Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Random thoughts - whose job is cooking anyway?

Recently, I've noticed this trend in media where the onus of what was once thought of as a woman's domain is now being shifted on to men. Specifically, there is this ad that seems to have become very popular, acquiring several 'likes' from men and women alike, where a father asks the groom's family whether he knows how to cook and on him answering in the negative,  how they expect his daughter to survive on noodles alone. The ad ends happily with the 'boy' asking the girl's family to come and visit him in ten days, in which time, he hopes to learn how to cook something good enough for the girl.
While I am as much of  a believer in equal rights for women as the most ardent of feminists, this advertisement struck me as wrong on so many counts. First off, cooking is a life skill - and both men and women should know enough of it to be able to survive on their own. Secondly, shifting the responsibility of cooking from one gender to another doesn't solve the problem of gender bias. It only changes the angle of bias. Similarly, whether you do 'ladki dekhna'(bride seeing) or 'ladka dekhna'(groom seeing - which in practice, never happens), the process is nothing but regressive at its best.
 In an ideal world, men and women (not boys and girls) would find their own partners when they are ready to, and cooking would be something that whoever enjoys it on a particular day does. It wouldn't be any one partner's duty to ensure that hot food is served at the table at pre-fixed times.
Sigh!!! If only ideals matched reality!!!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Kaima idli - Deep fried idli coated in a spicy veggie masala

Kaima idli, chilli idli, fried idli, idli chilli - the monikers are numerous, but what they all refer to is this delectable dish that is made by first deep frying idli pieces and then, if you can resist the temptation of polishing off the plate of fried idli,  coating them with a spicy mix of vegetables.
I first tasted this dish at Saravana Bhavan in Chennai and believe me, it was nothing short of an explosion of flavors on the tongue. Since then, I have eaten this innumerable times at different restaurants and loved all the variations that the chefs with their individuality have brought to the dish. Here is my take on this dish. I have created a collage of the various steps involved in the preparation of this dish so that it can be recreated with ease by anyone who wishes to try it out.

What you need :

Idli - 8, diced
Onion - 1/2 of a large one, sliced thin and long
Green chilli - 2
Carrot - 1/2, grated
Capsicum - 1/2, chopped fine
Ginger - a small piece, julienned
Garlic - 3 cloves, chopped fine
Tomato - 1, chopped
Oil - 3 tbsp.
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Urad dal - 1/2 tsp
Chana dal - 1/2 tsp
Oil - for deep frying
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp (adjust to taste)

Dice the idli into pieces. It helps if you refrigerate the idli for at least an hour. Deep fry the cut pieces in hot oil until brown and crisp. Drain off excess oil an set aside.
Heat 3 tbsp. of oil in a pan. Add mustard, urad dal and chana dal. You can also throw in some curry leaves at this point. I skipped that as I didn't have any on hand. When the mustard seeds pop, add the chopped green chilli, ginger and garlic and saute. Lower the heat and add in the sliced onions. Saute until the onions turn pink. Add the grated carrot and capsicum. Stir well and cook covered for a few minutes until the capsicum starts to soften. Add in the chopped tomato, red chilli powder, turmeric powder and salt. Stir well and cook covered until tomatoes turn mushy. Add 1/4 cup of water and let it boil for a minute or two or until most of the water has evaporated. Now add in the fried idli pieces and mix to coat well with the vegetable masala. Remove from heat and garnish with some freshly chopped coriander leaves.
Serve hot immediately or after a while - the only difference will be that if served immediately the idli pieces will retain their crunch, while if eaten later they will be slightly softened by the moisture from the masala. Either way, it will be a treat for your taste buds.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Mixed vegetable salad with a tangy spicy dressing

Of the three salads that I've made for Blogging Marathon #58, this one is my favourite. Loaded with colorful vegetables and crunchy toasted peanuts, this salad hits the right notes with a dressing that is tangy, spicy and mildly sweet.

What you need :
Cucumber - 1, peeled and cut into long, thin strips
Carrot - 1, cut into thin long strips
Tomato - 1, cut into thin strips
Onion - 1/2 of a small one, sliced fine
Capsicum - different colors - sliced thin and long, 1/4 cup
Corriander - a handful, chopped fine
Salt - to taste

For the dressing :  (This dressing, in my opinion, is the best part of this salad. Make sure to spoon plenty of dressing over each individual serving of salad)

Tamarind - a gooseberry sized ball soaked in water. Extract 1/3 cup of thick juice from the soaked tamarind
Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Sugar - 1 tsp

Mix the tamarind extract, sugar and chilli powder in a large bowl. Stir till sugar dissolves.
Add all the other ingredients to this and mix well.
Toast a handful of peanuts in half a spoon of oil. Add this to the salad and toss. Serve immediately to retain the crunch of the peanuts.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Apple pear walnut salad

For the second day of Blogging Marathon #58, I have a fruit and nut salad. This was relished as an after school snack by my daughter. The walnuts and apples provide a crunch to the salad and are the perfect foil to the soft, ripe pear. Lemon in the dressing gives the salad a slight tanginess which, I feel, sets of the sweetness of the fruit perfectly.

What you need :
Apple - 1, chopped
Pear - 1, chopped
Walnuts - a handful, toasted and chopped into large chunks

For the dressing :
Honey - 1 tsp
Lemon juice - to taste (I extracted juice from about 1/4 of a lemon)

Mix all the ingredients for the salad and the dressing together. Serve immediately or chilled.

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Chick peas salad

I am not much of a salad person. Though I could eat a well put together salad as part of a meal, it can never be a meal by itself in my household. I am hoping to develop a liking for salads through Blogging Marathon #58 where, for the first week, I have deliberately chosen to cook and showcase salads.
The first in the series is a simple yet hearty and substantial chick pea salad with a yogurt dressing that is a reflection of my love for chaas (spiced buttermilk).

What you need:
Chick peas - 1 cup soaked overnight and cooked
Onion - 1 small, chopped fine
Potato - 1, cooked, peeled and diced
Corriander and mint leaves - a few, chopped
Black salt (kala namak) - to taste
Juice of half a lemon

For the dressing :
Thick yogurt - 1/2 cup (Greek yogurt or hung curd works best for this)
Cumin powder - 1/2 tsp

Mix all the ingredients for the dressing well and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the salad. Add in as much of the dressing as you like. Mix well to combine.

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM

Monday, September 28, 2015

Keerai thoran - Red amaranth stir fry

Sometimes, the most mundane of things can help bring forth the most pleasant memories. Very often, it is not the thing itself that we crave, but the fond memories associated with it that the heart yearns for.
I recently learned this profound truth when I spotted red amaranth leaves in the local farmers' market. While I have always loved the simple, earthy taste of a stir fry made with these leaves, it is only now, in the wake of having recently lost my grandmother, that I have realized how closely tied in this leaf is to my memories of her.

Some of my earliest memories as a child include her, impeccably dressed in her nine yards madisar podavai, walking to our front yard with a plate filled with tiny black seedlings. I would assist her in scattering these seeds around our coconut trees and then sprinkling water over them. I would check and water the seeds in the days to follow,my entire child's being thrilled to see the tiny shoots sprouting out of the ground. A few weeks down the line, my grandmother would harvest her crop of red keerai (red amaranth/malabar spinach) and hand them over to my mother to be cleaned and chopped. Once that was done, she would put her cheena chatti (wok) on the stove, heat some coconut oil in it, put in a simple seasoning of broken red chilli, urad dal and mustard seeds and then the chopped spinach leaves. These would cook remarkably quickly  in their own steam on a low flame. A garnish of grated coconut ground with green chillies was the final touch she added to the dish and then, knowing that this was my favourite way of eating it, she would mix it up with hot rice and ghee on a plate and hand it to me.
I now know that it is not the dish alone that I am so fond of, but the heaping helping of love with which it was made and served that I long for.

What you need:
Amaranth leaves/malabar spinach - 1 bunch (Any variety of leafy greens can be used but I am partial to the red amaranth leaves that grow particularly well in Kerala)
Oil - 1 tsp
Urad dal - 1/2 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Broken red chilli - 2
Grated coconut - 1/4 cup ground coarsely with 1 green chilli

Wash the leaves well and chop finely. Heat oil in a pan. Season with dal, mustard and red chilli. When the seeds start to pop, reduce the flame to low and stir in the chopped leaves and salt. Cover and let it cook in its own steam until wilted. Add in the ground coconut. Stir well and heat uncovered until the moisture evaporates.
Serve with hot rice and ghee.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Cabbage pakoda/Crunchy, crisp cabbage fritters

These are easily some of the best pakodas that I've made. Easy to make, these deep fried delights stay crisp and crunchy for a really long time. The only major chore involved is chopping cabbage, which I am usually not too fond of, but the recent addition of a chopper to my kitchen makes this snack a breeze to make.

What you need :
Cabbage - a small one, chopped thin and long (I measured and got approximately 4 heaped cups of cabbage)
Gram flour/besan - 1 cup (approx)
Rice flour - 2-3 tbsp
Red chilli powder - to taste
Salt - to taste
Onion - 1/4 cup, chopped fine
Ajwain/carom seeds - 1 tsp (optional. I am fond of the flavor and tend to throw this in wherever I can)
Oil - for deep frying

Take the chopped cabbage in a bowl. Sprinkle salt over it and leave aside for 10 minutes. The cabbage would have released quite a bit of water in this time. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well to form a thick dough. You will not need to add any extra water, but if you feel that your dough is too dry and crumbly, sprinkle a tiny bit of water and mix until it reaches a thick, just moistened consistency.
Heat oil in a kadai. Pinch out small bits of the dough and deep fry on medium heat until well browned and crisp. Drain on to a paper towel.
Serve with ketchup or chutney.

This is my second entry to Week 3 or Blogging Marathon #53 under the theme Fritters.
Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM

Pavakka pakoda / Bittergourd fritters

  I have spoken previously on the blog of my love for bittergourd. The husband and daughter share this love of mine for a vegetable that unfairly often gets a bad rap. Today, I have tried to come up with a deep fried dish using this veggie, where the bitterness is only slightly evident.

What you need:

Bittergourd - 2
Gram flour - 3/4 cup (approx)
Rice flour - 1/2 cup (approx)
Red chilli powder - 1 tbsp (adjust to taste)
Oil - for deep frying

Wash and dry the bittergourd. Discard both the thin ends. Chop into thin, even discs. If the seeds are too thick and tough, you can remove them. Otherwise, you can leave them in, like I did. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Sprinkle water a little at a time to get a thick dough.
Heat oil in a kadai. On a medium flame, fry the bittergourds, a few at a time until they are crisp and brown. Do not hurry this step or attempt to do it on a high flame.
Drain on to a paper towel. Enjoy as is or as a side with rice and curry.

This is my first entry to Week 3 of Blogging Marathon #53 under the theme fritters.
 Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM