Friday, March 28, 2008

Paneer Pulav

Rice is a staple in any South Indian household....and there are several ways in which it is cooked and eaten. Sometimes, however, you just crave for a rice that does not overshadow your other dishes....something that just gently blends in with the rest of the menu, a dish that is fragrant and delicious...but not overpoweringly so....
Here's one such recipe....

What you need:
Basmati rice - 1 cup (Soak in plenty of water for 1 hour and then drain and keep aside)
Paneer pieces - 1/2 cup
Water - 2 1/4 cups
ghee - 2 tsp
Star anise - 1
Clove - 4
Cinnamon - a small piece
Cardamom - 4 pods
Garlic - 2 pods, peeled and minced
Onion - 1, chopped fine
Green chilli - 1, minced

Powder the spices (anise,clove,cinnamon and cardamom) coarsely and transfer them to a large microwaveable bowl. Add a tsp of ghee to it and heat for 1 minute and 30 seconds on high.
Now add the chopped onion, garlic and green chillies and heat for 2 minutes or until the onion turns a nice brown. Stir in the rice and the remaining ghee. Microwave for 1 minute.
Add water and cook at 850 watts for 8 minutes. Add paneer pieces. Then lower the power to 650 watts and cook for another 3 minutes and 30 seconds.
Let it stand for a few minutes before serving with any raita/curry of your choice.

Paneer pulav served with baby bittergourd fry and cucumber raita.

I discovered baby bittergourds recently on a trip to the vegetable market....and I must say I love them. They are nice to look at, but to me, the best part is that there's no chopping/prepping involved. Just wash them and throw them into a kadai....with some salt, oil and red chilli powder. Stir once in a while until it is crisp and brown. Now, that's easy, isn't it???

This is my entry to Srivalli's MEC-Rice.
The baby bittergourd fry goes to Pooja's Veggie of the Week event.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A balancing act

In primary school, we learn that we need to eat right to become strong and healthy. We are told that the three major components of a balanced meal are carbohydrates, proteins and fat.
Our ancestors were not nutritionists or dietitians....but they seem to have known all this ages ago. Thea first meal that a South Indian child is fed is a mixture of rice(carbs),and tuar dal(protein) mixed with a generous dollop of ghee(fat). Add in some veggies and you have a complete balanced meal. Idli, dosa, pongal, dal-roti....think of most of your everyday meals and you'll realise that you don't have to reach further than your pantry to create a healthy, balanced, wholesome meal for your family.
Here are two such recipes.......

Vegetable dosa

What you need:

Besan - 1 cup
Maida - 1/4 cup
Rice flour - 1/4 cup
Carrot - 1, grated
Green chilli - 1, minced
Corriander leaves - a handful, chopped
Tomato - 1, chopped fine
Onion - 1, chopped

Mix besan, maida, rice flour and salt with enough water to form a batter of pourable consistency. Add in all the other ingredients.
Heat a dosa pan or griddle. Pour a ladleful of batter on it. Pour it thick like you would for an uttapam. Drizzle some oil over it. When the bottom is golden brown, flip over, and cook on a low flame until done.
This dosa is a complete meal by itself. It does not really require a chutney or any accompaniment. A little bit of yogurt on the side would complement it well.

Now let's move on to another dosa that features on pretty much all South Indian menus.....the mighty masala dosa. To date, I don't think I've met anyone who doesn't like the humble dosa in this avatar. The best masala dosa that I've had is served at Annapoorna in Coimbatore..... there's just something in it that makes you want to go back again and again.
Here's how I make it:

What you need:

For the batter

Par-boiled rice - 3 cups
Urad dal - 1.5 cups
Poha/rice flakes - a handful
Fenugreek seeds - 1 heaped tsp

Soak rice and fenugreek seeds for 8-10 hours in plenty of water. About ten minutes before grinding add in the poha to this to soak.
Soak urad dal separately for 30 minutes.
Grind urad dal and rice separately and then mix together with enough salt. Leave it to ferment overnight. The next morning, stir the batter well and add some water, if necessary, to get a batter of pourable consistency.

For the masala

Potatoes - 3 medium sized, boiled, peeled and mashed
Onion - 1 large, chopped fine
Curry leaves - 1 sprig, chopped
Ginger - a small pieces, chopped
Green chilli - 1, chopped
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp

Heat a tsp of oil. Add some urad dal and mustard seeds to it. When the seeds pop, add the ginger, chilli, onion and curry leaves. Fry until onions turn pink.
Now add the mashed potatoes, turmeric powder and salt. If necessary add a little bit of water. Stir and cook until the masala thickens. At this point, you can stir in some lemon juice if you'd like to.

To make masala dosas:

Heat a dosa pan. Spread a ladleful of batter on it. Make sure that you spread it thin if you like crisp dosas. Drizzle some oil over it.When the bottom of the dosa turns golden brown, take a few tsps of the masala and spread it over one half of the dosa.Close it with the other half and serve hot off the tawa with chutney and sambar.

Do not soak the urad dal for more than 30 minutes. Grind it with cold water or just pop the soaked dal into the fridge and grind it when you are ready to. This gives you creamier urad batter and makes idlis and dosas softer.
You can also add a cup of cooked left-over rice while grinding the batter.

Both dosas go to WBB-Balanced Breakfast Meal which is being hosted by Mansi Desai and to Srivalli's Dosa Mela.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Tomato dosa and manga koottan

To make tomato dosa, you need:

Raw rice - 1 cup
Tuar dal - 1/4 cup
Tomato - 3 large, ripe ones
Tamarind - a gooseberry sized ball
Red chilli - 3

Soak rice and tuar dal for 2 hours in plenty of water. Add the tamarind and red chilli to this and let it soak for another 10 minutes. Drain the water. Add cut tomatoes, salt and grind everything together to a smooth batter. If necessary, add some more water at this stage to get a batter of pourable consistency.
Now, heat a dosa pan. Spread a ladleful of batter in a circle. Add a little bit of oil over it....and let it cook until the bottom is crisp and brown. Flip over and cook for a few seconds.
Remove and serve hot with any chutney of your choice.
In the pic, I have served it with manga koottan.

To make manga koottan, you need:

Raw mango - a small one, chopped into large pieces.

Drumstick - 1, chopped into finger length pieces

Ash gourd - 1 cup, chopped into medium sized pieces

Fresh grated coconut - 3/4 cup

Green chillies - 2 or 3


Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp

Grind coconut and green chillies into a smooth paste and keep aside. Cook chopped mango, drumstick and gourd in a pan by adding enough water, salt and turmeric powder. Once the veggies are cooked, add the ground paste to it. Let it boil. Remove from heat. Season a tsp of coconut oil with mustard seeds, urad dal and a few sprigs of curry leaves. Once the mustard seeds pop, pour this over the koottan.

  • This dosa does not need fermenting. It can be made crisp or soft as you prefer...tastes good either way.
  • For the koottan, if the mangoes are not very sour, add in some sour curd....and if the mango is too sour, use only 3/4th of it.
  • The recipe is from Mallika Badrinath's book and has been adapted to suit my palate.
Srivalli at Cooking For all Seasons is hosting a dosa mela to celebrate her viewer stats reaching the one lakh mark. This dosa is my entry to her event.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Arusuvai friendship chain

This post has been a work in progress for a very long time. First, the courier guys messed up....for some weird reason they returned the package that Nirmala sent me and told her that I "don't exist".Hello, there people of the wonderful courier world.....I've got news for you, buddies....Do you think this blog just writes itself???
Luckily for me, it turned out that Nirmala and I live not too far from each she had the package hand delivered to me by her brother.....and I cooked something with it almost immediately, but was a little busy travelling...and so didn't get around to posting until now.
Alright, so let's get talking about the secret ingredient that Nirmala sent me. It smelt wonderful....Nirmala's letter said it was her amma's special recipe....I could make out that it had a LOT of dhania in it.....I tasted a little bit of it.....and mailed N a few of my guesses. The second or third one turned out to be right and I knew that what I had was nothing other than rasam podi. So, what did I make with it???
The first thing I did was to make the very obvious.......RASAM, of course. Here's a recipe, 'coz Iam sure every South Indian household has it's own way of making rasam.......and mine's no different from the millions of other recipes out there....The rasam tasted wholesome and good....we drank it as a soup and my daughter ate it mixed with rice.
What I did next is spice up some arbi(cheppankizhangu) roast with rasam powder. First, I microwaved the cheppankizhangu until it was cooked through, but not mushy and removed the skin. Then, I heated some oil, threw some mustard seeds and urad dal into it. When the seeds popped, I added the cooked arbi, some salt and the rasam powder....left it at low heat, stirring occasionally, until it turned light brown and crispy.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

E for......

Jayasree who writes the lovely blog Experiments in Kailas Kitchen sprung me a surprise this morning by rating my blog Excellent.
Thank you, Jaya....... I did a little dancing-for-joy in my that should tell you how happy I am.
There are several wonderful blogs out there which deserve this rating, but the one that I would like to pass this on to is Jugalbandi. I absolutely love the amazing photos that Jai & Bee post and Bee's writing style is inimitable.

Saturday, March 01, 2008


What you need:
Chick peas/Garbanzo beans/Kabuli channa- 1 cup, soaked in plenty of water overnight
Fresh grated coconut - 1/4 cup
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Oil - 1 tsp

Add salt and cook the chick peas in a pressure cooker until three whistles. Drain excess water and set aside.
Heat the oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds to it. When the seeds pop, add in the chick peas....stir for a few minutes. Mix in the grated coconut and switch off the heat. doesn't get any easier than that, does it???
This is a dish that I make often for my daughter who absolutely loves it. So Iam sending this to Vanamala's Kids Food Festival.

  • You can grind green chillies along with the coconut and then add it to the channa. I don't do it when I make it exclusively for my daughter 'coz it turns out to be too spicy.
  • Fresh curry leaves can be used to garnish the chundal.
  • You can squeeze in some fresh lemon juice for added taste.