Comfort Food for me is almost always food that’s traditionally made at home , mingled with a gazillion memories of partaking it with my sisters. Everyting seemed a lot more fun with them around. Even a simple meal of Vethakuzhambu, Alu Fry, and Pepper Rasam would feel almost like nectar. Eating out was almost a rarity and when it does, my staple order would definitely be Restaurant Style Vegetable Fried Riceand Gobi Manchurian. Most recently since we have started having Gujarati Thali at Saravana Bhavan Gujrathi Restaurant at T.Nagar, Chennai, we are a big fan of their Gujrathi Khichdi. Its almost a replica of mushy dal rice, simply seasoned with cumin seeds and a glob of ghee. Try it piping hot, and its instant comfort food. This Khichdi is made with millets and spiced with spinach ground with cilantro leaves to give it that zing., This is my entry for the Shhh Cooking Event for the month of October 2014.
1/2 Cup Brown Rice.
1/2 Cup Millet.
1/4 Cup heaped Moong Dal.
5 Cups Water.
1 Tsp Ghee.
Salt to taste.
Grind to a Paste:
1 Cup Spinach chopped and cleaned.
1 bunch cilantro cleaned.
2 Green Chillies.
1 Red Onion roughly chopped.
2 Tbsp Ghee.
2 Tsp Jeera.
1 Cinnamon Stick.
10 Curry Leaves torn.
Wash the brown rice , millet and moong dal a couple times and allow to soak for about 30 minutes.
Measure out the ground paste. The paste + Water must roughly add to about 5 to 51/2 cups of liquid.
Add the ground paste+ water, salt to taste, a tsp of ghee and give it a quick mix.
Pressure cook the rice-millet- dal mix for 1 whistle and reduce the flame to sim for 10 minutes and switch off.
When the pressure is released, mash the rice/millet well.
Take a wide mouthed pan and add ghee, and when hot, the seasonings.
Pour out the khichdi on to the pan and mix and serve HOT with Mango pickle or Rajma Gravy.
Mouth watering, simple, healthy yet tasty Spinach Khichdi is ready.
Substitute Brown Rice for Basmati Rice/ Sona Masoori/ Cracked Wheat etc.
Navarathri is a celebration of the Goddesses that protect us and are the very epitome of power and knowledge. I have already a detailed postexplaning the significance of this beautiful festival. Celebrating Navarathri also brings with it beautiful visions about Golu Dolls, celebrations, rustle of silk sarees, little girls decked in beautiful silk pavadais, excitement of visiting friends and families, singing songs in praise of Devi, and of course Sundal! When we were in college, it was even more exciting as we got to visit our friends every evening, for “vethalai paaku”. For the uninitiated, this is the customary practice of calling married women and unmarried girls to their homes for Golu – the festival of dolls. These women are offered the daily “prasadam” , and along with that “thamboolam” consisting of betel leaves, betel nuts, kumkum, sandalwood powder, turmeric, and many times a small gift.
As kids , it was always interesting to get all decked up and visit our friend and families for Golu. One of my aunts always made it a point to gift me glass bangles for Navarathri. She is not with us anymore, but I can never forget the little things that she would do for me on these special days. Of all the sundals that we make at home, TH and my kids love Nilakadalai sundal hands down. I love the fact that its so easy to make with no prior soaking and no fuss at all.
`1 Cup Raw Peanuts.
1 Tsp Salt.
1 1/2 Tsp Idli Molagaipodi.
2 Tsp Coconut Oil.
1 Tsp Mustard Seeds.
1 Tsp Urad Dhal.
Hing as needed.
Wash the raw peanuts and transfer to a cooker vessel. Add just enough water to cover the peanuts, add salt and steam cook it for about 2-3 whistles. It should be soft and well cooked, but not mushy.
Drain the excess water but save it as you could use it in rasam, sambar etc.
Take a shallow kadai and add the coconut oil.
Add seasonings when hot and allow to fry in oil.
Once the mustard seeds have crackled. add the cooked peanuts.
Swirl for a couple minutes until the peanuts are coated well with the oil and the seasonings.
Finally add the 1 1/2 – 2 Tsp of Idli Molagappodi and mix well.
Crunchy Peanut Sundal packed with protein and nutrition is a very tasty snack and an easy Neivedhyam for Navarathri as it involves no prior soaking.
On days when your green vegetable is less, add Peanut Sundal as an extra protein source.
Rice Pidi Kozhukkatais has been an absolute favourite saturday night dinner, all through my childhood. Those were days when we would never go out all weekend. It would be spent at home with my sisters, catching up on the week`s lessons, cleaning, getting ready for the next week and of course chatting up with each other. We could never ever get enough of talking to one another. There was always something that we had forgotten to share, about an event at school, or that nasty girl who spoke behind our back, or a shocking gossip about a teacher, or the topic we all three always always loved – Music! We could talk about it for hours on end and it would figure all kinds of music forms – Pop, Rock, Carnatic, Classical, Movie Songs, Indipop….there was just so much music all the time around the three of us. I always miss those days of my growing up together with my sisters!!!
These days rice pidi kozhukattais have been a little rare and I have been using other fibre rich or protein rich ingredients as substitutions for rice. I had made a version completely with cracked wheat and I have another version with Quinoa. Today`s version is with Brown Rice, as its high in fibre ,and minerals like manganese and phosphorus, and low in saturated fat and has a moderate glycemic index.
1 Cup Brown Rice.
Handful of Cracked Wheat.
A handful Toor dhal.
1 Tsp Urad Dhal.
2 Green Chillies.
2 1/2 Cups of Water.
2 Red Chillies as per taste.
A few broken cashews.
Grind the brown rice and the cracked wheat to a coarse gritty texture.
Soak the urad dhal, toor dhal and the green chillies in water for about 2-3 hours. The Urad Dhal is mostly a binding agent for bringing the kozhukattais together.
Grind the urad dhal, toor dhal and the green chillies using little water, to a smooth paste. I also added a few sprigs of cilantro and some curry leaves.Set aside. Measure out the fluid (apprx 1/2 cup).
To this ground paste add enough water to bring it to 2 1/2 cups measurement. Set aside.
Take your favorite kadai and add about 1 Tbsp of coconut oil. When hot, add the ingredients mentioned under “Seasoning” and mix away until they are lightly roasted.
Now bring down the flame to a medium low and add the measured water + ground paste which is totally 2 1/2 cups. Mix them all in.
Now add sufficient salt and wait until the water just starts to boil.
Bring down the heat and slowly add the pulsed brown rice + cracked wheat mixture.
Bring down the heat to medium low and with a whisk bring it together until its almost resembling a thick upma.
Switch off the flame and allow to cool for a few minutes.
When its a little more easy to handle, make little balls by holding them inside your palm and closing your fingers over them so as to fashion them so.
Grease idli plates with coconut oil and place the pidi kozhukattais in the depression.
Steam like you would for Idlis – In the pressure cooker with NO weight until you get a steady steam. Then simmer the gas for 6-8 minutes.
Pongal has always been my most favourite breakfast item at any south indian restaurant. Normally the pedigree of the restaurant can be measured by just tasting their “Venn Pongal”. Venn Pongal literally translated means Pongal thats white in colour and is differentiated from its sweetened variety “Chakkarai Pongal” which incidentally is the main offering for many festivals. Pongal served on a green banana leaf, dolloped with ghee, served with Hotel Sambar and Coconut Chutney is the staple breakfast in many homes. These days with the mounting concern on the amount of carbs that we intake I was always looking at an alternate to this dish. I did try it with brown rice, but as per the quality of brown rice itself, its very difficult to cook it until it turns mushy. Oats on the other hand holds its own form and taste and yet can get mushy and provide a lot of body to the dish. I must say I never actually missed the rice at all! Try out this healthy alternative to refined white rice and enjoy the taste!!
1 1/2 Cups Old Fashioned Oats. (The Quick Cooking Variety will get mushy too fast!)
3/4 Cup Moong Dal.
1- 1 1/2 Cups Water.
1 1/2 Tsp Jeera.
1 1/2 Tsp Pepper.
1 Tbsp Ginger sliced to thin pieces.
6-7 Cashews sliced.
Milk to loosen the pongal if needed.
In the cooker vessel, add the 3/4 cup of moong dal, give it a quick wash and then add a little turmeric powder. Cook until mushy. Smoosh it well with the back of a ladle and set aside.
In a kadai, add the measured oats and 1 – 1 1/2 cups of water, salt and allow to cook on a medium low flame. When the oats uses up all the water and get cooked in it, add the cooked mushy moong dal.
Adjust salt and stir briskly on low flame.
In a seasoning kadai, add 2 tsp of ghee, powdered jeera, roughly crushed black pepper and ginger and allow it to fry well in the ghee.
Finally pop in the cashew nuts and curry leaves and pour over the oats pongal.
If you feel the consistency is too thick, add 1/4 cup of milk to loosen it.
When the evenings are cold and the nights turn out to be cold and frosty, its an awesome feeling to come in to the warmth of one`s home, put away the jackets and boots, and settle down to a bowl of piping hot soup. There is magic in soup. Boring vegetables somehow transform in to silky smooth colourful heart warming soups. This particular soup was a result of a quick search in the refrigerator pantry coinciding with remembering Harini`s post on her beautiful blog. The only thing I wanted was creamy soup and avocados did the trick! Try this awesome soup with or without avocados for a gratifying soup. With warm bread on the side, its a match made in heaven.
3 Cups Fresh Broccoli cleaned and stemmed.
3/4 Cup Green Peas.
4 Cups Veggie Stock or Water or Diluted Dal Water or Whey Water.
Sea Salt to taste.
1/2 Tsp Pepper Powder.
1 Lemon squeezed.
Crushed Pistachios or Walnuts.
Take a veggie steamer bowl and add the broccoli and peas to it. Filling a pot with water, cover and steam for a couple of minutes .
Puree the steamed broccoli, peas and one avocado with salt and the juice of one lemon with a little water/ stock in the blender.
Pour in to a wok and add the remaining water/stock and keep stirring until you reach the desired consistency.
Swirl and mix and serve in bowls with pepper powder and fresh cream as needed.
I added a garnish of crushed pistachios for that added healthy crunch.
The best thing about a sandwich is that you dont need a spoon or a plate. All you need is your fingers and then one delightlful bite after another. Its filling, non-messy and extremely versatile, all the time allowing for so many variations every time you make it. Whenever I feel like making sandwich, I simply look in to my pantry for any herbs that might be calling for help. Could be a wilting rosemary bunch, or tightly packed cilantro bought from the Indian store last week, or a box of arugula bought at Sprouts to try that amazing salad inspired by Giada De Laurentis. She swears by arugula, really!!! This one was a quick fix on a week night with leftover ingredients from my refrigerator. Feel free to substitute kale f0r spinach or arugula for cilantro!
PEAS ARUGULA CILANTRO PESTO:
1 Cup Peas.
11/2 Cup Arugula.
1 Cup Cilantro.
2 cloves of garlic.
1 Tsp Salt.
1/4 Tsp Pepper.
1/4 Tsp Sugar.
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice.
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Ingredients for Sandwich:
1 Cibatta Bread/ Sourdough Bread or 3 Regular white/ brown slices.
1 Tbsp Vegan Mayonnaise.
1 Tsp Tomato Ketchup.
3-4 Sliced Onion Rings.
1 Cheese Slice. (American/ Cheddar)
A few sprigs of Lettuce/ Kale.
Any veggie patty of your choice. ( I used home made Chickpea Burger Patty).
Salt & Pepper.
Add all the ingredients under “Pesto” to a food processor and give it a quick pulse. I realise it needs some moisture and I am just coming to that. The olive oil does the trick of getting them all mashed together. Imagine the aroma in my kitchen!!!
Transfer to a glass mason bottle and preserve tightly. This pesto can be used in pastas for a quick kids lunch, or thinned with vegan mayo / sour cream to make a dip, or a salad dressing, kind of like the Green Goddess dressing, if you know what I mean!
Now heat up the griddle/ tava and grease the bread that you are going to be using for the sandwich.
I used plain white bread and set them on the heated griddle.
Now slather some vegan mayo on the bread. Arrange the green lettuce on the mayo.
Place the veggie patty and add a dash of ketchup, slather the cilantro -pesto on top of the patty.
Now the goodness continues – one slice of cheese of your choice – the adventurous could try the pepperjack, I went with the cheddar cheese slice.
Add a few onion rings and if you want some more of the ketchup.
Place the second greased loaf of white bread and firmly close the griddle lid.
Sizzling Grilled Cheese Sandwich is ready to be served with a side of beans and ketchup.
This dish has it all – carbs from the white bread, protien from the patty, green kale or lettuce and peas for the veggies.
The Taco Bell Cantina Bowl is my all time favourite one bowl lunch option! It has carbs from the rice, protein from the beans, fat which are abundant in avocados, the smoothness of the green goddess dressing, tart and crunchy corn salsa, all doused with the undertones of cilantro and lemon in every bite. The original Cantina Bowl has tonnes of sodium and a total of 540 calories. By substituting ranch with thick curd, it makes it more healthier with lower fat and of course fresher. The probiotics in the curd are extremely beneficial to the body and then there is the special relationship between the beans, the cilantro rice and the dressing all tied together with douses of fresh lemon juice! Try it and life would never be the same again!
THE TACO BELL CANTINA BOWL TYPICALLY HAS:
Bottom Layer of the herby cilantro lemon rice.
The next layer of spice blended cooked black beans.
A bed of crisp romaine lettuce.
Liberal douse of citrusy fresh Green Goddess Dressing.
“From the bitterness of disease man learns the sweetness of health.”
It is definitely a boon to stay healthy and live a life of good habits and good values. The road to good health per se has been a long journey for me with so many learnings about the greatest creation of God – Man! The human body is a very complex structure that has many million functions running at a particular instant and requires all of them to do so, ever so smoothly for us to be able to take a breath of air. Isnt that really amazing? Of my latest learnings, I am beginning to delve in to the subject that been discussed to death – PROTEIN. Why do we need protein? Proteins are the building blocks of life.
The body needs protein to repair and maintain itself. The basic structure of protein is a chain of amino acids.
Every cell in the human body contains protein. It is a major part of the skin, muscles, organs, and glands. We need protein in your diet to help your body repair cells and make new ones. Quinoa is a a very rich source of protein needed by the body and is also a complex carbohydrate that digests slowly and does not cause a spike in sugar and insulin levels. I started off making an upma from Quinoa but finished up as a khichdi. It was extremely delicious and very filling!
1 Cup Quinoa.
1 Medium Red Onion or two small onions diced fine.
1/4 Cup Raw/ Roasted Peanuts.
1 Red Chilli.
1 Tsp Salt.
A pinch of turmeric.
Half a lemon`s juice.
2 1/2 Cups Water.
1 Tbsp Oil.
1 Tsp Mustard Seeds.
1 Tsp Bengal Gram.
4-5 Cashew nuts.
2 Tbsp Ginger diced.
1 Green Chilli diced.
In a large kadai, add the oil and when its hot, add the seasonings – Bengal Gram, Cashew nuts, ginger, green chillies, and when they are sauted in the oil, add the mustard seeds and the curry leaves. If you add the mustard seeds first, they will burn and it then wouldnt be possible to roast any of the remaining ingredients.
Now add the diced onions and saute for a couple minutes until they turn a dull pinking brown. Now add the measured quinoa in to the pan and saute until it mixes in with the onions.
Add a pinch of turmeric and add in the measured 2 1/2 cups of water.
Now add salt and mix it in and on medium flame give it a couple minutes to come to a boil.
Now reduce the flame to low and cover and cook the quinoa for about 20 minutes. I am guessing it would be much faster on an LPG stove so keep the flame really low and let it cook.
This is almost like allowing rice to cook on a low flame so it doesn’t burn. Quinoa is a nutty tasting gluten free grain that has the ability to fluff up when cooked well. So give it some love.
In the mean time take a dry pan and roast the peanuts for about 3-4 minutes until it emits an amazing aroma. Add one red chilli and give it a quick stir. When slightly cooled, transfer to a mixer jar and give it a quick pulse. Set aside.
Keep a check to make sure that there is moisture in the pan along with the quinoa. When its almost done squeeze the lemon juice and garnish with the powdered peanut-chilli powder.
This is exactly the same one I use in the Sabudhana khichdi which is another amazing dish.
Serve hot with Tomato Thokku and enjoy the flavours of nutty quinoa, onions, ginger, lemon and peanut-chilli powder all in one bite. Sounds over-powering? no way they all marinate beautifully and give out an indulgent taste!
“Do you have a kinder, more adaptable friend in the food world than soup?”
One of the best dishes that adds warmth and comfort at any time of the day is definitely “Soup”! I am guessing it has to do with the comfort in sipping a bowl of piping hot soup, which warms your heart and comforts your soul. A soup cannot be had standing in line, in a hurry and while on the go. A soup deserves to be treated kingly….to be given complete attention to, sipped unhurriedly and partaken wholly. I have a version of Tomato Soup made by amma when we were little. She used to make this soup right after she came home from work and we used to sip in to bowls of piping hot soup seasoned with pepper and jeera and topped with pieces of pan toasted bread ! This is a version inspired from here.
1/2 Tbsp Oil.
1/2 Tbsp Butter.
1 Bay leaf.
5-6 Black Peppercorns.
1/2 Tsp Pepper Powder.
1 Tbsp Sugar.
1 Tsp Garlic chopped.
1/2 Stalk Celery. (Optional)
1 Onion Medium Sliced.
2 Carrots sliced in to rounds.
5 – 6 Large Tomatoes (10-12 Roma Tomatoes or small tomatoes).
1 Medium Beetroot.
3-4 Cups Water.
Chop the tomatoes and set aside.
Grab your favorite wok and add the oil and butter and then add the bay leaf, garlic paste, onions and celery and the chopped carrots and beetroot.
Give them a couple minutes to sweat n the wok and then add the chopped tomatoes.
Season with salt and black peppercorns and stir for a couple more minutes.
Add the water about 2 -3 cups and let them cook for some time.
After about 10 to 12 minutes, remove the wok and drain the water and puree the ingredients after bringing down the heat to room temperature.
Save the water
Bring back the pureed paste to the wok, add the water and now season with a little more salt, pepper powder, sugar and bring to a boil.
To thicken the soup you could add some 1 Tsp cornflour dissolved in 1/4 cup water and mix it in to the soup.
When its boiled well, switch off the stove and serve piping hot with bread croutons or soup sticks!
When this Disney Pixar movie was released I was astounded at the very thought that was the centre of the entire movie – Remy`s burning passion for cooking inspired by his Chef Gusteau and his astounding sense of smell. He always cooked with his sense of smell and that was something very magical and endearing about it. The expression of the famous food critic Anton Ego when has a bite of the Ratatouille whipped up by Remy is one of extreme happiness as he is immediately reminded of his mom`s cooking. The movie ends on a happy note with the food critic Anton Ego funding a new bistro run by Remy the rat and some more of his friends. The climax of the movie is by far my favourite, where Remy patiently slices all the vegetables in the mandoline, splatters sauce on the base of the dish and arranges all the sliced veggies in the baking dish. I had never noticed that she does cover the dish with parchment paper which is what the recipe calls for. The movie has been outlined with such tremendous detail and capture new details every time I watch the movie!
Since I day I watched the movie, I had been wanting to taste the original version of this dish and I must push that dream to a little later until I can visit my dream destination – the City of Love – Paris. This weekend I found myself with all the ingredients I wanted except of course the eggplants. I still decided to go with my heart and made it yesterday for my family and they loved it. Every bite was filled with the bite of the crunchy veggies baked in the aromatic tomato sauce and pillows of cheese ravioli! Bon Appetite!!!
FOR TOMATO SAUCE:
5 Medium Tomatoes.
1 Garlic Pod.
1 Medium Onion.
1 Small Carrot.
1 Tsp Salt.
1 Tsp Brown Sugar.
1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar.
1 Tsp Dried/ Fresh Basil.
For the Ratatoiuille Base Sauce:
1 Tsp Oregano.
2 Tsp Parsley.
1 Bay Leaf.
2-3 Cups of the Prepared Tomato Sauce.
For the Vegetable Layer:
1 Zucchini sliced in to thin circles.
1 Yellow Squash sliced in to thin circles.
1 Japanese Eggplant sliced in to thin circles.
1 Carrot Sliced into thin circles.
1 Red/Yellow/Green Peppers for colour. ( I did not have them so my version was made without them.)
Salt & Pepper to season the veggies.
Arrange all the sliced veggies on a large tray and season them with salt and pepper.
Take the first six ingredients and make a slightly chunky basic tomato sauce. Add your favourite herbs – Basil / Oregano etc.
Simmer the chunky tomato sauce over a medium flame for about 20 minutes until some of the water evaporates and it becomes slightly “saucy”!!!
In another wok, add 2 tsp of extra virgin olive oil and then pop in the herbs listed under “Tomato Base” – bay leaf, parsley and some oregano. When they fry in the oil, add t he garlic and the onions. Allow to brown only slightly and then add your prepared “Ratatouille Base Sauce”. Give it a quick stir and let them all come together.
Take a shallow baking dish and firstly add a layer of the prepared Ratatouille Sauce.Spread them around the base of the dish.
Arrange the sliced veggies atop the sauce concentrically alternating each of them with the other . This does give it a dash of colour and symmetry! You might be left with a few more of the sliced veggies, but that’s fine.
Make sure that the slices peek out from the sauce and they are not dunked in it completely.
Season one last time with a twist of your pepper mill and sprinkle a few drops of balsamic vinegar over the top.
Preheat the oven to 375F in the mean time.
Before placing the Ratatouille inside the oven, many recipes call for lining the inside of the dish with parchment paper but I didnt have any.
I went ahead and popped it in the oven for about 35-40 minutes until the veggies are well cooked but not limp. They should not be allowed to brown.
I served my Ratatouille as a side for Cheese Ravioli in Tomato Sauce.