Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Palak Dal

I've had many friends from the land of the Gultis, as I affectionately call them. Which is interesting 'cause many others think of it as very offensive. To me personally, I had no strong parochial sentiments against people from other states and so I never used it in an offensive way. It was just an affectionate way of referring to them. But anyways, their cuisine is very rich and wonderfully flavorful. The best dishes are the various dals/lentils that they make. Having only been used the sambhar version of making lentils, I found their dals to be a treat. Totally in love with them. 

And it was such a friend who taught me this easy-breezy version of Palak Dal. It was a no mess recipe which was no wonder cause he's a guy. At that point I was living in Germany temporarily on project work and he lived in the nearby guesthouse. I got the recipe from him when we had a pot-luck dinner together. I've tried it many times and made minor changes to it depending on my taste. I've got it down to a perfect version now and it's a favorite of now just VJ but also Gabi, Marina and so many other friends who've tried it.

Tuar dal/ Moong dal - 2 cups
Spinach (frozen or fresh - chopped) - 1 cup
Onion - 1 large
Tomato - 1 medium
Tamarind paste - 1/2 tsp (optional)
Oil - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - a pinch
Salt - to taste

For tempering:
Oil - 1 tbsp
Jeera - 2 tsp
Green chillies/Red chillies (based upon your taste) - 4
Ginger - 2 inch piece
Garlic - 2 cloves
Red chilli powder - 2 tsp
Croainder powder - 4 tsp

1. Cut the onion and tomatoes into 1 inch pieces.
2. Defrost the spinach.
3. Wash the dal at least 3 times in clear running water and place in a pressure cooker.
4. To the above, add the spinach, onion and tomatoes with a pinch of turmeric, 1/2 tsp oil and the tamarind paste (if using).
5. Cook for 2 whistles and then on low for 15 mins. Switch off the stove and wait for pressure to release.

For tempering:
1. Finely chop the ginger, garlic and green chillies. If  using red chillies, break them into pieces and set aside.
2. Heat oil in a small kadai and splutter the jeera in it.
3. Add the ginger, garlic and chillies and fry unitl lightly browned. The trick here is to get a slightly burnt taste - BUT don't ACTUALLY burn them.
4. Switch off the stove and move the kadai to a cold stove. Now add all the dry masalas and give it a quick stir so that it is mixed with the oil. Leave in the kadai for about 30 secs.
5. Add this tempering to the dal with salt to taste and mix well. Add water as needed to get it to the consistency of your choice. It's better to keep this dal thick - tastes much better that way.

Serve with hot ghee phulkas or plain rice with lots of ghee à la Gulti style :) 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Alu Paratha

Remember how I told you about this hotel called Surguru in my hometown Pondichéry? And how that was where I started eating a different cuisine apart from the typical sambhar-saadham-poriyal that I was used to? Well it was also in that same hotel that I was introduced to the stuffed nan. I "hearted" it from the very first time and once I started cooking, I was always curious about how I could achieve the same results in my own tiny kitchen. The experiments started with layering a vegetable mash in between two rotis and trying to seal them and cook them all the way to rolling two rotis together with stuffing in between. It was on a lazy weekend afternoon that I came across this cookery show where I saw the step-by-step process of making a paratha. I tried it out the very next day and it was a hit! The naive 12 year old me couldn't believe that I had actually gotten it right...finally :)

So what follows is a alu paratha recipe that I have tried and perfected over the years. I still have two distinct recipes for the stuffing that I follow. Both of course are a favorite with VJ and it's also the default lunch of his choice on his b'day every year :)

My recipe is mostly going to focus on the stuffing. VJ was actually helping me, so we couldn't take pictures while I actually rolled and made the paratha. I will update this post with the step-by-step pictures once I manage to get some.

Atta - for 10 rotis
Potatoes - 4 medium sized ones

For stuffing 1:
Oil - 1 tbsp
Jeera - 2 tsp
Turmeric - 1/4 tsp
Red chilli powder - 2 tsp
Coriander powder - 2 tsp
Green chillies - 4
Hing - a pinch
Coriander leaves - 1 tbsp (optional)
Salt - to taste

For stuffing 2:
Oil - 1 tbsp
Whole red chillies - 8 (Rule of thumb: 2 chillies per potato)
Whole coriander seeds - 4 tsp
Jeera - 2 tsp
Turmeric powder - a pinch (optional)
Kasoori methi - a generous pinch
Salt - to taste

1. Wash and cut the potatoes in half - along the width. Take a vessel with 2 cups of water and cook the potatoes in it until they are cooked through. You can check using a fork.
2. Then immerse them in cold running water, peel and mash them while they are still hot enough to handle.
3. Add salt to the potatoes, mix well and set aside to cool.

For stuffing 1:
1. Slit the green chilllies and then finely chop them. Set aside.
2. Heat oil in a pan and splutter the jeera.
3. Add the green chillies and fry until they are browned. Switch off the stove and place the pan on a cold stove.
4. Now add all the dry masalas and mix well into the oil. Add this to the mashed potatoes and the coriander leaves. 
5. Mix it all together until well blended. If the potatoes are too dry, sprinkle some water and blend well. The stuffing is ready. Make round patties of the stuffing and set aside.

For stuffing 2:
1. Dry roast the coriander seeds and 1 tsp of jeera in a pan along with the red chillies for about a minute or so.
2. Once they are cooled, grind them coarsely in a blender.
3. To this add the pinch of turmeric (optional).
4. Heat the oil in a pan and splutter the remaining 1 tsp of jeera. Switch off the stove, add the coarsely ground masala and give it a quick stir.
5. Add this to the potatoes along with the kasoori methi and mix well until it is all well blended. The stuffing is ready. Make round patties of the stuffing and set aside.

To make the paratha:
1. Take a large pinch of the atta and make a rough-flattened patty. A good rule of thumb is to use 1.5 times the atta required to make a normal roti.
2. Flatten the patty with your hands (or belan) to accomodate the stuffing patty. Place the stuffing patty and bring the atta around it to seal.
3. Slightly press down and dust it with some dry flour. Roll it out like you would a normal roti. But take care that the stuffing doesn't spill out or break through the atta. If there are a few weak spots, dust those areas generously with dry atta and continue to roll it out.
4. To cook the paratha, heat a pan on high until hot. Sprinkle some oil and slide the paratha in the pan with the thick atta side facing the pan first. Sprinkle more oil on the other side and round the edges. After about 30 seconds, flip the paratha.
5. Continue to flip the paratha cooking for roughly 30 to 45 seconds on each side. Add oil if it is too dry. The paratha is done when you can see it change color all over the surface with brown spots. There shouldn't be any patch in the color of uncooked atta.

Serve hot with a dollop of salted butter, plain yoghurt and Indian pickle.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Arachu-vitta Sambhar - Virundhu Saapadu Series

As a kid I never liked sambhar. I was the lone one battling it out on the rasam-team. But my tastes changed for the good and now the thing I miss the most is simple, home-made sambhar of amma. To tell you the truth, I miss my dad's version of sambhar more than my amma's - his sambhar has a very distinct taste to it and I can tell from just the aroma who made the sambhar. I miss dad :(

But one version of a sambhar that I liked even in my rasam-team days was the arachu-vitta sambhar. It has a unique flavor to it and is much thicker than normal sambhar; mainly due to the grated coconut paste that's added to it. This recipe is a typical Tirunelveli version. Usually sambhar is made with some kind of vegetable in it. My favorites are murungakkai (moringa) and mulangi (radish). Other variations include poosani kai (pumpkin), urlai kezhangu (potatoes), carrots and a very seasonal version with green mangoes...yum!

After a quick call to amma on Sunday morning, I was armed and ready with the ingredients. I had a couple of carrots completely forgotten in one corner of my fridge and I decided to put them to good use. What follows is a simple recipe of my amma's to make a sumptuous sambhar within 30 minutes.

Ingredients: (serves two)
Tuar dal - 3/4 cup
Tamarind paste - 3/4 tsp or 1/2 lemon sized chunk
Carrots (or any other vegetable of choice cut into big pieces) - 1/2 cup
Onion - 1/2 of a medium sized one
Tomatoes - 1/2 of a small one
Water - as needed
Salt - to taste

Dry masala powder:
Red chilli powder - 3/4 tsp
Coriander powder - 1.5 tsp
Sambhar powder - 2.5 tsp

For the masala paste:
Coconut (shredded) - 1 tbsp
Jeera - 1/4 tsp
Garlic - 2 or 3 cloves

For tempering:
Oil - 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Fenugreek seeds - 5 or 6 nos
Hing - 1/4 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves - a few

1. Wash the tuar dal at least 3 times in running water. Cook in a pressure cooker with 2 cups water, 1/2 tsp of oil and a pinch of turmeric for 2 whistles. Set on low and cook for another 10 minutes. Switch off and let the pressure release.
2. In the meantime, place the chopped vegetables in a small vessel with 1 cup water and enough salt for just the vegetables. Let it cook completely.
3. Dissolve the tamarind paste in 1/2 cup water. If using regular block tamarind, extract the tamarind juice using 1/2 cup water and filter it to remove impurities.
4. Grind the coconut, jeera and garlic with enough water to make a smooth paste in a blender.
5. Chop the onion and tomato into big chunks and set aside.
6. Once the vegetables are cooked, add the tamarind water, enough salt for the sambhar and wait for first boil. If you are using red chilli powder and coriander powder separately, add it now to the tamarind water and let it boil once more.
7. Check the pressure cooker if it is safe to open and mash it well with a thick spoon. Add the tamarind and vegetable mix to the dal and stir until well blended. Let it boil well for at least 3 minutes.
8. Now add the coconut paste to the sambhar and wait for first boil. If you are using the sambhar powder, add it not to the sambhar and check for salt. The sambhar is ready

1. Use the same vessel that was used to cook the vegetables. Add oil and once it is heated, splutter the mustard seeds, add the fenugreek seeds and curry leaves. 
2. Then add the onions and fry until edges are slightly browned. Add the tomatoes and fry for just a minute or so. DO NOT over cook the tomatoes or over fry the onions.
3. Finally add the hing and turmeric and give it a quick stir. Top off the sambhar with the tempering and serve hot with steamed rice and side.

Soon to come...rotis, alu parathas and a post on southern Indian breakfast (idli & dosa)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Green Kurma - Amma's Recipe

Kurma or Korma is a common Indian curry that is a favorite amongst many. For me, personally, the only kurma that I ever liked was amma's green/white kurma. It was loaded with all kinds of vegetables and even during the days when I hated any/all kinds of vegetables, this was one kurma that I loved to eat. What made it a favorite though was the fact that this was the default kurma that you got with the Kerala paratha (another favorite of mine) in most restaurants. That's how my love for this started and amma makes an amazing version of this that I love. My bouts of homesickness have become more frequent than before, the two year mark is inching close and I miss amma's cooking the most. When I came to the US, I was arrogant since I had survived in Bangalore for 4 years. What I forgot to factor-in was of course my once-a-month trips to Pondichery that kept the homesickness in check. So without 'that', this past year and a half has been dotted with many bouts of homesickness. Or rather just foodsickness I guess. Especially amma's.

So with a few left over green beans, a couple of sad carrots and two shriveled potatoes in the corner of my fridge...I had no choice but to make a kurma. The main reason why those leftovers ended up was the biryani that I had made a couple of weeks ago (post to come soon). A quick call to amma and I had rounded up all the ingredients I needed. I even had the kasa-kasa (white poppy seeds) with me, all thanks to amma who had sent a bunch of whole spices with VJ last December. I actually have all kinds of whole spices in my spice shelf now. All of them call out to me to experiment and cook with them more often. I hope the coming 3 weeks help me find recipes using some/all of them.

Tastes best with plain ghee rice cooked with whole spices. But rotis are an equally good substitute too, especially when you are trying to lose those extra pounds.

Carrots - 4
Green beans/string beans/french beans - 200 gm
Green peas - 1/2 cup
Bell pepper (only green) - 1
Potatoes - 2 to 3, medium sized
Ghee/oil - 1tbsp
Onion (chopped/ground into a paste) - 1, medium sized (optional)
Jeera (cumin seeds) - 1 tsp
Bay leaf - 1
Cinnamon - 1 inch piece
Black peppercorns (whole) - a few
Cloves - 4
Green cardomom (whole) - 1 or 2

For masala 1:
Kasa-kasa (white poppy seeds) - 1/2 tsp
Cashews (whole) - 5 nos
Milk - 1 tbsp

For masala 2:

Perunjeeragam (Fennel seeds) - 1 tsp
Coconut (shredded) - 4 tbsp
Green chillies - 6
Ginger - 2 inch piece
Garlic - 4 cloves
Pottu kadalai (fried bengal gram) - 2 tbsp
Mint and/or coriander leaves - 1 tbsp (optional)

1. Dry roast the kasa-kasa (poppy seeds) until you can smell its aroma. Warm the milk in a little katori and add the kasa-kasa (poppy seeds) to it along with the cashews. Let it soak for at least a couple of hours.
2. In the meantime, wash all the vegetable, peel and chop them into chunky pieces. You can also chop them smaller, totally upto you.
3. If you are using an onion, finely chop it. Or alternatively, you can also grind it into a fine paste. Making a paste is recommended as against chopping it.
4. Take the oil/ghee in a thick vessel and splutter jeera in it. Then add all the whole masalas and fry until you can smell their aroma. Now add the vegetables, sprinkle some water and add salt just for the vegetables. Cover and cook on low until all vegetables are done.
4. Take the coconut, pottu kadalai (fried bengal gram), perunjeeragam (fennel), ginger, green chillies and the mint/coriander (if applicable). Make a fine paste out of it using as much water as needed. This is masala 2.
5. Once the kasa-kasa (poppy seeds) and cashews are well soaked, grind them into a fine paste using milk as needed. This is masala 1.
6. Check the vegetables if they are completely cooked. Now add masala 2 and mix well. Add water as needed depending upon desired thickness of gravy. Cook for a couple of minutes. Now add masala 1, mix well and cover and cook on low for a couple of minutes or until first boil. DO NOT and I repeat DO NOT over boil the gravy at this stage. It will curdle and spoil it all. Check for salt and other seasonings.

Amma dearest...leave a comment if you have a concern with this recipe.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Moong Dal Khichdi

I spent last (this?) summer in Germany on an internship and my survival there was based on a simple policy: grocery shopping only when I completely run out of food. And my little town actually had 3 Indian restaurants. Yes, heard me right: THREE! And this was such a small town...geez, people do like Indian food. To top that, there were at least FOUR Indian grocery stores that showed up on my Google search. And Germany being what it is, all of them were accessible by bus within 10 mins. I "heart" EU for this reason. Believe me, live in the US in small towns like Columbia and you'll know. I mean, you WILL know the pain.

So I shopped in the range of 250 gm packages of lentils, 1 kg packages of basmati rice, one packet of paratha, one packet of get the drift, right? And it gave me the amazing freedom to experiment within my limited budgetary constraints. That's how on the last week of my internship, I ended up with 1/2 cup of moong dal, 1 cup rice, 1/2 an onion, 1 tomato and 2 shrivelled up green chillies forgotten in the corner of the fridge. I was flying back to good ol' 'merica on the following Saturday and I still needed 10, 9 meals (my manager treated me to a lunch on the last day) before I had to leave. The only thing that I could think was to make khichdi...but it was too late to call amma for the recipe. Which of course had me feverishly looking up recipes online. I found one which surprisingly did not call for any extra ingredients apart from my sad leftover stash. It was surprisingly good and I remember very clearly that I was chatting with Mai a.k.a Shweth when I was cooking and we chatted about recipes...good times :)

OK...after that really long rant, what follows is a minimal adaptation of the recipe I found online. It's the easiest thing to make...believe me. And I love moong dal, so it's a win-win dish for people like moi.

Rice - 1 cup
Moong dal - 1/4 to 1/2 cup
Oil - 1 tbsp
Jeera - 1 tsp
Hing - 1/2 tsp
Green chillies - 2, finely chopped
Onion - 1, medium sized
Tomato - 1, medium sized
Ginger - 1 inch piece
Garlic - 2 cloves
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Garam masala - 1/4 tsp (optional)
Coriander leaves (chopped) - 1/2 tsp
Water - 3 cups
Salt - to taste

1. Mix the rice and moong dal. Wash at least 3 times and set aside. You can also soak it for a little while, if needed.
2. Heat the oil in a pressure cooker and splutter the jeera. Add the chopped ginger, garlic and green chillies. Fry for 30 secs. Then add the chopped onions and fry until transparent and pink.
3. Add the asafoetida and fry for 10 secs. Now add the tomatoes and all the masalas and fry for about 5 minutes until oil separates.
4. Now add the washed rice and moong dal, 3 cups water and salt to taste. Cover and cook for 3 whistles and then set on low for another 15 minutes.
5. After the pressure has released, open the cooker and add water and salt if needed. The consistency must be slightly liquidy. Garnish with the coriander leaves and serve with plain raitha, papad and pickle.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Bhindi Masala

Bhindi or Okra is a favorite green vegetable of mine. Amma makes a typical Southern Indian poriyal which is oh-so-simple and yummy. I especially love it with amma's rasam. Most of the recipes I have on my blog are skewed towards being Northern Indian cuisine which is a little weird given that I am actually a Tamilian a.ka. South Indian. Read here for the complete rant which had me side-tracked for about 30 mins. Yes, I DO know that I suffer from border-line ADD. And OCD. But, whatever.

Given my horribly health conscious lifestyle here, I hardly eat rice regularly anymore and so I'm always on the lookout for recipe variations of my favorite vegetables and other South Indian favorites that I can pair with rotis/phulkas. And that's exactly how I landed on this recipe. Everytime I pick out THE recipe to try, it's only because of one reason and one reason alone: I need to have ALL the ingredients in my spice shelf. I think I haven't yet reached that stage where I have begun experimenting wildly with my cooking. It's gonna take some time to get there. Until then, risk-averse me is going to stick to trying out recipes with minimal changes. So here goes!
Bhindi/Okra - 1/4 to 1/2 lb
Oil - 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Ginger-garlic paste - 1/2 tsp
Green chillies (slit) - 2
Red onion - 1 medium, halved and sliced lengthwise
Tomato - 1 small or 1/2 medium, halved and sliced lengthwise
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Amchoor powder (dried mango powder) - 1 generous tsp
Coriander leaves - freshly chopped
Water- 1/2 cup
Salt - to taste

1. Wash the bhindi/okra and cut off the ends. Slit it lengthwise and chop into 1 inch pieces. Set aside.
2. Heat oil in a pan and splutter the cumin seeds. Add the ginger garlic paste and green chillies. Fry for about 30 secs and add the turmeric powder. Give it a quick stir and add the sliced onions and dry until transparent and pink. Add some salt to speed up the process and prevent the onions from burning.
3. Now add the bhindi/okra and let it cook for about 5 to 8 mins. Add the red chilli powder, coriander powder and salt to taste. Mix well, add 1/2 cup water and cover and cook for about 15 mins.
4. Add the tomatoes after it has cooked and mix. Add a little more water at this stage if you would like. Mix the tomatoes and cover and cook for another 15 mins.
5. Finally, add the amchoor powder and coriander leaves. Check the seasoning to make sure its right. Switch off the stove, cover and set aside until you're ready to eat.

I personally love this with fresh ghee phulkas. I've made some changes to the original recipe based on my judgement and personal taste. I've tried this umpteen times and love it. It's got an amazing tangy taste to it due to the amchoor powder and the tomatoes that are added at the very end. It also goes well with thayir sadham :) Yes, I am a South Indian who loves my thayir sadham...sue me!

Minimally adapted from this recipe -

Instant Papad palya

If you have had Mangalorean home food, you definately would not have missed Papad and Odi (Known as Sandige in Kannada or Fritters in English) in your meals. I managed to get this recipe of Onion Odi from Aayis recipes so that you get an idea of how it is prepared.

Here is a recipe of a quick side dish that my mom used to make from leftover Papad / Odi which goes very well with Rice and Dalitoy (Dal in Konkani cuisine). This recipe does not have a specific name due to which I have termed it as Instant Papad palya


One cup of Crushed Papad / Odi (of any type)
One medium Onion chopped
One small green chilli chopped
Quarter cup coconut scraping
Quarter cup grated carrot
A pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients except crushed Papad / Odi in a bowl. Papad / Odi are generally a little salty and spicy. Adding salt and chilli is are your taste requirements. Add crushed Papad / Odi a couple of minutes before serving so that it retains its crispiness and mix well. Instant side dish ready!

Credit to my Mom for the recipe.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Puliodharai - Tamarind Rice from Southern India

MTR may disagree with me on the name here, but hey I'm a Tamilian and this is how I know it. Not as puliogare or anything else. Simple and spicy puliodharai. Especially the one we can buy from Sri Ranganathar Kovil. Everytime we make a visit to the temple, my dad and I queue up behind the long snaking line in the sun just to buy some puliodharai. To what I can recall, amma never made puliodharai from scratch. We do have an equivalent of the same that is eaten with dosas and idlis - pulikachal. It's quite a favorite and traditional recipe from Tirunelveli ( my native town). The only puliodharai we had at home was the one that came out of the famous 777 ready-to-mix jar. Other versions that I remember are the ones from Grand Sweets, Parvati Bhavan etc.

I dutifully carried a jar of 777 puliodharai paste when I came to the US. It's almost half-empty now but it somehow doesn't taste the same. I'm not sure if it's the temperature change or the water or the rice from the Indian store here or whatever. But like I said, it just does NOT taste the same. And thus began my quest to find a recipe online. After much research, I chose this recipe. Reason: I had all the ingredients it called for and it seemed minimum fuss compared to the others AND it had the ubiquitous "temple style" tag in it. So I was pretty much sold on it 'cause I really did not care much and just wanted something to try on a lazy mid-week day.

Cooked rice - 2 cups
Tamarind paste - 1/2 tsp
Coriander seeds - 2 tsp
Fenugreek seeds- 1/4 tsp
Sesame seeds - 2 tsp
Channa dal - 4 tsp
Red chillies - 6
Peanuts (dry, roasted and halved) - 2 tsp
Turmeric - 1/2 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - a few
Asafoetida / Hing - 1/4 tsp
Gingely oil - 2 tsp
Salt - to taste

1. Heat a pan and fry the coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds and sesame seeds. Do NOT add oil to fry them. Remove and set aside to cool.
2. Add 1/2 tsp oil and fry the red chillies followed by the channa dal and peanuts. Set aside to cool.
3. Dissolve the tamarind paste in 2 tbsp water and set aside.
4. Now add the remaining oil to the pan and splutter the mustard seeds. Add the curry leaves, turmeric powder and hing followed immediately by the tamarind extract. Then add salt and let it boil for 5 mins.
5. In the meantime, grind the ingredients from step 1 into a fine powder and the ingredients from step 2 into a coarse powder separately.
6. Add the powder from step 1 to the boiling tamarind mixture. Switch off the stove and let it sit.
7. Spread out the rice in a plate or wide mixing bowl and add 1 tsp gingely oil to it and sprinkle some salt. Keep in mind that the tamarind mixture also has salt added to it.
8. Now pour the tamarind mixture over the rice and mix well. Finally add the powder from step 2. If the rice feels dry, add another 1 tsp of oil.

It helps if the rice is a little over cooked. Kinda adds to the taste. I usually eat puliodharai with plain papad or curds. Another good side dish to go with puliodharai is urlai kezhangu podi maas :) I promise I'll add the recipe soon.

Adapted minimally from this recipe -

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Dal Makhni

So, In my search for a Dal Makhni that was a happy medium between Meena's version and Vegeyum's version, I came across this simplest version of in Sanjeev Kapoor's website. I made some tweaks and added a few of my own touches to come up with a more indulgent version for those one-off occasions. In this case, that one off occasion was Diwali and I made it for a potluck. It was liked by all and I got rave reviews from everyone :) You can find it HERE!!!

I made a better version of Dal Makhni from Meena's blog here. Totally in love with it! Also, there's a free cookware giveaway. Read here for rules to participate :)


My first impression of dal makhni (as seen on TV and other media) was a very tasteless and overcooked dal with little to no seasoning. But when I did taste good dal makhni at Mast Kalandar in Bangalore, I was sold!

When I looked up the recipes online, they were way too complicated and the stupid social stigma associated with stocking black dal at home kept me further away from the dream. Anyways, being away from home has its benefits and I finally got to make some dal makhni at home. After the research, I knew the recipe was rich...but I was NOT prepared for this level of rich. I haven't used this much butter, ghee and cream in ONE SINGLE dish. Being a health freak, now that I have actually made this and know how much of butter, ghee and cream goes into this...I don't see myself making this often or for that matter ordering it at a restaurant too. It's seriously a crazy rich dish and personally for me, I just cannot stomach it.

Of course, I may be totally wrong here. Because the alternate name for Dal Makhni is apparently Maa Ki Dal. So it has to be a healthy too, right? There were many versions out there but I picked on one from "A Lifetime of Cooking". The recipe is supposed to be handed down from the chef of Oberoi Hotels in Bangalore. With a small prayer to the Gods that I don't die of cholesterol, I began gathering the ingredients for this dish. Hope you guys have the courage to try it too.

Black Urad Dal (whole) - 300 gm
Rajma (red) - 100 gm
Channa dal - 100 gm
Ginger - 20 gm
Garlic - 6 cloves
Green chillies - 4
Salt - to taste

For the tadka:
Ghee (clarified butter) - 50 gm
Jeera - 2 tsp
Garlic - 6 cloves
Hing - 1/2 tsp
Methi seeds (fenugreek) - 1 tsp
Tomato (puree) - 200 gm

Butter - 100 gm
Half and half (non-fat) - 30 ml
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Garam masala - 1 tsp

(I doubled all the ingredients in the recipe EXCEPT for the ghee and butter. I also used non-fat half-and-half instead of cream. BUT, in spite of all of this...the dal was way too rich for me)

1. Soak all the dals overnight in warm water. Wash well the next day ( at least 3 times).
2. Chop the garlic, ginger and green chillies finely. Add this to the dal along with some salt and pressure cook for at least 3 whistles. Then set on low and cook for another 15 mins.
3. Once the pressure is released, open the cooked and mash the dal well. I did not drain the water since it probably has all of the proteins in it. But the real recipe calls you to drain the excess water. I think it's a judgement call here.

1. Heat the ghee in a heavy bottomed vessel. Add the cumin seeds and let it splutter.
2. Then add the methi seeds (fenugreek) and fry until lightly brown.
3. Now add the chopped garlic and fry until the color changes a little.
4. Add the hing and then add the tomato puree. Cook until the oil separates from the puree.
5. Now add the dal to this tadka and mix well. After it boils once, add the masalas and salt along with the butter and half-and-half. Simmer for 30 to 45 minutes until well blended.

Serve hot with rotis or steamed rice.


Usually, normal dal that I make does not last more than 4 meals in my house. But this one lasted for a week and a half. Even VJ couldn't stomach too much of this. He was completely aghast at the amount of butter that went into it. When I told him it was half of what the recipe called for, he literally went ballistic. All I say is this, try this dal at your own peril. You won't regret it once it's done. It does taste heavenly and absolutely like the dal makhni in restaurants. The only difference is now, you do know what goes into that innocent dal makhni that is served to you in restaurants.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Paneer Butter Masala

Being a vegetarian, I think it's very understandable when I say that I love paneer. It's one staple that's always stocked in my freezer along with that packet of frozen parathas. Paneer is also probably the one thing that I would take with me if I would be marooned in an island. My love for paneer can be traced back to this one restaurant in my hometown of Pondichéry: Hotel Surguru. When it opened back in the late 90's, it took the small city of Pondichéry by storm. That was the place where I ate stuffed nan and paneer butter masala for the very first time. And since then, paneer and I have shared a relationship that's stronger than many bonds I've formed since then.

I tried to re-create the recipe many times over the years and although all of those attempts were good in it's own way, they always lacked that kind of "restaurant" taste that I craved. When I stumbled upon this recipe on Nags was like a BINGO moment for me. The one thing about her recipe that I did change was the use of the cream. I remember from some vague memory of a PBM version that using cashew paste was the trick. So I decided to substitute the cream with the cashew paste. So Nags, this one's for you...I enjoy your blog a lot and I'm happy that I tried this recipe of yours. It's a favorite of VJ's and Kupy's now and it's a joy to see them gobble it all down like kids.

Paneer cubes - 2 cups
Onion - 1 medium sized
Ginger-garlic paste - 1 tbsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Garam masala powder - 1 tsp
Tomato - 1 medium sized
Tomato ketchup - 1 tbsp
Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) - 1 tbsp/a generous pinch
Milk - 1/2 cup
Cashew nuts (whole/broken) - 1/4 cup
Bay leaf - 1 small
Oil - 3 tbsp
Salt - to taste

1. Set the paneer out to defrost and cut into cubes.
2. Chop the onions, puree the tomato and make a paste of the cashew nuts with little milk or water.
3. Heat the oil in a pan. Add th ebay leaf first, followed by the onions and 1/2 tsp salt. Fry until the onions are browned.
4. Now add the ginger-garlic paste and fry until the rawness fades away.
5. Add all the masalas (chilli powder, coriander powder and garam masala powder) and fry for 30 secs.
6. Now add the tomato puree, tomato ketchup and the kasuri methi. Mix well and cook for about 5 minutes until it is all well blended. You can also fry the mix a little extra in this step until the tomato leaves oil. This is for the people who don't enjoy the tangy taste of the tomato puree. But I haven't tried frying extra and I'm not sure how it would be.
7. Add the milk and lower the fire. Cover and cook for 5 mins.
8. Finally add the paneer, cashew paste and salt to taste. Mix well and cook for another 5 mins with the lid.

Serve hot with oven baked nan (which I am definitely going to try sometime) or phulkas.


And this time you don't get the usual lame lines, 'cause I can now take pics with my Panasonic LUMIX...Ha! :)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Tirunelveli Sodhi + Chepa Kezhangu Varuval + Ingee Chutney - Virundhu Saapadu Series

My native place is the city of Tirunelveli; famous for its temples (Nellaiappar Kovil), the Thamirabarani river, Rmkv and most importantly it's cuisine. As a kid, I never realised how distinct amma's cooking was and the way we mixed our ingredients giving it that unique flavor. It will always be reminiscent of home and amma and everything that goes with it. I have been to Tirunelveli about 5 times in my whole life and on each visit it was for a wedding or some other religious trip. And all such trips have one major component in common; the food. Amazing , delicious, mouth watering yet simple vegetarian food. Rice is our staple and the curries that go with it are countless with each curry having a vegetable stir-fry (poriyal) as it's accompaniment.

On that note, I am going to introduce a typical Tirunelveli dish called Sodhi. It's a coconut milk based curry and it's kind of the Indian version of the Thai Green Curry. And yes, that's the reason I love Thai food. Sodhi is served during the Maru Veedu function of a Tirunelveli Saiva Pillai wedding. When amma makes this at home, ingee chutney (ginger chutney) is a given for the simple reason that coconut milk and rice is a heavy meal and the ginger chutney balances the taste and is easy on the stomach. But my most favorite dish that goes with sodhi is the cheppa kezhangu varuval (tarro root/eddoe).

Amma and appa used to literally take the entire morning in the pre-prep for making sodhi. They extracted the milk from two fresh coconuts by hand and later on using a mixer/blender. But now, thanks to consumerism, when I want to make sodhi I go to the nearby super market and buy a can of coconut milk.

What follows is a recipe that's as authentic as a sodhi recipe can get.

Coconut milk - 1 can
Moong dal/Paasi paruppu - 2 tbsp
Potato - 1 small sized
Carrot - 1
Drumstick (if available) - 1/2
Eggplant/Aubergine/Brinjal - 1 small sized
Onion - 1/2 medium sized
Green chillies - 2 spicy hot
Curry leaves - a few
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Coconut oil - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - a pinch
Salt - to taste

1. Wash and cook the dal in 1/2 cup water in a vessel.
2. Slice the onions, slit the green chillies and chop the vegetables in big peices. Add the coconut oil in another vessel and splutter the mustard seeds in it.
3. Add the curry leaves, green chillies, onions and turmeric powder and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. 4. Now add the vegetables and fry for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cooked dal to this, 1/2 cup water and cover and cook until the vegetables are done.
5. Add the coconut milk and water as needed to get a thin pouring consistency like sambhar or rasam. Now add salt to taste and let it come to just one boil. DO NOT OVER BOIL as the coconut milk will break/curdle.

Cheppa Kezhangu Varuval
Cheppa kezhangu/Arbi/Tarro Root - 6 medium sized
Gram flour/besan - 4 tbsp
Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Salt - to taste
Oil - to deep fry
Water - as needed

1. Wash the kezhangu in water until all the mudiness is gone and place in a vessel with enough water to cook it. Alternatively, you can also cook it in a pressure cooker - 2 whistles should do the trick.
2. Once cooked, let it cool and then peel it. Cut into half (lengthwise) and then into wedges (again going lengthwise).
3. Place in a plate or wide vessel. Mix the besan with the chilli powder, turmeric powder and salt. 4. Sprinkle on the kezhangu and mix until they are lightly coated. Repeat if necessary and add water if it is too dry.
5. Heat the oil to almost-smoking temperature in a kadai. Lightly slip in the pieces one by one and deep fry until they are a nice golden brown. Remove using a slotted spoon onto a paper towel.

Ingee Chutney
Ginger - 8 inch piece
Red chillies (dried) - 2
Urad dal/uluntham paruppu - 1 tsp
Channa dal/kadalai paruppu - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds/kadugu - 1/2 tsp
Oil - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - a few (optional)

1. Cut or slice the ginger into rough pieces. Do not chop finely.
2. Heat oil in a small kadai and splutter the mustard seeds. Add the urad dal, channa dal, curry leaves and fry until lightly browned.
3. Add the ginger and fry for 2 to 3 mins. Remove and set aside to cool.
4. Once cooled down, blend in a mixer with salt to taste until it's a smooth paste.

Amma, aachi and possibly countless other mother's, daughters, daughters-in-law etc. from other Tirunelveli Saiva Pillai homes :)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Palak Paneer

I love spinach and various other leafy greens. One of my all time favorites is amma's keerai chaaru and keerai poriyal. But the greens we get in Southern India is actually thandu keerai or amaranth greens. I discovered spinach or pasalai keerai quite late as it wasn't that easily available in our little town. I've tried palak paneer in various versions when I began my cooking spree at the age of 12. But my favorite recipe that felt as close to the dhabas or restaurants of Northern India was a recipe from a friend's mother. Although I don't remember the recipe to the 't'; I tweaked it quite a bit and use it as my standard palak paneer recipe.

Palak/Spinach - 2 bunches (fresh) or 1 medium bag (frozen)
Paneer - 250 gms
Onion - 2 medium
Tomato - 1 medium
Garlic - 2 cloves
Ginger - 1 inch piece
Green chillies - 2 (spicy hot)
Red chillies (dried) - 2
Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Dhaniya powder - 1 tsp
Ghee - 1 tsp
Oil - 2 tbsp
Methi seeds and coriander seeds - a few (optional)
Cumin/Jeera - 1/2 tsp (optional)
Cream - 1/2 tsp
Salt - to taste

1. Steam cook the spinach (fresh) with just a sprinkling of water and let it cool. If using frozen spinach, cook on HIGH in the microwave for 6 to 8 mins and let it cool.
2. Grind the onions, garlic, ginger and green chillies into a paste. Puree the tomatoes. After the spinach has cooled, blend until smooth. I use my Magic Bullet for all of this and it's ideal for students. I "heart" my Magic Bullet.
3. Heat the oil in a thick bottomed vessel and add the onion-ginger-garlic-green chillies paste. Fry until lightly browned and all the rawness of the onions is gone. Now add the tomato puree and let it cook until oil separates. Add the masalas and cook for 2 mins.
4. Then add the pureed spinach, season with salt (to taste) and cook for a maximum of 5 minutes. It is important not to overcook the pureed spinach as it will lose all its nutrients. Add the paneer to the gravy, stir it slightly, cover and let it sit on the hot stove.
5. In the meantime, heat the ghee in a small kadai and splutter the jeera, methi and coriander seeds. Then add the red chillies and fry until it starts losing its red color and turns a little brown. Top the palak paneer with this tadka and add a swirl of cream around it and serve hot with phulkas or steamed rice.

A friend's mom's recipe.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Channa Chaat Salad

It's been 4 loooooooong months since I hit the gym; all thanks to having to move to Germany where I could never find the time to work out (read as: lame excuses). And this term has NOT been easy on me at all. Quite the opposite; I hardly find time to make a decent meal. So it was a welcome relief to go to the gym this week. I was having a particularly harsh and bitter week with respect to work, school and the umpteen other things I've taken up and it got too much too handle. When I'm stressed out, the only way to de-stress is to work out. And this is something I learnt from VJ. After quite a rigorous work-out today, I got a call from Karan as I was walking to the car in the parking lot. He wanted a recipe! From me! It made me go "awww" :)

So goes the recipe for you. It'a minimum fuss recipe that's healthy as hell and tasty as heaven :)

Channa dal (white or black) - 1 cup
Red onion - 1 medium or 1/2 of a big one
ROMA Tomatoes - 2
Potato - 1 medium
Green chillies - 1
Coriander (freshly chopped) - 1 tbsp
Lemon juice - 1 tsp
Chaat masala - 1/2 to 1 tsp
Chilli powder - 1/4 tsp
Salt - to taste

1. Soak the channa dal for 6 hours and cook with 1 cup water in a pressure cook. Wash the potato thoroughly and place it in the same cooker in a separate bowl or within the dal and cook for 2 whistles, take off hot stove and let the pressure release.
2. Remove from the cooker and once it's cooled down I let it sit in the fridge till evening. This helps to keep the channa dal and potatoes firm enough so that the salad doesn't get to a mashed up semi-solid texture.
2. Finely chop the onion, tomatoes, green chillies and coriander.
3. Take the potato and channa dal out of the fridge. Peel the potato and cube into pieces. It's not necessary to bring it back to room temperature but you can choose to do it that way. I like this salad a little cold especially on sweaty summer nights. It makes for an amazing meal in itself.
4. Take a large salad bowl (or any large bowl; you can also just use the cooker itself). Place the chickpeas in it first then add the onions, tomatoes, green chillies, coriander, chaat masala, red chilli powder and salt. Toss until the flavors are blended. Check to make sure the seasoning is right.
5. Now add the potatoes and lemon juice and toss once more albeit lightly to make sure that you don't disfigure the potatoes. Check again for seasoning and you're ready to dig in. You can (or rather should) vary the seasoning to your taste.

Personally for me this is a nice meal in itself especially after a work out. It used to be a favorite during last Spring. I still love it but hardly get the time to make it anymore. But apparently it goes well with puris as per Karan's update :)

None to cite. I pretty much made this up as I went. If you have a concern, leave a comment and I'll get back to you.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Amma's Rasam + Beans Poriyal - Virundhu Saapadu Series

Every Vinayagar Chaturthi it's a dad-daughter ritual between me and appa to go buy the Vinayagar from the market place. Every street has rows over rows of Vinayagar murtis in different avatars. And I always chose the fattest and cutest Vinayagar. Appa would carry him home on the pooja thaali and thus begins each Vinayagar Chaturthi. I've lost count of the number of Vinayagar Chaturthi's I've missed since I moved out. This year was particularly difficult because I've had a long period of home-sickness that doesn't seem to go away; even with my sister visiting me so often. So this year, I made a promise to myself that I would try and re-create the "virundhu saapadu" that amma and appa make for every festival at home. This is the first post in that thread and I sure do hope to see more in the coming weeks.

This weekend Kupy got me started with the rasam + beans poriyal combo which is a go-to lunch for me when I'm sick. Which by the way I am though; caught a nasty cold over the end of the week and had to miss school and work on Friday. So Kupy decided to make amma's famous rasam and we picked up some beans at the Farmer's market on Saturday; Sunday lunch was thus fated in a way.

What follows is ONE of the ways to make rasam and personally for me, the ONLY way to make rasam :)

Tamarind - lemon sized ball or 1/2 teaspoon instant paste
Tuar dal - 1/4 cup
Tomatoes - 1 roma tomato
Garlic - 2 cloves
Coriander leaves - 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds - 1/4 teaspoon
Hing/Asafoetida - a generous pinch
Ghee - 1 teaspoon
Rasam powder - 2 tsp
Pepper powder - 1/2 tsp
Water - as needed
Salt - to taste

1. Soak the tamarind in some warm water for about 15 - 20 mins. Crush and extract the tamarind seeds and pulp to get tamarind water (should measure to about 1 cup). Alternatively, take a cup of water and dissolve upto 1/2 tsp tamarind paste.
2. Place a rounded bowl on the stove with the tamarind water and some salt. Wait for the first boil.
3. Cook the tuar dal in enough water (1/2 to 3/4 cups) and mash well with a rounded spoon.
4. Add the cooked tuar dal to the tamarind water along with rasam powder and pepper powder.
5. Crush the garlic. Cut the tomatoes into large pieces and microwave for 1 to 2 mins on HIGH. Add this to the mix along with the crushed garlic. Add salt to taste and let it boil for about 10 mins on MEDIUM. By this time all the spices should have blended well. Taste to make sure that the flavoring is right.
6. Take ghee in a small kadai and splutter mustard seeds in it. Then add the hing and curry leaves. Add this tadka over the rasam and stir it in. Garnish with freshly chopped coariander leaves.

Beans Poriyal
Beans - 250 gms
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Urad dal (split) - 1/2 tsp
Dried red chillies - 2
Red chilli powder - 1/4 tsp
Coconut (shredded) - 2 tbsp
Oil - 1/2 to 1 tsp
Salt - to taste

1. Wash and finely chop the beans into small round pieces.
2. Place the beans with 1/2 cup water in a pan/vessel. Cover and cook until the beans is soft yet firm to the touch.
3. Remove the beans in a bowl.
4. Heat oil in the same pan/vessel and splutter the mustard seeds. Break the red chillies into 1/2 inch pieces and add to the oil along with the spli urad dal. Mix for 10 seconds or so until the urad dal is slightly browned. Be careful not to burn them at this point.
5. Now add the cooked beans and mix well. Add the red chilli powder and salt and mix well. Taste to make sure the seasoning is right.
6. Let it fry for about 5 minutes while stirring continuously. Remove from stove and add the shredded coconut. Mix well and serve with hot rice and rasam.

Amma :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Of Pancakes, Low Calorie Syrup and Labor Day

I have no idea why I even thought that this Fall Term would be an easy-breezy one. If anything, its been worse than the CORE term. But the Labor Day weekend was a welcome break from it all and more so because my sister was home :)

Somewhere along the week we had picked up a packet of instant pancake mix and decided to indulge ourselves to a typical American breakfast on Labor Day. The best part was that we had Low Cal syrup sitting at home for oh-so-long. I also managed to finally get my hands on the camera and tested out some shots. As per VJ, I did a pretty good job. What do you think?

Step 1: Mix batter with 1% low fat milk.

Step 2: Use a non-stick pan and ladle out generous dollops of batter on to heated pan.

Step 3: Flip them over after a minute or two to get nice golden brown pancakes.

Step 4: Remove in a plate and reach out for the low cal syrup

Step 5: Generously top your pancakes with 1 tbsp of low cal syrup and you're ready to start the day with a guilt-free yet tasty breakfast :)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

'Om Sweet 'Om

I'm back home!!!

We still have boxes to unpack to be officially moved-in and I have a barely functional kitchen now. VJ and myself made my famous alu ki sabzi and plain steamed rice for dinner yesterday after a hectic day of cleaning, unpacking, more cleaning, more unpacking and more cleaning and more unpacking...

I tested out the new camera and it's amazing. Can't wait for my photographer to follow me around the kitchen for pics while making endearing yummy noises :)

So on this encouraging note...I promise to be back soon with more recipes.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Rajma - Chawal

This may be a very standard recipe but like the dal tadka, I've made it so often that I've kind of gotten to a stage where I have a fool-proof recipe to follow and it comes out well all the time. Even if I am at work anf giving instructions to VJ over the phone, it still turns out good. Now that's something to be proud of I guess :)

A few thumb-rules I've learnt about rajma:
  • Soak it overnight, preferably in warm water. Throw away this soaked water
  • Rajma has more of ginger and less of garlic in it. Some people even avoid using garlic
  • You need lots of spicy green chillies for this
  • Rajma also uses very little tomato in its recipe
  • Use only MDH Garam Masala. I do not use any other brand and I swear only by MDH. It has the closest authentic taste to home-made garam masala. And this is a tip I learnt from a punjabi roommate of mine whose mom makes garam masala at home. So I believe in it whole-heartedly
  • Slow cooking the rajma in the masala is the best way to get the closest restaurant/dhabha kind of taste
  • Making rajma is not difficult at all, its actually a very easy recipe since its a staple punjabi curry/dal that's made very often at home

OK...onto the ingredients and the recipe itself.

Rajma - 2 cups
Onions - 2 meduim size
Tomato - 1/2 to 1 medium size (if you're using Roma tomatoes, although they are tiny, use just 1)
Green chillies - 4 spicy hot
Ginger - 3 inch piece
Garlic - 1 clove
Chilli powder - 2 tsp
Dhaniya powder - 1 tsp
Garam masala - 3 tsp
Cumin - 2 tsp

1. Pressure cook the soaked rajma with enough water (double its amount, in this case 4 cups) for 2 whistles and then 15 mins on LOW. Switch off and leave on hot stove for the pressure to release.
2. Cut the ginger into thin long strips, crush the garlic, slit the green chillies, finely chop the onions and tomato.
3. Heat oil in a thick bottomed vessel and splutter jeera in it. Then add the onions and fry for two mins.
4. Now add the garlic, ginger and green chillies and fry until the onions are a little browned around the edges. Adding salt at this step will help fry the onions quicker.
5. Add tomatoes and cook until it is well blended. Then add all the masalas, including the garam masala. Fry for a minute.
6. Add 1 to 2 cups of water (use the water that is left over from the rajma in the pressure cooker). Cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Make sure there is enough water.
7. Add the rajma to this, add salt and check for the seasoning. If the spices are lacking, you can add more garam masala at this stage. Mix well until well blended.
8. Set on LOW, cover and cook for 45 mins. Add more water in this stage based on how much of gravy you would like.

Serve with plain rice or jeera rice, pappad and plain dahi (yogurt) seasoned with jeera powder and salt.

I pretty much made up this recipe as I tried different variations. I don't have a particular source to cite. know the line...once I get home. Just one more week to go! Yay!

Update: Added pics...I got some awesome dishes for my food blog! :)