A couple of days back I got to meet my ex-colleagues. Meeting with them, catching up on office gossip felt bitter-sweet. Later that day I was telling my husband how I felt so much more connected to the people I worked with for less than 6 months than all my previous work places put together. Thank you for making me feel good - you know who you are. So, today I decided to blog about something that was sweet, sour and spicy.
This year Onam meant a lot of cooking. We made a total of 9 items for Mahabali’s visit. Since (R)oomie and I did it together it was more fun than anything else. His Teeyal was to die for! We made Avial, Rasam, Manga Pulisherry, Beans Toran, Kootu curry, Inji-puli , Rice, Dal and Payasam. We even tried to serve it the traditional way - on a banana leaf in the right(?) order starting with salt. Everything on the banana leaf is a labour of love!
We hope Mahabali brings us all happiness, good health, wealth and prosperity with his visit this year. Hridayam Niranja Onashamsagal!
This recipe is about the podi(or powder) that is eaten on the side with Idlies(steamed rice cakes). As kids when we were served idlies as breakfast we were asked what we wanted with it - podi, chutney or sugar. Most kids love sugar. I wanted podi or chutney both of which are spicy accompaniments to the rather bland albeit super soft and spongy idly.
The south Indian cuisine which tends to be vegetarian and even vegan centric although not intentionally tends to incorporate the required protein in everyday meals. I have to admit, I never had to understand the concept of carbs, protein and fiber till I started cooking on a regular basis and realized my cooked seemed very lopsided (read favoring carbs).
So I started to dissect the meals I was served as a child - a heavy breakfast of carbs accompanied with veggies and legumes, a lighter lunch which usually but not always was a duplicate of the breakfast but lesser in quantity and evening snacks which was freshly cut fruit or a piece of fried legumes and finally dinner which was the lightest meal of the day and eaten by 8 pm.
This continued till I turned into a rebellious teen refusing to ‘stuff’ herself in the morning and returning home ravenous and ready to eat her own fingers. This trend has continued to this day and I have since tried to make changes.
I failed to realize for a long time that meals were made a certain way for a reason, tradition wasnt tradition for the sake of traditions. Festivals encouraged rich and heavy food but it also provided energy and encouraged going out and playing to burn away all the calories. None of this has been spelled out in terms of calories and yet, makes so much sense.
Long story short, the idly podi or the spicy powdery accompaniment for a lot on south Indian breakfasts, is filled with legumes a source rich in protein and is super easy to make and store. That’s a huge bonus for lazy bums like me.
So I spoke to Amma and decide to share her idly podi recipe on the blog.
Rice - 1/2 Cup
Urad dal - 1/4 Cup
chana dal - 1/4 Cup
asafoetida - 1 Tsp
salt to taste
dried red chillis - 8 (Reduce or increase based on your preferred spice level)
Jeera/cumin - 1 Tsp
Dry roast the above ingredients and grind to a fine powder. I use my Oster at high setting and use the liquify option - works everytime. Store in an airtight container and use preferably within 6 months. It does last longer but its more fun to make in smaller batches because you can try a different combo each time and experiment with a different taste.
I wanted to also add a small note on how this is eaten - a heaped teaspoon is usually put on the plate and a depression made using your index finger deep enough for 1/2 a teaspoon of oil. The oil and powder are then mixed well enough to form a paste of sorts. We usually dip a piece of idly/dosa or sometimes even mix rice with this spicy paste and its a meal!
The idly podi is such a versatile dish that one can add, subtract, divide ingredients to create a different taste each time. Try adding dry curry leaves, garlic, basil leaves, mint leaves to add a depth of flavor.
The language used in the label is ‘Telugu’, the main language spoken in the south Indian state I was born in which was recently cut up into two states thanks to greed, conflict and war. I was taught to write in this language since I was 10 and I was a reluctant learner. I don’t do justice to the language when I speak it but I understand it very well. I consider the state my birth place and it saddens me terribly to see it torn up.
Indian weddings are known for its flamboyance - the colors, jewellery, dance, music and the richness of it all. Additionally another important aspect to Indian weddings is the food. A wedding down south is judged by the number of desserts it serves it’s guests. The food is spoken about months and in some rare cases years later even after the bride and bridegroom are long forgotten.
Each of us deal with grief and loss in a different way. It might come as no surprise that I turn to food which is not necessarily a good thing. I decided though not to focus on the loss and instead write something about the person.
The one thing we had in common was that we loved food. I loved cooking(& eating) and he enjoyed eating. I come from a family that used to love non vegetarian food - a lot! It came as a big surprise to them when I stopped. For quite a few years after I stopped eating meat, I continued to cook it during family get togethers because people enjoyed it.
I remember making chicken fry and having it wiped clean by the lot. I remember making baked fish and my uncle insisting on checking if it was cooked every few minutes - by tasting it.
I have not cooked meat in a long while and have not eaten it either and so I decided to make a dish that we all loved eating and making regardless of the occasion. Chole, chickpeas in a tomato based gravy, eaten with rotis, puri or any form of flat bread or not, but always enjoyed by everyone.
I made a small modification and added a lot more fresh coriander than i usually would. The fresh greens added a flavor and color that was definitely a feast to the eyes and refreshing to the taste buds. This is not your typical chole and you will not find it at your local restaurant so if you’d like, give it a try. This recipe requires no finesse or knife skills but does require patience(waiting for the onion to almost caramelize for example) and ALL of the ingredients.
Garbanzo beans - 2 cups soaked overnight, cooked and drained (You could alternatively use canned garbanzo beans)
Oil - Canola or Vegetable or Coconut oil - 1 Tbsp
Onion - 1 Large roughly chopped
Tomatoes - 2 Cups roughly chopped
Garlic - 10 cloves
Ginger - same amount as the garlic roughly chopped up
Green chillis - 2
dry red chillis - 2 (Optional if you don’t prefer too much spice)
Curry leaves - 20-30 leaves
Coriander leaves - 2 bunches cleaned and separated
Salt to taste
How to go about it:
In a skillet, heat the oil and add the onion and garlic and ginger to it. Here is where the patience bit comes in. You need to cook it till the onion starts caramelizing about 15 minutes on medium high flame. (I put in a picture of how the onion should look, above)
This is when you add the tomatoes, chillis and the rest of the ingredients except one bunch of coriander leaves and coo till the tomatoes are real soft. Use the ladle to mash up the tomatoes and let the juice from the tomatoes cook everything else.
Turn off the heat and let this mixture cool just enough to put it into the grinder. Add the fresh coriander bunch that you kept aside earlier and grind to a smooth paste. You don’t want any unsightly lumps. Once the grinding is done add this to a sauce pan and add the garbanzo beans and cook covered for about 20 minutes and then uncovered for another 10 minutes. Make sure to taste and add salt if required. If you want this gravy to be a little less thick, feel free to add water.
I must advise that you be careful when this gravy starts to come to a boil because it will start spluttering quite a bit. Let it boil for a few minutes and you can turn it off and serve warm. Garnish with roasted cashews and coriander leaves.
This keeps in the fridge for upto 3 days and in the freezer for upto a week (it could keep longer but I haven’t tried longer than that)
Amma has been asking me to try this recipe since forever now. I finally did and it definitely was worth a blog write up. I will also share a chutney’s recipe here because I promised a friend :)
I could never find a dosa making pan for the longest time. I wanted one which had no edges like the one in this pic. Now it’s here and it’s here to stay! This recipe is health itself - well im probably exaggerating but it really is the healthiest uttappam i’ve had.
· 1 Cup oats
· ½ Cup home made yogurt
· ½ Cup warm Water (Substitute with ½ cup Buttermilk if you like it to taste a little more sour)
· 3 small green chilies finely chopped
· 1 Tomato finely chopped (You can strain the juices and de-seed if you like, we didn’t)
· Spinach – ¼ cup finely chopped
· Carrots – ¼ cup finely shredded
· You can go on and add other vegetables…
Take a glass bowl, and mix in oats and the yogurt and water or buttermilk and let soak for about 15 to 30 minutes. We did this because this was the traditional oats and needed time to get soft. If you have the quick oats then 5-10 minutes would be sufficient. Now add the green chilies, spinach and add salt to taste.
Now heat the dosa pan and tap a drop of oil to it, spread the oats carefully to form any fun shape you like. The batter is going to be slightly gooey and not as easy to spread as dosa/uttapam batter usually is. Sprinkle the toppings evenly and let cook for about a minute or two. The batter changes color as it starts cooking. Carefully turn over and cook for another minute or two. Do not cook on high heat because that might just end up burning your toppings and not cook the batter through and through.
Serve with some coconut, onion or peanut chutney.
· 1 Cup peanuts (I use the Indian variety because I like their taste better)
· Red chilies – 5-10 based on your spice buds
· Tamarind paste – 2 tbps
· ¼ Cup onion chopped
· Coriander -
· Curry leaves – 10 leaves
· Salt to taste
Roast peanuts, red chilies, curry leaves and onion for about 5 minutes and let cool. Grind together all the ingredients and add a little water to aid the grinding to a consistency you prefer. Transfer to a serving bowl. Temper using the below ingredients if you like the chutney with tempering. You can skip this step entirely.
· 1 Tsp oil (Use Canola or coconut oil)
· ¼ tsp mustard
· ¼ tsp jeera
· ¼ tsp urad dal and chana dal
· Curry leaves – about 10 leaves
Heat oil and add the ingredients in the above mentioned order. Pour over the chutney and mix before serving. Serve with warm uttapams for a healthy and happy stomach!
Cricket has been a huge part of the majority of Indian homes and from the looks of it, will continue to be. This has been one religion that marries the whole of our country. Tensions leading to heavy betting and self mutilation(nail biting included) are all part and parcel of this religion.
Fortunately or not the only exposure I’ve had to this game was when my cousin played with his friends in the little make shift playground behind our rented house. That was when I was 10. Pappa was a Tennis fan and so I grew up watching tons of tennis tournaments and having crushes on Agassi and Boris Becker and admiring Steffi Graf. I then grew some more and realized that all my friends knew so much about cricket and I was clueless. I ditched Tennis to try and understand the game that my peer group seemed to be crazy about so that I could “fit in”. I wasn’t very successful - I still dont fit in. I don’t understand the thrill behind every match and I don’t understand the lbw or the wide and I have no clue who the players are anymore - except Tendulkar ofcourse!
So I take comfort in being in my safe place and playing the game that I have come to enjoy - cooking :) One of my favourite comfort food is Idly with THenga or Ulli CHamanthi(Coconut or Onion CHutney). 80% of my school lunches has been idly with sambar or chutney. I’ve never dared to try making the idly batter myself till very recently when the greed for the fluffy steamed rice cake overcame my fear of making its batter.
Introducing my first Guest and a dear, dear friend Annie.
Annie and I go back a long way, come May this year it will be 12 years!!! Out of those 12 years we spent only 2 actually ‘studying’ together. The rest of the decade was spent having nightouts(filled with girly gossip),
eating out, seeing some of us off at the airport and finally having a grand reunion in NYC in 2009. We haven’t met in almost 2 years now but somehow the 3000 miles just doesn’t feel that much.
Annie is a gentle, smart, intelligent young woman with a gift at doing whatever she does - really well! Be it cracking all those Math sums we all broke our heads over or cooking up delicious food at the blink of an eye. Through this post I want to introduce you all to a beautiful human being I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and what better than with the one dish that is festive and a universal favourite.