August 21, 2012


Here you go! Another post on a popular south Indian snack - BAJJI. This is one of the easiest snack that can be prepared in a jiffy. All you have to do is to cut vegetables into thin slices, dip them into besan batter and deep fry them one after the other in oil. Don't be surprised if bajji just magically disappears in its journey between deep fryer & cooling racks. Bajji neither uses a long list of ingredients nor requires fancy ingredients. All it needs is chana besan, couple of basic vegetables (like potatoes/onion) and little oil to fry - Voila, you can make bajjis just like that!! This is a good snack item that can be served with coffee/tea.

My connection with bajji brings back sweet old memories to me! Me & my family used to visit Chennai once in a while for very few occasions. But, whenever we go to Chennai, we make it a point to visit Marina beach (this was in 80's) with my cousins & their families. Though my dad's family are strictly hygienic (none prefers street food), they have never said 'no' to bajji in beach from a particular vendor. She is known for hot, fresh & spicy molaga (chilli) bajji in fresh oil. Oh yeah, it was such a big deal for us kids to eat spicy molaga bajji. Dark evening time, cool sea breeze, best buddies, lots of catch-up stories, endless energy, limitless fun & 'hot hot' bajji - whoa! I haven't come across another combination yet that could beat this!

My hubby is also a big-time fan for Bajji. My mom-in-law always remembers how she used to quickly prepare them and my hubby gets to relish hot bajjis whenever he is home for short lunch break from his college.

Medium sized potatoes - 1 no (thinly sliced)
Medium sized onion - 1 no (thinly sliced)
For batter
Chana besan - 2 cups
Rice flour - 1/2 cup
Red chilli powder - 1-2 tsp (depending on your spice level)
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Salt - to taste
Hing - couple of pinches
Oil - for deep frying

Make thin slices of your vegetables and keep them aside. Heat oil in a frying pan just about enough for deep frying.

Mix well all of the ingredients under "For batter" by adding little water to idli/dosa batter consistency. Dip the sliced vegetables into this batter and deep fry in oil one by one. 

Transfer them to paper towel and drain excess oil. 

Serve and enjoy!

  • You can also make bajjis with raw banana (vazhakkai), bread, chilli (bajji milagai), brinjal, carrot and deep frying them using the same batter.
  • Make sure oil is at the right temperature when you start to fry. If the oil is not hot enough, bajji tends to get soggy & oily. And, if the oil is too hot, bajji gets dark & over-fried.

August 16, 2012

Kothavarangai (Cluster Beans) Kootu

When I was a kid, I still remember how elders in our family made it a point to visit the Holy Place Kasi atleast once in a life-time. One of the practices is that, when you take a dip in the Ganges at Kasi, you are supposed to renounce a vegetable (besides a fruit, a leaf etc) that you are very much attached to. Almost everyone in my family invariably gave up kothavarangai. It is not that they are very much attached towards kothavarangai, more so because they did not prefer this vegetable that much - could be because kothavarangai is not a very common vegetable (or) is a bitter variety of beans (or) cutting this vegetable is cumbersome (needs to be topped and tailed before cutting into small pieces).

Whatever it is, I am a big fan of kothavarangai kootu. Oh yes, I like bitter taste too! If cooked in a proper way, even vegetables with bitter taste can develop amazing flavors. When dealing with bitter vegetables, make it a point to cook them with atleast one of these ingredients - coconut,  tamarind, jaggery to cut off the bitterness.

Kothavarangai kootu can be served as a side along with plain white rice.

Kothavarangai (Cluster beans) - 3-4 cups (cut into small pieces)
Toor dal (raw) - 1/4 cup
Turmeric powder - a pinch
Sambar powder - 1 tsp
Tamarind water (diluted) - 3/4 cup 
Hing - 1/4 inch piece (or a tsp of hing powder)
Urad dal - 2 tbsp
Red chillies - 4-5 nos
Pepper corns - 1 tsp
Grated coconut - 3 tbsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Broken urad dal - 1 tsp
Raw peanuts - a handful
Curry leaves - Few
Oil - 1 tbsp
Ghee - 1 tbsp
Salt - to taste

Pressure cook toor dal with a pinch of turmeric for upto 2-3 whistles until it can be completely mashed. Keep it aside.

Pressure cook kothavarangai (cluster beans) for 1 whistle so that the beans are cooked, but retains its shape.

Heat about a tbsp of oil in a pan, fry hing, urad dal, red chillies, pepper corns for 2-3 mins until urad dal changes to golden brown color. Let it cool and then grind 'em with very little water into a fine paste along with grated coconut in a mixer. Keep it aside.

Now, transfer the cooked beans into a pan (along with the water that is used for pressure cooking beans), add sambar powder & salt and cook it with tamarind water for about 2-3 mins in medium heat until the raw smell of sambar powder / tamarind is gone. Add the ground paste & dal and let it cook for 2 more mins. Add water and adjust the kootu to required consistency. Remove from heat.

Heat ghee in a small pan, splutter mustard seeds, fry broken urad dal & peanuts until golden brown along with curry leaves and mix it with the kootu.

Serve hot with rice and enjoy!

August 14, 2012

Instant Pepper Thattai

Thattai is a wonderful evening snack that complements hot coffee/tea. This usually is one of the Neivedhyam (offerings) items prepared for Lord Krishna during Gokulashtami.

Usually, I use raw rice and grind fresh rice flour to make thattai. But, this instant thattai recipe uses store-bought rice flour. So, if you have the rice flour handy, it takes just few minutes to get the dough ready and thattai is made almost in no time. Also, this time I used freshly ground pepper instead of the usual red chilli powder and the flavor was spot-on.

Both my kids absolutely loved this snacks, including my li 'l one whose little bunny teeth just recently showed up :) No wonder why "little Krishna" loved these thin, fried, crispy savory diskettes made from rice flour.

Rice flour - 2 cups (store-bought rice flour)
Urad dal flour - 3 tbsp (home-made)
Channa dal - 2 tbsp (soaked in water for atleast 30-45 mins)
Cumin seeds - 1/4 tsp
Pepper corns - 1/2 tsp
Hing - 2 pinches
Butter - 1 tbsp (at room temperature)
Salt - to taste
Oil - for frying
Clean plastic bags (small) - 2 (I used sandwich bags)
Flat bottomed vessel - 1

Dry roast rice flour in a dry pan on medium heat until the color changes to golden brown and a nice aroma comes out of it.

Dry roast 2 tbsp of whole urad dal until golden brown and let it cool. Grind it into fine powder along with cumin seeds & pepper corns using a mixer.

In a large mixing bowl, mix rice flour, urad dal + cumin seeds + pepper corns flour, soaked channa dal, hing, butter, salt. First mix all the dry ingredients by hand and then, sprinkle water little by little and knead it into a tight but soft dough.

Make equal sized balls out of the dough and keep them aside.

Now, lay flat one of the plastic bag on your kitchen countertop and place a dough ball on it. Place the other plastic bag on top of the dough ball and press the ball using the flat bottomed vessel.

Apply even pressure (do not press too hard or too soft) so that the dough is flattened into thin diskettes.

Prepare about 5-6 disks (depending on how much your frying pan will hold) and keep them ready.

In the meanwhile, heat oil in a deep frying pan on low-medium heat and as soon as the oil is heated to the right temperature (check by dropping a small piece of dough and the dough should come up to the surface immediately). Now, carefully drop all the pressed diskettes and fry them until golden brown. Turn sides in between to ensure even frying on both the sides. Transfer them to paper towel for excess oil to be absorbed.

Enjoy this crispy & satisfying evening snacks alongside a cup of coffee / tea.

August 11, 2012

Aval Puttu

If you are following my blog, am sure you would know my crazy love for sweets. Aval puttu is one such dish that I adore next to Thiruvathirai Kali. Just as kali, puttu also shows up only once a year during Navarathri. I still remember how much I used to love Navarathiri, especially for this scrumptious puttu. Navarathri Fridays (Yes! my mom makes puttu for Neivedhyam only on Fridays) - I am the happiest & luckiest gal on the Earth!!!!

This year I made this wonderful puttu for Krishna Jayanthi!

My mom always talks about how much she used to struggle to get the perfect texture every time during her early days of cooking. After so many trials, she came up with a perfect recipe (finally!!!) that works right every time. I am so very glad to have this recipe passed on to me and more so, to blog it.

Thick aval / poha - 1 cup
Jaggery - 3/4 cup
Toor dal - 1 tbsp
Turmeric powder - a pinch
Cardamom seeds - 1 pod (crushed)
Cashews - Few
Ghee - 1 tbsp

Roast cashews in a tbsp of ghee until golden brown and keep it aside.

Dry roast aval/poha in a heavy bottomed pan until golden brown. Let it cool and then, break aval into coarse powder (like sooji/semolina) using a mixer.

Take a deep pan and bring 2 cups of water to a boil. To this, add turmeric powder & toor dal. Let the toor dal cook in boiling water until it is done but not mushy. As soon as it is ready, just pour the boiling water (with the toor dal) over the aval rava. 

Mix it well and cover it with a tight lid. Leave it like that for about 5-7 mins for aval to get cooked in hot water.

Melt jaggery in 1/2 cup of water. Pour into a heavy bottomed pan, and boil to get a thick syrup. To test the thickness of the syrup, drop syrup into a little cup of cold water and you should be able to roll it into a ball. When the jaggery syrup is ready, add cooked aval rava with toor dal, cardamom powder and mix them well.

Remove from heat and garnish with roasted cashews. 

Let it cool, and fluff it up with a fork for a flakier texture. I simply adore puttu when it is dry & fluffy.

August 9, 2012

Arisi (Rice) Upma

Try this recipe of arisi upma and you are sure to get a flaky & flavorful upma, the kind of upma you've always wanted! This simple dish can be put up in a jiffy especially when you have the rice rava ready.

When it comes to arisi upma, my mom makes the best of the bestest! You might be one of those persons who gives a damn about upma(s). Try this recipe and I bet you will become an ardent fan of this humble dish. My mom's recipe has couple of secret ingredients & tips (have an eye for them in the recipe) to get such fluffy, rich & delicious upma.

Basic Info
Complexity - Medium
Prep time - 20 mins
Cook time - 30 mins
Serves - 4

Raw rice - 1.25 cups
Milk - 1 cup (Secret Ingredient #1)
Fresh Coconut - 2 tbsp (grated / finely chopped)
Ginger - 1 inch (grated)
Salt - to taste
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1/4 tsp
Black peppercorns - 1/4 tsp
Hing - 1/4 tsp
Urad dal - 1/2 tsp
Channa dal - 1/2 tsp
Red chillies - 2 nos
Green chillies - 2 nos
Curry leaves - Few
Coconut oil - about 2-3 tbsp for tempering (Secret Ingredient #2)

Wash rice in cold water and drain the water immediately (do not soak). Spread the wet rice on a clean & dry cloth / kitchen paper towel for the excess water to be absorbed. Alternatively, you can also heat a pan (on medium) and transfer the wet rice into the pan and dry it (on very low heat) for about 1-2 mins. Do not leave it for too long otherwise rice might get roasted and texture/taste of the upma might be different.

Using a mixer, grind the rice into coarse powder like sooji/semolina. 

Tip #1 - Separate coarse rice rava from powdered rice rava using a fine sieve (If you miss this step, there are chances that upma might get gooey). Now, measure the coarse rice rava for about 1 cup and keep it ready.

In a deep pan, heat coconut oil, splutter mustard seeds, fry cumin seeds, hing & pepper corns, roast urad dal & channa dal until golden brown, finally add green chillies, red chillies & curry leaves and give it a stir.

Add 1 cup of milk & 3/4 cup of water and bring it to a boil (on low-medium heat). Now, add sifted/coarse rice rava, grated coconut, grated ginger and keep stirring until all the water evaporates and the mixture starts to thicken (Tip #2).

Now, transfer the mixture into a vessel & pressure cook for 2 whistles. Once the cooker cools down and is ready to open, transfer upma into a broad serving dish and fluff it up with a fork.

Serve hot with spicy chutney / pickle & enjoy!


August 3, 2012

Paal Payasam

The moment I hear the name "payasam", I fantasize drinking it to my heart in a plate using my hands .. sounds weird?!?! But, this is how I like to drink payasam .. I don't want any cups/spoons .. I enjoy slurping it away directly from the plate.. or to be more precise, from banana leaf .. I particularly enjoy this recipe of paal payasam for its thicker consistency & for its warm, welcoming orangish hue.

I feel that payasam and brahmin house-holds are inseparable.. There used to be some kind of functions/festivals around every corner and we are so used to preparing some kind of sweet for every occasion. Payasam is the most preferred of all for it is very quick & easy to prepare. 

Especially during special occasions, when food is served on banana leaf, you need to know the knack to drink payasam directly from the leaf, without letting it run out of the sides and at the same time, tactfully slurp it up before the payasam runs down through your palm and reaches your elbow.

Argghhh, How much I miss all those fun - SIGHHHH !!! How do you like your payasam to be served?

Raw Rice - 1/4 cup (I used sona masoori)
Milk - 2 cups (I used 2% milkfat)
Sugar - 2-3 tbsp
Sweetened & condensed milk - 2 tbsp
Cashews - few
Raisins - few
Saffron strands - 3-5 nos
Ghee - for roasting the garnishes
Cardamom powder - 1/4 tsp

Heat ghee in a pan, roast cashews until brown and keep it aside. In the same pan fry raisins until plump and keep them aside.

Soak saffron in a couple of teaspoons of warm milk and keep it aside.

Wash raw rice and pressure cook it with 1 cup of milk for upto 2 (or) 3 whistles.

Now, heat a pan on low - medium, transfer cooked rice into it, add rest of the milk and bring it to a boil. As soon as it starts to boil, add condensed milk, cardamom powder, cashews, raisins & saffron and let them boil until payasam reaches desired consistency. Adjust more milk/sugar to suit your taste & thickness.

Serve hot & enjoy!