South Indian Cuisine

Easy one pot Vegetarian rice

Its about 8:40 am on a Wednesday morning. I have managed to serve a good breakfast for all of us and also packed some lunch for the husband. The lunch that was a tad bit salty if I can remember correctly. Anyway, we are all ready. Husband leaves for work and I leave with this little person to drop him off at nursery. I buckle him up in his seat and turn the car engine on. And thats exactly the moment when my car-mad son had to ask me a question as funnily inappropriate as this- Mummy, why doesn’t our car ever get stuck??????  I was a little angry but wanted to laugh. And we come back home later in the day and he tells me he had a plate of vegetables for lunch at school. I say, thats amazing and that it will help to keep him strong and well. And he immediately runs to try and lift his daddy’s dumbbells. But he cannot and he comes back at me and asks why hasn’t he become strong yet?  Ermmm.. I scratch my head and give him a hug. I tell him they are way too heavy and only when he grows as big as his daddy, he might be able to do it. And now he wants to grow big immediately. God save me! He is going through a rather curious phase and asks a million questions in a day. Good for him! But not for me you see… because I am not very intelligent enough in the first place to answer every question of his. But my husband who is generally more knowledgeable than me gets away with it somehow. So, my answer to some of his questions is ” Let daddy come home and we can ask him together” and this has been working for a while now.

So, While I am learning to appear smart and impress my son, you should probably scroll down further for an easy one pot rice recipe… My version of a quick vegetable biryani!

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Here’s what you will need:

Recipe serves 2-3 people

Basmati Rice– 200 gms (Washed & Soaked for atleast 10 minutes)

Water– For every cup of rice, add 1.5 cups of water.

One large onion– thinly sliced

Ginger garlic paste– made from 2-3 garlic cloves and a small piece of ginger

Vegetables like Carrots, beans, beetroots, peas (Grate carrots and beetroots if you can for a nice texture)

About 3 big spoons of thick creamy yoghurt

Red chilli powder– one spoon or more if you like it hot

Coriander powder– one spoon

Turmeric powder– a small pinch

Hing/Asafoetida-a small pinch

Salt– To taste

Ghee/Oil– As preffered

One spoon of cumin seeds, One clove, one cardamom, a small stick of cinammon and one bay leaf to add to Oil/Ghee

Coriander leaves to garnish

-Heat up Oil/Ghee in a pot, add cumin seeds,clove, cardamom, a small stick of cinammon and one bay leaf.

-Add sliced onions, saute till golden brown.

-Add ginger garlic paste. Saute for a minute. Add vegetables and reduce flame to medium and cover and cook for 5 minutes. If you are adding grated beets & carrots, you can also add them while you add rice because they cook really fast.

-Now, reduce flame. Add the spice powders & hing. Mix well. Add yoghurt. Add water and salt. Mix well and check for salt. It should feel a little salty because the rice tends to absorb salt quite well. So, don’t worry if you find it quite salty at this stage. Somewhat like your tears if you have ever cried and tasted it too 😀

Increase the heat a little, and let the water start to boil. Now, add the soaked and strained rice.Let it cook partly covered.

After 5-7 minutes, you will see that the rice has absorbed all the water. At this stage, reduce the flame to the lowest setting. Cook completely covered for 10 minutes. Then switch off the flame and let it rest for another 10-15 minutes.

Just before you serve, add fresh coriander. Serve with your favourite curry or a simple raita/spiced yoghurt with onions, green chillies and cucumber.

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Really simple yet healthy south Indian breakfast ideas!

I have to admit that ever since I started to cook on my own, I may have not given breakfasts much of an importance for a very long time.Thankfully, years ago, I realised I shouldn’t skip breakfast. But  after I became a mother, I realised I should only make it more healthier than other meals. And here I am with a quick roundup of some healthy Indian breakfast ideas. Although these recipes need a little bit of pre-prep the previous night, they are all family friendly recipes which makes it ideal for busy mornings.

  1. Brown rice Set dosa 

Ingredients: 

Brown rice – 1.5 cups , Idli Rice – 1/2 cup , Aval/Poha/Rice Flakes-White or red(I have used red)- 3/4 th cup, Urad dal-1/2 cup Fenugreek seeds– One teaspoon, Salt– to taste

Soak the brown rice and fenugreek seeds for a minimum of 4 hours. The rest of the ingredients can be soaked for an hour or so. Grind all together in a mixer/blender to a smooth batter. The batter should be slightly on the thicker side after grinding. Add salt and mix well. Leave to ferment overnight. Once fermented, if the batter looks very thick, you could add some water to adjust the consistency.The batter should be light and you should be able to pour it quite easily onto the tawa/pan. And try not to spread it too much like normal dosas. You should be able to see those little holes forming as soon as you pour a ladle of batter. And cook like normal dosa and serve with any side dish of your choice.

2. Samba Godhuma Rava idly/Wheat Idli/Lapsi Idli 

Ingredients :

Lapsi/Plain godhuma Rava/Wheat Rava/Samba Rava– 3 Cups, Urad dal– Just over one cup , Red rice flakes– A big spoonful, Salt– to taste

Soak Urad dal and Red rice flakes for an hour. Soak the Wheat rava for half hour. Grind the urad dal and red rice flaked to a smooth and fluffy batter and squeeze out as much water as you can from the wheat granules. Add half the quantity to the blender/grinder and grind til smooth. Add this ground wheat paste, rest of the whole wheat granules directly to the ground urad dal and red rice flakes. Add salt and mix well. Leave to ferment overnight. You will be able to make spongy idlies for breakfast. Serve with any side dish of your choice.

The reason why only half the wheat rava is ground and added is to get that coarse texture for idli. If you want, you can either add the soaked wheat rava directly to ground urad dal or you can just roughly grind and then add. The ground batter will look like this.

3. Ragi red Rice dosa with Moringa/Drumstick Leaves

Ingredients: 

Ragi flour/ finger millet flour– 2.5 cups , Red raw rice flour-1/2 cup, Urad dal– 1/2 cup, Fenugreek seeds-1 teaspoon , Salt– to taste

Moringa/Murungakeerai/Drumstick leaves– As preferred

Soak fenugreek seeds for a minimum of 2 hours. Soak Urad dal for atleast 20-30 minutes. Grind Urad dal and fenugreek to a smooth paste and mix in the flours and add salt. Mix well and leave to ferment overnight.

Just before you make the dosas, clean and wash the drumstick leaves and add them to the batter and make dosas as you would normally do.

4. Mung dal dosa /Mung beans Dosa

Ingredients: 

Green Mung beans/whole moong dal/Pachai Payaru– 2 cups, Idli rice or raw rice– 1/2 cup, salt to taste.

This dosa is also known as pesarettu although pesarettu is a little more prettier looking than my version.

Soak the dal and rice together overnight. Grind them together with salt to a smooth batter in the morning. This batter need not ferment. You can make dosas immediately. Optional ingredients to add to the batter are cumin seeds, shallots, green chillies and minced ginger. Serve with chutney of your choice.

5. Turmeric Idlis

Ingredients : 

To the normal rice idli batter, add a tablespoon of turmeric powder before you steam the idlies. Mix well and then pour it onto idli moulds. This is one of those simple ways to include more turmeric in your diet.

6. Jowar/Sorghum Dosa 

Ingredients : 

Sorghum/Jowar/Cholam flour– 2 cups, Idli rice or Raw rice – 1/2 cup, Fenugreek seeds– one teaspoon, Urad dal-1/2 cup Salt– to taste

Soak Idli rice, urad dal and fenugreek seeds for a minimum of two hours. Grind to a smooth batter and add the sorghum flour to the ground batter. Add salt. Mix well and add water if necessary to bring to a dosa batter consistency. Leave to ferment overnight. And make these dosas like your regular dosa and serve with side dish of your choice.

Smoothie series #4 Popeye smoothie

Quinoa, brown rice, wholegrain breads, millets, leafy salads, beets and fruits! Oh how I wish I only ate what I just said above. Someday I am hoping to eat these regularly. Until then, I will only keep liking pictures on Instagram and make some healthy smoothies occasionally. So here is the next one called the Popeye Smoothie! 

It has a good amount of spinach to keep you charged through the morning. I have been told most greens are best to have for breakfast but I hardly follow this rule because I am most of the time just plodding along to get the breakfast done rather than think about making it healthier. But I am getting there slowly and I will hopefully make many more super healthy breakfasts.

 

A handful of spinach – I used organic baby spinach 

One banana 

Milk 

Pistachios or any nuts of your choice 

Simply blend it all together and sprinkle any seeds of your choice or you may just drink it as such. This time I added a scoop of pistachio protein powder because the husband requested for it. And it was delicious anyhow! So feel free to mix and match. But spinach seems to go very well with bananas for some reason. 

From farm to plate(About my parents farm)

When I was little, I didn’t think I would ever learn to cook. I thought cooking was one of those menial tasks and it involved no amount of fun. Maybe because our mother never let us help her much. The best she wanted from us was that we helped her decide what to eat and that we finished what was served. But, as I got older and a little wiser if I may say so, I started to realise that there was more to cooking than merely chopping and mixing.

Have you ever stopped for a moment and thought about where the tomatoes or spinach that you eat came from? No no, I am not that kind of a person who grows her own vegetables and eats only from her own garden. But I am the kind that likes to go pick stuff from the farm preferably or to the least from the market. I find it comforting. I am a little more independent here in London than in Chennai, so I end up buying way too much and often times from very expensive organic shops. I do this with a slight hope of avoiding those greasy takeaways that we do every now and then. Buying too many vegetables is one way of making sure that i almost never want to waste any of it and less of hearing that ” we have eaten out so much this week and we should be spending less bla bla” from the husband. But only the one who cooks can understand the emotions of another isn’t it??? So,When I do cook, I try to use the best possible ingredients.I don’t make what I made the day before or sometimes even a week before. I love food cooked with different coloured vegetables and a reasonable amount of flavour. Apart from trying to make it healthy,I do all of the above to earn that well deserved break from cooking. So when we eat out, I feel a little less guilty.

But here comes the best bit, I am actually very pleased to tell you that my parents own a small farm in Chennai which is a few miles away from our home. And ever so often we get some lovely greens and other vegetables delivered to our house. What a blessing!!! And every time my mother tells me on the phone that she cooked some really delicious stuff using our own farm fresh produce, I would feel so jealous. The last time while I visited home, I was lucky enough to have tasted lots of food made with vegetables from the farm. And needless to say, today I am a bit nostalgic and missing all the food and fun.

Here are some pictures of the produce from the farm which I clicked last year.

 

The Entire lot_MG_6979

The white long ones are Banana Stems which make for an amazing South Indian Style Kootu/Lentil coconut gravy.

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Raw Bananas, Guavas and Vazhapoo(Banana Stem flower)_MG_6981

Musmusukai Keerai(Mukia maderaspatana)

Usually served in the form of Kootu(Curry with lentils and coconut)

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Agathi keerai(Sesbania Grandiflora)

Usually served as Kootu or a dry stir fry with Toor dal and coconut

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Manathakkali Keerai (Solanum Nigrum)

Usually served as Kootu or a chutney

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Helpers around the farm and the house_MG_6993

The bunch of leaves below the Banana Stem flower is Murungai Keerai (Drumstick leaves). This is a very tasty one and usually cooked in Sambar or added to dosais and adais. 

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Banana stem flower (Best had as Kootu or a Vadai(Dumpling)_MG_6997

 

Agathi Poo (My mother made an amazing thokku(Pickle) with this flower and it was out of the world.  I will find a picture of this pickle and post it sometime soon. _MG_6998

 

The little black beauties in the picture above are fresh manathakkalis/black night shades/sunberry. These berries are sun dried and added to kara kuzhambu(a spicy tamarind based curry).

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I hope you enjoyed this post 🙂

 

The joy of simple food!

Did you know that Indians eat yoghurt/curd rice which is just rice and yoghurt mixed together? Okay, it’s more of a south Indian thing than a “Indian” thing actually. A daily affair in every south Indian’s home if I may say so. It may sound like I am over exaggerating a very simple combination or some of you may even call it a strange one. But the fact remains that there is nothing quite like finishing a meal with this “Thayir Sadham” as we all fondly call it in tamil. We sometimes have it as the only meal just so it helps the tummy to recover from all the junk we often eat.

It is mostly had during lunch but some people prefer having it for dinner too. As with many other dishes, this too can be served with variations. The most common is tempering it with mustard seeds. It shouldn’t surprise you if I now say that it appears on every wedding food menu. One, because it is loved by people of all ages and two, it is very easy to cook. On such occasions, it is a little more dressed up with fruits like grapes and vegetables like carrots and nuts too. And tempered with ginger, green chillies etc etc. Infact, I know a lot of people who even add butter to it to this already creamy deliciousness.

Goodness knows what a brilliant lot we are when it comes to food.(I maybe a little biased here being a south Indian myself) But dear reader, if you don’t think I was right then I suggest you first have a plate of Masala dosai or a bowl of curd rice with some potato fry and then think again.

Now, as we are all aware that eating too much white rice may increase the risk to diabetes and so on, I don’t see why we cannot switch some meals to healthier types. Especially, when we can get easy access to so many wonderful substitutes like Brown rice and Millets. I personally love millets. They are so easy to cook and tastes even better than white rice. Although I don’t compromise all the time. For e.g I like to cook white rice for a good bowl of drumstick sambar. But for a mixed yoghurt rice, I think millets are my favourite.

millet curd rice 3Here is a picture of a millet yoghurt rice tempered with mustard seeds and curry leaves we had last week.

This was heaven right there.

I have such warm memories of devouring this dish after so many trips that we have taken over the years. Every time we come back from a trip, the only thing we crave for is some curd rice so we can all drift off to sleep right away. Yes, it is such a good sleep inducer I tell you.

There is no real recipe to this dish. You can add or not add any of those extra bits I mentioned. Here are a few suggestions:

  1.  If you are a beginner and want to experiment on how rice and yoghurt might even taste, then I would suggest you try doing this with plain basmati rice first. Simply cook rice normally and mix it with plain or greek yoghurt and a pinch of salt. 
  2. If you want to go one step further, heat up some oil, throw in mustard seeds and curry leaves, finely chopped ginger and green chillies. Add all of these along with rice and yoghurt. 
  3. If you want to go over the top, then follow step 1 and 2 first. Then, add green and black grapes(of course without the seeds). Then grate some carrots and cucumber. Garnish with nuts of your choice and for that extra prettiness add a few pomegranate seeds.

Now, can you begin to imagine how good this can be really????

My thoughts on having a boy and recipe for a spicy south Indian gravy!

Hurrah! my boy is going to be 2 next month. Although I am very happy to see him grow and shine, I am also secretly wishing for him to stay a little boy forever. Little boys should never grow.Yep, I am going to be biased here. There is something very very very nice about having a boy. Perhaps, he is the only one who thinks I am so beautiful even on my bad hair days which is almost very often. And he is the only one who loves me despite giving him the same ol’ carrots and lentils for three days in a row.

My husband always wanted a boy more than me. He knows me too well to have wished for one because I am having way too much fun now. I kind of hoped for a girl as I love being one and thought it would’ve been easier to raise one too. Plus, I also feared having to look at too many cars and trains and all that. I couldn’t have been more stupid really. Because one fine day, this boy entered into my world and blew me away. So much so that I don’t mind raising a dozen of boys. I love the way he helps me see the world through his tiny little eyes. I now think fire trucks and magnetic trains are the coolest things ever. I enjoy seeing digger trucks and car transporters on road. I get excited when I spot the bus before he does. I love dinosaurs and fast cars. Enough said!

Onto a lovely recipe passed onto me from my mother. It is a very spicy black pepper based gravy. South indian at its best. Perfect to have with bread or rice . For a non vegetarian version, just add chicken.

Melagu Kuzhambu or Black pepper gravy 

Pepper kuzhambu final

Here is what you will need:

Black peppercorns/Melagu in Tamil – A handful 

Cumin seeds- One heaped teaspoon

Dried Red chilli – 2

Chana dal/Yellow Split peas- 3/4th quantity of black pepper

Urad dal – Half the amount of Chana dal

Tamarind – size of golf ball soaked in lukewarm water or use 2 spoons of paste

Shallot onions- atleast 6 

Garlic pods- according to your preference (we add around 10 bulbs as we are a little partial to garlic)

To season: Curry leaves, Mustard seeds and Gingelly oil 

Method :

In a wide pan, dry roast black pepper, cumin seeds, red chilli and the dals individually. yes, its a bit time taking but worth it. Lightly roast them till you can fill the entire house with a wonderful aroma.

Once a bit cooled, grind all of the above with the tamarind water/paste till it forms a nice smooth paste.

Heat a kadai/gravy pot, add gingelly oil and season with mustard seeds and curry leaves. Add onions and garlic now. Saute till translucent.

Now add the ground paste and add little water to loosen it up to a gravy like consistency. Also, once boiled, the gravy does tend to reduce so add a little extra water if you wish to.

Let it boil well for 8-9 minutes in a rather low flame. Keep stirring as and when required. This delicious concoction is ready to be served hot with a bowl of rice and a dollop of ghee. Pure bliss! Perfect for those wintry nights!

 

Karahi Tales

Parathas or Naan breads ? Curry or Biryani ? I am not even going to pretend I don’t like a greasy supper now and then. Something deeply satisfying about ordering for a takeaway from your regular Indian place isn’t it? Just like how each of you have your own local favourites, we have ours too. It is called Punjabi Karahi. Ever since I came to London, I have been eating here often enough with little breaks now and then. Although, we took a rather big break while I was pregnant and breastfeeding. See, before you go judging me, I am a good mother.

Punjabi Karahi is one dinky restaurant which is always overflowing with punjabi uncles sat in random tables and gobbling up parathas after parathas. So, it may not be entirely attractive to look at but the food is good. And best is to do a takeaway.

My brother visits us often in London for various reasons. Sometimes, it only appears as if he has travelled all the way only to eat from Karahi. Oh well, we are food mad like that.

I leave you with a recipe for a delicious Ragi/Finger Millet puttu which is totally non greasy and guilt free depending on the type of sugar you use.

Here’s what you need : 

A cup of good quality Ragi flour

Brown sugar or palm sugar to taste

Finely grated coconut

One or two pods of Cardamom

A little bit of ghee for frying nuts and raisins

Here’s how to make this:

One good tip I recently learnt is to sift the flour well for any type of puttu to avoid big lumps when it’s done.

Take lukewarm water about half the amount of flour.

Gradually sprinkle over the flour until you reach the point at which you can actually gather some flour and squeeze it between your fingers and it can hold a shape but when you let it loose it has to crumble.

At this stage, steam this flour using any steaming method you like. Steam till you get a nice smell and this might take about 6-7 minutes. The flour also turns darker when cooked.

Now heat a pan, add ghee and fry any nuts of your choice. I only used raisins this time to make it safer for the little person. Switch off flame and add grated coconut to the same pan. So with the remaining heat the coconut gets lightly toasted and that gives a wonderful flavour to this dish.

By now the flour would’ve cooled a little bit and you can add any type of sugar you may want. I used powdered brown sugar.i also added the cardamom pods to the sugar before grinding to make it easier.  Add the toasted nuts and coconut too. Give a good mix and serve immediately!

This can be a wonderful evening tiffin or can be a good idea for breakfast too. 

 

 

A few “Madras” things

A city that is known only for hot weather was showered with way too much rain for nearly a month. So much so that almost the entire city was under water for nearly three days this week.  And as I type, there are still some areas that are water-logged, and people stranded in streets with no water or food. Makes me want to hide my helpless face out of shame. A lot many people have come forward to do what they can. It was heartening to see this kind of attitude in a city where the newspapers often only report thefts and violence. Tough times like these are looked upon as a rather good opportunity to exploit people and rob them off completely but none of these things have happened in Chennai. That definitely says a lot about how people behave when their own lives are at risk. Yes, the flooding was so bad that almost every house was affected in some way.

Although it is hard to understand as to why such calamities happen ever so often in different parts of the world, they all teach/remind us the same old lesson i.e to not take things for granted. As cliched as it may sound, we all need to be reminded in order to better ourselves. And as a result of which, we become stronger and start to think of what can we do to protect ourselves in the long term. For someone like me, who is used to being pampered at home right from the time i wake up until bedtime, it is so easy to get carried away and simply ignore things like whether or not the motor has been switched on or if the vessels have been cleaned etc etc. But when we lost electricity last week for nearly two days, it hit me quite hard when I saw my folks struggling to keep things going for us. Every now and then when the mobile data worked, I would go online to check what everyone else was upto and people were out and about trying to help strangers and dogs.

So, feeling rather inspired to help,  I posted a status on facebook and twitter saying I can help people connect through telephones or atleast find out information locally for friends living abroad. I started to get a few phone calls after a couple of hours asking for updates on various roads and help with finding if their parents/grandparents were doing fine. Although I could not help with all the requests I got, I still managed to do one little service for a person from the middle east, who was worried about his single and aging mother who happeneed to live close to my home. We cousins personally went to her house and recorded a video of her and sent it to her son who felt rather relieved and wished us well. This is probably one of the best things I have ever done in a long time.And It felt so good. A kind of good that is hard to explain and one that fills your heart with so much warmth. So, to all those of you who are still out there and doing stuff unlike me who is only writing it all up at the comfort of a warm couch and hot coffee, I owe my respect.

After days of gloomy skies and the rains pitter-pattering on our roofs, I am leaving you with some photos that are quintessentially “Madras” with a hope to brighten up your day.

 

 

Idli sambar blog

South Indian mornings

Tea Madras blog

டி கடை கதைகள்

Madras blog Ko 1

Koyambedu flower market Scenes

Madras blog Rain 2

When it rains….eat bajji and make paper boats

In case you are wondering, we made all these dishes despite the rains because we live to eat….Yes, I baked the biscuits too 😀

 

Families frolicking, young lovers cuddling, kids running around and flying kites and huge cans of sundal being sold only makes this Marina beach a special one…

 

Saree shopping never gets boring in Chennai…If you are a chennaite and living abroad,I am sure you are reminded of the good ol’ stores like Kumaran Silks, Nalli Silks and all those crazily crowded T Nagar shops. Some things never change isnt it????

 

Golu time is one of the best times to visit Chennai. Happens around Oct/Nov every year.

Sometimes, I wonder what would this city’s people do if two wheelers didnt exist? Because this city is filled with so many of them…. The picture on the right happens to be one of my favourite…

dance blog newspaper

Besides everything else, I love the way people give importance to  carnatic music and the traditional dance called bharatnatyam here in Chennai.

wedding

This picture may not represent “Chennai” exactly but it is one of those special moments in every tamil speaking girl’s wedding. And most of the weddings that happen in Chennai are Tamil style. This is from my very own wedding that also happened in chennai and I am simply sharing it because I love weddings and I love Chennai….

So, What are your favourite things about Namma Chennai?