Pickles & Thokku.

Maavadu / Vadu Maanga (Baby Mangoes soaked in brine flavoured with mild spices.)

 

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Baby Mangoes here in the U.S? No way, I could not believe my eyes. I looked again and sure enough I saw a little basket with baby mangoes all green and fresh waiting to be picked!!!  It brought back wonderful memories of Madras, of summers, of Madurai amma and her home….Every summer, as soon as Maduraiamma hears from the local vegetable vendors, that the mangoes have hit the market, she would announce that it was indeed time that we went for the annual mango picking. We would then leave from home to Ranganathan Street, and return with a bag full of the choicest green baby mangoes. Then began the process of washing then and cleaning them induvidually and allowing them to air dry for some time. Then Madurai amma would prepare the spices that would go along with the brine and pickle the mangoes in huge ceramic pickle jars, and allow them to soak up the salt and the spices. After a few days, she would take out a small portion for us to try and leave it on the kitchen countertop.  Whenever D and me used to walk by, we would pop a mango in to our mouths….The tastes of the salt, the chillies, the crunchiness of the mango would all explode in our mouths….The smell of the Maavadu itself would keep wafting from the kitchen now and then. Madurai amma would seal the huge ceramic “Jadis” and stove them away for the entire year. Whenever the little bottle would get empty, she would replenish from the jar for uninterrupted Maavadu supply throughout the year…

There is a definite difference from the KaduManga which is the much spicier version. Maavadu on the other hand is more mild and can be eaten just like that. Here my recipe tries to showcase the traditional Maavadu recipe modified with the powder salt and spices available here in the U.S.

INGREDIENTS:

25-28 Baby Mangoes.

7-8 red chillies.

1/4 cup of salt NOT filled to the brim.

A spoon of raw mustard.

A pinch of hing.

2-3 spoons of water.

PREPARATION:

  • Clean all the mangoes well under the tap and put them in a collander to drain for some time. Wipe them and allow the mangoes to air dry.
  • Grind the salt, mustard, hing  and  red chillies with a little water in to a coarse paste.
  • Arrange the mangoes in a glass/ceramic container.
Raw baby mangoes coated with the ground paste.
Raw baby mangoes coated with the ground paste.
  • Slowly scoop a spoon of the ground paste and pour it over the mangoes as shown.
  • Once all the paste is scooped on the mangoes, close the lid, give it a quick shake and allow to soak for 2-3 days.
  • Add a few spoons of water to the mixer container and add this also over the mangoes.
  • Twice everyday, mix all the mangoes so that the ones below come up and the baby mangoes on top go down.
  • The salt that is in the ground paste, brings out the water that’s inherently present in the mangoes.
  • Depending on where you live, the mangoes take their time to soak up the flavours and ready to be eaten.
  • In tropical countries, it would hardly take 2-3 days. For me , it took a good one week .
  • Yummy, tasty,fragrant Maavadu is ready to be eaten as a side with Keerai Molagootal , Pumpkin Molagootal or simple Curd Rice.

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Packing these juicy crunchy Vadu Maangas to the Mango Mela event running housefull at Srivalli`s Cooking 4 all seasons.

Mango Mela

 

No Need of Onions!!! · Poriyals / Kootu Varieties.

Healthy Pavakkai Fry. (Healthy BitterGourd Fry )

Healthhy Pavakkai Fry.
Healthhy Pavakkai Fry.

Bitter gourd predominantly grows in tropical areas, including parts of Asia, East Africa, the Caribbean, and South America, where it is used both as food as well as a medicine. The plant’s fruit truly lives up to its name, because it really tastes bitter. Although the seeds, leaves, and vines of this fruit have different uses, the fruit is considered as the safest and most predominantly used part of the plant.

The lowly Bitter Gourd has the following beneficial aspects:

– Helps to disinfect and heal cuts, wounds & burns

– Is useful as a cough & fever remedy

– Used in the treatment of intestinal worms and diarrhea

– Helps prevent some types of cancers

– Helps enhance the body’s immune system to ward off infections

– Serves as an effective antioxidant, antibacterial & antipyretic agent

(Courtesy –Health Benefits of  Bittergourd By Vanessa A. Doctor )

As a child, since the bittergourd was almost a bi-weekly addition to our food, I actually started liking it., I used to ask my mom to serve it along with curd rice, so I could conceal the bitterness inside the sourness of the curd. After many days, I realised that I actually started enjoying the taste. In my opinion, when cooked well, and spiced sufficiently, the bitterness ceases to be a detterant – it simple transforms to another taste just like sweet and i dont notice it anymore. I do NOT actually fry it till it turns black with a lot of oil. I simply cook it with a little oil, and some water so its more of a wholesome side.

INGREDIENTS:

3 fresh bitter gourds.

Salt

Hing

1 spoon Red Chilli Powder

Seasoning:

Mustard, Broken Urad Dhal & Curry Leaves.

PREPARATION:

  • Chop the bitter gourd in to small pieces after discarding the inner soft flesh with the seeds. Set aside on a plate.
  • In a kadai, add 2 spoons of oil and season with mustard, broken urad  dhal  and the  curry leaves.
  • Immediately add the chopped pieces of bittergourd and add salt, turmeric, hing and required red chilli powder.
  • Mix well and sprinkle a few drops of water and allow to cook over a medium low flame with stirring now and then.
  • If you feel its too dry, feel free to add another spoon of oil.
  • When well cooked switch off and serve with Venthaya Kuzhambu and appalam.



No Need of Onions!!! · Sambar / Rasam / Kuzhambu Varieties.

Venthaya Kuzhambu – (Healthy Methi and spices in tamarind gravy).

Delicious Venthaya Kuzhambu.
Delicious Venthaya Kuzhambu.

Venthaya Kuzhambu is a healthy quick preparation amma makes over the weekend after a month when I come home from the hostel. I would return home hungry for home cooked food and amma would pamper me with simple Venthaya Kuzhambu. Its quick, easy and utterly delicious. Since the main ingredient is only methi (fenugreek) the final taste is completely different from the regular preparations.

I remember fenugreek to be a very important ingredient for my grandfather who had blood sugar. Madurai amma would soak a poon of methi every night in water and he would drink it first thing in the morning. That helped to a large extent to keep his blood sugar at a controllable level. Fenugreek is also supposed to have anti-inflammatory properties and is also used in the treatment of reproductive disorders in women.

In this recipe you would be amazed at the flavour bursting out of a preparation with so few ingredients. ….Here it goes…

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 – 2 cups tamarind juice extracted.

3-4 red chillies

1 spoon of bengal gram.

1 1/2 spoons of methi seeds.

Salt according to taste.

Turmeric.

Hing.

A spoon of cooked toor dhal (Optional)

A spoon of rice flour.

Curry Leaves.

PREPARATION:

  • Dry roast the fenugreek on a medium low flame on a kadai, until you smell the aroma of the seeds. Do not allow to brown too much. Powder in the mixer to a coarse powder and set aside.
  • In a kadai, add 2-3 spoons of oil and when its hot, add bengal gram, and 3-4 red chillies and allow to roast for a couple of seconds.
  • Now add the mustard and when it splutters, add the crushed curry leaves and immediately the tamarind juice.
  • Add salt, turmeric, ground methi seeds powder, hing and allow to slowly boil on a medium low flame.
  • After about 20 minutes or so, when the gravy has been reduced, and becomes a little thick, reduce the flame.
  • Mix 1/3 cup of water in the spoon of rice flour and mix briskly to dissolve clots. Also add the spoon of cooked toor dhal to bring it to a smooth homogenous consistency.
  • Pour this in to the kadai and mix well and allow to boil for a few more minutes.  (Consistency should be as shown in the pic.)
  • Delicious Venthaya Kuzhambu is ready to be served with Pavakkai Fry and Appalam.

Serving Suggestion:

Venthaya Kuzhambu is served mixed with steaming hot rice, adding 1 spoon of ghee or gingely oil to enhance the flavours of the gravy, already spiced to perfection. Best with Appalam and Alu Fry or Pavakkai Fry. I always feel it tastes best the next day as the spices have soaked in te tamarind gravy all day long!!!

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Uncategorized

Everyday Menu 1.

Today I was especially enthused to cook my bitter gourd and hence the menu for lunch was

Venthaya Kuzhambu,

Pavakkai Fry and spicy

Manga Curry for curd rice.

It was one of those rare days when I wanted to finish up cooking quickly and spend some time with myself – doing some thing, anything that I enjoy – reading a favourite book, listening to a favourite song, praying, or curling up my toes and looking out at the lake outside….

Festivals & Significance · Naivedhyams/ Festival Offerings.

Vishu – Significance & Preparation for the New Year.

Vishukkani - All lit up in the morning for us to behold.
Vishukkani - All lit up in the morning for us to behold.

Vishu – the dawn of the new month of Chitrai also celebrated as Tamizh Puthandu or the Tamil New Year`s Day in Tamil Nadu has been a very special occassion inour family. Many of our ancestors had roots in kerala, so many of our cultures and practises have been handed down from them over the years. Although my parents have been born and brought up in Tamil Nadu, we do follow Vishu on April 14`th ever year.
Vishu symbolises the fact that you need to start right and have the whole year right. What we see on the first day of the new year has to be pure, auspicious and signify abundance and good fortune.  Hence the custom of opening one`s eyes to Vishukkani – that which is seen first on Vishu. The preparations for Vishu starts in our home almost a month ahead. All the waste in the house is gotten rid of and cleaned and made pure. Homes are cleaned and painted in anticipation of the oncoming new year.The pooja rooms are also cleaned and the pictures of the Gods wiped clean and decorated with the Kumkum and Chandan.

When I was in school, amma and me would go to Ranganathan street the evening before Vishu, and buy guavas, jackfruit bananas and  yellow cucumber. I do not exactly know the significance of these particular fruits and vegetables, but I have heard that the “Kani” should signify auspiciousness through the yellow colour. Madurai amma would make the pooja room resplendent with her beautiful “maakolams” which are basically rangolis etched n the floor with a watery mix of ground rice paste and water. When they dry up after an hour, they look so beautiful on the marble floors. After we all go to sleep, Madurai amma would set up the Kani.

  • The centre of the Kani would be her lovely heavy mirror laden with a lovely gold necklace. Then she would keep two silver lamps ready with wicks in place and oil poured, right in front of the mirror. The mirror would also have a lovely jasmine garland adorning it, taking care that it does not disturb the sight in front. The mirror when seen on the morning of Vishu, signifies Devi and also the reflection of the things in front of the mirror, shows  that these would be multiplied by her Grace.
  • A coconut would be broken exactly in half, and set one on either side of the mirror with a whole yellow lemon in it. Care should be taken that the lemons are as fresh as possible with no flaws or eyes. I am guessing the lemons and coconut signify prosperity and good tidings.
  • Madurai amma would then set two lovely silver cups one with raw rice and one with raw toor dha, also in front of the mirror. We pray t the Goddess that we shall be in abundance of rice and lentils always.
Coconuts, Lemons, Coins, Flowers, Rice & Dhal
Coconuts, Lemons, Coins, Flowers, Rice & Dhal
  • There would be smaller silver cups filled with silver coins, gold coins etc. Gold coins are symbols of monetary affluence, as well as cultural and spiritual wealth, which the elders of the family must share freely with the younger generation.
  • The Vishukkani is also laden with flowers, fruits as mentioned and some vegetables. We also keep chandan and kumkum in the Kani as it completes the preparation.
Coins symbolising prosperity.
Coins symbolising prosperity.

Madurai amma would wake up very early, light the lamps and the incense sticks and set everything ready for the rest of us to get up and see. She would then close our eyes and bring us to the Pooja room one by one. The significance is to look at such goodness and bounty, which will in turn render our lives with such goodness and bounty. As we open our eyes to drink in the beauty of the lamps, the fragrance of the jasmine, the jackfruit and the incese all in one, the sight we behold is as beautiful every year as if we see it for the first time. The reflection in the mirror only adds to the beauty of the grandeur already resplendant in all its glory. We would see the lemons, the coconuts, the coins, the gold and then finally prostrate to the Lord. After our bath in the morning, its customary to take the blessings of all the elders in the family, for the fulfillment of the new year.

Vishukkani spells out abudance – both spiritually and materially. Food, wealth, good fortune, knnowledge and light, should accompany us at all times. The wonderful sight we behold on the first day of the new  year, must keep with us, all year and permeate our being.This year, I missed the jackfruit and jasmine, which is so charecteristic of my memories of Vishu…Nevertheless, I made my Vishu for my family, in true spirit, with the fruits and vegetables that I could get in here. My daughter was thrilled to see the Vishukkani in the morning….I saw her excitement on her face, and was instantly transported to some ten fifteen years ago….

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Happy New Year to one and all.

Brisk Breakfast · Easy LunchBox Series. · Snacks & Tiffin Items

Kuzhi Paniyaram ( Delicious Chettinad Speciality made from Dosa Batter)

Delicious Kuzhi Paniyaram.
Delicious Kuzhi Paniyaram.

The first time ever that I had Kuzhi Paniyaram was in this colleague`s home in Chennai. My friend`s mother had made delicious soft, fluffy paniyarams and served it ith spicy tomato chutney. I am guessing that day I lost track of the number I had at her place. Kuzhi basically means a depression” and since this is made in the tava that has little depressions, the name came to be Kuzhi Paniyaram.

Paniyarams cooking in the Paniyaram Maker.
Paniyarams cooking in the Paniyaram Maker.

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Grand Sweets and Snacks in Adyar  also serve hot Kuzhi Paniyarams made right in front of your eyes and served with Tomato Chutney. Since they are so small and so soft, ita makes an ideal snack item for the evening. It can be fixed in a jiffy and is made from Dosa Batter so even a small portion of leftover batter makes around 20-25 paniyarams. This evening my daughter wanted a filling snack and asked for dosa. The batter was already 3 days old and I was not too keen on making dosas for her. Suddenly I realised that I could make this for her and she would instantly love it as its also bite sized. Great with a hot cuppa coffee!!!

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup of dosa batter.

1 Medium Onion or 2 small finely chopped.

3 green chillies finely chopped.

1 inch piece of ginger finely chopped.

A few slivers of coconut if needed.

Oil to cook.

Mustard, Curry Leaves and Hing to season.

PREPARATION:

  • The consistency of the batter should be just like dosa batter or else a tad loose. If it is too thick, you could thin it by adding a few spoons of coconut milk.
  • In a kadai, add a spoon of oil and when hot pop the mustard, curry leaves, green chillies, ginger, coconut slivers and hing and allow to saute for a minute.
  • Then add the chopped onions and saute well.
  • Add this to the dosa batter and mix it well. Add requisite salt and cilantro to garnish.
  • Keep the Kuzhi Paniyaram Non-Stick Plate on the stove and add one drop of oil in each depression.
  • Slowly pour the prepared paniyaram batter but take care that it contains itself inside the depression.
  • When this side is done, turn over the paniyarams to the other side using the help of a spoon or  this.
  • When the other side is also cooked, remove and place on a tissue paper on a plate.
  • Serve Hot with Chettinad Tomato Chutney.

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Kid Friendly Recipes. · Naivedhyams/ Festival Offerings. · No Need of Onions!!! · Poriyals / Kootu Varieties. · Snacks & Tiffin Items

Yellow Peas Sundal. (Yellow vatana cooked and spiced with coconut and chillies)

Delicious Sundal.
Delicious Sundal.

The word sundal to me conjures up two things – One – Navarathri where “Sundals” are the main naivedhyams to the Goddess Devi and two – Marina Beach where hawkers sell the awesome Thenga Manga Pattani Sundal literally which translates to Coconut Mango and Green Peas. Although my mom has never ever allowed me to even look in to the hawker`s basket, all of us cousins secretly hoped to taste it some day as the aroma wafting in the air would be simply too much for us.

Navarathri again is an altogetherly  different option. Every day of Navarathri, we would be invited by the mamis next door and in the neighbouring apartments for “tamboolam“. So my sister and me would be dressed in our finest pattu pavadais, resplendant in their colours and happily go to their homes. Normally, we would be asked to sing a song on Devi, which we would and then after some time we would be given little baskets with turmeric, kumkum, and hot sundals wrapped in newspaper. As days went by, these newspaper parcels were stylishly replaces with little ziploc covers, but I missed those days of simplicity, where people had time to listen to little girls sing, enquire about each other in all sincerity, explain significances of the navarathri dolls etc.

Last night when I saw the little canister of yellow Peas in my pantry, I decided to soak it up overnight so I could make sundal the next day. Yellow Peas  is an excellent source of protein as its a healthy legume. Many days, its an easy snack for the kids when they come home in the evening from school as its both healthy as well as filling.

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup Yellow Peas.

1/4 cup of dessicated coconut.

3 green chillies.

Salt.

Hing.

Seasoning:

Mustard, Curry Leaves.

PREPARATION:

  • Soak the yellow peas the previous night for about 6-8 hours.  If you plan to make it for an evening snack, it is enough if you soak it that morning.
  • Drain all the water and pressure cook with a little salt and just enough water that they just reach the top of the vatana peas. Do not add too much that the peas drown in the water. This will render them mushy.
  • Switch off after 2 whistles and open after pressure is released.
  • Grind the coconut and green chillies without any water in to a coarse mix. Set aside.
  • In a kadai, add a spoon of coconut oil and when it is hot, add mustard, curry leaves and a dash of hing.
  • Immediately add the cooked yellow peas and a little salt and hing as required.
  • Garnish with the coconut-chilli mix and incorporate it well in to the peas.
  • Switch off the stove and serve with Sambar and Rice or as an evening snack for the kids – a healthy side/snack ready in minutes.

NOTE:

  • One variation is to season with only mustard and garnish with finely chopped coconut slivers, and finely chopped mango pieces. The crunchiness from the coconuts and the tang from the mangoes are incomparable.
No Need of Onions!!! · Sambar / Rasam / Kuzhambu Varieties.

Paruppu Urundai Kuzhambu (Spiced lentil balls simmered in tamarind gravy)

Paruppu Urundai Kuzhambu
Paruppu Urundai Kuzhambu

Paruppu Urundai literally means balls of lentils. These are little balls of spiced lentils which are simmered in tamarind gravy. Urundai Kuzhambu has been a delicacy reserved to certain special days like sundays or festive occassions. The balls are also an excellent accompaniment with curd rice and an enricing source of protein. Normally when amma makes Urundai Kuzhambu, there would not be any left for the evening dinner!  This was our weekend lunch menu and I wanted to share it on my blog today.

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup of toor dhal.

1/4 cup of bengal gram.

1-2 spoons of raw rice.

3 red chillies.

A pinh of hing

1 spoon of sambar powder.

1 spoon of rice flour.

Curry Leaves.

2 cups of tamarind extract water.

PREPARATION:

  • Soak the toor dhal, bengal gram, raw rice and red chillies in water for 1-1 1/2 hours. Then grind it with hing and a little salt to a thick  paste without adding too  much water. Try pulsing in the mixer so it helps in the easy grinding.
  • You should be able to make balls with your hands. Keep the balls of dhal aside. Add 1/4 cup of water to this mixer jar, a spoon of rice flour and give it a good shake and set this water aside.
  • In a kadai, add the 2 cups of tamarind water, sambar powder, hing, turmeric, salt, curry leaves and switch on the stove.
  • Allow the tamarind base to cook and lose all the raw smells. Now add 2 spoons of oil.(We do this so that when we drop the lentil balls in to the kuzhambu, the balls dont break.)
Lentil Balls floating...
Lentil Balls floating...
  • Now slowly drop the prepared raw lentil balls and allow them to cook well. As these are raw lentils, you must allow sufficient time for the flavours of the tamrind and spices etc to seep in to the balls.
  • The kuzhambu will reduce and thicken slightly. When the balls are cooked pour the water from the mixer container in to the kuzhambu to bring it to a thick kuzhambu consistency.
  • Season with mustard, curry leaves and pour over the kuzhambu and serve HOT with Vendekkai Fry.