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Soya Chunks and Potato Curry Recipe

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There are times when I miss the flavours of meat. There, I have said it on a public forum. But since I would rather not contribute to the loss of a life just so that it should  feed me, I continue to be a vegetarian. Its pretty awesome sometimes when I come to think of how I considered vegetarian food ‘good for nothing’ a mere 5 years ago, to now, when I am a vegetarian by choice. But the flavours…. ah yes… those I do miss and try and recreate them minus the meat. It is a bit of a challenge and since every ingredient has its own flavours, it can never be a perfect recreation. But still, it would suffice just as well.

I am not too heavy with the usage of soy products. I use soya beans regularly to spike the adai batter I make, but nuggets and granules are used very sparingly. For the simple reason that K isnt too fond of them, and in a household of two, its too much of labour to cook seperately for the both of us. This time however, I tried to redo the classic Meat and Potato Curry using soya nuggets. I must say it turned out so good that we licked the platter clean and K who normally shrinks away from nuggets was fighting me with gusto for them.

Fake Meat and Potatoes (serves 3)

3 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cubed into inch large pieces

1 cup soya nuggets, soaked in boiling water for 20 minutes, water drained off.

1 large onion, chopped fine

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

1 teaspoon each of red chilli powder (adjust according to spice threshold), coriander powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

11/2 teaspoon ginger garlic paste

1/2 teaspoon whole cumin / jeera seeds

a few curry leaves

mint or coriander leaves for the garnish

salt to taste

1 tablespoon oil

In a pressure cooker or pan, heat the oil and splutter the cumin/ jeera seeds, add the onions & curry leaves and fry till transluscent. Add the ginger garlic paste and fry till it has browned, stirring frequently so that it doesnt stick to the bottom of the pan. add the red chilli powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric powder and fry for a minute, till the raw smells of the powdered masalas cease. Add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes till they turn mushy and then add the potatoes and the soya chunks and coat well in the spice mixture. add 2 cups of water and salt and close the lid of the pressure cooker and cook for 2 whistles. Let the steam escapes, open and simmer till the gravy thickens. Check for the spices and adjust, garnish with chopped mint or coriander leaves. Serve hot with fresh steamed rice or rotis.

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.

Recycle Rani ~ Idli Cake Recipe or What to do with extra idlies

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Idli cake, cocktail idli (same recipe, made with mini idlies) and other names for a simple preparation that ensures there are no leftover idlies that are wasted. In my house, it was always reheat and eat for idlies. Only when K asked me one day about making idli cake that i tried to google and find out what it meant. chopped up idlies, tempered and sauteed with spicy chutney powder (molaga podi) how much simpler does it get. and the slightly crisp ends of the idlies, plus the heat applied on the oil and chutney powder elevates  the taste of the end product.

Idli cake (serves 2)

6-8 leftover idlies, cut into one inch cubes

1 teaspoon gingely oil

3 heaped teaspoons molaga podi

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon whole urad dal

a few curry leaves

1/4 teaspoon salt

In a kadai, heat the oil, splutter the mustard and add the urad dal and fry till golden, add the curry leaves and saute till crisp. add the idlies, sprinkle on top with the chutney (molaga podi) and stir to mix well. If needed add another spoon of oil on top. Saute till the edges of the idlies are beginning to turn slightly golden. Remove from heat and serve hot.

Recipe for an Easy Hyderabadi Khichadi

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This is one of my favourite emergency meal options. Like biryani, khichdi is a universal dish with so many personalised recipes, that no one can be called authentic. I’ve grown up on the hyderabadi khichdi which uses red lentils or masoor ki dal and is spiced with whole garam masala and liberal amounts of ginger garlic paste. I love the gooey gujarati version with liberal doses of ghee and cumin seeds in the seasoning. I also like the cross between a pulav and a khichdi which i make with whatever vegetables i have on hand, sometimes with rice and mostly these days with broken wheat. All said and done, Khichdi is a very forgiving preparation that allows a lot of bandwidth for experimentation. The only constants being the use of rice and lentils. Here is my version of the famous hyderabadi khichdi. There is a saying in Hyderabad “ khichdi ke chaar yaar, khatta, kheema, papad, achar!!” which translates to, khichdi has four buddies, khatta- a tangy gravy preparation made mostly of tomatoes and tamarind, kheema – a dry lamb mince sauté, papad and achar – pickle.

I usually serve mine with a kadhi or a tangy gravy egg curry.

Hyderabadi Khichadi (makes 3 servings )

1 cup long grained rice such as sona masuri

1/3 cup shelled moong dal (green gram) or shelled masoor ki dal (red lentils)

2 tablespoons oil

1 medium onion sliced fine

1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste

2 slit green chillies

2 green cardamoms, 1 black cardamom, 2 small pieces cinnamon, 2 cloves, 1 small bayleaf

½ teaspoon turmeric powder

Salt to taste

2 ½ cups water

Wash the dal and rice together and soak in water atleast 15 minutes.

In a pressure cooker, heat the oil, add the whole spices and sauté for half a minute. Add the sliced onion and green chillies and sauté till the onions turn golden brown. Add the ginger garlic paste and fry well, so that it doesn’t stick or burn. Add the salt, turmeric, drain the rice and add to the pan. Saute while making sure that the grains of rice do not break. Add the water and bring it to a boil. You can close the lid and allow it to cook for 2 whistles before turning it off (which i prefer) or simmer it in the same dish without the lid, till the water dries up. Serve hot with mango pickle, kadhi and papad.

Mixed Veggie Poriyal Recipe Using Leftover Potato Wedges

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Potato wedges are always a good party treat. They are a hot favourite with all and its easy for me as a hostess cos all i have to do, is bake them for 15 minutes in a preheated oven….i prefer this to frying them. i make them from scratch at home from nandita’s recipe, but if there is a need for “emergency party food” i buy a bag of readymade wedges. I discovered over the weekend tho, that there is such a thing as too many wedges!! It was the feast of the leftovers, we had bits and pieces from our party dinner, and freshly made rasam and rice. But those leftover wedges were on my mind. I decided to chop them up and “do something” with them…. too less to feed four adults, i tossed in some shredded cabbage, ½ cup of frozen peas and a chopped carrot. In about 5 minutes, i had a poriyal on hand, that disappeared fast at the table….

Potato Wedges and Mixed Veggie Poriyal

1 cup baked potato wedges chopped (or use 1 cup parboiled fresh potato)

½ cup frozen peas

½ cup shredded cabbage

1 medium carrot, skinned and chopped small

1 small onion chopped

1 green chilly chopped

1 teaspoon oil

A pinch of asafoetida

Salt to taste

½ teaspoon each of mustard seeds and skinned urad dal

6-7 curry leaves

11/2 tablespoons shredded dry / fresh coconut ( i used dry)

In a heavy bottomed pan, heat the oil. Add the mustard and uradm dal. Fry till the urad dal is golden and the mustard has spluttered, add the asafoetida and immediately add the curry leaves, green chilly and vegetables. Sauté for a few minutes, add ½ cup water, salt and cover and cook till the carrot is almost done. Turn off the heat, and add the coconut and stir. Serve with rotis or rice and sambhar / rasam.

South Indian Vegetable Biryani Recipe

There are times when I am quite sick of my own cooking and welcome trying out someone else’s recipe. With pulav’s the issue is, at least in my kitchen, no two pulavs taste the same so I rarely try some other recipe. One weekend, my friend B of the fiery tomato chutney fame was staying with us and said her mother makes it excellently and we should try it out, she called but couldn’t get the recipe because aunty was unwell. She then said, her mother in law’s recipe is also very good and we should try that… I realised only after I began speaking to aunty (B’s MIL) that she was telling me how to make Spicy Vegetable Pulav from Kuwait!! So in that sense, this is one of the most expensive pulav’s I have made!!

This pulav has a ground masala, something which I usually avoid!! But it was so worth the effort of grinding everything together. Its spicy enough to be eaten with just a simple raitha, but go ahead with making a side dish if you are in a mood for something more elaborate.

J’s mom’s Spicy Vegetable Pulav (serves 4)

2 cups basmati rice, washed and soaked in water for 10-15 mins

1 cup ground masala*

2 cups assorted vegetables of choice to be cut into chunks (I used potatoes, carrot, beans and cauliflower)

Salt to taste

2 Tbs vegetable oil

*For the Ground Masala

1 inch stick of cinnamon, 2-3 cloves, 2 green cardamom

½ cup thickly chopped onion

1 tbsp ginger garlic paste (or 1 inch piece ginger and 2-3 cloves garlic)

2-3 green chillies

11/2 Tbsp fennel seeds (saunf)

1 Tbsp poppy seeds (soaked for 10 mins in warm water and drained)

1 cup loosely packed mint leaves

½ cup loosely packed coriander leaves

1 small tomato (or about ¼ cup)

Method: Grind all of the above into a smooth paste with about 2 tablespoons of water to help in blending the whole mixture.

In a pressure cooker, heat the oil and add the ground masala paste to this. Fry till the oil begins to separate, stirring frequently. Add the chopped vegetables and fry for 2 minutes. Drain the water from the soaking rice, gently stir till the rice is coated with the spice paste. Fry for 2-3 minutes. Add 3½ cups of water to this, add salt to taste and cover and place the whistle. After one whistle, turn it off and wait for the steam to release, before opening and fluff with a fork. Serve hot with raitha.

Festive Fare – Diwali ~ Baghara Rice Recipe (Hyderabadi Spiced Rice Dish)

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diwali07

I know its diwali, cant feel the pulse of it yet. I wonder why.  i look forward to Diwali mostly because I love the oil lamps.  I eagerly look forward to this time of the year to take them off the attic, wash and dry them, make wicks of cotton and light them. the beauty of a flickering gentle light is something to behold….This year with the recent floods in Andhra Pradesh and karnantaka, looks like everyone is feeling sombre. Its sad to see the plight of the people who have lost everything. Relief work isn’t reaching the ones who need it and whatever efforts are being made, aren’t adequate. The stories of donated clothes, most of them unusable, food being dumped or thrown at the displaced people and little or no medical aid reaching them dominate the newspapers. In the midst of all of this, one wonders what kind of celebrations we will have. Should we move on and forget, or be prudent with our festivities and donate what we would have otherwise blown up? I know if I was affected, I would be hoping that people open up their hearts and purses to help in whatever way they can.

K seems to have lost interest and he almost always urges me to treat the festival as yet another day. He cant understand why one needs to be / do something extra special just because its a festival or an occasion. I have stopped trying to reason with him!! I try as best as I can to make something special with as less effort as I can manage!! Am sharing some simple festive fare that I made for dasera last month. As I keep on saying here, I loathe to cook stuff that involves several steps of cooking and elaborate preparation. There’s nothing worse than slaving so much to do something and not having the energy to enjoy it. So here’s my quick fix festive cooking. All done in less than an hour, cant get better than this!

diwali

I made gutti vankaya kura. The ultimate Andhra vegetarian celebration dish. The recipe is from Sailu and I didn’t make any changes. There are many recipes for gutti vankaya and I have tried a few, I love this one, it’s never failed me and each time I make it, I can’t even wrangle a picture because everyone wants to polish it off before I can brandish my camera.

The second dish is a potato version of Sanjeev Kapoor’s mutton urndai kuzhambu which translates into mutton kofta curry. This is a south Indian spicy curry and I just swapped the meat ball koftas for boiled potatoes and reduce the quantity of spices to 2/3 of the original recipe. This too is a regular item I make when I am entertaining because the flavours are awesome and it pairs up fabulously with pulavs and other flavoured rice dishes.

The rice is what we call baghara rice. It translates into tempered rice. And though it sounds odd, it has the most fantastic flavour of the whole spices it is cooked with. No vegetable additions to distract you from savouring the rice as it is!

So what are you doing for Diwali? We planned a nice cards party for tonight but called it off last minute. The phirni is already sitting in the fridge, so come and dip in if you are around this side of the world. Also sitting on the counter is a not yet frosted sinister chocolate cake that i made earlier for Aunty E.

All those who are celebrating, have a wonderful and safe Diwali. May you always enjoy the love that surrounds you.

Now for the rice recipe.

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Baghara Khana/ Rice (Spiced pulav) – to serve 4
2 Tbsp ghee
2 whole bay leaves, 5-6 cloves, 5-6 cardamoms, 2-3 one inch pieces of cinnamon, 1 tsp shahi jeera (caraway seeds), 2 star anise
½ cup finely sliced onions
2-3 slit green chillies
10-15 mint leaves
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
2 cups basmati rice (I used regular sona masuri), washed and soaked in 4 cups of water for 10-15 minutes
Salt to taste

In a pressure cooker pan, heat the ghee and fry the whole spices for 30 seconds till aromatic. Make sure they do not burn, there’s nothing worse than burnt spices to ruin the delicate flavours of this preparation. Add the sliced onions and green chillies and fry till the onions are just turning golden brown, add the ginger garlic paste and fry till the raw smell disappears. Drain the rice and add to the pan. On a medium flame, fry till the rice turns opaque. Ensure you don’t overdo the stirring bit, cos the grains of rice will break. So gentle is how we do this! Add the salt, mint leaves, 3 cups of hot water and stir gently. Cover with the lid and place the whistle and cook for one whistle, lower the flame and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Turn off the heat, let the pressure release. Open and gently fluff with a fork. Serve with gutti vankaya Kura, potato version of mutton urundai kuzhambu and raitha.

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