Vegetarian Concoctions

January 31, 2007


Filed under: Indian, Jaggery, Pongal, Sweets and Desserts, Tamilnadu, Toor Dal — Hema @ 10:41 am

I had made poli on bhogi, the first day of pongal. A good friend read out the recipe from her Samaithu paar (cook and see) part I by Meenakshi ammal. I have made poli before, but I always had problems working with the maida. Hoping to get a better result this time, I heeded the book’s advice of adding all that oil that it recommended to make it more workable. The dough worked well but the filling was not upto the expectations. Why?  because, the recipe suggested that the chana dal be cooked well and then the excess water removed. Smart that I thought I was, I cooked the dal in minimum water and didnt realize that some portions of the dal though cooked, remained hard until it was too late to go back and correct it.


For the filling:

Uncooked chana dal – 1 cup

Jaggery – 1 cup (I used less since we prefer  it that way)

Cardamom – 1 tsp

Ghee – 2 tsp (The recipe did not list ghee. Just my choice)

For the dough:

Maida – 2 cups

Salt – 1/2 tsp

Turmeric – a pinch

Sesame oil – almost 1/3 cup

Water enough to make a soft dough

The method is same as what you would find here or here.

img_2798.JPG                                      img_2799.JPG

Filling cooked to the right consistency (Click to expand)

The verdict: The poli was actually pretty good since the grinder did a good job of hiding my stupidity. The next time, I will try adding some atta alongwith the maida.


January 29, 2007

Ingi (Ginger) Thughayal

Filed under: Chutneys and Thughayals, Ginger, JFI — Hema @ 8:29 pm

As soon as I saw the ingredient for this month’s JFI, the first thing that came to my mind was our morning cup of tea. Ginger is such a versatile ingredient that finds its use in various cuisines and is an extremely medicinal root as well. Cakes, breads, cookies, beverages, sauces and our very own Indian pickles, murabba, curries, kashayams…the list is endless.
Thughayal is a thick-chutney like dish that is eaten mixed with rice and sesame oil. Appalams and vadams or even potato chips are a great accompaniment to this rice. Curry leaves, cilantro, mint leaves, coconut,  eggplant,ginger and onion are very common thughayal varieties. And since it is ginger month in the blog world, that’s the one I picked!


What we need:

Ginger peeled and cut into small pieces – 2 tbsp

Udad dal – 2 tbsp

Red chillies – 3 nos (this is 8/10 spicyyy…reduce if required)

Tamarind extract – 1 tbsp or tamarind concentrate – 1 tsp

Asofetida(hing) – 1/8 tsp

Sesame oil – 1 1/2 tsp

Salt to taste

Mustard – 1 tsp

Heat up the pan and spoon in a tsp of oil. Add the Udad dal, hing and red chillies. Use the block hing if possible. Roast till the dals turn brown. Add the ginger and saute for a minute. Turn off the heat, add salt and let things cool down before transfering to a blender. Add the tamarind extract and grind into an ‘almost smooth’ paste with minimum water. Heat up the rest of the oil and add the mustard seeds. Once they splutter, add it to the thughayal and it is ready to be packed off to JFI-Ginger!

January 24, 2007

Banana chaat

Filed under: Banana, Chaat, Fruits and nuts, Snacks and Appetizers — Hema @ 11:10 pm


Bananas have long been man’s favourite fruit. How long? Well, the picture above says it all! Bananas are a great source of fiber, Vitamin C and potassium. They also contain all the eight amino acids that our body cannot produce itself.  And guess what? There is a whole site dedicated to this wonderful fruit! So, go ahead and check it out.

To be honest, I am not a big fan of bananas. In my defense, I did say man’s favourite fruit – not woman’s! But again, I didn’t want to miss the first fruit at the  AFAM event hosted by Maheshwari. So, here’s one of the few ways I love to eat bananas. This is a quick, easy and a tasty recipe I learnt from my aunt.


What you need:

Bananas – 2 nos.

Jeera – 1 tbsp

Red chili pwd – 1 tsp

Rock salt – 1/8 tsp or to taste

Lime juice – 1 1/2 tsp

Mint leaves or cilantro for the garnish

Dry roast the jeera (cumin) and dry grind. You could use cumin pwd bought at the store, but the fresh roasted powder is a lot more fragrant. Make sure the bananas used are not very ripe. Cut the bananas into slices. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well making sure not to mash up the bananas. You are done!

The monkey-banana photo source:

January 22, 2007

Pudina (Mint leaves) Vatral kuzhambu

Filed under: Indian, Main meals, Mint leaves, Tamilnadu — Hema @ 3:17 pm

Vatral kuzhambu or more commonly called vetha kuzhambu is a sambhar-like preparation made without the use of any cooked dal. It is a spicy concoction made with lots of tamarind, typically one vegetable and of course some spices. Though traditionally, dried vegetables (vatral) like sundakkai and manathakalikkai were used to make this kuzhambu (hence its name), baby onions, egg plant, potatoes, carrot, radish or any other fresh vegetable or even  a combination of vegetables can be used. Venkaya (baby onion) vethakozhambu happens to be my and almost everyone else’s favourite. Pudina (mint leaves) and vendiyam (methi/fenugreek leaves) come a close second for me.


Here’s what you need:

Mint leaves – A big bunch

Tamarind – 1/2 cup thick extract

Turmeric – 1/2 tsp

Sambhar pwd – 3 tbsp

For tempering:

Sesame oil – 2 tbsp

Mustard seeds – 1 tsp

Hing – 1/3 tsp

Red chillies – 2-3 nos

Tur dal – 3 tsp

Chana dal – 2 tsp

Methi/ fenugreek seeds – 2 tsp

Curry leaves – about 10

Salt to taste.

Always use sesame oil for vethakuzhambu. It just tastes a whole lot better. Heat up the oil. Add Mustard seeds and let them splutter. Add the dals, red chillies, methi and the hing. [The block hing (the one sold as a block-not the powdered one) tastes better. Powder it coarsely before adding it to the oil.] Once the dals turn brown, add the curry leaves and the sambhar pwd. Saute for just about 5 seconds and add the mint leaves. Saute for a minute or so till the mint leaves turn dark green and reduce in volume. Add the turmeric,tamarind extract and salt. Tamarind concentrate does not taste as good in this recipe. Add some water and let this boil up for about 15-20 minutes. Add more water later if needed. If the kuzhambu gets very watery, just dissolve some rice pwd in water and add the paste. Boil until it thickens up to the required consistency.

Vethakuzhambu easily keeps for about 15 days in the refrigerator. In fact it tastes even better as it gets older. So, make sure you have made enough to last at least a couple days! Mix it with rice and a drizzle of sesame oil or eat it with curd rice – but eat with your hand and not the spoon, for, the hand smells divine long after the meal is digested.


January 16, 2007

Sandwich chutney

Filed under: Breakfast, Chutneys and Thughayals — Hema @ 10:20 am

My interest in cooking began when I first left home to attend graduate school, loaded with two huge carry-ons and landed in the US of A with a thud. Boy! the luggage was heavy. One box was full of spices, pickles, rice, dals etc and even a pressure cooker and other basic utensils that my mom thought would be essential for my survival. I shared my 2 bedroom apartment with 3 other indian girls who needless to say, had the same kind of treasures tucked away in their check-ins. After a couple trips to walmart we settled down and then carefully planned our cooking and cleaning turns. It was decided that I would be the chef on Wednesdays and once more during the weekends. It was interesting how the 4 of us had our own cooking patterns. S always used the frozen mixed veg pack to make her patented curry and dal to go with store bought tortillas. N made potato curry and sambhar.  J was the most experienced and the best cook amongst us and always came home with a printed page of some recipe off the net. And me…that’s a story I will narrate another day. So, one day J came home with this recipe for a chutney that she thought would be great on our morning slice of bread. The list of ingredients was somewhat long and we didnt have a blender. So after another trip to walmart we had a brand new appliance. J made her chutney and what more should I say?……I still make it after all these years.


What you need:

Cilantro – a bunch

Lime juice – 2 tsp

Ginger – a 1/2 inch piece

Green chillies – 3-4 (or according to taste)

Black pepper – 1 tsp

Cumin seeds (jeera) – 1 tsp

Onion – 1/2 medium sized

Coconut – 2 tbsp

Salt to taste

Grind everything together with minimum water.  I dont know what else to write. Just to fill up some space and because I hate to see a one line method, let me teach you how to assemble a sandwich. Butter on one slice, chutney on another. A couple slices of tomato/cucumber garnished with little salt and pepper between the two bread slices. Thats how I do it. Love 5 grain bread for these sandwiches. Haha! I managed to write few more lines here. Hope you like it…the recipe I mean (I know the write-up is Zzzzzzz)

January 12, 2007

My Booty!

Filed under: Appliances, Cookbooks, General — Hema @ 1:48 pm

Anyone who goes back to India for a vacation, shops like he/she has never shopped before. Yes, when I say he/she, I do mean he too. My ‘he’ has a policy though. If you buy something you throw something out of the house. And I? I happen to be an antique collector:)) This time, I had promised him I would buy just what I needed and nothing more and I quite kept my promise. After all, the airlines decided to reduce the baggage weight allowance and I didnt want to leave anything that I bought. Also, he happens to be the packer (I suck at it), so nothing can be sneaked in without his notice.

I told him, we need a mixie – a good one that can grind well with less water. My chutneys, thugayals and vadais dont look the way they are supposed to. They just turn out watery and shapeless due to the extra water that goes into the grinding process.

Yes, lets buy one. I hope it is not too huge.

Well, the one I have in mind has 3 jars and a juicer.

Wow, that might just take up one whole luggage. Why do you need a juicer? Even if you do,we get good ones there.

(Pop came the answer…I had rehersed this before!). We need to start introducing healthy juices to our daughter. Besides, this whole thing comes for the cost of one juicer you would get back there.

That did it and I am now a proud owner of this Preeti mixie. Love it!


My second precious booty…a brand new eeya chombu! I have never possessed one of my own. Amma got it for me and boy! is it heavy. Now, the rasams are just top-class. What a difference the new metal has made!


We went to landmark at Chennai, a brilliant book and music store. Bought a bunch of books for my kitchen reading as well.


(Notice the healthy juices by Tarla Dalal)

January 3, 2007

Happy 2007!

Filed under: General — Hema @ 1:12 pm

A very happy new year to all! May this year bring with it loads of mouthwatering recipes and many new food-bloggers, just so that we can rule the blogging world:))

We had a wonderful vacation and needless to say it is frustating to get back to work and worse still, send the little one to daycare. We are still trying to settle down. A brief streak of illness..cough..cough..has slowed us down. Not that I havent been cooking, I just havent been taking pictures to prove my words. Hence, dear friends, I will be back after a few more days of hibernation.

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