Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thiruvadirai Kali and Thalagam

         I am thoroughly enjoying running this blog marathon.I have been feasting my eyes on varieties of dishes,some new, some evoking nostalgia and some that I want to make right now.Looking at the length of my new bookmarks I am one lucky gal.I loved visiting new blogs and learning about my fellow runners.It's been great folks.Please join me in a giving a huge applause and pat in the back to Nupur of One Hot Stove, for conducting, running, compiling and finishing her own(longer) countdown marathon. Happy New Year 2010 to all my readers and fellow bloggers!
       For my recipe # 1 of the 7 day recipe countdown marathon, I would like to present the exclusive dishes made on Thiruvadirai (which falls on Jan 1, 2010).This is the day the star Arudra(red flame), is visible in the southern hemisphere.Lord Nataraja manifests as light and shows himself to devotees(Arudra darisanam ).Great abhisekhams(sacred bath) are performed in temples especially the Chidambaram temple in Tamilnadu.The sweet dish Kali is made today as prasadam..One of his staunch devotees Sendanaar, usually ate the leftover of what he offered to the lord and  only after distributing to the other devotees.On Thiruvadirai day,he could only offer the simple kali preparation .When he  felt bad that, that is all he could offer,Lord Nataraja showered him with kali to show him how pleased he was with Sendanaar's devotion.Making,offering  to Lord and eating this kali prasadam is likened to attaining bliss showered from Lord Nataraja.

Blissful Kali ( serves 2-3)

Raw rice      1 cup
tuvar dal /moong dal      1/4 cup
jaggery (crushed)        1 1/2 cup
crushed cardamom(take out seeds from)  4
grated coconut  flakes  2 cups
cashews(broken) 5-6
clarified butter 1 tbsp

1.Dry roast the rice and tuvar dal/moong dal( I use tuvar)  in a heavy bottomed pan with lid, till it is slightly pink.
2.Let it cool a little and grind it in a mixer until is coarse to fine ground(slight texture is necessary).Keep aside.Roast some cashews in clarifies butter and keep aside.
3.Heat about 3 cups of water in the pan and let the jaggery dissolve in it.After it completely dissolves ,filter it in a fine sieve , to take out impurities in it.Put the filtered Jaggery water, back on heat.
4.When it starts boiling, put the ground rice little by little while stirring.Add coconut, cardamom and cashews.
5.When everything is mixed together.Pressure cook this mixture like you would cook rice.Else, keep stirring every 5 minutes until the rice is cooked in pan (takes about 20 minutes total).Some people like to cook the dal separately and add it.But I cut it short by grinding it with rice.

Kali is ready! Serve it with a savoury Thalagam.


Tuvar dal        1 1/2 cups
grated coconut  2 cups
tamraind paste 1 1/2 tsp
or tamarind lemon sized
asafoetida     1/2 tsp
oil           2 tbsps
coconut oil     4 tsps
turmeric powder       1 tsp
Sambar powder  3 tsps
red chillies       10
chana dal/kadala paruppu   2 tbsps
dhaniya/coriander seeds    1 1/2 tbsps
mustard seeds   2 tsps
Jaggery(crushed)     2 tsps
salt as needed

Veggies that can be used (Number of veggies are selected in odd numbers starting from 7 like 9,13,15 etc traditionally), are
red pumpkin(required),
green tomatoes,
sweet potato yam/chakkaravalli(required),
elephant yam,
karuna kizhangu,
green plaintains(required),
green chillies,
green peas,
curry leaves.
Don't use onion,drumsticks,radish or capsicum for an authentic taste.

1.Pressure cook the tuvar dal and peeled yams (except sweet potato) in the cooker.
2.cut the rest of the veggies into big cubes. Take a open mouthed saucepan ,put the veggies in enough water to just submerge, to boil with turmeric powder,sambar powder and a little salt.
3.Once the yams are done,add them to the pan with other veggies.
4.In another fry pan,heat a little oil,add chana dal,dhaniya,red chillies and asafoetida and fry till dal is red.
5.Grind after it cools into powder,then add the coconut and grind again with a little water into a paste.Add it to cooked tuvar dal,and pour in the saucepan with boiling veggies.
6.Add the tamarind paste,If the thalagam is thick add a little water to thin it into a soup consistency( it will thicken with time).Let it boil for another 10 minutes to blend the ingredients.
7.Switch off heat and add the jaggery.
8. Heat a little coconut oil, temper mustard seeds till they sputter, add curry leaves and coriander leaves to the thalagam.Stir well.

              Thalagam is ready to serve with Kali.There are variations of this thalagam, through out the southern states,some with sessame seeds.I follow two versions,the second version will be provided later sometime.
              The taste doubles and triples with time as the veggies tend to add flavor.This dish is made is huge quantities than usual, the week following Thiruvadirai, it is reheated to make Ericha Kuzhambu( nothing but heated kuzhambu).The flavours get concentrated and tastes divine.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Vazhaipoo/Banana flower Kootu

              Every part or almost every part except may be the root of the banana plant is used in cooking or serving a meal.From what I have seen and known, coconut tree and banana plant are the complete package for their many uses.
             The stem of the banana plant is used to make poriyal,kootu and as we learned from one of the marathoners juice too.The leaf of the plant is used as a plate to serve food and as a steamer for idlis.The fruit is ofcourse the versatile banana which is used in many preparations either raw, ripe or inbetween.The flower of the banana plant is also used in preparation such as vazhaipoo vadai,usili and kootu.
              Vazhaipoo has the thuvarppu taste (astringent).Only way I can come near to describing it is after eating it the tongue still feels the raw texture.It is quite unique and tastes good.
              Today, my friend and neighbor is moving with her family to another state: (.My whole family is going to miss them.My friend had come over to help me prepare the banana flowers, even in the midst of her packing.Good friends are rare to come by, although they are still going to be friends after they move away, it is not like being right near you.I'll remember the chats and fun we had together. I would like to wish my other dear friend who is celebrating her birthday today, Happy Birthday Priya!: )
             I chose Vazhaipoo Kootu as Recipe #2  for the 7 day countdown recipe marathon to New Year 2010 by Nupur of One Hot Stove.This recipe is from my mom.

Recipe #2: Vazhaipoo Kootu

Vazhaipoo (remove the white inner flowers in between  the red petals
Also,remove from each inner flower,the one stiff stamen ) 1

sambar powder      1  tsp
cooked tuvar dal    1/4 cup
turmeric powder    1/2tsp
salt as needed
tamarind paste       1/2 tsp
jaggery (crushed)   1 tsp
red chillies              2
coconut flakes        3  tbsp
cumin/jeera            1/2  tsp

mustard seeds      1/2 tsp
urad dal                1 tsp
curry leaves          a few
oil                        1 tsp
asafoetida             1/4 tsp
roasted coconut flakes  1 tbsp

1.Take a bowl with a little tamarind water.Cut the white inner florets of the banana flower finely ,directly put it in the bowl to stop it from blackening.
2.When completed ,use a fine sieve to remove all the tamarind water.In a kadai, take just enough water to immerse the cut florets.Add turmeric powder,salt and bring it to boil. Then ,add sambar powder and let it simmer for 5 minutes with a lid on.
3.Grind 3 tbsp coconut flakes,cumin and red chillies with a little water to a smooth paste and add to the simmering florets.Add cooked tuvar dal now.Let it cook together simmer again for 2 minutes.
4.Heat a little oil.Add the tepering ingredients after the mustard sputters.When the coconut flakes are fried add tempering to the kootu.Add jaggery,stir and take off heat.Kootu is ready.
             Whenever I make this kootu, I like to use the red petals to serve thayir sadam or curd rice like my paati used to do.There is an unique fragrance to the curd rice eaten that way.Along with molaga mangai, it is a simple pleasure.Susvaad.    

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ennai Kathrikkai

          When I was a newly wed, I wanted to impress my husband by making this dish, which he loves.I made several failed attempts, poor guy ate my failures every time without complaint.  I could not figure out what was going wrong.I would make the stuffing and stuff properly etc, when frying they usually turned out burnt or tasting burnt.
           My savior was again Dakshin by Chandra Padmanabhan, this is my all time favorite recipe from her book.Except for some substitutions, I follow her recipe and the result is divine.
          This is my recipe # 3 for 7 day recipe countdown marathon conducted by Nupur.

Recipe # 3 Ennai Kathrikkai


baby brinjal 12nos
 coconut grated                     1/2
I use coconut milk powder 4 tbsp instead
Tamarind paste                     1tsp

dhaniya/Coriander seeds      1tbsp
urad dal / ulutham paruppu   3/4 tbsp
chana dal / kadala paruppu   3/4 tsp
jeera/ cumin                          1tsp
asafoetida /hing                     1/2 tsp
red chillies                             8( mild use 5)
oil                                         1tsp
salt to taste

Oil                                          3tbsp
Mustard seeds                        1tsp
cumin seeds                            1tsp
urad dal                                  1tsp
chana dal                                1 tsp
red chilli ,halved                      1
curry leaves                              a few


1.Stuffing: Roast the coconut milk powder till  it's slightly pink.
2.Fry in a little oil all the ingredients for stuffing.
3.Grind the stuffing ingredients to fine powder.Add roasted coconut and tamarind paste in the end and grind     till it incorporates.Pulsing your grinder would get it mixed right without clumping.
4.Quarter the brinjal without splitting them or cutting through them.Each brinjal should be slit at the top with a + sign and should be able to hold stuffing.
5.Fill each quarted brinjal with about a spoon of stuffing and set aside.(Having another person to help will speed things up,as once slit brinjals tend to blacken .So, work fast if you are doing this alone).
6.In a kadai or open mouthed fry pan with lid.,heat 3 tbsp oil and add tempering ingredients..When mustard seeds sputter,add stuffed brinjal ,salt and a little water(just sprinkling water so as to steam cook brinjal is enough).
7.Sprinkle any leftover stuffing on the vegetable.Cover with lid ,simmer on low heat,till the brinjals are cooked tender.
8.Remove the lid and slightly stir the brinjal.Do not keep stirring as this will smash them.Let it fry a little bit to get the roast consistency.Switch off heat when there is no moisture left(waiting too long to take off heat will burn them at this stage,take it from my experience).

Serve hot with rice,rasam/sambar.Susvaad.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Azhugal Mangai pachadi

              My grandma, my mom always made meals in the proper combination to elevate the dish to nirvana.Some dishes made out of a set does not get them the accolade they deserve.When poritcha kuzhambu was made, then puli itta keerai or azhugal mangai pachadi and  sutta appalam was the complete meal.Poritcha kuzhambu is a medley of vegetables cooked with coconut gravy without any acidity.Azhugal manga pachadi is the sour(pulippu) part of the meal.

           Azhugal manga means mangoes that are beyond their prime,in other words rotten.Just when mango season starts, the baby mangoes are harvested to make vadu manga (pickle).Vadu manga is doused with chilli powder and soaked in brine.This pickle in made in huge vats and stored in a dark place for use  the whole year.
      It is but natural that some of the baby mangoes at the bottom of the vat gets squished by the weight of the vadus on top.The result is azhagal manga.They are not wasted, but much preferred and made into a delicious accompaniment to a delicious meal.My mom's recipe is going to 7 day recipe countdown marathon conducted by Nupur.

Recipe # 4 Azhugal Mangai Pachadi 

Azhugal mangai 4-5
grated coconut flakes 2 tbsp
green chilli   1
salt as needed
curd  2 cups

mustard seeds 1/2 tsp
asafoetida  a pinch
coriander  a few sprigs
or curry leaves 2-3

1.Select the Azhugal mangai and grind it with coconut,greenchilli  and about three ladlefuls of curd (If the mangai chosen is less spicy add green chilli else the green chilli is optional).
2.Add the ground paste to the rest of the curd .Add salt if needed( since we are using a brined pickle,you can adjust the seasoning accordingly).
3.After the mustard seeds sputter,add the tempering to the pachadi and add sprigs of corainder.

         This Pachadi will go well with Poritcha kuzhambu and hot steamy rice (I will post this recipe later).Susvaad.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Karuvepilai/curry leaves Kuzhambu

  I bought this cookbook Dakshin by Chandra Padmanabhan, after tasting this recipe made by my friend.She had tried most of the recipes, and said they taste like authentic home cooked mom's food. Well, I thought there were some adjustments,most of the recipes are spicy hot.My family likes mild-medium hot food.I always keep that in mind when I make anything from this cookbook.I keep it as a general guideline and adjust recipes according to my tastes.
       I chose Karuvepilai kuzhambu for Uraippu(pungent) taste.This is recipe # 5 for the 7 day recipe countdown marathon by Nupur of One hot stove.My version is spice adjusted in brackets and has method adjustments in italics, original recipe from Dakshin.

Recipe #5  Karuvepilai Kuzhambu  
red chillies             5-6    (mild use 4)
peppercorn/milagu 1 tsp    (mild use 1/2tsp)
asafoetida              1 tsp
ulundu/ whole or split urad dal 2 tsp
raw rice                 1 1/2 tsps
tamarind paste       1 full tsp
or Lemon-sized tamarind
Curry leaves           30
salt to taste
jaggery  a tiny piece

sesame oil/nalla ennai   2 tbsp
 mustard seeds             1 tsp
fenugreek/menthayam  1/4 tsp
red chilli                      1, halved

1. Roast dry the red chillies, milagu, asafoetida, urad dal and rice.Add the curry leaves. Here is where I differ.The author asks to add the tamarind and grind  into a fine paste, using little water. I would grind the previous ingredients without the tamarind.
2.Dissolve the ground paste in 2 cups of water, add salt and set aside. I dissolve the tamarind paste in 2 cups water and bring it to boil.A fair amount of acidity is needed to counter the pungency of this kuzhambu.After the raw tamarind smell goes,which is about 5 minutes.Then add the ground paste , while stirring. Add salt. Simmer for 5 minutes until the kuzhambu thickens.
3. Heat 2 tbsps of oil and add the ingredients for tempering. When the mustard seeds sputter. Pour it in the kuzhambu. I add a tiny piece of jaggery at the very end. 
4.Serve hot with rice and roasted papad.

Mix a little of this kuzhambu with a greater quantity of rice as it is pungent.Adding ghee or some more nalla ennai to rice makes it more flavorful.
      When I serve this kuzhambu to my kids, I give them dal rice (paruppu sadam) with ghee and the kuzhambu to dip. Also, any shallow fried vegetable poriyal or kootu dishes will go good with this.Papads/appalam/chips/vadam are great accompaniments. Susvaad.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Pagarkai/Bittergourd Varuval

          As a child I hated Bittergourd or Pagarkkai. It is a nutrient rich vegetable. As a mom, I try my best to get my kids to eat it, in vain.Some preparations they outright refuse but when I make varuval or chips, they are willing to try at least a little. It is a developed taste and mostly preferred by grown ups.
          My recipe # 6 for Nupur's 7 day Countdown to new year recipe marathon . I chose something that is bitter in taste as it is one of the Arusuvai( six types of taste ) as called in Tamil .The Arusuvai are Kasappu(Bitter),thuvarppu(astringent), Uraippu(pungent) ,thittippu(sweet), uppu(salty) and pulippu(sour).Dishes made all over the world have different mixes of these taste groups.This recipe is from Aval Vikatan , a tamil monthly supplement featuring Chips variety.My mom sent me the magazine from India.

Pagarkkai Varuval / Bittergourd chips:

Bittergourd  2
Rice flour 1/4 cup
Besan flour/ kadal maavu 1 tsp
juice of one lemon
turmeric powder 1/4 tsp
chilli powder  1/2tsp
sugar a pinch
Oil to fry
Salt as needed


1. Cut the bittergourd into uniformly thin round slices.In a bowl combine all the other ingredients .
2. Make sure all the slices of the bittergourd is coated .Take care to mix gently as not to break the slices.
3.Let it marinate for 15 minutes.It should not be too wet just coated .If the bittergourd becomes watery add a little more flour and adjust seasoning accordingly.
4.Heat oil and deep fry slices and remove when crisp and golden.

 Varuval ready.You can enjoy this with any South Indian meal. We like to eat it like a snack too. Susvaad.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Badam cake

     Updated 1/3/10 (I would like to send this recipe to Desserts, Pastries and Ice creams - 'Food for 7 Stages of Life' event  conducted by Radhika, inspired by Sudeshna.)

       Happy holidays everyone! Today is the first day of 7  day blog marathon conducted by Nupur of One Hot Stove. Please visit her blog to see the runners list. I am posting my sweet recipe for the countdown  to New Year 2010 from Dec 25th to Dec 31st 2009.          

Recipe#7   Badam cake


blanched slivered almonds /badam
clarified butter


This sweet is made using ratio. If you use any particular measuring cup use that through out.

1. Soak the slivered blanched almonds in water for about an hour.Traditionally, whole almonds is used but using this readily available product reduces a lot of labor, to peel the skin of almonds and the soaking time.

2. Grind the almonds/badam  into a smooth thick  paste using as little water as possible.Grinding it little by little usually gives you this result.

3.Take a heavy bottomed wide-mouthed pan and measure and pour the paste in the pan.The ratio to use is 1 cup paste to 1 and a quarter cup sugar(I am giving this measurement for domino sugar or any American made sugar).Do not add water. Take a cookie sheet or shallow plate, butter it with ghee and keep aside.

4. Keep about 1 cup of ghee ready for the above ratio. Add about a ladleful at first and mix all the ingredients well.

5.Now place the pan on the stove inbetween  medium to high heat. With a flat wide spatula, keep on stirring and turning the paste. The sugar will melt and make the paste into a fluid but keep stirring.

6.Add a ladle full of ghee at  5 minute intervals. It is important that fluid doesn't stick to the pan, so keep on stirring the contents. At one stage after about 15-30 minutes depending on how much paste you have frothy bubbles start to come up to the surface and burst out make a hole and disappear again.All the ghee set aside must have been used by now.

7. When the mixture comes away from the side of the pan. Pour it in the buttered cookie sheet or plate.

8. Let it set so that it is solid instead of molten.Then using a knife or pizza cutter make a grid and cut square pieces. I made a lot to distribute to family and friends.

 They are just delectable,soft,sweet and crumbly in texture in your mouth. Susvaad.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A hot cuppa

          Greatly encouraged by the result of my previous crochet project, I took up another one.
I have been seeing the teacup amigurumi cropping up everywhere in the blog world .I decided to try my hand at it.I proudly present my cup of coffee ( I don't drink tea.).This pattern is called Amigurumi Tea Cup Pincushion.

       My kids got their creative juices flowing and worked hard on their playdough and made masterpieces.
Here are some of them.My son is very particular that I post them on my blog.Hee he
After sitting patiently for hours one chick tries to fly the coop.LOL.Absolutely love the golden egg(s) laying hen and the two very pink piggies.I think that is just so cute.

Kozhakattai (sweet)

   On occasion, I make kozhakattai as an offering to Pilayaar.It is often called Pilayaar kozhakattai, as it is known as his favorite food.

Ganesh Tribal painting (patachitra) by the Munda tribe
sold by Trifed's Tribes India

        Kozhakattai consists of two layers, the outer layer is like a dumpling made of rice flour.The inner layer is the sweet filling.I make the outer covering of  kozhakattai with readymade rice flour.Tradionally it is made by any one of two methods soaking rice in water for an hour and grinding it into a semisolid smooth paste.Else,drying the soaked rice in shade and grinding it in a mixer grinder into flour. The inner sweet filling is made with coconut and jaggery.The inner filling is made first and is called the puranam.

Jaggery (crushed) 3/4 cup
fresh grated coconut 2cups
cardamom  5 or 6 powdered

1.In a heavy bottomed pan take about 1/4 cup of water, heat and dissolve the jaggery.Filter the jaggery in a fine sieve to remove impurities in the jaggery.
2.Again put it back on the stove and bring the jaggery water to boil.Mix in the coconut  and stir constantly for 10 minutes.The mixture may look crumbly but you can use the back of a spoon to test whether it is sticky(like candy) as that is the desirable consistency.
3.Add the cardamom powder.Stir well and take off heat.Keep aside.
4.When it has slightly cooled down but not entirely.Make tiny  balls of the puranam.You can use the help of  a handful of rice flour to help you shape the balls.I know mine are not perfectly round but it's okay.

The outer covering
Rice flour 2 cups,
water 2 1/2 cups,
salt few pinches,
sesame oil (nalla ennai) 4 tsp,
milk 1 tsp

1.In a heavy bottom pan,Mix all the ingredients into a smooth paste.
2.On medium flame ,stir the paste constantly .The paste thickens very quickly and may stick to the bottom of the pan if it is not stirred consistently.This needs TLC.
3.In about 10 minutes, the flour should be done.The flour should be cooked and should not feel sticky.
4.Take off heat and keep aside.
5.Keep it covered with a wet towel or wet paper towel.Otherwise it will get dry very quickly.

To assemble the  Kozhakattai:
1.Take few tbsps of nalla ennai in a bowl.Take the outer covering flour and knead it smooth without any lumps.Cover  unused flour in wet cloth at all times.Take a small ball size.With a little nalla ennai on your hands start shaping the ball into a cup.
2.First make an indentation with your thumb in the center and then whilst turning the ball in your hands thin the sides of the indentation evenly.Keep the thumb at the inside wall and the rest of the fingers outside .Work slowly pressing without breaking the sides.If it does, it's alright you can patch it.As you go along you will gain expertise with practice.
3.You have reached your desired shape if the cup can hold  one ball of puranam and you can close the outer covering around the puranam filling.

4.It is desirable also to have a thin outer covering without cracks in it .Now,close the covering to make a tiny peak and pinch off any excess flour at the top.
5.Finish making all the kozhakattai.Usually, if it is an offering(neivedyam) to Pilayaar, it is made in odd numbers 11 or 21 in number or more.
6.Once all the kozhakattais are done.It is steamed in idli plates in a pressure cooker or steamer of your choice in steady steam for 7-10 minutes.The reason I am giving a range is because the flour is already cooked most of the way.Differences in doneness may occur from person to person.
7.Once steamed, remove after it cools down and ( /after offering to Pilayaar) serve.Susvaad.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pidi Kozhakattai and puli mulagai

             I fondly remember my grandma and my mom making these kozhakattai's in the kitchen for tiffin ( afternoon meal that Southindians enjoy).I remember the days coming home from school or college and varieties of tiffin were waiting for us(my brother and my sis).We did not like upma back then and used to complain loudly if it was on the menu of the day.The same upma made into Pidi kozhakatti was mouth-watering.It is a time consuming task to make this for a large family that ours was but it was made with love by our paati and amma.
         Our family is a stickler in food combinations, only certain things go together.We don't adjust about condiments or side dishes, it is a matter of our neela naaku (long tongue phrase used for being choosy while being gourmet).If pidi kozhakattai is made then puli molagai and vellam go together and nothing else will be accepted.
        For a family of four Pidi Kozhakattai is made easily, but out of habit I make more to share with friends and neighbours.

Pidi Kozhakattai ( recipe for 4)

Raw rice two cups
Tuvar dal 3tbsps
Mustard seeds 1/2 tsp
Urad dal 1 tsp
Grated coconut 3-4 tbsps
Bengal gram dal 1/2 tsp
Red chillies small round 4-5
Green chillies chopped fine 3
Asafoetida a generous pinch
Curry leaves 6-7
salt to taste

1. Grind the rice and tuvar dal in the mixer to make fine rava or coarse grind.
2.Bring to boil a little above 1 cup water in a deep saute pan. Add coconut flakes and salt.Just enough salt to taste little less salty than sea water.
3.In a separate pan, heat about 1 tbsp oil and sputter mustards seeds add the rest of the ingredients . saute and add when tempered to the boiling water.
4.While stirring add the rava slowly until combined well.Keep stirring while on heat for another 2 minutes ,set aside the upma.
5.When cool enough to handle but not cold ,take palm full of upma and make a fist shaped ball of upma, pressing into palm mould( this is what is called pidi).Finish shaping all the upma into kozhakattai.
6.In a steamer usually a pressure cooker/idli cooker ,Steam the pidi kozhakattai's for 10 minutes of steady steam.
7. Serve them warm as they tend to harden when cold. Usually 4-5 per person with puli mulagai.
Here is an excellent recipe of Puli mulagai from Tasty Palettes. She has the exact recipe that I remember from paati.
I couldn't have written it better.
Don't forget the vellam (jaggery) to complete the plate.I know it is missing from the picture but I forgot in the my eagerness to get a picture.By the time I remembered, it was time to eat and we did eat with vellam.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dal kale and a craft project

          Kale is a nutrient rich super vegetable. Kale is king of the veggie world. I have been substituting  Kale for palak in recipes like palak paneer, keerai masiyal, poritcha keerai etc.Yesterday I made dal palak with kale instead of spinach.My dal palak is rustic and organic.This is almost an everyday food for many Indian households.

 Dal Kale
Moong dal- 3 tbsps
Kale one bunch(large leafed)
Jeera -1/2tsp
Green chilli  chopped fine-3 (more if you like spicy)
Ginger 1" finely diced
Garlic 1 pod finely chopped(optional)
Onion medium finely chopped
Two medium tomatoes diced
Juice of half lemon
Asafoetida a pinch
Turmeric powder1/2tsp
Salt to taste
Oil as needed to saute

1. Remove the thick veins and stalk of kale (if you got the packed salad variety then skip this step). Finely chop the kale and cook along with moong dal with a turmeric and just enough water to soak the dal (in a pressure cooker).
2. In a saute pan, heat a little oil and sputter jeera ,then add the green chilli, ginger, asafoetida, garlic and finally onion. Once the onion is cooked transparent add the tomatoes and let it cook till the raw tomato smell is gone.
3. Add the cooked dal and kale in the pan adding salt as needed. Switch off flame after just a minute.
4. Add the juice of half a lime  and mix well.For those who don't like too much texture can use a hand blender to mash the subzi a little.I like it as it is.
Dal kale is ready to serve with either rice or chapati.
Rustic but whole some. Susvaad.

     In other news, I have been working on my first crochet / felting project and today I finally got it done. Not perfect but a great first time project, if I say so myself.I found this kit at the craft store. It is called One stick,Two stick Sushi Wallet. It comes with a gift tag and extra yarn to make key-chains .


Friday, November 20, 2009

Can't believe there will be no Oprah Winfrey show !

   I am deeply saddened that my favorite talk show is ending.  I've been watching this show for 15 years now.
I don't know how I am going to fill that spot in my heart that this show and Oprah herself has made.
    She has been my inspiration to live my best life.Thank you Oprah! Love you!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Please just eat before you act.

           Have you ever watched a movie or a soap, where the actors are in a restaurant or at home, sitting in front of delicious food  and they are not eating? They are too busy talking /acting /doing whatever, it just drives me NUTS.
            I want to watch them eat that food at the least, expressing their feelings about the food would be a bonus. I watched a movie yesterday 'TORTILLA SOUP' .Oooh! The father in the movie is a chef and makes this yummy delicious spread and before anyone can eat it, there is drama around the table. Everyone leaves the table and the food is almost untouched, now that is a shame. In the future if the directors are going to tease us like that, us food lovers should protest and thats that.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My son's lunchbox

                     I wanted to post for Show me your lunchbox event by Divya of Dil Se. It is so busy in the morning while packing lunches for my kids and my husband. I haven't had time to stop and take a picture. I do comment to my family everyday though about missing this event.Today my son asked me to take a picture although he was getting late for the school bus.The picture is not that great taken in a hurry BUT here I am posting as I wished.This is my youngest son's lunch.
       I made a Last chance vegetable sandwich (All veggies found in the fridge that needs to be cooked like now or never) with vlasic bread and butter pickles, pizza blend shredded cheese and  Maggi Tomato sauce. Veggies include all finely diced red and green pepper, boiled potato, tomato and zucchini (I know but it had to go) on whole wheat bread. Also included fresh blueberries and a strawberry as per my son's request .Verdict:  Everyone got a small taste in the morning and liked it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Microwave Usili

        I use Tupperware Microwave Idli Cooker(MIC) for steaming veggies like broccoli, beans, carrots etc.It is quicker and doesn't lose its taste. I don't make idlis in it as the idlis tend to be a little harder than when steamed in a pressure cooker. Though,the MIC in my opinion makes great usili and gets  the job done faster not compromising on taste. The recipe for usili is as below.

  Toor dal /tuvaram paruppu 3 tbsp
  split bengal gram dal/Kadala paruppu 1/2 cup
  red chilli 4-5(more or less according to mild or spicy)
  asafoetida a big pinch
  turmeric powder 3/4 tsp
  salt 1tsp or to taste.
Note: Toor dal makes the usili more fragrant but the texture is given by bengal gram dal. Using all toor dal or all bengal gram dal or in 1: 1 ratio produces slightly varied textures and taste but  is not recommended.
 mustard seeds 1 tsp
 urad dal   1 tsp
 oil 2-3 tsps

1.Soak the dals together with red chillies for an hour.
2.Drain the dals and grind together with the rest of the ingredients into a smooth semi solid paste, using as little water as possible. It is important that the dals are soft when beginning to grind ,thus takes less water.
3.Divide this paste in the idli plates in the microwave idli cooker. Leave a tbsp of water at the bottom of the MIC for steaming. Put the lid on and steam for 5 minutes.
4.The usili is perfectly steamed into the shape of idlis. Let them cool down for 5 minutes.
5.Grind them in the mixer, by pulsing the mixer a few times. This makes it into fine but uniform pieces like coarse bread crumbs.

6.Usili is almost ready. Heat a little oil in a pan, add mustard seeds and urad dal. After the mustard seeds sputter and urad dal is red, add the usili and stir fry till it changes to a deeper color indicating that it is roasted.
(I like this method because it gives the authentic taste as though you have used oodles of oil to roast it .This gives the same taste with much less oil.)

Now Usili is usually combined with a vegetable to make different types.
Some combinations are banana flower(vazhaipoo
usili), beans, cabbage, cluster beans etc
I make broccoli usili too as that is the only way my kids eat broccoli.
Cut the vegetable of your choice into fine and small pieces and steam cook with salt(optional curry powder-because the usili is already spicy).
Once cooked add it to the usili and mix well. Here is a picture of beans usili.

Serve with rice and any of these
vatral kuzhambu,
milagu kuzhambu,
karuveppali kuzhambu,
jeeraga rasam,
milagu rasam,
thogayal or
mor kuzhambu.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Kids say the darndest things...

       In one of my philosophical moods, yesterday I asked my two sons, "When I become old and wrinkled, will you guys take care of me?". I don't know what I expected them to say. My 9 year old answered, "Sure I will help you". I looked over at him and asked, "How will you help me?".Before he could answer, my 6 year old piped,  "I will iron your wrinkles for you". I could not stop laughing.That definitely lifted my mood.
          I am off to throw out my age defying cream.Yep, I am sure I'll be taken care of in my old age.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Parangikai thogayal - Halloween special

        I missed the boat posting for Diwali. Atleast to celebrate halloween with my kids, here is a dish from their desi mom- Parangikai thogayal (red pumpkin chutney). I had this menu idea after attending a pumpkin picking event at my son's school. I thought of this dish to go with the theme of the month.
      I have to thank my dear friend Priya for this recipe. She is a lover of spicy food and can make even a sweet tasting vegetable into a fire breathing dragon. She says, "make this and your family will salute you after eating this(salaam pottu sapaduva)". I had already picked my pumpkin from the grocery store, which are in season and in abundance.
       Indian red pumpkin is a little different in appearance and taste than the american variety, but they are from the same family. This recipe uses Indian red pumpkin(nutrional value).

Parangikai thogayal
Parangikai (rind removed and cut like french fries) 3 cups
1 tsp chana dal/kadala paruppu
3 tsp urad dal/ulutham paruppu
6-7 red chillies
fresh coconut flakes 3 tbsp(optional)
1 tsp mustard seeds/kadugu
tamarind a small piece
asafoetida a pinch
salt to taste

oil just enough to fry


1.With a little oil roast the dals, red chilli, tamarind with asafoetida till the dals are roasted an even red. Keep aside to cool.In the same pan add the coconut and slightly stir fry them until light pink in color. Keep aside.


2. Roast the cut pumpkin in the pan with a little oil till they are done. Add a little salt while roasting. Let it cool.
       3. Grind the dals first to rough texture then, add the rest of the ingredients when cool and grind to a grainy texture. Do not add water as the pumpkin has a lot of water content. Add salt as needed.

Enjoy the thogayal with rice,chapati or as a sandwich spread.Susvaad!                                

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bangalore Kathrikkai Poriyal

I love this shade of green. I don't need an excuse to make banglore kathrikkai alias chow chow. It is a very good source of dietary fiber,Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Potassium, Copper and Manganese[source].

Bangalore Kathrikkai poriyal goes very well with Vathral kuzhambu. As as child, I remember having paruppu sadam(dal rice) with nei(clarified butter), which had a small well in the middle to house spicy vathral kuzhambu and poriyal to go with it.There are several combinations of comfort food to be had, this meal would be top of my list. I will give the recipe of the kuzhambu in a later post.

Bangalore Kathrikkai Poriyal:
Bangalore Kathrikkai  3 nos
mustard seeds  1tsp
urad dal  1 tsp
round red chillies 3 whole
asafoetida a pinch
oil 2 tsp
grated coconut 1 or 2 tsp
salt to taste

1. Peel and cut the vegetable into small even sized cubes.
2. In a wide bottom fry pan, heat the oil. Add mustard seeds, after it starts popping add urad dal, red chillies (take the stalk off)and asafoetida. Let the urad dal fry till reddish pink in color.
3. Add the cut vegetable pieces and 1/2tsp salt. Add 2 tbsp water and stir. Cover partially with lid (with a ladle or spoon keeping the lid open  a little to let some steam out). Let it cook until the BK's are transluscent stirring occasionally, add a little more salt when the BK's are almost done. There shouldn't be any water left in the pan.
4. Add the grated coconut and stir fry for less than a minute. Switch off heat.

Serve with steaming hot rice,paruppu, nei and vathral kuzhambu. It goes well though not equally with rasam too. Susvaad.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My entry for JFI:Rajma

I would like to send my Rajma with basmati rice to JFI:Rajma  hosted by Divya of Dil Se.
JFI is the brain child of Indira of Mahanandi.

I hope it is alright that this dish goes to two events. Kid's delight at Spice your life hosted by Srivalli.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tarla dalal contest winner

   I am thrilled to be the winner of "Paratha Power" contest at Tarla dalal dot com.
They have posted my recipe on their website.
I wrote my recipe for 'Alsi Paratha' using Flaxseed.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Rajma with basmati rice

 My kids really love rajma with basmati rice. My son used to call it rajjamma. 
Cooking rajma my way takes only a few minutes. I make this dish when I want the prep time to be minimum.
I use canned rajma and canned diced tomato and also I do not use elaborate masalas for this dish.


2 cans red kidney beans or one large can
1 can diced tomato
1 medium onion
2 sticks cinnamon
1 tsp jeera
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp olive oil
coriander leaves few
Salt 1 tsp or to taste

1.Heat the oil  in a pan and warm cinnamon and jeera.finely dice onion and saute till translucent.
2.Pour the diced tomato into the pan. Let the tomato cook and lose its raw flavor.
3.Add the masala and chilli powder and salt. Pour the rajma into this mixture and bring to boil .With the back of your ladle or stirrer crush some of the beans. Let this cook on low heat for about 5 minutes.Add coriander leaves and serve over hot cooked basmati rice.

This recipe is not only simple, tastes delicious and more importantly kids love it.
I would like to send this to Kid's delight event by Srivalli at Spice your life.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Surprise Party

     My son's birthday was last week.We both had agreed that there would be no party this year, just a great gift from us. Dear Son is sweet and agrees reluctantly to our deal. What happens next is due to a weak
    Birthday dawns, we wish him, hug him, kiss him, give him a lovely card from all of us and send him off to school with cupcakes with a promise of a great gift in the evening. Mom is dissatisfied with squeal  and joy factor in son. There begins chaos.She begins calling his friends mom's arranging for a surprise party after school. Thankfully everyone invited would come. Mom hurriedly prepares for homemade pizzas, but had to buy a store bought cake (awesome) and arrange for other snacks.

     The grand finale...dear son is so pleasantly surprised and enjoys every minute of the party.
Best of all, at the end of the evening  he gives me a huge hug with  tears (happy) in his eyes and says "Thanks mom".


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sambar for the soul

    To me comfort food is soul food. Ask any south indian, sambar is in their comfort food list. It goes with variety of  dishes like Idli sambar, sambar rice, vada sambar, pongal sambar  and sambar in itself is a satisfying dish when made with lots of veggies.
  Whenever I visit India , I bring back sambar powder(customs withstanding),I store most of it in the freezer to keep its freshness. Sambar powder is like a family crest. Each family has its own unique combination of ingredients. The one that my mother-in-law and my mother make have the same ingredients but in different ratio.Making of the sambar podi (as it is called in Tamil) is a process.
      My mother buys the tuvaram paruppu  ,kadala paruppu, red chillies, coriander seeds, turmeric root, milagu and vendhayam.
Her podi ratio is as below

Dhaniya or coriander seeds 500gms
Red chilli 500 gm( short round chilli 250 gms and long thin chilli 250 gms)
Tuvaram paruppu  or toor dal  150 gm
Kadala paruppu or chana dal 75gms
Vendayam  or methi seeds 1 tablespoon
Molagu or black pepper 1tablespoon
Manjal or turmeric root (thin long variety) 50gms

Roast all ingredients till slightly warm. In tropical countries like India, people just take everything to the terrace and let the scorching sun warm the ingredients. This ensures that the powder can be stored for long without moisture or pests affecting it. All of this is put together and taken to the Flour Mill for grinding into sambar powder. The machine needs to be clean of any previous grinding as this alters the taste of the powder too. The machine powders it fine in a few minutes. The sambar podi will be warm and should be allowed to cool down completely to avoid condensation before storing it in a airtight container.This recipe yields about one and a half months supply for a sambar loving household of four. The same ratio can be used and the powder made in a mixie grinder but in several batches as the mixie tends to heat up easily for greater quantities. I feel it will not be worth the effort if sambar powder is made  daily  for one time use.
There are exceptions when making araithu vitta sambar(which is made with coconut flakes).
Making the sambar
  I love how adaptable sambar is. You can make sambar with one vegetable or as many as you can find in your fridge or in the grocers. Different combinations of vegetables produce distinct flavors like capsicum, drumstick, radish, onion etc make different varieties of sambar.

    Toor dal is the most important ingredient of the sambar as it is what gives it body. It takes the longest to cook so when you get the idea to cook sambar, cook the dal first.I usually use the pressure cooker. Soak the toor dal in water, with about half an inch standing above it .Then add half a tsp of turmeric powder in it. Now,pressure cook it for about 3 whistles. The dal must be cooked well, must be mushy. For those without a pressure cooker, It takes a while to cook dal on the stove top, it needs constant stirring or else the dal burns and sticks to the bottom of the pan.
I cup toor dal
sambar podi  1 tbsp
Veggies-red pumpkin a few cubes, capsicum a few pieces, white radish a few pieces, brinjal 1 medium, carrots(cut the veggies almost the same size except for the red pumpkin which tends to get mushy so cut that  a little bigger).
Methi seeds half a tsp
mustard seeds 1 tsp
oil for tempering
curry leaves a few
coriander leaves  few
tamarind lemon size or tamarind paste 1 tsp
small piece of jaggery or gur
asafoetida or hing 1/4 tsp
Salt to taste

1. Soak the tamarind in 2 cups hot water for a few minutes and then squeeze the pulp get rid of the pulp, keep the water .
2. In a deep saucepan,  heat oil and temper with mustard seeds, methi seeds, hing and curry leaves.
3. Add the veggies and saute the veggies for a few minutes .Now add the tamarind water , sambar podi and salt.
4.Bring to boil, let the veggies get fully cooked but not mushy. This takes about 5 minutes. Once the veggies are cooked, add cooked toor daal. Take care that the toor dal is mashed a little but not totally pulverised. This gives the sambar body and texture. Once the toor dal is added the sambar is kept on the stove only until everything comes together . It is customary to add a small piece of jaggery at the end.It does not lend sweetness to the sambar but elevates the taste. The sambar should not be watery or too thick like a semi-solid. It is in between like a stew. Now add fresh corainder leaves.

Sambar is ready.Enjoy it with rice, idli ,pongal...Susvaad.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Homemade Pizza with pizzazz

     My family loves pizza. I wanted to make it healthy enough for it to be made once in two weeks. Ordering from Pizza Hut or Domino's is okay once in a while but I can't help the feeling, I am not doing right by my kids feeding them fast food.
   After a lot of experimenting I came up with the idea of making pizza from scratch at home. It gives me a lot of free reign over how many toppings each pie has and the variety of the toppings. I don't have an oven that works. I got a pizza oven from Amazon called the Presto pizzazz pizza oven.I know it's a mouthful, but you will be happy when you have a mouthful of yummy pizza.

   I love this oven. It has a rotating pizza plate on a pivot with coils on the top and bottom and it makes divine pizzas in about 20-25 minutes.You can have a crispy crust or crispy cheese and toppings or both.

Here is my pizza dough recipe.

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
11/2 tsp Honey
1 pkt active dry yeast
1 cup warm water(tepid)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1.In a large bowl mix warm water, yeast and honey. Leave this mixture be for 10 minutes.
2.The yeast must double, look frothy and have a fruity smell .Now, add all the flour,salt and oil and hand mix it into a dough. Please do not worry if the dough is either loose or tough. Accordingly you can add a little more flour or water(just a little), usually this ratio turns out perfect.
3.Now, knead the dough for atleast 5 minutes.The dough must spring back when you push on its surface with your thumb, then it is ready for the first rising.
4.Now grease a bowl with olive oil on the inside, coating the inside surface. Place the dough in the bowl, the dough will double in size so take a large bowl.
5.Cover the bowl with clear plastic wrap and I usually put it in my non-working conventional oven in a draft free warm place.You can even wrap the bowl with a towel for added warmth. Leave the dough for a good hour.
6.The dough must be doubled by now or atleast risen a little. Punch it down with your fist to release air. If you want breadier dough do not punch and knead again. If you like crispycrust then knead again and let it rise for another hour.
7.After an hour your dough is done. Usually you can make 2-3 pizzas from this dough depending on the size of the pizza and crust.

Pizza sauce:
1 can Crushed tomato
1 Tsp dried oregano
1 Tsp dried basil
2 Tbsp tomato ketchup
1 Tsp chilli powder
1 Tsp E.V. olive oil
salt to taste

1.Heat olive oil and put in the dried herbs .Immediately followed by crushed tomato and rest of the ingredients. Mix thouroughly and let it thicken, while cooking the raw tomato taste away.
The sauce is ready. Let it cool.It is that simple I like to keep it simple.

Now for the toppings I use canned sliced pineapple cut into chunks, pitted sliced olives and sliced mushrooms.I love  sliced Jalapeno, broccoli, basil, bell peppers and onions as my toppings too. Hey! It's homemade, anything goes. No Ka-ching! Ka-ching! for added topping.
I buy shredded mozzarella and shredded Mexican cheese mix from Costco. I usually freeze it in freezer bags in quantities needed for one pizza at a time. It saves a lot of money.
1.Roll out portion of the dough to fit the pizza plate. Use flour on the roller and surface on which you are rolling the dough out.
2.Once on the pizza plate, smear a little oil on the rolled dough then ladle out the pizza sauce evenly on the pizza. Then comes the cheese, add both mexican blend and mozzarella cheese evenly as much as you would like. Take care not to load too much cheese as it makes the pizza heavy .
3.Sprinkle the toppings on the top.
4.Now, I think if it is a conventional oven, It would take 345 degree oven 20 minutes.
In the pizzazz pizza oven, I dial it to 20 and keep it on dual coils meaning upper and lower coils and forget it...atleast until it cooks.

Enjoy your homemade pizza .