Monday, May 26, 2014

Mint Pulao cooked in a clay pot rice cooker

We hosted a baby shower in our house a while ago.  I went to Target to get some stuff for the baby.  These days, I hardly have any time to browse through stores - aimlessly looking for good deals.  Most of my shopping now is done with a purpose and I really missed walking around the store, finding a “great deal”.

We had a four-day weekend, and the baby shower was catered, and I really did not have much work to do.  So spent some time walking down the aisles in Target.  I don’t know how many of you do this, but I always check out the clearance shelves to see if there is something that catches my eye.  This was my lucky day!  I found a nonstick kadai with lid and because it did not have a tag, the manager gave it to me for $1.99!

I also found this unique rice cooker that someone had bought online, but had returned to the store.  I had never seen a clay pot rice cooker before and was intrigued.  They had it marked down to $45.  I had to buy it.  The price on Amazon was $79 – so I think I got a good deal.

I love the idea of cooking in the clay pot.  I have made rice in it several times.  The manual says that I can use it to make soups and other stuff too.

Today, I made mint pulao.  It is a really simple, flavorful recipe and a great one-pot meal.  I did make potato curry to go with it.   Well, with my family, I had to – because we had not had our weekly potato fix :)

Here is what you need:

  • 2 cups basmati rice
       For the masala:
    • 1 cup tightly packed mint leaves
    • 3 green chilies
    • 2 cloves garlic
    • ½ inch piece ginger
    • ¼ cup coconut, grated
  • 2 – 3 tsp. ghee
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 3 – 4 cloves
  • handful of broken cashews
  • ½ onion, sliced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup, chopped beans
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric
  • salt to taste


 Here is how I made it:

  1. Wash the basmati rice in several changes of water, and soak it for ½ hour.
  2. While the basmati rice is soaking, grind all the ingredients for the masala with a little bit of water.  Set aside
  3. Heat ghee in a saucepan.  Add cumin seeds, star anise, cloves, and cinnamon.
  4. When the cumin seeds change color, add the cashew nuts.
  5. After a couple of minutes, add the onions and sauté till they become translucent.
  6. Add the ground masala and cook on low heat for about five minutes.
  7. Add the turmeric powder and veggies.  Sauté for five more minutes. 
  8. Drain the rice and add it along with salt.
  9. Fry on medium heat for a couple of minutes.
  10. If you are using the rice cooker, transfer this whole thing into the rice cooker pot and add four cups of water. (If you are cooking it directly in the saucepan, add the water to the rice, bring it to a boil, turn the heat to low and let it cook, covered, for about 15 minutes)
  11. Cover and cook on white rice setting.
  12. Once it is done, fluff it with a fork to separate the grains.

Serve with raita and a spicy curry of your choice.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Onion and Tomato Chutney for idlis and dosas

Today was the annual Balvihar picnic – a culminating event to mark the end of the school year.  It was a great day for a picnic – warm, with no winds.  All the kids receive awards, and kids who are graduating and going away to college are recognized.  The best part of this picnic though, is the food.  It is a potluck, organized by amazing volunteers.  People sign up to bring finger foods and snacks for lunch, and it is a wonderful way to catch up with friends.

I had signed up to bring idlis and chutney along with my friend, Radhika.  I had a busy Saturday and couldn’t go to the Indian store to get coconut for the chutney.  So since Radhika said she could make it, I chose to make tomato and onion chutney.

This is so simple and easy to make and tastes really great with almost anything.  You can serve it with idlis, dosas, parathas, or even mix it with rice.  It came out so well, that a friend of ours took home the little bit of left over chutney.

Here is what you need:

  • 2 Tbsp. oil
  • 4 red chilies
  • 3 Tbsp. channa dal
  • ½ tsp. hing
  • 1 medium onion, diced into big chunks
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½” piece ginger
  • 3 medium tomatoes, diced (you can use one can of tomatoes instead)
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tsp. tamarind paste
  • 2 – 3 green chilies
  • ¼ cup coconut, grated
For tempering:
  • 1 tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp. split urad dal
  • 2 tsp. red chili powder



 Here is how I made it:

  1. Heat oil in a saucepan.  Add the red chilies and channa dal.
  2. Fry on medium heat till the channa dal turns golden.  Remove these with a slotted spoon.  Set aside.
  3. To the same oil, add hing and the diced onions.  Sauté on medium heat till the onions start changing color. 
  4. Add the ginger and garlic.  Fry for a few more minutes.
  5. Add salt and diced tomatoes. Cover and cook for a few more minutes, till the tomatoes turn pulpy.
  6. Turn off the heat and let this cool.
  7. Grind this along with the red chilies, channa dal, tamarind paste and green chilies.  I like this to be a little coarse, but you can make it into a smooth paste, if you like.  Pour this into a serving bowl.
  8. Heat oil for tempering.  Add the mustard seeds and urad dal.
  9. When the mustard seeds sputter, add the red chili powder and turn off the heat.
  10. Pour this on top of the chutney.  Mix well.

Serve with idlis, dosas, rotis, or rice.

Yellow Peas with stone ground masalas

I remember, before the days of the sumeet mixie and industrial size wet grinders, my mom used to grind masalas for her everyday cooking on an ammi and make idli, dosa, vada batter in an aatu kallu.  Here is a lovely picture of some of these old "appliances".

The ammi, was a flat surfaced block of stone and came with a cylindrical shaped stone kuzhavi. I used to offer to help my mom grind the masalas on this – always losing the battle, especially with wet masalas, because the water would run down the sides before I could make the masala paste. 
Recently, I saw a mini version of the aatu kallu in Costco – well, it was as close to a aatu kallu as I could get to.  It was a Mexican kitchen tool “molcajete”–   a mortar and pestle, used to make salsas and guacamole, but I could see myself using it to make various masalas in my kitchen.  So of course, I bought it.

I have used it several times to coarsely grind or powder ingredients for my cooking.  There is a distinct difference in the flavors of the masalas made using the mortar and pestle vs. the blender. The ginger and garlic seem to have a stronger flavor when stone ground.

I made my yellow peas curry recently with stone ground masalas and the result was fantastic!  


Here is what you need:

  • 2 cups dry yellow peas, soaked for 4 – 5 hours
  • salt to taste
  • ¼ tsp. hing
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric
  • 3 tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • ½ large onion, chopped
  • 3 – 4 green chilies
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic
  • ½” piece ginger
  • 1 tsp. red chili powder
  • 1 tsp. coriander powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin powder
  • chopped onion and cilantro for garnish
  • 1 tsp. freshly roasted and coarsely powdered cumin

Here is how I made it:

  1. Drain the water from the yellow peas.  Add more water, salt, hing, and turmeric.  Pressure cook this for about 6 – 8 minutes on low heat after the first whistle.
  2. While this is cooking, heat oil in a large pot.  Add the cumin seeds
  3. When the cumin seeds change color, add onions and sauté on medium heat for about 5 minutes.
  4. Place the green chilies, garlic, and ginger in the mortar and pestle and pound well till you have a coarse mixture. You can pulse it in a mini food chopper if you don't have a mortar and pestle.
  5. Add this to the onions and mix well.  Sauté this for a few more minutes.
  6. Add the chili powder, cumin powder, and coriander powder.  Let this cook on low heat till you can see the oil leave the sides.
  7. Add the cooked peas and adjust salt if necessary.
  8. Let this whole thing simmer for 10 – 15 minutes, adding water if necessary.
  9. Just before serving, add chopped onions, cilantro and the freshly roasted cumin powder.

Serve hot with rotis or rice.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Fresh Garbanzo Beans Salad

I have used garbanzo beans/ kabuli channa/ channa/chole forever.  I just never ever thougt about where it came from.  I had also never seen fresh garbanzo beans until a few years ago.  My Indian store carries it occasionally and the first time I bought it and tried it out, I loved it!

The beans are so fresh and tasty that it seemed criminal to smother it with too many masalas and competing flavors.  I only make this as a salad so that the flavor of the beans is not lost.  I love opening the pods to find the beans inside - kind of therapeutic, to shell garbanzo bean pods on a weekend afternoon. 


Here is what you need:

  • 2 cups fresh garbanzo beans (after shelling)
  • ½ cup red onion, chopped
  • 1 roma tomato, chopped
  • 2 green chilies, minced
  • ½ tsp. red chili powder
  • ½ tsp. coriander powder
  • ½ tsp. cumin powder
  • salt to taste
  • juice of 1 lime
  • cilantro for garnish

Here is how I made it:

  1. Put the fresh garbanzo beans in a pot with water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 5 - 8 minutes till the beans are cooked.
  2. Drain these and place in a bowl.
  3. Mix the remaining ingredients with the beans.

Serve as a salad or a snack, with some sev sprinkled on top.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Even softer idlis

I am pretty confident about my idli recipe.  I can consistently get really soft idlis, and hardly have any misses.

Recently though, this recipe I tried out, put my own idlis to shame.  They were the softest I had ever made and were healthier than the ones I normally make. The last time I tried this recipe, the idlis came out great, but the dosas did not.  I have not yet tried to make dosas with this batch of batter, but will update this post once I try it out.

Update:  Made masala dosas with the same batter yesterday and they came out great!

Soft Idlis

I have a huge bag of brown rice in my house.  My husband, the biggest rice eater in the house, doesn’t like to eat brown rice with traditional south Indian food – and I don’t blame him.  Rasam and sambar don’t taste as good with brown rice as they do with white rice.

Anyway, I use brown rice in my adai batter.  Since I don’t make it often enough to use up the brown rice, I needed some other ways to finish my stash.  I have heard of friends making idli and dosa batter with only brown rice and decided to try taking a small step in that direction.  I substituted one cup of white rice with one cup of brown rice and the results were fantastic!  The idlis were not white in color, but turned out super soft!

Idlis with Molagaipodi

I even packed some for my husband, who was traveling east and with the odd timing and time difference, would have missed lunch completely.  He ate the idlis soaked with molagaipodi for lunch on the plane and did not have to put up with airport food.

Here is what you need:

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 cup raw rice
  • 2 cups idli rice
  • 1 cup whole urad dal, without skin
  • 1 tsp. methi seeds
  • salt to taste

Idli batter in the mold

Here is how I made it:

  1. Wash the three types of rice together in several changes of water.
  2. Wash the dal and methi seeds also in several changes of water.
  3. Soak them separately for at least 4 hours.
  4. I use my Ultra Pride wet grinder to make my batter.  Add a little bit of water to the grinder and start it.  Add the urad dal with methi seeds.  Grind it to a smooth, fluffy paste.  You may need to add water if the batter is getting too thick.
  5. You will also need to keep scraping the batter from the sides of the grinder, to make sure that it is all uniformly smooth.
  6. Remove the urad dal paste into a big bowl.
  7. Now add more water to the grinder and add the rice to it.  The rice gets done much faster than the dal.  When you have a mixture that is not totally smooth, but is not coarse either, stop the grinder.
  8. Remove this and add it to the urad dal batter.
  9. Add a tiny bit of water to the grinder to clean the sides and pour this also into the bowl.
  10. Add salt to the batter and mix it well with your hand.
  11. Cover the batter and leave it in a warm place overnight.  I leave it in my oven (no heat or light).  If you have a difficult time with fermenting, turn on your oven light overnight so that the batter is in a warm environment.
  12. Your idli batter will be nice and bubbly and ready for you in the morning.

Baby idlis

To make idlis:

  1. Mix the batter thoroughly.
  2. Grease idli molds with either nonstick spray or oil.
  3. Spoon a small ladleful of batter into each mold.
  4. Add a little bit of water to the bottom of a pressure cooker or steamer.  Place the idli molds in the cooker/steamer and steam for about 15 minutes without the pressure building (with the weight off or in the steam release position).
  5. Remove the lid and let the idlis rest for about 5 minutes.  Remove them from the mold.

Serve steaming hot with chutney, molagai podi, or sambar.

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