Thursday, November 14, 2013

Soul Food / Comfort food - Vethakoyambu with a side of cluster beans and green gram

Authentic "vethal" koyambu is made with vethal's, sun dried vegetables and berries like Cluster beans, bitter gourd, bitter variety of wild berries called shundakai & marthangalikkai in Tamil, I have no idea what their botanical names are. 

During harvest, they are cleaned, cut, salted, dried and stored away to be used on a rainy day.

Vethakoyambu can also be made with broken pieces of pappadam or with fenugreek seeds (Mendhiyam).

When we don't find an ingredient we need, we look for an alternative ingredient available to us.  So here goes my dysfunctional cooking with vethakoyambu made using with fresh vegetables.

Vethakoyambu with onions, capsicum and tomatoes

- 1 medium onion diced
- 1 or 2 capsicum(green pepper) diced
- 1 large tomato diced.
- 1/4 cup precooked tur dal(skinned and halfed lentils)
- 1 tbsp tamarind paste or pulp diluted in 2-3 cups of water
- 1 or 2 tbsp Vethakoyambu powder from grand sweets (or any brand of sambhar powder or home made) depends on the spice level you want.
- 1/4 tsp Asafetida
- Turmeric powder and salt to taste

To Sauté:
- 1-2 tbsp sesame oil(or any cooking oil),
- 1 tsp mustard seeds,
- 2 tbsp chana dal(black gram dal),
- 2 tbsp tur dal(skinned and split Pigeon peas),
- 6-8 curry leaves

For thickening:
- 1 tbsp rice flour (can substitute with besan/chick peas flour) and dilute in 1/4 cup of water. I use a whisk to avoid lumps from forming.
(Double the quantity of thickening mixture if you don't have precooked dal.  Never used dal pre- grand sweets Vethakoyambu powder days.  Its very spicy but tasty and the dal helps.)
  1. Take oil in a deep wok, or vessel, add the dals and fry until the oil starts to froth, add mustard seeds and allow them pop. then add the curry leaves and stir well.  They will sizzle..
  2. Add vethakoyambu powder, turmeric, and asafetida and stir well.
  3. Add onions, stir; add capsicum, stir. 
  4. Let it cook for a 4-5 minutes on medium heat stirring occasionally
  5. Add tomatoes and cook for 2-3 additional minutes.
  6. Then add the diluted tamarind and bring to a rolling boil.  Lower heat and let boil for an additional 5-8 minutes until the raw taste of tamarind is completely gone.
  7. Add the precooked tur dal softened in 2-4 tbsp of water and bring back to a rolling boil
  8. Finally add the diluted rice flour, stirring continuously, allow it to thicken for 2-4 minutes
  9. Let it boil for a few more (5-6 minutes) in medium heat. 
  10. The more you boil and thicken the koyambu the tastier it gets and the longer it will keep.
  11. Take a few tablespoons of koyambu and mix with steamed rice, add a few drops of sesame oil to elevate the flavors.  .

Cluster beans and green gram vegetable side dish

- 1 lb fresh cluster beans, with the edges removed and cut to inch long pieces OR 1 bag of frozen cluster beans(Guvar, available at Indian stores in the US)
- 1 lb Fresh green Bengal gram in pod(remove from pod) OR 1/2 bag of frozen green chana(available in Indian stores) OR 1/4 cup green or brown dry chana soaked overnight
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
- salt to taste

 For tadka(sauté):
- 2-3 tsp oil
- 1 tsp mustard
- 1 tsp udid dal

  1. In a wok, heat the oil, add mustard seeds and udid dal, let the mustard splutters and dal is brown.
  2. Reduce heat, add the cluster beans and whole green chana, stir well
  3. Add turmeric and salt, sprinkle 2-3 tbsp of water cover and cook until the vegetable is cooked but still crunchy, the raw taste gone.  It should take ~10-12 mins to be done, 
  4. Remove cover, stir well and continue to cook until the oil starts to glisten.
  5. It tastes good as a side dish for sambhar and rasam, too.
My dysfunctional cooking improvised mom's ultimate comfort food of pappadam vethakoyambu and parappu thogayal (lentil chutney) to another great combination of mixed vegetable vethakoyambu with cluster beans curry. The compliment each other beautifully and have become our comfort food.

Cluster beans are slightly bitter and the green chana is slightly bland, together they make a tasty dish.  We love it & our girls love it, too.  It makes a great side with more(buttermilk) koyambu, too.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Diwali Special.. Sheera cake with left over haldiram rasgolla sugar syrup.. :)

Wish you all a very Happy Diwali and Saal Mubarak(Happy New Year). 

Diwali Diya(lamp) lit early in the morning before sunrise
This year we decided not to make sweets or savories for Diwali since the girls were busy with their activities thru the weekend.   Ed had a brilliant idea, "Let's open a dabba(box/can) of Haldiram rasgolla's" he said, and for once I agreed, everyone loves it at home and we always stock a couple for special occasions.

Later, while rummaging around the garage fridge, I found the last box of  Sri Krishna Sweets(India) Mysore pak hidden away, they stay good for at least a year refrigerated..  Savories, we had some from the Indian store, last weekend we bought some Anand  jackfruit chips and Swad corn chewda, added some Swad boondi to it to make it mixture, a south-indian must have for Diwali.

Diwali breakfast - Idli, chutney,
jackfruit chips, chewda,
Rasgolla, and Mysore pak
Early morning did the naivedyam and heated up some Deep idli's in the microwave and liquefied some Nirav coriander chutney to go with and we had our yummy Diwali breakfast.

As evening came the rasgolla's were almost gone but more than 1/2 a can of the sugar syrup remained, reluctant to dump it in the sink, I have refrigerated it in the past and then thrown it away after a week.  This time I was determined to try something and what better reason than it's Diwali today!  Looked up for recipes online, but wasn't successful finding any.   Have always loved my sister's Satyanarayan puja sheera made with milk. so thought why not. 

Diwali Naivedhya (or Naivedyam) of sweets and savories
We had the sooji(rava/cream of wheat), the sugar syrup, milk, but wait the store bought Ghee bottle was empty!  Think that would stop a determined me, never! Luckily, we had butter as my younger daughter has been on a baking spree these past few weeks.  So first, I had to make some ghee, well that's another recipe..  not really but let me add it separately for folks who want to make some of the good stuff at home.

Ghee made, drained the liquid ghee into a steel vessel before it hardened and allowed the darkened impurities to stay at the bottom, my older daughter and husband love to eat the left overs, so nothing wasted. 

Here goes the recipe for Sheera Cake(cake, as in cut into diamond shape).  Didn't take many pictures while making the improvised recipe based on watching sis make it over the years.  I can safely say it was a super hit at our house, it all gone by the next morning.

Sheera Cake with Haldiram's left over sugar syrup
From Left, Greetings, Rava(Soji), Sugar syrup, ghee remnants, milk, sheera being stirred, cashew,
Indian golden raisins(kismis) and Sheera Cake cut and ready to serve
- 1 and 1/2 cups of milk
- 1 and 1/2 cups of water
- 1 and 1/2 cups of the leftover rasgolla sugar syrup (strained)
- 1 cup sooji/rava/cream of wheat(we shall call it rava)
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup ghee(there will be some leftover)
- 1 handful cashews
- 1 handful raisins
(can add more or less of both)

To color and flavor
- a few(7-8) strands of saffron
- 4-6 cardamom (elaichi) peeled and powdered

  1. Take 1 tbsp of ghee in a small pan, when hot, add the cashew and stir for a couple of minutes.  then add raisins and stir until the raisins are puffed up and the cashews is a golden brown, remove from pan and keep aside
  2. Using the same kadai. I wiped it clean with a paper towel, add the rava and stir in 1/2 tbsp ghee.  Stir slowly until it starts to brown takes ~4-5 minutes on low to medium flame.  Remove from pan and keep aside(if left in the pan it will continue to cook and brown).
  3. In a larger kadai, you need the extra space for stirring so it does not spill over add the milk and water and a few strands of saffron(kesar), once it starts to get hot, lower the heat and add the strained sugar syrup and stir in well.  Allow it come to a slow boil increase to medium heat. ~2-3 minutes.
  4. Reduce the heat to a minimum and add the roasted rava slowly with one hand while stirring with the other, so it does not form lumps.
  5. Add 2-3 tbsp of ghee and keep stirring until it starts to thicken(~2-3 minutes) still on low heat.
  6. Stir in the roasted cashews and raisins from step 1.  You could add them in at the end, if you like the crunch, or over the top just before cutting into slices,  I prefer it cooked in as it spreads out evenly.
  7. Increase the heat to medium low and add 2-3 more tbsp of ghee, continue stirring it will harden as the water gets absorbed.
  8. Test if the rava is fully cooked.  If you feel its too grainy and dry, then add 2-3 tbsp of water or milk and continue stirring.  It should not burn or brown.
  9. Once its done it will leave the sides of the pan easily and the ghee starts to glisten and ooze out, the cooking time is ~12-15 minutes after adding the rava.
  10. The more ghee you add the more ghee will ooze out when done.  1/2 a cup of ghee is plenty.
  11. Add elaichi powder and stir well.
  12. You don't need to grease the plate.  I like to transfer it to a glass Pyrex and then cut into diamond shape..  Easier to serve and eat..
  13. Using the back of a spoon or a knife to make 3/4" wide cuts going in one direction and then a 3/4 or 1" going diagonal to the first, to make diamond shapes.
  14. You can make it look fancy; brush ghee across the top, or sprinkle edible glitter or spread silver foil or press in a sliver of almond or a raisin.  You could also roll it into balls and place in a small cupcake wrapper if you want to serve to guests.
  15. Let it cool before covering with a lid.  We had missing corners before it had cooled.  So I know it was a hit.
Could we call it sugar free since technically we never used any sugar.  No way!  Enjoy a delicious sweet treat with leftover sugar syrup from Haldiram's rasgolla.  You can use any kind of left over sugar syrup.  If it's thick, dilute on the stove with some water before using.

Hope you enjoyed making my dysfunctional style of cooking sooji/rava sheera, kesari, halwa whatever it may be called across India; a tried and tested recipe in most homes. Mom's 'sunset yellow' food colored rava kesari was never one of my favorite sweets, so never bothered to make it.  Now I'm pretty sure each time we open a Haldiram's rasgolla dabba there will be a request for this Sheera cake!

Tip: Additional milk or water may be needed as it depends on how much liquid is absorbed by the rava to cook.  I used milk and needed 1/2 cup more which I added a few spoonful's at a time as needed before it was done.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Zucchini Sabzi(vegetable)

My family loves Zucchini, so over the years I've tried to include it in our diet.  Most often, sautéed it lightly in oil and added it to Maggi noodles OR Chinese style noodles / fried rice OR Italian pasta.  It tasted good in sambhar but wanted to try something else. 

The first trial, cooked it as a side dish for sambhar rice, with a tadka(seasoning) of mustard and udid dal and seasoned with turmeric and salt.  It tasted awful.  

Second time around, thought of making it like the Raji-bhajji and it was super yummy. It cooks fast, doesn't disintegrate and tastes good.  Cook too long and it could become mushy.  I added frozen peas to give it some color. 

So here goes.. another quick and easy recipe in my dysfunctional cooking style..

- 8 - 10 zucchinis cut length wise in half, then slice (you will have beautiful semi circles)
- 1 handful frozen peas (optional)
- 5 - 6 medium sized tomatoes chopped
- 1 medium sized onion, chopped fine

 For Tadka(Saute)
- 1-2 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds

For Seasoning
- 1/2 tbsp chilli powder
- 1/2 tbsp cumin powder
- 1/2 tbsp coriander powder
- 1/4 tbsp Turmeric powder

salt to taste
- 1 cup water to cook

Garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves.

  1. Take oil in a deep wok/pan with a lid, add cumin seeds, cover and keep in medium heat until it splutters.
  2. Add turmeric, chilli powder.
  3. Add finely chopped onions. Sauté lightly until coated with masala.
  4. Add the chopped zucchini and peas/edamame beans. Stir well and let sauté for a 4-5 minutes.
  5. Add chopped tomatoes, stir well.
  6. Add 1 cup of water,
  7. Add cumin powder and coriander powder, if necessary add more chilli powder.
  8. Add salt to taste.
  9. Taste the gravy and add salt or chilli as desired
  10. Cover and let cook for 8-10 minutes on medium flame OR until done with a slight crunch 
  11. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves.
  12. Enjoy with steamed rice, pita bread, roti's or chapattis.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Minerstone vegetable - desi style (Mixed vegetables with a twist)

Do you know the miner stone soup story?  As a kid it always fascinated me, that a stone could make such a tasty meal.  

The story goes like this..  A miner went from village to village during times of hunger and need.  He would ask the villagers for the largest cooking pot in the village, he told them he had a magic stone that created delicious soup, all he needed from each villager was a bowl of water and a small amount of edible ingredient they had stored away when times were good.  As expected, they had a variety of ingredients like dry roots and beets, dried corn and beans, some spices, hot peppers, some grains, etc..  He asked them to add it into the pot, he then added the magic stone and salt from his bag.  It cooked and he stirred and he tasted...  Finally, he asked them to bring their bowls and they all sat around the fire and ate their fill, saving the rest for another meal.  He took the stone, washed and polished it clean, then safely put it back in his bag and went on his way, he was happy the villagers would sleep with a full stomach that night and maybe learn something valuable from the experience.  Some did some didn't..  Did you? :)

Tonight,, we had my version of the minerstone vegetable minus his magic stone.  Its my go to recipe when I'm all out of dinner ideas or ingredients.  With 'Fall' in the air, all we got at the Sunday market was raw green tomatoes, heirloom colored bell peppers and large green bell peppers. Found some sorry looking carrots lost in the back of the refrigerator. In the freezer found a bag of frozen cut cluster beans and another of green pigeon peas.  So here goes..  it was delicious so I had to share.

Minerstone vegetable a la carte
with puffed paratha, dal and yogurt OR with steamed rice blended in
Vegetables used today
- 1 large Green Capsicum(bell pepper)
- 6 colored peppers the long variety used for salads
- 3 green (raw) tomatoes
- 3 sorry looking carrots
- 3/4 cup frozen cluster beans
- 3/4 cup frozen lilva tuvar (pigeon peas)
- 1/2 to 1 cup of water

 For Tadka(Saute)
- 1-2 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 2 tbsp store bought ginger garlic paste (as I did not have fresh ginger which I would normally add grated or chopped fine)

For Seasoning
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- a pinch each of cumin and coriander powder(force of habit)
- salt to taste

  1. Wash and cut the vegetables into small bite size pieces (~square or long doesn't matter)
  2. Take oil in a deep wok/pan with a lid, add jeera, cover and keep in medium heat until it splutters.
  3. Add the ginger garlic paste or grated ginger, cover and let it cook for a couple of minutes on a medium heat in the hot oil.. It imparts good flavor to the vegetable..
  4. Add the beans first, then the peppers, then the softer and easier to cook vegetables in that order.
  5. Add the frozen cluster beans and pigeon peas..  stir fry for a few minutes(3-5) till its thawed
  6. Add chopped peppers and stir well
  7. Add chopped green tomato and carrots, stir well.
  8. Add the seasoning(red chilli powder, turmeric, cumin and coriander powder) and mix well
  9. Add a cup of water, less if you have juicy vegetables like zucchini or ripe tomatoes, it allows the vegetables to cook evenly and create the yummy gravy.
  10. Cover and cook on high heat, when the water starts boiling
  11. Reduce to medium heat and cook covered, stirring occasionally until the beans are soft and crunchy(8-12 minutes).
  12. Cook without the lid for a few minutes longer(4-6). 
  13. Mix in some steamed rice or eat as a side dish with roti, paratha or naan.
This is my dysfunctional cooking a la miner style..  our sumptuous dinner was minerstone vegetable a la carte.  Kids choice, with 'Kawan' brand puffed paratha, tadka dal and plain desi yogurt.  Grownup's choice, we took it a notch higher, adding steamed rice to the vegetable with a touch of red chilli powder and a pinch of salt..  On the side, we had spicy mango pickle and plain yogurt.   

Do mix and match vegetables on hand to create your own special blend of 'minerstone' vegetable or soup.   I have tried a combination of the above vegetables, and also, bean sprouts, zucchini, frozen green edamame peas, frozen Chinese beans,... whatever is readily available in the kitchen.

Today's tip: Cook by taste and soon you will be creating delicious concoctions you can share with the world

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Tomato rice (with variant Tomato Thokku)

- 4-6 large ripe tomatoes chopped small
- 1 Onion cut small
- 1/2 tsp Red chilli powder
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric
- salt to taste
- finely chopped coriander leaves

For Tadka(Saute) and seasoning
- 1 - 2 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1-2 green chilli pepper diced fine (optional)
- 6-8 curry leaves

Rice for mixing
- 4-5 cups of cooked rice(any variety)
With a fork, separate the rice to avoid chunky portions

  1. Take oil in a deep wok/pan with a lid, add cumin seeds, use medium heat until it splutters.
  2. Add the curry leaves and cover for a minute.
  3. Add the chopped chilli pepper and stir well.
  4. Add the onion, cook, stirring occasionally until translucent(3-4 minutes).
  5. Add the diced tomato and stir well
  6. Add turmeric powder, red chilli powder and salt to taste.
  7. Stir well and let cook in medium heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. Be careful, tomato splutters while cooking.
  9. Also as it cooks, you will see it lets out all the juice, as it cooks, the juice is reabsorbed and it will thicken, soon you will see the oil glisten on top. 
  10. Don't wait for the oil to separate, otherwise the tomato rice will become very dry instead staying moist.
  11. In a bowl, remove a few spoonful's of the cooked paste.  I like to keep some on the side as it tastes great with yogurt rice.  Also helps if you have less rice to tomato base ratio.
  12. Add the rice to the tomato base and mix it well.  You could add a tbsp of ghee to make it tastier.. :).  Adjust the ratio of cooked rice to tomato base according to taste.  Add salt if needed.
  13. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve hot with yogurt and chips.
Tomato rice will go well with any kind of raita(a yogurt based side dish).  Check Brinjal (eggplant) rice with tomato-onion-potato raita and veggie chips for the recipe.
The above is my dysfunctional style of cooking tomato rice.  A variant is the tomato thokku, the tomato base made spicier and to be eaten as a side dish.  Spread it on bread to make a sandwich or with yogurt rice. 

To make tomato thokku, skip the onion and add 1/4 tsp mustard seeds along with with the cumin seeds.  Increase the amount of red chilli powder used.  Continue to cook on medium flame until the oil separates almost completely from the tomato base an additional 10 minutes or less.  Let it cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Raji Bhajji (A mixed vegetable dish, I learnt from my aunt and her mom.. )


Vegetable and how to cut them
1 large cauliflower, break into small florets(neither too big nor too small)and chop the stem(don't discard)
1-2 large onion chopped 
1-2 capsicum/Green bell pepper chopped
1-2 carrots(optional) for color, chopped
2-4 potatoes chopped
4-5 large tomatoes chopped
1/2 to 1 cup of water

 For Tadka(Saute)
- 1-2 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds

For Seasoning
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp each of cumin and coriander powder
OR 1 tsp of dhana-jeera (coriander+cumin) powder
salt to taste

Garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves.

  1. Take oil in a deep wok/pan with a lid, add jeera, cover and keep in medium heat until it splutters.
  2. Add chopped onion, stir well.
  3. Add chopped capsicum/bell pepper.  Stir, cover and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add chopped tomato, stir well and cook for a minute or two.
  5. Add the potatoes, stir well and cook for 2-3 minutes. 
  6. Add the cauliflower, stir well.
  7. Add a cup of water(less is okay but don't add more since most of the vegetables release water when cooked) this allows the vegetables to cook evenly and also create the gravy for the dish..
  8. Cover and cook on high heat, when the water starts boiling, add turmeric powder and salt to taste and stir well. Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  9. Add the seasoning spices(cumin, coriander, red chilli powder and salt).  You can add more red chilli to make it spicier or less to make it milder.
  10. Stir well, cover and cook until the potatoes are done stirring occasionally on medium flame (too much cooking and the cauliflower will disintegrate).
  11. *Cook without lid for a few minutes.
  12. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and enjoy.
The above is my dysfunctional style of cooking a mixed vegetable dish that tastes good with roti's, naan, chapatti or mixed with rice.  
At a potluck party, a long time ago, I was asked to make a mixed veg makhani dish and was completely clueless(no Internet to the rescue in those days)..  So followed the above recipe using 1/2 cup of water while cooking.  Finally at *step 11, added one cup of sour cream whisked smooth, to the vegetable and let it cook for a couple of minutes to absorb the spices.  Please don't bring to a complete boil as the cream will split.  Finally, garnish with coriander and enjoy. 
The sabzi/vegetable tastes delicious with or without the sour cream added in.  I often cook the sour cream version for my non-Indian friends who want to be introduced to Indian food.  It has been compared to butter chicken on occasion. :)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Chaat Special - Dahi Papri Chaat and more..

Growing up in Bombay, we had chaat's served as a snack, for lunch or dinner, or just because.. :)

My first exposure to chaat was mom homemade 'Bhel puri'.  In the 60's and 70's eating out was a novel experience and street food not something we indulged in, so mom learnt how to make it. Thanks to her awesome palate and some help from our Gujarati neighbors.

She would painstaking make the basic ingredients; fry the sev and puri, roast peanuts, prepare the dry bhel mix, make the tamarind-date chutney(boiling and reducing it so it would last a while) and so on.  We knew how much effort when into these preps.  It was so good, family and guests often requested her to make bhel puri when they visited..  having heard how tasty it was.

During my college days, chaat's like Bhel puri, Pani puri, Sev puri, Dahi batata puri and of course Ragda patties, Chole Bature, Dahi wada, etc. were quick meal options.  Our favorite haunts being Linking Road opposite National College and Chowpatti(at Opera house).

My first exposure to Dahi papri chaat was at a fast food place in Calcutta near Brooke Bond house on Shakespeare Sarani.  It was our favorite hangout for a quick snack and coffee.  To cut a long story short.. Last month, our cousin in Tennessee served us papri chaat and pani puri.  It had been a while since we ate both chaats.  The girls loved it, so cousin packed up a bag of papri's and puffed puri's for us to bring home.  Did not bring the chutney's.

Being lazy, I had found store brands for both chutneys, very similar in taste to mom's and the one I made from scratch in the many years we lived in NJ.   The brands are important since these were found purely by trial and error and their long refrigerated shelf life.  The Nirav coriander chutney and Deep tamarind-date chutney are must haves, both can be found in most Indian(desi) grocery stores around the US. 

Chaat's are all about taste, assembly and preference.  If you have the right products and ingredients putting them together is a breeze.

Dahi Papri Chaat

- a bag of Papri or kadak(hard) puri
- 1/4 tsp cumin powder
- salt and sugar to taste
- Deep tamarind-date chutney
- Nirav coriander chutney
Red chilli powder
finely chopped coriander leaves and thin sev to garnish(optional)
- Chaat masala(optional)
- one large red onion finely chopped
- 3-4 medium sized potatoes boiled/steamed and cut or broken down with fingers but not mashed (sprinkle some chaat masala or salt over and mix in for flavor)
- 1-2 cups Dahi(Yogurt) any brand or homemade

Preparation and Assembly

For Dahi - Measure required dahi into a bowl and whisk it smooth, you can add a little bit of water if it's too thick.  Add a pinch of cumin powder; a  pinch or two of powdered sugar; a pinch or two of salt; Blend well. Taste and add cumin powder, sugar or salt as desired.  As I mentioned earlier, chaat is all about taste and preference, with practice comes perfection.

Before serving - Keep all ingredients ready on the counter top,  Dahi, two chutneys in bowls with individual spoons for ease of use.   Liquefy the coriander chutney if its too thick. other ingredients in plate, use your hand to break the papri.
  1. Break some papri to cover the plate, Scatter spiced/salted potatoes and onions evenly over the papri
  2. Spoon blended dahi(yogurt) on top, so it covers the plate as shown
  3. Sprinkle some red chilli powder with your fingers(optional)
  4. Spoon coriander chutney as shown
  5. Spoon tamarind-date chutney as shown
  6. Garnish with thin sev and chopped coriander leaves
  7. Enjoy the delicious Dahi papri chaat.

Variation - Dahi batata puri

  1. Make a hole on the thinner side of the puffed puri, you have to be careful so as to not break it up the puri.
  2. Fill the puffed puri with a mix of potatoes, drained canned chick peas/chana or cooked mung sprouts (optional); chopped onions(optional)
  3. Place 6-10 filled puri's per plate
  4. Spoon blended dahi into each puri or over the top
  5. Top each filled puri with some sweet chutney and the spicy chutney
  6. Sprinkle some red chilli powder for spice
  7. Garnish with sev and chopped coriander
  8. Enjoy delicious Dahi batata puri.. you have to open your mouth wide and eat the whole puri in a single mouthful! :)
Sev Puri - From my sister's kitchen

Another variation - Sev batata puri

  1. The Sev puri is the thin and crunchy counterpart of the papri
  2. Place the puri's around the plate(don't make this if the puri's are thick, they need to be thin and crunchy, if you live in NJ you may get them as sev puri's in the store)
  3. Top with some potatoes and onion
  4. Spoon sweet and green chutney(both liquefied)
  5. Top generously with some sev and chopped coriander leaves
  6. Enjoy, you have to eat a puri with its toppings as a single mouthful

The above is my dysfunctional style of preparing delicious chaats, All you need to do is prep the dahi, boil potatoes and chop onions.   If bhel mix is readily available, take required quantity in a bowl, add roasted peanuts, boiled potatoes, chopped onions, sweet chutney, and coriander chutney; Mix well, top with sev and enjoy yummy bhel puri anytime with a spoon or a crunchy puri.  You can make it healthier by adding chopped raw mango, avocado, blackberries, blue berries, tangerine oranges, fresh spinach leaves, mung sprouts, firm ripe tomatoes whatever is available, in season, crunchy, tasty or sour.. :)  Do comment if you enjoyed making and serving chaat in my dysfunctional style!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Brinjal (eggplant) rice with tomato-onion-potato raita and veggie chips

Basmati rice and brinjal sabzi mixed for brinjal rice..  with raita and chips
Ingredients for brinjal rice
2 large variety brinjal chopped into small pieces
1 large onion chopped 
2-3 large tomatoes chopped
4-5 cups cooked white rice(any variety)

For Tadka(Saute) and seasoning
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tbsp ginger grated or chopped
- 1 green chilli pepper chopped
- 1 tbsp vanghibath powder(MTR) OR 1 tbsp mixed cumin-dhania-red chilli powder
finely chopped coriander leaves
Red chilli powder, Turmeric and salt to taste

  1. With a fork, separate the cooked rice..  so there are no chunky pieces.  Keep aside.
  2. Take oil in a deep wok/pan with a lid, add jeera and keep in meduim heat until it splutters.
  3. Add the chopped chilli pepper and grated ginger.  Stir well.
  4. Add the onion. Stir and cook for a couple of mins.
  5. Add the brinjal pieces, stir well
  6. Add in the tomatoes stir well
  7. Add salt and turmeric powder to taste and stir well.
  8. Add 1/4 cup of water or less, since the brinjal will let out water when cooked but you do need some for cooking, so the vegetable does not burn. 
  9. Stir, cover and let cook for a few minutes, repeat until the brinjal is semi cooked
  10. Add the vanghibath powder OR the dhania, jeera and red chilli powder.  You can add more or less based on your taste, to make it spicier or less.
  11. Stir well, cover and cook.  repeat until the brinjal has cooked completely, sprinkle water if needed
  12. As the brinjal cooks and disintegrate.  You will see the oil glistening.  Cook for a couple of mins without the lid reduce heat to lowest setting.
  13. In a bowl, remove a few spoonfuls of the cooked vegetable.  I like to keep some vegetable on the side as it tastes great with yogurt rice.
  14. Add the rice to the wok/pan and mix it well.  You could add ghee to make it tastier.. :).  Adjust the blend of rice to vege to taste.  Add salt if needed.
  15. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve with raita and chips
Ingredients and method for making for the raita
Chop fine a Boiled/steamed potato, an onion, and two tomatoes,
Add a cup of blended plain yogurt, mix well and spice with a 1/4 tsp cumin powder and salt to taste.  (Optional - Add sautéed in a drop of oil, 1 finely chopped green chilli and a pinch of mustard seeds)

Tip learnt from mom: Often times brinjal will causes the throat to itch, sprinkle some tamarind dissolved in water to the vegetable while cooking to neutralize the enzyme.

The above is my dysfunctional style of cooking the traditional vanghibath.  Often times, I make the brinjal sabzi to go with chappati's or with yogurt rice.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Avial - Palakkad Iyer delicacy made with mixed vegetables

Avial rice with broccoli, avakai pickle and yogurt on the side
Around - Broccoli-pigeon peas, tender Pumpkin, Raw banana, 
Cooked vegetables and Avial 
3-4 cups when cut Pumpkin (mathan/perangikai/lal bhopla) light yellow and tender is preferred
3-4 cups when cut Winter melon/pushnikai/elavan/safed bhopla
3-4 Raw green bananas/vazhakai to yield 3-4 cups when cut
1 medium sized potato
2-3 sprigs of Curry leaves
3-4 cups of plain yogurt nicely blended or use thick buttermilk
Turmeric powder and salt to taste

To grind
1 and 1/2 cup grated coconut
10-12 spicy Thai green chillies

To season
1 tbsp coconut oil(taste to make sure it is not rancid)

  1. Cut the vegetables into finger thin and long pieces 1 and 1/2" long and 1/2 cm wide. Raw banana skin must be pared like you would the potatoes.
  2. In a deep wide mouth pan/vessel, add 3-4 cups of water, add curry leaves, turmeric and salt.
  3. Add the raw banana and potato first, bring it to boil and cook for a few minutes before adding the winter melon and the pumpkin which cook faster. Add sufficient water as shown in the image above.
  4. Cover and cook well. Lower the heat when done.
  5. Grind coconut and green chill, add it along with the yogurt to the cooked vegetables.  Add salt as needed..  Mix well and bring close to boiling.
  6. Switch off the beat before it reaches a rolling boil else the yogurt will split.
  7. Add the coconut oil and stir well
  8. Enjoy with steamed rice.
Broccoli side dish recipe can be found here - Tomato Rasam with Broccoli and Soybean vegetable...

Avial and savory pongal are a well known combination, find the pongal recipe here.. Savory and Sweet Pongal....
The above meal is my dysfunctional style of cooking traditional recipes learnt from mom.  

As a main dish avial is mixed with rice, so more gravy is needed.   Avial as a side dish is much thicker in consistency, reduce the water and yogurt quantity used while cooking. also add 1 tbsp of rice flour while grinding, it will help thicken the gravy.

Optional - You can add
 bitter gourd(parikai/pavakai/karela), snake gourd(podalangai), an drumstick(murungakai/shenga),....remember drumstick takes a long time to cook.  

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Simple south Indian meal - Tomato Rasam with Broccoli and Soybean vegetable on the side

Tomato rasam with broccoli and frozen edamame beans or peas on the side
Below- Broccoli and bean with turmeric and salt, Rasam, vegetable

Tomato Rasam
4-6 medium sized tomatoes cut into 8-12 pieces.
1 cup precooked tur dal(skinned and halfed lentils)
1 tbsp tamarind paste or pulp diluted in 3 cups of water
1 or 2 tbsp Rasam powder (you can use MTR or other brand available in the store or make your own)
1/4 tsp Asafetida  
Turmeric powder and salt to taste

To season
1 tbsp ghee(clarified butter), 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 8-10 whole black pepper dal
3-4 sprigs fresh green coriander/cilantro leaves cleaned and chopped

  1. Cook the diluted tamarind with rasam powder, asafetida, turmeric, and salt until the raw taste is gone.
  2. Add the tomatoes and cook well.
  3. Add the precooked tur dal and bring to a rolling boil, a layer of frothe will form on top. Turn off the heat.
  4. Season/tadka.  Heat the ghee, mustard, cumin seeds and pepper corns in a small pan. Cover, when they splutter add to the cooked rasam.
  5. Add the chopped cilantro
  6. Stir well and enjoy with steamed rice.
Broccoli and soybean vegetable

4 cups broccoli cut into florets(frozen works well, too)
1 or 2 cups of frozen edamame beans or green peas.
2 tbsp oil, 1 tbsp mustard, 1 tbsp udid dal, 1 chopped green chilli optional

  1. In a wok, heat the oil, add mustard and udid dal, until spluttered and dal is brown.
  2. Reduce heat, add the vegetable and beans/peas, turmeric and salt, sprinkle 2-3 tbsp of water cover and cook until the vegetable is crunchy and cooked.  the raw taste gone.   You can substitute broccoli with cauliflower, or chopped beans or potatoes or carrots....
  3. It tastes good when sambhar rice, too.
The above meal is my dysfunctional style of cooking traditional recipes learnt from mom.

Simple Palakkad Iyer Meal - Molagutal rice and yogurt rice with mathan(pumpkin) puli pachadi

The meal with yogurt rice, molagutal rice and pachadi on the side
Below- molagutal, ground paste, pumpkin puli pachadi
Mixed vegetable Molagutal
Pumpkin (with green edible skin preferred) to yield 2 cups when cut
2-3 Raw green bananas
2-3 small potatoes
2-3 carrots
A handful of cauliflower florets
1 and half cup Mung Dal(skinned and halfed mung bean)
2-3 sprigs of Curry leaves
Turmeric powder and salt to taste
To grind
One cup grated coconut
1 table spoon Cumin seeds ,
4-6 whole red chillies
To season
1 tbsp oil, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp udid dal, 1 red chilli

  1. Cube the vegetables, raw banana skin must be pared like you would the potatoes.. If pumpkin skin is thin and edible you can keep the skin on.
  2. Wash the mung dal well and add to a large deep pan or vessel add 2 cups of water, a pinch of turmeric. Bring water to boil, lower the heat and allow to half cook for a few mins
  3. Add the cut vegetables.. first banana and potato, then the pumpkin ladt the carrots and cauliflower, stir well..  
  4. Add 3-4 cups of water enough to cover the vegetable, Add the curry leaves and salt to taste.  
  5. Cover and cook, the mung dal should be well cooked and soft and mushy.
  6. Add the coarsely ground paste as shown in the picture and bring to a full boil
  7. Allow it to boil on a medium flame for 5 mins.
  8. To season/tadka.  Add oil and seasoning ingredients to a small pan, cover and heat on meduim flame until the mustard seeds splutter and the dal is brown, add to the molagutal as shown.
  9. Stir well and enjoy with steamed rice.
Mathan puli pachadi
A wedge of pumpkin, thinly sliced should yeild 2 cups
1 tbsp tamarind paste or pulp diluted in 2 cups of water
A small piece of jaggery, gur or a 1/4 tsp sugar
For grinding
1/4 cup grated coconut, 3-4 spicy thai green chillies, one pinch mustard seeds or flakes
For seasoning
1 tsp oil, 1/2 tsp mustard, 1/4 tsp methi(fenugreek seeds), 1 red chilli

  1. Add tamarind, pumpkin, turmeric and salt to a wok, cover and cook until the vegetable is soft and well cooked.  You can substitute pumpkin with okra(vendakai/bhindi) or egg-plant(katrikai/baingan/brinjal)
  2. Add the ground paste, the mustard is very inportant, it adds flavor, bring to a rolling boil and cook for a couple of minutes.
  3. Season/tadka with oil, mustard, methi seeds and red chilli.
  4. It tastes good when mixed with rice, too.
The above meal is my dysfunctional style of cooking traditional recipes learnt from mom.  A yogurt based raita or pachadi also goes well with molagutal. 

Variations or additions to molagutal - You can also add winter melon, zucchini, snake gourd, or bottle gourd to the molagutal.

Cabbage molagutal is very similar, use same ingredients for grinding and seasoning.  
half cook the mung dal and add finely chopped cabbage, cook well, add ground paste, boil well, season.  It goes well with chappatis or rice.

Spinach or keerai molagutal is slightly different.  Cut and cook the spinach with turmeric and salt. Add pre-cooked tur dal and bring to a rolling boil.  Lightly roast Chana dal, udid dal and two red chillies in a drop of oil to grind with the grated coconut and jeera.  season as above.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Chunda (Sweet and spicy raw mango pickle) in a microwave with unbelievable results

The chunda snob in me didn't think this experiment would be
a success so I skipped the pictures taking.. :)
Mom, this one is for you!  I have described your traditional Chunda making process at the end of this blog!  Wish it were so easy to make in your day!

- 1 or 2 raw mangoes of large variety,
should yield 2 to 3 cups of grated mango
- 1/4 to 1/2 tsp turmeric
- a pinch of salt

For every 1 cup of grated mango
- 1 and 1/4 cups Sugar
- 1/2 tsp chilli powder
- 1/2 tsp lightly roasted cumin (jeera) powder
or you could roast and powder whole cumin

  1. Wash and dry the mango.  Remove the skin and grate fine, squeeze out the juice slightly if it seems very juicy.
  2. It yielded 2 cups of grated mango, so I doubled the quantity to - sugar(2.5cups), 1 tsp chilli powder and 1 tsp roasted jeera powder.
  3. Add grated mango and turmeric in a large glass microwaveable bow and mix well (the sugar will boil and froth so the bowl must be large, wok shaped is ideal)
  4. Add the sugar and mix in with a dry spoon
  5. Microwave on high for 2 mins, stir and microwave on high again for 3.30mins (3 mins and 30 seconds), stir.
  6. The sugar should be of one string consistency and you are done.  It will thicken as it cools so don't worry if it looks a little runny.
  7. Add the roasted jeera powder and mix well
  8. Add the chilli powder and mix well
  9. Add a pinch of salt to taste.
  10. I added an extra pinch or two of salt and 1/2 tsp of chill powder to get the same taste as mom's chunda, this is purely based on ones taste buds. If you have small kids you can decrease the chilli powder to any desired level.  My gujju friends mom made a batch without adding chilli powder and it tasted good, too.
  11. Let it cool down completely before bottling in an airtight glass container.  It's ready to eat immediately with roti's, chapatti's, pita bread, bread, thepla....
The above recipe is my dysfunctional take on my mom's chunda and what I found on the WWW in Srivalli's blog "Cooking for all seasons".  The ingredients are almost the same but the process and the time difference 'Whoa!' is all I have to say!  This will explain why! So here goes,

Amma's traditional Chunda making process 

First, my mom who hated any kind of waste, would remove the skin a little thicker and use that to make gol keri with some dry kajur added in.  Unfortunately, you can't make chunda with the skin, so with a sigh I took off the skin with a peeler and put it in the garbage disposal.

Amma had a tall steel vessel for her chunda making, some 10-12 Rajapuri mangoes would be grated, turmeric and sugar added and mixed well.  She would then begin the painstaking process of putting it out in the sun praying it wouldn't rain.  Day after day it would go up on the building terrace, its mouth covered with a fine muslin cloth, to cook in the hot sun, She would check often to see if the crow had pecked at it OR the pigeons were making a mess.  The sugar would cook and melt purely by the heat of sun. May is usually super hot in Bombay.  It took 18-23 days for the desired consistency needed to add the jeera and chilli powders.  There would be a happy dance since we could finally get a taste.  It would take another couple of weeks before it was ready to eat, the longer you waited the tastier it got. 

One year the monsoons came early and she was so reluctant and sad to put it on the stove for 25-30 mins daily, on low heat until it reached the desired consistency, worried that would get spoilt.  We never quite enjoyed that years chunda, we were pickle snobs, thanks to having an expert pickle maker mom. :) 

So now, you know why I did not expect this experiment to be a success, Chunda snob that I am.  I was completely blown away by 'How simple' this whole MW process was and 'How tasty' the final product.  Exactly like mom's except for a little tweak on the salt and the chilli powder.  This one is for you mom! Loved your enthusiasm when it came to cooking and feeding everyone and giving away bottles and bottles of your yummy pickles!

Mangai Thokku (Sweet, Tangy and Spicy mango pickle)

All done when the oil separates out
- 2 large raw or semi-ripe but firm mango(should be sour for it to taste good) of large variety, cut into small cubes
- 4-6 tbsp sesame(til) oil
- salt to taste
- 1/4 tsp turmeric(haldi) powder
 For seasoning 
 - red chilli powder(1 tsp or more as desired)
- 1/2 tsp fenugreek flakes (methi kuria) or fenugreek seeds(dry fry with a drop of oil and powder)
-  4-6 tbsp sesame(til) oil
- A pinch of asafetida(hing) powder

The cut mango needs to be cooked first
  1. Wash, dry, and cut the mango into half inch cubes. Scrape the flesh off the seed and add that too.  If you like you can remove the skin, but I prefer it with the skin on.
  2. Take 2 tbsp. of sesame oil in a dry wok(kadai) and add the mango pieces with turmeric, cook until the mango is soft, the skin will have a slight crunch and that's okay.
  3. Add salt to taste and mix well. TAke off the stove and keep aside.
  4. In another wok, take the balance sesame oil and add the asafetida(hing), the fenugreek flakes(methi kuria), and chilli powder, heat until the oil froths a bit, it must not burn.
  5. Add the mango into spiced oil and mix well. 
  6. Cook, stirring occasionally until the oil starts to separate from the mango.
  7. Switch off the stove, let cool and bottle in an air tight container.
  8. The thokku will stay good refrigerated for a month. 
  9. It tastes really good with dosa, adai, chapatti's, and yogurt rice.
When bottled the oil forms a nice layer on top
this helps with longer shelf life

The above recipe is my dysfunctional take on two of my mom's pickles. The mangai curry and mangai thokku.  We love the crunch of the skin so rarely remove it while eating fresh mango or while making pickles unless its absolutely necessary.

Tip of the day: For longer shelf life of gravies(sambhar, pickles, batter, etc), store bulk amount in a large container inside the fridge.  Spoon out the required amout into a smaller vessel and heat if required and Never pour back the leftovers into the large container.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mangai curry (Spicy fresh raw mango pickle)


1 or 2 - Raw mango's of large variety, needs to be sliced as shown.   The mango has to be firm otherwise its very hard to slice into small pieces.

For seasoning 

- salt to taste
- red chilli powder(1/4 tsp or more as desired)
- 1/4 tsp fenugreek flakes (methi kuria) or fenugreek seeds(dry fry with a drop of oil and powder)
- 1 or 2 tbsp sesame(til) oil
- A pinch or shake of asafetida
- 1/4 tsp turmeric(haldi) powder
- 1/2 tsp mustard seeds

  1. Wash and slice the raw mango, add salt and chilli powder, mix well and let sit for an hour.
  2. If using fenugreek seeds;  dry fry, powder and keep aside. 
  3. In a deep pan, add the oil, mustard seeds, asafetida, fenugreek flakes, turmeric
  4. Heat until the mustard seeds have spluttered.  Add the mango pieces (along with powders fenugreek seeds) mix well on a low flame for 3-5 minutes, stirring until the oil has coated the pieces well, .
  5. Let cool and store in an airtight container.   It will stay fresh and crunchy for 3-4 days, a week or longer, if stored in the refrigerator.
  6. Tastes good with chapatti's, or yogurt rice
The above is my dysfunctional take on my mom's traditional mangai curry, she added the oil and stuff to the raw mango and it was consumed within a day or two and her mangai thokku, where semi-ripe mango is cooked..  Mine is not cooked like thokku but the heat helps coat the pieces well with oil helping it stay good for a week, longer sometimes here in the US.