Keerai Masiyal - Greens and lentil soup

Keerai Masiyal

The only reason people make smoothies out of greens is because they don’t know how to make Keerai masiyal. The other reason could be that it is way simpler. If you have half an hour, you can make this keerai masiyal. My personal favourite way to have keerai is Keerai masiyal. Stir in greens into cooked dal and cook just until the greens are cooked through. Blend to desired consistency and top off with a fragrant hot oil tadka. Keerai rice for kids and the non-dieting, non-fat privileged lot and a big bowl of keerai masiyal for you. You see, no extra effort and no separate menu. A big bowl of this keerai masiyal makes a nutrient rich, super-filling lunch. Pair it with a slice of toasted brown bread or a boiled sweet corn cob like I did. Done and done. This is a perfect meal for my project 50k – low carb, healthy and nutrient-packed. Happy dieting!  
vathal kuzhambu

Brahmin style Vathal kuzhambu

I re-read my resolutions for 2014 and cringed. Mediocre writing apart, I had been so naïve. I decided not to write any for this year although in my mind I still believe I can wake up early every day, exercise, lose weight and save all my medical bills, if only I will myself to do it. I am innocent that way. I made an ambitious to-do list today that started with the little chores I wanted to get done today and ended up having everything I wanted to do over the past year. I felt tired reading it. But writing things down always makes me feel I’ve emptied my mind of all the lists on to the book and my mind is free for other tasks. I realized it had been 3 weeks since I blogged last. Ouch! Strangely I’ve been cooking more often these past few weeks than I was before. The newer ways I find to use up leftover rice, my family will make more rice to leave us with more leftovers. I am trying hard not to turn into the kitchen sink momma. Don’t be the kitchen sink momma. If today you eat the extra helping of pulav, the two spoons of poriyal and the tiny piece of cake because it’s too little to store in the fridge, because it is easier to pop them into your mouth than to find little dabbas to store them in, you will do so every day. Once a kitchen sink momma, always a kitchen sink momma. That my friends, is the single biggest reason behind the Indian woman’s disparate shape (top 20: bottom 80).      Making a lip-smacking vathal kuzhambu is a wonderful way to eat up your rice. There are some food combinations that make us go glassy eyed, shake our heads in amazement and recall long lost memories.  Vathal kuzhambu ladled over hot rice, drizzled with some warm gingelly oil or ghee, eaten with crunchy rice appalams will always be a classic. I followed this easy recipe and I was mighty pleased with the results. I love that we add a tiny bit of jaggery to round out the flavours. Make sure not to skip it. You may adjust the quantity to your liking. This kuzhambu keeps well in the fridge for a week or even more.  Wishing all my readers a very happy 2016!   Prep time:...

Aadi special mixed vegetable mochai kuzhambu

In our parts here, Aadi is bigger than Deepavali. Bonafide Tamil, this month is THE month to visit TamilNadu if you want to experience everything you saw in Ramarajan movies – “Thee medhikaradhu”, “Alagu kutharadhu”, “Saami aaduradhu”, “Koozhu” and “karuvaatu kuzhambu”. Yeah, and all of these happen in cities too. Aadi velli, Aadi sevvai, Aadi perukku, Aadi ammavasai, Aadi thalupadi, Aadi is one non-stop month of frenzied activity. I am no perfect daughter-in-law. I don’t remember these dates. I don’t remember when I have to oil/wash my hair and when I shouldn’t. I don’t understand why sambar is compulsory on most of these days. I can’t make small talk. I make do. I remember the koozhu, karuvattu kuzhambu and fried eggs though. The vegetarian version of the karuvattu kuzhambu is this mochai kottai mixed vegetable kuzhambu. It is lovely with rice and appalam or fried eggs. It is a hearty kuzhambu chock full of native vegetables (avarakkai, drumstick, seppan kezhangu etc) that is traditionally served as a side dish with koozhu. Try it soon. Prep time: 15 minsCooking time: 25 minsServes: 5 Ingredients Dried mochai/Lima beans – 1 cup soaked overnightDrumstick – 1 chopped into 2 inch piecesSeppankezhangu/Colocasia/Arbi – 200 gm peeled and sliced into discsAvarakkai/Broad beans – 100 gm chopped into 1 inch piecesOnion – 1 large chopped fineTomato – 1 large chopped fineTamarind extract – 1 large lemon sized ball (~2 cups of tamarind extract)Turmeric powder – ½ tspRed chilli powder – 5 tbspSalt to tasteFenugreek seeds – ¼ tspAsafoetida powder – ¼ tspCurry leaves – 1 stemMustard seeds – 1 tspGingelly oil – 4 tbsp Method 1.       Rinse the soaked mochai a couple of times and transfer to a pressure cooker. Fill with fresh water to about double the volume of beans. Pressure cook for 20 minutes or till the mochai are tender. Set aside. 2.       Heat up a thick bottomed pot. When hot add the oil. Add fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds and curry leaves. When mustard seeds splutter add asafoetida and stir. Add the chopped onions and fry until they turn translucent. 3.       Add the chopped tomato and fry until they turn soft and mushy. Add the chopped drumstick, seppankezhangu and avarakkai. Mix everything up and fry for a couple of minutes. 4.       Stir the turmeric powder, red chilli powder and salt into the tamarind extract and break up any lumps. Pour the tamarind mixture into...

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...

TamilNadu Meals

There’s no place like home and there’s no place like TamilNadu. TamilNadu is my home state. I’ve been living in Chennai my entire life except for a brief period when I was in Bangalore and I’d happily live the rest of my life here in Chennai knowing for sure that I can get the freshest Keerai on Station road in West Mambalam, the best filter coffee powder on Arya Gowda road, the top quality cashews and wheat in Parrys corner, the best catch of fish on Lloyds road and the world’s tastiest idli sambar in Rathna Café Triplicane. I can’t think of anything else. I know no better. To say TamilNadu is just about idli dosai sambar, non-veg food is all about Chettinad food and veg food is TamBram food, is to believe “Chennai express” is about Chennai. There is a treasure trove of food to Tamil Nadu, much more rich and varied than restaurants, advertisers and others would have you believe (although idli-dosai, TamBram and Chettinad dishes are special in their own right). Idli-Dosai are definitely the most popular tiffen that are had for breakfast, dinner or as a snack any time of the day. Idli-Dosai are my life savers. Our bottom shelf in the fridge is reserved totally for Idli-Dosai batter. They keep well, are easy to make, are quick and can be varied endlessly. No wonder they’ve captured the imagination of people the world over. If you thought otherwise, Non-vegetarian food is as popular as vegetarian food. A simple potato varuval is made using a curry podi by Brahmins, powdered whole spices by Chettiars, using onion and ginger garlic by Naickers.. Every food is made by every community but differently and each one is as delicious as the other. This is not to say that Chettiars don’t use onion-garlic or others don’t use whole spices. Now everybody does it every way. There are slight nuances that differ between even each household. I love it that the thengai araithu kuzhambu (ground coconut stew) that my Periamma does is different from the one my mother does which is again different from the one my maamiyaar (mother in law) does. The Kari kuzhambu that we make in Chennai could be very different from the one made in Trichy, Aathur or Andipatti. In fact, the cooking in the smaller towns and villages is usually untouched by restaurant flourishes and is quite...

Garlic Rasam | Poondu Rasam

Loaded with fried garlic, freshly ground spices and tempered with ghee this Garlic rasam is hot, aromatic and heavenly with hot steamed rice. Every house has its signature rasam and rarely do they try any other. My mother makes it with paruppu-thani (watery lentil/dal juices). My in-laws make the gottu rasam without paruppu thani. However you make your rasam, there’s nothing else that spells home-food like hot steamed rice, rasam and a dollop of ghee. It’s the ultimate Tamil comfort food. It’s light (forget the ghee for a minute), mild and easy on the stomach. If you don’t know rasam, it is sort of a spiced clear soup that is had with rice. Some rasams can make good soups too. I was feeling particularly revolutionary one weekend and I had free reign of the kitchen. So I set out to make this Garlic Rasam. The recipe is from Chandra Padmanabhan’s book, Dakshin. The Garlic rasam turned out really well and I thoroughly enjoyed it alongside KovakkaiKari and hot steamed rice. But beware. If you can’t stand garlic, this rasam is not for you. This garlic rasam has enough garlic to ward away the scariest Draculas. Prep time: 10 minsCooking time: 10 minsServes: 4 IngredientsGarlic – 25 pods peeledTamarind extract – about 2 cups from a lemon sized tamarind ballMustard seeds – ½ tspAsafoetida – a pinchWhole dry red chillies – 2Salt to tasteOil – 2 tspGhee – 1 tspCoriander leaves – 2 tbsp chopped Ingredients – Spice PowderWhole dry Red chillies – 4Coriander seeds – 2 tspCumin seeds – 1 tspWhole black peppercorns – ½ tspBengal gram/Kadalai paruppu – 2 tsp Method 1.      Dry roast the ingredients under spice powder until the Bengal gram turns red. Cool and grind to a fine powder. Set aside. 2.      Heat a kadai. Pour in the tamarind extract, add salt and let it come to a gentle boil. 3.      Meanwhile fry the garlic pods in 2 tsp oil till golden around the edges. Remove from fire and set aside. 4.      When the tamarind extract comes to a boil, add the spice powder and stir. Let boil for 2 minutes. Tip in the fried garlic. Switch off. 5.      Now for the tempering, heat 1 tsp ghee and add mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the red chillies and asafoetida. Pour over rasam. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve hot with rice.

More Kuzhambu (Mor Kulambu) and Potato Roast

The second classic combo in the series is More Kuzhambu and Potato Roast. It had been ages since I made Mor Kulambu and I really liked the idea of it because it’s super quick to make. This entire combo meal will not take you more than half an hour tops. It’s easy enough for weekday mornings too. More Kuzhambu is a regular at my Mom’s place but is rarely ever made here because folks here are against curd/yogurt in general. But guess what, Hasini really liked the kuzhambu and Yuvan ate it too. My day was made. My mother makes an even easier version with kadalai maavu but that’s a post for another day. I used Chandra Padmanabhan’s recipe for this More kuzhambu and I think it was faultless. It had just the right amount of bite and heat from the ginger and green chillies and a light tang from the yogurt. The potato roast is of course child’s play. I prefer this kind of dry potato roast any day over the potato thokku that is often made at home. Just boil potatoes, toss in spice powders and sauté till crisped around the edges. You could play around with the spice mixes for the potato roast. I like to keep it simple with just red chilli powder and turmeric. I like to add the spice powders to the oil before throwing in the potatoes as that way the potatoes are more evenly coated in the spices. But try it anyway you wish, you really can’t go wrong with it. This combo meal goes to Blogging Marathon #36 for the Combo dishes theme. Prep time: 10 mins Cooking time: 10 mins Serves: 4-5 More Kuzhambu Ingredients Yogurt/Curd – 2 cups whisked well Turmeric powder – 1 tsp Salt to taste Oil – 1 tbsp Spice Paste Green chillies – 6-8 Cumin – 2 tsp Ginger – 2 inch piece Tuvaram paruppu/Toor dal/Red gram – 2 tbsp Kadalai paruppu/Bengal gram – 3 tbsp Grated coconut – 3 tbsp Water – just enough to soak the 2 dals listed above Tempering Whole dry red chillies – 2 broken in halves Mustard seeds – 1 tsp Curry leaves – 1 stem Hing/Asafoetida – pinch Method 1.       Soak the 2 dals together for about 1 hour. Grind together all ingredients under spice paste to a fine paste. 2.       Whisk curd well. Add the spice paste...

Arachivitta Sambar | Ground Coconut Sambar

I am still recovering from the after-effects of a team dinner at Hyatt Regency, Chennai yesterday. You know that feeling when you’ve not really had too much but you feel terribly full, uneasy and you would appreciate a good puke? Well, it was just that yesterday. Before I elaborate on yesterday’s experience, here is a little about the recipe I am posting today – Araithivitta Sambar or Arachivitta Sambar. This is a thick, substantial sambar that is best served with steamed rice, appalam and light poriyals (stir-fried vegetables) or fried vegetables. I followed the famous Chandra Padmanabhan’s Arachivitta sambar recipe from her book Dakshin. I picked this book up on an impulse at a Bangalore bookstore many years ago and it is one of my most-often read cookbooks. It is a little treasure-trove of South-Indian recipes. This sambar turned out great; lovely aroma and wonderful flavour from the freshly roasted and ground spices. Left to my devices I would have added just a dash of jaggery (I like that hint of sweetness that balances out the tang and spice in a sambar), but I didn’t as Jagan and the rest of my family don’t like it that way. You could thin the sambar down with a little water if desired. If you’ve not tried it before, I strongly recommend trying this Arachivitta Sambar, the next time you make Sambar. This Arachivitta Sambar tastes special and would be a good choice for the festival days as well. Back to Hyatt, it was the usual 5-star buffet – panner tikka and chicken kebab for starters, steamed rice, veg pulav, 2 dals, paneer gravy, baby potato gravy, a local dish that never tastes like the actual dish (yesterday it was poondu Kuzhambu, the other favourite in this category is Ennai Kathirikkai Kuzhambu), a similar spread on the non-veg side, desserts in those cute mini white dishes (I love those dishes) and a whole lot of salads. I think the salads did me in yesterday or maybe it was the chicken kebab, I am not sure. The chicken kebab was bad. The chicken and asparagus salad was vile. The hummus had no trace of any flavour, bland and perfectly international. However a few of the desserts were really good, particularly the panacotta with berry compote and the café latte pudding but the cakes were just plain old. I always feel 5-star hotel buffets (specifically buffets,...

Onion Tomato Gothsu/Gotsu

I’d for a long time wanted to try out gothsu at home. Nobody’s made it at home. I’ve eaten it in hotels, at some weddings and I’ve read about it. I really liked how it sounded. Gothsu is almost a sambar except for the dal used. Gothsu contains Moong dal (in much smaller proportion as well) instead of the Toor dal that we generally use in Sambar. Gothsu is made by sautéing onions and tomatoes and then simmering them in a tamarind extract generously seasoned with sambar powder. The cooked moong dal is added right at the end. I added a bit of jaggery along with the dal as I love a slight hint of sweet in tart dishes and I thought it worked beautifully here. But if you’re like my family and do not mix sweet with anything else, please feel free to skip it. Also jaggery wasn’t part of the original recipe (Jeyashri’sKitchen) that I used. I used the sambar powder recipe from Edible Garden.  My family didn’t really take to the Gothsu. I would put it down to close-mindedness that has conditioned their minds and tongues to reject anything that tastes different from their usual fare. Nothing wrong with the Gothsu, though. I really liked it. I can now understand why everyone’s been raving about the Pongal-Gothsu combination. I can imagine how the chunky but light, slightly tart, delicately flavoured Gothsu would taste alongside smooth, ghee-dripping pongal. Really good. Prep time: 15 minsCooking time: 20 minsServes: 4-5 Ingredients Sambar onions/Shallots/small onions – 15-20 peeled and choppedTomato – 2 medium choppedTamarind extract – ½ cup from a marble sized piece of tamarindMoong dal/Paasi paruppu – ¼ cup boiled and mashedJaggery – 1-1/2 tspMustard seeds – 1 tspCurry leaves – 1 stemSambar powder – 2-3 tbspTurmeric powder – 1/4 tspSalt to tasteOil – 3 tsp Sambar powder Ingredients Red chillies – 4Coriander seeds – 2 tbspCumin – 1 tspChanna dal/Kadalai paruppu – 1 tbspBlack gram/Urad dal – 1 tspWhole Black peppercorns – 1 tsp Method 1.      Rinse the moong dal in 2-3 changes of water and cook with turmeric powder and water till completely soft. Mash the dal and set aside. 2.      In a kadai, heat 1 teaspoon oil and roast the ingredients under sambar powder till the dals turn red. Remove from fire. Cool and powder. 3.      In the same kadai/skillet add another 2 tsp of oil and when...

Meen Kuzhambu

Meen Kuzhambu is TamilNadu’s pride. It is something we can safely call ours, originally conceived and prepared (and being prepared) in TamilNadu. No fusion-confusion here. I am recent convert. I wasn’t a Meen Kuzhambu fan earlier. In fact I am not a huge fan of Kuzhambu in general. But I have slowly started to appreciate the nuances of a well-made Meen Kuzhambu – soft, flaky perfectly cooked fish drenched in a wonderful medley of hot, tangy and spicy kuzhambu.  Meen Kuzhambu tastes best with hot steamed rice and hot pan fried fish fillets. It also goes splendidly well with Idli or Dosai. Making a good Meen kuzhambu they say is an art, not everybody can do it. I’d like to disagree. A good Meen Kuzhambu is a piece of art but I think if you can master the 3 important components of making the Meen Kuzhambu, you can make some beautiful art too. The first, most important component of it is the cleaning part. If you’ve cleaned the fish well, you’re kuzhambu will not smell fishy. Make sure to scale the fish thoroughly by scrubbing the fishes, skin side down on a coarse stone. Once scrubbed properly (you should see whitish scaly stuff run out), the skin side should be a wee bit coarse and not as slippery and smooth as before being scaled. Rinse well in 2 or 3 changes of water. The second component is extracting the tamarind juices. Now, this seems too trivial but it isn’t. The proof of the kuzhambu is in the puli (tamarind). Soaking the tamarind in water for about half an hour makes it easier to extract the juices. Once you’ve extracted the first juices, add water in small increments (half a cup at a time) squeeze and extract the juices and strain. Repeat till you have the strained tamarind juice which is roughly the same amount as the amount of Kuzhambu you’ll finally end up with. By adding small increments of water, you extract better without diluting too much. The third component is about getting the consistency right. Meen Kuzhambu is not a very thick kuzhambu, but it shouldn’t be too runny either. Usually when the kuzhambu boils, it is time to drop in the fishes. At this stage do the back of a ladle/karandi test to check if the kuzhambu lightly coats the back of the ladle/karandi. If it doesn’t, then...

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