Monday, March 29, 2010

Vazhaikai (plantain) curry

Vazhakai / valai kai means unripe banana / plantain. It is a practice of South Indians to make some spicy hot curry using unripe banana or potato along with the lesser spicy sambar and rice. Nevertheless to say this simple curry can brighten up an ordinary meal.

Unripe banana cubed with skin:

Vazhaikai curry:

Unripe plantain - 2
onion (chopped) - 1/2 cup
tomato - 2
oil - 2 tbsp
fennel - 1/2 tsp
cilantro - a handful
ginger garlic paste - 1 tsp
turmeric - 1/8 tsp
chilly powder - 1 tsp
coriander powder - 2 tsp
garam masal powder - 1/2 tsp
Tamarind - a gooseberry size

Wash and clean the banana. Scrub and remove the outer skin mildly. We can remove the skin completely but I prefer to keep the skin on.
Cut it into small cubes.

Extract tamarind juice using 1 cup water.
Cook the plantain in 1/2 tsp salt, 2 cup water , tamarind extract, turmeric powder.
Turn off heat when it is almost (90%) cooked. Drain the excess water.

Heat oil in a wok.Let the fennel get red.
Then fry onion to golden brown. Now add ginger garlic paste and fry till raw smell vanishes.Add the chopped tomato and fry till oil oozes.

Now add the cooked plantain , all the powders, salt to taste and cook till the masala smell turns good. Put off fire.

Garnish with chopped cilantro.
Valai kai masala curry is ready!

Serving suggestions:
Serve as side dish with any rice.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


I prepared this pancake with the theme of poinsettia or kaleidoscope using cranberry jelly and palm fruit (artificially green colored one that we got in a nearby Asian store). The method and ingredients are very simple, made it just like a thick soft dosa using butter. I used Aunt Maple's pancake mix and prepared the pancakes. Served it with honey instead of the usual maple syrup. Hope you all like it.
Sending this to Priya's event : Pancakes

Hope it suits the event.

A simple crochet work:

This is the pillow / cushion cover I made recently. I did it by double crochet stitch in woolen yarn.
Yarn name: Red heart Burgungy (0376), 100% acrylic
care: machine wash.
Needle : crochet needle , size k (10)
stitch: single crochet at the base and double crochet all over.
Yarn used : nearly 4 oz / 100 gm

Happy weekend !

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Paneer mattar masala

Paneer mattar masala is a curry with Indian cottage cheese and green peas. Paneer means Indian cheese and mattar stands for green peas. This is a lesser spicy curry of Indian vegetarian cuisine. Most common among North Indians and admired by all.

Long back I tasted it in 'DATA udipi hotel' in Nesapakkam, chennai along with parotta for the first time. After that, that restaurant became a regular for us while in that location. Eating out was not a common thing in my birthplace and so after marriage , Xav took me to many restaurants of Chennai. Even though not a big restaurant, it was the first that comforted me with chole poori and relieved my home sick feeling after marriage. They used to sell a kind of sweetened betel leaf named 'paan' and it was a lot of fun for me to take a piece of paan while going home. I have heard that those paan may spoil the teeth . So ask the pan maker to carefully prepare it without any lime (sunnambu) , otherwise we may end up with red mouth:)

Recently one day I prepared this curry for Xav's lunch along with chapathi and some curd rice. We absolutely love this dish with 'Indian store bought' frozen parotta too and remembered those great days.

Paneer -100 gm (chopped 2 handful)
green peas (fresh / frozen) - 1 cup

For masala to grind:
oil - 1 tbsp
Tomato - 2
onion - 1 (big)
ginger - 2 inch
garlic - 5 cloves
cashew - 5
cinnamon - 2 inch

Red chilly powder - 1 tsp
garam masala powder - 1 tbsp
coriander powder - 1 tbsp
Turmeric powder - 1/8 tsp
salt - to taste
cilantro - a handful
dried methi leaves  - 1 tbsp
butter - 1  tbsp
cumin - 1 tsp

Heat oil in a wok. Chop the paneer into 1 inch size cubes. (Fry the chopped paneer till golden brown and keep aside - Optional).

Then fry the cashews, cinnamon, onion and fry till it becomes golden brown. Also add ginger garlic and fry for 1 minute. Let everything cool.

Cook tomato with 1 cup water till mushy. (I microwaved it for 3 minutes). Let it cool.

Grind the onion, cashew, spices, tomato together into a fine paste along with the water from cooked tomato.

Heat the wok and fry a bay leaf, cumin .

Add the ground paste, coriander powder, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, garam masal powder, salt and bring it to a boil. Then add the green peas and cook completely. Reduce flame and cook covered for 10 minutes.

As the raw smell vanishes and oil starts showing up add the fried / chopped paneer and mix well.
Keep it in low flame for 5 minutes and switch off.

Garnish with finely chopped cilantro and kasuri methi.

Paneer mattar masala is ready!

Serving suggestions:
Serve hot with chapati or paratha.

No need to fry the paneer. It is optional only.
If needed add a tbsp of brown sugar to increase the taste.
I add one cooked potato to this dish to give more thickness to the curry.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Masala stuffed egg.

Really I was confused before posting this title, because I could not figure out the exact Tamil name for this recipe. As my culinary guru is my mom, I call the recipes by her nomenclature only. She used to present this item as 'keerina muttai masala', which means an egg slit gently and stuffed with some spicy masal:) . Also this is exactly how my Tuticorin aachi (my grandma) taught us this egg curry. I like the way my aachi calls this as keeri muttai :)
  I am not sure if many household out here practice the same name. Anyways this blog is to remember her , so I call it by the same, the 'keerina muttai'. Those were days when we used to make large number of boiled eggs for family parties. We have to be careful while preparing the hard-boiled egg as the whole dish relies on the appearance of the egg. Even though it is not a rocket science, I believe it need some skills. So I have shared my version to make perfect boiled eggs below. Feel free to share your tricks too.
This egg masal will be a perfect match with tomato rice (thakkali saatham), biryani etc. Try out and tell me how you devoured it:)

Boiled egg - 2
red onion (finely chopped)- 2 tbsp per egg
Fennel - 1/4 tsp
oil - 1 tbsp
red chilly powder - 1/4 tsp
turmeric powder - a pinch
Garam masal powder - 1/4 tsp (optional)

How to boil the egg perfectly:
Take out the egg from fridge and keep outside for atleast 15 minutes.
Wash and clean the egg. Place it in a vessel, very gently, slowly and carefully. Because this is where we end up in broken egg.
Next fill the vessel with water, so that an inch of water remains above the egg.
Start heating the vessel in a slow fire till the water turns almost hot. The reason for slow cooking is to avoid cracking. Then increase the heat till we get bubbles.
Immediately reduce flame and cook in low flame for 10 minutes (12 minutes for very large eggs).(Never cook it in boiling water entirely, otherwise we may end up with rubbery eggs). Put off fire.
Then remove the hot water. Cool the eggs by pouring cold water and peel off the shell.
Hard boiled egg is ready!

Very fresh eggs are difficult to peel. But the ones near expiration are great.

Heat oil in a wok.
Add fennel and let it get red. Then add the onion and saute it till it gets soft.Then add salt, chilly powder, garam masal , turmeric powder and stir well. Immediately switch off. Take out the masala.

Slit the egg in once or twice without splitting it. Fill the masal inside and slowly roll the eggs in the wok to coat the remaining masala in the wok over the eggs.

Masala stuffed egg is ready!

Serving suggestion:
Serve as side dish with tomato rice, any biryani etc.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pumpkin Poriyal

Happy St.Patrick's Day!

Yellow pumpkin is always a challenge in Indian cooking. Many a times we use it in sambar for that sweetness but making poriyal is something odd for many. But this pumpkin poriyal is a regular one in our house. Mom used to make it quite often. The addition of fennel in the poriyal makes it more flavorful.

Ripe pumpkin - 1/2 kg
Fennel seeds - 1/2 tsp
channa dhal - 2 tbsp
shredded coconut - 1/2 cup
green chilly - 3
Shallot / red onion - 1 cup (chopped)
curry leaf - 1 sprig
cumin - 1/4 tsp
oil - 1 tbsp
sugar - 1/2 tsp (optional)

Cook channa dhal and keep aside.

Wash and remove the skin of pumpkin.
Chop it into small cubes.

Heat oil in a wok. Add fennel seeds and let it get red.
Then add the chopped onion, green chilliew, curry leaf and stir for a while.
After the onion turns soft, add the chopped pumpkin, stir for a minute.

Add 1/2 cup water and cook covered.
After the pumpkin gets cooked add the cooked channa dhal, salt, cumin and shredded coconut.
Stir till all the moisture is gone. Take off the heat.

If the pumpkin is not sweet, add 1/2 tsp sugar at the end.

Pumpkin poriyal is ready!

Serving suggestions:
Serve as side dish for vatral kulambu / karakulambu over rice.

Song of the day:
I have planned to share some of my favorite songs along with my posts. If you wish click and enjoy. 'Eagle's wings' is one of the famous songs they sing in our church. This You tube album has the lyrics too. Enjoy!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Chettinad Chicken Biryani

Chetttinad is a region in Sivagangai district of TamilNadu, India. It is well known for its Chettinad cuisine, bungalows and Temples. The capital of the district is Karaikudi . Click to see some beautiful houses of Chettinad.

There are many variations in biryani preparation. Of which the Chettinad version is a more Indianised one. The masala in the biryani with pepper and corinader seeds makes a difference.

Can there be words to describe the flavor and taste of the authentic chettinad chicken biryani available in those Karaikudi / chettinad restaurants? Hubby and myself are glued to the chettinad cuisine and always look for opportunities to visit their restaurants. There is one near our house and they serve the best chicken biryani I have ever tasted. I tried many combination to arrive at their taste and thus got the below recipe for the famous spicy hot chettinad chicken biryani.

Dedicating this Chettinadu chicken biryani to my friend Sheeba Neal.

(Chettinad chicken biryani served with era(Shrimp) thokku and lemon wedges).

Basmathi rice - 3 cups (600 gms)
Chicken (with bones and skin) - 1.5 lbs (almost equal to rice in weight)
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Red onion - 2 (200 gms)
Tomato - 3 (1/4 kg)
curd -1 cup
Ghee - 5 tbsp
cooking oil - 2 tbsp
curry leaf - 1 sprig (optional)
green chillies (uncut)- 3
Lemon (squeezed) - 2 tbsp
salt - to taste.
bay leaves - 2
star aniseed - 1
cinnamom stick - 3 inch

Masala 1:
Ginger - 3 inch
Garlic - 6 pearls
cumin - 1/2 tsp
Fennel - 1 tsp
black pepper (whole) - 1 tbsp
Dry red chillies - 5
corinader seeds - 2 tbsp
cardamom - 4
cloves - 6

Masala 2:
cilantro- 1 handful.
mint leaf -1 handful.
green chilly - 5

Wash the rice. Pour enough water to fully cover the rice along with 1 tsp salt , little turmeric powder, lemon juice and cook in boiling water for 2 minutes or till 25% cooked. Drain water completely and keep the rice aside.

For masala 1, dry roast the coriander, cumin, fennel,black pepper, dry red chillies, cardamom, cloves and grind along with other items given.

For masala 2, grind together the items given to a fine paste.Keep aside.

Wash and clean the chicken pieces.(Don't remove the skin unless otherwise you need to, as it will give a nice flavor to the biryani).
Cut it in to big pieces. Apply 1/4 tsp turmeric over it.
Marinate the chicken with 2 tsp salt and 1 cup curd,

Heat 3 tbsp ghee + 2 tbsp cooking oil in a broad bottom vessel.
Add star aniseed , cinnamon stick, bay leaf. (Don't let them char).
Then goes the chopped onion, green chillies and curry leaf.
Add masala 1 and stir well till the raw smell goes (don't fry for long time as it will release pungent smell and it will make us sneeze).
Now add the chopped tomato and cook till the oil oozes out of it.
Also put the masala 2 and cook again till raw smell vanishes.

Now add the marinated chicken pieces and cook till oil starts oozing. (The real taste lies in that frying process).Check and add salt if needed.(We can't add salt hereafter). Chicken should be almost completely cooked now.

Add the rice (25% cooked) and stir well. Add water just enough to cover the rice. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tbsp ghee and Cover tightly with a lid.

Dum process:
Heat a thick iron tawa and place the biryani vessel over it.
Reduce the flame to the minimum and leave for 1 hour to get it completely cooked.

Chettinad chicken biryani is ready!

Serving suggestions:
Serve chicken biryani hot with onion raitha and egg curry or any gravy.
Serves 4 adults.
As it is a spicy-hot biryani version, they generally pair it up with curd rice and kheer.
Click to see my shrimp thokku recipe .

Thursday, March 11, 2010

'Veggie delight' Sandwich.

I tried to make a version of the famous Subway sandwich. The taste was much closer to the original version and we enjoyed it very much. Anyway I should admit nothing can beat the original Subway sandwich:)

Fresh French bread - 2
Onion (chopped) - 1 (medium)
black olives (sliced) - 5
Ripe tomato (chopped) - 1
pickled jalapeno - 8 slices
Sweet relish - 2 tbsp
(Sweet relish is a kind of sweet pickle)
lettuce (shredded) - 1 cup
shredded cheese - 4 tbsp
Sweet onion sauce - 4 tsp
(Instead I used : ranch dressing - 6 tbsp)
tomato sauce - 2 tbsp
butter - 1/2 tsp

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F.
Slit the bread and open carefully without separating completely.

Divide the above vegetables into two and fill the bread.
Drizzle the tomato sauce (1 tbsp),sweet relish - (1 tbsp), shredded cheese (2 tbsp), ranch dressing (3 tbsp) and close the bread gently.

Coat the top of bread with butter.

Line the baking tray with aluminum foil.
Place the breads inside the oven.
Bake for 3 minutes. Broil for 1 minute.

Take out and serve hot.

Serving suggestions:
Serve as lunch or dinner with a drink and some baked sides or fries.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Fish fry (Tirunelveli style)

Fish market is one of the center of attraction for me always. While hubby gets satisfied with some chicken or the much hyped King fish (rarely), I fill my shopping bag with fresh and different fishes. Analyzing those heaps of fish and choosing gives me a kind of satisfaction. The strange thing is hubby gives priority to the beauty of the fish than anything else. So he loves just the dinner plate size slices of king fish or the cute Red snapper (sankara / romeo), butter fish (karapudi), silver pomfret (vaaval)etc. I just blindly allow him to choose 'cos I know that is the only way to make someone eat fish:)
This is the story behind my pomfret fish recipes and no wonder they taste amazing always.

Even though we all fry the fish in a more similar way, the masala added here makes a difference. While talking with my friend Gita , I found that she also follows the same recipe , which she got from her grandma who lived there years ago and that made us realize that this masal belongs to Tirunelveli. See how the simple masal makes us analyze the generations.I too wanted to post my home town version and so here is it for you to enjoy.

You are seeing the pomfret fish fry served with lemon wedges along with fish kulambu and crab masala, in out of focus:)

Pomfret fish - 6 slices (1 lb)
salt - 2 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
tumeric powder- 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder - 1 tsp

lemon - 1

To grind:
Shallot onion (sambar vengayam)- 4
Shredded coconut - 1/4 cup
cumin - 1/2 tsp

Oil (to deep fry) - 200 ml (1 cup)
(I used corn oil here).

Wash the fish and remove all the fins and scales by a knife.
Then slice it into thin slices (as shown in photo).

Apply little turmeric powder over the fish and keep aside.

Grind the onion, coconut and cumin to a fine paste.

Mix the ground masala with the powders and salt given above.
Squeeze 1/4 lemon to the masala if you need a crispier fish fry.
Otherwise don't add lemon juice now.Lemon makes the fish stiff , removes bad odor and discourages breaking of fish while frying.

Gently rub the masala over the fish slices(dab some masala inside the fish too)and marinate for 30 minutes.

Heat oil in a broad based wok .Put the pieces one or two at a time and fry both sides crispy.

Fish fry is ready!

Serving suggestions:
Serve as side dish with any rice. The suitable combinations are sambar rice , rasam rice or meen kulambu rice.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Vada curry

Vada curry is a very simple side dish available in the street side shops of TamilNadu , served along with 'set dosa' or any breakfast item.Mostly the day after diwali, we can see people preparing this vada curry with the left over paruppu vadai and vegetable kuruma. It is my younger brother's favorite too. Oh, yeah! if I didn't mention him here, I will get enough from him:) After having it in his teacher's house he started pestering us for this curry and we too tried our best after festive days without wasting the vadais:)

But Vada curry entered my life in full swing after marriage only. Hope some of my friends know our adventures while dating :) We treasure those memories a lot. After marriage Xav took me to all the restaurants and places he enjoyed during his bachelor days. I simply love the way he describe his entertainments like the frequent movies, late night dinners,the way he waited for my phone call or letter, funny stuff with friends etc. Slowly it became the habit for us to enjoy his favorite road-side food shops. Most of the Sundays we used to buy the breakfast (carry home pack) from a nearby shop (KK Nagar) along with his favorite News papers , magazines etc after attending the 7 Am mass. Nowadays I started making my own vada-curry, from scratch.

Enjoy with your loved ones:)

The short cut is to make use of the left over vadais and kuruma. But we can prepare it from scratch too. Click the links to get the complete method.

Masal vadai - 6 (big size)
Vegetable kuruma (with lesser vegetables) - 2.5 cup
Fennel - 1/2 tsp
cinnamon - 1 inch
cilantro - a handful
mint leaf - a handful
curry leaf - 1 sprig
oil - 1 tbsp

Take the vadais and crush gently with hand to get small pieces.
Heat oil in a wok and add fennel, cinnamon , curry leaf.
Then add the crushed vadai pieces and fry a little.
Now add the kuruma and bring it to a boil.
Switch off and garnish with mint , cilantro etc.

Vada curry is ready!

We can make the vada or dumplings by steaming also. Some time I do them over dosa tawa and its also worth the try. If you make the vada curry from scratch, then make small pakodas (fritters) instead of vada.

Serving suggestions:
Serve hot with sponge dosa, poori or chapati.

Vazhaikkai Poriyal (Plantain stir fry)

This vazhaikai poriyal was a staple in our house as we had some (lot) of banana trees in our backyard. I have seen amma running there to pic...