Saturday, May 25, 2013

Banana Bread

We always have bananas in our house.  My husband and older son eat them for breakfast.  You already know my take on eating anything sweet at breakfast time, and my younger son doesn’t care too much for them.

Occasionally, I end up having over ripe bananas that no one wants to eat – and I don’t blame them.  So I end up making banana bread.  The thing with baking sweet breads in your house is that the whole house smells divine.  As soon as the kids enter the house, they want to know what’s cooking.

Banana bread

Once the bread comes out of the oven, it gets devoured pretty quickly too.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup oil
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • ½ cup walnuts, chopped
  • nonstick spray to grease the pans


Here’s how I make it:

Banana bread

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. In a bowl, mix flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda.
  3. In a smaller bowl, mix the eggs, oil, and bananas.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well.
  5. Fold in the walnuts
  6. Pour batter into greased two loaf pans and bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Let it cool a bit, then cut it into slices and enjoy!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Quick and easy paruppu usili

Paruppu usili is a bit time consuming to make.  First, you soak the dal, then grind it, then steam it and then sauté it with veggies.  I make it occasionally.

Paruppu Usili
The other day, my friend was talking about these moong wadis that you get in the Indian store, and how she uses it to add some protien to her pulavs and other dishes.  The next time I went to the store, I picked some up. 

These are sundried balls, made with moong dal, salt and green chilies.  You soak them in water and then use the rehydrated wadis in your dishes.  I decided to try these to make paruppu usili.  Though it does not have the authentic taste, it came pretty close to the real thing.

Here is what you need:

Moong Wadis

  • 1 cup moong wadis
  • 2 cups green beans, chopped (or other vegetables of your choice - cluster beans, cabbage, green bell peppers all work well)
  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 2 red chilies
  • few curry leaves
  • a pinch of hing (asafetida)
  • salt to taste

Here is how I made it: 

  1. Soak the moon wadis in water for ½  - 1 hour.  Drain excess water out.  Crumble the wadis with your hand.
  2. Heat oil in a skillet.  Add mustard seeds, red chilies, curry leaves, and hing.
  3. When mustard seeds sputter, add the drained, crumbled wadis.
  4. Sautee on medium heat for a few minutes.
  5. In the mean time, put the green beans in a microwave safe bowl, cover with water and steam for about 10 minutes or so, till the beans are cooked.
  6. Drain the beans and add it along with salt to the wadis.  Remember that the wadis already have salt.
  7. Cover and cook for a few more minutes till the paruppu usili is ready.

Paruppu Usili

Serve with rice, vathal kuzhambu, and rasam

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Manathakali Vathal Kuzhambu

Vathal Kuzambu was a staple at home.  My dad and I loved it.  My brothers did not care too much for it.  My mom made the best Vathal Kuzambu.  Most of the time, she would not use any vathal (dried berries or okra).  She would use onions and tomatoes instead.  I can still remember salivating over my lunch box when my mom packed vathal kuzambu sadam (rice mixed with vathal kuzambu) and urilai kizhangu (potato) curry.  It had just the right blend of tangy tamarind taste and spices.

Manathakali Vathakuzhambu

On festival days, or on days when we could not use onions, she would make it with either sundaikai (Solanum torvum - Turkey Berry), or manathakalikai (Solanum nigrum- Black Nightshade ) vathal.

My kids have not developed a taste for this spicy, tangy dish, but my husband and I love it.

I was making lunch a few days ago and while looking for something else, found a bag of manathakalikai vathal.  Since it had been ages since I made vathal kuzambu with vathal, decided to make some.

Here is what you need:

  • Lime size ball of tamarind (see note)
  • 3 tsp sesame oil (see note)
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp split channa dal
  • ½ tsp methi (fenugreek) seeds
  • ¼ tsp hing (asafetida)
  • 2 dried red chilies
  • few curry leaves
  • hand full of manathakali vathal
  • 2 tsp sambar powder
  • salt to taste

Note 1:  I use tamarind and not store bought tamarind paste because it tastes much better when you extract the pulp yourself.  You can use tamarind paste if you are in a rush or if you don't have tamarind handy.  Substitute 2 tsp. tamarind paste for the tamarind.

Note 2:  Sesame oil gives this dish a unique flavor.  You can use any vegetable oil that you have on hand, if you don't have sesame oil.

Here’s how I make it:

  1. Soak the tamarind in a cup of so of water for ½ hour.  Squeeze out the pulp from the tamarind and save the extracted liquid.  You can discard the seeds and fiber left behind.
  2. Heat oil.  Add mustard seeds, channa dal, methi seeds, hing, and dry chilies.
  3. Once the mustard seeds sputter, add the curry leaves (be careful because the hot oil can splash), and add the manathakali vathal.  Fry for a few seconds.
  4. Add the sambar powder and mix everything together.
  5. Add the extracted tamarind juice and salt. Add a little more water if it is too thick.
  6. Let this mixture come to a boil and then simmer on medium to low heat till the raw flavor of tamarind is gone (about 10 minutes).
  7. Serve with rice or kancheepuram idlis.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Kancheepuram Idli

My husband calls our friend, Vimala, the Tendulkar of cooking.  For those who don’t know him,  Tendulkar is considered one of the greatest batsman in the history of cricket, second only to Sir Donald Bradman.  He calls me Mongia – a mere blip in the world of cricket.  I am not a big cricket fan, but even I know the difference between Tendulkar and Mongia.

It is a wonder that I cook anything at all for him.

Vimala makes everything from scratch.  She is an amazing cook and is always willing to share her recipes.  She made kancheepuram idlis for a potluck.  They were unlike any other idli that I had tasted.  She served it with a garlic kuzhambu.  Here is her recipe for the idlis.

Kancheepuram Idli

What you need:

  • 1 cup split urad dal, with husk
  • 1 cup idli rice
  • 1 cup raw rice (I used sona masoori rice)
  • salt to taste
  • about 1/3 cup yogurt
  • curry leaves, chopped
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp jeera (cumin seeds)
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • pinch eno fruit salt or baking soda


 To make the batter: 

  1. Soak the urad dal and the rice (you can mix the two types together) separately for 4 – 6 hours.
  2. Start grinding the urad dal with little bit of water
  3. After about 5 minutes or so, when the dal is still coarse, remove half of it from the grinder and put it in a big bowl.
  4. Grind the rest of the dal to a smooth paste
  5. Remove this and add it to dal in the bowl.
  6. Now, grind the rice adding a little bit of water, till the batter is no longer coarse.  Add this to the dal batter.
  7. Add salt and yogurt and mix well using your hand (my mom says that the heat from your hand helps kick start the fermenting process)
  8. Let the batter ferment overnight.
Kancheepuram Idlis


To make the idlis:

  1. When you are ready to make idlis, heat the oil is a small saucepan, add crushed peppercorns, cumin seeds, and curry leaves.
  2. When the cumin seeds change color, turn off the heat and add this to the batter.
  3. Add the minced ginger.
  4. Mix well
  5. Take a little bit of the batter (enough to make one batch of idlis) in a bowl.  Add a pinch of eno fruit salt, mix well.
  6. Pour batter into greased molds and steam for about 20 minutes.
  7. Repeat for remaining batter.
  8. Serve hot with garlic or vatha kuzhambu.

Vimala says that traditionally, these idlis were made in stainless steel tumblers (drinking cups).  I used small stainless steel bowls.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Not so authentic Mudi Masala

My husband grew up in Calcutta.  His bengali is better than his tamil and he has a soft spot for all things Bengali.  Though he loves South Indian tambram (Tamil brahmin) cuisine, he does occasionally crave Bengali street food.  He keeps raving about Calcutta puchkas (pani puris to the uninitiated), mudi masala, aloo dom and all those other Bengali sounding dishes whose names I can’t even pronounce.

Growing up in Chennai, we had one place that served chat – Shanti Vihar.  We got the usual bhel puri, pani puri, pav bhaji, dahi puri etc.  A few years later, Gangotri, a gujarati chat place opened up and we got a bit more variety.  It became one of our favorite hangouts.  My friend Anu and I would go to Gangotri after work and would load up on all the goodies.  Not only did we stuff our faces there, but we would also take some over to our friend Hema's place and have some more, "just to keep her company".

Mudi masala, though, was not on their menu, and I had never heard of it.

After one of our parties, we had a lot of bhel mix left over, but I did not have chutneys.  My husband suggested mudi masala.  Mudi Masala?  He then explained to me that this was a Calcutta street food and vendors with baskets would mix mudi to your specification and give it to you wrapped in a newspaper.  I was game to try it out.

From his description of the dish, this is what I came up with.  I know it probably is not authentic and I am missing a ton of stuff, but while it might not taste like the real thing, it tastes great.

Mudi Masala

Please note: When I make this, I don’t measure the ingredients - I just add stuff and then adjust the seasoning to taste.  So please use the quantities below only as a guideline.

What you need:

(to serve two people)

  • 1 generous cup of Bhel mix (You can either make your own or use store bought)
    • Mudi/Pori/puffed rice
    • pinch of turmeric
    • some kind of namkeen (I use Punjabi hot mix)
    • few pieces of broken papdi
      • dry roast all this is in a kadai for a few minutes    

  • ½ cup chopped onions
  • 1 roma or ½ beefsteak tomato, diced
  • 1 small to medium sized potato, boiled and diced
  • ½ cup peanuts, boiled with salt
  • ½ cucumber, diced
  • 2 – 3 green chilies, minced
  • salt to taste
  • chat masala
  • 1 ½ tsp. mustard oil (very important – doesn’t taste the same without it)
  • juice of  1 lime/lemon
  • chopped cilantro

Mudi Masala

Mix the bhel mix, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, peanuts, cucumber, green chilies, and salt.  Sprinkle chat masala, drizzle with mustard oil and lemon juice.  Mix again.  Taste the mudi masala and adjust the seasoning to your taste.  Put it in serving bowls and garnish with cilantro. 

Quick and easy snack or light dinner is ready!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Oats Upma

Oats Upma

You know how when you see blueberry muffins – you just can’t resist and need to have a taste?  Looking at the glazed or powdered donut has you salivating?  The idea of fruit flavored yogurt or frosted cereal is what you look forward to at breakfast?

Well, then you and I are a different species.   I am a bit finicky about breakfast (I can see my husband rolling his eyes).  Lots of people I know eat sweet dishes for breakfast and seem to actually crave it – things like cereal, flavored oatmeal, yogurt with berries, granola, pancakes, muffins, donuts, french toast … the list goes on and on.  I need something savory.   I cannot imagine starting the day off with some thing sweet. 

I grew up eating idlis, dosas, upma, bread, omlettes etc. for breakfast.  On special occasions we would probably have pooris with potatoes.  After moving to the U.S, I gave up on having breakfast for the longest time, mainly because anything I felt like eating, took a little more effort to make.   Sometimes, when I made pancakes or waffles for my kids, I would add geen chilis or Tabasco to the left over batter and have that for breakfast.  Not the healthiest breakfast - I know, but it was quick and easy and I did not have to throw away the left over batter. 

Now, my kids are a bit more independent.  My older son takes his younger brother to school and I actually have some time in the morning, to indulge in breakfast.

Here is one of my quick fixes for breakfast that I think it is actually healthy and filling

What you need:

  • 1 tsp. oil
  • ½ tsp. mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp. channa dal
  • ½ cup chopped onions
  • 1 green chili, minced
  • few curry leaves
  • ½ cup sprouted moong
  • 1 cup water
  • salt to taste
  • 1/3 cup steel cut oats

To make the upma:

  1. Heat oil in a kadai or small wok shaped pan
  2. Add mustard seeds and channa dal
  3. When the mustard seeds sputter, add the onions, green chilies, and curry leaves
  4. Saute for a couple of minutes.
  5. Add sprouts, water, and salt and bring it to a boil.
  6. Reduce the heat and add the oats.  Give it a swirl.
  7. Cover and cook on low flame till all the water is absorbed.

Enjoy the yummy upma with a cup of hot coffee or chai.

Millet Dosa

Dosas are a staple in any South Indian home.  One of the most frequent lunches my mom packed for us was either idli or dosa with molaga podi spread on it.  The idlis and dosas would have soaked up all the flavors by lunchtime and would taste delicious.

When I first moved to the U.S., we only had an Oster blender.  The batter for idlis and dosas, did not come out great.  But being the deprived souls we were, we couldn’t complain. 

I now have my trusted Ultra Pride grinder and make batter for idlis or dosas almost every week.  If it is just for my family, I just make one batter that I use for both idlis and dosas.   My traditional dosa batter has rice and urad dal.

My friend, Swati, gave me this recipe for a dosa batter that does not use any rice at all.  It also does not need to be fermented!  This one is a keeper. 

What you need:  


  • ¾ cup millet (I get it at my natural foods store – bulk foods aisle)
  • ½ cup amaranth seeds (it is called Rajgaro in the Indian store)
  • ½ cup urad dal
  • ½ cup split moong dal with husk
  • salt to taste
  • oil for making the dosas

 To make the batter:

  1. Soak all the ingredients together for about 3 – 4 hours.
  2. Grind to a fine paste either in your grinder or blender (similar to dosa batter consistency)
  3. Add salt and mix well.

That’s it – batter is ready.

You can choose to ferment it or can use the batter right away.  I normally just make it right away, because most of the time I forget to soak the dals etc. the previous day.  The dosas come out really crispy.  

Millet Dosa


To make the dosas:

  1. Pour a ladle full of batter onto the heated tawa and spread it as thin as possible (like dosas)
  2. Drizzle oil around the dosa. 
  3. Wait for a few minutes – maybe about 2 - 3 minutes and then carefully flip it over.
  4. Cook on both sides till the dosa is crispy.
  5. Serve hot with sambar, chutney, or molaga podi
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