Friday, December 18, 2009

How long.... you argue a point?
You know you are right....
....but the other person believes (s)he is right
And you both keep saying the same thing over and over
Neither one is able to convince the other.

What would you do?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What makes you blog???

Is it the love of good food?
Is it an urge to write?
Is it the need to connect to other like-minded people?
Is it the ability to form friendships with unknown faces?

For me, it started out as a pastime.....a way to while away my time while playing the role of an "H-4" wife. I still remember how, while my newborn baby was asleep, I, instead of catching up on some much needed sleep, browsed and stumbled on a food blog. One blog led to another and I was caught up in this fascinating world where people talked about the everyday food that they cooked and even put up photos of the dish for the world to see.
I thought to myself that I could do this too....and that's how this blog was born.
Not much thought went into the name or the first recipe that I would share through the world wide web. In the beginning, I used to check the blog several times a day after writing a post.....feeling elated at the comments that people left.
Now, after nearly three and a half years of blogging, I feel that the blog has matured, or rather, that I, as a blogger, have matured.
I no longer write posts just because I have to......I post whenever I want to and only write what is meaningful to me. I no longer enter every event that catches my eye in blogosphere especially because it's humanly impossible to keep up with all the new events that seem to be coming up every day and even more so because I don't feel the need to do that anymore.
At the end of the day, though, my blog is still the one place where I can be myself, where I can connect with the few blogger pals that I've made through the years.
Oh....and I still do check for comments several times a day after writing a post. So, go ahead.....make my day!!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Diwali Savouries 2 - Omapodi

This diwali treat is very, very addictive. Like a popular ad says, no one can eat just one.......

What you need:
Besan - 3 cups
Rice flour - 1 cup
Omam/ajwain - 1/4 cup
Oil - enough to deep fry

Soak omam in just enough water to cover it for 20 minutes. Grind this in a mixie and extract the thick juice. Repeat this process 4-5 times and keep the juice aside.
Sift together the besan and rice flour. Add butter and mix well until you get a crumbly mixture which holds its shape when pressed in your hands. Mix in the omam extract, salt and water if necessary and knead to a smooth dough.
Take a little bit of dough in your murukku maker. The mould/achu to be used is the one with lots of tiny holes. Press directly on to hot oil to make a large, circular shape. When both sides are golden brown, drain excess oil and remove on to absorbent paper.
When cool, store in an airtight container.

This is my second entry to Purva's Diwali Dhamaka.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Diwali savouries 1 - thenkozhal

This Diwali, the little girl tried her hand at lighting sparklers and flower pots, while the mother tried her hand at several savouries and sweets. To read more about how the little girl's Diwali was, click here. To see what I made, scroll down.......

To make thenkozhal, you need:
Rice flour - 3 cups
Urad flour - 1/2 cup
Sesame seeds - 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds - 1 tbsp
Oil - enough for deep frying

Bring butter to room temperature. Mix it well with the flours . Start with about a tsp of butter and then add more butter if needed. When enough butter is added, you will have a crumbly mixture that holds its shape when gathered together and pressed with your hands.
Add the rest of the ingredients and mix into a smooth, pliable dough.
You need a murukku press to make thenkozhal. The achu to be used is the one with three holes or five holes. Take a little dough in the press and squeeze out directly into hot oil. Alternately, you can squeeze out a few murukkus on to a newspaper or absorbent paper and then put these into hot oil. Depending on the vessel used and the quantity used, you can fry 4-8 murukkus at a time. When both sides turn golden brown, drain excess oil, and remove on to a kitchen tissue. When completely cooled, store in an airtight container.
This goes to Purva's Diwali Dhamaka.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Hyderabadi cauliflower

Diwali is just around the corner and Chennai streets, as is usual during this time of the year, are teeming with people who are shopping for new clothes, crackers and sweets. It is also the time of year when everyone starting from the watchman to the milkman and the maid stand around after they've done their work, scratch their head and smile sheepishly.......all indications of the fact that they expect you to give them a little "something". The maid asking for some money is understandable but what I don't get is why postmen (it has been ages since I went to the post office or received snail mail) and corporation workers (that's the biggest oxymoron ever........have you ever seen them work???) drop by and expect me to shell out the sums that they ask.
Oh....well.....I suppose that's the way things always are.....there are always little irritants that you have to deal with.
On to food now......
I've said in some of my previous posts that there's a cookery show that I watch every week on Jaya TV. All the recipes shown are very, very doable and turn out really well. The recipe for this curry is from that show and despite the long list of ingredients, once you get started, it is quite easy to make and flavourful.

What you need:
A medium sized cauliflower separated into florets
Oil - 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Onion - 1 large, ground into a fine paste
Tomato - 3, pureed
Ginger paste - 1 tsp
Thick curd - 1/2 cup
Red chilli powder
Amchur powder - 1/2 tsp
Garam masala - 1 tsp
Cashew - 1/4 cup, ground into a fine paste

Add salt and boil cauliflower for a few minutes. Drain excess water.
Heat some oil and fry the boiled cauliflower until lightly browned. Arrange this on your serving dish and set aside.

To make the gravy:
Heat some oil. Add cumin seeds. When it sputters, add onion paste and fry well on a low flame. Then add ginger paste and fry for a few minutes. Stir in the tomato puree and fry until the raw smell goes away and most of the moisture evaporates. Add half a cup of thick curd and mix well. Heat on a low flame until oil separates from the gravy. This will take 7-8 minutes. Add red chilli powder, amchur, and garam masala. Add cashew paste. Heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly and taking care to see that it doesn't get burnt. Add salt, and enough water to make a thick gravy. Let it boil for 5-10 minutes until thick. Pour this gravy over the cooked cauliflower. Garnish with corriander or spring onion leaves.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Murukku for Indian Cooking Challenge

The challenge for this month was Murukku. I tried this out within almost a week of coming to know that this was what we were supposed to be making.
As far as the recipe goes, I followed it exactly. The only thing I would do differently next time is use ready made rice flour. I know Valli said making rice flour at home from the scratch would give us a kick.....but me being me, the only kick it give me is a mental kick for not having used ready made flour. I spent ages and ages trying to powder the rice finely and ended up with something that was a little finer than rava.....I didn't have the patience to keep going beyond that. Inspite of that the murukku turned out to be really tasty albeit a little grainy. Oh.....and the original recipe will give you a LOT of murukku. So next time around, maybe I'll halve the recipe.

Here is the recipe:

What you need:

Raw Rice - 4 cups
Urad Dal - 1 cup
Water - app 1/2 cup or more

For Seasoning
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Sesame seeds- 1 tsp
Asafetida/ Hing - 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Butter - 75 gms

Wash and drain the rice. Shade dry the Rice for 1/2 hr. Dry roast the Urad dal to light brown. Allow it to cool.
If you are using more quantity, you can get it ground in rice mil, else use your mixie to grind both Rice and Urad dal.

First grind rice into a fine flour, keep it aside. then grind the urad dal to fine powder.

In a wide vessel, take both the flours along with salt. Mix well. Add cumin, Sesame seeds to the flour, mix well.
Mix in the hing to the flour and finally add the butter. Gather everything well and you will get more of a crumbling mixture. Now slowly add water and knead a dough which is little more softer than the puri dough.
Heat a kadai with oil enough to deep fry. Once the oil is hot enough, simmer to low flame.
Take the Muruku Aachu, wash and wipe it clean. Then divide the dough into equal balls. Fill the Muruku maker with the dough. You can either press it directly over the flames or press over a paper and gently slide it down the hot oil. But since the quantity mentioned here is less, you can press it directly over the kadai.
Cook over medium flame, using a slotted spoon, turn it over to other side to ensure both sides turn golden colour. You will know by seeing the colour that its cooked. Remove to a kitchen paper and store it in a air tight container.

Since I packed this away almost as soon as I made it to take to my SIL, I don't have any pics of the murukku. It did look'll just have to take my word for it!!!

Friday, September 25, 2009

There's a lot of cooking going on in the household.....but there's been no time for pics or for posts......
We've set up a little golu at home and the little girl and I are busy either going to other houses for vethala pakku or inviting people home for it.
Here's wishing all my readers a wonderful navaratri.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Kozhakattai - food for the Gods

Vigneshwara or Ganapathy as he is more popularly known is the remover of all obstacles. Chathurthi is his special day and people pray to him and offer him several goodies which they then proceed to relish. I am not very big on the fanfare associated with festivals, but I happened to go out the day before Chathurthi and saw the streets so full of people buying clay idols of Ganesha, different kinds of garlands to deck him up in, umbrellas to place on the idol.....and so many other things which I couldn't even fathom a use for. Watching the huge crowds of people thronging the streets, making last minute preparations to please Ganesha, did what nothing else could - it infused the spirit of the festival in me. I actually bought some of those garlands that I saw in the market (something that I've never done before), and then stopped at a store on the way to pick up some rice flour and jaggery - the key ingredients for making kozhakattai.
Now, even though I am not a huge fan of all the ceremonies associated with each festival, the food is something that I always enjoy.
Kozhakattai, in my parents' home is made not only during Chathurthi, but any time my grandma decides that Ganesha has to be propitiated. So, if there is a marriage in the family, a birth, a celebration, admission into a new college, a new job in the offing....well, you get the idea....anytime any one of us embarked on anything new, my grandma would promise the lord a certain number of kozhakattais. Depending on the importance of the new venture, the number would range anywhere from 101 to 1001. When DH and I got married, my mother and grandma made 1001 kozhakattais and distributed it in the neighbourhood.
To make kozhakattai you need:

For the outer cover
Rice flour - 1 cup mixed into a smooth paste with one cup of water
Water - 1.5 cups
Oil - 1 tbsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp

Heat the water and let it come to a rolling boil. Add oil, salt and the rice flour +water mixture. Reduce heat to low and keep stirring until it gets cooked and forms a smooth dough.
Set aside to cool.

For the therattipaal (inner filling)
Fresh grated coconut - 1 cup
Jaggery - 1 cup
Ghee - 1 tsp (optional)

Add a little water to the jaggery and heat until it melts. Add the grated coconut to this and keep stirring until all the moisture evaporates and the mixture starts leaving the sides of the pan. Stir in the ghee and mix well. You can also add some cardamom powder at this point, if you'd like.

To make kozhakattai
Take a small lemon sized ball of the rice flour dough. With your fingers, shape it into a thin, flat circle with a dip in the middle. Spoon some of the filling into this and then close the edges. Do this until you've used up all the dough. Steam for 10 minutes.

Enjoy!!!(Kozhakattai, vadai, chundal and therattipal rolled into small balls -for Ganesha)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Falafel wrap

When I was a child, rain is something that I always looked forward to. For that matter, I still do love rain. Every year, school would reopen on the first of June or the closest working day to that and the start of school always coincided with the onset of the monsoon. Rain in Kerala is the most beautiful thing you can see. The green that the leaves take on after the first rain is so different from the summer green and so much more refreshing.
Making paper boats during the rains was a major pastime and something of an art. Some of my friends used to come up with double-decker and triple-decker boats!!! Jumping in puddles, getting deliberately drenched in the rain - things that were so commonplace to us, these are the little pleasures that the present generation of kids are missing out on. Walking to school in our new uniforms, squeaky new rain-wear shoes and vibrantly coloured umbrellas was so much fun. To this day, I don't think I've bought a black umbrella - yes, I do have one stashed away in the cupboard, but that's for the DH. Give me my pretty flowered umbrella any day.

This falafel wrap was made a few days back on a nice, rainy day here in Chennai. Unfortunately, the rain is gone and the sun is back in all it's "glory".....but the recipe is a keeper.

What you need:

For the falafel (makes about 20 medium sized falafels)

Kabuli channa/ chick peas - 1 cup, soaked in plenty of water overnight
Onion - 1, chopped into large chunks
Green chilli - 2 or 3
Fresh coriander - a handful
Juice of one lemon
Garlic - 4 cloves
Cumin powder - 1 tsp
Italian seasoning - 1 tsp (optional - I happened to have a packet that I got from Pizza Hut which I didn't want to throw in it went)
Oil - for deep frying
Take all the ingredients except lemon juice in a blender and grind to a coarse paste adding as little water as possible. Add lemon juice to this. Refrigerate for half an hour.
Shape into lemon sized balls. Flatten slightly and deep fry in hot oil. Set this aside.For the tahini sauce :
White sesame seeds - 2 tbsp
Sesame oil - 1/2 tsp
Thick yogurt - 1 cup
Garlic - 2 pods
Cumin powder - 1 tsp

Take the sesame seeds and sesame oil in a blender. Add a little water and salt and grind to a smooth paste. To this, add the yogurt, cumin powder, garlic and salt. Blend again. If you'd like to,you can squeeze a lemon over this and also add a tsp of olive oil. I didn't.

To make the wrap:Rotis- as many as needed. I made these thicker than normal rotis, because I didn't want it to get soggy with the sauce. Usually, pita bread is used....but that is not available in my part of the world.
Spread some of your favourite veggies on the roti. I used grated carrots, tomatoes, salt, corriander and squeezed some lemon juice over it. Place one or two falafels over it and then pour some tahini over it.

Recipe source : A cookery show that I watch on Jaya TV.What I think of the dish : Definitely a keeper. I love the tahini few ingredients and so much flavour. It turned out to be a little watery, though. Next time around, I think I will reduce the amount of yogurt used. I think it would make a great dip for chips as well. The falafel and the tahini make for a great snack and served this way, in a roti, it is a complete meal.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Indian Cooking Challenge - Dhokla

When Valli sent out a mail saying that she has started a new blog called Indian Cooking Challenge and that she'd set out recipes for us to make each month, I was a bit apprehensive 'coz I have great difficulty following instructions to the T - I almost always make little changes to recipes that I come across, but I was definitely interested as this is one great way to learn a variety of new dishes.
The first task that she has set out for us is to make dhoklas. The recipe is an authentic one, lent to Valli by one of her Gujarati friends. I have not made any changes to the recipe that she has on her blog. The blog is a private if you want to view the recipe, mail her or join the Challenge.

The experience
This is a pretty easy-to-do recipe. Inspite of not having made dhoklas before, I was able to turn out pretty decent ones by following the recipe and instructions. I steamed the dhoklas in regular idli plates and then cut each one into four before serving. Next time around, I would add more lemon juice and more chillies to the batter as I felt it could have been a tad spicier. The dhoklas turned out to be soft and spongy......though not as spongy or for lack of a better word, as juicy as the ones that you get at some of the typical chaat places. Any ideas, why???
The green chutney was delicious......I loved it......and plan to make it quite often.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Aval vadam

Ever since I read about "Cooking with Pedatha" on food blogs from around the world, I have been wanting to lay my hands on a copy of this book. So, when I saw a copy in my local library, I wasted no time in borrowing it.
The book is beautifully written....the recipes are listed out with very clear and easy-to-follow instructions. Almost all the ingredients that the different recipes require are easily available in South Indian homes.
I tried out Pedatha's recipe for aval(poha/rice flakes) vadiyalu (vadam/sun dried fritters). Unlike most other vadams, this requires no cooking or stirring. It does take quite some time to roll out the poha into little balls but other than that, the procedure is pretty simple.
With the permission of the authors of "Cooking with Pedatha", here is the recipe for aval vadam.

What you need:
Rice flakes/aval/poha - 500 gms (Use thick variety)
Onions- 3 large, chopped fine
Green chillies - 10, chopped into thin, fine circles
Salt - as required

Soak the poha in plenty of water for 2 - 3 hours. Make sure that you do this in a large bowl as the poha will double in size. Drain the water and squeeze out any excess water from the poha. Add in the other ingredients. Mix well and shape into small balls. Lay it out on a plastic sheet and dry it under the sun. It will take three to four days for it to become completely dry. Once dry, store it in an airtight container.When required, heat some oil and deep fry a handful of these vadams at a time.
(The quantities mentioned are not exactly the same as in the book. These are the quantities that I used. The original recipe also has thinly chopped ladies finger in the list of ingredients)

Also check out my recipe for Ela vadam

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Rajma pulao

There, I said it. Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness hasn't lived through a Chennai summer. There's nothing that I like about these hot and humid days......sweat, dirt, grime, crankiness - this is what I associate with summer. Why is my part of the world so hot and humid when others are flooded with rain? Give me cool rains or a cold winter any day.
I love the mangoes and the jackfruits that grow in summer, but NOT THE HEAT.
That said, here is a recipe for rajma pulao that I saw on a TV show and recreated at home. What I like about this recipe is that it uses none of those spices like cardamom, clove or cinnamon which are usually used in abundance in any kind of pulao.
What you need:
Rajma(Red kidney beans) - 1 cup (soaked in plenty of water for 6-8 hours)
Onion - 1, chopped fine
Tomato - 2, chopped
Green chillies - 2 or 3
Ginger - a small piece, chopped fine
Garlic - a few cloves, chopped
Coconut milk - 1 cup
Rice - 1 cup
Salt - to taste
Chopped cauliflower - 1/2 cup(Finely chopped capsicum can also be added)
Corriander leaves - to garnish
Red chilli powder - to taste

Add salt to rajma and cook it in the water in which you soaked it. Once cooked, drain the water and set it aside.
Add 1 cup of coconut milk and 1.5 cups of water in which the rajma was cooked to the rice. Add a little bit of salt and cook in a pressure cooker for two whistles.
Heat a tsp of oil in a pan. Add some cumin seeds to it. When it sputters, add the green chillies, ginger, and garlic and fry. Then add the onions and saute until pinkish. Stir in the tomatoes and the cauliflower and fry well. Add the cooked rajma and some salt. Heat until all the moisture is absorbed.
Stir in the cooked rice. Mix well. Garnish with corriander leaves.

Will I be making this again???
That's a definite YES!!!
This is a wholesome and tasty pulao which does not require any accompaniment. The rajma water gives the rice a beautiful pinkish brown colour. The kidney beans, coconut milk and chillies combine to give the rice a very different and unique flavour and aroma.

This is my entry to the 13th edition of My Legume Love Affair, and event started by Susan of the Well Seasoned Cook and currently hosted by Sunshine Mom of Tongue Ticklers.

Though this was made on the stove top, it can be easily adapted to be made in the microwave. I would suggest using canned kidney beans if you are going to make it in the microwave. So, off it goes to Ramya who is hosting MEC - Protein rich food.
MEC is an event that attempts to show how easy it is to cook everyday food in the microwave and was started by Srivalli.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Avakkai - super spicy mango pickle

Avvaka has always been something that I've thought of as best left to the expert hands of mothers and grandmothers. That is, until I tried making it myself. Armed with my aunt R's fool proof recipe, I discovered just how easy it is to come up with a pickle that tastes better than any that you can buy at a store.
There is a special variety of mango called avakka manga which is used just to make this pickle. However, you can use any sour,firm, fully matured unripe mango. It has to be cut in a special way.....usually the person who sells these mangoes will cut them for you if you ask....they usually cut it in such a way that the shell surrounding the seed is retained.

Here's the recipe:
Cut mango - 5 cups
Red chilli powder - 1 cup
Turmeric powder - a few heaped teaspoonfuls
Salt - 1 cup
Gingely oil - 1 cup
Mustard powder - 1/4 cup (powder mustard in the small jar of your mixie and use it)

What to do:
Spread the cut mango on a clean white towel. Wash the mangoes before you get them cut, not after. Wipe dry. Rub the part around the shell well and remove the thin layer resembling plastic that you'll be able to see. Not all mango pieces will have this, but most of them do, and it is important to remove this.
Mix all the ingredients together. Stir well. Cover properly and set aside. Stir once a day for the next few days until the oil rises to the top. This usually takes about three to four days. Store in a glass container or a bharani (see first pic). If you are using a bharani, set aside a small quantity of the pickle in a bottle for daily use and then tie the mouth of the bharani with a clean white muslin cloth and close it.
Following this recipe exactly will give you a super hot and spicy pickle which is best enjoyed with curd rice. If you cannot tolerate high spice levels, modify the amount of red chilli powder used.This is my entry to Srivalli's Mango Mela.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Three years of blogging

I have learned that moving from one home to another is easy compared to the work involved in getting basic services shifted to the new apartment. It has taken me a little over a month to get my phone and broadband shifted to the new address. So now you know my break was not intentional. I have learned that if BSNL promises you that something will be done in two working days....they mean...well, they just don't mean it. Also, if your cooking gas company promises you that shifting your gas connection is a "five minute process, madam".......remember that it means you'll probably have only five minutes in a day to actually sit down and put your foot up....what with running around to get vouchers signed, addresses proved and identity established.
That said, Iam back.....I finally have my broadband up and running.....will be back to posting recipes soon.
My third bloggiversary went by without so much as a post from me, thanks to BSNL. When I started blogging, I never thought I'd be interested in it for so long. I still remember how I stumbled on to some food blogs and thought, Hey....I should do this too. That's it......there was no thinking twice....I started typing in a recipe....and that's how this blog was born. To use an age old cliche, three years have gone by really fast and I look forward to making lots of blog friends in my fourth year.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Rediscovered pleasures

Eating a moovandan mambazham (a variety of mango that grows abundantly in Kerala) whole....juices dripping down my fingers

Plucking fresh vegetables from the garden

No cooking

Waking up la....te (I do that often), but it's a nice and welcome change when u wake up and find that your daughter has already had her teeth brushed and drunk her glass of milk.

Teaching the little girl to drink honey from a thechi poo....I have no idea what it is called in English, and am just too lazy to google here's a picture.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Just my kind of recipe - S.I.M.P.L.E & G.O.O.D

Sometimes, things just are not in the mood to cook, but you have to you throw in a few things that you have on hand and come up with something that tastes really good. This is something that came out of just such a situation. The prep work required is don't even have to chop onions. Doesn't get simpler than that, does it??? There are no measurements 'coz I just used up whatever I had on hand.

Here's what I did:
Boil some potatoes, peel them and dice them.
Grind together some tomatoes, ginger, garlic and green chillies.
Heat some oil. Add some jeera to it and then the ground paste. Boil for a few minutes until the raw smell goes away, add turmeric powder, red chilli powder, salt and a little bit of sugar. Stir well, add some water if needed and then add in the diced potatoes and heat for a minute or two.
There....that's're done.
Didn't I tell you it was simple???

Monday, April 20, 2009

Why I hate Government offices

  • Unbearably queues. It's almost as if there's a queue of people who are waiting to get into queue.
  • Several hot, sweaty bodies crammed into an unbearably hot place......People could make a killing by marketing deodorants in these places.
  • Rude officers - Now, this is a big one with me. I think that if you are in a position of power, you should not abuse it. There was this loud-voice "gentle"man at the office today who kept yelling at people and making fun of them for the most ridiculous things. Most of the people who were there were young college kids who really didn't say anything back. I was almost hoping he'd say something to me, just so I could ask him to shut up. No such luck, though....
  • Lack of clear instructions and basic facilities. When someone is trying to test your eyesight and they point in the general direction of a door and ask you to read, you tend to look for something that's supposed to test your vision, right??? Well, not if you go into a govt. office. You just look carefully to see if anyone has scribbled anything on the door....maybe if you are lucky enough, the officer would have pointed to the door that has a tiny handwritten sign above it that says "Record Verification" or something similar. Oh....and don't even think of asking what you should be reading......just follow the's fine even if you read something that's written on the T-shirt of someone that's standing in that area.
  • You go in for an online test....stand in the queue for more than three hours.....and then find that none of the computers are working. What do you do??? Come back home and rant on your blog, of course.....

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Vishu memories

Vishu is a festival celebrated by the people of Kerala during the first day of the Malayalam month Medam. Contrary to what most people think, this is not the Malyali New Year 'coz the Malayalam calendar begins in the month of Chingam.
To me, Vishu is an incredibly beautiful festival which is made even more beautiful by the memories that I've carried with me since childhood.
The vishukkani is something that is set up in the puja room on the previous night. The colour yellow plays a very important role in the kani. Fruits and vegetables that are usually abundant in this season are used. A brass tray or an uruli is placed on a kolam in front of Krishna's picture. Ripe mangoes, kani vellari (a kind of golden orange coloured cucumber), ripe bananas, and jackfruit are placed in it. In addition to these, I added some non-traditional fruits and veggies like apple, orange and padavalanga (snake gourd) to my vishukkani.Rice and uncooked parippu (dal) are also placed in front of the deity. A small silver cup is filled with coins (increasingly being replaced with notes) and placed in the kani as well. A large mirror is placed behind the arrangement so that the entire kani is reflected in it. Gold, usually in the form of a necklace or bangles is also part of the kani. The whole arrangement is then bordered by the beautiful vishu konna flowers (yellow flowers). In the morning, a lamp is lit, casting its golden glow on this simple, yet beautiful arrangement.
The predominant memory that I have of Vishu is that of being woken up at a really early hour and being led with my eyes closed, by my mother, to see the kani. The belief is that if you wake up seeing the kani, the rest of the year will be good for you.
Vishu kaineetam is an inseparable part of Vishu. The elders in the family give money (it used to be coins, but that has now been replaced by notes) to the younger ones. It was a good way to supplement pocket money, and I used to visit lots of relatives on Vishu just to receive kaineettam. Kaineettam is given not just to kids - any person can give kaineettam to someone who is younger than them.
No Indian festival is complete without food, and no mention of a festival in Kerala is complete without the traditional sadya. Check out my sadya pics here, and here. Sambar, rasam, thoran, pachadi, olan, koottu curry, avial, papadum, payasam and manga kari are usually made for the Vishu sadya.
Now, in our family of three, it is my turn to lead my daughter to the kani in the morning. We had fun setting up the kani together at night, with her wanting to eat all the fruits right then and there.
Here's wishing all those who are reading this a very happy and prosperous Vishu.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Karuveppila podi (curry leaves powder)

I love podis of all kinds. The reason is very simple....once they are made, they can be stored forever(well....maybe not forever, but you get the idea, don't u??) and whenever I feel lazy, we can always fall back on the podi...mix it with some rice and ghee and along with a thoran and papadum, that's a decent meal. The storekeeper at the place where I usually buy my veggies always gives me a lot (seriously people, it is a LOT) of curry leaves for free. Iam never able to use it all up before it starts turning black and loses its odour (there, that sounds better than rotten, doesn't it?). This time round, I decided to turn it into a podi (powder).

Here's what you need: Curry leaves - 3 cups (heaped)
Red chilli - 8
Black peppercorns - 1/4 tsp
Urad dal - a handful (roughly 1/4 cup)
Channa dal - a handful (roughly 1/4 cup)

Wash the curry leaves and spread on a newspaper or cloth until it is completely dry.
Heat the two dals in the microwave for 2 minutes or until the dal starts turning reddish. Heat the red chillies and pepper for 30 seconds and then the curry leaves for 2 minutes or until it loses all its moisture.
Add salt and grind to a powder.
This does not need to be refrigerated and stays good for quite a while.This is my entry to :
Lakshmi's Meals on Wheels
Easy's WYF Side dish event

Friday, March 20, 2009

Thakkali thokku - a spicy 'n tangy tomato pickle

The trimurtis (three presiding deities) of my kitchen are onions, potatoes and tomatoes. Without these three ingredients, I'd be lost.....not knowing what to cook.
Like the original holy trinity of Indian mythology, these ingredients too are involved in Srishti (creation of exciting new dishes), and Sthithi (maintenance of our health). Luckily, there has been no Samharam (casualty/death) so far. Let's keep our fingers crossed, shall we???
The price of tomatoes in my part of the world has touched rock bottom at rupees 4. Not a small drop, considering that a few months back it was being sold for close to Rs 30. So, with a price drop like that, I couldn't resist picking up some at the local market.
Tangy, spicy tomato thokku is something that I love. Though making it takes up some time, it is quite a simple process and most of the ingredients are readily available in an Indian kitchen.What you need:

Juicy, ripe red tomatoes - 12, medium sized - pureed
Gingely oil - 9 tsp
Mustard seeds - 3/4 tsp
Urad dal - 3/4 tsp
Fenugreek seeds - 1/2 tsp
Green chilli - 2 or 3, minced fine
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder - to taste
Salt - to taste

Heat 7 tsp of oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Add the minced green chillies, mustard seeds, urad dal, channa dal, and fenugreek seeds. When the mustard seeds sputter, add the pureed tomatoes. Stir well. Add turmeric powder, red chilli pwder and salt. Let it come to a rolling boil. Now reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and let it simmer stirring occasionally. It will take close to an hour for all the moisture to evaporate. When it is almost done, add the remaining two tsp of oil. Once it loses all moisture, switch off the heat and let it cool completely.
Store in a clean, airtight jar.
This can be refrigerated and will stay good for upto a fortnight.
It can be used as an accompaniment to a variety of foods including, but not limited to, rice, idli, dosa, roti,and bread.

  • If you'd like, you can blanch the tomatoes in hot water first, remove the skin and then puree it.
  • Instead of pureeing you can chop the tomatoes into tiny pieces and then follow the same recipe.
  • A little bit of tamarind paste can be added if the tomatoes are not sour.
  • You can also add some asafoetida along with the tempering ingredients.
This month, Sanghi who is celebrating her 50th post on her blog has asked us to Fall in Love with Tomatoes.....and that's exactly what I've done. This entry goes to her.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Tasty Jones - not so tasty

After reading several rave reviews on Tasty Jones, we decided to go there for lunch today. The place is just opposite the GRT hotel in Pondy Bazaar, Chennai.
Done up entirely in red and white, the interior looks clean and nice. That's where the nice part of the restaurant begins and ends, though. Nothing else is worth writing about. The waiter wasn't able to help me choose something non-spicy for my daughter. We ordered fries, a veggie burger and a vegetable club sandwich. The fries was too oily. I mean, you could literally squeeze the oil out of those potatoes. When we got the rest of our order, to our surprise, each order had some fries on the side. Now, why the heck didn't that waiter tell us that we'd be getting fries with our main order?
As for the burger and the sandwich, the less said, the better. The sandwich was three dry-as-dust slices of bread stuffed with sliced tomatoes and cucumber. My daughter was not even able to chew those slices properly. She opened up the slices and was content with munching on a slice of raw tomato. Our burgers were, well, unlike any that we'd eaten anywhere. Instead of a patty, there were slices of tofu in it.....and it tasted...ummm.....not good.
I ended up paying 350 Rs. for the most unsatisfying meal of my life.
Will I go there again??? That's a big resounding definite NO!!!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Cooking with leftovers - idli manchurian

Has anyone perfected the art of cooking just enough for two people? Let me in on your secret, will you??? I am never able to cook just the right amount. When it is just the two of us, the leftovers are manageable as in they last only for a few servings for the next meal. When I have guests though, I end up cooking much more than is needed. Somehow, I have this weird thing about it being better to have more of a thing that to fall short of it when there are guests.
This morning, I made idlis for breakfast and none of us (that includes the little girl 'coz she's fond of idli) ate any 'coz we just weren't hungry. Here's something that I came up with to use up those idlis. It's close to midnight and my brain refuses to come up with a name for the dish , so let's just call it idli manchurian.There are no set measurements. I just threw in a little bit of whatever I had.

Tear the idlis into little bite sized pieces. Deep fry in hot oil until lightly browned and crisp. Drain and set aside.
In a pan, heat some oil. Add some minced green chillies and a finely chopped onion and saute until the onion starts browning. Stir in a chopped tomato and fry for a few minutes. Reduce the heat and stir in some soya sauce, red chilli sauce and tomato ketchup. When the sauce thickens, add the fried idli pieces and stir well. You don't need to add salt 'coz the salt in the sauces and the idli will be sufficient. Switch off the heat and garnish with freshly chopped corriander leaves.
Serve hot.

This is off to Pallavi's Sunday Snacks - Grab 'n Go event.

Monday, February 02, 2009

I call it kurma

So, what's the difference between a kurma and a korma??? If you are like me, you just overlook the difference in the spelling and set about making it knowing that you can throw in a little bit of everything that you have and come out with a satisfying and tasty dish.

What you need:
Chopped veggies - 1 cup (I used carrot, beans, & potato. Other veggies that can be used are capsicum, cauliflower, beets, peas...)
Tomato - 2 large, ripe ones
Onion - 1 large
Ginger - a fairly large piece
Garlic - 4 or 5 cloves
Red chilli - 2 or 3
Cashew - a handful
Cardamom - 4 or 5 pods
Clove - 4
Star anise - 1
Cinnamon - a small piece
Corrainder - a handful for grinding and some chopped for garnishing
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp

Did you know there's a really, really easy way to peel garlic esp when u have to peel a lot of it? Just pop it in the microwave for 10 seconds and see how easily the peel comes off.
Also, make a few cuts on an onion and microwave it for 30 seconds to get rid of the raw smell and to escape watering eyes.
This is especially useful in recipes like this one where the onion is ground without sauteing it first.
Cook the veggies with enough water in a microwave/stove top. Grind together all the other ingredients except turmeric powder and salt to a smooth mixture. Heat a tsp of oil in a pan. Add some cumin seeds to it. When the seeds sputter, pour in the ground mixture, reduce heat and stir for a few minutes until the raw smell goes away. Now add in the turmeric powder, salt and cooked veggies. Let it boil for few minutes until the flavours blend together well. Garnish with chopped corriander leaves.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Manga inji (Mango ginger) pickle

We're already more than half way through the first month of a new year. 2009 has so far been a year of change for me. After lots and lots and then some more thought, I am finally back to work. That's what's kept me away from blogging for the last few weeks. So, here's wishing all my blogger buddies a Very belated but Happy New Year.
My first post of this year is something very, very simple to make if you have the ingredients handy and every bite will bring with it a burst of flavours from the ingredients. Two of the ingredients that I've used here - the mango ginger and the peppercorns are from my parents' garden. Manga inji or mango ginger, for those who are not familiar with it is a rhizome that looks like ginger but smells like raw mangoes when you cut it.

What you need:
Mango ginger -1/2 cups,washed, skinned and chopped into small pieces
Green pepper corns - 1 tbsp washed, dried and destalked
Lemon - 1 , cut into small pieces or juice of a lemon
(The quantities are approximate and can be adjusted according to your taste)
Mix all the ingredients together. See, didn't I say it is easy???

It can be eaten immediately and if refrigerated, stays good for upto 2 weeks.

This pickle is my entry to Andrea's Grow Your Own event.