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:

chetti1_2.jpg

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!

Advertisements

May 1, 2007

Celery thokku

Filed under: Celery, Chutneys and Thughayals, JFI, Tamilnadu — Hema @ 9:43 am

My Mother-in-law is one of the most enthusiastic cooks I have seen…not to mention one of the best! She manages to cook up a ‘Kalyana virundu’ (Marriage feast) everyday. The minimum she prepares is a sambhar, a rasam, a kootu, two curries, a pachaddi (raita), a salad and a pickle…all within a matter of two hours. The list would have featured a sweet as well if not for the diabetes that runs in my husband’s family. Sweet preparations are limited to special days now. Not only is the food prepared, the kitchen is left spic and span within that time-frame. Her policy is to wash every dish as soon as it finds its way into the sink. ‘This way you will not feel the extra work of cleaning the dishes at the end’, she says. She was never inclined to use the dishwasher during her stay with us. She very rightly never trusted it to work as well as the hands.

She used to eagerly wait for our flea market trips during the weekend. That was her ultimate idea of entertainment…..picking up vegetables for the week. The India-like climatic conditions in Florida yields all the vegetables that we find back in India. MIL was surprised to find veggies that were not available even in Delhi where they live. Not only was I introduced to her old-time traditional favourite recipes, but was also taught new ways of making everyday veggies. Celery thokku is one of her innovations too. She first made them with some left-over celery I had used for making my usual soup. Now-a-days, I make soup from the left-over celery that I buy for making thokku. This tastes so good mixed with rice and a dash of til oil or just with curd rice too. Here’s my contribution to JFI-Greens at Indira’s.

img_0084.jpg

What you need:

Celery – about 5 stalks

Green chillies – 4-5 nos

Hing – 1/4 tsp

Methi – 1 tsp

Cilantro – 1/2 cup chopped

Ginger – 1/2 inch cube

Mustard: 1 tsp

Turmeric – 1/2 tsp

Salt to taste

Gingerly oil (til oil) – 1/4 cup

Chop up the celery and saute it with cilantro in about 1-2 tbsp of til oil for 4-5 minutes. Set aside. Next heat up another tbsp of oil and add methi, chopped chillies, hing and ginger. Let this cook for 5 minutes. Put this and the celery in the blender and grind to a fine paste. Heat up about 6-7 tbsp of the oil. Add mustard seeds and once they splutter, add the paste. Add salt and turmeric and keep cooking till the oil leaves the sides of the pan. This step takes a while. The thokku should have a thick paste like consistancy. Add more oil if required. Serve with hot rice and appalam or vadam.

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!

img_2861.JPG

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 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.

img_1690_2.jpg

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)

Blog at WordPress.com.