Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Tale of Two Chutneys

Well, not exactly a tale... but basically born from my desire to have some chutney options on hand that include some veggies as well. Of course, my husband's reigning favorite of all times remains the Coconut Chutney but I don't make that often and my parents will probably be amused since it was an almost daily staple for breakfast along with idlis, when I was growing up.

Anyways.. coming to these 2 chutneys, I have not cooked much with turnips before and bought it thinking it would make a good addition to the sambar veggies but was pleasantly surprised when I attempted a chutney out of it. The other chutney is a Red Bell pepper chutney and it couldn't be simpler but i loved the combination of spicy and a subtle sweetness from the bell pepper itself and it has such a ravishing colour too that makes it all the more irresistible. Both chutneys pair great with idlis, dosais and oothapams.


Turnip - 1 small/ half of a big one, peeled and cut into small cubes
Onion - half of a medium one, chopped
Tomato - 1 small tomato, chopped
Garlic - 2 cloves
Ginger - half inch piece
Red Chilli powder / Sambar powder - 1 tsp (or to taste)
Urad dhal - 1/2 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - few
Salt - to taste
Oil - 1 tsp + 1 tsp

1) Heat 1 tsp of oil in a pan and add urad dhal, when light golden, toss in the onions, ginger and garlic. When transparent and light golden, add in the tomatoes and turnips and stir for a few minutes.
2) Stir in the sambar/chilli powder along with salt. Cover and allow to cook on a low flame till the turnips become soft. It takes about 5-7 minutes typically. When this is done, switch off the stove and allow to cool.
3) Grind this to a paste in the mixie/blender. No need to add any water.

4) Heat the remaining 1 tsp of oil in the pan and season with mustard seeds and curry leaves, when they splutter, add the ground chutney and stir until it thickens a bit. This is now ready to serve.


Red Bell Pepper (Capsicum) - 1, stalks & seeds removed, cut into pieces
Green Chillies / Dried Red Chillies - 4 to 5 (to taste, depending on spiciness of chillies)
Tamarind - small piece
Urad dhal - half tsp
Salt - to taste
Oil - 1 tsp
Gingelly oil (Nallennai) - 2 tsp
Mustard seeds - half tsp
Curry leaves - few

1) Heat the 1 tsp of oil and add urad dhal and a small piece of tamarind, then add the chillies and the capsicum pieces, with a bit of salt and saute till they soften a bit. Remove from the stove and allow to cool a bit.

2) Grind this in a mixie.

3) Heat the 2 tsp of nallennai and season with mustard seeds and curry leaves. Add to the chutney.

Other Veggie Chutneys:
Radish Chutney
Zucchini Chutney

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mango Bubble Tea

I don't typically have the best luck when it comes to finding sweet, good mangoes... either they are totally bland or on the few occassions they've been sweet, they are much too fibrous etc. So, when I do find the perfect mango, i just peel and eat it plain... and hardly venture into making anything with it. When it's not that sweet however, I typically toss them in with strawberries, sweet yogurt or some haagen dazs mango icecream & milk and blend them to a delicious smoothie.

This time however, though the mangoes I had were quite sweet, I was suddenly in the mood for bubble tea. Bubble tea is typically fruit flavoured tea with some tapioca starch in the bottom (which make up the bubble component). I first had them in Singapore and it was quite popular then and we would get many exotic flavours and I loved the chewy tapioca pearls in the bottom which made the drink a long lasting, even filling one and it was something we (my friends and I) enjoyed while roaming the streets of Orchard. I was quite happy to find them here in the US - and though I don't always go for different flavours here, the one my husband and I pretty much have is the mango flavored one and it doesn't seem to have much tea to it.. just mango juice with these tapioca pearls.

Imagine my surprise when I found a pack of these tapioca pearls in an asian grocery store that we frequent.. I picked up a pack and decided to whip up some of this delicious bubble tea at home. Only thing I didn't have was those fat straws.. need to get them to complete the experience. For now, I just take a couple sips and use a spoon to scoop out the pearls. You could add black tea to the mix below but I skipped it this time.


Ingredients: (for 2-3 servings)
Ripe Mango - 1, peeled & cut into chunks
Low Fat milk - 1 cup
Water - about half cup
Sugar - 2 tbsp
Tapioca Pearls - half cup
Honey - to taste

1) Cook the Tapioca Pearls according to package directions - for mine, I boiled about 3 cups water and slowly stirred in the tapioca pearls and let them cook for 5 mins, covered on medium flame, till plumped up and soft. Scoop them out to a bowl and add a few tbsp of the water that the tapioca pearls were cooked in, 1 tbsp sugar and a bit of honey and mix well. This will keep it soft until ready to serve.

2) Blend mango pieces, milk, water as required (so it's not too thick) & sugar to taste.

3) To serve, add tapioca pearls to the cup, mango juice, (black tea, if using can be added at this point). It makes for a filling, refreshing drink.

I would like to send this as my entry to Refreshing Drinks - RD for Summer hosted by Chandrabhaga.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Avarakkai Poricha Kootu

I love kootus and find them so wholesome and satisfying. Most of the time, I don't even need rice to go along with it and can eat it like a thick soup by itself. Poricha kootus are made more flavorful and have a different spice mixture going in than the usual kootus which typically have cumin + chillies + coconut. Several veggies will be suitable for this kootu and I chose to make a version with Avaraikkai (Broad beans/hyacinth beans).


Avaraikkai - about 25-30 small ones, chopped into half inch pieces
Mung Dhal - 1/4 cup, toasted lightly
Turmeric Powder - 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida Powder - a couple pinches
Tamarind paste (thick) - 1/4 tsp (i used the canned one)
Salt - to taste
Curry leaves - few
Mustard seeds, Urad Dhal - 1/4 tsp each
Oil - 2 tsp

To Grind:
Red Chillies - 3
Urad dhal - 1 to 2 tsp
Black pepper - 6 peppercorns
Curry leaves - few
Roast the above in a tsp of oil and grind with
Shredded coconut - 3 tbsp to a paste with sufficient water.

1) Pressure cook mung dhal with sufficient water & turmeric till soft. Cook avarakkai with some salt & water separately till done. (Alternately this could be done as a separate layer in the cooker with no water alongwith the mung dhal).

2) When the veggies are done, add the tamarind paste, mung dhal and the ground paste and allow to cook for a few minutes till desired consistency is reached. Switch off the stove.

3) Heat the remaining one tsp of oil and season with mustard seeds, urad dhal, asafoetida & curry leaves and add to the kootu.

If koottus are not your thing, try this Avarakkai Aviyal - a tasty, dry curry.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Chilli Parotta

I've seen Chilli Parotta and Kothu Parotta being used interchangeably to describe the same dish and eventhough I'm no parotta expert, being quite a fan of this... i've observed quite a few differences between the two. I first had Chilli Parotta when my cousin raved so much about this dish from a hotel called 'Guru Prasad' in Madurai and since that was a vegetarian restaurant, my mom okayed it and soon he brought home a couple parcels of it for us to taste. I remember not liking it as much as kothu parotta and found it a bit too saucy but it was quite good.

Nowadays however Chilli Parotta is a common feature in most restaurants in India (atleast TamilNadu) and there is no trouble finding vegetarian versions of both chilli & kothu parottas. My dad's friend owns a small restaurant so I was allowed to watch the chef make this since my dad mentioned how much i like this to the owner... They first deep fried the parotta pieces (now that was a shock because parottas are fattening as is and are made with Lots of oil & maida and then to deep fry them as well was atrocious i thought)... and then he told me how they typically make the gravy and keep & toss it all together when an order comes through. So, the recipe here is my attempt at replicating it at home, but with a few modifications of which first & foremost was to skip the deep frying part... :) Still, this is definitely not a diet friendly or health conscious recipe but definitely falls in the 'once in a while indulgence, in moderation' category.


Parottas- 5 to 6 (I use the frozen ones)
Red Onion - 1 big
Green Bell Pepper - 1 small to medium, cut into 1 inch cubes
Tomato - 1 medium, chopped
Tomato paste - about 1 tbsp
Poppy seeds (khasa khasa) - 1 tsp
Cashews - 3 or 4 (optional)
Ginger - half inch piece
Garlic - 2 to 3 cloves
Spring Onions - 2, chopped, green & white parts separated
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Curry masala powder/Garam Masala - half tsp to 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp

Salt - to tasteOil - 1 to 2 tbsp
1) Peel & halve the red onion. Chop one half and set aside. Cut the remaining half into 1 inch cubes (similar to the capsicum).

2) I used frozen paratha so i popped them in the microwave for 30 seconds before frying them on a tawa till they get crisp (instead of deep-frying). Cut the parotta pieces into 1.5 to 2 inch squares - i used a pair of kitchen scissors.

2) Meanwhile, heat 1 to 2 tsp of oil and saute the chopped onion, garlic and ginger cloves till brown, then add the chopped tomato with the masala powders and salt. Also add the poppy seeds & cashews at this point and let it cook till it gets thick. Allow this mixture to cool a bit and grind in a mixie to a paste.

3) Heat the remaining oil in the pan, and add the cubed onions & the white of the spring onions and saute for a few minutes till translucent before adding the cubed capsicum and a pinch of salt. When they get tender crisp, add the ground onion-tomato paste and saute for about 4 to 5 minutes atleast.

4) Add a tbsp or two of water (to loosen up the mixture so the parottas can soak it up) and immediately add the parotta pieces and toss so they are uniformly covered by the paste. Cook this on a medium-high flame till dry.

5) Switch off the stove and stir in the green tops of the spring onions - reserve about a tbsp for garnish later. Delicious Chilli Parotta is now ready.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Vendakkai Mandi

This is something that I first tasted at a friend's place... they are chettiars and when that aunty was visiting my friends, she often made this curry and a vazhakai roast and they were always such a hit. She would even pack this for my lunch with curd rice sometimes and I thoroughly enjoyed the tangy, creamy curry. I got the recipe from her and she explained how to get the 'arisi mandi' which is actually the water used to rinse rice. What we typically discard is what gives this curry a special taste & and a creamy texture too when coupled with the ladiesfinger/okra. My husband's uncle & family live in devakottai and chettinaad cooking is part of their daily fare and I've tasted a yummy version with mochai, vendakkai, potato etc. there too so there are quite a few variations to the kind of veggies that can be added.

To get Arisi Mandi - after a first quick wash of uncooked rice, add about 2 cups water to a cup or so of rice and mix it thoroughly while you rub the rice through your fingers. After a few minutes, drain this water and keep aside. You can then proceed to cook rice as usual while the drained 'mandi' will be used for the curry below.

VENDAKKAI MANDI - Chettinad Specialty

Vendakai / Okra / Ladies Finger - about 12, cut into half inch pcs after wiping dry
Potato - 1 small, cut into small cubes
Red Onion / Shallots - half cup, cut into small pieces
Garlic - 5 cloves, chopped (not minced)
Green Chillies - 10, slit into two
Arisi Mandi - 2 cups (method given above)
Tamarind extract - 1/3 cup (extracted after soaking tamarind in warm water)
Coconut milk - 1 to 2 tbsp (optional)
Salt - to taste
Oil - 1 tbsp
Curry leaves - few
Mustard seeds - half tsp
Urad dhal - half tsp
Methi seeds /vendhayam - few
Asafoetida / perungaayam - a pinch

1) I usually wash okra/vendakkai and dry them completely with a towel, which lessens the stickiness to an extent. Then I spread the cut pieces on a plate as a single layer and microwave for about 5 minutes. This also helps with some pre-cooking and reduces the stickiness to an extent.

2) Heat oil in a pan and season with mustard, urad dhal, methi seeds, curry leaves & asafoetida. Once the mustard splutters add the shallots or onions, g. chillies & garlic and fry till onions are transparent.

3) Next add the microwaved vendakkai and potato and saute for a few minutes with some salt. The Arisi mandi goes in next. Cover and allow to cook on low-medium flame till the potatoes are cooked completely & are soft to the touch.

4) Now add the tamarind extract and allow to boil till the raw smell disappears. Stir in the coconut milk (if using) last and switch off the stove. The consistency shouldn't be too watery or dry - kind of inbetween. Delicious Mandi is now ready to be served with curd rice, vathal kuzhambu or even yummy with mixed in with rice.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Carrot Cake

It was my husband's birthday over the weekend so I always use that as an excuse to bake and though his favorite is the Pound Cake since it reminds him of the cakes his mom whipped up for him as a kid, I decided to remind him that he has other favorites which usually take a backstage - once such is the Carrot Cake. He is quite the fan and that is also the reason why these Pumpkin Rolls are such a hit at home. I spread on a rather thin layer of cream cheese frosting and it's sweet-tangy taste is a great combination for this luscious cake that is loaded with shredded carrots, raisins, sweetened coconut flakes and walnuts. I typically add some pineapple too but ran out of it this time so skipped them. I doubled the recipe below to get a 8 inch square pan full of cake but the following measurements should work great for a loaf pan. Since I doubled the recipe, instead of using half cup of oil, i used 1/4 cup oil and put the 4oz pack of pear puree (baby food actually) that thankfully was not past it's expiry date to good use and substituted that for the remaining oil - worked like a charm. You could use applesauce instead.

My decorations are primitive at best and if my daughter were a little older, I could've pretended that she did it and saved myself some embarassment but alas, you all will have to see my handiwork. It's just the same cream cheese frosting to which I added a few drops of food coloring and put it in a ziploc bag and cut the tip of the corner. In a more artistic hand, am sure it would've looked a lot better.


Ingredients: (the following measurements are for a loaf pan, double for an 8 to 9 inch pan)
All purpose flour - 2/3 cup
Baking Soda - 3/4 tsp
Salt - 1/8 tsp
Cinnamon - 3/4 tsp
Sugar - 1/2 cup (you could use equal parts of white and brown sugar)
Oil - 1/4 cup (Canola / Vegetable oil)
Egg - 1
Buttermilk - 1/4 cup (I blended homemade yogurt with water)
Vanilla extract - 3/4 tsp
Carrots - 1 cup, shredded
Walnuts - 1/3 cup, chopped
Raisins - 1/3 cup
Sweetened Flaked Coconut - 1/4 to 1/3 cup
If using Pineapple, you could add 1/3 cup of crushed pineapple without juice.

1) Preheat oven to 350F and grease the cake pan (I used non-stick spray)
2) Sift the flour, baking soda, salt & cinnamon or stir thoroughly with a wire whisk. Keep aside.
3) To a big bowl, add the sugar, egg, buttermilk, oil and vanilla and blend them well.
4) Add in the dry ingredients from step 2 above and beat till well mixed with the liquid above.
5) With a spatula, stir in the toppings - shredded carrots, raisins, coconut & walnuts in my case.

6) Pour this mixture into the greased pan and bake for 40 mins to an hour or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

I made it the previous day and refrigerated it to let the flavours develop... this gets better with each passing day.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting recipe, click here. I only used 6 oz of light cream cheese and had some leftover after frosting the 8 inch square pan which is double the above. So, if using measurements above, I would think 4oz of cream cheese will be more than enough.

Here's a snap of what I baked last year: It was a layered cake with raspberry jam filling & a chocolate ganache topping. I didn't post about it last year since we were leaving for India a few days after that so it was crazy busy.

Click here to see the Pineapple cake from his 2007 Birthday.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Loaded Spicy Nachos

After making quesadillas or enchiladas, there are usually a couple tortillas leftover and they usually stay in my refrigerator until I cut them into triangles, toss with little chilli powder, salt & oil and bake when craving something crisp. Sometimes, I cut them into thin strips and pop them in the microwave and it makes for a great topping for soups such as this black bean soup or this.

Anyway, wanting to jazz up the tortilla chips that I had baked, i topped them off with some onions, jalapenos, bell peppers, tomatoes & some cheese and baked them for a while longer - the results were good (see pic.) and so the next time, I decided to try making nachos like the appetizers that are served in several restaurants but of course a veggie version of it. I had a pack of Boca Meatless Ground burger in my freezer so decided to put that to good use. I made a thick spicy chilli and topped off with some fresh onions, tomatoes and cheese... it was delicious, filling and the texture was good too. I liked the ground meatless burger but I think black beans should work well too.


Whole wheat tortillas - 3, cut into small triangles
Onions - 2 tbsp, chopped
Tomato - 2 tbsp, chopped
Low Fat Sour Cream - as a topping (recommended since chili is spicy)
Coriander leaves / Cilantro - 2 tbsp, chopped
Cheddar Cheese + Mozzarella cheese combination - 3 to 4 ounces
Olive oil - 1 tbsp (for making tortilla chips) + little oil spray to coat pan.

For the Vegetarian Chili:
Boca Meatless Ground Burger - half packet (or black beans half cup)
Onion - half, chopped
Jalapenos - 2 big, chopped
Canned whole tomatoes - 1 tomato with a third cup juice, crushed
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Coriander powder - quarter tsp
Cumin powder - half tsp
Salt - to taste
Oil - 2 tsp

1) For the Chili: Heat oil in a pan, and add chopped jalapenos & onions. I can't remember why I didn't add garlic since I add garlic to a lot of the dishes I make. Anyways... when translucent, add the crushed tomato, along with the masala powders & salt. Allow this to cook for a few minutes before adding the Boca ground burger - which resembles small crumbles of soy & are quite flavorful themselves. Ensure that there is enough liquid or add a bit of water. Allow this to simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Cook till very thick and remove from the stove.

2) For the Baked Tortilla chips: Spray a sheet pan with some oil. Toss the tortilla trianges with some salt & olive oil ( I skipped the chilli powder since the chili was going to be spicy anyway). Bake in a 375F oven for about 10 to 15 minutes till crisp, turning them over once in between.

3) For the Nachos: Put the crisp baked chips together so they overlap - don't spread them out too thin... pour the chilli on it evenly and spread it around. Top with the shredded cheeses and return to the oven for about 5 to 7 more minutes or till the cheese melts and the dish is heated through.

4) Once out of the oven, top them the chopped onions, tomatoes, coriander leaves and put a nice dollop of sour cream in the middle. Enjoy.

My husband kept picking off from the sides even as I was attempting to take pictures - he's usually ravenous after getting back from work - who isn't? But I asked him to stop midway and hold still so here's a snap of the bite he was trying to sneak... :)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Pavakai Curry

As much as most people detest this vegetable, there is something about it that I love. My husband only likes the deep-fried version but somedays I can get by with the baked version, which in my opinion tastes just as good but he begs to differ. Anyway the following preparation method is not something that I would recommend for those who do not like bittergourd... there is still some remant bitterness but I welcome it and is is one of my favorite ways to enjoy this vegetable. Of course.. when I make it, it's just for moi - am glad there's no competition because that just means more for me :)

Unfortunately, I can't remember now where I got this recipe from... but it's on one of the many printed sheets that I've carefully filed a while ago.


Pavakkai / Karela / Bittergourd -3, medium ( I choose light green ones)
Onion (preferably shallots) - about half cup, chopped
Tomato- half of medium one, chopped
Turmeric Powder - 1/4 tsp
Chilly Powder- 1 tsp
Coriander powder- 1.5 tsp.
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 1 stalk
Salt - to taste
Oil - 4 tsp (preferably gingelly oil / nallennai)

To Grind: (to a smooth paste with a splash of water)
Coconut Shredded - 2 tbsp
Kasa Kasa (poppy seeds) - 1 tsp, soaked in little warm water
Tamarind paste - 1/4 to 1/2 tsp

1) Cut the bittergourd into small pieces (after removing the seeds). Add a bit of salt to the bittergourd and let it rest for about 30 minutes or so.

2) Heat 2 tsp of oil in a pan and add the bittergourd pieces. Allow this to fry for about 5-7 minutes with frequent stirring till almost done. Remove and keep aside.

3) Return the pan to the flame, heat the remaining 2 tsp of oil and season with mustard seeds and curry leaves. Add in the onions and fry till light brown.

4) Stir in the tomatoes, a bit of salt & turmeric powder and cook till mushy. Add the chilli powder, coriander powder and the ground paste & stir for a few minutes before adding about half cup or more of water.

5) Stir in the bittergourd pieces when the mixture starts to boil. Cover and allow to cook on a medium flame till the pavaka is completely cooked. I usually prefer a thicker consistency so I let it cook till it reaches that point. The curry is now ready & I typically enjoy it with rice.