Monday, 25 January 2010

Tomato Pachadi / Raita

Tomato Pachadi/Raita

Tomato is an everyday vegetable in our household. I would normally feel very uncomfortable if I had anywhere less than 4 tomatoes in stock. I think it is such a versatile vegetable and possibilities are endless with tomatoes. In a way, tomato does amaze me. I was always used to having cooked tomato. My husband was insisting on me eating more fresh vegetables in the form of salads and so one fine day I tried adding tomato to the channa sundal when snacking at work. Few minutes later my mouth felt funny and kind of itchy and burning. I thought it may be the tomato but just ignored it. Couple of years later when I was tested for allergies for a different reason they found that I was allergic to uncooked tomatoes. I found it quite strange coz I seem to be bothered only when I eat uncooked cut tomato but tomato juice does no harm.

My mother-in-law does a far simpler version of tomato raita wherein she mixes cut tomatoes with curd and seasons. However, due to my allergies and preference to my mom’s raita recipe, I always do it my mom’s way.

3 big tomatoes cut into bite sized cubes

2 green chillies

1 cup yogurt/curd

Mustard seeds

Few curry leaves

Turmeric powder

Chilly powder

Cooking oil


In a kadai heat oil and put the mustard seeds. After the seeds stop spluttering, add some turmeric powder and curry leaves and ensure they do not get burnt. Add the green chillies and tomatoes. As I prefer to have the tomatoes a bit chunky in the raita but at the same time I want it to be well cooked with in its own juice, I add a little bit of salt at this stage. Once the tomatoes are cooked, add some chilly powder. Cook for a couple of more minutes and season. Add the yogurt/curd and if desired garnish with coriander leaves.

I make this recipe atleast once a week to go with lime rice. It tastes great when mixed with plain rice and even curd rice.

Tomato is supposed to be rich in Vitamin A and C and is one of the five-a-day veggie. I find this a yummy way to have the healthy and beautiful tomato !! And as I understand, tomatoes are considered as fruit and not veggie !!

Lime Rice

Lime Rice

I remember my mom use to make the variety rices (‘kalandha saadham’) on one of those days we celebrate Pongal. It was the day the ladies of the house would lay down the turmeric (manjal kothu) and place balls of colourful rices. The rice would have been mixed with kumkum to give red colour, turmeric to give yellow colour. We would also place balls of sweet pongal (chakkarai pongal) and ven pongal (savoury pongal), vadai, thayir vadai all saved from our pongal feast. I was told we have to keep them aside so it can be offered on these leaves the next day. It was important for the daughter of the house i.e. paternal aunt comes home and takes part in this ritual as it is suppose to be for the well being of my brother. The loving sister that I was, I would happily sit with my granny, mom, aunt and cousins and complete the ritual. The offerings were suppose to be eaten by crows. After completing the ritual, it was lunch time. Mom would usually make her classic ‘Puliyodharai’ (tamarind rice) and coconut rice and sometimes lime rice. We would eat them with vadams (traditional south Indian crisps). My mom so wanted us to be at home for Pongal this year and I was looking forward to doing this ritual but unfortunately we could not make it on time.
Now, whenever I have a long night I tend to wake up late very exhausted. Not to mention, my baby boy would be quite restless as well due to lack of sleep. All this would usually result in very limited time to cook and this recipe saves my day then. My husband and I cannot quite have a meal without any vegetables so I usually try to bring in some veggies when I make lime rice.
A funny story that comes to my mind when I make this is that my brother was saying he was trying to make lime rice and in order to get the yellow colour, he kept squeezing limes hoping to get the colour. Eventually the rice went too sour and remained white obviously !! Needless to say, he is a typical South Indian bachelor. I hope this simple recipe helps bachelors like him.
So here is my recipe..
1 cup cooked rice (mushy rice is not suitable, ideally grains should be separate)
1 big grated carrot
3-4 grean chillies finely chopped
1 teaspoon mustard seed
Pinch of asafoetida
¼ teaspoon fenugreek powder
Cooking oil
Turmeric powder
Few curry leaves
1 or 2 lime ofcourse
Take about 1 teaspoon oil and put the mustard seeds. Once the seeds splatter, turn the heat down down and add asafoetida, fenugreek powder, turmeric powder, green chillies and curry leaves. Add the grated carrot and stir. Once the carrot start to wilt, turn the stove off and add the rice. I try not to overcook the carrots so loss of nutrition is minimum. Add required salt and squeeze the lime and mix. If you like, you could add channa dal and urad dal in the tempering as well but I usually do not do that as my husband does not like it.
I never really cared for difference between lime and lemon when in India as everything was yellow and sour. Over here, it turns out that lime is sour and I find lemon tasteless. I try not to add lime when dish is very hot as it may turn bitter. In order to make the meal more wholesome I normally serve this with Okra raita (lady’s finger pachadi) or tomato raita. Do not ignore the benefits of carrot as they also help prevent cancer and also good for night vision.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Dal Makhani

Dal Makhani

When I was in school, my friends and I went out for dinner to Dhaba Express. As my family’s diet was more traditional we would usually go to South Indian restaraunts only but most of them would serve North Indian food. So places like Dhaba Express was one that I would have been able to visit only with my friends. It was then that I fell for a lovely dish that came in a small pot. A friend ordered it for us and when it arrived I was surprised to see that it was brown in colour as I was expecting dal in yellow colour. I tried it and liked it a lot and so loved its taste lingering in the mouth. Not sure why but for years from then I never happened to eat this dish elsewhere. Sometime back my husband and I went to Aberdeen to visit friends and also do our quarterly Indian grocery shopping. I was trying to get Urad dal to make idli but the shop only had the whole Urad dal with skin. As always, called up my helpline i.e. my mom to find if I could use it and my grandmother suggested that it could be used and whole dal with skin was healthy. I had also got the broken skinned Urad dal not knowing which one we will prefer. I first tried idlis with the latter and was happy with it and hence did not get to use the lovely whole dal. Not having the heart to waste it I thought I will pamper myself by trying Dal Makhani. There was another reason, we do not normally like rajma but this could be a good recipe to take it in.

Urad dal is also called black gram and is said to be a good source of calcium and some iron as well. Kidney bean apparently is said to be rich in folate, dietary fibre and manganese. It is also said to help prevent cancer, absorb iron and prevent tooth decay, just to mention a few. I wish we could like it more.

Anyway, in my bid to bring all this goodness together in this simple recipe, here is what I do:

1 medium sized red onion

1.5 cups tomato puree

1 teaspoon chilli powder

Cooking oil

100 ml cream (single or double depending on my mood really)

½ cup Black gram

1 handful of rajma or kidney beans

Soak rajma and black gram for about 6 hours and pressure cook. I like the dal to be slightly mushy but by their nature, they tend to hold shape unless mashed. In a heavy bottomed vessel add about 1 tablespoon cooking oil and fry the onions. Once onions are transparent add the tomato puree and cook until they come together. Add the chilli powder, stir and add the cooked dal. I normally retain the water in which the dal was cooked to add to the dish as it gives good colour and is nutritious. Add required amount of salt and allow the mixture to boil for about 10 minutes so the lentils can absorb the flavour from tomato and onion. Add cream (more the merrier but I would urge you not to add much as it is supposedly high in saturated fat). The flavour of this recipe really lies in simmering this mixture for a long time. I usually simmer for atleast 30 minutes and even as I make the chapattis. You could mash some of the dal and/or add the water in which dal was cooked to achieve desired consistency.

This is a very simple recipe which is usually very rich but I try to keep it healthy by not using butter (though the name is makhani) as I am happy with the taste. Usually when I have this on the menu my other meal would not contain much fat just to keep the balance right.

When using pulses and lentils that need to be soaked, please ensure they are washed a good few times as otherwise some toxins that they are said to release could be harmful.

Homemade Roadside Parotta

I do not quite remember exactly how old I was but I must have been in primary school when my mom took me to Saravana Bhavan and got me a parotta for the first time. She explained to me that it is layered bread and needless to ask, it was so good that I still love it. I do remember that when I had gone to Trichy with my collegemates we ate in a hotel which was probably just a shade higher than a roadside shop but the parotta was unbelievable. It was infact ‘kothu’ parotta that I had there and oops, I am drooling even as I write about it. My next closest encounter with parotta was when two of my colleagues in Chennai (one of which is my husband now !!) and myself use to go to a roadside parotta shop every Saturday. Though Saturdays were usually a holiday we use to work extra hours and this was our break. I was not very comfortable eating a parotta that was already made and that too with chicken salna (I remember my husband calling it servai though). So I would either just keep them company or have a double omlet that would be made right in front of me. Anyway, so that is pretty much how I got to know my husband loves parotta and the devoted wife that I am, I tried making it for him in Scotland. I did have the unfair advantage – it is either the parotta I make or no parotta at all as there are no south Indian restaurants close to where we live. But regardless, he was so happy with what I had made. Here is my recipe for parotta:
2.5 cups all purpose flour
Groundnut oil (that is my preference but you could use other oil like canola, vegetable, sunflower)
Take the flour in a big bowl (it needs to be big cause you need room to do all the kneading). Add salt and water to make a soft firm ball. Pour some oil on your hand and knead the dough until all the oil is absorbed. Repeat the process atleast about 6 times. By then you can expect the dough to absorb less and less oil and will turn lighter and much softer. Typically I knead for about 3 minutes. Pat some oil on the surface of the dough and cover the dough with wet tea towel or place in an airtight container. Allow the dough to rest for about 4 hours (more the merrier). Take a small ball of the dough and place on a clean work surface (I put some cling film on the worktop or table just so that it is not sticky and oil doesn’t stain the surface). Use your hand to keep flattening the dough and keep stretching it as thin as possible. It does not matter what shape it is or even if it tears in between.

Once it is almost transparent, hold two corners and start folding just like you would pleat a saree (for guys, you may be more familiar with pleating to make a paper hand fan – visiri).

Then coil and bring one of the edges to the centre. Keep this covered for about 10 minutes. I use oil to handle the dough as it makes it easier.
After about ten minutes, take it out and flatten by hand. Do not press too hard as you may lose layers. Also do not make it too thick or too thin. I noticed that as maida is very elastic it does tend to pull in and become smaller, so I tend to flatten it a bit more than I desire so that by the time I put on the tawa it is just right.

  Cook both sides on the tawa. I would recommend medium flame and no additional oil. After you make about 3-4 of them, stack them and give them nice beating on all edges (circumference) to let the layers separate.

Mullu Murukku or Chakli

Mullu Murukku or Chakli

This was my first baking experiment trying to make a crispy finger food that too a south Indian snack. None at home are a fan of chakli or mullu murukku (mullu simply refers to the thorny appearance we give it) and honestly it is the ‘kai’ murukku (made by hand) that we all like. We were visiting a friend in Aberdeen and just as per our culture, I did not really want to go empty handed and there was no point buying stuff from Tesco while they could get it themselves. So I thought I might as well try this and share my success story with them. I did see a basic baked chakli recipe on Tarla Dalal’s website however, but I somehow thought that was not quite how I would do it as my memories of its taste was different from that recipe. So here is my secret recipe:

1 cup rice flour

½ teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera)

1 tablespoon cooking oil (I prefer groundnut oil and would not use olive oil)

Salt to taste

Baking tray, baking paper, ‘naazhi’ (equipment to squeeze the murukku out to its shape) with the star shaped opening.

Heat the cooking oil and add to rice flour. Mix the flour so it looks like breadcrumbs. Add jeera seed and mix again. You may want to just attempt crushing the jeera seed in your hand itself, I am not suggesting you break them but some pressure on it will help release the aroma. Add required amount of salt and water. When you take a small ball from the resultant dough and press it, it should not just break and fall. If it does then you will not be able to get required shape and flow while making murukku. Then put the dough in the naazhi and squeeze on a baking tray covered with baking paper. In the meantime preheat the oven to 165degC. Bake the murukkus for 10-15 minutes and if they are crisp, turn the side and bake for further 10-15 minutes. I noticed that sometimes it takes a bit longer to cook. Enjoy the chakli with just 1 tablespoon oil !!

Thattai or Savory rice crispy

Thattai or Savory rice crispy

Coming from a south Indian Brahmin family, I was used to having certain ‘batchanam’ or finger foods for festivals like Diwali. I remember my mom making a drum full of mixture and now I wonder how she had the patience and energy to do so much while my brother and I were toddlers. I can quite surely say that’s not going to be easy for me. Anyway, coming back to my recent experiment, I was thinking of ways by which I can satiate my husband’s desire to have something crisp (what we call ‘norukku theeni’ in Tamil) along with rice for lunch. Normally he would have potato chips but as the care taker of my family’s health, I couldn’t quite agree with that. Thattai is one of the common finger foods that both of us like but I was always too scared of the amount of oil it soaks. Then Bingo, why not try baking thattai. So that is how and why I tried this recipe. Though I have tried to bake few other dishes which are conventionally deep fried, they did not taste as good as their deep fried counterparts. But thattai and murukku were exceptions. I was so glad after creating this recipe as even people with diabetes or cholesterol can now enjoy thattai.

I have tried to explain the recipe and procedure for baked thattai and if you wish to fry it you can do so just by deep frying instead of following the baking step.

I have used my mom’s secret tip to nice crispy delicious thattai. She usually heats oil and adds to the flour before making the dough. Except for the baking part, the rest of the recipe is my mom’s. So, credit goes to her !!

1 cup rice flour

Chilly powder as required

Salt to taste

1 tablespoon vegetable oil or groundnut oil

Sesame seeds (I prefer black ones but white ones should be fine) about 1 teaspoon

Heat the oil (make sure it does not smoke) and add to rice flour. Add the chilly powder, sesame seeds and salt to the flour and pour water little by little to make a ball of dough. When you try to take some dough in your hand, you should be able to make a firm ball, if not, add more water.

Preheat the oven at 165degC. On a baking tray spread a baking paper and start making the thattais by taking small balls of dough and patting them flat. Do not make them very thin as they would become too brittle and not tasty enough and if made too thick, they will not be crisp enough. Allow them to dry in the air for about 10 to 15 minutes while the oven preheats. Then place in the oven for 10 minutes. Examine the thattais at the end of 10 minutes, if still a bit soft continue baking for another 5-8 minutes. If the thattais have started becoming crisp, turn them and continue baking for another 10 minutes. Check if the thattais are fully crisp now. From my observation, if we over cook the thattai, it becomes too crispy and tasteless. I also noticed that when adequately cooked and crisp, it is not as deep coloured as its deep fried counterpart. Also, when deep fried, the chilli powder seems to lose a bit of heat but when baked they do not lose so much heat, so watch out for how much chilli powder you add. My mom usually soaks Toor dal and adds the dough so that adds to the crunch and crisp but I did not try it in my baking recipe for fear of thattai going soggy. If you wish you could try it more so with deep fry.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Theratty paal or milk kova

Being my first post on my first blog, I thought I will start with a sweet note. I happened to do the sweet dish that holds a very important place in the place where I come from. The great Theratty Paal or Paal Kova. For the novice, this is nothing but a product of prolonged heating of the milk. I remember my mom putting about 3 to 4 litres of milk in a big thick bottomed vessel and heating it and constantly stirring. After the dish is done and she transfers it to a dabba (box) my brother, my mom and I would sit around the vessel to get every bit of thick milk stuck to it and trust me it was so yummy.

With my baby around and living in a place where we do not have the luxury of someone coming and doing the cleaning and washing, standing close to the stove and constantly stirring the milk for hours is not an option for me. More importantly, my husband had bought me a very nice microwave oven this week and I wanted to make full use of it. So I decided to make Theratty paal just as I was cleaning the kitchen. Here is my version that yielded one cup of paal kova...

1 pint of whole milk (that is about half a litre)
4 teaspoons sugar

A microwave oven proof dish and ladle

Pour the milk into the dish and heat on high for 6 minutes
Stir and again heat on high for 6 minutes and repeat the process once again
Add sugar (we do not like anything too sweet but you could add more depending on your taste)
Stir and heat on high for 10 minutes, stirring in between at 5 minute interval

Paal Kova is ready !!

Depending on your taste, you could add cardamom powder or saffron with the sugar. The time may vary slightly depending on the wattage of your microwave, mine is 850W. Keep breaking the cream layer while stirring as this enables cooking sooner and better.