Tuesday, January 29, 2013

PuLi Inji

One of my favoritestest traditional side dishes is PuLi Inji - literally translated to Tamarind Ginger. I have refrained from trying such a dish till date because these traditional recipes call for very minimum ingredients and one needs to get the mix and balance of all the flavors spot on for the dish to turn out well. The past week, i tasted it twice, first at New Krishna Bhavan then next when a friend made it.
And then the recipe came up as a suggestion when i was reading Chinmayie's latest post. It seemed like a sign and yours truly decided to make the PuLi Inji.
The recipe is adapted from here . I followed the same measurements.

Just that, i made a tadka with mustard, hing and curry leaves first. Added ginger and chilli next.

To it, i added the tamarind pulp and melted jaggery and brought it to a boil.
Then stir it well and let it simmer for a while.Adjust salt and jaggery and tamarind. Easier said than done. Each time you add one item, the other starts appearing to be less. So it will take you a couple of additions to get the right proportions that suit your palette best.  The consistency that you are looking for is gooey and thick. There will be a slight glaze on the surface of the syrup.
At this point, turn off the heat. Transfer to a box or a bottle. This can be stored for a while. But when the quantity is just a cup, be sure for it to be licked clean sooner!
Serve with Pongal/Khichdi, or with plain rice and a big dollop of ghee. Or better still, make it a perfect accompaniment for curd rice!

Strawberry Sauce | A quickie

If you go grocery shopping to the supermarket, you can't miss the strawberries these days. Not just the big stores, even the local fruit vendors are selling the ubiquitous boxes of the pretty red fruits. But it always so happens to me that if the fruit is sweet, a couple of them in the box turn out to be bad. Sometimes it so happens that the fruits look nice and plump but are sour on the inside.
When they are sweet, i can't think of a better way to eat them than by dipping them in chocolate sauce. Heaven is right there. When i was faced with the prospect of finishing some not-so-sweet strawberries lest they went bad, i thought of turning it into a sauce.
To me, any sauce or chutney should be a good balance of uppu-puLi-kaaram-inippu (salt, sourness, heat and sweet, in that order ). So this simple sauce had the sugar for the sweetness, pepper lending heat, ginger adding a tang and the strawberry itself a little sour.
No measurements actually. Just take a ramekin. Go chop chop and add the strawberries upto 3/4th the cup. Add a spoonful of sugar or more according to your preference, some salt and pepper to taste, dry ginger powder and maybe some unsalted butter on top. Well, all you need to do now is to microwave this for a minute and a half.
Ta-da! Your sauce is ready!

You could make it overtly sweet, like a jam. Or keep it light and make it a nice mix of different fresh flavors. Maybe even try it with some mint. Serve it for breakfast with toasted bread or pancakes.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mix veg-Lemon Soup

There are some days when you keep thinking of food- all the time. Nothing you eat would seem to satiate that appetite. It comes with the territory of cooking light food. Less oil, less carbs and add to that super fast metabolism (touch wood!), end result is perpetual hunger. 
And then there are those odd days when you go out and end up eating out. All the oil and masala in the food ends up creating a really heavy tummy. For days like these, a soup and a salad are the best follow up meals. Light and filling, they help wash down all the junk. 
I was looking at making the lemon and coriander soup that is normally served in the restaurants. It is more like a dal with loads of coriander and lemon in it. While searching for a recipe, i stumbled upon this recipe on Good Food. 
I followed something similar to make a mixed vegetable and lemon (grass) soup. 

Preparation Time  15 Minutes
Serves  2

Carrot         1 small
Potato         1 small
Onion          1 small
Garlic           a couple of pods
Lemongrass            about 4-5 blades
Cumin powder        half tsp
Coriander powder   half tsp
Split Moong Dal      3 tbsp
Salt               to taste
Pepper          to taste
Juice of half a lemon
Coriander      for garnishing
Butter            1 tsp


In a pressure cooker, add some butter. Add the sliced onions and garlic. Once it turns translucent, add the diced vegetables. I have added a potato and carrot here. 

Wash the moong dal and add to the cooker. Season with salt. Maybe add a chilli or two if you need it spicy. Add cumin and coriander powder to this. Add water until all the ingredients are soaked in it. Top it with the lemon grass.
 Pressure cook until 2 whistles. 
Once the pressure is off, remove and discard the lemon grass. Let it cool. Blend it in a mixer. I ground it slightly coarsely. The feeling when you get a piece of cooked, soft, slightly sweet carrot or potato in the soup is something else! 
Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Garnish with coriander and a dash of lime. Warm and hearty, this soup will never disappoint! Instead, it certainly will cheer you and your tummy up! 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Happy Pongal!

It is great when you wake up on a Monday morning and it happens to be a holiday! The cherry on the cake is that the holiday is for Pongal- a festival to celebrate the abundance of food and good health at home.
Yours truly did not move one finger for anything but taking pictures. All the cooking was done by Amma, that too in record time!

Before i knew it, there was a spread of venn pongal ( khara pongal) , shakkarai pongal, sambar and avial for the usual Pongal brunch after the pooja. Was planning to post the recipe. But you can find it here. The only difference being, Amma adds a pinch of pepper powder instead of the salt and lots of coconut shavings get fried in ghee, along with the dry fruits and add a great texture to the Pongal!
So here is wishing all of you lots of prosperity at home and to churning out many more lovely delicacies in the kitchen the year ahead. Iniya Pongal Nalvaazhtukkal!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My take on Mac and Cheese

It has been a while since i have wanted to make Mac and Cheese. It tops a lot of people's comfort food list. When i googled the recipe, i found that it was heavy on white flour and cheese. So much cheese, butter and AP flour, i did not really want to use. So i did not try it out.
Yesterday, i felt like it should be pasta day and had only spaghetti at home . Did not really feel like eating it since only last week sometime, lunch was spaghetti. So off i went to buy something else. My eyes fell upon a packet of Bambino Macaroni. I remembered the first time i had cooked it and it had turned all soggy and broken and the end result was a mush. Never experimented with it after that.  I thought i should try it one more time and picked it up. And woah! it is cheap! Just 16 bucks for a 250 gm packet. It was while billing that i was reminded of Mac and Cheese again. So after some initial research and modifications to recipes found from foodgawker, i made Mac and Cheese the first time around. It's not the traditional recipe. It's made my style- light and simple. Here's how:

Preparation Time- 20 mins
Cooking Time: 30 mins
Difficulty- Medium


11/2  cups Macaroni , i used Bambino- half of the 250 gms packet.
Vegetables of your choice - 3/4 cup, i just used finely chopped carrots and capsicum
3-4 pods of garlic
1 tbsp AP Flour
1 tbsp cheese, I used the Brittania Mexican Pepper spread :)
1/2 cup Milk
Salt and chilli flakes to taste
1/2 tsp Oregano, optional
1 tbsp olive oil


Boil 2 cups of water with some salt and oil. Add the macaroni to it and cook it according to the packet instructions. Bambino gets done in 6-7 minutes. I added my chopped carrots also to it to allow it to cook.
Drain the pasta. Save some of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, in a pan, heat olive oil. Add finely chopped garlic and capsicum. Toss it around until the garlic starts giving out its flavor.
Now simply add to this a table spoonful of flour. Whisk it around until it slightly changes color. At this point, add the milk. Whisk the mixture well without any lumps.
Now add to it a tablespoon of the cheese spread. Alternatively, you could use cheddar cheese and sprinle some extra on top of the macaroni too. But i chose to use what i had and use it frugally.
Turn off the heat.
Add some chilli flakes and oregano to this. Be careful while seasoning with salt since the macaroni was already boiled in salt water, there is salt in the cheese. Add in salt carefully. Mix in the boiled mac and vegetables.
Grease a baking pan with olive oil. Add the mixture into the dish.

Place it in a preheated oven at 170 degrees for about 15-20 minutes. I waited until the top started browning.
Alternatively, you could spoon out the mixture into individual ramekins or a muffin tray rather than a cake tin and then bake it. It will come out like a macaroni cup cake :). I just spooned out the macaroni from the baking dish and served it hot!

It is crunchy on top, but soft on the inner layers, more like regular pasta.
You can add more of the white sauce to fill up all the gaps between the macaroni and bake slightly longer to get a more cohesive mac and cheese mixture out of the oven! Bon Appetit! 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Quick Snack - Masala Pori

Every morning, breakfast is religiously eaten at home. 10 o clock snack and 12 o clock lunch is packed in different dabbas and off we go to work. The snack is normally some fruit or milk shake. Lunch comprises some mixed rice or roti-sabji along with curd rice. My body perhaps has some alarm clock internally that signals every two hours that food needs to be consumed. What happens is that the gap between lunch and the time when i return from work is much longer. As a result, first thing after freshening up every evening is to attack whatever is available to eat. Most cases, it will be a packet of cookies or dry fruit or some deep fried item picked off the shelf in the supermarket. While dry fruits are good, how much can one eat? Somehow for me, the snack should be of a large quantity- consumed before and after tea.
Pori or puffed rice is one such thing which is light, yet filling. You can eat a bowlful without upsetting your calorie count much. So it is wise to make it in big batches and store it for munching.
It is super easy, with most ingredients available readily. Just grab a pack of puffed rice and you are almost good to go!

Preparation Time: 10 Mins
Cooking Time: 5 Mins


Puffed Rice/Pori         4 cups
Red chillies                 4-5 or according to your taste
Garlic                         4-5 pods, crushed
Mustard                     1 tsp
Curry Leaves             1 sprig
Peanuts                      1/2 cup
Dry coconut               1/4 cup, thinly chopped
Salt                             to taste
Sugar                          1 tsp
Oil                               for tempering
Turmeric                      1/2 tsp


The sole intention of the above picture is to show off the newly acquired Pure Komachi chef's knife. She cuts like a dream!
All you need for this recipe is to get the ingredients ready, at hand.
In a large kadai or pan, heat oil. Add in all the ingredients except the puffed rice- starting with mustard first, everything else after the mustard crackles and then the sugar in the end.

Once the peanuts change color and look done, add the puffed rice. Now increase the flame and work on the kadai by stirring it constantly on high flame. This is to crisp up the pori. Turn off the gas after 2-3 minutes.
Check the salt and adjust. You could add some amchur powder if you want some tang to this. But it tastes good without that too - a little sweet and a little spicy. The flavors are mostly in the tadka ingredients, so make sure you mix the pori well to incorporate all the flavors.
Serve with a cuppa chai, munch it while reading your favorite book or simply eat it if you are bored! Top it with some bhujia if you are not really watching your waistline :)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A step closer to nature

People who know me well know for the fact that i am a sucker for good advertisements. One of the repercussions of this is the desire to buy all new things on the shelves in the supermarket. If the commercial is good, the product ought to be good! I have been carried away by commercials one too many that promise beauty in a bottle. I have spent loads of money in the secret hope that the product will give me the much needed reprieve from oily skin and erase away the zits like magic. It took me so many wasted purchases, lots of money down the drain and zero change in my skin to realize that every bit of it is hogwash.
To top it, I read this on the Forest Essentials website:
"If you were offered a meal with Celyl alcohol, 10 Dopropyl, Butyl carbonate, Sodium Sulfonate, Discodium EDTA, BHT, Red dye # 17, Yellow die # 10 and CT # 7scent, would you care to eat it? Millions of people, you may be one of them, “ eat” these chemicals every day, since they are standard ingredients in some of the bestselling Brand name moisturizers and soaps in our country!"

It got me thinking about what i was feeding my skin on a daily basis! Hence a move towards things natural. To use on my skin what i can consume as food. So my daily face cleansing comes from aloe vera gel and gram flour. 

When mixed with some apricot powder once a week, it turns into an amazing scrub! 
Cold weather? Hydrate your skin with the goodness of coconut oil. I can't think of a better moisturizer than this! It goes on the hair, in the skin and cooking. How much safer can it get? Can lay your hands on Organic extra virgin coconut oil? Nothing better than that. If not that, our good old Parachute will also do! 
  Need more intense moisturization? Try Cocoa Butter or Shea butter. 
My friend got me a tin of Organic Shea Butter from Vitamin Shoppe in the US. Shea butter is a lot like beeswax only that it has like some one hundred benefits. You could use it as is by rubbing it a little between your palm or fingers to melt it, or make a 1:1 mixture of Shea butter with olive oil or coconut oil. Add a couple of drops of your favorite essential oil if you want a pleasant fragrance. Your own personal customized solution for all things ranging from dry skin to cracked heels to chapped lips! Oh yes, it also claims to do wonders to reduce wrinkles and fine lines! If you are still not convinced, turn over your favorite anti aging creme and check its ingredients. The number of chemicals that go into it will convert you too! 
This is a start for me. This new year, i have gotten rid of most products in my dresser that reek of chemicals. I emptied my last shampoo bottle last year to start using an organic hair wash powder that i picked up during my last trip to Ooty

Now the only vice that remains is the love for fragrances. I don't know if they come in the organic way. Any which ways, since they go on the clothes and not on the skin and since i love them way too much, am going to continue using them till this batch that i have gets over! 
 Beyond all this, what matters is that you eat good food, exercise  and remain happy. Nothing beats that! A Happy and Healthy 2013 to all of you. Treasure all your blessings!