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Category Archives: andhra

Celebrating the Monsoons ~ Vaamu (Ajwain) Aaku Bajji

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Ajwain Leaf / Vaamu Aaku Bajji

The last post was a summer salad to Beat the Heat and we’re already rejoicing the monsoons. Tells you how little I have blogged! But, my favourite season of the year is here and I am more than happy. We had a sweltering summer this year and never have I waited for the rains the way I have this time.

Celebrating the rains with Vaamu Aaku Bajji or Ajwain Leaf Pakoras. I grow two kinds of Ajwain / Vaamu at home. Both of which are edible, but until now I have only used them in salads for garnish. The bajjis that are made with these leaves are very popular in my home state of Andhra Pradesh. But if you have been reading this blog long enough, you should also know by now that I am scared of deep frying. The last time I made bajjis, I fessed up!

With a newspaper column to write twice a month, I try and cater to the changing seasons or festivities around and this time work demanded a kadai half filled with oil.

Potato, Onion, Ajwain Leaf and Paneer Pakoras for a Monsoon Evening Snack

I made four kinds of bajjis for the story of which one was this one. I must say, it was very very good. The fresh leaves have a very strong fragrance and taste and hence I’ve always used it sparingly when used uncooked. Dipped in a mildly spiced batter and deep fried though, it took on another personality and mellowed down to a beautiful warm flavour.

Try these with your evening tea/ coffee and enjoy the sight of the rain pounding the earth.

Vaamu Aaku Bajji (Ajwain Leaf Pakora)
Serves – 4
Recipe Source – Sailu’s Kitchen

Vaamu Leaves (Ajwain) – 16-18
Gram Flour / Besan Flour – ¾ cup
Rice Flour (makes the bajji very crisp) – 2 tablespoons
Red Chilli Powder – ½ teaspoon
A pinch of Soda Bi carb
Salt to taste
Oil for deep frying

1. Wash the Vaamu leaves and dry on paper tissue to remove excessive water
2. Mix the gram flour with the rice flour, salt, red chilli powder and soda bi carb
3. Add about 2/3 cup water and whisk well to make a thick batter the consistency of dosa batter.
4. Heat about 2 cups of oil in a kadhai. Test for readiness by dropping a few drops of the batter into the hot oil. If it rises immediately to the surface, the oil is hot enough to begin frying.
5. Dip a leaf into the batter and coat well on all sides. Drop this carefully into the hot oil. Repeat with about 6 or till the frying vessel is moderately full and you can still turn over each bajji with ease. Fry for a minute and turn over. Fry the bajjis till golden brown and remove from the oil. Drain on a paper towel. Repeat with all the leaves. Serve hot with tomato ketchup.

Gongura Pappu ~ Andhra Style Lentils with Sorrel Leaves

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The love of the sour Sorrel leaves or Gongura leaves in Andhra cooking is legendary. it is used as a souring agent in vegetable, dal/lentil and meat dishes and is world famous as Gongura Pachadi which is a chutney made out of it. As is normal, the preparation and the combination of foods it must be eaten with changes in every region. For instance, in the telangana area, gongura pachadi is eaten with jowar roti and sliced raw onions, in nellore i know it is eaten with hot steaming rice and a dollop of ghee and sliced raw onions. I prefer to skip the raw onions and just gorge on the pachadi with hot rice….

today’s recipe is a bachelor / singleton friendly one pot deal to make gongura pappu. this is a style of cooking i prefer the most… easy and effortless, yet the resultant dal is so full bodied and flavorful, it warrants to be put on a menu for a home style brunch.

Gongura Pappu (serves 2)

time taken – 20 minutes

serves – 2-3 persons

Tur Dal / Split pigeon peas/ arhar dal  - ½ cup (washed and soaked in water for 15 minutes)

Gongura Leaves / Sorrel  - 1-1½ cups (washed and stems removed)

Small onion (chopped – optional)

Green chilies – 2

A pinch each of asafetida and turmeric

Salt to taste

For the tadka/ seasoning

Ghee/ oil (gingely oil is preferred) – 1 teaspoon

Whole cumin seeds/ jeera – 1 teaspoon

Dry red chilies – 2-3

Fresh curry leaves – 15

Garlic – 2-3 pods

  1. Take all the ingredients except the ones for tadka into a pressure cooker, add 2 cups of water and cook for 3-4 whistles. The dal should be cooked and you should be able to mash it with the back of a ladle.
  2. When the pressure releases, add the salt and mash the dal with a spoon. Put the dal back on the heat and simmer for 5-6 minutes.
  3. In a small pan, heat the ghee/ oil and add the whole cumin. Let it splutter, add the red chilies and peeled garlic, fry it till the garlic is turning golden brown.
  4. Add the curry leaves, when they crackle, add it to the boiled, mashed dal. simmer for 2-3 minutes. Serve hot with rotis although steamed rice and ghee is preferred.

Ulli Garelu (Vada) ~ Onion Fritters

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How was the Sankranti / Pongal weekend for you all? I hope everyone had fun and ate atleast as much as I did (so that I can feel less guilty!). It was a mega eating fest for us at the Escapades household. Crazy amounts of food was made and consumed. Even my kadai was filled up with oil for deep frying these Ulli Garelu (Onion Fritters). More because I was doing a festival special article for the newspaper I write for and had to take pictures!

K who is used to not having fried stuff asked me atleast 5 times if the garelu were made at home and not sent by a kind neighbour because he knows I almost never deep fry!

This is a simple stevens recipe and can be whipped up in 20 minutes if you have soaked the husked urad dal earlier. A tea time treat, this is a must have at a festive spread.

Ulli Garelu – Makes about 12-14 garelu


Skinned Urad Dal – 11/2 cup, washed and soaked for 4 hours

Ginger – I small piece (very finely chopped)
Green chillies – 2-3 (chopped finely)

Onion – 1 medium (chopped finely)

Cumin seeds – 1 teaspoon
salt to taste
oil for deep frying

Strain the water from the dal and grind to a paste sprinkling little water and salt. Do this in two batches so that you get a soft fluffy paste without adding too much water. The batter should be thick.

Add the chopped onions, finely chopped ginger, cumin seeds and green chillies to the batter and mix well.

In a kadai, add oil enough for deep frying and heat well.

Wet your hands with water and take a lemon sized ball and flatten it into a vada on a sheet of plastic or a banana leaf.

Make a hole in the centre of the gare so that it cooks evenly all over Slowly drop it into the hot oil carefully and fry it on both sides on medium heat to a golden brown colour.

Drain onto paper towels and serve hot with sauce or chutney.

Sakranthi Subhakankshalu – Khara Pongal and Chakkara Pongal

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What better way to say hello with a post for the festival of the bounty of the earth? How are you doing? I hope the new (old) year is treating you all well. I had high hopes of wonderful things and posts for the close of the year and the beginning of the year… but nothing worked out till this morning and here I am banging away at the keyboard on the morning of Bhogi… when we shed all things old, Consign the waste to flames and begin afresh.

The four day festival of Sankranti is celebrated in my home state of Andhra Pradesh with much fervor.  The agrarian background making it one of the most important festivals for us. The embers of yesterday’s fires on the roads of our colony told me Lohri was celebrated, I have been invited to a Maharashtrian neighbour’s house for haldi and kumkum for Sankrant… almost every state of this country will celebrate it in some form over the next few days.

I love that my family made it a point to make something special to mark both Hindu and Christian festivals. Even if we didnt follow the religious rituals, it was a cultural thing to do and i am grateful for the exposure. For my far from agrarian upbringing, mostly urban perspective of everything, this has held me in good stead. I think it is important for me to acknowledge and be grateful for the sheer manual labour that goes into tilling the land to put food on my table. So today i celebrate that. Traditionally newly harvested rice and dal and new jaggery is used… but if like me you have had a block of jaggery sitting in your kitchen shelves getting darker over 6 months, here is your chance to use it.

I’ve posted both Venn (Khara) Pongal and Chakkara Pongal on the blog before… but i must say what i am posting today is a much improved recipe….not to mention better pictures….these are easy versions… for the ever busy urban dweller!

To make both the forms of sweet and savoury pongal, the starting point is the same…. rice and dal to be cooked together. they then take their seperate avatars bathed in jaggery and spices.

Makes 3 servings each

11/2 cup rice, washed and soaked for 10 minutes

2/3 cup split moong dal, washed and soaked for 10 minutes

1 cup milk

3 cups water

Place the washed rice and dal in a vessel, add the water and milk. Place this in a pressure cooker and cook for 3 whistles till well cooked, but not yet mushy. you can skip the milk and use only water, the milk makes it very creamy. the rice and dal can also be cooked in an electric rice cooker or stove top.

Once the pressure has released, remove the cooked rice and dal and portion it 2:1 for the khara pongal and chakkara pongal respectively

Khara Pongal 

Ghee – 2 tablespoons

Ginger – 1 small piece

Green chillies – 2

Whole Black Peppercorns – 1 teaspoon

Whole Cumin – 1 teaspoon

Curry leaves – a few

In a mortar and pestle, or with a rolling pin, crush the ginger and green chillies roughly.

In a tempering pan, heat the ghee, add the cumin and black pepper, after a few seconds, add the crushed ginger, green chillies and the curry leaves.

Saute till everything is toasted and the curry leaves are crisp.

Pour this over the cooked rice and dal and mix well. Add ¼ cup of water if needed to make it creamy. Serve hot with chutney.

Chakkara Pongal

Jaggery – 1 cup, grated

Ghee – 2 tablespoons

Golden Raisins and Cashewnuts – ¼ cup

In a pan, add 1/2 cup water to the grated jaggery heat till the jaggery has melted. Strain with a sieve to remove impurities.

Add the cooked rice and dal to the jaggery and mix well till everything is incorporated.

In a small pan, heat the ghee and add the raisins and cashews. Fry till golden brown and pour this over the pongal. Mix well, serve warm.

Gutti Dondakaya Kura ~ Stuffed Ivygourd Curry Recipe

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The Andhra must have at a celebratory meal for vegetarians is Gutti Vankaya. Baby brinjals, stuffed and slow cooked in a medley of wonderfully aromatic spices. I found a fool proof recipe at Sailu’s food that works each time. It also works with other vegetables such as capsicums and lady fingers. However, one that i really wanted to try was this masala stuffed into ivy gourd or dondakaya as it is called in telugu. There are many versions of this dish and this one is mine. Making the masala a day before is a good idea, as this dish is cooked on very slow heat and may not be the best thing to undertake on a busy work week.

Gutti Dondakaya Kura (Serves 2-3)

20 fresh and tender ivy gourds, washed, tail and tip removed and slit lengthwise but not all the way, keeping the whole gourd intact

heat a pan of water, add salt to it and blanch the ivy gourd in this for about 4-5 minutes, till they are cooked about 50%. drain and set aside.

1 onion finely sliced

4 flakes garlic
2 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tsp red chilli powder
1/3 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tbsp jaggery or sugar (optional- but tastes good with it)

salt to taste
1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves(garnish)

For the tadka

1 tsp cumin seeds
12 curry leaves
large pinch methi seeds (menthulu,fenugreek)

Heat 1/2 tbsp oil in a pan and add the garlic cloves and onions and fry on medium heat for 7-8 minutes or till transparent. Remove from fire and cool. Grind to a paste with the coriander powder, cumin powder, chilli powder, sugar or jaggery and salt adding little water to make a thick paste.

Stuff this gently into the precooked slit ivy gourds.

Heat the remaining oil in a heavy bottomed skillet, add the cumin seeds, methi/ fenugreek seeds and curry leaves and saute till the fenugreek is just turning colour. Ensure it does not get burnt. Add the stuffed ivy gourd, and saute on low heat for 3-4 minutes. Make sure the vegetables have enough space in the pan as crowding them will make them break. add 1/4 cup of water, cover and cook on medium heat for about 12-15 minutes. Check in between and gently turn around with a slotted spoon. Once the moisture is almost dry and the gravy is just enough to coat the ivy gourds, turn off the heat, garnish with fresh coriander and serve hot with  steamed rice.


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