaining ghee and cook till the ghee starts to separate (another 8-10minutes)
6. Add the cashews and turn off the heat

There lovely Pumpkin Halwa is ready. Hope everyone had a great Deepavali celebration.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Vendaikkai Puli Kuzhambu (Okra in tamarind sauce)

November 3rd 2007, National Day of Climate Action - Visit Step it Up 2007 for more information and events planned in your area.

Growing Greens
I am absolutely glad I planted Swiss Chard, every week they have provided us with their bounty, just a few pots with about 10 plants. A quick green addition to any dal. So if you want greens make sure you plant a few come spring :)

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Lady's Finger aka Okra
I would consider Okra to be a perfect vegetable! Why and what exactly is a perfect Vegetable? Well in my humble opinion a vegetable that can be cooked in several different forms and tastes absolutely delicious without loosing its form. Well now we are cooking. Be it in a stir fry, sambhar, Puli Kuzhambu, Kaara Kuzhambu it still maitains its crunchiness and taste. When it is fresh it can even be eaten raw like a carrot.

The older the vegetable the slimier it gets. The slime is directly proportional to the number of days it sat in the fridge. Slime is perhaps the only thing that I don't like about the vegetable. We can't have it all can we?

Of all the different vegetables that taste good in a Puli Kuzhambu okra has to be my absolute favorite. Few precautions can help keep the slime at bay. If the okras are not fresh, wash them ahead of time and dry them in the sun a little bit. Trying to cut while still wet makes them slimier so make sure they are dry.

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1. 20 Okra ends removed and cut into about 1/2" pieces
2. 3 Green chilies slit
3. 1 -2 Red chilies slit
4. 1/2 medium red onion chopped
5. 1 -2 garlic cloves whole (optional)
6. 1 tsp sambhar powder (optional)
7. 1 tsp turmeric powder.
8. Seasonings - cumin, urad dal, methi seeds, curry leaves a few of each
9. 1 1/2 of tamarind pulp from a small lemon size ball.

1. In a wide mouthed pad heat a tsp of oil and fry the okra, saute till they turn black and brown and the slime is gone. Set aside
2. Add 2 tsp of oil to the same pan, add the seasonings, add ural dal first when slightly brown follow with the other seasonings.
3. Add the green chilies and red chilies and then the onions and saute till translucent
4. Add the garlic cloves and the okra pieces
5. Add the turmeric powder and sambhar powder, mix
6. Add the tamarind pulp, cover and cook till the okra is the required texture (about 8-10 minutes)
7. Add salt cook for a minute more and turn of the heat

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Serve with some keerai paruppu (dal with greens) and rice.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Halwa of the Poori Halwa

A friend at work often talked about eating poori with halwa, the first I heard of it, marked it of as just her personal preference, not being familiar or even having heard of eating Poori with Halwa, for me poori is eaten with either Potato Masal or Peas Kurma or any Kurma. But thanks to the blogs and the festival season being celebrated around the blogworld I was pleasantly surprised to find out that eating Poori with Halwa is a North Indian tradition, there it is again the North South thing so it might be just a few states in the north, what do I know. Ingredient from which Halwa is made of, is not a lot different from the way Kesari is made. Cream of Wheat (Sooji or Rawa), ghee, sugar, dried fruits and nuts all ingredients that go into making a delicious Kesari.

Recipe Source: NPR's Kitchen Window

When I did finally make it was not much different than Kesari, creamy soft and rich, even though I cut down the fat used by about 2/3rds. I can imagine the taste with a piece of poori. I was not in a mood to make pooris, it rained for the past 4 days, no complaints about the rain, we need it but it is cold outside. But the Halwa can be enjoyed just by itself.

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1. 1 Cup of Cream of Wheat
2. 1 Cup of Sugar
3. 3 cups of water
3. 2 tbsp of butter + 1/2 tbsp ghee
4. 2 pods of cardamom
5. 2 tbsp of cashews and slivered almonds

1. Heat 2 tbsp of butter in a pan and when it melts add the cream of wheat and roast for about 10 minutes. Switch off the heat.
2. In a sauce pan, heat the water, sugar, cardamom and about 10 almond slivers when the sugar disolves and the water is at a boil
3. Start the heat on the cream of wheat, add the sugar syrup and mix well and let the cream of wheat start to thicken
4. Now cover the pan and let it cook for 8-10 minutes
5. Open the lid, add the ghee on the side, reserve about 1/2 tsp to roast the nuts
6. Heat for another 5 minutes, add the nuts on top and switch off the heat.

Eat just by itself or serve with Poori.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Porotta Kurma - Peas Kurma

What kind of food comes to mind when I think of long car trips in the US? the fast food McD kind of food, I can't resist the fish sandwich and french fries. On the other hand a long road trip in India always reminds me of the road side Porotta stalls open all through the night even in the remote parts, lit up with bright tube lights with a big griddle sitting in front of the store and hot hot porottas being made on them. The porottas are usually served with mixed vegetable kurma or dried peas kormas. Soaked in this korma, the porotta's taste delicious all caution to the wind about the road side eatery, it is piping hot what could possible go wrong and seriously I or the family have never fallen sick eating them. Got a packet of dried peas a long time ago to recreate this road side korma and finally the day did arrive.

Read about Inji's very interesting take on her road side favorite.

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Peas Kurma

1. 1 1/2 Cups of Dried Peas soaked overnight (can be cooked prior)
2. 1/4 Red onion chopped
3. Seasonings curry leaves, cumin,mustard
4. 1 + 1 tsp oil
5. salt

For the Paste
1. 1/2 Medium Red onion + 10 Small Red onions
2. 3 medium sized red tomatoes
3. 1 1/2 tbsp grated coconut
4. 1 tbsp corriander seeds
5. 1 tsp cumin seeds
6. 3 Red chilies
7. a pinch or two of fennel seeds
8. 3 cloves
9. a 1 inch piece of cinnamon
10. 4 garlic pods + 1 inch piece of ginger
11. 1 tsp of turmeric powder

Saute the ingredients 1-10, first the onions when translucent start adding all others with coconut being the last and when cool add the turmeric powder blend to a paste.

1. In a pan heat oil add the seasonings followed by the onion and saute till translucent.
2. Now add the peas and mix and let them cook for 3-4 minutes.
3. Add the blended mixture with about 2-3 cups of water (the peas were not cooked so enough water to cook them, DO NOT add salt) . If you using cooked peas reduce the water to about a 1 1/2 cup or the conistency desired.
4. Cover the lid and in medium let it cook till the peas have reached the consistency you desire.
5. Add salt and simmer for a minute.

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Serve with Chaptis or Porottas. The taste was close enough, but I don't remember the exact taste anyway :)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Warm October and Milagai Saatham (Green Chilli Rice)

Warm and Sunny October Sunday
What is one to do when the day dawns bright sunny and warm, feels like it is almost a crime to stay indoors. We don't have to travel much to get into the woods, walk a few houses down the road , and stop near DDs friends' house who usually joins us, cut across their backyard and few yards down is the trail. We hike on the trail which literally runs in our backyard, kids like to put their feet in the creek which has just a trickle of water compared to a couple of years ago when it was overflowing the banks. This is a return trip because the kids wanted to look at the mushroom ( fungus?) growing on a tree spotted during our last visit, so camera in hand we went on the search.

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sun peeking through the trees

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the creek

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the mushroom

Milagai Saatham - Green Chili Rice
Milagai Saatham is one recipe I had wanted to try ever since I saw a few chilies on the chili plant. I remember my mom's aunt bringing this dish during Margali maatham (December) but nothing about the taste or anything else for that matter. The last time I got a good bit of chilies from the plants resorted to making Milagai Puli because I had not succeeded in procuring a recipe for the saatham. Again this week I got a good bit of chilies and was determined to find the recipes no matter. How do I find the recipe? dispatch my mother ofcourse, well she searched high and low but finally found it pretty close to home, my ammayee-her mom gave her the recipe. I had also recruited my brother, who lives close to my mom's aunt's (why all this struggle, I call her grandma too) grand daughter lives. I might get her version of the recipe pretty soon and have enough chilies left for that trial too.

I am not exactly sure in the heat scale where my chilies stand, they are on the hot mild side, not on the lip burning side. The number of chilies have to be adjusted according to the heat of the chilies. The recipe itself is pretty simple and easy. But amazing taste wise and the smell of fresh green chilies has to be experienced. I thought the heat would make it impossible to eat more than a spoon or two but it was not the tongue burning just flavorful and delicious. Method2 was the recipe from my ammayee, I modified it a little bit to suit my tastebuds better.

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1. 10 -12 Green Chilies
2. handful of coriander leaves
3. a small lime sized ball of tamarind, soak in a little bit of water and extract the pulp
4. salt
5. 1 1/4 tbsp sesame oil
6. 1 1/2 Cups cooked rice
7. seasonings: mustard, cumin, urad dal and curry leaves.

1. Grind the chilies, coriander leaves and half the tamarind pulp
2. In a pan heat the oil and add the seasonings, when the urad dal turns brown,
3. add the ground paste and let it simmer, after about 2-3 minutes
4. add the remaining tamarind pulp
5. Let it simmer till the water used for grinding has all evaporated.

Method 2
In this method there is no cooking or seasoning involved, blend the ingredients without any water and mix with the sesame oil and serve.

Mix with the cooked rice and serve.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Ashtami and a Guessing Game - Revealed

Gongura Flower - Would you like to see a poem that DD wrote for Gongura flower?

I thought this might be a tough one but almost all guessed this correctly. It does look a lot like okra!

Manathakkali (Black Nightshade) - Can make chutney with the leaves, lots of medicinal properties and the berries are bitter can be used to make puli kuzhambu. The berries when ripe turn purple and sweet and can be eaten.

They do look a lot like peppers, capers and Tiny Thai Green egg plants (I would love to grow that size Linda)

Friday morning there was knock on the door, a friend who is also my neighbor knocked on the door and gave me a small packet. She explained it was Ashtami and the packet which contained sweets and money was for the girls. I was pleasantly surprised and happy, she has done this for the past few years too,but it registered better this year since I have learned a lot about the festivities and was able to appreciate the meaning behind the gesture. I did read dear Sandeepa's post. My understanding is on Ashtami, the eigth day of Durga Puja,it is considered auspicious to have little girls visit your house and collect sweets. Well the tradition was turned around a little bit because my friend visited our house to give the sweets as opposed to the girls going there. I am not very familiar with the traditions from up North, so glad to be learning and enjoying it too. I feel a longing to be part of the traditions and celebrations back home, now that Deepavali is almost upon us.

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Now on to the guessing game

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Which plant is this beauty on?

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What are those green berries?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Kongu Foods 2 - Pulses

In Kongu Foods I, I covered the Cereals or Grains the mainstay of any meal in a Kongu home. A good act requires a talented supporting cast for its success, in a Kongu meal pulses play that role to perfection and a meal is not considered complete without a preparation of pulses. Pulses alongside the cereals and grains provide the main source of energy for many a Kongu. Pulses contain 20-30% protein, 60% carbohydrates and are a rich source of niacin, thiamine, iron, calcium and phosphorus all required for a healthy living.

For diets that do not include a lot of meat, pulses are essential source of protein and there are as many tasty recipes to incorporate pulses into the regular diet. Kongus are comprised of Vegetarians and Non Vegetarians, like my mom's side who are pure Vegetarian and do not eat even eggs and my father's side who are all Non Vegetarians. Vegetarianism in Kongu Nadu became common about 500 years ago when Jainism was spreading in Tamilnadu. Even among Non Vegetarians eating animal protein is not a every day affair rather a weekend or special occasion preparation so adding pulses into everyday foods becomes a required necessity.

Pulses are used either whole or split. The most common varieties used are
1. Pigeon Peas (Toor Dal)
2. Green Gram (Moong Dal)
3. Horse Gram (Kollu)
4. Lima Bean (Mochai parappu, Val Dal)
5. Black Gram (Urad dal)
6. Cow Peas (Thatta payar)
7. Beans

A preparation of dal with a spicy tangy Puli Kuzhambu (Spicy Tamarind Curry), rasam made with the water saved from cooking the dal, vegetable poriyal and curd makes a complete meal in any Kongu home.

There are several different ways that dals are cooked but the most common being Uppu Paruppu (salted dal) seasoned with some onions, green chilies, garlic, mustard seeds and curry leaves in a bit of ghee and usually eaten with rice and a dash of ghee

Cow Peas, Lima Beans are cooked commonly like this recipe, with the addition of a vegetable like brinjal or bottle gourd with a bit of tamarind. When split they make a tasty addition to arisim paruppu saatham.

Mochai Paruppu is eaten fresh shelled from the pods and made into a delicious stir fry with coconut and onions or cooked into a spicy curry like the recipe in the previous link.

In all this talk of cooking dals the ubiquitous sambhar cannot be forgotten, it makes its appearance at least once every, to be eaten with idli, dosai or rice.

Kootu is another tasty preparation that is made not quiet as often as sambhar or uppu paruppu. A vegetable seasoned with a blend of coconut, green chilies and cumin seeds is cooked with the dal.

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Mochai Paruppu, Paasi Paruppu Kootu
1. 1 Cup of Split Mochai Paruppu and Paasi Paruppu (Val Dal, Moong Dal) cooked with a pinch of turmeric and few drops of oil
2. 1/4 onion chopped
3. 10-15 green beans (any vegetable should work) chopped fine
4. seasonings, mustard, cumin and curry leaves
5. 1 tsp ghee

1. 1 tbsp grated coconut
2. 3 Green Chilies
3. 1 tsp cumin seeds
Lightly toast and make to a paste

1. In a pan heat a bit of ghee, add cumin and mustard seeds
2. Add the onions and fry till translucent
3. Add the green beans and salt and cook till the beans are tender
4. Add the coconut paste and let it cook for a 2-3 minutes
5. Add the mashed dal with a 1/2 cup of water and let it simmer for a 5-6 minutes (the amount of water added depends on the consistency that is required)

Serve with rice or Chapati with a dash of ghee.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Nutella Banana Bread and Blog Action Day

Nupur has a lot to do with this post, read on for details.

Lawns and Water - Blog Action Day

My first awareness of what a simple almost routine activity like taking care of the lawn could do to the environment came when I read about portions of the Chesapeake Bay becoming dead and the bay losing its ability to heal itself. Dangers posed by too much Nitrogen.

Can we do something about it?
During the spring and summers months , entering into suburbia a common sight is numerous water sprinklers sprinkling millions of gallons of water into the ground. This sprinkling method which is by far the most common method makes certain that a few gallons evaporate beore they even touch the ground.

The fertilizer and pesticides applied to the lawn to make them look healthy and ofcourse the envy of the neighborhood gets washed off by too much water and in the process hurting the fragile ecosystem.

How many times have we heard the real estate agent say an attractive lawn adds at least a few thousands to the value of the house and this fact is hard to ignore.

The runoffs from watering and chemicals mixed with it, enters the streams and rivers and thereby polluting everything in sight.

From the unscientific survey done in my neighborhood, the lawns of neighbors who regularly water their lawn and have a lawn maintenance company apply pesticides and fertilizers looks almost the same as my lawn which is not watered and fertilized regularly, most times it depends on nature to do the trick, as for fertilizer, a small amount of lawn clippings is left on the grass itself to nourish. No amount of watering and fertilizing can do what mother nature in the form of rain can do.

This summer it was really easy to see the contrast, due to the lack of rains, most lawns look brown, the lawns which were watered regularly looked no different from the lawns which did not see even a sprinkle of water. Two days of rains in August and the lawns all magically turned green.

We stopped applying fertilizers and pesticides because the kids play in the lawn and I was not too comfortable with them playing in so much chemicals. Yes we do have a few weeds but from my reading having clover keeps the grubs out and when the lawn is mowed the green of the weeds is hard to differentiate from the green of the grass itself :)

Read about the alternatives to taking care in the Washington Post Turf

Easy and Healthy for the wallet too:
In the North East US this year, we have had an unusually dry summer, though mandatory water restrictions is not here yet, taking care while watering the lawns and even controlling the pressure in the faucets we use everyday can save quiet a bit of water. The cost of sewage treatment is much more than the water itself so every bit saved from hitting the drain is money saved.

By the way,
Congratulations! Vice President Gore, Winner Nobel Prize, Global Warming Activism.

I have to thank Nupur twice once for the delicious Banana Bread and the second time for reminding to write for Blog Action Day. Checked out the lovely Peanut Butter Banana Bread on her blog and even for a non baker like me it was simply irresistible. Did a few substitutions, I am not too fond of Peanut Butter and the alternate suggested by Nupur - Nutella seemed perfect and creamy. Sweet.

Here are the ingredients as I made them.
Nutella Banana Bread

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1. 1 1/2 cup of Whole Wheat Pasty flour
2. 1 tsp baking soda
3. 1 tbsp Raw Cane Sugar
4. a pinch of salt

5. 2 medium sized bananas (about 3/4 cup of mashed bananas)
6. 1/3 cup Nutella
7. 1 Egg
8. 1 tbsp butter
9. 1/4 cup yogurt
10. 4 tbsp molasses

1. Mix the ingredients 5-10, once mixed add the flour, soda, sugar and salt.
2. Spray a loaf pan
3. Pour the batter and bake at 350F for about 1hr.

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Lovely Nutella Banana bread ready, smear a little bit of Nutella on it, tastes . Family is happy and all thanks to Nupur.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Dosai Sandwich

Making elaborate meals is easy to deal with, plan a menu and start cooking and most times it somehow comes together alright. Except perhaps when cooking for a crowd when a few recipes that have been tried and trusted simply don't rise to the occasion. But well I was not intending to complain about slips in well planned meals. I was just trying to say that elaborate meals are easier to deal with than getting lunch packed for school that actually get eaten. So...

Always on the lookout for healthy but tasty and easy to eat, a snacky dosai sandwich fit this to T, another item that I often pack to school. Any spread that is a favourite would work be it cream cheese, peanut butter, honey, sugar or podi. One very good thing about using dosai is it does not get soggy like bread.

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1. Dosai batter
2. Idli Podi, ghee
3. Sugar

1. Make Small dosais
2. Spread some ghee on one dosai, sprinkle idli podi or sugar
3. Slap the other dosai on top

Pack it in a lunch box with loads of love and hope it will be all finished when the box gets home in the evening.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Egg Curry with Gongura leaves

Egg Curry would fit the word Comfort Food in every sense of the word around our home. DD was not in a good mood and probably my fault to begin with, we had an argument. The easiest way and the way I know best is to bribe her with a dish that she likes most. Bribing with food is not wrong is it? Nothing rises to the occasion like Egg Curry and she was immediately pacified and looking forward to it and already helping me in the kitchen. My throat had a keech keech(remember the Vicks ad from a long time ago?) and was craving for some comfort, what else could soothe the throat perfectly like Egg Curry? There does not have to be that many reasons to cook Egg Curry anyway.

Usually add a little bit of lemon juice for a little tartness, this time substituted a handful of finely chopped gongura leaves for the slightly tart taste in every mouthful.

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1. 6 Egg boiled peeled and split in half
2. 2 tbsp chopped onions
3. 1 tomato chopped
4. Handful of Gongura leaves chopped
5. 1 red chili powder
6. 3-4 green chilies slit
7. 1/2 tbsp corriander powder
8. 1 tsp cumin powder
9. 1 tsp garam masala powder/ chicken masala powder
10. seasoning : Curry leaves, cumin seeds and mustard seed
12. 1 tsp turmeric powder

1. 10 - 15 small red onions or shallots
2. 6 garlic cloves
3. 2" ginger
4. 1 tomato chopped rougly

Saute the above in a tsp of oil and blend to a paste

1. In a pan heat a tsp of oil, add cumin, mustard seeds and curry leaves
2. Saute the onion till translucent
3. Add the gongura leaves and saute till they wilt
4. Add the powders and mix well
5. Add the tomato and saute till soft
6. Add the blended mixture and about 1 cup of water and let it simmer for 5-6 minutes
7. Add the split eggs spoon the curry over, cover the lid and let sit for about 10 minutes

Serve with rice. Goes well with chaptis too but tastes the best with rice.

This will be my entry to the CLICK event hosted by the wonderful Bee and Jai at Jugalbandi

Friday, October 5, 2007

Simple Lunches 8

Recently the yogurt isles of the super market have been taking a little bit more of my time than I'd like, trying to decipher what the labelling actually mean, noticing Yogurts labelled 'All Natural' besides the Organic and the regular ones. I am not really sure what 'All Natural' means compared to the Organic ones. Here is an article that explains. This type of labelling is for sure confusing. Started to see 'All Natural' labelling on Dannon products long time ago but did not really pay attention because they don't have an Organic line as far as I know, but started to really notice and get confused when Stoneyfiled Farms which primarily markets Orgainc dairy products also started carrrying products labelled 'All Natural'. I have picked up 'All Natural' thinking they were Organic because the packaging is very similar. 'All Natural' is not Organic is what I have found googling. The article linked above makes some of it clear.

Carrot Rice and Tindora Stir Fry
Carrot Rice is a very simple recipe to make but very tasty and ofcourse nutritious and the color definitely makes it attractive. It comes in very handy as a weeknight meal and a perfect lunch to pack. Add a few cashews roasted in ghee for that extra special something.

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1. 2 Cups Cooked Rice
2. 4 Carrots Grated
3. 3 Green Chilies chopped
4. 1/2 onion chopped
5. Seasonings mustard seeds, cumin and curry leaves
6. 15 Cashews broken and roasted in a little bit of ghee

1. In a pan heat oil, add the seasonings followed by the green chilies.
2. Add the onions and saute till translucent.
3. Now add the carrots saute, add salt cover and cook till soft (the amount of cooking depends upon how cooked you like the carrots to be)
4. Now add the cooked rice and mix it well.
5. Garnish with cashews

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Serve with a side of stir fried Tindora.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Milagai Puli or Green Chilli Preserve

The Green Chili Plants are starting to fruit and preserving them makes them last longer. I had set my mind on making some Milagai Puli which has a story behind it. My grandfather on his visits to Chennai always stayed at the Woodlands hotel, though the rooms were not 5 star quality, the individual rooms like villas and the greenery around the hotel made it feel special. The last time I had stayed there was about 15 years so don't remember much, the hotel also had a restaurant and during lunch time was crowded and bustling with activity. The taste of the food I do not remember what I do remember is my grandmom enjoying the Milagai Puli that they served there. I did not take to it much because of the ginger pieces but everytime we went there to eat lunch grandma asked for second or third helping of the Milagai Puli. This is my attempt to recreate the recipe and based on the recipes - Inji Puli and Puli Milagai. Both had the green chili chopped, the one from my memory had whole green chilies.

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1. 20 Young Green Chilies slit
2. 2 tbsp Julienned ginger
3. 1 Cup of tamarind pulp
4. 2 Red Chilies split and seeds removed
5. Curry leaves
6.1 tsp mustard seeds
7. 1 tsp cumin seeds
8. 1 tsp methi seeds
9. 2 tsp jaggery
10. salt to taste

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1. In a pan heat oil, add the cumin seeds followed by the mustard seeds, when they start to splutter add the curry leaves and red chilies
2. Add the split green chilies and saute till they start to blacken
3. Add the ginger pieces and saute for a minute
4. Add the tamarind pulp, salt and bring it to a boil
5. Roast the methi seeds and powder
6. Add the jaggery, let it boil for a minute or two
7. Add the methi powder and mix and switch off the heat

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Cool and save in an airtight container. Goes well with rice, idlis or chapatis.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Support Burma's peaceful protest for Democracy

The past week the news have been full of images of the peaceful march of the Buddist monks in the streets of Rangoon against the Military dictatorship. What started as a protest by monks has become a massive protest. The brutal dictatorship of the military junta for the past 45 years had brought untold miseries on the Burmese people.

While coming home from work yesterday I saw a passenger on the train with a placard which said, I don't remember the exact words but "Support the people of Burma", the word Burma caught my attention and started to talk, he was returning from a rally in front of the Chinese Embassy. China and India do not support the demonstrations in Burma, China and democracy we all know about that one, but why the terrible silence from India, shameful how quiet they have been. He asked me if I supported the movement "of course I do". I asked him what I could to to help.

I have a Srilankan Tamil friend who tells me "If you have any problems here you have a country to go to! Where shall we go?". This sentence has haunted me and I am thankful and greatful for my motherland but while bringing to sharp focus the problems of people like my friend. Someone very close to us is from Burma. They and their family members are refugees in countries like India, USA and others and increasingly tough for those still in their homeland.

Please support the cause of the People of Burma.
Visit U.S. Campaign For Burma to learn more about what we can do.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Vambotu Pahi (Tangy, Spicy Eggplant)

I have a Srilankan friend who is a wonderful cook, the fish, shrimp and chicken dishes she cooks are spicy tasty and though stuffed to the gills is never enough. She also cooks this amazing Eggplant dish which has become my all time favorite. I have always enjoyed this dish at their house and never attempted to cook it myself because if I want more I can always go back there, she lives close by :). The last time we were at their house, I asked for the recipe (had a bunch of eggplants from the garden and this recipe was foremost on my mind) in addition to the recipe directions she also gave me her favorite cookbook, The Complete Asian Cookbook by Charmaine Solomon. I did not deep fry the eggplant, nor make a paste of the onion, ginger and garlic like it had called for and I also added some tomatoes, drastically reduced the amount of oil because I did not deep fry. My friend bakes the eggplants, I sauteed them on high heat in a wok.

This recipe also incorporated mustard paste which I have been wanting to, ever since Sandeepa's Shorshe Chingri Bhape. Now I get it! Cooking in mustard paste is like no other and I can imagine(and almost taste) how it would be perfect with fish or shrimp. They are going to be tried real soon. I tasted a little bit of the mustard paste and it tasted slightly bitter but I trusted Sandeepa's confidence in the mustard paste and added it to the curry with a prayer. I was not disappointed. Well if something had gone bad it would have all been her fault :). On the other hand if I were trying this recipe before I had heard so much about mustard paste I would have just left it out and it would have been a totally different dish.

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1. 2 long purple Eggplants
2. 6 Purple round eggplants
3. 3/4 of a Medium Sized red Onion sliced thin and cut in two.
4. 6 Green Chillies slit and shake the seeds out
5. 1 1/2 tbsp of grated ginger
6. 6 garlic cloves sliced
7. 1 tbsp mustard seeds
8. 1/4 cup vinegar
9. 2 tsp chilli powder
10. 1 tsp turmeric powder
11. 3/4 tbsp corriander powder
12. 1/2 tbsp cumin powder
13. 1 tsp chicken masala powder
roast 1 tbsp corriander, 1/2 tbsp cumin, 1 tsp fennel seeds roasted and powdered
14. 4 small tomatoes chopped fine
15. 1 tbsp oil
16. 1 stick cinnamon
17. 1/2 Cup tamarind pulp from a lime sized ball of tamarind.
18. 1 tbsp jaggery

Eggplant Prep
1. Slice the eggplants thin, rub with salt and turmeric, let them stand for an hour or so.
2. Squeeze out the water and place them in the sun till ready to be cooked.

Mustard Paste
1. Take the mustard and about 1/2 of the vinegar and blend them to a paste, add the vinegar little by little, too much liquid the mustard just sloshes around.

1. In a wok or a kadai pan heat oil and when smoking hot add the eggplant slices. Saute till they
are comkpletely roasted and there is no sign of any moisture. Remove and set aside.
2. In the same add a bit more oil if needed add onions, green chillies and the cinnamon stick and saute till they are soft
3. Add the garlic and ginger and saute
4. Add the tomatoes and saute till they are soft.
5. Add the powders and mix well.
6. Add the mustard paste and let it cook a little bit
7. Add the tamarind pulp and when it starts to bubble add the eggplants
8. Check for salt and simmer on medium heat for about 15 minutes.
9. Almost towards the end add the sugar and simmer till the required texture is reached.
(Friend's dish is dry mine had a little bit of moisture in it)

Mix with rice and savor, the sour tangy taste is simply wonderful and I am now a true mustard paste convert.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Raw Banana Fry - Plantain Fry - II - Vazhakkai podimas

If being stuck in traffic gridlock was an Olympic sport, DC area could go for gold, says this story in the Washington Post that offers the dubious distinction of being stuck in traffic for more hours than the average vaction hours. I take the bus and metro to reach work, it does not by any means reduce the number of hours stuck in traffice but atleast I am not the one behind the wheel. Riding the bus or metro gives an opportunity to read a book, sleep, or chat.
If only more people would do the same and expense wise it probably might even work out cheaper than driving the car. What has Plantain Fry got to do with traffic?

This goes to Ahaar for the JFI this month which features Bananas and Plantains are accepted too.

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The recipe posted earlier for plantain fry is the simplest and quickest way to cook them. If you are ready for a little bit more work and some extra time this recipe is one to try. But the ingredients and cooking itself is very easy.

1. 3 Green Raw Plantains
2. 1/2 Red Onion Chopped fine
3. 2 Red Chillies broken in half and seeds removed
4. seasonings - cumin 1/4 tsp, mustard seeds 1/4 tsp, 2 tsp urad dal and Curry leaves
5. Oil 2 tsp
6. Salt to taste


1. Steam the plantains till they are half way cooked and grate them in a grater.
2. In a pan heat oil, add the seasonings, urad dal when it starts to brown, cumin, nustard seeds and curry leaves.
3. Add the red chillies followed by onions and saute till they are translucents.
4. Now add the grated plantains and salt and saute till they are roasted or the texture you desire.

Serve with any rice dish.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Idli with Podi/ Idli with Sugar for lunch!

Is there any packed lunch that evokes memories of the good ol' days? Idli with Podi or Idli with ghee and sugar is that lunch for me. I am sure there are a quiet a bunch of us who carried it for lunch to school. Though I don't pack it for myself I do it regularly for DD. I have the mini idli pan which makes things a lot easier. DD does not much care for PBJ sandwiches or rice in her lunch box which leaves me with a very few choices. The trick is to pack a lunch that is nutritious and also seems like it is fast food. What better choice than Idli with podi, together with a cup of fruit or a yogurt makes it a pretty healthy lunch. Mom made some idli podi before she left to India. DD2 is very unhappy with the fact that grandma had to leave. DD1 has been subdued too.

Paruppu Podi
1. 3/4 Cup of Urad Dal
2. 3 Tbsp of Channa Dal (Kadalai Paruppu)
3. 3 Red Chillies
4. Few Curry leaves
5. Small piece of Asfoetida
6. Salt

1. Dry roast the ingredients one after the other, roast urad dal and channa dal till they start to turn color
2. Cool and blend to a smooth powder.

Tastes good with Idlis, dosais or steamed rice

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Idli with Podi/ Idli with Sugar
1. Cook Idlis.
2. Mix podi with ghee, (I usally use ghee or sesame oil), liberally apply on both sides.
3. For a few of them apply ghee on the idlis and then sprinkle with raw cane sugar.

Empty lunch boxe everty time.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Is it illegal for a woman to be President?

Of the USA? When an 8 year old asks you that question after reading through the list of Presidents and not seeing even one woman in the 43 and being primary season you cannot go without reading about it in the newspaper or hearing it on TV, Presidential politics is all around you, no matter what you cannot run away from it! I make a mental note to support and fervently hope that Hillary Clinton will become president. At this point I am not interested in her politics, her policies her agenda, if she is getting campaign cash from felons, cheats whoever whatever nothing matters. I want a woman to be president period. It is truly amazing, in the United States which stands first for many things and which is beacon for many countries, and fact this ought to bother if not everybody at least the 50% of the population.

Does it matter who is President? Absolutely it does! But how much worse can it really be? The last 6 years have not been a honeymoon for anybody (then again I maybe am wrong I keep forgetting Haliburton and the Big Oil, they have never had it this good!). We have seen our Civil Liberties erode, and the country turning fundamentalist, there is no clear separation of state and church. And what in the world does "Moral Values" really mean, and those moral custodians are lying, cheating, twisting the truth hurting people in the process, things for which even my Moral Science teacher (yes we had a subject like that in school till 12th grade) would have punished me for life leave alone the heavenly father. Infidelity is the last thing I care about when looking for a president. Maybe with a woman being president we don't have to worry about that useless fact.

I want a woman president and she well might gain back the respect and good will this country has lost. That would be sweet.

The timing is right, we have the first Woman Speaker and may be just may be the time is right for the first Woman President.

Several developing countries have had and are having Women Presidents/ Prime Ministers. Is it not time for the Most Powerful nation in the world to have a Woman President too?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Answer Time!

Linda is getting impatient!! Let me out the answers!

ANI got the first one right - they are ripened bittegourd seeds. Lovely color right?
I loved Richa's guess candied apricots :)

Most of you guessed the second one as eggplant but you only get half credit :), it is a ripened green eggplant!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Colors they are Changing! Guess?

Do you like Fall? As a matter of fact I am not too fond of it. Fall means winter is not far behind and the diminishing day light hours generally makes me fee blue.

All around the plants are starting to change color and it is time for a Guessing Game!

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Saturday, September 8, 2007

Kongu Foods 1 - Kambu Dosai (Pearl Millet Dosai)

I have often referred to Kongu food in these pages and for many years now I have eaten these Kongu dishes pretty much every day but I have never consciously tried to find out what Kongu cuisine is all about. I set about trying to find out more and also employed the services of my dad in this quest. Here is the first installment of my analysis.

Where is Kongu Naadu?
The areas of Salem, Namakkal, Erode, Coimbatore, Karur districts in Western Tamil Nadu is what is referred to as the Kongu Naadu region. The people of this region speak Tamil with a very specific accent which is very respectful and it easily distinguishes people who belong to this region (for those who watch and are familiar with Tamil movies, actor Sathyaraj anyone). This is a region very well known for its hospitality and guaranteed no one leaves a Kongu home without a satisfying meal.

What exactly is Kongu Food
I don't know if there is something as specific as Kongu food but it is mostly about the foods that is common among the people of this region. The occupation of most Kongus was in one way or the other related to farming and dairy and hence fresh fruits and vegetables and milk readily available and most dishes incorporated them.

Any well balanced diet contains both Macro Nutrients which include Carbohydrates, Fats and Proteins and Micro Nutrients which include Vitamins and Minerals. Almost all regional foods incorporate them into the diet by way of local ingredients available easily. Using local ingredients and supporting local farmers is hip now but it was a way of life not too long ago and it made perfect sense.

Cereals or grains
Best the other ingredients Kongu foods also included a lot of cereals. Foods made with cereals, (these are grains which are seeds of cereal plants) such as Ragi(Finger Millet), Cholam (maize) and Kambu(Pearl Millet) were common. These grains are rich in fibre and can be good alternatives to rice. My grandma talks of Kambu Saatham and Chola Saatham being common during her childhood. The love affair with rice and moving away from rotation crops which include most of the cereal grains have proved harmful to both the land and the humans. Besides overworking the lands and drawing on the ever scarce water resource has also added to the lack of diversity in the carbohydrates we consume.

Besides being suited to grow in semi arid regions, cereals are very close nutrition wise to rice and wheat and in most cases even better. These grains besides being gluten free also don't have the high glucose content of rice and are also richer in vitamins and minerals compared to rice. I am surprise at why they lost popularity as as a staple. They could be eaten cooked and also used in dosais and paniyarams. Due to their abundant protein and are a main source of energy and protein for vegetarians and dad says it is described as "poorman's meat". This might not be valid anymore as more and more it is the rich man after his ultra rich fatty glucosy diet has been advised by his doctor to switch to a more appropriate diet which includes more of these cereals.

I will attempt to recreate some dishes which are popular and common today and some that are not so common. I have probably touched on the most common ones already, I will attempt to find ones that are mostly forgotten.

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Kambu Dosai
I had bajra flour left over after my experiment with making bajra roti, the slight bitter taste of the bajra made the roti unpalatable and did not know how to make them correctly. In one of my pantry cleaning sprees I was getting ready to toss it into the trash but MIL stopped me suggesting we make dosai with the flour. And boy was I glad that she did. The dosai was absolutely delicious. It should only taste so much better with some whole Kambu.

For the batter
1. 1 Cup Kambu/Bajra (1 1/4 Cup Bajra flour)
2. 1/4 Cup rice
3. 1/8 Cup Urad Dal
Soak the above overnight
4. 1/2 Medium Red Onion
5. 1 tsp cumin seeds
6. Curry leaves
7. 3 Red Chillies
8. pinch asfotetida
9. Salt

Add the first 3 to the grinder/blender and when it is halfway blended add the rest of the ingredients and blend to a consistency of dosai batter, smooth but not too watery. If using the bajra flour add it right after 2 and 3 are blended.

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1. Heat a dosai pan or griddle and when hot add ladle full of batter and spread it around as a circle. It should not be thick.
2. Add oil on the edges
3. When cooked, flip and cook on the other side.

Serve with chutney of choice, usually a mild one because the dosai is on the spicy side. Coconut chutney goes well. We had it with some sweet pepper chutney. Mildly sweet it went well with the dosai.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Broiled Bittergourd (Pavarkai Varuval)

Schools have started the roads are clogged, the office has full attendance more or less now that every one is back from vacation and the day light hours are decreasing and the sad realization that relaxed summer days are almost over. One nice thing about summer is the fresh veggies from the garden. The Bitter Gourds have never disappointed me. This week I got about 6-8 of two different varieties one is dark green and other one lighter close to white. Remember Poori Aunty, this recipes is again thanks to her. Quick and easy and extremely tasty. I invariably tend to make tamarind based curries when cooking bitter gourd but this one is really a great way to cook bitter gourds.

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1. 6-8 Medium sized Bitter Gourds, Cut into rounds and remove the seeds.
2. 3/4 Red Onions Sliced
3. 4 Green Chillies cut into 2 (if not adding sambhar or chilli powder)
4. 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
5. 1 tsp amchur powder
6. 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
7. 2 tsp of sambhar powder or chilli powder
8. Salt to taste
9. Oil


1. In a pan heat oil and season with the cumin seeds
2. Add the onions and Bitter Gourd, saute a little bit
3. Add the Green Chillies if doing so, close the lid and cook till the bitter gourd is almost cooked.
4. Open the lid, add the powders and mix, saute for a few more minutes. Turn off the heat.
5. Set the Oven to Broil setting, spread the bitter gourd mixture on a baking sheet
6. Place in the oven and mix them around to avoid burning.
7. Switch off when the desired crispness is reached.

I like it slightly soft and not completely crispy.

Serve as a side or as a snack, the bitterness is hardly noticeable.