Saturday, March 25, 2006

A meal in 30 minutes

The idea delighted me, after all we have survived grad school and several such quick meals. So I set up the timer and set to cook a 30 minutes lunch today. The timer reminded me to keep going and not fuss over the details, and added to my fun. The secret of such quick meals,I think besides planning ahead, is in multitasking - that ability to catch up with your friend on phone while filing your nails and doing laundry. The fish had a rich buttery taste, and was complimented by the refreshing mint-lime pasta salad, and with hummus and a slice or two of toasted pita bread, it was a meal with a zeal.

Shallow fried whiting

For this dish I altered a pan-sauteed whiting recipe I found in a Fannie Farmer cook book, the original recipe was lighter with the fillets sauteed and served in their own juice.
whiting fillets : 3
Seafood breader (or plain flour will do ) : 1/3cup
Lime: 1
Butter : 2t
oil: 2 t
Freshly ground pepper : 1 t

Wash, and pat dry the fish fillets. Sprinkle salt and pepper, and dust the fillets with the flour. Heat oil and 1 t of butter in a pan. Add the fish and brown on both the sides (about two minutes). Cover, and cook on low heat until the fish is done, about 12 minutes.( I turned my attention to the pasta dressing here). Gently remove the fillets from the pan. Add the remaning butter to the pan and once the foam subsides add one teaspoon of flour to the butter, stir for a couple of seconds and pour milk, stirring continuosly to form a creamy sauce. Add juice of one lime after taking the pan off heat and mix well. Pour the sauce on the fillets and serve immediately.

Cilantro-lime pasta salad

Pasta with a tinge of India, you could say. I substituted the regular parsley with cilantro in this salad for a twist, and also because my companion is not very fond of parsley.
Pasta ( any pasta that will hold a very light sauce, I used tri color rotini): 2/3 cup
Olive oil: 1 T
Dry red chilli : 2
Cilantro, finely chopped: 1/2 cup
Cucumber, deseeded, finely chopped: 1/2 cup
Lime: 1

Cook the pasta in plenty of water and a dash of salt. Meanwhile, heat oil in a pan and add crushed red chilli, stir fry for a few seconds, add chopped cilantro and remove from heat; adding cilantro to the hot oil brings out its flavor. Squeeze the juice of a lime into the salad bowl, add salt, cucumber, cooked pasta. Pour the oil dressing over this and toss well.


Canned chickpeas: 1

Tahini : 1 to 2 t

Garlic: 1 clove

Half of a lime


Blend all this together into a coarse paste, adding a little water if needed. Serve with a dash of olive oil and sumak.
Tagged with: IMBB24 + 30Minutes

Friday, March 24, 2006

With gratitude

I recently realized how big a role food blogs have started to play in our life when I made our grocery list, iddli rava, methi leaf, tomatillo... a whole lot of new items. "Iddli rava"? my life partner had exclaimed, "you know what, Indira makes iddlis with iddli rava, I have to try it" I had replied. New ingredients, new tips , new methods and some never heard before dishes, my culinary universe is rapidly expanding . This post is a feedback on some of the recipes I tried, and loved.

Su's Chutney powder
I love the chutney powder served with iddli and doshas in restaurants, and always stock my pantry with MTR chutney powder. Not anymore. Su, a fellow Malayalam blogger shared her simple and delicious chutney powder recipe. I didn't know making chutney powder was so easy! Do check out her food blog for more such no fuss recipes.

Besan Cheela from Kay
Kay's vegetarian omelettes rescued me from succumbing to the temptation of pizza for lunch one busy day.Easy, tasty and nutritious-everything I wanted my lunch to be.

Milk puris from self-styled chef
They were just awesome, the puris crumbling and melting in my mouth. I may not make them often, but once in a while these puris will lift up our spirits.

Thank You!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Fish curry and Sweet potato-red bean curry

continuation of a nostalgic meal

Fish curry with Kokum

Kokum (Kodum Puli) is the mystery ingredient in this fish curry, which gives it a very distinct flavor -a sour, smoked flavor with a tinge of sweetness from the coconut milk. I am not sure if this is available in USA. This is one spice that always finds its place in my luggage from home. Stored in an air-tight container these stay good for up to two years for me.


Fish : 2 lbs
Onion, Sliced: 2
Ginger-garlic paste : 2 t
Tomato, chopped: 2
Green Chilli, sliced : 3
Curry leaf : 4-5
Kokum : 2
Coconut milk , thick : 1 cup
Water : 1 cup
Chilli powder: 2 T
Turmeric powder: ½ t
Corriander Powder: 3 T
Pepper powder: 1t
Fenugreek : ¼ t
Oil : 3 T

Heat oil in a pot, add fenugreek and fry for a couple of seconds.
Add ginger – garlic paste, onions and sauté on low heat till the onions are well sautéed. Then add the powdered spices chilli-turmeric-corriander and fry till a nice aroma comes.

Pour water, add tomatoes, kokum , green chillies, curry leaf, salt and bring to a boil.
Add the fish pieces and cook until the pieces are thoroughly cooked.

Pour the coconut milk and simmer on low heat for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve hot.
(This curry tastes best on the second day)

Sweet potato-red beans curry

Easy to cook, and melt in your mouth mellow taste, makes this dish an excellent side dish with rice and other curries. My mother makes this one with pumpkin (mathan). The pumpkins I have seen here so far looks so different from the ones seen in Kerala, they are much bigger, have a harder skin and the color is definitely more orrraangish. Has anyone tried cooking Indian curries with the pumpkins here? Please, let me know. For this dish I use the not-so- sweet sweet potatoes, and hardly notice any difference from my mom’s pumpkin curry.

Sweet potato, peeled and cubed: 2 cups
Red beans : ½ cup
Green chilli : 2
Curry leaf : 3-4
Grated coconut: 1 T
Turmeric powder: ½ t

Wash and pressure cook the beans . Make sure they don’t get mashed up. Once the beans is cooked, add cubed sweet potato, green chilli, curry leaf , turmeric and salt, and cook until the sweet potato is well cooked. Add the coconut and mix well, this curry has to be of a thick paste like consistency.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A nostalgic meal

Step out of the place you call home, and there you are craving for home cooked meals which you had until then thought of as humdrum. Food you grew up on then becomes a symbol of all you have left behind. A crisp vada is no longer just a vada, it is delicious in itself, but its lure lies in its power to evoke cherished memories- stories shared on rainy afternoons, raucous college canteens, buzz of family celebrations.On days I am inclined towards tending to the past, I cook up a home-style meal and devour it, washing it all down with a good dose of nostalgia.These three curries, plaintain pulisseri, beans-sweet potato curry, and fish curry with kokum star, come from my mom’s kitchen, and is eaten with plain white rice.

Plaintain pulisseri

A traditional kerala vegetarian fare, pulisseri can be made with yam, ripe mango, pine apple or plantain. The sourness of yogurt and sweetness of the vegetable makes this dish a sweet-sour experience, like memories.

Ripe plaintain, peeled and chopped into large chunks : 1
Green chilli, sliced : 2
Turmeric: ½ tsp
Water : ½ cup
Grated coconut: 1 cup
Cumin : 1/2tsp
Yogurt: 1 cup
Fenugreek powder : 1/4tsp
Mustard seeds: ¼ seeds
Dry red chilli : 3
Curry leaf: 3 -4
Oil (I prefer using coconut oil for all typical kerala fare for that authentic flavor): 2 T

Grind coconut and cumin into a fine paste.

Boil plantain pieces in water along with salt, turmeric powder and green chili .When the pieces get almost cooked, add the ground coconut-cumin paste, and fenugreek powder, bring to a boil and take off the heat. Meanwhile beat the yogurt into a smooth paste, add this to the pot, mix well.

Heat oil in another pan, fry mustard seeds until they crackle joyously, add the red chillies and curry leaves, fry for a few seconds and pour this seasoning on your prepared curry.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Puttu-Kadala is to kerala what Iddli-Saambaar is to Tamil nadu. There's an entire blog dedicated to puttu by malayalam bloggers, showcasing its versatility and popularity. A fellow Malayalam blogger joked that if a Malayali could learn some marketing skills from a Chinese, we would be seeing puttu carry outs in every corner of the USA.

Making Puttu can look complicated for the uninitiated. It needs a cylindrical mold called puttu kudam, which has a large hole at one end for the steam to enter, and a tight lid with tiny holes at the other. A disc with holes is placed at the bottom end of the puttu kudam, so that the filling does not fall off through the large hole. Damp rice powder and grated coconut are filled in the mold and the puttukudam is kept on the steam nozzle of the pressure cooker and steamed. Sounds complicated, I know! To me the aroma of steamed puttu is abundant recompense for all this trouble.

The trick in making real soft puttus is in the moisture content of rice flour. Adding too much water can give you a hard lump, too little water and you get dry puttu tasting of raw rice flour. I use a little less than half a cup of water for two cups of flour. This measurement cannot hold good every time, and you will need to keep adding water little by little until the whole batch is damp enough. To know you have the correct dampness, take a little of the flour between your index finger and thumb, press gently and let it fall gently. If it holds its form as it falls down the flour is damp enough.


Rice flour : 2 cups
Grated coconut : 1 cup
Water : about half cup

Mix the rice flour and salt well in a large bowl. Spray water little by little, and keep mixing it in gently with your fingers. The entire batch of flour has to be damp enough. Cover and keep aside for 10 minutes.(To be on the safe side, you can give a quick blending to the flour in the small jar of the blender. Add a little of the damp flour to the small jar of the blender and blend it for 4 to 5 seconds. Repeat until all the flour is this mixed)

I normally use store bought dessicated coconut to make my life easier, though it cannot be compared to fresh coconut. If you are using dessicated coconut, sprinkle some water on it so that it gets slightly damp. Fresh coconut doesn't need this water treatment.

Fill about half your pressure cooker with water , cover and bring to a boil. Do not put the weight.

To fill the puttu mold, place the disc at the end of the mold. Add one teaspoon of coconut first, followed by 3 to 4 tea spoons of rice flour, then again a tea spoon of coconut. Keep layering thus until the mold is almost filled. Close the lid.

After steam has build up inside the cooker, place the puttu mold on the nozzle of the cooker, and steam for 3 to 4 minutes.

Take the mold in a hand and using a skewer push the cooked dish out of the mold through the bottom end. I must confess that I am yet to perfect this skill of getting the puttu out of the mold in perfect shape, mine tumble out haphazardly.

If you do not have and cannot find a puttu kudam, and still want to try this dish, cheer up. There’s a better way! Puttu can also be made in an empty coconut shell, and this version called chiratta puttu has a unique aroma. All you need is a half of an empty coconut shell with a small hole drilled to its end. Add a little grated coconut to the bottom of the shell, and fill half the shell with damp rice powder. Now place the shell on the nozzle of the pressure cooker, cover with the other half of the shell and steam for 3 to 4 minutes. Use a spoon to gently remove the puttu from the shell.

Blistering barnacles! Writing down this recipe was much harder than making puttu!


Black chickpeas: 1 cup
Onion, sliced: a quarter
Tomatoes, cubed : 1
Grated coconut : 4 T
Green chilli : 1
Chilli powder: 1 t
Corriander powder: 2 t
Turmeric powder: ½ t
Mustard seeds : ¼ t
Curry leaf : 4-5
Bay leaf : 1
Cumin : 1 t
Oil : 1 T

Soak the chickpeas overnight, or atleast for 5 hours. Pressure cook until well done.

Grind the coconut and cumin to a smooth paste.

Heat oil in a pot. Add mustard seeds , let splutter. Add the onions, green chilli ad curry leaf. Saute for a minute. Add the spice powders and let fry for a minutes. Next, the tomatoes and salt. Let cook until the tomatoes are mashed up, adding a little hot water if necessary. Now add the cooked chana, along with 3 to 4 table spoons of the hot water it was cooked in. Simmer for 3 to four minutes, and add the coconut-cumin paste and bring the curry to a quick boil. Enjoy with your puttu .

Sunday, March 05, 2006


Haleem is a traditional mughlai wheat-and-meat dish, cooked especially during Ramzan. I first had it three years ago, at a Hyderabadi friend’s house, and was completely enamored by its spicy-nutty taste. This recipe is her version of haleem , with four varieties of dals and Shan haleem masala mix. We have tried making haleem the traditional way using home-made spice mix, but Shan spice mix simply beats all our attempts in taste. So after a few abortive attempts we have decided to stick to readymade masala , atleast for this dish. Haleem really needs to be slow cooked for 4 to 5 hours at least for the flavors to harmonize, and like most things patiently waited for , a bowl of hot haleem is so well worth the wait.


Toor dal : ½ cup
Masoor dal : ½ cup
Split moong dal : ½ cup
Urad dal : ½ cup
Cracked wheat : 2 cups
Boneless meat : 2 lbs
Shan Haleem masala : 1 packet
Oil : 2T
Lime : 1
Finely sliced ginger, green chillies and fried onions for garnishing.

Soak the wheat and lentils for 5 to 6 hours.

In a large pan heat oil and add the meat and spice mix and fry for 5 minutes. Then add the soaked grains and cover, and cook on low heat until the meat is tender, stirring occasionally to prevent burning; this can take four to five hours. (If you are really short on time, you could pressure cook the whole thing on medium heat for 45 minutes, and mash into a coarse paste- must warn, taste suffers this way)

Once done , remove the meat pieces, and finely shred the meat. Add the meat to the haleem, and bring to a quick boil. Garnish with fried onions, chopped cilantro, green chillies and plenty of lime juice.

For extra creamy texture you can grind half the grain to a smooth paste in the blender and mix well into the haleem and boil.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Pepper beef

Recent studies show that Kerala is fast losing its status as world’s largest pepper producer to Vietnam and Indonesia. Ironically, studies also show that we are gaining our status among the largest pepper consuming couples of the world;) In short, we love black pepper, especially when combined with meat. Pepper Beef is a ‘gosh! how easy is that’ recipe handed over from my mom-in-law, and tastes great with wheat rotis or any of the rice rotis of kerala.


Boneless beef, cut into small pieces: 1 lb
Red onions, finely sliced: 1 lb
Black pepper, coarsely crushed ( finely powdered pepper is fine, but I think biting into tiny tidbits of pepper adds the oomph to this curry ) : 4 t
Ginger-garlic paste : 2t
Tomato, cubed : 1
Oil : 5 T
Cinnamon stick , 2 inch piece
Clove, cardamom : 2 each
Curry leaf : 4/5
No, NO water please

Heat oil in the pressure cooker, add onions and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, close lid and cook on medium heat until two whistles, then reduce the heat to low, and cook for 20 minutes. Done!