Rava Idli

Rava Idli

When I am moping, I lie in bed while my kids climb over me, I shut my eyes tight when Yuvan pries my eyes open. I hear Hasini echo my dad’s words – “You’re always late.” Back in the days when I was single, when I was free, I’d brood on the toilet seat for hours without visitors, knocks and questions – “why are you taking so long?”, “what are you doing?”, “Did you go out the window?” (That’s a good idea!). I’d lie in bed reading all day, sleeping in between, ransacking the fridge at midnight for something sweet, going back to bed to read. Chocolate soothes me. Reading drugs me. Those days, I like to eat Paal Saadam (Rice and milk). I feel comforted.   When I am stressed, when I am wound up and exhausted after a frenetic day of work, I want to eat Dominoes Pizza and coke. I want to eat biryani and thumbs up. I want my soda. I want sugar. I want cheese. I want chocolate. I want empty calories and Vadivelu comedy. When I am happy I want to eat Molagai bajji, chocolate cake and Lasagne. When I miss home, I yearn for idli, vadai, sambar and thengai chutney and Ilayaraja songs. I want paruppu rasam saadam and fried egg and Balachander movies. When I am angry, frustrated, I want Paneer soda and friends to hear my story. A small paper cup with watery canteen coffee would do too. When I am hungover, I want Jagan’s lemon soda in a dark room. When I am busy at my laptop, I have filter coffee by my side and Hasini combing my hair. I want pattani and uppu kadalai while watching TV. There are times when I make Rava idli. I make Rava idli every time my………………………………….. yogurt turns sour. Every single time I feel ingenious to be making rava idli instead of rava upma. I am terribly proud of my soft, tender rava idlis that I make from scratch. Rava idlis were one of the first things I made after my wedding. I’d make them from MTR’s rava idli mix. I’d make MTR rava idlis and coriander chutney and wait for the Maamiyaar to be impressed. I had no clue then that making them from scratch was just as easy. You’ll never go back to buying the readymade mix once you make these...

My cooking Goals + one more Side dish for Idli Dosai – Milagai Thuvaiyal

What are your cooking goals for the year? Just putting them down makes me feel like I am organized, like I am the planning kind. I like that kind of illusion. And I always like a fresh start. So I wrote down some of my cooking goals for the year. The general theme has been to keep it simple, to take it easy and to experiment more. I’d love to know what your goals are. Make just enough chutney for now. Extra chutney in fridge will never see the light of day. “Dosai/Idli do not make a school lunch”, said Hasini. I have to agree. When I scramble out of bed 30 minutes before the school bus arrives, this is what I pack. I’ve also packed mini dosai, vengaya dosai, oothappam, podi idli, jam sandwiches and sugar & ghee sandwiches with no remorse.   Everything need not be from scratch. It can be from the store. And that is fine. It is ok to not bake your own bread, make your own pasta and manufacture your own cheese. I remember a time when I would put off buying bread because I thought that if I did then I wouldn’t bake my own bread, but I never baked bread as often because I simply didn’t have that kind of time. I am more accepting now. I bought vathals instead of waiting till summer to make my own batch. I am still obsessed about making my own podis and idli/dosa batters.   I cannot and will not make thali meals (rice, kuzhambu, poriyal kind of meal) more than 3 times a week. And that immediately means I have to do # 5.   Move out of my comfort zone and experiment more. Make at-least 2 new recipes every week. Currently on my to-try list are Murtabak, Aviyal, vada pav, Hyderabad biryani and Adhirsam among others.   To not repeat a chutney/side dish again in the same month. I am on a quest to banish the cooking routines that I tend to slip into all too easily. Coconut chutney, tomato chutney, kara chutney on rotation mode, lemon rice and potato fry on Mondays, dosai for dinners, biryani on Sundays. Not this year. Breakfast can be kanji in a mug, chaat for lunch and soup for dinner. Lord, give me the strength to defend my menu.   I’ve started to plan the menu for...
chicken masala vadai

Masala Chicken vadai

I spent three days cleaning out my cupboards, shelves, beros, paranai, tops of beros, top of fridge, window sills, between wall and cupboard, behind cupboard, under cupboard, under stairs and inside drawers. Did you know you could store stuff in all these places? Martha Stewart won’t tell you that. I found I did not fit into 80% of the clothes I had. I had so many different cables and wires I could technically connect my TV to laptop to remote controlled car to DVD player to charger to camera to mixie. I’d still be clutching a handful of un-identified cables that fit into obsolete ports. I had loose change everywhere. None of the pens actually wrote. My fountain pens had all dried up. I had about 2 huge suitcases of books I had no space for. I hadn’t read most of my recent purchases. I wasn’t going to deal with the toys. It was too much. I had 100 glass milk bottles – the small cute kind for times when I might throw a party for 100 people. I had no business having as many cake pans as I did. I had enough small bowls in melamine, ceramic, earthenware, steel and microwaveable plastic for every conceivable need that I knew not, how to put away. I had my napkins, tablemats, little pieces of cloth, wooden boards, empty photo frames, textured cards – stray stuff that were the props for my blog photos. Friends, relatives and the maid when they see these, turn to look at me searching for reason. I don’t meet their eye. All I did those few days was to pack bag after bag of stuff that I just couldn’t have any more. I was angry at myself. I was severe with every little purse, dabba and tight jeans I hadn’t fit into in 7 years. I needed about two and a half kitchens to store just my baking stuff. It seemed impossible. When I couldn’t make up my mind, I put them in boxes and stashed them in the paranai. I started with a cabinet full of stuff. I kept going ruthlessly. At the end of it I had emptied most of the cabinet and filled up all of the paranais. For those who are unfamiliar with “paranai” these are the Indian equivalent of your “attic”, only we have these all over the house to stow away...
carrot beetroot chutney

Carrot beetroot chutney

My biggest gripe during the Chennai rains was that Jagan was away for the most part of it. I would have loved to see him unarmed, unplugged and unwired – without his phone, TV and laptop, forced to turn around and talk to fellow humans. Result: He just doesn’t seem as moved and emotional about the whole Chennai humanity outpouring situation. Honestly, my feel-good quotient is wearing out too and I think it’s time for people to get back to work. Muggings of volunteers, harassment of women volunteers and looting of relief material surely means everything’s back to normal. Too much of a good thing never is good. I am a pathological cynic. That explains everything. “Feel-good’ers”, don’t crucify me for this. Since we’ve all already imbibed the life lessons that the Chennai rains have taught us that ‘money doesn’t matter but people do’, and since I am a cynic, and since I am no good at feel-good, I’ll restrict myself to the small day-to-day lessons that I have learnt. 1.   I have been postponing composting at home because I haven’t found the right bin. Un-pardonable, I know. I know I am responsible too for the garbage bags that clog the dump yards. It’s time for me to start segregating the waste at home, to compost. Here is a wonderful presentation on composting that my friend Ashwin shared a while back. I am starting this week.  You should give it a try too. 2.     I am going to carry my own water bottles everywhere. I just haven’t done this consistently enough. Read the story of the bottled water here. 3.   Choose sustainable at every step. Choose wooden tops and handmade toys over battery powered ones, use jute bags for your grocery shopping, take a cloth bag everywhere you go – you never know when you’ll need to shop, walk more – drive less. I am no undercover agent of United nations environment programme. I know nothing about climate change. I am far from perfect. I just know we can make small changes in the everyday things we do. And yes, they matter.     4.     Wasting food is criminal. Make smaller portions if unsure. Upcycle, get creative. I did just that with this carrot beetroot chutney. Beetroot poriyal is hugely infamous in our home and has never been finished in its history. So I roasted yesterday’s beetroot poriyal along with...

White vegetable kurma

I had my dream holiday a couple of weeks back – alone at home, husband away on a business trip, kids off to school and everybody else in the family away on a trip. Whoa! One entire kitchen all to myself, nobody to defer to on the menu, no one to please, no one to cook up a competing second menu, no one to fill up the fridge. I was king. It was too precious. I couldn’t afford to waste even a minute of it. I had to plan well. I couldn’t be making sambar nor lemon rice. I had to do all the things I could never do. I could make any crazy, wildass dish I wanted and not have to explain and not fret that no one ate it. I wanted to slowly doze off into an afternoon nap while reading a book and sleep un-disturbed without kids climbing over me, without anybody waking me up for filter coffee or oreo. I also wanted to straighten out all my cupboards. I wanted to change the curtains, hang up a chalkboard on the kitchen door, revamp the garden, clear out the lofts and lose 5 kilos weight – in one week. I was getting ahead of me. First things first. I emptied the fridge, the dining table and the counter top of ages old murukku, disfigured pomegranates, teeny tiny portions of sambar, kuzhambu, chutnies and assorted poriyals. The chickens in our backyard (we have real chickens in our backyard), thought I was crazy. They got half the loot. The rest went into the bin. The first day I made spaghetti in a creamy alfredo sauce with green peas, corn and mushrooms. That was the craziest wildass dish of the week. I made other memorable, lazy ass meals that Hasini, Yuvi and I enjoyed that week. They’ll always be special. Then I did what I didn’t believe I would. I made rava kheer, sambar, vadai, rice and poriyal that week when I noticed that it was Yegadesi that day. I thought to myself while frying the vadais that my maamiyaar’d be thinking I’d miss it, that I am a lazy ass, that I probably made something as blasphemous as lasagne and how I had proved her wrong. And when I very proudly recounted later to my maamiyaar when she returned, she simply replied that she never considers Yegadesi during theipirai...

Maida Dosai

I didn’t go on a trip to Europe. I didn’t have a baby. I didn’t get a book deal. I didn’t even lose a kilo of weight. In case you missed me, in case you were wondering why I was gone.  I was buried in work.  I’ve found that that is never reason enough, never glamorous enough. So for your interest, our water purifier was down yet again and I was wondering when and why we moved from boiled tap water, my kids’ colds are back again, they lie glibly that they didn’t eat ice cream and I have absolutely no control, and I end up with the most unexciting health issues that are not serious enough to get admitted but still a pain and its official now – even my doctor has declared that I need to lose weight. Now don’t you think “buried in work” sounds more interesting? Among other things, I am contemplating changing up a few things on Foodbetterbegood, having some regular themes – diet friendly recipes, one-pot meals and make-ahead meals being top on my list. Do chime in if you’ve got any ideas. I did cook but in spurts, for guests, for occasions but not the daily grind. I eased into the daily routine with this easy, not-instant but nearly so Maida dosai. There is only one way to eat it and that is hot, right off the stove with some freshly ground coconut chutney or milagai podi (gun powder) mixed with gingelly oil. This maida dosai is a bit stretchy, unlike your regular dosai. I like to add a load of chopped onions and green chillies to the batter just before I am going to make the dosai. This dosai works in a pinch when you are out of dosai batter, when you are wont to change into something decent to go buy dosai batter and when upma evokes shrieks and swearing. This Maida dosai is for those times.     

Mysore Masala Dosa

  When I am visiting and my mother makes dosai for tiffen, I cringe. She laughs knowingly. The dosai legacy of my husband’s place is legendary. At any point, we grind enough dosai batter for our entire street. We may run out of salt, but not of dosai batter. Huge gundaans of rice and urad dal would be soaking on the counter before the last ladle of the old batch is used up. Zero downtime.   Still, if we were to go to Saravana Bhavan or our favourite Udupi restaurant, I will order Masala Dosai.   I don’t understand it either.   My love-hate  relationship with dosai has been going on for a long time. Apathy at home, love at Udupi restaurants, I looked inward. I thought really hard.     I realized I missed the ghee laden, crisp fried, golden dosa , enveloping a luscious potato masala and smeared with a spicy flavour bursting channa dal chutney and dunked in freshly ground coconut chutney. I missed the frills. I wanted the full package.    I make dosai every day but seldom the light, airy, crisp fried version, the coconut chutney every other day and the potato masala too every once in a while but never all of them together.   Dosai regulars will know that the home-made regular dosai which is more pliable than crisp (which is our usual) is different from the masala dosa/paper roast batter which is different from the thicker benne dosa variety they serve in karnataka that has an almost paradoxical crispy outside and a porous inside texture.     I’ve been waiting for about 237 weeks now waiting for a teeny weeny pause in our batter making machinery to try and squeeze in the mysore masala dosa. And finally one humid, sweaty Chennai evening, when we were out of dosai batter finally, when the counter was free of soaking rice and dal, when the idli/dosai top management was away at a wedding, I took it upon myself to grind up my longtime dream – the light, airy gorgeous mysore masala dosa batter.   You will not believe how thin you can make these dosas. They make the most gorgeous crispy, paper thin dosas.   If you were just about to send your husband out to get a packet of ‘dosai batter’, wait. I know what you’re thinking.   No, it is not as hard...

Mangai More | Raw green Mango & coriander flavoured buttermilk

It is so hot. Everything’s got to be short now – our dresses, recipes, time in the kitchen and this post too. In telegram style, I’ll be making super short telegram posts like these. ‘Kaasu ku yetha dosai’ (crudely translated ‘penny wise pancake’). For super simple recipes, posts are going to be super short telegram style too. Survived April Fools day un-fooled. Didn’t open Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp or newspaper. Phone battery dead. Friends busy. Haven’t checked weight since start of diet. What if? What if? What if no change? Ding Ding! (Hattori style) Any stricter diet Ninja style, I am really ding ding. Why are there no hair-styles for non-curly, non-straight, in-between hair type people? Bloody Systematized society! Know a good place to straighten hair? Nights spent wrapping and labelling Hasini’s new books. Had to fight for the privilege. Don’t ask. Not hungry these days. Really! Thirsty yes. Loved this Mangai More – chill, refreshing and with just a hint of pucker from the grated mangai (raw green mango). It is best had chilled. Perfect any time of the day. This Mangai more cools from the inside. Dieters, take heart. No portion control on this one. Glug away.        Prep time: 5 mins Serves: 4 Ingredients Yogurt – ¾ cup Water – 3 cups Salt to taste Coriander leaves – 2 tsp very finely chopped Green chilli – ½ chopped very fine Raw Mango – 2 tsp grated (with skin on) Method Whisk yogurt/curd well. Add water and whisk or use your churner to whisk/churn until frothy. Add in the finely chopped green chilli, coriander leaves and grated mango. Add salt. Mix well. Chill for an hour. Serve chilled any time of the day.

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...

Pesarattu & Ginger chutney | Andhra green gram dosai and ginger chutney

I’ve had to fight for pesarattu. I don’t know what it is with this family and pesarattu. They’re just not into it. The maamiyaar was never enthused about pesarattu turning it down whenever I suggested it. The one time I thought she might agree I was out of green gram. The pesarattu stayed on my mind for weeks together. One day when she told me she’d be out early and that I had to take care of breakfast, I knew what I was going to make. Pesarattu and ginger chutney.  I love pesarattu. My mother makes wonderful pesarattu (but with the yellow moong dal), golden and crispy loaded with fried onions and fresh coriander. I wanted to try the popular Andhra version made with green moong dal. It turned out quite well but it wasn’t crisp like my mother’s. It was tasty nonetheless. I loved the gingery cumin note of the pesarattu, enlivened further by the fresh coriander leaves and the cartloads of fried onions that I had added. I always prefer adding fried onions instead of raw onions to adai or pesarattu. The onions are not fried brown, they’re only fried to the translucent stage. The fried onions add a lovely sweet bite to the pesarattu. The fried onions are the crowning glory to any pesarattu. So be liberal with them onions. The ginger chutney is another thing of beauty. I love Andhra meals specifically for their chutnies and podis. Beautiful stuff. This ginger chutney is a lovely combination of earthy, sweet, sour and spicy tones – ginger, jaggery, tamarind and chillies. The ginger chutney goes splendidly with pesarattu and I think it’ll do great alongside dosa or idli as well. Even the maamiyaar loved the chutney. She didn’t say so of course, but said non-challantly “the chutney is nice, so it has ginger and red chillies?” If somebody asks you for the recipe in however indirect a manner, it means just one thing – “It was good”. Since this chutney doesn’t contain coconut, it doesn’t make as much volume of chutney as your regular coconut based chutnies. Pesarattu and ginger chutney is one beautiful tiffin combination that I’d repeat willingly every time the maamiyaar is out of sight. Starting today, the whole of this month, I’ll be posting one recipe a day from each of the Indian states along with my blogging marathon friends. I’ve been planning this...

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