Curried Brussel Sprouts

Background:

The past few months have K and I hooked to the eat real food movement. Slowly we have shifted from Canola oil to Coconut oil. Vegetable oil spread to butter. Sparing use of coconut to liberal use of coconut. Wheat to rice. 2/3rd cup of rice from 1 cup of rice per meal. The changes have been slow and incremental. As part of this renewed drive to cook more at home and use fresh ingredients, we have been loading up on veggie produce. So, this past weekend when we spied brussel sprouts, we grabbed a pack.

The bag languished in produce tray for almost a week before I picked up enough courage to cook it. Problem was I had no idea what to do with it. A quick look up on google threw up fantastic sounding baked versions of the sprouts. While it seemed appetizing, I did not want to deal with the oven in my morning rush. So I decided to make it they way I would make any other curry to go with arhar dal and rice.

Stuff you will need:

2 lb brussel sprouts – washed, outer layers removed and cut into 4 or 8 pieces depending on what size you would like.
1 potato washed, peeled and cut in strips.
Coconut oil – 2 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1 tsp
Cumin seeds 1 tsp
Turmeric 1/2 tsp
Masala 1 tsp (I use kitchen king masala)
Salt to taste
Red chilli powder/Sambar powder – 1 tbsp

How to make it?

In a shallow heavy bottomed pan kept on a medium-high stove, add the oil. Once it warms, add mustard and cumin. Wait for it to pop before adding turmeric and masala. Add potatoes and saute about a minute or two till the oil coats the tuber. Then add the cut brussel sprouts, add salt and red chilli powder or sambar powder. Mix well and cook on medium heat for about 8-10 minutes stirring occasionally. You can hear the vegetable sizzle and fry. The key is not to overcook the sprouts. Do not cover and cook either.

Serve warm with dal and rice or rotis and raitha.

Special notes:

I have not tried it yet but I feel replacing red chili powder with green chilies added to the tempering should work just as well. Some recipes advocate marking an X at the base of the sprout with a knife if you are cooking it whole.

Dosa Mogalai Podi – A tambram kitchen essential

Background:

Growing up the standard evening tiffin in our home used to be the ubiquitous dosai with molahai podi. Chutneys and sambar were for when we had guests or when we were guests at other peoples’ homes. Having said that I never realized there would be a day when the common dosai mohalai podi would become exotic. This weekend with Amma at home, I made her prepare a batch that would see me through the end of the year. Refered by some as molagai podi or gun powder, this potent spice, lentil mix is drool worthy as a paste with oil or sprinkled over home made thayir or curds.

Stuff you will need:

Urad dhal – 1 cup Channa dhal – 1/2 cup White sesame seeds – A handful Jaggery or brown sugar – 1 tbsp Red chillies – 10-12 Asafoetida – 1 tsp Salt to taste Oil – 1 tsp

How to make it?

In a shallow pan, add a couple of drops of oil and roast the urad dhal, channa dhal separately. Set aside. Dry roast sesame seeds, set aside. Add few more drops of oil, add asafoetida, then red chillies and roast. Set aside. When all ingredients are roasted and cooled, dry grind the mix with salt and jaggery or brown sugar to a medium fine mixture. Store airtight.

Serve as a side to idlis/dosas mixed with gingelly oil.

Special notes:

The jaggery/brown sugar and sesame seeds are optional. White sesame seeds and be replaced with black ones. The color changes but the taste is more or less the same.

Poondu Rasam – a flavorful garlic soup with tomatoes and lentils

Background:

Poondu rasam is the somewhat distant cousin of the regular rasam I made. One that visited once in a blue moon. Being married to a person who’s definition of masala started with garlic, it is not easy to incorporate this pungent pod in most of my dishes. I would sneak it in sometimes in other stronger tasting side dishes. Rasam being the delicate soup it is was not one to mask the flavor of garlic rather the one to highlight it. On rare days when I felt the rebel in me peek out I made this.

Stuff you will need:

A marble sized ball of tamarind soaked and juice extracted
2 small tomatoes diced
1 green chilly slit
1 pod of garlic – crushed or finely diced
Salt to taste
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 pinch of asafoetida
1 handful thuvar dhal – cooked and mashed
1 tbsp ghee
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 handful coriander leaves chopped roughly

How to make it?

In a thick bottomed vessel add diced tomatoes, tamarind juice, salt, turmeric and asafoetida. Cook on medium heat till it starts frothing and raw smell of tamarind goes away. Add the cooked and mashed thuvar dhal and add water if volume is less. In another small pan heat the ghee and add mustard seeds till they start popping. Add the green chilly and the diced or crushed garlic. When done add this to the boiling rasam. Garnish with cut coriander and cover to lock in flavors.

Serve four

Special Notes:

This rasam does not call for rasam or sambar powder that is a staple of most paruppu rasams. However the green chilly may be substituted by 1 tsp of sambar powder.

Chaat – Bhel Puri a.k.a crunchy colorful spicy salad

Background:

Quick and easy. My favorite snack and at times dinner. Packs in goodness of colorful veggies and the crunch of desi sev and puris. Lends itself to infinite customization and can be made with as many or as less ingredients on hand.

Stuff you will need:

2 cups bhel mix or a combo of thin sev, murmura (pori) or even mixture
2 tbsp date/tamarind sauce (available at Indian stores)
2 tbsp mint or coriander chutney
1 tsp hot sauce
1 tsp chaat masala
2 carrots peeled and grated
2 handfuls sprouted whole moong
1 small onion peeled and chopped fine
1/2 inch ginger peeled and grated
1 green chilly chopped fine
2 medium tomatoes chopped fine
1 potato steamed and cubed
Coriander – chopped fine to garnish
Salted peanuts – a handful

How to make it?

In a large bowl combine all the chopped and grated veggies. Add the peanuts. Add the sauces and the chaat masala. Mix well. Add the 2 cups of bhel mix. Fold in. Mix well and serve garnished with chopped coriander.

Serves two

Special notes:

2 tbsps of thick yogurt may be added to give a different taste to the dish. Get creative by adding colorful peppers chopped well. Or pander to a sweet tooth by adding chopped apples or green apples.

Homemade Thayir, Dahi, Curds or Yogurt in colder climes

Background:

As a new bride I struggled to make thayir like amma made. I tried to emulate what I had seen her do with drastically different results. Over the years, talking to old hands at this, I have discovered a way that makes my thayir almost as good as hers. This applies to colder climes.

Stuff you will need:

2% Milk – 1 liter
Left over thayir – 1 tbsp

How to make it?

Boil milk till it really is ready to boil over. Remove from heat and let cool till you can put your hands around the vessel and hold it there for 10 secs. At this point stir in the thayir. Close the vessel. If you are doing this overnight, let the microwave run for about a minute or two empty. When done, move the vessel containing the milk and close. Leave undisturbed for about 8 hours. Thayir is ready.

Serves four

Special notes:

I have experimented with putting it in the oven and leaving the oven light on, the thayir sets no doubt but becomes sour quick.

Kadalai Kuzhambu – Spicy tamarind soup with groundnuts

Background:

For a twist in the regular vatral kuzhambu, my mom adds ground nuts or kabul channa. As kids this was one of our favorite dishes. So, with amma visiting I figured this was the best time to record the recipe for later.

Stuff you will need:

Tamarind – the size of a small lemon soaked and juice extracted
Brinjal – 2 small – quartered
Groundnuts/Kabuli channa – soaked and cooked – 2 handfuls
Bengal gram dhal – 2 tsp
Urad dhal – 2 tsp
Asafoetida – 1 tsp
Oil – 1 tbsp
Red chillies – 2
Coconut – shredded 1 handful
Salt to taste
Sambar powder – 1.5 tsp
Rice flour – 2 tsp
Mustard – 2 tsp
Curry leaves – 2 sprigs chopped
Jaggery – 2 tsp powdered

How to make it?

Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed pan. Add mustard when the oil is hot. As the mustard pops, add urad dhal and bengal gram dhal. Add coconut and fry till reddish brown. Add the chopped curry leaves, brinjal and saute. Add tamarind pulp extract, salt and sambar powder. Allow the kuzhambu to boil till smell of sambar powder goes away. Add boiled groundnuts (kadalai) or kabuli channa and jaggery. If the kuzhambu is watery thicken by adding rice flour mixed in water. Simmer for about five minutes and turn heat off.

Serve hot with rice, a dollop of ghee and appalam or poduthuval

Serves four

Special notes:

This kuzambu can be made with chenai kizhangu (yam) instead of brinjal.

Beans Paruppu Usili – Dry curry with lentils and string beans

Background:

K and I love the Paruppu Usili/Morkuzhambu combo. So much so it is our weekend ritual. It defines our idea of a good Saturday or Sunday. Feast on this exotic combination and wrap up the afternoon with a siesta. Because usili takes a good amount of work compared to the other dry curries we make, it is accorded a special place on our Menu Honor Roll.

Stuff you will need:

Green string beans – 2 lb – chopped into small bits
1 cup – thuvar dhal
1 cup – mix of channa dhal/moong dhal and urad dhal
Salt to taste
Long Red chillies – 10
Asafoetida – 1 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Oil – 2 tbsps
Turmeric – 1 tsp

How to make it?

Cook beans with salt and set aside. Soak the dhals together for about an hour and grind with red chillies, salt and asafoetida using little water. Steam the ground dhal paste using idli plates. Remove, cool and crumble.

In a big kadai or wok, heat a generous measure of oil. When heated, add mustard seeds and wait till the pop. Add the crumbled dhal paste and fry till golden brown and dry. When done, add the drained cooked beans and mix in. Cook on low heat for about five minutes when the curry comes together. Taste and add salt if necessary.

Serves four

Special Notes:

Paruppu usili can be had all by itself or as a side with rice and morkuzhambu.