Friday, May 12, 2023

Idli in a Bundt Pan

I thought this act of mine, a brainwave, if you will, deserved a post on this dormant blog. 

My baking tins are about thirty years old, the result of a summer when I had some free time. You can read more about that here, at the beginning of this post. I acquired a few over the following years but didn't really use them as I got busy with studies and work and diets and so on and so forth. Naturally, they became 'space-occupying lesions', as my mother likes to call clutter, and I recently gave most of them away.

One of the things I kept was a Bundt pan. Last week, we had bought some idli batter just in case my guests wanted breakfast. (My nieces slept in till at least 11 a m so they did not.) I am having my kitchen renovated and did not want to spend much time in what is still a disorganized and messy situation. I didn't have the patience to grease the idli plates so I decided to steam it in a vessel and cut it into pieces. My eyes fell on the Bundt pan and voila, that's what you see in the picture. 

I decorated it with some senaga karam (dal powder made primarily with roasted gram dal, red chillies and garlic) and inserted a small bowl of pappucharu in the centre. (Turned out it was the rajma I'd made that day, but it will do, for effect)

Unmoulded beautifully

Beloved Bundt

Friday, December 31, 2021

'Dal Bhaji' or 'Dal Chaat'?

I wanted to choose style over substance and put a cartoonised photo which looks much better than the original but the computer had other plans for me. But let's talk about the substance. This is a mishmash of dal that is inspired by pav bhaji. Over the last two weeks, I've been soaking equal amounts of green gram (moong dal/pesara pappu) and Bengal gram (chana dal/senaga pappu) to make an ordinary dal which is much lighter than dal made with red gram (toor dal/kandi pappu). 
By ordinary, I mean a thin dal which contains some onion, a couple of tomatoes, green chillies, some ginger and turmeric that is pressure-cooked and then tempered at the minimum with cumin, red chillies and garlic. The people at home have also been lapping it up too. 
One afternoon, I'd spent the whole morning doing chores that I had no energy left when it came to making the rice for lunch. I had made this dal and it was beaming its yellow, bright face at me. I toasted a couple of slices of bread with half a teaspoon of oil, sprinkled some onion and lime juice on the dal and tried it. It was wonderful. Maybe this idea exists already - but to me it was a revelation.
A few days later, I had family over and they came bearing pappu chekkalu (similar to mathri/ tattai), the crispy stuff you see in the photo. I crumbled a couple of them into the dal and ate them - like papri/papdi in chaat - and I liked that combination too. It's heavy, though.
I wanted to share these ideas with you. 
The recipe for the dal as well as the combination is very random. So I'm not specifying it here. And I don't know how to make the pappu chekkas. Try it and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Whole Masoor Dal, Some Nostalgia for Grindless Gravies, and Other Things

I recently got a pack of whole masoor dal and wanted to make misal or usal with it, as I had taken a fancy to it after seeing some picture on Instagram. Soon enough I tired of that whim as I'd have to sprout the dal and that would involve some waiting. I kept looking for brown masoor recipes but all I came across were recipes for dal (plain brown gravies) which I found unappetising. It then struck me that I could probably adapt the Kerala green gram thoran recipe to these lentils.

When I was in hostel, this dish would appear in our mess once in a while. The first time it did, I thought the cook, Mr Nair, had run out of vegetables for the day and was making do with the green gram. I was not curious about food those days so I kept thinking that till many years later I ate this at a friend's house and realised it was a full-blown dish all its own!

I followed this recipe with one change. I use very little coconut when I cook, and do not enjoy having to grind stuff, all the more so now as my mixie is in poor health. I do have a jar of desiccated coconut, though, and I needed to begin using it. So I looked for ways to make the coconut fresher, and I found this. It involves soaking the coconut and straining it in a colander but I was using only a tablespoon so I used a tea strainer. The next time I make this, I will use the desiccated coconut directly and see if there's a difference in taste.

Talking about mixies ... In 2007, I came up with a food blog event called Grindless Gravies, much to the amusement/annoyance/frustration of the participants. I guess I was pretty anal about the rules and even changed them once or twice. But many indulged me and participated. The round-up is here. So many good memories!


Then, recently, I came across this recipe for Turmeric Fried Eggs with Tamarind and Pickled Shallots by Yotam Ottolenghi. I adapted it to brinjal (eggplant) and used an extra chilli. I didn't use tamarind at all but combined a lemongrass wok sauce and hoisin sauce to make a dressing. It was very oily but good enough. It was a hit with the Spouse. You can see it in the picture below.

This salad that you see below is a combination of a few recipes for spinach-sesame salad in Korean/Japanese style. It was excellent. I saw so many recipes I cannot list them all here. I even used a couple of Guntur chillies and they smoked up my kitchen so much we coughed and hacked for about twenty minutes straight - and worried that the neighbours would wonder if we had COVID-19.

The next picture is my attempt at making a broken glass/stained glass jelly dessert. Some of the darned jellies did not set well and I could not make it more colourful than this. I found blue and green jellies too, for once. Too bad they did not cooperate!

A fruit vendor who appears at our door every few years and vanishes for the next two or three years brought some wonderful guavas at varying stages of rawness and ripeness the other day. This seller always wants me to buy two or three kilos but of course, that's too much for a small household like mine. This time he handed me a packet with many fruit and I did not feel like refusing him as he was coming after a long time. It was just Rs 50. Later on, I discovered there were eleven guavas inside! I doubled this recipe, added raisins to make up for the jaggery I fell short of and realised I had added too much chilli powder and too many chillies. I then toned it down by adding a cup of tamarind juice. It was still hot, but tolerably so.

Monday, January 04, 2021

Sambaar Kaaram

Yesterday, I had a big thrill from the blog. I checked it for comments after a long time. There was a comment from someone who said she had been using my recipe of sambaaru kaaramu to make her pappucharu taste extra special but could not access the link When My Soup Came Alive: Value-Added Mix to it. Funnily enough, I've had the same problem a couple of times in the recent past but it's not broken most of the time. I decided to put it up again here with a direct headline that is easily found rather than an indirect, pun-filled one that gets lost in the ether!

It's been nearly fourteen years since I put up that recipe. I've looked high and low for information related to it but have only come up with scraps. Beyond the fact that the word sambaaru/sambaaram/sambhaaram stands for spices used to flavour food (or "provisions, preparations, collection, supplies, constituents, ingredients and requisites") and that it can be used for a range of dishes from stir-fries to dals, I know little about it. The link above leads to a discussion on the lore surrounding sambar! My grandmother would say that this sambaaru kaaram and that sambar are different, which is true, in my experience. Sambar powder contains so many more ingredients ... even if the etymology is the same. From what I have observed and read, it's used mostly in farming families of Guntur and Krishna districts of Andhra Pradesh. 

We used to eat it with steaming, ghee-smeared idlis as children, dipping the idli in a spoon of the kaaram served to a side on our plates. When she was alone at home, it was her dinner for the day, my mother says, with rice and ghee, like any other podi or kaaram that we make. Here's the recipe, provided by my grandmother's sister:

(I read somewhere recently that pure castor oil is added to this mixture.)

Dry red chillies: 500 gm (remove the stalks)
Coriander seeds: 250 gm
Fenugreek/Methi seeds: 50 gm
Cumin/jeera seeds: 50 gm
Black gram/urad dal: A little less than 50 gm
Salt, to taste
Garlic: to taste

Dry roast the first five ingredients separately.

Let cool, whiz to a powder in the grinder.

Add salt.

Crush garlic roughly, add to the powder and mix it with the kaaram.

Store in an airtight container.


Thursday, November 19, 2020

Fridge-Cleaner Stew

Recently, The Spouse chanced on a gravy formula that worked well. He saw the cartons of tomato puree and coconut milk on the shelf and mixed them to make a paneer dish. I followed that formula and ended up with a hearty stew.  

On this occasion, I had a pack of mushrooms languishing in the fridge, along with some carrots and a capsicum and frozen peas. I put them to good use and came up with a stew that I'm proud of. It tasted good with rice too.

In a pan, temper 2 tsp of oil with 
1 tsp cumin
2 green chillies
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped 

Then, saute
1 onion, chopped

Then saute
1/2 cup of diced carrot

Next, saute 
1 diced green capsicum 
1/2 cup of green peas

Now add 
2 cups of diced button mushrooms 

and let them cook.

Once they've cooked and their water has begun to evaporate (or when your patience begins to run out), add 3-4 spoons (any small or medium spoons, but nothing you would use as a ladle) tomato puree and mix it well with the vegetables. 

Then add 
about 1/2 cup of coconut milk 
and mix well. Add water enough to make a gravy of the consistency you like. Or more coconut milk.

salt to taste

Mix well and simmer for about five minutes, more or less, depending on how thick or thin you want it.

I ate two cupfuls all by themselves, without any rice or other accompaniments. It was very satisfying.