Rava Idli

Rava Idli

When I am moping, I lie in bed while my kids climb over me, I shut my eyes tight when Yuvan pries my eyes open. I hear Hasini echo my dad’s words – “You’re always late.” Back in the days when I was single, when I was free, I’d brood on the toilet seat for hours without visitors, knocks and questions – “why are you taking so long?”, “what are you doing?”, “Did you go out the window?” (That’s a good idea!). I’d lie in bed reading all day, sleeping in between, ransacking the fridge at midnight for something sweet, going back to bed to read. Chocolate soothes me. Reading drugs me. Those days, I like to eat Paal Saadam (Rice and milk). I feel comforted.   When I am stressed, when I am wound up and exhausted after a frenetic day of work, I want to eat Dominoes Pizza and coke. I want to eat biryani and thumbs up. I want my soda. I want sugar. I want cheese. I want chocolate. I want empty calories and Vadivelu comedy. When I am happy I want to eat Molagai bajji, chocolate cake and Lasagne. When I miss home, I yearn for idli, vadai, sambar and thengai chutney and Ilayaraja songs. I want paruppu rasam saadam and fried egg and Balachander movies. When I am angry, frustrated, I want Paneer soda and friends to hear my story. A small paper cup with watery canteen coffee would do too. When I am hungover, I want Jagan’s lemon soda in a dark room. When I am busy at my laptop, I have filter coffee by my side and Hasini combing my hair. I want pattani and uppu kadalai while watching TV. There are times when I make Rava idli. I make Rava idli every time my………………………………….. yogurt turns sour. Every single time I feel ingenious to be making rava idli instead of rava upma. I am terribly proud of my soft, tender rava idlis that I make from scratch. Rava idlis were one of the first things I made after my wedding. I’d make them from MTR’s rava idli mix. I’d make MTR rava idlis and coriander chutney and wait for the Maamiyaar to be impressed. I had no clue then that making them from scratch was just as easy. You’ll never go back to buying the readymade mix once you make these...

Lunch-Box Event Round-up

Did you notice how it’s un-characteristically pleasant here in Chennai (not counting the oppressive humidity just before the rains)? It’s been raining on and off the past week and even yesterday. Nothing like rain to lift the spirits. I really don’t understand these Brits always complaining about overcast skies. We love our rains. We celebrate rains. Our heroines wait for the rains to break into a dance (Oho Megam Vanthadho – Mouna Ragam – Classic, Vaan Megham – Punnagai Mannan – Another Classic. I love love this movie and every Balachander movie). Why not? If only I knew a few more moves, I’d dance too instead of land on my bum like l did last time trying to kick-splash some water on Chinnu. I’ve been busy doing nothing. I slept in the past couple of weeks because there was no Tennis class to wake up for. I’ve been lazy, not done much cooking or writing but I’ve been very very busy as well. I can be lazy and busy at the same time. Can you? I’ve now been packing Hasini’s lunch box for more than a month and I dare say I’ve mastered it. I’ve learnt a few neat tricks and a lot of cheat tricks along the way and I’ll share them on my blog for the benefit of other lazy moms. I really do think the “Lunch-box” topic is absolutely crucial for our economy and I need to have a dedicated space on Foodbetterbegood for this topic and I’ll update the space periodically. For starters I’ve rounded up some really yummy lunch box treats from several of my blogger friends in this post. This lunch-box theme of Kid’s Delight event (Srivalli‘s idea) happened in May this year. I’ll need to thank all my blogger friends who sent in their lunch box recipes to the event. Most of the recipes are now on my to-try list. I am sure they’ll become your kiddo’s favourites too. Steer away from the usual and give these recipes a shot. This lunch-box round-up includes all the usual kiddie favourites of noodles, grilled sandwiches and Thayir sadam plus a variety of variety rices, paniyarams and stuffed parathas. I hope these recipes inspire you to create some delicious lunch-boxes. After all, an empty lunch-box is the best compliment to lunch-packing moms. I hope these lunch-box ideas bring you lots of empty, licked clean lunch-boxes. Not to...

Another Monday and it’s Lemon rice and potato kari

Another Monday and I had to drag a whining Yuvi out of bed and into the shower, threaten him, cajole him and persuade him to wear his shorts and put on his shoes and go to school. He went from “sound asleep” to “distraught outburst” in seconds when he heard the word “School”. He couldn’t believe it was Monday already and he just couldn’t bear the thought of going to school and spending 3 hours among his bawling friends and harried teachers. He’s not yet accustomed to Mondays. I am not, after 30 odd years. I hate Mondays too as I do all working days, only more because it’s the start of many more working days to come. Hasini is more resigned to the inevitable and goes about getting ready looking dull and downcast. Hasini takes lunch to school these days. So lunch has to be readied before 8:30 am. Have you noticed that you oversleep when it’s raining or when it’s Monday? You don’t? Then it’s probably just me. I generally over-sleep and I was trying to find some pattern. But whatever it is, Monday lunch has to be quick and simple. You don’t want to fiddle around with koftas or vazhaipoo vadai on a Monday. Nothing like Lemon rice for a hustled, rushed Monday morning. As much as I deride Lemon rice, Lemon rice is what I turn to it when I am in trouble. Plus it is perfect for packed lunches. You know the cardinal rule of variety rices. If you don’t remember please go back and read it here. Variety rices must be accompanied by a heavy duty side dish or potato chips. So I made Potato kari to go with the lemon rice. This potato kari also features on my TamilNadu meals I made a couple of months back. Now I call this dry potato fry a “potato kari” for a reason. Did you notice that it is “kari” and not “curry”? This is an Iyer style potato fry, the way Tamil Iyers (Brahmins) make it using a kari powder (Recipe given below) and that’s how they call it. They (clue: I am not TamBrahm but I love their food) call vegetables “karikai” and their vegetable preparations as “potato kari”, “kathirikkai kari” and so on. There is no garlic, ginger or onion in this fry but it tastes fantastic with lemon rice or just plain...

Milagu Rice

To tell you the truth, variety rices make me angry. They’re depressing, especially if you carry packed lunches every day to school or office. At our home, Lemon rice will most definitely make an appearance every week, mostly Mondays when we’re rushed and unprepared for the work week. Rest of the days I find myself staring at Tamarind rice, Tomato rice or Karuveppillai rice in my lunch box. Variety rices may be okay on a couple of conditions (3 conditions, but anything more than one we call “a couple”). 1.      Either the side dishes are stellar enough to punch above the weight of the variety rice (what happens when you try to be a food-blogger and work full-time? – you use bullshit phrases in your writing and jot menu notes/ideas during calls) OR 2.      You’ve got potato chips (or my potato vathals). Anything tastes good with potato chips. OR 3.      You’ve got some variety in your variety rice. What I’ve got for you today is Milagu rice – a variety rice that is simple, super quick and tastes great. I love eggs. So I paired the Milagu rice with fried hard-boiled eggs and a mild beetroot poriyal. So there you have it – a little varied variety rice along with a solid side dish – my favourite fried hard-boiled eggs and a mild poriyal to complement the spice and heat. For dessert, I snucked in a few chunks of “Cadbury’s Dairy Milk” into my lunch box. There, much better than lemon rice and potato thokku. I am linking this milagu rice to my ongoing “lunch box” event. I am sure you have your own lunch box favourites too. Link them to the “Lunch box” event and you could win a pretty dual tone Tupperware lunch box giveaway! Prep time: 5 mins Cooking time: 10 mins Serves: 4 Ingredients Rice – 3 cups cooked Whole black peppercorns – 1 tsp Black gram/Urad dal – 3 tbsp Whole dry red chillies – 3-4 Salt to taste Mustard seeds – ¼ tsp Curry leaves – 2 stems Peanuts – 2 tsp (optional) Oil – 3 tbsp Ghee – 1 tsp Method 1.      Fluff up cooked rice and set aside to cool. 2.      Dry roast whole black peppercorns, urad dal and whole dry red chillies on low heat till the urad dal colours. Remove from heat and cool. 3.      Grind the roasted ingredients to a...

Potato Biryani and Vegetable Kofta – Kid’s Lunch Series

This month’s lunch box series is really close to my heart. I love packing lunches and I take it very seriously. Whenever I pack Jagan’s lunch I make sure to not repeat, to not pack wet food (that sounds like dog food but I actually meant – sambar rice, kuzhambu rice and the likes), to not include exotic non-veg food (to not hurt the noses and sensibilities of his vegetarian friends), to include a dessert or a drink and to pack them tightly. There was still the one time when his Lassi spilled all over his lunch bag and he reeked of yogurt. But mostly I am careful. With so many donts to packed lunches, it is a daunting task planning lunch every day. And to think that come June (Hasini would start carrying lunch to school), I’d have to get everything cooked, packed and ready to go by 7:00 am (that’s when I wake up, nowadays it is even worse), I’d have to be super-efficient and extraordinarily prepared. If I do manage it pull it off, it will be a new chapter in my life – The chapter where I finally wake up early, where I am on time for things. My kids enjoy biryanis and potatoes. They’re children of this “mass biryani everywhere for everything” generation. They’re disappointed if a banquet doesn’t include biryani. At weddings, birthdays, Hasini asks the waiter why biryani is not there. I made a potato biryani a couple of weeks back but used Seeraga Samba rice for a change instead of the regular Basmati rice. Seeraga Samba is short grained, thin and aromatic and is used in the popular Thalappakattu Biryanis. I made vegetable koftas to go with the potato biryani. Vegetable koftas are not the kind of things you’d want to do on a weekday morning. Just prepare ahead. I like to boil, mash vegetables, season them, shape into balls and roll them in bread crumbs and then refrigerate them the night before. Meaning I just don’t fry them but ready them to that stage. The next morning I just shallow fry them and they’re done. I tried to get creative, sticking in a couple of cloves for eyes and making ketchup smiles for the kofta balls to make them look like little chickens sitting on a bed of coriander leaves. They found it  amusing. I will stop when Hasini or Yuvi...

Lunch Box series – Kids Delight Event and a pretty Giveaway!

I am delighted and quite frankly nervous hosting the “Kid’s Delight” event this month that runs from May 16th to June 15th. The “Kids Delight” event is the brainchild of Srivalli, author of Spicingyourlife and Cookingforallseasons. The Kids Delight event is all about foods that kids will love to eat. The theme this month is Lunch-box. There is nothing more interesting to me than planning lunch boxes. I am on a mission to compile everybody’s lunch box favourites in one place and I am looking to you guys – readers and bloggers for recipes, ideas, tips and tricks for this Kids lunch box theme. There is a giveaway too! My closing thoughts every night before I doze off are of food – breakfast and most importantly lunch box. You want to know what moms think (maybe you don’t). “What do I pack for lunch tomorrow?” That’s the number one thing on my mind and most other moms’ minds. Starting June, Hasini would be carrying lunch to school too. I’d better get my act together. I am already amassing a small “lunch-box museum” worth of different types of lunch boxes so that I have back-up when the regular box is dirty and mainly because I am a “dabba” fanatic. In Keeping with the “dabba” theme, the giveaway is a stylish slim dual coloured Tupperware lunch box that can fit into schoolbags or handbags even. I love the purple and pink colours of this box. To win this pretty lunch box, all you have to do is send in your best lunch-box recipes to me by e-mail (just mail me the link to your post). or by linking to the linky tool at the bottom of the page. The winner will be selected at random from all the entries. A storehouse of lunch box recipes would be invaluable to harried moms who are at their wits ends deciding what to pack for their little gourmets. The rules of this event are simple: 1.      The event runs from 16th May to 15th June. You can send in your “lunch-box” entries (any number of them) anytime during this period. Link them using the linky tool below or just e-mail me (foodbetterbegood.jayanthi@gmail.com) the link to your post.  2.      You’ll have to link to this page and Srivalli’s page in your post. 3.      Archived posts are also accepted (again no cap on number of posts). However, you’ll have to update...

Lemon Rice

Lemon rice is the warhorse of packed lunches, our family’s (every south-indian family’s) saviour during morning rush-hour cooking and a regular in the weekly menu. Simply because, lemon rice is super quick to make, keeps well and tastes great at room temperature. I remember when I was young, Lemon rice was the number one item to take during travelling. We’d just buy a huge packet of potato chips to eat it along with and what a lovely combination it was. Fresh, zesty lemon rice and crunchy potato chips – simple yet delicious! However diverse our joint familyis, if there’s one thing everybody agrees on, it is lemon rice. Everybody enjoys lemon rice including the kids. So if you’re travelling, are rushed for time or just feeling lazy (check out my somberi series,specially for somberis) – make lemon rice and serve with potato chips and a hot varuval (yam/karunai kizhangu fry or Arbi/seppankezhangu fry). Perfect! Coriander leaves not pictured here. Cannot believe I photographed without them. But trust me, they’re crucial. Prep time: 5 minsCooking time: 5 minsServes: 5 Ingredients Lemon juice – from 2 large lemonsCooked Rice – 4 cupsTurmeric powder – ½ tspMinced ginger – 1 tbspCurry leaves – 2 stemsGreen chillies – 3 slit lengthwisePeanuts – a handfulMustard seeds – ½ tspJeera/Seeragam/Cumin seeds – 1 tspSunflower Oil – 3 tbspSalt to tasteCoriander leaves – a handful chopped for garnishing Method 1.      Cook rice and let cool completely. 2.      In a small pan, add oil and when hot, add the mustard seeds. Let them splutter. Then add the cumin and fry for half a minute. Add the minced ginger, curry leaves and slit green chillies and peanuts and fry for 2 minutes. Add turmeric powder and salt and mix well. Switch off after a minute. Pour in the freshly squeezed lemon juice and mix well. 3.      Pour this lemon mixture over the rice and gently mix it up till all the rice is evenly coated and you see no white grains of rice. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve with a hot curry and potato chips or appalam. Notes 1.      Make sure rice is totally cool before mixing in the lemon mixture or the rice will break. 2.      Always switch off before pouring in the lemon juice or it can taste bitter. 3.      You can substitute cashew nuts for the peanuts. 4.      The fresh coriander adds wonderful crunch...

Baby Corn & Peas pulav

I love pulav because it’s a no-fuss, easy one-pot meal that is ready in just under half an hour. No sambar, rasam and a dozen other accompaniments. I made this baby corn and peas pulav with Seeraga Samba rice which is the rice they use in Thalapakatti biryani. It’s not as long as the basmati rice but it has wonderful flavour and aroma which makes it a great choice for biryanis and pulavs. I served this pulav along with roasted baby potatoes. I am sending this to Blogging Marathon #33 for the theme Fiction with Food. Pulavs and biryanis are nowadays my go-to dishes for weekend lunches. But I once made a biryani, a horrendous biryani that my friends would remember even now. The story today is the making of that horrendous biryani. I’d not cooked for large numbers (around 7-8 people is not large at all now, but it was then) before and I’d never made biryani before. We were in Bangalore then and we had invited our friends over for lunch. This was during my early married days. Among the friends was a vegetarian as well. My menu was this – Carrot Halwa, Vegetable biryani, Aloo Jeera, Chicken biryani, raita and boiled eggs. Everything went wrong that day. We started late and we had only the dessert ready by the time our friends arrived. So we served the carrot halwa first. Carrot Halwa was fantastic though. While my friends chatted away wondering if I’d serve lunch for dinner, I struggled with the biryani. I was all the while on the phone clarifying measurements with my mom. Instead of doing the whole thing in a pressure cooker, I’d chosen to boil the rice halfway through and then mix it with the masala. As I’d feared, I’d overcooked the rice and when I combined the hot rice with the masala I was left with biryani bisibele bath. My hungry friends had no choice but to eat it but they had a hearty laugh. I’d managed to screw up the eggs as well. They were misshapen and overcooked. My friend asked me which chicken had laid such strange eggs. They’d have a mild heart attack if they knew I am writing a food blog now. Prep time: 15 minsCooking time: 20 minsServes: 5-7 Ingredients Baby Corn – 200 gm chopped into bite sized oblong piecesPeas – 200 gmSeeraga Samba Rice/Basmati rice/Long...

Sweet Corn Fried rice

Sweet corn fried rice is a kid-favourite rice dish that is easy to put together (if you forget the vegetable chopping part for a minute) and would make a great main dish for a kid’s get-together. The adults will enjoy it just as much. The best thing about fried rice is that you can put in just about anything you fancy – mushrooms, peas, paneer, bean sprouts, shredded chicken, chopped up fried eggs or anything else and it’ll rarely disappoint you. When you are making fried rice in big batches like I did here, it is best to switch off the stove, combine the rice and vegetables and then heat through for a few minutes to avoid the rice sticking to the bottom of the pan and lots of scraping and stirring which would again break the rice. If you are doing in small batches, you can do this real time in a wok and even toss them around like they do in the fast food joints which would render that nice smoky flavour. A wok with a long handle is on my wish-list for some-time now. If I did get one I don’t know where I’d put it. The kitchen is already bursting at its seams with pots, kadais, sattis and gundaans. The kadais are already piled one atop another, masala dabbas in 3 lines and a another line stacked on top, the microwave oven stowed away in the loft and my convection oven and baking paraphernalia moved to a separate room. I think we should start using up the head room like they do in airplanes and trains (upper, middle and lower berths). Lower berth is full, middle is where we operate and half the counter is anyway occupied already. Upper berth is what we should target going forward. Prep time: 20 minsCooking time: 20 minsServes: 6-7 Ingredients Sweet corn – 300 gmLong grained rice/basmati rice – 3 cupsCarrots – 2 finely choppedGreen beans – 200 gm finely choppedGreen Capsicum – 1 finely choppedYellow capsicum – 1 finely choppedOnions – 2 large finely choppedGarlic – 6 cloves – finely mincedSpring onions – 3-4 chopped fine – whites and greens separatedSoy sauce – 2 tbspSugar – 1 tspWhite pepper powder/Black pepper powder – 2 tbsp (adjust)Salt to tasteOil – 2 tbsp + 3 tbsp Method 1.      Rinse the rice in 2-3 changes of water till the water runs clear....

Tomato Pulav

This tomato Pulav is a simple aromatic one-pot meal perfect for week-days, lunch boxes or for lazy vegetarian Saturday lunches as well. I used regular par-boiled rice instead of basmati rice which is just as well; it’s healthier and easier on the tummy. I make it in a pressure cooker, so it is done in minutes. The rice cooks in a lovely coconut milk broth scented by ghee roasted fennel seeds and soft tomatoes. Finish by garnishing with a generous amount of freshly chopped coriander. I served this alongside Vazhapoo vadai (coming soon). You could serve this pulav with any raita or spicy gravy. At home we cycle through this Tomato Pulav once a week and it is a firm lunch box favourite as it is dry and keeps well. It’s a great option for kids as it is tasty and flavourful without being too hot or spicy. It’s the coconut milk that does the trick. I love using coconut milk in pulavs, biryanis and gravies. It is a magic ingredient that lends a lovely mellow flavour to the dish. We use coconuts almost daily in our cooking (No, we’re not from Kerala) and we happen to have coconut trees in our backyard. We’ve never bought coconuts from stores; we always had our own coconuts. If you have coconut trees at home, you’ve probably had those little disputes every year with your neighbours complaining about the falling coconuts. We have these disputes every year even though we have them picked quite regularly. It’s a small price to pay for all the wonderful things you can make out of coconut. If you don’t have coconut trees, plant a sapling today. Just make sure to have the coconuts picked every half year or so and you’re good. You’ll have a lifetime of free coconuts and ready ammunition for pesky neighbours. Even without coconut trees, my father never gets along with any of his neighbours. So I gave him a couple of coconut tree saplings. He can now spite his annoying neighbours and leave the coconuts unpicked all year round. Prep time: 15 minsCooking time: 15 minsServes: 4-5 Ingredients Par-boiled rice or raw rice – 2 cups soaked in water for 1 hourCoconut milk – extracted from 1 whole coconut (about 2-3 cups)Tomatoes – 3 choppedOnions – 2 medium chopped fineFennel seeds – 1 tspGreen chilli – 2 slit lengthwiseGround Masala – 1...

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