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 -