The trick to making the creamiest, just tangy enough Curd rice

Now as soon as I say that the recipe I am going to share today is Curd rice, I can imagine Maamiyaars and Gayathris in families (gossip-specialists & critics in families) turning up their noses. They’d compare me with their daughter, themselves, their maid or that horrible character in the TV serial (Indian TV serials have only 2 types of characters – saccharine good & perfect or deviously bad & empty) and profile me as the lazy woman who makes a big deal of a simple curd rice. I believe every dish, however simple can be exquisite or bleh. A fried egg is simple. It can also be the most beautiful thing – lacy slightly browned edges, soft set whites holding a jiggly yolk with a smattering of freshly ground pepper. Or it could be something else. I also do not believe the single recipe dish. There are always numerous ways to make a dish. I am always on the lookout to make a dish better, to put a different twist on it, to make it easier or quicker. My complaint with curd rice was always that it was either too runny or too thick and lumpy. It did not stay the way it was packed. By lunch time, it would have transformed into something else. Sometimes the curd rice turned too sour. If I tried to control the tang by adding too little curd, it tasted too flat. The rice had to be soft too – not pureed in a mixie, baby food kind of mash but pongal kind of creamy soft. The one trick I am going to share today will solve all your curd rice problems, I promise. Cook rice in a pot of water till it is cooked through and the rice grains are full length. Then add milk and cook the rice in milk until creamy and soft and pongal like. This step makes all the difference. Cooking the rice in milk ensures that the rice remains creamy, luscious and soft. The milk also offsets the tang in the curd brilliantly to make it just as tangy enough as you want it. Towards the end when you’re tasting and adjusting the seasoning, feel free to add in a spoon of curd or milk to achieve your right amount of tang. There is no right or wrong here. Since the rice has already absorbed a lot...
Methi biryani

Methi Biryani

Every restaurant, juice shop, or roadside frankie stall I go to, there’s already a couple of Swiggy and Zomato guys ahead of me. I see them at every traffic light. On the road, there’s always one of them behind me who is trying to overtake me from the wrong side. When I step out on the balcony I see one of them zip past my house. What are the odds? But the one I am waiting for always goes to my neighbour’s house instead. I then provide all my id proof details to persuade him that I am the rightful owner of that biryani. We’re not cooking as a people, I conclude. What’s happening?! I find that disturbing. This is one of those small, innocuous little changes that just happen and seem perfectly reasonable but are actually harbingers of a much bigger shift. It can’t seem right that we’re cooking less and less at home. We may well forget how to cook. There’s nothing more tragic. Cooking is a life skill. Jagan believes checking the car’s coolant, changing a punctured tyre and cleaning the AC filter are important life skills too. We agree to disagree. Cooking is zen. Cooking is power. Cooking is freedom.   I know I can make biryani if I was tempted by all the Bhai biryani but I had no muslim friends to give me Biryani. I know I can make Thai green curry if I really wanted it. I need not eat Pongal if everyone else in the family loves it but I hate it. I can make myself a sandwich instead. Note that this is not applicable if you’re in a joint family. You’re screwed. I am eating healthier. I am eating fresher. I am also avoiding all that plastic packaging that comes with home-delivered food. Cooking is work. It has taught me patience and compassion. I am more understanding now when my mother’s vadai is not as fluffy one day, when the hotel’s tiffen sambar is less stunning today than last time, when my own biryani is ear-shattering hot this time. There’s nothing more fulfilling, more soul-satisfying than a sitting down to a favourite home-cooked meal. Yes, it’s a little work but so worth it. I know what you’re thinking in your minds. “Then why do you order on Swiggy and Zomato?” I try my best not to. Sometimes I need to. And...
Enchilada salsa verde

Enchilada Salsa Verde

One of my favourite scenes in the movie “Sindhu Bhairavi” is the one where J.K.B (played by Sivakumar) calls his wife (played by Sulochana) a “gnanasoonyam” because she ran her mixie on full throttle when he was passionately listening to music. Stung by his words, Bhairavi sniffles “Will Lata Mangeshkar make paruppu podi for you?” J.K.B feels even more contempt for his ordinary wife. I love this scene because it is beautiful and brutal and honest. On seeing this scene, if you pity Bhairavi for being a simpleton, you are just being a kinder J.K.B but still a chauvinist. If you see the simple truth in Bhairavi’s words you’ll realize that if the wives, mistresses, mothers did not make them their paruppu podi when they were travelling, if they did not remember to pack their jattis and lungis, if they did not steal the jeans away for washing once a month, if they did not pack their lunches, if they did not deal with homework, dinner and emails while they caught up on matches and Sunny Leone on whatsapp, if they did not remind them about their mother’s birthdays and anniversaries, if they did not fuss about making the dosai just the way they want it – crispy or browned on one side only, then the J.K.Bs will realize they don’t have the veshti for the kutchery, their stomach’s upset from eating out and they’ve run out of jattis. And if only women practice less perfection, women may finally find some time to listen to music, read the paper and have a conversation with a friend. I have tons of things I’ve been meaning to share on the blog here but haven’t got around to – Project50k (my weightloss journey), my trip to kodaikanal, a few stellar recipes I tried over the last few weeks and plenty of big small things. I’ll share these on the upcoming posts. Enchilada Salsa Verde I have a scrumptious enchilada recipe to share today. I knew I wanted to make Enchilada salsa verde when I saw lovely plump green tomatoes in the grocery store. I made a large portion of salsa verde that I used for this recipe. I still have a jar of leftover salsa sitting in my fridge. I took the lazy route to making this salsa as you would have come to expect from me. I didn’t roast the veggies. I...
Shakshuka

Shakshuka – The Muttai thokku of foreign origin

Hasini and Yuvi cracked up when they heard it’s called Shakshuka. They made up their own words out of it – “sokka pota suka”, “shoppu shappu”.. If you’ve never heard of Shakshuka, let me explain. Shakshuka is the mottai thokku of foreign origin. The muttai thokku (poached egg curry) that we make when we’re in a hurry, when we’re not in the mood to cut vegetables, when we’re craving a meaty dish but have nothing on hand and settle for an egg dish. Our humble muttai thokku is the sexy shakshuka of the western world. Like Haldi Doodh and Turmeric latte, Dal and lentil soup, kurma and curry, lassi and smoothie. Hasini loved the Shakshuka more than anyone else. Towards the end, I sprinkled some grated cheese over the eggs, covered the pan for a couple of minutes and let the cheese melt. We toasted some buttered bread slices and mopped up the Shakshuka with them. It made a delicious and filling breakfast. It’s also a great recipe to make for your next brunch.
Chicken pot pie

Chicken pot pie

Do you buy baby potatoes to make Dum Aloo but then make potato varuval out of it? Do you get brinjals intending to make bhaingan bharta but make kathirikkai kuzhambu out of habit? Do you pick up baby corn and cauliflower with a mental picture of a stir fry but drop it in the vegetable kurma instead?  You do? Then I am your best friend. I buy chicken mentally vowing not to make chicken kurma or chicken fry. I see hot and sweet chicken wings, popcorn chicken, chicken satay and all the 1 minute food videos in a slideshow in my mind. But the morning I intend to cook the chicken, I’ve run out of corn flour or I don’t have enough time or the rest of the dishes I am making don’t go with this. I will find a reason to not make popcorn chicken. This was the story of the Chicken pot pie. Pot pie has been on my radar for a few years now. Long before I ever tasted it, I knew I’ll like it. I knew I wanted to make it someday. Last year I tasted pot pie when I visited Boston. I was smitten. I knew I had to make it. I also knew I’ll find a reason to not make it. Last week, I wrote down Chicken pot pie in my weekly menu. I shopped for the ingredients. I had everything I needed. I didn’t make it on Monday. I barely made it to the school van on time. I hobbled across the road, hair brush in my pocket, Hasini’s tie in one hand, lunch bags dangling from my shoulder, holding the kids hands, handing over the tie to hasini’s friend in the bus asking her to help Hasini with it. I don’t remember if I packed dosai or jam sandwich that day. I rolled out, folded, and chilled the puff pastry dough again and again over the week, while yelling at the kids to put away their school bags, just before crashing on to the bed, when I went to get a drink of water at night. The rolling pin and bowl of flour were out all week. I decided I was going to make it on Friday. I woke up early that day. I knew it was a sign. I made it. I must tell you. This chicken pot pie is pure...

Mexican style rice

For all the serial whatsappers and facebook addicts, I believe many of you would have come across touching stories in your newsfeed that “will make you cry, leave you stunned, will make your day” where the husband/wife/friend/son/daughter realized they’re missing real conversations with real people because they’re staring at their phones all day. I bet you have liked and shared these stories too. And? Am I the only emotional nut taking forwards seriously? I once turned a vegetarian because I read a forwarded message on how foie gras was made. I couldn’t keep it up too long  though because I couldn’t subsist on nothing. Our family was an exclusive non-vegetarian group then. But shortly after I gave up, my maamiyaar turned vegetarian and now we’re a very inclusive group. Timing. Not one of my strong points and never on my side. The little fella is missing for 20 minutes but everything is silent. They’re not fighting, nothing is broken, none of them have run up crying and the TV is not on. All of this can mean only one thing. Look for your phone. It’s gone. So is the grandmother’s phone. Hasini and Yuvi are curled up on the bed with a smartphone each playing games and colouring pictures. Everybody is staring at a screen. No one to talk to. Not even little Yuvi. Best time to try something in the kitchen. Maybe some Mexican style rice. I rinse the rice and beans, heat up the oil, peel the onions and start chopping the garlic. At that point when I am committed, when I am more in than out, when the oil is hot and when I’ve just thrown in the garlic, Yuvi shouts out to me “Ammaaaaaaaaaaaa“. Timing. Never on my side. Prep Time: 10 mins Cooking time: 20 mins Serves: 4  Ingredients – Mexican style rice Long grain rice/Basmati rice – 2 cupsTomato puree – 3/4 cupGarlic – 4 cloves chopped fineOnion – 1 medium chopped fineGreen peas – 1/2 cupFresh red beans – ½ cup (substitute with butter beans or other quick cooking fresh beans of your choice)Green chillies – 4 slit lengthwiseCinnamon – 1 inch stickWater as necessarySalt to tasteOil – 3 tbsp Ingredients – Salsa Chopped tomato – ½ cupChopped green capsicum – ½ cupCoriander leaves – a handful choppedLemon juice – 2 tspSalt to tasteSugar – 1 pinch Method 1.       Rinse rice well in 2-3...

Thalapakatti style biryani

You know you’ve reached the steady state when you make an online money transfer to your husband for his birthday present and he in turn checks out your Amazon cart for your birthday present. Win-win. No more guessing if the shirt will fit, no more aspirational “for your good, for us” gifts he never unwraps, no surprise awkward spa experience that makes him blush. Who would think of getting a Quad copter drone for a 33 year old’s birthday present? I wouldn’t. He wanted just that. We are now seasoned enough to appreciate that we don’t know each other’s areas of interest, that it is not necessary or easy to know and it is best to ask. I was the surprise junkie, going for the surprise factor, for difference, extrapolating from my head to his. Not anymore. Now, we discuss, I put forth my ideas, he rejects them all, I agree to buy what he decides, find that it doesn’t fit in my mental make-up (flying toy for $50!) and agree to transfer money instead to avoid the hassle. Cool! I still bake his birthday cake and I decide what to make. I cannot be making a sponge cake or chocolate cake. I have a blog to write for. I cannot be making reruns. I have my bucket list of cakes I want to make in life. Sorry! But there is one thing that we both agree on, one thing we both love, that we’re both passionate about – biryani. I had to make one of his favourite biryanis for his birthday. After all it is his birthday. So Thalapakatti style biryani it was. It tastes much like Thalapakatti’s signature biryani – spicy, heady, aromatic, ghee laden seeraga samba rice biryani. No tomatoes in this biryani. The magic is in the ground spice paste. I went with 12 green chillies. It is hot but we like it that way. Feel free to reduce it to your taste. I marinated the chicken the previous night and ground up the masala too the previous night. I was making it on a weekday morning before school. I needed to pre-make as much as I could. That is all there is to it actually. This Thalapakatti style biryani is among the easiest I have made in recent times and I am going to be making it many more times. One more biryani crossed out...

My Lasagna search ends in my kitchen

Is it possible to be possessive about cheese? To covet cheese? What about knives? Tell me it is normal. I guard my best cheeses for the very best recipes, the foolproof ones, the ones I know would work. I then made this Lasagna. Cheese well spent. A short while back, but for quite a long time I was going crazy. Reading that sentence makes me think I really am. I really was going nuts. You know that famous saying “Order Lasagna and you’ll know what the restaurant’s worth!” You didn’t? It is not a saying. But it could be. It should be. Just saying.Well, I ordered Lasagna everywhere I went but I didn’t get any. I got hybrid, indigenous versions that tasted like baked korma pasta which made me even more determined to have my lasagna. At “That Mad#$%  place” the lady told me that that was how they made Lasagna at their restaurant, it was their signature Lasagna and that was how they’ve been making it since they opened (opened when? 1930?). Tell me something – When you order oothappam at a restaurant wouldn’t you expect to eat that slightly thick pancake like thing made with slightly sour dosa batter topped with onions, green chillies maybe, maybe a sprinkling of milagai podi, the oothappam we’ve always known? Would you take a toasted idli topped with onions if it is their signature oothappam, if that is what they call oothappam, if that is how they’ve been making it since they’ve opened? Would you take idlis dunked in kara kuzhambu as somebody’s signature sambar idli? Imagine my horror, my disappointment, my misery. Time to take things into my own hands. The best way to make lasagna I’ve learnt is to ready the components the previous day. First the Bolognese sauce – It is a cinch to make if you give it the time, if you can wait, if you can resist slurping it all up. It needs to cook slow and long and scents your kitchen. It is quite heady, divine really. With the Bolognese in the fridge, I slept a little more confident that the Lasagna would turn out well. I made the béchamel sauce, grated up the cheese and cooked the pasta sheets. I cleared the entire dining table to lay out my Lasagana cast – Bolognese sauce, very slightly warmed with a ladle, cooked pasta sheets carefully spaced out...

The Best Macaroni and Cheese

One of the running themes on my blog apart from my fixation with tamil cinema, joint-family drama, maamiyaar stories, good food and good eating are my ‘weight-loss’ attempts. But this time I have decided to get down to business, to cut to the second half of the film, to get to the chase. Last weekend Hasini and I got on the merry-go-round at the beach, the mini-version of the giant wheel that has the cradle like hanging seats (the one that Kaipulla sits in in “Winner”). What was I thinking? At the beach and without the extended family around (by extended family, I mean the maamiyaar/mother-in-law) I fancy myself a little girl too. I help Jagan dig pits to get to wet sand, stuff myself with masala kadalai, bajji and ice cream and then when Hasini pleads to get on the vertical merry-go-round, I join her.  The merry-go-round guy eggs me on “Vaanga vanga, neenga kuda varalam” (You can get on it too). For a moment, I forget that I am notoriously woozy headed, that I am overweight, that the poor fellow might break his arm. But up we go, and every time he has to let people get on or off the wheel, he has to keep us up. He grunts, exerts his full strength and then realizes it is beyond him, shouts out to his friends for help. I expect his entire kuppam to come running, but a slender little teenager steps in from the neighbouring merry-go-round to give him a hand. When I finally get down, I vow to return a fit and svelte mom. It may be months before I bite into chocolate, lick mousse cups clean, eat biryani and bajji, order ghee roast or slurp basundhi. Now before I go on a diet, a diet that defies all things that I believe in life (and my belief in life can be summarized in two words “eating well”) I want one last cheesy, gooey fling. I want to go crazy. I make an over the top macaroni and cheese (courtesy: Food52), chock full of all my favourites – roasted cauliflower, sweet corn and chicken, all stirred into the most luscious béchamel sauce and loaded with grated cheddar, topped with breadcrumbs and baked to cheesy bubbly perfection. Amen!   Prep time: 20 mins (does not include cooking chicken, roasting/blanching vegetables)Cooking time: 40 minsServes: 5-6 Ingredients Macaroni –...

Thinai Kichadi

I didn’t soak my fruits for the Christmas cake 3 months back although I did buy a batch of figs, raisins and apricots that I can’t seem to find now. I didn’t make Christmas-tree shaped sugar cookies with royal icing. I most certainly didn’t make a gingerbread house. I am not very good at this blogging thing. I am sure many of you are violently nodding your heads at this point now. I’ve always had a hard time keeping up, getting along, doing the ‘in’ thing and having conversations with my kids friends’ mommies. And I am just plain busy. Plain busy as in “Plain-busy”, not “fun-busy” with all the parties I have to go to, not “brag worthy-busy” with my yoga classes and marathon runs, never “socially busy” with all the friends I catch up with. I am plain busy giving my kids a bath, going to work, coming back, picking up their toys, cooking, cleaning, renewing insurance premiums, paying bills, searching for the TV remote, surfing channels hoping for a movie (a good one), ordering serial lights and sizzler plates online and battling with customer care for my undelivered items. “Thoo” – Did someone say? Some may call this lazy. I call it plain busy. Strangely (or not) last year too when the blogging world was bursting with cookies, fruitcakes, cinnamon rolls and festive goodies, my blog was there with a Rava Kichadi. Again I am wrapping up the year with this Thinai Kichadi. What a coincidence!! There is definitely some sign here. That my blog will always stand out, be timeless and different Or 2. That my blog will never be current and happening No voting on what sign it is! Please desist from calling out what sign you think it is. I’d like to think it is 1 and continue blissfully. This Thinai packet that my Maamiyaar brought home from an organic store, spent the first 3 months in a basket at the bottom of the kitchen cupboard. Then my Maamiyaar made a Thinai upma with some of it and the packet that I so thoughtfully fastened with a rubber band moved to the middle shelf and sat amidst the dal and rava jars for 2 more months and got tossed around everytime we took out the dal or rava. One day I decided I wanted to do away with the Thinai packet in a tasty, nice...