Friday, August 24, 2012

Memories & Pottukadalai Thuvayal

My brother visited us over the last two weeks and we had a fun, relaxing time with him....  He is 8 years younger than me so our childhood memories have less instances of us playing together and more of me bullying / teasing him... :)  Anyway we spent an evening talking about these memories and the fun we had with the two cousins who lived with us (while they were in college).... One memory was that of playing games, having sleepovers at our home with kids in our neighborhood when my dad was away on business trips.... since my mom would do minimal cooking and join us in the fun. Another thing that we associated with my father's business trips was to eat some of the dishes we loved, but my dad was not a fan of - such as semia upma, simple kanji & pottukadalai thovayal etc. My mom would make them only when my dad was away on trips so much so that my brother once asked, very longingly, as to when my dad would leave on his next business trip so he could have some kanji and semia upma :)

The next morning I called up my mom to find out how she made the thovayal and we had a very tasty lunch of kanji and thovayal - comfort food indeed and simplicity at its best.  During his stay I also made some ulundhu kali with a mix that my mom sent me.... and we shaped them into little round balls and made small indentations on the top and filled them with nallennai (gingelly oil) just like my grandmother used to. This kali is supposed to strengthen one's lower back.

Here's the super simple but very tasty pottukadalai (Roasted gram/dalia) thuvayal.



Pottukadalai (roasted gram/Dalia) - half cup
Grated Coconut - 2 tbsp
Red Chillies - 3 or 4 (or to taste, this shd be spicy to counterbalance the bland kanji)
Salt - to taste

Water - as required to get correct consistency


1) Grind together the pottukadalai, red chillies and grated coconut with some salt in a mixie. When coarsely powdered, add a bit of water and grind to a fairly thick paste.... add water as required to get thick thovayal consistency. Mix in with  Kanji (Pressure cook rice with lots of water 1:4 ratio, to which some cumin seeds, salt and ground pepper is added) - it shoud be slightly watery. If it's too thick (which happens after some time)  add some hot water to get the right consistency. We had the kanji with the thuvayal and some leftover puli kuzhambu

Here's a picture of the ulundhu kali that we enjoyed.

Last but not least, here's a picture of his birthday (Aug 18th) cake - a layered pineapple cream cake that I baked using this recipe....

Detailed post to follow soon. It was so moist and perfect and everybody loved it... esp. the birthday boy....

Other dishes I made during his visit were (you will quickly see how I came to gain quite a few pounds in these 2 weeks):

Poondu vatha kuzhambu 
Egg Biryani
Egg curry
Greek Pizza & Pesto Pizza
Mango Kulfis

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Greek pizza

Happy Independence Day! :)

Remember how I dreamt of a pizza when I laid eyes on  some tomato basil feta cheese... well, here is that dream becoming a reality... This is my take on a greek style pizza which is inspired by the Garlic Spinacci pizza we get at Vocellis (a pizza joint) which I really like... I added a few extra ingredients into the mix and some spiciness to add a kick. I must say that this was quite a hit with the entire family and it was an enjoyable dinner for sure... Definitely something I'm going to be making often.



Pizza crust - recipe here (I used half to make one pizza & added some red chilli flakes and oregano with the dough) or use store bought.

Red Onion - half of a medium one, thinly sliced
Chopped Spinach - 3/4 to 1 cup (if frozen) or about 3 cups if using fresh|
Mushrooms - 1 cup slices (I used canned)
Sun dried tomatoes - 4 to 5, drained and chopped
Crumbled Feta cheese - about 1 cup (I used tomato basil flavor)
Swiss cheese / Mozzarella / Pepperjack - half to 3/4 cup, shredded
Garlic cloves - 8, peeled and sliced (vary amount to taste)
Black Olives - few, sliced (I didn't use them but they would go great here)
Sriracha chilli sauce / red chilli flakes - to taste
Extra virgin Olive oil - half tbsp to drizzle
Extra virgin Olive oil - 1 tbsp, divided to cook garlic and spinach
Reduced fat mayo - 2 tbsp  / Garlic Cream sauce - recipe here
Salt & Black pepper to taste


1) In a saucepan, heat half tbsp olive oil, add the thinly sliced garlic and saute till golden brown. Remove with a spoon and chop that up.  In the same pan, heat the remaining oil and saute the spinach with a tiny bit of salt and pepper (do not oversalt since the feta cheese is quite salty already). Preheat oven to 425F

2)Spread pizza into thin  layer (or to desired thickness, thin is how we like it) I used a 12x10 inch rectangular pan lined with foil - but you can vary the thickness to your liking.

3) First spread the mayo/garlic cream sauce evenly on the base. Sprinkle red chilli flakes if using (sometimes I stir in some when making the dough).

4) Sprinkle the swiss /mozarella/pepperjack cheese in a thin, even layer (I used swiss), then sprinkle the chopped garlic, cooked spinach, followed by red onion slices, mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes and olives (if using) in an even layer all over the pizza.

5) Then add the crumbled feta cheese all over the pizza and dot with sriracha (which is my favorite way of adding spice to pizzas). Slowly drizzle half tbsp of olive oil over the pizza.

6) Bake in a preheated oven for about 15 minutes (depends on how thick the crust is). Remove from oven, slice and serve!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Airplane Cake & Avocado Yogurt Dressing

We returned last week from our trip to India and are settling back into our routine here. We had a wonderful time though it went by much too fast for our liking. The kids in particular had an awesome time with grandparents, relatives, cousins, old friends & some new friends that they made.  They loved the auto rides, playing in the water, visiting temples where my son would point to all the idols and go "ummaachi" (for God) ...running around in the garden, swinging, watching fish in the pond, visiting the beach, enjoying fireworks and so on...  Food-wise, I made it a point to enjoy lots of mangoes and had so many tender coconuts (ilaneer) as well.... the only thing I missed having was nongu since i had missed the season... but got a chance to taste navapazham after ages. Now, we miss everyone and the fun times but that is life...  Here are some snapshots of the vacation.

Coming to the food part of this post, I wanted to post  a picture of the airplane cake I made for my son's birthday (it's a good thing you know what it is because otherwise it would be hard to recognize it as an airplane :) ).. I had plans of making a decent looking airplane cake since that's what he wanted for turning three (on August 5th) but for some reason the cake stuck to the pan and I could only salvage a very small part of the cake without it breaking apart, so I tried to cut and shape that into an airplane... However, Nikhil looked past all that (being as young as he is) and was quite happy with the cake. I tried my hand at making a Swiss Meringue Buttercream for the first time and really liked how it turned out but can't say i love how it tastes... was much too buttery for me. I think i still prefer my usual whipped cream frosting taste-wise.

Also, here's a picture of a weekday dinner that one can put together rather quickly... I made Falafels (using this recipe) but instead of deep frying them I baked them (which is what I've been doing the last several times I've made these) at 375F for about 20 to 25 minutes (flipping once in between) and then shallow frying them on a tawa with just a few tsp of oil.  I then cut veggies up (while the falafels were baking)  - ribboned carrots (carrots that are peeled all the way to get thin ribbons), cucumbers, tomatoes, red bell peppers and for the onions to remove the pungency, I soaked the sliced onions in a mixture of 1tsp vinegar, half tsp sugar, 1/4 tsp salt and some water for about 30 minutes. I also made an avocado-yogurt dressing (recipe below) and rolled everything up in whole wheat tortillas (Pitas would be great but didn't have any) for a super tasty wrap.For a low-carb option, ditch the tortillas/pitas and just toss the veggies and cut up pieces of falafel into a salad with the dressing - yummy.

 (Great for wraps or salads)

Avocado - half of a ripe one
Yogurt - 3 tbsp thick yogurt

Green chillies - 2 (optional)
Coriander leaves with thin stalks - about 5 to 6
Lemon juice - 1 tsp
Olive oil - 1 tsp

Salt - to taste


Combine all of the above in a blender/mixie till smooth.
Use as a dip, salad dressing or when making wraps. You don't taste the avocado in this so it's great for those who are not fans of this buttery fruit.