December 31, 2011

Moong dal kootu

This simple, healthy and comforting moong dal kootu can be used as a side for chapathi/puri/rice.


Moong dal - 3/4 cup
Toor dal - 1 handful
Finely chopped onion - 1 no (medium)
Finely chopped tomatoes - 4 nos (medium)
Finely chopped cilantro - 1/4 cup
Green chillies - 2 nos (slit into two)
Ginger - 1 inch (grated)
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Red chillies - 2 nos
Jeera (cumin) - 1/4 tsp
Hing - 1 - 2 pinches
Turmeric powder - 1 - 2 pinches
Chilli powder - 1/4 tsp
Coriander powder - 1/4 tsp
Oil & salt - to taste

Heat oil in a pan. To this, add mustard seeds. After it splutters, add jeera. After it sizzles, add red chillies and fry for a min. Then, add chopped onions, grated ginger, green chillies and saute until onions turns translucent. Then, add tomatoes along with chilli powder, coriander powder, salt & hing and cook until the raw smell of tomatoes are gone and it doesn 't stick to the sides.

In the meanwhile, heat a pan and dry roast moong dal & toor dal until nice smell comes from it. Take a deep vessel / pan, and boil about 2 cups of water. While the water is boiling, add roasted moong dal & toor dal along with turmeric powder & little salt. Let it cook for about 10 -15 mins until moong/toor dal is almost cooked.

Transfer the tomato/onion gravy mixture to cooked dal and let it simmer for 5 more mins. Add chopped cilantro and remove from heat.

Serve hot with chapathi / rice.

  • You can also choose to pressure cook moong / toor dal together for 1 whistle if you like them to be mashed in kootu.
  • If you choose to cook dal in a vessel, you need to keep a watch on it and add water (little by little) as required. Dal might get burnt if there's not enough water.

December 28, 2011

Milagu vadai

Milagu (pepper) vadai is the crunchier version of ulundu vadai with a peppery taste. This thin crispy diskettes popularly known as "Anjaneyar vadai" are given as an offering to Lord Hanuman. The vadai's are connected using a thread and worn as a garland around His neck. Later these scrumptious diskettes are distributed as 'prasadam'.

Last week was 'Hanuman Jayanthi' and I prepared milagu vadai at home for neivedhyam (offerings). This also serves as a good evening snack.

Urad dal - 1 cup
Pepper - 1/2 tsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp

Wash & soak urad dal in water for about 30 mins (Do not let urad dal to soak in water for longer time). Drain it and grind it  into a coarse paste without adding water.

Mean while pulse the pepper and break it roughly. Take a bowl, add ground urad dal, salt and broken pepper and mix them well.

Heat oil in a pan or kadai.

Grease a plastic sheet with a drop of oil / water. Make small balls of the dough and flatten them with your palms. Make a small hole in the center. Slowly drop them in hot oil and fry in medium heat till golden brown on both sides.

Cool and serve.

Pudina thogayal

Pudhina (Mint leaves) thogayal is a warm, fresh, aromatic & colorful rice mix. This thogayal has a perfect mixture of sweet (from pudhina), tangy (from tamarind) & spicy (from pepper) taste.

Mint leaves -  2 small bunches
Urad dal - 1.5 tbsp.
Red Chillies - 2-3 nos
Hing - 1 small piece
Tamarind - of small marble size
Black pepper corns - 1/4 tsp
Oil & Salt - to taste

Wash and clean the mint leaves.

Heat oil in a pan. Fry hing, urad dal, red chillies & peppercorns until hing is fried & urid dal turns light brown.

Transfer all the roasted ingredients into mixer and grind them along with fresh mint leaves, tamarind and salt.

Serve hot with steamed rice with a teaspoon of sesame oil and roasted papad.


Morkuzhambu is yet another popular gravy variety from south India. It is a yogurt based gravy flavored with fresh coconut, yogurt and cumin seeds. Preparation is very simple & easy and takes about 15-20 mins of your time. Morkuzhambu is extremely delicious and an absolute relish with plain hot rice and veggie stir-fry on the side.

Basic Info
Complexity - Simple
Prep time - 20 mins
Cook time - 10 mins
Serves - 3-4

Chopped Chayote - 1 cup (or other vegetables like okra, white pumpkin etc)
Greek yogurt - 1.5 cups (plain yogurt works fine too)
Salt - to taste
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 1-2 sprigs
Oil -1 tsp

To grind
Raw rice - 3/4 tsp
Channa dal - 3/4 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Grated fresh coconut - 1/2 cup
Green chillies - 3 nos
Red chillies - 3 nos

Soak raw rice & channa dal in a little water for about 30 minutes until soft. 

Grind it along with green chillies, red chillies, cumin seeds, fresh coconut into a fine paste (I used about 1 tbsp of water while grinding). Take a bowl, whisk yogurt, ground paste together until well combined. Keep this yogurt mixture aside.

Heat a cup of water. When it starts to boil, add turmeric powder, 1/2 tsp of salt and chopped chayote to it. Let it continue to boil until the vegetable is soft & cooked. To this, add the yogurt mixture, salt (as required) and mix well. Add 1/2 cup of water (or 1/4 cup more depending on the thickness of yogurt) and dilute the consistency. Let everything come to a boil and simmer for a while on low-medium heat.

Heat a tsp of oil, splutter mustard seeds, fry curry leaves and add it to morkuzhambu. Finally drizzle a tsp of coconut oil for it helps in deepening the coconut flavor.

Piping hot & tasty morkuzhambu is ready to be served.

- If using okra, saute okra in a tbsp of coconut oil, 1/2 tsp of salt until soft & cooked. Add this to the yogurt mixture and bring it to a boil. Rest of the vegetables can be cooked in water (as given in the recipe above.)

December 26, 2011

Kathirikkai Thogayal

Kathirikkai (eggplant) thogayal is a spicy condiment that is eaten with hot rice and crispy papad on the side. Eggplant is VJ 's first love (no kidding!!!) and this thogayal is one of his favorites.

In India, we roast eggplants directly over the open flame (or) on gas stovetop. But in US, my kitchen only had an electric range and I just couldn't figure out how to roast eggplants to make this thogayal.

On a terribly chilly night, I decided to make this thogayal and started roasting eggplants directly on the electric coil, only to end up with smoke all over my kitchen. To make things worst, the smoke alarm went on and I had to open all the doors & windows to let the smoke escape. Chilly weather, rumbling tummies, empty vessel and smoke all over the house - life couldn't get any more worse, or could it?! That night, I was very close to give up on this thogayal. Then, something just told me to try conventional oven for roasting eggplants and boy, was I glad?!

This thogayal also serves as a great savory spread for chips, bread, bread crisps, roti (or) just with anything!!

Basic Info
Complexity - Simple
Prep time - 20-25 mins (includes roasting eggplants)
Cook time - 5 mins
Serves - 1.5 to 2 cups of thogayal

Eggplant - 2 nos
Hing - 1 small piece
Dry red chillies - 6 nos
Urid dal - 2 tbsp
Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Tamarind - size of a gooseberry
Salt - to taste

Cut the eggplants lengthwise into 2 halves. Broil at 400 degrees for about 15 - 20 mins (or) until inner side of the eggplant turns brownish black (see pictures). Let it cool.

Soak tamarind in 1/2 cup of hot water and keep it aside.

In a pan, add a tsp of oil and fry hing. Add cumin seeds and let it sizzle. Then, roast red chillies, urid dal until golden brown. Allow it to cool.

Scoop out just the flesh and grind it along with the roasted ingredients & soaked tamarind (drain the water). Add salt to taste and mix well. Smokey, spicy eggplant thogayal is ready to serve & eat!!

- You can also add a handful of cilantro while grinding - a great flavor boost to thogayal!
- Sending this off to Made with Love Mondays!

Mango Pickle

This recipe for mango pickle is really instant & very easy to make. This pickle goes very well with curd rice as a side.

Medium size raw mango - 1 (cut into small pieces)
Red chilli powder - 3/4 tsp
Hing - 1/4 tsp
Salt - to taste
Gingelly oil - 4-5 tbsp
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp

Take the cut mangoes in a big bowl (which will be convenient to stir). Add chilli powder, hing, salt and mix well. Keep it aside.

Heat gingelly oil in a pan, and let the mustard seeds splutter in it. Now add the (hot) gingelly oil to the mangoes and mix well.

Store it in a clean, dry bottle for upto a week or two (in fridge). In my house, it is always emptied before that :-)


  • Make sure to buy raw mangoes (green & sour). If the mango is even a little ripe, the pickle tastes sweet no matter how much ever chilli powder is added. Look for mangoes that are deep green in color and are not mushy around the stem.
  • Try to cut the mangoes into very small pieces of about the same size. It definitely elevates the taste of the pickle.
  • Add oil when it is very hot (as soon as it is taken off the stove). DO NOT let the oil cool.

Vendaikkai fry

Vendaikkai (Okra) fry is the simplest yet very delicious recipe to make. Every single kid that I know loves okra fry and without a question, my daughter is one among them. In India, parents & elders have a practice to connect okra & mathematics together (the more you eat okra, better your maths will be), though I don't know if it's for real :-). Or was it just a way to get kids eat more vegetable? Anyways, I have always loved this vegetable and never had a problem with it.

Cut Okra - 2 cups
Sambar powder / Chilli powder - 1 tsp (or more depending on your spice level)
Hing - 2-3 pinches
Oil - 1-2 tbsp
Salt - to taste
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Split urid dal - 1/4 tsp

Heat oil in a pan, and add cut okra to it. Add sambar powder (for okra fry, I prefer sambar powder), hing, salt and mix them gently. Let it cook on medium heat until how much fried you want them to be and remove from heat. Stir them gently every now and then so as to not burn them.

Splutter mustard seeds & roast split urid dal in little oil and add it to the curry. Serve it hot as a side for sambar rice / rasam rice.


  • Okra tends to get sticky & gooey in heat, so take care while stirring.
  • Alternatively, you can choose to microwave okra for 8- 10 mins (before starting to cook on heat) to get rid of the stickiness (about 50 - 60%).
  • Never add water to cook okra - it tends to make the curry mushy.
  • Okra fry tastes yum with curd rice.

Chakkarai pongal

Chakkarai means sugar in Tamil. Chakkarai pongal is made with rice, moong dal, ghee & jaggery and is the sweeter version of venpongal. It is a practice to prepare chakkarai pongal on pongal (harvest festival) especially in South India. The idea behind preparing chakkarai pongal on pongal is to use the freshly harvested rice, make a sweet/dessert with it and offer it to the Sun God, as a gesture to thank for helping the crops grow.

My mom makes chakkarai pongal in "venkala paanai" (brass vessel). It is a practice that we do pooja and offer chakkarai pongal in our terrace, directly under the sun. One such time, I was helping my mom and offered to carry the chakkarai pongal vessel to terrace. I don't exactly remember what or why, but I dropped the vessel on my way to the terrace. We wrapped up the pooja with whatever little chakkarai pongal left. Seeing all that yummy pongal in trash, I felt so sad & helpless that day. One heck of an incident that keeps coming to my mind whenever I make pongal.

Basic Info
Complexity - Medium
Prep time - 30 mins
Cook time - 30 mins
Serves - 4-6

Raw rice - 3/4 cup
Moong dal - 1/4 cup
Rice : Water - 1 : 3 ratio 
Turmeric powder - a pinch

Powdered jaggery - 1 cup, heaped

Cardamom - 4 pods, powdered
Cloves - 1, powdered
Powdered Nutmeg - a pinch

Broken cashews - 10
Raisins - 10
Ghee - 1/2 cup

Dry roast moong dal until fragrant.

Pressure cook rice & dal with turmeric powder on medium heat for 2-3 whistles and let it cool. Mash the rice & dal mixture well. Keep it aside.

Heat a tsp of ghee in a pan, roast cashews until golden brown and raisins until plump. Keep it aside.

In the same pan, dissolve powdered jaggery in 1/4 cup water and bring it to a boil. Let it boil until the raw smell of jaggery is gone. Add mashed rice & dal mixture and mix it well on low heat. Let it cook for a minute or two. Now, add ghee gradually in intervals, 1/8 cup at a time and keep on stirring until pongal starts to leave the sides. 

Add cardamom powder, clove powder, nutmeg powder, roasted cashews, raisins and mix well.

Drizzle a spoonful of ghee on top and serve hot!

December 24, 2011


Panagam (sweetened drink made with jaggery) is a simple yet healthy drink. A handful of grated jaggery in water goes a long way in quenching thirst especially during hot summer days. 

This delicious drink is usually prepared during Tamil New Year & Sri Rama Navami along with neer-moru (spiced buttermilk). This no-glitz inexpensive drink definitely has all potential to outshine any kind of soda / costly drinks in the market.

Basic Info
Complexity - Simple
Prep time - 20 mins
Cook time - NA
Serves - 2


Grated Jaggery - 1/2 cup
Water - 1.5 cups
Dry ginger powder - 3-5 pinches
Cardamom powder - 3-5 pinches
Lemon juice - 1/2 cup
Salt - a pinch

Dissolve jaggery completely in water. Then, filter it to remove all impurities. Add dry ginger powder, cardamom powder, salt & lemon juice. Stir well and serve cold.

- Check out the other Shri Rama Navami specials here.

December 23, 2011


How can I miss vennpongal (spicy pongal), especially during this auspicious month of 'Margazhi' (Tamil month)? 

Margazhi instantly reminds me of 2 things - 'Vennpongal' & 'Thiruppavai' (spiritual verses on Lord Perumal). Lord Sri Krishna Himself, has sung in Bhagavad Gita that "of the twelve Tamil months, He is Margazhi" and thus, this month has its own spiritual significance and in this month He is offered with His favorites - 'Thiruppavai' & ' Vennpongal'. There is nothing in the world that can stand upto this delicious 'Perumal Kovil Prasadam'.

Otherwise, vennpongal is one of the main breakfast items in southern part of India. It goes very well with kathirikkai gothsu (spicy eggplant gravy) / chutneys & sambar.

Raw rice - 3/4 cup
Moong dal - 1/4 cup
Grated ginger - 1/4 teaspoon
Black peppercorns - 1/4 teaspoon (I always powder peppercorns in a mixer)
Cumin seeds - 1/2 teaspoon
Ghee - 3-5 tablespoons
Curry leaves - Few
Cashews - 6 - 8 nos
Water - 3 cups
Salt - to taste

Fry moong dal in a pan until brown (or) until nice aroma comes out of it. Wash the rice & cook with moong dal in 3 cups of water and salt in a pressure cooker for upto 3-4 whistles. 

In the meanwhile, heat ghee in a small pan, and roast cashews until brown, followed by cumin seeds until nice smell fills the air. Remove from heat and add curry leaves to it.

Transfer the cooked rice/dal into a serving bowl. Mash the rice & dal together with a ladle. Add, roasted cashews, cumin seeds, powdered peppercorns, grated ginger. Pour the remaining ghee on top of pongal, mix well & serve.

Enjoy hot pongal with any side of your choice.

December 21, 2011


Here is the recipe for quick, simple, buttery, crunchy bread sticks. I made them to go along with my home made veggie pizza.


1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 tablespoon oil
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 cup milk
1.5 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon Italian spices
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix all of the above ingredients in a large bowl into a soft dough (without any lumps). You can either roll out the dough on a greased pan, bake the dough and then cut breadsticks into pieces of desired size (or) you can choose to roll them into desired shapes / sizes and then bake it.

Bake the dough at 400 degrees F for about 20 mins.

Note: I was expecting breadsticks to be soft, but they turned out to be crunchy.  I am planning to add more butter next time (I guess I messed up with the quantity of butter (1 tbsp) as I was trying breadsticks with just 1/2 cup of flour). Nevertheless, they tasted so good with warm marinara sauce on the side.

(1) Linking to "Let's cook #10 - Baked Goodies" hosted by Radhika.

(2) Linking to "Jingle-all-way-event" hosted by Kavi.

Veggie Pizza

This week, I have an extra pair of hands at home to take care of my little one (my hubby is on vacation .. hurray!!). Given this, I wanted to cook something different for lunch today and decided to make pizza. Pizza is something that we all love at our home. CPK (California Pizza Kitchen) / Olive garden are our absolute favorites when it comes to Italian cuisine and we always enjoy going there whenever we crave for Italian. My daughter if given a choice between Indian / Italian, without a second thought would instantly yell "Pizza".

I decided to give a nice surprise to my hubby & kid by pairing pizza with some breadsticks :)

For Pizza dough
Whole Wheat Flour - 1.5 cups (I used Annapurna Atta)
Salt - 1 tsp
Honey - 3/4 tbsp
Powdered oats - 1/4 cup
Fleischmann's Active dry yeast - 1 packet
Olive oil - 1 tbsp
Water - as required (I used less then 1/4th of a cup while kneading)

Blend of four Italian cheese (store bought)
Chopped vegetables (onions, tomatoes, corn, black olives, pineapple, cashews, jalapenos)
Marinara sauce (I used Organics Marinara sauce)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.  In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/4 cups of warm water. Let stand until it froths, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl combine whole wheat flour, powdered oats and salt. Make a well in the middle and add honey and yeast mixture. Stir well to combine. Cover and set in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes. The dough should get doubled in size.

Roll dough on a floured pizza pan, and add toppings of your choice. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until desired crispiness is achieved.

  • You can also mix all purpose flour with whole wheat flour (50/50). Although my pizza tasted good, the crust was breaking when folded. I am hoping that this problem will be solved if we use all purpose flour along with whole wheat flour.
  • If your yeast doesn't froth in warm water, discard and start with a new packet of yeast.
  • It took 2-3 (personal) pizzas for me to finalize on the thickness of the crust. Initially, I had rolled out the dough too thin that the crust got so crunchy. After the dough was rolled out little thicker, I was able to cook the crust to desirable crispiness.