Side Dishes for Rotis/Dosas/ Naan.

Spicy Chettinadu Kurma – Spicy Sidedish for Aapam.

Aapam and Kurma has been a combination of sorts  a marriage made in heaven, spongy white silky pieces of aapam dunked in spicy fragrant kurma and the meeting of the softness of the aapam and the fiery spice in the kurma, and the day is made. My first ever taste of Aapam and Kurma was in a restaurant in Madurai,  nothing so special as to remember the name of the eatery…but the memory of the tastes remain. I have never ever had such tasty kurma since then. It was spicy, fiery, a little tangy with a tinge of sweetness as an afterthought! I have never had the recipe for it, until the one Aachi posted on her site. It does come real close to the kurma that I had in the restaurant so many years ago. Its amazing when an aroma, or a bite can transport you in a flash to a moment many years ago, and a bite of this Kurma did just that…Took me to the cold rainy day, when my friends and I, took shelter in a wayside hotel near the bus stand in Madurai, and ordered a plate of Aapam and steaming hot Kurma and Chilli Parotta. Now thats another dish, that is very special to me, but the story remains to be told, for another day!!!

 

INGREDIENTS:

1 Big  Red Onion or 3  Medium onions.

1 Potato.

1-2 Big Vine Tomatoes.

6 Red Chillies.

4 Tbsp Grated Coconut.

6 or 7 Cashew nuts .

1 inch Cinnamon.

3 or 4 Cloves.

1 1/2 Tsp Fennel Seeds .

PREPARATION:

  • Grind the coconut, cashewnuts and 1/2 tsp of fennel seeds and red chillies  to a fine paste with a little water. Keep the water to a minimum adding it only when needed.
  • Cut the onions, tomatoes and potaotes in to small pieces.
  • Microwave the potatoes on HIGH for 3-5 minutes. Set aside.
  • In a kadai add 2 tsp of oil and when its hot add cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds and curry leaves.
  • When you feel the aroma of these spices wafting in the air, its time to pop in the finely diced onions.
  • When its sauteed enough, add the semi cooked potatoes, and in a few minutes the diced tomatoes along with the pulp and the juices.
  • Stir in well with a little salt and turmeric and allow to cook well for about 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the ground coconut paste and then follow with  3 cups of water and stir well.
  • Add sufficient salt and allow the gravy to cook well.
  • When the gravy comes together and reaches the required consistency switch off the flame and garnish with fresh chopped cilantro.
  • Serve Spicy Chettinadu Kurma with Aapam or Piping Hot Puris or Soft Parathas.
  • I served mine with Healthy & Instant Cracked Wheat & Oats Idlis.

Side Dishes for Rotis/Dosas/ Naan.

Eggplant Fry flavoured with ginger-green chilli paste.

Eggplant Curry in Ginger-Chilli Paste.

In my everlasting quest for newer and flavorful varieties of making the lowly eggplant, I came across this simply yet top rated in flavour recipe from a good friend L. The first time ever I tasted it was when she made it and brought it home, piping hot. I had made spicy Lemon Rasam that cold winter day and the combination with this amazing eggplant side was a marriage made in heaven! I immediately guessed that the secret ingredient was Ginger! There are really two thoughts on  this aromatic rhizome – People simply love its sweet yet warm spice and the other group just dont like the taste of it. In my school of thought, its more of a medicine for me – Warm, spicy and an excellent aid in digestion. Some of the best indo-chinese recipes base their taste on this one ingredient.  This is a simple preparation with a good  punch of taste and flavour thrown in, and can be prepared in less than ten minutes! And yes, I am talking about the Japanese Eggplants that are super easy to cook!!!

INGREDIENTS:

3 Fresh Japanese Eggplants.

4 Green Chillies.

2 Inch Ginger Piece peeled and diced.(Ginger has to be slightly prominent taste)

4-5 sprigs of Cilantro Leaves.

Oil.

Salt

Turmeric.

Seasoning:

Mustard.

Curry leaves.

Urad Dhal.

Hing.

PREPARATION:

  • Wash the eggplants well, pat them dry with a kitchen towel.
  • Dice the eggplants in to 1 inch long pieces. As they are the japanese variety, they cook very fast so if diced in to small pieces tend to turn mushy.
  • Put them in a container with water to avoid oxidation.
  • Meanwhile, puree to a fine paste the ginger, green chillis and the cilantro. Add the ginger first, the green chillies and then finally the cilantro  in the mixer jar.
  • The cilantro tends to overpower the taste to keep the quantity low to enhance the flavour of the aromatic ginger root.  Do not add much water but if necessarily needed, probably a teaspoon or so. Set aside.
  • In a flat non stick kadai, add oil and the ingredients for seasoning. When done, add the ground paste and saute for a few minutes until the raw smell disappears. The resulting aroma is wonderful and fragrant.
  • Pop in the chopped eggplants and add little or no water.
  • Cook until the eggplants are soft.
  • Eggplant Fry with ginger green chili paste is ready to serve with phuklas or rotis or even better with steaming hot rice and Lemon  Rasam.


Festivals & Significance

Navarathri Golu – 2010 & Significance of Marapachi Dolls.

Navarathri Golu 2010

This year, I have my second daughter is who just turning one this month on the 24`th, so planning for Golu was something  I had postponed to the very end of the day!  I had all the paraphernalia out and I was wondering If I was really out to put myself through monitoring the little one all through the day…and finally It dawned on me, that I really had to do it this year. I wanted the fun of watching her out of the corner of my eyes, to see if she is getting anywhere close, while she watches me closely so she can pounce on the little wax squash that I had added to the vegetable collection and disappear with it!!!. I wanted to experience the joy of seeing her eyes light up when she finds a little gap between the chairs that I have used as reinforcement, just before the golu shelves, and tries to reach out and climb the stairs!!! I wanted this as I know she will be growing up to be a sensible toddler very soon….and I am enjoying every moment of it. I hardly get to chant my shlokams in one contiguous  slot, nor complete my chores at any point of time…but I am enjoying this minute, with my little baby…and loving every moment of it!!!

Marapachi Dolls - Traditionally attired in wedding finery!
Marapachi Dolls.

Every time there is a festival or a special day marked by a religious custom, my daughter would want to know the  reason and the significance of that festival, which led to Significance of Navarathri . Many times this leads me to soul searching for the same . I firmly believe in the Hindu culture and that every ritual has been evolved with a very scientific reason, within the premises of the traditions at that time. The Marapachi Dolls are one such tradition which form one of my prized possessions, of my wedding gifts from my mother`s home.   The Marapachi Dolls , are a pair of male and female dolls, carved out of this reddish wood called “Marapachi” have been a traditional part of every wedding , which is gifted by the parents of the bride.   Tradition dictates that the bommais are brought out in display, every year, at the time of Navarathiri. The bride’s parents present these dolls to the bride and initiate the yearly tradition of Navarathiri Gollu in her new home with her husband. These bommais come as couples dressed in their wedding attire, signifying the start of the bride’s Gollu collection, which then grows over the years with the addition of various clay dolls signifying various Gods and Godesses.

Marapachi bommais are special dolls from Tirupathi, the land of Lord  Venkateshwara. Some explain the word Marapachi as a special kind of
wood that has medicinal values and hence the name Marapachi Bommai .  And like any age-old tradition, you can’t help but wonder, what is the significance of  Marapachi Bommais? Some believe that these dolls were presented to the bride and the groom at the time of marriage as toys for the couple. After all when two people, rather two children, get married at the age of ten what better gift than toys to keep them happy. So, it is reckoned that they were truly for enjoyment purposes to please the little couple. Yet another lore had it that these dolls dressed in their wedding attire helped in capturing the moment in the days where technology was clearly non-existent. In the absence of pictures, what better way to remember the way you looked when you were married !! That seemed to me , to be a lovely explanation for  this beautiful custom.

(Source : Shalu Ramachandran)

Chutneys / Thogayals & Podis.

Andhra Style Spicy Tomato Till Chutney.

I have always steered clear of spicy fiery Andhra Cuisine, as we generally are used to very normal levels of spice in my home.  In my many trips to the US and with so many friends from this neighbouring state, it is but natural for my cooking to be influenced by friends from here. I became more open to trying out new cuisines here in the US, then why not experiment to cuisines and cultures, closer to home, which has been nourished and perfected with years and  years of cooking with patience and love?

Many of my friends wonder how my spice levels are dismally low??? I tasted their cooking, learnt the secrets of it, by tasting and sometimes by merely watching them at their most perfected art – The art of cooking!!! Now I am pretty comfortable with the idea of tossing a dozen red chillies in to a chutney or a thogayal, or even a Kara Kuzhambu, but only if the recipe demands it, as increased spice levels, are generally not considered healthy..I had tasted this spicy Andhra Chutney at a restaurant and had been wanting to try it for a very long time. Sailu`s post, tweaked here and there,  urged me to put my methods and madness to practise and the results were very delicious spicy, yet tangy chutney, that wanted me clamouring for more!!!

INGREDIENTS:

4 Vine Tomatoes.

2 Tbsps Dry Roasted White Sesame seeds.

2 Green Chillies.

4 Red chillies.

1/2 Tsp cumin seeds.

1 Tsp Bengal Gram.

1 1/2 Tsp Urad Dhal.

1 small piece of tamarind softened or 1 Tsp of Tamarind Paste.

1 Tbsp Dry Coconut/ Fresh Coconut.

Salt.

2 Tsps oil

For Seasoning:

1 tsp oil.

1/2 Tsp mustard seeds.

Hing.

Fresh curry leaves.

PREPARATION:

  • Preheat the oven to 400 F and pop the tomatoes inside for around 10 – 15 minutes. In  my opinion, this step is purely optional, but valuable in contributing added flavour to the chutney. Fire roasting for a few minutes can also be done. Set aside to cool.
Roasted Tomatoes
  • Take a dry tawa and dry roast the sesame seeds until you can smell the aroma of the seeds. Take care not to burn them. Set aside to cool.
  • Heat oil in the same tawa and add urad dhal, bengal gram, cumin seeds and the dry red chillies until the dals turn in to a light brown colour. Finally add the dry coconut, pinch of hing  and fry for another couple of seconds and remove from tawa. Set aside.
  • In the same oil, now add the green chillies and roast for a couple of seconds. Remove and set aside.
  • Now add the fire roasted/ oven roasted/ raw tomatoes that has been cut in to pieces and the tamarind piece . Allow for it saute well until all the water  evaporates. Allow to cool.
  • Now grind the roasted cumin, dal mixture along with the dry roasted sesame seeds. Once they are well ground, add the roasted tomatoes+ tamarind, green chillies and salt .
  • Transfer to a serving bowl and season with curry leaves, mustard, urad dhal and hing.
  • Serve Andhra Style Spicy Tomato Sesame Chutney with Cracked Wheat & Oats Idlis or Crisp & Tasty Adai.