Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Navaratri - 9 days of celebration - Day 1

I love navaratri. The memories associated with it are precious to me. As a child, I used to go around to other houses that had a golu (arrangement of dolls depicting Gods) with my friends, sing a song and come back home with some tasty chundal. At the end of the day, the plastic bags in our hands would be filled and we'd come back home, sort through chundals made of the same beans, combine them and share them. I like Navaratri in Chennai for the music concerts in its temples, the festive look that its crowded shopping streets wear, the several beautiful bommais (dolls) that line the streets of Mylapore, and for the little girls and mamis all dressed up in their best. I have set up a small golu this year at home and though to many, it is not a big feat, Iam busy patting myself on the back. Here's a pic of my golu.
Golu at our home

Neivedyam on Day 1 - Rava Kesari

Friday, September 26, 2008

Restaurant review - Azulia

At the GRT Grand
120, Thyagaraya rd,
T Nagar, Chennai.
Phone : 28150500

Mediterranean food

Would I go back there???
That's a definite, loud YES!!!
Their menu is extensive and is presented well with details on what goes into each dish. The waiters (atleast the one who waited on us) was quite informative about the dishes. They don't have a choice as far as soups go - there's only the Veg/non-veg soup of the day. On the day I went, there was Fava bean soup and it tasted awesome. There's a whole lot of starters (hot and cold mezze) on the menu and I'd love to go back and try out more of those. What I did try was called Bourak bel jibneh and it was a kind of crisp cigar shaped roll stuffed with veggies. The french bread and pickled brinjals that they start you off with are finger licking good. For the main course, I tried a dish with couscous, the name of which I can't remember. What I do remember is the taste. All the dishes were only mildly spicy - nothing like our hot, spicy Indian dishes, but it definitely scored high on the taste meter.
You should go in expecting to spend about Rs. 1000 per person. The portions are small as in they are not meant for sharing. It is just right for one person. Service, as it always is at GRT, is fantastic. The waitstaff are all dressed in Mediterranean costumes. It would be good if the interior was also done up in keeping with that theme.
Oh....and I love the fact that as I was leaving the restaurant, the lady at the reception came up to me and gave me a little paper bag with an Azulia apron in it :-))

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ona sadya

From top left :Puli inji, kalan, thair pachadi, vendakka mezhukkupuratti (Okra stir-fry), aviyal, sarkkara upperi, chips, papadam, rice, muringakka sambar, chakka pradhaman

My Ona sadya this year was spread over two days to accomodate the schedules of different family members. This spread is from the second day. The first day had olan, rasam and moru kari instead of sambar.

Am sending this to Festive Foods - Onam which is being hosted at Asankhana.
For more info on the cuisine of the four states of South India, check out Karuna's post.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Happy Onam

Have a wonderful Onam. Regardless of whether you celebrate Onam or not, I hope you have good food and good luck today and on the days to come.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Muthira(Horse gram) puzhukku

Sometimes, the simplest dishes are the best tasting. If you look at the cooking styles of your mothers and grandmothers, you will see how they make good use of locally available ingredients and with minimum fuss, come up with dishes that make you go in for second and third helpings. This muthira (horse gram) puzhukku is one such dish that my mother makes and which I tried out today after calling her at work for the recipe.
What you need:
Horsegram - 1 cup (soaked in plenty of water overnight)
Raw plantain - 1, peeled and sliced into medium sized pieces (Other vegetables that can be used are yam and pumpkin or a combination of these)
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Red chilli - 2, roughly torn into pieces
Black peppercorns- 5 or 6, crushed slightly
Fresh grated coconut - 1/3 cup
Coconut oil - 2 tsp
Curry leaves - a few sprigs

Add turmeric powder, salt, red chillies, plantain and pepper to the horsegram, add enough water and cook in a pressure cooker until 8 or 10 whistles. I know that sounds like a lot of time, but horsegram takes a while to get cooked. Once the pressure goes down, transfer the cooked contents to a heavy kadai and boil for a few minutes until most of the liquid evaporates (It should still retain some liquid). Add the grated coconut and curry leaves. Mix well. Switch off the heat and mix in the coconut oil.
Serve with rice and a papadam on the side.
This goes to Nags who is hosting the Saas, Bahu aur Sensex contest.
Saas Bahu aur Sensex is a movie that is being released by Warner Bros on the 19th of this month and it celebrates women who handle different roles in life with great aplomb. Specifically, it is about a few housewives who watch saas-bahu serials and also invest in the stock market and reap rich dividends from their investments.
This also goes to Lucinda who is guest hosting My Legume Love Affair which was started by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

This post of mine had a few people writing to me and asking me which my top choices for dining-out are. I thought the question was quite an interesting one and would now like to pose it to you, my readers. If you live in Chennai or have ever lived in Chennai or have anything at all to do with Chennai, please do let me know your top 5 restaurant choices in the city.

Edited to add :
Oops...I forgot to list out my favourites. Here goes:
Benjarong on TTK road for Thai food.
Osteria in Royapettah for Italian
Cholayil Sanjeevanam for healthy, ayurveda based food,
For North Indian food - The Dhaba (Mylapore), Dhaba Express,and Rangoli (Saravana Bhavan's exclusive Gujarati Restaurant)
For South Indian food - Murugan idli kadai , Ratna cafe
Barbeque Nation

Kasi halwa

I was not familiar with this sweet until a few months back. I had it at a feast, loved it and have been wanting to try it out ever since. As always, Mallika Badrinath has once again come to my rescue with her book on Sweets. I have modified the recipe slightly to suit my taste.

What you need:
Ash gourd(peeled, deseeded and grated) - a small one
Sugar - 1 cup
Red food colour - a pinch
Ghee - 4 tsp
Semolina/rava - 2 tsp
Microwave ashgourd without adding any water for 8 minutes on high heat. Let it cool completely. Measure the pulp. I got a little more than 1.5 cups of pulp and used 1 cup of sugar for it. Adjust sugar depending on how much pulp you have left after cooking the gourd.
Combine the cooked gourd, sugar and food colour and microwave on high for 8 minutes. Add 2 tsp of ghee and mix well. Heat for another 6 minutes, checking every now and then to make sure it doesn't become too hard. Roast rava until golden brown in 2 tsp of ghee. Add this to the halwa and heat for one minute. Garnish with sliced cashews or almonds.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Kanjeevaram idli

This recipe is adapted from Mallika Badrinath's Tiffin Varieties.

What you need:

Idli rice/parboiled rice - 1 cup
Urad dal - 1 cup
Black peppercorns - 1 tsp, heaped and crushed lightly
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp, heaped and crushed lightly
Sour, thick curd - 1 - 1.5 cups
Ghee - 2 tsp
Sesame oil - 3 tsp

Soak the rice and dal together in plenty of water for 3 hours. Drain all the water and grind to a thick, rawa consistency. Let it ferment overnight. Refrigerate until you are ready to use.
Just before steaming, add in all the other ingredients and mix well. Steam in an idli mould.
Serve with sambar/chutney/ molaga podi.

What I think of this recipe:
It is very soft - softer than regular idlis, most probably because of the curd and oil added to it. The texture is somewhere between that of rawa idli and regular idli. Taste wise, the only difference between this and a regular idli is the spiciness that comes from the pepper and the mild flavour and smell from the cumin.
What my little girl thinks of this recipe:
"Amma, don't make idli with this mavu (batter). Make it with white mavu."
That said, she ate it without further comment. For now, Iam content with that.

Vathal koottan/kozhambu

The chundakka vathal that I blogged about yesterday is most commonly used in vathal kozhambu. To me, curd rice served with some spicy and tangy vathal kozhambu is heaven on a plate.
Here's what you need to make vathal kozhambu:
Tamarind - a lemon sized ball
Sambar powder - 1.5 - 2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Gingely/Sesame oil - 2 tsp
Chundakka vathal - a handful
Shallots - 7 or 8, peeled and halved (optional)
Channa dal - 1 tsp
Urad dal - 1 tsp
Methi seeds - 1/2 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp

Soak the tamarind in two cups of warm water for 10 minutes. Squeeze to extract tamarind juice and set it aside.
Heat gingely oil in a kadai. Add in the channa and urad dal, methi and mustard seeds, and a pinch of asafoetida. When the mustard seeds pop, stir in the chundakka vathal and fry for a minute. Add the sliced shallots and fry till translucent. Pour in the tamarind extract. Add some more water if needed. Add turmeric powder, sambar powder and salt. Boil until the raw smell of tamarind is gone. Just before removing from the stove, mix a tsp of rice flour with a tbsp of water and stir this into the kozhambu. Garnish with fresh curry leaves. Serve hot or cold. This tastes great with curd rice.
As a child, I remember me and my cousins sitting in a circle around my maternal grandma while she used to place little balls of curd rice in our palms. We used to make a hole in the middle of the rice ball, pour vathal koottan into it and then proceed to gobble it up at a pace which today, is amazing even to me. Iam sure if polishing off a bowl of curd rice and vathal koottan had been an Olympic sport at that time, we'd have carried home the gold.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Summer goodies #4 -Chundakka vathal

I made these in summer and the post has been languishing in my draft for a really long time. Chundakka (Kerala tamil) or Sundakka (Tamil) is used in sambar and thoran in the fresh form. Very often, it is sun dried and turned into vathals so that it can be preserved for a longer period of time and used as and when needed. To see what fresh chundakka looks like, click here.

What you need:

Chundakka - 1 cup
Urad dal - 2 tsp, heaped
Red chillies - 2
Sour buttermilk - enough to cover and soak the chundakka completely

Grind the urad dal and red chillies to a smooth paste.
Soak the chundakka in plenty of water for 10-15 minutes. Wash well and then crush slightly with a heavy pestle or stone. Add the buttermilk, salt, and ground paste to the chundakka. Mix well. Cover and set aside overnight. In the morning, take the chundakka out with a slotted spoon and dry it on a plastic sheet in direct sunlight. In the evening, soak it again in the buttermilk mixture. Repeat this process until all the buttermilk is absorbed. Dry for 2 or 3 more days in the sun and then store in an airtight container. If properly dried and stored, this will stay good for over a year.

Check out my other posts in this series:
Summer goodies #1 - Ela vadam
Summer goodies #2 - Microwave mango thokku
Summer goodies #3 - Pavakka vathal

This post goes to Roma's Long live the Shelf event.

Sunday, September 07, 2008


......where these pictures were taken???


Crumble-at-the-touch maaladus have always been a favourite of mine. This sweet treat is something that can be made quickly and without too much of a hassle.What you need:

Pottukadalai/ roasted bengal gram dal - 1 cup
Sugar - 1 cup
Ghee - as much as required to shape the flour into balls
Cashews - a handful, roasted in ghee (optional)
Raisins - a few, roasted in ghee (optional)

Powder the gram dal finely in a mixie. Powder the sugar as well and mix both the powders and the cashews and raisins together. Now add in warm ghee and shape into balls.

Restaurant review - Cholayil Sanjeevanam, Nungambakkam, Chennai

97, Nungambakkam High Road,
Nungambakkam, Chennai.

Healthy, vegetarian food.

Would I go back there?
I've been to Cholayil a few times now but it is only today that I got to taste their "Rajakeeyam meal" which is basically a South Indian vegetarian thali that serves healthy food. The food is served in a certain order and you are expected to eat it in the same order. First, there's a small bowl with cut up nenthrapazham(ripe plantain) and grated coconut, followed by a colourful array of juices (dates, nut milk, haritha buttermilk, vegetable juice and rice bran water). Once you down all of these, you are served four kinds each of uncooked veggies, semi-cooked veggies and fully cooked veggies in that order. You are not given water even if you ask for it, because they say that water fills up the stomach and hampers digestion. It is given to you only at the end. Once you are done with all of these, you are almost full. That's when red rice and parippu (dal) make an appearance. Then comes white rice with sambar, rasam, morkozhambu and buttermilk.
This is followed by payasam. The meal ends with a spoonful of honey poured into your hand.
The meal leaves you pleasantly full and it is nice to sit down and eat in an orderly fashion once in a while. There is no cloying sense of oil or fat that you leave with at the end of the meal.
At Rs. 120 a meal, it is good value for the money too.
However, if you do not like to be told that you should eat in the order that they ask you to, this restaurant is not for you. For me, it was a pleasant experience and I enjoyed the food.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Tell me honestly, do all you food bloggers out there love to cook all the time? I know there has to be a decent amount of liking towards cooking (and of course, eating) most of the time. But aren't there days when you just don't want to lift a finger, days when you get somebody else to dial in a pizza for you???

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Pazham Nurukku

An integral part of a traditional Onam Sadya, this dish has now also become a part of most festivals celebrated in the Thrissur district of Kerala. For us, no sadya (feast) is complete without some pazhanurukku. Making this is really easy. Restricting yourself to eating just a few pieces is not so easy.
Here's how you make pazhanurukku:
Cut 4 large, ripe plantains into thick, finger length pieces. Do not remove the skin. Take 3/4 glass of water in a large vessel. Add four or five pieces of jaggery to it. Also add the cut plantain pieces. Let it boil on low heat, stirring every now and then, until the plantains are cooked through.
Oh....and remember, this dish HAS TO BE made using nenthrapazham which is a special variety found in Kerala.

This goes to Priyanka who is hosting Festive Foods-Onam.