Kara Chutney | An Onion-Tomato coconut chutney

I am on a diet these days. Nothing concrete as yet. But definitely taking a more, disciplined approach. I am not snucking in cake everytime I pass the fridge, I am not grabbing handfuls of lindt chocolates and leaving them on the dashboard to soften up and then popping them in one after another while I drive, I am not eating the extra biryani I couldn’t fit in the fridge, I am not buttering both slices of a peanut butter sandwich anymore (just one). I even ate just one Samosa in my office canteen today instead of two (our canteen guy won’t give beyond 2 samosas). Jagan is different. He is either eating biryani and fried chicken, slurping Coke and digging into Falooda or he’s eating kanji. These days, he eats oats porridge, boiled vegetables and Ragi Kanji. What brought this on was a video of Yuvi’s fancy dress competition where Jagan was filming Yuvi and I happened to step into the frame for a micro-second and I saw in morbid detail my roundness. Kadavule! Kadavule! Remember the AB workout challenge that I said I was taking a couple of months back. Well, I didn’t continue beyond the first week. I am getting quite accustomed to this shape, I’ve stretched my clothes into being shaped like me too. If I don’t do something soon, I am quite certain I’ll stay this way forever. The one part of a buffet that I ignored usually was the “Salad” section. I made salads every-day last week. You’ll definitely be seeing more salads and stir-fries around here. It’s a pity I am not able to tie in this Kara chutney with my diet because it is a bloody good chutney. This is the kind of chutney that behoves an extra dosai, an extra oothappam, an extra idli. You’ll eat extra dosai for this chutney and then because there’s extra dosai and you’re just short of chutney, you’ll have an extra helping of chutney and because you have extra chutney you’ll need some more dosai and then some more chutney, some more dosai… (Chutney kaage dosai, dosai kaage chutney.. you know. So much easier in Tamil!). This chutney doesn’t help if you’re on a diet. But if you’re not, you will most definitely need to make it ASAP. Go buy the Dosai Maavu packet (Dosai batter) from the store if you don’t have Dosai batter...
Tomato chutney

Jaya’s tomato chutney

Jaya is the cook at my parent’s home. Her hair has grown into a longish boy crop after her mottai at her kula deivam kovil. She comes in every morning and asks my mother for the day’s menu. They chat for a bit. She talks about her grandkids sometimes. She sits down on the floor with the “Arvamanai” to cut her vegetables. She takes her time. She arranges them into neat piles on a large plate and then moves to the stove to cook. She is an oil-guzzler. Her seppan-kezhangu roast (arbi/colocasia) is an absolute beauty – golden crisp, crunchy kezahngu with plenty of those irresistible fried masala streusel bits. I eat her seppan-kezhangu roast straight, not with rice or alongside anything, just straight. I realized that that kind of a beautiful roast requires that much of oil. At that moment I also learnt why sometimes the same recipe tasted so divine when my Ammama made it, when my mother made it but just didn’t seem as great when I tried it. Two things I often am guilty of doing – skimping on oil/ghee and not being patient enough for the onions to brown, for the tomatoes to turn mushy. It makes all the difference. I’ve hence decided that I either make the dish whole-heartedly using as much oil as it takes or not make it at all. Jaya also makes the most amazing tomato chutney – a deep red chutney, oil glistening around the edges dotted with mustard seeds and curry leaves. This tomato chutney is unlike your other chutnies. You’d fry your ingredients and then grind them to make your chutney. Not this one. It is done backwards. You grind your tomatoes and chillies and then cook the chutney. The chutney is such a fine balance of hot, tart and sweet flavours, that can come only when the chutney is slowly simmered in plenty of oil until the oil oozes out the sides. That is the sign of doneness. That is the point when hot, tart and sweet reach that lovely symphony. Make this chutney for your idli, dosai or poori and I promise you you’ll never make tomato chutney any other way.

Kara Adai | Easy Adai

Hasini offered to hold up Yuvi’s arm while I gave him his bath today. Hasini amazes me often with a kindness that belies her age. My little boy fractured his arm last weekend playing on the bed and is now running around with his arm encased in a heavy plaster of paris cast. I’ve been buying him lollipops and toy cars and I let him wear his favourite jeans every day. But I’ll probably never forgive myself for letting it happen. I’ve slowed down, watching my every step, watching his every move, checking and rechecking that all the little fingers and toes are well inside before shutting the car door, moving the bucket from underneath the tap (he likes to take a dip in the bucket). I’ve pushed aside the malpua and linzer cookies and ignored my blogging calendar. I make him his favourite poached egg korma and mini idlis almost every day now. This Kara adai was almost a month earlier. Knowing him, I did not expect him to really eat it but I was surprised that he enjoyed it. This is my ammama’s Kara Adai recipe. It must be one of the simplest Adais out there with the fewest ingredients. This Kara Adai is my favourite Adai over all the other multi-dal grated coconut mixed Adais. It is simple and delightfully tasty. I prefer my Adais on the thinner side bordering on crisp but you could make the Adais however you like them. The fried onions however are not an option. The fried onions are what make the Kara Adai what it is. Soaking time: 2 hours Prep time: 15 mins Cooking time: 2-4 mins per Adai Makes: 8-10 Adais        Ingredients Toor Dal/Tuvaram paruppu/Pigeon peas – 1 cup Raw Rice – ½ cup Onions – 3 medium chopped fine Red chilli powder – 2 tbsp. (adjust) Salt to taste Water as necessary Oil – 2 tbsp for frying the onions Oil – 2 tsp for each Kara Adai Method 1.      Rinse toor dal and rice in 2-3 changes of water till the water runs clear. Then soak for about 2 hours. 2.      Once soaked, drain the water reserving it for later. Grind the dal and rice in a mixie to a coarse paste adding the reserved water to help along. 3.      Transfer the ground rice-dal batter to a vessel. Add salt and red chilli powder and mix...

My cooking Goals + one more Side dish for Idli Dosai – Milagai Thuvaiyal

What are your cooking goals for the year? Just putting them down makes me feel like I am organized, like I am the planning kind. I like that kind of illusion. And I always like a fresh start. So I wrote down some of my cooking goals for the year. The general theme has been to keep it simple, to take it easy and to experiment more. I’d love to know what your goals are. Make just enough chutney for now. Extra chutney in fridge will never see the light of day. “Dosai/Idli do not make a school lunch”, said Hasini. I have to agree. When I scramble out of bed 30 minutes before the school bus arrives, this is what I pack. I’ve also packed mini dosai, vengaya dosai, oothappam, podi idli, jam sandwiches and sugar & ghee sandwiches with no remorse.   Everything need not be from scratch. It can be from the store. And that is fine. It is ok to not bake your own bread, make your own pasta and manufacture your own cheese. I remember a time when I would put off buying bread because I thought that if I did then I wouldn’t bake my own bread, but I never baked bread as often because I simply didn’t have that kind of time. I am more accepting now. I bought vathals instead of waiting till summer to make my own batch. I am still obsessed about making my own podis and idli/dosa batters.   I cannot and will not make thali meals (rice, kuzhambu, poriyal kind of meal) more than 3 times a week. And that immediately means I have to do # 5.   Move out of my comfort zone and experiment more. Make at-least 2 new recipes every week. Currently on my to-try list are Murtabak, Aviyal, vada pav, Hyderabad biryani and Adhirsam among others.   To not repeat a chutney/side dish again in the same month. I am on a quest to banish the cooking routines that I tend to slip into all too easily. Coconut chutney, tomato chutney, kara chutney on rotation mode, lemon rice and potato fry on Mondays, dosai for dinners, biryani on Sundays. Not this year. Breakfast can be kanji in a mug, chaat for lunch and soup for dinner. Lord, give me the strength to defend my menu.   I’ve started to plan the menu for...

Thavalai Adai

“Sarkarai mazhai vandhudha, annikki dhaaaan…  (the day it rained sugar)” she trails off. We’re lying on the quilt sharing a pillow. “Ammamma Ammamma, apparam yenna?” “Sonaana, apparam.. “ She dozes off mid-story, I shake her awake, she continues from where she left off, dozes off next line, I nudge her, prompt her. We continue till the story is over, till she is asleep. I then run away to my mother. She adjusts her 8 kallu besari nosepin and smooths her hair every now and then. I imitate her. She laughs. She makes me do it for my Appa, Babu and Athai. Ammamma sits on the thinnai talking to my athai while I plait her long hair into a mess. She packs Arisi upma for my tiffen and tops it with lots of sugar. She makes a huge deksa of vegetable bath for my birthday party. Guests ask to take home leftovers. She makes Adhirasams like Adhirasams were always meant to be. The breeze is nice and cool. Athai, Babu (my chithappa/uncle) are sitting on the thinnai (bench type settee) talking. Amma is folding clothes. I am balance-walking on the walls of the little fountain in the dhalam (courtyard). The aroma of crisping dal wafts over the evening air from deep inside the kitchen to the dhalam. Shortly Ammama brings a plate of piping hot Thavalai Adai – small round oothappam sized adais, golden brown and crisp outside, soft inside. She ladles the batter into a greased kadai, drizzles oil all around it, covers the kadai, waits forever, doesn’t check in between, opens and flips the thavalai adai, the bottom is golden brown and crisp, drizzles some more oil, covers and waits again for the other side to brown, flips it on to a plate, adjusts her besari and smooths her hair and pours in another ladle of batter. She goes on one at a time, each one cooked to golden brown perfection while we eat. I recount how Hasini wakes me up when I doze off mid-story just like “Sakkarai Mazhai” times, as she lies on the hospital bed, drifting in and out. She listens, tries to adjust her besari, the IV drip pulls at her wrist, remembers after a moment, smiles, her eyes well up. Everything I cook reminds me of her. She was the starting point. I did not realize until now, until she was gone. Prep time:...

Kichadi | South-Indian Breakfast

This kichadi recipe is my mother’s. It works well and is really simple. Just remember the water:rava ratio which is 2:1 and you’ll do well. The South-Indian Kichadi is basically a dressed up upmawith vegetables and a little masala. It is a wonderfully healthy and tasty breakfast option that is sure to please kids and adults alike.  I love kichadi with coconut chutney. It used to be one of my favourite breakfast orders in Bangalore. In Bangalore they call it “Kara Bhath” and one of the few things both kannadigas and Tamilians would agree on (No politics/no offence meant). We can never agree on sambar for example, although I personally enjoy the sweet note in Karnataka style sambar. The kichadi turned out great – soft, fluffy and delicious. Thanks to my mother. I think I’ve told you guys what a great upma maker my mother is. It’s her specialty. We’ve had stretches when she’d make it every night for dinner for even a week in row – Bansi rava upmawith onion and green chillies, Arisi rava upma, Godhumai rava upma, kichadi, Vegetable bath and then Bansi rava upma with whole dry red chillies. “Yenna Upma va!!” – We’d rag her for making the same thing every day even though we enjoyed it. She’s got them all down perfectly and she can replicate the same taste every time she makes them. If somebody ever plans an Upma franchisee chain, she’s the one to catch. Prep time: 10 minsCooking time: 20 minsServes: 5 IngredientsBansi Rava/Sooji/Semolina – 2 cupsMixed vegetables – 1 cup (carrots,beans,peas) cut into tiny piecesOnion – 1 large chopped fineTomato – 1 chopped fineGreen chillies – 3 slit lengthwiseGinger-garlic paste – 1 tbspTurmeric powder – ½ tspSalt to tasteWater – 4 cupsMustard seeds – ½ tspCumin/Jeera – ½ tspCinnamon – 1 inch pieceCloves – 2Curry leaves – from 1 stemOil – 2 tbspGhee – 1 tbspCoriander leaves – a handful chopped Method 1.      Dry roast rava on low heat till a nice aroma emanates – about 5 minutes. Remove on to a plate. 2.      In the same kadai, heat 2 tbsp oil. When hot, add the cinnamon and cloves. Then add mustard seeds and when they splutter add cumin and curry leaves. Throw in the chopped onions and fry till they turn translucent. Add ginger-garlic paste and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the green chillies and tomatoes and fry till...
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