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.

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Morkuzhambu – Buttermilk gravy spiced with coconut and cumin

Background:

Considering parupu usili is a favorite in our household and morkuzhambu is often spoken of in the same breath, it is only natural that I feel the need to record my way of making this no fuss side.

Stuff you will need:

Thick curds – 1 cup
Coconut gratings – 2 handfuls
Green chillies – 5
Ginger – 1/2 inch piece
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Bengal gram dhal  – 1 tsp pre soaked
Curry leaves – 1 sprig chopped
Salt to taste
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Oil to season
Okra or pumpkin: 10 pieces each about an inch long.

How to make it?

Grind coconut, green chillies, cumin seeds, soaked bengal gram dhal to a fine paste using little water. Beat the curds to fine consistency and mix the coconut paste in. Add salt. If adding okra, fry it in oil till brown and add it to the curd coconut mixture. If using pumpkin cook it in little water ahead of time and add to mixture. Now heat this concoction on low flame stirring occasionally till the sides start to bubble. Turn heat off and garnish with mustard seeds tempered in oil. Add curry leaves and mix in.

Serves four

Special Notes:

If too much of coconut is not desired using a little more of the bengal gram dhal while grinding the paste. Morkuzhambu can also be made without any vegetables. Goes well with hot rice and parupu usili.

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.

Rang birangi dhal – Mix of lentils simmered in a tomato onion gravy

Background:

A good way to use up small amounts of dhals leftover. It is wholesome, nutritious and pretty filling. Goes well with rotis and or parathas. Also good as a hearty soup.

Stuff you will need:

A handful each of the following mixed, washed and soaked overnight or through the day.

Masoor dhal
Channa dhal
Kabuli channa
Cow eyed peas
Black whole urad dhal
Green whole moong dhal
Rajma

Onion – 1 large
Plum tomatoes – 4-5
Garlic – 1 pod chopped
Ginger – 1 inch cube chopped
Green chillies – 3 slit
Spring onion  – 1 chopped to garnish
Shahi Dhal masala – 2 tsp
Turmeric – 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Ghee – 3 tsp
Kasuri methi – 1 tsp
Jeera or panch puran – 1 tsp
Coriander leaves – a handful chopped

How to make it?

In a small pressure cooker heat ghee and add the panch puran or jeera. When it browns add ginger, garlic and green chillies. When they are fried, add turmeric, kasuri methi and dhal masala and stir a bit. Add onions and saute till light pink, add tomatoes and salt and close and cook till ghee separates out. Now add the soaked and drained dhal. Add three cups of water and pressure cook for 4-5 whistles. When done garnish with spring onions and cut coriander leaves

Serves four

Special notes:

Adjust water to achieved desired consistency of dhal. A dash of lime juice may be added if needed.

Baked, curried roasted potatoes – desi style

Background:

I had friends over for lunch today and I usually make potatoes in addition to a ‘green’ vegetable. Normally, I pan roast the potatoes after steaming them in the pressure cooker. It usually is a hit or miss. Over the years I have watched others bake the potatoes to perfection and have always felt it was beyond me. Today however, I was in a mood to experiment. So I oven roasted potatoes and made kheer using the crock-pot both of which turned out well. Here is the recipe for the potatoes.

Stuff you will need:

10 small baking potatoes – washed, peeled, cubed (feel free to experiment with red bliss potatoes. A friend of mine swears by them)
Sambar powder/Red chilli powder – 2 tsp
Turmeric – 1/2 tsp
Salt – to taste
Olive oil/Ghee – 3 tsp (I used a mix of both)
Curry leaves 1 sprig  – chopped
Asafoetida – 1/2 tsp

How to make it?

In a mixing bowl mix all ingredients so that the potatoes are well coated. Let it sit for 5 – 10 minutes while the oven is preheated to 475 F. In a baking pan spread the potatoes so they are one layer thick and bake it at 475 F for 30 – 40  mins. Stir and put it back in and broil for 15 minutes. Turn over once so it roasts evenly.

Remove to a serving bowl and serve with rice and sambar.

Serves four

Special Notes

I experimented with the heat settings and found this worked well today. Over time if I feel different temp setting yield better results, will update this post.