Food always tastes better when you recollect childhood tastes. That is because food is inextricably linked with love, security and familial feeling. When you look back and remember the dishes cooked by your grandmom or if you have eaten meals in the rural ambience, dishes always had a special taste. When you painstakingly got the recipes and cooked the same dish, something was always missing, a subtle flavour that is not there in your dish. Why, you wonder, is that special texture or flavour missing from my dish? Simple! because you are not using the traditional cooking method or utensil that was used to make that dish.
My son was leaving for UCLA, USA. he had never even made a cup of tea for himself as his grandmothers were hovering around to fulfill all his culinary needs. He was going to fend for himself. So I prepared a spiral bound notebook with basic recipes and a poster with little packets of ingredients that I labelled with Tamil, Hindi and English names. This was to help him when he went shopping for Indian ingredients. I had also bought him a pressure cooker and demonstrated how to use it. He never had to use any of this as either his other Indian friends would cook up something for him or he would get his TamBram meal in our friend Mani and Karen’s house where he spent weekends. Karen is an excellent cook and would pack up enough food for him to last a week. Alas! When Mani dropped him iff in the Dorm, a clutch of Jai’s friends would be waiting eagerly and pounce on the food packets that would be devoured in a jiffy.
Sadly, we could not go for his graduation for family reasons. He finished is MS and then joined ILM in Marin County. He had an apartment in the Orange area of the Bay Area. I went alone to spend a month with him. Knowing that I would be cooking Indian meals I took another pressure cooker along with me. Inspecting Jai’s kitchen i found one half of the cooker that had accompanied him. WhenI asked him about this he said ,”Should there be a lid for this? I was wondering what to do with it”! The spiral bound cookbook too went AWOL!
Today, after having spent 19 years of married life with Vandana who is a superb cook, he has had to cook for his daughters and himself back in the US. Uttara is not very fond of daily cooking. She loves baking and makes a wonderful omelet. Madhura has learnt to knead the dough, roll the rotis and make scrambled eggs and masala omelet.
I don’t know if they will ever look at these recipes. Yet, after Sanjanah has asked my blogging group to write on this theme…I am recording these easy to make recipes!! If they still want to cook TamBram food…my cookbook is available for them.
Thayir saadam or Curd Rice
The iconic soul food for Tamizh people is curd rice!! It is the last course in any meal. It cools the stomach and system. When the stomach is upset, curd rice is prescribed. Buttermilk is served as a thirst quencher in the very hot terrain of South India.
The easiest dish a beginner can learn to prepare is Yoghurt rice.
rice 1 cup
water 2 cups
Optional: Grated carrots, cucumber. Pomegranate seeds and halved green grapes.
1. Wash and cook rice in water for 3 whistles and 1 more whistle on low flame. Cool and open and use the rice.
1. Grate carrots, cucumber (optional).
2. In a small saucepan add 1 teaspoon of oil. Crackle mustard, add hing, curry leavesand if you have a small piece (1/2” of grated ginger) and a chilli.
3. Add to rice. Pour half a cup of milk and mash. Then add ½ cup of yoghurt and mix well with ¼ teaspoon of salt.
4. Add grated vegetable, pomegranate seeds, grapes and mix it well.
5. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
Sambhar is an important first course gravy in the South Indian meal. Sambhar has an interesting story (with many deviations). Shahuji Bhonsle, second Maratha ruler of Thanjavur (reign 1684-1712) was expecting an important visitor to his palace. His cousin Sambhaji, the son of Maharaj Shivaji was coming to Thanjavur from Poona. A grand feast was under preparation but an importnat ingredient, kokum, that was used as a souring agent for the Maharashtrian amti or dhal was unavailable. The red pigeon pea that was an important gram in Tamil Nadu was used. Tamarind grows abundantly in this area and is used in many gravy dishes. The tweaking of the dhal was named after Sambhaji, a great cook himself.
Rice and sambhar is made into a one pot dish and is served all over the south from homes to railway stations, street vendors to restaurants and starred hotels.
To pressure cook
Basmati rice 1 cup
Toor dhal ¼ cup (soak the dhal in one cup of water in the morning before you leave for work…otherwise soak it for 20 mins in hot water…helps to cook fast)
Water 4 cups—including water used to soak dhal/tamarind paste
Carrot, Peas, 1 cup—chopped/cubed (can use frozen mixed vegetable…avoid
Beans, Potato cabbage)
Turmeric powder – ¼ teaspoon
Sliced onion 1 large
Tomato 2 or 3
Curry leaves 3 or 4 leaves (optional)Tamarind paste 1 teaspoon
Sambar Powder 1 teaspoon
Hing ¼ teaspoon (optional)
Salt 1 teaspoon
Oil + ghee 2 teaspoons
Mustard seeds 1 teaspoon
Coriander leaves – 2 tbsp (optional to garnish)
- Wash rice
- In a saucepan or in the pressure pan, pour the oil/ghee.
- Add the mustard seeds and crackle. Add hing and curry leaves.
- Add the onions and sauté till it becomes transparent.
- Add chopped vegetables, chopped tomato, turmeric powder, salt, sambar powder.
- Place in a pressure cooker the rice and soaked dhal along with sauted veggies, and onion and spices.
- Add 4 cups of water nad cook for 2-3 whistles. Reduce the heat and cook for another whistle.
- Let the cooker cool. Meanwhile add tamarind paste in a small saucepan with ½ cup of water to dissolve—or zap in micro for 2 minutes.
- Open the cooker, add the cooked tamarind paste and add 2 teaspoons of ghee. Bring to boil. Add chopped coriander and eat hot.
Tasty Tip: You can buy coconut milk in any Asian grocery shop—it comes in tetrapacks like juice containers. You can open and store in fridge. Add a teaspoon of this when cooking with the tamarind…it gives a special flavour.
You can add half a teaspoon of garam masala and or coriander/dhania powder at the time of seasoning with mustard for extra flavour.
ONE POT KHICHDI
The khichdi is a national dish. It has many names according to the area it is served. The main staple can also differ from rice to broken wheat, millets, semolina and now quinoa as well.
This dish tastes great with akha/whole masoor or brown/black lentils. You can substitute rice with dhalia or broken wheat.
Rice 1 cup
Yellow moong dal 3 tablespoons
(split yellow gram)
Salt ½ teaspoon
Ghee 1 tablespoon
Cumin seeds/jeera 1 teaspoon
Pepper powder ¼ teaspoon
Hing ½ teaspoon
Curry leaves 1 teaspoon
1. Saute the moong dhal for a few minutes till it lets out its aroma.
2. Combine rice and moong dal with salt and 2½ cups of hot water and pressure cook for 3 whistles.|
3. Heat the ghee in a saucepan. Add cumin seeds and let it brown. Add curry leaves, pepper powder and asafoetida. When the spices open up and crackle, pour over the cooked khichdi and mix well.
4. Serve hot with a yoghurt raita.
Tasty tip: To make this khichdi into a one pot meal, add cubed carrots, beans, cauliflower florets, peas, capsicum etc. You can add a chopped onion to the seasoning, sauté and add it to the khichdi.
You can use tuvar dhal as well.
Just as in the west Chicken Soup is for the soul, rasam for a South Indian is a soup that offers succor and panacea for body and soul. It is the best cure for colds and sinus problems……and the blues! Rasam means liquid or the essence of goodness.
(For 2 mugs of rasam)
1 teaspoon of tamarind paste (can add 1/2 spoon more for sourness)
½ cup Cooked and mashed tuvar dhal/red gram/pigeon peas
1 Tomato large, chopped
1 teaspoon Sambhar/rasam powder
¼ teaspoon Turmeric powder
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Coriander leaves for garnishing
For the Seasoning:
1 teaspoon Ghee
½ teaspoon Mustard seeds
½ teaspoon Jeera/cumin seeds
½ teaspoon Asafoetida/Hing/Perungaayam powder
1 teaspoon Curry leaves, shredded
1/2 teaspoon each of coriander, cummin and pepper powders
1. Boil the tuvar dhal in a pressure cooker or till soft. Mash and keep aside.
2. Take a cup of water in a saucepan, add the chopped tomatoes, the tamarind paste, some curry leaves, sambar/rasam powder, turmeric powder and the salt.
3. Bring to boil and simmer on low fire for 5 minutes until the raw smell of the spice powder is gone. You may mash up the tomato as well.
4. Liquefy the cooked dhal with another cup of water. Add to the boiling gravy and bring to boil. You will see a yellow foam forming at the top. Taste for salt.
5. Remove from the flame and while hot, add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. (Optional)
6. In a small saucepan, heat the ghee/oil. Splutter the mustard and jeera seeds, add the asafoetida and some more curry leaves.
7. Add the cumin, coriander and pepper powder…take care not to burn it. Top the rasam with this aromatic seasoning.
7. Serve hot with white rice and vegetables.
Tasty tip: Add a teaspoonful each of cumin and coriander powder and ¼ teaspoon of pepper powder to the seasoning ghee for extra flavour.
.PS: I cook tuvar dhal …maybe 2 cups/1/4 kg and keep in the fridge/freezer. I take out just enough for sambhar/dhal fry or rasam as I need
Pulao is a one pot rice dish made by cooking fragrant basmati rice with aromatic spices, herbs and even stock. Pulao or pilaf is easy to cook unlike the Biriyani. There are many kinds of pulaos made in India like vegetable pulao, Matar pulao, tawa pulao, Coconut milk pulao, zarda pulao, kashmiri pulao and Chicken and mutton pulao.
1 cup Basmati rice
1 teaspoon Jeera
1 onion Sliced
1 tbsp ginger/garlic paste
1 cup mixed vegetables
3 tbsp curds (dahi)
1 tsp garam masala powder
2 tbsp chopped coriander (dhania)
1 tsp oil/ghee
½ teaspoon salt
- Chop cauliflower florets, french beans, carrots and green peas.
- Wash the rice and keep aside.
- Put 2 cups of water to boil.
- Heat the ghee and oil in a pressure cooker. Add the jeera and let it splutter.
- Add onion slices and sauté. Then add ginger and garlic paste and stir for a minute.
- Then add the mixed vegetables and fry for a minute.
- Finally, add the rice, curds, garam masala powder, coriander, 2 cups of hot water and salt and pressure cook for 2 whistles.
- Allow the steam to escape before opening.
- Serve hot.
Tasty Tip: You can use any vegetable of your choice.
An importany accompaniment the number of chutney recipes can be mind boggling. This is a dish that I tweaked from an English marmalade and gave it a new avatar.
Orange skin and Ginger sweet and sour chutney
GINGER 50 grms
ORANGE RIND 1 CUP (2 oranges)
SESAME OIL 4-5 Tblsps
MUSTARD SEEDS 1/4 Tsp
ASAFOETIDA 1/4 Tsp|
TAMARIND Paste 1 Tbsp
RED CHILLI POWDER 1 TSP
SALT 1 TSP
JAGGERY/Brown Sugar 1-2 TBLSP
TURMERIC POWDER 1 TSP
Blend to a paste the ginger and orange rind with the tamarind pulp with a 1/2 a cup of water.
• In a pan heat the oil and add in the mustard seeds and asafoetida.
• When the mustard splutters, add the finely grated ginger.
• Saute the blended orange ginger for 2 minutes.
.• Add the red chilly powder, salt, jaggery,and turmeric powder.
• Keep it in a low flame and let it come to a mass.
• This will take around 5 to 7 minutes.
• When the orange ginger paste gets completely cooked and the oil starts leaving the sides, switch off the flame.
• Allow this to completely cool and store it in a clean dry container.
• Use dry spoon when ever you take it for use.
• 2-3 green chillies can be added while blending the orange and ginger.
Sweet Semolina Kesari
This is also a national dish that changes according to the area in which it is made. Kesari means saffron and the semolina is coloured to make it more attractive. The variations are many. This is a dish that the new bride cooks as her first dish in her new home.
Episode 3 Rava Kesari
1 cup sooji (rava or semolina)
1 cup milk and water
¼ teaspoon cardamom powder
2 tablespoon cashews
1 tablespoon raisins
1 cup sugar or add as required
1 tablespoon ghee or clarified butter
- Heat ghee in a pan. Add cashews and saute for about a minute or till they turn golden in colour. Add raisins and saute till they plump up on a low flame.
- Add sooji and fry continuously till it becomes brown/tan.
- Add milk and quickly stir so that lumps do not form.
- Add sugar. Stir and bring the mushy mixture on a slow flame till it thickens.
- Lastly add cardamom powder.
- Stir the halwa and switch off the flame.
- Serve sooji hot or warm or refrigerate.
This is my take on this week’s Friday blog post topic suggested by Sanjanah.
The other bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Shackman, Conrad, Ramana, Sanjanaah, Gaelikka, Srinivas and Raju.
Please do go over to their respective blogs to see what’s cooking in their blogs.