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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Tomato Pachadi (Chutney)


I come from Andhra Pradesh - the land of spicy, hot pickles and chutneys. People from my state probably can prepare pickles/chutneys out of everything. However, preparation of (some) pickles which stay fresh, year long is a daunting task for a novice and also for those who cannot find the right ingredients. Chutneys come to my rescue to some extent when I yearn for those mouth watering pickles my mom prepares.They are easy to prepare and are like cousins (instant forms) of the traditional pickles. Tomato is one of the vegetables with which my mom prepares pickle which can stay fresh, year long. Though I don't afford that much of sunlight here to prepare the sun dried version, I do prepare it by the simmering method. When I need it quickly, then I go to my mom’s tomato chutney. I am new to this blog world and recently came across Pooja’s blog “My Creative Ideas”. When Pooja announced tomato as the vegetable of the week, tomato chutney popped up at the top of my list. I prepare it frequently. So, I am going to contribute this for pooja's vegetable of the week.

Ingredients required:
Tomatoes (red & ripe) – 4
Oil - 2 Tbsp (or as required)
Red Chillies – 8 to 10
Urad dal - 2 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Fenugreek seeds / Methi seeds – ¼ tsp
Hing / Asafoetida – A pinch
Salt – As needed

We need to roast the tomatoes for this chutney. I follow my mom’s good old method for roasting tomatoes.Wash tomatoes cleanly and wipe them dry. Do not chop them. Heat a tbsp of oil in a wok / pan and put tomatoes in it. Just toss the pan a little bit so that the tomatoes are uniformly coated with oil or alternatively, spray with oil. The point is there must be some oil at the base of the tomatoes so that they don’t get burnt while getting roasted. Keep turning the tomatoes so that they are roasted uniformly. When they are done, remove them and keep aside.When they are cool, peel the skin from the tomatoes.
In the mean time, do the tadka. Heat one more tbsp of oil in another small pan and add urad dal and mustard seeds. When urad dal start to turn a little red, add fenugreek/methi seeds, red chillies and hing. Turn off the heat when urad and methi seeds completely turn red.Take care to add fenugreek/methi seeds later because they get burnt easily and also don’t add more of them since they turn the chutney bitter. Let it cool.
Grind the roasted tomatoes, tadka ingredients and salt together into a (little coarser)puree in a blender. Tomato chutney is ready to serve with rice/ rotis.

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Cornmeal Upma

Cornmeal’s semolina like texture and its orange – yellow hue instantly attracted me when I saw it for the first time in a grocery shop. I promptly bought one box of cornmeal and did what any Indian would do, if she had a bag of semolina. Prepare upma, of course. From then onwards, Cornmeal upma has been on my breakfast list. Here follows my recipe for the cornmeal upma. To add a little boost of protein, I used some frozen soybeans /edamame in the upma.


Ingredients for Cornmeal upma:
Cornmeal - 3/4 cup
Onion & tomato – 1 each
Fresh soybeans – 1 / 4 cup
Green chillies – 4 (I used small, serrano peppers)
For tadka - 2 Tbsp oil, a few curry leaves, 1 tsp each of chanadal, urad dal, mustard seeds & cumin seeds
Water – 3 cups

Preparing Cornmeal Upma:
Dry roast the cornmeal for about 5 minutes in a wok / pan and set aside. Finely chop onion, tomato and the green chillies. Heat the oil in a wok / pan. When the oil is hot, add chanadal, uraddal, cumin seeds, mustard seeds and curry leaves in that order. When the chana and urad dals turn red and the mustard seeds start to splutter, add green chillies and fry for a few seconds. Then add chopped onion and stir. Lower the heat and close the lid. Keep stirring in between and when the onion turns almost translucent, add tomato and fry for a couple of minutes. Then add soybeans, water and salt and increase the flame. When the water starts to boil, add the cornmeal and lower the heat. Cover the lid and cook till it is done. Serve warm with chutney or chutney powder.

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Beerakaya (Ridgegourd) Koora

The word ‘Nostalgia’ comes to my mind, when I spot a ridge gourd here.Whenever I see those wilting, not so tender and even sometimes the fungus/mold laden Chinese okra aka ridgegourd here, my heart yearns for those fresh, green ridgegourds my mom used to buy in India, when we were kids. In our town, farmers from the nearby villages used to sell fresh vegetables grown on their farms. To avoid the exploitation by the local vendors, they preferred selling by going door to door. This direct approach to customers was beneficial to both the seller and the purchaser. The farmer definitely made more money and the housewife got fresh vegetables cheaper compared to the market rates. In India, I guess even today, this continues in small towns and villages.
Ridgegourd is called beerakaya in my native language telugu and is one of my favorite vegetables. My mom prepares a lot of dishes from this vegetable and even it’s peel. So, recipe source for this curry is obviously my mom.
For novices, here is a little tip. Some of the ridgegourds would be bitter. So, while doing the chopping/cutting part, always taste a little bit of the vegetable flesh. If it tastes bitter, throw it away. Otherwise, you would end up throwing away the entire preparation. Also, it does not require much oil, as it gives out water when it is cooking.

You would need
Beerakaya / Ridgegourd (Peeled and cut into cubes) - 4 Cups
(I got 4 cups of ridgegourd cubes from 3 Ridgegourds)
Red chillies (broken into small bits) – 5 or 6
Salt – According to taste
Turmeric powder – less than 1/4 tsp
Chana dal – 1 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
Oil - 2 tsp
Curry leaves (If you can find) – A few

Cooking method:
Heat oil in a wok / pan. Add chanadal, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, red chillies, curry leaves, turmeric powder in that order. When the chanadal turns red, the other things start to sizzle and splatter, add the ridgegourd cubes and stir. Cover the wok / pan with a lid and lower the heat. Check in between and cook till it is tender. There is no question of the curry sticking to it’s bottom as it gives out water while cooking. Add salt, stir and cook for couple more minutes and turn off the heat.
Serve with rice.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Onion Bajjis

Bajjis are one of the popular Indian snacks which does not demand much of our time or energy for the preparation. They are the Indian fritters which are prepared using gram flour / besan and a vegetable. I think, when it comes to the choice of vegetables used in a bajji , the possibilities are endless. It ranges from a simple slice of onion or a potato to chillies or green leafy vegetables. An Indian street hawker probably will never run out of customers with bajji/pakodas being on his menu. I guess even calorie conscious people would not mind binging on bajjis occassionally. A platter of bajjis with a cup of coffee on rainy days sounds so yummy.

My kids love bajjis. My son asked me to post a recipe for bajjis I make. I thought why not? The credit for this recipe goes to my mother in law. Onion is the vegetable used in her recipe. She doesn't go slicing onions into thin circles and dipping them in the besan batter. Instead she prefers to finely chop the onions and mix it with batter. Her sons are ardent fans of bajjis. My kids are turning out to be the same.Now here goes the recipe.

For Batter:
Besan - 2 cups
Salt - As needed
Chillie powder - 1 tsp or as needed
Baking soda -1/4 tsp
Onions (2) - finely chopped
Cumin seeds (Jeera) or Carom seeds (Ajwain)- 1/2 tsp
Oil for frying

Put a pan /wok on the medium flamed stove and add oil.
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and make a batter adding water. It should not be very thick or very watery. It should be some where in between. I don’t think you can mess up even you add a little extra water since you are not dipping onion slices in the batter.
Drop a little ball of batter into the oil, to check whether the oil is hot enough to add the dumplings. If the little ball sizzles and comes right upto the surface of the oil, then the oil is ready. Now add little dumplings of the batter with a spoon or your hand into the oil. Lower the flame. Or else the bajjis would be brown from outside and uncooked inside. Keep turning them with a slotted spoon so that they are brown through out, cooked inside and out. Remove them with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels to remove the excess oil. Repeat in batches with the remaining batter.

Serve hot.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Green Cabbage Curry with Soybeans

I love my mom’s cabbage curry with green peas. Today, I substituted edamame / green soybeans for peas in her recipe. Since the soybeans were frozen variety, they didn't need much cooking and I just tossed them at the end.

Now coming to the recipe, You would need -
Chopped green cabbage - 2 cups
Edamame / Soybeans - 1/4 cup
Coconut grated (fresh or frozen)- 1/4cup
Chana Dal (Bengal gram) - 1 tsp
Urad Dal (Black gram)- 1 tsp
Mustard seeds (Rai) - 1/2 tsp
Jeera (Cumin Seeds) - 1/2 tsp
Red Chillies – 6 or more (broken into bits)
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves – A few (If you can get)
Oil - 1 tbsp
Salt - As needed

Heat oil in a pan. To the oil, add chana, urad, mustard, cumin seeds, red chillies and curry leaves in that order. When they all start to sizzle and the dals turn red, add the cabbage, salt and turmeric powder. Lower the flame and close the lid. Stir in between.
When it is almost done, add the soybeans, coconut and saute for a couple of minutes more and turn off the stove.
The green cabbage & soybeans curry is ready to serve.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Poha Dosa

I was pampered by both my mom & MIL. I never had to enter the kitchen and prepare a meal, because of them. This went on until we moved here. I had only a little theoretical cooking knowledge about some basic stuff. Before moving, I had to sit and jot down recipes from my mom in a notebook. In those days of my culinary experimentation, some websites related to Indian food rescued me to certain extent. Some of the experiments were disasters though I followed the instructions and some are in my permanent recipe list. One of them is the following Dosa recipe. But, I don’t remember where I got this from. Anyway, thanking the contributor, whoever it was, I am posting this recipe.
This dosa has always turned out good and appreciated by everyone who tasted it. I usually soak the ingredients in the afternoon and grind them in the evening. I leave the batter in a warm place like oven overnight. I would like to add that, the batter does not raise and double in size when left to ferment overnight in the way the traditional dosa batter does.

Rice – 3 Cups
Atukulu / Poha – 1 Cup
Yogurt – as needed for grinding
Salt – as needed
Oil – To make dosas

Preparation of Batter:
Soak rice and poha in water for about 3-4 hours . Throw away the water and grind them into a smooth batter using yogurt. The batter should not be runny. Add salt and leave the batter overnight and make dosas in the morning with batter.

Making Dosas:
Heat a penam / griddle. When you just sprinkle some water on the griddle, the water should sizzle and evaporate. This means the griddle is ready.Pour a ladle full of batter on the griddle and spread it into a thin circle with the help of the backside of the ladle.Take ½ tsp of oil and spread around the edges of the circle / dosa. Slow down the heat a little bit and let it cook for a minute or two. The lower side facing the heat should turn golden brown. Flip the dosa and again spread some oil around dosa and let it sit for a minute or less so that it is brown on the other side too. Remove the dosa with a spatula.Repeat the process with the remaining batter.

Serve dosas with chutney.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Vankaya Perugu Pachchadi

Probably, the best translation of the title of this post would be eggplant chutney in yogurt base. I think some woman who did not like to throw away her sour curd came up with a brilliant idea of this simple yet delicious sidedish. This pachchadi is prepared using roasted eggplants, sour yogurt and green chillies. The preparation is so simple that even clueless cooks cannot go wrong with this recipe. Whenever my yogurt goes sour I make this. Or if I have eggplants, then I just leave my yogurt outside, to go sour. It just doesn't taste the same, if sour yogurt is replaced by fresh ones. This is a very easy dish to make and tastes delicious both with rice and rotis. I usually prepare mudda pappu (Plain dal) when we are planning to eat it with rice. We mix rice, dal and ghee, make morsels and dip them in the 'perugu pachchadi' and eat.

Ingredients :
Sour curd - 1 Cup

Oval shaped Eggplant - 1
Green chillies (Chopped fine) - 3 or more
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Hing / asafoetida - A pinch
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves - Few
Chopped cilantro for garnishing
Oil - For tadka

I follow my mom's method of roasting the eggplant. Wash the eggplant and wipe it dry. Remove the stalk. Put a small pan on the stove. Add 1 or 2 tsp oil and put the eggplant in the pan and just twist the pan so that the eggplant is uniformly coated with the oil or spray the eggplant with the oil. Let it roast on a low flame. You do not have to stand in front of the stove through out the roasting process. Just cover the lid. Check after a couple of minutes. Just keep turning the eggplant so that it is uniformly roasted on all sides. When it is done, remove and let it cool. If it is properly done, you should be able to easily peel off the skin. Mash the eggplant with a spoon or use your hand. If you know any other ways of roasting the eggplant, follow that.

Take the sour yogurt in a bowl and just beat it with a spoon just to get a uniform consistency. Add the mashed pulp of the eggplant and chopped cilantro.
Take a small pan and now do the tadka / popu. Add a tsp of oil. I would prefer to add chillies first so that they are nicely done. Then add mustard seeds and curry leaves. I will wait about a minute or less while the green chillies lose their green color (or else I feel they taste raw). Finally add hing and turmeric powder. Remove the pan and add the tadka to the yogurt- eggplant mixture and stir it. The perugu pachchadi is ready to serve.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Cornmeal Coconut Halwa

It appears an Herculean task, when I am in quest of some ingredients (at the local, desi shops here) essential in Indian cooking. But, I should admit the fact that I have been introduced to many new foods and cooking ingredients in USA. There have been some pleasant additions in my pantry. Cornmeal is one of those permanent additions. I use Cornmeal in various preparations. Cornmeal halwa is a result of one of my experiments. It's inspiration is our good old Semolina/Sooji halwa.

Ingredients required :
Cornmeal - 1 cup
Sugar - 1 ½ cup
Grated Coconut - 1/4 cup
Water - 2 cups
Cardamom - 1/4 tsp
Ghee - 1 tbsp or more
Raisins and Cashew Nuts - 1/4 cup

Few Saffron Strands

Dry roast the cornmeal (as sooji) in a thick bottomed or nonstick pan. Set aside.
Heat water and sugar in a pan and let it boil till all the sugar melts. When it is boiling, add grated coconut, crushed cardamom powder and saffron strands. Lower the heat and add cornmeal. Then stir the mixture so that it is uniform through out without any lumps. Cook the mixture on low heat, stirring in between to avoid sticking, till it is done.
Take a small pan and heat the ghee till it melts. Toast the cashews and raisins in the ghee till cashews turn golden brown and the raisins turn plump. Add the cashews, raisins and the ghee to the cooked halwa.
Serve warm or cold.

Fresh or dry coconut can be added. I think dry coconut makes it more tastier though.
Use a nonstick pan to avoid any sticking.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Welcome to Veggie Platter, that happens to be a collection of vegetarian and vegan recipes from India and around.

Most of the Indians learn cooking from their mothers. Usually the recipes in a family are passed down from generation to generation, like good old preserved heirlooms. I am no exception to this and I am proud to admit that the source and inspiration to this blog is my mother's cooking. In addition to those cherished recipes, there are recipes of my own and also ones that are learnt and enjoyed so far from other real and virtual kitchens.
My parents are from Andhra Pradesh, India and they have been calling Bangalore, Karnataka their home for the past 4 decades. So we grew up eating the best food from both of the southern states. Here is a collection of those recipes and more, served on this platter for you to enjoy. Hope someday this blog would help my kids as well.

To me, my blog is a way of thanking my mom, a way of celebrating food and most importantly documenting my culinary journey.

Saturday, December 9, 2006


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