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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Usirikaya Pachadi / Andhra Style Indian Gooseberry Pickle

(This was originally published on 8/4/2010.)

Today's post is about a pickle prepared using the Indian gooseberry which is called amla in Hindi and usirikayi in Telugu. Indian gooseberries which are rich in vitamin c, come in two sizes. One is tiny variety which are called nellikayi in Kannada. These are shaped like pumpkins, are pale green colored and are about or little smaller than a grape in size. These are mouth puckeringly sour and I have fond memories of greedily snacking on them while growing up. The bigger variety which is called bettada nellikayi in Kannada is used to make dishes like spicy pickle, murabba, spicy rice and other dishes in India. The big berries are also used to light the lamps during Tulsi festival in south India where cotton wicks greased with ghee would be placed on them and lighted. 

My mother mostly uses the berries to prepare usiri avakaya, a popular pickle from Andhra Pradesh, made with gooseberries and ground mustard. I don't prepare that as I don't find fresh gooseberries locally. I however find frozen berries at Indian stores and I use them to prepare this style pickle, following my sister-in-law's recipe. 
The process of making pickle using frozen berries needs a little improvisation. I wash and thaw them for half a day and then squeeze them to get rid of excess of water. People who are familiar with Indian pickle making know that even a trace of moisture would ruin the fate of pickle. This pickle, if prepared with frozen berries needs refrigeration since water keeps oozing out of them as you squeeze them even after thawing. The pickle prepared with frozen gooseberries stays fresh for 2 tp 3 weeks, refrigerated. And the one made with fresh gooseberries stays fresh longer.

Indian gooseberries / amla / usirikaya - About a dozen (I had 14 berries in the frozen pack)
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder 
1/2 cup (or more) oil 
Salt to taste
Chili powder to taste (I had used 6 tbsp.)
Lemon juice as needed (optional)
Ingredients for tadka:
1 tbsp. oil
1 tsp. mustard seeds
2 pinches of ground asafoetida 

1. Wash and wipe dry the usirikaya if using fresh ones. If using frozen ones, wash and thaw them for a few hours. Wipe them dry using a towel or paper towels.
2. Keep your hands and the utensils dry. Chop the berries into small pieces and discard the seeds. Chop away the skin if you notice any blemishes. Transfer the berries to a bowl. 
3. Add turmeric powder, salt and oil to the chopped gooseberries. 

4. Mix it well, cover and let it sit overnight.
5. Next day, stir the mixture well.
6. Transfer the mixture to a dry blender and grind the mixture coarsely without adding any water. 
7. Heat a tbsp. of oil in a pan and add mustard seeds. When they start to splutter, add asafoetida and turn off the stove. Let it cool. 
8. Transfer the ground gooseberry mixture to the bowl back, Add chili powder to the mixture and mix well. Taste and adjust the quantities of chili powder and salt if needed. Add the lemon juice as needed (1 tsp. or so) and mix one more time. Add the tempering from step 7 and mix well.

9. Refrigerate the pickle to store longer, especially if preparing with frozen berries and use a dry spoon whenever using.

Use salt, chili powder and lemon juice to taste.


Monday, October 25, 2021

Menthula Pappu / Andhra Style Lentil Preparation with Fenugreek Seeds

I being an Indian and vegetarian, eat legumes in one form or another on a daily basis for my protein quota. And I  therefore keep showcasing 'traditional' dals (Indian lentil recipes) regularly here. When I peeked recently at the 'dals' category in my blog, I realized some needed tweaking in terms of content and some posts needed better images. Here is one such post which needed some fixing and was originally posted in July, 2010. This dal used to be a regular one in my mother-in-law's kitchen and now loved by even my kids at our home.

Today's dal is a healthy and rather an uncommon one from Rayalaseema area of Andhra Pradesh, called menthula pappu. As the name suggests, menthulu or fenugreek seeds is the star in this traditional recipe. It should not be confused with the dal prepared using fenugreek greens / methi leaves. Unlike most of the dals, this does not require any vegetables and gives the fenugreek seeds an opportunity to shine. 
And no, the dal is not bitter because of the fenugreek seeds used. The fenugreek seeds soften once they are cooked and it is hard to notice them while eating. If you are one of those who soak their lentils before cooking, just remember not to soak the fenugreek seeds as well as they lend bitterness to the dal. The taste of the finished dal is uniquely flavorful and refreshes your taste buds. 

1 cup pigeon peas / yellow lentils / toordal
3 tbsp. fenugreek seeds
1/8 tsp. turmeric powder
Salt to taste
1 tsp, spicy variety chili powder or to taste
1/4 cup watery tamarind puree (Soak 1/4 cup tamarind in water for an hour or place in a microwave with little water for about 3 minutes. Then squeeze the juice adding a little if needed. The leftover tamarind puree can be refrigerated and used within 2 days.)
Ingredients for tadka: 
1 or 2 tsp. oil
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
A sprig of curry leaves
2 pinches of ground asafoetida

1. Wash the lentils and fenugreek seeds with two exchanges of water and throw away the cloudy water. Then transfer the lentils and fenugreek seeds to a container. Add about 2 cups of water and turmeric to it. Place the container in pressure cooker, close the lid and put on the valve. Pressure cook the lentils until 3 whistles or until done.  
Alternatively, the lentils can be cooked in a pan on stove top, stirrng frequently. Add water as needed and cook until the lentils turns mushy.
2. Remove the dal from cooker and mash it slightly with the back of a ladle. 
3. Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds and cumin seeds. When mustard seeds start to splutter, add curry leaves and asafoetida. (This tempering can be done at the end and added to the cooked lentils.) 
4. Then add the mashed lentils, salt, chili powder and tamarind puree to the pan and mix well. Add some water if the mixture appears too thick. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed. 
5. Cook  on medium heat setting until it starts to boil and then turn down the heat setting to low. Cook for a couple of minutes more and turn off the stove.
* Serve it warm with some hot steamed rice and a tsp of ghee.


Sunday, October 24, 2021

Vankaya - Tomato Pachadi / Andhra Style Eggplant and Tomato Chutney

(This was originally posted on 3/12/08.)

I prepare a variety of vegetable based chutneys, using the base recipe which has been in our family for generations. Some chutneys are prepared using a combo of vegetables instead of one, like this eggplants and tomatoes one for instance which stands out among the lot. It can be served with rice as part of a meal or even with rotis. 

The combination of eggplants and tomatoes yields this delicious and spicy chutney. Usually, eggplants and tomatoes are roasted whole, peeled and then ground coarsely when preparing this chutney. I sometimes follow the easier method and prepare the chutney this way by sautéing chopped vegetables, chilis and other spices together. The addition of tamarind and jaggery makes this a flavor loaded chutney.
1.5 tbsp. oil
1 tbsp. skinned black gram / uard dal
1 tsp mustard seeds
A pinch of fenugreek seeds
2 pinches of asafoetida  
Green chilis as needed (I used 2 very spicy, long green chilis.)
3 eggplants (I used round, purple ones.) 
2 tomatoes 
1/8 tsp. turmeric powder
Salt to taste  
1 tsp. sized tamarind ball
1/2 to 1 tsp. jaggery (I added 1/2 packet Stevia.)
* Wash and wipe the tomatoes and eggplants dry. Chop the eggplants and tomatoes into cubes.
* Heat oil in a sauté pan and add skinned black gram / urad dal and mustard seeds. When black gram start to turn slightly reddish, add fenugreek/methi seeds, and asafoetida. When fenugreek seeds start to turn a shade darker, add green chilis and saute for few seconds.
* Next add chopped eggplants, tomatoes, turmeric, salt and tamarind.
* Cover and cook until the vegetables soften on low heat setting and turn off the stove. 
* Let the mixture cool and grind it coarsely adding jaggery to taste.  in a blender. 

This post is an entry for Blogging Marathon and check the link to find out what other marathoners are cooking.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Chilka Roti

Chilka roti is a simple, rustic crepe from Jharkhand state that I discovered while cooking my Thaalis. These have become a regular on my weekend breakfast menu in the recent months because of the ease in preparation. They are made with rice and chana dal / split chickpeas. It is a simple, straight forward recipe if one is familiar with the south Indian dosa making. The rice and lentil need to be soaked overnight or at least a couple of hours in the morning. It can be then ground with salt and enough water. I usually add a tsp. of cumin seeds to the ground batter though it is not used in the recipe. The crepes can be made immediately using the ground batter as there is no need to ferment this batter.
Rice and split chickpeas / chana dal are used in 2:1 ratio but sometimes I use them in equal proportions. The batter can even be ground and refrigerated in advance to save the time in the morning rush hour. Just make sure to use up the batter in about 2 or 3 days after grinding though I remember the batter lasting up to a week in my refrigerator. They can be made for breakfast, brunch or they can even be a fuss-free dinner idea. Serve these easy, healthy and filling crepes with chutney of your choice. Mine were served with roasted gram chutney and tomato chutney.

1 cup rice
1/2 split chickpeas / Bengal gram / chana dal
Salt to taste
Water to grind
Oil to make chilka roti
1. Add rice and split chickpeas to a bowl and rinse twice with water and drain. Soak them in water for 3 hours or overnight. 
2. Drain the water used to soak before grinding. 
3. Add the soaked ingredients and salt to a blender / grinder and grind finely adding water as required to form a thick, pourable consistency batter. (This batter gets runny very easily and so start adding a small amount of water to grind initially and go on adding as needed). Transfer the batter to a container.
4. Heat a griddle and pour a ladleful batter at the center and spread it thinly with the back of the ladle. Drizzle oil around the edges and cook until the surface appears dry. 
* Flip the roti and cook on the other side as well for few seconds.
* Remove it with a spatula and repeat the roti making process.
* Serve them warm with chutney of your choice.
This post is an entry for Blogging Marathon and check the link to find out what other marathoners are cooking.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Nuts - Dry Fruits Milkshake

Here is a rich, creamy and nutritious milkshake that can be put together under five minutes. It is prepared using a combination of nuts and dry fruits which makes it a yummy drink. This milkshake can be used as a breakfast or brunch beverage or even as a quick fix energy booster anytime of the day. This is apt for kids like my daughter who drinks only milk and never eat any breakfast. 
I keep the recipe simple by grinding nuts and dry fruits with just milk. I used dairy milk but it can be made vegan by substituting 
any non dairy milk like almond, soy or coconut based one. I add about 1/4 cup each of nuts and dry fruits for each cup of milk used. Any combination of nuts and dry fruits of one's choice can go into this drink. I added almonds, cashews, pistachios, raisins and dates here. There is no need to add any extra sugar in the recipe as the sweetness lent by dry fruits is enough.

This post is an entry for Blogging Marathon and check what other marathoners are cooking, clicking at the link.


Sunday, October 17, 2021

Fruit Sandwich


As the name suggests, this one is a simple, fruit filled sandwich and one that is well liked at our home. The sandwich preparation needs just basic skills and quick to put together. A simple toast made interesting and a tad healthy for the morning rush hour. All you need to prepare these sandwiches are some toasted, whole grain bread slices, a fruit jam of your choice and some sliced fruits of your liking. Our sandwiches were served with coffee and carrot milk. 

There is no need for any recipe for these quick, filling and healthy sandwiches. Basically you toast bread slices and spread jam over them. Place cut, fruit slices over one bread slice and cover it with another. Cut the prepared sandwiches diagonally to serve. 
I went with oat bread this time but any whole grain bread can be substituted. I spread jam on some of the toasted bread slices and marmalade on some, keeping my family's tastes in mind. Basically grape jam, strawberry jam and orange marmalade were used. I used banana, mango, peach, nectarine and apple but any fruit that you have on hand can go into this sandwich
This post is an entry for Blogging Marathon and check what other marathoners are cooking, clicking at the link.


Tuesday, October 12, 2021

A - Z Idli Recipes ~ X for Xacuti Masala Aloo Stuffed Idlis

These idlis are inspired by these stuffed idlis, I posted a couple of years ago. A spicy potato filling stuffed inside idlis makes an interesting and tasty variation to the standard idlis. All one needs to make this variety idlis are fermented idli batter, and a curry which is kept on a dry side, making it suitable for stuffing. A watery or gravy curry is not going to work to use as stuffing here. Idli recipe can be found here. I prepared regular potato curry, replacing green chilis with xacuti masala to suit my 'X' post in this idli series. 

So far in this eries,
Ingredients: (Yield - 16 idlis)
Fermented idli batter
Potato curry using xacuti masala
Ghee to grease the idli plates

* Heat water in a steamer or a idli cooker or a cooker base.
1. Stir the fermented batter well with a ladle. 
2. Prepare the curry on a dry side and keep it aside.
3. Grease the idli moulds and pour batter into a mould, filling up  only half of it. Take a big lemon sized portion of curry and roughly pat into a disc shape. Place it at the center of the idli mould and pour extra batter over it, enough to fill the mould.
* Repeat the steps with the remaining batter and the curry.
* Place the idli stand in the steamer, cover the lid and cook on low flame until done. (If using pressure cooker, don't put on the whistle). Add extra water to the steamer if water evaporates in the middle of steaming, taking care not to pour over the cooking idlis. 

4. Steam them on low flame until they are done. (One way to figure out if the idlis are done is to touch the idlis with moist fingers. If they don't stick then idlis are done. If they are sticking then they need more steaming. I usually steam for about 20 minutes on low flame while making idlis.)
* Turn off the stove and let them sit for about 5 - 10 minutes before removing them from moulds.
* Enjoy the stuffed idlis with chutney and/or sambhar.
This post is an entry for Blogging Marathon and check what other marathoners are cooking, clicking at the link.


Monday, October 11, 2021

A - Z Idli recipes ~ W for Wheat Rava and Green Peas Idli

Semolina idli aka rava idli is a quick alternative to the standard idlis when one doesn't have the time to soak and grind the ingredients and wait for the ground batter to get fermented. The idli mix can be prepared in advance and stored, to cut the time during idli preparation. Replacing semolina in the idli recipe with cracked wheat makes the version healthier and I prepare cracked wheat idlis for the same reason on a regular basis. 
Adding vegetables to the mix makes it more nutritious and this time I have added green peas which lends color to the idlis. Peas, along with the yogurt used to soak the idli mix make these idlis a wholesome and healthy breakfast option. Carrots, pumpkin, spinach, bottle gourd, cucumber are some of the other vegetables that can be incorporated into idli mix to add extra nutrition.
2 cups fine cracked wheat / wheat rava
1 tbsp. oil
1 tsp. split chickpeas / chana dal 
1 tsp. skinned black gram / urad dal
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
Salt to taste
1 cup yogurt 
Water as needed (I added more than 1 cup.)
3/4 tsp. Eno's fruit salt
Ghee / oil to grease the idli plates
Ingredients for the peas' paste:
1 cup green peas (I used frozen ones.)
1 inch piece of ginger
1 or 2 green chilis or to taste
2 handfuls of cilantro leaves
1/2 cup water
1. Heat oil in  a pan and add split chickpeas, skinned black gram, mustard and cumin seeds. When the lentils start to turn reddish brown, add cracked wheat to the pan and toast on medium flame, for a couple of minutes and turn off the stove. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let it come to room temperature. (This can be done in advance and the mixture can be stored in air tight container for weeks.)
2. Add green peas, ginger, cilantro and chilis to a blender. 
3. Grind them into a fine puree adding about 1/2 cup of water.
4 & 5. Add this green pea paste, yogurt and salt to the bowl and mix well. 
6. Next add about a cup of water or as much as needed and mix well. Cover and keep it aside for about 20 minutes.
* Stir the mixture after the resting period and add some more water if the mixture appears too thick. 
* Grease the idli moulds with oil / ghee. 
* Heat about 2 cups of water in a idli cooker base or a idli cooker or a steamer on medium heat.
7. Add Eno's fruit salt to the batter just before making idlis and sprinkle a tbsp. of water over it and mix well. The mixture turns frothy at this point. 
8. Immediately, ladle the batter into the idli moulds.
* Place the idli stand in the prepared cooker / steamer and close the lid. Don't use the valve for the lid if using a pressure cooker.
* Steam the idlis on low heat setting for about 20 - 25 minutes or until done. (The idlis should not stick when touched with moist fingers or a toothpick / knife inserted in the center should come out clean.) Check the water level in the steamer base and add extra if needed.
* Wait for about 10 minutes and then remove the idlis by running a spoon around the edges.
* Drizzle melted ghee over the idlis and serve them with a chutney / sambhar.
* Refrigerate the left over idlis and use in a day or two. Or they can be cooled down immediately after preparation and frozen to use later. Nuke them covered in a microwave, and enjoy hot, piping idlis when needed. 
This post is an entry for Blogging Marathon under 'A - Z' theme and check the link to find out what other marathoners are cooking.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

A - Z Idli Series ~ V for Vendhaya Idli

It's time for the idli series again. For those uninitiated, here is a detailed post about idlis and tips for the preparation. So far in this series, I have posted -

The standard version idlis are prepared with skinned black gram and idli rice, that usually go in a ratio of 1:2 or 1:3. However there are a few exceptions like my previous post in this series, uddina idli which was made using skinned black gram / urad dal alone. Here is one more which is prepared using idli rice alone, called vendhaya idli from Tamil Nadu. I accidentally came across these idlis on a YouTube video and the recipe intrigued me enough to try them later. These idlis are made with just two ingredients, namely idli rice and fenugreek seeds. Fenugreek seeds are called 'vendhayam' in Tamil and hence the name of the idlis. The traditional version also contains castor seeds and prepared during summer to combat heat.
Idli rice and fenugreek seeds are soaked, ground and the batter is fermented. Fenugreek seeds which are bitter by taste do not lend any bitterness to idlis and are a healthy addition to idlis here. The fenugreek seeds when soaked turn soft and yields fluffiness to the ground batter. Eno's fruit salt or baking soda is added to the fermented batter just before making the idlis. In fact, adding Eno's fruit salt is a crucial step in the preparation. It helps in yielding a soft, fluffy texture to idlis, even without the addition of black gram / urad dal. Omitting Eno's fruit salt would yield rock hard idlis that are fit to trash. I prefer Eno's fruit salt over baking soda, whenever a idli recipe requires it but if using baking soda, make sure that it is still within expiry date. Otherwise baking soda yields a weird smell to idlis, ruining the taste.

2 cups idli rice
1.5 to 2 tbsp. fenugreek seeds
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp. Eno's fruit salt *
* Baking soda can be added instead of Eno's fruit salt but make sure that it is not beyond expiry date.

1. Rinse idli rice, and fenugreek seeds together with water and drain. Repeat the step one more time. Soak them together in water in a bowl for about 4 hours and drain the water used to soak completely.
2. Grind them together adding salt and water as needed to grind them into a smooth and thick batter. (The salt can be added just before making idlis if living in a warm climate. I add it while grinding since I live in a cold climate and the batter takes longer to ferment.)
3. Transfer the batter to a container that is big enough to allow the batter to raise during fermentation. Cover the container and allow it to ferment overnight (if the batter was ground in the evening) or for about 10 - 12 hours in a warm place. If living in a cold climate, leaving the batter in an oven with the lights on (without turning on the oven) helps. Or use yogurt setting in an instant pot.
4. The fermented batter should rise well and be fluffy but not turn sour.  . 
5. Heat about 2 cups of water in a idli cooker base or a idli cooker or a steamer on medium heat. 
6. Grease the idli moulds with ghee / oil. 
7. Gently stir the batter a couple of times with a ladle. Add Eno's fruit salt to the batter and sprinkle a tbsp. of water over it. Immediately stir the batter well until it starts to turn frothy. 
8. Ladle the batter into the idli plates carefully without spilling.
9. Place the idli stand in the prepared cooker / steamer and close the lid. Don't use the valve for the lid if using a pressure cooker.
10. Steam the idlis on medium heat setting for about 15 - 20 minutes or until done. (The idlis should not stick when touched with moist fingers.) Check the water level in the steamer base and add extra if needed.
8. Wait for about 10 minutes and then remove the idlis from idli stand. Remove the idlis by running a spoon around the edges.

How to serve idlis:
Drizzle some melted ghee over the idlis and serve them with a chutney, and sambhar if preferred. Mine were served with Kumbakonam Kadappa and sambhar.

What to do with leftover idlis:
1. Refrigerate the left over idlis and use in a day or two. 
2. Or they can be cooled down immediately after preparation and frozen to use later. Nuke them in a microwave, covered and enjoy hot, piping idlis when needed. 
This post is an entry for Blogging Marathon and check the link to find out what other marathoners are cooking.