Monday, March 31, 2008

Appam and Vegetable Stew - WBB - Balanced Breakfasts

Appams are something both of us love and when in Chennai, we hardly needed a reason to go out to the neighbourhood Kerala joint and feast on those lacy fluffy circles of heaven. I haven't been very successful making aapams at home, though to be honest I didn't really try too much - why bother with facing failure when we could just as easily eat out!

Then we moved to Delhi - if I thought Chennai needed Mumbai's Udipi restaurants when I moved there, then Delhi definitely needs any kind of South Indian restaurants (yeah sure, Saravana Bhavan is here with meals that cost a minimum of Rs 300 per head!!; Sagar Ratna restaurants are few and far between)

So we pined for our appams with chicken curry and vegetable stew......The last straw was when Hubby started travelling extensively to Cochin for a month and used to come back raving about the food. That's it - I decided that it was time to shake off the laziness and crack this thing!

I found a similar story to mine on Ginger and Mango and was quite inspired by Inji Pennu's success in making perfect palappams - they looked so delicious! The rice flour paste in her recipe was the one major difference between other recipes I have tried before, and also appears in Madhur Jaffrey's recipe for Appams.

Well, it did the trick and I was able to make fluffy appams for the first time. I was afraid that the batter wouldn't ferment enough since February in Delhi was still quite cold, so I left it out quite long and it became a tad sourer than needed. Easily remedied the next time round! And there is definitely going to be a lot of next times!

I served this with a vegetable stew (ishtoo) which is easily the dish for me, which has the simplest of ingredients and the richest of flavours!

I am sending this breakfast duo to Weekend Breakfast Blogging #20, the brainchild of Nandita of Saffron Trail which is being hosted this month by Mansi over at - Fun and Food. This month's theme is "Balanced Breakfasts" and Mansi makes it easy with this definition - "A balanced and wholesome breakfast is something that combines 2 or more of the food groups below to fulfill nutrition needs.

Fruits or vegetables (dried fruits are fine too)
Grains and Cereals (whole grains, oats, high-fiber foods)
Dairy (skim milk, low-fat yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese (paneer) )
Proteins (eggs/egg whites, peanut butter, beans, nuts, sprouts, protein isolates)"

With rice in the appam and vegetables in the stew, I think this breakfast is as balanced as they come...not to mention so so tasty!

Kerala Vegetable Stew


Potatoes - 2 medium peeled and chopped
Carrots -1 medium peeled and diced
French beans - 8-10 diced
Green peas - 1/4 cup
Cauliflower florets - 1 cup
Coconut milk - 1 cup thin milk and 1 cup thick milk
(If using coconut powder, then just make 2 cups of coconut milk as per the instructions)
Onions - 2 sliced
Green chillies - 5-6 slit lengthwise
Ginger - 2.5 cm grated
Curry leaves - 10
Salt to taste
Coconut oil - 1 tbsp
Cinnamon stick - 1 "
Cardamom - 1
Cloves - 3-4


1. Heat the oil in a pan and add the whole spices to it (cloves, cinnamon, cardamom). Saute for 3-4 minutes
2. Add half of the curry leaves and the green chillies, all of the grated ginger and sliced onions. Fry till onions turn translucent and then add the chopped potatoes, 1 cup of water and 1 cup of thin coconut milk and salt.
3. In the meanwhile, boil the chopped vegetables in 3/4 th cup of lightly salted water till just cooked and keep aside.
4. When the potatoes are soft and well cooked, add the cooked vegetables, rest of the green chillies and curry leaves and the thick coconut milk. Gently heat through for about 5 minutes, take off fire and serve with hot appams.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Minty Mango - MBP

Sig from Live to Eat is hosting Monthly Blog Patrol this month with the perfect theme for the blazing summer which has started in right earnest here.......Mixed Drinks! MBP is about trying out recipes from fellow bloggers and is the brainchild of Coffee of The Spice Cafe

The deadline came and went and luckily got an extension, so that warm afternoon with no one at home -(such bliss sometimes!!) - I decided to indulge in a chilled Mojito. I briefly thought it should be a mocktail since it was early afternoon and I didn't even have company as an excuse to pull out the booze - but then it was a verry brief thought! LOL!

And since I had the first mangoes of the season ripening in my basket, it had to be something with Mango! I love the great food and reviews on Erin's Kitchen - and I remembered a post for the Monday Mixology series.
It was called Minty Citrus - seemed perfect to recreate into the Mango cocktail I craved...So I muddled fresh mango pieces with lots of mint and lime slices and then strained and mixed it with 60ml of Smirnoff Citrus, crushed ice and lime flavoured soda - Whee!

This is one refreshing drink and I am sure to try this with the oranges in the original recipe.

Cheers Sig!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cream Cheese and Coriander Spiced Bread

Its been a while since my first attempt at baking bread and this Sunday morning with an empty fridge staring me in my face, I decided to beat back the blues by getting out some yeast and flour. After all, it was Easter Sunday!

I also somehow got into my head to include cream cheese in whatever bread I chose to while searching for recipes which would pander to my whims, I found this recipe adapted from the book Beard on Bread. And then I went a bit crazy....

I substituted the sour cream with cream cheese,grated cheddar cheese and fresh cream. Added lots of coriander and then remembering that lovely achaari bread loaf cooked up by J&B, spooned in a generous dollop of - hold your breath! - vathalkozhambu thokku!!! This is a fiery tamarind based gravy which is reduced to a thick consistency and it contains sun dried berries or vegetables (vatthal) which impart a distinctive flavour to it. Usually eaten with steamed rice, I had bought a bottle of this delicious Tamilian delicacy from that veritable institution - Grand Sweets - on my last trip to Chennai.

The other no-so-crazy touches to the recipe - I replaced part of the flour with wheat flour and also toned down the salt since both the pickle and the cream cheese had salt in it.

I sweated quite a bit while waiting for the bread to rise and then rise again and then finally bake. I had no idea how it would turn out and I regretted experimenting with something I was making for just the second time....

BUT, it wasn't a disaster - phew! It had a great crust though it didn't rise as much as I expected it to - I don't really think that that's because of the wheat flour since I have used a similar proportion for the poee before; I suspect the yeast - so out it goes. Its a pity we don't get smaller packets of yeast which we can use just once.

The aroma which came curling out of the oven was absolutely amazing - a mix of the typical yeasty smell of bread and the spice notes of pickle. And the taste matched it completely - a lovely mix of flavours which intensified overnight till the next day one could eat it - No need for any accompaniments. The oil from the pickle and the cream cheese seemed to make it really moist.

Couldnt even wait for the photo session to get over and I already had a bite out of it!

What I would do the next time around - cut down on the sugar mentioned for mixing the yeast and also cut down on the milk....I think the dough needed to be a tad firmer.
We had it with a simple masala omelet and it made a perfect Sunday breakfast.

This goes to the Bread Baking Day #8 being hosted over at Wild Yeast by Susan.
Celebration Bread and she says"For this month’s BreadBakingDay, you are invited to share your own spring holiday bread tradition, explore one you’re not yet familiar with, or start a new one".

While this is not a tradition in our home, it maybe the start of one for Easter every year; I used to get fresh buns and Easter eggs every year when I was a girl from the Anglo Indian family downstairs who doted on me and I hope my daughter does too! Here's to new beginnings then, especially in my brother's home - they have a lot to look forward this year!

Cream Cheese and Coriander Spiced Bread


Wheat flour - 1.5 cups
Refined flour (maida) - 2 to 2.5 cups
Yeast - 3 tsp
Warm water - 1/4 cup
Sugar - 3 tbsp (2 tbsp should suffice)
Cream Cheese - 1 cup
Grated cheddar cheese - 1/2 cup
Indian spicy pickle - 2 tablespoons (I used vathalkozhambu thokku)
Milk - 1/2 cup
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Baking soda - 1/4 tsp
Chopped onions - 1/4 cup
Chopped coriander - 3/4 cup


1. Combine yeast and sugar in warm water and set aside for 5 minutes or till its foamy.
2. Take a large bowl, add the yeast mixture, salt, baking soda,cream cheese, grated cheese and pickle.
3. Mix in both the flours gardually adding the milk while kneading all the time. I added the milk all at once and had to add some more flour since it became too sticky. The flour should be fairly easy to handle and not too sticky.
4. Knead well and keep aside in a warm place, covered with cling film for about 1.5 hours till it doubles in size.
5. Lightly punch it down, knead again and divide into two parts. Shape into rounds and place on baking trays or put into loaf tins and set aside covered for another 30 - 45 minutes for the second rise.
6. Pre heat the oven to 375F or 190C and bake for about 25-30 minutes; if baking both together then swap the loaf tins after 15 minutes.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Orange Date Cake - Arusuvai Friendship Chain

After much wiffling and waffling....I finally decided how to use the orange extract I received from Deeba of Passionate about Baking as part of the Arusuvai Friendship chain. I baked this lovely citrus cake with luscious dates - especially for our very own orange blossom - our almost 3 year old daughter. Just as she fills our home with sparkling eyes and shy smiles, with stubborn cries and pouted lips, the fragrance of this cake warmed our hearts. This was for a sentimental family occasion and she loved that there was something special for her.
And for me it seemed fitting that a gift from someone who I have not even met yet, but seem to know so well, should be used to create a gift for someone so dear to me.

Thank you so much Deeba - it added that special touch to a beautiful day when my daughter got all saucer eyed looking at "her" cake (we are in possessive mode these day) as it came out of the oven - the one she helped stir and mix and pour orange "joosh" into.

This was the first time I experimented with a cake...I usually pretty much stick to baking recipes and wasn't at all sure how this one would turn out. Now that this frontier has been breached - well my oven had better be scared - very scared!

I loved that the cake turned out so moist and fluffy with a nice crust. The flavour of orange seeped right through. It didn't need an orange glaze which most recipes recommended.....The dates which popped up in between were a nice addition and I think soaking them in the orange juice and orange zest really helped make them juicy.This one will definitely be made many more times and hopefully become a fond childhood memory for our daughter.

I am also sending this recipe and story to Sugar High Fridays #41, which is being hosted at Habeas Brulee and this month's theme is all about Sweet Gifts.

Orange Date Cake


Flour - 1 and 3/4 cup
Butter - 3/4 cup
Light Brown sugar - 3/4 cup
Baking powder - 3/4 tsp
Baking soda - 1/4 tsp
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Eggs - 2
Orange extract - 2 tsp
Vanilla essence - 1 tsp
Buttermilk - 1/2 cup (Pour half a tablespoon of lime juice into half a cup of milk and set aside for 5-10 minutes till it separates - strain and use)
Grated zest of 2 medium organges (about 2 tbsp)
Juice of 2 medium oranges (1/2 cup)
Chopped seedless dates - 3/4 cup

1. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Soak chopped dates in the orange juice and orange zest for about half an hour. Grease a ring mould or a 8" cake pan and keep aside.
2. Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
3. Cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl; beat eggs well and keep aside.
4. Strain the dates and keep aside the orange juice and zest.
5. Take the bowl with the creamed butter and sugar; add the dry ingredients(flour,salt etc) a little at a time alternating with the wet ingredients (egg, buttermilk and orange juice), ending with the dry ingredients.
6. Pour in the vanilla essence and orange extract. Mix in the chopped dates and the orange zest.
7. Pour in the batter into the greased cake pan and bake at 180C for 45 minutes or till done. Check with a skewer to see whether it comes out clean when pierced into the cake.
8. Let cool inside the oven for about 5 minutes, then remove and let cool outside for about 10 minutes. Remove from pan when fully cooled and set aside for sometime on wire rack.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Urulai Roast (Crisp Golden Potatoes)

It's been a long time since I made this dish - another one of MIL's traditional recipes which is a favourite at home. It was the perfect accompaniment to the Vendakkai Kozhambu with steamed rice, we had for lunch sometime back.

The thing I love about this dish is that its crisp brown crust gives the impression that its a product of many hours of slaving over the stove. That, or a lot of oil. Or both.

Well, the trick to this dish is simple (lots of oil and lots of time in the kitchen over one dish is simply not my style!) - the recipe uses a puree of onion and tomato and that gives the golden brown coating to the potato! Be warned, this is an addictive dish, so don't make it in small quantities.

I am sending this to Sia's Ode to Potato event ; I never did send her a pic of the mutton kurma I sent earlier; didn't get around to making it again....
This classic recipe is just perfect for an ode to the ubiquitous tuber!

Urulai Roast


Potato - 4-5 big
Onion - 1 big
Tomato - 1 medium
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Oil - 1 tbsp

Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Curry leaves - 6-7
Urad dal - 1/2 tsp


1. Boil the potatoes in a pressure cook for 8-10 minutes (2 whistles). Cool, peel and chop into fairly big pieces. The potatoes should be just cooked and not falling apart.
2. Puree the onion and tomatoes in a blender.
3. Heat oil in a non stick pan, add the mustard seeds and when they splutter, add the urad dal , when it changes colour add the curry leaves.
4. Pour in the puree, add the chilli powder, coriander powder and turmeric powder and fry for 6-8 minutes till the tomato onion puree loses its rawness and dries up a bit.
5. Add the chopped potatoes and salt and continue frying on a low flame, taking care not to stir too much, instead jiggling the pan to break them up and turn them.
6. Keep on a low flame for about 20-30 minutes giving it shake once in a while; the puree would have turned a nice reddish brown and crusted each potato piece.
7. Serve warm with steamed rice and sambar or chapattis and dal.

Depending on the type of onion used, this dish could have a hint of sweetness to it.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Creamy Curried Eggplant and Pumpkin Risotto

My efforts to include rosematta rice into our diet are still on, though not as often as I would like. After consuming raw rice for so many years, it's a little difficult to have plain rosematta rice with our usual sambar, kootu and rasam. And since I know it would probably put hubby off brown rice totally, I don't even try; preferring instead to make other kinds of dishes with it. And that's definitely not an everyday affair.

One evening while deciding dinner (can't we have some kind of lottery system for this?), I felt like eating kathrikai murungakkai thokku (a curried eggplant drumstick preparation) which is a favourite on hubby's maternal side - it's delicious and one aunt who specialises in making it, is the de facto "thokku chef" for every family gathering. Well, with no drumsticks in near sight and a firm resolve to make brown rice for dinner, the "thokku" seemed like a pipe dream. But one can always improvise, n'est ce pas?.......

I soaked some rosematta rice and then played it by the ear. Pumpkin seemed to be a good substitute for the sweet fleshiness of drumsticks. The thokku has a bit of sambar powder added to it, so if I wanted to do the same with the rice it seemed apt to add coconut milk to balance things out. As you can see, my train of thought may make no sense to anyone else.....but that's how things get cooked in this house!

I had no idea how this dish would turn out, but when it was finally done, I knew this recipe was a keeper. The rice cooked in coconut milk was as creamy as risottos come and the pumpkin and eggplant made a whole lot of difference - I doubt if the usual french beans and carrots would have tasted as good. The sambar powder was not overpowering, so it lent a nice touch to the dish.

This dish goes to the Monthly Mingle event which Meeta of Whats for Lunch Honey?, hosts, where this month's theme is One Dish Dinners.

Creamy Curried Eggplant and Pumpkin Risotto


Rosematta rice - 1 cup, washed and soaked for about an hour, in 3 cups of water
Onions - 1 big, sliced thin
Tomato - 1 medium, chopped roughly
Red pumpkin (kaddu/paringikai) - 1 cup of 1" cubes
Eggplant (brinjal) - 3-4 small, cubes
Green pepper - 1 small, cut into squares

Coconut milk - 2 cups ( I added a couple of green chillies to the coconut while extracting the milk; if you are using canned or powdered extract , then you could add a couple of slit green chillies with the whole spices to increase the heat)
Vegetable stock - 1.5 cups kept hot (can be substituted with broth made from one soup cube)

Oil - 1 tbsp
Star Anise - 1
Bay leaf - 1
Cinnamon - 1"stick
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp

Sambar powder - 1 tsp
Ginger garlic paste - 1/2 tsp


1. Heat the oil in a large nonstick pan and add the whole spices to it (bayleaf, star anise, cinnamon), when they change colour put in the cumin seeds.
2. Toss in the sliced onions and saute till golden brown. Then add the ginger garlic paste, stirring to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom.
3. After a minute, add the chopped pumpkin, eggplant and peppers. Saute on high for five minutes, then sprinkle the sambar powder and fry on low for 5-6 minutes till the vegetables soften. Cover for another 2 minutes till they are cooked, but firm. Throw in the chopped tomatoes and fry a couple of minutes.
4. Drain the soaked rice and add to the pan, fry for about 4 minutes till it is well coated with the oil and a bit toasted.
5. Add about 1 cup of hot vegetable stock and salt and bring to boil, reduce flame and simmer covered till the water is absorbed.
6. Mix the remaining half cup of hot vegetable stock with one cup of coconut milk and pour into the pan. Cover and simmer again till all of it is absorbed. (If you have divided the extract into first and second, then start with the second extract, which will be thinner)
7. Check the rice and adjust salt if needed; add the remaining cup of coconut milk, cook for about 4-5 minutes, turn off the flame while there is still some liquid in the rice and keep covered for 3-4 minutes. Serve warm.

It takes about 45 minutes to an hour for the rice to cook, so you can tend to other stuff while it cooks (I grated some bottle gourd(ghia) for a raita to go with the risotto - recipe to follow).
The risotto doesn't need constant supervision and is quite forgiving as compared to white rice which, when I started cooking fried rice or pulao on the stove top, would either get mushy or dry out and stick to the bottom.

Vendakkai Kozhambu (Okra in spicy tamarind gravy)

Kozhambu in Tamil usually refers to a gravy made without lentils (dal) in it. While it often refers to a tamarind based gravy like Puli kozhambu or Poondu kozhambu, it also includes the buttermilk based gravy - Mor kuzhambu. And though some think of it as sambar without dal, I prefer to think of sambar as kozhambu with dal in it - after all tur dal came to South India much later and it was tamarind which ruled the roost for a long time.

Depnding on what we are used to calling "kozhambu" at home, a thin spicy meen kozhambu (tamarind based fish gravy) may be what it recalls for some, while others will associate it with the thakali kozhambu (tomato curry) their mother used to make with idlis for breakfast.

My mother is an expert at the correct spices and tempering to be used for various kozhambus, while I am still learning as I go. But when I yearn for "something" after a particularly nasty bout of viral flu which seems to have deadened all your olfactory senses, then a nice spicy tangy kozhambu is just the ticket to open up that stuffed nose and heavy head!

And my favourite is the one made with okra in it; this vegetable which has an (undeserved I may add) reputation for stickiness when cooked on its own, somehow plumps up into juicy fingers which go squelch! in your mouth when you bite into them, spilling all the tangy goodness of the kozhambu it has absorbed.

Served with steamed rice, some plain tur dal with the simplest of tadkas and a lovely red potato "roast" - this really made our Sunday lunch a heartwarming affair!

Vendakkai Kozhambu (Okra in Spicy Tamarind Gravy)


Okra (lady fingers/ vendakkai) - 6-8 tender small ones
Tamarind extract from one small lime sized ball of tamarind - 1/2 cup
Onion - 1 big chopped
Tomato - 1 quartered
Garlic - 3-4 cloves
Oil - 1/2 tbsp veg oil, 1/2 tbsp sesame oil

Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Fenugreek seeds (methi) - 1/4 tsp
Asafoetida (hing) - pinch
Curry leaves - 6-7

Red chillies - 4-5
Coriander seeds (Dhania) - 1 tbsp
Fennel seeds (Saunf) - 1/2 tbsp
Fenugreek (Methi) - 1/4 tsp
Peppercorns - 1/2 tsp
Grated coconut - 1/4 cup

1. Wash and thoroughly dry the okra with a kitchen towel. Cut the tops and the ends of the okra, and chop into 1 " pieces.
2. Dilute the tamarind extract with 350 ml water and keep aside.
3. Roast all the ingredients for the masala in 1 tsp of oil (add coconut last) and when browned and aromatic, take off flame and cool. Grind to a smooth paste, adding a little water at a time.
4. Heat oil in a kadai, add mustard and when it pops, add the fenugreek seeds, asafoetida and curry leaves.
5. Put in the chopped onions and saute 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute another 2-3 minutes.
6. Add the chopped okra and fry for about 8 -10 minutes on a low flame till it softens.
7. Add the tomatoes and pour in the tamarind extract; mix in half of the masala paste and salt to taste and bring to boil, reduce flame and simmer covered for about 10 minutes till the raw smell of tamarind goes away.
8. Add the remaining masala paste and some more water if needed, bring to a boil and simmer for another 5 minutes.