Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hing in Hindi - Asafoetida in English - Perungayam in Taml

More information on hing can be read here. It is one of the great flavors in Indian Food.
I love hing so I use it literally on everything I make. :)
The brand I usually use is LG. I tried Vandevi once and it I felt it is just turmeric powder, did not actually have the flavor of the real hing.
So the last time I went to India, I saw my grandmother using this block of hing and the food tasted awesome. So when i came back, I found this in the Indian Store (again LG brand Block Hing) and of course Immediately bought it home. This beats the powder by many times.

I wrapped the block in an old kitchen towel and pounded it with a hammer until it became to an 1 inch pieces and put all of them in the Indian Mixer Grinder and ground to a fine powder. When I open the bottle, the kitchen smells FANTASTIC!! It took a total of may be half on hour. It is not an easy task but well worth it.

Please do give this a try!!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Vadai Morkazhambu (Fried Lentil Crisps in Buttermilk Gravy)

This is one of the tastiest morkuzhambu and is also ready in a jiffy, if you don't have any vegetables and want to make somehting yummy for yourself or your guests.
My Maternal Grandma (Mrs Vimala Ramamurthy) is an expert in making this.
She is the one who taught me how to make the vadais.
I think you can learn to make vadai, by watching a person make it rather than reading a recipe.

This Measure serves 4 adults.

All You need for the Gravy is
1 cup Yogurt - Mix this with 3 glasses of water to make Buttermilk, depending on the consistency of the yogurt. (Even though I make my own yogurt, I dont use that to make any morkuzhambu. I use the store bought yogurt just because it is more thicker and holds it well (without seperating) even after lightly boiling it.
Turmeric Powder - 1/4 Teaspoon
Salt - 1/2 Teaspoon (more or less)
Masala to grind
(Please soak the Urad dal for the vada also, at the same time, look below for that recipe)
To Soak atleast for half an hour in about less than 1/4th cup of water
Cumin- 1 and 1/2 Teaspoon
Green Chilli - 2
Coconut - (Optional) 2 Teaspoons
Rice - 1 Teaspoon
(Note- You may use rice flour instead of rice)

For seasoning
Oil - 1/2 Teaspoon
Mustard Seeds- 1/2 teapsoon
Red Chili - 1
Hing- 1/4 teaspoon
Curry leaves and Coriander Leaves to garnish.

After you soak the above, grind to a smooth consistency.

In the vessel you are making the Morkuzhambu,
--->Pour your masala and add about 1/2 cup of water, the salt and turmeric powder and let it all come to a smooth boil on a low flame
--->At this point, add your buttermilk, and little more salt, depending on the sourness of you buttermilk, and keep stirring on a low flame.
--->After you add your buttermilk, you have to keep stirring so the yogurt does not separate and this mixure should just get warm, not Boiling Hot.
--->For seasoning, in a seperate vessel, add the oil and once it becomes hot,add the mustard seeds and the red chili and once the mustard seeds sputter pout this on the morkuzhambu)

To make the Vadais
(This measure makes atleast 10 vadais, more if you can make smaller vadais!!)
You need
Urad Dal (Whole) - 1 Cup (you may use broken ones too)
Salt-1 Teaspoon
Black Pepper - 1/4 Teaspoon
Green Chillies - 1 or 2
Curry Leaves - 1 strand
Rice flour- 1 to 2 teaspoons
Soak the Urad Dal atleast for half an hour (you may soak at the same time you soak the masala for the morkuchambu, and after making the morkuzhambu, come to make this!)
You will see that the Urad Dal has bloated, which means it is ready yo grind.
You may use a food processor, but for best results use an indian mixer.
Drain all the water and add the salt, pepper and chili to this.
(Optinal - I always grind everything together since my kids would not eat the pepper etc, but if you wish u can grind just the Urad dal alone and then mix in the pepper and chili)

The trick is to grind the Urad dall with no water or as little water as possible, if it is too runny then your vadais will be a flop. It has to be thick. Add the rice flour if you feel it is thin. Adding too much rice flour will take out the softness of the vadas. Add the curry leaves to the dough.

Making the vadais
--->Heat oil in a kadai
---> Take a thick ziploc bag and and lay it down, and spread little oil on it.
--->Check if the oil is done by just putting very little dough in the oil, it should come up immediately bubbling.
---> Start by taking a spoon of the dough and put flat on the Ziploc and press lightly with your fingers, make a hole and carefully peel it out carefully and again without burning your hands place it in the oil.
--->Let it become golden brown and turn both sides equally and take out and place on a napkin so it drains of the excess oil

Making vadais is an art really, it takes some time to learn, I used to make them by the Ziploc way and now I can make it with just one hand. It is just practice. If you don't want to learn, there is always the shapeless vadais which you make by putting a small teaspoon of dough in the oil.

Everything tastes the same!! Just that the shapeless ones are called "Kunukku" not Vadai :)

Coming back to the recipe, once the vadais are warm, put them in the morkuzhambu and garnish with the coriander and curry leaves.

Serve with hot rice and some Paruppu Usili. or
You can make a Tamilian Vegetarian meal by making the Keerai Kootu (I have made the lazy kootu with just regular spinach) and Vazhaikai Manjal Kari.
You can see I have made 3 Kunukkus, on the side :))

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Kollu Sundal (Steamed Horsegram with Seasonings) (Kulthi)

Horsegram is called Kollu in Tamil, Mudhira in Malayalam, Ulavalu in Telugu, Hurule in Kannada Kulthi /Hulthi in Hindi and Kulthi-Kalai in Bengali.

 More information can be found on these here. They are not easily available in the indian stores but if you ask for it your store can get it for you. They are low in glycemic index, I dont know why it is one of the least known grams that we have....
This recipe makes about 5 servings for 100 gms per serving- [Calories 173]
Macro Counts each serving is Fat 4.7 gms, Carbs 23.9 gms, Protein 9.1 gms)

Horsegram - 200 gms 
Coconut - 20 gms
Oil - 2 Teaspoons


--->Wash the Kollu. Soak it overnight if possible or atleast for 6 hours.
--->If you have 1/2 cup of Kollu just add 1/2 cup of water to it and some salt and hing and pressure cook it. (If it was 2 cups you have to put 2 cups of water)
--->When it is pressure cooked, drain and save the water, you may add it to your rasam or Dal or sambar.
--->In a Kadai, add little oil and mustard seeds, when it sputters, add some red chillies and a dash of Hing and little Urad Dal, and Fresh grated Coconut (this is Optional, and how much of it, really depends on how much you like it) and stir the drained kollu along with everyithing once and serve.

I add some Kollu to Sambar or Kootu or Dal. I also have made sprouts with it.

This Sundal can be had as a side dish too or a main snack.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Aloo + Methi + Pudina Paratha

In the last two times I made Alu Paratha, I have always added Methi to it. I think the next time I make it will be just plain Alu Paratha, so anyway, lets come to the recipe...
You will need
5 Medium sized Potatoes - Pressure cooked, and mashed very well
1 Bunch Methi- Washed 3 times and then Chopped finely (just the leaves, not the stalk)
1 Bunch Mint Leaves (just two handfuls of Pudina leaves) again washed 3 times and chopped fine
1 handful of Coriander leaves - Washed and Chopped
1 Teaspoon Chili Powder
1 Teaspoon Paratha Masala (See Note **)
1/2 Teaspoon Turmeric Powder
1 and 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
Note ** I bought this on a sudden whim, actually this is just a mixture of Coriander Powder, Cumin Powder and garam Masala and they have added a little bit Onion Powder. I usually don't buy this masala at all, but since I bought his, I have to use it :(
Make Roti Dough
--->add the Masalas to the Mashed Potatoes and taste for salt.
--->Add the Chopped Herbs to this potato mixture
---> Mix well and taste for salt again
---> Roll a thick roti. Make a small ball of the Potato mixture nad place on it
--->Cover the potato mixture and fold down all sides well
--->Roll carefully and slowly, so as to not let the mixture out
--->Put on a Tawa, and please look to my Paneer Paratha instructions as to how to cook this.
Eat hot with some pickle on the side... Enjoy!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Gooseberry or Amla (Frozen) Pickle - Nellikai Oorugai

You get Frozen Amla Packets in the Indian stores. All you need to do is go get 2 packs of them and start to make this yummy pickle..
You will need
2 Frozen Amla Packets
Pickle chili powder (this is different from the red chili powder, since they use different kind of red chillies, if you don't have it, you can use red chili powder)
Red Chillies
Mustard Seeds
--->Cut the Amla Packets and put the Amlas in a vessel and cover them with water.Let the water come to a boil and let it boil for a good 20 minutes., until all the water is gone and the Amlas are soft and able to mashed with a potato masher.
---> Mash them with a potato Masher and if you are a patient person, try and manually take out the seeds, with a dry hand. This is optional, if you don't mind the seeds continue on to the next step.
--->Once all the Amlas have been mashed, spread the mixture flat in the vessel and divide in 4 parts.
--->You will need chili powder as much as the 1/4th part of the Amla. and salt about 3/4th of the chili powder. Hing will be less than 1/4th of the salt.(This is all done in proportions)
--->Amla, 3/4th of Amla = chili powder3/4th of chili powder = salt1/4th of Salt=hing
--->Now add the chili powder and salt and hing.In a separate vessel heat up oil (enough to cover the Amlas) and add the mustard and red chillies and once the mustard sputters, pour it over the mixture and mix immediately.Make sure the Amla is completely soaked in oil.Once it cools, carefully store in a dry container and store in fridge.

This is called Nellikai Thokku, in tamil.
You could also make the Gooseberry in salt water brine with the frozen packets. I still havent experimented that, once i do i will post it.

This lasts up to a month if taken care of very well, Make sure you don't touch it with Wet hands or put a wet spoon in it. Always keep a small bowl and put some from the big jar to the small bowl to serve, that way you can make sure the pickle will get spoilt soon.

(Raw) Green Banana Skin Curry

As the name suggests, this is a dry curry made from Raw Banana Skin . This recipe actually originates from Palakkad. My husband is 1/2 Palakkad ( an area which is right in between Kerala and Tamilnadu) so he generally loves any recipe made from that region. I also have a freind, Girija who is from Palakkad and she makes lot of recipes from Palakkad. I got this from her.

When ever you make the Banana curry, save the skin and cut in small pieces and soak in water, mixed with a little turmeric powder. You can store this in the fridge up to 4 to 5 days when you are ready to make this curry.

You Need
Skin of 5 Green Bananas- Cut in small pieces
1/2 Onion - Cut in Small Pieces
Oil - 1 teaspoon
Mustard Seeds - 1/2 Teaspoon
Red Chili - 2 (Break in two)
Hing - 1/2 Teaspoon
Salt - About a teaspoon (add more if needed)
Curry leaves and Coriander leaves to garnish
--->Keep the fire on low and Add the oil to the pan and add the Mustard seeds and wait till it sputters.
--->Add the red Chili, Hing, and the Cut Onions
--->Once the Onion starts to get brown, add the drained(if soaked in water)Banana Skin Pieces
--->Keep an eye on pan so as to not borwn the skins too much, keep stirring occasionally until it all comes to gether, on a low to medium stove it takes about 45 minutes
--->Garnish with Curry Leaves and Coriander leaves.

Verdict My husband loved it, me not so much, it was too fibrous. My kids ate a spoon of it and very tactfully avoided the curry!!! so if you want to add a whole lot of fiber to your diet, go ahead and try this one out!
Girija also told me that, after you make the curry, just before you are ready to take it out from the stove, fry some shallots and mash them and mix them in to the curry. I didn't have shallots so didn't do the last part.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pongal (Rice And Lentil Grits) and Spinach Sambar (Spinach with Split Pigeon Peas)

This is one of the most easiest and tastiest meals to make, and also very healthy for you!
Pongal is kind of like Grits, although in North India they make something similar (not the exact recipe) and call it Khichdi.
I always make it in this Vengala Paanai (Bronze Pot in Tamil). The inside of this is coated with Eeyam. This is my mother's pot and the Pongal or anything made in this tastes exceptional. This also retains heat very well and cooks faster.
Allright lets come to the recipe
The measure of Rice to Mung Lentil is 1 is to 3/4th proportion. you may use more or less lentils, how ever you like.
Rice 1 Cup
Split Skinned Mung Bean 3/4th Cup
Cumin Whole 2 to 3 Teaspoons
Black Pepper (coarsely ground) 2 Teaspoons
Cashewnuts Sliced - a handful
Ghee - 3 tablespoons
Water - 4 to 5 Cups
Salt - 2 teaspoons
---> Wash the rice and the lentils and put in the vessel you are going to make and add about 4 cups of water, add the salt and half of the cumins and let it come to aboil, keep stirring it with a wooden spoon so it does not boil over
--->after the rice is about 3/4ths cooked, check to see if the water is enough and add the extra water if needed
---> In a small kadai, add half of the ghee and let it get hot, when it is hot, add the rest of the cumin and all of the black pepper, and pout it in to the the pongal vessel and return the kadai back to the stove
--->add the rest of the ghee to the kadai and add the sliced cashews, and roast it till it gets light brown, be careful not to burn the cashews
--->Pour it over the Pongal and by now the water should all be gone. Check if the rice and the mung bean is cooked, test by taking a spoon of it and put on plate and smash with your finger lightly, it should get smashed, then it means it is done.
Serve hot with Sambar or Chutney or Gothsu!!
Spinach Sambar
This is even more easier than any other sambar, Just follow the same recipe as my Shallot sambar, only use a half pound of frozen spinach and boil in the tamarind water, along with the spices mentioned in the other recipe....
you don't even have to thaw it, just plop it tn the water and do your thing!
I have added a handful of soaked black chick peas to the sambar.
P.S.(I always soak a lot of chick peas once every two weeks and drain the water and store in a Ziploc in the freezer and throw some in my Sambar, or Dal to get the extra protein. If i want to add it to my salad, I just put some in the pressure cooker with some salt and water, and when it is done drain the water and add the water to my Dal or rasam and just the chickpeas to my salad)

Leftover Calzone Filling and Sprout Sandwich

I had some calzone filling leftover, so i just added some cut tomatoes to it, and spread it over bread and added some alfalfa sprouts(my most fav. sprouts) and had a great sandwich.
The bread is homemade, it is called Whole Wheat Flax Seed Bread.
It was delicious!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Eggplant, Shallot and Zucchini Calzone

I got this book called Vegetarian (Over 300 healthy and wholesome recipies from around the world) edited by nicola graimes. Bought it barnes and noble. I am going to try all these and post some recipies if it comes out good, atleast once a week.

I made this Calzone last week. It came out pretty good.
You need
For the crust
2/3 cup Warm Water
1/4 tsp active dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
2 Cups of flour
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tblsp Olive Oil
For the Filling
3 baby eggplants, cubed
3 Shallots, chopped
1 small Zucchini Cubed
1 Garlic Clove chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
2 Tsp Fresh thyme
3 oz Mozzeralla Cheese cubed
Freshly ground Black pepper
To make the crust.
--->If you have a bread machine, put the items needed for the flour in the pan and set the machine at dough setting. If you dont have a bread machine, follow the steps below.
--->To make the dough, in the water, add the yeast and sugar let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes until frothy.
--->Sift the flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the center.
---> Gradually pour the eyast mixture and add 1 tablespoon of oil to this. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 10 minutes, until smooth. The dough shuld be springy and elastic.

--->Once the dough is made let it sit for an hour and half to rise.
To make the filling.
---> Heat the oil in a pan, and the chopped shallots and fry till it softens.
--->Add the eggplant, garlic, zucchini, crushed red pepper, thyme and salt and pepper.
--->Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently, untill eggplant begins to soften.
--->Divide the dough in half (I divided it in four since i felt it was too big) and roll it in to a 7 inch piece round.
--->Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
--->Spread the eggplant mixture on it and sprinkle witht he mozzarella cheese.
--->Dampen the edge with water and fold over the other half to enclose the filling
--->Seal firmly with the end of a spoon.
--->Brush the top and bottom with oil
---> Line a baking pan with foil and place the two calzones on them
--->Make a hole on top of the calzones to let the steam escape.
--->Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until golden.
--->After you take it out, brush with remaining oil and sprinkle with parmesan cheese (I skipped this part, since kids were too hungry.

The other calzone came out perfectly since I had sealed the edges very nicely, the one in the picture was not sealed, hence some cheese came out!

My daughter gave a 6 on 10 for this, not bad for the first time........
Also the original recipe was with sundried tomatoes. I replaced it with zucchini, since my son is not a fan of tomatoes.

Update! on my hand!

Update on my hand ---

It still hurts if I press it against something but the swelling / or the inflammation has gone down. I am seeing a hand specialist next month to figure the problem...

Watch out for some new posts!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

This post was typed entirely by my left hand!!

Seriously! So excuse the wrong or missing capitalization and punctuation marks!

abOUT 2 WEEks ago I had some pain on my right hand, just under the little finger, could not straighten it out or curl it completely.
i learnt something valuable - Never underestimate the power of your little finger!!

I dont know if i injured myself or what happened to it, but kept going thru life with the pain, until it got worse last weekend, when it was swollen and puffy and i would wince or cry if anyone accidentaly knocked me or touched my hand!
Right from brushing my teeth in the morning to flossing at night, the little finger plays an all important role in your life.

I finally went to a doc on monday, he could'nt find a fracture, and i told him i was having up to 6 advils a day and i reluctantly let him touch the hand, and i couldnt stop the tears when he was trying to diagnose what i had. He has referred me to a hand specialist and in the meanwhile prescribed a painkiller which is the grandma or great grandma of advil.
I have to say, it is doing an excellent job of it. The pain has gone down considerably, as well as the swelling.

I was trying to browse the net if i can find any info on what this is and i found this blog
Although she has not updated it for the past two years, it is the same exact thing that i have right now.

I am looking forward to using my right hand once again. and hopefully it will be alls well that ends well. I miss my right hand :(