Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sprouted Horsegram Dal Vadas

On one of our recent trips to India, we stayed for a few days with our friends in a small town near Mangalore.  While we were there, Anand, our host, made molagai podi (some people call it gun powder) with horsegram dal.  It gave the molagai podi a great nutty flavor and I thought I should try it out.

Horsegram Vadas

I have never used horsegram dal before.  In Tamil, it is called kollu (kulith in hindi – I think), and is typically used in cattle feed.

I bought horsegram dal and do use it to make molagai podi here now.  The thing with buying groceries here in the U.S. though, is that you can’t buy in small quantities.  I had to buy a 2 lbs. bag of horsegram dal even though I only needed a little for the molagaipodi.  So I had to try and figure out other ways to use up the rest of the dal.

Since it looks very similar to moth, and I have successfully sprouted moth to make usal, I decided to sprout horsegram dal too.  It sprouted really well.

A friend of ours had called us for dinner and asked me to make an appetizer.  I had some chopped keerai (amaranth) left over and had been meaning to make keerai vadai for the longest time.  I just soaked my usual dals as if I were making masala vadai, but added the sprouted horsegram dal also while making the batter and mixed in the amaranth leaves.

Note:  I learned the hard way that horsegram dal has stones that need to be picked out.  Sorry Sanjay, Swati and anyone else who got “lucky”.  Please clean the dal before soaking.

Here is what you need:

(makes about 50 vadas)

  • ½ cup horsegram dal (please pick out the stones!!!!)
  • ½ cup channa dal
  • ½ cup toor dal
  • ½ cup green split peas
  • a small handful urad dal
  • a small handful moong dal
  • 4 – 6 green chilies
  • 4 red chilies
  • 1” piece ginger
  • ½ tsp. hing
  • 1 – 2 cloves garlic
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup amaranth leaves, washed and chopped
  • ½ medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • oil for deep frying

Here is how I made it:

  1. Soak the horse gram dal overnight.  Drain the water, place the dal in a bowl and cover with a wet cloth or paper towel.  Let it sprout for a couple of days.
  2. Soak all the other lentils together for a couple of hours.
  3. Drain the water out and grind these along with the sprouted horsegram dal, green chilies, red chilies, ginger, garlic, hing, and salt, to a coarse paste, adding little or no water.
  4. Add the chopped amaranth leaves, onions, and curry leaves.  Mix well.
  5. Heat oil for deep frying in a deep pan or kadai.
  6. Make lime size balls of the batter, flatten it slightly and gently drop it into the oil.  You can fry 5 -6 vadas simultaneously.
  7. Fry the vadas on medium-low heat, turning them over occasionally, till they are golden brown on both sides.
  8. Repeat till all the batter is done.

Serve hot with chutney of your choice.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Keerai (greens) Thandu (stem) Kootu

There are so many varieties of keerais or greens available in India - especially in southern India - mulai keerai (type of amaranth), siru keerai (another type of amaranth), ponanganni keeri (dwarf copper leaf), pasala keerai (spinach), vendhiya keerai (fenugreek), murungai keeri (drumstick leaves), manathakali keerai, vallarai keerai (pennywort) – to name a few.  My mom would either buy these at a wholesale vegetable market where farmers send fresh produce, or from the vendor who would bring these to the door.  She would make these in different ways – keerai masial, keerai kootu, more kootu, keerai vadai, keerai kuzhambu etc. 

Keerai Thandu Kootu

We had a drumstick tree in our backyard – so we got murungai keerai from that.  My mom would add this to adais.  We also had a manathakalikai (European black nightshade) bush, and got the purple berries and greens from this plant.

Once I moved here, the only recognizable keerai I had access to was palak  - spinach.  Chopped spinach was available in the frozen vegetable section in the regular grocery store and that was the only keerai I made for the longest time.

A couple of summers ago, we became members of a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  Due to weird summer weather that year, most of the harvest was greens – arugula, kale, chard, mustard greens, spinach, and numerous others I don’t know the names of.  So I started experimenting with these – some hits and some misses.

Of late, the big Asian market near my house, has been carrying amaranth (a variety of mulai keerai) and pennywort (brahmi/vallarai).  I buy these and make it the same way that I make spinach.  The last time I got Amaranth, I noticed that the stems were really thick, and remembered this kootu (vegetables cooked with moong dal and spices) my mom used to make with keerai thandu (stems) and decided to make it.

The amaranth I get here has red and green leaves (red around the veins and green on the edges) – like this one in the picture.

I trimmed the leaves and used it to make saag, and chopped the stems to make this kootu


Here is what you need:

  • ½ cup toor dal
  • ½ cup moong dal
  • 12 – 15 thick amaranth stems
  • 2 tsp. dhania (coriander seeds)
  • 2 tsp. jeera (cumin seeds)
  • 2 tsp. urad dal
  • 3 red chilies
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • ¼ tsp. hing
  • ¼ cup grated coconut
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric powder
  • salt to taste
For tempering:
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • ½ tsp. mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp. jeera
  • ½ tsp. urad dal
  • 2 red chilies
  • few curry leaves

Here is how I made it:

  1. Wash and rinse the dals, add water and cook in a pressure cooker till done.
  2. Wash the amaranth stems and dice them.  Place them in a pot with water, bring to boil and cook on medium-low heat till done (about 7 – 8 minutes).  Drain the water and set aside.
  3. While the stems are cooking, dry roast dhania, jeera, urad dal, red chilies, black pepper, and hing.  Let this cool a bit and grind to a coarse paste with coconut.
  4. Now, add the mashed dal to the cooked stems.  Add a little water and salt to taste along with turmeric powder.  Bring this to a boil.
  5. Add the ground paste and simmer for a few more minutes.
  6. Heat oil for tempering in a small pan.  Add mustard seeds, jeera, urad dal, and red chilies. 
  7. When the mustard seeds sputter, turn off the stove, add the curry leaves (carefully, because it tends to splash oil), and pour this over the kootu.
Serve with rice, rasam, kuzhambu or sambar.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Yellow peas curry

I had these grand plans of making katori (small bowl) chaat for my navrathri party.  Since there were around 60 – 70 people coming, I did not want to spend long hours in front of the stove deep-frying the katoris.  I had seen some blogs where people had baked wonton wrappers to make katoris and decided to try it out.  It was a disaster for me.  I don’t know if I was doing something wrong or not, but when baked and cooled, my katoris became very hard and difficult to eat.

Yellow Peas Curry

By this time though, I had already soaked and boiled the yellow peas to make the filling, and so was stuck with about three pounds of boiled yellow peas.  I froze most of it and have been making a small dent into this slowly.

It does come in handy though, on those days when I am really tired, after a long day at work and driving to and from soccer practice or meetings at school.  I just make a quick masala, add some thawed peas, and serve it with rice or rotis.

Yellow Peas Curry

Here is what you need:

  • 1 cup dried yellow peas
  • salt to taste
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric powder
  • ¼ tsp. hing (asafetida)
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. jeera (cumin seeds)
  • 2 – 3 green chilies, slit
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 1” piece ginger, slivered
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 regular or two roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tsp. dhania powder
  • 1 tsp. jeera powder
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • ½ tsp. amchur powder
  • 1 tsp. freshly roasted and powdered jeera
  • cilantro, sliced onions, and green chilies for garnish


Here is how I made it:

  1. Wash and soak the yellow peas for 4 – 5 hours.
  2. 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.
  3. In a pan, heat oil. Add jeera.
  4. When the jeera changes color, add the green chilies and let them sear.
  5. Add the onions, ginger, and garlic.
  6. Sautee on medium heat till they look well blended and start changing color.
  7. Add tomatoes.  Cover and cook for a few minutes till the tomatoes are mushy and have lost their shape
  8. Now add all the dry spices and fry for a few minutes, being careful not to let the spices burn.
  9. Add the cooked peas.  Add more water and salt if necessary. Let this simmer for fifteen minutes.  Turn off the stove.
  10. Sprinkle freshly ground cumin powder and cilantro on top.
  11. Just before serving, top with chopped onions and green chilies.

Serve with rotis and rice.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Batata Poha (Beaten rice with potatoes)

This recipe is in memory of my sister-in-law.

My older brother got married when he was very young – around 22 – 23.  I was about 12 – 13 when my sister-in-law came to live with us.  Having lived in a male dominated household, it was great to have another female in the house! 

As a new bride, she would make a few “modern” or different dishes for us.  My mom would do most of the daily cooking, but occasionally, when we were in the mood for something different, my sister-in-law would take over the kitchen.

Batata Poha

One of the dished she made for us was called “padada puv-ha”.  This was what she called it.  It was made with aval – or poha (beaten rice), and potatoes.  I always thought of it as a fancy aval upma. 

Only after I got married, came to the U.S., and made a few Marati friends, did I realize that my sister-in-law had actually been making Batata Poha.  I think she probably got the recipe from a Tamil magazine.  In Tamil, we use the same alphabet to represent the “pa” sound and the “ba” sound.  Similarly we have one alphabet for the “ta” and “da” sounds.  So batata poha ended up becoming padada puv-ha.

She passed away a long time ago – a couple of months after my nephew was born.  He is now 29 years old and has a family of his own.  But every time I make poha at home, I remember her and the awe with which I used to watch her whip up this “gourmet” dish.

Here is what you need:

(To serve two people)

  • 1 cup poha (beaten rice)
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • ½ tsp. mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp. jeera (cumin seeds)
  • few roasted peanuts (I used about ¼ cup)
  • few curry leaves
  • 2 green chilies, slit
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • salt to taste
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric powder
  • ¼ tsp. sugar (optional)
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and diced
  • cilantro for garnish
  • juice of ½ medium sized lime or lemon
  • little bit of grated coconut


Here is how I made it:

  1. Wash and soak the poha (beaten rice) with enough water for about 5 – 6 minutes.  Drain the water ands et this aside.
  2. Heat oil in a kadai or pan.  Add mustard seeds and jeera.
  3. When the mustard seeds sputter, add the peanuts, curry leaves and green chilies.  Fry for about 30 seconds.
  4. Add chopped onions and mix well.  Sauté on medium heat for about 5 minutes, till the onion turns translucent.
  5. Add salt, sugar, and turmeric powder.  Stir.
  6. Now add the diced potatoes.  Cover and cook on low heat till the potatoes are cooked.  You can also use boiled, peeled and diced potatoes here, instead of raw potatoes.
  7. Add the poha and mix well.  Let it cook for a few more minutes, so that the poha absorbs all the flavors.  Turn off the heat.
  8. Garnish with cilantro, lime juice and coconut.

Enjoy with namkeen and pickles.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Traditional Paruppu Usili with Kothavarangai (Cluster beans and dal curry)

You know the phrase “finger-lickin’ good”?  I think it applies perfectly to South Indian food.  My cuisine tastes best when eaten with your hand – so that at the end of your meal you can actually lick your fingers to show your appreciation of the meal.

I cannot understand how people who grew up eating with their hands, now eat rasam sadam, sambar sadam, or morkuzhambu with a spoon.  Where is the pleasure in that?  The best part of the whole experience is in slurping up the rasam before it drips down your palm towards your elbow :)

Sadly, my kids have not been exposed to this pleasure.  When they were young, I used to feed them rasam sadam (rasam rice), and by the time they were old enough to eat on their own, they felt eating with their hand messed it up too much.  They still use silverware to eat rasam rice or yogurt rice.  A couple of times, when we have been to weddings or other functions in India, they have been served a traditional meal on banana leaves – it was comical to watch them try and win the battle.

Most wedding or special function menus include payasam (kheer), sambar, rasam, morkuzhambu, couple of vegetables – one of which is typically paruppu usili, kootu or avial, thair pacchidi (raita), vadai, appalam, pickle,  kosumalli (salad), and some other sweet.  If there is morkuzhabu on the menu, you can almost guarantee that there will be paruppu usili to go with it.

Since I was making the traditional morkuzhambu for my husband, and had time, I decided to make paruppu usili too.  My Indian store gets veggies on Thursdays.  So I got vendaikkai (bhindi/okra) for the morkuzhambu and kothavarangai (cluster beans) for the paruppu usili.

I had posted a recipe earlier for paruppu usili using moongwadis.  This time, I made it the traditional way – soaking dal, grinding it, steaming it, and then making the dish.  It takes a little more time, but the taste in the end is totally worth it.


Here is what you need:

  • 1 cup toor dal, washed and soaked for about an hour
  • 4 – 6 red chilies
  • ¼ tsp. hing (asafetida)
  • salt to taste
  • 2 cups cluster beans, washed, trimmed, and chopped
  • 3 tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 red chili, broken
  • few curry leaves

Here is how I made it:

  1. Drain the water from the toor dal.  Grind it to a coarse paste with red chilies, hing, and salt, adding very little water.
  2. Distribute the ground paste onto idli plates or a steamer, and steam for about 7 – 8 minutes.  Alternatively, you can steam this in the microwave in a bowl, stirring occasionally, till the paste is crumbly.
  3. While this paste is steaming, place the cluster beans in a microwave safe bowl with enough salted water to cover the beans.  Microwave on high for about 8 minutes till the beans are cooked.  Drain and set aside.
  4. When the steamed paste has cooled a bit, crumble well with your hand, so that there are no big lumps.
  5. Heat oil in a pan.  Add mustard seeds and red chilies.
  6. When the mustard seeds sputter, ad the curry leaves.
  7. Add the dal paste and stir well.  Let this mixture cook on medium-low heat for a few minutes.
  8. When the dal looks dry and starts getting slightly crispy, add the cooked beans.
  9. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, adding salt if necessary.

Serve hot with morkuzhambu, rice, and rasam.

Vendakai Morkuzhambu (Buttermilk stew with okra)

This is the kind of morkuzhambu that my mom usually makes.  It is also the kind that is served as part of the feast in Tamil weddings and in restaurants when you order South Indian Thalis (meal plates with assorted delicacies from a particular region).  She did not make it as regularly as sambar or rasam.  We would have it on special occasions, as part of a big meal.  She typically made it with paruppu usili or seppankizhangu curry.


Since I learned to make red morkuzhabu from my mother-in-law, I have been leaning towards that and have ignored this more traditional kind.  Last weekend, my husband was mentioning that it has been a while since we had this morkuzhambu.  In fact, he said, he was going to make it one of these days.  I didn't think that was going to happen any time soon.  He is a good cook and does cook occasionally – like on Mother’s day, and maybe my birthday, and a couple of times in between.

To be fair, I really shouldn’t blame him.  I consider the kitchen my "petai" or domain.  I don’t like sharing my kitchen space and also hate people messing up my arrangement of spices and utensils.  My friends, mom, mother-in-law, and my husband have all experienced this reluctance (that is putting it mildly) on my part to share my kitchen.

Anyway, since I had the day off, and it was the day my Indian store got fresh vegetables (I made this with fresh okra or vendakai), I decided to make the morkuzhambu myself.  I also made rasam, keerai, and paruppu usili.  My husband was a happy man at dinner :)

Here is what you need:

  • 3 tsp. toor dal
  • 1 ½ tsp. channa dal
  • 2 tsp. jeera
  • 2 tsp. dhania
  • 5 green chilies
  • 1” piece ginger
  • ¼ cup grated coconut
  • 2 cups sour yogurt
  • salt to taste
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. oil
  • 6 okras
For tempering:
  • 1 tsp. oil
  • ½ tsp. mustard seeds
  • 2 red chilies
  • ¼ tsp. hing
  • few curry leaves


 Here is how I made it:

  1. Soak the toor dal and channa dal in water for about an hour.
  2. Drain the water from the dals and grind them along with jeera, dhania, green chilies, ginger, and coconut, into a smooth paste.
  3. Mix this with beaten yogurt, salt, and turmeric powder in a pot.
  4. Place this on low heat, stirring constantly to prevent curdling.  When it shows signs of coming to a boil, turn off the heat.
  5. Cut off the top and tail of the okras and slice them.
  6. Heat 1 tsp. oil in a saucepan.  When the oil is hot, add the okra and cook on high heat, till the okra turns golden brown. 
  7. Reduce heat and cover and cook for 5 minutes so that the okra is cooked through.
  8. Add this to the kuzhambu. 
  9. Heat the rest of the oil and add the mustard seeds, red chilies, and hing.
  10. When the mustard seeds sputter, add the curry leaves.
  11. Turn off the heat and pour this over the kuzhmabu.

Serve hot with rice and paruppu usili or seppankizhangu curry

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