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Friday, July 28, 2017

Karadaiyan nombu adai

Karadaiyan nombu is a festival celebrated by Tamil Iyers around the world. The story behind it is an interesting one. Savitri was a very brave and intelligent princess. Since most kings were intimidated by her valor and intelligence, her father was unable to find a groom for her. He asked her to find a groom for herself and thus she set off to find a partner. She found herself the perfect partner - Satyavan - in a remote jungle. However, she was warned by the sage Narada that Satyavan would only live for a year after their wedding. She decided to marry Satyavan despite the warning. They lived in the jungle for a year. The pre-ordained day of his death arrived. Savitri fasted all day. She offered karadai to God, and asked that her husband should be with her always. Yama, the God of death arrived and took Satyavan's soul away with him. Savitri followed him. Pleased with her love for her husband, Yama said that though he could not release Satyavan from the clutches of death, he would grant her 3 wishes. The clever Savitri asks that her father should be blessed with a hundred sons, that her blind father-in-law should regain his eyesight and that she and Satyavan should be blessed with a hundred sons. Pleased with her intelligence, Yama grants her boons and brings Satyavan back to life.
Iyer women and girls continue the tradition of offering karadai while praying for the long lives of their husbands or in the case of unmarried girls, for good husbands. A yellow thread with a flower strung on it is tied around the neck and the adai with a blob of butter is offered to God. This festival usually falls in March (the end of the Tamil month of Masi and the beginning of Panguni). In our family, we offer sweet and salt adai as neivedyam along with butter. This is usually eaten as dinner on the day of the vratam.


What you need:
For vella adai/sweet adai
Rice flour - 1 cup (double roasted)
Jaggery - 1 cup, powdered
Cardamom powder - 1/4 tsp
Karamani/cow peas - 2 tbsp., soaked in water overnight & cooked
Water - 2.5 cups

Heat water in a thick bottomed pan. Add jaggery to it and heat until the jaggery melts completely. At this point, if there are impurities in the jiggery, you can filter it out. Lower the flame. Add cardamom powder, cooked cow peas and the rice flour, stirring continuously and briskly so that no lumps are formed. Keep stirring until the water is completely absorbed and the mixture thickens to a dough. Keep aside to cool. Once it is cool enough to handle, make small lemon sized balls and flatten them into thick discs with a hole in the center. Place this in a steamer/idli pan in a single layer and steam for 10-12 minutes or until the adai looks glossy.

For uppu adai/salt adai
Rice flour - 1 cup (double roasted)
Oil - 1 tbsp.
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Urad dal - 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida - a generous pinch
Grated coconut - 1/4 cup
Water - 2.5 cups
Salt - to taste

Heat oil in a pan. Add the mustard and urad and roast until the seeds pop. Add water, asafetida, salt and grated coconut. When the water starts to boil, add the rice flour, stirring briskly and continuously. Cook till moisture is absorbed and mixture thickens to a dough. When cool enough to touch, make lemon sized balls, flatten them into thick discs with a hole in the center and steam in a single layer for 10-12 minutes or until shiny.

This is my second post for Week 4 of Blogging Marathon #78 under the theme Festival foods.
Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM# 78

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Akkaravadisal - a traditional sweet treat

Akkaravadisal is a traditional Iyengar offering to the Gods. I have heard some of my friends speak longingly and in great detail of this dish. Though I have never tasted this dish or seen it made by anyone I know, the fervor with my friends spoke of it made me feel that I was missing out on something akin to the eighth wonder of the world. A little bit of Google-ing and some phone calls later, I came up with this recipe which is an adaptation of several recipes that can be found online. I felt that the dish is similar to sweet pongal, except for the fact that the rice is cooked in milk. This gives it a delicate creaminess that makes it appealing both in looks and taste. The basic recipe is very simple. Rice is cooked in milk and then jaggery syrup is added to this. Add-ons like cashews, raisins and cardamom can be mixed in, based on availability and personal preferences.


What you need:
Rice - 1 cup
Yellow moong dal - 1 tbsp. (optional)
Water - 1/2 cup
Milk - 4 cups (Preferably full fat)

Jaggery - 2 cups, powdered/grated
Cardamom - 2
Ghee - 1 tbsp.
Cashew - a few

Wash the rice and dal (if using) well and soak in half a cup of water for at least 30 minutes. Transfer this to a large pressure cooker. Coarsely crush cardamom. Add it to the rice along with the milk and cook on a medium flame for two whistles.
In the meantime, take the jaggery in a pan. Add 1/4 cup of water to it and heat over a low flame until the jaggery dissolves completely. If there are impurities in the jaggery, you can strain it out at this point. Set aside.
When the pressure settles, mash the rice well. Add the melted jaggery to this and mix well.
Heat ghee in a pan and toast the cashews in it till reddish brown. Mix this into the akkaravadisal.
The mixture should be semi solid in nature. It thickens up quite a bit on cooling. While serving, if you find that it is too thick, you can loosen it up by adding some warm milk.

This is my first post for Week 4 of Blogging Marathon #78 under the theme Festival foods.
Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM# 78

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Tortilla soup with a twist

Cold Minnesota winters always see me making warm, comforting and filling soups. Usually, the ingredients are whatever is in the fridge or pantry - thus saving me from making a trip on treacherous roads. Though we are now blissfully enjoying the summer sun while it lasts, we know what's coming soon. This soup is popular at Mexican restaurants and is one that I made last winter, with an Indian twist.


What you need :

Tortillas - 4, cut into wedges to resemble tortilla chips. This is where the twist I mentioned comes into play. I used leftover rotis instead of tortillas.
Red kidney beans - 1 can (Can be substituted with black beans)
Frozen green peas - 1/4 cup
Carrot - 1
Tomato - 2
Celery - 1/4 cup, chopped
Red onion - 1, chopped fine
Butter/oil - 2 tbsp
Cumin powder - 1 tsp
Soup seasoning - to taste
Salt & pepper - to taste

Spread the roti wedges in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, keeping a close watch so that you can stop baking once they start to harden and brown. Another way to do this is to spread some oil on a frying pan and then roasting the roti pieces over a slow flame until they are crisp on both sides. Set this aside.

In a large saucepan, heat butter/oil. Add the onions and saute till they start to turn translucent. Add the chopped tomatoes, and carrots and saute till tomatoes become soft and mushy. Add in the rest of the ingredients (except seasoning) along with 4 cups of water. Since most of the ingredients I have used are canned or frozen, it doesn't take much time for the soup to come together. Let it boil for 10-12 minutes on a medium flame. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Add in soup seasoning. Use a potato masher or a ladle to mash some of the ingredients to give the soup some thickness. If you want to, you can use a hand blender or a regular blender too, for a smoother soup, but I like this soup chunky.
To serve, put some of the tortilla strips in a bowl. Pour the soup on top of it and then top it with more tortilla strips.

This is my third post for Week 2 of BM#78 under the theme Oceanic Cuisine - dishes from countries that are bordered by two or more oceans.
Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM# 78

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Nachos

A Mexican dish which is very popular , nachos in its most basic form, consists of tortilla chips topped with lots of melted cheese. To this basic form, you can add ingredients of your choice like black beans, roasted corn, tomatoes, cilantro, jalapenos and onions. No matter what ingredients you choose to add, this snack is a crowd pleaser. Here is my version of this dish.


What you need:

Tortilla chips
Black beans - 1 can
Red onion - 1 small, chopped
Corn - 1/2 cup
Cumin powder - 1 tsp
Salt
Grated cheese - a generous amount

Spread the tortilla chips in a single layer on a baking sheet.
In a large bowl, combine the drained beans, onion, corn, cumin powder and salt. Mix well. Spread this mixture evenly over the chips. Top with grated cheese.
Bake in a preheated oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit until the cheese melts.
Serve with guacamole, sour cream and salsa on the side.

This is my second post for Week 2 of BM#78 under the theme Oceanic Cuisine - dishes from countries that are bordered by two or more oceans.
Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM# 78

Monday, July 10, 2017

Pineapple fried rice

When I lived in Chennai, I used to love the Thai food restaurant - Benjarong. I am not sure if the restaurant is still around, but the taste and the presentation of their pineapple fried rice is something that I remember fondly. A mildly spiced rice served in the shell of a pineapple - this is how the dish was brought to the table at the restaurant. I've tried to recreate this dish (not the presentation part of it, though) from memory and I think I've come fairly close to the original.


What you need:
Rice - 1 cup, cooked and
 cooled (I used regular raw rice, cooked with 2.5 cups of water)
Oil - 2 tbsp.
Green chilli - 3 or 4, slit lengthwise
Garlic - 3 cloves, chopped
Ginger - a one inch piece, julienned
Onion - 1, chopped fine
Carrot - 1, chopped fine
Pineapple - 3/4 cup
Green onion - 3, chopped fine
Soy sauce - 1 tbsp.
Red chilli sauce - 1 tbsp.
Salt
Cashew & Groundnuts

Heat oil in a pan. Add the chillies, ginger and garlic. Saute for a minute. Add cashew, groundnuts and saute till reddish. Stir in the chopped onion and carrot. Saute over a medium flame until the carrots are cooked, yet crunchy. Now add the pineapple and heat till they start to brown slightly. Stir in the sauces. Increase the flame to high and quickly stir everything together. Add the chopped green onion. Stir to combine. Lower the heat and add the cooked, cooled rice and salt. Mix everything together.
Serve hot.

This is my first post for Week 2 of BM#78 under the theme Oceanic Cuisine - dishes from countries that are bordered by two or more oceans.
Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM# 78

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Pressure cooker pasta

This is one of our favorite lunch box recipes. The type of pasta, the sauce, the veggies that go into it - these change from one time to the next, but our love for this dish doesn't diminish no matter what avatar it takes.


What you need:
Pasta - 1 cup
Onion - 1 small, chopped fine
Tomato - 1, chopped fine
Capsicum - 1/4 cup, chopped fine
Pasta sauce - 1/2 cup + more, if desired
Butter - 2 tbsp
Salt
Pepper
Italian seasoning
Grated cheese
Water

In a pressure cooker, heat 2 tbsp. of butter. Add pepper corns followed by onions. Saute till they start to brown. Add tomato and capsicum. Saute well. Add the pasta, pasta sauce, salt and just enough water to cover the pasta. Cook till one whistle. Then reduce the flame and cook for another 3-4 minutes. When the pressure settles, add Italian seasoning, grate cheese and more pasta sauce if desired. Stir well. Serve hot.

This is my third post for BM#77 under the theme Healthy lunch box recipes.
Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Ven Pongal

Growing up, I wasn't very fond of Pongal - mostly because it was only made once a year in my home - typically during the Tamil harvest festival of Pongal. However, the ease of making it and the fact that paired with a good gothsu and chutney, it is a complete meal in itself, has made me rethink my opinion of this humble dish. Though it is considered a breakfast dish, whenever I make it, I make a little extra so that I can carry it in my lunch box.

What you need:
Rice - 1 cup
Split moong dal - 1/2 cup
Water - 5 cups
Ginger -  a small piece, julienned
Peppercorns - 1 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Curry leaves - a few
Ghee - 3 tsp
Cashew - a few (optional)
Salt - to taste

Wash the rice and dal well to remove starch. Add water, salt and ginger to it and cook on a medium flame in a pressure cooker until one whistle. Reduce the flame to low and cook for another 5 minutes.
Switch off the flame and set aside. In  a separate kadai, heat ghee. Coarsely crush the pepper and cumin. Toast the cashews in ghee until they turn reddish. Add the curry leaves and crushed spices. Saute and switch off the flame.
Once the pressure settles, open the pressure cooker and mix in the ingredients in the kadai. The pongal should not be too dry. It should be mushy and well cooked. If you feel that it is dry, add some hot water and stir.
Serve hot with chutney.

This is my second post for BM#77 under the theme healthy lunch box recipes.
Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM