Sunday, June 29, 2008


Puliyodarai or Pulihorai is an Iyengar specialty. Its a tamarind-flavored rice made with peanuts and a basic tempering of spices. It's really very simple if one has the necessary paste on hand. Here's the way we make it at home.

Iyengar Puliyodarai

The Paste

1/4 kg Tamarind Pulp
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp fenugreek seeds
2 dried red chillies + 20 for adding later
1 tsp turmeric
1 pinch asoefetida
4 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp peppercorn

Soak the tamarind pulp in a water (enough water to cover the pulp). Soak the mixture for 15 minutes. Drain the water and keep separately. Grind the pulp to a thick paste.

In a saucepan, heat some sesame oil. Add a teaspoon of mustard seeds, 2 teaspoons of fenugreek, 2 dried red chillies. When the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the reserved water, pulp, turmeric and salt. Let it boil for a while until the raw smell of tamarind has disappeared. Add a pinch of asoefetida to the boiling liquid.

Meanwhile, in a separate pan, dry roast the coriander seeds and peppercorn. Grind to a fine powder. In the same pan, roast 20 or so dried red chillies and grind to a fine powder.

When the above liquid begins to thicken, add the dry ground spices. Allow the mixture to thicken to a paste. Remove from heat and let cool. You can store this paste for up to a month in the refrigerator and for longer in the freezer.

The Tamarind Rice

1 cup Rice
2 tsp Urad Dal, roasted
2 tsp Channa Dal, roasted
2 tbsp Peanuts, skinned and roasted
1 tsp white Sesame Seeds, roasted and ground

Cook rice with a pinch of turmeric (use the measure 1 cup rice: 3 cups water).
When cooked, cool the rice and add salt and mix.
Add the roasted lentils and peanuts and mix well. Sprinkle with the roasted sesame seed powder.
Add one tbsp of the paste (for every one cup of cooked rice) and mix thoroughly.

This is obviously easier to make if the paste is available. Though the paste is available in most Indian grocery stores, the home made paste is well worth the effort.

Puliyodarai tastes great served with thick plain yogurt.

This is off to dear Sig for the JFI for July featuring Tamarind. JFI is an event featuring different special ingredients and was originally started by Indira of Mahanandi. I loved this month's theme because this age-old recipe is close to my heart and one that we've made in our house for generations.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Coconut Milk

In southern India, we add coconut to most curries and sometimes even to sauteed vegetables. Adding coconut adds flavor, but also substance and richness.

I bought coconut milk in a tetra-pack when in the US. And for a while, even in India. Then I learned how to extract coconut milk, and haven't bought a tetra-pack since. I did it out of sheer necessity since a recipe called for using the 1st milk (the thicker stuff) and then the 2nd milk. So I decided to give it a go, and found it pretty simple. I'm sure a lot of you out there know how this is done, but I wanted to document the process.

So here goes a pictorial description.

Extracting Coconut Milk

It's not easy to open a coconut, but watching people in India breaking coconuts at temples, i just threw it hard on the floor and voila! it just split open. Next comes the grating. In India, we use a special blade (called an Aruvamanai in Tamil). Here's what it looks like. Just grate the coconut against the blade to get grated coconut. You could also use a knife to scrape out the coconut from the shell.

After grating the coconut, put it in a blender with some water and blend for a couple of minutes. Transfer the contents into a muslin cloth over a large bowl. Squeeze it to extract the 1st milk (the thicker one).

Next transfer the grated coconut from the muslin cloth back into the blender and add more water. Repeat the process and squeeze the contents into another bowl - this is the 2nd milk, which is much thinner.

(See the difference? The one in the blue bowl is much thinner)

You can repeat this process again depending on how meaty the coconut is. Stop at 3 times, though - after that its just the water that drains through.

Coconut milk is used in a variety of recipes. Here are some that I've made that you might enjoy:

Burmese Khow Suey
Cynthia's Cook-up Rice
Mysore Rasam
Vegetable Kurma

This is off to Suganya at Tasty Palettes for this month's AFAM event. Thanks, Suganya.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Apple Crumble

For the Open Sesame riddle (and I love DK and Siri's riddles!), I was sent this one:

A moniker in my name for a city

A phrase with me will make you cherished
I am so good for you in my utter simplicity
In Medical dictionary the fact so furnished

I am so famous in the world of bytes

Known for many aspects of usage

I am fat and rotund and make crunchy bites

My fame known from many religious traditions - right from the old age

Am, I forbidden? Or mystical ?

or the eternal giver of Youth

I consist of five internal carpels

Am good for good health of your mouth

I am as basic a fruit as you can think of

Or as hard if you don't try enough
If You eat me on a day to day basis

Then you don't have worry about anything - be it cold or dry cough

Easy enough? I guessed Apple and I was...ahem...right.

I eat fresh apples quite a bit, but don't cook with them very often. The one time I loved apple as dessert was an Apple Crumble that my friend's mother used to make many years ago. I remember sitting at their dining table, sipping tea and eating crumble while it rained outside - rain is the perfect accompaniment for crumble!

I went to their house, learned how to make it and came rushing home to try it. And soon in my house there was the glorious aromas of home baked crumble! There's really nothing better!

Apple Crumble

4 apples, peeled and sliced into large chunks (choose firm, crunchy apples - green or yellow)
3 oz all-purpose flour
1.5 oz cold butter
1.5 oz brown sugar (I used Demerara)

Butter a baking dish. Preheat oven to 350 deg F.

Fill the baking dish halfway with the apple slices

Add the butter to the flour, and blend in to resemble bread crumbs (try not to use your fingers to do this, as the butter tends to become warm - if you can, use a fork. If you have cold hands, no problem!). Blend it in quickly and lightly - just till combined.

Add the sugar to the flour mixture. This is what it will look like.

Scoop the crumble onto the apples.

Bake for 20-25 mts, until slightly browned on top.


DK and Siri, you know you rock! :-)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Dal Dhokli - Your Recipe Rocks!

Dal Dhokli is a Gujarati/ Rajasthani dish - that is filling and delicious. Like Sambar or Lasagna or even Mac and Cheese, every home has their own twist on the recipe - some load it with lots of ingredients and many are simple. Some others are simple but have lots of toppings. Whichever way it's served, it's always delicious.

I've had it several times in different houses, but people, like I've mentioned before, would rather not divulge their family dal dhokli secrets! :) So you'll never get the recipe! The better the dal dhokli, the tougher it is to get the recipe from the chef!

When I came across this recipe at Arundati's Escapades, I was very excited to try it. And it turned out very well. You can dress it up, like I've done here, or just eat it in all its simplicity.

I made a few changes - since I never do have ghee at home, I omitted it from the recipe (I know - ghee always makes everything taste better!), and I cooked it for longer to have a slightly thicker version. I also served it with crushed potato chips (instead of the normal crunchies like sev), and chopped onions.

Dal Dhokli
(adapted from here)

Cook toor dal with a pinch of turmeric powder.

While the dal cooks, make two little balls of chappati dough (whole wheat flour and water), roll them out into thin rotis and cut into strips.

Add the strips of dough to the cooked dal. Continue cooking for about 10 minutes, until the dough is cooked through.

In a separate pan, heat some oil and add mustard seeds. When the mustard begins to splutter, add cumin seeds, a bay leaf, couple of cloves, cardamoms (or cardamom powder), red chillies and asafetida. Fry for a few minutes and then add this to the cooked dal. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

To serve: Spoon large ladlefuls of the dal dhokli into bowls. Add some crushed potato chips and chopped onion. Other options for toppings: fried onions, sev, tomatoes, green chillies.

Your Recipe Rocks! - Thanks, Arundati. It's a keeper. And a great one-dish meal, so off it goes for Archana's One-D event as well.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Tried & Tasted: Usal/ Misal

I saw this recipe on Nupur's blog, One Hot Stove, many months ago. Ever since then, I've been on the hunt for matki or moth beans. It's really hard to find here in Chennai! And then when Zlamushka announced that it was Nupur's blog chosen for this month's Tried and Tasted event, I decided to really up the ante on my search, so to speak.

I finally found the elusive beans, and was glad that I could finally make the Usal/ Misal. Usal is a huge favorite in the state of Maharashtra in India. Its a sort of soup-y dal made with lentils, peanuts and potatoes - sound good? Well, let me say it was Fabulous!

Misal is a variation on Usal - add some toppings like crunchies (crushed potato wafers, hot mixture), chopped onions, yogurt - and you're good to go. And this tastes almost better than the Usal.

So here we go with the Misal/ Usal. I'm going to do it pictorially, because I followed Nupur's recipe exactly.

First I made the Kolhapuri Chutney. This sounded complicated and I was a bit apprehensive, but when I got down to it, it was not so tough. The only thing I want to say here is please make sure that the onions are completely dry before grinding, otherwise the chutney will spoil easily.

First, roast the spices.

Grind the spices to a fine powder.

Mix in the chilli powder.

The chutney/ powder itself was good and I'm glad I made it at home. It's available in most Indian grocery stores. Next came the Usal, which is pretty straightforward once you've made the above Kolhapuri Chutney. It tasted fantastic and really healthy too (I used sprouted matki beans). The addition of the peanuts was great and gave it a lot of crunch. Will definitely be making this very often.

And then the Misal. We made this the next day with the leftover Usal. I can't believe I've never had this before - I made a resolution to try it at my favorite little "chaat" shop next time I'm there. It's delicious!

Thanks Zlamushka for the event which spurred me into finding those beans and making this! And thanks Nupur for the fantastic recipes - it's a family favorite now!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Deviled Eggs with Wasabi

The taste of wasabi is indescribable. It's like someone punched you in the face and then your brain starts seeping out of your eyes, nose and ears! :) You want to jump up and scream, and you feel like you are going to explode, but the taste passes all too soon and then you just want to have more! I've loved wasabi from the first moment I tried it.

Here's some pictures which perfectly describe how I felt when I had wasabi for the first time (do check out that link - its amazingly perfect and funny!).

So when KayKat of Cooking from A to Z, announced wasabi as this month's chosen theme for the Think Spice event, I immediately started my search for wasabi in Chennai. I finally did find a tube of the paste. I've had fresh Wasabi several times, and it doesn't compare to the paste, but, in a pinch, it's quite good.

Inspired by Kalyn, Coconut & Lime and Epicurean, I ventured out to make my own version.

Deviled Eggs with Wasabi

4 Eggs, hard boiled
3 tbsp Mayonnaise
1 1/2 tbsp Wasabi paste
1 tbsp Mustard (I used French Mustard)
3 tbsp Sesame Seeds, toasted
Salt, to taste

First boil the eggs, and set aside to cool. Peel them and cut in half vertically.

Scoop the yolks out and put them in a bowl with the wasabi, mayo and mustard. Mix to combine, making a thick paste. Add salt as needed.

Pipe or spoon the mixture into the egg whites. I scooped the mixture into a Ziploc bag, cut a tiny bit off the corner, and piped the mixture through into the egg whites.

(was trying to pipe and click at the same time!)

Garnish with roasted sesame seeds.

They were just delicious!! I've never made deviled eggs and have always wanted to try. The mixture had the right amount of kick with the wasabi.

For the Chennai folks: S&B Wasabi is available at Maison de Gourmet.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Every once in a while, I crave the honey roasted nuts found on the street carts in New York City. I remember every time you pass by one of these carts and the smell of the roasting nuts comes wafting by, making you want to stop, close your eyes and breathe it in. If you've never had them, I absolutely recommend them on your next visit there.

Meanwhile, you can try my New York street-cart-style roasted nuts. They came out pretty well, but the nice part was that my entire kitchen and home were left with that great smell! Mmm...

New York Style Roasted Almonds
(original recipe from World on a Plate)

2 cups almonds, blanched, skinned
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
2 tbsp honey
1/2 cup brown sugar (I used Demerara sugar)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp Oil

Preheat oven to 175 deg C.

Heat a pan with the oil, add the almonds, honey, chilli and cumin powders and sugar.

Stir to coat and continue roasting until the sugar melts and caramelizes.

Spread the almonds on a baking tray.

and pop into the oven for 5-10 minutes until browned and dry.

Take out the tray and let it cool.

Store in an airtight container (if there's any left after "tasting" it!)

This is off to Sia at Monsoon Spice for MBP - Street Food. A great idea and theme, Sia. MBP gets you to try out all those recipes you've bookmarked from other bloggers and discover new ones. MBP is the brainchild of Coffee at the Spice Cafe. This round-up is definitely going to be great!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Lentil Salad

I make this healthy salad for breakfast atleast 2-3 times a week. I've experimented with different kinds of sprouts and lentils, and each one has such unique tastes that it's not really possible to pick a favorite.

I've found the easiest lentils to sprout, though, are the Green Gram lentils and the Turkish Gram or Moth lentils. They take an average of 16-24 hours in the hot Chennai weather, so I'm assuming a little longer in other parts of the world. For more on sprouting lentils, please see here.

Quick and Easy Lentil Salad

1 cup Sprouted Lentils of your choice (I used Green Gram sprouts, which are super healthy and delicious)
1/2 cup Cucumber, skinned and chopped
1 Tomato, chopped
1 Onion, chopped (optional - I prefer shallots or spring onions - they lend a less intense flavor)
1/2 tsp Lemon Juice

Dressing: I used a chutney made of grinding together green chillies, cilantro and gram dal (also known as pottu kadalai).

Combine all the above and enjoy a healthy and tasty meal.

This is off to Lisa at the Vegetarian Kitchen for No Croutons Required's Soups and Salads, which features lentils this month.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


My love affair with spaetzle started years ago when I went to visit a friend in Germany. We were having lunch in a lovely little restaurant and spaetzle was one of my options as a vegetarian. It tasted lovely - thick egg pasta with a lovely butter and herb sauce. When I came back from my holiday, I searched everywhere in the US to find German restaurants that served spaetzle and though I found a few, they were never as good.

I bought dried spaetzle from specialty grocery stores and tried to recreate it at home, but there's no substitute for fresh pasta, is there?

On the other side of this story, a friend and I have been talking about how it would be incredible if we could make our own pasta at home. I decided I just had to try before deeming it too difficult. And my favorite kind of pasta has to be spaetzle.

I came across the most wonderful recipe in a blog that I read religiously, Eating Out Loud. Allen whips up the most delicious food and makes it all sound so easy, his photographs are great and his writing is so simple and straightforward, that you want to go back to the beginning and read every single post of his.

And, thanks Allen for this recipe because it was perfect and as easy as you described. The spaetzle was outstanding, and I can never go back to eating the store-bought version.

(original recipe here)

I made a few changes to the recipe - I wanted to recreate the butter and herb sauce, so I omitted the veggies and the poached egg. And we had this for dinner as a full meal. But the basic dough remains the same:

1 cup All-purpose Flour
2 Eggs
1/4 cup Milk
Salt, to taste

First set a saucepan to simmer with salted water.

Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the eggs and milk.

Start slowly folding in the flour, eggs and milk from the inside out, until everything is fully combined. The dough will have a sticky consistency. Set aside the dough for 15-20 minutes.

Now came the part I was dreading. You have to squeeze the dough out of a press and into the boiling water. The general way to do it (in lieu of a special spaetzle maker) is to press the dough through a wide-holed colander into the boiling water. I tried this and got pasta that looked quite bad (it still tasted great, but looked nothing like spaetzle). And then my husband had a brilliant idea to use a Murukku Maker. Murukku is a south Indian fried snack that also requires a special mold which is somewhat like a noodle maker. You can read more about it here.

I tried it with the Murukku mold with fantastic results. I now had noodle-shaped pasta floating in the boiling water (looked a little too much like worms!). Now you have to wait for about 3-5 minutes while the pasta gets cooked and starts rising to the top.

Once its at the top of the water, skim it off and put it into a cold water bath. Let them chill for a bit to stop the cooking. This part seems to be optional - some sites suggest it, while others don't seem to do it.

Heat a saute pan with some butter and minced garlic. Add the pasta and toss around until coated and slightly browned. I added a blend of dried herbs and sauteed for a little while (about 5 minutes).

Plate and serve warm with cheese sprinkled on top (I shaved some Parmesan on top). Its absolutely authentic-tasting and so easy! Do try it at home - it's a keeper!

Want a closer look?

(I also found these sites to be very useful for the actual step-by-step photos - check here and here).