Sunday, November 29, 2015

Mixed Vegetable Kurma in a Pressure Cooker

Have you heard of the new Amazon Original Series "The Man in the High Castle"? I heard a review of the series on NPR and went straight to Amazon and binge watched it. Pretty well made and very interesting. So if you looking for something to watch this holiday give this a try though you need to have Amazon Prime to watch it.

Now on to the recipe,
There are as many types of kurma as there are combinations of what vegetables go into the kurma. I started with the idea of making potato kurma but ended up with a mixed vegetable kurma. A mixed vegetable kurma made with a variety of vegetables is much more interesting and can be a side for idli or dosai or roti or paratha. The consistency of a kurma can be thick or thin depending on your preference. If making kurma for idli or dosai make it slightly thinner than you would for chapathi or roti.

Saute the ingredients for the spice paste. Now in the pressure cooker add oil and the seasonings.
Add in the chopped mixed vegetables. Add in the spice paste and mix it into the vegetables. Add salt.
Add in enough water, coriander and pressure cook for a whistle.

Mixed Vegetable Kurma with Coconut and Poppy Seeds
Preparation Time: minutes
Cooking Time:10 minutes
  1. 1/4 cup of chopped onions or shallots
  2. 1/4 cup of chopped tomatoes
  3. 4 cups of mixed vegetables cut into 1 inch cubes - Potatoes, carrots, beans and 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
  4. seasonings - cumin and fennel seeds about 1/4 tsp each
  5. salt to taste
  6. 2 -3 tsp of oil
  7. For the Paste
  8. 1/2 cup of red onion or shallots chopped
  9. 4 garlic cloves chopped
  10. 1 inch piece of ginger
  11. 1/2 tbsp of poppy seeds
  12. 4 tbsp of fresh or frozen grated coconut
  13. 4-6 red or green chilies
  14. handful of chopped coriander leaves

    Make the spice paste
  1. First let's get the paste ready. In a saute pan heat a tsp oil and add the onion and chilies and saute till the onions start to turn brown.
  2. Add in the ginger and garlic and saute for a minute more.
  3. Add in the poppy seeds and coconut and saute for a minute more.
  4. Let cool and add a couple of tbsp of water and blend to a fairly smooth paste and set it aside.
  5. Make the Kurma
  6. In a pressure pan add the rest of the 2 tsp of oil. When hot add the seasonings and let it saute for 1/2 a minute. Add in the onions and when translucent add the tomatoes and saute till they become bushy.
  7. Add in the chopped vegetables and saute for 3-4 minutes.
  8. Add in the spice paste and saute for a couple of minutes. Add salt. Now add about 2 cups of water or more. Let come to a boil. Add the coriander leaves.
  9. Close the lid and cook for 6-8 minutes on medium heat or for 1 whistle whichever comes first.
  10. Serve with flat breads or idli or dosai.

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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Jalapeno pulikulambu - Sour and Spicy tamarind curry with jalapeno

Jalapeno pulikulambu literally translates to tamarind curry. I am using the word curry like it is used outside of India in the English speaking world to describe any watery gravy dish.Pulikulambu is one of those dishes which is usually a side dish to a slightly less spicy dish like dal with steamed rice. In the Kongu regions of TamilNadu pulikulambu does occupy central place in every day meals.

Jalapeno is not high on anybody's list to make pulikulambu but if you have access to jalapeno you should bump it up higher on the list. You will be surprised how perfect they are in a pulikulambu. I had a lot of jalapenos over the summer and I was trying them in all kinds of recipes. This one does not require any fancy ingredients other than onions, green chilies and may be a bit of garlic and of course the tamarind pulp or paste.

Now to the recipe,

Jalapeno Pulikulambu - Sour and Spicy tamarind curry with Jalapeno
Preparation Time:10 minutes
Cooking Time:25 minutes
  1. 10-15 jalapenos, split in half and deseeded
  2. 1/2 red onion or 4-6 shallots chopped
  3. 5-6 spicy green or Thai chilies
  4. 1 cup of tamarind pulp from a small lime sized piece of tamarind or 2 tsp of tamarind paste
  5. 4 garlic cloves chopped
  6. 1 tsp turmeric powder
  7. 2 tsp sambhar powder
  8. salt to taste
  9. 1 tsp of oil
  10. seasonings: mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves, few methi or fenugreek seeds
  11. 1 tsp of sugar

  1. In a saute pan add a bit of oil and saute the jalapeno till it starts to turn color a little bit.
  2. In a saute pan add oil and when hot add cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, followed by the mustard seeds and when it starts to pop add the curry leaves.
  3. Add the onions and saute till they get translucent and slightly brown.Add the garlic and saute for a minute. Add in the sauteed jalapenos, give a good mix. Add turmeric powder and sambhar powder and give a good mix
  4. Add in the tamarind pulp and salt and let it come to a boil. (8-10 minutes).
  5. Add sugar if using and cook for another couple of minutes or longer depending on how thick you wanted the curry to be and turn off the heat.

Serve with dal and steamed rice.

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Quick Green Split Moong Dal with Pressure Cooker - Paasi Paruppu

Cooking dal/lentils or making paruppu is perhaps easiest business of all and you would think a recipe is not warranted. The reality is making dal in a pressure cooker and still maintaining taste and flavor is something that has to be done right. Not exactly rocket science but worthy of a blog post :)

While making paasi paruppu or moong dal on a stove top and even better in a clay pot might be the best of them all you can achieve close to perfection even with a pressure cooker. The secret is the combination of spices which make it take taste just like mom or grand mom made it.

I realize I hardly talk about stuff these day. It is not because I do not have stuff to talk about. It is just that I don't have time to put them in writing. Soon ...

I don't like the texture of cooked yellow moong when made into dal/paruppu anymore. I'd rather use the one with the skin on. The split green moong tastes a lot better. While I use yellow moong for making a quick sambhar for idli and idli podi/paruppu podi
I prefer using the split green moong for making paruppu.

Roast the split moong for about 5-6 minutes till it starts to change color a bit. In a pressure cooker take the moong dal, cut onion, garlic, green chilies, cumin and pepper powder,turmeric powder, salt without enough water.
Pressure cook the dal for 3 whistles, let cool, open and mash it with the wooden masher or the back of a ladle.
Prepare the seasonings and pour over the dal.

While this quick dal tastes best with some rice and ghee (skip for vegan), it can be perfect as a side for rotis or chapatis.

Paasi Paruppu - Quick Green Split Moong Dal
Preparation Time:10 minutes
Cooking Time:20 minutes
  1. 1 1/2 cup of split green moong (requires 2 cups of water for a fairly thick cooked dal)
  2. 4-5 slit green chilies
  3. 1/4 cup of roughly chopped onions
  4. 3 garlic cloves cut
  5. 1 tsp of grated ginger (optional)
  6. 1 tsp cumin seeds and 1/2 tsp pepper corn roughly pounded
  7. 1 tsp turmeric code
  8. salt to taste
  9. few sprigs of coriander leaves, with stem or stems removed chopped
  10. 1 tsp ghee or oil for vegan
  11. seasonings: cumin seeds and mustard seeds

  1. Dry roast the split green moong for about 5-6 minutes till it starts to change color.
  2. In a pressure cooker, add the roasted moong, water, cut onions, chilies, garlic, cumin and pepper powder, ginger if using, turmeric powder and 1/2 tsp of salt.
  3. Pressure cook for 3 whistles and let cool, open the cooker and mash it using a wooden masher or back of a ladle.
  4. In a small sauce pan or seasoning pan, add ghee or oil, add the cumin seeds, followed by the mustard seeds. Let it pop. Add the chopped coriander leaves and let it wilt.
  5. Pour the seasonings over the cooked and mashed dal.
Serve with rice and for best taste with some ghee drizzled on top.
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Friday, November 13, 2015

Places to Visit - Belcampo Belize Lodge

Vacation is many things to many people. Some like to travel to faraway places, some like to stay in place and enjoy themselves in the company of family and friends (What is fondly called staycation), some like to take on adventures and adrenaline pumping activities and some plainly don't have the time to even think about vacations :(. My most favorite kind of vacation is sit in my cozy rocking chair, watching TV or reading a book and cooking and enjoying some tasty foods without having to keep a schedule. A vacation like this is of course also easy on the wallet.

When cold weather hits I dream of India and its warm weather and feel slightly sad for having moved to a cold country and the only way to overcome this is to think of warmer places close to home. Just like the trip to Costa Rica which was perfect. We visited Tiskita Jungle Lodge which was perhaps the highlight of our trip. Nestled in a rain forest far away from transportation and in a place called Pavones in the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and very sparsely populated. The family lodge is run by a couple and their son. With no conveniences of modern living namely TV, cell coverage, a spotty internet connection and nothing much to do but enjoy the sights and sounds of the rain forest, and almost home cooking. Don't get me wrong you are not under any discomfort whatsoever, just breath taking scenery all around. We woke up, strolled the tropical fruit garden, went to the black sanded beach and watched some sloths on the trees and lazed around. The 3 days we stayed there came to an end pretty quickly but there are families who visit every year and stay for a week or more. I had read forget where though about Tiskita Lodge about 8 or 9 years ago and we were finally able to visit last year. The tropical fruit garden was what caught my attention first but in reality the tropical fruit garden while great to look at was nothing to write home about during the winter months but the rest of the place completely mesmerized us. The kids like the beach and the sand and this place had it all.

Vacations which require standing in line a lot and having schedules to keep is not appealing to me - read Disney kind of vacations. I wouldn't call those trips vacations because when we get back, want another couple of days to recover. The most relaxing vacations besides staying at home of course, is not having a schedule, lazing around and doing things only if you feel like it.

I decided to write this series, because just like stay-cations, writing about a place that I would like to visit is even cheaper than actually visiting the place :) Brilliant wouldn't you say ;)?. This will also serve as my wish list. Perhaps there will come a time when I can update the post to say if reality lived up to my imagination.

The Travel Section of the Washington Post is something I scan through, occasionally I come across an article about a place that I want to drop everything and go book a ticket to. The chances of that happening is very remote, so the next best thing is to write about it. The trips to these places might not happen right away but will happen hopefully in my life time ;)

Belcampo Belize Lodge
Recently I read about the Belcampo Belize Lodge and it is a place I would visit in a heart beat. Apparently the Caribbean Sea is only a boat ride away close by for snorkeling or diving, and on site us an organic farm, food prepared for the guests with the produce, what more can one want? If you are into fly fishing this place apparently this is the place to go. The original article from the Washington Post here.

Situated on a hilltop above the Caribbean coast in a 11,000 acre jungle reserve Belcampo Lodge is about 5 miles from the fishing village of Punta Gorda in Southern Belize close to the Guatemalan Border. It is a place for what is called agritourism and sits in a jungle and with an organic farm right there.

Picture Courtesy: Orvis

Renamed from Machaca Hill to Belcampo Lodge the place seems just perfect if you want to just relax or want to throw in some activities. Snorkeling, visit to the mayan ruins, birding and kayaking are all part of the deal.

I for one am ready any place which has organic farm or a tropical orchard, I was sold from the minute I read organic farm and then it only kept getting better - with snorkeling and birding I am completely hooked now. Trip Advisor gives it 5 stars if you are into that sort of thing. There are some who will not consider booking/buying anything without checking these ratings and I have one of those at home.

Picture Courtesy: Luxury Latin America

Things to Remember: Do your research!
The time we visited Tiskita Jungle Lodge we did not plan or research the surrounding areas and only realized later that the Panama Canal was about 10 kms away. The place does not have transportation and if we had known ahead of time we could have arranged for a taxi or rented bikes and set out. So do your research of the nearby areas that you can visit.

Share your stories:
If any of you readers have been to this place, do share your stories. Or if you are planning to visit the place would love to hear about that too.

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