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Monday, October 26, 2009

Ginger pickle - allam pacchadi

Ginger is among easily available ingredients across the globe. Pickle lovers who wouldn't mind spending half an hour in the kitchen can make this yummy pacchadi at home. It is a lot better than buying a pricey bottle of any name brand pickle oozing stale smelling oil (The foot print aspect is an add-on). This recipe is fairly simple. I am not sure where I learnt this from (probably my amma).

I made it for the first time while in pune and have been making it for family and friends ever since. I should admit I am a huge fan of (Indian style) pickles. My versions require far less amount of oil and taste as good, or maybe better. This reminds of me Juhi Chawla's ad which sells a pickle with lot less oil in the bottle. The ad is kind of funny and markets the product as a healthier, less fat version. It is a fairly new concept for conventional cooks. And thats my kind of recipe!

Main ingredients include fresh ginger, jaggery, tamarind and chillies and chilli powder.

What you need!

Ginger - 100 gm / 1 cup (grated)
Jaggery - 100 gm / 1 cup grated
Tamarind - 50 gm / lemon sized
Oil (olive/sunflower) - 4tbsp
Salt to taste
chilli powder - Avakkai three mango brand - 1 tbsp
Dry red chillies - 5/6

garlic - 5/6 pods (optional)
Coriander seeds - 1 tbsp
fenugreek seeds - 1 tsp
mustard seeds- 1/2 tsp
Urad dal - 1 tsp
Chana dal - 1 tsp
Curry leaves - 5 /6
Hing (asafoetida)- a pinch

  • soak tamarind in just enough water
  • wash and grate the ginger and dry roast it for a minute or so (till u get a hint of its aroma). Let it cool.
  • dry roast coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, mustard (half the quantity), chillies, chana and urad dal  one after the other separately. Dry roastthe garlic cloves separately (optional)
  • Grind the  above ingredients to a fine powder. Keep it aside
  • Grind ginger and soaked tamarind together into a fine paste.
  • now add the powdered ingredients to the mixture and grind wet and dry ingredients together
  • Heat oil in a kadai and add the other half of mustard and fenugreek seeds, then add curry leaves and asafoetida. 
  • Once the mustard crackles and fenugreek turns golden brown, add the ingredients from the blender jar and saute it with chilli powder. Add the garlic (optional) now (we grind it into paste separately)
  • Keep the flame on low and "cook" the pacchadi until you can sense the aroma of the pickle's yummy goodness!
  • Let it cool and store it in an air tight glass jar.
  • this pickle can retain its freshness for over three months if left outside and maybe longer if stored in the refrigerator. have ur home made allam pacchadi to go with a plate of idli or rice. I love it with thayir sadam. ah!

I tried using sundried mango pieces or kokam instead of tamarind. It worked well  both the times. Dry mango version tasted yummier!..Do try it. Ginger is known for its digestive and anti inflammatory properties. It is a great way to bring in the goodness of ginger into your diet. Other goodies such as puli inji, fresh inji thuvayal are also equally tummy friendly sidies. I will try posting about these two dishes in detail.

take care

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Asparagus Almond fat free soup

I am used to using anything and everything to dish up a decent meal. That includes recipes like celery and capsicum pota moong dal, asparagus vendhaya kuzhambu, zucchini poricha kootu etc. OK, OK. I know this sounds funny. And before you start shooing the idea of blending a Mediterranean or a non Indian vegetable into a typical south Indian meal, it is good to know that all the veggies are related to some vegetable of Asian Indian origin and vice versa. Moreover, most of the vegetables in Indian cuisines did not always belong there. They came in via trade routes, wars and political diplomacy. Even today, my grandmother considers Capsicum and peas as "English" vegetables. lol. Here is the picture of a bunch of fresh asparagus.

 Now the soup I am supposed to be writing about! It  is a fairly simple recipe. I generally snip the flowery heads of the asparagus and cut them into 1 inch long pieces. Before I move on to the recipe, a few snippets about asparagus. The shoots are said to make your sweat and urine smell funny the next day. For that matter even a cup of coffee does that. Asparagus is known for its varied medicinal properties and its nutritive value. It is a great way to bring in folic acid, potassium, dietary fiber, and rutin into your diet. It is also one fo the oldest known vegetables native to Europe, North Africa and west Asia.

List of ingredients and the recipe: (serves two)

10-12 Asparagus shoots
10 raw almonds
Salt (to taste)
Kuzhambu powder (I love it in everything)- 1tsp
haldi - a pinch
Bay leaf - 1 tiny one
garlic (optional)
coriander powder, cumin powder - 1tsp each (if not using kuzhambu powder)
Ginger (amount - personal choice)
pepper - pinch

  • Pre soak the almonds (an hour should be ok)
  • Cut the asparagus shoots (1 inch long minus the head and the tough end if you re a picky eater - I use the entire asparagus minus the head)
  •  Dont forget to wash the veggies
  • Add a pinch of salt to the asparagus and pressure cook until soft 
  • Let it cool and puree it in a blender
  • Puree the soaked almonds separately
  • saute garlic in 1/2 tsp olive oil add the bay leaf
  • add the asparagus puree and then the remaining salt, and the choice of spices mentioned above.
  • Let it boil for a two-three minutes
  • Add the almond puree and simmer it for a few more minutes until the contents loose their raw smell (roughly five minutes)
  • Garnish with coriander and Serve with one microwaved lijjat papad...
  • sprinkle in a hint of crushed pepper for that "soup" twist

Enjoy maadi! Before I bid is my bowl of soup....droooooooolllll!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Choose Brown Rice - It is healthier!

Eating brown rice is not  fashion or a fad we borrowed from the WEST. It is basically a long forgotten tradition with the advent of Rice mills in India. Over the years, women in Asia have hand pounded paddy to get rice.


Husk is then sieved off using a typical technique (called winnowing), as shown in the picture (above). Mechanization of entire paddy processing invariably led to economies of scale. Consumers shifted to cheaper, double polished white rice sold in the market.

The problem...
Milling equipment models were, and are made to double mill(polish) settings. This means that millers cannot control settings on their existing equipment.  If brown rice was included in their product offerings, Millers would have to make major capital investments to bring in new equipment to mill brown rice. If they have to look at increasing consumer base for brown rice, they have to sell it at a price on par with white rice.(A lot of consumers buy white rice and not brown due price differences)  

Apart from the investment point of view, millers don't bother about shifting to brown or single polish varieties due to the niche market for the product. They look at making their wares "appealing" to the larger consumer segment, rather than cater to the small buyer group and continue to mill and sell white (double polished) varieties.

My Take
Being a south Indian, I am used to eating boiled as well as raw rice as a part of my diet. I must have had innumerable debates with my family on the quantity of rice and dal/sabzi we need to eat. I believed in reversing the quantity of items served in a traditional south Indian family. And, was always teased for being such a health

I was twenty when I was seriously injured and was confined to bed rest for almost two and a half years. This was when my research on eating right began. I was on a no rice diet for almost an year to compensate for my inactivity. I came across some information on brown rice and its benefits. At the next available chance, I promptly shifted to brown rice and have stuck with it ever since.

Why choose brown rice...
Eating white rice has led to increase in cases of diabetes in India and China, two major rice eating populations. According to the International Diabetes Federation, total number of people with diabetes worldwide has risen from 30 million to 230 million and major increase has bene reported in China and India.

White rice breaks down into glucose much faster than brown rice.Whole grains have been proven to reduce risk of heart diseases. It is common sense that anything stripped of it nutrients, processed to a level that it looks nice can never be healthy. Same applies too the rice as well. More fiber and less starch is the way to go. Arent whole grains better anyday?

Brown rice is full of vital nutrients and minerals are removed when rice is milled and subsequent polishing results its outer layers being stripped off to reveal the shiney white colour. Evey rice variety is brown when freshly stripped from paddy.

Anatomy of rice:

  Image source:

Why white rice wins over brown...
Brown rice takes a little longer to cook and turns rancid faster than white rice. (One among the million reasons why my family members refuse to eat rown rice). Middle class population in India has gotten used to eating the pretty looking varieties. People in my own family consider it "poor" man's rice and think that the prettier your rice plate looks,  better the meal!

Image courtesy:

Think about it, choose right, live well and be happy!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Stuffed Karela (bitter gourd) -- A Veggie Delight

Karela/ Pavakkai/ kakarkai (bitter gourd) being one of my favorite vegetables, I experiment a lot with it. This time around I made this stuffed version on a spur. I started out with making a raw moong dal salad (soaked moong dal, shredded carrots, minced tomato dressed with lemon juice, salt and asafoetida). I was not happy serving just the sAmbAr, rasam and salad menu that day. So I slit open two fresh bitter gourds and took out the seeds, and rubbed in some salt and left it for half an hour. I then rinsed the salt off with plain water, stuffed them with the salad mix, sprinkled very little salt over the gourds for seasoning (the salad mix already has enough salt). then, I glazed the stuffed beauties with 1 tsp of olive oil,  topped them with a hint of snake gourd seeds thuvayal/chutney and baked them for fifteen minutes at 350F.

It was a yummy treat. Another successful attempt at making Srinath eat karela...yippie....And the experiments continue!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Home Made pickles - Lemon

I wanted to upload the picture of a batch of lemon pickle I made some time back. I started making pickles on my own while in Cyprus. Lemon was an obvious choice in the haven for citrus fruits. Kypro! It all happened because Srinath's friend lived in a private villa and the landlord had an abundant harvest of lemons that season. She came up and asked me to prepare her a jaadi of lemon pickles. I began, and ended up making seven large batches for other friends. They loved it. Here is the picture of one of the many jars of pickles I made in these six years.

The recipe is pretty basic and conventional.
  • We start with washing and drying lemons for slicing them into eight or 4 equal pieces (based on the size of the lemon)
  • keep aside two lemons for the juice for the lime pieces to soak
  • Sliced pieces are marinated with salt and turmeric and left to soak in juice (of two lemons) in an air tight container. 
  • After five to six days we spread this mixture onto a tray or a plate to sun dry. 
  • Once the water is almost dried out and lemons are decently soaked, (takes three days generally) 
  • Temper the mixture using an oil of your choice (sunflower / olive /  til). 

    Lemon pickle doesn't go well with garlic. It is better to temper them without garlic. This is when you add  required amount chilli powder. Tempering would require mustard seeds, methi seeds and asafoetida. (just eye ball the quantity depending on the quantity of lemon used). For example, if you have two cups of lemon mix, 1 tsp each of mustard and methi seeds and 1 pinch of asafeotida would be good.

    Lemon pickles are easy to make and just need a little bit of elbow grease. They taste wonderful with kanji-vallam or a simple thayir sadam. Stuffed parata and kulcha taste great with lemon pickle. A small bite of lemon pickle with "vepamboo " (neem flower- dried) rasam and sadam. tastes great. Weird! believe me, the combo tastes yummy. Lemon actually sets off "vepamboo".'s subtle bitter flavor. This is particularly when I am recouping from fever or cold. Just try it. It tastes yummy!

    Wednesday, October 7, 2009

    Vegetarian /Vegan Biscotti for srinath's bday

    Having missed baking a cake on Srinath's bday, I baked a batch of double chocolate, raisins and almond biscotti for him. Couldn't click pictures of the entire batch and clicked only these crumbs. No complaints, it is a huge compliment for the Chef/cook that the dish was appreciated. Right!

    My baking inspirations come from two women: Giada and Paula Deen (courtesy: Food Network). I substitute a lot of things to turn my home productions into true vegetarian delight. That means minus the egg or egg substitutes. I am ok with the texture and feel of my baked goodies and never used eggs in my recipes.

    Coming to the Biscotti made at home:

    This is a double chocolate raisins and almond biscotti (means twice baked in italain). I first baked a square cookie using my standard eggless recipe. The dough needs to be stiff enough to be shaped as a square or a long bread. Feel free to use your hands. After a first round baking at 375F until done, let it cool for half an hour. Then, cut slices of the "cake" and lay it out on a baking sheet and bake it at 350F for another 8 minutes. Perfecto!

    Thursday, October 1, 2009

    Srinath's bday - Updates from my kitchen

    I wish I was stronger and healthier. I am loosing my patience and am not quite happy about it. the worst part, I am loosing interest to even enter my kitchen. Not a good sign, for I believed that I was born to experiment with food. I hope that it is just a phase and wont last long.

    It was srinath's bday yesterday (he shares it with my amma :-) ). I am a stay-at-home -wife (cant think of any other euphemisms as of now! ). I make it a point to provide srinath with three hot meals and tea with snacks (with my state, it is an effort. But that's the least i do :( . I generally bake a cake or at least make some dessert but missed it yesterday. I am disappointed. But will make it up with a cake baking session over the weekend. Haven't thought about the type of cake yet but I am planning to make it more elaborate this time. I read about Ginger snap cookies on AT - Kitchen and am going to try it (mine will be egg less).

    Yesterday's menu included : Jeera Mutter Rice, (chow chow, beans, yellow and red capsicum) mixed veg koorma, Jeera Aaloo (with onions) and cucumber raitha and of course appalam. Pooja brought in some really yummy kheer the previous evening so I skipped making payasam (guilty!).

    Srinath had some idli and coconut chutney (both from the fridge) for dinner while I was too sick to get up. I don't like it when special days turn out too drab. It may be my depression talking, but that's all for now before I make this post too boring and cynical. cya!


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