Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Mor Kuzhambu

Mor Kuzhambu

Mor Kuzhambu is a popular dish in Kumbakonam and has a special place on my menu for the right reasons. Firstly, my husband likes it a lot and secondly it is simple and healthy. I do not use a lot of tamarind in my cooking and this kuzhambu does not need any so it does not give us the acidic effects of tamarind. Also it is quick to make and again helps me get atleast one portion of everyday vegetables. Typically in Kumbakonam, paruppu usili (dal crumble) is done to go with this dish. It is my guess that as Mor kuzhambu does not need much dal like other sambar, the dal in the usili will cater to daily dal intake in a balanced diet. There are two ways in which I make this recipe depending on availability of time.

I usually add some vegetable to this as a ‘than’ and my favourite is vendakkai vathal (spiced dried okra) but this time it was sundakkai (turkey berry). One can use anything like cooked fresh okra, boiled carrots, pumpkin, any squash, cooked egg plant or aubergine. My mom advises me to cook the eggplant in dilute tamarind water.

1.5 table spoon toor dal (pigeon peas)

1 teaspoon dhania (coriander seeds)

1 teaspoon jeera (cumin seeds)

2 green chillies


1 sprig Curry leaves (optional)

Few coriander leaves (optional)


Mustard seeds

Turmeric powder

1 cup Yogurt/curd

1 teaspoon cooking oil

Few Sundakkai (you can use anything else like I said before)

I wash the toor dal and green chillies and soak together for atleast half an hour. In a kadai or pan, dry roast dhania and jeera separately until a nice aroma comes. Combine the dal, chillies, dhania and jeera and grind to paste. In a deep dish, add the yogurt and about 1 cup water to make it a bit runny. Do remember that the curd will become runny when heated so do not add too much water initially. Add some turmeric powder, asafoetida and the ground paste and mix. Cook this on low flame upto boil. Season as required. For the tempering, take oil in a kadai and add mustard seeds, once it splutters, add curry leaves and sundakkai. Once the sundakkai turns brown, add to the yogurt. Garnish with freshly chopped coriander leaves.

Depending on your taste, you can add fenugreek seeds for tempering. If using other vegetables, cook them separately and add to cooked yogurt. You can dilute with water after cooking the yogurt to achieve better consistency. Total quantity of water will depend on the yogurt/curd used. Most people also grind some grated coconut in the paste but I try to avoid coconut. Sometimes, I add about a teaspoon of coconut cream just before the yogurt boils. Typically, dishes containing coconut should not be cooked on high flame and not more than one boil allowed as overcooking will make the dish watery.This is my mom’s method and my grandmother does it slightly differently. She soaks the dhania and jeera along with the dal and chillies and grinds to a paste and rest of the procedure is same. This is more like my shortcut and both work well. This can easily serve as a sauce for rice in a western diet and good news is all ingredients are available in stores like Tesco.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Soya Chunks and Rajma curry

Rajma and Soya chunks curry
I have this urge that has now become a habit which I am not sure is good or bad. Am talking about this urge to buy stuff that is suppose to be healthy. I must say that it is easier and quicker to empty unhealthy food like a bag of fried chips but the dry fruits are still just lying on the counter! I cannot help but wonder why some ingredients are so packed with vitamins and minerals and proteins but are just so tasteless or unpalatable (ofcourse that is an exaggeration). One such goody sitting in my shelf is rajma or kidney beans. Apart from using it for dal makhani, I have not used it much. Without checking the interior of the shelf I thought I was running out of this bean and bought another packet to make some dal makhani. So I am now left to find innovative ways to cook this. But all said and done, rajma will always have a place in my kitchen and diet for all the goodness it has. This is not the only goody I have in my shelf struggling to consume, the other one is soya chunks and for some reason, many call it meal maker in India, is also lying in my shelf. I thought the fibre and folates from the rajma and the protein in the soya chunks would be a very healthy combination. It is a very simple recipe which requires some preparation like soaking the beans and the soya chunks. You could use tinned beans but the picky person that I am, just prefer to use home soaked and cooked beans.
1 cup kidney beans
1 cup soya chunks
1 big onion chopped
3 medium size tomatoes finely chopped
2 green chillies chopped
A piece of ginger finely chopped
Garlic 3-4 cloves if desired
Jeera powder (cumin seed powder)
Dhania powder (dry coriander seed powder)
Chilli powder
A Bay leaf and a cinnamon stick
Cooking oil
Turmeric powder
In a heavy bottomed vessel, pour about one tablespoon oil and fry the bay leaf and cinnamon stick. Add the turmeric powder, chillies, ginger, garlic and onion and fry until onion turns transparent. Add the tomatoes and about 3 pinches of salt. The salt will help the tomatoes give up the juices and get well cooked. Once done, try to mash the mixture just by pressing with the ladle. Add about 1 teaspoon jeera powder, 1 teaspoon chilli powder and another teaspoon dhania powder. In the meantime, pressure cook the soaked rajma/kidney beans, I would usually allow even upto 10 whistles so the rajma is very well cooked. The soya chunks I use also need to be soaked and boiled to cook (please follow package instruction). Add the beans to the tomato onion base that should now be boiling and mash some portion of the kidney beans to get a buttery consistency (I do not like this curry being runny). Add the soya chunks and salt and simmer for about 30 minutes to allow the soya chunks and rajma to absorb the flavours.
This dish can be eaten with chapatti, Nan bread or rice. I quite like the soft texture of the kidney beans along with the chewier soya chunk.
If you do not like the masala items like cinnamon and bay leaf, you can skip them. As I always say, rinse any lentil you need to soak atleast 4 times to get rid of toxins and do not cook in the same water used for soaking.

Microwave Carrot Halwa

The very thought about taking my interest in cooking a bit more seriously came to me when a lady who usually delivers parcels to our house said she always gets lovely aroma from my house and wants some recipes and taste some. It was then that it occurred to me that I could possibly share my recipes with people so everyone can try their hands on simple, wholesome and healthy food. I try my best to even make my desserts healthy rather than just having empty calories from the sugar or whichever sweetener is used. We were having a couple over for dinner and I was trying to prepare traditional south Indian meal. As most of the other dishes involved some time and extra care, I wanted to keep the dessert simple and chose semiya payasam and gajar halwa. I had quite a few constraints like lack of space in my kitchen and limited time as I wanted to finish cooking while my son was napping. While all gadgets like grinder, mixie, and blender, food processor, steamer were all put to good use for the preparation, how could I leave my microwave unused?? Bingo, microwaved gajar halwa !!

I had looked up some recipes sometime back and one of them involved milk powder and milk. With limited time to refer again, I got started with my intuitive cooking. While I share with you how I did it, I should say that my husband and I do not have a sweet tooth and being health conscious, I do use low sugar. To help me do this, I have put a small spoon in my sugar box so I get less every spoon. Also, in dishes like this, I tend to rely more on the sweetness from the carrot and milk. Anyway, here is how I did...

2 big carrots grated

6 tablespoons milk powder (I used skimmed milk powder)

Little less than 1 cup milk

10 teaspoons sugar

2-3 Cardomam pods



Ghee (clarified butter and this can be done by heating butter until you stop hearing a sound that comes from it when heated)

Microwave safe dish

Take about 2 tablespoons ghee in the microwave safe dish and melt it by heating for about 20-30 seconds. Add the grated carrot and cook in microwave high for about 3 minutes. In the meantime, mix the milk powder, milk and sugar and add to the carrot and mix well. Cook this until you get the desired consistency which took me about 10 minutes while stirring every 2 to 3 minutes. I like it when all the liquid has gone but the halwa looks juicy and not gone dry. I then added a spoon of ghee (yep, pampering myself) and cardamom pods and cooked for just 1 more minute. On a stove top I roasted some cashews and fried (both need less than a spoon of ghee) some raisins until they puffed up and added to the halwa.

Interestingly, despite being a dessert, it can help you towards your 5 a day fruits and vegetables as it has carrots and also raisins (handful of dried fruits contribute towards 1 of your 5 a day) and the cashews can give you a bit of calories. I understand a normal vegetarian adult eating a balanced diet can take upto 500ml milk products in a day. If you do treat yourself with any dessert for that matter, I would suggest that you keep the other meals in your day light so you can enjoy your treat without the guilt.