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Category Archives: south indian

Thanksgiving & Comfort Food ~ Palak Dal

palak dal tadka


Today American’s celebrate Thanksgiving. It was tough to escape this one because there were reminders all over fb, twitter and in my training room today as my client for the day is an american company with operations in India.

I have a lot to be thankful for. this year in particular….its been a very tough year for K and me workwise. We’ve had to navigate over some super volatile minefields. Am thankful for the light at the end of the tunnel, the strength of spirit and the courage and integrity of the man i share my life with. Could not have chosen better. Am thankful for closures, new beginnings and a childlike enthusiasm that can never be put down.

Today is one of those days when I would want nothing better than a bowl full of hot rice, palak dal and a dollop of ghee. comfort food at its best. I make this one pot dal as often as I can, because its ridiculously simple to make. I’ve had a 12 hour day today and am looking forward to sleeping early. Not before I finished posting here tho.

Palak dal tadka (serves 2 )

Tur dal – ½ cup (washed and soaked in water for 15 minutes)

Spinach/ Palak leaves – 1-1½ cups (washed and chopped)

Small onion (chopped – optional)

Green chilies – 2

A pinch each of asafetida and turmeric

Salt to taste

For the tadka/ seasoning

Ghee/ oil – 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 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. Serve hot with rotis or naan.

Vegetable Overload Khaara Bhaath


K likes his upma plain and simple with a coconut chutney, I like it full of vegetables. We make peace at home by alternating between the two. Since I have sole custody of the kitchen, I play dirty sometimes!

I had some purple cabbage lying about and I added this to the upma. I loved what colours landed up on my plate!

Vegetable Overload Khaara Bhaath (Serves 2)

Semolina (Bombay Rava)                   1 cup

Assorted Vegetables                           11/2 cup

(Use a combination of cauliflower, cabbage, potatoes, peas, carrots, etc)

Vegetable Oil                                         1 teaspoon

Salt to taste

Curry leaves                                          a few

Fresh Coriander leaves                    a few sprigs

Mustard Seeds                                     1 teaspoon

Urad dal                                                 1 teaspoon

Green Chilli                                          1-2 slit, (adjust according to taste)

Onion                                                     1 chopped

Tomato                                                 1 chopped


  1. Heat a pan and add the oil, splutter the mustard seeds and add the urad dal. Fry till the urad turns golden. Add the slit green chilli and curry leaves and sauté for a few seconds.
  2. Add all the vegetables including the onions and tomato and cook stirring for a few minutes till the tomatoes begin to turn mushy.
  3. Add 11/2 cups of water and salt and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat, using both hands, add the semolina in a steady stream with one hand and stir the mix with the other hand.
  4. Ensure there are no lumps in the mixture. Cover and let it cook on low heat for 5 minutes. Take off the heat and leave covered for a few more minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve hot with a coconut chutney or pickle.

Festive Fare ~ Orange Scented Besan Milk Burfi

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Orange Scented Besan Milk Burfi

Orange Scented Besan Milk Burfi

This is an easy to do variation of the popular 7 cup burfi. I couldn’t get myself to add 3 cups of sugar that the original recipe calls for. For those intimidated by indian sweets, this is a good place to start. One needs to just mix everything together at room temperature and then stir and cook till the desired consistency is achieved.

I added orange peel instead of the traditional elaichi powder and it tasted wonderful. this is my new go to recipe for a quick indian sweet.

Orange Scented Besan Milk Burfi

Orange Scented Besan Milk Burfi

Besan Milk Burfi (Makes 25 pieces)

Besan                                      1 Cup

Milk                                         1 Cup

Sugar                                       2 Cups

Ghee                                        1 Cup

Shredded Coconut            1 Cup (fresh or frozen)

Orange Peel (or powdered cardamom) 1 teaspoon

In a clean large pan, stir all the ingredients together and heat it on a medium flame / heat.

Stir this continuously on medium flame till everything begins to thicken and it begins to leave the sides of the pan.

Reduce the heat when the bubbles appear (be very careful as this is extremely hot).

Take a small teaspoonful of the mixture and shape into a ball when the heat is tolerable and check if it is retaining its shape. If yes, it is ready to be transferred to a plate. If no, continue stirring till the right consistency is achieved.

Grease a flat plate with a spoon of ghee and transfer the mixture onto it. Flatten it with a spoon and allow to cool a little.

Use a sharp knife to cut into squares or diamonds and allow to cool completely. Store in an air tight container.

Spicy Uttapam (Spicy Savoury Pancakes)

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spicy uttapam

spicy uttapam

This is a breakfast item that we love and I make it often when I have dosa or idli batter older than 3 days. The addition of the spiced powder makes it an easy to eat item and you don’t have to add any other accompaniment.

Its also a break from the plain idli and dosa that is a staple at our home.

Spicy Savoury Pancakes/ Spicy Mini Uthapam (serves 2), Time taken 15 minutes

2 cups idli batter, if you don’t have home made, its easily available in most kirana stores and supermarkets

¼ cup finely chopped onion

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

2-3 pepper corns, roughly crushed

1 green chili, finely chopped

Finely chopped curry leaves and fresh coriander

2 tablespoons of chutney podi/ gun powder/ spice powder

2 tablespoons oil

Heat a griddle on medium heat. Put a few drops of water on it. If it sizzles, it is the right temperature. Mix all of the above ingredients except the oil and spice powder into a bowl. Add a few tablespoons of water to get a really thick pouring consistency. It should not be as runny as dosa batter.

Take a round ladle and spoon a ladleful of this batter onto the griddle. Do not spread, it will spread out a little, but it should remain thick and fluffy. Drizzle a few drops of oil on the corners and cook on medium till the edges are turning golden brown and crisp (about 1 minutes). Sprinkle a little of the spice powder onto the pancake and flip over. Cook the other side for about 30 seconds. Do not press down. Take out onto a plate. Repeat till all the batter is used up. Serve hot.

Chettinadu Style Mushroom Biryani

Its been long since i posted a recipe here. I got busy with this and that, spent a couple of months trying to recover with as much patience as I could from several things besides a very severe case of bronchitis. The year ended, a new one came and I still couldnt post anything.  I have been cooking though everyday food continues to be a serious maze of quick fixes.

Amma spent 6 weeks with me and recently returned to bangalore. As always I try to make interesting meals when she is around. This is a biryani I tried for the first time, making up most of it as i went. But it was highly praised. My friend D cant believe i became a vegetarian and with her nose turned up in the air at me, asked if I have a halfway decent mushroom biryani recipe. This one is for her.

Its the second half of february and now is as good a time as any to do something about the lack of pace around here. I’m hoping to get back to being more active on the blog. I have so many other things happening around me, that this tends to suffer. But I have missed it almost as much as it missed me I would like to think.

Earlier I made most biryanis in the pressure cooker and tho i always had fluffy grains of rice, I have switched to stove top cooking in a large kadai or open heavy bottomed pan. I find that the grains retain their shape so much better and you can enjoy each separated long grain of rice this way.

Chettinadu Style Mushroom Biryani – serves 6 generously

2 cups of basmati rice washed till water runs clear, and soaked in 2 cups of water for 30 mins

3 cups of onion sliced fine, heat a pan with 2 tablespoons of oil and shallow fry till golden brown, set aside on a plate

For the marinade
250 gms mushrooms

2/3 cup curd

1 tablespoon Ginger garlic paste

1 teaspoon red chilly powder

1 teaspoon coriander powder

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/2 half teaspoon garam masala

1 cup of the fried onion

salt to taste

1/2 cup each of fresh mint and coriander leaves.

Mix all of the above together and set aside in the refrigerator for about 30 mins.

In a thick bottomed kadai or deep pan, heat two tablespoons of oil and one tablespoon of ghee. Add two bay leaves, 2-3 cloves, two small sticks of cinnamon and a couple of star anise, one teaspoon of shahi jeera and 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds.

When it splutters add the marinating mushrooms with the entire marinade and cook on med flame for five mins till the mushrooms begin to shrink and the oil is coming to the sides of the pan.

Add one cup of coconut milk, cook for a few minutes. Drain the water that the rice is soaking in. reserve the same water to be used to cook the rice. Sauté the rice gently so that it doesn’t break till it is well coated in the masala, add the drained water from the soaking rice, check for salt and add more if needed, also add half teaspoon of garam masala powder.

Cover with a loose lid and cook for 15 mins till the rice is done but fluffy. The water should be fully absorbed by now. Leave closed for 15 mins. Fluff with a fork. To serve put it on a plate and sprinkle the remaining fried onions, some mint and coriander and enjoy…

Note: its important to note that basmati rice may require varying proportions of water according to the age and quality of the rice. As a thumb rule, i use roughly double the quantity of water ( 1 cup rice , 2 cups water) if i cook in an open pan and one and a half times the amount of rice & water ratio if cooking in a pressure or rice cooker. please check the instructions on the package of basmati rice and follow that.

Kancheepuram Idly Recipe

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I’ve always loved the little cylindrical kanchipuram idlies. Especially the ones served at Woody’s in Bangalore. A short internet search and I was all set to make them myself for breakfast one morning.

Its an easy upgrade from regular idlies and since in our household we eat a LOT of them, I welcomed the beautiful flavour of the added whole spices. Try the Kancheepuram Idly with molaga podi or sambhar. it will make you linger over your breakfast.

Kancheepuram Idly (makes 12 idlies)

Make the regular idly batter as follows

½ cup skinned urad dal/ black gram

1 ½ cups of rice (i use boiled rice, sona masuri works fine too

½ teaspoon whole fenugreek seeds

Soak all of the above for atleast 6 hrs. Grind with 1-1/2 cups water to a smooth batter. Some would ask you to grind the lentils and rice separately and mix, but i cant be bothered about this and i have not had bad results to make me want to try. I grind mine in a wet grinder but a regular food processor works fine too. Again i speak from experience.

Transfer to a large vessel and leave to ferment for 5-6 hours. Add salt to taste and Mix well.

for the seasoning

1 tablespoon gingelly oil

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds (jeera/ zeera)

1 teaspoon whole black pepper corns

6-8 curry leaves, torn roughly

2 green chillies (or less) chopped

1/2 teaspoon ginger paste or 1/2 inch ginger chopped fine

heat the oil and splutter the cumin seeds. add the rest if the seasonings except the ginger paste / chopped and stir for a few seconds till aromatic. take off the heat and add the ginger. stir and leave to cool for about 5 minutes. Add this to the idly batter and stir. leave to rest about 10 minutes.

In the meanwhile, prepare the pressure cooker or steamer by pouring 2 cups of water and bringing it to a gentle boil. traditionally kancheepuram idlies are steamed in a cylindrical mould. you can choose to steam them in the regular idly mould or like me, use small steel tumblers, with a slight coat of oil on the sides to prevent the idlies from sticking to the vessel.

i placed 4 to fit the base of my pressure pan and repeated the process 3 times to make 12 idlies. fill the steel tumblers 2/3 with the batter and steam for 15 minutes.

if using the regular idly moulds, proceed by filling the cups and stacking them one over the other and steam for 10-15 minutes on full heat.

leave to cool for 10 minutes and unmould by running a blunt knife around the edges of the idly. Serve hot with chutney or molaga podi and oil or sambhar.

Easy Mushroom Masala Recipe

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When I see fresh mushrooms in the vegetable aisles anywhere, my hands automatically reach out and i grab not one, but two bags of them. A few days ago i was making a weekend dinner, and we had guests over and so i was wanting to quickly add another dish to the pulav, raitha & bottle gourd kurma spread i was serving. i decided, something on the lines of mushroon do piyaza would be good, with a dash of spice.

This was possibly the best mushroom dish i have made. It was done in no time and was the first to disappear from the table. the addition of kerala egg roast masala made all the difference. This will be good as a side for rotis / chapathis too.

Easy Mushroom Masala (makes 3 -4 servings)

200 gms button (or any other variety) mushrooms, washed, dried and cut into bite sizedpieces

2 cups sliced red onion

1 large tomato chopped

2 green chillies, slit lengthwise

10-12 curry leaves

1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste

2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander

salt to taste

1/2 teaspoon red chilly powder

1 tablespoon egg roast masala from a packet (substitute with 1/2 teaspoon garam masala +11/2 teaspoon corianger powder)

a pinch of turmeric

1/2 teaspoon whole jeera/ cumin seeds

1 tablespoon oil

1/4 cup water

in a pan, heat the oil and splutter the cumin seeds / jeera. add the slit chillies, curry leaves and onions and saute till the onions turn golden, stirring frequently to ensure they are evenly cooked. Add the ginger garlic paste and cook till the raw smell leaves the pan, add the tomatoes and cook for 1-2 minutes covered, till the tomatoes are soft. add the red chilly powder, egg roast masala and turmeric and saute the masalas for a minute. Add the mushrooms and mix well, stir fry for a minute, add the water and salt cover and cook for 5 minutes, till the mushrooms are cooked. remove the lid, dry the water till the gravy has no runny water, but is moist. garnish with coriander leaves. remove from heat. Serve hot with rice or rotis.

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