Vegetarian Concoctions

April 24, 2007

Yelai Vadam

Filed under: Microwave, RCI, Rice, Snacks and Appetizers, South Indian, Tamilnadu — Hema @ 9:52 am

Yelai is leaf in tamil and vadams are rice crisps. The name is yelai vadam, because they are traditionally made using banana leaves. Basically vadams are like rice dosas that are dried and can be stored for a long time. Every time you feel the need to accessorise your menu or simply munch something, fry them or even microwave them to instantly satisfy your taste-buds. This is my entry for the first RCI – Tamilnadu hosted by LakshmiK at Veggie cuisine.

My amma used to make a huge stock of vadams for the year and she dedicated a couple days in a year to fill up the big box in her pantry. My brother and I always made sure we were around when she made vadams. The best part of the process was eating the freshly steamed vadam right out of the leaf. My mom used to let us eat the vadams that tore out while talking them off the leaf and both of us used to greedily sit there waiting for vadams to tear up.

I always bring these vadams from India, but by the time we reach our destination, they crumble up into tiny pieces during the transit. Though they are almost weightless, they occupy a lot of space in the luggage. Making these vadams is a time consuming process and only half of what you make ends up on the drying plate – the other half consumed as soon as they are made.

Last year we used up the last of our vadam stock and I had put it up on the list of things to be brought from India during our next trip. Then, one day my mother-in-law, who was visiting us, dressed the dining table with these beautiful, white, fried vadams and we were surprised as to how she got them! She had made vadams while we were at work and secretly dried them. What a pleasent surprise it was! So, the next thing on my agenda was to learn how she made them and then make them myself. Here is what I learnt:

Soak 1 cup rice overnight and grind it into a very fine paste. The best way to do it is to soak an extra cup when you grind rice for dosa. Add a little bit of salt (about 1/2 tsp) and keep it covered for 3-4 days. Open the lid and if someone in the living room says ‘where is that sour smell coming from?’ it is enough indication that the batter is ready to be steamed. Without disturbing the liquid inside, carefully pour out the top yellow layer into the drain. Add a pinch of hing, Salt to taste (remember, you have already added some 4 days back!) and 1 1/2 tsp jeera. Also, add a tbsp of sago soaked for about 2 hours. 

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Get 3 stainless steel plates out of your cabinet and rub some ghee on each of them. (the plates we use as lids are perfect). Oh! did I mention, we will be making thattu(plate in tamil) vadams instead? yeah. I can never find banana leaves here and this works just as well. Infact, MIL says she will continue making them in plates when she gets back to India. Ok, to start with, you will need a steaming set-up. Here’s mine.  A pan filled with water to about an inch depth. A circular rim placed in the pan to hold the plates at height and a glass lid that covers the whole pan. Make sure the water is boiling before you start steaming vadams.

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Pour a spoonfull of batter onto plate 1 and with a circular/spiral motion spread out the batter as thin as possible – just as you would make a dosa.

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Place plate-1 in the pan and close the lid. Steam for about 2-3 minutes till the batter is cooked and gets transparent. In the meanwhile spread out some batter onto plate-2. Remove plate-1, place plate-2 in the pan and spread batter on plate-3.

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Let plate-1 stay out for a while to cool down. Use a knife to peel off one edge and using both hands peel the vadam from the plate. Repeat this process with the 3 plates. After 2 -3 cycles you get into the rhythm.

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This is the stage where you make an important decision. You could either pop it into your mouth or place it on a flat surface for drying. I recommend tasting the first one for salt. For drying, I usually spread a thick plastic sheet in my patio and place the vadams as close as possible to accomodate as many as I can. Do not overlap. I do not have an open deck and never get direct sunlight. So, if you are like me, worry not! The vadams do not require direct sunlight or too much heat. Even your dining table or a spare room is fine. make sure it gets some breeze to dry itself up. It may take about 4-5 days to completely dry in such cases. For those of you who have decks/terrace and lots of sunlight, you’ll will be ready to fry them in a day or two! Store the dry vadams in an airtight container.

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They go well with all the rice preparations – pulihorai, tomato rice, mint rice…you get the idea. They taste best when deep fried, but for the health conscious – rub a few drops of oil on the dry vadam and microwave on high for about 30-40 seconds.

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Here’s my fried yalai vadam with celery thokku rice. Celery thokku?….did you ask??? Yeah and that’s coming up next for JFI-Greens!!

October 26, 2006

Diwali treats Part II

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Mixture: This was the most time consuming. It has 7 parts to it: oomapodi, boondi, maida biscuits, aval, curry leaves, peanuts and seasoning

1. Oomapodi
besan 1 cup
salt to taste
oomam (ajwain) – 1 1/2 tsp
turmeric – 1 pinch
oil for frying
Mix all the ingredients to make a soft dough. Transfer it to the achchhu and fry in batches

2. Boondi:
Besan – 1 cup
salt to taste
chilli pwd – 2 tsp
turmeric – a  pinch
hing – a pinch
Soda-bi-carb – a pinch
Make a batter using water with the above ingredients. You can use a boondi karandi (a big flat ladel with holes) or a plate/colander if you dont have one. th eholes should be about 2-3 mm in diameter. Hold it over the hot oil and pour a spoonful of batter on it. Now spread the batter on the karandi as if making a dosa and the drops that fall down should fry up into nice round boondis. For checking the consistancy, test fry with little batter first. If the boondis turn out pear shaped, then more water needs to be added and if they are too big and stuck together, you may need to add more besan. Trial and error is the way to go

3. Maida biscuit:
I am not sure if it has any other name, but that’s what we call this at our place. This is the best part of mixture in my opinion
Maida – 1 cup
rice pwd – 2 tbsp
salt – to taste
Oil for frying
Make a soft dough with the roti dough consistency and roll it out to the thickness of a thin roti. You do not have to be precise about the shape here. Use a knife or a pizza cutter and cut out diamond shapes. Deep fry the biscuits and make sure they are crisp before removing them from the oil
Deep fry (4) 2 cups of Poha, (5)1/2 cup of curry leaves and (6) 1 cup peanuts. Crumble the oomapodi and add together items 1 through 6.  Heat up 1 tbsp oil. Mix salt, chilli pwd and hing on a plate and pour the hot oil over it. Now, add this to the mixture and season it uniformly.
Thattai: I was not around whan MIL made these, but got the recipe from her.

Rice pwd – 1 cup
Udad pwd – 1 tbsp
Chilli pwd – 2 tsp
Til – 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Butter – ¼ cup
Mix the Rice and Udad pwd. Add softened butter and mix it well with you hands till you get a crumbly mix. Add the chilli pwd, til and salt and make a soft dough with water. Heat up the oil for frying and make small flat discs with the dough. The best way to do it is to use a thick plastic sheet or cloth. Deep fry in batches of 5-6 and store in an airtight container.

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Gulab jamun – used the GITS mix

Ribbon pakoda: My achchhu did not have the perfect ribbon making option, so I decided to go with a plain, thin slot.
Besan – 1 cup
Rice pwd – 1 tbsp
turmeric – 1/4 tsp
chilli pwd – 1 tbsp
salt to taste
Oil to fry
Make a dough with all the above ingredients using water. Transfer to achchhu and deep fry

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Thenguzhal:
Rice Flour – 1 cup
Udad flour – 1/2 cup
Jeera – 2 tsp
Ghee – 2 tbsp
Hing – 1/4 tsp
Oil for frying
Mix all the dry ingredients together. Heat up the ghee and add it to the flour and mix it up with your hands. Add enough water to make a soft dough. The consistancy: should be tight enough to retain a depression made with your fingers and soft enough to let the dough pass easily through the achchhu (I will post a picture for those of you who do not know what it is – its like a pasta press). Transfer the dought the achchhu. Heat up oil and fry up the thenguzhal in batches till done.

Gajar Halwa:
Carnation condensed milk (or any other brand) – 1 can
Carrots – 1 lb 
Ghee – 2 tbsp
Cardamom pwd – 1 tsp
Almonds, raisins, cashews – 2 tbsp each or according to taste
Grate the carrots using a medium sized grater. In a pressure cooker (or any thick bottomed skillet), add a tablespoon of ghee or butter. Put in the condensed milk and grated carrots. And stir it till all the water content evaporates. This may take about an hour. Keep stirring it so that it doesn’t get stuck to the bottom. Once done, heat up some ghee in a small pan. Add sliced almonds, raisins and halved cashews. Fry them for a bit till the raisins puff up and the nuts turn a little brown. Put it into the halva. Add cardamom pwd to the halva and stir it up well. Though I have never tried, my guess is this should work well in a microwave as well. It will take a lot less time. Just make sure you use a big glass container

and, last but not the least! My latest creation for my little one for Diwali….

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September 25, 2006

Vendakkai pacchadi (Bhindi raita)

Filed under: Microwave, Okra, Salads and Raita, South Indian, Tamilnadu — Hema @ 2:09 pm

Microwave has slowly become a default appliance in everybody’s kitchen. It has made life easy and saved time for every house-hold around the globe. Though it is mainly used for re-heating food, simple preparations can be prepared without much effort. In fact, a friend of mine uses the microwave for making everything including sambhar, rasam and curries. Though I am facinated by her methods, I am comfortable cooking the conventional way and using the microwave just for certain things. I love making appalam (papad) and vadams in the microwave. Just rub a little bit of oil on the papad and microwave it for 30-40 seconds and they look like they have been fried…well almost. But who cares? It helps me reduce my oil intake. My mom was totally against the use of microwaves a few years back, but now she has started teaching me recipes to make better use of my machine. This pacchadi is one of her recipes too. The bhindi stays crisp and crunchy for a long time after adding the curd. Here’s what you need

Bhindi – about 15

Curd – 1 1/2 cups

Salt – to taste

Red chilli pwd – to taste

Oil – 2 tsp

For tempering:

Rai – 1 1/2  tsp

Udad dal – 1 tsp

hing – a pinch

Cut the Bhindi and add oil and 1/2 of the required salt to  it.  Mix it well so that all the pieces are coated with oil and salt evenly. Put this in a microwavable glass container and microwave it on medium power for 4 minutes. Always use glass. Plastic will melt! Here is how it looks after 4 minutes.

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Now add the remaining salt and chilli pwd and mix well. If you like the bhindi to look deep fried like I do, microwave for another 4 minutes. It will turn black but dont worry, it will taste great. If you would like to retain the green color, microwave for 2.5 to 3 minutes. It will still be as crisp.  Here is my charred bhindi.

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Temper with rai, udad dal and hing.  Add the curd just before serving.

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September 21, 2006

Khaman

GUJARAT. The place. The beauty. The people. The language. The festivals. The food. What can I say? I can never get enough of it. I spent most of my growing years in Ahmedabad and Baroda. This place has a rustic charm that you learn to love. The simplicity, straightforwardness and hospitality of the people you learn to respect. The language in its various forms is beautiful. The colors of the festivals especially garba during Navratri is enchanting and the food….oh I am lost for words now. A lot of people from other places do not like the sweet that goes into every food item that is prepared, but the taste grows on you slowly and it stays. In fact a lot of times, preparations do not taste as good without a little bit of the sweet ingredient – Sugar!

Khaman, is one of my favourite Guju preparations – more commonly and wrongly called dhokla in other parts of the nation. Dhokla is very different from khaman and I will blog about it some other time. But for now, here is an easy khaman recipe that I hope you will all make and enjoy. I got this recipe from Tarla dalal’s site and modified it a little bit.

Besan (Chickpea flour)        1 cup

Rava (Sooji)                      1 1/2 tbsp

Citric acid crystals               1/2 tsp

Ginger, chilli paste               1 tbsp

Salt                                   1 tsp

Sugar                                2 1/2 tsp

Baking soda                       1 1/4 tsp

For the garnish

Oil                                     1 1/2 tbsp

Mustard seeds (rai)             2 tsp

Hing                                  a pinch

Green chillies                       2-3 nos

Coriander leaves (cilantro)     2-3 tbsp

Grated coconut (optional)     2 tsp

Seasme seeds (til) (optional) 1 tsp

Water                                  1 cup

Mix all the ingredients except the baking soda. Add about 3/4 cup of water. I usually grind about a tsp of ginger and 1 chilli in 3/4 cup of water since I never buy ginger-chilli paste. The batter should be about the consistancy of dosa batter. Add little more water if required. There are two ways of preparing the khaman, steaming or microwaving. Microwaving is easier but khaman tends to become too dry and rubbery if you keep it out long (2-3 hrs). I would recommend microwaving only if you want to eat it up as soon as you prepare it.

Steaming: Apply some oil to a deep, flat bottomed stainless steel vessel (like a cake pan) that fits into your pressure cooker. Pour some water into the cooker and let it boil up. Once the water boils, add the baking soda to the batter and whip it up. It should froth up. Pour it into the prepared vessel to half the height (about 3/4 inch). Remember, the batter is going to rise up further and it needs some space. If you think the amount of batter is too much for your vessel’s capacity, just do it in batches and make sure you add the baking soda just before steaming each batch. Place it into the cooker at an elevated level making sure no water gets into it from the sides. Close the cooker and let it steam for about 10 minutes. Do not put the weight on the cooker. (This is done just like idlis).

Microwaving: Use a plastic/glass container that has a flat bottom and apply oil it. Add the baking soda to the batter and half-fill the container. Microwave for 4 minutes.

After steaming/microwaving, do the needle test and make sure it comes out clean. Let the khaman cool down and then transfer it to a plate and cut it into large squares. The original recipe by tarla dalal called for 1 1/2 tsp of eno fruit salt instead of salt and soda. Again, if you use eno, add it right before steaming or microwaving.If you have microwaved it, sprinkle some water on the khaman. For the garnish, heat up some oil and add mustard seeds. After they splutter, add hing and chillies and then pour it over the prepared khaman. Decorate with cilantro, coconut and til and you are done.

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