Monday, August 20, 2018

Mangalore Pundi

The other day, I watched a cookery show where the host was making this dish, though she mentioned it as Undi, and a side dish to eat it with. I thought it was very similar to the pidi kozukkattai or the Arisi upma kozukkattai I make often. She ground some soaked rice with coconut and cooked the dish with that. I was mentioning that to my husband and he said that at home they used to make pundi or pundi gatti. I told him that I have never had it at his parents' home in all of these years. He said that I would not know, because his mother thought it was a huge effort to make these for breakfast. He also mentioned that they will taste good only if the texture is right. Many times they have ended up with somewhat hard pundis that will refuse to soak in the side dish, the gravy they make.
It is curious that I have lived in Mangalore, have had friends who taught me a few simple specific Mangalore dishes, but nobody suggested this. So, I launched my "operation pundi" and went to read recipes/ watch vidoes of making this recipe. The search got me more confused because each person suggested different rice, different ratios of the two main ingredients.
I decided to go with the video that set me on this project and made the dish.  It turned out well and my husband gave his validation. I wanted to convince myself that this was indeed the recipe. We messaged my husband's uncle requesting his wife to share the recipe. She called me and over the conversation suggested using pounded rice or store bought coarse rice powder and what not. In the course of our chat, she suddenly decided to tell me exactly how she makes them. Wasn't I waiting for this only? It was a simple recipe that I did not have to write it down, but thought of having a record lest I do not make it for another n number of years.


(Makes 15 dumplings)

1/4 cup (heaped) Idli / dosa rice
!/4 cup raw rice (Sona mansuri/ Kolam rice)
1/3 cup fresh grated coconut
2 tablespoons of coconut oil
Salt to taste

For tempering:
(pundis can be made plain also without any extra condiments)
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 teaspoon urad dhal
1/8 teaspoon asafoetida powder
3-4 Byadagi variety (or any mildly spiced) dry red chillis broken in bits
Few fresh curry leaves

Wash both the rice clean and soak them together in water for a few hours.
Drain the soaked water and add them to the grinding jar. Add the coconut and grind them together to a coarse, thick paste. Add little water  during the grinding process.
Transfer to a bowl, rinse the grinder jar with about 1/2 cup of water and add it to the ground batter.
Add the salt and mix well.
Heat the oil in a heavy bottom pan. If you are tempering the pundis, add the mustard seeds. When they crackle add the rest of the items listed under tempering, saute until the urad dhal is fried to a golden shade.
Add the batter to the pan, lower the heat to a minimum and cook the batter stirring constantly.
The batter will cook and gather in a dough like mass.
Wet the tips of your fingers, take a small amount of the dough and roll between fingers to test the consistency.
If you are able to roll well in a smooth looking ball, the batter has been done.
Switch the fire off and prepare a steamer ready to steam the dumplings.
Divide the cooked dough in small portions and roll them in desired shapes. Some make cylindrical shape and some make them rounded balls or, you may shape them as I did, slightly thick discs with a dent in the middle.
Place them in the steamer separator and steam the dumplings for 12-15 minutes.
Remove from the steamer to the serving dish.

Serve them hot with coconut chutney, some vegetable stew or chutney of choice.

Some points to have in mind for perfect pundis:
The rice and coconut have to be ground only coarsely, more like large semolina. Grinding it to a smooth batter will make the pundis hard.
The mixed proportions of the idli rice and raw rice work well. Originally, the aunt asked me to use raw rice; I tried making the ratio that worked well for me.
The pundis can be made without adding any other tempering ingredients and they will look beautifully white.
Do not over soak the rice or steam longer than necessary.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Moar Canerik Oorugai - Canerik Fruit Pickle

By the beginning of this year, Aparna initiated the 52 WEEKS OF FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY 2018 group on Facebook to have interactive discussions on food photography. Members of the group post pictures under a given theme every week and share it on their social media networking spaces, blog, Instagram and such. I joined the group sometime later and keep sharing my pictures too for weekly themes. One such theme was SEASONAL FRUIT/VEGETABLE. It was around the beginning of summer season, so we had a variety of spring - summer produce to photograph.
On one of my weekly runs to the supermarket here, I found on their refrigerated vegetable aisle, small boxes of a very green fruit. The label read JANEREK. I did not know what the fruit was and quickly clicked a picture of the fruit and label with the phone to look it up later at home. I found that they were Canerik fruits, particularly short seasonal fruits. There was an informative blog post about the fruit that tempted me to purchase a box from the market.

It was very interesting to know that they were a special kind of plum, green in colour and is a native of Asia Minor region. My friend Niv found that they are also called greengage plums. They had a tart taste and were consumed dipping the erik in salt in Turkey, very similar to the Indian gooseberry. They had a firm texture and a brighter green colour, with a plum like seed within. The taste was so similar to the gooseberry and left a cool after feel when you drank some water soon after eating the fruit.
Having bought the fruit that was so sharp in taste that you felt a shock running along the upper jaw right up to your ears, I was left to look for ways to use them. I was discussing this with my mother and she suggested that I could make canerik rice, just like amla rice or lemon rice. That gave me the idea of  making a pickle with the fruit.
When it comes to pickles, my selection is very limited and one of the pickles I really enjoy is the nellikkai oorugai, the Indian gooseberry pickle. One particular way of pickling is to cook the gooseberry to just about soft and add it to curds with other condiments. This way the pickle needs just a day or two for curing. It does not have a long shelf life and has to be finished quickly. So it is always made in small batches unlike the whole amla in brine and the thokku.
I made the rice as suggested by my mother and made this pickle too. I went back to purchase another lot just to make yet another batch soon after I had finished, lest the fruit goes off season.

Moar Canerik Oorugai - you will wonder if it is thayir nellikkai oorugai :)

(Makes a small batch about 150 grams pickle)
15 Canerik fruits
1/2 cup curd whisked well
3 green chillis
2 tablespoons gingelly oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
Salt to taste (I use coarse Himalayan pink salt)

Wash the canerik fruits well and pat them dry. Let them dry on a spread cloth for a few minutes.
Chop each fruit roughly, leaving the seeds attached to some of the pieces.
Wash, dry and chop the green chillis.
Whisk the curd well and smooth. Keep aside.
Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. Once they crackle, add the green chillis and saute them for a while.
Add the salt and the cut fruit pieces. Cook until the fruit is just about soft. When you try to press hard between your fingers, you should feel some resistance before the fruit breaks. Do not cook it to a mush.
Allow this to cool well.
Add the whisked curds to the cooled fruit and chilli mixture and mix well.
Transfer to a clean glass or ceramic bowl or bottle.
Allow a day for the flavours to blend and the pickle is ready.

This pairs well with curd rice.
Try to consume the pickle within a week or can go up to another two days. If the curd gets consumed, you can top it with some more whisked curds to the pickle.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Poondu Mandi Kuzhambu - Spicy Garlic Gravy

On our recent visit to our daughter, we chanced to have lunch in an Indian restaurant that listed many Chettinad type of dishes in their menu. While we all ordered, the staff who served tried to detail to us about their dishes. I had then wanted to try their Poondu Kuzhambu that he suggested to have with steamed rice. That tasted very good and they willingly adjusted the spice level to our liking. Their serving portion was quite large and we packed the same with us.
This was a unique preparation that uses charred tomatoes as base and the water we usually discard after rinsing rice, the 'mandi' or 'kazhuneer' (as in rinsed starchy residue from cleaning rice) to tcook the gravy.
We liked it so much that we wanted to try making the same at home. I checked with a few friends who are from Chettinad, for the recipe. One of them guided me to a blog that had authentic Chettinad style poondu kuzhambu, but it was not the same. I found a video of the preparation, which was nearly the same; it had shallots in the recipe, which was not in the dish we had tasted. I then formulated my own recipe for the kuzhambu and tried to replicate the dish that we had tasted in the restaurant. I share that here today. This may not be an authentic recipe from the region, but a delicious dish, nonetheless.

Mandi is the residual water while rinsing and cleaning rice. Give one brisk rinse in the first round, not removing much starch away. Wash your second and third rinses thoroughly getting as much starch residue as possible. You need to collect this rinse in a bowl. The residue of rice starch will settle on the bottom of the bowl. You may not need all of the water. Carefully, strain some liquid without pouring away the 'mandi’. I will refer to this liquid (kazhuneer) as mandi in the recipe.

Poondu Mandi Kuzhambu

(makes 400 ml medium thick kuzhambu/ served us 4 good servings)

15 cloves of garlic
3  medium tomatoes
(if possible, char the tomatoes over a low flame and remove the charred skin. Not compulsory, but the taste is enhanced. I used the roti jali as mine had small perforations) (otherwise sauté the tomatoes in a pan to a coarse pulp)
1 medium red onion sliced finely
1 &1/2 cup +1/4 cup mandi (divided)*
2 tablespoons gingelley oil / nallennai
1/2 tablespoon coriander powder
1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoons raw peanuts (optional and you may replace by cooked chick peas)
Salt to taste

Grinding spices:
Soak in the *1/4 cup mandi the following for 10 minutes and then grind to a paste using the mandi (you may use some more from the 1&1/2 cups, if needed)
4 cloves garlic
4-5 dry red chillis (depending on heat of the chillis) (the kuzhambu is a slightly spicy dish)
1 small gooseberry size tamarind ( if the tomatoes are too sweet, up this a little)

While grinding, half way through, add the coriander powder and the tomatoes. Grind them to a smooth, thick liquid pulp. Keep aside.

 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds and curry leaves ; no mustard seeds are added
(since the cumin seeds are added in the beginning, it does not require extra oil)
Heat the oil in a heavy bottom pan. Add the cumin seeds. Toss a bit and add the cloves of garlic and sliced red onion. Sauté until onions are  transparent.
Add the peanuts (or chick peas)
Stir the mandi to mix the sedimented rice starch to a uniform liquid.
Add salt , turmeric powder and 1 cup of the mandi, cover and cook until the garlic are soft.
Add the ground pulpy mixture, adjust the liquid by adding some more mandi.
Simmer the kuzhambu for about 15 minutes so the raw taste of garlic, tamarind and red chillis in the liquid subside. 
Add the rest of the mandi and cook further  until the kuzhambu has thickened.

Add the curry leaves and chopped fresh coriander leaves to garnish.
Serve with hot steamed rice or as a side dish for Dosais and Idlis. This kuzhambu can be kept over and had for another day also. If refrigerated it can be kept for up to three days. To reheat, you may add some more of the rice rinsed water or plain water which will thin the consistency a bit.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Vegetable Shikampuri Kebabs

Few days ago, Aparna had shared in her Instagram feed a picture of few of her cookbooks. She had mentioned that Sheetal bhatt at Route to roots blog had initiated the idea of a virtual food enthusiasts group to cook dishes from our respective collection of cookbooks and share the pictures/ recipes where desired. 
Most of us like to buy cookbooks, but hardly use them regularly. We might cook a few recipes every once in a while and then slowly put the book away and let it gather dust. 
This virtual group will now bring those out and cook dishes twice a month, based on given themes. we would share the picture of the dish in our Instagram feeds with a hash tag 'thecookbookcollective'. We may share them across other social network media also. We might share some of those recipes in our blog also.
The theme for the first dish was 'Regional'. I chose to make Shikampuri Kebabs that are famous in Hyderabad Mughal cuisine. These are rich and delicious with a filling of tender meat or equivalent vegetarian mix. The name literally means 'filled in the middle' as in 'tummy full'.
During one of my stay at The Gateway Hotel, Bengaluru, I found the book titled 'Vegetarian Fare at the Taj' that has so many vegetarian dishes that are cooked in the kitchens of the Taj group hotels across India. The management were generous to let me have that book. 
I had this recipe from that book; this was shared by the executive chef of Taj Krishna, Hyderabad.
The same book has another recipe from the Taj  Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad that replaces potatoes with Elephant Yam and lentils.
I gave this recipe to my daughter as she had mostly all the ingredients with her. She decided to add lot of young beetroots and made a very pleasantly pink kebabs. 
I am giving approximate measures for the outer cover vegetables. I used potatoes, beans and carrots. Because ultimately all vegetables are going to get mashed, you can add any more different vegetables that will not taste off.
I used two large potatoes, boiled until soft and grated. The yield of potatoes was 2 loosely packed cups.
Vegetable Shikampuri Kebabs 

Makes 8 kebabs
For the outer cover:
2 cups boiled and grated potatoes
1 cup boiled carrots (cut in very tiny bits and heaped cupful of raw carrots)
1 cup boiled beans (same as carrots)
Just about enough bread crumbs to bind the vegetables in a dough like texture.
1&1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 blade of mace
3 green cardamoms
2 teaspoons caraway seeds/ ajwain
1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves
1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves
Salt to taste
Oil for shallow frying/ deep frying. (The book has a deep fried version, I used the airfryer by basting a little ghee all around each kebab before placing in the fryer.) (My daughter shallow fried the kebabs and said they tasted good)
For the filling
1/3 cup khoya (I boiled 500 millilitres of milk down to get this quantity)
1/2 cup crumbled paneer
1 &1/2 teaspoon oil
1 medium red onion sliced very finely
1 green chilli finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon white pepper powder
1 teaspoon chopped mint leaves
1 teaspoon chopped coriander leaves
A pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar

Prepare the filling:
Heat oil in a pan.
Add the onions and green chillis. Saute until the onions are transparent.
Add the paneer and khoys and cook until they are soft and pink.
Add salt, sugar and white pepper powder. Toss to mix and turn the heat off.
Drop the chopped fresh leaves and mix.
Allow to cool and divide in 8 small portions rolled in balls.
If the quantity of the filling might feel more for 8 kebabs. You may store them and use in other dishes.

Prepare the vegetable kebabs:
Crush the mace, cardamom and caraway seeds to a fine powder. This is a very aromatic spice powder mix
Mash the carrots and beans ( other boiled vegetables if you are using ) to a pulp with only few bits left to show.
Add the grated potatoes, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, salt and prepared spice powder of cardamom, mace and caraway seeds.
Knead them together to a dough like mass. Add the bread crumbs and knead to a smooth dough. 
Take a small portion and roll and pat to a disc to test if the dough is not cracking. Add little more bread crumbs if needed.
Divide into 8 portions, roll them in smooth balls.
Use little oil or ghee to grease your palms and pat one dough ball in a discs, place one portion of filling, gather the ends and cover the filling with the vegetable dough.
Flatten it slightly to a round disc, like kebabs of uniform thickness of about 1 cm.
Repeat with the rest of vegetable dough and filling.
Heat oil in a pan and when hot place the kebabs as many will hold in the pan, not too close to each other.
Cook the kebabs well until crisp and golden all over. Remove from the pan. Transfer to a serving dish.
Repeat with all the kebabs.
While the book has a directions to deep fry the kebabs, I chose to do them in my airfryer and my daughter opted to shallow fry in a pan. Both turned out excellent. So how you want to have them cooked has these options.

For my airfryer version, I used a few drops of ghee over each kebab brushing it all over. I cooked them for 10 minutes at 180 degrees C and for a further 2 minutes after flipping them over.
Serve them hot with salad and green chutney or tomato sauce.
If you are planning to do them in more numbers, you may make ahead the kebabs, refrigerate them and fry them at your convenience. My daughter had made the quantity for 8 kebabs, but used only four on the first try. She refrigerated the uncooked kebabs and used them the next day.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Spiced Mango Jam

Every time we visit my daughter and son-in-law, she packs with us something for my parents. When we visited in Portland, strawberries were in season and she sent strawberry jam, then. This year, they waited for us, to go and buy a full crate of mangoes that their local Indian store had stocked.

We had bought a book of jams and preserves, from which we adapted the recipe. The original was a mango cardamom jam, which used jamming sugar. Since we don't get that here in the US, we opted to use pectin along with granulated sugar. We also added to the cardamom, some nutmeg and saffron, along with chilli flakes to enhance the flavour.

Spiced Mango Jam

Yield - 3x8oz jars 


1 kg mangoes (peeled and stone removed weight)
450 grams granulated sugar
1 tbsp. whole fruit pectin
6 pods green cardamoms
1/3 of a whole nutmeg
a generous pinch of saffron
1/2 tsp chilli flakes


Put a ceramic plate into the freezer, ready for testing.
Set a deep pan of water to simmer on the stove, ready to sterilize and process the jam jars.
Pulp the peeled and stoned mangoes coarsely.
Put it into a heavy bottom dutch oven, along with the rest of the ingredients, expect for the pectin.

On a medium heat, cook till the sugar dissolves and bring to a boil. Simmer for a further 15 minutes or so, till the fruit softens.
Once the mangoes have cooked down, add the pectin, and stir it in.
Boil rapidly for about 10 minutes, till the jam begins to thicken.
As it gets up to a jam like consistency, put a little dollop of jam on the plate that you put in the freezer. If it is set, the jam shouldn't run.
By now, the jam jars in the water should be ready to fill.

Once you fill the bottles, seal them while the jam is still hot.
Once you open a bottle, put the jam in the fridge, and use a dry spoon to serve.
Enjoy with hot toast, or straight out of the jar!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Chinna Vengayam Pulikaichchal

Few days ago I picked up a big bunch of shallots, yes you heard it right, bunch - because the vendors gather them with lot of their dried stem roots still attached to the bulb and make a bunch. That is how they are sold in the local markets here. The shallots made a very colourful subject to photograph. I had just then got a wood carving man to make me a small container of sorts with a piece of broken tree branch. They both made a vibrant combination in the picture.

I shared the same on my Instagram feed and many suggestions were there to use them in delicious dishes. I cooked them in a few and was left with a rather large batch that I cannot finish before leaving for my holiday. I ended up making this pulikaichchal that is more preserve like and would stay fresh for days if refrigerated. It was reminded of this by my sister, who does not like and will not have onions and garlic; she would smell it however much we mask the taste.
My father's clients would bring produce from their farms and crops like groundnuts, tapioca and shallots used to be brought soon as they have been harvested. They will still be wet and soil soaked and fresh. My mother would then simply spread them on a newspaper in the corner of a room and use them in batches. She cleaned them as and when she was cooking them. She would often make this dish because it works well as a side for dosais, idlies, pongal and also rice. Painful as it may seem to peel and cut those fresh pungent shallots, the taste of the dish makes it all worth the effort.
When we did not have a refrigerator also, this dish used to keep good for days together, provided we are not careless in the use of utensils and serving spoons. Cooking it in some stoneware utensil will add to the flavour and one might simply store in the same too. I have, with me here, a very heavy bottomed stainless steel pan that is ideal to cook on even heat and slow cooking happens easily.

Chinna Vengayam Pulikaichchal 

Makes 300 ml of pulikaichchal

200 grams of shallots/ Madras onions/chinna vengayam
2&1/2 tablespoons tightly packed tamarind bits
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida powder (or a 1/2 centimeter square of asafoetida dissolved in little water)
1 heaped tablespoon coarse crystal salt (I use pink Himalayan salt) (adjust to taste)

1/4 cup gingelly oil (divided - to saute the onions and for cooking)

For the spice powder:
7-8 dry red chillis (adjusting to the level of heat tolerance and the heat of chillis)
(+3 Kashmiri chillis for the colour, because my red chillis are very brown)
3 &1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon channa dhal
2 teaspoons sesame seeds (white or black, cleaned)

For the tempering: 
1 teaspoon gingelly oil
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 teaspoon channa dhal
1 teaspoon urad dhal
2 dry red chillis broken in small bits
15 curry leaves washed clean

Soak the tamarind in water for about 20 minutes and extract the pulp. I repeat the process to extract all the pulp and the last batch of water does not even get the colour.
Dry roast the ingredients given for the spice powder, each separately and on low heat so they are evenly done. Cool them and make a coarse powder. Keep aside.
Peel the shallots and cut them in small pieces.
Heat a few spoons of the gingelly oil and add the onions. Saute them until they are translucent, not very brown.
Add the tamarind extract, turmeric powder and salt. Top up the water just a little more and cook on low heat, to remove the raw taste of tamarind.

When this is simmering, heat the oil for tempering in another pan and add the ingredients listed under there. Once the mustard seeds have crackled and the dhals are golden, transfer this to the simmering mix.
Add the rest of the oil and the spice powder.
Cook for some more minutes blending them well.
Allow it to simmer and the oil will separate forming a layer over the pulikaichchal.
Remove from the stove and let it cool.

Transfer to clean glass bottles or bowls with lids for storing.
Serve as a side dish with dosais, idlis, pidi kozukkattais and arisi upma. You can mix with steamed hot rice and eat as a dish by itself too.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Kalasida Avalakki

In general it would be easy for our friends to assume that I might have picked up traditional dishes from Managalore - Udupi cuisine having been married to a Mangalorean for 30+ years. Even more so because I have spent a good few years living with his parents. Sadly, that is not to be. On the contrary, they had adapted to living in Coimbatore and other than an occasional neer dosa and shavige, on special weekends, I had not known traditional fare in that household.
We were at our friends' place one evening when she had made this for tea and while serving mentioned that it may not be new to us and both my husband and myself would have had it many times. I did not even recognize the name of the dish, even when they gave other names by which people call it. Mangalore masala avalakki, avalakki oggarane, and so on....nope none of which I had heard of. My husband went on to discuss how it used to be a teatime snack in his office in Mangalore and I still drew a blank. However, it was one very tasty snack and I loved the crunch with so little oil added in the snack. My friend showed me how thin is paper avalakki and told me to find them in Bangalore where most stores stock them.
I bought some red paper poha online and brought it here. I messaged her to share the recipe. In a few minutes my phone notified me with her message and that very evening, as luck would have it, having all the ingredients I tried the recipe. We enjoyed it and I promised myself that I need to post the recipe here, for my repository.


I looked up for more information on this dish and found that in the Udupi region it is called Bajil and mostly paired with sajjige as a filling breakfast during weddings and ceremonies. When I read out bajil, my husband said that he vaguely remembered that his father would mention it but he had never tasted the combination.
It is a quick and easy recipe to make. The sweet and spice flavours mingle so well that one cannot resist picking just about a spoon more and more. Keeping the recipe basic, one can find ideas to serve this dish.

Kalasida Avalakki
Recipe by my friend Ms. Lalitha Burde

For 4 to 5 servings
2 cups Paper thin poha/ aval /beaten rice flakes
2 tablespoons roasted peanuts
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
 4-5 dry red chillis that are low - medium in spice level (Byadagi or Kashmiri chillis)
Salt to taste
Jaggery powder to taste
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 &1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 teaspoons urad dhal
Few curry leaves
2 - 3 tablespoons fresh grated coconut

Dry roast the coriander seeds, two of the dry red chillis, few of the curry leaves until aromatic. Crush coarsely and reserve.
heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds, allow them to crackle.
Add the peanuts and toss around so they are roasted to a crunch.
Add to these the urad dhal and allow it to brown until they are golden.
Quickly add the rest of the red chillis (broken in small bits), curry leaves, turmeric, asafoetida and salt.
Add the crushed coriander mix.
Toss them for a couple of minutes more and switch off the heat.
Transfer this to a serving bowl and add the coconut and jaggery powder. Mix with your hand slightly crushing them so the flavours combine.
Put in the paper avalakki and sprinkle some water. Bring them all together so the spices coat the avalakki while not crushing hard. Adjust the water, salt and jaggery according to taste.
Serve this with hot tea.

This dish stays fresh for another day also at room temperature. If you find it too dry by then, Sprinkle some water and heat just a bit in a microwave.
A very delicious snack to go with tea is ready with just about ingredients from your pantry.
You may sprinkle mint chutney  and top with some sev or pretty much serve like bhel.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Tomato and Pumpkin Soup

Do you think that it is easier to cook a meal than it is to plan? I do, especially a light meal for those 'not so hungry, but I need to have something' days (and nights). Not again the regular fare of upma or noodles, shouts an inner voice and then I have to push myself to think something more appetizing. soups are my to go dish to put on the table.
We started this exercise of having soup one night a week for some months now. That is, I made it an exercise to disguise all those 'resistance meeting' vegetables and make them a welcome dish. Pumpkins might be somewhere in the top of I listed those vegetables, while I like them in some good curry, not always. The other day in the market, I saw that my vendor had some nice looking tender and small in size pumpkins. I just picked one ignoring a pair of rolling eyes.
Back from the market, I thought it out a bit hard and came up with this idea of adding tomatoes and nutritional yeast to the pumpkin and serve a soup. Then it struck me that I could make it vegan friendly and make a cream to top the soup. I happened to have in stock cashews and pumpkin nuts too. Little more thinking and a very flavoursome soup was ready.
I had just joined a group of food photography enthusiasts who are doing weekly themed food photography. It was a coincidence that the theme of that week was soup and I was glad that I had a picture to share.

Tomato Pumpkin Soup

Serves 4 hefty servings

For the soup:
6 medium tomatoes (ripe and red)
1 cup of diced pumpkin (skin, inner strands and seeds removed)
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon peepramul powder
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Water as required

For the cashew pumpkin cream:
2 tablespoons broken bits of cashew nuts
1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
1/4 teaspoon sugar (optional)
Warm water to soak and grind

Basil leaves

For the cashew pumpkin cream:

Soak the nuts and seeds in warm water for about 30 minute. Drain and grind to a fine paste adding water as required.
Transfer to a bowl and adjust the water to desired consistency. Add the sugar and refrigerate for use later.

For the soup:
Heat one and half tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and toss the pumpkin in the oil.

Cook the pumpkin just about soft not mushy.
Boil some water in a pan and drop the tomatoes. Boil them just enough to remove the peel.
Keep the water simmering while you clean the tomatoes. Put them back in the water and add the pumpkin to it. Cook further until both the vegetables are done.
Allow to cool and blend in a blender to a smooth puree.
Add some water and put the puree back on fire. Mix the nutritional yeast and the peepramul powder in water and pour into the soup. Add salt and pepper adjusting to taste.
Simmer the soup for another 3 to 5 minutes.
Transfer to a serving bowl. Top it with the rest of the olive oil.
Take the soup in individual serving bowls and add the prepared cream. Garnish with basil leaves.

Serve hot and enjoy a warm bowl for yourself.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Narthangai Gojju

At home, along with other pickles we had a stock of salt soaked and sun dried citron pickle, always in store. This was because, the fruit is said to have among many health benefits, high vitamin C content. Citrons are used to treat sickness, nausea and many more minor ailments. A small piece of the dry pickle is given with directions to chew and suck the juice in. This pickled citron pieces were dark brown in colour and leather like in texture. They preserved well as they were dry. So keeping stock of them was easy.

We were home in December when all my paternal uncles and aunts were also with us for ceremonies held at home. One aunty from the extended family had sent a few pickles and preserves for my mother sometime ago. Some powdered curry leaves that were added to other spices and rolled, Indian sarasaparilla root pickle and narthangai gojju/ citron preserve were all in bottles on the table handy. With every meal, I watched my aunts enjoying generous servings of the narthangai gojju. My curiosity was piqued and I tasted a small spoon of it. The blend of tangy tamarind, the slight bitterness from the citron rind, heat from the chillis and the sweet from the jaggery were all quite favourable.

My aunts were asking my sister to fetch the recipe as she was visiting the person who sent it. She relayed the recipe to all of us and I had a mental note of it.
When I returned to Accra, where you can pick citrons from every street vendor, I bought just one, medium fruit to try this recipe. I have used only part of the fruit in this recipe because we rarely consume pickles. I have used mostly the zest and rind having removed most of the pulp and all of the seeds.

Gojju is a dish in which certain vegetables like ladies finger/ okra, capsicum, onions, tomatoes and even green chillis. When I picked up loads of green chillis from my home garden I made the milagai gojju.
Gojju is a sweet-sour and spice blend dish with any of these vegetables and few others too in it. It is often had as a side dish and goes well with kozukkattais, adai, dosais and also steamed hot rice with a generous spoonful of ghee or gingelly oil.

Narthangai Gojju 

Makes 1 and 1/2 cups gojju

1 cup finely chopped citron
7-11 dry red chillis (depending on the heat and level of spice required)
3 green chillis
1 tablespoon tightly packed tamarind
4-5 teaspoons of powdered jaggery
1 &1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt (I use Himalayan salt. You may use table salt also.)(adjust to taste)
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
5 tablespoons gingelly oil

For tempering:
1 teaspoon gingelly oil reserved from the above
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
10-12 fresh curry leaves

Wash the citron fruit well and pat it dry. Cut and squeeze out the juice which can be used in other cooking or making a drink. Remove seeds and some of the juice sacs. Chop the rest of the fruit finely to get 1 cup full of zest and rind.
Reserve one teaspoon of gingelly oil for tempering later.
Place a heavy bottomed utensil on heat and add 2 tablespoons of oil. When the oil is hot, drop the citron pieces and cook them, tossing them at regular intervals until they are soft and you are able to crush a piece to almost a pulp between fingers. Add the tturmeric powder and asafoetida powder.
While the narthangai is getting cooked, pulse the tamarind, salt, dry red chillis and the green chillis to a fine powder in a spice blender.When the narthangai is soft, the oil might separate. At this point add the powdered spices blend and top up with another tablespoon of oil. Cook this for a further 7 - 10 minutes in the oil. Then add half a cup of water and cook on low heat allowing it to simmer. The raw taste of the spices should go.

Meanwhile, dissolve the jaggery in little water and strain out the impurities.
Add this jaggery water to the cooking narthangai.
If required, add some more water, just so not to burn the mass.
When the gojju has thickened, add the rest of the oil and cook until oil separates and floats on the top.
Remove from the heat.
In another bowl, heat the reserved one spoon of oil. Add the mustard seeds and when they crack, add the curry leaves. Toss them a bit and transfer this tempering to the gojju.
Allow the gojju to cool down and transfer to a clean storing bottle or bowl.

This gojju stays well outside of refrigeration for a fortnight to 20 days and inside the fridge for longer.
Enjoy this hot, sour and sweet gojju just as you would any chutney or pickle.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Dry Fruits Laddoo for Bhogi

First, let me wish all of you a happy and prosperous new year 2018. Days are quickly passing by and we are almost closing the first month of this year.
We celebrated Thai Pongal after missing celebrations for three years in a row. In these recent years, our celebrations are quite low key; to make ado for just two of us seems pointless. Nonetheless, to not celebrate, will never be my option. I love all the festivals and connected rituals and would not wish to skip.
Nostalgia sets in when between our sisters and cousins we reminisce the elaborate festive arrangements that used to take place in our childhood.
The other day, we were talking about the long hours we spent drawing the kolams for three nights in a row; the back breaking competition like effort we put in to show off our skills. One thing lead to another and we remembered helping arrange the flowers for the kaappu kattu on the Bhogi day and so on. Naturally we were asking each other about their choice of sweets and such.
I decided to move away from my comfort and go to Tirunrlveli halwa that I repeatedly made over years. I wanted to try doing something more healthy and less-on-effort sweet. I zeroed in on this easy and very quick, almost no cooking involved, laddoo with dry fruits. Last year for Ugadi, my friend had made it for us and we spoke about the recipe which goes by eyeball measures. However, I decided to measure in volume so I can keep a staple basic recipe and play around if I fancied. I have been keeping stock of nuts, seeds and dry fruits to snack on. So, it was quick to pull out a few and combine them in a delicious mix. I have used a small list of these. One can always put any nut, seed and dry fruit in any number of combinations. You can make it vegan by using coconut oil in the place of ghee.

Dry Fruits Laddoo

Makes 20 laddoos , small in size - about 1'' in diameter

2 cups roughly chopped fleshy dates ( packed somewhat tight )
1/3 cup almonds in skin
1/3 cups cashews broken in big pieces
1/3 cups unsalted pistachios
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder
A pinch of nutmeg powder
4-5 strands of saffron
1 tablespoon ghee / clarified butter (divided)
1/4 cup desiccated coconut

Put a heavy and wide pan on heat. Dry roast the almonds until they are nicely warm, not browning quickly.
Add the pistachios and pumpkin seeds to the same pan and toss them around on low heat.
Add half of the ghee into this and drop the cashew nuts. Roast them until the cashews are golden in colour.
Add the saffron and the sesame seeds. Allow the sesame seeds to pop and remove the pan from the heat.
Allow the roasted nuts and seeds to cool down. Transfer them to a blending jar and pulse to a coarse powder that still has bits of the cashews and almonds that are not processed fully.
Transfer this nut mix to a wide bowl.
In the same blender jar pulp the dates roughly. Add to it the rest of the ghee and pulse further until it comes together in a mass. Few chucks of dates also left out in the process add a bite to the sweet.
Transfer the pulp to the nuts mixture, add the cardamom and the nutmeg powders.
Grease your palms, very lightly with ghee or coconut oil and gather the mixture in a slightly stiff dough like mass.
Pinch out small portions and roll them in laddoos/ balls.
Place the desiccated coconut in a flat dish and roll the laddoos in it to coat evenly on them.

Store in containers until need to use.
These have long shelf life. We have only just finished consuming all of them, ten days later.