Everyday Simple Recipes, Side Dishes

Onion Tomato Subzi

When you have to make roti subzi for just one person, what subzi do you make? Here is a simple one with very few ingredients that you can prepare in 5-7 minutes.

Ingredients:
Onion (medium) – 1
Tomato (medium) – 1
Garlic – 1 pod (optional)
Hing/asafetida – a pinch
Turmeric – a pinch
Chilly powder – 1/2 tsp
Cooking oil – 2 tsps
Salt to taste
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp (optional)
Grated coconut – 1 tbsp (optional)
Coriander leaves – 1-2 (optional)

Method:
Peel the garlic and onion. Chop garlic, onion, and tomato into small pieces. Pour oil into an iron wok. Crackle mustard seeds. Add chopped garlic. When they turn brown, add chopped onion. Saute for 2 minutes. Add turmeric powder, chilly powder, and hing powder. Add chopped tomato. Saute for 2 more minutes. Add salt and turn off. Add grated coconut and chopped coriander leaves if preferred. Serve with roti.

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Everyday Simple Recipes, Indian, Side Dishes, Vegan

Stuffed Brinjal

Another stuffed vegetable that is very similar to the previous one. I have always been a brinjal fan. Isnt it one of the prettiest of vegetables? What a color! When I buy sarees for my mother, I always look for the aubergine or the brinjal flower color because that’s her favorite! Man has not yet mastered the art of replicating the colors of Nature very well, yet we take pride in saying that we came close. Whether it is the purple brinjal or the unique green long brinjal variety, the streaked purple and white ones, or the ivory white one; all taste excellent when cooked with the right ingredients. Who can resist the smell of the smoky bhartha baingan?

Stuffed brinjal is easy to make and makes good accompaniment for rotis or puris. You can go crazy with your imagination and use anything you fancy for the masala of this recipe. Make this one and you will fall in love with brinjal.

Ingredients:
Brinjal (purple small round ones) – 250 gms
Cooking oil (sunflower) – 2 tbsps
Coriander leaves – a bunch
Salt – to taste

For masala:
Onion – 2 (medium sized)
Peanuts – 2 tbsp
Sesame seeds – 1 tbsp
Grated coconut / Copra pieces – 2 tbsp
Garlic – 3-4 cloves
Tamarind – 1 lime size
Jaggery – 1 tsp
Turmeric – 1/2 tsp
Chilly powder – 2 tsp
Cooking oil – 1 tbsp
Salt to taste

Method:

Please make sure that you use the small purple brinjal variety to make this dish. Wash the brinjal and pat them dry using a cloth. Make slits that cross each other while keeping the stem intact. Ensure that there is no dirt/worms. Keep aside.

Peel and cut the onion. In a pan, dry roast the grated coconut / copra and peanuts. Set aside.
Add one tbsp oil and add chopped onion, garlic, tamarind and saute well. After the onion turns pink, add turmeric power, chilly powder, jaggery, and salt. You may add anything you fancy, like coriander powder, garam masala, or ginger garlic paste instead of garlic. Turn off the flame and let the mixture cool. Grind this to a fine paste in a blender. Add just enough water so that the paste is not too loose. Carefully stuff this paste into the slit brinjal so that the paste of masala coats the insides of the brinjal. If you choose to and have the time and patience, you can keep this aside for half an hour before you start cooking the brinjal. I did not do this and cooked the stuffed brinjal straightaway after stuffing them with the masala.

In a thick bottomed pan, pour 2 tbsp of cooking oil and place the slit brinjal with masala stuffing. Close with a lid. Hold the brinjal stem and turn them over occasionally to cook all sides until the brinjal is tender (about 10-15 minutes on medium fire). If you prefer some gravy for the dish, you can make the masala slightly watery and that will make the dish watery. If you prefer it tangy, you can cook the stuffed brinjal in tomato puree. When the brinjal is tender, remove from fire, and add chopped coriander leaves. Serve with rotis or warm rice.

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Everyday Simple Recipes, Festival Recipes, Kerala Recipes, Snacks, South Indian, Sweets, Tiffin

Sweet Beaten Rice Flakes (Aval Vilayichathu)

Most South Indian households stock up on beaten rice. When an unexpected guest arrives, beaten rice flakes come to your rescue. You can make delicious items out of this inexpensive item, like upma, cutlet, a sweet, or even payasam (kheer). Kanda (onion) poha and batata (potato) poha are favorite Maharashtrian breakfast items made using beaten rice flakes. Kanda poha is moistened poha cooked in a tadka of sauteed onion sprinkled with coriander leaves, some lemon juice, and a few peanuts – definitely a wholesome breakfast.

When my friend came to visit, she brought along with her some organic beaten rice flakes. My mother makes sweet beaten rice flakes often and it is a favorite in our household. It is a common neivedyam (offering to God) and a favorite of Lord Krishna. I suggested to my friend that we use the organic variety to make the sweet beaten rice. I shared with her my mother’s method of making aval nanachathu. Though Kerala is a small state as compared to other states in India, you will find difference in taste of food every 100 kms or so. Right from the chutney, sambar, and the type of rice served, to the kind of items served in a sadya, recipes and tastes differ across the length and breadth of this blessed little state. My friend’s sweetened beaten rice recipe differed from my mother’s. I told her to teach me her version which is called Aval Vilayichathu. Does anyone know the difference between aval vilayichathu and aval nanachathu? Here is the recipe to her version.

Ingredients:

Beaten rice (brown/white) flakes – 3 cups
Jaggery – 1 cup (you can alter this quantity to suit your taste)
Grated coconut – 1 cup
Cardamom powder – 1/2 tsp
Sesame seeds – 1 tbsp
Chana dal/split chick peas/kadala paruppu – 2 tbsp
Ghee/clarified butter – 2 tsp
Water – 1 cup

Method:

Put the jaggery pieces in water and melt it on low flame. Strain the solution into a wide pan. Keep this pan on medium fire and let the jaggery solution thicken. When the jaggery solution thickens to a syrup. Check for one-thread consistency (take a drop of the jaggery solution in a spoon. Let it cool a bit and then touch it with a clean forefinger and then touch your forefinger and your thumb together and pull them apart gently. If the solution forms a thread between your two fingers, then it has reached thread consistency). Add grated coconut and stir. Add the beaten rice flakes, mix, and cook over a low flame, stirring constantly to coat the beaten rice with jaggery and coconut. Add cardamom powder. When the mixture thickens, turn off the fire.

In a small pan, heat ghee. When it is hot, add chana dal and roast them golden brown. Remove the chana dal from ghee and add to the sweetened beaten rice flakes mixture. Add sesame seeds to the hot ghee and roast lightly. Be careful not to burn the seeds. Pour the ghee and sesame seeds on to the sweetened beaten rice flakes mixture. Mix well.

This can be stored in the refrigerator for a month. You can take out required quantities and steam or warm in a microwave and use.

Below is my mother’s version, which is simpler. This one stays good only for a day.

Ingredients:

Beaten rice (brown/white) flakes – 3 cups
Jaggery – 1 cup
Grated coconut – 1 cup
Cardamom powder – 1/2 tsp
Ghee (optional) – 1 tsp
Water – 1-1/2 cup

Method:

Sprinkle small quantities of water on the beaten rice and use your hand to mix well and moisten the beaten rice. Close with a lid and keep aside. Put the jaggery pieces in water and melt it on low flame. Strain the solution into a wide pan. Keep this solution in the pan on medium fire and let the jaggery solution thicken. When the jaggery solution thickens to a syrup. Check for one-thread consistency (as mentioned earlier). When the jaggery solution reaches thread consistency, add the moistened beaten rice flakes and stir well to coat the beaten rice flakes with the jaggery syrup. Add grated coconut and cardamom powder and mix well. You can add ghee if you choose to as this tastes good even without the ghee.

Yet another method of making sweet beaten rice is to just scrape/powder the jaggery pieces and mix it well with the poha. Use some amount of warm milk or water to moisten this mixture. Add grated coconut and a quick and yummy snack is ready.

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Everyday Simple Recipes, Side Dishes, South Indian

Radish Subzi

Now is the season to buy radish and red carrots (carrots available through other seasons are orange). I love anything made of white radish. Mooli (radish) paratha is one of my favorites. I try to make radish subzi at least twice or thrice a month because of the immense health benefits it has. Here I will share two types of radish dry subzis that I prepare.

Method 1 Ingredients:
Radish – 250 gms
Cooking oil – 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder/haldi – 1/4 tsp
Cumin seeds/jeera – 1/4 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Urad dal – 1/4 tsp
Green chillies – 2
Grated coconut – One small cup
Curry leaves – One stalk
Salt to taste

Method:
Clean, peel, and cut the radishes into small pieces. If the radishes are fresh and come along with the stem and leaves, you can pluck the leaves and chop them and use it for the subzi. I like to retain the crunchy texture of the radish and hence cut them instead of grating them. However, if you prefer it grated, you could do so. Split the green chillies. Pour oil in a thick bottomed iron wok and turn on the heat. Add mustard seeds to the oil. When the mustard seeds start to splutter, add jeera and urad dal. If you add these along with the mustard seeds, they will get burnt. When dal turns pink in color, add curry leaves and split green chillies, and then add radish pieces. Stir and mix well. Add turmeric powder, close with a lid, and cook in medium flame for 5 mins. Stir occasionally. When the radishes become tender, turn off the fire and then add salt. Add grated coconut and mix well.

Method 2 Ingredients:
Radish – 250 gms
Cooking oil – 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder/haldi – 1/4 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Onion – 1 medium sized
Green chillies – 2
Grated coconut – One small cup
Curry leaves – One stalk
Salt to taste

Method:
Clean, peel, and grate the radishes. Clean, peel, and chop the onion finely. Split the green chillies. Pour oil in a thick bottomed iron wok and turn on the heat. Add mustard seeds to the oil. When they splutter, add curry leaves, green chillies, and finely chopped onion. Cook for 2-3 minutes until onion turns pink in color. Add grated radish. Mix well. Close with a lid and cook for 3-4 minutes stirring occasionally. When the radish becomes tender, turn off the fire, add salt, grated coconut and mix well. Serve along with rice or roti.

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.

Grind the grated coconut and cumin seeds to make a coarse paste. If you are using green chillies, add that along with the coconut and cumin seeds. When then vegetables are tender and well cooked, add the cooked green gram, grinded 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.

Arrowroot Pudding (Koova)

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

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.

ArrowrootIngredients:
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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Dals/OzhichuKootaan/Saaru, Everyday Simple Recipes, Palakkad Iyer Recipes, South Indian, Vegan

Cheera Moloshyam (Spinach Dal Curry)

A healthy and tasty spinach/amaranth leaves and dal combo that tastes good with rice. Does not have too many spices, a simple, no-frills curry. I make this often as it is easy. It is a dish you can cook when you are not in a mood to make side dishes. This serves as a sumptuous dish and goes well with rice and chappathi. Also called molagoottal in Tamil, this is a dish Palakkad Iyers make often.

Cheera moloshyam

chopped amaranth leavesIngredients:
Spinach/amaranth leaves/cheera/keerai/palak – 3 tightly packed cups
Tur dal/split yellow mung dal – 3/4 cup
Water – 2 cups
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Salt – to taste
Coconut oil – 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp

ingredientsTo grind:
Grated coconut – one cup
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
Urad dal – 1 tsp
Dry red chillies – 3 or 4
Shallots* – 1

Alternatives:
Shallots is an optional ingredient. You may use any green leafy vegetable available in the Indian market to make this dish.

Method:
Clean the dal, add water, and pressure cook. Mash and keep aside.

In a wok, add few drops of oil and add urad dal. Roast the dal and then add the dry red chillies. Turn off the fire and keep aside.

Wash, clean, and chop the spinach. In a wok, cook the spinach with water and some turmeric powder.

Close with a lid while cooking. This will ensure that the nutrients are not lost while cooking. Cook in medium fire for not more than 5 mins. When the spinach is cooked, add the mashed dal into the spinach, mix well, and cook for 2 mins.

In a mixer, grind the grated coconut, cumin seeds, shallots, and the roasted urad dal and red chillies.

Add this ground paste to the spinach and dal in the wok. Add salt, mix well, and cook for 2 mins and turn off.

Crackle mustard seeds in some oil and add that to the cooked spinach and dal. Cheera moloshyam is ready. Serve with rice.

Notes:
An alternative to adding the ground coconut, roasted dal, and red chilly paste is to add finely chopped onions sautéd in oil.

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