Venn Pongal is a traditional south indian speciality that I have grown up with. It`s the main Naivedhyam or offering for Pongal – the harvest festival celebrated in the month of January in all parts of Tamil Nadu. Pongal is basically rice and moong dal cooked to perfection and seasoned with ginger, pepper and cummin. It`s also reminscant of the fragrance of rich ghee and roasted cashew nuts.
Every hotel in Tamil Nadu, makes the most awesome Pongal – Vada – Chutney. Pongal is served steaming hot in a scoop, with a side of coconut chutney, a cup of Sambar and 2 fresh crips vadas on the side. My all time favourite Pongal was at Hotel Arya Bhavan in Madurai, very near the Meenakshi Amman temple and at Hotel Saravana Bhavan at Usman Road, T.Nagar. It`s a breakfast item that I can have for breakfast, lunch and dinner…..!!!!
1 cup of Raw Rice.
1/3 cup of Moong Dal
2 Tsp Ginger Grated.
A pinch of Hing.
Pinch of turmeric
Salt to taste.
4 1/2 Cups Water.
2 Tsp Jeera.
2 Tsp Whole Black Pepper.
3-4 spoons of Ghee.
5-6 pieces of Cashew.
Take a dry wok and add a few drops of ghee and lightly roast the moong dal. Move to a cooker vessel.
Wash the rice and add it to the moong dal.
Add a spoon of ghee to a kadai and and when hot, add the ginger, hing and turmeric.
Add it to the rice and moong dal. Pour 4 1/2 cups water, add sufficient salt , cook for 1 whistle and keep on sim for 10 minutes.
Switch off the flame and when the pressure is released, mash the cooked rice and dal.
In a wide mouthed kadai, add 3 Tsbp ghee.
Season with cashew nuts, curry leaves, jeera and black pepper.
Allow it to saute for a few seconds and then add the cooked rice and moong dal.
At this point, If you feel that the Pongal looks dry, add 1/3 cup of milk and a spoon of ghee and stir it in.
This makes the Pongal rich, creamy and very moist.
Gulab Jamuns should probably be one of the most popular and easy to make sweets with the current variety of mixes and fast fix instructions. There are a myraid of brands which offer the Gulab Jamun mixes, like Orkay, MTR, Gits, Ashirwaad etc. Some how my favourite has always been Orkay and Gits. Since Gits is more easily available in the U.S, its a sweet I make in a jiffy.
Diwali during my student days was always a flurry of activities like making Mixture, Ribbon Pakoda, Laddoo, Badam Halwa, and Gulab Jamuns amoung other things. Making the jamuns was some thing that amma would leave entirely to me….At that time Archana Sweets in T.Nagar, became very popular and introduced the Kala Jamun. I guess it was a variant of the regular jamuns, only denser in taste and not dripping in sugar syrup. Mom would buy it for us and we would enjoy it at home, nevertheless, there is a particular joy in partaking of sweets borne of out one`s one labour and preparation.
This week was my husband`s birthday and my daughter wanted me to make it for him. ….Secretly I knew, she wanted to have it so I immediately indulged her in this sweet temptation. This goes to those novices who are out there, trying this for the first time….Enjoy!!!
Gits Gulab Jamun Mix.
1 spoon sour cream.
3 spoons of water.
1 1/2 cup of sugar dissolved in 2 cups of water.
Pinch of Rose Essence.
Pinch of Cardamom Powder.
The secret of this sweet is in the mixing of the dough. Empty contents of packet in to a bowl. Mostly the instructions are to measure out the amount of powder and use 1/4`th of that quantity of water. In this case, all you need to use is a spoon of sour cream or thick yoghurt and then 2-3 spoons of water.
Make the dough in to a thick ball and keep covered for 10 minutes.
Now grease your palm and make little balls and set aside covered.
Meanwhile dissolve the sugar in the water and place it on the stove .
Add rose water, cardamom powder and allow to boil for about ten minutes and switch off.
Meanwhile add sufficient oil in a kadai and allow to the oil to heat well.
Slowly roll in the gulab jamun balls and aloow to fry the balls in oil.
Now set the fried jamuns in a little bowl for them to cool off for a few seconds.
Slowly add the fried jamuns in to the rose syrup and allow it to soak before serving it to your guests.
Makes 20 gulab jamuns.
Serving Suggestion based on popular demand!!! – Hot Jamuns with Vanilla Ice Cream….Oh yes! and let the fun times begin!!!
My favourite store Trader Joe`s had such a lovely huge box of fresh Organic Rose Red strawberries, t hat I could simply not resist picking up a box. My daughter me and keep popping now and then in to the kitchen and eating these delicious fruits. Suddenly S wanted to know If I could make her strawberry milk shake that she could have with a straw. I still had some ice cream and mascarpone cheese in the fridge. So I quickly whipped up this Strawberry Milk Shake.
6 ripe strawberries.
1 scoop Vanilla Ice Cream.
1 spoon Mascarpone Cheese.
1/2 cup Whole Milk.
A spoon of sugar depending on the sweetness of the strawberries.
Pop the washed strawberries and the ice cream in to the mixer and pulse it well.
Now add the sugar, mascarpone cheese and give it one more whip.
Now slowly add the required milk and carefully pulse it for a few seconds.
Madras Masal is probably the name I have heard people referring to this side dish and so the name stuck. Many hotels in Chennai like Woodlands Drive-In, Balajee Bhavan, Saravana Bhavan, Arya Bhavan etc, serve Pooris strictly to go with this Madras Poori Masal. This probably a watery version of the “Sago” that my friends in Karnataka are familiar with. Its spicy from the flavours of the ginger and the green chillies, but succulent from the potatoes, and all together, this sidh dish greatly enhances the taste of the poori that its had with.
My mom makes the best masal that I have ever had. There was this time that my mom was visiting us, and we decided to go out and have supper in the park, one lovely spring evening. Mom made the masal, and I quickly finished making the Pooris. We packed them in insulated food boxes and laden with picnic plates, spoons and ladles, we set out our spread n that lovely park. It was an amazing evening, sitting in that lovely California park, overlooking rolling greens dotted with specks of lavender and lush yellow, enjoying a meal cooked by mom with love….
5 potatoes cooked with salt for one whistle in cooker .
1 onion sliced in to thin pieces.
7 green chillies finely chopped.( Use Serrano Peppers for added heat)
1 inch ginger chopped in to little pieces
Salt as accordingly
3 spoons of besan dissolved in 1/4 cup of water.
A pinch of turmeric.
Seasoning: Mustard, Curry Leaves, Channa Dal.
Mash the cooked potatoes and set aside.
In a kadai, add 2-3 spoons of oil and when hot, add bengal gram, curry leaves and the ginger, chopped chillies and the thinly sliced onions.
Allow the onions to get sauteed well and then add the mashed potatoes, salt and turmeric and allow to cook.
Now add 1/2 cup of water and let the mixture come together as one.
Finally add the besan dissolved in water to get a creamy finish.
Garnish with a dash of chopped cilantro and serve HOT with soft fluffy pooris.
Pooris are a favourite everywhere. My husband loves pooris and would welcome the idea If I could fnd a way to make it for him everyday!!! Pooris are a part of my childhood, as they are special sunday tiffin preps. Sunday evenings, with piping hot pooris and masal and a cup of coffee….They were also an easy day-ahead preperatory travel foods. Mom would make soft fluffy pooris and wrap them up in a layer of banana leaf and insulate them by wrapping them n newspapers – Just like in the hotels. Pooris are great with channa, masal, pickle and hey even sugar, when I was a little girl! My little one has it with Nutella or Apple Butter….
I am guessing the secret to make soft fluffy pooris is in the making of good dough thats well knead. And there is also this frying technique….Let`s go over it here. I also use a Poori Press that I bought from the Patels in Devon Avenue, Chicago for a mere 8 bucks. The best part of using the Poori Press is that even after frying 40 pooris, ,the oil stays clean and without a speck. Kneading the dough well, would anyway render soft pooris on using the manual belan or rolling pin.
2 cups of Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/2 spoons of salt
Water as accordingly.
Oil to fry the Pooris.
Pour only sufficient water and knead the dough well to make a smooth ball.
The dough should not be sticky and not too dry too.
Cover and keep for at least ten minutes, and roll in to small lime sized balls.
Use the Poori Press and make pooris which are uniform in texture and shape.
Pour out the oil in to the kadai, and allow it to heat. The oil should be hot but not smoke.
Gently slip in the poori and allow a second for it to cook. Gently press the poori with the back of the ladle and allow it to fluff.
Now turn over and allow to cook on the other side.
Drain out the excess oil and place the fried pooris in a container lined with kitchen tissue to wear out the excess oil.
Serve Hot with Madras Poori Masal.
This is my entry for JFI-Wheat which is a brainchild of Mahanadi and hosted by RomaSpace.
This was the Vegetble Rice that my mum used to make on those special sundays for lunch. Sunday mornings would be normally filled with strict timelines as all of us would want to have our oil baths and water would some times be restricted to specified times in the summer. A filling lunch of Amma`s Vegetable Rice, with Raita would always be something to look forward to. She always adds beetroot, which renders a special reddish tinge to the whole dish. It is very simple and easy and pretty much can be made with any vegetable thats available on hand.
I would cut the veggies in to little cubes for her,and this would make the whole thing very easy. It`s a wholesome, easy, colourful and filling lunch and I always pack it for long drives and potlucks!!!!
2 cups of basmati rice cooked.
1 Medium Onion chopped in to little pieces.
1 cup of finely diced potatoes.
1 cup of cauliflower florets.
1 cup of finely chopped carrots.
1/2 cup of chopped beetroot.
1/2 cup of peas.
1/2 cup of beans.
A pinch of turmeric.
1 spoon of red chilli powder.
Garam Masala Powder to taste.
3 slices of bread. (Optional)
Chopped Corriander to garnish.
Jeera and Star Anise to season.
Keep the cooked basmati rice to cool so it does not get sticky with the starch.
Take a wide mouthed kadai and add 2 spoons of ghee/oil and allow to get hot. When done, add jeera, star anise and curry leaves and immediately add the chopped onions.
You could pre-cook the potatoes, carrots, beetroots and cauliflower in the microwave for 4 minutes to it saves cooking time on the stove.
When the onions are well cooked, add all the veggies.
Add salt, turmeric, red chilli powder and a little garam masala and mix well.
Keep the flame on medium and allow the veggies to get cooked well.
Cut the bread slices in to big squares and lightly fry them in a spoon of ghee. Set aside.
When the vegetables are cooked, add the basmati rice, salt, a little more garam masala and stir in well.
Finally add the fried bread pieces and mix it in and garnish with chopped corriander.
I always love the Coconut Chutney served with Chinna Vengaya Oothappam at Murugan Idli Shop at T.Nagar and also the thick coconut chutney at Saravana Bhavan and Balaji Bhavan, both at T.Nagar. I always wonder, whats the secret ingredient that these people add to the chutney, that some times even without the requisite seasoning, it tastes heavenly…The Chinna Vengaya Oothappam at Murugan Idli Shop is an altogether different delicacy that requires a dedicated post, but for those who have no clue, its a thicker form of dosa, which has cut, fried shallots cooked in the dosa laced with ghee, and served with Coconut, Tomato and green chutney. YUM!!!
This weekend, was an experiement to recreate the magic of Murugan Idli Shop. I know I cant even begin to get close…but this is my version of my mom`s home made coconut chutney.
1/2 cup of freshly scraped coconut.
4 Green chillies.
2 Tbsp of Dhaliya or PottuKadalai.
A piece of ginger.
A piece of tamarind.
Mustard, Broken Urad Dhal, Curry Leaves.
Grind all the ingredients with a little water to form a smooth chutney like consistency.
Take a seasoning kadai, add a spoon of oil and when hot, add urad dhal, mustard, hing and curry leaves and when the mustard splutters, add it on the ground coconut chutney.
Serve with Idlis, Dosas, Pongal or Upma.
My mom loves to add 1-2 spoons of thick curd to the chutney to further enhance the taste.
Alternate the ginger, green chillies according to taste.
Wednesday was the surprise baby shower of one of my close friend, so I had voted on making an eggless cake. There was this bottle of Organic Gulkhand that I had bought at the Global Foods store that was beckoning to me for a long long time. I had wanted to make a Falooda, but some how the timing was not exactly working out too well!!! I experimented with this Rose-Vanilla cake with no icing, as I some times feel that the taste of the icing, overpowers the aroma and taste of a cake. This cake was extremely moist and spongy and very tasty in its own right.
2 cups of All Purpose Flour.
1 3/4 cup Whole Milk .
1/2 cup Oil.
1 1/4 cup Sugar.
1 tsp vanilla essence.
4 spoons of Organic Ghuklhand or Rose Essence.
1 Tsp Bakng Soda.
1 Tsp Baking Powder.
Preheat the oven to 350 F and line your cake pan with butter spray, butter, oil or flour.
In a bowl, measure out the dry ingredients – Flour, Baking Soda, baking powder. Mix and keep ready.
In another mixing bowl, start with the millk and add oil, sugar, and pure vanilla extract and whisk well to dissolve any lumps. Take caution NOT to over mix as this may rob the cake of sponginess.
Remove a small portion of the readied vanilla batter to add the rose essence.
To this portionm briskly mix in the ghulkhand or rose essence. If you find the ghuklhand a little thick, pop it in the microwave oven for a few minutes till it becomes a thick syrup!
Pour the plain vanilla batter on to the greased cake pan and now randomly pour the rose mixture on to this vanilla batter.
Use a toothpick and make little patterns on the cake batter to create a marble effect.
Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick thats inserted comes out clean.
Enjoy delicious Rose-Vanilla Marble Cake warm with ice cream!!!
My daughter always enjoys Sno-Cones from the time she had it in the Ozarks ….Her favourite place of course had to be My Grandpa`s Farm on the Katy Trail,which I have already spoken about at lengths in my previous post. Today was a particularly hot day and she wanted to have it – So I decided to make my home-grown version of it….Here it goes…
6 numbers of ice cubes.
3 spoons of Roohafza
A dash of rose water.
Pop the 6 ice cubes in to your mixer and quickly pulse it to get coarsely ground ice.
Drop it in to a glass and pack it in tightly.
Add 2-3 spoons of Roohafza Syrup and allow it to smoothly flow in.
Add a dash of edible rose water and enjoy watching your child delve in to cool rose flavoured Sno-Cone.
Play around with other flavours like lemon, strawberry, raspberry,Cotton Candy etc.
There was this trip that we went in Spring last year to the Ozarks….It was my first spring trip ever in the midwest and I was in no way prepared to see such colours and spring flowers….There were hues of purples, reds, pinks, yellows, whites and what nots in the lovely highway 54W from St.Louis to Osage Beach. It was a lovely warm weekend of May 2008 and the drive was all that I had not expected it to be….It was scenic, peaceful and had bursts of colours everywhere.
The Lakes offer a variety of water recreation like boating, diving, fishing and watersports like jet skiing etc. The number of tourists who come here every year has been steadily increasing and so are the vacation rental homes and quaint little cabins that have sprung up everywhere in this area. On this trip,I had packed a filling lunch of Puliyodharai, fried Vadams and delicious curd rice seasoned with chillies, mustard and ginger. We directly drove to the lake and found a lovely gazebo overlooking the scenic lake of ozarks….My husband and daughter spent some time gazing at the lovely lake and the specks of boats where people had driven here to enjoy some time on the calms lakes. We had our lunch gazing at the pristine calming waters of the Lake….Watching any water body has this calming effect on me – makes me realise that nature is so much more packed with power and nothing man made can match to its greatness any day.
After a filling lunch, we gazed at many more wildflowers and saw this tree filled with leaves of red and dark amber. It was not fall, all the way to spring, but this particular tree struck out as it`s every leaf was a deep shade of crimson red. From the lakeside we accidentally drove to an overlook that provided a spectacular view of The Bagnell Dam and the lazy horseshoe bend of the Osage River. It was a spectacular sight to see the Dam which had impounded the Osage River, as there was an enormous amount of water, with a view to harnessing it for hydro electric power to create the Lake of Ozarks. In fact, the write up on the Dam even mentioned that the Dam changed the course of the mighty Osage River itself over the years,…
After witnessing this mighty Dam, I definitely wanted to drive through the Dam, to get the feeling of the wind on my face…it was a lovely moment as we zipped past the dam, feeling the wind on my face, and hearing the constant gushing of the Osage waters. The Bagnell Dam Park also had many bits of information for us to read up on….about what happened more than 70 years ago!!!
I don’t think we had a plan to visit the Chelsea Premium Outlets originally, but some of my friends had made me feel that a trip to the Osage Beach was not complete without going to the Outlets, that I quickly succumbed to temptation and found myself parking in the lot there….”just a few stores, ” I told myself and to my husband…and he was already smiling…I guess he knew me…The Children`s Place here is pretty massive and seemed to be awash with deals – I remember grabbing strawberry shaped belts,sparkly slippers, and clothes and skirts for my daughter for 99c !!! I even found a summery black chiffon dress with lovely yellow sunflowers on them for a dollar! It was stupendous!!!
The Mall had a lot of interesting stores -Bass, Liz Claiborne, Hush Puppies, Rue 21, Crocs, Coach, lancome, Oneida, Bose, BCNG, and one that I particularly loved was the The Osage River Pop Corn Company who supply the highest quality of gourmet popcorn available. I loved the Jalapeno, Caramel Pecan and Butterscotch and I remember packing a little tin for back home.My daughter found it particularly amazing to see a vendor holding little cones of crushed ice, on which he would squirt a patch of syrup – her first Sno-Cone, of the many that she would have all summer….She had a taste of Blueberry Sno-Cone and laughed with glee at her blue coloured teeth and lips…
Dinner was a particularly unhurried affair as my husband had already planned for someplace special – not because of it being a high footed, expensive restaurant but more for the gourmet food and the spectacular view…There was unhurried driving through curving, picturesque roads, flanked by green golf courses on either side and that evening particularly, the sun shone, mellowed in a lovely shade of pinkish amber.
This place called Ruthie D`s had a beautiful view of the Ozark Mountains as the backdrop overlooking it, on their lounge. There are some moments in our life, which are best left to capture with our eyes and drink in….silently. It would not do any good to try and capture those moments on a camera – it would never even begin to explain the granduer of the picture in the mind`s eye….the view of the mountain from the restaurant , was one such . I can simply close my eyes, and feel the beauty of those minutes, as we sat there, enjoying our food and the view. The food was exceptionally delicious, the service impeccable, the view extra ordinary, and the meal itself, very gratifying and fulfilling.
The drive back home to St.Louis, was very quick and sweet with the memories of the day in our hearts and the joy in our souls knew no bounds…