Sunday, March 29, 2009

Vegetable Spring rolls

I've had some of the most delicious dishes at the Madura coats club where they could make everything from complicated souffles to a simple curd rice and everything tasted awesome. They organized several parties where the menu would always be elaborate and absolutely droolworthy and even the snacks served every Friday evening while the open-air theatre airs movies were delectable and something I'd look forward to more than the movie. We often ordered food from there for parties we had at home and I would ensure that Gobi Manchurian definitely made the list along with these Spring Rolls.

I don't think I've tasted spring rolls like the ones I've had at the club anywhere else.. they were quite unlike the ones we find here with the extra crispy wrapper. Their version was still deep fried and was crispy outside, yet had a chewiness on the inside and the veggies had a lovely pepper flavour. Last week I wanted nothing but this version and the store bought spring roll wrappers and chinese takeouts could definitely not satisfy me so I set about making these. I won't claim that my version can stand up to what was churned out at the club but it was close enough (maybe i think so because it's been many many years since i've tasted them). Nevertheless we enjoyed these as a snack cum dinner one Saturday evening.


Ingredients (makes about 8 to 10 rolls)
For Cover:
Maida (all purpose flour) - 1 cup
Egg - 1
Salt - to taste
Water - as required to make thin batter
Oil - 3 tbsp, for shallow frying

For Filling:
Carrots - 1 big, cut into thin matchsticks
Cabbage - half to 3/4 cup, shredded thinly
Ginger - half inch piece, minced
Garlic - 1 to 2 cloves, minced
Spring/Green Onions - 3, chopped, white & green parts separated
Soy Sauce - about 2 tsp
Sriracha chilli sauce - 1 tsp (optional)
Salt & Pepper - to taste
Oil - 2 tsp

Sealing Paste:
Maida/Flour - 2 tsp + little water to form a thick paste

1) For the outer cover, blend the flour, egg, salt & water to make a thin, smooth batter. Heat a small round pan (8 inch diameter is what I used), rub a few drops of oil and pour some of this batter and spread out to form a very thin pancake. Cook on medium on one side, flip over and cook the other side as well. It will still be pale in colour. Keep aside. Do this for the rest of the batter.

2) For the filling, heat the 2 tsp of oil and add the whites of spring onions, ginger and garlic, after abt 20-30 seconds, add in the veggies and a pinch of salt and stir-fry till crisp-tender. Stir in the soy & chilli sauces with pepper to taste & spring onion tops (greens) and when done. Keep aside and allow to cool a bit.

3) To make the rolls, put some filling in the pancake and roll it up tightly. Seal with the paste of flour+water and place them seam side down (so it doesn't open up). Complete filling all the rolls while the Oil to shallow fry them heats up.

4) Once the oil is hot enough, put the rolls seam side down and allow to cook till it crisps up outside, flip over and let the other side cook as well. Remove and allow to drain on paper towels before slicing them diagonally into smaller pieces. Serve as is or with some ketchup.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Paruppu Podi

Paruppu Podi is such a handy thing to have on hand and is just absolutely lip-smacking whe mixed in with rice & ghee. This is particularly handy for bachelors / college kids in dorms because this when coupled with a simple subzi/dry curry, yogurt, papad & pickle can turn into a sumptuous, satisfying meal. I remember eating quite a lot of this and the vathal kuzhambu paste (777 brand) mixed with rice when studying and had absolutely no cooking skills.

I used to buy the pre-packaged ones you get at stores but after seeing how easy this is to make at home, i don't buy this anymore. All you need is a few minutes and a mixie that can powder stuff.


Pottu Kadalai / Dalia / Roasted Gram - 1 cup
Red Chillies - 12 to 15
Garlic - 3 cloves (optional)
Salt - 1 tsp
Copra (Dessicated shredded coconut) - 2 tbsp
Ghee - half tsp

1) Heat the ghee in a pan and add the garlic, red chillies & pottu kadalai (dalia). Toss till they warm up - don't let them brown.

2) Allow this to cool completely and transfer to a jar (I use the medium jar of my preethi mixie for grinding powders). Add salt & the copra (dessicated coconut) & powder till fine. Serve with rice & ghee. This keeps well when stored in an airtight container for use later.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Quick Date & Biscuit Bars

This is something I remember from my school days... as young kids, we used to take along a small box with snacks/light sandwiches and such to be had during our 'morning break'. I'm sure we can all remember how snacks were always favored as opposed to the actual meals at that age so this was always something I looked forward to. There would be a fair amount of sharing, swapping & tasting amongst us friends and this date & biscuit sweet/bar is one that my friend, N used to bring and something that I really enjoyed & looked forward to - it wasn't just me, i remember it being quite popular in general. At that age, you eat, enjoy, maybe mention to your mom describing it in the best way possible hoping she may be able to conjure up some way of making it at home based on that description... Those were days when it was not common to just make a call and find out from the friend's mom or do a search on the internet so soon it was forgotten.

As a grown-up, you crave for some of those things you enjoyed as a kid, remember them and wonder how they were made - i have quite a few items on this list & this was on it. Since my daughter doesn't take to dates or marie biscuits by themselves, i remembered this sweet that N brought and decided to make it, thinking this might do the trick. I've tried a few methods to replicate it and this one works the best and fortunately for me, it clicked with my 3yr old as well... :)

- the following quantity makes about 15, 1.5 inch square bars.

Marie Biscuits - 6 to 8, break into small pieces (not too big or totally crushed either). This, when measured, came to about half a cup (heaped).
Dates - 1 cup, chopped into small pieces.
Ghee - 1 tsp plus a little for greasing
Cling wrap/thin plastic sheet to mould and for letting it set - optional, but recommended.
1) Spread a cling wrap sheet on a plate and spread a few drops of ghee on it to grease lightly.

2) Heat the 1tsp of ghee in a pan on medium flame and add the chopped dates. Stir this and what I did was to smush them a bit while i was stirring so they would kind of soften and come together a bit instead of staying just as separate pieces. After about 3 to 5 minutes, the dates will have softened and become stickier.

3) Switch off the stove and stir in the marie biscuit pieces gently yet as thoroughly as possible so they are spread out uniformly.

4) Transfer this mixture onto the clingwrap sheet and fold it over the mixture and press them together a bit from the sides so they come together and then flatten them out to the desired shape - i made a small rectangle with about half to 3/4 inch thickness.

5) Allow this to cool a bit and put it in the refrigerator for an hour or two to set. This will help harden the bars. Now, using a long, serrated knife, cut them into small pieces and there you have it!

Note: My friend always brought this combination with Marie biscuits so I've only made them with it so far - not sure if other biscuits would work. The proportions needn't be exact and you can play with them depending on your preference for taste & texture. I personally think that nuts like almonds or cashews would work as a substitute for the marie biscuits or even as an addition to this, but again, not something i've tried because my daughter has a nut allergy.

Also, i don't think they need to be refrigerated but I would recommend it so they have the firm texture but it would be just fine to take them along on drives, a picnic or as a treat for lunch as well without worrying about them not keeping well.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Dhal Makhani

This is a creamy, comforting dhal and the restaurant versions are usually loaded with butter & cream. The advantage with making this at home is that we can cut back a bit on the decadence and still not lose much of the taste. Since slow simmering is always stressed for this recipe, I used the slow cooker this time and it worked out great. So, i could let it simmer away during most of the late morning and we had a grand meal.

I don't have a fancy slow cooker, just a basic one with not even a setting or timer to go with it... and though I bought it with soups & stews in mind, i've mostly used it to cook dhals. I usually wash and pop the dried beans (channa, rajma etc.) along with water in the slow cooker and turn it on. So, typically in the time it takes to soak the dhal or even lesser, the dhal is cooked perfectly and when it's almost done, i even stir in some salt so it absorbs that as well. For this recipe, after frying the onions, tomatoes & masalas with the dhal, i transferred them back to the slow cooker and allowed them to simmer away and finished them off with the cream topping just before serving.


Whole black Urad Dhal - half cup
Rajma (Kidney Beans) - quarter cup
Onion - 1, medium, chopped
Tomato - 1, medium, chopped
Garlic - 3 to 4 cloves, minced
Ginger - half inch piece, minced
G. chillies - 2, slit into two
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Garam masala - half tsp
Turmeric powder - quarter tsp
Salt - to taste
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Oil - 2 tsp
Butter - 1 tbsp
Cream - 2 tbsp OR Lowfat cream cheese - 1 to 2 oz, softened & blended with some milk
Coriander leaves - for garnish

1) If using a slow cooker, wash the dhals, drain and place in a slow cooker with sufficient water and allow to cook for about 6 hours or so till soft & done. Otherwise, soak the dhals in plenty of water overnight and pressure cook till soft.

2) Heat oil in a pan and add cumin seeds, once they sizzle, toss in the finely chopped onions, g. chillies, ginger & garlic and saute till light golden.

3) Add in the tomatoes, salt & turmeric powder and cook till they turn mushy. Add in the rest of the masala powders and cook for several more minutes with the butter.

4) Stir in the cooked dhal and allow to simmer on the stove. If using a slow cooker, transfer the entire mixture to the pot and allow to simmer there for 3 hours or so.

5) When done, remove from the stove and stir in the cream (or cream cheese blended with milk - since I didn't have cream on hand). Garnish with coriander leaves & serve with naans or rice.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Veggie Oothappams

My husband is a big fan of these thick dosas or uthappams and i used to primarily make them with just onions... and sometimes as a variation in the kadai - Kal Dosai. I remember having one at Murugan Idli shop in madurai which was made with shallots and it was just so yummy. When I tried making this with several veggies, I found that they didn't get embedded well enough in the batter & turned kind of messy when I flipped them over but a good friend, Latha, showed me her tricks to do this well and we had some tasty, colorful oothapams at her place and i've been following that method since.


Dosa Batter - as required (preferably on the sour side)
Onion / Shallots - half cup, chopped
Green bell pepper - half cup, chopped
Carrots - 1 big, shredded
Tomato - 1 firm plum tomato, deeseded & chopped
Coriander leaves - 2 to 3 tbsp, chopped
Green Chillies - 2 to 3, minced
Salt - to taste to add to veggies
Oil - to cook

1) Mix all the chopped veggies & coriander leaves in a bowl with a few pinches of salt. Add salt just before making the oothapams.

2) Heat dosaikal / tawa and when hot enough (few drops of water sprinkled, sizzle & disappear), pour dosa batter and make a thick circle - no need to spread around too much.

3) Sprinkle the veggies generously as a layer on top of the oothapam and drizzle oil on the top. Cover this and allow to cook until the top looks almost set and the bottom is light golden.

4) Remove cover, flip over and press down so the veggies get into the batter and allow the other side to cook until done. Uthapams are now ready... we usually have this with idli milagai podi.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Bloggerific Meal

A couple nights ago our dinner was a combination of recipes picked from fellow bloggers and it was extremely delicious so wanted to post here -

On the Menu : Indira's Gongura Pappu, Rak's Poosanikai Rasavaangi & Anitta's Naadan Mutta Roast (egg curry) - but i made a slightly drier version than what she has.

A close-up of the Gongura pappu - i don't even need rice with it.. it's tasty as-is and I have it like a thick soup

My white pumpkin uses were usually limited to Olan or as an addition to Morkuzhambu so this recipe from Raks was a great addition to the pumpkin repertoire.

Thank you for these fabulous recipes.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Thakkali (Tomato) Rasam

Typically the rasam that I grew up with and was very fond of - my paati's rasam, was one that had everything... garlic, pepper, tomatoes, toor dhal etc. so only later in life did I come to realize that there were rasams that celebrated each ingredient with a special emphasis e.g. Tomato rasam, poondu (garlic) rasam, milagu (pepper) rasam etc.

When I first tasted this thakkali rasam made by Vijaya akka several years ago, i was so enamoured by it that I had to get the recipe from her. The only variation is that she strains the tomato juice after grinding it but I typically skip that step - but that's a personal preference. This rasam doesn't have any dhal or tamarind water and is delightfully delicious.


Roma Tomatoes - 2 to 3
Turmeric Powder - half tsp
Salt - to taste
Coriander leaves - a few sprigs, chopped

To Grind: (to a slightly coarse paste with little water as reqd)
Garlic - 2 to 3 small cloves
G. chillies - 3 to 4
Peppercorns - 10
Jeera (Cumin seeds) - half tsp
Curry leaves - few

Oil - 1 tsp
Ghee - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds - quarter tsp
Jeera - quarter tsp
Asafoetida - a pinch
Dried Red Chilli - 1

Curry leaves - few

1) Cook tomatoes in about a cup of boiling water for about 5 to 6 minutes. Allow to cool, peel and grind in a mixie to a juice. You could strain this if you prefer - i don't. Mix the juice and the boiled water along with turmeric and salt and keep aside.

2) Heat oil + ghee in a pan and season with mustard, jeera, asafoetida (hing), curry leaves, and a broked dried red chilli. When the mustard splutters, add the ground paste and fry for a few minutes.

3) Add the tomato juice and allow to cook on a medium flame until it begins to form a layer of froth on the top and just begins to boil. Don't let this boil for anything more than a minute.

4) Switch off the stove, sprinkle the coriander leaves and cover the pot for atleast 5 minutes or so for the flavours to mingle. Delicious rasam is now ready to drink as is or with rice.