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Happy New year and Wheat ladoo

New Year with sweets:

The years 2013 is coming to an end and let’s welcome 2014 with sweets. Wheat ladoo is a sweet that I have been preparing for almost all festivals and functions in 2013. So, what better way to bid adieu to 2013 than to prepare wheat ladoo.
And coconut ladoo has been on my to-try sweet list for a long time now. What better way to welcome 2014 than preparing something that I wanted for a long time.
Let’s start with the wheat laddoo

Kollu Dosai

Kollu or horsegram is a low fat food and is ideal for people who like to diet or lose weight.  Kollu chutney has been on our kitchen menu for a long time and a new entry is this kollu dosa. People who intend to eat kollu regularly on a daily basis or on alternate days should take measures to cool their system with lot of fluids, fruits etc. 

Healthy low fat dosa!

Poondu kuzhambu

After a weeklong vacation in the grand canyon and Vegas with relatives, getting back home made me feel lonely. The spine chilling winter would keep me and my son house arrested except for the weekly grocery shopping... We came back with terrible cold and in spite of all this whining I do, the trip was the best of all. This is our first trip with another family and we had the best time when we shared our rooms for a few nights... Sharing the small space we have, that is what makes you feel the togetherness and brings the festive mood..
With the refreshing memories of the vacation, let us see a poondu kuzhambhu recipe. I prepared this today as we have not yet stocked up veggies.
After having missed home food for almost a week, this poondu kuzhambhu felt like amirtham...

Spicy Brussel Sprouts Stir fry / poriyal

Living abroad especially in a 'not so Indian populated' place like where we live, has its own difficulties and perks... During the initial days, you would see the Indian vegetables that the Indian stores carry with pitiful eyes, coz they would have stayed in the shelf for a pretty long time and would strip you off the desire to cook them, coz it would have shrunk to half its size... On the other hand, the freshest available veggies would be the 'American' ones like broccoli, asparagus, colored peppers from the nearby super market, which you absolutely have no intention of adding to a spicy Indian cuisine.

Then the natural survival instincts would kick in and you eventually evolve. This evolution process took me almost 2 years and now I have started using brussel sprouts, broccoli and so on.. The Asian food markets also offer some veggies (which by the way demands an extensive online research to find the exact Indian or English names... Otherwise you end up making watercress poriyal, not knowing that it is going to taste bitter than raw bitter gourd soup... )

All these happened to me and after a lot of trial and error, i finally found a way to cook brussel sprouts for the Indian palate.. The most ironic thing is that it is actually a very easy and tasty stir-fry...

Tomato Chutney

In India tomato prices sometimes make people wonder if tomatoes have to categorized  in the 'luxury list'. But otherwise tomato chutney is a staple accompaniment for idli or dosa. Even in my grave i cannot forget the taste of my mom's tomato chutney. And finally now i know how to exactly replicate the recipe. i am still missing my mom's love from the ingredients list here. :(
There is not a single time during my visit to my parents, that my mom does not make this yummy thakaali chutney. 
Reminds my MOM :)

Spinach in moong dal - Paruppu keerai masiyal

This dish is an excellent rice accompaniment. Drizzled with little ghee on top the spinach dal rice is definitely kids favorite food. I use coconut oil for tadka as it gives a unique flavor to the dish. I usually avoid adding tomatoes for dal or spinach dishes. 

Pesarattu - Whole Moong Dal Dosa

Idli and dosa are the two unchallenged champions for breakfast menu in almost every home or cafe or restaraunt or food stall in tamil nadu.
Pesarattu is a healthy alternative and still comes under dosa list. It is simply moong dal dosa. I heard the name of this typical andhra style dish from my friends house when she prepared this yummy dish for us with upma and peanut chutney. This amazing cook and a marvellous woman i admire, gave me the recipe and i too tried a week later. It came out really well.

Moong Dal ladu / laddoo/ ladoo - paasi payaru urundai

Sweets is my favorite food in the whole world and I prepare quick sweet recipes very often. I usually prepare wheat lado or rava ladoo and recently wanted to try the moong dal laddoo...
Yummy! Yummy !

Plain Dal - Simple Kongu Dish

Verum paruppu or plain dhal is a very common and simple dish that almost every kitchen prepares regularly.
Personally, I feel that I have eaten the tastiest plain dhal in the world, during my childhood days.
When we visit my dad's mom during holidays she makes very simple dishes like tomato curry, plain dhal, avaraikkai poriyal probably because that is what she would have had in her house or garden. She would not have enough plates in her home for all 4 of us to eat at the same time, but she served the most simple and authentic food I have ever eaten.

Mushroom pepper

The recipe is a restaurant style dish with a semi-gravy consistency. I recently had this dish from an Indian buffet lunch and wanted to give it a try. I added a little more pepper powder than I tasted in the restaurant. I used to prepare mushroom gravy with grated coconut as my family is not a great fan of dry curries. But when I prepared and had this curry, it was a very different taste.
This is a super fast dish that you can prepare in just 20 minutes.

Arisiyum paruppu / Dhal Rice / Lentils Rice

Often pronounced as ' arisiym paruppu' with a subtle 'y' sound, this dish screams the name 'kongu nadu' with a very very simple ingredients list and an amazing taste. This is a simple Dhal rice or Lentil rice. I happened to taste this dish for the first time during my hostel days.

Specially prepared for our 'tvz' gang, my friend's mom would bring a bucket full of this dish from tirupur during a weekend visit to our hostel in coimbatore. We would fight like cats and dogs sitting around that bucket in our hostel room, rushing to feast on that 'dhevamirdham'. She prepares an amazing puli thanni for this dish and I cannot imagine a better 'made for each other' food and accompaniment. For the past many many years, every time I prepare this dish, I only wish I had my frnds next to me to share this dish... And the hot, too little maggie noodles that we used to prepare using the tiny electric kettle, that we were not supposed to posses in our hostel... Nostalgic moments and unforgettable people....
Preparing the food for a batch of 10 hostelites and travelling for 2 -3 hours with it and seeing us all eat it... We had moms from erode, tirupur and coimbatore who loved us all so much.. :)

Yummy Yummy! Tasty Mummy!
Okay.. Having dealt with all the emotions and flashback stories, let’s go ahead to the dish.. As I said before the ingredients list is very simple.

Brinjal Potato kosthu

This is a yet another kongu special dish. My grandmother used to make this by first roasting the raw tomatoes and brinjal over the flame. My tongue still remembers the taste of a slightly burnt food and my nose remembers the smell of it. Afterall I guess my grandmother invented barbeque. I only do the non-barbequeing version of it, and of course with a slight variation. The ingredients and the proportions are from my mom in law.

coconut chutney

A good orator inspires people, not just by the choice of powerful words, but also by pausing at the right time. A few delicate recipes are similar to such inspiring speeches. It is just not enough to know what to add, but also what not to add. In my menu chutneys are such recipes. In an attempt to make tasty and tangy chutneys, we add a lot of ingredients that arent actually supposed to be in that chutney. The fewer the ingredients, the tastier the chutney.

kollu chutney

There are a few days when the luxury of fresh vegetables is not available. Pulses is a gift for such days. Kollu is one such gift and these dried seeds offer a great helping hand when u dont have fresh vegetables around.

kollu paruppu (horsegram) 1 cup
Roast and add to boiled kollu
 jeera / cumin / seeragam 1/2 tsp

pepper 1/2 tsp
salt 1 tsp
onion 1medium (sambhar onion tastes better)
garlic 5 pods
corriander seeds 1 tblsp (heaped)
red chillies 7-10 (depending on spiciness needed)
curry leaves 2 sprigs
mustard 1 tsp
cumin seeds 1 tsp
oil 1 tsp

  1. dry roast the kollu paruppu for about 10 minutes and soak in water for an hour
  2. boil the kollu with 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, peppercorns and salt
  3. in a pan heat 1 tsp oil and add corriander seeds, red chillies, curry leaves.
  4. roast for 2 minutes and then add onion and garlic. fry in medium flame for 5 minutes.
  5. after it cools, mix it with the boiled kollu.
  6. blend into a coarse paste using a blender. you can blend it in batches to avoid blending the whole thing into a mushy paste.
  7. heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds. after it crackles add 1/2 tsp cumin seeds and add this tadka to the mix. You can even add a portion of the onion to the tadka if you need little crunchiness while eating.
  8. chutney is ready.
Texture of thogaiyal

The chutney should have tart or sharp taste with respect to chilli and salt. it tastes better with rice that way. Use pearl onions/ sambhar onions/ small onions instead of the big one.

Tomato curry - kongu style

The recipe is a semi-dry curry that is an authentic kongu nadu food. My grandmother from my dad's village used to make this tasty dish almost everytime we visit. I tried to re-create the recipe several times. It never tasted like she cooked until i found that adding chilli powder or sambhar powder instead of the chillis is a crime committed against this dish. ;) Here goes the recipe and try not to commit any crime. Good luck :)

Shrimp curry with cashew and poppy seeds - Restaurant Style

Shrimp / eral / prawn is a dish that was never in our kitchen menu as I was so worried about the cleaning process. Then I came across the washed and peeled off prawns from walmart as a gift from heaven. After having prepared this over and over again now I am even comfortable with the cleaning. I make prawns with cashew and poppy seeds. Poppy seeds are called 'kasa kasa' in tamil. Nothing can wrong with this recipe as the ingredients are very simple and I would suggest this to even beginners. 
Here goes the recipe.

Chicken briyani

Among indians briyani is thought to be God's perfect food by people of all ages and places. As far as the cooking of the briyani goes, people consider it tricky as it tends to get soggy easily and last minute alterations or taste enhancements is almost impossible without spoiling the texture of the briyani rice.

My advice would be, it takes lot of trial and error. And finally when you strike the balance between the ingredients and prepare a perfect briyani it feels so heavenly. Here is my recipe.

You will need
2lb/1kg of chicken
2 cups of basmati rice
3-4 sprigs mint
1 sprig curry leaves

There are two things to do before you start preparing the briyani.
1)      Marinate the chicken with spices.
2)      Roast and grind the spices and masala.
Marinate the chicken:
1)      Wash and chop the chicken into big pieces.
2)      In a large mixing bowl mix curd with all the spices and then add the chicken and mix it well.
Spices to Marinade

Roasting and grinding:
1)      Heat a pan of oil in medium flame and add cardamom, clove, cinnamon, star aniseed and marudhani mokku.
2)      Once the oil stops sizzling around them, add fennel, coriander seeds.
3)      After 1-2 minutes add onion, tomato, ginger, garlic and chilli
4)      After 5 minutes remove the pan and let it cool.
5)      Add ¼ cup of water if needed and grind the items when it is cool.

Spices to roast and Grind
Preparing the Briyani.
1)      Place the pressure cooker on medium flame and add 1 tblsp oil.
2)      Add the spice leaves like bay leaf, rose petals, mint leaves and curry leaf.  Mint gives an amazing flavor to chicken briyani. You can be a little generous with mint.
3)      In 1 minute add the marinated chicken and let is cook for 5 mintues.
4)      Then add the ground paste, 1tsp salt and let boil for 5 minutes.
5)      By now the chicken is almost half cooked and showed have lot of water which came from the curd and ground paste.
6)      Add the soaked rice and chicken briyani masala/ curry masala.
7)      Top off the mix with necessary salt or chilly powder as per your palates’ need.
8)      Allow the chicken-rice mixture to boil for 5 minutes before closing the pressure cooker with the lid.
Right Amount of water before closing the lid

9)      Cook on medium flame for just 1 or 2 whistles which should take 5-7 minutes.

Let the cooker cool down and then yummy tasty briyani is ready to share.

Notes and tips for beginners:
1)      Marinate the chicken for atleast half an hour.
2)      Soak the rice for 20 minutes or less.
3)      DO NOT ADD EXCESS WATER. Excess water makes the briyani soggy and undesirable.
4)      Beginners will learn the exact amount of water needed over time. Do not worry if you are not sure how much is too much. Here is a tip. If you usually use 2 cups of water to make basmati rice, for briyani you would need somewhere between ¾ to one cup. This depends on the water content of the curd and ground paste already in the dish.
5)      Once the whistle stops, you can place the cooker in the sink filled with a couple of inches of water. This is optional and you need to do this only if you feel the bottom of the dish could be burnt due to less water.
6)      Once the pressure is released, immediately leave the cooker open. This will help if you have a watery layer on top of the dish. It also helps the rice to absorb any masala surrounding it.
7)      After 5 minutes use a flat spatula to mix the top and bottom layers of rice.
8)      As the rice cools down you can see that the grains start to separate.