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:


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!



  1. Hey, at least you gave her the recipe at last, so what if it’s few month’s later!:D
    Yeah, you don’t know how many times I have dodged the falling knives off of the counter. I have jumped a lot!! Hahaha!!
    Chuyney sounds great, I will make it next time I have dosa batter. Did you enjoy the game, it was exciting!:))
    My mint all frozen right now, got to plant some more shortly.

    Comment by Asha — February 4, 2008 @ 1:00 pm

  2. Hi Bigs! Falling knives sounds scary! never done that yet:) Chutney tastes great with idli too.

    Comment by Hema — February 4, 2008 @ 1:19 pm

  3. Chutney looks good and sounds like a sure fire winner combo with dosa.

    Comment by Jayashree — February 4, 2008 @ 1:36 pm

  4. Hema!!!this chutney is something very new to me but i am definitely going to try as it looks so yum!!

    Comment by Padmaja — February 4, 2008 @ 3:05 pm

  5. LOL..boiled rice ..THings we come up with when we live by ourselves

    Comment by shankari1 — February 4, 2008 @ 6:26 pm

  6. This one will go great with white rice and chapati …..awesome one !!!

    Comment by Deepa — February 4, 2008 @ 7:09 pm

  7. Looks yummy!

    Comment by Uma — February 6, 2008 @ 3:06 pm

  8. haha… you should ask (lesser mortals) about cooking disasters..

    In the quest of making paneer, I once froze chunky cottage cheese and then put the frozen cube into oil (for frying)…


    Comment by Krishna — February 7, 2008 @ 1:42 am

  9. 18 cups? EIGHTEEN CUPS?? 😀 I bet you could have fed an army with all that rice! 😀

    Chutney recipe noted for dosas tomorrow !

    Comment by Shyam — February 9, 2008 @ 7:32 am

  10. […] Todays story joins hands with Lakshmis 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 the number of burn marks or cuts. It was inevitable and source: Chettinadu chutney […]

    Pingback by Sauce making and Receipts » Blog Archive » Chettinadu chutney — February 11, 2008 @ 12:16 am

  11. @Jayshree, Padmaja, Deepa, Uma
    Its is quite a combination with dosa/idli. DO try it.

    @shankari, Krishna
    These incidences are necessaties.We wouldnt learn without them….would we? I guess Krishna will never fry a frozen piece of anything ever again nor will he turn on the oven to ferment batter:) Actually you know what Krishna, I tag you for your kitchen disaster episode(s). Now now, dont make it too long….come up with your 5 major ones…ok maybe 10:)

    We were quite an army ourselves;) Let me know how you liked it!

    Comment by Hema — February 11, 2008 @ 3:10 pm

  12. Oh Hema, what a tale! Sounds like something I might do 😉 So glad to see you back. Chutney recipes are great and I love the pic 🙂


    Comment by outofthegarden — February 19, 2008 @ 3:07 am

  13. Chutney looks so good. I am going to make it. Thank you for posting.

    Comment by Rumya — February 24, 2008 @ 8:42 pm

  14. I just discovered your blog, while searching out recipes from south India. I’m very happy to see that I don’t have to look any further. I may, from time to time, ask if you can explain something to me. I’m vegetarian, have always loved Indian food, and a neophyte regarding south Indian cooking.

    Comment by Valerie — February 27, 2008 @ 12:57 am

  15. looks yummy

    Comment by dhivya — March 4, 2008 @ 7:11 pm

  16. Hi Hema,

    I prepare in the same way for idlis.Looks delicious.

    Comment by Menu Today — March 9, 2008 @ 3:58 am

  17. Dear Hema,

    I love the recipes and pictures you have posted! I would love to talk to you about advertising on your site. Please send me an email and we can chat:

    hope to hear from you soon!


    Comment by Stephanie — March 21, 2008 @ 8:16 pm

  18. Pics look awesome. Love your recipe and it looks absolutely delicious.

    Comment by shriya — May 19, 2008 @ 11:05 am

  19. The chutney looks really delicious! Just curious as to what makes it ‘chettinaad’?

    Comment by A&N — July 15, 2008 @ 1:47 pm

  20. LOL. Half-boiled rice filled to the brim and looking for more space to grow. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

    You are SO FUNNY, Hema! LOL.

    Comment by vedavalli — July 19, 2008 @ 2:07 pm

  21. hello! I’m enamoured of your blog but I am disappointed you haven’t provided for a subscription to your mails everyday from your recipe blog.Is it possible you can do so. I simply love your recipes and would love to receive your recipes through mail everyday.Hope it will be possible.Thanks and best regards-Prema.

    Comment by Prema Sridharan — August 28, 2008 @ 10:34 am

  22. Hi Hema, love ur recipes! u mentioned u’re in FL…if you don’t mind me asking where exactly in FL are u based?

    Comment by Buvana — October 19, 2008 @ 2:35 pm

  23. Hi Hema, love ur recipes! u mentioned u’re in FL…if you don’t mind me asking where exactly in FL are u based?

    Comment by Buvana — October 19, 2008 @ 2:37 pm

  24. Sounds spicy and yummy>Great job!!
    Drop in sometime

    Comment by Chaitra — July 4, 2009 @ 5:38 am

  25. It’s a boring day at work and I decided to look for a nice recipe that I can go home and cook. Found this interesting blog of yours. More than the recipes what captured my interest was they way you wrote! I went ahead and read all of the posts. Very interesting. Specially theone where you mentioned…..the day you landed in US and you cooking adventures with roomies…made me nostalgic. It was like been there done that moment:) I could totally relate myself with you. Approaching 30, 2 yr old daughter – mine is 1yr though…….well I tried teh chettina chutney and it came out very well. Passed on that to my mom too. Kepp blogging!

    Comment by Prashanti — July 22, 2009 @ 12:45 pm

  26. Recipe looks amazing – I’ll ask my wife to cook it ASAP.

    Benard Lawrencia

    Comment by Benard Lawrencia — December 25, 2009 @ 7:09 am

  27. I tried the 2nd recipe today and it was absolutely delicious. Thanks for posting a healthy and simple recipe.

    Comment by Priya — May 8, 2010 @ 4:41 pm

  28. loks simply great

    Comment by sayali — June 2, 2010 @ 5:11 pm

  29. What an easy and simple recipe, and at the same time so very healthy and full of the goodness of onions, tomatoes and a variety of spices! Today, with more and more lifestyle related diseases like obesity and diabetes plaguing us Indians, such a recipe would do us a world of good, not to mention cater to our taste buds! For some expert tips on healthy eating habits check out our blog at

    Comment by Knorr Soups — February 25, 2011 @ 3:59 am

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    Comment by Navamani — June 17, 2012 @ 5:38 am

  32. Your presentation of the recipe along is simple and easy. Measurements provided in ingredients is perfect. I tried it and works great.

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