January 26, 2009

Chettinadu Cuisine: Kara Kozhambu, Pirattal, Adai, Semia Payasam, Coriander chutney

My heartfelt thanks to all of you who wished and blessed Trisha last week. I did convey all of them to her, which kept her smiling the whole week. With those sackful of blessings, I am sure she can achieve anything she wants in life! In fact, she is so excited that she wants to bypass half year of high school and go straight to Chapel Hill right now and she is already listing the dishes she wants me to bring to her when she is in college!! ;D

Now, on to the serious business of "Regional Cuisine of India" event! RCI is conceived by LakshmiK of "Veggie cuisine", where we get to cook and appreciate the the regional cuisine and culture of India. This month Srimathi of "Few minute wonders" blog is guest hosting "RCI" with "Chettinadu vegetarian cuisine". Thanks for taking time to host, Srimathi, enjoy!

About Chettinadu:
(Info is from WIKIPEDIA)
"Chettinad cuisine is the cuisine of the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu state in South India. Chettinad is one of the driest regions of south India. The Chettiar community, who are a majority in this region are a very successful trading community. Chettinad cuisine is one of the spiciest and the most aromatic in India. Chettinad cuisine is famous for its use of a variety of spices used in preparing mainly non-vegetarian food. The dishes are hot and pungent with fresh ground masalas, and topped with a boiled egg that is usually considered essential part of a meal. They also use a variety of sun dried meats and salted vegetables, reflecting the dry environment of the region. The meat is restricted to fish, prawn, lobster, crab, chicken and mutton. Chettiars do not eat beef and pork.
Most of the dishes are eaten with rice and rice based accompaniments such as dosais, appams, idiyappams, adais and idlis. The Chettinad people through their mercantile contacts with Burma, learnt to prepare a type of rice pudding made with sticky red rice. Chettinad cuisine offers a variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes.
In Chettinad food, the most important spices are marathi mokku (dried flower pods), anasipoo (star aniseed) and kalpasi (known as Dagad Phool). In addition, tamarind, whole red chillies and saunf (Fennel seeds) are also used along with cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf, peppercorn, cumin seeds and fenugreek".

My Chettinadu Thali;
Murungakkai Kara Kozhambu, Palakkai/Varukkai Pirattal, Mixed dal Adai, Semia Payasam, Turmeric rice, Coriander leaves chutney, Mango Pickle and appalam:

Murungakkai/Murungai Kara Kozhambu:
Drumsticks or Nuggekayi as we call it, is one of my favorite vegetables. I only get frozen ones here, I used those along with some Pearl onions . Loved the Kara Kozhambu, a simple but tasty Sambhar. Here is how I made it.

1. Heat 2 tbsp oil+ghee in a pressure cooker, add 1 cup peeled Pearl onions, fry until reddish and take them out onto a plate.
2. To the same oil, add pinch of hing, 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds, 1 dry red chilli, few curry leaves, 1 tbsp Peanuts, 1 tbsp chana dal, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 small onion, chopped finely. Fry until they soften, add 3 garlic, chopped, stir fry for few seconds.
3. Add 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp red chilli pd, 1/2 tsp tamarind paste, 1/2 cup Tomato sauce, cook for a minute.
4. Add 1 tbsp coriander seeds pd, 1 tsp Sambhar pd (optional), 1/2 tsp Peppercorns crushed( or as much as you want) , 2 cups water, 2 cups of 3" pieces cut Drumsticks, enough salt, mix well.
5. Close the lid and pressure cook on low heat for 20 mins. Open the lid after pressure releases, add Pearl onions, cilantro, adjust the spices to taste. Simmer for 5 mins and serve.

Palakkai/Varukkai Pirattal:
Raw Jackfruit!! YAY!! I made a spicy Pirattal/Perattal with another favorite vegetable of mine but I get only the canned ones. This is a stir fry with typical chettinad spices like Fennel seeds, cloves and peppercorns. It makes a delicious side dish to serve with rice or Adais.

1. Heat 2 tsp oil, add 1 tsp mustard seeds, few curry leaves, 1 red chilli, add 1 small onion, chopped, stir fry until reddish.
2. Add 1 or 2 cans of drained and chopped raw Jackfuit pieces, fry for 2 minutes. Canned raw Jackfruit is already soft, so you don't have to cook too much.
3. Add ground spices, pinch of turmeric, enough salt and stir fry for 2 minutes. Mix 1/4 tsp tamarind mixed with 4 tbsp water, add to Pirattal and stir until it's almost dry. You can add more water if you need it.
4. Serve along with Adai or rice or both.
Spices to grind: Don't have to roast these.
3 tbsp dry dessicated coconut, 1 tbsp yellow roasted Chana (Hurigadale, Daliya, Pottukadali, chutney dal) 1 tsp Fennel seeds, 1/2" Cinnamon sticks (Dalchini), 1 clove, 1/2 tsp peppercorns,1 tsp cumin seeds. Grind these powder to use in Pirattal.

Mixed dal Adai:
Adais are instant dosas without the hassle of fermenting etc. Adding mixed dal and brown rice makes it a healthy and quick meal. Here is my version.

1. Soak 1/4 cup each of Tuar dal, Chana dal, Moong dal, Urad dal, 1/2 cup Brown rice for 2 hrs and drain the water.
2. Grind all of these with enough water and 1 tsp cumin seeds, 2 red dry chillies, salt to make a batter until smooth.
3. Heat a dosa Tava or electric griddle, pour a ladleful of batter and spread to a circle. Cook until the bottom is golden, flip and cook other side.
Serve this with Pirattal or Coriander leaves (Cilantro) chutney.

Cilantro chutney: Grind a bunch of cilantro with few green chillies, 1/4 cup fresh coconut, 2 tbsp Daliya/yellow roasted chana, 1/4 tsp tamarind paste, salt, 1/2" ginger, salt and with very little water to a smooth paste. Season with oil, mustard seeds, few curry leaves and mix with chutney.

Semia Payasam:

Of course, every Indian knows this sweet in one way or another. I used Chinese Rice Vermicelli or Rice Semia or akki Shavige in this dessert. Since rice Semia is delicate, you don't need to roast this in ghee before. here is how I made it.

1. In a non-stick pan, add 1 tbsp ghee or butter, add 1 tbsp each of Cashews, raisins, Almond slivers, fry until golden, take them out on to a plate.
2. To the same pan, add 3 cups of 2% milk, 1/2 cup brown sugar or jaggery (how much sugar to add is up to you, I always add less), bring it to boil, cook until it reduces a bit. Turn down the heat and add 1 cup Rice Vermicelli, mix and simmer.
3. Let it simmer gently, until Semia is well cooked and plump, then add 1/2 tsp of Cardamom powder to it and turn off the heat.
4. To serve, top Semia payasam with fried nuts and raisins. You can serve this cold or warm or at room temperature.

Mythreyee of "Paajaka" blog is hosting a "Sweet series: Rice/Wheat sweets/Diabetic friendly" event. My relatively low fat Semia Payasam goes to her event. Thanks for hosting, Myth. Enjoy the sweet! :)

That's the end of my Chettinadu thali, which we thoroughly enjoyed with some tasty Mango pickle and toasted Papad/Appalam! :)

Another look of Chettinad Thali:

Here is a small list of what I tried from others so far, click to make it large.
Madras Onion Sambhar, from Kalpana.
Spicy Chicken curry, from Srilekha.
Tomatillo Kootu, from Mahimaa.
Udupi Dhania Sambhar, from Paru.
Fluffy Idlis, from DK.
Beets- Chana dal stir fry, from Priya.
Thanks for posting all these, girls!

Last week, Sandhya gave me a "You have my heart" award, thank you so much, Sandhya.
Vibaas, Malar Gandhi, Lakshmi G, Pavithra, Meera and Ann gave me "Lemonade appreciation" as well. (I have posted the photos in my sidebar).
It always gladdens my heart to think that you all care so much about me even though I disappeared for almost 5 mnts from blogging! Now, I am passing both of these awards to all my blog friends who come here every week since I can't choose a few out of so many. Please go ahead, take them and enjoy. Hugs to all of you! :))

I don't know how many of you have watched the movie called "300", about a war between 300 Greek Spartan warriors and Persians. If you have watched "300" , then you must watch the spoof of the same movie called "Meet the Spartans"!!
OMG!! I have never laughed so much in my life!! It's hilarious. All I am going to say is it involves fake Sanjaya, Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears too!! ;D

Book I read:
"The Reader" by the author Bernhard Schlink.
Kate Winslet recently won a Golden Globe award for the movie made based on this book and also nominated for Oscar as well. Interesting book; story about post World War II, long lasting relationship betn a couple with a tragic end. Book is sensual, full of suspense and very readable.

Have a wonderful Super Bowl Sunday, may the best team win! :)

January 21, 2009

Deep pan Pizza Pie with Spinach-Feta filling and a dessert Pizza

Good news first!!
My daughter got accepted into
UNC at Chapel Hill last week, one of the best universities in southern USA. She is still in the second (and the last semester) of senior high school right now but she had applied for "early decision" phase of that U and made it there. We are very proud parents indeed. Her college starts in August! :)

I watched another talented Indian-American student of Chapel Hill (doing his Masters there) on TV, who sings very well but dresses like a nerd! (Simon's words! :D) Anoop is contesting in "American idol" this year. He calls himself "Noop Dawg!" aka Anoop Desai! I hope he makes it to the end unlike that dreaded "Sanjaya" 2 years ago! :D

It snowed here yesterday at last and it's all gone now! :P

Well...coming to today's menu...my daughter loves Spinach and Feta combo in any dish, specially in Greek
Spanakopita. I had baked a Spinach and Feta bread last month which she loved. Last week, I thought I will make her a Italian pizza with a Greek twist, a Spinach-Feta Pizza Pie as my "thank you for being wonderful daughter all these years" to her, which she loved as well. This deep pan Pizza pie is lot different from the usual open faced Tomato sauce based Pizza which came out great. With a piece of the same Pizza dough, I made a very simple dessert pizza which was delicious too. So here they are, enjoy the recipes! :))

Spinach-Feta Pizza pie slices topped with Tomato sauce and cheese and a small Peach-Grape dessert Pizza:
You need a deep pan pizza baker with perforated bottom to circulate the hot air which keeps the bottom crust crisp rather than soft (see the photo of the 14" deep Pizza pan below in the collage). If you don't have this pan, you can use a 12" round deep cake or regular deep Pizza pan to bake as well but at the last 5-10 mins of baking, you need to take out the pizza pie out of the pan and place it directly in the oven to make the crust crisp.

Here is how I made them:
You need a 14" wide and 2"-3" deep round pizza pan.

For the crust, you need:
4 cups all purpose flour, (may need a bit more flour, add only if you need it),
1 tsp salt,
3 tbsp olive oil or Canola oil,
1 tbsp sugar,
1 package of dry yeast, quick rise yeast is good too,
1 cup warm water or milk, between 110F to 115F.

2 more tbsp oil to brush the pizza dough.

1. Heat water/milk just enough to make it warm to 110F, add yeast and sugar, mix well and let it rest for 5-10mins or until frothy in a mixer bowl if you are using the Machine to knead with a dough hook or in a big bowl.
2. Add oil, 4 or more cups of sifted flour+ salt slowly, bit by bit, to the machine and knead for 5 to 10 mins to a firm and smooth dough to get pizza dough consistency. Brush some oil on top of the dough.
3. Cover the bowl, let it rise in a warm place until double or for 1 to 2 hrs.

While it's rising, make the filling and let it cool.

4. Once the dough is risen, punch down, take a tennis size ball out of it and keep it aside for a 6" small dessert pizza. Divide the rest of the dough to 2 pieces, 1/3 rd and 2/3rds. 2/3 dough goes to the bottom of the pan, and 1/3 rd dough goes on top of the filling.
Roll out both of them into 15-16" rounds, 1/8" thickness.
5. Spray some oil on the pan. Drape 2/3rd part of the rolled dough on the bottom of the pan snugly on the bottom and over with dough slightly hanging over the edges of the pan as you see in the collage. You can cut of the extra dough later if it's too much. Brush some oil on top of the dough.
6. Cover both rolled doughs with clean kitchen towel and let it rest for about 10mins to rise again.

You need these for topping the pizza:
2-3 tbsp ready made Pizza tomato sauce from the jar mixed with 1-2 tsp sugar if the sauce is tangy (heat it and cool before use), 1-2 tsp oil to brush on top, 1 tbsp each of Mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese, 1/2 tsp chopped fresh Basil or dry Basil (optional) if you have it to sprinkle on top.

Make the filling:

I used 1/2 tbsp butter, 10 oz pack of frozen Spinach, thawed and squeezed dry, 1 tbsp dry Onion flakes or 1/4 minced onion, 1/4 tsp red dry chilli flakes, 5 oz of crumbled Feta Cheese, 2 tbsp grated Mozzarella cheese , 1 tbsp Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, 1 tsp Cornstarch, 2 tsp milk, 1/2 tsp Garlic powder.
1. Heat butter in a pan on medium heat, add chilli flakes, minced onion or onion flakes, saute.
2. Add the Spinach, stir fry until it's fairly dry and cooked soft. Sprinkle cornstarch+milk, cook for minute.
3. Turn down the heat and add all the other ingredients, adjust the spices, mix gently and stir for 1-2 mins. Keep aside to cool.

To assemble:

Preheat the oven to 425F.

1. Uncover the pan lined with dough, sprinkle 2 tbsp Mozzarella on top. Then add cooled Spinach-Feta mixture and spread evenly in the pan to cover the bottom.
2. Cover with the rolled out dough, pinch the edges of the both doughs on the edge to seal them together, you can cut out the excess dough if it's too much.
3. Cut an "X" or a slit in the middle to let the air out while baking or prick with aknife all over the top dough. Now, add just enough Tomato sauce on top of the dough, do not use too much which makes the top layer soggy. (Hold the cheese and Basil to use it later to avoid burning)
4. Put the pan in the oven and bake for 35 to 45mins or until golden on top and baked.
Ovens are different, please use your judgment.
5. After you turn off the oven, place th Pizza pie on the cooling rack. Sprinkle Mozzarella-Parmesan cheese, Basil on top of Pizza, it melts as the Pizza pie cools. (I added cheese before baking but they start to burn in the oven! Add it after you turn off the heat and take out the pizza so it just melts, not burn in the heat of hot oven.)

1. If you find the bottom crust still soft when baked in regular pizza deep pan without the holes in the bottom, take out the pie gently out of the pan and place it in the oven again for 5 mins to get it crisp. Wait until the Pie is a bit cooler before you cut into pieces to serve.
2. You can also use store bought Dough to make the crust, but homemade dough is better! :)

I am sending this Spinach and Feta Pizza slice to Sindhura of "Bay leaf" blog, who is hosting a event called "The Bread Mania-Sandwich". Thanks Sindhura, enjoy the entry! :)

Baked Pizza Pie and a dessert Pizza:
Dessert Pizza is easy. I used "all fruit" Peach and Grape preserve I always buy which has less sugar and more fruit. Since tangy pizza doesn't taste good, I sprinkled some brown sugar on top. If you use sweet jams, you don't need to use sugar. Hope you try it.
1. Roll out the saved dough to a 6" thicker circle, brush with little butter (optional). Take few tbsps of preserve and spread evenly all around the pizza leaving an inch at the edges.
2. Sprinkle 1 tbsp brown sugar or as much as you like, on top.
3. Bake at 400F for about 20 mins or until baked. Ovens are different, please use your judgment.
4. Take it out, let it cool on the cooling rack. Serve at room temperature, it's yum.

You can also layer the Pizza with some sliced fresh fruit and Streusel topping on top of the dessert pizza before baking as well! :))

Below is last list of my "Tried and Tasted" dishes I cooked from other bloggers last August before my kitchen was demolished. I haven't been able to cook any from you so far, being busy cooking for events! I should start soon! Click on the collage to make it larger.

Here are the dishes and their creators. Thanks to all of you for posting these and let me share your tasty dishes! :))

Onion Tomato chutney, from Vysh.
Squash Gojju, from Paaru.
Avarekalu Saaru, from Mamatha.
Vegetable Kurma,
from Bhags.
Tomato Rasam, from Priya.
Bhindi Gojju, from RC.
Spring onion chutney, from Jayashree.
Majjige Huli, from Anu.
Gutti Vankaya, from Syamu.
Plain paper dosa, from Ramya.
Padavalakai Kootu, from Latha and Lakshmi.

Have a great weekend, Chettinad veg cuisine next! :))

January 14, 2009

Goan Cuisine; Sorpotel, Alu Ambot Tik, Pulao, Sannas, Dodol

My sincere thanks to all of you who welcomed me back to the blog world last week, including many talented young new foodies I have met so far. It's my pleasure to be a part of this foodie community, let's keep it simple, clean and have fun sharing! :)

Note to event hosts.. if you see any dish fits your event in my blogs, do give me a nudge. I will gladly send it to you. Just that it's a bit hard for me to remember all the events and deadlines, so help me out!

This week I chose to cook few Goan dishes for my post. Goa being the smallest state in the west of India, it's a coastal area which is very popular tourist destination well known for it's beaches, churches and architecture among Indians and Panaji/Panjim as it's capital, Goan cuisine is very much influenced by Portuguese among the Christian community who are fond of pork,beef dishes and Konkan style menu among Hindus. Fish, coconut are few of the staples along with addition of Feni, Toddy, Goan Vinegar are used in much diversified cuisine of Goa. For more info about Goa, click here and here.

(I don't claim to be an expert in cooking or I don't claim that my dishes are authentic to any region in any shape or form. I just post what I cook at home, sometimes experiment by borrowing from cookbooks, bloggers or websites if I am not familiar with certain dishes, which I always link or give credit to the source. So if some of you feel that the dishes are not authentic enough, please bear with me and just enjoy the recipes! You can click on the photos to see the larger images.)

Few Goan delicacies I tried;
Pulao, Sannas, Pork Sorpotel, Potato Ambot Tik and a dessert Dodol/Dhodol:
I have visited Goa several times while I was in India but haven't eaten in Goan-Portuguese homes. I chose some of these dishes to try a Goan thali by referring to this website and few books that I have like Tarla dalal's with few changes in the recipes. Toddy or Feni is not available to me, so I skipped those.

How to make these:

Potato/Batata Ambot Tik:
'Ambot' means 'Sour' in konkani & 'Tik' means 'hot/spicy'. Combination and balance of these both makes a wonderful vegetarian or non-veg dish added to Potatoes or any other vegetable you choose or meat or seafood.
Batata Ambot Tik goes to sunshinemom of "Tonguetickers" blog's FIC-Yellow" event, Thanks for hosting S! :)

Cook 3-4 peeled potatoes until almost done, sliced into thick wedges lengthwise, drain water,cool them and keep aside. Add salt to taste. Some cilantro to garnish.
1/2 tsp tamarind paste mixed with some water.Grind these:
3 or more dried kashmiri red chillies,
1 tbsp cumin seeds,
6 peppercorns,
1/4 tsp turmeric,
4 cloves garlic,
2" ginger.

To season:
3 tbsp oil,
1 large onion, sliced thin.
To make it:
1. Heat oil in a non-stick pan, add onion and saute until soft. Add Tamarind juice, ground masala and fry, adding a bit of water if necessary until you see the oil on top.
2. Add potatoes, stir gently so you don't break them and 1/2 cup water if you feel it's very thick.Sprinkle Cilantro. Little bit of gravy is great. Serve with Sannas or Pulao.

Pork is used in this classic Goan dish, which is blended with various spices, Feni and vinegar has a wonderfully colorful red gravy. It's spicy, I cut down the chillies way down! Sorpotel has a Portuguese influence and often served with Sannas or rice on festival days. It tastes better after a day or two when the spices and meat get a chance to mingle.

1. Cut 2 lbs Pork shoulder into small cubes. Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a deep pan, add pork cubes and stir fry until slightly browned, keep aside.
Grind these to a paste:
3 dry red chillies, 6 peppercorns, 3 cloves garlic,2" fresh ginger,2 tsp cumin seeds, 4 cloves, 2" cinnamon (Dalchini), 2-3 tbsp apple Cider vinegar (I chose this vinegar for it's fruity taste, can use any other, like Malt vinegar). Keep the paste aside.
2. Heat 2 tbsp oil, add a cup of finely chopped onions, 2 green chillies until soft. Add ground masala paste, stir fry for 3 mins.
3. Add pork cubes, salt, 2 tbsp Feni (if you are using it), mix well. Add about 2-3 cups of water, boil, turn down the heat and simmer until oil shows on top, gravy is slightly thick.
you can use the pressure cooker which makes pork tender and quicker to make this dish too. Serve with rice or Sannas.

Now, these Sannas are look similar to our south Indian Idlis but in Goa they are made differently. It's batter is fermented with Toddy which gives it a tangy taste or you can also use 1 tsp yeast for fermetation, bit like Kerala Aapams. I don't have Toddy, so I made without it which came out fine except the taste of Toddy.

1. Soak 1 cup rice in water overnight. Drain the water, add to a blender with 1/2 cup coconut milk or grated coconut (add toddy now if you have it). Grind the rice coarsely like Rava/Semolina, likethickish idli batter.
2. Add (yeast now if you are using it and not Toddy),1 tsp salt and 1 tsp sugar, mix well and let it ferment for 4 hrs.
3. After 4 hrs, adjsut the salt and pour it into idli moulds and steam for 12mins just like idlis.
4. Take them out and serve. I am they are fluffy with Toddy or Yeast fermentation, for these were bit firm but great to sop up the gravy.

Also called Arroz Refogado, it's a simple Pulao to serve with Sorpotel, Vindaloo, Xacuti, Ambat Tik etc.You can add sausages or few veggies to make it more interesting. It's cooked in chicken stock but salted plain water will do as well or you can chicken stock cubes.

1. Heat 1 tbsp oil or butter, add few cloves, 1-2 bay leaves, few peppercorns, 2 crushed cardamom pods.
2. Add 1/2 tsp turmeric, stir and add 1 small onion,sliced. Saute until soft and slightly reddish. Add 2 garlic minced, 1" grated ginge, stir fry.
3. Add 2 cups rice, saute for a minute. Add 3 1/2 cups water (add salt)or chicken stock (skip salt). Boil first until halfway cooked and then cover and simmer on low heat.Stir to mix.
---I cook the rice first, let it cool and season it with above masala. That way, rice doesn't get soggy. If you are good at cooking rice on the stove top, go ahead and do it the traditional way.

Dodol is a dessert made with rice flour, coconut milk, jaggary,stirred until thick and leaves the sides of the pan like halwa and garnished with nuts.Takes a little time to make but aromatic, delicious to eat.I made a very little amount just to try.

1. Take a non-stick pan, add 2 cups of coconut milk (canned is fine), heat it on medium heat until hot.
2. Add pinch of salt, 1/2 cup or more jaggary or sugar to it, stir until it dissolves. Add few tbsps of grated fresh or sweetened coconut to it and mix well.
2. Pour in 3/4 cup rice flour little by little, kepp stirring. It becomes thick, and starts to leave the sides of pan when done.4. Pour into buttered dish.
5. Sprinkle chopped nuts like Cashews or Pistachios. When cooled, cut into shapes and serve warm or cold.

Another look of my Goan thali!!


Check these out when you have time:
Spinach and Feta Cheese bread.
Urad dal masala vada with spicy dal dip.


Don't miss "Gran Torino"! Clint Eastwood, as old as he is, can still hold the whole film on his shoulder alone! It's a amazing movie, loved it. I also learnt many many many "names" they call southeast Asians from this movie which I didn't know before too! :P

"Mamma Mia", and "Burn after reading" are two fun films I saw last week, rented from one of those "Red box", each film costs like $1.07 for 1 day rental. Hurray for me!! :D

"Slumdog Millionnaire" movie is based on the book "Q and A: A novel" written by an Indian author, Vikas swarup. I am planning to buy it this month.

Here are few dishes I cooked last July from other bloggers before my kitchen was demolished. I am posting it now, one more list coming next week. Thanks for posting all these recipes, fellow foodies!

Quinoa dosa, from thetastetinkerer.
Kandi Podi, from Uma.
Mangalore chicken curry, Ranji.
Lima Beans Curry, from Medhaa.
Huli, from Ramya of Mane Adige.
Pacchi Pulusu, from Rekha.
Amaranth dal, from Anusha.
Black Eyed Peas Kurma, from Kribha.
Beans (originally made with Plantain stems) Kootu, from Srivalli.
Butter beans Subzi, from RC.
Rasam, from Sireesha.
Chole, Priti.

and now I am done! see y'all next week! :))

January 07, 2009

My Summer Harvest 2008 and a mixed vegetable Sambhar/Saaru

Here is my first post of 2009 today after almost 5 months of blog break! :)
Unfortunately, India had to go through traumatic time last year, my heartfelt condolences to all the families who lost their dear ones. I hope these things will never happen again and we will be at peace. Life is too short to endure all these violent nonsense!!!

A little peek at my brand new kitchen!
As you know, we have been remodeling our home in the last months. I know many of you are waiting to see my new kitchen, so here it is! My old white kitchen is here! :)


Since we came back home from Winter vacation last week and I had been transferring all my blog stuff to my new laptop last weekend, I didn't have anything else to post today. So I thought I would show you my usual annual Summer garden post along with a simple dish made from homegrown vegetables, a tasty Sambhar/saaru/soup. I successfully grew some Indian Ridge gourd, Snake gourd and Bottle gourds last Summer, which was very exciting for me because in the summer of 2007 I failed miserably and those plants never gave any results! :)

Heirloom tomatoes, Pear Tomatoes, Grape tomatoes and Cherry tomatoes (I forgot to add Cherry tomatoes here in the photo!)
Seeds for Indian vegetables can be bought here and here.

This is how it all started: I planted Okra, Pear tomatoes, Red Chard, Eggplants; green and purple,Cucumber, Cubano Peppers and Tabasco peppers in May in my "above the ground" vegetable patch.

Potted herbs: Balm Lemon, Chives, Mint, Oregano, Thyme, Basil, Italian Parsley, Rosemary. Some of the herbs I planted last year thrived this Summer too, didn't have to buy new ones.

Around August, I got quite a few purple Eggplants, Cucumbers, Green Eggplants and Indian Bottle gourds.Potted mixed herbs, Dill, Methi (Fenugreek) leaves and Amaranth leaves grew luxuriously:
Plenty of Tomatoes, Cubano Peppers, Red Radishes and Tabasco chillies which I love and freeze them to use all until next Summer!
Curry leaves plant is growing well, it is inside my home now. You see the Red Chard which we enjoyed all Summer. I grew Indian Snake gourd (Padavalakayi, Ridge Gourd (Heerekayi), Zucchini and few green beans this year, loved them all! :) Got loads of beautiful rainbow Red Chard, colorful tomatoes including Pear and cherry tomatoes, Eggplants, Methi (Fenugreek) leaves, Amaranth leaves and red and white radish greens as well.
More Red radishes which is great for cooking or salad, Okras, Zucchini, Snake and Ridge gourds to enjoy, Bottle gourd and more tomatoes!! Are you tired of looking at them yet? ;D
Now that vegetable showcase is over, here is the recipe for a delicious soup/saaru which is made of freshly cut vegetables from my vegetable garden last Summer. Enjoy! :)


Garden fresh mixed vegetable Sambhar or Tarkari bele saaru, my Mysore grandmother's style:
Of course she used to make huge amount of saaru powder with 16+ spices at her home to last for a whole year and send it to her sons' and daughters' families as well! I surely can't give you that recipe here, but you can have my lighter and simpler saaru pd version! :D

To make this dish, you need:
1 cup Tuar dal (cooked in 2-3 cups of water+1 tsp oil+1/4 tsp turmeric+mixed vegs if you like,some vegs tend to get mashed if cooked in pressure cooker which is not desirable), 2-3 cups of mixed vegetables, chopped, may be cooked in the microwave in advance. (I used few of each of all homegrown vegetables shown above, some frozen green peas to add color and some carrot slices. (Make sure to roast/shallow fry the chopped Okras with little oil in a non-stick pan to eliminate the slime), 2 tomatoes, 1/2 tsp Tamarind concentrate or 2 tbsp tamarind juice, cilantro to garnish.

Another look:
Simple Saaru/Sambhar powder:
Roast these spices lightly until crisp without oil and cool them before grinding with the fresh coconut:
2 tsp poppy seeds, 1 tbsp yellow roasted Chana dal/chutney dal/Dalia, (Hurikadale), 2 tbsp Coriander seeds, 1/2 tsp Methi (Fenugreek) seeds, 2 dry red chillies, (or as many as you like), 1-1/2" Cinnamon stick (Indian Dalchini).
Grind the above with 1/4 cup fresh (dry coconut can be used but fresh is better, do not roast), few curry leaves, Cilantro, 1 garlic, 2 slices of onion and little water until smooth and keep aside.
Seasoning ingredients: 2 tsp oil+1-2 tsp Ghee, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds, few curry leaves, 1 broken dry red chilly, 1/2 cup chopped onion, 2-4 garlic chopped, 1/4 tsp hing (Asafoetida) and 1/4 tsp turmeric (if you haven't added it to dal already when pressure cooking).
You can also add this seasoning at the end of cooking to the Saaru as well. Seems like most Lingayat saaru is not complete without "Bellulli oggarane" (garlic seasoning)! ;D
How to:
1. Heat oil+ghee in a deep pot, add the seasoning ingredients and fry one by one until reddish, adding hing and turmeric at the end.Now, add 2 cups of water and chopped vegetables, cover and cook until veggies are soft ie if they are not cooked before in the microwave.
2. Add tamarind juice and salt, simmer until raw smell goes for about 3 mins. Add cooked Tuar dal, mix well.
3. Turn down the heat to low and simmer for 2 mins before you add coconut paste. If the sambhar is hot and bubbling and the ground coconut paste added, it will look curdled and separate, it will make the sambhar thin and grainy instead of a smooth gravy, so don't add the ground masala when saaru is hot!
4. Now, add the ground coconut masala paste. Simmer gently for 3-5 mins. Adjust the salt. Saaru/Sambhar shouldn't be too thick or too thin. Adjust the water, chilli pd or salt as needed when simmering.
5. Garnish with cilantro. Tastes better the next day.

Note: Instead of mixed vegs, sometimes I use 1 huge Rutabaga, peeled and cubed with carrot slices which makes a sweetish saaru which my kids approve or with 3-4 Turnips as well.
Once you added the dal, do not boil the saaru too much, just 1-2 mins is enough since vegs are already cooked. Seasoning can be made separately and can be added at the end of cooking as we usually do.

This warm and comforting soup or Sambhar goes to Trupti of "Recipe Center", who is hosting "Winter Treat" event and Sunshinemom at "Tongueticklers" blog's "Food in Colors-Yellow" event as well. Thanks for hosting girls, enjoy! :))

That's all folks! Hope you enjoyed my homegrown vegetable galore as much as we did last Summer. See you all next Wednesday, I have got to catch up with old and new RCI event posts now! :D

PS: While on vacation in Orlando, we watched few movies. I highly recommend these two, "The curious case of Benjamin Button" (very moving and amazingly shot in New Orleans etc, Brad Pitt (Teenage Brad Pitt! OMG!! :D) and Cate Blanchett are excellent in this movie!) and I was thrilled to get a chance to see "Slumdog Millionaire" too. This movie was sad, shocking (Mumbai slums and survival; how could any democratic country would let her citizens live like that in this time and age is beyond me, makes me very very sad, specially for those slum kids who are supposed to be the citizens of tomorrow!!), sometimes hilarious, engrossing and very romantic! Dev Patel (Jamal in the movie) is a very talented young man.
Both of these films are nominated for Golden Globe awards. Hope you get a chance to see both of these wonderful, interesting "out of the box" movies.