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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.

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

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.

Cabbage, finely chopped - 4 cups
One big tomato, chopped
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
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 :
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'.


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.

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

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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