Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Pulikachal - an instant spiced tamarind mix to make Puliyodharai/Tamarind rice in a jiffy

Most South Indians that travel are familiar with this staple that is usually made in large quantities at home before the travel date. When I was a child, the smell of pulikachal being made signified that the summer vacations were about to start. We would board the train, with a small koodai(basket) which held our dinner. Tamarind rice and curd rice, both wrapped in banana leaves from our backyard and then wrapped in a layer of newspaper and tied up with vazha naru( twine from the banana plant) would be placed in the koodai along with a bottle of water. The train had to move barely a few inches before we would start feeling hungry and start opening our packets of food. The smell of rice wrapped in heated banana leaves is truly something that you have to have experienced to understand. Mere words are not enough to describe how incredibly satisfying it is.

Pulikachal, the key ingredient in making puliyodharai/tamarind rice is sold as puliyodharai/puliyogare/tamarind rice mix in stores, but if you have a little bit of time, then it is easy to make at home.

What you need:
Tamarind - 1 lemon sized ball soaked in 2 cups of hot water
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Salt - to taste

For the spice powder:
Urad dal - 3 tsp
Red chilli - 7 or 8 (adjust based on your spice tolerance and the spiciness of the chillies used)
Coriander seeds - 3 tsp
Sesame seeds - 2 tsp

For tempering:
Sesame oil - 1/4 cup
Urad dal - 1/2 tsp
Chana dal - 1/2 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Red chilli - 2, broken
Curry leaves - a sprig
Peanuts - 1/4 cup

Extract thick juice from the soaked tamarind and keep aside.

In a heavy bottomed pan, dry saute the urad dal, coriander seeds and red chilli until the dal turns reddish brown. Add sesame seeds and toast quickly till it starts to pop. Cool, powder and keep aside.

In the same pan, heat oil and add all the tempering ingredients except peanuts. When the mustard seeds pop and the dals turn reddish, add the peanuts and toast for a minute. Add tamarind extract, turmeric powder and salt. Let this boil over a medium flame until it starts to thicken and oil starts separating out from the sides. Switch off heat and add the spice powder. Mix well.
Once it cools completely, store in an air tight container. This can be stored at room temperature for a week and in the refrigerator for up to two months.

To make puliyodharai, add required quantity of pulikachal to cooked, cooled rice and mix well.Adding a spoon or two of sesame oil while mixing it with rice adds to the taste. I also feel that the rice absorbs the flavor of the mix better if it is allowed to sit for at least a few hours after mixing.

This is my entry to Blogging Marathon under the theme Kids' delight - Travel food.

This also goes to  Srivalli's Kids' Delight event guest hosted this month, by me, on the theme Travel Food.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Rava upma ready mix - Make your own ready-to-cook instant mix at home

Sometimes, when we take extended vacations, I make and carry some simple ready-to-make mixes using which I can quickly make a nourishing meal that satisfies the tummy and takes care of the craving for home cooked meals. Even though we like to eat out and try local foods at all the places we visit, over an extended period of time, eating three meals a day at restaurants takes a toll on the stomach and the wallet. MTR style ready-mixes like these are good to have on hand at such times. I came up with this recipe by looking at the ingredients on the Rava upma mix pack sold by MTR and other similar brands in Indian grocery stores. I then decided to make these at home adding ingredients that my family likes minus the preservatives and additives.

What you need:
Rava/Semolina/Sooji - 1 cup
Oil - 1/8 cup
Urad dal - 1/2 tsp
Chana dal - 1/2 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 7 or 8
Green chilli - 2, chopped fine

In a large pan, heat the oil over a low flame. Add chana dal, urad dal, curry leaves and chopped chillies. Fry these over low to medium heat until the dals turn reddish brown and the curry leaves and chillies turn brown. Only when the curry leaves and chillies turn brown on all sides does it mean that they have lost all moisture and can be stored for a long time. Add mustard seeds and let them pop. Now add the rava. Stir well and roast over low flame until the rava starts to turns reddish brown. Stir in salt. Switch off heat and let the mix cool. When it is completely cool, transfer to an air tight container. This can be stored at room temperature for a week and in the refrigerator for over a month.

Optional additions:
You can add chopped onion too to the mix. If you choose to, then this should be added while the chillies are being sautéed and you should saute the onions over a low flame until they are  brownish black and all traces of moisture is gone from the onions.

To make upma, you should cook 1 part of the upma mix in 2.5 parts of water. I usually carry a small rice cooker and make upma in it.

This is my entry to Blogging Marathon under the theme Kids' delight - Travel food.

This also goes to  Srivalli's Kids' Delight event guest hosted this month, by me, on the theme Travel Food.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Air fryer Masala peanuts

Hunger and distance from home are directly proportional, in my opinion. The moment you step out of home, you tend to feel hungry and that feeling intensifies with the distance that you travel away from home. When there are kids in the picture, then hunger tends to be of specific kinds - like hunger for potato chips, thirst for soda/juice and so on. 

Whenever we travel, I try to pack some home made snacks that we can munch on whenever we feel like it. One of the recent snacks that I tried making in a relatively oil free and healthy manner is this masala peanut which was well received by the kid and the rest of the family.

What you need:
Shelled Peanuts - 1 cup
Chick pea flour/besan/gram flour - 1 tbsp.
Rice flour - 2 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt - to taste
Oil - 1 tsp

In a bowl, mix the flours, chilli powder and salt. Add water, a little at a time, to make a thick paste. Add the oil to this and mix well. Add in the peanuts and mix well, making sure that the peanuts are coated well with the masala mixture.
Preheat air fryer to 350 degrees farenheit. 
Arrange the peanuts in a single layer, separating them out as much as possible in the fryer basket. Air fry for 4 minutes. Stir the peanuts and heat for a further two minutes. 
Remove and let cool. The peanuts will become more crisp as they cool.
Once completely cooled, store in an air tight container. These will stay good for 3-4 days at room temperature.

This is my entry to Blogging Marathon under the theme Kids' delight - Travel food.

This also goes to  Srivalli's Kids' Delight event guest hosted this month, by me, on the theme Travel Food.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Kids' Delight Announcement - Travel food

If your family travels, whether on long vacations or short road trips, chances are, you have spent some time thinking of the food that you will eat while traveling. If your kids are anything like mine, you will not be surprised to hear them say "I am hungry" just as often as "Are we there yet?". Preparation is key to keep hunger at bay.
That brings us to this month's Kids' Delight theme - Travel Food. Any dish that you have tried and tested and has the seal of approval from your kids, which fits into the category of travel food can be sent in as an entry. It could be a quick snack, a complete meal, a home made ready-to-cook mix that you carry with you when you travel - basically, anything that will take the stress off planning meals and lets you enjoy your trip. It is totally optional, but would be great if you could share some food related travel tips and even some food related memories from your travels.

There are a few simple ground rules to follow when you send in your entries:
  • First off, feel free to send in as many entries as you want to.
  • Any entries posted from today through April 15th can be sent in.
  • The entries must be new posts - not from your archives.
  • Since my blog showcases vegetarian food, I would appreciate it if you could send in entries that fit in to the vegetarian theme. However, eggs are OK.
  • In your post, please make sure that you  add the line(with link backs) "This is my entry to Srivalli's Kids' Delight event guest hosted by Jayashree on the theme Travel Food". It is mandatory to link to both Srivalli's original announcement and this announcement of mine.
  • Please mail your entries with the subject line "Entry for Kids delight - Travel food" and a photo to
  • I would greatly appreciate it if you could add this logo to your post as well

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

27 Breakfast ideas to help you start your day on the right note

Everyone must have heard at least once that they should not skip breakfast. A good breakfast - one that is a balanced mix of proteins, carbs and essential vitamins and minerals fills you up with energy and helps you get ready to face the day.  If you often find yourself making the same dishes for breakfast and wanting to break out of your routine, I have just the thing for you. In February, some of my fellow bloggers & I participated in the Blogging Marathon and posted breakfast dishes from different places. This is a round-up of all those breakfast dishes in one place. We have an amazing array of not just one or two, but 27 breakfast dishes from around the globe.

Priya, a versatile blogger who doesn't shy away from experimenting with different cuisines, brings us Mekitsa, a fried dough from Bulgaria, Brioche buns and homemade English muffins. Whether you make these ahead for breakfast or decide to try these out for a lazy weekend brunch, these are sure to delight.

Sandhya's Cooking journey showcases Rava kichdi, Sabudana kichdi and Neer dosa - a lacey, soft crepe. Try these out to wow your family and friends.

Whether you are fasting or feasting, Bhawna has you covered. She brings us Sabudana vada, Instant dhokla and Gobi parathas.

Sushma's posts are a perfect amalgamation of North and South Indian breakfast foods. Khara bhath and pesarattu from the South vie with Mooli parathas from the North for your attention.

The diversity of Indian food is perfectly showcased by Srivalli, whose brain child the Blogging Marathon is. Aloo parathas from Amritsar, Mirchi vada pav from Rajasthan and Lauki-nu-muthia from Gujarat offer a power packed and tasty way to start your day.

Jayanthi brings in some steamed goodies. Her idiyappam, upma kozhakattai and Kanchipuram idli are a healthy and tasty way to begin the day.

Sandhya showcases some quick breakfast dishes in the form of no-ferment dosas and upma. Check out her neer dosa, rava upma and ragi dosa.

If you are looking for something that combines nutrition and taste, look no further than PJ's aval upma, oats dhokla and matar poha chura.

My contributions to the breakfast theme are Rava rotti, Bedmi poori and Raswala aloo which are great not only as breakfast dishes, but also make for a hearty weekend brunch.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Raswala aloo curry (Juicy potato curry)

The bedmi puri that I posted about yesterday is usually served with a potato curry. Sans onions and garlic, this curry predominantly has a tanginess from tomatoes and a mild spiciness from the spices used. Paired with spicy bedmi puris, this makes for a filling breakfast or brunch.

What you need:
Potato - 2 medium sized (cooked, peeled and diced)
Tomato - 3 large (pureed along with a 1 inch piece of ginger)
Oil - 1 tbsp.
Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Cumin powder - 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder - 1/2 tsp
Garam masala - 1/2 tsp
Coriander - to garnish

Heat oil in a kadai/wok. Add cumin seeds. Reduce the flame and add in the turmeric, red chilli, cumin and coriander powders. Saute for a few seconds until fragrant, taking care not to let the spice mix burn. Add in the tomato puree and let it boil until most of the moisture evaporates. Add the diced potatoes, garam masala, salt and 1 cup of water. Let it come to a boil. Switch off and garnish with coriander.
Serve hot with bedmi puri.

This is my entry to Week 4 of Blogging marathon #85 under the theme breakfast dishes from different places.

Bedmi poori - A delight from the holy city of Varanasi

Varanasi or Kashi, as it is known in South India, is famous for being one of the holiest cities known to Indians. People often spend their last days in this city in the belief that breathing their last there will give them moksham (liberation from the cycle of life and death).
The food of the city is just as good as something that you would expect from "the" holy city. However, it is not as well known outside, as the food of Mumbai or Delhi. Bedmi pooris are usually associated with Agra and New Delhi. However, this is a popular breakfast dish in Varanasi as well. Coarsely ground urad dal with spices is mixed with wheat flour and then deep fried to make these delicious spicy puris. It is usually served with potato curry to make a complete meal.

What you need:

Urad dal - 1/2 cup
Green chilli - 2
Ginger - small 1 inch piece
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1/4 tsp
Garam masala - 1 tsp
Cumin powder - 1/2 tsp
Wheat flour - 1 cup
Sooji/rava/semolina - 3 tbsp.
Oil - for deep frying + 1 tbsp.

Wash urad dal well and soak in cold water for 1 hour. Drain and grind along with green chilli and ginger to a coarse paste. Add coriander powder, red chilli powder, cumin powder and garam masala to this along with a little salt. Mix in wheat flour and rava and more salt if needed. Add water, a little at a time and knead to a stiff dough. Knead in 1 tbsp. of oil, cover and keep aside for an hour.

To make puris:
Pinch out small lemon sized balls of the dough. Roll each dough ball into a 4-5 inch circle.
Deep fry in hot oil, cooking until both sides puff up and are slightly reddish brown.
Serve hot with aloo curry.

This is my entry to Week 4 of Blogging marathon #85 under the theme breakfast dishes from different places.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Rava Rotti - a traditional Karnataka dish

Breakfast, on most weekdays for me, is something quick and easy. I do try and make it as nutritious and protein packed as I can so that we have a healthy start to the day. It is on weekends that I am really able to try out elaborate dishes that sometimes also double up as brunch. This  rava rotti, though not an elaborate recipe by itself, does require some time, mostly because the dough needs to rest for a while. Packed with vegetables, this is quite a filling meal by itself, or paired with any simple chutney. I had it for the first time at a friend's house and it is there that I learned that this is a traditional dish from Karnataka.

What you need:
Rava/Sooji/semolina - 2 cups
Carrot - 1, grated
Cucumber - 1, skinned and grated
Spinach - 1/4 cup, chopped fine
Onion - 1/4 cup, chopped fine
Green chilli - 3, minced
Coriander and curry leaves - a little, chopped fine
Oil - 1 tbsp

Take the all the vegetables in a large bowl. Mix in the rava and salt. Add water, a little at a time and knead into a loose dough. Mix in 1 tbsp. of oil. Cover and leave aside for at least an hour, but if possible, for 3-4 hours. If the dough is not loose after the resting period, add some more water and knead again.
Take a banana leaf or any oiled surface to which the dough will not stick. Pinch out a large golf ball sized piece of dough. Place this on the oiled surface and pat into as large a circle as you can without tearing it. Turn this over onto a hot tawa. After a few seconds, peel off the banana leaf. Since I do not have access to fresh banana leaves, I used a special type of paper called holige paper, which is non-stick in nature and can be turned on to a hot surface without burning. Spoon some oil over the rotti and on the sides. Flip over and cook the other side as well. The rotti is done when the color changes from white to a creamish yellow shade and both sides have brown spots.

This is best eaten hot. It can be eaten as is or with peanut or coconut chutney or pickle.

  • The addition of cucumber makes the rotti soft. If you do not add it, the rotti will turn brittle.
  • It is important to rest the dough for at least an hour. The longer you let it rest, the softer your rottis will be.
  • Any other greens of your choice can be added.
This is my entry to Week 4 of Blogging marathon #85 under the theme breakfast dishes from different places.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Muringakkai puli kuzhambu (Drumsticks cooked in a tangy tamarind base)

This is another simple, every day meal that we love. Most South Indians tend to love the tanginess that tamarind lends to any dish. I am no exception. Drumsticks grow in abundance in my parents' home. When I lived there, I couldn't care less for this vegetable. Now that I have access only to frozen drumsticks, and on rare occasions, fresh ones which don't match up to the robust flavor of home-grown Indian drumsticks. I miss those little things that I took for granted. This kuzhambu makes use of frozen drumsticks and frozen pearl onions which I buy as a matter of convenience, not non-availability of fresh ones. It is similar to vathal kuzhambu. The main difference between the two is that this one uses fresh vegetables whereas vathal kuzhambu makes use of sun dried vegetables and berries.
Do check out my earlier posts on vathal kuzhambu and the making of sundried sundakka vathal.

What you need:
Tamarind - Lemon sized ball soaked in enough hot water to yield two cups of extract
Oil (preferably sesame) - 2 tbsp.
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Urad dal - 1/2 tsp
Chana dal - 1/2 tsp
Methi seeds - 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves - a few
Pearl onions - 8-10
Drumsticks - 8-10 pieces if using frozen (2, chopped if using fresh)
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Sambar powder - 2 tsp
Asafoetida - a generous sprinkling

Heat oil in a kadai. Add the dals. When they start to redden, add mustard seeds, methi seeds and curry leaves. When the mustard pops, add pearl onions and saute till pink. Add tamarind extract, drumstick pieces, asafoetida, turmeric, salt and sambar powder. Stir well and let it come to a boil. Boil on low flame for a few minutes to allow the gravy to thicken. If you feel that it is too watery, it can be thickened by adding rice paste which is made by adding one teaspoon of rice flour to water to make a thick paste. This rice paste can be stirred into the kuzhambu, with constant stirring.
Serve the kuzhambu hot with rice and a dollop of ghee or sesame oil.

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Schezwan Vegetable fried rice

If you've been reading my blog for a while, then you know that I love recipes that are quick and easy to make. This Schezwan fried rice ticks both boxes. In addition, it is also colorful and loaded with vegetables. The one thing that does take time is making the Schezwan sauce. If you don't want to do that, you can use any brand of store bought Schezwan sauce. I have used homemade sauce, which I usually make in large quantities whenever I have the time, and store in the refrigerator. The sauce recipe will be shared in a different post.

What  you need:
Rice - 1 cup, cooked and completely cooled
Oil - 2 tbsp.
Ginger - 1 inch piece, julienned
Garlic - 4 cloves, minced
Onion - 1 small, chopped into thin, long pieces
Celery - 1 stalk, chopped fine
Vegetables - 3/4 cup (I used a combination of cabbage, carrot, beans and peas)
Soy sauce - 1 tbsp.
Schezwan sauce - 1 tbsp, heaped (Don't be tempted to use more, as the sauce is quite spicy)
Salt - to taste
Spring onion greens - to garnish
In a large pan or wok, heat oil. Add ginger and garlic. Saute for a few seconds. Add onion and continue to saute. Stir in celery, followed by the vegetables. Saute on high heat for a few minutes. Add soy sauce and schezwan sauce and mix well. Add in the cooked, cooled rice and salt to taste and stir to ensure that the sauce and vegetables mix well with the rice. Garnish with chopped spring onion greens.
This can be served as is or with any Indo-Chinese curry of your choice.

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM

Friday, February 02, 2018

Pulingari - a tangy tamarind based gravy

When I chose the theme Gravies/Rice main course for the February blogging marathon, the first few dishes that I thought of are restaurant favorites - rich gravies and exotic rice dishes. However, what I often make and  what we truly enjoy is our simple, every day home cooking. This pulingari is an authentic Kerala Iyer recipe. Like all recipes from my home state of Kerala, this one too makes abundant use of fresh coconut which is ground along with some roast spices and added to vegetables cooked in tamarind.It is light and easy on the stomach, with no added lentils, and with an appealing tanginess that is balanced by the coconut masala paste. Pulingari literally mean a curry made of tamarind.  This is eaten with rice and a side of vegetables and papadam.

What you need:
Vegetables - 1/2 cup, diced (The commonly used vegetables for pulingari are pumpkin, ash gourd, brinjal, carrots, and colocasia. These vegetables can be used in combination or separately)
Tamarind - a lemon sized ball soaked in 2 cups of hot water
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Grated coconut - 1/2 cup

To roast:
Oil - 1 tsp
Red chilli - 3
Curry leaves - a sprig
Methi seeds - 1/4 tsp
Raw rice - 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida - a small piece (If you use powdered asafetida, add it after the flame is turned off)

Heat oil in a pan. Add red chillies, curry leaves, asafoetida and raw rice. Roast over a low flame. Add methi seeds and roast for just a few seconds, taking care to see that the seeds do not burn, as this will make the curry bitter. Once cool, grind this with the grated coconut, adding a little water to make a smooth paste. Set aside.

In the same pan, take the vegetables. Add tamarind extract, turmeric powder and salt. Boil partly covered until the vegetables are three-fourths cooked. Add the ground paste and let it boil again until the vegetables are well cooked. The curry should be of a pourable consistency. So if you feel it is too thick, add some more water and if you feel it is too thin, let it boil till the desired consistency is reached.
In a separate pan, heat a teaspoon of oil (preferably coconut oil). Add 1/2 tsp each of mustard seeds and urad dal. When the seeds pop, pour this over the pulingari. Top with a sprig of fresh curry leaves.
Serve hot with rice and a dollop of ghee.

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Candied orange peels

One of the things that I am consciously trying to do these days is reduce the amount of waste that is produced by my household. Though I still have a long way to go to be zero waste, I am on the path towards this goal. To this end, I now take my own cloth shopping bags to the stores, use reusable storage bags to store fresh produce and am trying my best to avoid single use plastics. Most vegetable peels are turned into stock and I make my own household cleaner with citrus peels. This time, though, I tried something different with orange peels. I made candied orange peels. This is quite an easy recipe, though it requires a little bit of time. The candied peels add great flavor to simple bakes like breads and cakes.

To make candied orange peels, you will need:
Peels from 3 oranges (washed and sliced into thin, long strips)
Water - 1/2 cup
Sugar - 1/2 cup

Boil 7-8 cups of water in a large saucepan. When it starts to boil, add the orange peels and let it boil uncovered, for 5 minutes. Drain and repeat the process again. This is done to remove the bitterness of the peels. If the peels are very bitter, you can boil and drain the water thrice. The orange peels that I used this time were not very bitter and it was enough to boil them twice.
Heat half a cup of water in a pan. Add sugar to it. Once the sugar dissolves, add the orange peels and let them cook on low heat for 20-25 minutes. Remove the peels onto a cooling rack and leave them to dry overnight. If there is any sugar syrup left, you can use it in smoothies or juices. Store the peels in an airtight container.

Do check out what my fellow marathoners have cooked today for BM# 84.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Foxtail millet (thinai) kozhukattai

I've been experimenting with millets in my kitchen and am trying my hand at substituting millets for rice in most of my everyday recipes. One such recipe where foxtail millet worked out really well as a substitute is this kozhukattai. Foxtail millet, known as thinai in Tamil and thina in Malayalam is a widely used variety of millet in South India. In this dish, the millet is coarsely ground along with some spices and then cooked, shaped into balls and steamed. This makes for a hearty and nutritious tiffin.

What you need:
Foxtail millet - 1 cup
Tuar dal - 1 tsp, heaped
Black pepper corn - 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Oil - 3 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Urad dal - 1/2 tsp
Chana dal - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - a sprig
Red chilli - 2, broken into pieces
Grated coconut - 1/3 cup
Asafoetida - a few generous pinches
Water - 2 - 2.5 cups (Start with two cups and if you feel the mixture is too dry, add up to another half cup)
Salt - to taste

In a blender, coarsely grind the millet, dal, pepper and cumin.
In a large kadai, heat oil. Addd mustard seeds, urad and chana dal, curry leaves and red chilli. When the seeds pop, add asafoetida and coconut. Saute for a minute or two and then add water and salt. When the water starts to boil, add the ground millets, a little at a time, stirring to make sure that no lumps are formed. Stir and cook until all the moisture is absorbed. Let this mixture cool.
Once it is cool enough to touch, pinch out small lemon sized portions and shape into balls. Place this on a greased idli plate or steamer plate and steam for 8-10 minutes.
Serve hot with coconut chutney or any other chutney of your choice.

Do check out what my fellow marathoners have cooked today for BM# 84.