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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year



I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year.
I am going on a vacation to India and therefore would be away from the blog world for a few weeks.
See you next year. :)

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Carrot - Evaporated Milk Payasam



Replace the milk with evaporated milk in this recipe for a more creamier, richer dessert.


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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Pomegranate - Cucumber Raita


Here is a simple and refreshing raita prepared using juicy pearls of pomegranate and crunchy cucumbers.

Preparation:
This cool, yogurt dish is quite simple to prepare and takes only a couple of minutes if you have the ingredients ready.
Take a cup of thick yogurt and beat it with a spoon for a few seconds to get uniform consistency. Add a handful of pomegranate seeds, a handful of cucumber cubes (peeled and finely chopped cubes), a Tbsp of finely chopped cilantro and salt as needed.
Heat a tsp of oil and add 1/2 tsp of mustard seeds and a pinch of hing to it. When mustard seeds start to pop, remove and add it to the yogurt mixture. Stir well.
Either it can be served with rotis / pooris or can be eaten as a snack.
This raita tastes good when served cold and so, I refrigerate it for at least a couple of hours before serving. If you are left with any raita after serving, refrigerate it. It can be refrigerated maximum for a day since the yogurt goes sour.

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Friday, November 30, 2007

A Dessert, A Spread And A Side Dish

I have not been blogging lately and so, here are three entries in a single post to cover those events that I wanted to participate.

Dates and Almond Payasam


The wonderful combination of delectable dates and nutritious almonds yields this scrumptious payasam. I tweaked my mom's original recipe to come up with this rich and delicious dessert which can be prepared in around ten minutes.

Ingredients:
Pitted dates / Dry dates - 1/4 cup
Almonds - 1/4 cup
Dry coconut grated - 1/4 cup
Candy sugar / Kalakanda/ Kallusakkare- 1 Tbsp
Sugar - 1/4 cup
Milk (already boiled and cooled) - 1/2 cup

Preparation:
It is really a simple preparation. Finely grind dates, almonds, coconut and candy sugar using water (or milk). Put it on the stove and let it reach the boiling stage. When it is boiling, add milk and sugar. Let it simmer till the sugar melts and turn off the stove.
This payasam can be served warm or cold.
This goes to AFAM - Dates hosted by Chandrika of AkshayaPatra.

Peanut Butter


If some one would have asked about PB&J back in India, I probably would have thought, they are talking about some new kind of pajamas. Even if they elaborated, I would have been wondering what peanut butter and jelly are. How would I have known our good, old ground nuts are peanuts in USA and they made butter out of it? I also admit unabashedly that in my sheer ignorance, I would have put jelly under the category of gels. Back in India, I strongly believed that bread is for people who got sick and Kissan brand fruit jam is a great dessert on it's own.
When I first came to know about PB&J sandwiches, I bought a bottle of peanut butter for my son. As soon as he tasted it, his expression changed and he told me not to buy it again. It happened six years ago and to this day, his love towards PB remains the same. Ditto with my daughter. I resigned thinking that like their mom, they would like to eat peanut brittles and spicy peanuts instead of peanut butter.
Recently, when my daughter started taking sandwiches to school, I knew I had to some how incorporate protein in to it and PB seemed to be one of the solutions. I therefore experimented with peanut butter and tried to infuse familiar flavors to get their approval. The experiment is a success, I proudly admit.
The recipe is quite simple. For a regular version, take a cup of peanuts and dry roast them as you do for peanut chutney. Let them cool and remove the skins. Add peanuts and about a Tbsp of oil to a food processor and grind it into a smooth paste. If you want it to be chunkier, set aside 1/4 cup of peanuts at the beginning and add after the rest is ground smooth. Process for a few seconds. If you like, You can also add a little bit of sugar or salt to the peanuts while grinding. Store it in air tight container in the refrigerator.
For my version, I added half a cup of jaggery and one tsp of cardamom powder as well to the peanuts and oil. For people who have tasted peanut and jaggery brittles, I don't have to elaborate about it's taste.
Making nut butters is easy, quick and fun. For vegans who don't prefer to consume butter, nut butters are a great alternative. Some of the other nuts that could be used to make butters are almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts, hazel nuts. Also we can go ahead and experiment according to our taste preferences. To have new flavors, play along with the ingredients you have. Add cinnamon to have cinnamon butter, cayenne/ ginger to have a spicy one and so on.
One of the reasons to try this butter was also 'Vegan Ventures' hosted by Suganya of tasty Palettes and hence it goes to that event.

Cabbage Saagu

Saagu, a vegetable preparation from Karnataka is usually served with pooris and also with set dose and rava idlis at restaurants. The common practice is to cook a variety of vegetables and then flavoring with the prepared masala. One of my SILs showed me that there are some vegetables which can be used alone to prepare this saagu. Cabbage is one of them. I love preparing this as I can skip onions and don't miss them. Some times I add tomatoes and green peas as today. There are occasions when I go with cabbage alone and the saagu still tastes fabulous. For the event, I tried the microwave version today and the recipe is below.

Ingredients:
Cabbage, finely chopped - 4 cups
One big tomato, chopped
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt
For grinding:
Dalia / Pappulu - 1/4 cup
Fresh, grated coconut - 1/4 cup
Coriander seeds - 2 tsp
Poppy seeds - 1 tsp
Cinnamon - 2 small pieces
Mogga / Moggu - 2
Green chillies - 4 /5
For tadka:
Two tsp of oil
One tsp mustard seeds
Few curry leaves


Microwave method:
To a microwave safe bowl, add chopped cabbage, tomato, turmeric powder with about 1.5 cups of water and cook on high in the microwave till it is done. Cooking times vary depending upon the microwave used.
Grind all the ingredients mentioned above (in the grinding list) to a smooth paste with a little water. Add this paste and enough salt to the cooked veggies in the bowl and again put back it again in the microwave and cook for about five minutes.
Heat oil in a small pan on the stove top and add mustard seeds and curry leaves. When mustard seeds start to pop, turn off the stove and add this to the cooked veggies and stir well.
(I usually don't do the tadka in the MW, even though it can be done in it).

Stove top method:
I usually use a cooker to prepare this. Heat oil in a cooker and add mustard seeds and curry leaves. When mustard seeds start to splutter add cabbage, tomato, turmeric and enough water to cook the vegetables. Don't add water more than needed. Close the cooker lid and cook it till two to three whistles. When the valve pressure is gone, remove the lid.
Grind all the ingredients mentioned above (in the grinding list) to a smooth paste with a little water. Add this paste and enough salt to the cooked veggies and let it simmer for about five minutes. Turn off the stove.
Serve this with rotis or pooris.
This goes to MEC- Side Dish hosted by Srivalli of 'Cooking 4 all seasons'.


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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sunnundalu - The Two Versions and Poha Pongal

For the past one month, I was going through a 'No interest in blogging' phase. And also my busy life kept me away from blogging and blog hopping. I would like to thank all of you who kept visiting my blog. Hopefully, I would be blogging again as usual and visiting my blogger friends.

To me personally, the word 'sunnundalu' has the strong power to invoke memories, the pleasant memories of my grand mother. Sunnundalu are dear to me because they always remind me of maternal grand mother and her wonderful cooking. Also, they are the only sweets with a healthy tag attached to them, at our house. My mom never made them at home and we always got our supply of minapa sunni from our grand mother. Even at an old age, she painstakingly used to grind the uraddal in an old fashioned stone grinder and pack bottles of it to send them along with her children and grand children who visited her. The only thing her daughters had to do was adding jaggery and ghee to the ground uraddal whenever they felt like eating sunnundalu. She passed away a decade ago and the last bottle of minapa sunni she sent to my mom is still with her. My mom is holding on to it as a form of connection with her mother.


Sunnundalu belong exclusively to Andhra, I think. They are a power house of protein since the main ingredient used is uraddal - the black gram of India. This nutritious ball of uraddal flour coupled with jaggery and ghee, is a delightful dessert to kids and adults alike.
I am posting two versions of sunnundalu here. The first one is my grand mother's ofcourse. She used to use the uraddal with the husk.


Version 1 :
Ingredients to make around two dozens of small laddos:
Uraddal with husk - 1 cup
Jaggery powdered - 1/2 cup (or more if you prefer)
Melted ghee - 5 Tbsp

Method: Fry the husked uraddal on low-medium flame till it turns golden brown. Let it cool. Powder the urad dal into a coarse powder. It should resemble very fine sand. You can store it in a bottle and use it later too. This coarsely ground urad dal remains fresh for atleast a year (or more). Traditionally, urad dal is powdered using a stone grinder. I used my coffee grinder to achieve the required consistency.
Combine the powdered jaggery to it and mix it thoroughly. Add ghee little by little till the mixture comes together and you are able to form the balls out of it. Add more ghee if required. Take small portion at a time and make a round ball out of it using your hand. Repeat the same with the remaining mixture.

Version 2 :
Ingredients:
Whole uraddal - 1&1/2 cups
Powdered sugar - 1/2 cup (or more if you prefer)
Melted Ghee - 5 Tbsp


Fry the uraddal on low-medium flame till it turns golden brown. Let it cool. Powder the urad dal into a fine, coarse powder. Combine the powdered sugar to it and mix it thoroughly. Add ghee little by little till the mixture comes together and you are able to form the balls out of it. Add more ghee if required. Take small portion at a time and make a round ball out of it using your hand.

This goes to
'Favorite dessert / sweet' event hosted by Hima of 'Snackorama'.

POHA PONGAL

My observation and experience has led me to believe that poha can be a good substitute for rice in most of the rice based, Indian dishes. Poha bisibele bhath, poha payasam, mosaravalakki (yogurt poha) are some of the examples where rice is replaced by poha with out altering the taste or texture of the dish. I was wondering lately whether replacing rice with poha works in pongal and I did experiment to find out. As usual, here too poha mingled humbly with nutritious moongdal, the fragrant, savory ginger and the spicy pepper for an aromatic, mouthwatering poha pongal.

Ingredients:
Poha - 1 cup
Moong dal - 1/2 cup
Ginger (grated /finely chopped) - 1 tbsp
Ghee - 4 tsp
Pepper corns - 1/2 tsp
Pepper powder - 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Few curry leaves (optional)
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Salt

Fry the moongdal on medium flame till it turns slightly red. Cook it along with the water and turmeric powder in a pressure cooker till you hear two whistles. Alternatively you can cook the moongdal in a pot adding sufficient water. Keep the dal stirring in between to avoid the moong sticking to the pot at the bottom and getting burnt.
  • Mean while, wash the poha twice with the water and drain all the water. Cover with poha with a lid and keep aside.
  • Do the tadka. Heat ghee in a small pan. Add ginger, cumin seeds, pepper corns, pepper powder, curry leaves in that order. When ginger pieces turn brown, turn off the stove.
  • Add this tadka mixture, poha and enough salt to the cooked moongdal and stir properly with a ladle. Again turn on the stove and let this mixture / pongal simmer on low flame for about 10 minutes so that it can absorb the flavors of the spices added and poha is cooked. Stir once again and turn off the stove.
  • Serve hot pongal with ginger gojju or chutney. Though it is optional, Pongal is usually served with a generous serving of ghee to make it more delicious.
  • This goes to 'Think Spice - Ginger', hosted by Sunita of 'Sunita's world'.

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    Monday, October 29, 2007

    Tomato Aavakaya

    Here is a recipe for avakaya lovers. When first I heard about this from Deepthi (who had earlier shared the recipe of Sivangi pulusu here), I thought I have found a new, neat way of using tomatoes. Though it goes along the lines of mango and dosa (cucumber) avakayas, this pickle is quite different. The pickle is fried slightly, needs to be refrigerated and lasts for a couple of weeks.
    This pickle can be dubbed as the regular avakaya with a tangy label. Though, due to frying part and infusion of the flavors, tomatoes here don't over power the sense of taste.

    Ingredients:
    Tomatoes, chopped into tiny bits - 1 cup heaped (I used three plum tomatoes)
    Chili powder - 4 tsp
    Salt - 2 tsp
    Mustard seeds powder - 1 tsp (or less / more as needed)
    Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
    Methi (fenugreek) powder - 1/4 tsp
    A little asafoetida
    Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
    Oil - 2 or 3 Tbsp

    Preparation:
    Wash the tomatoes with water and wipe them dry with no trace of moisture. Then chop them into tiny bits.
    Heat the oil in a saute or small sauce pan. Add mustard seeds to the hot oil. When they start to pop, add asafoetida and saute for a few seconds. Then add the tomato pieces and saute for five minutes on low to medium flame.
    Then add turmeric, mustard and methi powders to the tomato and fry for about 30 seconds and turn off the stove.
    Transfer the mixture to a ceramic or glass bowl and add salt and chili powder to it. Stir well with a dry spoon. When the mixture cools, cover it with a lid and let it sit for atleast 10 hours for the flavors to blend.
    Refrigerate it.

    Other Tomato Pickles:
    Tomato Ooragaya
    Tomato Pachchadi

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    Thursday, October 25, 2007

    Peach - Saffron Shrikhand

    The lovely peaches always remind me the luscious mangoes I ate, back home. I feel their flavors are kind of similar. From a long time, I therefore have been toying around the idea of a peach shrikhand along the lines of amrakhand. The Fruit of a month - Peach and Think spice - Saffron events were the perfect occasions for me to create this shrikhand version.
    Shrikhand, the delightful Indian dessert is prepared using strained yogurt and sugar with the addition of saffron and cardamom flavorings. While it is eaten as a dessert in Maharashtra, shrikhand is served as a side dish to pooris in Gujarathi Cuisine.


    This shrikhand was so yummy and tempting that we could not wait till it chilled.
    Ingredients for about a cup of shrikhand:
    Yogurt - 3 cups (yogurt prepared from whole milk is preferred)
    Sugar - 1/4 cup (or more depending upon the sweetness preferred)
    Peach slices (bigger ones) - 4 to 5
    Saffron - Two pinches
    Cardamom powder - 1/2 tsp
    Chopped almonds and pistachios - 1 Tbsp
    Warm milk - 1 Tbsp


    Preparation:
    Spoon the yogurt into a muslin cloth/ thin cotton cloth and tie into a knot. Put a cutting board / flat plate in the sink. Place the cloth with the yogurt on it. Place another flat item like a cutting board over it. Then place a heavy object (I usually place a big bowl with water) over the top cutting board. Let it remain for a couple of hours. By the time, the water / whey from the yogurt would have drained and you would be left with a thick block of yogurt (about a cup). (If you don't want to drain the whey down the sink, you can collect it by placing a bowl underneath the cutting board).


    Thick, water / whey drained yogurt in the cotton cloth
    • Soak a pinch of saffron in the warm milk.
    • Powder the sugar. I have found powdering the sugar makes it more convenient while mixing it with yogurt. You can use it with out powdering as well.
    • Puree the peach slices in a blender. I have used peach slices from the can. If using fresh fruit, peel and use it accordingly.
    • Combine thick yogurt, peach puree, sugar, cardamom powder, milk with the saffron and stir / whisk well. Use a blender if needed. (I added all the items together since powdered sugar was used. If not using powdered sugar, first combine the yogurt and sugar and thoroughly stir till all the sugar is dissolved. Then add the remaining ingredients).
    • Cover and chill shrikhand until it is ready to serve.
    • Warm the other pinch of saffron in MW for 30 seconds and crush it with your fingers.
    • Sprinkle the crushed saffron and nuts before serving.


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    Wednesday, October 24, 2007

    Aval (Poha) Payasam & Thenkuzal


    My husband's family celebrates Sri Krishnastami with great devotion and fervor. They fast the whole day and perform the pooja in the evening. Various savory and sweet dishes are prepared for the occasion. Some of the commonly prepared dishes in the evening are various kinds of chaklis, paalakayalu and poha dishes.
    The usually preferred and prepared chakli happens to be thenkuzal or thentharlu, one of our family favorites. Though aval or poha payasam is not prepared at our home, I thought it would be a perfect dish on this asthami. I got to try them both for the first time and they turned out fabulous.
    Aval Payasam and Thenkuzal are my contributions for Sri Krishnastami - RCI - Tamil Festival Foods, hosted by dear Viji of Vcuisine.

    Aval Payasam:
    Payasam lovers would just fall in love (as we did) with this simple yet scrumptious dessert. I have used evaporated milk to make the kheer extra creamier and thicker. It is optional though.


    Ingredients:
    Poha - 1/2 cup
    Milk - 1 cup (Whole milk is preferred)
    Evaporated milk - 12 oz / 1.5 cups (or substitutewith whole milk)
    Sugar - 1/2 cup
    Cardamom powder - 1/2 tsp
    Cashews and raisins - 1 Tbsp
    Ghee - 2 Tbsp


    Preparation:
    Fry the poha in one Tbsp ghee till it turns golden brown. Add the milk to poha and cook it till it is done. (If the mixture has become solid before getting cooked, add sufficient evaporated milk). Then add sugar, cardamom powder and the evaporated milk (if not added already) and cook till the sugar melts. Then simmer it on low flame for about 10 - 15 minutes and turn off the stove.
    Heat the other tbsp of ghee in a small pan. Add cashews and raisins to it. Fry till the cashews turn golden brown and the raisins turn plump. Add this to the above cooked poha. Stir well.


    Note: The above measurements would yield a payasam with a thicker consistency, which I personally prefer. 1/2 to 1 cup of extra milk may be added, if more liquid is preferred and the sugar level may need to be adjusted as well.
    Thenkuzal / Thentarlu

    This heavenly tasting, crunchy, munchy snack is called thentarlu in our family. It is paler in color compared to murukku, simple to prepare and is perfect for every occasion. My mom or MIL would have gone with a freshly milled batch of flour. I have used the store bought rice flour and urad flour and thenkuzal were great.


    Ingredients:
    Rice flour - 2 cups
    Urad flour - 1/2 cup
    Melted butter - 1 Tbsp
    Cumin seeds - 2 tsp
    Sesame seeds - 2 tsp
    Salt - 1 tsp
    A pinch of asafoetida
    Water - 1 & 1/4 cups (I needed this much. This may vary)
    Oil to fry
    A deep frying pan & a Chakli press
    Making Thenkuzal:
    Mix well all the ingredients (except water & oil) in a mixing bowl. Then gradually add water to the bowl and make a dough, almost like rice flour rotti dough. It should not be watery or very hard, should be somewhere in between.
    Heat oil in a small wok / deep frying pan. When the oil is hot enough to fry, turn down the heat to medium flame. To know whether the oil is hot enough do this little test. Put a pinch of the dough in the hot oil. If it sizzles and come to the surface of the oil immediately, then it is ready. If the pinch of the dough stays at the bottom, then the oil is not hot enough.
    Usually the chakli press is sold along with several plates which are interchangeable. For Thenkuzal, use the thenkuzal plate, the one which has bigger perforations than a sev one or simply, the one with plain holes. After fixing the plate, take a small portion of the dough and fill it into the chakli press and in a circular motion, press out the dough into the oil. The coils of dough would form a concentric circle. This dough is easy to work with and you can make two to three separate circles at a time or a single one.
    Fry till they turn attain a slight golden tinge. You don't have to fry them till they turn golden brown as murukku. Remove them with a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towel covered plates.
    Repeat the same process with the remaining dough and fry them in batches. Frying thenkuzal takes very less time, if you do it on a medium flame.



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    Friday, October 19, 2007

    Munchable Moong Dal

    Here is a simple, protein rich snack great for munching.
    Usually I buy fried dals when ever I go shopping for Indian groceries since my kids' seem to love them. This time, I tried frying moong dal (in oil) at home for the first time. I had heard my MIL 's recipe from my husband and so followed those instructions. It is quite a simple preparation.
    I also tossed a batch of dal coated with oil in the MW to see how they turn out. I was a little skeptical about frying moong dal in the MW because I was expecting the dal to get burnt. I did it anyway and to my surprise, the experiment was a success.
    Both the versions tasted identical. The MW method takes a bit longer compared to the oil fry method and (very slightly), the dal may not be uniform in color.
    Oil fry method:
    Ingredients:
    Moong dal - 1 Cup
    Baking soda - 1 tsp
    Oil to fry - 1 to 1.5 cups
    Salt
    Method:
    Wash the moong dal in water once or twice and throw away the water used.
    Soak them in enough water in a bowl with baking soda over night and then drain all the water. Spread the moong dal on a cotton cloth for about 10 - 1 5 minutes or pat them dry with a towel. (No need to completely dry them. I did this to avoid spluttering.)
    Heat oil in a deep frying pan or a small wok. When it reaches smoking point, turn down the stove to medium heat setting. Fry moong dal in batches till they turn slightly golden brown or a shade lighter. It would take a couple of minutes. Frying the dal longer makes it harder to chew.Remove them with a slotted spoon and put them on a plate lined with paper towels so that extra oil is absorbed. Change the paper towels for each batch to make the dal less oily. Each batch would take around five minutes to turn golden brown.
    Sprinkle them with enough salt and mix well. To make it hot, chili powder can be added. Cool the mixture and store it in a air tight container.
    Using Microwave:
    Wash, soak and dry the moong dal as mentioned above.
    I used 1/2 tsp of oil for 1/4 cup of moong dal. Mix oil and moong dal well so that the dal is uniformly coated with the oil. Place oiled moong dal in a single layer on a flat microwaveable plate. Microwave till the dal turns slightly golden brown. Keep stirring the dal frequently for uniform frying. (It took 12 - 14 minutes in my microwave). Timings vary depending upon the microwave used and keeping an eye on the dal is important to avoid it from getting burnt.
    Remove the dal and spread on paper towels to absorb the oil. Then sprinkle some salt and mix well. Cool the mixture and store it in an air tight container.
    This goes to 'cooking 4 all seasons' Srivalli's MEC- Snack event.

    Tuesday, October 2, 2007

    Genasugadda Pachchadi / Sweet Potato Chutney

    When ever I hear about 'Cooking with pedatta' book on other blogs, it always reminds me, my own paternal aunt. The only paternal aunt I had, whom we fondly called atthaiyya. Whenever we had annual family gatherings at my father's place, she was the one whom we kids would cling to. Besides her other amazing skills in various fields which I slowly learnt through my 'grown up' eyes, we were basically drawn towards her for her story telling abilities. She was a master in that. She never was in need of a story book to amuse us. She would then and there create a story based on listeners' demand. Yes, listener demand :) . We kids would ask her to tell a story about 'something' and she would then and there spun an amazing story which sustained our attention through out.
    Kids' dinner and story time were meant to be together for us. We kids would be sitting on the cots spread in the court yard on moon lit nights and she would bring the food in a plate. After deciding what story we are going to listen to, she would start the story and at the same time each kid would go on eating 'muddas' (Small portion of food made into a ball) from her hand. By the time the story finished, every kid would have eaten enough pachchadi annam (rice and pickle), Koora annam (rice and vegetable) pappu annam (rice and dal) and perugu annam (rice and yogurt). Now when I think of those precious moments, I yearn for more.
    This recipe is a little tribute to my aunt, who lost her battle to cancer a couple of years ago. Her name was Annapoorna and she was literally one, when it came to culinary skills. This chutney was her creation at one of the family gatherings. She prepared this chutney and asked us to guess what it was. Till then, no one in the family had ever heard of sweet potato chutney. The best answer everyone could come up with was coconut chutney. That's how this chutney tastes. Subtly sweet and spicy at the same time. It can be prepared in a jiffy as the recipe demands no roasting / frying of the vegetable.


    Ingredients:
    One cup peeled, grated sweet potato
    One Tbsp Uraddal
    One tsp mustard seeds

    1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
    Little asafoetida
    6 Dry red chillies
    2 Tsp oil
    3/4 tsp salt

    Preparation:
    Heat oil in a small pan and add mustard seeds and uraddal. When uraddal starts to turn red, add fenugreek seeds, red chillies, asafoetida. When urad and fenugreek seeds have turned red, turn off the stove. Let it cool.
    Grind this mixure with grated sweet potato and salt coarsely using a little water if required.
    It stays fresh for a couple of days, refrigerated.

    Sunday, September 30, 2007

    Sapaada Bhakshya


    According to the Hindu epics, performing Satya Narayana Vrata brings one happiness, peace and prosperity. It is said that people who observe / attend the worship, hear the sacred story of Satya Narayana Swamy and eats the prasad are relieved from the miseries of the world. The Hindu months of Magha, Karthika, Vaishaka are considered auspicious for the vrata. The vrata is generally observed on pournami (full moon day), ekadashi and surya sankramana days.
    In Andhra Pradesh, it is a custom to celebrate this popular vratam after auspicious functions like marriages and gruha praveshams. It is said that you should never leave the pooja with out eating the prasad. Coming to prasad, there are several variations. The most common one in South India is being made of semolina. In one of the versions made at my mother's place, no liquid is added. It is supposed to be dry so that they can share this prasad with other family members / friends later. It stays for months.
    Today's version, Sapaada Bhakshya is from Karnataka which uses both semolina and bananas.

    Ingredients required:
    2/3 cups of Semolina, Sugar, Milk & Ghee
    2 Bananas peeled, finely chopped
    1/4 cup of raisins and cashews

    For an authentic version, use equal quantities of semolina, sugar, milk and ghee in this recipe. I have used 2/3 cup of each ingredient. If you have tasted Satyanarayana pooja prasadam, you would know how almost ghee would be dripping from it. I personally feel that prasadam tastes so 'divine' because of the excess ghee used and 'meagre' servings at the pooja. The quantity of the ghee can be reduced. (If it would have been kesari bhath, I would have used just a Tbsp of ghee).

    Cooking:

    • Peel the bananas. Chop them into tiny pieces.
    • Melt the ghee in a deep pan and add cashews and raisins. Toast them till the cashews turn golden brown and raisins turn plump. Remove them with a slotted spoon and save them in a bowl.
    • Now add the chopped bananas to the same ghee and fry them for a few minutes till they change into golden color. By the time, they would have turned mushy, add semolina to the pan and keep roasting till you notice the pleasant aroma.
    • Then add sugar and keep stirring till all the sugar melts and blends into one lump.
    • Add milk and keep stirring till the semolina is cooked.
    • Turn off the stove and add the toasted raisins and cashews to the cooked mixture and stir well.

    This goes to JFI - Banana hosted by Mandira of Ahaar.

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    Saturday, September 29, 2007

    Chicago : From Hancock Observatory

    These are some of the pictures taken from the Hancock Observatory, on a foggy evening. Located on Michigan avenue, Chicago - The Hancock Observatory located on 94th floor has spectacular views spanning up to 80 miles and 4 states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. In our opinion, Hancock observatory has better views than Sears tower. You see glimpses of downtown Chicago, Michigan lake and Navy Pier in these pictures.
    The John Hancock Center is a 100-story, 1,127 ft tall skyscraper. When completed in 1969, John Hancock Center was the tallest building in the world outside New York City. It is the third-tallest skyscraper in Chicago and the fourth-tallest in the United States, after the Sears Tower, the Empire State Building and the Aon Center. This skyscraper was named after its builder the John Hancock Insurance company.
    More about the building here and here.


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    Wednesday, September 26, 2007

    Greengram Sprouts Subzi

    Here is a simple yet nutritious sprouts subzi which can be prepared in a jiffy. Just for a change, I added sambhar powder to the dish and ended up with a new, delightful flavor. Serve this healthy side dish with rotis / pooris / tortillas.

    Ingredients:
    Green gram sprouts - 1 cup
    One big onion & one tomato, chopped
    Sambhar powder - 1 tsp
    Chili powder - 3/4 to 1 tsp
    Salt
    Oil - 1 or 2 tbsp
    Mustard seeds & cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp each

    Cooking:
    Heat oil in a small wok / pan and add mustard and cumin seeds. When mustard seeds start to pop, add onions and fry it till turns translucent and then add tomatoes. Fry till the tomatoes turn into a mush.
    Mean while, add a little water to the green gram sprouts and cook them in a MW for a minute or two. Add this cooked sprouts, salt, sambhar & chili powders and a little water to the above tomato - onion mixture. Simmer this mixture on a low to medium flame for a couple of minutes. Turn off the stove. (If you have not cooked sprouts in the MW earlier, cook for somemore time till the sprouts are well cooked).

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    Monday, September 24, 2007

    Badami Poori

    When RCI Karnataka was announced, I had four dishes in mind besides the simple ones I have posted. A couple of my 'the most' favorite dishes and two sweets from Karnataka. I posted 'Bisisbele bhath' from the former category and at last from the latter, is this delicious Kannadiga sihi (sweet) 'Badami Poori'.
    Badami poori is triangularly folded sweet bread garnished with dry grated coconut and chopped almonds. I followed my mom's recipe here.
    There are a couple of variations to this recipe in the virtual world. One of them is in which almond powder is sprinkled on the rolled out dough and then folded into triangles.


    Ingredients:
    All purpose flour (Maida) - 1 cup
    Sugar - 3/4 cup
    Dry coconut grated - 1/4 cup
    Almonds, chopped - 2 Tbsp
    Cardamom powder - 1 /2 tsp
    Crushed saffron - 1 /2 tsp
    Ghee - 2 to 3 Tbsp
    Little Orange food color (Though badami pooris are orange in color, I haven't used it here)
    Oil to fry


    Making Badami puris:

    • Combine flour, saffron, food color, ghee in a mixing bowl and rub together well. Then gradually add the water and form a firm dough (as poori dough). Knead the dough for a couple of minutes and keep aside.
    • Add sugar and 3/4 cup of water (Use the same measuring cup for both sugar and water) to a sauce pan or a small vessel. Heat the mixture until the sugar melts and the syrup is slightly sticky to touch on the spoon. Add cardamom powder to the syrup. Turn off the stove.
    • Divide the dough into equal portions and shape each into a small ball. Work with each portion at a time, keeping the rest covered. Take a ball, flatten it a little with your fingers and roll it into a thin circle, 4 -6 inches in diameter. If the dough is sticking while rolling, lightly dust the circle with flour. Fold the rolled out circle into half, press lightly, and again, to form a triangle. Press gently with the rolling pin so that there are no gaps between the layers. Keep aside and roll out triangles in a similar fashion with the rest of the dough.
    • Heat sufficient oil in a deep frying pan. Drop a pea sized dough into the oil and if it sizzles and immediately comes to the surface of the oil, then the temperature of the oil is the right one to fry the pooris. Carefully slide a triangle into the hot oil and fry it on medium flame till it turns golden brown on both sides. Repeat with the rest of rolled out triangles. If pan can hold more triangles, fry more at the same time. Remove the poori with a slotted spoon.
    • As soon as you take a poori from the oil, dip it in the sugar syrup for about a minute so that the poori is covered with syrup through out. Remove them from sugar syrup and arrange on a serving plate. (The pooris can be drained in a perforated container to remove the excess syrup). Sprinkle some grated dry coconut and chopped almonds on top of each poori.


    This goes to RCI - Karnataka hosted by Asha of 'Foodie's hope'.

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    Thursday, September 20, 2007

    A Couple of Kosumbaris from Karnataka



    Kosumbari (Kosumbri) from Karnataka is sort of a salad prepared primarily with carrots / cucumbers / beans like chana dal, moongdal, green gram. Simple, healthy kosumbaris are an integral part of any festive meal. Food served on such ocassions always starts with kosumbaris and usually two varieties of kosumbaris are present.
    Dal kosumbaris are also served at temples as prasadam and are shared with friends / neighbors on Sri Rama navami day.

    CARROT KOSUMBARI

    Crunchy carrots coupled with coconut are lightly seasoned and lemon juice is added to bring out slight tanginess in the dish. Kosumbari makes a delicious salad on it's own and carrot kosumbari can be eaten with rotis as well.

    You need:
    Two large carrots, ends cut, peeled and grated
    Fresh, grated coconut - 1/4 cup
    2 small green chillies finely chopped
    Few curry leaves
    Finely chopped cilantro - 1 Tbsp
    Oil - 1 Tbsp
    Mustard seeds & Chanadal - 1 tsp each
    Juice from a small lime / lemon

    You do:
    Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds and chana dal. When chanadal starts to turn red, add green chillies and curry leaves. Saute for a minute and turn off the stove. Then add grated coconut, carrot, cilantro and lime juice to the pan and mix well.

    KADALE BELE (CHANADAL) KOSUMBARI


    Ingredients:
    Chanadal - 1/2 cup
    Grated fresh coconut - 1/4 cup
    Grated carrots - 1/4 cup (optional. You can even add finely diced cucumbers instead)
    Finely chopped cilantro - 1 Tbsp
    Oil - 2 tsp
    Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
    2 finely chopped, small, green chillies
    A pinch of asafoetida
    Juice from half a lime / lemon

    Preparation: Soak chanadal in water for a couple of hours and drain all the water. Add coconut, carrot and cilantro.
    Heat oil in a small pan and add mustard seeds. When they start to pop add chillies and asafoetida. Let it remain for a few seconds. Remove this and add to the chanadal mixture.
    Squeeze the lemon juice over the mixture and stir well.


    This goes to RCI - Karnataka hosted by Asha of Foodie's Hope. RCI was created by Lakshmi of VeggieCusine.

    Also see Moongdal - Cucumber Kosumbari

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    Tuesday, September 18, 2007

    Eggplant - Onion Chutney / Vankaya - Ullipaya Pachchadi

    When preparing Andhra style Pachchallu (Chutneys), I find eggplants more versatile. They can be prepared alone or with other vegetables to bring on different, new flavors to the table each time.
    In today's recipe eggplants are paired with onions and this is a mouth watering fusion of all flavors. Serve this with some hot rice and a tsp of ghee or as a relish along with Indian breakfasts, it tastes fabulous. This recipe is my SIL's and it turned out an excellent accompaniment to Tomato pooris.


    You need:
    6 purple, round brinjals/eggplants chopped into medium sized pieces or two cups of chopped eggplant.
    One onion, finely chopped
    Red chillies - 12
    Coriander seeds - 1 Tbsp
    Urad dal - 1 Tbsp
    Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
    Fenugreek seeds (Methi) - 1/4 tsp
    A little asafoetida powder
    Jaggery powdered - 1 tsp
    Tamarind extract - 4 tbsp - 1/4 cup (depending upon the sourness you prefer)
    Salt
    Oil
    Preparation:

    • Wash the eggplants and wipe them dry. Chop them into medium sized pieces.
    • Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a saute pan and add the chopped eggplants to it. Fry them on low to medium heat till they are done.
    • Heat two tsp of oil in a small pan and add urad dal and mustard seeds. When urad dal start to turn slightly red, add coriander seeds, red chillies and asafoetida. When coriander seeds start to turn brown and urad dal, fenugreek seeds have turned red, turn off the stove and transfer them to a plate.
    • Heat another Tbsp of oil in the same pan and add finely chopped onions and fry them till they turn translucent.
    • Now add the fried eggplant, spices, jaggery and required amount of salt to a blender and blend to a coarser consistency with out adding water. Then add onions and whizz/run the blender so that the onions are just blended with the eggplant mixture. You don't want the onions to get pureed.
    • Remove and serve with hot rice and tsp of ghee or as a relish.
    Note: If you need to add water to blend the chutney, transfer the contents to a pan and fry it on low heat for five to ten minutes.
    For a tangy, spicy variation, see Eggplant - Green mango chutney.

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    Saturday, September 15, 2007

    Poha / Avalakki Bisibele Bhath


    Bisibelebhath, this one wholesome dish from the sandal wood land, Karnataka needs no introduction. It is a perfect combo of carbohydrates, protiens, vitamins and minerals thrown into one dish. Here is a variation of this dish from the regular version. Bisi (hot)-bele(lentils)-huli(tanginess from the tamarind) -anna (cooked rice) or bisibelebhath (as called in the rest of India) is usually prepared using rice, lentils, vegetables and powdered spices. In this version, rice is replaced by avalakki / poha. Sometimes I even replace the lentils with moongdal. Though moongdal - poha combo tastes great, I prefer toordal to moong variety because of the familiar flavor. Toordal taste seems more right in this dish, as my mom always prepares it with toordal.


    Ingredients:
    Thick Poha - 1.5 cups
    Toordal - 1.5 cups
    Chopped vegetables - 2 cups ( Don't chop the veggies too fine. I have used a potato, two carrots, some green beans and peas)
    Two Tomatoes (I use them instead of tamarind)
    Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
    Salt
    Ghee - 3 Tbsp
    Cashews - 1 tbsp
    Few curry leaves
    Mustard seeds - 1 tsp

    For bisibelebhath masala : (This ingredients will give you two servings of masala powder. You can use half of it each time. You can also add grated, dry coconut to this list of ingedients).
    Chanadal - 3 Tbsp
    Uraddal - 1.5 Tbsp
    Coriander seeds - 1.5 Tbsp
    Red Chillies - 13
    Moggu - 2
    Cloves - 2
    1x1 inch Cinnamon pieces - 4 to 6
    Oil - 2 tsp


    Preparation:
    Wash the toordal with water and drain all the water. Put the toordal, vegetables, whole tomatoes, turmeric powder into a pressure cooker. Add sufficient water and cook till you hear one whistle.
    Alternatively, you can cook it in a big pot. See that there is sufficient amount of water till the dal is cooked soft. Keep stirring in between.
    Mean while, heat oil in a small pan and add chanandal and uraddal. When they start to turn red, add the remaining ingredients and fry them till the dals turn completely red and coriander seeds turn brown. Switch off the stove and let them cool. Then grind them into a fine powder using a spice grinder or blender. If you think, your blender cannot grind this because of the oil, dry fry the ingredients with out the oil.
    Wash the poha twice with plenty of water and drain all the water. Cover the lid and leave it for 10 minutes. It would be ready. If you get real thick poha as in India, you can soak it in water for 10 minutes and then drain the water.
    When the valve pressure is gone, remove the lid of the cooker. Mash the tomatoes with the back of the ladle. Add the salt, half of the masala powder and poha. Adjust the quantity of the water as required and let it simmer for about 10 minutes.
    Heat the ghee in a small pan and add mustard seeds, cashews and curry leaves. When cashews turn golden brown and mustard seeds start to pop, turn off the stove and add this to toordal and poha mixture .
    Serve hot with a spoon of ghee and papads.

    Variation:
    Use Moongdal instead of toordal in the above recipe.
    Use Cracked wheat instead of rice / poha.

    This goes to RCI - Karnataka hosted by Asha of Foodie's hope.

    "HAPPY GANESHA CHATURTHI" to everyone.

    Wednesday, September 12, 2007

    Toasting / Roasting Nuts, Dals, Flours & Spices In Microwave


    After that oil free roasting of papads and fryums, here is another post about the toasting / roasting stuff I do in the microwave.
    Indian cooking involves roasting / toasting / dry frying the ingredients, when it comes to some preparations. While we roast chana and urad dals for a South Indian chutney powder, cumin and coriander seeds are powdered to go with North Indian dishes. While toasted moongdal tastes great for preparations of savoury and sweet

    Pongals, toasted peanuts and dalia taste best in chutneys. Lightly toasted rice and all purpose flours make great snacks like Kodbale, while toasted besan is used to make delicious desserts like Mysore pak or Besan laddu. Toasted semolina, cornmeal, vermicelli make great Upmas and desserts. The list goes on. Traditionally all these are done on stove top. I usually use microwave when toasting in small quantities and here is how.
    Please note that the following information is to give just an idea about toasting some Indian ingredients and toasting times in a MW. The timings may vary depending upon the microwaves and the quantities of ingredients used. I have provided the toasting times for a 1/4 cup ingredients. Always keep an eye on the MW during the whole process, if you are attempting toasting for the first time.

    WHAT:
    I toast those ingredients which I have mentioned here.

    HOW:
    Place the ingredient you want to toast in a flat microwave safe dish and microwave on high. It is very important to keep stirring the ingredients at regular intervals for uniform toasting.

    Some of the MW toasted ingredients. Click on the image for a better view.

    ROASTING DALS:
    When it comes to chutneys, chutney powders, some dry spicy powders and other dishes, roasting the dals till they turn golden brown is an usual thing. In MW, the dals like toordal, chanadal, moongdal and uraddal take around 3 minutes to brown while for the roasted chickpeas (dalia / pappulu) it would take a couple of minutes of toasting. (Roasted chick peas don't require browning).

    Toasted dals

    TOASTING NUTS & SPICES:
    Toasted nuts are crispier, crunchier and taste better. While almonds take around two and half minutes, pistachios are done in about 75 seconds. With peanuts, if you are planning to make chutney, toast them for about five minutes. If you are planning to eat them as a snack, 2 to 3 minutes is enough.

    Some toasted nuts and coconut

    While cumin seeds take around 4 minutes, coriander seeds brown in a couple of minutes. Sesame seeds turn crisp in about two and half minutes but need around eight minutes to brown. Frozen coconut can be toasted golden brown in seven minutes. Red chillies take less than a minute to get crisp.

    Toasted spices

    TOASTING FLOURS:
    Toasting flours is a common thing when you are planning Indian savoury dishes or sweets. Semolina, vermicelli and cornmeal are always toasted before using.
    While semolina and cornmeal take four to four and half minutes of toasting, vermicelli and cracked wheat need about a couple of minutes. Besan needs around seven minutes to release it's pleasant aroma. I just warm the rice flour and all purpose flour for a couple of minutes.

    By experimenting, probably most of the ingredients we use in kitchen can be toasted in a MW.

    This goes to Microwave Easy Cooking - Basics event hosted by Srivalli of 'Cooking 4 all seasons'.

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    Monday, September 10, 2007

    Roasting Papads & Fryums in the Microwave


    Though papads are fried in a traditional Indian kitchen, I roast them in a microwave. Thanks to my husband who learnt this oil free roasting from some of his former roommates. Obviously, it is a healthier version than the oil - fry method and so I am following it gladly, from many years. Some of the types of papads I roast in MW are pictured below.

    Upper row - Appadalu/Papad, Fryums, Wheat Fryums
    Lower row - Mini papads, Fryums, Uraddal vadiyalu

    Place a flat, microwave safe dish / paper plate in a microwave and arrange papads / fryums with enough space in between them so that they have space to expand. I usually place two or three large papads at a time. Small sized papads, fryums and other such stuff may be roasted in large quantities at once. Microwave on high till they are done.

    It will take about 25 seconds for mini papads and wheat fryums pictured below.

    Usually it will take a minute per batch for original size papads (Bigger ones) and colored fryums.

    If you are trying minapappu vadiyalu (urad dal fritters, the darker shade ones in the picture), it would take around 40 seconds.

    Microwave roasted papads & fryums

    Since microwave strengths vary, the roasting time may decrease or increase. If you are following this method for the first time, be sure to keep a watchful eye on the papads during the whole process. A few seconds more will almost over brown them and they will have a burnt taste.
    And I would
    NOT recommend this method for saggubiyyam vadiyalu (sabudana papad / fritters) and atukula vadiyalu (poha papad / fritters). (Pics below)

    Unfried sabudaana & poha papads

    (I have used the word 'Papad' both for appadalu (Happala) and vadiyalu (sandige). I have no idea what Andhra vadiyalu are called in Hindi. I have noticed in shops that sabudaana and the rice flour variety vadiyalu are sold under the name papad. Hence I have used 'Papad' liberally.)

    This goes to Microwave Easy Cooking- Basics event hosted by Srivalli of 'Cooking 4 all seasons'.

    Update: As you see, sabudana papads can be toasted in Microwave. They are done in about 30 seconds. Our home made sabudana papads contain green chillies and when they are toasted in MW, we can feel (the rawness of) green chillies burning our food passage. This is avoided by regularly frying them in oil. With poha fritters, (as you can see in the picture) even before the out side is done, the inner portion starts to burn and smoke. Poha fritters and MW don't get along.

    Back Row - Sabudana papad
    Front row - Poha papad

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