Tomato chutney

Jaya’s tomato chutney

Jaya is the cook at my parent’s home. Her hair has grown into a longish boy crop after her mottai at her kula deivam kovil. She comes in every morning and asks my mother for the day’s menu. They chat for a bit. She talks about her grandkids sometimes. She sits down on the floor with the “Arvamanai” to cut her vegetables. She takes her time. She arranges them into neat piles on a large plate and then moves to the stove to cook. She is an oil-guzzler. Her seppan-kezhangu roast (arbi/colocasia) is an absolute beauty – golden crisp, crunchy kezahngu with plenty of those irresistible fried masala streusel bits. I eat her seppan-kezhangu roast straight, not with rice or alongside anything, just straight. I realized that that kind of a beautiful roast requires that much of oil. At that moment I also learnt why sometimes the same recipe tasted so divine when my Ammama made it, when my mother made it but just didn’t seem as great when I tried it. Two things I often am guilty of doing – skimping on oil/ghee and not being patient enough for the onions to brown, for the tomatoes to turn mushy. It makes all the difference. I’ve hence decided that I either make the dish whole-heartedly using as much oil as it takes or not make it at all. Jaya also makes the most amazing tomato chutney – a deep red chutney, oil glistening around the edges dotted with mustard seeds and curry leaves. This tomato chutney is unlike your other chutnies. You’d fry your ingredients and then grind them to make your chutney. Not this one. It is done backwards. You grind your tomatoes and chillies and then cook the chutney. The chutney is such a fine balance of hot, tart and sweet flavours, that can come only when the chutney is slowly simmered in plenty of oil until the oil oozes out the sides. That is the sign of doneness. That is the point when hot, tart and sweet reach that lovely symphony. Make this chutney for your idli, dosai or poori and I promise you you’ll never make tomato chutney any other way.

Rain-holidays and Egg Bajjis in monsoon struck Madras

There is no better feeling than when you wake up in the morning weary and disgruntled thinking of going to school (or readying the kids for school) and then suddenly hear that it’s a holiday because of the rains. Really! It is a one-of-a-kind feeling. Not the same as knowing before-hand about a holiday. Not the same as pretending to be sick and taking leave. This is guilt-free, unexpected, sudden joy. Nothing like it! Bliss! The past week was just this. After the first rain-holiday, we got into the practice of groping for the mobile phone first thing in the morning and squinting through half closed eyes checking our SMS’es for the school’s announcement hoping for another rain-holiday. And they never once disappointed. Every day the school sent an SMS announcing a holiday because of the rains. Yuvi would lift up his head to confirm if it was a holiday “Amma leave a?” and when I told him it was, he’d smile contentedly and drop back on to his pillow. I’d curl up next to him and go back to sleep. I always wait for the rains. Madras looks so much better in rains – atleast the first day. By the fourth day I want the bloody thing to stop. I’ve run out of my kids’ jatties (underwear). It is such a pain hauling all the wet clothes around, laying them out on tables, racks, coat-stands and mats all over the house, turning them over half way through and personally fan-drying every T-shirt, nighty and lungi. This time I just let it all soak up 3 days of non-stop north-east monsoon rains. I was down to my kids’ last few emergency jatties in my handbag but I decided to let go (of the wet clothes), live the moment, enjoy the rain. Rainy day watercolour? Picture through car’s windscreen What I miss is a large window to sit by and watch the rain however clichéd that may sound. I am a sucker for such clichés. Bajjis during rain must the most dog-tired, hackneyed clichés around and I may say it often too but you will never catch me saying “No” to bajjis when it is raining. The truth is you will never catch me saying “No” to bajji anytime, rain or not. You have to admit that the idea of sitting by a window looking at the pouring rain, biting into...

Vadakari | Vadagari – Idli’s best companion

Yet another side dish for Idli. There can’t be enough of them. We wake up to idlis, eat them for dinner watching super singer, pack them up for long drives and even order them at Taj knowing Taj idlis. I sleep assured that 3 large steel dabbas of idli maavu (idli batter) sit in the bottom shelf of our fridge. Idli-Vadakari is my most favourite idli combination. For a very long time I thought Vadakari is made from leftover masala vadais which is probably how they make it in most hotels. But that Vadakari can be made from scratch without making masala vadais, I learnt as the first lesson after marriage. My maamiyaar (mother-in-law) laughed when I asked her if we don’t have to make masala vadais first. I didn’t know better. At home we always ordered vadakari from hotels. We’d never made it. One of the very first recipes I learnt in my new home was Vadakari and I’ll tell you this. It is simply beautiful. It can give any hotel Vadakari a run for its money. My dad thought it was great and I’ve given my mother this recipe. Vadakari is quite straightforward but just a little time consuming, that is if your alternative is chutney or idli milagai podi. Grinding the dal is the most important first step. Make sure to only pulse the dal in quick bursts so that it is coarsely ground. The second important step is frying the ground dal. The fried dal has to be completely dry and crumbly. This takes time, patience and a generous amount of oil. Don’t skimp. The rest is a breeze. If you get the first two steps right then you are on your way to an award winning Vadakari. Prep time: 10 mins Cooking time: 40 mins Serves: 5-6 Ingredients Kadalai paruppu/Channa dal/Bengal gram – 1-1/2 cups soaked for 2 hours Onions – 2 large chopped fine Tomatoes – 2 large chopped fine Red chilli powder – 2 tbsp Turmeric powder – ½ tsp Salt to taste Water – 2 cups Cinnamon stick – 1 inch piece Bay leaf – 1 Oil – 5 tbsp Coriander leaves – a handful chopped for garnishing Masala paste Ginger – 1 inch piece scraped Garlic pods – 7 Green chillies – 3  Sombu/Saunf/Fennel seeds – 1 tsp Method 1.      Rinse channa dal/kadalai paruppu in 2-3 changes of water or till...

Kadalai Adai – Chickpea Pancakes | Somberi series

I am back with another somberi recipe – an easy 10 minute recipe that is as tasty as it is quick. These are like bajjis which are made like omelettes but without the vegetable. And we’re calling them Adais. Ok. However much I try to spin these, these are basically, fundamentally , finally bajji batter adais but with a generous helping of sautéed onions and green chillies mixed in. These are small adais the size of mini oothappams. We make these at my Mom’s place for those in-between times, when we’re feeling hungry but we don’t want to eat a full meal and we also don’t want to spend too much time making something. We sometimes serve these as a side dish with rice just like an omelette and I like it that way too. But if you want to go the conventional way serve it with a simple coconut chutney. But it really doesn’t need any side. You could serve this with tea or coffee in the evening. For hungry kids coming home from school, serve these with ketchup. Whatever you do, serve these hot. I am sending these to Srivalli’s Blogging Marathon for the theme – After school bites. Prep time: 5 minsCooking time: 5 minsMakes: 5  mini adais Ingredients Kadalai Maavu/Chickpea Flour – 1/2 cupOnion – 1 small chopped fineGreen chilly – 1 chopped fineTurmeric powder – ¼ tspSalt to tasteWater as necessaryOil – 2 tbsp + 3 tbsp Method 1.      In a bowl, take kadalai maavu/chickpea flour and add water to make a batter similar in consistency to the bajji batter maybe slightly thicker. 2.      Add salt and turmeric powder and mix well. 3.      In a pan, heat 2 tbsp oil and sauté the chopped onions and green chillies till the onions turn translucent. Dump the sautéed mixture into the batter and mix well. 4.      Heat a tawa and pour a ladle of the batter and spread to make a small adai/pancake the size of an oothappam but about half an oothappam’s thickness. These adais are slightly thicker than the dosa but not too thick. Drizzle a little oil around the edges and cook on low for a minute or till the bottom has brown spots and the edges are a little crisp. Then flip and cook the other side in the same way. Remove on to a plate. Continue making adais with the remaining batter....

Onion Tomato Gothsu/Gotsu

I’d for a long time wanted to try out gothsu at home. Nobody’s made it at home. I’ve eaten it in hotels, at some weddings and I’ve read about it. I really liked how it sounded. Gothsu is almost a sambar except for the dal used. Gothsu contains Moong dal (in much smaller proportion as well) instead of the Toor dal that we generally use in Sambar. Gothsu is made by sautéing onions and tomatoes and then simmering them in a tamarind extract generously seasoned with sambar powder. The cooked moong dal is added right at the end. I added a bit of jaggery along with the dal as I love a slight hint of sweet in tart dishes and I thought it worked beautifully here. But if you’re like my family and do not mix sweet with anything else, please feel free to skip it. Also jaggery wasn’t part of the original recipe (Jeyashri’sKitchen) that I used. I used the sambar powder recipe from Edible Garden.  My family didn’t really take to the Gothsu. I would put it down to close-mindedness that has conditioned their minds and tongues to reject anything that tastes different from their usual fare. Nothing wrong with the Gothsu, though. I really liked it. I can now understand why everyone’s been raving about the Pongal-Gothsu combination. I can imagine how the chunky but light, slightly tart, delicately flavoured Gothsu would taste alongside smooth, ghee-dripping pongal. Really good. Prep time: 15 minsCooking time: 20 minsServes: 4-5 Ingredients Sambar onions/Shallots/small onions – 15-20 peeled and choppedTomato – 2 medium choppedTamarind extract – ½ cup from a marble sized piece of tamarindMoong dal/Paasi paruppu – ¼ cup boiled and mashedJaggery – 1-1/2 tspMustard seeds – 1 tspCurry leaves – 1 stemSambar powder – 2-3 tbspTurmeric powder – 1/4 tspSalt to tasteOil – 3 tsp Sambar powder Ingredients Red chillies – 4Coriander seeds – 2 tbspCumin – 1 tspChanna dal/Kadalai paruppu – 1 tbspBlack gram/Urad dal – 1 tspWhole Black peppercorns – 1 tsp Method 1.      Rinse the moong dal in 2-3 changes of water and cook with turmeric powder and water till completely soft. Mash the dal and set aside. 2.      In a kadai, heat 1 teaspoon oil and roast the ingredients under sambar powder till the dals turn red. Remove from fire. Cool and powder. 3.      In the same kadai/skillet add another 2 tsp of oil and when...

Vazhaipoo Vadai – Banana Flower Vadai

Vazhaipoo Vadai is really special, it symbolises traditional Tamil cooking to me. I am not the only one who feels that way, even Rajeev Menon does. I love it that in “Kandukondaen Kandukondaen” Mammooty and Manivannan search all over town for Srividhya and family but are unable to find them and then they’re at a hotel and they order Vazhaipoo vadai. They taste the Vazhaipoo vadai and immediately ask to see the person who made the vadais as they know the distinctive taste of the Vazhaipoo vadai, they know that it has to be Srividhya who made those vadais. The Vazhaipoo vadai plays a key role in “Kandukondaen Kandukondaen”, definitely more important than Abbas’s role. The director did not choose Molagga bajji, Bonda or Masala vadai, he chose Vazhaipoo vadai, because it’s special, it’s sophisticated (you won’t find Vazhaipoo vadais in tea kadais), and it is made differently in different families. Picking the Vazhaipoo (banana flower) is a little time consuming, but the rest of the process is quite straightforward like your other vadais. I picked the florets the previous night and immediately dumped them in buttermilk to avoid discolouration. I put the entire thing in the fridge (florets, buttermilk and all) and then used it the next morning to make the vadais. There are a couple of ways we make these vadais – the recipe I am posting today uses Channa dal (kadalai paruppu) and this is how we make it in my husband’s place. My mom used pottukadalai (roasted gram) instead of Channa dal which I’ll post some other time. The Channa dal version I am posting today looks and tastes closer to a masala vadai. These vadais are made quite thin and the vazhaipoo florets in this recipe are not ground fine so you can taste the crispy fried vazhaipoo bits when you bite into a vadai. I love vazhaipoo vadai. I am slightly partial to my mom’s pottu-kadalai version but this Channa-dal version tastes great too and I have to consciously control my hands while making these vadais. I tend to munch on vadais and deep-fried snacks involuntarily while making them. Prep time: 30 minsCooking time: 20 minsMakes: 25-30 vadais Ingredients Vazhapoo (Banana Flower) – 1 florets picked and immediately dunked in buttermilkKadalai Paruppu/Channa dal – ¾ cup soaked in water for an hourOnion – 2 medium chopped fineGreen chillies – 2-3Garlic with peel – 6-8 podsFennel...

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...

Jackfruit seed curry – Pala-kottai Thokku

Palakottai thokku (a thick curry made out of jackfruit seeds) is a delightfully tasty side dish that we make quite often at home during the jackfruit season. Jackfruit vendors sell just the seeds as well if you don’t fancy the fruit. I remember old times when we’d buy a whole jackfruit and my athais and chithappa would oil their hands and prepare themselves for the jackfruit wrestling (it’s just like that scene in a song in Pithamagan) – cutting open the fruit and then pulling out the segments (solai). Jackfruits have a tough outer covering with little spikes all over their surface. Inside they’re sticky and slippery. It’s a great family bonding exercise too and its fun. Try it sometime. The seeds are fleshy and are between an oval and a kidney bean shape. The seed usually has a plastic shell like inner covering and a sticky elastic outer covering. The outer covering is easy to rip off but the inner shell like peel is a little tricky to pull apart. There are a couple of ways to do this. You can dry the seeds under the sun for a day which will help dry out the peel and make it easier to remove. You could rub the seeds in a mud pot with a little water. This abrasive action helps loosen the peel. Or you could just halve them with a knife and then remove the peel. This curry is a very simple, straightforward thokku, no overpowering spices or masala to rob the dish of its distinctive taste. The Pala kottai/jackfruit seed is the star of the dish. These seeds also taste great barbecued as is on an open flame. Prep time: 20 minsCooking time: 20-30 minsServes: 5 Ingredients Jackfruit seeds – 4 cupsOnions – 2 large chopped fineTomatoes – 2 large chopped fineRed chilli powder – 2 tbspTurmeric powder – 1/2 tspBlack pepper powder – 1 tspOil – 2 tbsp + 1 tbspSalt to tasteWater – as necessary Method 1.      Wash the jackfruit seeds well and remove the peel. Removing the peel is a little time consuming. You can dry the seeds under the sun the previous day which will make it easier to remove the peel. If you’ve not sun-dried them, you can take a handful of the seeds in a mud pot along with a little water and rub the seeds against the surface of the...

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.

Sundakkai (Turkey Berry) Sojji

Sundakkai sojji is a mild dal based side-dish that goes well with Idli. I’d never tasted sundakkai or sundakkai sojji before my marriage. I discovered this sojji only after my marriage. Adadadada.. what a sojji! This is as good as a sojji can get (don’t ask me what a sojji is, I don’t know) and it’s a pretty nice way to prepare the sundakkai (apart from the usual kuzhambu). The sojji is fresh, mellow, and comforting neither too hot nor too flat. My kids adore this sojji with idli – I really don’t know why. I eat it too and I like it but I am not crazy about it.  We make this sojji very often at home because the kids like it. Sundakkai (Turkey berry) also happens to grow in our backyard. It is a non-fussy, easy going plant and it just keeps yielding so much fruit over and over that we had to distribute the sundakkai to all our relatives. How about farm-fresh sundakkai packed stylishly in jars or cellophane pouches with cute tags for party favours? Why not? These are the only berries that we get around here in Chennai. Definitely Pinterest worthy, I’d say. A small kaal aazhakku (you know aazhakku? a 1/4 aazhakku must be 50 gm I suppose) of these sundakkai sell for around 20 or 30 rupees in our market. You can use these sundakkai in your kuzhambu or sambar, make thokku or make this sojji. This sundakkai and a couple of hardy greens are the only plants that have survived in our garden despite our negligence (partial – we do water them somedays I guess), limited sunshine and the dogs’ forages. Having the sundakkai plant in the backyard is both a boon and a bane. It’s great when we suddenly discover that our fridge is empty and we can just hop out and pluck these for the morning side-dish. It is a nuisance too when we over-do it, it is very easy to get carried away by the idea of your very own backyard vegetable garden and keep cooking the same sundakkai or greens every day. It happened in our house recently. We’d have a reserve of sundakkai kuzhambu in our fridge always and keerai masiyal (Dal and greens mash) everyday. Tough times those. Prep Time: 10 mins Cooking time: 25 minsServes: 5 Ingredients Sundakkai – 1 cup washed and stalks removedToor dal/Split Pigeon...

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