Monday, February 25, 2008

Shrimp Curry with Peas and Chinese Potatoes

I'd like to thank the sun for its life giving heat and light, the earth for providing us a habitable place to thrive, the oceans for their bounty and my family for providing the love and support to excel and make this wonderful dish most of all apologizes for not treating the afore mentioned without the respect they deserve, gosh! I am so nervous and so hopeful. Well well, this is what happens when you watch Oscars late into the night :)

The inspiration for this dish is Indira's Baby Aloo in Tamarind-Chilli Sauce and a huge amount of thanks are in order for her. The standards of excellence set by her is a pipe dream for me but an aspiration nevertheless. The family given a choice chose the ocean over the earth hence the shrimp substitution.


Recipe Inspiration: Baby Aloo in Tamarind-Chilli Sauce

1. 10 - 15 cleaned and deveined shrimp
2. 2 Medium sized juicy tomatoes finely chopped
3. 1 Medium Red Onion chopped fine
4. 1 tbsp lemon juice
5. 1 tsp turmeric powder
6. 1 tsp chili powder
7. seasonings: mustard (optional), cumin curry leaves
8. 1 cup of thick tamarind extract
9. 1/2 cup Green Peas
10. 1/4 Chinese Potates (I used the frozen)

Clean the shrimp and marinate in turmeric, lemon juice, salt and chili powder

1. 2 Red Chilies
2. 3 cloves garlic (sauted slightly in a bit of oil)
3. 1 tsp cumin seeds

Blend the above to a smooth paste adding a little bit of the tamarind juice if required

1. In a Kadai, heat oil add the seasonings and when spluttering
2. add the onions and saute till soft
3. add the blended paste and saute for a few more minutes
4. add the tomatoes and when soft add the tamarind juice and let it boil
5. now add the shrimp, peas and potatoes ( shrimp can be pre sauted in oil, I did not)
6. add salt, let cook till the shrimp turn pink.
7. At this stage if the curry is not the consistency required, fish the shrimp out and set aside
8. let the gravy simmer, check for salt and heat and when desired consistency reached
9. add the shrimp back and let cook for a minute or two.


Serve with steamed rice.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Seppangkilangu Kara Kulambu - Spicy Taro Root Curry

I have been thinking about where I sit in a gathering and if where we sit says a little bit about our pschye . While in school and college I usually sat in the back of the class (yes the typical back bencher!). Come to think of it don't think I had much of a choice in school where seating was height wise. I did have a choice in college but chose to still sit in the back, like I do even today while attending a meeting . But this flips while I am travelling in a bus or train, looking for the seats in the front. This got me thinking about the pschylogical reasons ...

If we were to think of the Presidential candidates as buses which one will you be backing or riding in? The Straight Talk Express or the Hope Express or the Reality Express? No common man is going to get a front seat in any of those buses for sure! We don't have much of a choice
do we?

Moving on to the recipe,

On our most recent visit to India, mom made this spicy kulambu with karunai kilangu, I have not seen those here so made them with seppangkilangu (Taro Root).


1. 6 Taro Root cooked and cut into cubes
2. 1/4 medium onion chopped
3. 1 medium sized tomato chopped
4. 1/2 cup thick tamarind extract
5. seasoning: cumin, mustard, urad dal, curry leaves and few methi seeds
6. 1 tsp of sesame oil
7. 1 tsp turmeric powder

Spice Paste
1. 1/2 Medium sized Red onion roughly chopped or 10-12 small onions
2. 1 tbsp kadalai paruppu (chana dal)
3. 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds
4. 1 tsp cumin seeds
5. 5-8 pepper corns
6. 2 Red chilies
7. 1 tbsp grated coconut

Heat a bit of oil and saute 2-6 set them aside, saute the coconut for a minute remove and saute the onions till translucent, cool and blend to a paste

1. Heat the sesame oil, add the seasonings, urad dal, cumin, methi, mustard and curry leaves
2. As the mustard starts to pop add the onion and saute, now add the tomato saute till soft
3. add the turmeric powder and the blended paste, saute till good aroma comes
4. now add the cooked taro root, tamarind extract and about 1/2 cup of water and salt
5. Cook for 5-8 minutes till the flavors blend in and the desired consistency is reached.

Serve with rice.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Spinach with Red Beans

Fresh spinach is one of those things which is hard to resist. On my weekly visits to the Lancaster Dutch Market the minute I see the fresh green leaves, inviting thoughts of vitamins, minerals and nutrients run through my head. But by then it is too late the pack has already been purchased. I had just such a pack sitting in the refrigerator and thoughts of cooking Spinach with dal or potatoes or mashed by itself did not seem appealing enough. Bee to the rescue, saw her post on Canary Beans with Fenugreek Leaves though I did not have fenugreek leaves or canary beans or vangi bhaath powder, had perfect substitutions for all of them. I had this fresh pack of spinach beans, some unopened red Cargamanto Beans and the ever ready sambhar powder. Red Cargamanto Beans are nutty and very similar to the Dominican beans when cooked with boiled peanutty taste.

Red Cargamanto Beans

Recipe Source : Canary Beans with Fenugreek leaves

1. 2 Cups of packed fresh Spinach leaves washed and roughly chopped
2. 1 Cup of Red Cargamanto Beans soaked overnight and cooked to tender
3. 1/2 Medium Red Onion chopped
4. 3 cloves garlic chopped
5. 1 tbsp sambhar powder
6. seasonings: curry leaves, mustard and cumin


1. 1 tbsp fresh grated coconut
2. 1 green chili
3. 1 tsp of cumin seeds

lightly roast the above and make into a paste

1. Heat a tsp of oil and add the seasonings when the mustard starts to pop
2. add the onions and garlic and saute till translucent
3. add the spinach leaves and let them cook till soft
4. add the sambhar powder and mix
5. add the cooked beans and let it simmer for about 3-4 minutes
6. add the coconut paste and salt and simmer for a few minutes

Ready flavorful spinach a perfect side dish to rice or chapatis.

Novel Reading:
The Appeal by John Grisham
Nothing compared to some of his earlier books but a good read.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Falafel Sandwich

Falafel always brings fond memories of the time we spent in Egypt. I was in Egypt for about 3 months while DH was working on a project there. His team lead made sure I got a part in the project so my skills don't rust and I am so glad he did, the experience of working in a project with several colloborators was once in a lifetime experience. Every morning on our way to work we'd pick up a few orders of Falafel for lunch at a small take out place called El Amda. Falafel, phool, Koshary were some of our regular dishes, which were very close in taste for an Indian palate. When I saw Siri's Oven Baked Falafel, these memories came back in a rush. It was time to coook up this tasty and easy dish.

Recipe Source: Oven Baled Falafel


1. 2 Cups of Chickpeas soaked overnight
2. 1/2 Medium Red Onion chopped
3. 4 Cloves Garlic
4. 1 tbsp coriander powder
5. 2 tsp cumin powder
6. 1/2 tbsp red chili powder
7. 1/4 cup chopped coriander leaves
8. 2 Whole Wheat bread toasted and crushed
9. 1 tbsp flour
10. Salt to taste
11. 1/2 -1 tbsp oil
12. 1 tbsp yougurt (optional, to keep the patties moist, I did not add it though)

1. Blend the chickpeas to a coarse paste
2. Add the rest of the ingredients and let rest for a couple of hours
3. Form round shaped and place on a baking sheet sprayed with oil
4. Spray the falafel on top with oil spray
5. Preheat oven to 350 F and bake the falafel for about 20 minutes, flip and cook for 10 minutes on the other side


Sandwich Assembly
1. 4-5 Pita Bread, heated lightly and split
2. Ranch dressing
3. cucumber slices
4. Slice tomato
5. chili garlic sauce
6. Greek Yogurt
7. Hummus

Spread hummus on the pita and place one or two falafel pieces into the pocket, place cucumber slices, tomato slices, drizzle with ranch dressing, greek yogurt.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Dal Shorba (Horsegram Soup) and Spicy Potatoes

My Valentines's gift came early, almost a week early to be exact. February is not one of my favorite months, it is the time of the year when everybody tends to fall sick. It was my turn over the weekend and my family took very good care of me. DH, DD and DD2 cooked up this wonderful soup and side of potatoes one night. DD found this recipe in Washington Post and recruited dad to make it. Recipes are as noted by DD in her recipe book.

Recipe Source: Washington Post


1. 1 cup of Horse gram cooked till tender
2. 1/2 onion thinly sliced
3. 1/2 inch ginger peeled and grated
4. 2 garlic cloved minced
5. 2 tomatoes chopped
6. 1 /4 tsp turmeric powder
7. 1 tsp chicken masala powder or curry powder
8. 10 mint leaves
9. 1/4 cup chopped coriander leaves
10. salt to taste
11. 2 cups water

1. In a pot heat oil, add the onion and saute till translucent
2. add the ginger, garlic and saute till soft
3. add the tomatoes and the powders and cook till tomatoes are soft
4. Add water and bring it to a boil.
5. add the cooked horsegram, mint and coriander leaves, reduce the heat and simmer till desired consistency is reached
6.Season with salt boil for a minute more.

Serve warm

Spicy Potatoes
1. Baby Potatoes - 6-8
2. 2 tsp sambhar powder
3. salt
4. oil

1. Boil and peel the baby potatoes and cut in half
2. Heat a bit of oil in a pan when hot add in the potatoes, sambhar powder and salt
3. Saute till slightly browned


Saturday, February 9, 2008

Kuda Milagai Thokku (Spicy Bell Pepper Preserve)

The often confusing data and research results that we hear about food makes it more difficult than ever to decide what foods to eat and what not to eat. One day it is fat, the next day it is carbs and sugars the day after which is responsible for all the problems with our diet. When in doubt I always fall back to the foods and ingredients I have know growing up and I am safely on the right track. "In Defense of Food - An Eater's Manifesto" written by Michael Pollan is the book for the moment, an amazingly well written page turner and would hold its own against any mystery thriller. It just confirms what we have always known, a traditional diet is better than any Western diet.

The recipe for this dish is from a booklet that came with a rice bag, which ammayi (maternal grandmother) had kept safely. Sometimes these tiny free booklets have some delicious and mouth watering recipes which are not commonly found in any cook book.


1. 2 Medium Bell Peppers washed, patted dry, seeds removed and cut into cubed.
2. a small sized ball of tamarind.
3. 2 Tbsp Sesame oil


To Powder
4. 1 tsp methi seeds
5. 2 tsp coriander seeds
6. 2 tsp toor dal (chana dal preferable)
7. 1 tsp red chili (or to taste)
8. a small piece of asfoetida

Dry roast the above and make a powder

9. 1/2 tbsp red chili powder
10. salt to taste

1. Heat a 1/2 tsp of oil and saute the bell pepper and tamrind and blend to a smooth paste
2. In the same pan heat the rest of the oil, add the mustard seeds and when they start to pop
3. Add the blended bell pepper mixture, chili powder and salt and cook till they start to leave the sides
4. Add the powdered spices mix and a few drops of oil if required

Cool and store in a air tight container

Taste excellent when mixed with rice or as a side for idlis, dosais or chapathis.

Monday, February 4, 2008

உடல் நலம் தரும் கீரைகள் 101 (101 Varieties of Green to Keep you Healthy)

உடல் நலம் தரும் கீரைகள் 101 - A Book Review
Writing about this gives me immense pleasure as it is written by my very own paternal grandmother. My Dad and Uncles embarked on this journey to get the book published primarily to preserve the information that is bound to disappear if it is not recorded somewhere. The book was published, June 2000 when grandma was 72 years of age. I thank my dad who did most of the research and uncles for the effort and time they put into getting this book published.


About the Author
Grandma is always a great source of tips not only for cooking but also beauty. Even at this ripe age she has most of her teeth in good condition and a smooth flawless skin. Some of the beauty tips like these are natural, practical and wholesome.

1. Apply the Paal Aadai which forms on the surface of the milk when boiled to give a shiny look to the face.

2. Preserve the skin of Papaya and rub it on arms and legs before bath for a healthy and shiny skin.

Even today she always has a writing pad and pen to jot down cooking tips to pass it on to me and her anybody who would listen, to try it out. Some of the snacks and pickles she created are pretty hard to recreate exactly, like the Kaara Pori and the Lemon Pickle with Green Chilies and Green Pepper Corns. The addition of garlic to the Kaara Pori and Green Pepper Corns to the lemon pickle are her own special touch.


In her kitchen (in our ancestral home) grandma ruled over her kitchen and created mouth watering delicacies and I am pretty sure she always explained what went into the dish but none registered at that age. Greens of some kind or the other were always included in the meal and it usually came fresh from the garden. Like most homes in villages there was a huge backyard where a lot of greens, vegetables and fruits were grown. For the untrained eye the garden would look like a mass of overgrown plants but grandma knew the purpose each plant served and where exactly it was located. Besides the mandatory Curry Leaf Plant, Lemon Tree, Drumstick tree, Papaya Tree, Coconut tree there were numerous other beneficial greens whose names are probably known only to a few today.

About the Book
The book is written primarily for greens that are very common and some that are not so common. The theme centers around how adding a specific green helps prevent certain ailments and also the health benefits of the particular green and included for each green is a simple recipe. The botanical name provided serves a very useful purpose where the pictures do not. The black and white photographs do not easily convey the image of the green they represent. Collecting photographs for each of these greens might be a good exercise for me.

Sample Pages: Mustard Greens

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Simple Lunches 9

Simple Lunches is the series that I started for documenting every day dishes. I have ignored it for quiet some time now because I have gone fancy?! Egg Fried Rice could easily fit into the category, quick and easy to put together and tasty neverthless, even the rice avoiding folks (who shall remain nameless) love this dish. Fried rice used to be my standard order for a long time while visiting Chinese restaurants.

Egg Fried Rice


1. 1 Cup rice cooked and cooled
2. 1/4 cabbage cut into strips
3. 1/2 Red Onion cut into thin strips
4. 1 Carrot cut into strips
5. 15-20 Green beans cut into strips
6. 2 Eggs beaten and made into omelette
7. 1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
8. 1 1/2 tsp sambhar powder
9. Salt to taste
10. 2 tsp oil

1. In a wok heat oil and when it is hot add all the veggies (2-5) and saute till they are 3/4the cooked.
2. Add sambhar powder to veggies and mix well. Sprinkle the salt if required (be careful with the salt as the soy sauce adds some salt as well)
3. Add the cooked rice, soy sauce and mix well and the egg cut into thin strips.
4. Mix well and serve hot

A simple dish that never fails to please. Enjoy just by itself or with ketchup on the side ;)

Fried Rice Recipes:

Live To Eat - Indo-Chinese Vegetable Fried Rice

Lisa's Kitchen - Spicy Fried Rice