Everyday Simple Recipes, Main Dish

Basil Walnut Pesto Pasta

Easy-to-make basil walnut pesto pasta.Basil Walnut Pesto Pasta
IngredientsIngredients:
To make Basil Pesto
Fresh basil leaves – Medium sized cup (15-20 leaves)
Garlic – 5-6 pods
Walnuts – 1 cup (10-12 pieces)

For Pasta
Cheese – 1 cube
Olive oil – 2 tbsp
Pepper
Salt
Spaghetti/penne or any pasta of your choice

Method:
Cook spaghetti (or the pasta of your choice) in saucepan of boiling salted water as per the instructions in the packet. Drain and keep aside.

Grind garlic, basil leaves, and walnuts to make a coarse paste. Keep a few basil leaves aside for garnishing.

Grind

Heat olive oil in a pan and add the coarsely ground pesto paste. Sauté for a minute or two.

Sauté

Add the cooked pasta and mix well. Add salt and pepper.

basil pesto pasta

Turn off the fire and add cheese and basil leaves. Serve hot.

Pasta

P.S.: If you feel that the pesto paste that you made is too much for the pasta, you can keep a little aside and use it as a sandwich spread after adding some olive oil.

Everyday Simple Recipes, Main Dish, South Indian, Vegan

Eggplant Rice – A One-Pot Meal

Recently I have been finding one-pot meals very interesting. I never used to like them earlier, only for the reason that I was not familiar with them. At home the only one-pot meal we knew was curd rice, tomato rice, lemon rice, and tamarind rice. Apart from these, I was not used to pilaf or biriyani simply because at home we do not use garam masala. Meal to us meant rice accompanied with a gravy and a subzi. It took me several years to get out of that comfort zone.

Lunch boxKarnataka cuisine has many varieties of one-pot meals. The first meal I had at MTR had some of these including Bisibele bath. Personally not a big fan of that one. But vangi bath or eggplant/brinjal rice has been a favorite ever since the first time. Eggplant rice is a very good option to make when you are expecting guests and need to make rice and roti-subzi. This one-pot meal does not need much preparation, can be made quickly, and gives you ample time to attend to other things. It is a convenient lunch to carry to schools and work places.

Let me add the disclaimer first! This recipe requires a special powder called Vangi Bath masala powder. Like many other ready-to-mix powders that are available in the market (most famous brand being MTR), this powder is also available. I am not sure if it is widely available like a puliyodarai mix! In this recipe, I have not explained how to make the vangi bath mix because I do not know how to. I bought the masala mix from my friendly neighborhood Iyengar’s Bakery that sells masalas, snacks, and some tasty dosas and meals.

Vangi bath masala mix can be prepared at home and has good shelf life. Aayis Recipe, a veteran food blogger’s version can be checked here. This one over here is good too.

Traditional recipe only uses brinjal but I used potato and capsicum as well. I quite loved the taste!

Ingredients:
Rice (raw rice/biriyani rice preferred) – 1 glass
Oil – 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Brinjal – 2 medium sized
Potato – 1 medium sized
Capsicum – 1 medium sized
Green chillies – 2
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Vangi Bath mix – 1 tbsp
Roasted peanuts – 1/2 cup
Coriander leaves – a bunch
Curry leaves – 2 stalks
Lemon juice – of half a lime or as desired
Salt – as needed

Method:
VegetablesPressure cook rice and keep aside.

Wash and clean the vegetables. Peel potato, remove stalk from eggplant and capsicum. Cut in rectangular pieces (can be cut as desired). Separate the capsicum pieces from the brinjal and potato pieces. Split the green chillies. Keep aside.

Heat an iron kadai and pour oil. Add mustard seeds to the oil. After mustard seeds splutter, add cut brinjal, potato, curry leaves, and green chilies. Add turmeric powder. Stir well to coat oil on the vegetables and close with a lid. Cook for 5-7 minutes in slow fire stirring occasionally. At 5 minutes, add capsicum pieces. Cook for another 2 minutes or so until all vegetables are tender. Add vangi bath mix and salt. Stir for a minute and turn off fire. Add the cooked rice. If rice is very hot, it might break while mixing. So make sure that the rice has cooled down a little bit. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves, roasted peanuts, and lemon juice. Mix well. Serve with papad and raita.Vangi bath, salad, and papad

I made mixed veg raita using cucumber, onion, carrot, curd, green chilies, coriander leaves, and salt. Makes a wholesome meal of carbs, cooked vegetables, fresh vegetables, curd for probiotic, and the fried papad to add a little bit of sin!

Festival Recipes, Kerala Recipes, Main Dish, South Indian, Vegan

Thiruvathira Recipes

Thiruvathira, a festival observed mainly by Keralites and Tamilians, is a women-centic festival celebrated on the day of Thiruvathira star of the Malayalam month of Dhanu masa that mostly coincides with full Moon day. Thiruvathira is also the birth star of Lord Shiva and also the day when He came out his deep meditation after Sati’s self-immolation and married Parvati. Women observe a day long fast and perform various rituals. Tamilians celebrate this day as Ardra Darshanam and worship Shiva and go to the temple before sunrise. There is also a version that Thiruvathira festival is celebrated in memory of the revival of Kamadeva, the mythological God of love, after he disrupted Shiva’s meditation that resulted in him burning to death due to Shiva’s fury.

My mother still fondly recalls the joyful Thiruvathira days during her teenage days. They used to wake up early (4 am) and women from other homes would come and they proceed as a group, gathering other women along the way and singing songs praising Lord Shiva as they walk towards the temple pond of a Shiva temple. They would carry clothes, new set if it was available. At the pond, they would place their clothes on the roots of the huge banyan tree. Getting into the pond would be a difficult task as Dhanu masa mornings are misty and cold although Kerala hardly experiences any winter. Some bold ones who have already got in would splash water on the hesitant ones still staying by the steps of the pond. While taking bath, they sing songs and rhythmically splash water using their fists (thudichu kuli). Towards the end, while still standing inside the water, they hold hands and stand in a circle. After bath, they wear their new set of clothes, visit the Shiva temple, and then eat a banana and chew betel leaves. My mother says they were too poor to even afford to buy bananas and she used to look forward to the banana that was given by one of the women who belonged to a rich family. They sing songs and return home where a swing hung on a tree in front of the house awaits them. They take turns to sit on the swing, sing songs, and swing each other.

Thiruvathira fasting is observed by women by abstaining from all rice-based items and only eating preparations of wheat, millets, fruits, and a mixed vegetable dish called Thiruvathira puzhukku cooked mainly out of tubers. The main ingredients of this dish are purple yam (kaachil/kaavithu), colocasia (chembu), Chinese potato (koorka), yam (chena), raw plantain (ethakaya), broad beans (avarakkai), mung beans / long beans cooked with a thick paste of freshly ground coconut and jeera. A sweet dish made of arrowroot powder (koova) and jaggery is also a speciality of this festival. In some parts of Kerala, on this day, women chew 108 betel leaves and redden their lips.

Women observing Thiruvathira fast keep vigil at night by engaging in song and dance rituals on this full moon night. An image of Siva is placed at the central courtyard and flowers, banana, and jaggery are offered to the deity. Women then perform Thiruvathirakkali round the deity.  They stand in a circle around a lighted lamp and sing and dance clapping their hands. The theme of the songs revolves around Parvati’s love and longing for Shiva’s affection. Thiruvathira dance is the epitome of feminine grace, charm, and subtle lasya.

There is also a custom called Pathira poochoodal (wearing flowers at midnight). The first Thiruvathira of a new bride is called Poothiruvathira or Puthen Thiruvathira is very special.

Thiruvathira Puzhukku

A special preparation cooked using tubers during the Thiruvathira festival. The main ingredient of this is a special purple yam, which is harvested during winter.

Purple Yam CollageIngredients:
Purple Yam (Kaachil / Kand) – 250 gm
Raw banana – 1
Pumpkin – 250 gm
Green gram – 1/2 cup
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
Grated coconut = 1 cup
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Red chilly powder/green chillies – 1/2 tsp/4
Water – 1 glass
Coconut oil – 1 tbsp
Curry leaves – 2 stalks

Method:

Soak the green gram dal overnight and pressure cook it. Keep aside. Cut the vegetables into cubes and put them in a cooking pot. Add some water (just enough to immerse half of the cut vegetables). Add turmeric powder and chilly powder. Close with a lid and stir occasionally.

puzhukku

Grind the grated coconut and cumin seeds to make a coarse paste. If you are using green chilies, add that along with the coconut and cumin seeds. When then vegetables are tender and well cooked, add the cooked green gram, ground coconut paste, and salt. Mix well and cook for 2 minutes. Turn off the fire and add the coconut oil and fresh curry leaves. The dish gives out a pleasing aroma. This dish is a self-sufficient meal in itself. There are many variations to this dish. You can also try adding your own combinations of vegetables.

puzhukku ready

Arrowroot Pudding (Koova)

A sweet dish that is made from arrowroot powder, which is usually made from home-grown arrowroot plant.

Upma served with arrowroot pudding and papad

Its a lengthy and tedious process of pulling out the root, cleaning, chopping, grinding, adding water, and distilling the powder. At the end of all this you end up with very little quantity of arrowroot powder.

Ingredients:
Koova (arrowroot powder) – 100 gm
Jaggery – 200 gm
Water – 3 glasses
Grated Coconut – 1/2 cup
Cardamom powder – 1 tbsp

Method:

Melt the jaggery in water. Strain to remove the impurities. Mix the arrowroot powder in some water and make a smooth and thin paste without any lumps. Add this paste to the jaggery syrup. Place this mixture on the stove. Stir continuously on low flame. The mixture starts thickening. Turn off the fire when the mixture becomes a fine paste. Add cardamom powder and grated coconut. Mix well. You can add ghee or cashew fried in ghee but this is optional. You can also add cooked moong dal along with the arrowroot powder.

There could be regional variations to both these recipes.

During Thiruvathira, Palakkad brahmins prepare a dish called Kali, a sort of rice halwa.

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Everyday Simple Recipes, Main Dish, Palakkad Iyer Recipes, South Indian

Curd Rice (Thair Sadam)

On a weekend afternoon when you are just not in a mood to cook, too lazy to get out for lunch, and don’t want to have a heavy meal, make curd rice, or thair sadam as we South Indians call it. I feel if you take count of the top 100 contributions of Tamilians to the rest of the world, curd rice will undoubtedly top the list. It’s easy to make and it’s easy on your tummy too. Its comfort food for me. When I go to a buffet and see a huge spread in front of me, I suddenly feel really full. So I take some plain rice on my plate and some curd and eat that with dal and papad. If there’s pickle too, nothing like it..mmmm…yummy! If curd is not available, I try to sneak in some raita and mix it with rice. I know many of you might disapprove!

Let’s see how to make the simple curd rice.

 

Ingredients:

Cooked rice – 1 cup
Cooking oil – 1 tbsp
Curd – 3 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Split black lentil (urad dal) – 1 tsp
Ginger – 1/2 inch piece
Curd chilly/slit green chilies – 2
Curry leaves – 1 stalk
Chopped coriander leaves – 2 tbsp
Salt to taste

Preparation Time: 5 mins.
Cooking Time: 2 mins.

Method:

Pour oil on to a pan and put mustard seeds and split black lentil. Add slit green chillies or curd chillies. Chop the ginger finely and add to the oil after the mustard seeds splutter and split black lentil and chillies turns brown. Add curry leaves as well. Sauté until ginger pieces are cooked. Add cooked rice and stir well. (If you are using leftover rice from the fridge, you can cook the rice for 3 mins). Cook for a minute and turn off the fire. Sprinkle finely chopped coriander leaves. Let it cool for a minute. Add curd and mix well. You can add chopped cucumber pieces to the curd rice and make it healthier. If you won’t have the curd rice immediately, use half the amount of curd and mix some milk along with the curd and rice. This ensures that the curd rice doesn’t become too sour by the time you eat.

Serve with hot appalams (Madrasi papad) and fried curd chillies (Spicy green chillies slit and marinated in sour salted buttermilk and sun dried. Available in South Indian stores.)  and mango or lime pickle. Describing this is making me salivate!

Addendum: You just cannot afford to miss this blog post on Thair sadam!

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Breakfast, Everyday Simple Recipes, Indian, Main Dish, Palakkad Iyer Recipes, South Indian, Tiffin, Vegan

Rice Kozhukatta (Steamed Rice Balls)

Kozhukattas are yummy energy packed steamed rice balls that can be had at any time. It can be parceled and easy to carry as a travel snack too.

Ingredients:
For Batter:
Parboiled Rice- 2 cups
Salt to taste

For tadka:
Red chilies (curd chilies) – 2-3
Curry leaves- 2-3 stalks
Mustard seeds- 1/2 tbsp
Chana dal- 1/2 tbsp
Urad dal- 1/2 tbsp
Coconut grated- 1 cup
Dill leaves finely chopped (optional) – 3-4 tbsp

Preparation Time (for batter): 10 min
Cooking Time: 5 min
Makes 15-20 kozhukkatta

Method:
dough

Soak the rice in water for 2-3 hrs. Drain the water & grind the rice in a mixer to make a coarse paste. Add very little water while grinding. The batter should not be watery. Add salt to the coarsely ground batter and mix well.

Heat oil in a thick wok, add mustard seeds. If you are using curd chilies, add it along with the mustard seeds. When mustard seeds begin to crackle, add the dals (urad dal and chana dal), add red chilies and curry leaves. Pour the coarsely ground batter to this and keep stirring. The heat should be medium. Keep stirring until the watery batter turns to a thick dough. Turn off the fire. Add grated coconut and mix well. If you are adding dill leaves, add the finely chopped dill leaves at this stage.

Plain Kozhukkattai (without tadka)An alternative way is to avoid all tadka material (mustard seeds, urad dal, chana dal etc.) and add the batter into little bit of oil in the wok and heat it until it thickens and then add grated coconut. Both have very unique taste. You may decide either based on individual preference.

When the mixture cools, make small round balls double the size of a lemon and place on an idli stand. Put the idli stand with the rice balls in a steamer and steam for 15 mins. Turn off and kozhukkattai is ready to be served with sambar or coconut chutney.

Ready to be steamed

List of accompaniments:
Can be served with sambar or chutney. You can have it with sugar too.

Notes:
1. You need to use parboiled rice for this recipe. If you use raw rice, the kozhukkattais will turn out to be sticky and hard. Parboiled rice kozhukkattais stay soft yet firm.
2. You can make the dough and store in the fridge overnight and make the kozhukattai the next day.

Skill Level:
Medium

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Dals/OzhichuKootaan/Saaru, Kerala Recipes, Main Dish, South Indian

Sambar

Sambar is a versatile dal curry. It tastes good with almost everything. You can have it with rice, dosa, idli, even chapathi!

There are various types of sambar and different styles of making it. This is a simpler version, which can be made even if you do not have whole ingredients or a ready-made sambar powder but turns out equally tasty. Try it!

Ingredients:

Toor dal – 1 cup
Drumstick – 2
Malabar cucumber/ash gourd – 100 gms
Potatoes – 2
Tomatoes – 2
Lady’s finger – 6-8
Tamarind – a lime-sized ball
Curry leaves – 2 stalks
Coriander leaves – 1 tbsp chopped
Salt to taste
Water – 3-4 cups

For seasoning:

Coriander powder – 2 table spoons
Asafetida – 1/4 tea spoon
Red chilly powder – 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1/4 tea spoon
Methi(fenugreek) seeds – 1/4 tea spoon
Oil – 1 tsp

Preparation Time: 15 mins.

Cooking Time: 20 mins.

Method:

Wash toor dal and add some turmeric powder and pressure cook it. Mash the dal and keep it aside.

Soak the tamarind in warm water and extract the juice.

Wash, peel, and cut the vegetables in 1/2 inch sized cubes. Put all the vegetables except tomato in a vessel. Add enough water to cover all the vegetables and a pinch of turmeric powder and cook. When the vegetables are cooked, add the tamarind paste and add tomatoes. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the cooked dal to this mixture. Add salt and mix boil for 2 minutes. Add more water if needed.

Heat oil in a pan. Add mustard and methi seeds. When they crackle, add coriander powder, red chilly powder, asofetida. Take care to not burn the powders. Add half a glass of water and cook this mixture for 2 minutes. Instead of adding these powders, you can buy sambar powder from the market and add 2 tbsps of that. Add this to the vegetables. Add curry leaves and chopped coriander leaves and garnish. Hot sambhar is ready.

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Breakfast, Dals/OzhichuKootaan/Saaru, Kerala Recipes, Main Dish, Side Dishes, South Indian, Tiffin, Vegan

Appam & Vegetable Stew

Mixed vegetables cooked in coconut milk and flavored with spices served along with soft and fluffy appams. A lip-smacking combo that can be served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Ingredients:
Mixed vegetables (cauliflower, potato, carrot, peas, beans) cut in small cubes – 2 cups
(I used potato alone)
Onion (cut in long strips) – 2 Nos
Ginger (cut in long strips) – 1/2 inch piece
Water – 1 glass
Green Chillies slit – 4
Salt to taste
Grated coconut – 1 cup (You can add either coconut milk or finely ground coconut paste)

For seasoning:
Coconut oil : 2 tsp
Curry leaves – 2 stalks
Shallots – 5 nos
Elaichi pod – 2 nos (small ones)
Cloves – 4 nos
Tej patta – 1

Vegetable stew ingredientsMethod:
Put onion, potato, ginger pieces, slit green chillies along with water into a vessel. Cook until potatoes are tender. You can lightly mash the potatoes so that they blend well with the gravy. Grind the grated coconut into a fine paste and add to the cooked vegetables in the vessel. Boil for 2 minutes and turn off. Pour coconut oil (raw-do not heat) and add curry leaves. Mix well and serve with hot appams. The traditional veg stew recipe ends here.

Here is my improvisation to the seasoning of this veg stew. Heat a kadai and pour coconut oil. Add thinely sliced shallots, cloves, and cardamom. Saute till shallots turn golden brown. Add this to stew. Mix well and serve.

Instead of the grated coconut, you can use tinned coconut milk that is available in the market. If you are using coconut milk, ensure that you do not overheat it.

Appam

Ingredients:
Raw rice – 2 cups
Cooked rice : 1/2 cup
Grated coconut : 1 cup
Coconut water – of one coconut
Yeast – 1/2 tsp
Sugar: 1 tsp
Salt to taste

Method for Batter:
Soak the rice in water for 4-5 hours. Grind the rice along with cooked rice and coconut to a smooth paste. While grinding, add only minimal water because you will need to add coconut water also. You could also add the coconut water while grinding the paste. Mix the yeast in half a glass of warm water and add that to this batter. Pour this mixture in a vessel leaving enough room for fermenting. Allow to ferment overnight. Add salt to taste and sugar to the batter and mix well with a ladle. The batter is ready to use.
Note: If you stay in colder regions, the batter may not ferment well overnight. Take care to keep the batter in a warm place for overnight fermenting.

Method for Appam:
Heat the wok or appam chatty (a vessel specially used for making appams). If the wok is not non-stick, you will need to smear oil on the wok using a clean cotton cloth. Keep fire in medium. Pour the appam batter into the hot wok.

Hold the wok on two ends and gently swirl the wok to spread the batter around making it thin around the edges and thicker in the middle.

A well-fermented batter will form small holes when spread.

Cover the wok with a lid and cook on medium flame till the edges are crisp.

The lacy edges will come off the wok when it is done.

Serve hot along with the veg stew.

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