Thursday, July 29, 2010

Garden Update - It's raining tomatoes! Simple Tomato Rice

I had never had tomatoes ripen this early in the summer. These are the slightly sour kind which makes for a tasty tomato rice.

I picked up too many than my refrigerator can handle before rot sets in. They were made into tomato pickle which is loved by one all around here.

Vegetable Flowers

Yardlong Beans

Brinjal flower

Female Squash flower

Female Squash flower

Male Squash Flower - notice the stamen


growing down!

growing up!

Tomato Rice
This is the simplest and the most easiest tomato rice you can make. I have the Indian variety tomatoes which are perfect in this recipe. If you do not have sour ones add a bit of tamarind and that should take care of it.

Simple Tomato Rice
1. 8 tomatoes chopped (about 2 cups)
2. 1/2 Cup Sliced Red Onions
3. 6 green chilies slit
4. 1/2 tbsp grated ginger
5. 1/2 cup mint leaves or coriander leaves (optional)
6. seasoning - cumin, mustard and curry leaves
7. 2 cups rice (I used parboiled ponni rice)
8. 1 tsp of oil + salt to taste
9. 1 tsp turmeric powder (optional)
10. 2 tbsp tamarind pulp (optional for sourness if tomatoes are sweet)

To Powder
1. 2 tsp coriander seeds
2. 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
3. 1 red chili
4. 1/2 tsp urad dal

Roast the above and powder. (this is purely optional)

Soak the rice for 1/2 - 1 hour before starting to cook
1. In a pressure cooker heat a tsp of oil and add the seasonings when the mustard starts to pop add the green chilies and onions and saute the onion till they turn brown
2. Add the ginger and mint leaves and saute till the leaves wilt
3.Add the turmeric powder if using and tomatoes, let the tomatoes cook till they turn mushy
4. Now add the rice and mix it well with the tomatoes. Add the spice powder and mix it into the rice
5. Add the required amount of water and let it come to a boil. Cook the rice almost half way through
6. Close the lid, put the weight and cook for 8 minutes more and turn of the heat
7. Let cool and mix it gently

Serve with any raita of choice

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The best pairing for mangoes - a non recipe

There are numerous ways that we enjoy and relish our mangoes. Mangoes - ripe, raw, pickled were one other reason that visiting my maternal grandparents place was a great delight. During mango season sliced ripe mangoes always made their way to the dining table.

This combination was my grandfather's favorite. I followed him blindly but the practice endures to this day. For folks who consider mixing curd with rice is ewwwww proceed no further.

For a South Indian eating curd rice is a comfort food like no other always finishing our meals with curd rice. Premade curd rice like this one or just steamed white rice mixed with yogurt in its most common form is part of any fancy meal. After a meal encompassing all tastes spicy,bitter, sour washing down with cooling yogurt is almost a necessity.

Note: Do not under any circumstance use flavored yogurt. If you do I am not responsible for what comes after that.

Without further adieu, the pairing of curd(yogurt) rice and sliced ripe mangoes is a pleasure that has to be experienced.

One part rice + one part curd + one part ripe mangoes = BLISS

Sunday, July 25, 2010

MIL's Simple Tomato Rasam (Thin Tomato Soup or Pepper water)

No two rasams are the same. Isn't it true that the rasam your mother makes is very different from what your MILs makes? Why? even your mother's could be different from your grandmother's although the methods are pretty much the same. A slight variation in the amount of pepper, tamarind water or even the sourness of the tomatoes all have an effect on the taste of the rasam.

I became pro-rasam from being anti-rasam only after coming here. At a friend's house, her mother had made the most delicious rasam. I pestered her for the recipe and wondered where the deep red color came from. I tried all the ideas she had given me from using canned tomatoes to the quantity of tamarind pulp. Nothing from my trials came close to that taste though.

I already have a recipe which is different from how my MIL makes rasam. Here is my MIL's way of making rasam. This rasam does not have dal water.

Simple Rasam
1. 2 Tomatoes
2. 1 cup of dal water (the water extracted from cooked toor dal)
3. 1 cup of tamarind extract from a small grape tomato (about 3/4 inch in diameter) sized piece of tamarind
4. 1/2 - 1 tbsp cumin,coriander and pepper powder (roughly powder the cumin,coriander and pepper)
5. 3-4 slit red chilies
6. 1 tbsp chopped onions
7. 2-3 garlic cloves pounded
8. seasonings: curry leaves, mustard and asfoetida
9. a few sprigs of coriander leaves
1. In a sauce pan add a cup of water, slice the tomatoes into 2 and add them to the water and let them cook for 3-4 minutes after the water comes to a boil. Let cool.
2. With your hand pulp the cooked tomato, add in the tamarind water, dal water and
pounded garlic cloves. Add in the cumin, pepper powder and coriander powder
3. In a pan heat a tsp of oil, add in the asfoetida, mustard seeds and curry leaves.
4. When the mustard seeds start to pop add the onions and saute till they start to turn pink
5. Add the tomato tamarind water and salt and let it come to a boil. Add the chopped coriander leaves and switch off the heat.

Good as a soup or with rice with some crisps.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Garden Update - Bees and Bugs

Bees and Bugs are the VIPs of any vegetable, fruit or flower garden. They are essential for the pollination of flowers, fertilizing them into fruits or vegetables that we all covet.

The sight of bees(especially those fuzzy bumble bees), dragon fly and various other tiny insects which flit from flower to flower should fill with you joy.

Flower of what vegetable plant?

I am not sure of the exact reason but the zucchini plants are having a hard time attracting bees and even harder time taking fruit but the Delicata squash is like a magnate for bees.

baby Delicata

The zucchini plants are also in a very shady spot but the leaves are bright and green. So what gives?.

Flower of the bottle gourd butternut squash plant I think

A couple of years ago I had 2 plants that bore so much fruit making it hard to keep up even after giving away quite a few. No such luck this time around.

Malabar Spinach - they just love the heat I hear

I harvested the Delicata squash, more like I was feeling around it when the stem gave way. It is curing on my counter top, which is what should be done to them I read.

A lot of tomatoes are ripening and that is early. Have never had ripened tomatoes before August or is my mind playing games?.

Fresh of the vine tomatoes

When you have just one snake gourd and a couple of bitter gourds, combine the two and make a stir fry. It was tasty enough I guess, everybody was fighting over it.

Stir fried Bitter Gourd and Snake Gourd

Recipe here

Produce from the Garden


July 18, 2010
Delicata Squash


July 20, 2010

Swiss Chard and Mustard Greens

5 packed cups

Greens with moong dal

July 21, 2010

Bitter Gourd


Bitter Gourd with whole moong dal

July 22, 2010

Night Shade

2 cups/td>


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Almond Pista Kulfi

I do not know about now but till a decade and a half ago, if you had spent any amount of time in Coimbatore called Manchester of South India, located in the Western part of Tamil Nadu and bordering the state of Kerala and blessed with a pleasant climate, you had not gone without a visit to the chain of hotels (we'd call them restaurants here) called Annapoorna and GowriShankar. I spent a considerable amount of time in this city while in school, college and as a fresh graduate with a job on hand.

Compared to some of the hostel and boarding food our college hostel food was not all that bad, even then eating it every single day was a chore. This meant every chance we got we visited the above mentioned hotel. Those days a Rs. 10 (today's rate $1 == Rs.47) bought us 2 masala dosais, 2 vadais and sometimes 2 kulfis as well. Oh! by the way did you hear know about the new Rupee symbol?

freshly churned

Everyone who was staying back in the hostel for the weekend was ready for an outing by Sunday afternoon. But for movies and restaurant there was not much in those days. Anyway if you are at the restaurant during tea time generally between 2-5PM you were in for a special treat of peas masala roast and cauliflower roast. Only available in certain branches, for those familiar with Coimbatore and curious to know it was the Lakshmi Complex Annapoora. These two generally ran out much quicker than the other dosai items should perhaps speak for their popularity.

I am digressing, not. Dosai is not the star of this post but kulfi. Coming to kulfi, Annapoorna in those days served kulfi in small earthenware pots, creamy and meltingly delicious. One pot was just not enough. Back then fat, calories and pounds were the last things on our mind but pocket money was front and center.

Talking of the restaurant another incident comes to mind, this one more recently. Last year on our last visit home we happened to stop by the same restaurant at the location mentioned above. Lunch time not surprisingly was crowded with everyone jostling and fighting for tables to become available. We found one and DD2,DD, their cousin and me sat down while my mom and aunt went to wash their hands. DD2 was playing with the two one rupee coins she had in her hands, the waiter who was cleaning the table in the process also cleaned out her hands. DD2 started crying and quickly figuring out what had happened I asked the waiter who promptly and a little sheepishly returned the coins. My mom and aunt came back just as he was handing over the coins and were not particularly impressed and said we could have given her 2 other coins and also mentioned that perhaps he was under the impression that the previous occupants of the table had left the tip. After a few minutes I realized what they said would have been the better course of action. Why? Not justifying what the waiter did but he does not particularly make a whole load of money and the loss that would not have hurt us in any way. What bothered me most was if the isolating lifestyle in the US had dulled me to the more finer, subtler sensibilities of life.

Dear readers, What would you have done in such a situation?

As for the kulfi recipe, there are as many recipes as there are kulfi makers, which by Indian standards is quite a lot. Here goes my version of the recipe to add to the ever growing numbers.

with some fresh figs

In making this recipe I realized one more important truth! about the difference in Indian and American ice creams. American ice creams are generally heavy and very fatty whereas Indian ice creams genreally are lighter and not as fatty. The reason IMHO, lies in the way the ice creams are made. The creaminess for the American ice cream comes from its name sake- heavy cream, whereas the Indian ice cream gets its creaminess from reducing milk by heating it for an extended period of time. The thickened milk does not allow for crystals to form also another reason why there is no need to churn so much.

I have an ice cream maker so I ended up churning it but that is non-requirement as far as kulfi is concerned.

Almond Pistachio Kulfi
1. 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
2. 2 cups of whole milk + 1 tbsp (for mixing the custard powder)
3. 1 heaped tbsp of custard powder or corn starch (I used custard powder)
4. 1/4 cup of sugar or even less (combine the condensed milk and whole milk, taste and add sugar if required)
5. 1 cup of roasted pistachios and almonds
6. 1 tsp cardamom seeds powdered

1. In a heavy bottomed pan combine the condensed milk and whole milk. Give it a taste if more sweet is required add sugar. Remember you are reducing the milk, so it tends to get sweeter and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to below medium and let it simmer for 30-45 minutes.
2. Mix the custard powder in cold milk, whisk to combine and add it to the boiling milk, stirring as you are adding it
3. Let it boil for 10 more minutes ot till the milk is solid enough to coat the sides of the spoon. Turn of the heat and let it cool to room temperature. Keep stirring occasionally to avoid a film forming on the surface
4. Powder the nuts to grainy consistency and NOT to a fine powder and mix them into the thickened milk after it has cooled.
5.Churn them in a ice cream maker for 30 minutes (a purely optional step) and then let them ripen in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight.
For those not using the ice cream maker, just freeze the mixture in the refrigerator for 8 hours or more till it sets. Mixing it in every few hours is optional. If you were using moulds this would not be possible so it is purely upto you

Creamy delicious kulfi is ready to be served

I am sitting out American ice creams for a while. Kulfis offer a wide range and Fresh mango kulfis have to be tried before the season runs out.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Getaway for a day - Cunnigham Falls - Recipe: Bitter gourd with Black Channa

With the dog days of summer upon us and temperatures in the upper 90s it is hard to get any enthusiasm to go on a day trip especially one that involves a lot of physical activity. Sitting in the cool confines of your own family room or in front of the TV, all seem fantastic ideas compared to going on a hike or walk in the park during the hot day time hours.

My family is weird. After a day of inactivity over the weekend they start to get stir crazy. Starts with DH who just can't confine himself indoors for 2 days in a row and this attitude has started to affect DD and DD2. There are a number of parks close by which we frequent but we also try to visit parks with less than an hour's drive. We are lucky in a way with the river close by and many activities all well within an easy driving distance.

One thing we try to do is to leave early before the sun gets too harsh. Leaving early is a good thing on many levels. You can get to admire the sites and sounds before the crowd hits, get the preferred parking spots and those ever elusive picnic benches and grills.

If you live close to DC,Cunningham Falls is a place that you might want to consider. Within an hour's driving distance from DC this is a perfect place for a day's getaway. The attractions include a waterfalls, a lake to swim and boat and opportunity to rock climb if you are so inclined.

This is what we did, left early in the morning but not as early as we had hoped to but we reached the park by 8:30AM giving us plenty of time to hike to the Falls. The trails range from easy to hard. With not much water in the falls the rocks offered a perfect climbing opportunity for kids and adults. The path leads to the lake area/beach for a dip to cool off. Boat and canoe rentals are also available for some boating fun.

The most important reason to reach the park early is to reserve the grills. These tend to be all occupied if you don't get there early enough. We packed idlis with tomato mashers and yogurt rice. Not exactly exciting picnic fare but on an impromptu trip there was not enough time for planning for grilling. We were out of the park by 2.30PM with the sun's rays getting harsh and our eyes greedily looking at the hammocks.

Now on to the recipe,
Fresh and young bitter gourd would make even the ardent haters of this vegetable give it a second chance. DD2 who by DH's orders has no choice but to eat them throws a huge fuss and cry and most instances gets away with it. DD actually likes the vegetable. Even DD2 gave a thumbs up to this curry and said that the bitter gourd tasted really good, not bitter at all.

Bitter gourd when paired with beans also mask the bitter taste, not completely but enough to dull the extreme bitter taste, the slight sweetness of the beans make them a perfect foil. Feel free to use any beans - red kidney beans, cow peas or whole moong beans.

Bitter gourd with Black channa
1. 2 cups of dried Black Channa soaked overnight
2 4-5 Bitter gourd (2 cups sliced)
3. 2 tbsp chopped onions
4. 5-6 whole garlic cloves
5. seasonings: cumin, mustard and curry leaves
6. 1/2 tbsp grated ginger (optional)
7. 1 tbsp jaggery
8. 1/4 cup of tamarind extract from a grape sized piece of tamarind

For the Paste
1. 3/4 cup of chopped onions
2. 1 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds
3. 1 tsp cumin seeds
4. few pepper corns
5. 5-6 red chilies

Saute the above in a tsp of oil, first the onions till they are starting to turn brown, add the rest and saute till they start to turn color. Cool and blend to a smooth paste

1. Cook the black channa for 2 whistles in a pressure cooker or till soft
2. Slit the bitter gourd into two, remove the seeds and slice them into thin pieces
3. In a thick bottomed vessel heat a tsp of oil and add the seasonings and when they start to turn color, add the onions and saute till they are pink
4. Add the garlic cloves and ginger followed by the sliced bitter gourd
5. Saute them in low medium heat till they are soft and cooked
6. Add the ground masala and mix it in well, add a cup of water if required
7. Add in the cooked channa, jaggery, salt and tamarind water
8. Let them cook for 8-10 minutes

Serve with rice or chapatis

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Mutton Biryani

Whenever I cook mutton dishes I am reminded of a friend and her family. It is always a joy going out to eat with them, go to their place or have them come over for a meal. Their love for food is infectious especially non-veg food. The husband, wife and child all enjoyed their food immensely, appreciating good food and fearless to call out something that is not cooked properly. If they enjoy a certin food they let it be known which in itself is a treat. The places we visited with them, even if it was a little hole in the wall, the commonality was they all had the best made food.

To enjoy good food you need company that enjoys food too, else it is an exercise in futility trying to satisfy all sides and the process itself turns arduous. As our luck would have it the family moved back home a few years ago. It is company like that you need when you visit a place like this one and the one and only time we visited was with them. There are not many people who can go through the process of eating three courses of non-veg, survive and have anything to do with meat for a couple of months in the least.

Just a sample of their love for food, On a trip to the local zoo, we had packed the usual tamarind rice, lemon rice and yogurt rice but when sat down to eat, out came the fried dried fish which was delicious. They were of the opinion a little something is required to elevate the meal. Her fried full fish are the most delicious and the biryanis simply the best.

I have tried to recreate her Mutton biryani and I think I have succeeded, not to recreate hers exactly, but in the process learn to make one tasty biryani. I usually precook the mutton pieces in a pressure cooker but if you have tender meat just saute them in the spices and then add the rice.

Mutton Biryani
1. 1 1/2 lbs mutton
2. 1 1/2 cups onions sliced + 1/2 cup chopped onions
3. 2 cups Basmati rice or Seeraga Samba Rice
4. 3 tbsp heaped ginger and garlic minced (10 garlic cloves + 2 inch piece of ginger) + 3 garlic cloves and 1 inch piece of ginger chopped roughly
5. 1 cup ( 2 tomatoes chopped)
6. 2 cups packed mint leaves
7. 1/2 cup of coriander leaves
8. 12 green chilies slit
9. 2 tbsp of yogurt
10. seasonings - cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves and curry leaves
11. 1/2 tbsp pepper powder (optional)
12. 1 tbsp chili powder or meat masala powder (optional)
13. 1/2 tbsp turmeric powder
14. salt to taste
15. 2 tsp of oil

Method - precooked mutton pieces and using pressure cooker
1. Take the washed mutton pieces in a pressure cooker, add turmeric powder, 1/2 cup chopped onions, the chopped ginger and garlic, 5 slit green chilies and pepper powder and enough water to cover the mutton and let it cook for 4-5 whistles, let cool and transfer.
Note: If you are using tender meat skip this step.

1.b Wash and soak the rice for half an hour, just before you start to saute the onions

2. In the pressure cooker add oil and when hot add all the seasonings and when they just start to turn color add the onions and saute till they start to turn brown
3. Add the minced ginger garlic and green chilies and saute continuously for 4-5 minutes. Take care not to let them brown or stick to the bottom
4. Add the chopped mint and coriander leaves and saute them till they are nicely wilted
5. Now using a slotted spoon transfer just the meat pieces to the onion mixture in the cooker and mix it in well. If you are adding chili powder or masala powder add it at this stage.
6.Add the chopped tomatoes and salt and let it cook for till the tomatoes are mushy and soft
7. Add the washed rice and saute for 2-3 minutes
8. Add the reserved water in the ratio required for the rice, I usually add 1 1/2 cups of water for every cup of Basmati rice, seeraga samba rice requires 2 cups of water
9. Let the water come to a boil, check for salt and heat (add more chili powder/pepper powder if required)
10. Let the rice cook for 6-8 minutes in medium heat. Mix in the yogurt
11. Place the lid and cook in a slightly lower heat for not more than 8 minutes
12. Let the pressure cooker cool and then mix the rice gently

Method 2 - Sauteing the meat, precooked rice and stove top with dum
1. Skip step 1 of the previous method (just slice all of the onions and mince all of the ginger and garlic)
2. Follow steps 2-4 as above
3. Add the mutton pieces saute till they are completely cooked
4. Meantime set a pot of salted water to boil and let the rice be half cooked. Drain the water completely
5. Add the chili powder and pepper powders
6. Add the tomatoes and saute till they are mushy and soft
7. Now add in the rice and mix it in gently
8. Remove from the heat and finish in a preheated 350F oven for 8-10 minutes

Serve with onion raita

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Korean Squash with Chana Dal and a mystery bean

OK! I collect seeds particularly vegetable seeds like some people collect precious stones/jewelery. Never say no when an offer of a seed is made. End result I have hundreds of seeds and no idea what are they are. Sadly my enthusiasm for collecting does not extend to organizing them under neat labels. This year when we were preparing the garden bed I dumped most of the seeds and mixed them into the soil along with the compost. End result some seeds which still maintained their potency, germinated and now I have mystery vegetables popping up.

Thank you BangloreBaker and aqua you sent me on the right path regarding the mystery squash/gourd from the last post. They are indeed Delicata Squash and I will be doubly sure when I cut them open and taste them. The seeds I guess came from my dear friend over at Out of the Garden a couple of summers ago. I can't imagine where else they could have come from anyway.

Mystery bean

These beans pictured above, they again fall into the mystery vegetable category. I assumed them to be green bean but only broader. The tender ones cooked up pretty quickly and tasted like green beans sure.

Mature beans

Mystery bean

But after a couple of pickings I began to suspect that they were probably grown not for the pod but the seed. So left a few to grow to full size and sure enough they are beans of some kind but have no idea what kind!

Korean squash

Now to the Korean squash. We have a few international markets and Asian markets near where we live. Good thing about these markets are the availability of a variety of vegetables from all over. It is interesting shopping here compared to the predictability of supermarkets. Most vegetables are a novelty but if they have familiar sounds names like squash for example I buy them. That was the genesis of how I came in possession of the Korean squash. Saw this recipe with bottle gourd and channa dal over at Sharmila's Kichu Khon. Looked like the Korean squash would lend itself nicely to the recipe. The insides resemble bottle gourd don't you think?

I followed Sharmila's recipe mostly but added some ginger, green chilies and sambhar powder. Besides bottle gourd, ridge gourd and snake gourd will work well with the recipe too methinks.

Korean squash with Chana dal
1. 1 1/2 cups of chana dal soaked for an hour and cooked till soft (should not be mushy)
2. 2 Cups of chopped Korean squash
3. 1/2 onion chopped
4. 2 small tomatoes chopped (1/2 cup)
5. 4 green chilies slit
6. 1/2 inch piece of ginger grated
7. 3 garlic cloves chopped
8. 1 tbsp sambhar powder
9. 2 tsp of turmeric powder
10. seasonings: curry leaves, cumin and asfoetida
11. salt to taste + 1 tsp oil

1. Pressure cook the chana dal with a pinch of turmeric and a drop of sesame oil till soft and set aside
2. In a pan heat oil add the seasonings and when they start to turn color add the onions and green chilies and saute till they are translucent, add the garlic and ginger and saute for a minute or two
3. Add the squash and saute for 3 - 5 minutes, add the sambhar powder and give a good mix
4. Add the tomatoes saute for a minute, close the lid and let it cook till the tomatoes are soft and the squash is cooked
5. Add in the cooked chana dal, salt and 1/4 cup of water and let it cook for 3-4 minutes.

Goes with rice or chapatis.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Garden Update and Guess

Does anyone know what kind of squash these are?

How does my garden grow
Over the years as we have played around growing different vegetables in the garden patch, we have come to realize that a few plants are easy to grow while others are a bit harder.

Flowers of the mystery squash

Preparing the soil
Growing plants in pots has worked better than growing them in the ground. In a pot you have control over the soil whereas in the ground, the soil has to be worked mixed in with compost to loosen up the thick clay soil which seems to be the feature in most areas around here. If you are blessed with good soil just work in some compost. A compost pile is easy to make if you have an area that can be dedicated to it. A hole in the ground near your garden patch is sufficient. Add all the vegetable scraps and any organic vegetable matter from your kitchen and the compost can be used in about 8-10 months.

Zucchinis in fact have been the easiest to grow. They flower and fruit regularly. 2 plants are enough to provide fruit for the whole season. A spot that gets good sun and soil with good drainage is sufficient for these to grow. I am trying organic zucchinis this time which are not as prolific as the hybrid varieties. These do not lend themselves well to container growing. The branches fall out and tend to break. Ground seems to be the perfect for growing these.

Green beans and peas
Requires cool temperatures for the flowers to set. This requires that peas are started early (late winter) and the growing season ends by the end of June or the first few weeks of July. There should be 10 plants for beans and about 20 plants for peas for a decent harvest.

Any novice gardener should start with tomatoes. They do not need any special attention and are very rewarding. A sunny spot is all they need. Containers or the ground work equally good.

Indian vegetables - bitter gourd, snake gourd and ridge gourd
Of all the gourd the bitter gourd has been the easiest to grow. To get the seeds to sprout is the hardest job of all. Soak them in water for 24-48 hours before putting them in the dirt and keep it moist in a sunny spot to sprout. Plenty of climbing space is required for them, especially the snake gourd and bitter gourd. We prefer growing them in containers

Brinjal or eggplants
They sprout and grow quickly but are beset by tiny beetles which feed on the leaves leaving them with tiny holes all over. They require heat and a lot of sunshine.
Growing them in containers has worked best for us.

Treatment for the bugs
Blend mint leaves extract the juice, add in dish washing liquid, red chili powder and spray the water over the leaves.

Chili plants
Chili plants like the tomato plants are no fuss and grow pretty much anywhere as long as they have good sunlight.

Fertilizers and nutrition
I use blood meal and occasionally some organic fertilizer. Keep an eye out for local farms which give away horse/cow manure for free. Add them into the soil before planting and spread them around the plants as they start growing. I also save all the water after rinsing out milk bottles, rice or dal and use them for the plants.

Produce from the Garden





June 29,2010

Green beans

16 Green beans

Korean squash with green beans and Channa dal

July 6,2010

Swiss Chard

4 cups of chopped greens

Chard Sambhar

July 7,2010

Bitter Gourd

6 gourds

Bitter Gourd with black channa

July 7 ,2010

Green beans

40 Green beans

Green beans kootu

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sweet and Savory Sandhavai / Idiyappam - Rice String hoppers

There are a few childhood favorites where a mere mention of it, transports you to happier and carefree times. Sandhavai as we called the more popular idiyappam has that special effect for me. In the coconut rich villages of KonguNaadu this was indeed a very popular dish.

Sandhavai press

My FIL shared a little bit of folk history about this dish as well. Newly married couples invited to people's homes for virundhu (rougly translates to lunch or dinner invitation) were often served this dish as a custom. Beyond that none of us have any idea what the significance of the dish itself is.

Sounds and looks like a lot of work but it is not. If you have the sandhavai press the rest is easy. The batter is made with regular idli rice, steamed in idli moulds, stuffed into the moulds and then pressed to get string hoppers. No fermenting of the batter is required.

The string hoppers are served with sweetened coconut milk for the sweet version or stir fried for the savory version with flavors ranging from tomato,lemon, tamarind to spicy coconut.


Sweet - Plain with coconut milk

Sweet and Savory Sandhavai / Idiyappam (string hoppers)
1. 4 cups of par boiled rice (idli rice) - soak for 3-4 hours or enough to grind
2. Salt to taste

For the Sweet
2. 2 -4 cups of coconut milk (tinned would work
3. 2 cardamom pods powdered
4. 4-5 tbsp of sugar

For the Savory (4 cups of sandhavai)
5. 1/2 cup chopped onions
6. 4-5 green chilies chopped
7. 4 tomatoes chopped
8. seasonings: cumin, mustard, curry leaves
9. 1 tsp turmeric powder
10. 1 tsp of oil and salt to taste

For the Sandhavai
1. Grind the soaked rice to a very smooth pourable consistency (don't worry about too thin a consistency, everything works )
2. Grease the idli moulds and pour the batter and steam cook for 10-12 minutes
3. While still hot stuff the idlis into the press and press to get the sandhavai.
4. Set some aside for the sweet and roughly break apart the other half for the savory version

Savory Sandhavai
1. Heat oil in a flat bottomed pan and add the seasonings
2. Add the onions and green chilies and saute till they start to turn translucent
3. Add the turmeric powder, salt and tomatoes and saute for a minute or two
4. Cover with a lid and let it cook for 8-10 minutes till the tomatoes are soft
5. Mix in the sandhavai and turn off the heat

Sweet Sandhavai
1.In a sauce pan add the coconut milk, cardamom and sugar and heat the coconut milk through stirring. Take care not to boil the milk or let it curdle

Serve over the plain sandhavai