Garlic Rasam | Poondu Rasam

Loaded with fried garlic, freshly ground spices and tempered with ghee this Garlic rasam is hot, aromatic and heavenly with hot steamed rice. Every house has its signature rasam and rarely do they try any other. My mother makes it with paruppu-thani (watery lentil/dal juices). My in-laws make the gottu rasam without paruppu thani. However you make your rasam, there’s nothing else that spells home-food like hot steamed rice, rasam and a dollop of ghee. It’s the ultimate Tamil comfort food. It’s light (forget the ghee for a minute), mild and easy on the stomach. If you don’t know rasam, it is sort of a spiced clear soup that is had with rice. Some rasams can make good soups too. I was feeling particularly revolutionary one weekend and I had free reign of the kitchen. So I set out to make this Garlic Rasam. The recipe is from Chandra Padmanabhan’s book, Dakshin. The Garlic rasam turned out really well and I thoroughly enjoyed it alongside KovakkaiKari and hot steamed rice. But beware. If you can’t stand garlic, this rasam is not for you. This garlic rasam has enough garlic to ward away the scariest Draculas. Prep time: 10 minsCooking time: 10 minsServes: 4 IngredientsGarlic – 25 pods peeledTamarind extract – about 2 cups from a lemon sized tamarind ballMustard seeds – ½ tspAsafoetida – a pinchWhole dry red chillies – 2Salt to tasteOil – 2 tspGhee – 1 tspCoriander leaves – 2 tbsp chopped Ingredients – Spice PowderWhole dry Red chillies – 4Coriander seeds – 2 tspCumin seeds – 1 tspWhole black peppercorns – ½ tspBengal gram/Kadalai paruppu – 2 tsp Method 1.      Dry roast the ingredients under spice powder until the Bengal gram turns red. Cool and grind to a fine powder. Set aside. 2.      Heat a kadai. Pour in the tamarind extract, add salt and let it come to a gentle boil. 3.      Meanwhile fry the garlic pods in 2 tsp oil till golden around the edges. Remove from fire and set aside. 4.      When the tamarind extract comes to a boil, add the spice powder and stir. Let boil for 2 minutes. Tip in the fried garlic. Switch off. 5.      Now for the tempering, heat 1 tsp ghee and add mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the red chillies and asafoetida. Pour over rasam. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve hot with rice.

Kovakkai kari | Ivy gourd stir-fry

Here’s a quick, simple and tasty vegetable stir fry that goes fabulously with a simple rice and rasam. This kovakkai kari is courtesy Rajee, Dr. Lakshmi and other maami friends from our West Mambalam days. No onion, no ginger, no garlic – it’s a 100% sattvic stir-fry but a really scrumptious sattvic stir-fry. I really don’t think there’s any group out there that would be offended by this dish. Even Ivy gourd haters may convert. Sometimes the simplest recipes produce the tastiest dishes. I crave such simple fare especially when I am feeling remorseful after heavy eating out episodes or gluttonous buffet attacks. There have been too many of those episodes and nil exercise (all that standing in the kitchen, carrying around the kids don’t amount to anything apparently). I must be at my all-time high weight. I am scared sick of walking into a trial room these days. Those mirrors are so bloody blunt and in your face. I am going to have to do something about my weight and in the course of that you may see more healthy, low-fat recipes here. Prep time: 10 mins Cooking time: 20 mins Serves: 4 Ingredients Kovakkai/Ivy gourd – ½ kilo tops and ends chopped off and cut lengthwise Salt to taste Oil – 3 tbsp Mustard seeds – ½ tsp Split urad dal – ½ tsp Ingredients – Spice powder Whole dry red chillies – 8-10 Cumin seeds – 1-1/2 tsp Bengal gram/Channa dal/Kadalai paruppu – 2 tbsp Method 1.      Rinse kovakkai well, lop off tops and ends and cut into lenghthwise pieces. Set aside. 2.      To a pan, add 1 tbsp oil and heat. When hot add the mustard seeds and when it splutters add urad dal. Let the urad dal turn golden brown. Throw in the chopped kovakkai and sauté for 3-4 minutes. 3.      Dry roast red chillies, cumin seeds and channa dal till the lentils turn red. Remove, let cool slightly and grind to a fine powder. 4.      Add the spice powder to the kovakkai and mix well. Drizzle 1 tbsp oil all over the kovakkai and toss well. Cover and cook for 12-15 minutes or till the kovakkai is tender and the masala is nicely browned. Drizzle more oil in between if it sticks to the bottom of the pan or burns. Once done switch off. Serve hot with steamed rice and rasam.

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...
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