Thursday, June 13, 2013

School lunch box - Day 7

I am trying to use mangoes as much as possible before the end of the season. Truth be told, the reason mangoes make an appearance so often in the school lunch box and on our dining table has more to do with the fact that I bought a boxful of mangoes from a wholesale market and less to do with our love for the fruit.
Today, for her breakfast break, the little girl took Sabudana kichdi, for the lunch break - Curd rice and for her snack break, a chopped mango.

Ammini kozhukkattai - savoury steamed rice flour dumplings

Kozhukkattai is a traditional stuffed dumpling that is made during Ganesh Chaturthi. Grated coconut and jaggery, cooked over low heat with a hint of cardamom thrown in, is stuffed into an outer layer of rice flour dough that is shaped by deft hands into a dumpling. This is then steamed, offered to Ganesha whose favourite sweet it is, and then relished by the family.
Ammini kozhukkattai - the bite sized, savoury version - is almost always made on days when the regular sweet kozhukkattai is made. It probably is a dish that was invented when some resourceful woman decided that she would put the left over rice flour dough to good use.
Having grown up in a household where kozhukattais were(and still are) made at the drop of a hat and not just for Ganesh Chathurti, it is little wonder that this bite sized, savoury version is something that I have fond memories of eating.
The only time when dough is made exclusively for ammini kozhukattai, and not as an after thought to the sweeter modak cousins, is during Navaratri when this is made as Neivedyam/prasadam - an offering to the deity.
What you need:
Rice flour - 1 cup
Water - 2 cups
Salt - to taste
Oil - 2 tsp (preferably coconut oil)
Fresh grated coconut - 2 tbsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Urad dal - 1 tsp
Chana dal - 1 tsp
Broken red chillies - 2
Curry leaves - 2 sprigs

Mix rice flour with one cup of water to a thick, smooth paste. Heat the remaining cup of water along with salt in a heavy bottomed, large pan. When the water starts to boil, reduce the heat and add the rice flour paste. Cook, stirring continuously, until the mixture forms a thick ball. Switch off heat. When the dough is warm to the touch, remove it on to a plate, add a teaspoon of coconut oil and knead well. Apply oil on your hands, pinch out small bits of the dough and roll into marble sized balls. Steam these balls in an idli plate/steamer for 8-10 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes after switching off the heat.
In a pan, heat a teaspoon of coconut oil. Add urad dal, chana dal and broken red chillies. When the dals start to brown, add the mustard seeds. When the seeds pop, add in the curry leaves and the grated coconut. Saute on low heat till the coconut turns reddish brown. Add the cooked kozhukkattais to this. Mix well and heat for 2-3 minutes.
Enjoy as an evening snack or a light tiffin.

Variations : Omit grated coconut. Knead in some red chilli powder to the dough and then proceed with the recipe.
For the recipe of the sweet version of kozhukattai, click here.
This is my second recipe for Blogging Marathon #29, showcasing Kerala Iyer snacks.

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#29

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Vella dosai - whole wheat and jaggery pancakes

Kerala Iyers are Tamil brahmins who migrated out of Tamilnadu some time in the early 13th century and settled down in different parts of Kerala. Kerala Iyer cuisine is an amalgamation of the cuisine of both states and so is the language. The Tamil spoken by Kerala Iyers is so heavily interspersed with Malayalam that it is often jokingly referred to as Talayalam.
There are quite a few dishes that are unique to Kerala Iyer cuisine. In our fast paced world where traditional snacks are being replaced by two minute noodles and out-of-a-packet and into-your-mouth pasta, many of our indigenous snacks are forgotten about. Over the next three days, I will be sharing the recipes of three such evening snacks that used to be (and probably still are in some households) made in Kerala Iyer households. This is a part of Blogging Marathon #29 where the theme I have chosen is Course wise meals from a State - the course here being evening snack/tiffin and the state being Kerala - more specifically, Kerala Iyer cuisine.
Vella dosai is something that can be made in almost no time at all, as long as you have wheat flour and jaggery in hand. It does take a little practice to be able to flip the dosa over without tearing it, but even if it does tear, it tastes really good. Rich and iron and protein, this makes for a filling and nutritious after school snack for children.

What you need:
Jagggery - 3/4 cup
Whole wheat flour - 1 cup
Water - 3/4 cup
Cardamom powder - a pinch (optional)

In a microwave safe bowl, heat the jaggery and water on high power for 30 seconds. Remove, stir well and keep aside for 5-10 minutes. Stir again until jaggery dissolves completely in the water. Add the wheat flour and mix to get a smooth batter. The batter should be of pouring consistency. Add some more water/flour if needed to get the consistency right. Mix in the cardamom powder.
Grease a skillet with ghee and heat it. Pour a ladleful of the batter on the hot skillet and spread into a thick circle. Cook on a medium flame until the bottom turns brown. Flip over and cook the other side until brown spots start to appear on it.
Serve hot with a blob of butter.

Note :
Jaggery tends to burn fast. So take care and ensure that you cook on a low flame.
Jaggery tends to be sticky. You might find it difficult to turn the dosa over and might find it sticking to the pan or the spatula you are using to turn it over. A good quality non-stick pan will take care of this. If not, grease your pan really well and flip the dosa over only when the under side is well browned.
If you want your dosa to be really sweet, add 1 cup of jaggery.
Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#29

School Lunch box - Day 6

Day 6 saw the little girl taking the following in her lunch box :
Breakfast break - Bite sized ghee-toasted bread
Lunch break - Vegetable fried rice
Snack break - Pomegranate

The bread is a special favourite of hers and quite easy to make. All that you have to do is cut the slices of bread into nine little squares. Heat ghee in a pan. On low heat, toast the bread in this ghee until crisp and brown. Don't stint on the ghee. That is what makes it delicious and crunchy.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

School Lunch Box - Day 5

Today's lunch box was made up of :
Breakfast break - Mixed vegetable paniyaram
Lunch break - Chapati and tri-colour curry
Snack break - Choco chip cherry muffins

To make the tri-colour curry, chop finely 1 onion, two tomatoes and 1 green bell pepper/capsicum. Heat a tsp of oil. Add some cumin seeds to it. Add the chopped onion and saute until translucent. Add in the capsicum and cook for a minute or two. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and salt. At this point, depending on what flavours your child likes, you could add in a tsp of sambar powder or garam masala or even a spoonful of ketchup. Cover and cook on low heat until soft.
The muffins were made with fresh cherries and eaten with much relish. Recipe coming up soon.

Friday, June 07, 2013

School lunch box - Day 4 and my recipe for hummus

Today, the little girl wanted to have food from the school canteen for one of her breaks. The canteen serves healthy, fresh, unprocessed food in keeping with the school's idea of promoting healthy eating habits in children. So, today's lunch box has only what she took for her 1st and 3rd breaks.

Breakfast break - Rava idli
Snack break - Carrot sticks with hummus

Hummus is a delectable, creamy spread which is the Middle East's gift to the rest of the world. I am in love with this spread and so is the little girl. She loves to eat it with carrot sticks. Rich in protein and with a subtle and delicate flavour, this is likely to be a hit with most kids. Needless to say, it is easy to make, generous to a fault and keeps well in the refrigerator for a few days.
To make hummus, you need:
Chick peas/kabuli chana - 1 cup, soaked in plenty of water overnight.
Garlic - 3 or 4 pods
White sesame seeds - 1 tbsp
Thick yogurt - 1/4 cup
Sesame oil - 2 tsp
Olive oil
Salt - to taste
Juice of one lemon

Cook the chick peas until very soft and tender. Drain off excess water and let it cool. Do not throw away the excess water. You can use it to grind the hummus.
In a dry blender jar, blend the sesame seeds and sesame oil to a paste. Add in the thick yogurt and blend again. Add the cooked chick peas, garlic, salt and lemon juice. Blend, adding the reserved water, if necessary, until you get a thick, creamy, smooth paste of spreadable consistency. Remove onto your serving bowl. Add a generous glug of olive oil. Mix well and serve as a dip with vegetable sticks or as a spread for different breads.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

School lunch box - Day 3

Day 3 saw the little girl taking this in her lunch box :

Breakfast break - Poha/Aval upma/Rice flakes upma
Lunch break - 2 rotis with grated carrot stir-fry
Snack break - 1 chopped mango

To make poha/aval upma/rice flakes upma, here's what you need:
Poha - 1 cup (*See notes)
Onion - 1, chopped fine
Tomato - 1, chopped fine
Ginger - a small piece, julienned
Green chilli - 1 or 2(keeping in mind your child's spice tolerance)
Juice of one lemon
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Corriander/cilantro leaves - some, chopped, for garnishing
Oil - 1 tbsp
Urad dal - 1 tsp
Chana dal - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Curry leaves - a few

Note : * If you are using thick poha, soak it in water for 10 minutes. Drain all the water and then squeeze out any excess moisture from the soaked poha.
If you are using thin poha, take it in a colander. Wet it under running water. Let any excess water drain out of the colander and then squeeze out remaining moisture.
Heat oil in a pan. Add the urad and chana dal, mustard seeds and curry leaves. When the mustard seeds pop, add ginger and green chillies. Saute for a while and then add chopped onions. Cook until the onions turn translucent. Add in the tomatoes and fry for a minute or two. Reduce the heat and add the poha, turmeric powder and salt. Stir well and heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the juice of a lemon and chopped cilantro. Switch off heat and stir well to mix.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

School lunch box - Day 2

This is what went into the daughter's lunch box today:
Breakfast break - 1 apple, chopped and sprinkled with a little bit of salt to prevent browning
Lunch break - Rice mixed with drumstick sambar and thair pachadi
Snack break - Biscuits
Along with her glass of milk in the morning, she also had a boiled egg.
Here's the recipe for the vendakka(ladies finger/okra) thair(curd) pachadi that I made for her.
Ladies finger/okra - 7 or 8, washed wiped dry and cut into one inch long pieces
Coconut - grated, 1/4 cup
Curd/Yogurt - 3/4 cup
Green chilli - 2 or 3
Salt - to taste
Oil - 1 tsp
Urad dal - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp

Heat oil. Add urad dal and mustard seeds. Once the seeds pop, add the chopped okra and stir fry on low heat until it starts to turn brown and crisp. Switch off heat.
Grind the coconut, chilli and curd to a smooth paste. Add this to the cooked okra and heat until it just starts to froth. Remove from heat and serve with sambar rice.
This is my third post for the Blogging Marathon #29 under the theme Cooking with colours. The colour for today is white.
Check out the"Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#29


Monday, June 03, 2013

Strawberry ice cream - Step by step recipe and instructions

This post has been in my drafts ever since we came back from our trip to Mahabaleshwar. To say that Mahabaleshwar is a strawberry lover's idea of heaven would be an understatement. Nowhere else have I tasted such luscious and juicy strawberries. One of the things I made with the whole lot of strawberries I brought back with me is this ice cream. The basic method and recipe used are the same as the one for my mango ice cream

What you need:
Stawberries – hulled and chopped – 2 cups, heaped
Sugar – 1 cup
Milk – 1 litre
Cream – 200 ml (I used one pack of Amul cream)
Maida – 2 tbsp

Step-by-step instructions for making strawberry ice cream:

  • Chop the strawberries into large chunks. 
  • In a large bowl, sprinkle sugar over the chopped strawberries and then leave covered for two hours, allowing the strawberries to macerate. 
  • At the end of two hours, you will see that a lot of juice has oozed out of the strawberries and that most of the sugar has dissolved in the liquid. 
  • Stir once again and then mash the strawberries to a coarse puree with a wooden masher. Set aside.

  • Dissolve the maida/all purpose flour in 1/2 cup of milk and mix to get a smooth, lump-free paste.
  • In a large, heavy bottomed pan, bring the remaining milk and cream to a boil. Reduce the flame and allow the mixture to simmer until it is reduced to half the quantity. 
  • Add in the flour mix, taking care to stir continuously to avoid the formation of lumps.
  •  Let this cool completely and then add the mashed strawberries. 
  • Blend well using your blender/mixie.
  • Freeze for 5-6 hours and then blend again. Repeat this freezing and blending process two more times to get a delicious, creamy texture.
Strawberries give the ice cream a lovely, natural light pink hue, which in my opinion is more pleasing than the colour of store bought strawberry ice cream.
This is my post for the second day of Blogging Marathon #29, under the theme Cooking with Colours. My colour for the day is Red.
Check out the">Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#29

School lunch box - Day 1

Another school year has begun, and with it, the everyday ritual of breaking my head about what to send in the little girl's lunch box. I have only one criteria in mind when deciding what goes in - It must come back finished. To this end, I have told her that on weekends, she can sit and plan out the entire lunch box menu for the coming week. This way, with her involved in the process, there is less chance of the lunch box coming back home just the way it was packed and sent. She has three breaks in school - a breakfast break, lunch break and an afternoon snack break.
From today, for the rest of this month, I will be posting on the blog, what the little girl's lunch box is comprised of.
Here's today's lunch box menu :

Breakfast break - 2 Cheese rolls.
These are really simple to make. Trim the crust from a slice of bread. Place a strip of cheese in the middle of the bread. Microwave for 10-15 seconds until the cheese just begins to melt. Shape into a roll while the bread is still warm.
Lunch break - 2 rotis and ladies finger(okra/vendakka/bhindi) stir fry. (Check out my recipe for ladies finger stir fry here)
Snack break - 1 pomegranate.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Mambazha pulisseri

Ever since I can remember, the rains have always made an appearance on the first day of school. During my school days, the skies would open up exactly on the day our school reopened. This always made me happy as it meant that I didn't have to wear closed shoes for at least 2 months. I could go to school wearing open toed sandals, feeling the rain water with my toes, armed with a colourful new umbrella.
History seems to have repeated itself because today, my daughter went to school in open toed sandals, wanting to stop and jump in all the puddles along the way. There's something very positive and beautiful about seeing smiling young faces all set to be welcomed into a new school year.
Rain also means that the mango season will end in a few weeks' time. So I have decided to use mangoes in as many ways as I can before they disappear from the market. Today's recipe is for a quintessential dish from Kerala - mambazha pulissery - a tangy and sweet blend of mangoes cooked in spiced, sour curd. I am of the opinion that this dish must have had its beginnings when an innovative cook decided that she wouldn't throw away over-ripe mangoes that the kids didn't seem to want to eat.

What you need:
Ripe mangoes - 5 or 6 (*See note)
Sour curd - 1 cup
Green chilli - 3
Coconut - 1/2 cup
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Jaggery(optional - use only if the mangoes are not sweet by themselves)
For tempering:
Urad dal - 1 tsp
Oil - 1 tsp
mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Red chilli - 2
Methi seeds - 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves - a few sprigs

Chop the mangoes(with skin) into large chunks. In a large pan, add the chopped mango, the mango seed, and just enough water to cover the mangoes. Add turmeric powder and let it boil until the mangoes are cooked and tender to touch. Let it cool and then using your hands, squeeze out all the pulp from the skin and the seeeds and then discard the skin and seeds.(#See note) Take the mango pulp and any water that is left over from boiling the mangoes in a large kadai. Grind coconut, green chillies and curd to a smooth paste. Add this paste to the mango pulp along with salt. Let it come to a boil. At  this point, if you feel that the mixture is too thick, add about 1/4 cups of beaten curd. Once you add the curd, do not let the mixture boil. Switch off heat once it starts frothing.
Heat all the tempering ingredients in a pan. Once the mustards seeds pop, pour the tempering over the pulisseri and serve warm with rice.

Note : * Typically, a small variety of mango called the kootan mambazham/nattumambazham is used. These are small and can easily fit into the fist of an adult. If you cannot find these, use any fleshy variety, but reduce the quantity of mango used. I was lucky enough to find something similar to the kootan mambazham we get in Kerala when we had gone to Murud(read travelogue here).
# You can choose to let the mango, with skin and seeds to remain in the pulisseri and that is how a lot of people enjoy this curry. However, in my household, the mango pieces are carefully set aside and later thrown away untouched. So I used this method to ensure that the fruit is not wasted.
This is my entry for Blogging Marathon #29 under the theme Cooking with colours. The colour I have chosen for the first day is Yellow.
Check out the">Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#29