Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Mutton (Goat's meat) Kurma

I have no pics of this dish, since by the time I realised that I would like to blog about it(since it turned out much better than I expected) it was all gone.

We don't make mutton* at home that often - make that hardly ever....I can't digest it and hubby avoids red meat. So, I'm not very confident cooking it but I decided on this for lunch with some dear friends, because chicken is currently taboo, what with bird flu blanketing the East of India.

Besides knowing that I wanted to make something South Indian, I didn't have much else to go on. Most of the recipes I had were North Indian or dry preparations. Finally, since the earlier idea was to make a vegetable kurma I decided to make the kurma with the goat's meat.

The vegetable kurma gave way to Thalagam which was amazingly delicious and again - no pics because, again, nothing left to click! Thanks Nandita for that wonderful recipe!

And, since I didn't want to lose this recipe (which I surely won't remember the next time I make it) of mine, I'm blogging about it. The pics will come the next time I make it.....

* Mutton in India is used to refer to both goat's meat and sheep's meat, though the dictionary meaning of mutton refers only to sheep's meat.

I don't like pressure cooking either meat or chicken, because I feel the gravy (especially if it is a coconut based one ) tends to split and loses its consistency and creaminess. The marination helps in cooking it well on the stove top itself.
If you would like to pressure cook this dish, it could be done at step 4, instead of simmering it. 2-3 whistles(10 -12 minutes) should be enough since otherwise, the potatoes might get too mushy. Once the pressure drops, continue with the rest of the steps.

Sia from Monsoon Spice has just posted about a one-off event she is hosting called "Ode to Potato" - 2008 is the International Year of the Potato and she would like to give this unassuming tuber it's due.

I would like to send this dish to her event; for me it was the potatoes in this dish which really grounded it,made it more flavourful - absorbing all the spices and willingly lending it more body and flavour (especially since I wasn't eating the mutton ;) )

Mutton Kurma


Goat's meat or lamb - 400gms cleaned and cut into 1 " pieces
Onions - 1 big sliced
Tomatoes - 2 medium chopped
Potatoes - 3 medium peeled and chopped into big pieces

Turmeric powder (haldi) - 1/2 tsp
Yoghurt - 2-3 tbsp whisked smooth
salt - 1/2 tsp

Marinate the meat pieces in the above marinade for atleast 1 hour.

Wet masala paste:
Ginger - 2 " piece
Garlic - 6 cloves peeled and chopped
Green chillies - 3-4 chopped

Grind all the three to a paste with little water

Roasted masala paste:
Red chillies - 3
Dhania - 1 tbsp
Saunf (fennel seeds) - 1 tbsp
Fenugreek seeds (methi) - 1/4 tsp
Grated coconut - 1/4 cup

Roast all the ingredients keeping the coconut to the last and then grind to a smooth paste with a little water

Tempering (tadka):
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Curry leaves (karipatta) - 8-10

Oil - 2 tbsp

1. Heat the oil in a wide bottomed pan, add the mustard and when it splutters add the curry leaves.
2. Put the sliced onions in and saute till brown (about 5 minutes). Add the ginger, garlic and green chilli paste and saute for 2 minutes. Add the marinated meat pieces and the chopped potatoes and fry on high heat for about 8-10 minutes stirring constantly.
3. Then add the chopped tomatoes and salt and fry for about 10 minutes till the tomatoes turn pulpy.
4. Add about 2 cups of water and a little salt (there will be some salt in the marinade, so be careful) bring to boil, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes till the meat is well cooked.
5. Add the roasted masala paste with another cup of water(if too thick), adjust the salt, cover and simmer for 10 minutes till the gravy takes on a creamy consistency.

Serve with steamed rice or chapattis

Monday, January 28, 2008

Mullangi Sambar (Radish Sambar)

Sambar is a dish which took me quite some time to get right - either the tamarind was too much, or the dal was in excess making it thicker than we liked, or the sambar powder was overpowering....
But since I liked it so much, it was a matter of time till I finally found the right way.....or rather I found out what I liked.
I like it with onions and a tomato in it, lots of coriander;not too thick but at the same time with enough dal to make it satisfying. Not too sour but the tang should be there.

.........and most of all I love eating the vegetables in it - small onions (shallots/chinna vengayam),drumsticks and radish (mullangi) are the best. In that order.

Most people don't really like radish, let alone in a sambar - but for some reason I love that those white discs take on the flavour of the sambar completely and when you bite into them - they just dissolve in your mouth.

The sambar prepared on festival days? that's awesome too ; the mixed vegetables (usually an odd number- 5 or 7) gives this a whole new flavour.

Idlis in our house are almost never made without sambar to accompany them. There's something about the rice and protein mix I think which just completes this meal for us and makes it so satisfying.

I make mini idlis sometimes and it's pure heaven to drown them in the sambar and then eat them.

I know people who mash the idlis into sambar - enuff said!

And I remember people who would walk into Anand Bhavan in Mumbai on a Sunday morning with tiffin carriers and pack 3-4 huge dabbas of "samburr" for about 4 plates of idlis.

Well, I'm sure they still do the sambar haters ;). So let's agree to disagree and try to figure out it's origins.

I have been trying for sometime now, to find out how this has become such a staple of South Indian food (in all its myriad forms, be it Pulungari, Huli, Pulusu or Pitlai). There don't seem to be many explanations for it (atleast in the limited research I have done).

The basic premise is that sambar in it's present day form is a recent addition to Tamil cuisine - maybe about the 19th century. Chillies and tomatoes came to India quite late in the day, and the original cuisine in Southern India used pepper and curd/mango in their preparations. Tur dal was not a South Indian pulse, it was moong dal (green gram) which was predominantly used.

I found this article by Dr Padmini Natarajan - The Story of Sambar - which speaks of the Maratha king Sambhoji who ruled over Thanjavur (Tanjore). Like a true son of the soil, he liked his amti, a lentil based dish which uses kokum - a fruit, the pulp of which is used as a souring agent in Maharashtrian and Konkani cuisine. However, there was no kokum available one day and since he used to like cooking, he substituted it with tamarind pulp. That when paired with the tur dal created a new dish - named Sambar after him.

Though it sounds like an urban legend, she goes on with a fascinating (to nerds like me atleast) discussion on the various versions it takes in the four Southern states and how it has evolved.

Well, its present day avatar is certainly something we can be proud of....

Mullangi Sambar (Radish Sambar)


Tuvar Dal (Arhar,tuvaram paruppu,split pigeon pea lentil) - 3/4 cup or 150gm - cooked with 4 cups water and 1/4 tsp of turmeric, in the pressure cooker till mushy, about 3 whistles and 5 minutes on a low flame.

Tamarind extract - about 1 cup from a lime sized ball soaked in warm water for half an hour

Radish - 1 medium, cut into thin discs and cooked separately, till just tender

Sambar powder - 2 heaped tsps
Chilli powder - 1 tsp (optional - the sambar powder I am currently using isn't too spicy since it has more dal in it than store bought ones)
Coriander(dhania)powder - 1 tsp

Onions - 1 medium sliced
Tomato - 1 medium chopped into 4-6 pieces
Coriander leaves - 1/4 cup chopped

Talimpu or tempering:
Mustard seeds (rai/kadugu) - 1 tsp
Urad dal - 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida powder (hing)- pinch
Curry leaves - 2 tbsp washed
Oil - 1 tbsp

Salt to taste


1. Heat oil in a wok or kadai, add the mustard and wait till it splutters, then add the urad dal, the hing and when the urad turns brown, add the curry leaves.
2. Add the onions and saute till soft - 2-3 minutes, then add the tamarind extract diluted with 250 -300ml water, bring to boil and let simmer covered for about 15 minutes.The raw smell of tamarind should have disappeared.
3. Add the tomatoes, cooked radish, sambar powder, chilli powder, coriander powder and salt and let simmer for another 8-10 minutes.
4. In the meanwhile, whisk the cooked tur dal till smooth; add to the simmering sambar and bring to boil. Simmer for another 5 minutes till the flavours come together, add the chopped coriander and remove from flame.

Serve with idlis,dosais or rice.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Homemade sambhar powder and home cookin'

Cynthia's thought provoking post on Forgive me my Nonsense, set me thinking......why indeed do we feel cheated when something blatantly commercial and mass produced is foisted upon us as something made at home.....
For me atleast, its the contentment which I look forward to when I eat something made at home - that kind of satiation is always missing when eating outside. Now, I don't go looking for that feeling when eating out, so why come and try to sell me something you don't have a hope of ever recreating?!

Like homemade masalas.....that taste is so unattainable that the manufacturers shouldn't even try to replicate it.
They start with a handicap - masalas made at home vary from family to family depending on their traditional even on the off chance that they do manage to satisfy one set of people, there's no way everyone is going to be happy!

Its been a very long time since I ground sambar masala at home - what with our packed schedules and work days, it just doesn't seem possible to make the effort to go through all that roasting and grinding.
I do make rasam powder since no one seems to come even close to what we look for in a rasam powder, but the sambar powder brand we were using seemed to be good.

Until l I went home this time and my mother made her sambhar powder specially for me and Dad packed it all up for me to take back. The delicious sambhar we have been making since then,has woken me up to what "homemade" is all about.

It's about the handpicked ingredients, where we know the quality of each of them - the coriander seeds, the red chilly variety, the proportion of dals.

Its about the care taken to make sure each one of them is roasted separately, for the right time till the kitchen is filled with the overpowering smell of spices each on giving out their own aroma and oil.

And then taking the mixture to the nearby mill, where it is ground under eagle just the right texture.Perfection.

Sambhar Powder


Dry Red Chillies - 1/4 kg
Coriander seeds (Dhania) - 1/2 kg
Tuvar Dal (arhar dal or split pigeon pea lentils) - 150 gms
Chana Dal (Bengal gram lentil) - 75 gms
Raw Rice - 25 gms
Black peppercorns (milagu)- 10 gms
Fenugreek seeds (methi/vendhiyam) - 25 gms


Roast all the ingredients separately. The methi and pepper should be roasted very lightly.

Grind to a powder and store in a tightly lidded container.

The Makings of a delicious meal - mixed vegetables cut for avial, mochai,coriander and tomato for sambar and brinjal for a dry vegetable

Every meal I had at home was just perfect, whether it was the pudina thogayal, kootu, rasam and rice. Or Sambar, avial, kathirikai curry and curd rice. Or the chapati, dal and cabbage porial. Or the crisp adais with butter and jaggery. Now that's home cookin'.

The meals I cook at home don't come close to this, because my memories are made of what I have grown up eating for 25 years, not the past 10 years.

And as everyone knows, memories are stronger than imagination! :)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Rasbhari Cake (Cape Gooseberries Cake)

Rasbhari - the name itself conjures up plump juicy succulent images! This warm golden berry lives up to its name and I love the tart sweet taste it has....
I made my acquaintance with this delicious fruit very recently and was instantly smitten. Have you read those messages in the newspapers? - atleast the ones in Delhi have them - "Dear Girl in a blue suit,you were ahead of me in the queue for PVR tickets for "Welcome", I became yours then and there - please tell me who you are, Sunny"

Well, I did something like that too - trying to figure out what this fruit was and what I could do with it! The answers poured in from all you friendly bloggers who told me that this was the cape gooseberry - locally called "rasbhari". I hope Sunny was as lucky!

I found this lovely recipe for an upside down cake on The Cooks Cottage.....but I had too little of the fruit left to make it, so I adapted the recipe and made a cake by pureeing the berries and mixing it in with the batter. I used wheat flour instead of refined flour.

I was intrigued by the jaggery used in the original recipe and decided to keep it - that along with the berry puree gave this cake a lovely colour and crust and it tasted equally delicious!

Rasbhari Cake


Cape gooseberries - 3/4 cup
Unsalted butter - 1/3 cup at room temperature
Jaggery - 2 tbsp grated.
Sugar - 1/3 cup
Wheat flour -1 cup
Rava - 1/2 cup
Baking powder - 1 tsp
Egg -1
Vanilla essence - 2 tsp


1. Pre heat the oven to 350F/180C, lightly grease a 6" cake tin, sprinkle the grated jaggery over the greased base and keep aside.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together till smooth and creamy.Beat the egg well.
3. Gently cook the berries in a pan with water just about covering it, when it softens and the skins start separating, take off the flame. Put the berries in cold water and peel carefully. Puree the fruit.
3. Sift the flour with the baking powder; add the vanilla essence and the pureed berries to the butter cream mixture and then mix in the flour and rava. Fold in the beaten egg with a cutting motion and combine into a dropping consistency batter.
4. Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake at 180C/350F for about 20-25 minutes - check at 20 minutes to see whether a skewer poked in comes out clean.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Shaak - Winter Vegetables Gujarati style

Growing up in Mumbai, and particularly in an area where there was a predominantly Gujarati population, I ate a lot of Gujarati food - especially in school; my friend's dabbas were the most delicious ones on the block.
And unlike most of us who carried our lunch boxes packed in the morning, theirs would usually arrive steaming hot during lunch time, delivered by a dabbawalla or a family member.

What with my Dad being a complete foodie, we were also treated to visits to Thakkers in Central Mumbai, where their unlimited thalis were the most sumptuous meals one could imagine. They would lovingly ply us with those rotlis (small sized chapatis) topped with a generous spoonful of ghee, accompanied by a variety of daals, kadhis and shaak, till we could hardly breathe.
In summer there would be the dreamy aamras - golden mango pulp from the freshest Alphonso mangoes - to go with fluffy puris. This for me was even more coveted than the shrikhand (sweetened hung curd) which usually accompanied the puris.

And trains.....yes, trains were an unlikely place, but thats where we got our annual dose of Gujarati snacks, pickles and travel food, when we visited my grandparents down South.

The journey used to take a good 2-3 days then, and while we had lime rice, curd rice, tamarind rice and potatoes packed to last us for about a day and half surviving on station food and (awful) train "meals" after that, the Gujarati families we met (and became instant friends with their kids sharing Amar Chitra Katha comics and video games!) used to seemingly come prepared to feed the entire compartment for the next 4 days!

There was farsaan - theplas, khakras et al accompanied with chundo and green chutney, complete meals of rotlis and dry shaak, and of course sweets. What's not to like! especially since after a point the only way to entertain children in closed compartments is to ply them with food and hope that they sleep it off!

Gujarati cuisine comes from the NorthWestern state of Gujarat and is mainly vegetarian. It changes a lot from the coastal regions to the dryer interior regions, but the cuisine on the whole is centred around wheat breads,pulses and lentils, yoghurt based preparations and seasonal vegetables cooked with spices - either lightly steamed or shallow fried. Many of the dishes have a hint of sweetness to them, but there is a misconception that all Gujarati food is sweet. Sweets are much liked and along with snacks provide for a huge number of interesting regional recipes. While some of them are deep fried, there are also quite a few snacks which are steamed and very tasty. Read more about Gujarati cuisine here and more recipes on one of my favourite blogs; she hasn't posted in a while and I'm hoping she can come back soon....

Its been a long time since I cooked any Gujarati food....I remember cooking a lot of it when I got married and I used to miss the dhoklas, khandvi etc of Mumbai. I even made undhiyu once for Tamil New Year instead of the traditional 7 vegetable sambar, much to the consternation of MIL :)

I came across this recipe of Tarla Dalal recently and given that it seemed to be perfect for the winter vegetables available now, I set about making it with a few alterations.

Initially it sounded a lot like the famous dish Undhiyu - but it's a lot less complicated; the veggies don't need to be stuffed. I haven't come across this dish anywhere else though, atleast not by the name Panchkutyu Shaak - though it says its a traditional Gujarati recipe.

Purple kand in Delhi doesn't seem to be common and I substituted with elephant yam or suran.
Broad beans which are in season,instead of french beans also seemed like a good idea.
I added raw bananas to the recipe and used one big potato instead of baby potatoes and omitted the sugar in the recipe.
I also did not deep fry the muthias, preferring to steam cook them as in this recipe.

The dish with its mix of vegetables cooked together in the spice mixture tasted delicious; in some ways it could be compared to an avial, but it was bursting with a lot more flavour and the dhana jeera powder gave it a very distinctive taste.

Shaak - Winter Vegetables Gujarati Style

Elephant yam or suran peeled and cubed - 1/2 cup
Broad beans - 1/2 cup cut into 3-4 pieces each
Ridge Gourd (turai/Peerkangai) peeled and sliced thickly - 1/2 cup
Peas - 1/2 cup
Raw Banana peeled and sliced thickly - 1/2 cup
One big potato - peeled and cubed - 1/2 cup

Cumin seeds (jeera) - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds (rai) - 1 tsp
Asafoetida (hing)- a pinch

Grind to a paste - 3 green chillies and 2 ' piece of ginger (cut down on chillies to lessen spiciness)
Reserve 1 tsp for muthia.

Dhania jeera powder (a staple in Gujarati kitchens) - 2 tsp
I used 1 tsp of jeera (cumin) powder and 2 tsp of dhania (coriander) powder

Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp

Grated coconut - 1/2 cup
Chopped coriander - 1/2 cup

Oil - 1 tbsp
salt to taste

Methi muthia:

Wheat flour - 4 tbsp
Gram flour (besan) - 2 tbsp
Fresh fenugreek leaves (methi) - 1/4 cup washed and chopped
Oil - 1tbsp
Salt to taste
Ginger green chilli paste - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder (haldi) - a pinch
Asafoetida powder (hing) - a pinch

1. Mix all ingredients of muthia and make a dough adding as little water as is required.
2. Divide the dough into 6-8 portions and make small cylindrical rolls out of it.
3. Steam these muthia for about 10-15 minutes till they are well cooked- this is if you are using a stove top steamer where the water is brought to a boil and then the steamer with muthias kept inside on the stand. If using the microwave steamer, the cooking time will be much less.
4. Once done, cool and keep aside.

For the shaak:
1. Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds, when they pop add the cumin seeds and the asafoetida.
2. Add the chopped vegetables except the peas, ginger chilli paste, dhana jeera powder and turmeric powder. Saute for 3-4 minutes , then add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil, simmer and cook covered till the vegetables are cooked and the dish is almost dry.Halfway through add the fresh peas to the dish.
4. Add the coconut,coriander, muthias and cook for 2-3 minutes - if using frozen peas, then add the peas at this stage.
5. Serve hot with chapatis or rice.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Rosy Tomato Risotto

I first came across rosematta rice almost a year ago, on Mahanandi, in this post where Indira waxed poetic on this rich, beautiful, unpolished traditional rice from Kerala. I then saw it on Jugalbandi too - used in different recipes , each more beguiling than the other. The fact that both these talented bloggers (three actually) used rosematta to make these lovely idlis piqued my interest even more.

Then this year as part of our resolve to eat more healthily and to make healthier eating a part of our life rather than a diet which would fade away, I decided to try rosematta as an alternative to the white rice we consume. I have been thinking of brown rice for some time, and then thought I might as well try our own traditional rice first.

I bought it and looked wonderingly at those fat pink grains....and I thought to myself, for the first time I won't just cook these and try to eat it as part of our usual meal with a sambar or rice - that could come later when we were on more familiar terms - the first time I would treat it like a guest and make something suitably different and special!

I went over to Jugalbandi for some inspiration....and came across this post where they had one of Ursula Ferrigno's recipes - and there was another one called Risi e Bisi also from the same author.

While following this link from their post, I came across a recipe for tomato risotto which instantly appealed to me. I couldn't resist the plump peas I had just shelled, and added them to this recipe.

Cooking this rice risotto style was a bit longwinded, what with adding the stock one ladle at a time and waiting for it to be absorbed fully before repeating it, stirring it constantly; but I must say that it was completely worth it.

I soaked the rice for an hour before cooking;I omitted the parmesan, since I didn't really envision this as a Western dish, instead wanted to incorporate it as part of an Indian meal.

The white wine is an aberration in an Indian meal, but I could live with that.

I also followed J&B's recommendations to cut down on the fat content in the original recipe.

I made vegetable stock from scratch since I don't get a good quality vegetable stock cube hereabouts.

I served this with grilled aloo tikkis (potato cutlets) and a lovely raita made with grated bottlegourd (ghiya/lauki/sorakkai) and cumin spiced curd. It was a delicious meal and I loved the texture of the rice - firm and flavourful- a completely new experience for us.

The tomato flavour was just right too - not too tangy; and I'm glad I added the peas! The best part for me was the shallots - completely divine plump soft sweet pieces in a mouthful of rice!

This tastes best when eaten immediately, the leftovers I tasted the next day weren't the same.

Rosy Tomato Risotto

Rose matta rice - 1 1/4 cup, soaked for an hour

Vegetable stock - 6 cups - heat up the stock when you are cooking the rice.
To make veg stock from scratch, saute two small chopped onions with a 1 tsp butter, add 1 cup assorted chopped vegetables like potato, carrots,beans, cabbage,pumpkin and saute for 3-4 minutes. Add 1.5 litre water, salt and pepper powder and bring to boil; simmer over medium flame for about 20-25 minutes till the vegetables are well cooked and stock is reduced. Strain the vegetables and use the stock. Vegetables can be lightly sauteed, tempered and eaten separately.

Garlic - 3-4 cloves, crushed

White wine - 1/2 cup

Tomatoes - 6 medium sized, deseeded and roughly chopped

Peas - 1//2 cup

Olive oil - 1 tbsp

Butter - 2 tbsp

Shallots - 8 (I put them whole)

Mint leaves - 1/2 cup torn

salt - to taste

Lots of Freshly crushed pepper

1. Heat the butter and oil in a heavy pan till just warmed, add the shallots and saute for 2-3 minutes, then add the crushed garlic and saute for 1 more minute

2. Drain the soaked rice and add to the pan and if you are using fresh peas then add these also now; fry lightly for about 2 minutes.

3. Pour in the wine and keep stirring till it is absorbed.

4. Add 1 ladle of hot stock and simmer. Stir the rice and wait till the stock is completely absorbed. Repeat this for the next 10 minutes.

5. Now add the chopped tomatoes, mix well. Add the hot stock one ladle at a time as before, waiting for it to be absorbed before adding the next ladle - it will take another 10 -12 minutes for the tomatoes and rice to be cooked. The grains should be tender and plump, but not mushy.

6. Add the mint, salt and crushed pepper and give it a final stir, remove from heat, transfer to a warm serving bowl and cover and keep aside for a couple of minutes.

7. Serve immediately. I chose to make it part of an Indian meal and served it with ghiya raita and aloo tikkis.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Roasted Yam Squares (Karunailkizhangu Varuval)

Yam (karunaikizhangu in Tamil, chenai in Malayalam, suran in Marathi or zaminkand in Hindi) is what we call it, but it is actually Elephant foot yam (Amorphophallus campanulatuss) - a member of the aroid family. See pics here

Yam, a starchy tuber, which is a member of the Dioscorea family, is very different from elephant foot yam and is popular in Latin America and Africa. It's name is derived from the African word "njam or djambi" which means "to eat". Pics and more info on this here.

To further complicate matters, not only do we call elephant foot yams as just plain "Yams", but those in the US refer to sweet potatoes as Yams! More on the differences here.

Now that I have cleared up that part (more for me actually, since I had my own confusion going on the difference between chenai and karunaikiliangu!), lets get on to the important stuff - eating!

Elephant yam, I have found, is restricted to specific cuisines in India. Even in Tamil Nadu where it is widely available, many people don’t like it too much and avoid eating it.

Some times when peeling the thick skin of this root vegetable, the back of the hands may itch and this puts off many people. I believe, after cooking yam for so many years, that the itching is not common and is restricted to certain types of yam or their quality. A safe way to avoid this is to apply a bit of coconut oil on the hands before peeling and handling it.
Some people recommend boiling it in tamarind extract so that one doesn't suffer from itchiness of the tongue or throat - which is also supposed to happen with this vegetable, something I haven't experienced.

The best way to buy yam is to ask the vendor to cut about ¼ - ½ a kilo from a full yam – the cut portion should be white and moist. It can be stored outside the fridge but is best consumed within 2 days of being cut, else it will dry out. The cut portion will discolour a bit due to oxidation, but that can be sliced away before cooking. It should be cooked thoroughly before eating since it contains calcium oxalates.

Cooked the right way, the vegetable tastes delicious – I like it best when it is a bit crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
MIL’s recipe is what gets done in our house – I don’t feel the need to change a thing. Yam is cut into thick squares and cooked in a ground masala paste before being slow cooked on a tava till crisp – I finish it off under the grill – consumes less oil and I still get a crispy exterior.

The masala with fennel in it adds the most delicious touch to this dish.

Roasted Yam Squares

Elephant Yam / Karunaikizhangu / Suran – ½ kg

Fennel seeds (Saunf) – 1 tbsp
Red chillies – 4-5
Grated coconut – ¼ cup

Oil – 2 tbsp

Salt to taste

1. Peel thick skin of yam with a sharp knife and wash well to remove any traces of mud.

2. Cut the yam into thick 2 “squares – about ¼ of an inch thick.

3. Boil the yam slices in a large vessel of water with a pinch of turmeric and half tsp salt till half cooked – about 5-6 minutes. If it cooks too long it will break when it is cooked again with the masala.

4. Drain water and keep aside. Grind the ingredients of the masala paste with a little water to make a thick paste.

5. Take a wide non stick pan, heat 1 tbsp of oil in it, add mustard seeds – when they pop add the curry leaves and the masala paste. Fry for about 3-4 minutes.

6. Add the par boiled yam squares to the pan and mix carefully till the paste coats them well.

7. Add salt and cover and cook for about 5-6 minutes till the yam is just cooked. Do not stir too much; the pieces might break.

8. Once the yam pieces are cooked, take a oven proof pan and lightly grease it, arrange the yam pieces on it in one layer and drizzle ½ tbsp oil over them.
Grill in a pre heated oven at 180C for about 7 minutes; then remove, turn over the slices, drizzle ½ tbsp of oil and grill again for another 5-6 minutes till both sides are brown and crisp.

9. Alternatively, arrange the yam pieces on a heavy griddle and cook them over a low flame till they are brown and crispy, drizzling oil 1 tsp at a time as needed.

10. Serve warm as an accompaniment with rice and sambar.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Sizzling Sesame Noodles

The last of the three dishes I made for a delicious dinner, you can find the burnt ginger rice and vegetables in hot garlic sauce here and here. All recipes are adapted from Sanjeev Kapoor's "Best of Chinese Cooking".

This one has the lovely taste of sesame and peanuts in it, something which is very much appreciated by our Indian palates. It's a simple recipe and cooks very fast - ideal for impromptu dinners since the ingredients are usually readily available in most of our kitchens.

The original recipe had bean sprouts in it,which I replaced with green pepper.

This recipe is quite high on the heat meter, so cut down on the green chillies and chilli sauce if you would prefer it less spicy.

Sizzling Sesame Noodles


Noodles - 200 gms

Sesame oil (Til oil) - 1 tbsp

Spring onions - 2

Green chillies - 1

Garlic - 3-4 cloves

Roasted peanuts - 1/4 cup

Oil - 1 tbsp

Soy sauce - 1 tbsp

Chilli sauce - 2 tbsp

Pepper powder - 1/2 tsp

Green pepper - 1 sliced

salt to taste

Toasted white sesame seeds (ellu in Tamil, til in hindi) - 1 tbsp

Vinegar - 1 tbsp

1. Boil noodles in sufficient water till just about cooked. Remove, drain well and mix in sesame oil. Keep aside.

2. Slice spring onions finely, chop the greens and keep aside for garnish. Peel and finely chop garlic. Crush roasted peanuts coarsely.

3. Heat oil in a wok, add garlic, green chillies, spring onions and stir fry on high for 2 minutes.

4. Add boiled noodles, soy sauce, chilli sauce, pepper powder, salt to taste and stir fry for 2-3 minutes.

5. Add crushed peanuts, toasted sesame seeds, green pepper and vinegar; continue cooking on high heat for a minute tossing continuously. Serve hot.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Pongalo Pongal!!

The only person celebrating Pongal, on this street Mumbai people used to celebrate Sankranti the previous day, and in Chennai of course the three days of Pongal really opened my eyes to the significance of this festival in Tamil culture.

There was Lohri though on the 13th here.....but even that seemed to be low key - maybe the cold winds kept everyone indoors?

No day off from work and in fact hubby is travelling on work.....just me and my daughter. So I started yesterday on a kolam - made it in paint though so that it doesn't get blown away and stamped on. Decorated it with flowers this morning - love those gende ka phool!

So what if we are away from family and friends - invited my upstairs neighbour and kids for lunch and cooked up a traditional spread - Ven Pongal, Chakkarai Pongal, Sambar, Lime Rice, Coconut Rice,Sambar. She brought some yummy pachadi and we had a good time sharing lunch and always finds family and friends if you open your eyes and minds.....

Iniya Pongal Nal Vazhthukkal!!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

What is this fruit?

I need some help people - I found this fruit in the market yesterday and immediately bought it because it looked so beautiful!

Plump yellowish orange berries in bunches, tart and sweet to taste - but I have no clue what they are - the vendor called them "ras berries".....which first sounded like raspberries to me - which I know they are not.

I'm sure this is something very common which I should know, and once one of y'all tells me what it is I'm going to feel extremely foolish...sigh....

ETA: Thanks so much everyone! especially Sra, anonymous,Bindiya,Vimmi and Latha who pointed me in the right direction! These are cape gooseberries then - also called "rasbhari" locally. I found more about this here

The article said

Image: Cape gooseberriesAlso known as physalis, this is a small, smooth round fruit wrapped in its own papery case that resembles a Chinese lantern. The fruit itself is a pretty orange-gold colour and can be unwrapped and eaten as is, or dipped in melted chocolate and served after dinner with coffee. They have a delicate sweet-sour taste - sort of a cross between a gooseberry and a cherry tomato. They make excellent jams, jellies and purées, and can be used in exotic fruit salads, pavlovas or roulades, or simmered in water with a little sugar and used in fruit pies or crumbles.

I was also pointed here where Deeba has made some beautiful fruit kabobs!

And now that I found what it was called I found this lovely informative post on Cooks Cottage where she says it is also called "Lucknow ki Pitari" / "Makowi" in North India and "popati" in Marathi and that they have medicinal properties besides being chockfull of pro vitamins! AND best of all she has a recipe for an Upside down cake she made!!! Yaay!

I'm going to try it as soon as I get my hands on some more....she said popping the last of the berries into her mouth as she sat typing this post.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Vegetables in Hot Garlic Sauce

The Chinese meal I was planning for dinner needed a nice gravy to go with the ginger rice and the sesame noodles. We like lots of gravy with our noodles and the spicier the better.

So I adapted a recipe from Sanjeev Kapoor's "Best of Chinese Cooking" - Hot Garlic Babycorn.

I added lots more vegetables and altered the cooking method too. The babycorn is coated with cornflour and deep fried in the original recipe.

Vegetables in Hot Garlic Sauce


Babycorn - 10 sliced into 2 " pieces

Green Peppers - 2 cut into half inch squares

Mushroom - 7-8 washed thoroughly and sliced

Red chillies - 2-3

Spring onion - 2 finely sliced

Onion - 1 medium cut into quarters and layers separated

Garlic - 10-12 cloves finely chopped

Red chilli tomato paste - 2 tbsp

Soak 2 dried red chillies in 1/4 cup warm water for half an hour, blend to a paste with 1 tomato

Vinegar - 1 tbsp

Hoisin sauce - 2 tbsp

Cornflour - 2 tsbp blended with 1 cup water

Salt to taste

Vegetable stock - 1 cup

Sesame oil (Til oil) - 1 tbsp

Red chilli flakes - 1 tbsp


1. Heat sesame oil in a wok, break red chillies and add to it, add chopped garlic and fry 1 minute.

2. Add spring onion, onion,babycorn, mushrooms, green peppers and fry on high for 2-3 minutes stirring continuously.

3. Add red chilli tomato paste,vinegar, hoisin sauce, salt and vegetable stock and cook on high for 1 minute.

4. Stir in blended cornflour and cook till it starts to thicken. Approx 2-3 minutes.

5. Sprinkle red chilli flakes and serve hot.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Burnt Ginger Rice

I started cooking Chinese cuisine from Sanjeev Kapoor's "Best of Chinese Cooking". Its been a while though since I last cooked from that book, since there have been other favourite and more authentic recipes I have found.

There are some recipes though which I love and I unearthed the book one evening and decided to cook a full meal from it. I don't stick to the recipes ; invariably adding and subtracting from it.

This is the first of the three dishes I made that evening - Burnt Ginger Rice - really love the flavour of ginger in it, nothing else to distract. I did try adding vegetables once, but realised that it's better to have it just like that. The other dishes can do the flowery talking.

I adapted the recipe from the book and made some changes;

The original recipe had an onion and not spring onions.

Tomato sauce and red chilli paste was used which I replaced with red chilli tomato paste; I hate the taste of sweet tomato sauce in cooked food.

I do not use ajinomoto in cooking.

You could add mixed sliced vegetables to the rice, for a more substantial meal.

Burnt Ginger Rice


Short Grained rice - 1 cup
Spring Onion - 2-3 with green part
Ginger - Four 1 " pieces
Oil - 2-3 tbsp
Soy sauce - 1 tsp
Red chilli tomato paste - 1 tbsp
Soak 2-3 dried red chillies in1/4 cup hot water for half hour,thenblend to a paste with 1 tomato.
Salt to taste
Vinegar - 1 tbsp


1. Soak rice in 6 cups water for an hour, drain water and bring it to boiling in a large pot, add the rice and let it cook till it is just tender. Drain water and cool.

2. Finely slice onion, chop the green part, peel and thinly slice ginger.

3. Heat oil in a wok, add sliced ginger and stir for for 2-3 minutes till the ginger turns brown, remove and drain. Reserve some pieces for garnish, finely chop remaining ginger.

4. Reheat oil in wok, add chopped fried ginger and onion, stir fry for about 2 minutes. Add cooked rice, soy sauce, red chilli tomato paste and salt to taste.

5. Cook on high heat for 1 minute, stirring continuously. Add vinegar and serve hot garnished with fried ginger slices and chopped spring onion greens.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Brinjal Sagoo (Eggplant Curry)

I have no idea about the roots of this recipe, except that it is a South Indian recipe. I saw the recipe some years back on a show on Sun TV that MIL regularly follows - Mangayar Choice. It is a half hour show for ladies with about 3 ten minute segments - the first one is a cookery segment followed by medical and arts segments. Been a long time since I saw it, so no idea whether it is still on.

I may not know much about its background, but there is no doubt about it's popularity; it has always been much liked everytime I make it and I invariably get asked for the recipe. And it is quite an easy one too - more like a kurma, which in itself is unusual for eggplant.

Brinjal Sagoo (Eggplant Curry)


Eggplant - 6-7 small, washed and slit lengthwise on 4 sides

Onions - 2 medium, peeled and chopped finely

Tomatoes - 3 chopped finely

Chilli powder - 1 tsp

Coriander powder - 1 tsp

Cumin powder - 1/2 tsp

Green chillies - 2 slit

Ginger garlic paste - 1 tsp

Mustard seeds- 1 tsp

Curry leaves - 5-6

Oil - 2 tbsp

Tamarind pulp - 1 tbsp

Coriander leaves - handful chopped

Mint leaves - handful chopped

Masala paste:

Coconut grated - 1/2 cup

khus khus (poppy seeds) - 1 tsp

White sesame seeds (til) - 1 tsp

Blackpeppercorns - 1/2 tsp

Salt - to taste


1. Heat oil, add mustard and when it pops, add curry leaves, then onions and saute till transluscent. Add slit green chillies and fry for a minute.

2. Add slit brinjal and fry for 6-7 minutes till it changes colour.

3. Add ginger garlic paste, fry for a minute, then add coriander and mint leaves.

5. Add the chilli powder, coriander powder, cumin powder and salt and fry for another 5 minutes till the brinjal is semi cooked.

6. Add chopped tomatoes and fry for another 4-5 minutes till it is pulpy. Add the masala paste and 1/2 cup water, cover and bring to a boil, simmer till the brinjal is cooked and tender.

7. Add the tamarind paste and boil for another 5 minutes.

Serve hot with chapatis.