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.

Stir Fried Greens – A good way to handle unknown greens.

Background:

We recently joined a local farm and bring home a lot of greens of which I have no idea what to make of. The typical keerai kootu I make usually just has spinach in it. Following a recipe that a woman at the farm had given, these stir fried greens with a hint of sesame were a hit with K. As for me, I am yet to develop a taste for Olive Oil.

Stuff you will need:

Greens – Chopped roughly
Sea Salt – to taste
Olive Oil (EVOO) – Enough to coat bottom of pan
Ginger 1 inch cube – chopped fine or shredded
Garlic 2 pods – Crushed
Sesame seeds 1 tsp – toasted

How to make it?

Set a shallow wide pan on the stove at medium-high heat, add enough olive oil to coat the bottom. As the oil heats, add the ginger and garlic. Saute till brown, add the greens and toss around till coated with oil. As they wilt they reduce and cook (about 2-3 minutes). Turn heat off sprinkle salt and sesame seeds and toss to spread evenly.

Serve warm with a side of bread.

Special notes:

Add just enough oil to coat the bottom. Remember the greens will wilt to 1/4 their original volume. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan ahead of time. This recipe works with any of the huge leafy greens.

Kai Murukku – Crisp, buttery fried rice flour treat

Background:

Kai Muruku evokes memories of weddings in the family. This crispy rice treat is hard to make and the hallmark of a good tam-bram chef is his/her ability to handcraft these tasty morsels. I grew up watching Amma make Kai Murukku and Seedai for Krishna Jayanthi. In the recent past, I have relied on Grand Snacks to satisfy this craving. In the past month when visiting my sister Amma indulged her by making murukkus at home.

Stuff you will need:

Good quality rice soaked for a few hours, dried, ground and sieved to yield silky smooth flour. (I cup)
Urad dhal – roasted to a golden brown, ground, sieved to yield a smooth flour. (1 tbsp aka karandi)
Butter: 1 stick (1/4 lb)
Jeera/Cumin seeds: 2 tsp
Salt to taste
Asafoetida 1/2 tsp
Canola oil to fry.

How to make it?

Mix the rice flour, urad flour, jeera, asafoetida, salt and butter with just enough water to make a pliable dough. Taking a portion of the dough use index, ring fingers and thumb to twirl the muruku into shape as shown. Make about 10 murukkus on a clean sheet of paper or thin muslin cloth.

Heat oil in a shallow pan. When oil is hot enough, use a flat ladle (dosa thiruppi) to slide the muruku into hot oil. Murukkus can be fried in batches depending on size of pan. Turn every once in a while till the murukkus are slightly brown and drain and remove to a tissue lined container.

Stores well in a cool airtight container.

Notes:

Rice flour can be used in place of soaked, dried, ground rice. The quality differs obviously but it also takes out a chunk of the time consuming process. Making murukkus take time and practice. Do not skimp on butter or try replacing with ghee. This will not give the nice crispy texture to the murukku.

Puran Poli – A labor of love.

Background:

Puran poli is one of my all time favorite sweets. It is one of those dishes that are made occasionally when people visit or for festivals though nothing specific comes to mind. For me it is a labor of love. Mixing, measuring, grinding and patting it in shape. Amma pours her love into it when she does make it. With just over a week before she left for home, I made my request for polis and she obliged. As always. Like moms do.

Stuff you will need:

For the Puran (filling)
Channa dhal 1 cup – steamed till cooked but not mushy. Should crumble to touch.
Powdered jaggery or brown sugar – 1 cup
Shredded coconut – 1/4 cup
Cardamom – 1 tsp

For the shell

Maida – 1 cup
Gingelly Oil – 2 tbsp
Salt to taste
Turmeric – a pinch

How to make it?

Grind together the cooled, cooked, crumbled channa dhal, jaggery and coconut to a smooth paste. Mix powdered cardamom. Set aside. Make a dough of the maida with salt, turmeric and water. Add oil to make it a loose stretchy dough. This is important as it needs to be loose and stretchy to make the poli later. Set aside for a few hours.

When dough is rested, make equal parts of dough and the filling. On a flat surface, use a non stick sheet (vazha ilai or ziploc bag) and spread the dough to the size of a small puri. Place the puran ball on it.

Cover the ball with the dough.

Pat to make a flat circular poli.

Remove to hot tawa.

Cook on both sides with a couple of drops of ghee till crispy and browned.

Remove and cool on plate.

Serve hot or cold with a dollop of butter or ghee.

Makes 18 – 20 polis depending on size.

Special notes:

Do not skimp on oil when making dough. A tight dough will cause cracks in poli and will not allow for proper coverage. Puran made with brown sugar instead of jaggery tastes milder.

Kaju Kathli – Cashew, Sugar, Saffron, Cardamom combined to make a flavorful cake

Background:

With Deepavali tomorrow, for the first time in seven years, I gave into the urge to make something sweet. Considering both K and I enjoy cashews a lot, it only made sense for me to make Kaju Kathli or Cashew Cake. After scouring the Internet for recipes that ranged from powdering the cashews and boiling it in a mix of sugar and water to grinding the cashew in milk and then boiling it in sugar syrup I decided to follow whatever seemed to make life easier for me. Even if I say so myself, I was proud I was able to make squares out of it.

Stuff you will need:

Cashews – Powdered – 1 cup
Sugar – 1/2 – 3/4 cup depending on taste
Water – 3/4 cup
Milk – 3 tbsp
Saffron – a few strands
Cardamom – 5 shelled and pounded
Ghee – 2 tsp to grease plate

How to make it?

Grind the cashew using a spice grinder into a fine powder till it makes about one cup. Set aside. In a shallow non stick pan, heat water and add the milk. When it starts bubbling, add the saffron strands and stir in the sugar. When the sugar syrup starts foaming and bubbling, add the cashew powder taking care to stir it in without forming lumps. On a medium heat, stir this mixture till it starts forming powdery trails around the outer edge and you can stir it without the mixture sticking to the bottom of the pan. At this point, mix the cardamom powder in and remove from heat.

On a greased plate, pour this mixture in and pat till it is of even thickness. Allow it to cool slightly before making squares or diamonds. When cool, separate and store in an air tight container.

Makes 30 pieces

Special Notes:

I used 3/4 cup sugar and thought it was too sugary for my taste. The next time I try this, I will definitely reduce the sugar to 1/2 cup. I am not sure if the high sugar content was what helped it become cake like instead of halwa. I highly recommend adjusting the sugar content to please individual palates.

Coating with silver varki is optional. I do not do it as I am not a big fan of varki.

Manathakkali kai Vatral Kuzhambu – Sundried sun-berries in a spicy tamarind soup

Background:

Today is Varalakshmi Vratham and it is usually celebrated with a bit of pomp and show. This year however, owing to a death in the family, the celebrations were muted. Instead of the usual idli, kozhukattai that is made I opted for the simple pongal and made vatral kuzhambu to go with it. Since I had not taken the day off it made sense for me to pick something easy.

Stuff you will need:

Tamarind – A ball the size of a big lemon – soaked and pulp extracted
Manathakkali vatral (sundried sun berries) – a handful
Gingelly oil – 2 tbsps
Mustard – 1 tsp
Urad dhal – 2 tsp
Fenugreek (Methi seeds) – 1 tsp
Asafoetida – 2 pinches
Salt – 1.5 tsp
Sambar powder – 2 tsp
Red chillies – 1 broken into two
Rice flour – 1 tsp mixed with 100 ml of water
Jaggery – 2 tbsp
Curry leaves – 2 sprigs chopped.

How to make it?

In a thick bottomed vessel set on medium high heat, pour the gingelly oil. When hot, add mustard, urad dhal, fenugreek, asafoetida, red chillies, manathakkali vatral. When mustard pops, add sambar powder and saute till raw smell of sambar powder is gone. Add tamarind pulp and boil. Add salt and jaggery and boil. Add the rice flour – water paste till the kuzhambu reduces to a thick soupy liquid. Now add curry leaves and turn heat off.

Serve hot with rice and ghee with appalam on the side.

Serves four.

Special notes:

Manathakkali can be used along with Sundakkai (Turkey berry) vatral. Shallots may be peeled and added when the manathakkai is added and sauteed along with it before adding tamarind pulp.