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Monday, December 12, 2016

Lemon Rice / Nimmakaaya Pulihora / Nimbekaayi Chitranna

This lemon rice was a part of the south Indian festival thaali I posted last month. My mother used to prepare lemon rice only once or twice in a year on a festival day and so, even the simple lemon rice was a special one to us while growing up. Later on, I entered a family where lemon rice was 'The designated festival rice' and the younger generation's immediate option whenever there was leftover rice. My husband still thinks that the lemon rice and potato curry are the ultimate combo on a festive day. No wonder considering that the lemon rice is one of the popular rice dishes from south India and is a quick one to prepare.

The preparation of lemon rice is quite a simple one and it is the most fuss-free dish compared to the other traditional rice options out there. The sour and spicy flavors are well balanced in the dish where as the addition of curry leaves and asafoetida make the rice flavorful. Peanuts and dals add a nice crunch and a welcome texture to the dish. It takes about five minutes to prepare the lemon rice if the rice is handy and so, it is a suitable dish both for festive occasions or impromptu/lazy meals. I always held myself back from posting a recipe for lemon rice considering that it is a basic recipe, from a south Indian perspective. However my Gujarati neighbors who ate my lemon rice a few years ago always keep praising it and ask for the tips to master it. This recipe is for those who are not familiar with the rice preparation and novices.

Ingredients: (4 servings)
1 cup rice (I used sona masuri.)
1 - 2 tbsp. oil
2 tbsp. peanuts
1 tbsp. chana dal / split chickpeas
1 tsp. urad dal /skinned and split black lentil
1 tsp. mustard seeds
3 chopped green chillies or 5 - 6 dried red chillies, broken into pieces *
1 stalk of curry leaves
1/8 tsp. turmeric powder
a few pinches of asafoetida powder
Salt to taste
3 to 4 tbsp. lemon / lime juice (Adjust depending upon the sourness of the lemon juice.)
Minced cilantro to garnish (optional)
* A combo of both green and red chillies can be used too. The number of chillies in the recipe can be adjusted according to one's preferred spice levels.

* Wash the rice in two exchanges of water and drain completely. Pressure cook the rice adding 1 & 3/4 cups of water. (Add 2 cups of water if using a rice cooker.) When the rice is done, spread it on a wide plate and fluff the rice. Or let the rice sit for a while before using.
* Once the rice is ready, heat oil in a pan / kadai. Add peanuts, chana dal, urad dal and mustard seeds. When mustard seeds start to sizzle and pop and the dals start to turn reddish, add chillies and saute for few seconds. Next add curry leaves, turmeric and asafoetida. Stir once and turn off the stove.
* Add rice, salt and lemon / lime juice and mix well. Taste the rice and adjust the salt or the lemon juice if needed. 
* Let the rice sit for at least 15 - 30 minutes for the flavors to develop. 
* It can be served on it's own or serve some papad / chips along with it.

1. Salt and lemon flavors tone down a bit after the resting period and so add those ingredients accordingly or taste the rice again after 30 minutes and adjust the quantities. 
2. In case if the lemon rice turns out too salty / too sour just add some more rice and mix well to combine.
3. Bottled lemon juice can be substituted for the fresh juice.


Sunday, December 11, 2016

Beerakaya Paalu Posina Koora

Today's curry comes from the south Indian state of Andhra pradesh and the preparation is more typical in the coastal areas. The addition of milk in the final stages of cooking is the interesting part in this style of preparation and it lends a creamy base for the curry. Subtly sweet vegetables like ridge gourd, bottle gourd suit well in this style of preparation.

1 big ridge gourd / 4 cups ridege gourd cubes
1 tbsp. oil
1 tsp. chana dal / split chickpeas
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 - 2 green chillies, sliced lengthwise
Few curry leaves
1/8 tsp. turmeric powder
Salt to taste
1/2 cup milk at room temperature (or more depending upon the consistency preferred.)

* Peel the ridge gourds and taste it to check for bitterness. If any of the gourds are bitter, do not use them. Slice each gourd lengthwise into 6 to 8 slices depending upon the thickness of it and cube them.
* Heat oil in a pan and add chana dal and mustard seeds. When chana dal starts to turn reddish add green chillies and curry leaves. Saute for 30 seconds and add ridge gourd cubes, turmeric and salt. Cover and cook on low flame until it is done. The vegetable oozes a lot of water while cooking and so there is no need to add any extra water. The water would be almost evaporated by the time the vegetable is cooked. 
* Add milk and stir for 2 to 3 minutes so that it gets incorporated into the dish.
* Turn off the stove. Serve this curry warm with rice as part of the meal.

This goes to Blogging marathon #71, under the theme 'Make a Meal'. Check here to find out what the other marathoners are cooking as part of the BM.


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Bangala Dumpa Majjiga Pulusu

Today's recipe is a classic, sour yogurt based stew that is quite popular through out the southern regions of India. And as it is norm in India, the name and the preparation of this dish too varies regionally. Majjiga pulusu is from the state of Andhra Pradesh and today's version comes from my MIL's Rayalaseema kitchen. This version is slightly different than my mother's preparation of majjiga pulusu and is a strongly flavored one because of the addition of cumin, coriander and ginger.

I have used potato in today's pulusu but it can be substituted with ash gourd, bottle gourd, cucumber, cabbage or okra. Majjiga pulusu in Andhra homes is typically eaten with rice and muddha pappu / plain cooked dal mixed together instead of eating with plain rice and so it would taste good if prepared on a spicier side instead of being a bland preparation. This pulusu can be served with rotis too.

Ingredients for 6 - 8 generous servings:
1 cup sour yogurt
1 big sized potato / Bangala dumpa
2 tbsp. rice
2 tbsp. split chickpeas / chana dal
2 tbsp. cilantro leaves
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. coriander seeds (optional)
4 green chilies (or adjust depending upon the spiciness.)
1/4 cup fresh, grated coconut
1 inch piece of ginger
For tadka: 2 tsp oil, 1 tsp mustard seeds, curry leaves and a pinch of asafoetida powder
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
* Soak rice and chanadal together in water for at least an hour or more and then drain and rinse. Grind the soaked rice + dal mixture along with cilantro, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, green chillies, coconut and ginger adding some yogurt.
* Peel and cube the potatoes. Cook them in a microwave, adding about 1/2 cup water.
* Whisk the yogurt in a blender or using a churner.
* Heat oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, add curry leaves and asafoetida. Then add the potato cubes along with the water used to cook, turmeric powder, ground mixture, whisked yogurt and salt. Add about 2 cups water and bring it to a rolling boil on medium flame. If the pulusu appears too thick, add some more water and continue cooking. Turn off the stove after a couple of minutes more.
* Serve with rice, plain dal and ghee.

This goes to Blogging marathon #71, under the theme 'Make a Meal'. Check here to find out what the other marathoners are cooking as part of the BM.


Monday, December 5, 2016

Baked Vermicelli - Vegetable Cutlets

Here are some guilt free and flavorful vermicelli and vegetable based cutlets or tikkis to munch on along with a cup of tea in the evenings. I have used potato, carrot and beans here though other veggies like peas, cauliflower or greens can be added too. Vermicelli here can be replaced with other kind of noodles but I find the Indian variety short strands of vermicelli more convenient to use here. The tikkis of course can be pan fried or deep fried too instead of baking. (The tikkis in the background plate were pan fried.)
Ingredients: (Yiled 12 cutlets)
1 cup cooked vermicelli*
1 cup peeled, chopped and cooked vegetables (I used potato, carrot and beans.)
1/8 tsp. turmeric powder
1/2 tsp. chaat masala
1/2 tsp. chili powder or to taste
3/4 tsp. amchur powder
Salt to taste
1/2 cup (or as needed) bread crumbs
Oil to spray 
* Indian style 1/2 inch vermicelli strands
* Drain the cooked vermicelli and set aside to cool. Squeeze out any extra water if present.
* Drain the cooked vegetables taking care that no water is present. Coarsely pulse them using a food processor.
* Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil if preferred and spray it with cooking oil and keep it aside.
* Add the cooked vermicelli, prepared veggies, turmeric, spice powders and salt to a mixing bowl and mix well with a spoon or hand. Add bread crumbs as needed and mix to form a cohesive mixture. 
* Pinch out lemon sized portions and shape them into discs. Arrange them on the prepared baking sheet and spray the tops with oil again.
* Bake them until the bottom portion turn golden brown and flip them and continue to bake until the other side browns too. (I forgot to record the time of baking but it may take around 30 minutes or so.)

This goes to Blogging marathon #71, under the theme 'One Ingredient - Three Courses'. Check here to find out what the other marathoners are cooking as part of the BM.


Sunday, December 4, 2016

Vermicelli Kheer / Semya Payasam

A kheer or payasam denotes a festive dish and this semya payasam is one of the yummiest and the most commonly prepared sweet dishes in most of the Indian households. Especially it is so popular in the southern regions that it is probably one of the first sweet dishes that a novice learns to cook. The rich, creamy kheer is easy to prepare and hard to mess up unless one is not paying attention. Semiya payasam uses the Indian style vermicelli that is sold as 1/2 inch sized bits. In the basic and common version, the vermicelli is roasted in ghee until golden brown and then cooked in full fat milk and sugar and flavored with cardamom. It is finally rounded off with the addition of toasted raisins and cashews. Depending upon the occasion, this basic version kheer can be made more richer and creamier with the addition of condensed milk at the final stages of cooking. Or as they do in Bangalore region, the payasam can be made more flavorful with the addition badam mix powder (like MTR brand for example).

1 tbsp. + 2 tsp. ghee
1/2 cup vermicelli / semya
2 cups full fat milk (Don't substitute skim milk.)
3 tbsp. sugar or to taste
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1 to 2 tbsp. MTR badam mix (optional)
1 tbsp. raisins
1 tbsp. cashews

* Heat 2 tsp. ghee in a pan and roast vermicelli on medium flame, stirring continuously until the vermicelli turns uniformly golden brown. Turn off the stove and set the vermicelli aside.
Skip this step if using pre-roasted vermicelli. Vermicelli can be roasted without adding ghee too.
Take care not to burn the vermicelli and in case, accidentally if vermicelli is burned, throw it away and start over with fresh batch of vermicelli.
* Heat milk on low flame in a thick bottomed stainless steel pot or a non stick one. Add the roasted vermicelli to the milk pot and stir well with  a ladle so that the vermicelli does not form a clumpy mass. Leave the ladle in the pot so that the milk will not flow over the pot. Continue to cook, stirring intermittently until the vermicelli is done. The stirring is important not to let the milk scorch. (When vermicelli is cooked properly, it can be broken easily pressing between two fingers.)
* Add sugar, cardamom and Badam mix powder if using and cook until the sugar dissolves. Turn off the stove.
* Heat a tbsp. ghee in a small pan and add cashews and raisins to the pan. Toast them until the cashews turn golden brown and the raisins turn plump. Add this to the cooked payasam and mix well.
* Serve warm or chilled.

This goes to Blogging marathon #71, under the theme 'One Ingredient - Three Courses'. Check here to find out what the other marathoners are cooking as part of the BM.


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Vermicelli - Cracked Wheat Idli / Semya - Godhuma Rava Idli

Here is an idli idea using vermicelli and cracked wheat that needs no grinding and fermenting. These idli would be ready in less than an hour that includes the prep work and the steaming part. They would be great for any meal of the day and when served along with a sambhar would make a wholesome meal. Cracked wheat in the recipe can be replaced with semolina if preferred. I used the plate idli moulds here and cut the big idlis into triangles.

1 cup vermicelli
1 cup fine cracked wheat
1.5 cup yogurt or 1 cup yogurt + 1/2 cup water
1 tbsp. oil
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. roasted chickpeas / chana dal
1 tsp. skinned black gram / urad dal 
1 green chillie, finely chopped (optional)
Few curry leaves, roughly chopped (optional)
1/8 tsp. turmeric powder
1/4 cup peeled and grated carrot
2 tbsp. fresh / frozen peas 
2 to 3 tbsp. fresh, shredded coconut 
1 tbsp. toasted cashew pieces (optional) 
1 to 2 tbsp. chopped cilantro
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp. baking soda / Eno's salt
1 tsp. ghee / oil to grease the idli plates
(I had added some toasted onions too.)

* Roast vermicelli and cracked wheat until golden brown and set aside to cool. This step can be done ahead in advance.
* Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds, chana dal and urad dal. When mustard seeds start to crackle and the dals turn gold brown, add green chillies, curry leaves, turmeric, carrot and peas. Saute for a minute and turn off the stove. Let it cool a bit.
* Add the roasted vermicelli, cracked wheat, coconut, cilantro, cashews, yogurt and salt to the pan and mix well to form a thick batter of idli consistency. (The amount of yogurt mentioned in the list should be sufficient for the right consistency of the batter. However if the batter seems to thick, add a little amount of water.)
* Allow the batter to rest for about 15 minutes and add baking soda / eno's salt to the batter just before steaming the idli and mix well.
* Pour the batter into greased idli plates and place them in a prepared idli cooker / steamer or a pressure cooker without the valve on.
* Steam them on medium flame until the idlis are cooked, about 20 minutes. Turn off the stove and leave them for about five minutes before demoulding the idlis.
* Serve them warm with chutney / sambhar.
This goes to Blogging marathon #71, under the theme 'One Ingredient - Three Courses'. Check here to find out what the other marathoners are cooking as part of the BM.