28 July 2014

Beans with Dal curry (Paruppu Usuli/Usili)

Paruppu (Dal/Lentils) Usuli or Paruppu Puttu as it's commonly known in South India is a curry that is made with lentils blended with spices and cooked along with vegetables of choice.
This is one of my many favourites from the repertoire of my mother's cooking and when served along with South Indian kadhi and Pepper rasam, the deliciousness (and balancing factor) of the dish simply sky-rockets!!!
I have mentioned here the recipe for using French beans with the dal, however this curry can be prepared using any vegetable imaginable - carrots, banana flower, cauliflower, raw banana, cluster beans...or even Broccoli !!
 Ingredients :
French Beans - 250 gms (chopped)
Toor Dal (split pigeon peas) - 1 cup
Chana Dal (Bengal gram) - 1 tbsp
Dry red chilies - 2
Hing (Asafoetida) powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Oil - 4 to 5 tbsps
Rai (Mustard seeds) - 1 tsp
Urad dal (split black gram)  - 1 tsp

Method : 
1. Wash and soak the Toor dal and Chana dal for about 30 minutes. Drain and leave in a colander or sieve.

2. In a mixer, blend the drained dals, red chilies, salt and hing. Use very little water, say about 1-2 tbsps and grind to a coarse paste (fine semolina/rawa consistency)

3. Spread this mixture on a steamer/Idli plate and steam cook for about 15-20 minutes

4. Meanwhile, cook the chopped beans (or vegetable of your choice) with a pinch of turmeric till tender. Drain and keep aside.

5. Remove the cooked dal and spread it on to a wide plate and let cool. Once down to room temperature, lightly crumble using hands to prevent any lump formation. A neat trick is to give it a very quick run in the mixer, just 2 quick turns, which will help break down the dal clusters formed during the steaming.

6. Heat oil in a pan and add the urad dal, followed by rai. Once rai splutters, add the cooked dal and mix well to let the oil coat the lentils all through and cook evenly, for 5 to 7 minutes. Again, make sure no lumps are visible.

7. Now add the cooked vegetables and mix well. Check for salt, and let cook for about 4 to 5 minutes more. Optional to garnish with curry leaves.
Remove and serve hot.

Pepper Rasam

Pepper rasam is a perfect home-made medicine for any weather. It is a natural decongestant, aids digestion and improves appetite. It is an excellent accompaniment for rice, and can even be had as a soup.
When I was in school, I 'inaugurated' my very first recipe diary with this recipe. After all, good things need to go in first isnt't it !!!
Humble though it may be, the taste and resulting benefits of this simple rasam are almost incomparable.

                                                                PEPPER RASAM

Ingredients :

Sabut Kali Mirch (Black peppercorns) - 1 1/2 tsps
Jeera (cumin seeds) - 1/2 tsp
Dry Red chili - 1
Curry leaves - a few
Toor dal - 1 tsp
Tamarind - a lemon sized portion
Salt to taste
Tempering :
Ghee - 1 tsp
Rai - 1 tsp
Curry leaves - a few

Method :

1. Soak tamarind in warm water for about 10 minutes and extract as much juice from it as possible using enough water to make 2 cups.

2. Soak jeera and toor dal in a little water for about 5 minutes. This will make them tender and easy to grind.Then blend in a mixer along with the pepper corns and curry leaves using a little water to make a fine paste.

3. Cook the tamarind extract on a low flame and add salt to taste. Once the raw aroma leaves the juice (roughly after 10 minutes), add the ground paste and stir well.

4. Now add water to adjust consistency and the spiciness as desired. Take care not to add too much water so as to take away the natural spiciness factor. Remember, we need this rasam to be a decongestant and not a bland soup!!!  Let cook for 5 more minutes. Check for salt and remove from the fire.

5. Prepare tempering by heating the ghee. Add rai and once it splutters toss in the curry leaves. Fry for a bit and pour over the rasam.
Serve as desired.

18 July 2014

Neer Dosa

On a trip to Mangalore, the chef at the hotel where we stayed recommended the Mangalore-special Neer dosa for breakfast. I admit we had never heard of that preparation before and were more than willing to give it a try.
'Neer' means water, and adds as an adjective to this dish due to the thin water-like batter that is used.
When it arrived, it looked quite humble, much like a well-washed and crisp folded white kerchief. Delicate to the touch, it tasted like a million bucks with the distinctly flavoured Udupi sambar.
Though the original recipe only calls for raw rice and grated coconut, we discovered that adding some cooked rice improves the texture of the batter. Sorry Purists, but this works for us :) !!!

                                                                     NEER DOSA

Ingredients : 

Raw Rice - 1 cup
Cooked Rice - 1 cup
Grated coconut - 1/2 cup
Salt to taste

Method : 

1. Wash and soak raw rice for about 30 minutes. Drain but do not discard the water.

2. Blend the drained rice first in a mixer. Now add the cooked rice, coconut and salt and a little water to blend well to a fine paste.

3. Transfer to a bowl and let rest for minimum 6 to 8 hours. So if you intend to have this for breakfast, prepare and rest the batter overnight.

4. Before use, check for salt and dilute the batter with the drained rice water to get a dripping consistency. Always best to add water gradually and it's good practice to prepare a mini tester dosa to check the texture and binding.

5. Heat a pan on medium heat, drop a ladle of batter and spread it as thin as possible. Since the batter is based purely on rice, it cooks fast and you can turn it over once bubbles start forming. No need to make it crisp like the normal dosas. We need the white colour as well as softness retained.

6. Serve hot with coconut chutney and Udupi Sambar.

Udupi Sambar

Udupi sambar differs quite minutely from the traditional Sambar of Tamil Nadu. The use of Urad Dal, Jeera, Byadagi chilies (famous in Karnataka) and coconut oil seem to stand out as some of the points that set its taste apart.

                                                                UDUPI SAMBAR

Ingredients : 
Toor dal (Split pigeon peas) - 1/2 cup
Imli (Tamarind) - 1 lemon size ball, juice extracted
Haldi (Turmeric powder) - 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Vegetables of choice - Drumsticks, Brinjal, shallot onions, etc
Curry leaves - a few
Jaggery - 1/2 tsp (optional)

To be roast and ground :
Dhaniya (Coriander) seeds - 2 tbsps
Urad Dal (Split Black gram) - 2 tbsps
Chana Dal (Bengal gram) - 1 tbsp
Jeera (cumin seeds) - 4 tsps
Methi (Fenugreek) seeds - 1 tsp
Dry Red Chilies - 4 to 6
Fresh grated coconut - 1/2 cup

Tempering :
Coconut Oil - 1 tbsp
Dry Red Chili - 1/2 or 1 medium
Hing (asafoetida powder) - 1/2 tsp
Rai (Mustard seeds) - 1 tsp
Curry leaves - a few

Method :
Note : Blanch the vegetables till 3/4th done. If using shallot onions, fry them in a little oil till tender and use as below.

1. Wash and pressure cook the toor dal with twice the amount of water and haldi. When done, whisk till smooth.

2. Heat a small pan and dry roast all the ingredients for Sambar masala except the coconut for about 2 minutes. Then add the coconut and fry for a minute more till lightly brown. Cool and grind to a paste using a little water.

3. In a thick-bottomed pan, add the tamarind extract and salt and add the semi-cooked veggies / fried onions and cook on a low to medium flame till the tamarind leaves its raw aroma (roughly 8 to 10 minutes).

4. Add the toor dal and let simmer for 5 minutes more on low to medium flame. Add water if too thick. On the other hand, if the sambar seems too runny, dissolve 1 tsp rice flour (or cornstarch) to 2 tsps water and add to the pan.

5. Now add the ground masala paste and continue to cook for 7 to 8 minutes more, i.e till the aroma of the ground paste becomes absorbed in the lentils as well as the vegetables. It's optional to add the jaggery for the typical Udupi touch.

6. To prepare the tempering, heat coconut oil and add the red chili and hing. Now add the rai and let splutter. Finally add the curry leaves and pour over the sambar. Give it a stir, check for taste and remove. Serve hot.

17 July 2014

Crispy Dal Vadas

Two types of vadas are pretty common in South Indian households, the popular 'Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside' Urad dal one, and the crispy dal vada. Both are prepared on festivals and enjoyed with equal fervour....

                                                           CRISPY DAL VADA

Ingredients (Makes 25 medium-sized vadas) :

Toor dal (Split pigeon peas) - 1/2 cup
Chana dal (Bengal gram) - 1/2 cup
Moong dal (Green gram) - 1/2 cup
Urad dal (split black gram) - 1 tbsp
Green Chili - 1
Dry Red Chili - 1
Hing - 1/4 tsp
Salt to taste
Ginger - 1/2 inch piece
Chopped Dhaniya - 2 tbsps

Method : 

1. Wash and soak all the lentils for about an hour. Drain the water (preserve the water) and keep aside.

2. In a mixer jar, blend the green and red chilies along with ginger.

3. Now add the soaked lentils and grind coarsely so that the dals remain partially visible. Add hing and salt to taste and run the mixer one more time.

4. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Add the chopped coriander and mix well.

5. Heat oil in a pan for deep frying. Using the drained water that we preserved, wet your hands lightly and scoop out a small portion of the batter. Flatten and drop into the oil. Remember to keep the oil on medium heat as we want the dals to be cooked from the inside as well and which will result in crispy vadas.
Remove and drain excess oil. Serve hot.

Optional : If preparing as a snack, you can experiment with the batter by adding chopped onions, chopped spinach, raw banana flower and so on.

15 July 2014

South Indian Patra

Stuffed, rolled and fried colocasia leaves are a delicacy popular in most parts of India, especially the Western belt, ranging from Gujarat, Maharastra, as also in Tamil Nadu. Different cuisines make use of different stuffings for the leaves, but the end result is always the same - uniquely delicious!!!
The plants are pretty easy to grow at home and quite maintenance free. Every time we get arbi, we plant a couple in a vacant flower pot. That gives us an almost continuous supply of good quality leaves round the year !!!
The South Indian variation makes use of toor dal (Yellow pigeon peas) ground along with spices and applied to the leaves. Let's take a look.....

Ingredients :

Arbi (Colocasia) leaves - 8 medium (or 4 large)
Toor Dal (Split yellow pigeon peas) - 1 1/2 cups
Urad Dal (split black gram) - 1 tsp
Hing - 1/4 tsp
Salt to taste
Dry Red Chilies - 2 to 3
Method : 
1. Wash and soak the toor dal and urad dal for an hour. Drain the water.

2. Gently wash the arbi leaves and place face down on a counter. Carefully slice off the thick spine without tearing the leaf, so as to make the it less stiff and easily fold-able.

3. Add the dals, hing, red chilies and salt to a blender. Grind to a fine paste using very little water.

4. Now spread an arbi leaf face down and apply a generous ladle-ful of the paste over it. Cover with another leaf and repeat the process. If the leaves are quite large, 2 should suffice, else 4 medium. Once the leaves are stacked and well-smeared with the stuffing, roll them into a tight cylindrical shape.

5. Prepare a steamer bowl and place the rolled leaves on a steamer plate. Let cook for about 30 minutes.
Remove and let cool.

6. Cut the rolled leaves into 1/2 inch thick slices and shallow fry till crisp, just before serving.
In most South Indian house-holds, this is served typically with spicy Pepper rasam and South Indian kadhi

4 July 2014

Sweet and Spicy Golgappas

A twist in the tale for the versatile and ubiquitous Golgappas.....

                                                       SWEET AND SPICY GOLGAPPAS

Ingredients :

Pani Puris :
Maida (Refined Flour) - 1/2 Cup
Rawa (Semolina) - 1/2 Cup
Baking Soda - 1/4 tsp
Salt - a pinch
Oil - For Frying

Filling :
Soaked and sprouted green gram - as required
Sweet Potato - 1
Salt to taste
Chili powder - 1/4 tsp

The "Pani":
Jaggery - 1/2 cup
Water - 2 cups
Tamarind paste - 1/4 tsp
Jeera powder - 1/2 tsp
Chili powder - 1/4 tsp (can be substituted with black pepper powder)
Dry ginger powder - 1/4 tsp
Salt - a pinch

Method : 

1. For making the puris, combine the rawa, maida, baking powder and a pinch salt in a bowl. Add water little by little and make a soft dough. Cover with a muslin cloth and keep aside.

2. To prepare the filling, boil and dice the sweet potato. Add to a bowl. Sprinkle a little salt and chili powder and toss lightly. Keep aside.

3. For the "Pani", dissolve the jaggery in 2 cups water. Strain to remove any impurities. Now add the tamarind paste and mix well.

4. Flavour with a pinch of salt, jeera powder and chili or black pepper powder.

5. For the puris, divide the dough into small portions and roll out into a roti. Using a small round cutter, cut out mini puris and fry them in medium hot oil. Drain excess oil.

6. To serve, make small cracks in the puris, fill in the green gram sprouts, sweet potato and arrange on a plate. Pour the sweet and spicy 'Pani' into a glass and serve along with the puris.

Spicy Chana (Navrathra special)

This spicy chana recipe is my personal favourite. Also commonly known as 'Sundal', it's mostly served as 'prasad' during the Navrathras. There are quite a few variations to the recipe and one gets to taste them in different households during the 9-days festival. But I'd like to be biased towards my mother's formula :)

                                                            SPICY CHANA (Sundal)

Ingredients :

White Chick peas - 250gms  (Soaked overnight)
Coconut bits - 1/4 cup (Or grated)
Salt to taste

To be roasted & ground :
Oil - 1 tsp
Dhaniya seeds - 1 tbsp
Dry Red Chili - 1
Hing - 1/4 tsp

For Tempering
Oil - 1 tbsp
Mustard Seeds - 1/4 tsp
Dry Red Chili - 1
Hing - a pinch
Curry leaves - a few

Method : 

1. Pressure cook the chana (chick peas) along with salt to taste, till soft.

2. Heat oil in a pan, add dhaniya seeds, red chili and hing and fry for a minute. Remove and cool. Dry grind this to a powder.

3. Strain the cooked chana in a large colander and keep aside.

4. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a larger pan, add mustard seeds and let crackle. Add red chili and hing and fry for a bit. Add the curry leaves followed by the chana and mix well.

5. Add the coconut (bits or grated) and the powdered spice to the pan and mix again. Check for salt, remove from the flame and serve.