Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Fifty 2 weeks of 2013 Week 9 Colour of the Week

Given that we, my husband and me, have few friends and limited social activities, my days go by without much to mention. The usual mundane tasks carried out day in and day out, mine- cooking cleaning, pressing clothes, keeping house and such. His – Work, work and more work. To say the least, we lead a very boring life. I find ways to kill ennui and try to plan a few tasks that interest me.
Writing this blog gives me reason to try recipes for putting up here or trying from other blogs to pep my menu with variety. Then there is a new found love for photography keeps me more than engaged. Not that I am a good one at that, but I love to try a few ideas with the camera.
I avidly read many photography pages and blogs, many times wishing that I may be somewhat good bordering in those remotely at the least.
Thus when this week’s theme – photography only, was announced  in our Fifty 2 Weeks of 2013project, the first thought that I thought was I will post a picture of water and caption it "I envision my week to be as colourless but clear as water".
Talking of water, it is one of my favourite subjects for photography. Be it the sea and rolling waves, that spray when they hit the rocks, or calmly sitting inside the glass to be consumed or falling as rain and droplets glittering on leaves. These pictures speak for my awe for water.

Then around last week I came across a new concept of capturing oil drops in water and that got me hooked on. So I looked up more videos and write ups on this concept.
Many dealt with simple, inexpensive equipment and some knowledge in handling your camera, though there were many advanced techniques that are beyond my comprehension.

 This is all you need to set up and importantly, your faithful camera. a clear scratch-free glass bowl, something to hold the bowl about a feet high above the surface, few colourful material, paper/ cloth anything, water and few spoons of oil.
That did not deter me from trying and what you see are results of my experiment.

 I added some red food colour to the water :)


What has this to do with the theme, you may ask. Like I mentioned in my note for the last week’s theme, life is what you make of it. It can be boring and dull without such small challenges that make it as colourful as these. I fill my week with activities that interest me, sewing, cooking, baking and photography. They make my weeks and life colourful and worth enjoying all of them.
This is how my week has been until now and I hope it will be through the next. So long then.
I hope and wish you all have a week/  many weeks in fact, that are colourful and cheerful.
More pictures can be found in an album I am sharing on my facebook page.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dhal kalbeliya and cooking that in my Indian pressure cooker that did not blow on my face

I cannot think of any Indian household that does not use a pressure cooker. In my home presure cooker has been around since the introduction of the appliance and it may well be even before I was born. There was this aluminium pressure cooker nice and stout that my gradmother and mother would cook the dhal for sambhar and rasam in. Many times they would use it to steam vegetables. When the idli plates were introduced, they will fit the pressure cooker and had a stand to hold four such plates, the ever versatile pressure cooker was the steamer for idlis too.
In a tambrahm household dhals are cooked on an everyday basis. So this was a regular morning scene that I remember well. Once a cousin remarked that if you lived in apartments, you may wake up to the milk cooker's whistle one after another from your neighbours and yours. Then  you will get to listen to the number of whistles of the pressure cooker.
In my parents' home they still steam cook rice,but dhals are always pressure cooked. I cook my rice in a pressure cooker, placing the rice in a bowl, not directly cooking in the cooker. I have seen it being used so much that i might think not having one is a handicap.
So much so I bought one 12 litres cooker as that was the only size available in the city i lived, before moving to Malaysia. I have hardly used it after the two plus years there that too cooking with it occasionally when we had a party. I kept using my older aluminium pressure cooker that had served well. I did not, but the packers forgot to pack it on my next move. So to Egypt I carried with the 20 kilograms luggage allowance a pressure cooker.
Living in countries where you may not get accessories, I buy extra safety valves and gaskets as I buy couplers and washers for my mixer. I am quite comfortable playing handyman with these appliances.
Jaya the Desi Soccer Mom read somewhere about a random incident of a cooker blowing up. The writer had generalised that all Indian pressure cookers explode. That rubs the cooker faithfuls on the wrong side, doesn't it? So she wants us to share our lifelong attachment to the pressure cooker. Thus this post.
I am also aware of stray incidences where the cooker had exploded. I know of a lady who was unfortunate to be around and the bits hurt her eye badly that she is partially impaired.
My mother follows her pressure cooker ritual faithfully. Before placing anything inside, she will do her checks, the safety valve, the steam vent, the gasket and the handles too. This may sound a futile exercise but necessary as the manual will recommend.
I might also say that more times than once it is the fault of the user that causes accidents. People do not use sufficient water to cooking time ratio. To avoid darkening of metal as reaction to water, they tend to place substances like a rind of a lime or a small ball of tamarind and such things. This may cause malfunction of the cooker. Pieces of these and/ or the cooking food might overflow with excess pressure and block vents. In most cases the safety valve will open, release the pressure and avert mishap. All you need is to replace the safety valve and you are good to go.
I too have, in my kitchen more than one Indian pressure cooker. It doubles and trebles in function. I have them in different sizes and use according to requirement. I try to buy a good and 'been around for years' brands and they serve me well.
I am sharing the recipe to cook the dhal as side dish for my rice. Though dhals cook without the appliance too, it is much faster and easier to use a pressure cooker.

Dhal Kalbeliya: A Rajasthani preparation adapted from TAJ VEGETARIAN FARE.

Serves 4

3/4 cup mung dhal
3/4 cup grams thoor dhal
3/4 cup masoor dhal
4 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
10 - 12 cloves garlic chopped
2 medium onions chopped
4-5 small tomatoes chopped
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 teaspoons coriander powder
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves chopped
2 teaspoons butter
Wash the dhals separately in few changes of water.
Pour 250 ml water in the base pan of your pressure cooker.
Take the washed dhals in a bowl and add sufficient water and the turmeric powder.
Place this in the pressure cooker. Place the lid of the cooker firmly.
Switch the stove on and allow the steam to flow through the vent. Then place the weight/ whistle.

Once the pressure has reached optimum, the whistle will let the steam escape with a sharp hiss.
Reduce the heat and allow a few more whistles of the pressure cooker. Switch the heat off and wait for the pressure built inside to subside. Once the hissing has died, gently open the lid of the cooker and remove the bowl .
The dhals would have been cooked soft. Lightly mash them and set aside.
Now did the pressure cooker blow on ones face? It did not on mine!
Place a heavy bottom pan on the stove. Add the oil and heat it.
Add the cumin seeds and when they splutter drop the chopped onions in.
Cook the onions to a translucent pink and then add the chopped garlic. Toss them around for a few more minutes.

Add the tomatoes, red chilli powder and the coriander powder. Cook on a low fire until the tomatoes are pulped.
Add the mashed dhals and adjust the water. Bring to a boil, add the salt and simmer for about 10 minutes until they blend well.
Remove from the fire and transfer to a serving bowl.
Garnish with coriander leaves and the butter.
Serve hot with steamed rice or rotis.

I also cook a variety of other legumes and rice in my pressure cooker. To me it happens to be one of the essential gadgets in my kitchen. It does not blow up on my face!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

We Knead to Bake - February - Classic Croissants

To say that the first month's bread was a whooping success, would be an understatement. It attracted so many people that now the group has grown to 90 members. That's not all, there have been others who have read our posts and baked the pull aparts. I have bookmarked the many fillings and want to use them sometime.
Meanwhile, come February and we were ready to try another bread. We were all hoping for something easy enough and Aparna bowled us a googly :) she set us the task of baking classic croissants!

On the good side of it, she sends us a picture tutorial with the recipe and she is quite meticulous with the small details and tips. I read, reread, again and reread. Then decided unless I have a handbook that would guide, I will not be able to manage. So I printed out her mail - eight pages in all! Then when my husband handed me the print out, he offered to help. He has more patience than I, is meticulous and can work his way around. As you will see  he did a wonderful job with the butter (and that is all he did). We set a week end for the baking expedition. But I need not have feared so much. The recipe was very detailed and it was easy walking the tight rope.

 Aparna had adapted the recipe from Jeffrey Hamelman at Fine Cooking. I have added the links to the original and a audio slide show too, below.

These will help you through the baking if you choose to.
Croissants are not at all difficult, but requires time, patience and attention. We baked them over three days, setting aside an hour to ninety minutes on each day. And once you do the first two days through, you can freeze the dough and use at another time too. The third day requires you to set aside more hours though no constant attention is needed.
That said, I will reproduce the recipe that Aparna mailed us. I have tried to take pictures of the procedure, but they are randomly done.

Recipe: Source Aparna (adapted from Fine Cooking)
Makes 15 croissants

For the dough:
4 cups/520 grams all purpose flour and little more for dusting/ rolling the dough
1/2 a cup plus 2 tablespoons/ 150 grams/ 150 millilitres cold water
1/2 a cup plus 2 tablespoons/ 150 gram/ 150 millilitres cold milk (I used low fat milk)
1/4 cup/ 60 grams granulated sugar
3 tablespoons/ 40 grams soft unsalted butter
1 tablespoon plus a scant 1 teaspoon/ 30 grams instant yeast
2 teaspoons / 10 grams salt

For the Butter layer:
250 grams cold unsalted butter.

For brushing:
1/8 cup cold milk + 1/8 cup cream

Day 1 - Making the dough (and refrigerate overnight)

Combine all the ingredients listed for the dough in a bowl and mix. You may choose to knead by hand to a soft pliable dough. Or you may use a hand mixer with dough hooks. Mix initially at low speed for three minutes and increase the speed to medium for another three minutes. Do not over do this. You only need a soft and pliable dough, not one that will develop.
I did this procedure with the plastic kneading blade in my food processor and run it at lowest speed for three minutes and then at medium speed for another three minutes.
Lightly dust a pie pan or a  dinner plate of 10" diameter with flour. Place the dough on the plate.

Gently shape the dough into a flat ball by pressing it down. Dust some more flour on top of the dough.
Wrap the dough and the plate well and place it in the refrigerator.
Pressing the dough thus makes the rolling out the next day easier.
A tightly rolled ball of dough will strengthen the gluten, which we do not want in this recipe.
The wrapping shall have to cover well that the dough does not dry out.
Refrigerate overnight.

Day 2 Making the butter layer and Lamination process:

Cut two 10"squares of parchment / wax paper. Cut the cold butter in smaller slabs and arrange them on top of one parchment paper. The butter thus arranged must form a roughly 5&1/2 to 6 inches sided square.
Cover the butter slab with the other parchment. Gently with light strokes tap the butter with a rolling pin. The butter will start to stick together.
Now use a bit more force and pound the butter until it flattens to a 7&1/2 inch sided square.
Trim the edges now and then so the sides are sharp edged. Top the trimmings and pound to incorporate them into the slab.
Ensure that the butter is cold during the process. if it melts and becomes soft, put it in the fridge and take out after a few minutes before continuing.
Once you have a neat square slab, place the butter covered with the wax paper, in the fridge. Let it rest in the fridge as you work on the dough.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Unwrap ans lay it out on a lightly flour dusted surface.
Roll the dough out to a roughly 10 &1/2 inch square.
Take the butter out, remove the wax paper and place it on the rolled dough. Place it so that it forms a diamond shape in the centre of the dough.
Envelope the butter with the dough by bringing each side on top of the butter slab. First fold the side of the dough that is at the far end from you. Next fold the side nearer to you, overlapping the corner already on top of the butter. Then do the same with the left and right side flaps.
Seal the edges well. Now the butter is well wrapped in the dough like a square envelope.
Take care that at any point the butter does not escape from the sides while rolling.
Lightly flour the top and bottom of the dough. Firmly press along the dough with a rolling pin. Press firmly applying uniform pressure and lengthen the dough. Then start rolling, focusing on lengthening the dough rather than widening. Ensure the edges are maintained straight.
Roll the dough in a 24" X 8" rectangle. If the corners are not sharp, shape them with your fingers lightly.
At any point, if you feel that the butter within is becoming too soft to handle, quickly transfer the dough on to a wax paper and cover and leave in the freezer compartment of the refrigerator.
Once you have rolled to the rectangular shape, make a mental division of thirds of the length of the rectangle. Fold the upper 1/3rd over the middle of the thirds. Then fold the lower third part over the already folded flap, forming the shape of a three fold paper.
Place the folded dough on a baking sheet dusted with flour, cover with wrap and freeze for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, take the dough out and roll again. This time roll the dough along the length of the folded rectangle. Roll to a length of 24", retaining the 8" width of the earlier fold.
Fold again as done earlier in a three fold.
Brush off excess flour and place on the wax paper, cover and leave in the freezer for the next twenty minutes.
Take the dough out for the third lamination (and last of the second day's) process.
Repeat the rolling along the length, covering the two folded sides, to achieve a 24" X8" rectangle.
If the dough sticks to the surface during the rolling, smear some flour very lightly before continuing.
Fold the dough as done twice already.
Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap with cling film/ plastic and tuck the plastic sheet in on all sides.
Refrigerate and leave it in overnight.

Day 3 Shaping and Baking the croissants:
Keep the counter top clean and prepared.
Mix the milk and cream and leave it in the refrigerator until required.
Have a small bowl of flour handy on the counter next to you.
Keep baking trays ready, lined with parchment or wax paper.
You may need an inch tape and a ruler, if you are not sure with eye-ball measurements.


Remove the dough from the fridge.
Unwrap and place it on the counter. Cut the dough in two halves and refrigerate one half while you work on the other.
If you are not planning to work with the other half of the dough, wrap well with plastic wraps and place the dough in a container in the freezer. That can be taken out and worked on when you choose to.
"Wake the dough up" by pressing firmly along its length (the rectangle is now 12"X 8") with the rolling pin.
Do not widen the dough, but with the first strokes lengthen it. Slowly, roll the dough into a narrow long strip 22" in length and 8" in width. Sprinkle flour now and then when the dough gets sticky.
Once the dough has been rolled half to two thirds of the final length, it may resist to rolling, and even shrink back. If this happens, fold it in thirds and place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes.
After ten minutes in refrigeration, bring it out and roll to the full length.
Holding the dough at the mid point of the rectangular strip, lift it about an inch above the surface and allow the sides to shrink from both the sides.
Check the length to see if you have enough of excess dough that when you trim the edges to a neat line, you have a strip that is 20" long.
Trim excess dough and uneven edges off.
Using a tape measure, mark every 5" from one edge.
On the opposite side of the rectangle along it's length, make the first mark at 2&1/2" from one edge.
Then proceed to mark at 5" intervals.
Using a pizza cutter cut out triangular strips with the markings done on both sides.
You will have seven triangular pieces in all with a dough rolled 20" long.
Leave out the tiny scrap of dough from the edges.

Shaping the croissants:
Work with one triangular strip at a time. Stretch the triangle very lightly, while not making it thin, but slightly long, say about 10". This will give your croissants height and more layers.
Using  a sharp knife, make a 1/2" to 3/4" long notch at the centre of the base of the triangle.
This helps the croissant to curl up in a crescent shape.
Place the triangular dough on the work surface with the notched side close to you. Place one hand on each side, begin to roll the dough away from you, flaring your palms outwards.
Roll tight enough, but not very tight to compress. Roll towards the pointed edge until it is well tucked underneath the shaped croissant. Pull the flared legs and pinch them together. they will release once the proofing is through.
Place this on the baking sheet in the tray. Proceed with shaping the other triangles into crescent shaped croissants.
Place them well apart from each other. Brush with the chilled milk- cream mix. Refrigerate the remaining for use a second time later.
Cover and place them in a cool draft free place. The butter shall not melt. This results in greasy flopped croissants. I placed the trays in large plastic bags that would cover well but not touch the croissants. Left the trays on the counter and kept the air conditioner on.
Proofing takes as long as two to three hours. Allow them the time to proof. They will be distinctly larger, but not as double  their size.
The proofing is through and they are ready if you can see the layers of dough from the side. Also, if you shake the sheet lightly, they will wriggle.
Just before the croissants are fully proofed, pre heat the oven to 200 Degrees Centigrade/ 400 Degrees Fahrenheit if you are using a convection oven (like I do). If you are using a regular oven, then the temperature needs to be higher to 220 deg C/ 425 deg F.
Give the croissants a second milk- cream brushing.
Bake one tray at a time in the convection oven. In the regular oven place the tray in the top and lower thirds of the oven.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the top of the croissants are golden brown and the sides are just beginning to brown.
Remove the trays from the oven and allow them to cool.
These are best had warm. However, you can reheat for a few seconds and have them warm when you want to.

And you still have the second half of the dough waiting to be worked upon. You may choose to do it right away or leave it for another day. All you have to do is thaw it a bit and repeat the third day's process.

 My husband wanted to watch me bake them from start to end and offered to help. so last weekend we both baked these together and I am sharing some pictures.

Some important points to bear in mind are
The butter shall always be cold. It shall neither be soft to melt nor hard that it breaks in bits within. It is important that it is pliable along with the dough. Return the dough to the fridge for a few minutes if the butter softens.
They dough needs to be kneaded only to soft and pliable. Do not tend to over do it and allow the dough to develop. we want a soft dough, not an elastic one.
Seal the butter slab with the dough during the initial process for lamination. Improper sealing will allow the butter to ooze out.
During the lamination the twenty minutes of resting the dough is important and the resting has to be inside the freezer. But the overnight process are in the refrigerator on both nights.
Keep the surface lightly floured and brush off excess flour after each process.
You need to patiently and diligently work with the rolling, allowing the butter to spread evenly. If there are pockets where butter has not been incorporated you will not have desired results.
While we all baked croissants on different days of the month, we discussed the process in our group's page. We now understand that adding a little lesser butter works well too, though it may not be as great as these.
Also that you can shorten the duration to two days. That is, make the dough in the morning, rest until later in the evening (12 hours). Laminate late in the evening and refrigerate overnight. Shape, proof and bake the next day.
This post may seem very intimidating, but the procedure is not. If you can set aside time and set your mind on it, it is quite simple. I will not say easy because it needs a lot of attention, care and your patience. But when the buttery, flaky and thin multiple-layered croissants come to your table, the appreciation of the labour will make it worth the try.

Check Aparna's post and you will find links to other bakers' posts.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Ragada Patties

The first time I had ragada was in a small restaurant in a mall. I liked it so much that I generously offered my husband the pattice that was served with it. He loves potatoes and I did not mind sharing it to him for the ragada was a fulfilling meal by itself. That was many years ago and I would opt for this from the menu wherever there was a chaat option.
I realised it was not very difficult to make them when I watched some cookery show and tried at home. Quickly I was altering and playing with the ingredients to suit my taste and mood. Potatoes are such vegetable that even plain shallow fried ones taste good. The filling inside the patties and the ragada takes it to another level.

When I checked these were listed even as breakfast recipes, which I am not sure about, But they are sure a meal that can be very satisfying. I have sometimes filled with cheese,  shredded and boiled vegetables and even left over upma. However, today's recipe is with a simple pattice with a sprout bean filling and the ragada.

For Patties: (4 large patties)
2 large potatoes
2 tablespoons sprouted green gram
1 green chilli chopped very fine
A pinch of dry mango powder
Salt to taste
1/4 cup bread crumbs
Oil for shallow frying

For the Ragada:
1/2 cup dried white peas
2 toamtoes
2 red onions
1 tablespoon thick tamarind pulp
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon green chilli paste
1/2 teaspoon ginger paste
1 teaspoon roasted cumin powder
Salt to taste
For tempering:

1 teaspoon oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 sprigs fresh curry leaves

For serving:
Khajoor imli ki chutney
Mint chutney
1 onion chopped
Lemon rinds

Boil the potatoes and peel the skin. Mash them well free of lumps.
Add the salt and the dry mango powder. Mix well.
Cook this in a non stick pan on very low heat until quite dry.
Remove from the pan and transfer to a flat dish. Allow to cool.
In the pan toss the green gram sprouts, green chillis and some salt.
Pinch out four large balls of the mashed potato.
Pat one portion flat in your palm and shape in a shallow cup. Place some of the filling inside and roll to cover the filling well.
Flatten this in a thick disc.

Repeat the process with the  other three portions of the potato.
Press them lightly in the bread crumbs.
Heat a flat non stick pan. Place the patties well apart and fry in little oil until both sides have browned well.
Remove from the pan and place them on kitchen tissues to remove excess oil.

For the ragada:
Soak the yellow peas overnight. Wash in few changes of water and pressure cook until they are soft.
Chop the onions very fine.
Puree the tomatoes and add the tamarind pulp to it.
Heat the oil in a pan.
Add the onions and sauté them until translucent. Add the chilli paste and ginger paste and cook till they blend.

Pour the tomato puree and tamarind pulp. Add some water and cook until the raw taste subsides.
Add to the cooking liquid the peas, salt and cumin powder.
Cook until the gravy thickens slightly. It is usually on a rare gravy.
Remove from the stove.
Temper with cumin seeds crackled in oil and the curry leaves.

To serve:
Place the patties in a serving plate. Pour the ragada over it to almost immerse the pattice.
Top with the khajur imli chutney and the mint chutney (recipe below) and if you have on hand some sev.

Green chutney:
Take a fist full of mint leaves and equal quantity of fresh coriander leaves in the jar of a mixer.
Add juice of 1 Indian lime, salt and 2 green chillis.
Blend well adding some water to a thick chutney.
The very popular My Legume Love Affair, a brainchild of Susan The Well Seasoned Cook is now being hosted in Lisa's Kitchen and the current Edition 56 is also hosted by Lisa. I am sending this dish for the same.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Karuveppilai poondu kaarakuzhambhu

Sometimes deciding the menu for the day's cooking is a challenge than the actual task itself. We are just two people and hence if I try to make a variety, most times we have left overs. So I limit my everyday cooking to one gravy dish to go with the rice and two vegetables side dishes. It is harder that you try not to repeat the same vegetable dish in the course of the week. The vegetables that I include most of the days are tomatoes and onions.
Garlic is not usually cooked in my parents' home. They do not buy garlic at all and if we plan to cook some dish with garlic, we go borrow from our neighbours. Here also, I do not stock garlic, but sometimes the vegetable shop assistant will throw in one or two  pods free of cost, if I request. The second time I baked the pull apart bread, I took with me some garlic from the shop and had some left along with my onions. To use them up I made this kaara kuzhambhu.

This kuzhambu was some random idea in my head and I worked the recipe with stuff I had on hand and some I wanted to use up. Sometimes, those dishes taste best when you did not plan for it. This was one such dish and to share a post, I cooked it again.
Bharathy's Spicy Chilly is celebrating the blog anniversary this month and she has announced her first event throwing in a give away from CupoNation. Check her post for details. I wish to send this spicy dish for the event.
100 grams shallots/  pearl onions
1 whole pod of garlic -about 15-18 cloves
150 grams/ 2 medium tomatoes
1 cup fresh curry leaves
5- 7 dry red chillis
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/4 cup thick tamarind extract
1/2 teaspoon sambhar podi
1 teaspoon powdered  jaggery
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons ginglley oil/sesame seeds oil

For the tempering and garnish:
1 teaspoon cooking oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 dry red chilli
2 sprigs fresh curry leaves

Peel the onions. Retain some of them as whole. Chop the rest.
Peel the garlic and retain as whole.
Chop tomatoes and press them hard with your hands. Keep aside.
Heat 1 teaspoon of the sesame seeds oil. Roast the curry leaves until they are crisp. Transfer to the jar of a spice grinder.
In the same pan, dry roast the coriander seeds and then the red chillis until the chillis are brittle.
Add the roasted chillis and coriander seeds to the curry leaves. Grind to a fine powder. Keep aside.
In a heavy bottom pan, heat the rest of the oil.  When the oil is hot, add the fenugreek seeds and the whole shallots and cook until they are puffed well and almost browned. Add the peeled garlic and sauté. Remove them with a slotted ladle and keep aside.
Drop the chopped onions in the hot oil and cook them until they are very transparent. Add the chopped tomatoes with the liquid. Cook until they are well pulped. add the salt and the tamarind extract. Add about 1/2 cup water and allow to simmer.

Put the sambhar powder and the powdered jaggery. Cook until the gravy is thick enough.
Finally add the powdered spice mix and the roasted onion and garlic. Adjust the water and cook to a slightly thick gravy.
Remove from the stove.
Place a pan with the cooking oil on heat. Add the mustard seeds and allow them to splutter.
Drop in the red chilli and toss until the oil coats the chilli. Then add the curry leaves and allow them to fry a bit.
Temper the kuzhambu with the above.
Serve the kuzhambu with hot steamed rice.

Generally the  pulikuzhambu,and  kaara kuzhambu are best made with stone ware utensils or the iron wok. I have made it with my iron wok. However, it still will taste good with regular cooking utensils too. Tomatoes are my additions and thus I have reduced the tamarind quantity. If you choose to not add tomatoes, increase the tamarind pulp by another 1/4 of a cup.
This kuzhambu can be had as a side for dosais too.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Polla Vadai

When I was copying the recipes from my mother's notebook, I noted that she had labelled Polla vadai, but had not added the recipe below the same. That kept me intrigued and I would look up blogs for the recipe. Later for the Navrathri that year, Jayasree posted her recipe and  I commented on her post.Then during a chat with her, I mentioned this and she sent me a long  Palakkad Iyer chat thread where people had shared few variations for the recipe. I particularly noted one where someone said,  'adhu pollanum' meaning that it shall have to puff in oil. But somehow the opportunity to make them and post never came by.
So, as I set myself of making different vadais for my Thai Vellikizhamai neivedhyam, this was one I made.
I also found a video on You tube with a title Paripoyee polla vadai - that is how the parippu ari polla vadai has come to be known.
The recipes made do with just rice and tur dhal, or had more dhals added to the grinding batter. I read them all, but finally followed  dear J's recipe. We loved them, though I feel that I should have fried them a little longer so they stayed crisp. They were fine the first day, but when I stored and tried on the second they had lost some of the crisp feel. I am sure it is easy to rectify.
I am repeating Jayasree's recipe here and have added pictures for demo.

1 & 1/2 cups rice flour (I have used home pounded raw rice powder)
1/4 cup channa dhal
1/4 cup thoor dhal
1 tablespoon urad dhal
3 dry red chillis
!/4 teaspoon asafoetida powder (she mentioned just a few shakes of the bottle)
2 stalks of curry leaves
Salt to taste

Oil for deep frying

With repeated changes of water, wash the dhals and then soak them together for an hour.
Drain as much water possible and grind them to a coarse paste along with the red chillis, asafoetida powder, salt and the curry leaves. Try not to add water while grinding. It will be easy to grind soaked dhals without water.
Mix the above paste with the rice flour and knead in a dough. The dough shall have to be slightly stiff.
Pinch out small portions, size of Indian gooseberries.
Use a banana leaf or a thick plastic sheet as base to pat the dough. Lightly apply oil on the surface. Pat the ball of dough as thin circular disc, without tearing. repeat and have a few ready.

Meanwhile, keep the oil for heating. When the oil is nearly smoking hot, peel off the patted disc. Slide them gently into the oil, few at a time. I tried frying one at a time as I needed to check if they puffed well.
Deep fry until both sides are well done. Remove from the oil with a slotted ladle and transfer to a dish lined with a kitchen tissue.
It is best served stove to table as I read in some thread. But I had it few hours later and they were crisp.
These make a nice snack for any lazy evening.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Javvarisi payasam

In many households the thai vellikizhamai,  Fridays that fall in the Tamil month of Thai are observed with special prayers. Some of us prepare the maavilakku and offer. Some extra dishes are prepared as the neivedhyam on all the four (sometimes five) Fridays. Thus this year too, I prepared some for the Friday prayers. Every week of the month, I prepare one payasam and vadai to offer as neivedhyam.
Tapioca farming and small scale sago production units can be found around my hometown. So, on many occasions this was the choice for the payasam. During one of my home visits my father had asked a client to bring a few kilos of sago. This was to send to my sister, after being powdered in a commercial mill. She wanted the sago powder to starch  her cottons. But the person had brought home a sack full that was way too much. We sent it to the 'machine' to be powdered. But sago has a tendency to get sticky with the starch content. The mill assistant refused to powder any further, that would damage his vent. My mother does not easily give up and tried with her mixie. I convinced her that she cannot possibly get the entire quantity done and offered to take some sago pearls for use in my home. Thus I have about 1/2 kilogram left in my pantry. I decided to use some in the payasam. that was offered and consumed.

Serves 2 people
150 millilitres milk
2 tablespoons sago pearls
2 teaspoons ghee
1/8 cup sugar
5-6 cashew nuts broken
1/4 teaspoon powdered cardamom

Place a heavy bottom pan on the stove and heat one teaspoon ghee. Add the sago pearls and lightly roast them until they are light brown and puffed up.
Roast the cashew nuts in the other teaspoon of ghee and keep aside.
In the same pan, heat some water and a little of the milk. Add the roasted sago and stir well and continuously. Add more water and cook the sago until the balls are transparent.
When the sago has been cooked, add the sugar and allow to blend.
Finally add the milk and bring to a boil. Simmer just for a few minutes. Remove from the fire.
Add the ghee roasted cashews and the cardamom powder.

You may also not roast the sago. But roasting adds to the flavour and also removes the stickiness from the sago pearls.
Serve the payasam warm. if left to chill, the payasam will thicken. If that happens, add some more warm milk and stir well before serving.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Milagai Podi for idlis and dosais - version 2

At home, seven times out of ten, milagai podi  mixed with gingeley oil (oil from sesame seeds) is the only side dish preferred for idlis and dosais. We used to make do with that and left over sambhar. Chutney was not an option unless there was some excess of coconuts. My grandmother had a way of having her idlis. She would crumble them and mix with the milagai podi and ghee / oil. She would then roll them and eat. We have been offered those and enjoyed them along with her.
But things were different in my marital home. Idlis were staple breakfast and with six highly yielding coconut trees, chutney was the main side dish. Here again, sambhar was an option only when we had left overs. They never had stock of milagai podi. So, for many years, I used to get a small stock from my mother or sisters and keep them for myself.
Once at my parents place that my husband ate his idli / dosai with the podi my mother had freshly made. He liked the aromatic sesame seeds addition. Then on, I also started grinding and keeping stock. I have found many other variations and have made the Gujarathi podi and the Bangalore Chutney podi
When I ask for recipes from my aunts, they suggest quantity of ingredients randomly with hand measures. They are so good with the eye-ball measures that it was difficult for them to be more specific. It was up to one to deduce how much was a tight fist or a fist-full and most times just  'a little'. It comes with practice that you fix the quantities to suit your taste. I got used to such practices and only when I have to make a clear list for sharing in a  post, I measure them out.
I am trying to document recipes, most of those scribbled down in any piece of paper. This is one such recipe. I was at my sister's home and found a notebook where she had jotted a few that I found interesting. The only piece of paper I could find immediately was the envelope of some invitation. To keep all of those safe is not easy. The blog is my current journal where I record recipes. So the podi has been made and posted.
The ingredients listed are not typically those in the regular podi, but they just add to the taste. So here is Mala's milagai podi as my husband has labelled that.

Yield: 250 grams milagai podi
I have used a cup that measures 200 millilitres as standard for this recipe.
200 ml (heap it up) dry red chillis ( broken in pieces)
100 ml channa dhal
150 ml split urad dhal
1 tablespoon tamarind (torn in bits)
3 tablespoons coconut (if using fresh, roast well. It is ideal to use copra)
1/2 teaspoon asafoetida
50 ml curry leaves
50 ml coriander leaves
Salt to taste

Dry roast the red chillis until they are browned and brittle, but do not char them.
Remove and transfer to a dish.
In the same pan, roast the tamarind, curry leaves and the coriander leaves until the leaves wilt and get dry.
Roast the salt to remove the moisture.
Roast the coconut until very aromatic but not very brown.
Dry roast the dhals separately until they are golden.
Allow the ingredients to cool.
In a spice grinder, first powder the chillis, tamarind, curry leaves and coriander leaves.
When they have been coarsely done, add the dhals, salt and asafoetida and grind to a near fine powder.

Remove from the grinder and spread on a flat dish to cool.
Place the coconut in the grinder and pulse at lowest speed allowing it to powder. Take care not to over run the grinder that the coconut oozes oil.
Transfer the coconut also to the already powdered mix and mix well with tips of fingers.
Allow the podi to cool and store in clean glass jars with air-tight lids.
Enjoy podi mixed with sesame oil or ghee with soft pillow idlis or dosais.