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.

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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.

Potato Masala – Potatoes boiled and mashed to make a hearty stew with onions and tomatoes

Background:

Poori in my home is always paired with Potato masala. To me this combination represents all that is good in life. This simple hearty dish is comfort food for the cold nights.

Stuff you will need:

Potatoes – 3 small boiled, peeled and mashed
Onion – 1 large cut into long pieces
Tomato – 1 small chopped
Ginger – Small cube diced
Green chillies – 3 slit
Curry leaves – 1 sprig chopped
Asafoetida – 1 pinch
Turmeric – 1 pinch
Salt to taste
Oil – to temper
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Urad dhal – 1 tsp
1 lime – juice squeezed

How to make it?

Boil the potatoes in the jackets, peel and mash. Set aside. In a shallow pan, heat oil and add mustard seeds, when they are ready to burst, add urad dhal. When urad starts to turn brown, add ginger and green chillies. Then add onions and saute till pink. Add the chopped tomato, cover and cook till done. Add the mashed potato and one cup of water. Stir and let simmer till the stew comes together. Turn heat off and squeeze the juice of one fresh lime.

Serve hot with pooris or rotis

Special Notes:

My husband and I like this masala a tad “liquidy” as we call it. My mom used to make it more like a dry curry. Either styles taste good. To make it dry, eliminate adding water along with the potatoes. Optionally to make it rich, when adding urad dhal, broken cashew may be added as well.

Kathrikai Curry – Tiny eggplants spiced with salt and paprika and shallow fried.

Background:

Katrikai aka Brinjal aka Eggplant is K’s favorite vegetable specially when made crispy and shallow fried to a golden brown. I hate this vegetable but since K loves it, I try and make it each time I make Okra so each of us have our favorites.

Stuff you will need:

Brinjal/Eggplant/Kathrikai – 1 lb cut into 8 pieces each
Sambar powder/Paprika – 1.5 tsp
Salt to taste
Oil – 1 tbsp
Mustard – 1 tsp
Urad Dhal – 1 tsp
Asafoetida – a pinch

How to make it?

In a shallow kadai, heat water till it boils. Add the cut and soaked kathrikai and let cook till the skin turns color and the flesh starts becoming translucent. Remove from heat, drain and set aside. In the same kadai now heat oil till its hot enough. Add mustard and urad dhal and let cook till mustard bursts and the urad dhal turns a golden brown. Add asafoetida. Now add the previously boiled and cooled kathrikai and let it be coated with the oil. Let cook till the oil is absorbed and then add the salt and sambar powder. If sambar powder is not available, add a mix of paprika and ground coriander seed powder (dhania). Mix well and let the kathrikai cook on low medium heat till well done. Remove and serve hot with rice.

Serves two.

Special notes:

Cutting the kathrikai and soaking it in water with lime juice in it helps prevent oxidation. This calls for a tad bit more oil when compared to other south indian curries as well.

Vendakkai Curry – Okra spiced with salt and paprika and shallow fried.

Background:

Vendakkai aka Lady’s finger aka Okra is my favorite vegetable specially when made crispy and shallow fried to a golden brown. I love it as a side to the thayir sadam. Moving to the US, I sure missed my willowy favorite for all I could find were the short stubby cousin of the vendakkai I grew up with. I was told growing up that consuming vendakkai could do wonders for my pathetic Math scores. Now, I realize nothing could have helped 🙂

Stuff you will need:

Okra/Vendakkai – 1 lb sliced into 1/4 inch pieces horizontally.
Sambar powder/Paprika – 1.5 tsp
Salt to taste
Oil – 1 tbsp
Mustard – 1 tsp
Urad Dhal – 1 tsp
Asafoetida – a pinch

How to make it?

In a shallow kadai, heat oil till its hot enough. Add mustard and urad dhal and let cook till mustard bursts and the urad dhal turns a golden brown. Add asafoetida. Now add the cut okra and let it be coated with the oil. Let cook till the oil is absorbed and then add the salt and sambar powder. If sambar powder is not available, add a mix of paprika and ground coriander seed powder (dhania). Mix well and let the okra cook on low medium heat till well done. Remove and serve hot with rice.

Serves two.

Special notes:

Cutting the okra and letting it dry allows for a nice crisp curry without the standard stickiness associated with okra. This curry does ask for a little more oil than associated with regular south indian curries.

Poricha Kootu – Cabbage stew with shredded coconut and lentils mildly tempered with spices

Background:

Speaking to my aunt yesterday I asked her what she was having for lunch and she said “Porichu Kootu”. Now, visions of heavenly smelling, steaming hot kootu appeared before me. I knew I would be making it before a day passed. This morning as I stood steaming the cabbage, I decided to make it poricha kootu style. Literally translated it means “Fried” kootu. It is a misnomer though since all that is being fried is the seasoning.

Stuff you will need:

1 – 2 lb snake gourd or any kind of squash or cabbage
1/2 cup – Thuvar dhal (pigeon peas) cooked and mashed
Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
Asafoetida – 1/4 tsp
Salt – 1+1/2 tsp
Coconut – 1/4 cup shredded or four medium sized pieces chopped
Urad dhal – 2 tsp
Bengal gram dhal (chenna dhal) – 2 tsp
Black pepper – 1/2 tsp
Cumin – 1 tsp
Dried red chillies – 2
Green chillies – 2 small chopped
Curry leaves – 2 sprigs chopped
Ghee – 1 tsp
Mustard – 1 tsp

How to make it?

In a covered pan or small cooker, cook the vegetable with water, salt, turmeric and asafoetida. While this is being done, pressure cook thuvar dhal, mash and keep aside. Toast the urad dhal, bengal gram dhal, cumin, black pepper, curry leaves, red chillies and coconut till reddish brown. Grind using little water and the green chillies into a smooth paste.

When the vegetable is done cooking, add mashed dhal and the ground paste and simmer on low medium heat till it all comes together nicely. Temper mustard and cumin in ghee and garnish on top.

Serve hot with rice or rotis.

Serves four

Special notes: This is a variation of the regular kootu that dry toasts the spices before grinding then. The mix of toasted black pepper, red chillies and green chillies gives this dish a nice aroma. Absolutely comfort food.

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.