Paruppu Kadayal / Dal Tadka / Lentil Stew

This Paruppu kadayal is comfort food as I’ve always known it. This Dal/Paruppu goes beautifully with rice and is perfect for toddlers, kids and all ages. Packed with nutrition, simple and quick to make, it is my number one choice (over Sambar anyday) when I am preparing a vegetarian meal. By the way I am terribly bored with Sambar these days and I would do anything to get out of eating it. What with all these festivals, Sambar is the default and it is taking its toll. Kanne Kattudhu! I grew up with Paruppu Rasam saadam where the Paruppu is even more basic. It is just cooked with turmeric and salt until soft and then mashed and tempered. This is served with rice and a hot milagu (pepper) rasam. However this paruppu kadayal/lentil stew doesn’t need a rasam. You can serve this with rice and a generous helping of melted ghee along with appalam (or vathal/vatral) and vegetables. Simple, hearty and tasty home-food at its best. Prep time: 10 minsCooking time: 20 minsServes: 4 Ingredients Toor Dal/Tuvaram paruppu/Red gram – 1 cup rinsed in 2-3 changes of waterShallots/Sambar onions – 10-12 peeled and chopped or 1 Large onion choppedGreen chillies – 3-4 slit lengthwiseGarlic – 7 cloves peeled Tomato – 1 large choppedTurmeric powder – ½ tspAsafoetida – a pinchSalt to tasteWater – 1-3/4 cupsCoriander leaves – a handful chopped Tempering Oil – 2 tbspMustard seeds – 1 tspGarlic – 7 cloves peeled and sliced lengthwise Cumin – ½ tsp Method 1.      Rinse the dal/lentils in 2-3 changes of water till the water runs clear. Transfer the lentils to a pressure cooker. Add chopped shallots, tomatoes and whole garlic cloves to the lentils. Add about 1-3/4 cups water. Season with turmeric powder, salt and Asafoetida. Add the slit green chillies. Close and pressure cook up to 2 whistles or 15 minutes. 2.      When the pressure subsides, open and mash the dal. Set aside. 3.      In a kadai or small tempering pan, add oil and when hot, add the mustard seeds. When they have spluttered, add the cumin and sliced garlic. Fry on low heat till the garlic is golden. Dump the tempering mixture over the dal and mix well. Stir in the coriander leaves and serve hot with rice and ghee.

Sweet Corn Fried rice

Sweet corn fried rice is a kid-favourite rice dish that is easy to put together (if you forget the vegetable chopping part for a minute) and would make a great main dish for a kid’s get-together. The adults will enjoy it just as much. The best thing about fried rice is that you can put in just about anything you fancy – mushrooms, peas, paneer, bean sprouts, shredded chicken, chopped up fried eggs or anything else and it’ll rarely disappoint you. When you are making fried rice in big batches like I did here, it is best to switch off the stove, combine the rice and vegetables and then heat through for a few minutes to avoid the rice sticking to the bottom of the pan and lots of scraping and stirring which would again break the rice. If you are doing in small batches, you can do this real time in a wok and even toss them around like they do in the fast food joints which would render that nice smoky flavour. A wok with a long handle is on my wish-list for some-time now. If I did get one I don’t know where I’d put it. The kitchen is already bursting at its seams with pots, kadais, sattis and gundaans. The kadais are already piled one atop another, masala dabbas in 3 lines and a another line stacked on top, the microwave oven stowed away in the loft and my convection oven and baking paraphernalia moved to a separate room. I think we should start using up the head room like they do in airplanes and trains (upper, middle and lower berths). Lower berth is full, middle is where we operate and half the counter is anyway occupied already. Upper berth is what we should target going forward. Prep time: 20 minsCooking time: 20 minsServes: 6-7 Ingredients Sweet corn – 300 gmLong grained rice/basmati rice – 3 cupsCarrots – 2 finely choppedGreen beans – 200 gm finely choppedGreen Capsicum – 1 finely choppedYellow capsicum – 1 finely choppedOnions – 2 large finely choppedGarlic – 6 cloves – finely mincedSpring onions – 3-4 chopped fine – whites and greens separatedSoy sauce – 2 tbspSugar – 1 tspWhite pepper powder/Black pepper powder – 2 tbsp (adjust)Salt to tasteOil – 2 tbsp + 3 tbsp Method 1.      Rinse the rice in 2-3 changes of water till the water runs clear....

Cream of sweet corn soup

This cream of sweet corn soup is quick, easy and a definite kid-pleaser. It uses corn, cream (not cream style corn) and a few basic aromatics. Very basic and simple to put together and is best had fresh as soon as it is made. I served this soup alongside vegetable momos, vegetable & corn fried rice for a kid-friendly lunch. My husband’s favourite soups, all contain corn in them. It’s a different thing that he doesn’t order anything beyond sweet corn chicken soup. He’s a rule book, a 180 pages ruled book, but he’s better than the 300 pages hard-bound ruled book that is his family; sorry “our” family. My 180 page ruled book really liked the soup and so did little Lakshmi, my cousin’s little one. My kids don’t eat soup, so they didn’t eat this beyond the first few spoons but I was glad I made it. I hope my kids will eventually move to eating stuff other than idli/dosai. I enjoyed the soup too. I used the pureed corn and cream as is without straining, but if you prefer a smooth texture, run the puree through a strainer before adding it to the soup. This is an easy soup, one that you can very easily make for a weekday dinner. Serve garnished with a small sprig of parsley or thinly sliced green chillies. If you’d like a thicker chowder type consistency and some added flavour, add a small boiled potato to the corn cream mixture and blend together. Prep time: 10 minsCooking time: 15 minsServes: 5 Ingredients Sweet corn kernels – 300 gm steamed (or scraped from 2 whole boiled corn cobs) dividedFresh Cream – 150 ml Onion – 1 medium chopped fineGarlic – 2-3 pods chopped fineBlack pepper powder – 2 tsp (adjust)Salt to tasteWater – 3-1/2 cupsCorn Flour – 2 tbspWater – 2 tbspButter – 1 tbspOil – 1 tbsp Method 1.      Steam the corn kernels for 5-10 minutes till tender. Set aside. If using whole corn cobs, pressure cook for 15-20 minutes with water and salt. Once cooked, let cool, scrape the corn kernels and set aside. 2.      Take half of the corn kernels in a mixie/blender along with 150 gm of the fresh cream and blend well to a fine puree. Set aside. 3.      In a pot, heat oil and butter together. Throw in the chopped onion and garlic and sauté till the onions...

Easiest Chocolate Pudding

This is the easiest chocolate pudding ever and you make it with Paneer!  Just blend together everything till smooth and chill. This chocolate pudding is so simple and so fast it’s perfect as a last-minute dessert for those hurried, un-planned events which is how it always is for me – hurried, harried and totally un-planned. The original recipe in Mark Bittman’s “How to cook Everything” actually calls for Tofu but I couldn’t find Tofu in that store and I had no time to go check at another store. So I used Paneer instead and it tastes just as great. Just make sure to use absolutely fresh and soft Paneer or Tofu if you want a smooth pudding. If the Paneer/Tofu is a little old or tough, then the pudding can get grainy. My cousin and her little daughters were visiting us the next day and I made this pudding the night before, but you can very easily make it just an hour before you’re going to serve them. This chocolate pudding is that fast, fresh and simple. Whew! Got the tagline into the post somehow, Sapana! Check out Sapana’s Donna Hay inspired event – “Fast, Fresh and Simple” at her blog for lots of fast, fresh and simple recipes. This recipe goes straight to her event. This recipe also goes to Srivalli’s summer special mela. I always start with dessert (am slightly paranoid about desserts) and get it out of the way before I start other things. If dessert comes out fine, everything else will work out fine. That’s just my belief. This chocolate pudding keeps extremely well in the fridge for even a week. I added gelatin to the pudding as I didn’t want any nasty surprises with runny pudding the next day but the original recipe doesn’t call for gelatin and you could actually try without the gelatin, because my pudding was quite thick and I guess would have set just as well without the gelatin. If you are not using gelatin, just make sure to add the sugar syrup little at a time and blend so that you can control the consistency of the pudding. When it’s quite thick and spoonable and creamy, stop adding sugar syrup. Spoon into individual serving dishes and chill. Prep time: 10 minsCooking time: 5-8 minsServes: 12 Ingredients Paneer (cottage cheese) or soft Tofu – 400 gmMelted chocolate (Bittersweet or semisweet) chopped– 200...

Tomato Pulav

This tomato Pulav is a simple aromatic one-pot meal perfect for week-days, lunch boxes or for lazy vegetarian Saturday lunches as well. I used regular par-boiled rice instead of basmati rice which is just as well; it’s healthier and easier on the tummy. I make it in a pressure cooker, so it is done in minutes. The rice cooks in a lovely coconut milk broth scented by ghee roasted fennel seeds and soft tomatoes. Finish by garnishing with a generous amount of freshly chopped coriander. I served this alongside Vazhapoo vadai (coming soon). You could serve this pulav with any raita or spicy gravy. At home we cycle through this Tomato Pulav once a week and it is a firm lunch box favourite as it is dry and keeps well. It’s a great option for kids as it is tasty and flavourful without being too hot or spicy. It’s the coconut milk that does the trick. I love using coconut milk in pulavs, biryanis and gravies. It is a magic ingredient that lends a lovely mellow flavour to the dish. We use coconuts almost daily in our cooking (No, we’re not from Kerala) and we happen to have coconut trees in our backyard. We’ve never bought coconuts from stores; we always had our own coconuts. If you have coconut trees at home, you’ve probably had those little disputes every year with your neighbours complaining about the falling coconuts. We have these disputes every year even though we have them picked quite regularly. It’s a small price to pay for all the wonderful things you can make out of coconut. If you don’t have coconut trees, plant a sapling today. Just make sure to have the coconuts picked every half year or so and you’re good. You’ll have a lifetime of free coconuts and ready ammunition for pesky neighbours. Even without coconut trees, my father never gets along with any of his neighbours. So I gave him a couple of coconut tree saplings. He can now spite his annoying neighbours and leave the coconuts unpicked all year round. Prep time: 15 minsCooking time: 15 minsServes: 4-5 Ingredients Par-boiled rice or raw rice – 2 cups soaked in water for 1 hourCoconut milk – extracted from 1 whole coconut (about 2-3 cups)Tomatoes – 3 choppedOnions – 2 medium chopped fineFennel seeds – 1 tspGreen chilli – 2 slit lengthwiseGround Masala – 1...

Baked Potato Wedges

I like potato wedges more than French fries and I like my potato wedges even better with the skin on. But I removed the skin this time because I was making it for my kids and I thought they might like it better this way. The potato wedges I am posting today are baked – so all the more reason to indulge without guilt. These taste great on their own or with tomato sauce or a mayonnaise dip. They’re super easy to put together and are sure to please little palates. Use a light hand with the seasoning and herbs as a little goes a long way here. I added a dash of dried basil. You could add rosemary or any other herb of your choice. I think these potato wedges make great sides for any meal. Just mix seasonings, toss and pop in oven to bake. That’s it. But remember to line the baking sheet with parchment paper. I didn’t, so I had a tough time turning them around. I didn’t turn them around. Instead I just let them bake as they were till they were cooked through and the undersides were starting to brown. I then grilled the last 10 minutes so that the tops turned golden. I am sending these to Srivalli’s Blogging Marathon – Kid’s Party – Finger Food, to Kalyani’s “Kids Delight – Party Ideas” , to Srivalli’s Summer special Mela and to Sowmya’s Crazy for Potatoes event. Prep time: 5 mins Baking time: 40-50 mins Serves: 4-5 Ingredients Potatoes – 3 large cut into wedgesSalt to tasteBlack pepper powder – ¼ tspOlive oil – 1 tbspDried Basil – ¼ tsp Method 1.      Preheat oven to 200 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 2.      Wash potatoes well, peel and cut into wedges. You could leave the skin on if you like it that way. I removed the skin so that it’s easier for my kids to eat them. 3.      In a bowl, mix oil, salt and black pepper powder and herbs and mix well. You can add a pinch of your favourite herbs if you wish to – rosemary or basil or whatever you fancy. Mix well. Throw in the potato wedges and toss well to coat. 4.      Place potato wedges on the parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes or till tender. Check every 15 minutes or so and turn them...

Corn Cheese Balls

Corn cheese balls are perfect kid-pleasers. Everything about these golden cheesy balls spells fun – they’re crispy and crunchy with juicy sweet corn and gooey cheese. These corn cheese balls are rolled in bread crumbs and sesame seeds which impart a wonderful crunch and nuttiness. These would make great finger food for a kids party or any party for that matter. You can make these cheese balls the day before and refrigerate. You can deep fry them just before the party and warm in an oven before serving. Adults would enjoy these just as much as kids. I would order these any day. In fact, when out with friends we almost always order these cheese balls at Cream Centre. We’re a group of diet-agnostic, calorie-ignorant weight-watchers. We watch how our weight climbs every month. We have sudden realizations when we go shopping for clothes, and then we sincerely make exercise plans while we eat our samosas and masala vadais at tea break but our bosses don’t cooperate. We’re invariably stuck in office till late in the evening v-looking up, drafting verbose e-mails and doodling through long-drawn conference calls. And so our resolve fades and we forget until we see our photos and are shocked to see ourselves barely fitting within the photo frame. And so it continues. None of this should deter you from making or eating these corn cheese balls. They’re easy to make and taste just like the cheese balls in restaurants. There are lots of ways to lose weight. Depriving yourself of good food is not one of them. That’s what I tell myself. I am sending these corn cheese balls to Srivalli’s Blogging Marathon – Kid’s Party Finger food, to Srivalli’s Summer special mela and to Kalyani’s “Kids Delight” event. Prep time: 20 mins + 1 hour refrigeration Cooking time: 10 mins Makes: 25-30 cheese balls Ingredients Corn Kernels – 300 gm (about 2 whole boiled Corn cobs)Butter – 4 tbspAll purpose flour/Maida – 4 tbspMilk – 2 cupsBlack Pepper powder – 1 tsp (adjust)Salt to tasteParsley or Coriander – 1 tbsp finely choppedGarlic Powder – ½ tsp (optional)Grated Cheese – 6-8 tbspBread crumbs – 5 tbsp + 1 cup White sesame seeds – 2 tbspOil – for deep-frying Method 1.      If you have packaged corn kernels, steam them for 5 minutes or as per packet instructions. If you are using whole corn cobs, pressure cook the...

Orange Tutti Frutti Loaf – Eggless

Orange Tutti Frutti Loaf is very like wonder-cake or the flavoured cakes that come in small packs. This Tutti Frutti Loaf is ridiculously easy and simple. Dump all wet ingredients together, beat well, add dry ingredients, beat till well mixed and then turn into tin and bake. The recipe uses melted butter so no creaming of butter till fluffy; it is eggless – so no separating egg whites and yolks, no soft peaks nothing. This is a simple, no-fuss recipe that yields a lovely orange flavoured loaf, specked with bright little tutti frutti chunks. Kids will love the bright colours and it’s easy enough for little fingers to hold and eat without making too much mess. I packed these tutti frutti slices for my daughter’s snacks box. I am sure these orange tutti frutti slices would sit pretty on any kid’s party table – a light and tasty bite to complement the deep fried snacks that kids adore. I adapted this recipe from Tarla Dalal’s Tiffin Treats book. I love this book, it has such pretty pictures, the cutest lunch boxes and wonderful recipes. I am sending this recipe to Srivalli’s Blogging Marathon for the theme “Kid’s Party – Finger Food” and Sowmya’s Eggless Baking event. Prep time: 15 mins Baking time: 40-45 minsServes: 20 slices Ingredients All purpose Flour – 1-1/4 cupsButter – 4 tbsp meltedBaking Powder – 1-1/2 tspBaking soda – ½ tspCondensed Milk – ¾ cupOrange juice – 3 tbspOrange Marmalade – 3 tbspVanilla Essence – 1 tspTutti Frutti – ¼ cup tossed with 1 tbsp flour + 1 tbsp for the top Method 1.      Grease the sides and bottom of a loaf tin and set aside. Preheat oven to 180 C. 2.      Sieve flour, baking powder and baking soda together twice and set aside. 3.      In a bowl, take melted butter. Add condensed milk, vanilla essence, orange juice and orange marmalade and beat well. 4.      Add the sifted flour mixture and beat on low just until the flour is completely incorporated. 5.      Add the flour-tossed tutti frutti and fold into the batter. 6.      The batter will be quite thick and will drop off a spoon slowly. Transfer this batter to a loaf tin. Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon tutti frutti on top. Bake at 180 C for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted at the centre comes out clean. Let cool in pan before using a...

Kamarkat

Kamarkat is a quick and easy snack to make. You just need 4 ingredients. I usually avoid sweets that contain coconut but I am partial to Kamarkat. Some Kamarkats are really hard and tough to bite. I like my kamarkats soft and chewy and this recipe yields just that – soft, chewy sticky sweet kamarkats. I think these’ll make great car snacks for kids. Chewing on these Kamarkats will keep their little mouths busy and you can enjoy some peace while driving. Kamarkat always evokes fond childhood memories for everybody. Those were great times when we’d chew on these sweet, golden thingies for ages. There were also these candied mango strips which we’d buy at the road-side potti kadai (small shop) and these were like the “naturo” bars that sell now. The mango strips that we ate were un-branded. They were kept in those big glass jars that are synonymous with potti kadais. These little potti kadais were a child’s paradise – they had all kinds of sweets – kamarkat, butter biscuits, groundnut chikkis, all in those see-through glass jars. Every street corner would have a potti kadai. Candy heaven was always just a few steps away. Compare that with those huge, garish, ridiculously expensive lollipops available in that candy store (don’t remember what it was called) that’s invariably there in every mall. I bought one of those for my daughter and all of us together couldn’t finish even a quarter of it. We had to throw it away. Nothing like old times! I was sceptical about my kids, if they’d like Kamarkats but they ate one each and pronounced it good. So a dabba of kamarkat goes straight to the car. I am sending this recipe to Srivalli’s Blogging Marathon for the theme – “Sweet Treats for Kids”. Preparation time: 5 minsCooking time: 10-15 minsMakes: 25-30 gooseberry sized balls Ingredients Jaggery – 250 gmWater – 1/2 cupCoconut – 1 gratedGhee – 1-1/2 tbsp Method 1.      In a kadai/skillet, heat jaggery and water together. When the jaggery has blended well and starts bubbling, filter the mixture to remove the impurities. 2.      Wipe the kadai clean with a kitchen towel and return the mixture back to the kadai/skillet. Let the jaggery cook and thicken. Test doneness by rolling a tiny drop of the mixture between your fingers to make a ball. If the ball holds its shape without sticking and is...

Falooda

Falooda is my husband’s favourite dessert order at any restaurant and we’ve tasted quite a lot of versions of Falooda – some really interesting ones. One version had tutti-frutti, another had different colours of vermicelli, and yet another one had javvarisi (sago) which I think was their substitute for Basil seeds (sabja seeds) that are traditionally used in Faloodas. I searched high and low and couldn’t find these basil seeds anywhere. If anyone knows where I can find these in Chennai do let me know. My Falooda is also a Basil seed-less Falooda and is most similar to the Falooda served in Fruit shop. It’s a wonderfully fulfilling dessert to round off a meal where you’ve had a little bit of everything and you’re pleasantly satiated. Falooda is one of those extremely impressive but deceptively simple desserts to pull off provided you have all the components prepared before-hand and chilled. Falooda makes a wonderful occasional treat for kids. My kids insist on eating desserts themselves and they look like greedy little kittens that have fallen face first into ice-cream buckets. My son (not yet 2 years old) gets his ice cream on his nose and up till his eyebrows – I don’t know how. I invariably wouldn’t be able to find my camera at those instances and I always miss taking those Pinteresty pictures. Preparation time: 15 minsCooking time: 10 minsMakes: 6 servings Ingredients Ice Cream – 750 ml any flavour (I used Kwality Walls Pineapple flavour tub)Jelly – 1 packVermicelli – 100 gmCut Fruits – 2 cups (I used 2 mangoes)Rooh Afza rose syrup – 6 tbspMilk – 2 cupsSugar – 7 tbsp Method 1.      Cook vermicelli in milk till soft but not mushy. Add sugar when the vermicelli is cooked. Mix  well. Use just enough milk to immerse the vermicelli. If you have those long vermicelli strands, break them up before you boil them in milk. Make sure the cooked vermicelli is a thick mixture and not too runny. Refrigerate. 2.      Make any flavoured jelly as per pack instructions, which is usually to pour boiling water into a bowl containing the jelly powders. Stir well. Set aside to set for 30-45 minutes and then refrigerate. 3.      Cut fruits into tiny cubes. I used ripe mangoes. You can use any combination of fruits – apples, bananas etc. Refrigerate till serving time. 4.      Before serving, cut up the jelly into...
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