Saturday, January 29, 2011

Vazhaikai Puli Kuzhambu - Raw Banana Cooked In Tamarind Gravy


'Pon Pottaal Pon Vilaiyum Bhoomi' meaning: 'If gold is sown the land yields gold'- this is the maxim used to define the fertile lands in Trichy district. The shimmering green banana plantations in this region fed with the waters of river Akhanda Kaveri is a bonanza yielding green gold in the form of healthy nutritious banans.
The raw bananas known as 'mondan vazhai' are ideal to prepare chips, kootus, porials, bajjis and kuzhambus. Bananas raw or ripe have numerous health benifits.


Raw bananas - 2
Tamarind - a small lime size
salt - 2 tsps
Sambar powder - 2 tsps
jaggery - 1 small marble size
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Fenugreek seeds - 1/4 tsp
Bengal gram dal - 1 tbsp
Red chillies - 1
Green chilly - 1
Finely chopped fresh ginger - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - a few
Finely chopped onions - 2 tbsps ( optional)
Turmeric powder - 1 pinch
Asafoetida - 1/4 tsp
Gingelly oil - 2 tbsps
Rice flour - 1 tbsp

1. Soak tamarind in warm water and extract the juice and keep aside.
2. Chop onions and ginger finely.
3. Break red chillies and slit the green chilly.
4. Wash and peel the bananas and cut them into one inch long fingers and immediately add them to the tamarind juice. ( or you can immerse them in cold water till use, to prevent them from blackening)
5. Heat oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds.
6. When the mustard seeds splutter add fenugreek seeds followed by bengal gram dal.
7. Fry till the seasoning becomes reddish in colour giving out a pleasant aroma.
8. Add red chillies and fry till crisp.
9. Add green chillies, ginger and curry leaves followed by asafoetida.
10. At this stage add chopped onions and saute if desired.Or you may skip this step.
11. Add turmeric powder and stir well.
12. Pour in the tamarind juice along with the cut banana fingers.
13. Add salt, sambar powder and jaggery.
14. Let the kuzhambu boil on medium flame, stir now and then till the bananas are cooked.
15.The quantitiy of tamarind juice will reduce a little by the time the bananas are cooked, hence adjust the quantity by adding 1/2 a cup of water or more according to your taste.
16. Make a paste by mixing rice flour with little water and add it to the boiling kuzhambu.
17. Switch off flame when the kuzhambu thickens.

Enjoy the Vazhaikai Puli Kuzhambu with steaming hot rice topped with a dollop of pure ghee. It is a good accompaniment for coconut rice, ven pongal or any other tiffin.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Menthya Soppu Hituku Bele Huli - Fenugreek Leaves And Field Beans Gravy

Every day is a field day for avarekai buffs during avarekai ( field beans ) season. This is one vegetable ( Bean ) which is omnipresent in almost all the dishes prepared in Bangalorean homes at this time of the year, confirming its status as The Signature Bean of Bengalooru.
Hituku Bele is the fresh lentil squeezed out of the avarekai bean and is used as a nutritious substitute for all other lentils during this season. Here is a recipe to prepare Menthya soppu (fenugreek leaves ) huli/sambar using hituku bele as the substitute for the usual tur dal.

Hituku bele ( Fresh Field Bean Lentil ) - 1/2 kg
Turmeric powder - 1 pinch
Chopped menthya soppu ( fenugreek leaves ) - 4 cups
Tomato - 1
Tamarind - 1 plum size
Salt - 2 tsps

Asafoetida - 1/4 tsp
Black gram dal - 1/2 tbsp
Bengal gram dal - 1/2 tbsp
Coriander seeds - 1/2 tbsp
Red chillies - 10
Fresh coconut gratings - 2 tbsp
FOR SEASONINGMustard seeds - 1/4 tsp

Curry leaves - a few
Red chillies - 2
Gingelly oil - 2 tsps

1. Heat 1/4 tsp of oil and roast black gram dal, bengal gram dal and coriander seeds till they become slightly red in colour.
2. Add red chillies and roast till they are crisp.
3. Add asafoetida and keep roasting till it gives out a pleasant flavour and remove the roasted ingredients on to a plate.
4. Using the same pan roast the fresh grated coconut till it becomes red and flavoursome.
5. When cool grind all the ingredients together into a fine powder.
6. Add water and run the mixer till the powder becomes a paste and set aside.
7. Cut the tomato into half and soak it in boiling water along with the tamarind.
8. In another vessel boil hituku bele with a pinch of turmeric powder.
9. Stir now and then till it is cooked but not mushy.
10. Heat oil in the pan and add mustard seeds.
11. When it splutters add broken red chillies and fry.
12. Add curry leaves and the chopped menthya soppu and saute till the leaves shrivel and give out a pleasant aroma.
13. Add the cooked hituku bele and stir in the spice paste and salt.
14. Extract a thick juice out of the soaked tamarind and tomato, and add it to the lentil and spice mixture.
15. Let the huli/sambar boil for a few minutes so that all the ingredients blend well.

Switch off flame and enjoy the hot Menthya Soppu Hituku Bele huli with rice, ragi muddae, chapaties, dosas or any of your other favourite dishes.
Update: Our dear blog friend Lakshmi from the blog, "Taste of Mysore", is co-hosting the event "Complete my Thali" along with Jagruti from the blog "Joy of Cooking". What a co-incidence that the theme is "beans"! This post is our entry of the event.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Ney Payasam/Aravana Payasam-A Pongal And Sankranti Treat

MAKARA SANKRANTI is the auspicious day when thousands of devotees throng the sacred Shabari Malai to take a glimpse of one of the great celestial wonders -the MAKARA JYOTHI. This Jyothi bobbs up over the far away hills thrice as soon as the Pooja at the sanctum sanctorum is completed.
The Month of Makara has already set foot this evening. But we have to wait for the Sun God to rise and then offer prayers and pongal to Him. In the evening we happened to watch the live telecast of Makara Jyothi at Lord Ayyappa's abode. I was enthralled by the sacred visuals, while my husband with a sudden spurt of inspiration captured a few pictures from the live telecast.
As today happens to be the first day of Pongal I had prepared Ney Payasam as Prasadam in the morning, and was thrilled to watch the Makara Jyothi on the same evening.
Ney Payasam or Aravana Payasam is a special dish prepared as an offering to Lord Ayyappa, and to all deities in all other temples of God's Own Country - Kerala.


Rice ( I used Basmati Rice ) - 1 cup

Jaggery - 2 1/2 cups
Ghee - 4 tbsps
Cardamom - 4
Edible camphor - 1 pin head
Raisins - a few
Cashew nuts - a few
Copra( Dried coconut )chopped - 2 tsps
1. Wash and soak rice for 15 minutes and drain.
2. Heat 1 tbsp of ghee in a heavy bottomed pan and fry the rice in it.
3. Pressure cook rice with 1 cup of water until three whistles.
4. In the mean while disslove jaggery in a cup of warm water and strain.
5. Heat 1 tbsp of ghee in the same pan and blend in the cooked rice without mashing.
6. Add the filtered jaggery and start cooking.
7. Add ghee little by little until the payasam thickens.
8. The jaggery syrup should coat each and every grain of rice.
9. Fry cashew nuts, raisins and the copra pieces in one more tbsp of ghee and add to the payasam.
10. Mix in the powdered cardamom and edible camphor.

Offer the flavoursome Ney Payasam to the Lord and then relish the prasadam.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thani Kootu-A Lentil Gravy-A Pongal And Sankranti Treat

This is a dish prepared in advance during the Pongal festival and comes in handy on the next day when Kanu Pandigai is celebrated. Since the Pongal festival calls for an elaborate feast, one can be assured of a lot of left over vegetables and lentils in the form of currys, porials, kootus, rasam and sambar after the feast. These dishes are neatly preserved and converted into a dish called Ericha kuzhambu on the following day.
All the left over vegetables and lentil preparations are combined in a pot and cooked for a long time using low heat - similar to crock pot cooking. The end product is a hot and spicy flavoursome gravy called ericha kuzhambu which can be relished with rice. The addition of a required quantity of the previously prepared Thani Kootu renders a delicious taste and distinct aroma to the ericha kuzhambu.
Thani Kootu can be savoured as it is with hot rice, idlies, dosas or chapaties. Save it up in the refrigerator ( it can be preserved up to one week ) to enhance your daily sambars or kootus.
Black gram dal - 1/2 cup
Bengal gram dal - 1/2 cup
Fresh coconut gratings - 1/2 cup
Tamarind - 1/2 cup ( Soak in warm water)
Jaggery - 1/2 cup
Red chillies - 10
Asafoetida - 1/2 tsp
Salt - 2 tsps
Oil - 1 tsp

Coconut oil - 2 tbsps
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Black gram dal - 1tsp
Bengal gram dal - 1 tsp
Red chillies - 2
Curry leaves - a handful
Fresh coconut gratings- 2 tbsps
1. Dry roast black gram dal and bengal gram dal till they become reddish in colour emanating a pleasant aroma.
2. Heat one teaspoon of coconut oil and fry red chillies.
3. Add asafoetida, fry and remove from fire.
4. In the same pan roast the fresh coconut gratings till it becomes red in colour.
5. Allow all the roasted ingredients to cool down.
6. Extract a thick juice from the soaked tamarind .
7. Gring all the roasted ingredients into a fine powder.
8. Add water and grind into a fine paste and mix in the tamarind juice.
9. Heat coconut oil in a pan and add mustard seeds.
10. When it splutters add the dals and roast till golden in colour.
11. Add broken red chillies, curry leaves and the fresh coconut gratings one by one, and roast well.
12. Add the tamarind juice and paste mixture, jaggery and salt.
13. Keep stirring to avoid lumps.
14. Switch off the flame when the gravy becomes thick .

Thani kootu is now ready for future use.

Pressure cook -
mixed vegetables chopped - 2 cups ( I have used carrots,peas,chow chow and beans. Usually native vegetables are used.)
Green gram dal - 1/2 cup
Turmeric powder - 1 pinch
Add 3 or 4 tbsps of Thani Kootu to the cooked dal and vegetables.
Add one more tsp of salt to taste and boil together. Crushed pepper and cumin seeds can also be added.

Relish with steaming hot rice or chapaties.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sunnundalu-Black Gram Dal Laddu-A Pongal And Sankranti Treat

" If it is Pongal, it is Pongal!"
This was the reply I got from most of my relatives and friends,when I enquired them about what was going to be their Pongal Special. I was greatly excited when one friend mentioned to me about SUNNUNDALU. She said that her children and grand children relished this nutritious laddu prepared out of black gram dal, and it was a special dish prepared during feastivals back at Andhra, her native place.
Her recipe was very short and sweet. The Sunnundalu I prepared tasted delicious, though I had used only the basic minimum ingredients.
Black gram dal - 1 cup
Crushed jaggery -1 cup
Ghee - 2 tbsps

1. Dry roast black gram dal in a thick bottomed pan till it becomes reddish in colour emanating a pleasant aroma.
2. Cool the roasted dal thoroughly.
3. Grind into a moderately coarse powder using the mixer.
4. Add the crushed jaggery and run the mixer for one more minute.
5. Spread the dal and jaggery blend in a deep plate.
6. Warm up the ghee and mix one spoon into a portion of the dal jaggery mix, and make laddus.
7. Keep mixing in warm ghee little by little and keep making laddus till the entire dal jaggery mixture is used up.

Cashew nuts and raisins can be fried and added to the basic mixture. Cardamom powder can also be included. But the earthy flavour of the roasted dal is enough to take one to heavenly heights!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Kalkandu Sakkarai Pongal - A Pongal And Sankranti Treat

The Sun is all set to change His track and move northwards,transiting from the zodiac sign sagittarius ( Dhanur Rasi) to zodiac sign capricon ( Makara rasi). The dark cold wintry days are coming to a close. Bright and warmer days are in the offing. It is time to celebrate a colourful and bountiful harvest festival.
Pongal is a harvest festival celebrated to thank the Sun God, the rain God and Mother earth for providing us with grains, fruits and vegetables, and other products for our sustenance . The first day of Pongal is Bogi festival. On this day all old pots and pans are discarded and new ones are bought. The house is white washed, festoons of mango leaves are tied on all door ways. Beautiful kolams (beautiful designs drawn using rice flour either dry or mixed with water) is drawn in front of the house. A campfire is lit and the entire house is cleared of clutter. All unwanted things are thrown into the campfire.
On Pongal day every one has an early ritualistic bath before sun rise. A turmeric plant along with the raw turmeric is tied around the neck of the 'pongal panai' - the pot in which pongal is cooked . The pot is filled with milk and water and is set on a clean stove at the appropriate time when the Tamil month of Thai is 'born'. When the milk boils over the entire house hold reverberates with the high pitched joyous cry, 'pongalo pongal' .
Rice and green gram dal are cooked in the pongal panai. Jaggery and ghee are added and finally roasted cashew nuts and raisins are also thrown in. This along with uluttam vadai ( Black gram dal patties) banana, coconuts, sugar cane, and all the seasonal vegetables like pumpkins, field beans, sweet potato and 'ellu bella' ( a dry roasted mixture of sesme seeds, ground nuts, dried coconut, and jaggery ) are offered to Sun God after the pooja.
Ven pongal, puliodarai (tamarnd rice ) tengai sadam (coconut rice) and thair sadam ( curd rice) are also prepared along with an assortment of native vegetables cooked into kootu, avial and porials for the grand pongal feast. Visiting friends and exchanging 'ellu bella' is a custom on this auspicious pongal/sankranti day.
At dusk children are made to sit on a decorated plank and 'ellu bella', a few coins and elachi hannu ( jujube ) are waved around their heads to ward off the surrounding negative energy which is considered as 'evil eye'.
Kanu pandigai and mattu pongal are celebrated on the third day.The five types of left over variety rice including pongal are made into small balls ( kanu pidi ) and served on a turmaric leaf along with small pieces of fruits, elachi hannu and sugar cane, in an open space near a water body, so that the crows enjoy the feast. After this ritual the women folk pray for the well being of their brothers and have an oil bath using the turmeric tied to the pongal pot. Brothers usually send gifts to their sisters on this day.
The cows and oxen are washed and decorated with strings of bells, shells and beads tied around their necks.The horns are painted in bright colours and strips of silver foil are wound around them. The cows are worshipped with flowers, turmeric and vermilion powder. They are treated with bucketsful of pongal and bananas as a gesture of thanks giving for all their hard work throughout the year.
Kaanum pongal is a day of family picnic which is celebrated only in Tamil Nadu.
I wish to share a variation of Sakkarai Pongal to celebrate the oncoming harvest festival.

Rice - 3/4 cup
Green gram dal - 1/4 cup
Sugar - 2 cups
Kalkandu ( Crushed rock candy ) - 1 cup
Milk - 1 cup
Ghee - 3 tbsps
Raisins - 1 tbsp
Cashew nuts - 1 tbsp
cardamom powder - 1 pinch Edible camphor ( Pache karpoora ) - 1 pin head
Saffron strands - a few (Soak in a tsp of warm milk)
Saffron food colour - 1/2 pinch ( Dissolve in 1/2 tsp of warer)

1. Dry roast rice and dal together until they become reddish in colour, emanating a very pleasant aroma.
2. Wash and pressure cook the roasted rice and dal with two cups of water and one cup of milk.
3. The cooked rice and dal mixture should be mushy.
4. Heat sugar, rock candy and one cup of water in a heavy bottomed pan.

5. When the sugar syrup reaches one thread consistency add the cooked rice and dal mash.

6. Blend in food colour, soaked saffron strands and keep stirring.
7. Add ghee spoon by spoon till the pongal starts to leave the sides of the pan.
8. Switch off flame and add powdered cardamom and pache karpoora (edible camphor).
9. Fry cashew nuts and raisins in the remaining ghee and add to the kalkandu sakkarai pongal.

Offer to the Sun God and relish the prasadam.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Mysooru Masala Dosae - A Crepe With A Spicy Potato Suffing

When some one mentions the name Mysore, what are the thoughts that immediately gush in ones mind? The Mysore palace? The Brindavan Gardens? The Chamundi Hills? Or would it be The Tiger Of Mysore? Of course all of these and many more. But I must confess that Mysooru Masala Dosae and a hot and strong cup of filter coffee would be topmost in the list, for foodies like me!
We never cooked onions or garlic at home when my great grand mother was alive. Mother mercifully and tactfully satiated our craving by ordering masala dosaes from the near by hotel at least once a week. We used to drool over the heavenly flavours of the dosaes and the accompanying chutney as we impatiently undid the parcels layer by layer. The dosaes were packed in banana leaves which in turn were wrapped up in news papers and were tied with strings. I feel no other dosae can match the taste of those masala dosaes which we had relished in our childhood days.

Raw rice ( I have used sona masuri rice) - 3 cups

Split black gram dal - 1 cup
Beaten rice ( Avalakki ) - 2 tbsps
Fenugreek seeds - 1/2 tsp ( Helps in fermenting and adds to the flavour )
Bengal gram dal - 2 tsps ( This gives a golden hue to the dosae )
Salt - 1 1/2 tsps
Sugar - 1/2 tsp ( Helps to ferment )

1. Wash twice and soak all the ingredients together for four hours. The water should be just enough to cover the ingredients.
2. Check after an hour and add some more water if the previously added water has been absorbed completly.
3. Grind all the ingredients in a mixer adding little water at a time. Table top wet grinders are best for grinding idly and dosae batter.
4. When the batter is smooth and fluffy add salt and sugar and run the mixer/ grinder for a few more minutes.
5. Store the batter in a big vessel with a lid, allowing space for it to rise after fermentation.
Let it rest undisturbed overnight.
Potatoes - 6 ( cooked and peeled )
Onions - 3 ( Sliced )
Chopped green chillies - 3
Finely chopped fresh ginger - 2 tsps
Curry leaves - a few
Chopped fresh coriander leaves - for garnishing
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Split black gram dal - 1tsp
Bengal gram dal - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Salt - 2 tsps
Cooking oil - 2 tbsps

1. Pressure cook potatoes, peel when cooled and keep aside.

2. Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds.
3. When the mustard seeds splutter add the black gram dal and bengal gram dal, and roast till golden in colour.
4. Add chopped green chillies , ginger, curry leaves and then the sliced onions.
5. Saute for a few minutes and then add the turmeric powder.
6. Stir well and add a cup of water, cover and cook the onions till they are soft.
7. Mix in salt.
8. Crush potatoes one by one between your palm and fingers.
9.Add the crushed but not mashed potatoes and add more water if required.
10. Cook till the 'palya' becomes semi solid. It should neither be dry nor liquidy.
11. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and keep aside.

Peeled garlic cloves - 1 cup ( Or peel 3 to 4 big whole garlic pods to make 1 cup)

Red chillies - 4
Roasted gram ( hurigadle) - 2 tbsps
tamarind - 1 small marble size
salt - 3/4 tsp

1. Grind all ingredients together to a powder.

2. Add 1/4 cup of water and run the mixer again until you get a smooth chutney.


Freshly grated coconut - 2 cups

Green chillies - 2
Fresh ginger - 2 inches ( Peeled and chopped )
Tamarind - a small marble size
Roasted gram - 4 tbsps
Salt - 3/4 tsp
Coriander leaves ( Chopped ) - 3 tbsps

Cooking oil - 1 tsp

Mustard seeds - 1 pinch
Split black gram dal - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - a few
Red chilly - 1

1. Grind all the chutney ingredients together adding little water into a smooth thick chutney if you prefer a 'gatti chutney' or thick chutney. Adjust consistancy by adding more water for a slightly loose chutney.

2. Heat oil and add mustard seeds.
3. When the mustard seeds splutter add the black gram dal and roast till golden in colour.
4. Add broken red chillies and then the curry leaves.
5. Mix the seasoning into the coconut chutney .

Preparing the tava and getting it to the right temperature is key to making dosas. The following procedure whereby the very first tiny dosa is made, (sometimes called pilliyar dosa!) helps in doing just that. This dosa will never get the right colour etc. as shown the in pictures below, and usually gets discarded (or is surreptitiously swallowed by the dosa maker!!) and never actually served.
1. Heat a tava and grease it evenly with a teaspoon of cooking oil.
2. Cut an onion or potato into half and use the cut surface to rub the tava with oil. Alternatively, you may use a piece of clean cloth folded into a stub, to grease the tava.

3. When the tava starts to smoke slightly, pour a tablespoon of batter on it .

4. Dribble a few drops of oil around the trial dosae.
5. When the top looks cooked flip it and cook the other side.

6. With this first dosae your tava should have reached the correct temperature. Too much of heat will cook the batter into a gruel which will stick to the pan. If the heat is not even or if it is insufficient, the dosae will look like the one above. The first one or two dosaes will not get the right texture or the uniform golden colour. But once the tava reaches the appropriate temperature the dosaes will turn out well.
7. Maintain the medium even temperature ( this will prevent the batter from sticking to the tava ) and pour a ladle of batter on the center of the tava.
8. Spread the batter into a circle working the back of the ladle in a circular motion.
A perfect dosae will look like the one below.

9. Dribble a tea spoon of oil around and all over the dosae and wait till the top looks cooked. A perfect dosae need not be cooked on the flip side.
10. The dosae will start turning brownish wherever it is transparent. Lower flame at this stage and dribble little ghee on the dosae. This lends a distinct flavour to the dosae.

11. Spread a spoon of Bellulli Chutney/Garlic chutney on top of the dosae.

12. Arrange 2 tbsps of Palya/Potato Curry on one side of the dosae.
13. Roll, or fold the dosae into half and remove on to a serving plate.
14. Increase flame and wait till the pan smokes, rub with the cut onion or cloth stub dipped in oil, and then pour the batter for the next dosae. If the tava smokes too much, splash the tava with little water and rub it with the cut onion/cloth stub for uniform distribution of heat before you pour the batter for the next dosae. Ensure that the pan is greased well before starting to spread the batter for the next dosae.

Top the cooked dosae with a blob of butter and relish the hot flavoursome Mysooru Masala Dosae with Kayee Chutney/ Coconut Chutney.