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.

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...

Basil Pesto Pasta with mushrooms and lemony chicken

In other updates, I’ve been wildly successful this year in getting things done. I got myself a new scooter. I’ve started composting at home. And I got a scooter.    I bought myself a pretty little notebook-cum-planner that I am constantly jotting down things in. I am so excited to cross things off that sometimes I haven’t listed a task at all but I’ve completed it. I go back and write it in and strike it off because I’ve rocked and I need to register it somewhere. Call up hasini’s friend’s mom – done order idli rice – done make idli – done pack idli – done eat idli – done transfer money for gift – done Trim eyebrows – not done I like to believe I’ve been productive.  I strongly urge all of you to get yourself a planner. Marking off things gives a great sense of accomplishment. Apart from making uncomfortable calls, I managed to wade through my stash of card pins and change my card pin, collect my old books and drop them off and even score off a couple of small DIY projects I’ve been postponing forever – I made a thennai olai broom (coming soon on the blog) and made a batch of homemade orange peel face pack. Would you believe that? All this buoyancy could also be the effect of having completed the tax formalities for the year. It always gives me a high. I managed to score off this basil pesto pasta which has been on my to-try list for as long as I’ve known pasta and pesto. If you don’t have basil on hand, you can use coriander but it won’t be the same. The aroma of the pesto is breathtaking. It’s fresh, herby flavours marry well with the sharp lemony chicken and I love the way fried mushrooms round out everything. I would put fried mushrooms on anything, just as I’d put a fried egg on anything. I did just that with the leftover pasta. I reheated the pasta stove top, added bonus was the golden fried cheese, plonked a fried egg on top and devoured it.  Just skip the chicken if you want to make it vegetarian. You could easily substitute cauliflower (parboiled and marinated) or paneer for the chicken. Making the pesto is the easiest part. Just combine everything together and grind to a smooth paste. For day-in-day-out professional chutney makers...
kadalai paruppu chutney

Kadalai Paruppu chutney

If I pounce on the special music season supplementary pages from the day’s newspapers, skip the kutchery reviews, concert schedules and artiste interviews and turn to the last page to read the article on the canteen specials at sabhas, what will JKB (SindhuBhairavi movie) make of me? I worry sometimes. Does that make me a Gnyanasoonyam too? On trips to forests, Jagan looks for the tusker and I look out for the little shack that sells tea and Maggi. What does that make me? Apart from fat? I love road trips and early morning ones at that. I am excited and talkative. I am upbeat and positive. I continue this way until the breakfast stop at a highway hotel – fluffy idlis, fragrant ghee roast and crispy ulundhu vadais with sambar, an assortment of chutneys and piping hot filter coffee. I am contented and ready to sleep the rest of the journey but I am usually not allowed to. I love it that I get to eat breakfast at the table along with the rest of the family. And those freshly ground chutnies are my favourites – each piece dunked in a different chutney. I collect chutney recipes like I collect hmm.. biryani recipes, like others might collect shoes or stamps. I’ve never thought twice to walk up to someone and ask for their chutney recipe.    You cannot have too many chutney recipes. This Kadalai paruppu chutney however comes from my Maamiyaar’s repertoire. You can vary it a few different ways by switching the red chillies for fresh green chillies or throwing in one or two pods of garlic instead of ginger and so on and still make a great chutney every time irrespective of how you change it up. Scoop up this chutney with idlis, dosai or upma. Enjoy!   
carrot beetroot chutney

Carrot beetroot chutney

My biggest gripe during the Chennai rains was that Jagan was away for the most part of it. I would have loved to see him unarmed, unplugged and unwired – without his phone, TV and laptop, forced to turn around and talk to fellow humans. Result: He just doesn’t seem as moved and emotional about the whole Chennai humanity outpouring situation. Honestly, my feel-good quotient is wearing out too and I think it’s time for people to get back to work. Muggings of volunteers, harassment of women volunteers and looting of relief material surely means everything’s back to normal. Too much of a good thing never is good. I am a pathological cynic. That explains everything. “Feel-good’ers”, don’t crucify me for this. Since we’ve all already imbibed the life lessons that the Chennai rains have taught us that ‘money doesn’t matter but people do’, and since I am a cynic, and since I am no good at feel-good, I’ll restrict myself to the small day-to-day lessons that I have learnt. 1.   I have been postponing composting at home because I haven’t found the right bin. Un-pardonable, I know. I know I am responsible too for the garbage bags that clog the dump yards. It’s time for me to start segregating the waste at home, to compost. Here is a wonderful presentation on composting that my friend Ashwin shared a while back. I am starting this week.  You should give it a try too. 2.     I am going to carry my own water bottles everywhere. I just haven’t done this consistently enough. Read the story of the bottled water here. 3.   Choose sustainable at every step. Choose wooden tops and handmade toys over battery powered ones, use jute bags for your grocery shopping, take a cloth bag everywhere you go – you never know when you’ll need to shop, walk more – drive less. I am no undercover agent of United nations environment programme. I know nothing about climate change. I am far from perfect. I just know we can make small changes in the everyday things we do. And yes, they matter.     4.     Wasting food is criminal. Make smaller portions if unsure. Upcycle, get creative. I did just that with this carrot beetroot chutney. Beetroot poriyal is hugely infamous in our home and has never been finished in its history. So I roasted yesterday’s beetroot poriyal along with...

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...

Indian Statewise food – A Roundup of the past month

Here’s a short recap of the last one month’s statewise blogging marathon conveniently compiled in a single page. I’ve put together all the regional foods from all over India that I posted over the last one month. Feel free to click on the images of specific dishes to get to the recipes.  After this non-stop marathon month of blogging, I am exhausted, but inspired and restless. I hope it has inspired you guys to try new dishes in your everyday cooking too. Tiffen and Snacks Andhra’s Pesarattu has always been a family favourite tiffen but this time I made Pesarattu along with it’s best friend Allam Pachadi (ginger chutney) and the duo is unbeatable. I had a great time deep frying my way through Dal pooris of Jharkand, the sel roti (sweet batter rings from Sikkim) in the strangest of shapes, the tasty egg shoap from Nagaland and the lovely bhaturas (the stuff of dreams). Chhattisgarh’s rice Pakoras are the easiest pakoras you’ll ever find. Badeel was Uttarakhand’s version of poricha paruppu urundais – a yummy anytime snack. The vegetable momos and red chilli dip transported me to north-eastern India. Curries The curries were all a grand success – the Punjabi chicken Tikka being the best curry forever (BCF), the creamy luscious Pondicherry Fish Assad, the everyday Oriya Dalma (will be a regular on our menu), delicious Bihari Gugni, Delhi’s famous street food Matar Kulcha, Goa’s famous Vindaloo, the absolutely magnificent Mutton Rogan Josh of Kashmir (that can give any restaurant rogan josh a run for its money) and the simple and elegant Sana Thongba from Manipur (a light Paneer and Peas curry). Kerala’s Pal Appams bombed (I waited and waited for the batter to ferment, checking every now and then more eagerly than I waited for my engineering results) but the vegetable stew saved the day – it was just about perfect. Soups, Chutnies and Dips The red chilli dip is a real keeper – perfect for so many things. The Tomato oambal of Tripura was a revelation – a wonderful fusion of sweet, tangy and hot notes in a simple salsa like chutney. The Thukpa, a himalayan noodle soup is full of fresh, simple flavours. Rice dishes Maharashtra’s Varahadi Masale Bhaat was a wonderful spiced one-pot rice and vegetable meal – easy and tasty. Karnataka’s Bisi Bele Baath was a thing of beauty. This would be my go...

Tomato Oambal – Tripura chutney

I am exhausted after my TamilNadu meal post and I have just enough strength to give you an elevator pitch about this Tomato Oambal from Tripura. Tripura – landlocked small state in the northeast – mostly mountainous – home to many tribal groups and Bengali migrants. Culture and cuisine also influenced by Bengali practices. Tripuri food uses a lot of fermented fish and bamboo shoots. Oambals are made with a variety of vegetables – tomato, pumpkin being the most common ones. This tomato oambal is hot, tangy and sweet all at the same time – loved the explosion of flavours in every bite – served Jharkand dal pooris with this tomato oambal – loved it. Must try. Prep time: 5 mins Cooking time: 15 mins Serves: 4 Ingredients Tomatoes – 3 large chopped fine Whole dry red chillies – 5 broken in half Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp Raisins – 1 tbsp (I skipped these) Jaggery – 1-2 tbsp Salt to taste Lemon juice – 1 tsp Oil – 1 tsp Method 1.       Heat oil in a pan. When hot, add mustard seeds and when they splutter, throw in the red chillies. 2.       Throw in the chopped tomatoes and sauté till they turn soft. Add a little water if necessary.  Add jaggery and salt and mix well. When is semi-thick like a chunky sauce switch off. Serve with anything. Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM# 39 Tripura An InLinkz Link-up

Himarcha Rowt – Red chilli dip – Mizoram

True to my somberi (lazy bum) self, I am taking it easy and posting a red chilli dip today for Mizoram which makes a great sauce or dip for momos posted yesterday for Meghalaya. Made of loads of soaked red chillies and fresh ginger the dip is sharp and spicy and is a perfect foil to the delicate momos. Mizoram is one among the seven the north-eastern states. It is mostly hilly and is home to several tribes who are collectively called Mizos. Majority of Mizos are Christians. Mizo food is simple and healthy. Their food is mostly steamed or boiled. Smoked pork, sticky rice and vegetable stew are popular foods in Mizoram. I love their traditional dress – the white, red and black skirts and tunics. Very pretty. Prep time: 10 mins Makes: about ¾ cup Ingredients Whole dry red chillies – 15Hot Boiling water – ½ cupFresh ginger – 2 inches mincedGarlic – 7-8 pods mincedVinegar – 1 tspSalt to tasteOil – 1 tspBrown sugar – 2 tsp (optional, I added it because I like it) Method 1.       Soak red chillies in hot boiling water (switched off) for 10-15 minutes. 2.       Grind the soaked red chillies to a coarse paste. Remove to a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk well to combine. Serve as a dip with momos, spring rolls or anything else. Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM# 39 Mizoram An InLinkz Link-up

Chaat Chutnies – Sweet Sour Tamarind Date chutney and Green chutney

I did not quite expect the sort of controversy that my english speaking tamils post has stirred. I did expect the obvious question from the one-uppers who asked me why my blog is not in Tamil. It’s the easiest, most childish retort to almost anything – “Yeah, so. As if you do it”? Well the answer is that my blog just happens to be in English. I also happen to read Hindu Newspaper, write my office e-mails in English.. I speak in Tamil and I am never embarrassed to speak in Tamil. To say that we shouldn’t forget our mother-tongue, that we need to speak our mother-tongue more often, do I need to do Tamil M.A, speak like Vairamuthu and start a Tamizhar katchi? I am not going to (not that I can), I am not even contesting the local elections, why would I? I am tired from that speech and I’d love a nice snack. A plate of papdi chaat would sure hit the spot. I hope I am not a tamil-traitor for enjoying a north-indian snack. I made these chaat chutnies a couple of weeks back so that I have them ready when the chaat-wish strikes me.  That is very uncharacteristic of me. I rarely execute ahead of time. But I did and forgot since then to use them except once when I made the Aloo Tikki Chole. That is very much me. These chaat-chutnies are indispensable chaat chutnies. Once you make them ahead and have them ready in the fridge, chaat-making will be a breeze. The sweet chutney especially keeps for weeks together and I love the perky sweet-tart note it adds to chaats. The green chutney doesn’t keep as long. Maybe a week maximum.  Keep the chutnies refrigerated at all times. If too thick, dilute them with water to your desired consistency before using the chutnies. These chutnies would be the basic building blocks for most chaats. So if you’re planning a party, you can quite easily make these ahead of time and create a chaat platter -– pani puri, papdi chaat, aloo tikkichole… Prep time: 10 mins Cooking time: 15 mins (sweet tamarind chutney) Makes: 1 cup Sweet Sour Tamarind Date Chutney – Ingredients Tamarind – 2 lemon sized balls Dates – 20 deseeded Jaggery – ¾ cup grated Cumin powder – 1 tsp Salt to taste Method 1.      In a kadai/wok, heat about 1 cup...

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