May 22, 2011

Brahmi herb chutney

Brahmi herb or Centella Asiatica, has been used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years in India, China and Indonesia. Its ability to improve mental clarity and revitalize brain cells is phenomenal. Centella Asiatica herb is one of the dominating herbs for stimulating the nerves hence this plant is primarily known as a brain food in India. These tiny round frilly leaves are green and taste strong when eaten raw, and taste a little like mint leaves. Try making this chutney atleast once a week, especially for your kids.

What you need: Serves 4
1/2 coconut (fresh/dry, chopped or grated)
25-30 leaves of fresh brahmi herb (ondhelaga soppu)
2-4 sticks of fresh cilantro
4-6 green chillies
2-4 tsp channa dal (kadale poppu) 
2-4 garlic petals
1tsp fresh tamarind/1/4 tsp tamarind paste
For the tempering:
¼ tsp fresh ginger finely chopped
Few curry leaves finely chopped
½ tsp ural dhal

1/4  tsp mustard seeds
Salt to taste.

In a blender, add brahmi leaves, cilantro, green chilies, garlic, tamarind, channa dhal and salt. Grind them all together with a little water, to a slightly coarse and thick consistency. You may temper it with a little chopped ginger, mustard seeds, curry leaves and uddina bele (ural dhal). Sprinkle some powdered hing. Tastes great with dosa, idli, chapathi and rotis. Enjoy!

Kadale kaalu huli/ Whole channa sprout curry

What you need: Serves 4

2 cups kadale kaalu (whole chana dhal)
1 medium tomato chopped
1 medium onion, half chopped, half kept by the burning stove to char.
2 small egg plants cut into chunks
2 small potatoes cut into chunks
1 tsp curry powder
1tsp whole dry tamarind or ½ tsp tamarind paste
2tsp fresh or dry coconut (optional)
4 sticks of fresh cilantro
½ tsp hing
Salt to taste
For tempering:
1tsp ghee/oil, ½ tsp each – mustard and cumin seeds, 3 or 4 curry leaves and 2 whole red chilies.
Soak the kadale kaalu in water overnight or 12-14 hours until they sprout a little. Rinse well, add 3 cups of hot water, and salt; bring it to a boil on high heat. In about 10 minutes, the grams should be cooked to a slightly soft texture. Be sure to put half an onion right next to the burner so it chars. Set aside.

In a blender, add 1 tsp of the boiled dhal, charred onion, 2 tsp raw chopped onion, tamarind, curry powder, coconut and fresh cilantro. Make a paste.
In a  medium saucepan, add 1tsp ghee. On medium heat, add mustard and cumin, cover. When the splattering reduces, add curry leaves and red chilies. Now add all the remaining chopped onions, potatoes and egg plants. Cook them to a brown color. Add tomatoes and cook them till soft and pulpy.
Add the masala paste. Cook for a couple of minutes. Now add the cooked dhals and add salt. Cook it on medium high for 5 minutes till all the vegetables and grams cook to soft texture. Don’t walk away from the curry, or it will burn. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with soft cooked rice or ragi mudhe. Enjoy!

Dheevi halasu palya / Bread fruit stir fry

Bread fruit or Dheevi halasu is found largely in tropical countries. This fruit can be added into curries, or made intostir fries. I love veggie stir-fry's. They are the ideal 2 in 1 dish for dinner and lunch. Healthy too!

What I used: Serves 4 as side dish
2 cups bread fruit, washed, halved, skin peeled,  soaked in water for about 15 minutes, peeled and cut into 1 inch strips
1 cup onion chopped
½ tsp red chili flakes
¼ tsp turmeric
½ tsp kadale bele (Bengal gram/ yellow split lentils)
½ tsp uddina bele (urad dhal/split black gram)
¼ tsp mustard seeds
A few curry leaves finely chopped
2 tsp olive oil
Salt to taste

In a skillet, on medium heat, add oil. When it begins to shimmer, add in the dhals. When they get golden brown, add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. Then, add in the onions and bread fruit, cook on medium high for the first 2 minutes, then on medium heat until the bread fruit is soft and crunchy. Add in the chili flakes, turmeric and salt. It may cook in about 7-10 minutes. 

I usually cook this stir-fry for dinner, as a side dish with chapathi/tortilla and rice. The remaining is wrapped into chapathi/tortilla rolls for lunch the next day. Enjoy!

May 19, 2011

Vegetable bajjis / Spicy Vegetable fritters

You may use many different vegetables (chilies, bread fruit, okra, carrots, beans, you name it) to makes these crisp and spicy fritters. In this recipe, I have used heerekai (ridge gourd), capsicum (green peppers) and red onions. They make awesome appetizers!

What you need: Makes 15-20 bajjis
4 cups assorted vegetables
1 cup besan (gram flour)
½ cup maida (all purpose flour)
¼ cup corn flour
2 tsp red hot chili powder
1 tsp jeera/cumin seeds
Pinch of hing/asafoetida
Salt to taste
Water to mix
2-3 cups vegetable oil to fry

Wash the vegetables, and slice them down thinly. Set aside.

Add oil into a deep fry pan and let it stand on medium heat until it begins to smoke.

In the meantime, use a fairly large bowl; add in the flours, chili powder, salt, jeera, and hing. Scoop a spoon of hot oil from the frying pan and add it on the dry flour mixture, mix it in well. This will give the crispy texture to the bajjis. Now use ample water and mix it to form a batter. 

The consistency of the batter should be neither too thick nor too thin. When you dip a slice of raw vegetable into it, the batter should cling to it on both sides. 

Dip the vegetables and gently drop it into the smoking hot oil, reduce the heat to medium. When it turns golden brown, flip it over carefully to the other side, until it is coated in a golden brown texture. Set aside on some tissues. Serve hot with tomato ketchup or a dipping sauce of your choice. Enjoy it hot!

Kasi soppina haalu saaru/ Ganike haalu saaru/ Greens milk curry

This is a fresh green that can be found growing everywhere in South India. It belongs to the Solanum family, with lovely green leaves and produces tangy little blue or red berries. The solanum nigrum leaves are also uses as herbs in medicine. The curry is unmistably green, and has a subtle yet distinct taste. It can be made into chutneys or curries. Try it, I bet you will like it.

What you need: Serves 4
3 cups kasi soppu/ganike soppu/solanum nigrum leaves
3-4 Garlic
4-5 Black pepper seeds
3 red chilies
3 tsp dry coconut
2 tsp ghas ghase/khus khus /poppy seeds
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup hesarukalu(green gram)/kadalekalu(channa dhal)/dry avarekalu/fresh kadale beeja (peanuts)
Tempering : A tsp of ghee/oil, curry leaves and mustard seeds.

If you use dry grams/dhals, then warm them well on dry heat, and cook them well. If you are using fresh peanuts, just boil them with a little water and salt. Set aside.

In a bowl, add the greens, sprinkle a little water, and add in the garlic, black pepper, red chilies and salt to taste. Bring it to a boil. Let it cool. Warm the dry coconut and poppy seeds on dry heat. Add the greens mixture and coconut mixture together and grind them all together to a fine paste. 

Add oil into a saucepan, and let it smoke on medium heat, add in the curry leaves and mustard seeds, when the splattering subsides, add in the ground curry paste. Bring it to a boil on low flame for a few minutes.  Add in the boiled peanuts or dhals you have chosen. After about 5-7 minutes of constant boiling, turn off the heat. 

Just before it is served, mix in cold or warm milk, less or more than ½ cup. It tastes heat with ragi mudhe or cooked rice. Enjoy!

May 13, 2011

Red Onion Chutney

This is the best chutney my mom has ever made. It is made of juicy onions, red hot chilies and fresh coconut, a great combination!

What you need: Makes about 2 cups of chutney
1 cup diced red onions
1 cup fresh grated coconut
6 whole dry red chilies
1 tsp tamarind
1 tsp brown sugar or jaggery
¼ tsp turmeric
Salt to taste
2 tsp oil, ½ tsp mustard, 1 tsp urad dhal, pinch of asafetida (hing), few red chilies and a sprig of curry leaves.

Dry roast the chilies until they get really warm. In a blender grind the raw onions, coconut, jaggery, tamarind, chilies and turmeric to a fine paste. Do not use water. 

Heat a thick non stick pan, add oil. When it begins to smoke, toss in the curry leaves and red chilies, mustard and urad dhal. 

When the dhal turns into a light brown, add the ground paste and hing, cook the entire mixture on medium heat for about 10 minutes, and then let it cook on low heat for another 10 minutes. 

The longer it is cooked, the longer it will last. It compliments many foods like chapathis, pooris, idli, dosa, breads, rottis, and even plain cooked rice. 

If it is stored in the refrigerator, it can stay good for up to a month. It can be freezed in Ziploc bags and stored for a few months. Enjoy!

May 6, 2011

Nellikai Chitranna / Sour and Tangy Gooseberry rice

Nellikai (Amla/Indian gooseberry) is a sour and tangy fruit known for its medicinal qualities. It is rich in Vitamin C , and known to prevent premature hair-fall and hair graying. I just love the way rice absorbs its flavor to give the rice a unique and lovely taste.

What is needed: Serves 4
2 cups boiled rice, cooled to room temperature (Day old rice works good too)
4 fresh green nellikai grated
3-5 green chillies chopped
2 medium sized red onions chopped
1 green lime  (optional)          
¼ tsp sugar
¼ tsp turmeric
Pinch of asefoetida
2-4 tsp of olive oil
Salt to taste
For the tempering: Any or all that you can find - 2tsp peanuts, 1tsp whole cashews, 1tsp channa dal, 1tsp urad dal, 1/2 tsp mustard and cumin seeds, a few curry leaves and some chopped cilantro for the garnish.

Heat a wide shallow skillet. Add 2tsp oil, put in the peanuts and cashew and toss on medium heat till its golden brown.

Add the channa dal, urad dal, red chillies and curry leaves and cover cooked for just a minute watching it carefully on medium heat. Move it onto a plate and set aside.

In the same pan, on medium heat, add 2 tsp oil, mustard and cumin, cover it till the splattering subsides. 

Add the chopped green chillies and onionsand saute them until the onions are transparent. 

Add grated nellikai and increase the heat to high, constantly work it, watching not to burn, for 1 minute. Lower the heat to the lowest setting now. Add turmeric, salt, sugar and asefoetida. Cook for another 3-5 minutes and turn off the heat. 

In a large shallow plate or wok, add the cooked, cooled rice, spread the peanut tempering on it. 

Then add the cooked nellikai mixture. Mix all of it very gently until the rice takes in the color of the nellikai paste. 

Garnish it with chopped cilantro. Enjoy!

Vangibath Uppittu / Spicy Eggplant semolina

Yet another one of mom's yummy recipes.
What you need: Serves 4/5
2 cups medium rave/semolina
4 cups boiling hot water
1 cup green eggplants diced
1 cup ripe tomatoes diced
1 cup onion sliced
1 cup peas
2 tsp cilantro finely chopped
2 tsp homemade vangibath powder (or MTR brand powder)
½ cup fresh or ¼ cup dry coconut
¼ tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp ghee/oil
1 tsp sugar
Salt to taste
1 tsp urad dhal (uddina bele), 1 tsp kadale bele (split channa dhal), ½ tsp mustard seeds, a sprig of curry leaves.

Add ghee into a shallow pan. Over medium heat, add the dhals and fry to a golden brown, add the curry leaves and rave, roast them well for just a few minutes, set them aside on a plate. 

In the same pan, add oil to the pan, when it begins to smoke, add the chopped onions and peas. When they turn transparent, add tomatoes and egg plants together. After a few minutes, when the egg plants soften, add Vangibath powder, salt and sugar. 

You may add coconut and give it a quick stir. Add 4 cups boiling water. When the whole mixture begins to bubble, add the rave slowly into it and constantly stir to get rid of any lumps. 

Cover and set the heat to the lowest setting. Garnish it with finely chopped cilantro, cashews and a dollop of ghee if you like. Enjoy!

May 1, 2011

Methi and Okra in coriander masala

This is my mother’s most common masala recipe. She makes it one time, and freezes a few batches, that she later uses with other vegetables, egg , or meat.
What she uses: Serves 4-5
3 cups fresh okra cut into 1 inch pieces
½ cup finely chopped methi leaves (fenugreek)
1 cup onions chopped
2 cups tomatoes chopped
Grind the following:
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
½ cup shredded dry coconut
6-8 green hot chilies
2 tsp fresh garlic
2 tsp coarsely chopped ginger
2 tsp chopped onion
3 tsp coriander powder
½ tsp turmeric
3 green cardamoms (elaichi)
½ inch cinnamon (chakke)
4-6 cloves (lavanga)
½ tsp fennel seeds (somph)
¼ tsp mustard seeds
A sprig of curry leaves
4 tsp oil
Salt to taste

Grind the masala to a fairly fine paste with a little water. Set aside.  Heat oil in a skillet/ fry pan, when it starts to smoke, add mustard seeds and curry leaves. 

After the splattering subsides, add the onions, when it gets transparent, add the chopped methi leaves. Now let the onions brown a bit, add in the tomatoes and let it cook until soft and pulpy. Add the ground masala paste and let it simmer on a low flame for about 8-10 minutes until the oil separates. 

Meanwhile in another pan on medium heat, add about ½ tsp of oil, and toss in the cut okra. Saute them until they have brown patches. Gently drop them into the simmering mixture. Add salt and let them cook for another 5-7 minutes on low flame. Turn off the heat.

It tastes yummy with chapathis or any form of flat bread. It tastes great with rice too. Enjoy!

Vangibath / Eggplant rice

I am in mom’s home, after a treacherous journey with my kids on the plane for 22 grueling hours. My brother got married last week. The two weeks just flew by; did a lot of shopping, good food and great gatherings. My kids were literally dozing through all of it, with jet-lag. The stomach upsets kept them on yogurt rice for most days, now they are better. I am back to helping out mom in her kitchen, did I mention how nerve-racking that is? She never says a thing, just watches like a hawk, while I cook; only if I ask her, she suggests her secret tips. I hope I have fun assisting her, and learning new dishes. This is my first dish here, the recipe follows.
Vangibath is spicy rice made of fresh brinjal/egg plants. It is a very common breakfast /rice dish in South India.

What I used: Serves 4/5
4 cups cooked rice
2 cups green or purple eggplants diced
1 cup ripe tomatoes diced
1 cup onion sliced
2 tsp cilantro finely chopped
2 tsp lime juice
2 tsp homemade vangibath powder (or MTR brand powder)
¼ tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp ghee/oil
2 tsp sugar
Salt to taste
¼ cup peanuts (or fresh green peas if you like), 1 tsp urad dhal (uddina bele), 1 tsp kadale bele (split channa dhal), ½ tsp mustard seeds, a sprig of curry leaves and 2-3 whole dry red chilies.

Add ghee into a shallow pan. Over medium heat, add the peanuts and fry to a golden brown, add in the dhals and mustard seeds, as they turn into a light brown color, add the curry leaves and chilies, when they roast well, set them aside on a plate.
In the same pan, add the chopped onions and egg plants together. When the onions turn transparent, add the chopped tomatoes and Vangibath powder. Cover and cook them for a about 3-5 minutes until the egg plants are soft. Add in the lime juice salt and sugar together, give it a quick stir. You may add the cooked cooled rice now. Keep a few teaspoons of the mixture aside, just incase you would like to alter the concentration of the rice as per your needs. Some like it lightly flavored while other like a stronger taste. Garnish it with finely chopped cilantro. Enjoy!