Sunday, December 30, 2012


Human atrocities of every kind, in every country, every day, and soon one  develops a numb shield  to stop responding to the daily horrors - and quickly move on  looking  for the happier parts of life. 

Then comes the next story so ghastly, that it breaks down the armour in a second, and evokes such strong emotions of every kind.

This post is a personal note to not forget, and not let her death go in vain.

This write up voices well what we feel

Prayers for change and a safer world.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Kaalu Uppittu - Broken Rice And Field Beans Upma


Once again it is Kaalu season! The  Kaalu obsession has taken over the  fanatics and  we love to exploit its flavour  in as many dishes as possible till the season lasts. I always wonder about how this simple and shiny green  bean is capable of lending a magical  aroma to any and every dish it touches! Even a simple straight forward Akki Uppittu is elevated to a  star status when a handful of  Kaalu is thrown in while cooking!



Raw rice - 1 cup 
Cumin seeds - 1 tbsp 
Field beans / Kaalu ( cooked till tender but not mushy) - 3/4 cup 
Fresh grated coconut - 4 tbsps 
Salt - 1 tsp 
Sesame oil - 3 tbsps 
Mustard seeds - 1 pinch 
Black gram dal - 1 tsp 
Bengal gram dal - 1 tsp 
Broken red chillies - 3 
Asafoetida - 1 pinch 
Curry leaves - a few 


1. Dry grind raw rice using a mixer till it resembles Semolina. 
2. Add the cumin seeds and run the mixer for another 10 seconds. 
3. Heat the sesame oil in a heavy bottomed pan or kadai
4. Add mustard seeds. 
5. When the mustard seeds splutter add both the dals and fry till they turn golden in colour. 
6. Add broken red chillies, lower the heat and roast till the chillies become crisp. 
7. Add asafoetida followed by curry leaves and the cooked field beans.
8. Saute for two minutes and then add three cups of water, fresh coconut gratings, and salt to the seasoning and increase flame. 

9. When the water starts boiling, gently add the broken rice and cumin seeds mixture.


10. Keep stirring till the broken rice is cooked and all the water is absorbed. 

11. When the cooked Kaalu Uppittu comes together reduce flame and cover it with a lid. 
12. Switch off flame when it is thoroughly done.

Enjoy the flavoursome Kaalu Uppittu as it is, or with any pickle of your choice, and a cup of thick curd.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thaalagam - Winter Vegetables In A Spicy Gravy

It is late December and the Kaalu frenzy has started! Here Kaalu/ field beans mingles with other winter vegetables and transforms into a delicious and flavoursome dish called Thaalagam.
Thaalagam is another version of Yezhu Kari Koottu which is prepared along with Thiruvaadirai Kali.


Sesame seeds - 4 tbsps
Split Black gram dal - 4 tbsps
Raw rice - 2 tsps
Fenugreek seeds - 1/4 tsp 
Pepper - 1/4 tsp
Red chillies - 8
Asafoetida - 1 pinch
Fresh grated coconut OR Dry coconut(Copra) gratings - 4 tbsps


1.Dry roast sesame seeds in a pan and remove it into a dry plate.
2. Heat a drop of oil in the same pan and add split black gram dal, rice, fenugreek seeds, pepper and red chillies.
3.Roast till golden in colour and add asafoetida.
4. Remove the roasted ingredients on to a plate when you get a pleasant aroma.
5. Add fresh coconut gratings to the same pan and roast on low flame till golden in colour.
( Dry coconut and sesame seeds are a flavoursome combination. If you are using copra instead of fresh coconut gratings, there is no need to roast the same.)
6. Cool the roasted ingredients and grind with roasted coconut gratings / copra into a moderately smooth powder.


Pumpkin - 1/4 kg
Field beans / kaalu - 2 cups
Broad beans/ Avarakkai( Chopped ) - 2 cups
Choyate / Chowchow ( peeled and chopped ) - 2 cups
Carrots ( peeled and chopped ) - 2 cups
Baby eggplants - 12
Taro - 12
Tamarind - The size of a plum
Powdered jaggery (Optional) - 1/4 tsp.
Salt - 2 tsps
Turmeric powder - 1 pinch
Sesame oil - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves - a few.


1. Wash, peel and chop Pumpkin, Carrots and Choyate into big cubes.
2. String the Flat beans and chop them.
3. Remove the stalk and slit the Eggplants lengthwise into four taking care not to separate them at the bottom.
4. Wash and cook Taro till done, peel and dice into thick pieces.
5. Soak tamarind in warm water and extract the juice and keep aside.
6. Wash Kaalu and cook with Carrots with enough water.
7. When half done add Choyate and Flat beans and continue to cook adding more water if necessary.
8. After a while add the Pumpkin and the Eggplants.
9. When the Pumpkin is half done add tamarind juice, salt, turmeric powder and jaggery if you are using it.
10. Cook till all the vegetables are done and then add the cooked and diced Taro. Do not allow the vegetables to become mushy.

11. Mix Thaalagam powder with little water and blend the paste into the vegetables.
12. Switch off flame when the Thaalagam thickens.
13. Heat sesame oil splutter the mustard seeds and add the curry leaves.
14. Pour the seasoning over the Thaalagam.

Enjoy the delicious and flavoursome Thaalagam with Thiruvaadirai Kali after offering them to Lord Shiva.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Race Kuzhambu - A spicy and tangy gravy with Eggplant


After spending a rollicking good time at Sydney with my cute little granddaughter (and my daughter), I returned to Bangalore not only with a heavy heart but also with a heavy head, stuffy ears and blocked nose! Though a lot of hoohaa is being raised about global warming, the December chill of Bangalore still bites as always! 
My aunt passed on the secrets of making this unique kuzhambu to me when I started craving for something hot, spicy and tangy to fight the cold and to rekindle life to my taste buds.


Tamarind – 1 lime size 
Salt – 2 tsps 
Turmeric powder – 1 pinch 
Eggplants- 4 
Black chickpea ( whole )– 2 tbsps 
Mustard seeds – 1pinch 
Curry leaves – a few 
 Sesame oil – 1 tsp 


Split Yellow pigeon peas / Toor Dal – 2 tsps 
Bengal gram Dal – 2 tsps
 Green gram Dal – 2 tsps 
Black gram Dal – 2 tsps 
Pepper – 2 tsps 
Cumin seeds – 2 tsps 
Coriander seeds – 2 tsps 
Fenugreek seeds – 1 tsp 
Red chillies - 5 
Asafoetida – 1 pinch 


1. Heat a heavy bottomed kadai and decrease flame when it is hot. 
2. Add fenugreek seeds and pepper and roast till the pepper pops up. 
3. Add cumin seeds and keep roasting till it emanates a pleasant aroma. 
4. Remove the roasted ingredients on to a plate and add ¼ tsp oil to the kadai. 
5. When the oil is hot add all the lentils, coriander seeds and the red chillies and roast till golden brown in colour. 
6. Add the asafoetida powder and remove when it gives out a pleasant aroma. 
7. Cool all the roasted ingredients and then grind into a smooth powder. 


1. Soak the chickpeas for an hour and drain. 
2. Wash and cut the eggplants into cubes and keep immersed in water. 
3. Soak tamarind in warm water and extract the juice. 
4. Boil tamarind water with salt and turmeric powder. 
5. Add chickpeas and the drained eggplant cubes to the boiling tamarind water. 
6. Cook till the vegetable and the chickpeas are done, adding little more water if necessary. 
7. Add water to the ground Race Kuzhambu powder and make a smooth paste. 
8. Stir in the paste and blend well using a ladle. 
9. Switch off flame when the kuzhambu thickens. 
10. Heat sesame oil in a seasoning ladle and add the mustard seeds. 
11. When the mustard seeds splutter add the curry leaves and pour the seasoning over the Race Kuzhambu. Enjoy with steaming hot rice topped with a dollop of fresh ghee.

 The spice and  flavour of the delicious Race Kuzhambu  raced through  my  ear, nose and throat passages  and hit my head chakra, immersing me in great bliss! 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bhapa Doi or Steamed Yoghurt (Better than Cheese Cake!) - Deepawali Sweet

Bhapa Doi  or  Steamed Yoghurt (Better than Cheese Cake!)

Wish you all a very Happy Deepawali!  May the festival of lights dispel darkness and ignorance and bring all things bright and wonderful your way this year!
Fireworks over Sydney Harbour Bridge
 This year we wanted to make a simple sweet dish of Deepawali, but also something new which we haven’t tried before. Although as a family we are mostly off sugar, we wanted to ensure Dib’s little daughter learns to celebrate Deepawali with all traditions intact!  She is fussy about food, and surprisingly doesn’t have an affinity for sweets.  She loves her cheese though, and so we were thinking of a dish that she can enjoy as well.  We promptly zeroed on ‘Bhapa Doi’ or ‘Steamed Curd’  from the Bengali cuisine. It looked easy enough to make as well.We tried it for the first time. It is surprisingly easy to make and tastes amazing. It‘s texture is like cheese cake, and in fact tastes far better than cheese cake without its dry biscuit crust!  Weare thinking of adding fruit pulp the next time we make it!
 Greek Yogurt- ½ kilo  (If you don’t have greek yoghurt, hang curd in a muslin cloth and allow all the water to drip off (at least 2 – 3 hours)Sweetened Condensed milk – 1 tin
Milk – 2 tbsps
Saffron strands – a generous pinch
Dry roasted whole cardamoms – a few
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees centigrade.
2. Fill your  kettle and put it on to boil.
3. Blend yogurt and condensed milk together, using a hand blender or whisk.
Whisk yoghurt and condensed milk.

4. Pour it into a bake proof bowl. We poured it into small ramekins and we got about 6.
5. The ramekins need to be cooked in a Water Bath. To create a water bath, place the ramekins in a large baking tray (we used a foil tray), and place in the oven. Very carefully fill with hot water upto ¾ height of the ramekins. Be careful not to burn your hands, or spill water in the Doi!
Water Bath in the Oven
6.  In the meanwhile soak the saffron strands in warm milk.
7.  After 25 minutes, open the oven carefully and top the contents of each bowl with a little soaked saffron milk, and place one cardamom on top. Breaking the pod a little, but without removing the seeds helps in releasing flavours.
8.  Again bake for ten minutes.
9. Remove from the oven, cover with cling film and chill for few hours,( but best results are to chill  overnight)  before serving.  
Chilled and ready to serve!

Its all set!

Cheese cake texture - but better!
Enjoy the delicious Bhapa Doi after a hearty and sumptuous
Deepaavaali meal.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ranga Aloor Puli or Sweet Potato Jamoons - a (not very) easy sweet for Deepawali!

RANGA ALOOR PULI or Sweet Potato Jamoons - a (not at all) easy sweet for Deepawali!

Dibs wanted to treat us and our cousins here at Sydney, to a traditional Bengali dinner party. Though I have savoured Bengali food at her in-laws’ home at Calcutta, I have never tried cooking any Bengali dishes till now.  When Dibs planned for a traditional dinner consisting of 16 dishes,  I was very excited. Here was a chance to learn to cook new dishes from my daughter.

learnt that Ranga Aloor Puli or the Stuffed Sweet Potato Jamoon is one of the many   traditional sweets prepared on auspicious occasions in a Bengali household. When Dibs briefed me about the sweet, I confidently offered to prepare it all by myself one day prior to the dinner. She shared with me the recipe link  of her very good Bengali friend, Indira Mukherjee, who is an accomplished cook (among many other talents), and is a familiar face in Bengali TV channels with her recipes.

The recipe looked simple enough, but little did I know of the various hitches that I would soon have to face at every step! Here’s how I prepared it, along with all the problems I encountered and the fixes as well!!
Fresh grated coconut – 1 cup
Sugar – 1 cupGhee – 1 tbspCardamom powder – 1 pinch
1. Cook the coconut, sugar (optional - you can also add 1 cup of milk) together on low flame till it comes together into a mass.
2. Stir in ghee and cardamom powder, switch off flame and transfer it to a container to avoid crystallization. The sweet coconut filling should be soft enough to be shaped into balls.

Sweet potatoes – 2 big 
Plain flour / Maida – 1 tbspRice flour -1 tbsp
Ghee - 1tsp
Salt – 1 pinch
Fat Sweet Potatoes!

1.  Boil and peel the sweet potatoes.
I microwaved the sweet potatoes submerged in water in the Tupperware steamer, for 10 minutes. The halved sweet potatoes cooked outside and remained hard in the centre. I mentally ticked myself off, for under-estimating the toughness of the big fat sweet potatoes
I then dumped them in the pressure cooker with water in the cooker, but not in the pan with the potatoes and cooked until three whistles.
Stubborn and uncooked in the centre!

      2.   Peel and mash the cooked sweet potatoes smoothly.
I took out the sweet potatoes after the pressure subsided. Peeled the still hot vegetable and mashed it with the back of the ladle. The   steam condensed into it while mashing resulting in a very loose sweet potato mash. I regretted for not having allowed the vegetable to cool down thoroughly before mashing.
3.  Add the plain flour (maida), rice flour, ghee and salt to the sweet potato mash and knead into dough. The original recipe called for Khoa, which we didn’t add, as we didn’t have any!
Shell mixture with too much ghee!

Kneading was impossible because the dough remained loose even after mixing in the flours. In addition, I added too much ghee, which made the dough even more slippery!  I did not want to add more flour as a fix as that would make the jamoons floury and perhaps very hard.
SOLUTION (not really!):
Dibs encouraged me to continue when I started panicking, saying that if at all it went wrong we could always make a kheer, and store the sweet potato for soup on another day.
4.  Flatten a ball of dough in your palm, place a ball of sweet coconut filling in the centre, pull the edges together and shape it into a jamoon.
Mash filling on Mash shell!!

The mash stuck to the palms and there was no way of stuffing or shaping it into a jamoon even when the palms were greased.
I washed my hands, patted out the excess water and left the palms still wet. I slapped a spoon of the sweet potato mash on the wet palm and placed a ball of filling in the centre. Took another spoon of the mash and placed it on top of the filling. Using the fingers gently I covered the filling by plastering  any cracks or uncovered portions with more sweet potato paste just like a mason would fill the cracks with cement slush!
5. Shape it like a jamoon fruit .
Rolling  like dice with palm open - but gently!!!

Shaping the paste? Out of question!
I gently tried to roll the ‘jamoon’ by tilting my wet palm up and down, like I would roll the dice before casting,  and gently shaped both ends using the other hand. The jamoon was carefully slid on to a flat plate dusted with flour. After making all the jamoons similarly, we covered the plate using silver foil and left it in the refrigerator overnight, with a big sigh.
Phew! Ready for the fridge!

      6.   Fry the jamoons to a dark brown colour and soak them in sugar syrup.
 Hitch 6:
Since I was nervous to handle the delicate jamoons, Dibs took over the next morning. She carefully slid the jamoon into hot oil .The first jamoon got burnt because the oil was too hot.  The second one opened up and disintegrated in spite of low heat, because Dibs tried to flip it too soon.
Burnt or Disintegrated - so sad! (Ignore potatos - they for another dish!)
Dibs slid the next two jamoons into the oil on low flame. She did not touch the jamoons till the submerged portion turned to a golden brown colour, and firm as well. She used a spoon and gently turned over the golden jamoons one by one, and waited till they turned into a deep brown colour. She could successfully removed the jamoons using a perforated ladle,  and placed them on a paper towel!  Cooking jamoons took a long time on low flame - almost 25 -30 minutes for one batch. 

Finally getting somewhere on a low flame!
Sugar – 3 cups
Rose water/rose essence – 1tbsp
1.  Add two cups of water to the sugar and cook on low flame.
2. Cook till the syrup is sticky and remove from flame before it reaches one thread consistency
3. Don't add the rose water yet!
1.   Lower the first batch of drained jamoons into the syrup.
2.    Allow them to soak till the next batch is ready.
3.    Remove the first batch of jamoons soaked in syrup very carefully and place them in a wide mouthed serving bowl.
4.  Fry and soak all the jamoons similarly.
5.   Warm up the remaining sugar syrup just before serving and add the rose essence.
6.    Pour the rose flavoured syrup on the jamoons and serve them immediately.
Sweet Success!
                   What we will do better next time:
1. Slice potatoes into 3 pieces at least, before pressure cooking it.  We may need to cook only for two whistles.
2. Drain on a towel  and allow potatoes to cool completely before mashing.
3. Add ghee sparingly.
4. Refrigerate overnight before frying.
5. Exhibit great patience, and fry on a low flame.
6. Not handle or flip the jamoons once dropped in oil, right until they turn  completely rosy brown on one side.
7. Hold the 'kadai' and VERY GENTLY tilt to cover jamoons with oil, before attempting to turn them over to cook the other side.

Overall Verdict on Ranga Aloor Puli!
Yum Yum YUM!
 The Sweet Potato Jamoons tasted amazing and unbelievably good! They were rich and delicious giving regular jamoons a run for their money! The coconut filling inside the jamoon is a genious idea, and transports you to another world, especially when its least expected inside a jamoon. The colour was rosy, and taste of sweet potato unmistakeable. We did not miss much by not adding khoa (or for that matter -instant jamun mix powders, as some websites suggest!! 
Guests were intrigued and loved Ranga Aloor Puli, and it was  a great hit in the party.  Dibs and I shared a secret grin, when the Sweet Potato Jamoons were praised and by our finger-licking guests!  

Friday, October 26, 2012

Straight From The Hands Of A Master Chef!

The Poster
 Dibs  rushed back home from her shopping still unfinished, and dragged me back to the same  Mall again. She said that  a surprise awaited me at the Mall. We reached there after a fifteen minute walk. I was more than thrilled with what met my eyes! Kumar Pereira of 'Master Chef Australia' ( the popular cookery show ) fame was giving a promotional cooking demonstration! 

The demonstration
The demo had just begun. There was not much of a crowd yet. And we witnessed a command performance by one of the most favoured Master Chefs of the 'Master Chef Australia' show. Knives and ladles were flying in his magical hands effortlessly!
The Master Chef in action
 The very first dish that he prepared turned out to be Bruschetta, an easy to prepare vegetarian dish. (The other two dishes were non vegetarian ). Samples were served to the viewers by a girl who was done up as a mobile dining table!
The mobile table
 Dibs and I were excited when we tasted the Bruschettas infused with a  special flavour (what we call 'kai manam' in Tamil ) by the magical touch  of the super Chef. We had the great opportunity to talk to him. Dibs got his autograph for my twelve year old grand daughter who is a great fan of 'Master Chef Australia', especially of Kumar Pereira.
Autograph for D 2 !
 Here is the recipe of Bruschetta as it  is in the  pamphlet which was distributed among the viewers.
6 large ripe tomatoes,chopped 
2 red onions, finely chopped 
1 small bunch basil ( 1/2 cup ), remove stems and finely chop leaves 
1 loaf pana di casa bread, sliced for toast 
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar 
1 tbsp white vinegar 
2 tbsp olive oil 
1 clove garlic, crushed 
1 teaspoon dijon mustard 
1) Combine tomatoes, onion and basil in large bowl. 
2) Mix vinegars, olive oil, mustard and garlic together in small jug and pour through the vegetables. 
3) Toast bread and drizzle with oil. 
4) Pile vegetables atop toasted bread to serve. 
Bruschetta with the Master's touch
The chef added pine nuts to lend  his special touch to the recipe. Enjoyed!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Kadalai Paruppu Poli /Pooran Poli For Navaraatri

Durga Maata
I was very happy to visit a Durga Pooja festival held at Sydney,  in a local school. Mother Goddess Durga dazzling in all her opulence took the center stage. A picture of Lord Shiva adorned the top. Idols of  Lakshmi, Saraswathi, Ganesha and Kartikeya were positioned on Her either sides.
A Congrigation Of All Dieties

A banana tree dressed up in a saree represented Mother Nature.The gorgeously decorated and illuminated stage along with the sacred idols reminded me of our Navaratri Kolu
A priest was guiding the people in batches to offer their prayers (Pushpaanjali) with recitations of Sanskrit verses. Flowers, fruits, sweets and Aarati were offered to Durga Maata. There were food stalls, and stalls which sold books, artifacts and trinkets outside the alter. Children danced to the disco music played on speakers. People bedecked specially for the occasion offered prayers and cheerfully interacted with their friends as they waited for the 'bhog ' to be served. 
Samosas getting fried
Samosas and Brinjal Bajjis were being fried in huge kadais, full of smoking oil. 
Brinjal bajjis 
 'Prasaads' consisting of cut fruits and interestingly, a ball of 'poornam' ( a mixture of coconut and jaggery cooked together) were distributed in paper plates. 

'Poornam'  - it is symbolic of the 'infinite complete whole' or 'sweet bliss' which we call God.  All the creations are manifestations of the same Sweet Bliss or 'Poornam'. Whatever the outer shell it is encased in, and whatever worldly ordeals it goes through,  'poornam' remains the same (infinite and complete) till it finally reunites with the infinite whole.  Though the stuffed sweets go through different cooking methods like steaming as in Kozhukattais, roasting as in Polis, and frying as in Suhians, the inner Poornam remains intact and the same. It is to remember this eternal truth that Poornam stuffed sweets are always one of the offerings to the Divine on all special pooja occasions.
Bengal Gram Dal - 2 cups 
Powdered jaggery - 2 cups 
Cardamom powder - 1/4tsp 
Ghee - 3 tbsps 
1. Soak the Bengal gram dal for half an hour . 
2. Pressure cook soaked dal with 1 cup of water till it gives out three whistles and switch off flame, and allow cool down. 
3. Remove cooked dal from the cooker and drain well. 

Cooked and drained dal
4. Grind the cooked and drained dal with powdered jaggery into a thick paste. 
 Palm Sugar used instead of Jaggery
5. Heat ghee in a thick bottomed pan and add the ground paste. 
6. Keep stirring till the poornam leaves the sides of the pan and a pleasant aroma of the caramalised jaggery fills the atmosphere. 
7. Switch off flame , mix in the cardamom powder and allow the poornam to cool down.
1. Plain flour / Maida - 2 cups 
2. Salt - 1 pinch 
3. Turmeric powder - 1 pinch 
4. Sesame oil - 4 tbsps 
1. Sift maida, salt and turmeric powder into a bowl. 
2. Add 2 tbsps of sesame oil and mix well. 
3. Add water little by little and knead the flour into a smooth and elastic dough. 
4. Smear one more tbsp of sesame oil on top and cover the ball of dough with a lid. 
5. Allow the dough to soak for one hour. The more it soaks the more it becomes pliable and elastic. 
1. Grease a banana leaf or a plastic sheet with a liberal sprinkle of oil. 

2. Take out a lime size ball of dough and place it on the greased surface. 
Dough ball smaller than the Poornam ball
4. Take out a ball of poornam, double the size of the dough ball and place it in the middle of the patted poorie
Poornam ball on flattened dough
5. Pull the edges of the poorie over the poornam and press to seal.

Edges pulled over Poornam
6. Invert the stuffed poorie and again start patting it evenly into a poli, so that the poornam spreads out evenly inside the maida cover. 
'Patting' Poli
7. Heat a greased tava and gently place the flattened poli on it. 
Poli cooking on a tava
8. Cook on low flame till the raw look on the top of the poli disappears and flip it to the other side. 
9. Cook till golden brown coloured patches appear on both sides and remove the poli on to a flat plate.Similarly make all the Polis on low heat. 
Kadalai Paruppu Poli
 Offer the flavoursome Kadalai Paruppu Poli / Pooran Poli topped with ghee to Mother Goddess.
Ready to be served
 Enjoy Her blessings with the delicious prasaadam.

For those on Facebook,   you now know the answer to the question on Friday! :-))