Thursday, September 23, 2010

How to make Avial (Steamed (Country) Vegetables in Yogurt Gravy)

It goes very well on its own, accompaniment to a good Vengaya Sambar (Onion Sambar),
or with Adai.....Shown here with Adai (my husband's Dream / Favorite combination)

This is one of the most easiest vegetable dish to make. Yet I have seen various versions of Avial in Hotels and
other places and had to write this post. The Tamilian (Tanjore Style) version of this dish really has only 3 Simple steps. The Avial which is traditionally made in my house is white and will have only country vegetables (naattu kaai) which means it wont have lima beans, corn, peas, or cauliflower. I have seen this made with the mixed frozen vegetables that are available here in the US and I feel the individuality of this dish is robbed.


The Vegetables you can use to make this are
Winter Melon (Vellai Poosanikkai)  (More of this)
Chayote (Also known as Bengalore kathrikai or Chow Chow)
Snake Gourd
Guwar Beans (Cluster  Beans -- Available in Indian Stores)
Avaraikkai (Broad Beans -- Available in Indian Stores)
Green Raw Banana 
Raw Green Banana
Thick Stems of Spinach
Brinjal (Eggplant) (I really don't like to include this)
Indain Yam (Senai Kizhangu-- You don't get this in the USA)
Drum Stick (only frozen available in Indian Stores and they are not that good .. can do without this)
Steamed Taro Root (only if you really really want it, but the avial will become slimy)

And Absolute NO NO s are
Any kind of Onions, Tomatoes, Okra (Ladies Finger), cauliflower.

Potatoes and Indian Yam can be steamed separately and added.
As an option, potatoes can be peeled and cut and then steamed along with the other veggies.

This will feed a minimum of 8 people

You need
 All the Vegetables (about 8 cups)
Cumin -- 2 to 3 teaspoons
Fresh Grated Coconut --  1 cup (yes 1 cup)
Green Chili - 4 or 5 (or more if you can handle it)
Fresh Yogurt - (About 2 or 3 cups)
Salt as needed

--->Grind Cumin, Coconut and Green Chillies to a smooth paste
--->Cut all the veggies. Make the pieces big but not too big that you have to open your mouth too wide to eat it... :)
--->Add the salt and Cover and Steam all the veggies with about 1 and 1/2 cups of water.
--->The veggies will let some water out.
--->After the veggies are cooked (when pressed with a fork it should easily get mashed) if you see there is excess water you can drain it, but a little excess is fine.
--->Mix the ground paste to this and boil for a few mins on a low heat.
--->Mix the yogurt to this and remove from fire as soon as the mixture gets warm and before the yogurt splits.

Traditionally there is no tempering of mustard seeds for this.
You can add some Coconut oil as an option, and some curry leaves as a garnish.

[If you notice, this is similar to this Mor kootu, except for mor kootu (made with one vegetable) is usually garnished with a tempering of Red Chili, Mustard and Curry Leaves.]

Mysorepak, Mysorepagu, or Mysorepa.... How do you make it??

Call it what you want but this is one of the easiest and trickiest Traditional  South Indian Sweets... 

Easiest because you can make it at short notice and
Trickiest because there is a 3 to 5 minute window, when you add the flour and if you miss it, you either end up with a goooeey mess which will stick to your mouth or a hard rock like substance for which you will have to use a hammer to break it.....
Before you get discouraged or lose heart, try my recipe once. I would suggest that you try this recipe with smaller amounts of everything.

I have had many versions of mysorepaks, (good and bad)
---The one you get in Krishna Sweets which is a famous Sweet Shop in Chennai, India (but it is a little too burnt for me).
---The one you get in weddings ( a little frothy on top and hard for me)

I know I am hard to please.... :)
But the one my mom used to make was just right, Her version was a nice rich yellow color, soft and was able to hold itself as a piece and also when you put it in your mouth, it would just melt soooo  easily.....
My Mother was an amazing cook and an expert in making this sweet and would make large quantities of this for Deepavali or if an unexpected guest visits... This recipe makes the same texture as her mysorepak. I always think about her when I  make this.... I make it a lot in my house, and it is one of my kids favorite sweets.

Another person I would like to mention is Late Mrs Ambujam Veeraraghavan, my friend Sabitha's Mother In law. She is the one who asked me to mix the ghee and the besan before hand, so as to make the process easier.

The basic measurements or ratio given in Meenakshi Ammal's book is
2 Cups Ghee: 2 Cups Sugar: 1 Cup (Chick Pea Flour).

(and 1/4 of the amount of sugar is the water you use to make the syrup.)

Please see this for the recipe of making the ghee yourself. Ghee is just clarified butter. You could buy it at an Indian Store, But it is not that had to make.

I  usually reduce the sugar to a little more than 1 and 1/2 cup. For this post I used 1 and 3/4th, but still it is a little too sugary for me and my family....

Chick Pea flour is also called Besan. You can find it at any Indian stores. You can also look for them as Garbanzo Bean Flour.
So if you want to try to make them reduce all the amounts, and start with the 1/8th cup of Flour, 1/4 cup of Ghee and 1/4 Cup of Sugar (or lesser, how you prefer).
Preparation--- Step 1:
---Take a tray, and spread a little ghee so that when you are ready to pour the cooked mixture, it should be able to lift off easily without sticking to the tray.
---Mix the Besan and the ghee. (the books don't mention this, they usually add it separately to the sugar) but this step makes it a little easier.
Step 1

 Step 2:
---> In a big (preferably nonstick) vessel, pour the sugar and  water and let boil on medium flame
for this above measurement you should be able to see the sugar dissolving in under 10 minutes and if you use a wooden spoon and take out some sugar you will be able to see a thread like consistency form the syrup on the spoon to the vessel.
This syrup consistency is the most important part, and really comes only with practice.
Another method is to drop a dollop of the syrup in a bowl of water and it should not dissolve.
Once you reach this consistency you should pour in your Flour and Ghee mixture in to this.

(This is the crucial step, cos if you put the mixture in too soon, you will end up with a gooeey consistency and too late it will be rock hard...)
Step 2

Step 3
---> The mixture will start bubbling
---> Keep stirring it clockwise and anticlockwise as fast as you can, the goal is not let it stick to a side of the pan, it will burn and smell.
---> At one point the whole mixture will try to stick to the wooden spoon and become kind of frothy
---> At this time, slowly pour it out on to the tray you have smeared with ghee and flatten this on to the tray so you will get even sized pieces.
---> If you delay pouring it out on the tray, the mysore pak will become brown and also have a burnt smell.
 --->Let it Cool for a few minutes and then before it hardens, cut the pieces in to desired shapes with a sharp knife and remove and store. While its hot, leave the container open and when it is completely cooled, you can close the container... I guarantee that you will not sop with one piece..

(Wanted to add this as a side note, I made it again and reduced about two tablespoons from the 1 and 1/2 cups, and the sweetness was perfect for us.)
Step 3

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mung Bean Sprout Salad - yet another version

This is a relatively simple salad. Easily serves 6 people.
You Need
Sprouted Mung Bean - 2 cups
Carrots - 4 or 5 Grated
Corn - 2 or 3 (grilled and rubbed with lemon and salt)

To see how you can make these sprouts read this.
Here is a look at my sprout maker.
Steam the Mung Bean sprouts with little water till they are slightly soft.
Let them cool.
Take the corn and remove all kernels and let cool.
Now bring the 3 of them together, and add a bit of salt and lemon juice and a teaspoon of olive oil and serve almost with anything...
I have added a bit of grated mangoes... to this but its optional....

Dal Makhani

This was taken just before garnishing.

This is a traditional North Indian Dish, I use the recipe from Nita Mehta's Mughlai Vegetarian Cook Book.
I love this recipe because it is fool proof, very nutritious, because of the black gram lentils. They are very high in protein.
I usually double the amounts said in the book, so I can use it for two meals. This recipe will feed a minimum of 8 to 10 people.
You Will Need
Whole Black Gram Dal - 2 cups
Split Channa Dal -- 4 Tablespoons
Kidney Beans - 4 Tablespoons (soaked for 5 to 6 hrs)
Ghee or Oil - 5-6 tablespoons
Water - 10 cups
Salt - 3 teaspoons or as needed.
Ginger - 2" piece
Garlic - 8 Cloves
Dry Red chillies - 4
Tomatoes - 8 (pureed) (I used 1 32 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes and pureed them with a hand blender)
Cream - 1/2 cup (optional)
Coriander Seeds Powder - 4 Teaspoons
Garam Masala - 1 teaspoons
Nutmeg - 1/2 Teaspoon
Butter - 2 Tablespoons (optional)
Dry Fenegreek Leaves (Kasoori Methi) - 4 Teaspoons
--- Grind Ginger, Garlic and dry red chillies together to make a paste.
--- Clean and Wash dals, Pressure cook all dals with 1 teaspoon ghee, water, salt and half the ginger garlic paste.
--- After first whistle, keep on low flame for 40 minutes. Remove from fire and keep aside.
--- In another pan, Heat 3 tablespoon ghee, add the pureed tomatoes, and cook until ghee seperates and the tomato puree becomes thick.
--- Add the left over ginger paste, garam masala and coriander powder. Cook for a few seconds, add this tomato mixture to the boiled dal.
--- Add the butter (optional) and the dry fenugreek leaves to the dal and simmer for 15 minutes.
--- Add the cream (optional) and nutmeg powder. Mix and remove from Fire
Garnish with a bunch of Fresh Coriander leaves.
For added presentation you can make thick cream rings around the coriander and serve hot.

I have served it with slices of  fresh cucumber, Lassi, Cut Mango Pickle and Hot Rotis.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pavakkai Pitlai ---- Bittergourd Gravy

This is a very traditional Dish... made with Bitter gourd. Even though the name sounds complicated it is basically a different version of sambar...

This recipe makes 10 servings. 
Macro Counts per servings of about 220 gms each - FAT 2.6 gms, Carbs 11.7 gms Protein 4 gms

I haven't added any peanuts to this, the macro counts will change if you add them.

You will need
Bitter gourd -- Sliced in half, seeds removed and sliced thinly in semi circle rounds-- about 4 cups (400 grams)
Oil - 3 teaspoons
Water- As needed (around 5 cups)
Tamarind - a lemon sized ball
Coriander Seeds - 3 to 4 tablespoons (30 gms)
Red Chillies - 10
Coconut - 30 gms
Channa Dal (Split and skinned Garbanzo Beans) - 25 gms
Turmeric Powder - 1/2 teaspoons
Salt - 2 to 3 teaspoons or as needed
Sambar Powder - as needed (recipe found here)

To Pressure Cook
150 g  Tuvar Dal (3/4 cup)
30 g Channa Dal (1/4 cup)(Optional, don't use if using peanuts or whole chickpeas)

 To garnish 
 Oil - 2 teaspoons
Mustard Seeds - 1 teaspoon
Curry Leaves - 1 strand
Red Chillies - 2 Teaspoons


--- Soak the Tamarind in about 1 cups of warm water, after a few minutes squeeze tamarind and extract the juice.
--- In a Pan, add a teaspoon of oil, roast the Channa Dal and Coriander seeds, after they become slightly roasted, add the red chillies. Let it cool.
-- add some water and the coconut to this and grind to a smooth paste.
---  Add two teaspoons of oil and start by frying the bitter gourd, until they lose some of the bright green color.
--- Add the tamarind juice to it, the turmeric powder, sambar powder, salt and te rest of the water, let it come to a boil and let the bitter gourd cook completely.
--- Once the bitter gourd is cooked, (you should be able to break a slice in two with  a spoon easily).
--- add the ground paste to it and let it come to a boil.
--- Add the pressure cooked dal to this, and bring to a boil.
--- As an option you can add boiled chickpeas or boiled groundnuts to this,
--- For garnish, in a separate pan, add oil, then the mustard once that starts sputtering, add the red chillies and curry leaves and add it to the bitter gourd gravy while it is still sizzling....
--- fresh Coriander leaves can be added to this..

Serve with hot rice or hot rotis.....