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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.

Really Hot Red Chilly Pickle ~ Korra Karam Recipe

This is the one K refers to as b@m burning pickle…and as Sig said to me on the photo blog “Bum burning ones are the best kinda food, on the way in that is” . I couldn’t agree more. And while i have had chutney’s hotter than this one, this is the real deal. The one in which you actually grind ripe red chillies with other spices and hope to God you dont touch your nose or eyes or worse, any other delicate part of your anatomy before you wash your hands 3 times with soap!! and unlike Padma’s Tomato pickle, where the red was not from the chilly but from the tomatoes, this one is red and fiery from the chillies allright!!

Around the beginning of summer, Hyderabad is full of fiery red, plump chillies that are sold in heaps and for as long as i can remember, Amma has been making this pickle at this time. When i spotted them in the store a week ago, i gingerly bought a moderate 200 gms to try my hand at them. i must say, they patiently sat in the fridge till i mustered the courage to actually make it!! and now here it is, all hot and sexy on the blog! try it, you wont be disappointed. the best way to eat this pickle is with plain dal and ghee over a little mountain of steaming hot rice. And of course it helps if you have a sound proof loo for the morning after!! (ok…i was kidding!)

Red Chilly Pickle

(makes about 250 gms)

200 grams rip red hot chillies, take of the stem, wash and dry them overnight between layers of absorbent cloth/ paper

when dry, with a dry knife, chop them into 1 inch pieces

50 gms of peeled garlic

50 gms of cleaned tamarind, you can wash the tamarind, remove seeds, string etc and dry overnight between layers of a clean kitchen cloth

salt to taste

To season

4 tablespoons of gingely oil / sesame oil / nuvvula nunne

1/4 teaspoon powdered hing/ asafetida/ inguvva

1/2 teaspoon jeera/ cumin seeds/ jilakarra

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds/ aavalu/ rai

1/2 teaspoon methi seeds/ fenugreek/ menthulu

In a thick bottomed pan or kadai, heat 1 tablespoon of oil and add the peeled garlic and saute till just changing colour. Add the chopped chillies and tamarind and fry for about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave it to cool. When cool, transfer to a blender jar, add the salt and coarsely grind it till it forms a rough paste. it should not have any large bits of chilli, but everything should be of a similar coarseness. Handle with care from this point on. and for god sakes, however great it may smell, dont stick your nose too close to the jar to smell it.

In the same pan that was used to fry the garlic and chilly, add the rest of the oil and heat it. Add all the ingredients for the seasoning except the asafetida/ hing and fry till the mustard splutters, add the asafetida now and immediately add the coarsely ground chilly paste. fry it in the seasoning for about 2-3 minutes, stirring well till everything is incorporated. turn off the heat and leave to cool. When completely cooled down, transfer to a glass, ceramic or plastic vessel / jar with a lid and store refrigerated. This pickle is supposed to stay well if insane amounts of oil are added. i’d rather skip the oil and pop the bottle into the fridge!!

Enjoy with dosa, idli or steaming hot rice & ghee.

Padma’s Tomato Pickle

Let’s get some things out of the way. Don’t be afraid of the colour of this pickle. The colour is the result of cooking the tomatoes for about an hour and not chilly! there are hotter ones on this blog!

I don’t know if this is a pickle or a chutney.  And I am not going to research…. what i do know is that this is a very tasty and flavourful pickle/ chutney with any meal. At office, we have a lady cook. She makes this and we love it so much that we are always asking her to make bottles of it to take back home….a few days ago, my online vegetable vendor listed desi tomatoes at Rs. 4 per kg and i had to buy 3kgs out of sheer delight of finding them so cheap. A big lot of plump, ripe juicy tomatoes made their way home that day and i knew i wanted to try my hand at Padma’s chutney. This is a very simple one to do, you just need to chop up a few ingredients and then cook and cook and cook for about an hour till it reaches a jam like consistency. This chutney needs very little supervision and so you can get on with whatever you are doing as long as you pop in every 20 minutes to give it a stir and cook it on the lowest heat possible so it doesnt splutter and spit all over the cook top!

its yummy with idli, dosa, besan rotis or aloo parathas, but my favourite is mixed into steaming hot rice with a dollop of ghee!!

Padma’s Tomato Pickle (makes about 500 gms of pickle)

about 8 cups or 1.5 kgs of ripe, juicy and red tomatoes, the indian variety is best. Make sure they are not too tart

1 cup of thick tamarind extract (wash and soak a tennis ball sized piece of tamarind in warm water for 30 mins, squeeze to extract the pulp and strain to remove debris)

1/2 cup of peeled garlic pods

3 -4 tablespoons of red chilli powder (adjust according to your spice quotient)

3-4 teaspoons of sugar

salt to taste

6 tablespoons of gingely/ sesame oil

for the seasoning:

1 teaspoon each of mustard/ rai/aavalu and jeera/ zeera/ jilakarra

1/2 teaspoon of fenugreek/ methi/ menthulu/

a pinch of hing/ asafetida/ inguva

15-18 curry leaves

3-4 dried red chillies, broken into halves

In a heavy bottomed pan/ kadai or crock pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil and add the peeled garlic to it. Saute on the lowest heat till they are beginning to turn golden brown. Now add the chopped tomatoes and  tamarind extract and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring a couple of times, till the liquid is beginning to dry up and the tomatoes are cooked. Add the red chilly powder, salt and sugar and cook for another 20-30 minutes on low heat. It will thicken at the edges and reduce considerably, with a wooden spoon, stir a few times. the pickle should look thick and like a jam with just enough moisture to stir. Add about 3 tablespoons of the remainder of the sesame oil and cook another 3-4 minutes. In another pan, heat the rest of the oil, add the fenugreek/ methi seeds and saute till just turning brown, ensure you dont burn them, add the cumin/ jeera and mustard/ rai to it, add the curry leaves and red chillies, saute till everything turns toasty. Take off the heat, add the hing/ asafetida and add immediately to the cooking pickle. Stir well till it is well incorporated. Take off the heat and allow to cool.

Once it is fully cooled, transfer to clean and dry containers, either ceramic or plastic and store in the fridge. If stored in the fridge, this lasts about 2 weeks. ensure that a dried spoon is used and do not leave the spoon inside the container.

this is a very tasty accompaniment with a nice balance of flavours. and the colour is from the tomatoes and not the chilly. 🙂

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

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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!


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.


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.

Mamidikaya Pulihara – Raw Mango Rice Recipe

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Raw Mango Pulihara

Raw Mango Pulihara

Pulihara or Pulihora is one of Andhra’s most prized possesion in its culinary bouquet. infact, perfect pulihora is a way of checking the skill of the cook. While it wasn’t my favourite rice dish to eat, as a kid and the fact that we didnt make much of it at home either, suited me just great. I saw an abundance of it in the lunch boxes of friends and wasnt very thrilled at the bright yellow rice being boringly eaten by schoolgoers. All that changed a few years ago when i tasted a very exquisitely made pulihara at a place i least expected it, a Temple!! the spices, tart and texture were so finely balanced.

Pulihara is an integral part of festive cooking and its blasphemy if it does not make an appearance at any festive occassion. It is a tart and tangy rice dish made in many versions with lemon juice, tamarind pulp or as in this case raw mango. i have to admit, Raw mango is my favourite.

Raw Mango Pulihara

Raw Mango Pulihara

i made this when raw mangoes were just getting into the market at the beginning of summer. With the summer on its way out, nostalgia hit and i reached out for this forgotten picture in my archives to urge the summer to stay on a little more. i will admit, the heat drove me nuts this year. i ranted about it enough on social networking sites and here too…. but am always a little sad to see it go!!

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