Chettinad Kathirikkai (eggplant) gravy

After an un-inspiring week of idli sambar, dosa sambar and rice sambar potato thokku at home and then a nice languid trip to Pondicherry, beautiful vanilla crepes, gratins and curries later I am still blank and clueless. The vegetable basket in the fridge is near empty. I’ve not stood staring at stuff in a grocery store in weeks. The stash of fresh rosemary and dill I lovingly bought are dried, wilted and frozen for eternity in my freezer. The last my oven saw any activity were some nice crispy Parmesan biscuits weeks back. The oven has been having a holiday ever since. But I’ve been hoarding bowls, plates and cups like a mad woman. I can’t think beyond tiffin sambar for idli, potato fry and sambar. I’ve got into the dangerous home cook rut. It is scary. I turned to my cookbooks for help, for inspiration, for solace. I found this Kathirikkai gravy in the “Chettinad cookbook”. I found joy. I found one more side dish for dosai. I found a sustainable alternative to sambar. I made this curry in 15 minutes flat when Hasini and Yuvi were clamouring for their breakfast on a Saturday morning. It was very late in the morning (too late to mention). We had taken our time with the weekly “yennai and thalai-kulial” (oil massage and hair-wash). I had Pogo on to distract them while I got the gravy underway, but the commercial breaks are so much longer and the kids come running again. I heave the dosa kal (tawa) on to the stove while the Kathirikkai gravy simmers beside it, the aroma already wafting up from the kadai. While the dosa kal heats up, I try to engage little Yuvi in some conversation “Cone dosai” or “Round dosai” or “Kutti dosai”. Yuvi: “Yedha kuda ippo” (Give something now) I pour some dosa batter on the tawa and furiously spread it out in fast concentric circles to make a crisp dosa, drizzle some oil and then check the gravy, nearly done. I ladle hot chettinad kathirikkai gravy beside each dosa and bring it out to my cartoon watching, by now furious patrons. Hasini declared “I don’t want kathirikkai”. I cajole, threaten, lie and coax her to taste the gravy. She does. She asks for a second helping. Prep time: 5 mins Cooking time: 15-20 mins Serves: 5 Ingredients Kathirikkai/Eggplants/purple brinjals – ¼ kilo cut into...

Idiyappam and Sodhi

You know how it is in offices before a holiday break and then after it. In-spite of a whole lot of “FYI”,  “Coming soon” messages indicating the upcoming holidays, the client teams are routinely surprised that we’re on holiday, they invariably have things planned around the holiday so that we’re scampering at the last moment hitting “Send” and then racing to catch the last bus home. Then they work diligently during our holiday making sure our inbox is full of adorable little love notes when we come back – “dust the cupboards darling, wash the dishes and don’t forget to clean the toilet as well”. Chella kutti!  I am still dusting all those 128 cupboards after the Pongal holidays and haven’t gotten to the dishes and the toilet. (For those who think I am doing housekeeping work, No no, atleast not yet. It was a metaphor). I wouldn’t be posting today if not for Srivalli’s Blogging Marathon. I am glad I signed up for the last 2 weeks. Starting today I’ll be posting 3 classic combo dishes and today’s combo is Idiyappam and Sodhi. Sodhi is a Tirunelveli dish, a beautiful, mild coconut milk based vegetable stew that is usually served with Idiyappam or rice. You can use any combination of mixed vegetables for the Sodhi. I used Drumstick, carrot, beans and potatoes. I never usually make a distinction between the 1st, 2nd and 3rd extracts of coconut milk. I just use them all together. I rarely extract a 2nd or 3rd time even. But this stew demands that you make the distinction. The vegetables are cooked in the thin coconut milk extract (2nd and 3rd extracts or just a diluted 2nd extract if you’re lazy like me) till tender and the thick coconut milk is added towards the end. The stew is quite straight forward from there. Sodhi was refreshingly different to the usual side dishes we make for Idiyappam. Those who like it hot and spicy, be warned – this stew may not be for you, it is really mild with a slight hint of sweet even from the coconut milk added at the end. Prep time: 20 minsCooking time: 25 minsServes: 5 Sodhi Ingredients Coconut milk – 1 Large coconut (Thick 1st extract and Thin 2nd and 3rd extract kept separate)Onion – 1 large chopped fineMixed vegetables – 1-1/2 cups (I used Carrot/Beans/Potatoes/Drumstick)Moong Dal/Paasi paruppu – 3...

Vegetable Kurma/Korma

I found this delicious Korma recipe on RaksKitchen. It is a winner all the way, aromatic, flavour bursting and absolutely lip-smacking. Rakskitchen is a great looking food blog of vegetarian dishes, has tons of reliable recipes (you know it’ll work), lots of traditional recipes and some wonderful videos as well (I love the badusha video). I served this Korma with Idiyappam. This Korma would go beautifully well with poori or chappathi. I usually make korma with coconut milk and I’d long wanted to try a variant with ground coconut. I tweaked the recipe ever so slightly to suit my situation (I ran out of onions, so I used shallots for the masala paste, plus I added fennel seeds and cinnamon to the paste). The masala paste is the crux of this korma, the freshly ground fennel seeds and cardamom infuse the korma with a lovely aroma that wafts all over the house. My daughter enjoyed the korma a lot and the korma was over by end of breakfast which is usually a great sign. Joint family life is all about signs (more on that later). I say end of breakfast because each one eats one by one in our house and only at restaurants do we eat together. My husband eats with the TV (his 3 absolutely indispensable “cannot live without” friends are TV, AC and S3) , my daughter is fairly well mannered at-least at eating – she eats seated, my son eats alongside a running tap in the garden (that’s his latest thing) and I eat by the stove. Whackos. Prep time: 15 minsCooking time: 25 mins:Serves 5-6 Ingredients Cauliflower – 1 small cleaned and cut into small floretsGreen Peas – 1 cupPotatoes – 2 medium choppedOnions – 2 medium chopped fineTomatoes – 2 medium chopped fineTurmeric powder – ½ tspRed chilli powder – 1 tspOil – 2 tbspSalt to taste Masala Paste Coconut – half a medium coconut gratedShallots/Sambar onions – 4Fried gram dal/udacha kadalai – 1 tbspGarlic – 4 clovesCardamom – 2Green chillies – 3Red chillies – 3Coriander seeds/Whole Dhania – 1 tspCinnamon – ½ inch pieceFennel seeds/Sombu – ½ tsp Method: 1.      Grind together the ingredients called for under masala along with water to a smooth paste. Set aside. 2.      Heat oil in a kadai/skillet and add chopped onions and fry till translucent. Then add the chopped tomatoes and fry till mushy. Add turmeric powder,...
Idiyappam & Pepper soup

Idiyappam (String Hoppers) with South-indian style Pepper & Ginger soup

Idiyappam (String Hoppers) with South-indian style Pepper & Ginger soup Idiyappam and soup This is one recipe that I need to give total credit to my mother-in-law (single biggest plus of joint-family). I learnt from her both of these dishes. Idiyappam and soup is a staple at our house, we have it at-least once a week. It is super-easy and super quick to prepare. I was for quite a long time intimidated by Idiyappam, by this silly stringy thingy until I learned to make it. In restaurants, Idiyappam is usually served with Vegetable Korma or sweetened coconut milk. I initially scoffed at the combination of Idiyappam and soup during my early married days, like Men in Black dubbed in tamil – funny but strange. I have to say I’ve grown to really like it. Dip the soft idiyappam in the fiery hot soup for just a moment before popping it into your mouth and then wait for the black peppers to hit the back of your throat – boom. Gives quite a pungent kick. You’ll need getting used to this flavour combination though, a bit like A.R.Rahman songs, the first few times they’ll seem unexciting until you hear them over and over and you grow to love them. Preparation time: 10 minsCooking time: 5 minsServes: 3-4 Idiyappam Recipe IngredientsRice flour – 3 cupsSalt to tasteBoiling hot water Method 1.      Add salt to rice flour and mix well. 2.      Add boiling water a little at a time to the flour and mix with the back of a wooden spatula. Keep adding and mixing till all the flour is incorporated and you have a soft dough. It should be soft to touch, moist but non-sticky. It should be moist, a dry dough would make the idiyappam taste powdery. Keep it covered with a lid. The consistency of the dough is critical to the texture of the idiyappam. This is it. 3.      Fill the Idiyappam press with some dough and start piping from the centre making slightly overlapping circles and working your way out to the outer edge of the idiyappam plate. Don’t worry if your circles aren’t proper circles, are squiggly. I don’t. Make sure the idiyappam plate is fully covered and evenly covered. Repeat the same piping process to cover all your idiyappam plates. 4.      Stack the idiyappam plates in its holder. Place a steel vessel big enough to hold the...
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