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]