Did you know that the botanical name of the Ridge Gourd/ Peerkangai/ Beera Kaya is actually Luffa Acutangula??? Awesome, coz I did`nt! And that the vegetable is the unripe form of the fruit itself? And the mature ripe fruits are used to make natural cleaning sponges??? That’s how the Loofah was born I guess. The Ridge Gourd was never used in my maternal home as a vagetable and I never even knew its existence. I have seen a couple of my friends use it in chutneys, thogayals, kootu and even pickles. I loved this version by Kaveri and adapted it to my own recipe for a regular thogayal.
A normal boring everyday meal can get totally zinged up by just adding a Thogayal/ Pachadi. Every time I make Keerai Molagootal or Pumpkin Molagootal , I love to spice things up with a Vendakkai Thayir Pachadi or a Sweet and Tangy Kathirikkai Pachadi. On lazy summer afternoons, just adding a couple tender mangoes or Maavadu to left overs, makes a comforting meal in itself! I always try to use vegetables in these thogayals as they add to the nutritive quotient at the same time almost rendering an effect equal to having Spicy Lemon Pickle etc. This is one of my husband`s absolute favorite and in recent days mine too. It`s the same formula just as in the Onion Thokku – saute the vegetable, slow roast dry ingredients in oil, throw in some tamarind for some zing, pulse, season!
1 Big Long Peerkangai / Ridge Gourd.
2 1/2 Tbsp Urad Dhal.
2 Red Chillies.
A small ball of tamarind.
1/3 Cup Coconut.
1/4 Tsp Hing.
1 handful Corriander Leaves.
Salt to taste.
1 Tsp Gingely Oil.
1 Tsp Mustard Seeds.
- Wash, peel and chop the ridgegourd in to cubes. Set aside.
- In a kadai add about 2 tsp oil and slow roast the urad dhal and red chillies until the dal turns a dull brown colour. Transfer to a mixer jar after it cools.
- In the same kadai, add the chopped ridge gourd and the tamarind and saute until cooked.
- Once the ridge gourd is cooked, add the salt else it will release water and reduce in volume.
- Pulse the dry roasted ingredients in the mixer for a couple turns.
- Add the cooked ridgegourd, tamarind, salt, coconut, corriander leaves and a little hing and pulse until smooth. You will not require water as the ridge gourd would be soft, but add a few drops if too dry.
- Transfer to a serving dish.
- Season in gingely oil with mustard seeds, curry leaves and hing and pour over the thogayal.
- Excellent accompaniment with Idlis or Dosa.
- Mix with hot rice with a dollop of gingely oil and enjoy Peerkangai Thogayal Sadam.
I remember the very first time I had Rava Idlis at a small Idli Kadai in Madurai, during my post graduation days. Those were the days of terrible hostel food, no canteen in the college and crazy study schedules. After a tiring day at business school, we would come back home to a terrible canteen that seemed to be suspiciopusly out of vegetarian food at all times. We were forced to look outside for better food, and Madurai, being the best place in the whole world to find all kinds of south indian food at any time of the day ( or night)! On one such occasion, a group of us had gone for getting dinner and the joint was out of Idlis. He asked us to come back in twenty minutes and had steaming hot Rava Idlis ready for us! Served piping hot with spicy coconut chutney, it seemed Godsent! With time, I learnt the art of making fluffy soft Rava Idlis at home and add vegetables for added nutrition. This is an easy way to whip up dinner for times when your refrigerator is near empty, and you need to make a wholesome breakfast or dinner. The best thing I love about these Idlis are they are super easy to make and they use the ingredients that are almost readily available in your pantry. Pop in the vegetables you have – Peas, Grated Carrots, chopped beans etc and the kids will actually love it.
2 Cups Roasted Rava.
1 Medium Onion Chopped fine.
1/2 Cup Finely Grated Carrots.( I have not added this time)
1/2 Cup Peas.
1/4 Cup Chopped Cilantro.
1/2 Tsp Baking Soda or Eno.
2 Tsp Salt.
2 Cup Curd/ Thick Buttermilk.
2-3 Tsp Oil.
1 Tsp Mustard Seeds.
1 Tsp Urad Dhal.
1/2 Tsp Channa Dhal.
6-8 cashews broken.
- Pour out the oil for seasoning and allow a couple minutes before adding mustard seeds. urad dhal. channa dhal, cashew, curry leaves and hing.
- When its well roasted, add the chopped onions and allow to saute until light pinkish brown.
- Now add the measured 2 cups of rava and stir it in for a couple minutes.
- Switch off the flame and transfer to a mixing bowl.
- Add chopped beans, peas, grated carrots , cilantro, and salt, using a ladle incoporate them well.
- Add the curd/ buttermilk to the rava mixture little by little until you get a thick batter consistency.
- Dust in the baking soda and mix. The rava mixture would rapidly start using the moiusture in the curd and thicken.
- Add a little more of the curd to enable the batter to loosen up a bit.
- Allow to sit on the counter top for about 10 minutes.
- Grease the idli plates and fill the depressions with the rava idli batter.
- Cook for about ten minutes and when there is a strong steam, simmer and switch off in ten minutes.
- Else cook like how you would with regular Idlis.
- Serve HOT with Andhra Style Tomato Till Chutney.
“Cooking is like Love; It should be entered in to with abandon, or not at all”
Cooking has always been a wonderful way for me to express my ramblings, except otherwise when I do it on paper! Many days when I feel upset or a little down, cooking has always been therapy. It`s also the thought that there are people I love, who enjoy eating what I cook! Festivals always always make me extremely chirpy and happy as I love succumbing in to the rituals of a tradition hundreds of years old, including my kids in to explaining the reasons behind such time tested traditions, dressing up in traditional attires and jewellery, and of course the food…The Food!!! Every religious celebration has very different offerings, with its own significances. Chakkara Pongal and Venn Pongal for Pongal, Nombu Adai for Karadaiyar Nombu, Kozhukattais for Lord Ganesha, Cheedai and Murukku for Lord Krishna on the celebration of his birthday, different Sundal Varieties for Navarathri and so on and so forth. Nei Appam is one such traditional preparation that we make for Karthigai Deepam, Deepavali, Avani Avittam, Aadi Perukku etc. This is a quick fix version when you dont have the time to soak raw rice and grind. I still prefer the traditional method, but this was something that my MIL taught me to do whenever I have not planned it in advance.
1 Cup Rice Flour.
1 Cup Wheat Flour.
11/4 Cup Grated Jaggery/ 11/2 Brown Sugar.
1/4 Cup Finely chopped coconut slivers. (Optional)
1 1/2 Tsp Powdered Cardamom.
2-3 Pinches Baking Soda. ( 1 Ripe Banana Mashed)
1 1/4 – 11/2 Cups Milk.
- Quickly measure out the dry ingredients – Rice Flour, Wheat Flour, Jaggery/ Brown Sugar, Cardamom, Baking Soda and pop them all in to a open mouthed bowl.
- Whisk it and mix all the ingredients with a spoon.
- If you want to use a mashed banana instead of the baking soda, add the mashed pulp to the bowl.
- Now warm up the milk and slowly pour in to the bowl.
- Using a whisk, mox it all in little by little. Start by pouring 1 cup and add more as you need little by little.
- The consistency of the batter should resemble a thick idli batter. Not too runny.
- Allow it to sit on your counter for about ten to twenty minutes.
- Take the tradional Appam Pan with the hemispherical indeentations or use the Ebelskiver pan available in the specialty kitchen stores like Williams Sonoma, Sur La Table and even Amazon.
- Fill up the depressions with oil/ ghee and set on the stove on medium heat.
- Once then oil/ghee is hot enough, pour out the batter with a ladle slowly to fill about 75% of the depression.
- This should take about 2-3 minutes to cook on one side. Using a knife, or a skewer, tip it over to get the other side cooked.
- When the oil stops bubbling, carefully drain the appams on to a clean dry container lined with a napkin to drain out the excess oil.
- Continue until all the batter is complete.
- Easy Nei Appam is ready with just about ten mins of prep work!
Lasagna Rolls Ups have been on my to do list for a very long time as it serves as a super quick dinner option, without requiring layers of lasagna to be filled with roasted vegetables and allowing them to get cooked in the sauce. Roll Ups allow the versatility of using available vegetables, and they can be quickly filled and rolled up tightly and placed in a cookie sheet with a sauce of your liking. When Padmajha suggested using Mint and Pasta together in a dish for the Shhh cooking, I immediately decided to use this opportunity to make Lasagna Roll Ups for the same.
Ingredients for the Lasagna Filling:
1/2 Bunch cleaned and chopped spinach.
1/2 Cup Peas.
1/2 Cup Corn.
3 Tbsp Cream Cheese / Ricotta Cheese.
1/4 Cup Shredded Mozzarella.
Salt to taste.
1/2 Tsp Pepper Powder.
1/2 Tsp Onion Powder / Garlic Powder.
1 Packet Lasagna Sheets.
Ingredients for the Creamy Cilantro Mint Pesto:
3 Tbsp Butter.
4 Tbsp All Purpose Flour.
1 1/2 Cup Milk.
1/2 Cup Half & Half or Heavy Cream.
Salt to taste.
1/2 Bunch Spinach.
1 Bunch Mint.
1/2 Bunch Cilantro.
1 Green Chilli.
2 Garlic Cloves.
- Take a large flat bottomed vessel and fill it up with 3/4`th water. Add a couple spoonfuls of salt and a few drops of olive oil, and let it boil. Add the lasagna sheets and cook as per direction.
- Remove from the water and allow to sit on a greased aluminum foil. Each sheet should be kept separately, to avoid them from sticking to each other, and they co-operate with you better later on.
- Prepare the filling by taking all the required ingredients – Spinach, corn, peas, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, and the required spices like salt, onion powder, pepper powder etc and mix well.
- Set aside.
- To make the creamy sauce, take a wide sauce pan and add the 3 tbsp butter. When melted, add the all purpose flour and quickly whisk it in on a medium low flame. When the flour is cooked in the butter, add the milk and the half and half/ heavy cream and whisk it slowly until well incorporated.
- Grind the spinach, cilantro, chilli, garlic cloves and mint and give it a quick pulse until smooth. Add this to the roux that’s on the stove.
- Add salt, and black pepper and mix in for desired taste.
Assembling the roll ups :
Take the cookie sheet and pour a couple ladlefuls of cilantro mint pesto on to it.
Take the lasagna sheets and fill with a spoonful of the lasagna filling. Roll them up tightly and arrange tightly next to each other on to the cookie sheet.
Pour more of the creamy mint pesto sauce on to the lasagna roll ups and garnish with more shredded mozarella .
At this point, you could throw it in the freezer for use later on. Store them in little loaf pans and seal them with the cling wrap and freeze them for use
Else you could preheat the oven to about 375F and bake them for about 20 minutes until soft and bubbly.
Remove from oven and serve hot with roasted veggies.
Finger Millet has been an ingredient that I have not been familiar with, growing up. It has not been a part of my childhood, and in my opinion, the first time I ever saw it was when my older daughter was born. My mother in law and my mother always said that Finger Millet Porridge constitutes a very healthy first food for little babies. I do remember making porridge and feeding the little one and then as she graduated to rice cereals, and rice , I forgot all about it. My mother in law who lives in Srirangam, always has access to health foods, and believes in reconstituting food from scratch. Although, the processed food boom has caught on there too, she prefers to still mill grind her own rice, pulses etc. I had always wanted to use Finger Millet in my cooking and when Priya offered it as an ingredient for the Shhh Cooking Challenge, I used the oportunity to make pancakes with Sprouted Ragi Flour.
Finger Millet, also known as Ragi, is cultivated in drier parts of the world – mainly in Asia and Africa. Ragi has a distinct taste and is widely used in Southern Indian and Ethiopian dishes. Ragi is a rich source of Calcium, Iron, Protein, Fiber and other minerals. The cereal has low fat content and contains mainly unsaturated fat. It is easy to digest and does not contain gluten; people who are sensitive to gluten can easily consume Fnger Millet. Ragi is considered one of the most nutritious cereals.
This pancake is extremely versatile as you can make it with rava and wheat flour, rice flour and wheat flour, brown rice flour and rava along with the proportion of sprouted ragi flour. Regular ragi flour would work as well too.
1/3 Cup Sprouted Ragi Flour.
1/4 Cup Rice Flour.
1/4 Cup Wheat Flour.
1/2 Cup Jaggery.
1/2 Cup Milk.
1 Tsp Sugar.
1 Ripe Banana.
1 Tsp Cardamom Powder.
- Warm the milk and dissolve the jaggery and sugar in it. Keep aside.
- Mash the ripe banana and set aside.
- Mix all the dry flours, add the cardamom, and mix it well.
- Slowly add the dry flours to the milk jaggery mixture.
- Add the mashed banana.
- Adjust the batter consistency untiil its resembles a thick batter not too runny.
- Set aside for at least ten minutes as the bananas, work the batter in aerating it.
- Pour in to thick pancakes on a heated tava, add ghee/butter and cook on both sides.
- Serve with warm maple syrup, honey, jam or fruit compote.
“You can`t buy happiness, but you can buy ice cream…and that’s kind of the same thing”
The earliest memories of ice cream are the softy cones that I remember having in T.Nagar on the footpath. Soft, sweet, melting, creamy and cold, and stuffed hurriedly in to crisp cones. The exhaustion of the 2 mile walk to get there, the sweltering heat, the jostling crowds are all forgotten for a few dreamy minutes, licking on cold cold ice cream. I remember graduating to the more “pricey” Kwality Walls Chocobars at college and during my post grad days. Something still pulls me to the softy cones in T.Nagar! This trip when we visited India, I simply loved the Naturals Ice Cream that I tasted with my sister S at HSR Layout in Bangalore. My favourite of them all was “Jackfruit” and of course “Tender Coconut”. I loved the tender coconut ice cream with pieces of tender coconut in each and every scoop! My favourite ice cream has been the ones at Ted Drew`s in St.Louis, Missouri. We loved to drive there and order their “concrete” which was so thick, that they would serve it upside down sometimes! I had been wanting to try out my own whacky combinations and recently invested in the Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Maker Attachment. No, its not just another gadget that’s gonna sit on the that top shelf above the refrigerator. This gives me pure creamy tasty ice creams, which I can make with ingredients on hand, and no preservatives or additives.
Today`s recipe is from this amazing book called Jeni`s Splendid Ice Creams at Home , that uses no eggs but a secret ingredient – Cream Cheese! Her methods are very different and bring out the intermingling flavours very well.
15 Ripe Strawberries sliced.
1/4 Cup Sugar.
3 Tbsp Lemon Juice.
11/2 Cups 2% Milk.
2 Tbsp Corn Starch / Custard Powder.
4 Tbsp Softened Cream Cheese.
1/8 Tsp Sea Salt.
1 1/4 Cup Heavy Cream.
3/4 Cup Sugar.
2 Tbsp Corn Sugar.
1/4 Cup Buttermilk.
- Preheat the oven to 375F. Combine the sugar and the sliced strawberries and bake for about 8-10 mins until softened. When cooled, puree with lemon juice. No need to add any water.
- Mix 2 Tbsp of milk with the custard powder and set aside.
- In a mixing bowl cream together the room temperature cream cheese and salt. Set aside.
- In a sauce pan, add the remaining milk. cream, sugar and corn syrup and bring to a rolling boil and keep it that way for about 2-3 minutes.
- Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the milk+cornstarch mixture.
- Bring back to medium low on the stove and boil until slightly thickened. Set aside.
- Slowly pour this thickened milk mixture in to the cream cheese bowl and incorporate. Add the pureed strawberries and the buttermilk and blend well.
- Create an ice bath with ice cubes and chilled water and keep ready. Pour this ice cream mix in to a gallon ziploc bag, seal it and place in the ice bath.
- Now pour this cooled ice cream mixture in to the chilled ice cream container or as per directions given.
- Churn for about 20-25 minutes until thick and creamy!
- Transfer in to a storage container and freeze for about 4-5 hours.
- Remove from freezer and thaw for about 5 minutes before serving fresh creamy strawberry Ice Cream.
Baby Potatoes have always been a favorite at home. Whenever we find them at the local indian store, my older daughter immediately scoopes them in to a bag. She loves the Kashmiri Dum Aloo that I make to pair it with simple Jeera Pulav, or sometimes I settle for this simple Aloo Fry with traditional sambar and rasam. This is the best thing you can have for a sunday lunch.
2 Pounds Baby Potatoes.
1/2 Tsp Red Chilli Powder.
1 Tsp Dhania Powder.
1/4 Tsp Turmeric Powder.
Hing as needed.
Salt as needed.
Oil as needed.
1 Tsp Mustard Seeds.
1 Tsp Urad Dhal.
- Baby potatoes are very interesting to make as they are bite sized wonders. Every potatoe thereore has to be filed with the goodness of the flavourings that will ultimately compliment the entire dish.
- I always cook my potatoes in my electric rice cooker with water and salt. This is of course, after poking every potato with a fork to enable the salt to reach them.
- Once they are cooked, drain all the water and allow to sit on a wide plate. Check to see if the potatoes are well done and if the salt has seeped into the vegetable.
- Mix hing, little more salt, red chilli powder and turmeric in to a powder. Add about 3 Tsp of oil and make a paste.
- Marinate the spice paste over the cooked potatoes and allow to sit for about 20 minutes.
- Heat oil in a wok and add the seasonings – mustard seeds, urad dhal, curry leaves and hing.
- Slowly add the marinated spiced potatoes in to the oil and allow to sear on a medium low flame.
- Keep moving the potatoes around until they get cooked and seared on all sides.
- When well done, remove the flame and garnish with finely chopped cilantro.
- Serve Aloo Fry with Vengaya Vethal Kuzhambu and Kalyana Rasam.