Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Nellikai Sadam - Indian Gooseberry rice

There is a story in Tamil Nadu about the Sangam age king Athiyaman and his friend and the great poetess Avvaiyar. Athiyaman gets a fruit with magical powers - power to grant eternal life. The King, a great patron of Tamil that he was, realizes that the life of a poet is more valuable than his own and offers the fruit to Avvaiyar. We, of course, do not know if Avvaiyar infact ate the fruit. If she did and if you happen to chance upon this blog, dear Avvai patti, please leave a comment! But -- our interest is about that magical life enhancing fruit. The special fruit was none other than Amla, Nellikani.
From Google Images
All parts of the Nellikai plant are used in various Ayurvedic and Unani medicine. It is the only fruit contains all tastes like sour, sweet,  bitter, pungent  and astringent except salt. According to Ayurveda there are six tastes. Amla has five tastes out of six. If it would have all the six taste it might be called as amrita (divine fruit) instead of Amla.
Though the size of the nelliaki / amla is small, it is packed with Vitamin C, protein, carbohydrate, fibre and minerals. Nellikai is an antioxidant, helps in regulating blood pressure. Maintains the cholesterol level. Has anti diabetic quality and anti bacterial property, helps in the digestive system and prevents from ulcer. Ladies, mainly used for hair conditioning and prevent premature greying. My mom still puts dried nellikai while grinding shikakai mixture at home. It also helps us to cool our body.

 Normally we make pickles and pachadi out of nellikai. If you are like me, wanted to cook new recipe for the lunch box, then go head and try this. A bowl full of goodness invites you to dig in and gives a full refreshment to your body and mind.

Ingredients :

3 nos -- Nellikai / Amla  medium size
1 cup -- Rice
1 tsp -- Mustard seeds
1 tsp -- Jeera
1 tbsp -- Urad dal
1 tbsp -- Channa dal
1/4 cup -- Peanuts
5-6 nos -- Dry chili
3 - 4 tbsp -- Oil
2 tbsp -- Gingely oil (optional)
1/2 tsp -- Turmeric powder
Coriander leaves to garnish.
Salt to taste.

Method :
--- Pressure cook the rice with right amount of water.
--- Try not to make the rice mushy. Once the steam is gone, transfer the rice in a big plate and let it cool completely. Drizzle the gingely oil, if using over the rice. Gingely oil gives rich taste to the food.
--- While the rice is cooling. Grate the nellikai.
--- In a pan, add the oil and heat in the medium heat. When it is hot add the mustard seeds. Once it splutters, add jeera, channa dal, urad dal, peanuts and the red dry chilies.
--- Once the dal color changes to golden colour add the grated nellikai and the turmeric powder and saute it for a minute.
--- Turn off the heat and pour the mixture over the cooling rice and add salt according to taste.
--- Using a wooden spoon mix the rice thoroughly, avoid the breaking of rice.
--- Garnish with cut coriander leaves.
*** Note : According to your taste, you can change all the ingredients level.

Enjoy the 5 tastes of nellikai in the rice.

Sources : Wikipedia, Indian food, Dhyanfoundation blog, Krishna, Rajaputan agrico

Monday, April 23, 2012

Chocolate fudge using Marshmallows

Phew, after 3 days of great struggle, I took this photo.

I know this is a not great looking photo, but Im happy to report that it tasted better than it looks. The day after I made this fudge, I was waiting for a clear morning sunshine but as it always happens, the whole day was fully dark and it was raining heavily. Next couple of days tried some shots and all were disaster. By this now, the jar of fudge has been reduced to just 4 pieces.

I was having some ingredients in my pantry hiding for a long days. So decided to put all in one and make a sweet dish and good thing is it turned out very good.

Ingredients :
3 cup -- Sugar
1 cup -- Heavy cream
1 cup -- Evaporated milk
200 gm -- Marshmallows
6 tbsp -- Unsweetened Chocolate powder
3/4 cup -- Unsalted butter
1 tsp -- Fine salt
1 cup -- Chopped nuts
1/4 cup -- milk

--- Take a big heavy sauce pan and mix the sugar, butter, heavy cream and evaporated milk in medium heat.
--- Sieve the cocoa powder and mix the powder in the milk without any lumps.
--- And the cocoa milk mixture and salt to the sugar and mix well.
--- Stir the sugar mixture in medium heat until the quantity is reduced to half. No need to stir constantly, good news is you can very well take a break and do in frequent intervals.
--- But have an eye on the mixtuure while boiling. Be careful the mixture might overflow, so tall utensil is preferable. I used a pan then in half way changed the mixture to pressure cooker, since the mixture started to overflow while boiling.
--- Meanwhile toast the chopped nuts. I used almonds.And also grease the plate with butter and keep it ready.
--- Once the quantity is reduced to 1/4th, add the marshmallows.
--- And stir for few minutes till the marshmallows are dissolved in the cocoa mixture.
--- Drop a spoon of gooey mixture in a cup of ice water, If you able to make a soft ball then immediatey switch off the heat and add the toasted nuts and mix well.
--- Transfer the mixture to the greased pan and let it cool completely.
--- Using a greased knife, cut the chocolate fudge.

I cut my fudge an inch size so I got around 60 - 70 pcs. Adding salt gave a unique taste to the chocolate fudge and marshmallows gave a nice soft texture.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Cardamom dry fruit cake

A day to go to reach a small milestone in my own blogging world.  Thank a lot to all of the enouragement.

Milestones have to celebrated, right? Right. So to celebrate the milestone and as a Thank You for all of you who dropped by, here is a Cardamom dry fruit cake. A simple cake with a lots of flavor. Often I try cakes using condensed milk , but this cake I tried with evaporated milk.

Ingredients :

1 1/4 cup -- All purpose flour
1 cup  -- Evaporated milk
3/4 cup -- Light brown sugar
2 nos -- Ripe banana
6 tbsp -- Unsalted butter
1/4 tsp -- Salt
1 tsp -- Baking powder
1/2 tsp -- Baking Soda
2 nos -- Cardamom
1/2 cup -- Chopped nuts and dried fruits

Method :
--- Pre-heat the oven to 170 C or 350 F.
--- Grease a 8" pan with butter.
--- Heat the evaporated milk along with sugar and butter, until the sugar dissolves. Let the milk to cool.
--- Meanwhile shift the flour, baking soda and baking powder.
--- Powder the cardamom and add to the dry mixture along with the dry fruit.
*** Here's a small tips to powder the cardamom. In a blender take few spoons of flour and add the cardamom and blend it  to fine powder. If using for any other sweet or dessert, blend the cardamom with few spoons of sugar. So that you will not get the cardamom pods while enjoying the dessert.
--- Mash the ripe bananas without any big lumps and mix it to the milk mixture. Add a 1/4 tsp of salt to it.
--- Add the dry ingredients in batches to the wet ingredients and mix well. 
--- Pour the cake batter into the greased pan and bake it for 25 to 30 minutes, till its done and a tooth pick inserted comes out clean.
--- Cool the cake completely before serving.
--- You can serve the cake with or without frosting.
--- I frosted my cake with a thin layer of simple banana chocolate cream and dusted with dry coconut flakes and sliced almonds.

You can enjoy the flavor of banana, coconut flakes, cardamom and dry fruits in every bite.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Always a Hero

I received the above video from my family circle, please watch the video till the end. This video kindled me to know more about the coconut oil. Yes, you heard write, Coconut oil..

Over the centuries, we have been using coconut oil in our daily life, like cooking, cosmetics and medicine. As the time goes by, like many things faded from our past, using of coconut oil is also receded considerably. Since coconut oil is portrayed as a devil and villain, a high saturated fatty acid, which cause heart attacks and raises the cholesterol level.

But now all the research are claiming that coconut oil is in fact not bad at all. Oh, this researches and modern science, what to say! One day they publish potato is not good, drinking coffee is not healthy, after few days other researcher publish potato is good and 4 cups of coffee a day prevents diabetes.You can keep adding anything and everything in the list.

Coconut oil contains saturated fat, which helps in taking off excess weight, increases the body metabolism. The lauric acid in the oil raise the High density Lipoprotiens (HDL), simply called as good cholesterol in the blood and lowers the Low Density Lipoprotiens (LDL), bad cholesterol.The saturated fats present in coconut oil have anti microbial properties and help in dealing with various bacteria, fungi, parasites, etc., that cause indigestion. Coconut oil acts as a catalyst to other vitamins, minerals and amino acids.

Coconut oil enhance the immune system to fight against the viruses and harmful bacterias. It will reduce the infection level and improve the healing process, because of its anti fungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties the oil is widely used in many skin related ointments and cosmetics.

For your reading pleasure, here is an article from The NewYork Times about the 'Goodness of Coconut oil'. Spread the word and help clear the blemish on the good name of coconut oil.

Sources : Wikipedia, Organic facts, Newyork Times,

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Vazhaikai podi

Introducing a couple of items that we would not normally associate with a banana. One - a hot, spicy podi to go with white rice and the other - a saree. Yes, you read that right. A saree. Weavers from a town called Anakaputhur - barely 5 miles from my place in Chennai - are making wide range of sarees from banana fibre!

Coming to the recipe, plantain podi is one of my favorite recipe, which I am sending to the event 'Banana' hosted by Sameena in her blog 'My Culinary Creations'

Ingredients :

4 tbsp -- Channa dal
2 tbsp -- Urad dal
7-8 nos -- Dry red chillies
1/2 plantain
2 tbsp -- grated coconut (optional)
1 tsp -- asafoetida
1 pinch -- Tamarind
1 tsp -- oil
Salt to taste

Method :
--- In a medium heat, take a pan and add a tea spoon of oil and dry roast all the ingredient except plantain, salt and coconut if using. Roast the mixture till the dal colour changes to golden brown.
--- Transfer the mixture in a plate and keep aside to cool .
--- Meanwhile, peel the half plantain and dice them finely and cook them in the same pan. Just sprinkle some water and close the lid , will be cooked in minutes. Allow it to cool.
--- Once the dal mixture is cooled, grind them to a coarse powder, now add the cooked plantain, salt, and grated coconut if using to the powder and pulse the mixer for 2-3 times, just to mix them thoroughly.
--- Do not run the mixer in high speed, the banana will be get smashed, and you will not be able to enjoy the tiny bits of banana taste.
--- Enjoy this podi with steaming hot rice and a spoon of gingelly oil.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Vazhai poo / Banana flower tomato curry

For the first time in the last 6 months of my Singapore life, last week I went to Buffalo Road in Little India. A friend of mine in Veena class referred this place when I asked where to get Vazhai poo and Vazhai thandu. As soon as I came out of the Little India metro station, I felt like I am in my home town market. Feeling like a child in a candy shop, went and bought vazhai poo, vazhai thandu, a big bunch of methi leaves and Gonkura leaves. True to our home town style, the owner lady threw in a bunch of curry leaves for free :)

Usually this much of Vazhai Poo would end  up as plate loads of Vadai or paruppu usuli or sambar. But I wanted to try vazhai poo tomato curry. I have seen a lot of people who keep their distance from  vazhai poo paruppu ususli because of the slightly bitter taste that vazhai poo brings. The tomato and onion in this curry offset that bitter taste and will bring those people right back to the dining table.

Ingredients :

1 cup -- Vazhai poo
1 no -- Onion, medium size
1 no -- Tomato, medium size
Chilli powder ***
Salt ***
Few strands -- Curry leaves
1 tbsp -- Tomato paste (optional)
1 tsp -- Garam Masala powder (optional)

*** As per taste.
You can increase or decrease any measurements according to your taste.

For Tempering
1 tbsp -- Oil
1 tsp -- Mustard seeds
1 tsp -- Channa dal
1 tsp -- Urad dal
1/2 tsp -- Jeera
1 no -- Dry red chilli

Method :
--- Clean the vazhai poo, by removing the strand with black head and a wing like wrapper from each florets and chop them finely.
--- Found a useful post in Sharmis Passion blog which explains 'How to clean vazhaipoo'.
--- Chop the onion and tomato finely.
--- In a pan add oil and heat in medium flame. Once the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds.
--- When the seeds splutters, add a tea spoon of channa dal, urad dhal, jeera and dry red chilli to the oil. Fry it for few seconds till the dhal color changes to golden brown.
--- Saute the onion in the tempered oil for 2-3 minutes and add the vazhai poo and the tomato.
--- Now add the chilli powder, salt and little water to the vazhai poo mixture. Close the pan and cook for few minutes.
--- If you are using tomato paste, add now and cook for 2-3 minutes until there is no raw smell of tomato.
--- Spicy, tangy  vazhai poo curry is ready to serve with warm rice.

--- If using garam masala powder add it before turning off the heat.
--- You can add more water to get a gravy like consistency and use this as a side dish for Chappathi.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Dhal Soup

Happy New Year to all.

Love, Give and Serve - Swami Shantananda Saraswathi.

Let us start the new year with a nice subtle tasting Moong dhal soup.

Few months ago I had this wonderful soup at Annalakshmi Restaurant, Singapore. I was able to persuade  the master chef who made this soup to share the recipe with me.

Simple and easy soup with easily available ingredients. On top of all its very healthy and full of proteins. Okay, I am not talking about the goodness of lentils again in this post. You can check about the nutritional facts of lentils here.

Ingredients :

1/4 cup -- Moong dhal
1 no -- Tomato medium size
1 no -- Green chilli
1 tbsp -- Butter
1 tsp -- Jeera Powder
1/2 tsp -- Turmeric powder
1 -2 no -- Garlic pod
2 tbsp -- Besan / Chickpea flour
2 tsp -- Corriander leaves finely chopped
Salt and Pepper powder to taste

Method :
--- Pressure cook the Moong dhal, until the dhal becomes mushy and disintegrate its shape.
--- While that is cooking, grind the garlic and the chilli to a fine paste.
---  Heat the butter in a sauce pan in medium heat. Add the ground garlic mixture and saute them for few seconds and add the besan / chickpea flour, turmeric and fry in the butter.
--- Once a nice aroma comes from the flour, add jeera powder, cut tomatoes and mix well.
--- Turn the flame to low and add the cooked moong dhal and mix well in the flour mixture.
--- Add 1 cup water and cook for few minutes. According to taste add salt and pepper. Please bare in mind that we used a chilli in the first.
--- After 5 - 7 minutes garnish with fresh corriander leaves and serve warm.

Sumptuous restaurant style soup is ready to serve. Try not to over power the taste with  garlic or Jeera. It will change the taste of the soup.