Saturday, August 31, 2013

Kovakkai (Tindora / Ivy Gourd) Curry / Poriyal

Kovakkai is one of my favorite vegetables.  I will probably say this about a lot of vegetable, because I really do love most veggies!  The fresh kovakkai that we get here is not consistently of good quality.  Sometimes, it feels like it has been harvested too late and has lost some of its flavor.  So I tend to buy frozen kovakkai.  It also helps to have some frozen veggies ready for those days when I am rushing from work to soccer practice to other errands.

Both my kids love kovakkai, but don’t know what it is called.  So if I am making it for dinner, I will tell them that I have made the other vegetable that they like.  They like to eat this with rotis.

Like I was explaining to my friend, in my house, any dry vegetable dish was called curry - vendaikai (okra) curry, urilaikizhangu (potato) curry, seppankizhangu (taro) curry, vazhakkai (plantain) curry, cabbage curry etc, even though there is no "curry" in them.   A lot of people call this poriyal too.

The fresh masala powder that I have used in this recipe is the same one I used in my seppankizhangu (taro) curry.

Kovakkai (Tindora/Ivy Gourd) Curry


Here is what you need: 

  • 1 lb. fresh or frozen kovakkai (tindora), quartered lengthwise
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • ½ tsp. mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp. jeera (cumin seeds)
  • salt to taste
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 2 – 3 tsp. fresh masala powder (recipe below)
    • dry roast 2 Tbsp. coriander seeds, 2 Tbsp. channa dal, 1 Tbsp. urad dal, 1 Tbsp. black pepper corns, 1 Tbsp. cumin seeds, 4 -6 red chilies.  Powder and store in airtight container.

Here is how I made it:

  1. Heat oil in a frying pan.  Add mustard seeds and jeera.
  2. When mustard seeds sputter, add the fresh or frozen kovakkai.  If you are using frozen kovakkai, cover the pan with a lid and let the vegetable thaw on low heat.
  3. Add salt, turmeric powder, and chili powder.
  4. Fry covered on low heat for 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, till the vegetable is cooked.
  5. Add the freshly ground masala powder.  Stir well.
  6. Fry for a couple of more minutes and turn off the heat.

Serve hot with rotis, rice, dal or rasam.

Dal with Panch Phoron

My husband came back to the U.S. four days after we got married.  I had to wait for him to send me paperwork so that I could get a dependent visa and join him here.  Those were the good old days when airlines allowed you two checked pieces of luggage - each weighing 70 lbs.  So, apart from my clothes, I had enough space to bring quite a few things.  

I asked my husband to tell me things we might need, so that I can pack accordingly.  He told me not to bring any cooking utensils because he had a “fully set-up kitchen” here.  Thank God my mom insisted that I bring a pressure cooker with me.  My husband’s “fully set-up kitchen” included one saucepan, one skillet, two spatulas, one knife, one cutting board and a four place setting corelle set.

The pressure cooker I bought, came with this cookbook called Festival Cookbook.  It had some great recipes for the various festivals celebrated around India.  I would try out all kinds of recipes to try and impress my husband.  What can I say – I was young and naïve ….

Dal with Panch Phoron

Anyway, this book had a section on Durga Pooja.  One of the recipes in that section was for Panch Phodoner Chorchori.  It used a blend of five spices – kalonji (onion or nigella seeds), mustard seeds, methi (fenugreek seeds), jeera (cumin seeds), and saunf (aniseeds).  I had never heard of kalonji ever in my life.  Luckily for me, the asian store near my house carried it and I tried this dish for the first time.  I just can’t describe the aromas in my kitchen that day! I was hooked! 

I now use panch phoron regularly.  It is available as a premixed spice blend in my Indian store now.  

Here is what you need:

  • 1 cup moong dal (can also use masoor dal)
  • 2 tsp. ghee
  • 2 tsp. panch phoron (fenugreek seed, onion or nigella seed, cumin seed, black mustard seed and fennel seed in equal parts)
  • 2 dry red chilies crushed
  • ½ red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1” piece ginger, slivered
  • ½ tomato, chopped
  • salt to taste
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1 cup chopped spinach (optional)
  • ½ tsp. freshly roasted and powdered cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp. dry roasted and coarsely powdered red chilies
  • chopped fresh cilantro for garnish


Here is how I made it:

  1. Cook the dal in a pressure cooker with enough water till done.  I use 2 ¼ cups of water for one cup of dal and cook for about 10 minutes on low after the first whistle.
  2. Heat the ghee in a saucapan.  Add the panch phoron and the red chilies
  3. When the mustard seeds sputter, add the onions and sauté for a few minutes.
  4. Add the ginger and garlic.  Sauté for a few more minutes.
  5. Add tomatoes, salt, and turmeric.  Cook on medium heat till the tomatoes become pulpy.
  6. Now add the chopped spinach and give it a quick stir.  Add the cooked dal and enough water.  Let this whole thing simmer for about 10 minutes.
  7. Garnish with the roasted and powdered cumin seeds, red chilies and chopped cilantro.
Serve hot with rice or rotis.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Rasa Vadai

One of my favorite things to make for parties is rasa vadas.  My friends love it and it is perfect for the cold Colorado winter days.  Or if you’ve been having spring days like we’ve been having, with 14” snow, it is perfect for those days too.

I first had rasa vadai at Saravana Bhavan and loved it.  It seemed like such a simple dish to make and tasted so good.  Now I make it frequently.  My younger son will only eat vadas if there is rasam to go with it.

Ingredients for the vadas:
  • 1 cup urad dal soaked for two to three hours
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  •  2 tsp. whole peppercorns
  • Oil for deep frying

To make the vadas:

1.     Drain the water from the dal completely. 
2.     Grind it to a smooth batter in your grinder (see note) adding little or no water.   The thick batter is easier to shape and also soaks up less oil.
3.     To this batter add the salt, cumin seeds, and peppercorns.
4.     Mix the batter so that the spices are blended in.
5.     Heat enough oil in a kadai or saucepan.  Reduce heat to medium when the oil is hot.
6.     Keep a bowl of water next to you. 
7.     I use a sandwich ziploc bag to shape the vadas. Wet your hand as well as the ziploc bag.
8.     Take a big lemon size ball of batter in you hand and put it on the Ziploc bag. 
9.     Shape it like a donut with a hole in the middle.
10. Drop this gently into the hot oil.  You can fry a few vadas at a time.  Keep flipping the vadas gently till they get a beautiful golden hue.
11. Drain them on some paper towels.

With this quantity, you can make about 15 vadas.

Note: If you don't have a grinder, then you can use a food processor or blender.  It is more difficult to make the batter without water in a blender.  If the batter is difficult to shape, you can add a little bit of rice flour to make it thicker.  Or, you can fry them in the shape of balls - they will still taste great.

Ingredients for the rasam:
  •  ¼ cup toor dal cooked (I make this in my pressure cooker till the dal is cooked completely)
  • 1 large tomato – washed and chopped
  • 1.5 tsp. tamarind paste (if you are using tamarind, soak a ping pong ball size portion of tamarind in hot water and then squeeze out the pulp)
  •  2 tsp. rasam powder (I use my mom’s rasam powder – any store bought brand should work)
  •  2 green chillies – washed and slit lengthwise
  • Salt to taste
  • ¼ tsp hing (asafoetida)
  • 1 tsp. ghee or oil
  •  ½ tsp. mustard seeds
  •  ½ tsp. cumin seeds
  •  Few curry leaves washed
  •  Few sprigs of cilantro – washed and chopped

To make the rasam:

1.     Dilute the tamarind paste/pulp with 2 cups of water
2.     Add the chopped tomatoes and crush them with your hand or a potato masher.
3.     Add the rasam powder, green chillies and salt
4.     Bring this mixture to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium. Let this mixture cook for about 10 minutes.
5.     Mix the cooked toor dal with 3 cups of water and add it to the tamarind mixture.
6.     Add the hing and let this simmer (don’t let it come to a boil) till it if frothy on top.
7.     Turn off the stove, add the curry leaves and the cilantro.
8.     Heat the ghee or oil in a small saucepan.  Add mustard and cumin seeds.
9.     Remove from heat when the mustard seeds start to sputter and pour this over the rasam.

To serve:

In a bowl, place a couple of vadas and ladle some hot rasam over them.  Let them soak up the rasam for a few minutes and then enjoy!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Vangi Bath (Eggplant Rice)

Vangi bath – or Italian rice, as we used to call it in our house, is really simple to make.  Eggplant is not everyone’s favorite vegetable.  In fact, I know someone who eats pretty much all veggies, but hates eggplant.  I love it though and try to make it one every couple of months. 

Vangi Bath (Eggplant Rice)

Now, the story behind the name  - Italian rice.  When my kids were younger and had started going to school and daycare, they went through a phase of not wanting to eat anything Indian.  So, if I wanted them to eat something, I made up names for it.  To make Vangi bath into Italian rice, I would put it on a microwave safe plate, sprinkle some grated cheese on top, and microwave it for about 30 seconds – just enough to melt the cheese.  And there, in a jiffy, was Italian rice.  My kids loved it.

I don’t have to trick them anymore.  They do complain occasionally – if we have a lot of Indian meals at a stretch, but as long as I make pasta or pizza or Mexican occasionally, they are happy.

Here is what you need:

(Serves four easily)

  • To powder:
    • 1 Tbsp. coriander seeds
    • 1 Tbsp. channa dal
    • 4 – 6 red chilies
    • 2 tsp. cumin seeds
    • 1 tsp. white sesame seeds
    • 2 tsp. urad dal
    • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • a few peanuts
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp. channa dal
  • ¼ tsp. hing (asafetida)
  • 2 red chilies, broken
  • few curry leaves
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 1 small eggplant, diced into cubes (about 2 cups worth)
  • salt to taste
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric
  • 1 ½ cups basmati rice, cooked and cooled (any left over rice , that is not sticky, will work)
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil


Here is how I made it:

  1. In a saucepan, dry roast all the items given under the “To Powder” list.
  2. When it cools down a bit, grind these into a coarse powder.  Set aside.
  3. Heat oil in a pan.  Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, red chilies, peanuts, channa dal, and hing.
  4. When the mustard seeds sputter, add the curry leaves and onions.
  5. Sauté for a few minutes, till the onions become translucent.
  6. Add salt and turmeric.  Mix well.
  7. Add the eggplant and cook on medium heat, till the eggplant is cooked.
  8. Add the powdered spices and mix well.  Turn off the heat.
  9. In a bowl, take the cooked rice, add the eggplant mixture and the sesame oil.  Mix well.
Serve hot with appalams (papads)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Ghugni (with sprouted yellow peas)

I love this simple dish made with sprouted yellow peas.  This is a dish influenced by my husband’s childhood in Kolkata.  Having no exposure to Bengali cuisine growing up, my attempt at Bengali cuisine is based on my husband’s description of the flavors.  In 1994, there was no widespread use of internet and no food blogs I could go to for recipes.  I learned by making variations of the same dish, modifying spices each time till my husband approved.

Ghugni (with yellow peas)

I have seen people using yellow or green peas and sometimes, even garbanzo for this.  I make it with yellow peas.  This is very similar to the ragada that I make for ragada pattice.

My oldest son, at one point, would eat boiled yellow peas with spinach everyday because he read somewhere that these were a great source of protein for a vegetarian diet. 

Here is what you need:

  • 1 cup yellow peas, soaked overnight (you can sprout these for a couple of days if you like - I did, but it is not necessary)
  • salt to taste
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric
  • ¼ tsp. hing (asafetida)
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. jeera (cumin seeds)
  • 1 medium sized onion, chopped
  • 2 green chilies, slit
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1” piece ginger, slivered
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. coriander powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin powder
  • 1 tsp. amchur (dried mango) powder
  • salt to taste
For garnish:

  • ¼ medium onion slivered
  • 2 green chilies, cut into circles
  • few sprigs, cilantro
  • lemon wedges
  • chaat masala for sprinkling (to add more flavor - skip if you don't have any)

Here is how I made it:

  1. Put the yellow peas, salt, turmeric, and hing with enough water in a pressure cooker.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes on low heat after the first whistle/sound.
  2. In a pan, heat oil. Add jeera.
  3. When the jeera changes color, add the onions, green chilies, ginger, and garlic.
  4. Saute on medium heat till they look well blended and start changing color.
  5. Now add all the dry spices and fry for a few minutes, being careful not to let the spices burn.
  6. Add the cooked peas.  Add more water and salt if necessary.  Let this simmer for fifteen minutes.
  7. Turn off the stove.
To serve:

Put the ghugni in a bowl and top with chopped onions, green chilies, a little bit of lemon juice, and cilantro.  Sprinkle some chaat masala on top. 

This can be eaten with rotis, rice, or just like that.

I am sending this simple, but tasty Ghugni to  the "My Legume Love Affair" event hosted by Siri of Cooking with Siri. The MLLA's 62st edition happening this month was originally conceptualized by Susan and is being managed by Lisa.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sorakkai (Bottle gourd / Lauki) Kootu

When I first moved to Boulder in 1994, there were no Indian stores in the near vicinity.  My husband had moved here just a few months before I joined him.  An Indian colleague of his told him about a Vietnamese grocery store that sold sorakkai.  I don’t think my husband even knew what sorakkai was at that time. 

This store was called Asian Seafood Market.  The owner would stock basic Indian groceries and she would also get fresh vegetables once a week.  She would get okra, bottle gourd, taro root, eggplant, raw plantains, and some other variety of squashes.  The only problem I had with her store was that she would put the okra bin right next to one with live crabs.  I used to be terrified that they would jump boxes and latch on to my fingers as I was picking okras.

There is a wonderful Indian store less than 5 minutes from my house now and I get all my vegetables there. I buy bottle gourd on almost every visit.  This was not a vegetable I grew up with.  My mom never used it when we were young, but I have come to love it.  I make kootu with it, or use it in sambar or avial.  My friend Soni makes an excellent raita with it.  I will share that recipe soon.

Sorakkai (Bottle gourd) Kootu

Kootu is another of those tam bram (Tamil Brahmin) staples.  There are different varieties of kootu.  This recipe is the most simple one.  It is extremely easy to make and taste great.

Here is what you need:

  • ½ cup moong dal
  • 1 medium sized bottle gourd
  • 1 Tbsp. jeera (cumin seeds)
  • 2 tsp. urad dal
  • 1 tsp. peppercorns
  • 2 red chilies
  • salt to taste
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp. jeera
  • ½ tsp. urad dal
  • 2 red chilies
  • few curry leaves

Here is how I make it: 

  1. Pressurecook the dal till it is done
  2. Peel the outer skin of the bottle gourd, remove the inner seeds and dice it into cubes.
  3. Put the bottle gourd in a pan with water and bring it to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and cook till the bottle gourd is done.
  4. In a small saucepan, dry roast the jeera seeds, urad, peppercorns and red chilies, till the dal changes color.  When it is cool, grind this to a coarse powder.  Set aside.
  5. Drain the water from the bottle gourd, add the cooked dal, salt, and turmeric and bring this to a boil.
  6. Let it simmer on medium heat for about five minutes.
  7. Add the dry powder and then turn off the heat.
  8. Heat oil for tempering in a small saucepan.  Add mustard seeds, jeera, urad dal, and red chilies.
  9. When the mustard seeds sputter, turn off the heat, add curry leaves, and pour this over the kootu.

Serve with rice or rotis.

Friday, August 9, 2013

My mother-in-law's Red Morkuzhambu

Morkuzambu is served at almost every tam bram (Tamil Brahmin) function or celebration.  It is a yogurt-based dish that is served with rice.  Moru means buttermilk.  It is typically made with green chilies, coconut and buttermilk.  My mom used to make this for different festival days.  It was always a part of a big spread and I would skip it because I had other dishes I wanted to try. 

Once I got married, my mother-in-law, who was also an excellent cook, told me that she was going to make sepu (red) morkuzhambu.  I had never heard of this and was intrigued.  She served this with seppankizhangu curry and I was hooked.   I loved the extra tangy taste from the tamarind and the increased level of spiciness added by the red chilies.  Now, when I make morkuzhambu, I only make this kind.

When my husband moved to the U.S. as a grad student, she wrote down a few recipes for him in a diary.  Here is my mother-in-law’s recipe for sepu morkuzhambu from that diary. Her birthday is coming up next week.  This is my way of remembering her.

The pictures don’t do justice to this dish.  I have made this twice since I started my blog, but have not been able to get good pictures. It tastes way better than it looks in my pictures.

Red Morkuzhambu

Here is what you need:

  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 Tbsp. toor dal  
  • 5 – 6 red chilies
  • ¼ tsp. methi (fenugreek) seeds
  • ¼ cup grated coconut
  • ½ cup yogurt, beaten well
  • ½ tsp. tamarind paste
  • ½ cup vegetable of your choice, cut into small pieces – okra, lauki, white pumpkin, drumstick etc. work well
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp. oil
  • ½ tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 red chili
  • few curry leaves

Here is how I made it:

  1. Heat 1 tsp. oil in a small pan.  Add the toor dal, methi, and red chilies.
  2. Fry till the dal turns slightly red.  Turn off the heat and let it cool
  3. Grind these with coconut into a smooth paste, adding a bit of water.
  4. Mix this with yogurt and set aside.
  5. In another saucepan, mix the tamarind paste with a little water (just enough to cover the vegetables), add the vegetables (I used white pumpkin) and bring it to a boil.
  6. Turn down the heat and let this simmer till the vegetable is cooked.
  7. Now add the yogurt mixture and salt. 
  8. Keep the flame on low so that the yogurt does not separate.
  9. After about 5 – 7 minutes, turn off the heat.
  10. Now, heat the remaining oil in a small pan.  Add the mustard seeds and red chili.  When the mustard seeds sputter, turn off the flame, add the curry leaves and pour this over the morkuzhambu.

Serve with rice and seppankizhangu curry.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Papdi Chaat with short cut imli chutney

I am back after a fantastic vacation with family and friends.  We went on a cruise with two other families.  Our kids have grown up together, and with two of them going away to college, we thought that this might be something we could do as a group.  All of us had a wonderful time and it was a really memorable trip.  

We got back late last night.  It was around 10:30 by the time we reached home.  Everyone was hungry.  Luckily, before we left, I had frozen some boiled and cubed potatoes as well as some rasam. This is my first time freezing rasam, so I wasn’t sure how it would be.  My husband thanked me for doing it.  It thawed really well and did not lose any flavor.  We quickly made potato curry and had it with chapattis, rice, and rasam.  It is great to be back.

Papdi Chaat

Now to the recipe.   I love chaat.  You can do the prep work ahead of time.  It tastes great and can be assembled really quickly – especially for parties.  Papdi chaat is one of my favorites.  It has the tanginess of the yogurt and imli chutney, the crispiness of the puris, and the heat from the green chutney and spices.  You can make it one batch at a time and is a great appetizer for parties.

I use a different recipe for the imli chutney.  This one does not use dates, but uses apple butter instead.  My friend Anita taught me this shortcut.  It is super easy to make and freezes really well.

Here is what you need:

(serves 10 – 15 people easily)

  • 10 – 12  uncooked tortillas (I used the ones you get at Costco)
  • 2 – 3 medium potatoes, boiled and diced
  • 1 cup kala channa, soaked overnight
  • pinch of hing
  • green chutney 
    • 1 tart green apple
    • 2 bunches cilantro
    • 6 – 8 green chilies
    • handful of roasted peanuts
    • salt to taste
  • tamarind chutney
    • 1 bottle apple butter
    • 1 bottle tamarind paste
    • chili powder
    • chaat masala powder
    • salt to taste
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • red chili powder
  • chaat masala
  • salt to taste
  • freshly ground roasted cumin powder
  • cilantro for garnish

Here is how I made it:

Papdi: Cut the tortillas into diamond shapes, prick with a fork and deep fry till crisp.  Set aside.

Potatoes:  Add salt, chili powder and a little bit of chaat masala powder to the boiled and diced potatoes.  Mix well. Set aside.

Kala Channa:  Pressure cook the channa with a little bit of salt and hing.  Drain the water. Set aside.

Green chutney:  Grind all the ingredients listed into a smooth paste.  Taste to adjust seasoning.  The level of heat in the green chilies I get varies greatly. So please adjust the quantity according to taste.  Start off with a few chilies (maybe 5) and then taste the chutney.  Add more and blend if you need more heat.

Imli chutney:  Take approximately equal quantities of the apple butter (start with half a bottle) and the tamarind paste (I use a little less tamarind paste).  Mix with salt, chili powder, and chaat masala.  Check the taste. If you need it to be more tart, add more chaat masala and imli.  If you need it to be sweeter, add more apple butter.

Now the fun part – assemble the chaat:
  1. Take a flat serving dish and layer the bottom with the papdi
  2. Add a layer of potatoes and kala channa
  3. Drizzle yogurt on this so that it covers most of the bottom layers
  4. Now drizzle the two chutneys, sprinkle chili powder, salt, chaat masala and the ground cumin
  5. Garnish with cilantro

Optional:  You can add a sprinkling of sev to the chaat if you like.

Make these is batches so that the papdi does not get soggy.

Note:  Any unused papdi can be stored in an airtight container.  Any unused chutney as well as kala channa can be frozen and thawed for later use.  Chutneys can also be used for other chaats.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...