Potato Podimas

This is a classic that my mom prepared for us as children. We loved the podimas in so many different roopams - forms; tucked into toasted sandwiches, sealed in a filo pastry, or just as an accompaniment to thayir sadham - yogurt rice. This recipe is a low fat, yet tasty method of preparing potatoes. I liken this to South Indian Mashed potatoes. Ok alright I admit it, potatoes are my favorite food group! This recipe is sufficient for 2 people with a little left over to make your sandwich switch up the next day.

Potato Podimas
2 large potatoes, 1 large green chili, 1 tbsp minced ginger, a few curry leaves, 1 tsp of mustard seeds, 1 tsp channa daal, a pinch of asafetida, 1 tsp of turmeric, 1 tsp of red chili powder (optional), chopped cilantro for garnish, 1/2 lime or lemon, salt.

1. Boil the potatoes and cut them into chunks.
2. Splutter the mustard seeds in 2 tbsp oil, add the channa daal, curry leaves, asafetida.
3. Add the green chili and ginger, and fry.
4. Add the turmeric, chili powder (optional), and potatoes. Squeeze the lime/lemon into this.
5. Add salt.
6. Mash roughly with a potato masher. Garnish with chopped cilantro.


Verdict: Thumbs up from Shankar, and we did the switchup today for an after work snack.

Pitlai

Another great recipe from the Queen of South Indian cuisine, my MIL. Pitlai. Its kind of a cross between sambar and kootu. So we're talking vegetables stewed in tamarind juice and a freshly ground spice mixture, with a bit of cooked toor dal added at the end. Sounds like sambar right? Pitlai does not have any fenugreek though, and the consistency is thick like kootu. I made it today, and all i can say is it tastes SO good. I am a fan of pitlai now. I'm pretty sure even Bee (who apparently hates sambar) would like this! You can make pitlai with any of the vegetables listed below. I happened to have eggplant, chayote squash, and okra, so that's what went into my pitlai. My MIL says she usually doesn't use okra as it can get mushy (I recommend frying it first), and she won't use vegetables like beans for ex. Also my MIL suggests using 1/2 the amount of tamarind juice for any vegetable other than eggplant.

UPDATE #1:
Shankar just came home now and said the pitlai was good, BUT the classic combination for pitlai is more kuzhambu! Apparently one does not mix with rice and eat as I have described below, but has as a side dish to more kuzhambu with rice. And also, pitlai is supposed to be one vegetable only! I made it with three. But it was still good in my opinion, and Shankar said it tasted very good. The ultimate is supposedly eggplant pitlai with okra more kuzhambu. So, tomorrow I will make okra more kuzhambu and let's see how this combo tastes. Will post more pictures of that! Stay tuned....


Pitlai
2 cups of 3/4" cubed vegetables (green tomato, katharikai- eggplant, paharkai - bittergourd, pushnikai - white chinese melon, chou chou - chayote squash, parangikai - orange pumpkin), 1 tsp turmeric, 1 cup tamarind juice extracted from a 1" ball of tamarind, 1 tsp mustard seeds, a few curry leaves, 1/4 cup of cooked toor daal.

Spice Mixture
1 tbsp coriander seeds, 1 tbsp channa daal, a pinch of asafetida, 4 dried red chillies, 1 tbsp dry grated coconut.

1. Roast the spice mixture and then grind it into a powder.
2. If you are using okra or bittergourd fry it in some oil on high heat.
3. Reduce the heat, add the other vegetables and barely cover with water. Boil for a few minutes with the turmeric.
4. Add the tamarind juice, and the spice mixture and continue boiling. Then bring to a simmer.
5. Add salt.
6. Add the toor daal and mix.
7. Splutter the mustard seeds in oil and add a few more curry leaves. Add to the mixture.

Serve with rice, appalam, and a tomato pachidi. Classically this is served with more kuzhambu.

Tomato Pachidi
1/2 tomato diced, a few fenugreek seeds, a pinch of asafetida, 1 tsp of mustard seeds, 1/2 small green chili minced, chopped cilantro for garnish, 1 cup yogurt

1. Splutter the mustard seeds, add the green chillies, and then add the fenugreek and asafetida.
3. Add this to the tomato and yogurt with salt and mix.
4. Garnish with cilantro.

Verdict: My husband is coming home from school for an hour break just to eat this!

UPDATE #2:
I made vendakkai - okra more kuzhambu last night, and here is a picture of my lunchbox today. It was so tasty, I can see why it is the classic combination. But to be honest, I still liked the version with rice and thayir pachadi too!

Minestrone Soup

This afternoon I was too lazy to make lunch, and invoked my powerful mantra to get the husband to cook for me. Today he made a delicious minestrone soup. Spring is in the air in Michigan along with fresh vegetables that have arrived in the markets, all in bright greens, reds, and yellows. Somehow the colors seem much more vibrant in the spring and summer. I picked up a fridge full of broccoli, celery, spinach, okra, eggplant, leeks, carrots, green banana, zucchini, beans, daikon, and nice ripe tomatoes. Armed with these vegetables, it was easy for Shankar to make a healthy vitamin enriched soup. We topped it with some grated Parmesan and dove in.


Minestrone Soup
3 cups vegetable stock, 3 large tomatoes, 1 cup of diced carrot/zucchini/and celery, a handful of broccoli, 2 small onions diced, 1 tbsp dried herbs (oregano, thyme, and basil), 1 tsp dried red chili flakes, cracked black pepper, 1/2 cup uncooked pasta (rotini)

1. Saute the onion in butter.
2. Add the zucchini, carrot, and celery. Salt and pepper them.
3. Add the tomatoes and cook down.
4. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the herbs, seasonings, and salt.
5. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.
6. Just before its done add the broccoli for a few minutes so they are cooked but still crisp.

You could start this with 1 tsp of minced garlic as well for additional flavor. I think chickpeas would be good in this soup though my husband emphatically told me he does NOT do chickpeas in minestrone. Fair enough.


Verdict: This was an great quick soup that was quite satisfying. I recommend serving this with some crusty bread and butter.

Alu Tamatar & Gobi Parata

My new favorite recipe is this Aloo ki Ras Bhaji that I found here on a Mad Tea Party. It is a very simple recipe, but the taste is so good. I have a lot of appreciation for simple fresh dishes. I do love junk food, but after eating out a few times my body craves fresh home cooked food. The meal was rounded out with a few cauliflower methi parata's and a simple yogurt flavored with garam masala, chat masala, salt, and crushed roasted cumin seeds and peppercorns. The parata's are a recipe from Shankar's cousin Meena Akka. She is another one of the amazing cooks in his family. Her parata's were really mouth watering. I made this recipe as MTP suggests with onions but omitted the garlic. It was really good, but I decided I would like it even better without the onion, and I after having both I vote for no garlic and onion. Its so Iyer of me, I know. The box in the pictures is actually full of chopsticks, we picked it up in Bali.


Tomato & Potato Subji
3 potatoes peeled and cubed, 1/2 can of crushed/diced tomatoes, or 1 large tomato, 1 cup of water, 1 tbsp coriander powder, 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp cumin seeds, a pinch of asafetida, 1 tbsp oil, chopped cilantro. (Optional: 1 onion blended, and 1 clove garlic minced)

1. Place the potatoes, tomatoes, water, coriander powder, turmeric, chili powder, and salt into a pressure cooker. Pressure cook on high for 5 whistles, and then reduce the heat for 15 minutes.
2. Heat a little oil and splutter the cumin seeds, add the asafetida.
3. After the pressure has subsided, add the cumin seeds to the potatoes. Add the garam masala and mix. Garnish with chopped cilantro.


Cauliflower Methi Parata's
1 cup cauliflower minced finely, 1 tbsp kasoori methi leaves, 1 pinch of turmeric, 1 pinch of chili powder, salt, 2 cups atta flour (whole wheat)

1. Mix the atta flour with some salt, and water until you get a nice soft dough. Add a little oil at the end. Let it rest while you prepare the other dishes.
2. Mix the cauliflower with the methi, turmeric, chili powder and salt.
3. Roll out the dough into a small circle, add the cauliflower and fold the edges over the filling and seal. Then roll out the parata after dipping both sides in flour.
4. Cook both sides of the parata on a tawa. Add a little oil to it. I like to use cumin infused oil.


Verdict: Enjoyed by both the husband and myself.

Bisibelabath

I love bisibelabath, or bis-b as it is fondly referred to in our home. I always ate it and thought it must be such a difficult recipe to make. I asked my M-in-law to teach me her bis-b recipe when she came over, and as with all her recipes this one is easy and turns out amazing every time. The vegetables with a sour tamarind taste all cooked in the spice blend flavoured with krambu (cloves), aelaka (cardomom), and lavangam (cinnamon), mixed with rice and daal - definitely a comfort food for me. I usually make an extra quantity of the spice mixture so on lazy days I can utilize that, frozen toor daal, and rice made in the rice cooker to whip up bis-b in a flash. Frozen vegetables work perfectly for this as well.

Bisibelabath
1 cup rice, 1/2 cup toor daal, 1 tsp turmeric, 2 cups of diced vegetables (cauliflower, beans, peas, carrots, lima beans, yams, radish, pearl onions, potato, tomato), juice of 1 golf ball sized ball of tamarind, 1 tsp heaping of mustard seeds, a few curry leaves, 1 tbsp of cashewnuts, 2 tbsp of ghee


Spice Mixture
2 heaping tbsp channa daal, 2 heaping tbsp coriander seeds, 2 cloves, 2 cardomom pods (seeds only), 15 dried red chillies, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tbsp of dry grated coconut OR 1 heaping tsp poppy seeds

1. Cook the rice and toor daal. You can cook them together in a pressure cooker, or separately.
Rice: Water - 1:2, Toor Daal: Water - 1:2. You can add a pinch of turmeric to the daal while it is cooking.
2. In a large pot, heat a little oil and saute the pearl onions until they caramelize slightly.
3. Add the remaining vegetables and salt them. Add the tamarind juice, and cover the vegetables with water and simmer.
4. Toast the spices on medium heat until golden brown and they release their aroma. Grind them in a spice grinder.
5. Add the spice mixture to the pot and continue to simmer until the vegetables are cooked and release a nice aroma.
6. Add the rice and the daal, and mix together. Add salt.
7. Splutter the mustard seeds in ghee, add the curry leaves and roast the cashewnuts in the ghee. Add this to the rice mixture.
8. You can add as much ghee to your taste.

Serve with a yogurt and tomato pachidi on the side.


Verdict: I took this dish to a dinner party the other night, and my friends liked it a lot. They did find it a bit spicy (they were not Indians). So I recommend reducing the chillies for people not used to the spice. My personal taste is HOT!.

Thayir Vadai

A few weekends ago the hubby had gone off to India on a school project, and I decided to make a trip to Toronto. I love going back home, and getting spoiled rotten with delicious food by my mom and dad. This trip my mom decided she hadn't made anything 'good' (meaning deep fried) in a while, so she whipped up her amazing thayir vadai's (fried lentil doughnuts soaked in yogurt topped with coconut chutney). They were one of my childhood favourites. Food is a great way to trigger wonderful memories! Here is her recipe below, it sounds easy but I have yet to attempt it.

Thayir Vadai
1 cup urad daal, 1 tbsp of rice, 6-7 green chillies, 1 tbsp ginger, a pinch of asafetida, a few curry leaves, 1/2 cup of grated coconut, 2 cups of yogurt, cilantro

1. Soak a cup of full dehusked urad daal along with a spoon of rice for an hour. Then wash and drain it well.
2. Grind the green chillies, ginger, salt, asafetida with the curry leaves. You need to add a little water to grind it. Add the soaked urad dal and grind till it becomes fluffy.
Note: Do not add water after you add the daal, as it will become too watery, the dough has to be soft and well ground , but not watery. It will splutter the oil as you try to deep fry them if it is too watery, and you can burn yourself!
3. Heat oil in the heavy bottom wok, test it with a small ball of dough, it should sizzle and rise up immediately.
4. Dip your hands in water , scoop the dough along the sides of the bowl and make a large hole with your thumb. Slide this gently into the oil as close to the sides as you can. The film of water on your fingers will help it slide effortlessly into the oil.
4. To make it into thayir vadai, arrange three or four sets of vadai in a flat bottom dish. Take yogurt (homemade works best) and pour over it when vadai is cooled off but still slightly warm . This will help it absorb all the water in the yogurt and leave a film of creamy yogurt on top. Blend half a cup of yogurt with fresh coconut , and green chillies to taste. Top each vadai with this chutney. Before serving the vadai you can decorate with fresh cilantro, or grated carrot in small amounts on top of each vadai. Some people also garnish with spluttered mustard seeds.
5. If you wish to do it for a party and wish to go fancy, my mom will add just a small handfull of boondi after making the vadai and use it to add crunch and color on top of the thair vadai.
Note: When the warm vadai is left in the yogurt it will soak up in three hours. Some people dip the vadai in hot water too, but that is optional.

My sister and I kept eating the vadai's at all times of the day. For lunch, then with our tea, then after we came home from partying at 3 in the morning. Thayir Vadais are a good thing!

Uppuma

This was one of the first dishes I asked my M-in-law to teach me. Its such a standard South Indian dish, and so easy to put together anytime. I always keep my dad's famous avvakai pickle in the fridge and serve it next to the Uppuma. Rava is a key ingredient in my pantry, and I always keep various frozen vegetables in the freezer. I find that the key is to make sure you don't skimp on the flavoring ingredients, that will affect the taste a lot.

Uppuma
1.5 cups rava, 1.5 cups vegetables (carrot, peas, beans, small cauliflower florets, lima beans, chopped cabbage), 1 tomato diced, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp urad daal, 1 tsp channa daal, 2 dried red chillies, 2 tsp cashew nuts, 1 tbsp minced ginger, 1 large green chili, a few curry leaves, a pinch of asafetida

1. Roast the rava in a pan, until it turns a nice golden brown color and gives off a nutty aroma. Be careful, it can burn quickly.
2. Splutter the mustard seeds in oil, add the urad daal, channa daal, dried red chillis, cashew nuts, ginger, green chili, asafetida, curry leaves and fry them.
3. Add the vegetables, tomato, turmeric and salt.
4. Add 3. 75 cups of water, and cook the vegetables.
5. Add the rava and mix through. You may need to add more salt to taste.

My M-in-law's recipe is so easy, and turns out really well. I just keep practicing all these dishes, the more you make them the better you get. Any other ideas out there for Uppuma?