Vegetarian Concoctions

February 4, 2008

Chettinad chutney

Today’s story joins hands with Lakshmi’s request (made sometime in October last year!) to narrate how alert, attentive, observant and aware I am of my activites in the kitchen when burning cooking food and maybe you could learn a few tricks of the trade from a true professional by the end of this saga. When I first started cooking as a student, I could count the number of times I had cooked during the month by just looking at my hands….by the number of burn marks or cuts. It was inevitable and I had one everytime I cooked.

For the absent-minded person that I am, it amazes me that I have not encountered any major kitchen disaster like hot oil spills or pressure cooker bursting (this happened to my mother once and she escaped without a scratch) Yet! Small ones do keep happening every now and then.

Back in school days, one episode stands out. My roommates and I had invited a bunch of seniors for dinner that day. I came up with the idea of making masala dosa with chutney and sambhar. Sounded great, but dosa was an unknown territory for all of us. I picked up the samaithu paar book(the only cookbook in the cabinet) and hurriedly looked for dosai. Rice and Udad dal…how difficult can that be? We also had a blender now. The soaking time said ‘overnight’ and we had just about 4-5 hours. We could soak the rice and dal, go grocery shopping, make the chutney and sambhar and then grind the dosa batter. That should be enough time I thought. Then a brilliant idea struck yours truly. I boiled water in a huge pot, switched off the flame, added 18 cups of raw rice into it and covered it with a lid. Ah there! That ought to speed up the soaking process. Off we went to the store to buy huge bags of potatoes and onions for the masala filling. At the back of my mind, I could not help feeling pleased and proud of myself. ‘Next time,’ I said to myself ‘when I talk to amma, I have give her this handy tip!’.

2 hours later. My roomies had their hands full preparing the accompaniments and I opened the lid to see how well the rice was soaked. Horror of horrors! Half cooked rice had filled up to the brim, looking for space to grow even more! Now what? N was quick to recover. She ran to the Indian store to get Dosa mix and saved the day. I learnt my lesson that day. I stick to what the elders and cookbooks say with traditional recipes and never try anything new when I have guests over. BTW, we managed to finish the rice over the next week and also successfully made dosais the following week.

To go with the dosais I usually make Maheshwari’s Hotel sambhar and my SIL, Priya’s Chettinadu chutney. Here’s her recipe copy pasted right out of the email she sent me:

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Onions-2 (medium sized)

Tomato-2 (if sour or 3 if not sour)

chana dal-2 teaspoons

red and green chillies taken in equal quantities according to taste

salt to taste

Take 2 teaspoons of oil and fry the chana dal to golden brown and then add the onions once the onions become transparent add the tomatoes and the chillies and fry them all till soft and done. Then cool them and add salt and grind them into a fine paste in the mixie and season with mustard seeds and curry leaves.

My friend Ranjini gave a quick and easy recipe for this chutney that I make quite often too. It has a few extra ingredients, but just as simple and delicious:

Onions – 1 medium

Tomato – 2 medium

Ginger – ½ cm piece

Chana dal – 3 tsp

Udad dal – 1 tsp

Mustard seeds – 1/ 2tsp

Turmeric – a pinch

Coriander/cilantro – 1 tbsp chopped

Mint leaves – 1 tbsp chopped (optional)

Red chillies – 1

Green chilli – 1

Heat up 2 tsp of oil and add mustard seeds, red chilli, udad and chana dal. Once the dals brown add onion and cook. Then add rest of the ingredients and cook until the tomatoes are soft and cooked. Grind everything with little water with required amount of salt. YUM!

January 17, 2008

Baingan Bharta

Filed under: Brinjal (Eggplant), Main meals, Punjabi — Hema @ 12:04 pm

Today I keep two promises. One that I made to myself at the start of this new year, that I will not ignore my blog any more and will try to post something at least once or twice a month. The other I had promised my friends that I would narrate my story one day.

A tale that begins in my home back in India, where the kitchen was my mom’s territory that I occasionally visited when my stomach growled. The kitchen counter being my favorite place to sit while amma cooked tirelessly for her ever hungry family(read kids). I helped her in quality control – tasting for salt and spice. Actually, I was not even good at that. I knew something was missing, but could never figure out what. I never even bothered to look at the ingredients that went into her pots and pans.

By the time I finished college, the only commendable jobs I could perform in the kitchen were making dosais (this does not include making the batter) and perfectly round chappatis/phulkas that would puff up almost every time (and this does not include preparing the dough). I could not make tea or even cook rice to save my life. I learnt basic survival subjis, curries and dals just before I left home and moved all the way across the globe.

When I landed in the US and met my roommates, I figured I was definitely in between both N and S who couldn’t light a match and J who could cook sambhar and rasam without looking at cookbooks and recreate dishes from any printed recipe without hesitation. N and S gave me a superiority complex for the first time in my life. Our cooking turns inspired me to look for recipes everywhere and come up with something new every week. The phone of course, was my lifeline. I don’t remember the number of calls I must have made to ask Amma ‘what dal goes into kootu’ or ‘moong dal? Is that the little yellow one or the little red one?. Amma was getting used to receiving SOS calls at 3 or 4 in the morning IST. One such call was for the recipe for baingan bharta.

It was such a big hit, and the one that elevated me to the category of being a good cook who could make exotic dishes*, and that accolade was not given to J yet! She was a wonderful cook, but made only south Indian food. Needless to say, I was on cloud nine and all pumped up for my next cooking turn which almost cost me my newly acquired title. That story comes up next time, but for now, I present to you my recipe of success.

*Any two word North indian dish is exotic for a South Indian. Any dish that both tastes and sounds close to a restaurant menu is exotic for a bunch of poor students. Anything edible is exotic if you are a bad cook/do not cook. Take your pick!

Ingredients:

Baingan (Eggplant) – 1 large

White Onions – 2 medium (chopped lengthwise)

Tomatoes – 4 medium (chopped)

Garlic – 1 or 2 cloves (optional)

Green chillies – 3 or according to spice level

Ginger – 1 cm x 1 cm piece grated

Red chilli pwd – 1 tsp

Jeera pwd – 1 tbsp

Cumin (Jeera) – 2 tsp

Garam masala (optional) – 1 tsp

Turmeric – ¼ tsp

Oil – 2 tbsp

Salt to taste

Cilantro to garnish

Rub some oil on the Baingan and roast it directly on the fire until the skin chars and the flesh is completely cooked. This works best when you have a gas stove. It also works if you have the electric coil. For those with smooth tops, like me, open the oven and broil it on high. Keep checking and turning when required. Once cooked, place it in a cold water bath and peel the skins off. It should come off easily. Now, just run your knife over the baingan randomly and cut it into small bits.

Heat up the oil and add the jeera. Add the ginger and chillies. Then add the onions and garlic. Once the onions are transluscent, add tomatoes. After the tomatoes are cooked, add the jeera, chilli, turmeric and garam masala pwds. Add the chopped baingan and required salt. Let it cook together for another 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat, garnish with cilantro and serve with hot phulkas! YUM!

October 22, 2007

Navarathri Golu

Filed under: Festivals and occasions, JFI, Navarathri, South Indian — Hema @ 1:57 pm

It has been a busy 10 days with lots of people coming home for Golu and lots of visits to other poeple’s golus. The Garba celebrated in a modest way at the temple filled me with nostalgia transporting me to my college days at Baroda when my friends and I used to have the time of our lives dancing garba and raas way past midnight. I wanted to post this earlier and invite you all home for golu, but I still want you to be a part of it. This time I tried to recreate a barn for my daughter who loves old McDonald and his farm animals. To read more about the significance and tradition of golu read this and this.

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This goes to Vee who is hosting this special edition JFS:Dassera

September 24, 2007

Chitranna – White, Yellow and Brown!!!

Filed under: Karnataka, Kootu, Lemon, RCI, Rice, Tamarind, White pumpkin (Pooshinikkai) — Hema @ 11:59 am

Rice, Chawal, Arissi, Bhiyam, Ari or Akki, once boiled, has the greatest ability to look elegent in any combination of flavor or color. With little effort, the plain white grains can be transformed into a colorful explosion of reds and yellows and browns and greens. A staple diet in South India and many other regions across the world, the rice has endless ways of pleasing the most refined palate. Keeping in mind the theme for the month dedicated to Karnataka cuisine, here are my entries served with pooshinikkai morkootu.

Nimbehannu Chitranna:

Long-grained Rice)- 3 cups cooked

Turmeric – 1 1/2 tsp

Mustard seeds – 1 tsp

Chana dal – 2 tsp

Udad dal – 1 tsp

Peanuts – a handfull

Methi powder – 1/2 tsp

Hing – 1/4 tsp

Lemon – 1 1/2 tbsp or to taste

Salt – to taste

Green chillies – 4 or 5

Curry leaves – 6 or 7

oil – 1 tbsp

til/gingerly oil – 1 tbsp

lime zest – 1 tsp

Red chillies – 1 or 2

Boil rice and let it cool down for a while, add the til oil and mix it with the rice so that all the grains seperate easily. Make a small pit in the center and spoon in the turmeric and the zest. Heat up half the oil and roast the peanuts well. Set aside. To the other half add mustard seeds, chana dal, udad dal, hing, methi pwd, red chillies and let it roast up. Then add the green chillies and curry leaves. Pour this directly into the pit on the turmeric and add required salt. Once cool, add peanuts and lemon juice and mix well. The lemon zest gives it an extra flavor (a tip from my aunt).

Kayi-Sasive chitranna:

Rice – 3 cups

Grated Coconut – 1/2 cup fresh or shredded

Red chillies – 2 + 1

Tamarind – 1 tsp

Jaggery(optional) – 1 tsp

Mustard seeds – 1 tsp + 1/2 tsp

Chana dal – 2 tsp

Udad dal – 1 tsp

Hing – 1/4 tsp

Fenugreek seeds – 1/2 tsp

Coconut oil – 1 tbsp

Vegetable oil – 1 tbsp

Turmeric – 1/2 tsp

Curry leaves – 6 or 7

Grind the coconut, 1 tsp mustard seeds, tamarind, turmeric, jaggery and red chillies with minimum water. Spread the cooked rice and mix it with the coconut oil. Heat up the oil and add 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, chana dal, udad dal, 1 red chilli, hing and curry leaves. Add the ground paste and roast till the raw smell of tamarind goes. Add salt and mix this with the rice. I like my rice white and not-sweet, so left out the jaggery and turmeric.

Puliyogare:

This is my aunt’s innovation for making instant puliyagare. It tastes just as good without the hardwork of making the pulikachal / gojju.

Tamarind concentrate – 1 medium heaped spoon

Cooked rice – 3 cups

Mustard seeds – 1 tsp

Chana dal – 1 tbsp

Udad dal – 1 tsp

Peanuts – a handful

Methi kuria – 2 tsp

Gingerlly oil – 1 tbsp + 1 tbsp

Red Chillies – 4

hing – 1/4 tsp

Black pepper pwd – 1 tsp

Dhania pwd – 2 tsp

Turmeric – a pinch

Jaggery – 1 tsp (optional)

Curry leaves – 7-8

Salt to taste

Prepare the rice and mix it with 1 tbsp of til oil and methi kuria. Methi kuria is a spice powder prepared in Gujarat using fenugreek that is coarsely ground, red chilli powder and til oil. In the USA, it is available in Indian stores and in India, you may find it in khadi udyog. If, unavailable, roast 2 tsp of fenugreek seeds and dry grind into a fine pwd. This can be substituted for the same amount of methi kuria. Heat up the rest of the oil and first roast the peanuts and set aside. Then to the same oil add mustard seeds, chana dal, udad dal, hing, red chillies and curry leaves. Once the dals have browned, dissolve the tamarind paste in very little water and add it to the spices. add turmeric, roasted peanuts, jaggery and salt and let this boil till the raw smell goes and the paste has thickened up. Now add the dhania and pepper powder and pour into the prepared rice. Mix well and enjoy!

I am packing these off to Asha for RCI-Karnataka!

September 13, 2007

ZZzzzzzzzzzz

Filed under: General — Hema @ 4:06 pm

Tretha yugam
Kumbakarna – the sleeping giant. He slept six months of an year and the other six months were spent eating. He was in the middle of his sleeping schedule when war broke out. Ravana tried various tactics to wake him up. Thousands of soldiers yelled and screamed, nothing happened. They sounded drums close to his ears, nothing happened. They splashed water and poked him with huge needles, still no movement! Finally they brought in gallons of food and the divine smell was too irresistable to pass off by the oldest foodie known.

Kaliyugam
Vegetarian Concoctions – the sleeping blog. This blog space has been following the footsteps of the great giant. It dishes out some recipes sporadically and then goes into deep slumber for weeks together. JFIs come and go, nothing happens here. Blog anniversary comes and goes, still nothing happens. A good friend gives it a gentle nudge (too gentle I think…give it one tight KICK!) to no avail. But, the tantalizing aroma of Karnataka cuisine is every foodie’s hope……

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WAKE UP….WILL YOU!!!!!

July 26, 2007

Red Cabbage Morkootu

Filed under: Curd/Yogurt, Kootu, Red cabbage, Salads and Raita, South Indian, Tamilnadu — Hema @ 11:41 am

I am not an adventurous shopper when it comes to vegetables. My grocery list never features vegetables that I have not tasted. Bad! you may say for a food blogger…and I agree. I had not tried a new vegetable for almost 2 years after coming to the US and my husband on the other hand had stories to tell me on his cooking adventures as a bachelor. Anyone who knows him would have definitely heard this story least a few times.

During his first few weeks in the US, hubby spots Brussels sprouts in the grocrey store and they look like miniature cabbages. He buys a few, gets them home, steams them, adds salt and pepper and tastes. They are good! He loves them. So, now on he decides they will be a regular in his grocery list. Now, the story gets exciting. The next visit to the store, he spots Habanero peppers. Ah! cute little bell peppers, he thinks, ‘will be great for sambhar’. He buys about 30 and heads home to concoct the sambhar he will remember for a lifetime! And the fact that surprised me most was that he made it a point to finish all that sambhar in the next 4-5 days. I have to mention this here….he makes the best sambhar and he was my sambhar guru after we got married. But this definitely does not justify his courageous act.

I guess I just play it safe when it comes to food:) Anyway, I had been eyeing the red cabbage for a while and never actually bought them. Reason – hubby tried them once and said they tasted bitter to him. From a few shows on food network and a few recipies blogged by friends here I gathered enough courage to get a veggie-never-tried-before. What’s the big deal, you may think, but you see…I hate wasting or thowing away food in any form. So, I like to make sure we consume what we buy. This is what I ended up making with it two times within a week. It just tasted so good!

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Red cabbage – 1/2

Curd – 2 cups

Turmeric – a pinch

Salt to taste

For Grinding:

Black pepper – 1/2 tsp

Dry red chilli – 1

Green chillies – 2

Jeera / cumin – 1 tsp

Coconut (shredded) – 2 tbsp

Curry leaves – 6-7

Tur dal soaked for 1/2 hr (optional) – 1 tsp

For garnishing:

Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp

Tur dal – 1 tsp

Hing – a pinch

Curry leaves – a few

Oil – 2 tsp

Shread the cabbage and boil it with salt, in enough water to cover it. Grind the ‘for grinding’ ingredients above with minimum water. Once the cabbage is cooked, add the ground paste. Cook for a few minutes and reduce the heat. Beat the curds with the turmeric and add it to the pot. Let this heat through, but do not let it boil. Garnish.
Mor kootu is almost like avial. It goes very well with kalanda sadam (mixed rice like pulihorai, mint rice, coconut rice, lemon rice etc)

July 12, 2007

Kandathippili sathumudu (rasam)

Filed under: Arisithippili, Home remedies, Kandathippili, Main meals, Rasam, Tamilnadu — Hema @ 11:38 am

With astounding developments in science and medicine, there are so many quick cures to everyday ailments a man from suffers time and again. Diseases like small pox have been eradicated and life expectancy has gone up both in developed and developing nations. Having said this, there are so many new diseases infesting the human race. AIDS for example, was non-existant half a century ago and is now the most dreaded disease. There are drugs available for depression, restless legs and weight loss. Are these diseases? Can they not be dealt with without drugs?

My daughter’s pediatrician had prescribed Elidel for her eczema and after a month or so asked us to stop using it as it had a black box warning. Several drugs are withdrawn from the market after they start showing signs of side effects in the long run. How do I know if the second presciption ointment is safe for my child? Now, will you blame me if I turn to the trusted home remedies that our grandmas suggested for simple headaches, rashes and colds? I think not!

I saw this interesting titbit online and had to save it for this post:

“I have a sore throat.”

2000 BC : “eat this root”

1200 AD : “That root is heathen, say this prayer.”

1500 AD : “That prayer is superstition, drink this elixir.”

1800 AD : “That elixir is snake oil, Take this pill.”

1900 AD : “That pill is ineffective, Take this antibiotic.”

2000 AD : “That antibiotic is artificial, Here why dont you eat this root.”

And eat the root we will! Well make that bark. Kandathippili is available as 2-3 inch long sticks in herbal stores in the south. Does anyone know what the scientific name is or if it has another name? I have not been able to find it. Arisithippili (long pepper) is a relative of the black pepper (see picture right down below)This rasam (iyengars call rasam, sathumudu) is ideal for body aches and for the ‘not-feeling-that-great’ days. It is frequently made for postpartum meals in our custom.

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What you need:

Kandathippili – 5-6 sticks

Arisithippili – 4-5 grains

Sukku/soonth/dry ginger (see picture below) – 1 tsp powdered

Black pepper – 1 tsp

Jeera/cumin – 1 tsp

Red chillies – 2 nos

Hing – a pinch

Few curry leaves

Turmeric – a pinch

Tamarind – paste from 1 lemon sized ball

Ghee, curry leaves, Jeera and mustard for tadka

Heat up a small pan and roast the kandathippili and arisithippili till they brown and the kitchen is evidently fragrant. Add sukku, black pepper, jeera, hing, curry leaves and red chillies and roast for a few more minutes. Dry grind. (This powder can be made in excess and kept for a few days in an airtight container). Boil 3 cups of water with tamarind paste, turmeric and salt for 10 minutes or until the raw smell of the tamarind goes. Add the ground powder. Temper with rai, jeera and curry leaves in ghee.

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Sukku
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Arisithippili

July 5, 2007

Khasta Kachori

I have’nt been blogging for over a month now. No particular reason. I did make some interesting crunchies and munchies, but did not bother to take photographs. My husband even asked me if I was feeling well when I let him eat the spring rolls without capturing some shots for records. Photographing the food, for me, takes more time than cooking it. I do have a good camera, with the macro mode(which is quite a feature for photographing food!) capability, but my kitchen is not open to natural light. I have to take pictures during the day, with the lights on. Most times, I just cannot manage a decent shot indoors.

My typical photography sessions are filled with activity. I carry the food, the garnish, a cloth to spread on the ground and the camera to the patio. A pair of curious eyes watches me with interest. I spread the cloth and place the serving bowl on it. A pair of energetic legs jumps into action. I wipe the bowl for any unwanted traces of food, garnish it and switch on the camera. A pair of meddling hands is what I see through the viewer. Then I do a little pleading and screaming. More often than not, this just increases the levels of curiosity and activity. I threaten a ‘time out’ session and that doesn’t work either. I wonder how the father manages this dialogue so effectively. Finally, I turn to my saviour – ‘Barney’. He has came to my rescue more times than I can count. Works like a charm. With the little monkey safely watching the dino, I get back to work. After a couple shots I can see the head turn towards me again. I quickly take another shot and clear everything out before hurricane Ananya decides to change path.

Now you see why I am not really fond of the picture displaying part of the recipe writing process. Anyway, this is a picture sequence I had taken a few months ago and completely forgotton about. When I chanced to see it in my camera waiting to be uploaded, I didnt lose much time compiling this post.

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Khasta kachori is a recipe I learnt from a friend’s mom. She made the most amazing kachoris. This is what you need.

All-purpose flour (maida) – 2 cups

Ghee/butter – 1/3 cup

Moong dal – 3/4 cup

Saunf(fennel seeds) – 2 tsp

Dhania (Corriander seeds) – 1 tbsp

Jeera (Cumin seeds) – 2 tsp

Red chilli pwd – 2 tsp (or less)

Turmeric – 1/2 tsp

Hing – a pinch

Garam masala – 1/2 tsp

Oil for deep frying

Soak the moong dal overnight or for at least 3-4 hours. Mix the maida and ghee with hand to a crumbly texture. Add water little by little to make a stiff dough. Let rest for 1/2 hr. Dry grind the jeera, saunf and dhaniya. Add oil to a pan and add the soaked moong dal.(Alternatively you can grind the soaked moong dal coarsely with minimum water and then roast it in a little oil till the water evaporates and it forms a crumb-like texture. Add the masalas and the dry powders and saute for a few minutes. Let this cool. Fill it in the dough (do not overfill) and flatten it out a bit. Deep fry till golden brown and serve with chutney or ketchup.

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May 15, 2007

Fondant cakes

Filed under: Cakes — Hema @ 10:45 am

These are the two cakes I baked recently. The first one for my daughter’s birthday and second one for her party the following weekend. This was my first experience with fondant icing…actually any kind of icing. I have hopelessly tried royal and buttercream icing with tips and have decided that it is not my piece of cake:) Fondant seemed so much more forgiving and easier to work with. I made the marshmellow fondant from here and baked up this cake on my daughter’s birthday.

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I messed up the writing and did not like the orange color for the fonts after it was all done. My reference cakes
– for the daisies was this (scroll right down).
– and the border was this.

I got a little more courageous with my second venture and took the idea from here.

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Frankly, I did surprise myself with the way the animals turned out. The trees gave me a hard time, so I turned them into bushes:) No points for guessing why they are behind the animals and why the candle is on top of the bushes:)))

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If you are wondering what the sticks are, they were supposed to be the trunks for the trees, but ended up in the trash can prematurely.

On the whole I did enjoy making the animals and Ananya loved the fact that I actually gave her the eeefant, jeeba, beea and yanon (elephant, zebra, bear and lion) to play with after the party was done.

As Asha suggested, I am sending my first cake to Coffee’s MBP, Something Sweet

May 10, 2007

My Little one turned 2!!!

Filed under: Birthday, General — Hema @ 11:23 am

It is hard to believe the fragile little life that needed support to hold up its head two years back has actual conversations with me now with her head held high. Before I know it she will be ready to take on the world.

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….impatience?

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