Friday, 13 December 2013

Eggless Whole Wheat Linzer Cookies

So, it's almost Christmas. You want to bake. You want something that melts in your mouth, without the unnecessary calories and fats. I hear ya. Loud and clear. So loud, that this will forever be the recipe I go to, to make Christmas cookies.

I've devoured many Linzer cookies in my day. Gorgeous festive little treats with jam filling, bursting out of that little hole in the middle, snowed under a generous shower of icing sugar. The most beautiful cookies, in my opinion. How faced would you be if I told you these cookies could be made eggless and whole wheat? Oh yeah. Take a looksie -

My co-workers loved these delicate little cookies! At first, they took me a while to make, but once I got the hang of it, it was relatively easy to whip up the dough and press the cookies into the oven. They'll be a sure fire hit at any pot luck!

We enjoyed these cookies with milk on a Friday night, singing along to a tune that is really close to my heart - Kandukondain Kandukondain from the movie of the same name. My friend Yokesh and I love singing this song. In fact, we'll take every opportunity to relish this beautiful tune in the raga, Nalinakanthi. 
Composed by Rahman, lyrics by Vairamuthu, sung by Hariharan and Mahalaxmi Iyer:

"Kandukondaen Kandukondaen, Kaadhal Mugam Kandukondaen
Viral Thodum Dhooraththilae, Vennilavu Kandukondaen
Vennilaa Velichcham Kinnaththil Vizhundhu Niraindhaal Vazhindhaal Magizhchchi
Vennilaa Velichcham Kinnaththai Udaiththaal Uyirai Udaippaal Oruththi
En Kan Paarththadhu En Kai Saerumoa, Kai Saeraamalae Kanneer Saerumoa
Kandukondaen Kandukondaen Kaadhal Mugam Kandukondaen

Malarmanjam Vizhi Kenjum Manam Anjumallavaa
Uyir Minjum Ival Nenjam Un Thanjamallavaa
Un Thanimaik Kadhavin Thaal Neekkavaa
Kandukondaen Kandukondaen Kaadhal Mugam Kandukondaen"

Now to relish on these drops of heaven...

100 grams unsalted butter
100 grams wheat flour
30 grams cornflour
60 grams icing sugar (plus more for dusting on top of cookies)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon milk

2 cups jam of your choice
50 grams butter

Allow the butter to soften to room temperature. Do not melt it in the microwave. Beat it with an electric beater or stand mixer till it is creamy and soft. Add sugar and vanilla essence and beat again for 2 - 3 minutes till it is well combined and aerated. Finally add milk and mix through.
Sift wheat flour and corn flour 3 times together. It will now be a well incorporated and aerated dry mixture. This is very important.

Add this to the butter sugar paste in three portions, and use a spatula to combine it gently. Then use the electric beater/stand mixer and combine into a thick dough. It should not be runny at all. Knead the dough a little. Don't overwork it.
Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 170 degrees celsius.

Take a small portion of the dough and roll it into a ball. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough into a 2mm thin sheet so you can cut out the cookies evenly. Use any plastic sheets you may have (sandwich/zip lock bags) to help you roll out small portions of the dough like so:

Use either small star shaped cutters or anything small with a round hole at the bottom (pen caps, frosting tips, hand cream lotion lids, perfume lids etc) to cut out the middle part of each cookie.

Place the baking tray into the oven on a low level. If you place it too high up near the coils, your cookies will brown and burn quickly.

Bake for 10 - 12 minutes or until the cookies have a golden brown on the sides.

Dust icing sugar on your cookies, and you can either fill them with just jam or butter cream. A few people told me that the jam was a bit too sweet, so one of my managers, Andrew Gifford, suggested that I put in buttercream instead! What a fantastic idea that was - they were lighter and the cookie taste was more vibrant as the jam didn't take over.

For the buttercream, simply beat the 50grams of butter till it is soft and fluffy, then add in the jam in small increments and beat it together till you get the perfect colour and taste to your liking. Done! Fill this in the cookies and they look spectacular!



Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Venn Pongal and Gotsu/Gojju - A Marriage Made in the Kitchen

Some combinations go so well together, that you simply cannot make one dish without the other. Typical combinations in terms of South Indian dishes go - Mogalu Kozhambu and Paruppu Thogayal, Vendekka Morr Kozhambu and Kathrika Kaai, Vengaya Sambhar and Urlakizhangu Roast, and of course, Venn Pongal and Gojju. This pepper-infused kichdi perfectly complements it's partner - the tangy eggplant stew. They're a match made in the kitchen. A beloved staple breakfast in South India, devoured for generations on a banana leaf, sitting on the cool floor beside your children, parents and grandparents, taking in that whiff of fresh ghee. 

My favourite time of the year to enjoy this dish is during Margazhi Month. I wish I could be in India every year during this month, listening to the Thiruppavai every morning, visiting temples, attending Gana Sabhas, and getting a taste of the authentic ghee-doused Pongal. We would have a bowl full of it everyday, but never got bored of it...

The combination of Pongal and Gojju is often also accompanied by a generous serving of Coconut and Coriander Chutney, easily whipped up using just a few ingredients.

Pongal isn't particularly the healthiest breakfast, but it is healthy to some extent, credits to moong dal. One you've cooked the rice and dal together in a pressure cooker, this dish will take you hardly 10 minute to put together - it's that easy. The gojju on the other hand will take you about 20 minutes.

Pongal and Eggplant Gojju

Yield: Serves 4
Total Time Required: 30 minutes + 30 minutes to cook the rice and dal.

2 cups white rice
1 cup moong dal / payatham paruppu
4 tablespoons ghee
1 tablespoon whole black pepper
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 strands curry leaves
1 teaspoon jeera
2 tablespoons cashew nuts (preferably broken into half and quarter pieces)
1/2 teaspoon of asafoetida / hing / perungayam powder
Salt to taste

Pressure cook the 1 cup of moong dal and 2 cups of rice together in one pot with 9 cups of water for at least 4 whistles, to ensure it's thoroughly cooked throughout.

Once cooked, put into a large basin, add asafoetida and salt, and mix through well using a spatula.

In the smallest kadai / deep pan you have at home, add 1 tablespoon of ghee and allow to heat on stove. Add the cashew nuts and roast till golden. Put this into the basin with the rice and dal.

In the same kadai, add another 1 tablespoon of ghee, allow to heat, and add 1 tablespoon whole black pepper, 1 tablespoon ground black pepper, 2 strands of curry leaves, 1 teaspoon of jeera and 1 tablespoon of minced ginger. Allow to splutter for just 30 seconds, and pour into the basin with rice and dal.

Mix all of this with your spatula thoroughly. The aroma of the curry leaves, ginger and pepper should be infused throughout the dish. Add the remaining two tablespoons of ghee on top right at the end.

Serve HOT and FRESH :)
Yield: Serves 4
Total Time Required: 20 minutes.

2 tablespoons oil
1 large eggplant, or 3 small eggplants
1 large onion
1 tablespoon of tomato puree, or 1/2 tomato crushed
1 ball of tamarind (golf ball sized), or 1.5 tablespoons of tamarind paste
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon of mustard seeds / kadugu / rai / sarson seeds
3 tablespoons of split bengal gram / chana dal / kadala paruppu
2 tablespoons of split urad dal / ultham paruppu
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds / vendhayam
5 curry leaves
3 green chillies
1 tablespoon corn flour
Salt to taste

Cut onion in to small 2cm pieces, and eggplant into bigger bit size chunks. Keep aside separately.

Cut the green chillies into big pieces so they can leak out their flavour in the pot. Keep aside.

Take the tamarind ball in a bowl and pour in 3 cups of warm water. After a few minutes, use your hands to squeeze the essence out of the tamarind, so the water becomes dark brown. Filter it into another bowl. Repeat the same process: put the tamarind back into the first bowl, add another 3 cups of water and use your hands to squeeze out the essence. This time, the tamarind water won't be as dark, but you will have squeezed as much essence out of it as possible. Add this water to the other bowl. (If you are using tamarind paste, just put the 1.5 tablespoons of tamarind paste in 6 cups of hot water and keep aside).

In a deep pot, pour 2 tablespoons of oil and allow to heat. When hot, add 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds, 3 tablespoons of chana dal, 2 tablespoons of urad dal, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds and 3 green chillies. Roast till golden brown for a few seconds.

Throw in onions and curry leaves. Stir and allow to cook for 2 minutes till the onions are slightly golden brown. Throw in the eggplant chunks now, and cook for a few minutes, but ensure you don't stir it too much, otherwise the eggplants will fall apart and become mushy.

After 2 - 3 minutes, add the tamarind water and allow to cook and come to boil for 5 minutes. Then add the 1 tablespoon of tomato puree, and allow to cook and boil for a further 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, put in 1 tablespoon of corn flour and 3 tablespoons of water. Mix well till it binds. Add to the hot pot.

Add salt to taste. Boil for another 5 minutes then turn off the heat.

Serve HOT and FRESH with it's partner in crime, Pongal. Enjoy the compliments!

We enjoyed this typical South Indian Pongal and Gojju listening to a verse from one of my favourite slokas, The Andal Thiruppavai. Every time I chant a verse, my soul yearns to be in a temple in India, sitting peacefully and embracing the positive vibrations. There is no other sloka quite like the Andal Thiruppavai.

"Chitram siru kaalae vandhu unnai saeviththu
Un potraamarai adiyae potrum porul kaelaay
Petram maeyththu unnum kulaththil pirandhu
Nee kutraeval engalaik kollaamal pogaadhu
Etraip parai kolvaan anru kaan govindhaa
Etraikkum aezh aezh piravikkum, un thannodu
Utromae aavom unakkae naam aatcheyvom
Matrai nam kaamangal maatraelor embaavaay"

Please hear why in this very early dawn,
We have come to worship your golden holy feet.
You were born in our family of cow herds,
And we are but there to obey your every wish,
And not come to get only the drums from you,Oh Govinda.
For ever and for several umpteen births,
We would be only related to you,
And we would be thine slaves,
And so please remove all our other desires,
And help us to worship Goddess Pavai.
Soure: WIKI

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Chickpea Flour (Besan) Based Pizza | A Sinless Alternative

I don't think I'm ever going to brave enough to fly pizza dough in the air like the pros do it. I haven't been a big fan of the traditional pizzas bases anyway - they're filled with carbohydrates and provide basically no nutrition.

Yes, I know - pizza isn't the healthiest thing in the world and to try and find nutrition in pizza is like trying to extract blood from a stone. Solution? Use healthy toppings and find a healthier base. That starts with finding a healthier flour, and I we need not look past Besan (Chickpea/Garbanzo Flour). It's protein rich, lowers cholesterol, and is also abundant in folate, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. It's a highly versatile flour too - it cooks super fast, and is used widely to make parathas, bondas, dosas, cutlets, pakoras, and now, pizza!

Once you have a healthier base, you don't feel half as bad scoffing down a few slices. It's delicious - a healthy base, some fresh veggies and seasoning, and a decent amount of good cheese. I'm sorry - if you're going to try and make pizza and cheap out on the cheese, you may as well not eat Pizza at all! Go and eat a salad sandwich instead. :P

It started with a lazy weeknight, uninterested with the usual upma, stir fry, or roti and subzi. I once saw a recipe that used a dough made of wheat and quinoa as a base for pizza, but since I had not the energy nor the time to venture into something like that, I went for this alternative. It's damn good. It tastes even better than Gourmet pizza. Better yet, it takes hardly 20 minutes to plate up.

My only regret with this pizza is that I didn't have stock of my two favourite ingredients - haloumi cheese and jalapenos. This pizza would have been the ultimate had I added these!

Chickpea Flour / Besan Based Pizza 

Total Time Required: 20 minutes
Yield: 2 pizzas

For Base:
2 cups Chickpea/Garbanzo/Besan flour (aka Kadala Maavu)
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons of oil (1 tablespoon per pizza)

For Toppings:
(Keep it simple; don't overload the flavours)
2 cups Grated Mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Grated Parmesan cheese (parmigiano reggiano)
Dried Oregano flakes (1 teaspoon per pizza)
Chilli flakes (sprinkle as much as you want on top whilst cooking)
2 large Capsicums, sliced
1 cup julienned mushrooms
2 onions, finely sliced
1 cup sliced olives
A pinch of salt per pizza
Add further toppings according to your taste, such as baby spinach, pineapple, haloumi cheese, jalapenos, sun-dried tomatoes, paneer etc)


Mix the besan flour, salt, chilli powder together in a bowl. Add 1 cup of water first and mix well till it forms a sticky thick dough. Then proceed to add water little by little till you form a batter that is semi-thick (pancake/dosa batter consistency).
Keep cut vegetables aside, ready to be used.

Heat a non-stick pan/griddle and when hot, pour in two ladles of the batter, and spread out slightly using the ladle in concentric circles. The pancake should not be spread out too much, otherwise the base will be too thin - hence why we're using 2 ladles of the batter.

Once you've put it on the pan, IMMEDIATELY REDUCE THE HEAT. You don't want the base cooking too much and going brown. You need to grill this next.

Immediately, drizzle the 1 tablespoon of oil around the base. Ensure it is on the lowest flame.

Sprinkle 1 cup of cheese and cover the whole surface area. Sprinkle the oregano on top. Now pile on the vegies, decoratively of course! Lastly, sprinkle only a tiny pinch of salt and liberally compliment with chilli flakes, topped with Parmesan cheese.

Cover the lid on the pan, and allow to cook on the low flame for 5 minutes.

Turn your grill as soon as you've closed the lid, and allow the grill to heat up in this 5 minutes.

Open up the pan, and transfer it (open) to the grill. Allow to cook in the grill for at least 5 minutes.

Once the cheese on top becomes slightly brown, and the pizza is aromatic, it's ready.

Plate it up and serve immediately. Don't make your taste buds wait for something this good!

Alas, a successful experiment! We enjoyed this delicious, quick and healthy home-made pizza watching an old favourite film, Nayagan. If you haven't heard the song Nee Oru Kadhal Sangeetham, you have no idea what you've been missing out on! This song alone defines my love for music, and I could listen to this song for the rest of my life. I don't even know what else to say about this song - it is the personification of everything beautiful in life -

Nee Oru Kaathal Sangeetham
Vaai Mozhi Sonnaal Deiveegam
You are a love melody. If said out loud, you’re divine.]

Vaanambaadi Paravaigal Rendu Oorvalam Engo Poagirathu
Kaathal Kaathal Enumoru Geetham Paadidum Oasai Kaetkirathu
Isai Mazhai Engum...
 Isai Mazhai Engum Pozhigirathu 
Engalin Jeevan Nanaigirathu
Kadalalai Yaavum Isai Magal Meettum 
Azhagiya Veenai Surasthaanam
Iravum Pagalum Rasithiruppoam
[Two songbirds are going on a procession somewhere  
A song about love can be heard being sung
A rain of music everywhere...
A rain of music is pouring everywhere and our souls are getting wet
All the waves will lift the daughter of music, the beautiful veena music
We will keep enjoying (the music) day and night]



Friday, 23 August 2013

Murukku (Melt-in-the-mouth Crisps) & Chennai Express Film Review

First - the Chennai Express Film Review.
So, my husband and I went to watch Chennai Express, and I have some strong feelings to share. There are a large number of South Indians who have watched this movie all over the world and expressed their sheer rage and offense over this movie, claiming that it "mocks" South Indians and stereotypes them as aruva-kathi gundas who fight in rings all day, feast on yoghurt rice and are part of large don-families who don't care about their children and siblings. It's rubbish - what they're saying. I will stand up and say very honestly that as a cultured and tamizh-speaking South Indian, the film was genuinely funny. We thoroughly enjoyed the film, and so did many more of my South Indian, tamizh-speaking friends. The film is out to provide comedy to the world and humorously display the way in which North and South Indians would interact, given the opportunity, not knowing each others' language. Sure, Shahrukh Khan's Tamizh was really, REALLY bad, but who cares? Has the world become so racist and racist-phobic, that we can't even enjoy a film for its sole intent to provide harmless humour? Will the world only criticize and ban films like this which don't have malicious intents, but do absolutely nothing when people are tortured, abused, spat on and hated all in the name of caste and race?

Shame on you. Get some perspective, you small-minded humans. Humour is humour. Racism is racism. Know how to differentiate the two, and react accordingly.

Deepika did a very commendable job. It wasn't an easy role, and her attempt, although not perfect, to imitate the Tamizh accent whilst speaking broken Hindi was well done. It was the first movie I saw of hers, where I enjoyed watching her acting. Their chemistry was great, and most of all, the film was decent. Apart from that one song where some half-naked woman is dancing provocatively and making a fool of herself, there was absolutely no vulgarity, no A-jokes, and no nonsense. But gone are the days when people cared about these things. These days, its all about misinterpreting dialogues and analyzing meanings behind films to somehow portray them in a bad light, all the while forgetting to criticize movie directors out there who exploit women for their bodies and videograph disgusting songs like Munni Badnaam Hui and Fevicol Se. The women are senseless too, of course. Apparently the excessive abuse of women in our country wasn't enough to wake people up, so women continue to exhibit more than half their bodies for the world to see. They make it look like it's excusable, and it is far from that. My point is, Chennai Express had none of this. It's a decent film which you can take your parents and your kids to watch, and guarantee everyone will have a memorable and wonderful time. This is my honest view in light of recent negative comments about the film. I respect that everyone might not agree with me, but this is my opinion.
Onto other things in life, the music in Chennai Express was quite nice. I especially liked the song Titli, beautifully sung by Chinmayi and Gopi Sunder. His voice didn't match Shahrukh at all, but strangely enough, it seemed to work; it didn't sound off. I loved the tamizh part and the picturisation of the bharthanatyam scene. The sunset in the background was perfect, and the lyrics were beautiful -
"Kondal vannanaik kovalanay venney
Unda vayan en ullam kavarndhanai
Andar kon ani arangkan en amudhinaik
Kanda kangal marronrinaik kanave"
Translation: I have seen the One whose color is like dark rainclouds
He is the one with the mouth that swallowed the butter of cowherds,
He is the Lord of the devas,
He is Lord Ranganatha (Lord krishna)
He is my nectar, my life!
My eyes have seen my Lord and will not see anything else! 
(written by a poet Thiruppaan Alvar (8th century A.D) several hundred year back) 

I've had this song on my mind for a few days now. It's pleasant on the ears and makes me feel good. Ideal to listen to on a weekend when you're relaxed and making some sweets and savouries for a festival. I made Murukku on the weekend. Whilst it's not my absolute favourite snack, it's one liked by many and easy to make. Don't believe me? See for yourself!

Total Time Required: 30 - 45 minutes (depending on how many you make)
Yield: Approx. 30 murukkus

2 cups Rice Flour (fine)
1/2 cup Ultham maavu / Urad Dal Flour (fine)
1/4 teaspoon of perungayam / hing / asafoetida
3/4 cup Ghee / clarified butter
3 tablespoons of white sesame seeds
Salt to taste
Oil for frying

In a large frying pot, fill it half way with oil and turn on the heat. It will take at least 5 minutes to reach optimum heat for frying. 
In a bowl, put in the 2 cups of rice flour, 1/2 cup of urad dal flour, hing, sesame seeds and salt.
In a frying pan, add the 3/4 cup of Ghee and heat it till it becomes aromatic. Pour it into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix it through with a spatula. It should be partially combined. Sprinkle some water and mix it till you get a dough. You do not need to knead the dough. As long as it's well incorporated, that's sufficient. Have a look:
That snazzy little piece of equipment is available everywhere these days, even here in Sydney! My mother in law sent me this press (kozhal / acchu), and it's great. It comes with all types of attachments to make murukku, thengozhal, ompuri, kola vadai and ribbon pakoda!

Fill up the inside of the press 3/4 way with the dough. Take a plain plastic sheet or a zip lock bag as the base and press the murukku in concentric circles, close to each other, then seal the end like so - 
Check if the oil is ready by dropping a tiny piece of the murukku dough into the oil. It if immediately sizzles, the oil is ready. Carefully lift the plastic sheet, flip the murukku over on your hand and slip it into the oil carefully. Don't throw it in otherwise the oil may splash on your hand.

Fry till golden brown and then drain and transfer to a bowl with paper towels to absorb the extra oil. Serve warm or cold - they're awesome either way!


Sri Om

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Molagu Kozhambu (Pepper Infused Tamarind Sambhar) + Paruppu Thogayal (Toasted Lentil Chutney)

Sri Om. I recently returned from an exhilarating trip to the Himalayas, visiting Holy Lake Manasarovar and Mount Kailash. I returned feeling cleansed, peaceful and rejuvenated. It was by far the best thing I've ever done.

I learned a lot from the experience of absolute purity and tranquility. It teaches you to appreciate the simpler things in life, and embrace nature at its best. You forget about your body and materialistic possessions, and focus more on your mind and soul. It reminded me of a powerful verse in Bhaja Govindam, composed by Adishankaracharya in a bout of ecstasy, sung by M.S.Subbulakshmi -
"sura mandira taru muula nivaasah,
shayyaa bhuutala majinam vaasah.
sarva parigraha bhoga tyaagah,
kasya sukham na karoti viraagah.."
Translation: Make your abode within in a temple or below a tree, and wear a simple cloth for your protection. Rest upon mother earth as your bed, and renounce all attachments and comforts. Blessed with such vairagyam (dispassion), could anyone fail to be content? 

She brings to the song a unique power that I don't think anyone else can possess. Listen to the whole keerthanai by M.S.Subbulakshmi here.

We experienced the vibrations of Manasarovar and Kailash, and let me tell you - you cannot escape it. It gets into your skin and penetrates your nerves before you know it, and you stand there, dumbstruck, not knowing how to react. We awoke one morning whilst staying near Kailash to the best view in the universe. Kailash was hardly a few kilometres away from us and the mountain stood there majestically, kissing the skies, radiating a golden glow of purity, protected by a warm blanket of snow and ice. An epitome of perfection.

The trip taught me a lot about food too. My mother brought lots of herbal foods with her to keep our energy levels up, and after eating simple and powerful herbs like that, you completely lose any appetite for masala-filled foods. Don't get me wrong; the tour agents and sherpas were incredibly hospitable in providing us hot and healthy meals, and they would always use boiled water and fresh vegetables, but their sabzis were often filled with dabba masalas. This didn't quite agree with many of us. Eating simple kept our stomachs happy!

Simple is the way to go. Iyengars used to follow that tradition of eating simple and healthy, and our family chooses to maintain that. On that note, I bring you Molagu Kozhambu and Paruppu Thogayal today - a family favourite. This combination will not only cleanse you and flush out all the toxins in your stomach, but it is also the tastiest kozhambu you will ever have! Molagu Kozhambu is a pepper-infused tamarind sambhar which is supposed to be thick. You only need a little bit of it to mix with rice, and it's a delicious tangy soup with a tantalizing kick. You'll love it, I guarantee you. Paruppu Thogayal is a thick paste of toasted lentils and spices. It's blended with some coconut and mixed with rice. These two dishes are a match made in heaven. It's completely healthy too - only a tiny bit of oil in the sambhar, kicks from sinus-cleansing pepper, and plently of protein from the lentils!

We usually mix the thogayal with rice, make a well in the centre, liberally pour in a ladle of the kozhambu, and enjoy this delicious combination. You don't need no nothin' else.

Saturday's menu was Paruppu Keerai, Lemon Rasam, Cabbage Dry Curry, Molagu Kozhambu and Paruppu Thogayal. An Iyengar feast, you might say!

Molagu Kozhambu (Pepper Infused Tamarind Sambhar)
Total Time Required: 45 minutes
Yield: Enough for 5 people

1 and half lemon sized balls of puli / tamarind / imli (or 1.5 tablespoons of tamarind paste)
1/2 teaspoon of perungayam/ hing/ asafoetida
1/4 teaspoon of turmeric
1 strand of curry leaves
3 tablespoons of cornflour or rice flour1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
1 tablespoon of oil
Salt to taste

For powder:
1 cup Thoram Paruppu / Toor Dal
1 tablespoon of vendhayam/ methi seeds/ fenugreek seeds
2 tablespoons of whole black pepper
2 dried red chillies
1 strand of curry leaves
1/2 teaspoon of jeera / cumin seeds

Take the ingredients under "For Powder", and dry roast them in a pan till they are golden brown and aromatic. Spread it out on a newspaper and allow to cool.
In a bowl, add the tamarind and pour in 3 cups of hot water (hot enough for you to touch). After a few minutes of leaving it to stew in there, use your hands and squeeze out as much essence from the tamarind as you can. The water should now be dark brown, and you shouldn't be able to see the bottom of the bowl. Filter this and keep the concentrated tamarind water aside. Pour another 2 cups of water into the bowl with the tamarind. Squeeze essence out again. Filter into the other bowl with tamarind water. Keep this large amount of tamarind water aside.

In a pot, add 1 tablespoon of oil. Once it's hot, add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. Once the mustard seeds have spluttered, add in the large bowl of tamarind water. Add in the hing and turmeric and allow this to boil for at least 15 minutes. The tamarind should be completely cooked through and there should be no raw smell.

While this is boiling, take those ingredients from "For Powder" that you had dry roasted and put them in a mixie or blender. Grind these ingredients into a very fine powder. Add 3 tablespoons of this powder to the boiling pot. Allow the mixture to boil for another 10 minutes. NB: Yes, you will have some powder left over. Store it in an air tight container and use it for next time!

Take the 3 tablespoons of corn flour or rice flour and mix it with a few tablespoons of water. No lumps should be there. Add this to the boiling pot.

After a few more minutes of boiling, you should notice that the kozhambu is a nice and thick liquid. Add salt to taste. Boil once more and turn off the heat.

Serve with hot rice and paruppu thogayal. Enjoy!

Paruppu Thogayal

Total Time Required: 20 minutes
Yield: Enough for 5 people

1 cup Kadala Paruppu/ Chana Dal/ Bengal Gram Dal
1 cup Thuvaram/Thoram Paruppu/ Toor Dal
5 dried red chillies
1 teaspoon whole black pepper
1/2 cup shredded or dessicated coconut
1/2 teaspoon perungayam/ asafoetida/ hing
Salt to taste

In a pan, dry roast the Chana Dal, Toor Dal, dried red chillies and pepper till the dals are golden brown. This amount of chillies and pepper will make the thogayal slightly on the spicier side. If you want a milder thogaya, use 3 red chillies and 1/2 spoon of pepper.
You want this thogayal/chutney to be golden in colour, not dark, so be careful not to over-toast the dals. This toasting process should not take more than 5 minutes on high heat.
Once toasted, spread it on a newspaper and allow it to cool for 10 minutes.
In a blender or mixie, put the toasted mix in and grind it dry first. Let it become a coarse powder. Then add the coconut and blend it again. Then add some water little by little until you have ground it into a thick and well-blended paste.
Transfer contents into a serving bowl. Add hing and salt to taste and mix very well.

Serve with rice and molagu kozhambu for best results and compliments!

Sri Om

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Dalia - An Alternative to Rice

I love winter! I've got a ridiculously crappy immune system, but I can withstand the cold really well. Cold breezes and monsoons bring about more warmth in me, and I love walking on the streets in the cold weather, tugging my jacket closer to my chest and protecting my cold fingers from the frost. Most see it as gloomy, but something about it makes me happy and content. The best part is being able to snuggle up in a warm blanket, listen to an awesome Rahman or Raja melody, and slowly sip a cup of dark thick Italian hot chocolate.
I've become re-addicted to a song which my husband happened to play one evening, and it rekindled so many old memories. This song seems almost perfect for a cool winter's evening. A beautiful composition by Ilayaraja's son, Karthik Raja - 

Song: Veesum Kaatrukku
Movie: UllasamSinger: Unnikrishnan
Veesum kaatrukku poovai theriyaadha,
Paesum kannukku ennai puriyaadha..
Anbae undhan paerai thaanae virumbi kaetkiraen,
Poagum paadhai engum unnai thirumbi paarkiraen..
(veesum kaatrukku…)

Ennaiyae thirandhaval yaar avaloa,
Uyirilae nuzhaindhaval yaar avaloa..
Vazhiyai marithaal, malarai koduthaal,
Mozhiyai parithaal, mounam koduthaal..
Maeghamae maeghamae aruginil vaa,
Thaagathil moozhginaen prugida vaa..
(veesum kaatrukku…)

Today's recipe is ideal for a cold winter's day..
Almost every single Indian these days tends to look for an alternative to rice. Rice is such a huge part of our diets and lacks so heavily in nutrients, so any substitute is helpful! Rice comes from wheat, where the outer layer is stripped off and cleaned, leaving a white grain. Unfortunately, the outer layer is what contains all the nutrients and "healthy stuff", and by removing that, we're effectively just eating starch! Dear, oh dear...

My mother has for some time, started eating dalia as a substitute. Dalia is broken wheat, and is prepared with some Moong Dal/Payatham paruppu and jeera. It doesn't taste very different to rice, is much healthier, and keeps you fuller for longer too in lesser quantities than normal white rice.

Time required: 20 minutes
Yield: Serves 2 people

1 cup of Broken Wheat
3 tablespoons of Payatham paruppu/Moong Dal
1 teaspoon of jeera/cumin seeds

Combine all ingredients in a kadai/non stick fry pan. Dry roast for a few minutes till the dal goes golden brown.

Once dry roasted, transfer contents to a stainless steel bowl, place in your pressure cooker, add 2 cups of water and cook with whistle on medium-high for 3 whistles.

You can alternatively cook this in the fry pan/kadai itself with the lid closed but this will take longer to cook thoroughly.

Do not add salt. This is healthier without salt. Just mix with sambhar/rasam/sabji/curry and eat as you would with rice.