Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Pudina podi

My parents and grandparents were not in the habit of having breakfast in the true sense. A second dose of filter coffee around 8 A.M. would help them go until their 10 o'clock lunch time. It was not a practice to make breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday. This was a practice for adults and the children were fed rice before school, pack a tiffin box with rice for the noon and ate rice in the night too.
Mostly all the cooking was done in the morning in quantities to suffice for the dinner too, but rice. Rice would be cooked just before dinner for the night, but the sambhar, rasam and other accompaniments would have to make do. Most times there is a shortfall of these and the stock of various podis come handy. It is very likely that there will be a good sized jar with paruppu podi is available in the pantry. Thengai podi does not store for long so it shall be consumed quickly. When in season, mint and coriander are available in abundance, we make thokku, thogaiyal and podis.

Mint is one of those herbs that has high antioxidant properties and has health benefits ranging from oral health, skin care, digestion to prevention of cancer. It is widely used in many cuisines. Mint is used in ice creams, chocolates and in beverages. It is common to find chutney with pudina in many households in India. Typically, we make thogaiyal, chutney and pudina podi with lentils in my home.
This podi stays fresh and flavourful for weeks together at room temperature and since it is dry does not require refrigeration. Give it a try with hot steamed rice and a generous spoon of gingelly oil or ghee.

Pudina Podi
Makes 200 ml in volume

3 cups packed mint leaves (stalks removed)
1/4 cup urad dhal
1 tablespoon channa dhal
8-10 dry red chillis (adjusted according to heat an d taste)
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida (optional)
2 teaspoons oil to roast the ingredients
Salt as required (I use crystal sea salt and measured 1 &1/4 tablespoons)

Wash the mint well and pat them dry before separating the leaves from the stalks.
Dry the leaves between two layers of cloth until moisture has dried. Measure the leaves. From a very large bunch of mint, I got 3 cups of leaves.
Heat the oil in a heavy and large pan.
Add the chillis and roast for a couple of minutes.
Add to this the channa dhal and continue to roast.
When the chillis are slightly brittle, add the urad dhal, salt and asafoetida. Roast until both the dhals are golden brown and crunchy.
Put the mint leaves in and keep tossing them around until the leaves are wilted with the heat and turning just about dry.
Cool the mix. transfer to the jar of a dry grinder and grind to a coarse powder.

Transfer the podi to a dish and allow to cool.
Store in clean, tight lid jars to use when required.
Serve with hot rice and oil to mix.
The same can be ground with enough water and be made as thogaiyal.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Thai Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Soup is my go to dinner option on days I feel lazy to even consider other options. But my husband's choice of vegetables are limited and thus restrictive to try more adventurous versions. Sqaush and melons are not  his favourite choices. On the other hand my daughter and son-in-law are very exploring in terms of other cuisines. They often pick up fresh vegetables whenever they have the farmers market in their town and cook dishes looking up cookbooks or the internet.
Few days ago she had bought these young tender butternut squash from the market and had shared the picture on her instagram account. 
Later while chatting she mentioned that she had the idea of making a soup with Thai flavours using those. On a follow up she suggested that it was a great tasting soup and asked if I wanted to share the recipe. She sent me the following recipe and the pictures too so I can post it here.
The sweet nutty taste of the squash blended well with the flavours of the Thai ingredients and the lemongrass. Roasting being one of the most common cooking methods to use this vegetable, this soup also calls for roasting the vegetable.
This squash has a good amount of fibre and other nutritional value. So the soup makes for a sumptuous wholesome meal by itself of as a starter course for an elaborate meal.

Thai roasted butternut squash soup 

Serves 2 people 
Recipe as shared by my daughter
Butternut squash - 2 small young ones (or 1 large mature one)
Thai red curry paste - 2 to 3 tbsp. divided (Look out for the ones which are vegetarian friendly)
Onion - 1, chopped finely (optional - I didn't put it in today)
Ginger - to taste, grated
Garlic - 3 cloves, chopped finely
Cumin seeds1 teaspoon
Coriander seeds1 teaspoon
Chili flakes - to taste
Lemongrass - 3 sticks, about 5in long (This one can be decreased to taste)
The juice of 1 small lime (again, to taste - as my lemongrass had good strong flavor, I didn't put this in today)
Coconut milk - to drizzle on top of the soup, in the bowl
Cilantro - a good couple of sprigs, for garnish

Prep the butternut squash - peel, deseed and slice them into cubes.
In a big mixing bowl, mix the squash with a couple of teaspoons of oil, some salt and a tablespoon of the red curry paste
While this mixture sits, line a baking tray with aluminum foil and preheat the oven to 400F/200C
Tip the squash into the prepared tin, and roast for about 40 minutes, till soft
Once cooled slightly, blend to a puree with a little water in a blender
In a dutch oven or any heavy pan, heat a little oil
Sauté the onion, garlic and ginger with the cumin and coriander seeds, till the onion is translucent
Add a tablespoon of the red curry paste and cook for a minute or two, till everything is coated.
Tip in the pureed squash, and top up with water to thin it. Add enough to bring it to a consistency you like.
Using the back of a knife blade, bash the lemongrass sticks to bring out the aroma. 
Add this to the soup with the chili flakes. 
Check the seasoning - you may only need the last tablespoon of red curry paste, if the flavour isn't strong enough for your tastes.
Heat the soup through
To serve, top the soup with some chopped cilantro, a squeeze of lime, and a drizzle of coconut milk

It seems like a lengthy procedure, but it was a simple enough soup to make, and was really worth it! 


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Kaima Rotti - Bread Upma dressed up

About three decades ago, when my hometown was only part of the larger Salem district, my father would travel often to Salem to appear for his clients in the higher courts. There used to be a particular favourite shop from where he could purchase for us candies and dry fruits. Those days we were very fond of the coin size coconut candy wrapped in a transparent paper with Parrys written in white on it. Those and dried apricots were mostly in stock at home.
He would also visit the famous bakery there and bring large loaves of soft white bread.
Bread was not part of regular meals in a family that ate rice for every meal. We, him, three of us, his daughters and my grandmother  were all fond of bread that two large loaves can be finished quickly.  On some rare occasion all the bread is not consumed by the 'sell by' date and we have a day or two old bread threatening to go stale. My mother would quickly get into action giving it a makeover with the bread upma and save it.
Sometime ago I had purchased a good 9"X5" loaf tin and my daughter gifted me a bread baking book at the same time. I had wanted to put both to use and baked a regular white bread with a recipe in the book. It turned out well with just an ugly gash like cut in the crust. I wondered what could have gone wrong when I followed the recipe fully and even liked that I kneaded it well. I put out a query in the We Knead To Bake Group and friends had suggested possibilities. So, I baked yet another of the same with these tips, thus having on hand two loaves, which possibly between the two of us, would last longer than I might relish. My one option was to follow my mother and get the upma done.
Bread upma being somewhat staple in my home, I needed to make it more interesting. I had a good stock of my thakkali vengayam chutney in my refrigerator; that gave me the idea to make the Kaima rotti. With few ingredients and leftovers that need attention, this is a good recipe to go for it.

Kaima Rotti

Serves 4
12 slices of a day or two old bread
2 tablespoons butter to pan toast the bread
2 medium red onions sliced finely
4-5 green chillis cut finely
1/2" ginger chopped
1/2 cup thakkali vengayam chutney or anything that may add flavour to the bread
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 teaspoon channa dhal/ Bengal gram
Few curry leaves
A little amount of water for sprinkling as required
2 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves for garnish

Apply butter on both sides of the bread slices. Toast them slightly until just about crisp in a pan.
Generously spread the thakkali vengayam chutney on the slices.
Cut about an inch square cubes of the bread.
Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large, heavy pan. When heated add the tempering ingredients - mustard seeds, channa dhal, ginger and green chillis. Add the salt, some more of the oil and the sliced onion. Cook until the onion is transparent.
Toss them well and then add the rest of the oil.
Reduce the heat to medium and drop the cubed bread pieces.
Cook them together tossing them well until the breads absorb the flavours. Sprinkle a teaspoon or two of water at intervals to make it moist.
Turn and toss gently so as to not break the bread or cook it to a mash.
The bread will just about get moist and combine well.

Take it off the heat and transfer to a serving dish.
Garnish with fresh chopped coriander leaves.
Serve warm with hot coffee.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Beetroot Chappathi

A throwback from the past, on beetroots, is having a glass of beet juice. I used to live with my uncle and aunt for a few years. Every time that she cooked beetroot, she would reserve the cooking liquid and have me drink it. I am sure I drank it without much ado though I am not able to recall that I relished it then. However, beetroot has otherwise been among other favourite vegetables that I choose to cook it often.
 At home we cook it dry in poriyal, in the form of kootu with some legumes, pacchidi and even beetroot rice. I had on a whim tried adding left over beetroot kari to the grinding batter and have made beetroot pesarattu also. The beetroot with tomato soup is another dish we relished much.
Given that these are such versatile vegetables, it was not surprising when my daughter sent me photographs of beetroot chappathis she made one night for dinner. She has been urging me since to post it here. I was sifting through the pictures folders and her colourful pictures just popped on the screen and here I am hoping to do justice  by posting.
You do not have to meticulously measure out ingredients and for most of us who make chappathis regularly it is all eye ball measures. Still I think that it is good to be a bit precise and am putting down a list of ingredients and a preparation.
Beetroot Chappathi

Makes 8 chappathis
250 ml/ 1cup whole wheat flour
1/3teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ghee/ sesame oil
1 slightly large beetroot to make 1/3 cup of puree
1 &1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
Water as required to mix the dough
More flour for dusting
Ghee/ Oil to cook

Wash the beetroot and peel. Boil it in water until soft enough and puree adding the chilli powder and salt to a smooth texture. Add just small quantities of water to grind lest it is too runny.
Take the flour in a large bowl and mix the 2 teaspoons of ghee or oil.
Add the puree to the flour mixing it  to a dough which is pliable and smooth. If required add flour or some water to achieve this.
Make a ball of the dough, apply a little oil so as to not let it dry on the surface.  Place the dough in a bowl and rest it for about 30 minutes.
Take out the dough and divide in 8 equal parts. Roll each in a ball.

Have some flour in a flat plate to use for dusting while rolling out the chappathis.
Work on one portion at a time while keeping the rest of the portions covered.
Flatten and roll the ball out in  chappathis that are neither too thin not thick.

If you work quickly, you might roll all of the  dough and then cook the chappathis on a griddle.
If you are making more numbers, it will be good to pause the rolling to cook the ones that are ready. Leaving the dough to dry may not result in soft chappathis.
Heat a heavy griddle and place one chappathi on it. Cook on one side until small spots appear. Flip it over and the steam within will puff the chappathi.
Cook until both sides are done well.
Remove and transfer to a serving dish.
Brush some ghee on the surface.
Work with the rest of them similarly and stack up in the serving dish.
Serve warm with any gravy of your choice.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017


It has been over a year that I posted last. The year 2016 was a busy year with moving from Lome to  home and again back to Qatar. The whole year went past in a buzz around my head. I began to relax so much that it became habit.
My daughter kept pushing me to keep this space active so much so that she even sent pictures of what she had cooked and further on recipes. she would write it up and tell me all it takes to copy from mail and hit the publish button. I just did not.
She is now visiting us in Doha and has finally succeeded in her mission to get me started back.
From my earlier posts readers may have understood that I do not use eggs in my cooking. I have relished cakes and such, only I am not happy to try handling eggs. I am certain to be a failure with baking with eggs.
This post is my daughter's success in baking macarons, pictures and the recipe below are hers.
She had tried the recipe from the link given here, stopping short at not making sandwich macarons.


Yields: approx. 35 shells (slightly bigger than the original resipe) or about 17 sandwiches

  • Icing sugar - 150g (5½oz)
  • Ground almonds - 75g (2¾oz)
  • Egg whites - 2 large
  • pinch of salt
  • Caster sugar - 35g (1¼oz)
  • Cardamom powder - a hefty pinch
  • pink, green, yellow or lilac food colouring paste (optional)
  •  Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F and line two solid baking-sheets with non-stick baking-parchment.
  • Sift together the almond powder, cardamom powder and icing sugar into a bowl.
  • Place the egg whites in the metal bowl of a stand mixer (or a large metal mixing bowl, if using a hand mixer) and whisk on high speed till soft peaks are formed.
  • Add the caster sugar, a teaspoon at a time, whisking well after each addition. Continue whisking until the mixture is stiff and glossy.
  • Fold in the sifted dry ingredients, using a large metal spoon, taking care to not deflate the meringue. Fold till everything is just combined - do not overmix.
  • Fit a piping bag with a 1cm (½in) plain nozzle. Stick the parchment down on the corners using a little bit of the meringue to prevent it from rolling up or flapping around. Pipe 5cm (2in) discs on to the baking-parchment.
  • Dampen the tip of your finger and gently flatten the top of any macarons that are peaky, then give the tray a sharp tap on the work surface to knock out air bubbles. 
  • Allow the meringues to rest for about half an hour, then bake in the preheated oven for about 9 to 10 minutes.  
  • Cool the macarons on a wire rack. Once completely cool, these can be filled with buttercream, ganache or jam, and sandwiched.
Some notes that she shared with me on her mail:

Make sure, when separating the eggs, to not get any of the yolk in with the whites, as the fat messes up the meringue pretty badly. With the egg whites, I beat them with my hand mixer itself.. make sure to use a steel bowl, not a plastic one - plastic tends to have a film that inhibits the development of the meringue. The same with the folding in process... use a metal spoon, and fold gently, so as to not break up the air we built into the egg whites.
Before the addition of sugar, the egg whites are whipped to soft peak stage. It is a bit hard to tell, because the peaks are tiny. But, when the egg whites begin to look like a fluffy floating cloud, start adding the sugar.. and when it is finally done, you should be able to pick up a big dollop on the metal spoon, flip it upside down and not have it fall back down into the bowl. At this stage, you can fold in the sifted almond powder and icing sugar.. definitely sift this mixture, my icing sugar had little limps in it and the sifting really helped to make the mix less grainy.