Vengaya Vathal – Onion vathal/Vadam

Come Summer and Mambalam Mamis would be out in force on their terraces, laying out these vathal/vadams on Mama’s dhotis. Most of the vathal/vadam preparation happens during peak summer – April and May when the sun is at its scorching best and there are no winds to blow dust on to the drying vathals. It’s one big open-air, preheated oven, un-affected by voltage fluctuations and power cuts. I am late as usual. I made these in early June when Kathiri was already over and the brief summer showers were just around the corner. I am perpetually late – for classes, for aerobics, for my own wedding reception and now for my children’s school. It was no surprise that I was late for the vathal season as well. Vathals turn out best when they’ve had 3-4 days of blistering sun. In Chennai, that’s never a problem, usually. But when I decide to debut in the vathal arena, even nature colludes against me. The day we made these vathals, the weather was dark, cloudy, windy and un-characteristically pleasant. Even better – the next couple of days, Chennai received nice, sometimes quite heavy showers. Chennai was rejoicing and radio stations were playing rain songs while I silently fumed. It’s as if god was saying “Don’t try this, spare the vathals, at-least”. But if anything I am stubborn. Vathals I did make and they turned out really good thanks to my mother who did vathal duty shuttling them in and out (while I worried in office) and Rajee aunty who initiated me into the vathal club. The vathals tasted just like the vathals that the mami friends used to give us every summer. These vengaya vathals – onion vathals are nice and crunchy with lovely bits of fried onions and are a great accompaniment to rice and rasam. These vathals are extremely handy when you feel a meal is just short of a dish – deep fry these in a jiffy and you have a tasty and crunchy side-dish ready in minutes. I am sending this to Srivalli’s summer special Mela. Prep time: 20 mins + 1 hour laying themCooking time: 20 minsMakes: Enough to last 6 months for a family of 4-5 Ingredients Raw rice (Maavu rice) – 1 kiloJavvarisi/Pear Sago/Sabudana – 200 gmGreen chillies – 250 gm (around 15-20)Salt to tasteOnions – 1 kilo chopped fineWater – 4X times the flour Method...

Coconut chutney – Made with roasted red chillies

After 3 days of the Blogging Marathon (my first) I am taking it easy today with an easy chutney recipe today. As if I’d blogged elaborate Swiss rolls in the Blogging Marathon! I had blogged Idli batter fritters, Falooda and Kamarkat for the theme – Sweet Treats for kids and all 3 recipes were easy, quick, non-fussy recipes. Today also, it’ll be an easy one. I can’t shake off my lazy-ass habits. So what’s in a coconut chutney? Who doesn’t know coconut chutney? First of all, I take it upon myself to blog all these Kappi recipes (non-recipes) which everybody already knows and so many have already blogged about because I want to help fellow somberis (lazy people) and I also need to blog about something! And Secondly, coconut chutney can be made a myriad number of ways and each chutney has its own distinctive taste and flavour. I am a discerning chutney eater (chutney lover) and I am going to tell you my readers how subtly different and unique each of these are. This red coconut chutney is made with roasted whole dry red chillies and urad dal. Small details make a lot of difference. The chutney would taste very different if you were to leave out the urad dal or if you added the red chillies as is without roasting. The roasted red chillies and urad dal add a nice hot and nutty punch to the chutney. 5 chillies I’d think would be average. If you like your chutney hot, you may add 6 or even 7 chillies. If you like it milder, reduce the number of chillies. You may add a pinch of asafoetida while tempering for the aroma. I’ll be posting other coconut chutnies soon. Preparation time: 10 minsCooking time: 5 minsServes: 4 Ingredients Coconut – One half of a coconut, gratedWhole dry red chillies (long ones) – 5-6 (adjust)Urad dal/Black gram – 1 tbspRoasted gram/Udacha Kadalai/Pottu kadalai – 2 tbspOil – 1 tbspSalt to taste Tempering Mustard seeds – 1 tspUrad dal/Black gram – 1 tspCumin/Jeera – 1 tspCurry leaves – 1 stemOil – 1 tbsp Method 1.      Heat 1 tbsp oil in a kadai/skillet. When hot add 1 tbsp urad dal and let fry till it starts colouring. Then add the whole dry red chillies (stalks removed) and fry for about half a minute. Remove from fire. 2.      Grind together the grated coconut, fried...

Chicken Satay with Thai Peanut dip

Chicken Satay and Thai Peanut dip is such a superb pair. They go so well with each other and they’re fun. Satay is a great option for a party appetizer, can be prepared well in advance and then grilled or barbecued at the last minute. Satay is super-quick to barbecue or grill, is done in less than 10 minutes. The best part of it is the Thai style peanut dip. It is a delightful medley of flavours and textures – hot, sweet, and nutty with the peanut butter and peanuts giving the dip a smooth yet crunchy texture. Yummy! There are lots of things going for this recipe. You don’t have to make a marinade and a dip separately. It’s all just one thing. You make the peanut dip and use half of it (or how much ever you require) as the marinade and the remaining as the dip. One dip fits all! How about that? A Somberi’s dream come true! This is such a delicious dip that I wouldn’t really mind having extra. I can imagine the dip being extremely chummy with Chinese spring rolls or wontons or any kind of fried fritters. It is really a cool dip to hang out with. I adapted the recipe from Mark Bittman’s book.         Barbecuing is fun. Kids find the whole thing so amusing they’re out of your way the whole time that the fire is being set up. That buys you enough time to prepare lunch, wash and clean up. My husband loves to barbecue, loves starting a fire, some kind of primordial instinct I suppose. So effectively he is also out of the way. Peace! Being able to cook un-plugged, un-interrupted, without being called a hundred times and without being tugged by a 2 ft. little one is what I call peace. Barbecuing is a great weekend family activity and I’d recommend anyone who doesn’t have a barbecue to go out and get one. It need not be any of those very expensive, tripod mounted ones. For weekend barbecuing and the occasional get-togethers, you could go in for a much smaller one. Preparation time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 5-8 minutesServes: 5 Ingredients Chicken breasts – 4 cut lengthwise into strips Marinade and Dip Peanut Butter – 2 tbspSoy Sauce – 2 tspSweet lime juice – 3 tbspPeanuts – 3 tbsp coarsely crushedBrown sugar – 1 tspGarlic – 4-5 cloves Shallots...

Peanut/Groundnut chutney – Versatile chutney

I am going to rave about peanut chutney the way people rave about peanut butter. Really, peanut chutney is such a brilliant, peanuttty chutney, it smacks of peanuts. Peanut lovers will love it. I served the peanut chutney with hot, crisp dosais.  Peanut chutney is also a great accompaniment to idli, upma or adai. With a tasty chutney I can down idli/dosai even though we had the same idli/dosai for yesterday’s dinner and possibly yesterday’s breakfast as well. You know the idli/dosai legacy of my family. I love chutneys, not so much sambar. My sister prefers sambar over chutneys. I think these are two fundamentally different people – the chutney lovers and Sambar preferers. Like the sweet lovers and sweet non-lovers. I cannot bring myself to call anyone a sweet hater, so I am calling them a sweet non-lover. I am a sweet loving maniac (I ate one Cadbury bar a day every day during my pregnancy) with a family history of diabetes and a family of irresponsible diabetics and I just don’t understand sweet non-lovers.     I can imagine this peanut chutney making a really good spread for spicy sandwiches instead of the usual green chutney. I think this peanut chutney will be a delightful change but you’d have to pair it appropriately – maybe peanut chutney flavoured spicy chicken sandwich or peanut chutney seasoned fresh cut veggie sandwich. Preparation time: 10 minsCooking time: 7 minsServes: 4 Ingredients Peanuts/Groundnuts – 3/4 cupCoconut – half a medium coconut gratedDry red chillies (long ones) – 4-5Salt to tasteOil – 1 tbsp Tempering Mustard seeds – 1 tspSplit black gram dal/ulatham paruppu – 1 tspCurry leaves – 1 stemOil – 1 tsp Method 1.      Dry roast the peanuts in a kadai/skillet for 5-8 minutes on a low flame till they colour. Be careful not to burn them. Remove from kadai. When they’re warm enough to handle, rub the peanuts between your palms to remove the brown skin. It should fall off easily now that they’re roasted. 2.      Add 1 tbsp oil to the same kadai, drop in the dry red chillies and fry for a few seconds. Then add the grated coconut and the peanuts and fry for 2-3 minutes till the peanuts are slightly browned. 3.      Transfer the roasted peanut mixture to a mixer grinder, add salt and water and grind to a smooth chutney consistency. 4.      Add 1 tsp oil to the...

Ven Pongal with Coriander chutney

Ven Pongal is so easy that nobody can really screw it up too much. But I have managed to do that too, multiple times. The very first time that I made pongal I used puzhungal arisi (parboiled rice) instead of pachai arisi (raw rice) and guess what; it makes no difference to the taste. The puzhungal arisi pongal tasted just as good and from then on, we have been making pongal with puzhungal arisi in our house. That was one goof-up that turned out well. This is extremely rare for me. As I’ve told you earlier I am generally not lucky with these things. There are only 2 components to making a pongal, cooking the rice and dal and then tempering it. So where do you think I messed up next? Yes, while tempering the pongal. One time the whole black peppercorns were not fried well enough and were so pungent that they burnt a formula one track down everybody’s throat. The second time, I was so bent on ensuring that the peppercorns were fried well that I burnt them. This was partly because I wasn’t using enough ghee/oil to temper. I always feel uncomfortable using too much oil/ghee and I hadn’t used enough to temper the peppercorns. The peppercorns need to be fried like pooris in generous amount of ghee/oil. Lesson learnt: Don’t skimp on ghee while making pongal and let the peppercorns fry well. I now make pongal decently well.  Here is proof. Preparation time: 10 minsCooking time: 20 mins:Serves: 4-5 Ven Pongal – Ingredients Rice – 1 cupYellow Moong dal (Paasi paruppu) – ½ cupWater – 4 cups + 1/2 cupSalt to tasteGinger – 1 inch piece finely mincedWhole black peppercorns – 1-1/2 tspGreen chillies – 2 slit lengthwiseCurry leaves – 1 stemCashewnuts – a handfulJeera/seeragam – 2 tspJeera powder – 2 tspCoriander leaves chopped for garnishingGhee – 4 tbspOil – 2 tbsp Method 1.      Rinse rice and moong dal together in 2-3 changes of water till the water runs clear. Add 4 cups water and salt and pressure cook for 2 whistles or 15 minutes. Remove from fire and set aside. 2.      In a kadai, heat oil and ghee together, add cashewnuts, ginger, green chillies, curry leaves and black peppercorns and sauté till the cashewnuts turn golden brown about half a minute. If the peppercorns aren’t well-fried they can be too pungent, if over-fried they taste...

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