Masala Sundal

Day 2 of school today. I drop them and come home. I feel an amazing sense of calm, at once peaceful and serene.  I do some wall push-ups, a couple of surya namaskars and sit down to sip my lemon and honey while reading the days paper. I remember an instance when I mentioned to a fellow mom (a house-wife) that it’s good that children will be away at school and she quickly retorted “For you maybe. You will anyway be away at office.” I didn’t understand then. And I don’t understand now. ‘Kids going to school’ is the best alternative for any mom, whether stay at home or office going, wouldn’t you think? It seems logical. Why would you prefer to watch Hattori, referee their fights and remind them for the 48th time to finish what’s on the plate? Over reading a book, or just being? It beats me. Did you wonder about the wall push ups? I am going to tell you anyways. I can’t explain  but I find doing push-ups one of the coolest things ever. I have never managed to myself. That scene in Irudhi suttru where Madhi does her one-handed push ups is one of my most favourite scenes. So my latest goal is to do push-ups, proper boxer kind of push ups, on the floor. I have given myself 30 days to do that. I am starting with wall push ups. I will then move on to inclined push ups and finally to real push ups. I read something in a book recently, something simple and inherently logical that suddenly made tremendous sense to me. If you were to pick something you want to learn, anything at all and if you do it every day for 30 days, at the end of that period, you would have mastered it. Don’t pick Bharatanatyam (this is no Shankar movie) or Karate. Pick something small, something specific. It could be making perfectly cooked rice (my Maamiyaar still doesn’t think I make it right), it could be waking up early, it could be reading 100 pages each day, it could be learning to whistle, it could be anything. I will let you know how it goes with the push ups.  In the meantime, here is a recipe to the much loved Masala sundal sold at roadside kadais and at the beach. It is so simple to make in a pressure...

Mushroom & Green Peas Curry

Mushroom and green peas are a cute pair, they complement each other well and they taste so good. This curry is more of a stir-fry but a slow one, the juicy, lightly caramelized mushrooms and the fresh green peas on a simple onion-tomato base hit it off with just a dash of black pepper and red chilli powder. This is a simple and elegant dish. If you’d like the stir fry to be drier, skip the tomato. I didn’t add any water to this curry as I wanted a dry curry. So keep an eye on this curry while it cooks so that it doesn’t burn. Browning the mushrooms separately is the key to getting a dry curry not to mention the oodles of flavour that it adds to the dish. Serve hot with roti or rice. Prep time: 10 minsCooking time: 15 minsServes: 3 Ingredients Mushrooms – 1 pack (200 gm)Green Peas – 1 cupOnion – 1 large chopped fineTomato – 1 large chopped fineGinger-Garlic paste – 1/2 tbspRed Chilli powder – 1 tbspBlack pepper powder – 1 tspTurmeric powder – 1/2 tspSalt to tasteOil – 1+1 tbsp Method 1.      Rinse mushrooms well in water. Drain and pat dry. 2.      In a pan, heat 1 tbsp oil and add the rinsed mushrooms. Fry till all the water has evaporated and the mushrooms start browning around the edges. Remove on to a plate. 3.      In the same pan add the remaining oil and add the chopped onions. Stir around till the onions turn translucent. Then add the ginger garlic paste and let fry for 2 minutes. Then add the chopped tomatoes and sauté till soft. Then throw in the green peas. Season with salt, red chilli powder and turmeric powder. Mix well. Cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes till the green peas are cooked through. Then add the fried mushrooms and mix well. Add black pepper powder. Mix well. Simmer for another 3-4 minutes for everything to blend together. 4.      Serve hot with rice or roti.

Peas Pulav

Peas pulav is an elegant, delicious one-pot meal, fragrant and gorgeous. It tastes as good as it looks – pristine white perfectly long rice grains specked with fresh green peas and ever so lightly caramelized onions. Scrumptious! Pulav is relatively simple, the coconut milk is the only point that stops me from calling it a somberi recipe. Other than the coconut milk extraction there is no major prep work involved. You could just as easily make this for a weekday lunch. Perfect for lunch boxes too. To me, Pulav or even biryani is any day quicker than sambar. And while we are on Sambar, people tell me how often do you make sambar at home (Jaya TV Jackpot question)? Once a week minimum to 2 or even 3 times a week in my case. Once a week is fine. But anything more and I get cranky. In churning meal after meal every day for so many years I think women (I didn’t say any particular group, please make your own assumptions, imagine as desired) get into this mind-numbingly boring programmed menu routine. Friday means Sambar, Ammavasai also Sambar, other festivals – Sambar. Sambar comes with its own baggage. Sambar has to be had with potato thokku (spicy Potato side dish) – compulsory. Hero’s mother has to be Saranya. Formula Menus – formula meals. One day when we didn’t make Sambar and didn’t make Kozhambu either (another formula: Milagu kozhambu + Cabbage kootu = Aala vidu da vegetarian Saturday), I made Peas pulav! I served Peas pulav with crisp deep fried cauliflower (coming soon). Pulav is also a kid-pleasing rice dish that is sure to tempt even the picky eaters. So go ahead and break the Sambar routine. Preparation time: 15 mins Cooking time: 15 minsServes: 4-5 Ingredients Basmati Rice or any long grain rice – 1 – 1/2 cupsGreen Peas – 3/4 cup Coconut milk – extracted from 1 small coconut (approximately 1 – 1/2 cups)Double beans – a handful (optional, I added because I like them)Onion – 1 large sliced fineGreen chillies – 1-2 slit lengthwiseGarlic – 4-5 pods sliced roughlyFennel seeds (sombu) – 1 tspCloves – 3 Cardamom – 1Cinnamon – 1 inch pieceStar anise – 1 small pieceKalpaasi (sea weed) – 1/2 tsp (optional)Bay leaf – 1Water – as requiredSalt to tasteOil – 2 tbspGhee – 2 tbsp + 1 tbspSugar – a pinchCoriander leaves – a...

Paneer Peas masala – Spicy side dish with Pooris or Rotis

Whenever we go to restaurants, there are certain dishes that we order almost involuntarily. Top one has to be biryani (my husband’s all-time favourite), second top would be paneer butter masala. He’d go through the entire menu, front to back, back to front and then order biryani. These are dishes that no matter how many times we’ve had, we order again. The paneer peas masala dish that I am posting today is not a restaurant style paneer peas masala. It tastes even better and is definitely restaurant grade. It is a smooth, zesty curry infused with freshly ground masala and is an excellent side with roti, poori or pulav. I have to thank my dear friend Priya and her mother, who so generously wrote down multiple copies of this recipe for me and my recipe crazy friends. Priya’s tiffen box is hugely popular at work especially for this trademark gravy. I served this Paneer peas masala with Pooris. You could easily substitute the peas and paneer with boiled potatoes or par-boiled cauliflower. This is a versatile gravy base that you can improvise and apply to your needs. Preparation time: 10 minsCooking time: 40 minsServes: 4 Ingredients Paneer – 250 gm cut into cubesPeas – 1-1/2 cupsCinnamon – 1 inch stick Kalpaasi (Seaweed) – ¼ tspCloves – 2 Chilli sauce – 1 tspSoy sauce – 1 tspTomato sauce – 1 tspChilli powder – 1 tbspTurmeric powder – ½ tspGaram Masala – ½ tspButter – 1 tbspSalt to tasteOil – 2 tbsp Masala Onion – 1 large, roughly chopped Tomatoes – 2 large, roughly choppedCashewnuts – 7Fennel seeds/Sombu – 1 tspCinnamon – 1 inch stickCloves – 2Cardamom – 2Ginger – 1 inch piece peeled and choppedGarlic – 6-7 podsGreen chilli – 1 chopped Method 1.      Grind together all the ingredients called for under “Masala” and set aside. 2.      Heat oil in a kadai/skillet and when hot, add cinnamon, cloves and kalpaasi and stir around for half a minute. Tip in the ground masala, and cook on high for 10 mins.   3.      Add chilli powder, turmeric powder, and salt and mix well. Cover and cook on high initially and then on low till the oil separates. This takes around 20-30 minutes. Use a non-stick skillet to quicken the process. 4.      Add chilli sauce, tomato sauce and soy sauce and mix well. Drop in the paneer and peas. Cover and cook till the peas...
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