Sunday, March 27, 2011

Taking a Break

Hello people. I will be taking a break from the blog for a bit. I am unwell and need some time off to recover. Be back soon. Meanwhile, do write in with your plans for the summer and the treats you have planned to make to beat the heat. It will make for interesting reading for me while I recuperate!


Monday, March 21, 2011

Mangai Sambar (Raw Mango Seeds in Sambar)

This is another dish from MIL's repertoire - it's a little different from the mango sambar recipes one sees where raw mango or ripe mango pieces are cooked in the sambar. Rather what she does is to reserve the seeds (with a little bit of the flesh still on) from the mango used in this raw mango chutney (mangai pachadi) - and then use it in a sambar, to give it a great tangy flavour. And then the best part of the dish is to suck on the mango seeds which by then have taken on the flavour of the sambar as well.

So, during her stay with us, I always ask her to make the mango chutney first and then this sambar. This time, the sambar was being made with radish and small onions, so the addition of the mango seeds made a piquant combination. Went very well with the idlis we were having for breakfast that day. I guess you could use ripe mangoes as well - it would impart a slightly sweet taste to the sambar.

Mangai Sambar (Raw Mango Seeds in Sambar)

Tuvar Dal (Arhar,tuvaram paruppu,split pigeon pea lentil) - 3/4 cup or 150gm - cooked with 4 cups water and 1/4 tsp of turmeric, in the pressure cooker till well cooked and mushy, about 3 whistles and 5 minutes on a low flame.

Tamarind extract - about 1 cup from a lime sized ball soaked in warm water for half an hour

Radish - 1 medium, cut into thin discs and cooked separately, till just tender
Small onions - 10 soaked in water for 10 minutes and peeled. (or 1 onion sliced)
Mango seeds - 2

Sambar powder - 2 heaped tsps
Chilli powder - 1 tsp (optional - the sambar powder I am currently using isn't too spicy since it has more dal in it than store bought ones)
Coriander (dhania)powder - 1/2 tsp

Tomato - 1 medium chopped into 4-6 pieces
Coriander leaves - 1/4 cup chopped
salt to taste
Talimpu or tempering:
Mustard seeds (rai/kadugu) - 1 tsp
Urad dal - 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida powder (hing)- pinch
Curry leaves - 2 tbsp washed
Oil - 1 tbsp

1. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan, add the mustard and wait till it splutters, then add the urad dal, the hing and when the urad turns brown, add the curry leaves.
2. Add the onions and saute till soft - 2-3 minutes, then add the tamarind extract diluted with 1 cup of water, bring to boil and let simmer covered for about 15 minutes.The raw smell of tamarind should have disappeared.
3. Add the tomatoes, cooked radish, sambar powder, mango seeds, chilli powder, coriander powder and salt and let simmer for another 8-10 minutes.
4. In the meanwhile, whisk the cooked tur dal till smooth; add to the simmering sambar and bring to boil. Simmer for another 5-10 minutes till the flavours come together, add the chopped coriander and remove from flame.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Eggless Banana Walnut Muffins

MIL is staying with us this month - I had to really persuade her to come this time, since she was quite reluctant to make the trip from Coimbatore. Age related hearing loss has made her a little reluctant to socialize. But she did come finally and its been nice to have her here with us. My daughter especially seems to bloom a litte bit more every time one of her grandparents is around.

We took her out for lunch last weekend (Punjab Grill - very good food and great service - pleasantly surprised) and while walking around the mall, she spotted some cupcakes at a cafe. She asked about them but they had egg in them, so I decided to make some eggless muffins at home. Banana muffins seemed the easiest and she likes nuts, so decided to modify this recipe of mine for white chocolate walnut muffins, to make some banana walnut muffins.

It barely took me about an hour from start to finish. I packed a couple in my daughter's tiffin the next day and she couldn't stop beaming with delight at the chocolate chips. This is a light muffin but nice and flavourful.The sugar can be brought down a notch since it was a little sweet for me.

Eggless Banana Walnut  Muffins
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar (I would bring this down by a couple of tablespoons)
1 banana (medium)
3 tbsp milk
3/4 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup maida
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
salt - a pinch
1/2 cup walnuts (toasted on a skillet or in an oven, peeled and broken into half) You could use chocolate chips, I did that for half of them because my daughter wanted some.

1. Blend the banana with the milk and vanilla essence with the hand blender into a puree.
2. In a bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar with a hand blender till light and fluffy. Add the banana puree and then blend again.
3. Sift the flour with the salt and the baking powder into thebowl of batter and fold in gently till just combined. Do not overmix
4. Fold in the walnuts (or the chocolate chips) reserving a few to decorate on top. Pre-heat the oven to 180C (350F).
5. Grease a muffin pan or line them with cupcake liners. Drop spoonfuls of batter into the muffin pan and bake for 15-20 minutes (took 20 minutes for me). A toothpick should come clean when poked into the muffins.
6. Let stand till cool and then unmould from the muffin pan.

Friday, March 11, 2011

My Perfect Omelette

Disclaimer - this is my perfect omelette - not THE perfect omelette - so feel free to write in with Your perfect omelette. Even if it was made by someone else - like that uncle who lives in Belgium. Or that dishy chef at the Taj breakfast buffet. Just saying.

Dad makes the best Spanish Omelette  or frittata- but over the years, I have perfected the kind of omelette we like - 2 or 3 eggs max, non greasy, fluffy, soft and perfectly salted. I hate it when omelettes are undersalted - as they often are in hotels (something pointed out by Vir Sanghvi as well).

I add a little milk to the eggs - it makes the omelette softer. The eggs are well beaten and then seasoned with salt and pepper. The green chillies should be cut just so- not finely minced so that the chilli seeds spices up every inch of the omelette -but in rounds so that they can be picked out by the people who don't want to bit into them (me) and eaten by the extra spice lovers (hubby). I don't fry the chillies, instead sprinkling them over the omelette, except for one quarter of it which is for K since she can't pick the chillies out and may bite into one. She enjoys this omelette, so it makes sense to make the same one for her rather than a separate one.

The onions are fried till soft and not brown, so that we can enjoy their sweetness. I add a pinch of salt while frying the onions and this balances the salt. The cheese is optional and depends on my mood - but just a cube of grated cheese is enough for 3 eggs - any more than that, it will turn into a cheese omelette - which is not a bad thing, just not what we are looking for. Fresh mint or coriander leaves to finish.

And it should be eaten fresh off the skillet - that way I'm a bit like the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld. No wandering around/checking mail/reading newspaper and then coming over to eat my omelette after its been cooling on the table for five minutes. You preferably have to be at the table, with buttered toasts ready (for me), a good 3-5 minutes before the omelette arrives. Yes, hubby has been trained well in the art of eating our perfect omelette ;).

This omelette takes only about 10 minutes to make from start to finish - and worth every minute if you like a well made omelette. Have your coffee perking at the same time, and you will have a lovely cuppa Joe ready, at the end of it all as well!

Our Perfect Omelette
 Eggs - 3
Milk - 1 tbsp
Onion - 1 chopped fine
Green chillies - 2 chopped in thin rounds
1 cheese cube about 20 gms(grated) - optional
salt - about 1/4 of a tsp - a pinch with the onions and rest
Butter - 1 tbsp
Mint - 3 tbsp chopped

1. Melt the butter on a non stick skiller on low heat and then saute the chopped onions on a medium flame till just soft. Add a pinch of salt to the onions while sauteeing
2. Meanwhile, beat the milk with the eggs, salt and pepper till its frothy
3. Spread the softened onions over the skiller and then pour the beaten egg evenly. Sprinkle the chopped chillies and cook on a medium low heat for about 3 minutes or till the omelette is set at the bottom.

4. Gently bring the edges of the omelette inwards and tilt the skillet outwards so that the uncooked egg settles at the bottom. Sprinkle the mint and the omelette over the omelette and cook on a low flame for a minute.

5. Fold the omelette over and cook for half a minute, then turn over and cook for half more a minute. Serve warm - we had the omelette with a herbed bun.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Milagu Rasam (Pepper Rasam or Mulligatawny Soup)

The fiery Milagu Rasam which gets its heat from black peppercorns is best had when you have a bad cold and your head is heavy. Which is how hubby was feeling  a couple of weekends back.

Milagu Rasam is the preparation from which the anglicized Mulligatawny Soup evolved (Milagu Thani = Pepper Water)
I have written about the different rasams (soups or appetizers) before in this post and the place that rasam holds in Tamil cuisine - this particular one is made unique by the freshly pounded pepper and garlic. If lemon rasam is subtle and tomato rasam is comforting, pepper rasam packs a punch.

We had it with rice/ rotis, dal, papad and kadgi sukke (green jackfruit stir fry).A simple but satisfying meal for a Sunday afternoon - we are really enjoying the last days of winter(which should have actually ended by now!) and its such a pleasure to sit out in the sun and have a meal.

Milagu Rasam (Pepper Rasam or Mulligatawny Soup)

Tur (arhar) dal - 1/2 cup, (pigeon pea lentils)
Pressure cooked with 3 cups water, water strained and reserved to use in rasam along with 1 tbsp of cooked dal. Rest of the lentils can be used to make a simple dal
Tamarind Extract - 1/4 cup (or 1 tsp tamarind paste)

Pound together coarsely:
3-4 garlic flakes
cumin seeds (jeera) - 1 tsp
peppercorns - 2 tsp

1 cup water
Tomato - 1 medium cut into 4 pieces
salt to taste

Tempering - mustard seeds 1 tsp, urad dal - 1 tsp, hing - a pinch, curry leaves
Coriander leaves to garnish

Rasam powder - 1 tsp - recipe below (or use any good store bought rasam powder, Sakthi works for me)

1. Mix the reserved lentil water (should be about 2 cups) with the tamarind extract, pounded spices, rasam powder, tomatoes, water and salt.
2. Bring to boil and simmer for about 8-10 minutes till the raw smell goes away.
3. Heat 1 tsp oil in a small pan, add the mustard seeds and when they splutter the urad dal, hing and curry leaves and take off flame. Pour over the rasam. Garnish with coriander leaves.
4. Drink hot like a soup or serve with rice.

Rasam Powder

Tur dal(arhar dal) – 1/3 cup
Dried red chillies – ½ cup
Coriander seeds – 1 cup
Cumin seeds - ¼ cup
Black peppercorn – 1tsp
Fenugreek seeds (methi) – 1 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Washed and dried curry leaves – ¼ cup
Oil – 1tsp
1. Roast all the ingredients separately, till they change colour and are evenly roasted.
2. Cool completely and then grind to a smooth powder. Store in a tightly lidded container.