Sunday, November 28, 2010

Urlaikizhangu Podimaas - Potato Stir Fry

Podimaas is probably the first "grown up" way of eating potatoes that a child is introduced to in Tamil cuisine and it remains a favourite comfort food for me well into adulthood. Podimaas refers to a simple stir fry of potatoes - boiled and then tempered with very few spices (usually green chillies and ginger); a teaspoon of lentils adds the crunch I look forward to in this dish which is otherwise melt-in-the-mouth soft.

For podimaas, the boiled potatoes are usually crumbled by hand till they are a little mashed but not completely. However, I like it when they are in small pieces (not choppped with a knife but roughly done with my hands). Since my daughter pretty much eats the same food we do, I use red chillies instead of green chillies since they are less spicy. Lots of turmeric is important for me -bright yellow is just the way podimaas should be! Different from the golden, crusty version I make at other times.

What is your favourite version of having potatoes?

Urlaikizhangu Podimaas - Potato Stir Fry

4 medium sized potatoes, boiled and peeled.

1 tbsp oil
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Chana Dal - 1 tsp
Urad Dal - 1/2tsp
Curry Leave - a few
Dried Red chillies - 2-3 broken (traditionally, one used fresh green chillies)
Ginger - grated/chopped fine - 1/2 tsp

Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp

Salt to taste
lime juice - a squeeze

1. With your hands, roughly break the boiled potatoes into small pieces; or chop them up.
2. Add the oil to a pan and heat, put in the mustard seeds and when they pop, lower flame, add the chana dal, urad dal, red chillies and curry leaves. When the dals turn goldern, add the turmeric powder and ginger.
3. Add the potatoes and salt and mix well. Stiry fry for about 5 minutes, till it heats through and is mixed well.
4. Remove from flame and add a dash of lime juice. Serve warm with rice and accompaniments like sambar, rasam or kozhambu. Thayir saadam (yoghurt mixed with rice) tastes sublime with this stir fry.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kathrikai Gosthu (Eggplant in Tomato Sauce)

Remember this story of pongal and first love? Well, I clean forgot to post the gosthu which went with that pongal. Its only when SIL reminded me about it and asked me to make it for the whole family two weeks back when we were together for Diwali, that I decided to come back and post it.

I am definitely going to make this more often - even my usually pernickety family (Dad can tell which ingredient is missing in Mom's rasam just by smelling it when its cooking!) loved it. My brother, when I tried to serve him the gothsu, sniffed and said he "preferred" his ven pongal with coconut chutney - if not anything, we are definitely food snobs that way! But after hearing my Dad raving about it, he finally tried it and then ended up polishing it off completely!

The base recipe is from Suganya's Tasty Palette and I have adapted it to our taste. I didn't use the freshly ground masala and instead used Sambar powder. I, however, sauteed the sambar powder in oil along with the brinjals and other vegetables first, before adding the tamarind extract and boiling. Once the vegetables were half cooked, I added the tamarind pulp - else, I find, the vegetables take a longer time to cook if the souring agent is added beforehand. I omitted the jaggery as well since we usually prefer savoury flavours for breakfast. The moong dal and potatoes mean that the curry thickens up nicely and doesn't need gram flour.

This is going to Nupur's Blog Bites #9 - The Holiday Buffet - the potluck edition which goes on till December - can't wait to see the entries for this one !

Monday, November 8, 2010

Asian Style Five Spice Grilled Fish with Spinach

Hope you all had a beautiful Diwali celebration this year....we certainly had one of the most memorable ones in recent years. We celebrated Diwali with my family (parents and brother's family) in Mumbai - the last time we did that was in 2005. The kids had a blast and the sweet teeth of my family meant that the amount of sweets consumed was more than what I have had in the last two Diwalis! Plus there was hubby's birthday the day before Diwali. Then on Saturday, we moved to my best friend's place and celebrated with her whole family - a truly special time for us. My daughter didn't want to come back to Delhi!

Coming back to reality and the rush hour of work days, I have today a very convenient and time saving grilled fish recipe which is also very delicious.
This is a dish which I made quite impulsively, one of those times one cooks according to a recipe seen somewhere and from vaguely remembered bits and bobs of it - but you do remember that it sounded like a really good recipe and you just have to try it.You know what I mean right.....What?!- you mean, no one else does this? Oh ok. Fine then.

I do things like this all the time - see some cookery show on TV (and don't have the patience to actually note things down) or read some recipe in a library book (again, postpone noting down the recipes I like till its too late and the book has to go back) or even worse, read a recipe from a book while standing in the library waiting for hubby to choose his books (I take 5 minutes since I have a list from here to Timbuctoo, while he only knows what he doesn't want!) - so no question of writing it down anywhere!

Well this Asian style Grilled Fish recipe doesn't even have these sources to boast of! I rushed into the newly opened outlet of Godrej's Nature Basket in my next door market one evening, to pick up some bread on my way back from work. While I was drumming my fingers on the cashier's desk waiting for him to bill it, I saw a stack of fliers. These are the usual ones they keep every week, with recipes using the exotic ingredients they stock - I guess to encourage people to buy  said exotic ingredients - think Fleur de Sel, African Meat rubs and marinades, Corn Relish, Mustard Pickle, plum conserve - you get the drift.

This particular flier had two recipes from the host of some cookery show on the NDTV Good Times channel - I guess if they were quoting him as the source, he must be a minor celebrity but I couldn't recognise his name. I picked up the flier since I quite liked the Five Spice Powder Chicken recipe it had.
The next day was a Saturday and I bought some fish while doing my weekly grocery shopping, intending to use the Five Spice recipe for that evening - yes, I know the original was for chicken, but I'm like that wonly!

But, when I reached home I couldn't find the flier - likely it must have gone into the old paper cupboard or even the trash because my hatred for the fliers that fall out of newspapers is well known in this house (I even rip out the bookmarkish kinds of thick advt pages in magazines because I find them sooo annoying!) So, I decided to wing it with whatever I remembered. The five spice powder, the onion powder and the garlic powder I definitely remembered - the rest are all approximations of what I think should go into an Asian Style Grilled Fish. The original recipe had a sweet plum sauce made to go with the chicken, but I just decided to serve some spinach on the side. Asian greens like bok choy would be good too for this dish.

The pictures don't do enough justice to the lovely, lovely meal this turned out to be. The fish was seared and crisp on the outside and soft and flaky on the inside. The taste of the spices mixed with the honey and soy mixture was unusual and very tasty.

  Five Spice Grilled Fish with Spinach

Sole Fish fillets - 350gm cut into 3 large pieces


Five spice powder - 1 tbsp
Onion powder - 1 tbsp
Garlic powder - 2 tsp
Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Soy sauce - 1 tbsp
Honey - 1 tbsp
Crushed peppercorns - 1 tbsp
Rice wine vinegar - 2 tbsp
Salt to taste

Spinach - 2 cups washed and chopped long
1 onion sliced
3 cloves garlic minced
1 tbsp oil
salt to taste

1. Mix the spice powder, garlic powder and the onion powder together and rub into the fish fillets.
2. Mix all the other ingredients of the marinade together mix the fish into it into a wide bowl. Keep aside for half an hour or refrigerate if cooking after an hour.
3. When ready to cook, pre heat the oven to 350C. Heat the oil in a wide pan and saute the garlic for half a minute, then add the onions and saute 3-4 minutes till soft.
4. Add the chopped spinach and saute on high for two minutes till it just wilts, Add the salt and remove from flame
5. In the same pan add a little more oil if needed and sear the fish fillets on high heat - 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove and keep aside.
6. In an oven proof bowl, arrange the sauteed spinach and then the fish fillets on top.
7. Bake for 30 minutes or till the fish is flaky.
8. Serve with some crispy noodles on the side or even some sticky rice. The spinach can be served on top of the fish fillets.

You could stir fry the spinach for a few minutes and serve it on the side without baking it with the fish. that way it would retain the fresh green colour. However, you may want to add some more seasonings. By baking it along with the fish, the spinach soaked up some of the marinade juices and was just right.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Lemon Rasam (Elumichai Rasam)

Rasam is a thin, lightly spiced (and mostly clear) soup-like dish which forms an integral part of Tamil cuisine. It is usually served as a second or third course and mixed with plain, steamed rice. While some people call it an appetiser, traditionally, it has always been served with rice, after the sambar or kootu preparations - both lentil based dishes. Though rasam is lentil based as well, it is much lighter using only a small quantity of lentils as a foil to the sour, tamarind pulp and avoiding a complex mix of spices. Eating rasam on a banana leaf is an art by itself and for the longest time I would never eat rasam at a traditional ellai saapadu (traditional meal served on banana leaves)
There are different types of rasams - there is the fiery Milagai Rasam which gets its heat from black peppercorns (and from whence the Anglicized verison - Mulligatawny Soup - evolved) - best had when you have a bad cold and your head is heavy. Then there is the Tomato Rasam - a pleasant, tangy concoction, much beloved of children and the perfect comfort food when one comes home after a long journey. The Pacchai Rasam is, as the name suggests, pacchai or raw - the spices are not roasted or boiled, in keeping with the fact that it is made for nursing mothers and is supposed to be bland but nourishing and so has no spices. In addition to the different types, even the Tomato Rasam or the lentil based Parippu Rasam which are made almost on a daily basis, vary from home to home. The choices seem endless, but are often non-negotiable to some. 
Do you use lentils, strained lentil water or do you soak the lentils to be ground with spices? Freshly crushed spices or home made spice powder or store bought? Tomato pulp or tomatoes quartered? Boil for 1 minute and then turn off or simmer gently for 5 minutes? Garlic in tempering or garlic crushed with spices? 

It was said that the first test for the new bride was her rasam - if she got that right then her cooking skills were bound to be good. Hmm....maybe I should tell my daughter, this should be the test before she chooses her partner - the times I have craved for a nice rasam when I was sick and glared balefully at my Maggi making husband!! My favourite rasams are the ones made by SIL, Mom and my husband's aunt - truly outstanding.
If a souffle is one person's bogeyman and shaping modaks another's, then lemon rasam was mine. Rasam itself took me a long time to master, given that I never quite took to even eating it, till I was well into my twenties. As a child there was the whole question of "touching issues" so I had to be given a small coaster or plate to keep under my plate to make sure the rasam did not touch the veggies or the veggies would have to be transferred to a smaller bowl....sigh, I don't argue with my daughter now when she does the same. But atleast she loves rasam.

Marrying into a rasam crazy family meant that I soon developed a taste for it (actually, what's not to like!) and after many attempts managed to get it right myself. But this was the usual parippu rasam or lentil based one made with either crushed spices or rasam powder. Tomato rasam was the next progression - not sure why it took me so long to get there. But lemon rasam I did not venture towards for a long, long time - it seemed too ethereal for me to try! 

Delicate in taste and light on the stomach - not for it the sourness of tamarind but just a squeeze of lemon right at the end when its taken off the heat. Any sooner and it will turn bitter. Too many instructions basically for a person like me, it seemed. But when I finally did get around to making it (with a recipe from Mallika Badrinath if I remember), I realised that it wasn't that difficult. The bogeyman faded away. I started reserving the lentil water after cooking dal and if you have a lemon handy, its just a couple of minutes after that.
Some recipes advocate soaking a tablespoon of tur dal and grinding it along with cumin, garlic and pepper. But I prefer crushing the spices roughly and mixing them into the strained lentil water I have reserved before hand.
Simmer gently and add the lemon juice once you have taken it off the flame. A mild tempering of asafoetida and mustard and a generous sprinkling of coriander leaves and you have a beautiful rasam ready. 
For one Sunday lunch of ours, it accompanied an Andhra mince curry and stir fried vegetables.

Lemon Rasam  (Elumichai Rasam)

 1 large tomato, chopped into 6 pieces
1/2 cup arhar dal(tur/pigeon pea/tuvaram parripu)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
coriander leaves for garnish
salt to taste
Juice from 1 lemon

Crush coarsely :
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp peppercorns
1" ginger 
2-3 green chillies
1 tsp oil
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Curry leaves - few
2 dried red chillies
pinch of asafoetida

1. Cook the tur dal (lentils) with 3 cup of water in a pressure cooker. Drain the lentil water and reserve, add 1-2 tbsp of cooked and mashed lentils to the lentil water. Use rest of the lentils for some other preparation.
2. In a heavy bottomed pan, mix the crushed spices and chopped tomatoes with the lentil water, add salt and turmeric powder and bring to a slow boil, simmer gently for 6-8 minutes and then remove from flame.
3. After removing from heat, add the lemon juice and mix. Do not add while still on heat, it will turn bitter.
4. Heat oil for tempering in a small pan, add the mustard seeds and when they pop, add the asafoetida, curry leaves and dried red chillies. Remove from flame after half a minute and add to the rasam.
5. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve.

Wishing all my readers a very Happy Diwali! Have a wonderful and safe festival of lights celebrating with all your friends and family!