Paavakkai crisps

Paavakkai crisps | Bittergourd chips

I am getting all tangled up trying to put down what exactly I want to do in the new year. My first line is about cleaning the combs and hair-brushes regularly, my second one is about writing a book and the third one is cooking a new vegetable every week. My canvas encompasses my home, the beings in it, the dust on the windows, writing a book, losing weight, worrying about all the plastic… I am mixing up things on so many levels, it makes my head spin. So I decided to take each area of interest and write down a list of resolutions for each. So I’ll start with my favourite place – the kitchen. These are my kitchen resolutions I will cook one new/rarely cooked vegetable a week. I plan to fast once a week or go on an all-fruit diet one day a week depending on my mood that week. I have seen enough whatsapp forwards to believe that fasting is good for the body and lemons can cure cancer. I will use up my exotic ingredients before I buy more exotic ingredients. I have some un-identified millets, a pack of phool makhana, a big jar of shrimp paste among many other things. I’ll plan the weekly menu every Sunday so that I am prepared through the week and we’re not forced to order in. I don’t want to deal with all those plastic containers and plastic covers. I will be more patient while frying onions and waiting for the oil to separate from the masala. It makes a lot of difference. I’ll try to cut down the sugar in my coffee and Horlicks, but I don’t promise anything. I will try a little harder to seek out the plumpest seetapazham (sitaphal / custard apple), the sweetest sapota (chikku), the best long-grained basmati rice. Many times, the big chain stores don’t have the best produce. The paati at the market has the freshest greens. I am going to try buying produce anywhere I see them like my maamiyaar. She will stop on a highway, on a jammed road and walk into unknown farms to get her hands on fresh fruits and vegetables. I’ve never bought Paavakkai before because I could not process that much of bitterness. I hadn’t devised a way to make it better. Until now. On a recent shopping trip, I thought I needed to...
Ragi dosai

Ragi Dosai

Exams over, a wonderful next week that looks rosy and peaceful with no-homework evenings and with tickets to 3 of the 4 movies released this week, I am tempted to sing “Idhu podhum ennaku, Idhu podhume. Vera yenna vendum idhu podhume…!” I saw Seethakathi this morning. I loved the movie.  One down, three more to go. I need to give a little bit of background before I plunge into the story I am going to share with you. Watching cinema is serious business around here. A Friday night movie is what wraps up a week for me. I drive bordering on reckless just so I don’t miss the opening “S” “U” “P” “E” “R” “S” “T” “A” “R”. I have no courtesy and I don’t wait for late-comers. I won’t give them a recap of the story so far. I make my kids go multiple times to the bathroom before we leave for the theatre so that they won’t disturb me during the movie. I don’t talk during the movie. Now that you have the background, here’s what happened. I went for a mid-morning show of Seethakathi which was half-empty. A big group of young girls and guys, likely college students were seated in the front rows. The movie was starting. As groups of guys and girls this age are wont to do, they were trying very hard and very loud to impress each other. I thought they were settling into their seats. Let’s give them a few minutes. The guys made a lot of loud un-funny jokes. The girls giggled excessively. We were well into the movie. I hoped they’d stop now. In the next 2 minutes maybe. I couldn’t hear the dialogue. Last chance – one more minute. That is it! I marched out to find the theatre staff. I told him if he didn’t tell them to shut up, I would. He promised to address the problem. I went back to my seat and waited. Two of the theatre staff walked down to the front rows and spoke to the guys and girls seated there. He told them that if they didn’t keep quiet he’d have to throw them out. Even better I thought. The group were offended that they would be “thrown out”. They argued with the theatre staff for a bit and the whole group then walked out in protest. Success! It’s surprising to me...
Aloo gobi roti

Aloo Gobi roti

It’s December already and I am seeing lots of 2018 lists all around– the best celebrity weddings of 2018, the worst fashion trends, best movies of 2018, the most trending hashtags on twitter and so on. I am tempted to make my own lists. I am amazed at all the things that seem just the same this year as they were last year and the year before and before that. Here is a list of things that haven’t changed this year. HDFC bank guys called me every day in 2018 just like they called me every single day in 2017 asking if I wanted a personal loan or credit card. I am basically a kind person so I don’t snap at them. I tell them I am not interested when I hear “HDFC”. But not yelling makes me super furious. I’ve therefore come to not pick up calls from unknown numbers. I’ve then had to explain myself to many an Amazon delivery guy for not picking up the phone. I still wake up 1 hour before the school van arrives. I go 15 minutes late to the 1 hour yoga class. Everybody at the gym is the same size I saw them last year. Strangely I’ve never met the weight-loss achievers on the pin-up board. All the books I intended to read this year are still unread. I am somewhere in the middle in each of them and I’ve forgotten what I’ve read so far. I make a list of the outstanding books to read and promptly misplace the list. I can’t resist the books I come across. I strategize that if I buy an interesting enough book and read it fully, that will give me the momentum to finish the rest of the books. I fall asleep on the 5th page. I’ve not acted as Vijay’s akka. I’ve not lost 10kilos yet. I am still paying EMIs. Overall I’d say it’s been a good year. I hope you had a great 2018 too. What was just the same for you this year? I’d love to hear. Please feel free to share in the comments. The recipe I am going to share with you today is a simple Aloo gobi roti, a kind of all-in-one dish. This Aloo Gobi roti is not a stuffed roti. In a stuffed roti, there is the possibility that your stuffing is not evenly distributed...
Veg godhumai sevai

Veg wheat sevai

Here is a movie script synopsis. The Dosai maavu companies, ‘ready-to-eat’ and breakfast mix companies are unable to get a stronghold into the South-Indian household. They expect their packs to fly off the shelves but that’s not happening. They’re unable to crack the code. They sense they’re up against a powerful competitor. They do some research and realize that they’re up against the ‘Upma’. They can’t compete with a 5-minute dish that requires nothing more than salt, water and a handful of pantry staples. They set out to undermine the image of Upma. They hatch a conspiracy against Upma. They fund meme and troll campaigns to make fun of upma, to put it down. They successfully create a bad rap for Upma. Then they introduce an Upma-mix to rub it in. The hero’s favourite dish is Upma. He has to somehow save the Upma from extinction. How he saves the upma and the world from the evil forces makes the rest of the story. Why not? The Americans can set two sets of robot cum cars against each other for a metal dabba (Transformer). I never did understand the Upma-mix though. What was that? They packed the rava and salt into a pack?   I am a great fan of all kinds of Upma, both eating and making. Upma encompasses all kinds of rava & vermicelli. The one I am sharing today is made with wheat sevai – Godhumai sevai (fine wheat vermicelli). I made a simple veggie godhumai sevai with it. The godhumai sevai is store bought. It’s super easy to prepare. Sevai is usually much finer than vermicelli and should not be cooked in boiling water. Sevai has to be soaked for a short while and then tossed with the desired spices and veggies. Alternately you can make a sweet version of this sevai by steaming it and then mixing in grated coconut, ghee and sugar. Enjoy!   Print Recipe Veg wheat sevai Lightening quick, delicious veggie wheat sevai for any time of the day! Prep Time 10 minutes Cook Time 12 minutes Servings 3 people Ingredients 200 gm Godhumai sevai1 Onion, finely chopped2 green chillies, slit1 cup finely chopped vegetables (carrots & green beans)10 Cashews, broken1/2 tsp mustard seedsSalt to taste2 cups Water (to soak the sevai)2 tbsp Oil1 tsp Ghee Prep Time 10 minutes Cook Time 12 minutes Servings 3 people Ingredients 200 gm Godhumai sevai1...
Channa dal curry

Channa dal in coconut milk

You know you’re a domestic diva when your weekend plan includes operation ‘lice extermination’ from your kids’ heads, you’re planning the menu in the head while walking the treadmill, you make idli maavu, buy veggies, prep them, stock your fridge and feel too tired after all of it and order pizza. You don’t know the latest Netflix shows, your favourite songs are all old and you’re sleeping with an amrutanjan balm by your pillow, it’s safe to say you’re well into aunty-dom. I think it gets better after this. You can finally be the eccentric aunty you always were – recipe gathering, news-avoiding, sports-illiterate, shopping-crazy fat woman with a thing for mookuthis. You don’t feel the need to fit in, to keep up, to stay in tune. You’re happy to be off key, on your own terms in your own world. You feel happy to stay in bed and fall asleep reading. You feel accomplished and light of mind after decluttering the shelves. Now you’re really, truly free. I am happy to say that we’re somewhere close to the halfway mark with the 100 days of healthy eating challenge. I hope you’re eating healthy too and you are finding this series useful. I’d love to hear your opinions, suggestions or feedback on the series. Chappathi has been a popular option in my healthy eating series so far because there are umpteen ways to jazz up a simple meal of chappathis and everybody at home enjoys chappathis. Here I serve it with a creamy, lip-smacking Channa dal that is slow-simmered in coconut milk. This dal is my Ammamma’s recipe and a firm family favourite. I was saving this Channa dal curry for a heirloom recipe book along with a grand old story about my Ammamma but I suddenly ran out of recipe ideas and I figured I’d include it in the book too anyways. This dal is made entirely in a pressure cooker and is simple enough to make on a weekday morning. Hot off the stove chappathis served with this warm, comforting channa dal makes for a wonderful, cozy dinner this time of the year. I threw in a cup of sprouts stirfry for an extra punch of protein. Enjoy!   Thanks for reading and thanks all your support and encouragement.  To stay updated on all the posts, like/share/subscribe to foodbetterbegood on facebook, Instagram, google+. Print Recipe Channa dal in...
Peas Poha upma

Peas poha upma

It’s that time of the year in Chennai when everyday is a potential school holiday. Give one holiday and we’re spoilt. We keep checking the news and whatsapp groups for a holiday announcement every day after that. For me, a school holiday means an extra hour of sleep, so that I start cooking late and I am late to office by the same amount of time that I am late on school days. I am consistent that way. I feel vulnerable when I am out of idli maavu (idli/dosa batter). It’s like you’re at a function and nobody seems to notice you and you don’t have your phone, so you can’t act busy. You could have scrolled through your empty whatsapp chat and looked at people’s profile pictures. Now you’re forced to look at people, half-smile because it’s not clear if they’re smiling at you. You end up making conversation with some aunty next to you and realize it’s not so bad after all. You realized you’re not as anti-social as you thought you were. Only when I am out of idli maavu do I explore other tiffen possibilities. I quite enjoy the different tiffens that I come up with and I am surprised I didn’t try these more often. One of those days, I made Peas poha with the leftover Aval (poha) from Krishna Jayanthi. I like my poha on the chewier side, so I don’t cook it too long. If you like it softer, you can sprinkle a little bit of water and cook a little longer. This Poha Upma is infinitely customizable. I skipped the usual boiled potatoes because I wanted to cut down the carbs. Instead I added peas. You could add sweet corn or paneer or anything else you fancy. You can add some grated ginger for extra zing. You can add fried cashews for extra interest. Make it your own. It’s infinitely easy and is full of fresh, yummy flavours. Enjoy! Print Recipe Peas poha upma Peas poha upma is infinitely easy and is full of fresh, yummy flavours. Enjoy! Prep Time 5 minutes Cook Time 5-8 minutes Servings 3-4 people Ingredients 4 cups Poha / Aval / Flattened rice1 cup fresh green peas1 Onion chopped fine2 Green chillies chopped fine1/2 tsp Mustard seeds1/2 tsp Turmeric powderSalt to taste1 lemon, juiced2 tbsp oil1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves, chopped Prep Time 5 minutes Cook Time...
Curd rice

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...
Milagai bajji

Milagai Bajji, 3 ways

You know that spring of joy when you look out the window and see rain? It’s hard to make sense of it. It’s almost visceral. Rain means happiness, that everything’s going to be alright, that this too will pass, that good things will happen. Whoever said “rainy is gloomy” watched too many Wimbledon matches. It’s like the rounded R’s that people mouth when they return from the US. It’s what we think we need to say. It’s not what we feel deep inside. Rain always, always means happy things. We’ve got it down to a well-worn formula in life and in cinema. Rain means traffic, so we can be late. Rain means cheery rain songs on radio & hot crispy snacks in the canteen. Rain means cancelled classes and school holidays. In cinema rain means heroine introduction, rain means a happy dance, rain means romance, rain means an important twist or the climax. These are the clichés that we love and cherish. For me rain means “Oho Megam” song from “Mouna Raagam” or “Vaan Megham” from “Punnagai Mannan”. Only those two and nothing else. My mind seems stuck in the late 80s. And only Ilayaraja songs will do. That’s just how it is. I am an 80’s child. Rain also means a big plate of piping hot, sinus-opening, throat-scorching Milagai bajji. I love the classic Milagai bajji – the entire chilli, seeds and all, dunked in bajji batter and fried to golden brown perfection. My nose may start running and I may appear to be weeping. But don’t take the plate away from me. It’s the kind of dare-devil things I like to do. I long wanted to try a few other variants of the milagai bajji. One was a potato stuffed bajji that I thought might be a milder, just as tasty version for less adventurous souls. In this one, I make a slit and scrape out the seeds from within the chilli and stuff with spiced potatoes. The third version is a mini milagai bajji bomb. If wolfing down an entire chilli seems forbidding, you can start with these mini milagai bajji bites. I cut up the chilli into little roundels and dunk in bajji batter and fry. These are like the bijli vedi (the little cigarette like single-shot deepavali cracker) – small and cute but still explosive. Last Saturday, I woke up to a cool, drizzly, cloudy...