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.