Monday, May 27, 2013

Onion bajji

Onion (Vengayam) bajji is a popular snack of India similar to onion rings. Though it is mostly served as snack , sometimes I make this bajji as side dish with sambar rice during weekends or nights when we need something more delicious than the usual side dish.  I am narrating my recipe for vengaya bajji.
Vengaya bajji (photo updated : Feb 2014)

Ingredients (for 10 pieces) :
Red Onion - 2
Besan flour (kadalai mavu) - 3/4 cup
dosa batter - 1/4 cup
(or) rice flour - 2 tbsp
salt - to taste
red chilly powder - 1 tsp
hing (asafoetida)- 1/8 tsp
baking soda - 1/2 tsp
garlic - 2 pieces (finely ground)
ajwain (omam / bishop weed) - 1/4 tsp
red food color - a pinch (optional)
oil - to deep fry (200 ml)

Peel the onion. Slice it into thin (1/4 inch thick approx) round pieces, using a knife and cutting board. Carefully cut the onion, so that the concentric pieces remain intact.

Grind the garlic and omam to a fine paste with 1 tsp water. Mix all the above (except oil) along with 1/4 cup water to a thick batter. Add more water if needed, but keep the batter like thick idly batter ,otherwise the bajjis will absorb more oil.

Heat oil in a wok. As it gets smoky hot, reduce flame and keep in medium flame.

Dip the onion slices in the batter and put it on the hot oil.  Do not clutter. Flip and fry both sides. Drain oil and take out.

Onion bajji / fritter is ready!

Serving suggestions:
Serve hot as snack along with hot coffee or tea during rainy / winter season.
Coconut chutney or tomato ketchup are good side dishes for these fries.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sweet potato boli

Boli is a kind of sweet paratha prepared in Tamilnadu, India. We can see many varieties of stuffing for boli. In Chennai, one can see some shops selling this boli alone, as they are very popular there.
Preparing pooran boli / oppittu (with channa dal stuffing) at home is a time consuming job, as preparing the stuffing demands many steps like pressure cooking the dal, preparing jaggery solution, making a soft ball stage pooran in a wok etc.,.  But this sweet potato boli is comparatively easy, as the stuffing can be made quick, if we have some boiled sweet potatoes and chapati dough.
I made this as lunch box snack for hubby and I love the way it came out easier and tasty. Try this and enjoy!

Sweet potato boli.

Sweet potato stuffing.

For stuffing (pooranam):
Sweet potato - 1 (large)
brown sugar - 2 tbsp
shredded coconut - 1 tbsp
cardamom powder - 1/2 tsp
Outer layer:
Wheat flour - 1 cup + 1/2 cup
salt - a pinch
water - to knead
sesame oil - few tbsp
Ghee - 2 tsp

*Boil or pressure cook the sweet potato. Peel and mash with hand. Add the ingredients in stuffing and mix well without lumps. Divide it into small balls of key-lime size. Keep aside. This is the stuffing for boli.
*Put the wheat flour in a large mixing bowl. Add salt, mix well. Slowly add water and knead to a thick soft dough (just like chapati dough). Add 2 tbsp sesame oil and knead again very well, so that the dough becomes very soft and pliable.
*Divide the dough into equal size balls (say 6 balls).
* Take one ball, sprinkle some dry wheat flour on the rolling board. Press using a rolling pin to a small circle (3 inch dia).
* Place one sweet potato stuffing inside, fold like a pouch. Sprinkle more flour and roll carefully (without much pressure) to a 6 inch circle.
* Heat a tawa , apply few drops of oil , fry the boli both sides in low heat for 1 minute each side.
* Take out, brush few drops of  ghee, let cool for 1 minute and keep inside an airtight container.
Repeat the procedure for all the dough balls.

Sweet potato boli is ready!

Serving suggestion:
Serve hot as snack.

Instead of wheat flour it is traditional to use maida / All purpose flour.
Keep the kneaded  AP flour dough for 6 hours in room temperature for a more workable dough.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Egg kuruma

Whenever we say egg curry, the only thing that comes into the mind of many people is a spicy red hot egg curry. But there are many versions all over India. Sometimes we may need an egg curry with more gravy to go along with rice or idiappam (rice noodles). Then I would choose this curry or kuruma with lots of coconut masala. This kind of  egg curry with more gravy is a common in Southern Tamilnadu and kerala. On that day I made this with veggie briyani for one of my friends who likes egg curry very much and insisted on making my hometown version. Though I like her version also very much, I made it for her and we all had an amazing dinner.

 Egg kuruma.

Egg - 6

tomato - 2
Red onion - 1
coriander leaves - a handful.
mint leaves - few
curry leaves - few
coconut milk - 1/2 cup
red chilli powder - 1 tsp
turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
curry masala powder- 1 tsp
coriander powder - 2 tsp
salt - to taste
oil / ghee - 2 tbsp
cinnamon - 2 inch
Fennel seeds - 1 tsp
bay leaf - 1
ginger garlic paste - 1 tbsp

to grind:
cardamom - 3
shredded coconut - 1/4 cup
cashew - 4
poppy seed - 1 tsp
cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
green chillies - 4

*Grind ginger and garlic together.
*Dry roast the poppy seeds, cashew and grind the items mentioned to a fine paste.
* Hard boil the eggs , peel. Make 3-4 slits lengthwise on all the eggs.
Keep aside.
* Heat oil / ghee in a pan. Add fennel seeds, cinnamon and bay leaf.
*Add the chopped onion, green chillies ,curry leaves, cilantro and mint leaves. After the onion turns golden brown , add ginger garlic paste and saute well.Then add the chopped tomato and fry till it is completely cooked.
* Put  chilli powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder , curry masala powder and stir well till raw smell goes. Add 2 cups of water. Close the lid and cook for 5 minutes.
* Add the coconut masala and let it boil to give a nice flavor.
* Put the prepared eggs. Bring to a boil.
*Before switching off add the coconut milk. Switch off immediately.
Egg kuruma is ready!

Serving suggestions:
This is one best side dish for vegetable briyani,  parathas, parotta, any briyani, dosai,  idly, appam and idiyappam.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Masal dosai

Idly and dosai are popular dishes of Tamilnadu, India. They are consumed as a main course for dinner and a staple for breakfast. Proper fermentation of the batter is the key behind the successful idlies and the hot climatic condition prevailing there throughout the year will make the idly petal soft. Though making the perfect idly depends on how much care we give for maintaining the temperature, dosa comes handy for all who long for native food.

We can see an idly vs dosai scene in almost any Indian house. When the mother wants to steam some idly in a jiffy, one fuzzy person may always demand for a dosai . That demanding person can be satisfied only by a hot dosai, while others has to eat the idly:) Just like that whenever anyone goes to an Indian restaurant , crispy dosai would be in the top preference. The restaurants would serve the dosai with variety of chutney and that makes the platter pretty.Mostly I make coconut chutney or sambar only and rarely both. But I would make masal dosai if I have some left over poori kilangu after having poori the previous day. Nowadays readymade batter is also available everywhere (I suggest making your own batter for fresh taste) and so dosa making becomes more handy.
Prepare this delicious Masal dosai and enjoy!

Masal dosai with sambar and chutney.

Take a look inside: ) Potato masala stuffed inside a thin crispy dosai.

Dosa batter - 1/2 cup per dosai
potato masala filling - 2 or 3 tbsp per dosai
sesame oil / ghee - few tsp

For making perfect crispy dosai we may need a thick dosa tawa, sharp spatula, a medium sour dosa batter.
Add a tbsp besan flour for 2 cups of dosa batter and mix well. (Besan flour gives dosai a red hue. Some times I skip this step).
Apply one drop oil on tawa and spread uniformly using a spatula.
Heat the tawa to maximum. Check the heat by sprinkling a drop of water. Wipe the tawa clean, using a kitchen towel.
Now without applying oil to the tawa, pour a ladle full of batter on it. Using the back of the flat spatula or a small cup, spread the batter to a thin circle.
Drizzle few drops of ghee or sesame oil.
As soon as it shows little red color, flip , reduce heat and cook for 10 seconds.
Flip again, so that the beautiful red side lays down. Place 2 -3 tbsp of poori masala in the center and fold , so that the red color shows up.
Some people fold thrice like a newspaper (see photo above) and some fold only once so that dosa looks like a semicircle.
Masal dosai is ready!

Serving suggestions:
Serve hot immediately (for crispiness) with coconut chutney and sambar.

For details on dosa making see my paper roast dosai recipe.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Chennai fish curry

Chennai fish curry is a spicy, tangy curry. It is one of my favorite versions of fish curry. Chennai has a huge fishing harbor in Royapuram which supplies many markets all over the city and state. One can get excellent quality sea fish in all the Chennai markets.Also fresh water fish is caught from many lakes around. People living there for generations are very good at making delicious fish curries and sea foods. One popular fish recipe from chennai is the Kasimedu meen kulambu. This typical Chennai fish curry differs from southern Meen kulambu by the following hints:
1.There won't be any coconut paste in chennai fish curry. Fish curry will smell just like fish curry, the way I like it very much:)
2.Chennai fish curry should have more fish pieces and it will give a strong fish flavor.Use any chunky fish pieces like king fish.
3. Madras / chennai meen kuzhambu needs lot of onion and tomato with lesser tamarind. Chennai people won't make fish curry without tomato, whereas others care less for tomato.
4.If needed chennai people would add little coconut milk extract (very rarely), but not the ground coconut masala.
5. Any cooking oil like peanut oil, sunflower oil or sesame oil can be used in chennai fish curry, while village style south fish curry demands sesame oil only.

Salmon fish in Indian curry.
Salmon and Evoo in Madras meen kulambu. Any chunky fish like King fish and peanut oil are traditionally used there.

Tangy spicy Madras style fish curry.

King fish / salmon - 1/2 kg (1 lb)
Tamarind - 1 small lemon size
red onion - 2 (medium big)
garlic - 10 cloves
tomato puree (3 crushed) - 3/4 cup
red chilly powder - 1 1/2 tsp
coriander powder - 3 tbsp
turmeric powder - 3/4 tsp
curry leaf - 2 sprigs
oil - 3 tbsp
mustard seeds - 1 tsp
fenugreek seed  (venthayam / methi) - 1 tsp
cumin seed - 1 tsp
sea salt - 2 tsp (as per taste)
green chilly - 2

* Soak tamarind in warm water along with salt. Extract juice using 2 cups of water.
Put coriander powder, turmeric powder, red chilly powder, salt in the tamarind extract. Keep aside.
* Clean the fish in water and cut into medium size pieces. Sprinkle some salt, turmeric powder and let it marinate till we prepare the curry (15 minutes).
* Chop onion very finely. Heat oil, add mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin. As soon as mustard starts crackling, add curry leaves, finely chopped onion and saute till onion turns soft and mild red.
Then add the crushed tomato (chop them finely and squeeze with hands) and saute till the oil shows up. Put the peeled chopped garlic and saute for a few seconds.
* Then pour the tamarind extract, slit green chilly. Bring it to a boil. let it boil for 5 minutes in medium heat till raw smell goes.
* Then add the fish pieces. Cook covered in very low heat till curry gets little thick (10 minutes). Don't stir in between. If needed gently shake. Switch off.
Chennai fish curry is ready!

Serving suggestion:
Serve hot as curry over rice.
The usual side dish for meen kulambu and rice are fried fish, omelet, ripe mango pieces.

I have used extra virgin olive oil and salmon instead of the traditional ingredients as I had that in hand on that day and we liked the curry very much. Salmon tasted similar to King fish:)
Add a tsp of jaggery (brown sugar)before switching off,  if it needs lesser sourness. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Ragi Malt

I am sure every Indian would know to make this ragi drink and I wanted my blog to have this too:)
Many years ago with the introduction of TV and advertisements to India, many people started  buying the energy powders and brand named health drinks and started believing that it was their favorite hero's energy secret:) It would be surprising to see even the mothers from typical villages which grow these Ragi (African finger millet), appreciating the store bought health mixes. In my house too we had started naming one favorite drink for each person and used to buy a bottle per month. But then one of our elderly relative from our village (Annapazham achi) while visiting us, told my mom how much government officers were stressing the noon meal schemers to provide sathu mavu urundai (power packed home made sweet balls) for pregnant women and explained the benefits of age-old homemade drinks. She would always make us love our traditional foods than buying something from supermarket:) Her smiling face, fairy tales and folk tales could make any kid sleep tight:) She brought us the recipe to make that urundai and this energy drink and reminded my mom to stick to the older recipes than buying something made commercially. Even though at that age I preferred telling my friends that we all drink the expensive one, I secretly started liking this home made Indian ragi malt better and now I don't hesitate to tell it to the world:) Here I have given one recipe for ragi malt directly from a readymade ragi flour and one recipe from scratch.

Ragi malt, Indian ragi drink, Finger millet drink, keppai kool, keppai koozh, kelvaragu sahu mavu kanji
Ragi malt and one of my favorite coffee mugs, we bought during Christmas.

Simple keppai koozh / ragi malt:
Ingredients:   (2 cups)
Ragi flour - 2 tbsp
water - 1 cup
fat free milk - 1 cup
brown sugar - 3 tsp
cardamom - a pinch

As soon as we buy the ragi flour or powdered the whole ragi from a dry grinding mill, we should dry roast it till it smells good. Do the roasting in small batches, as it is easy. Spread the roasted flour over a large sheet of paper (I use a sheet of news paper) and let it cool completely. Then store it in an airtight container for longevity. This keeps the flour fresh. Some people keep raw flour inside fridge. Both are good ways to store the ragi flour.

Do this recipe in stove top only for better taste.

Take 2 tbsp ragi flour in a stove top vessel and add 1/4 cup water. Mix well without any lumps. Break the lumps at this stage to get a smooth drink.
Then add the remaining water and start heating.
Add the milk and bring it to a boil. Simmer till it gets little thick (but drinkable).
Then add brown sugar or karuppatti (palm sugar), cardamom powder and mix well.
Serve medium hot just like coffee and tea.

Homemade Ragi malt flour recipe from scratch:
Ragi - 1 kg
almond - 10
cashew - 10
cardamom - 10

Wash the whole ragi millet multiple times and keep it in water.
Finger millet may have some small stones. Gently hold the top of the vessel and shake it many times, so that the stones settle in bottom. Soak in water for an hour.
wash a clean thin cotton or muslin cloth and place the millet on the cloth and tie , so that it looks like a pouch. Place it in a container and cover it. Let it remain for 12 hours.
In this time it would have germinated.
Sundry the germinated millet and let it dry completely.
Then dry roast it till it smells good.
Dry roast the almonds, cashew too.
Put the roasted items together along with cardamom.
Send them to a dry grinding flour mill or powder it at home.
Keep in a cool dry place and use within 2 months.

Prepare the ragi malt drink as suggested above.
In the simple version , we can add soaked almond made into a paste to the drink too.
This is a recipe for ragi malt only.
For the Tamilnadu version of sathumavu (energy powder) we should germinate green gram, whole wheat, red channa also. While powdering we would add corn (makka cholam), almond, cahsew, cardamom, cloves, sprouted dry roasted green gram - wheat - ragi. This powder stays good for 2-3 months in room temperature / inside fridge .It can also be made into a drink like ragi or into laddu. 


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Homemade corn tortilla

Homemade tortillas are more easier to prepare if we know how to make chapati. Texture of corn is more or less similar to rice flour. So it may tend to stick to the rolling board. I keep a wax paper or plastic sheet over the rolling board, sprinkle some flour and start rolling. It peels off easily and can be cooked over any tawa or flat pan.
Anyone who tastes fresh corn tortillas will definitely have a hesitation before going for a ready made tortilla  from the grocery store.  I prefer corn tortillas than flour tortillas, as corn smells really really very good while cooking:) Homemade tortillas are incredibly lesser expensive, amazingly flavorful, soft like a cotton and no words to explain how much I love to make them at home:)

Basic corn flour from ALDI, Price: 4.4 lb / 2kg  corn flour costs $ 2.

Making corn tortilla with chapati rolling pin.

We can make cut off  perfect round tortillas using any round shaped lid.

Fresh Corn tortillas made at home.

We can refrigerate the left over tortillas...and  note down the date:)

Corn flour - 2 1/2 cup
AP flour - 2 tbsp
sea salt - 1/2 tsp
water - 2 1/2 cups
oil - 2 tsp + 2 tbsp
corn flour - 1/2 cup (for dusting)

Other items needed:
Chapati rolling pin, chapati rolling board, (or) tortilla making press.
plastic sheet or wax paper - few squares

Put corn flour, AP flour, salt in a wide mixing bowl.
(I like to add some AP flour  as it helps in easy rolling of tortilla, but I don't think it is traditional).
Mix slightly. Boil the water. Add water little by little till the flour can be kneaded.
Mix well so that it rolls into a smooth ball (e.g., pizza dough or chapati dough).
Apply 2 tsp  oil and knead again to a soft ball.
Divide it into 20 lemon size balls.
spread the plastic sheet / wax paper over the rolling board.
Sprinkle some corn flour and keep one ball.
Again dust some more corn flour and start rolling it to a thin circle.
Don't bother about the serrated edges, when can make it a smooth round by pressing a sharp lid on it.
In the mean time start heating a tawa / pan.
Apply few drops of oil using a brush / flat wooden tool we use for applying oil to dosa.
Peel off the tortilla and put it on hot tawa.
Cook for 30 seconds , flip , cook again for 30 seconds and if needed cook more time till we see mild brown dots appearing on the tortilla.
Take the tortilla and store in airtight container to maintain the softness.
Wipe off the pan and again apply oil and repeat the same procedure to make all the tortillas.
Home made tortilla is ready!

Corn tortillas can be used in making endless dishes like wraps, enchilada, tortilla chips etc.
The left over can be stored air tight and kept refrigerated for a week.
Before using the refrigerated tortillas, reheat them one by one on a hot pan.

Makes 20 corn tortillas (6 inch dia).
Time taken :  45 minutes .... from start to finish.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Crab pepper fry

Cooking seafood on most of the days was a tradition in my house while growing up. While common fishes are cooked on weekdays, we reserve the exotics like crab, shrimp for the weekends, as they take more time to devour:)  Here is what I made using crab and pepper....the crab pepper fry. I am sure I coined this recipe all by myself and I love it very much. This has a thick curry like finish, a Chettinadu crab curry touch and tastes very delicious with plain white rice and curd rice. I fried some king fish pieces and a fish curry for my hubby.

The Chesapeake blue crab or Atlantic blue crab, or simply blue crab of USA tastes similar to the native Indian smaller crabs. So choose some smaller soft shell crab for Indian version of crabs. But any crab (king crab too) works good:)
Do you know why all the crabs, shrimps and lobsters turn to red color while cooking? If interested read the chemical reactions behind and appreciate the beauty of cooking:) Love this reasoning:)
other names: Nandu milagu curry, nandu milagu varuval, crab pepper fry, Indian crab curry.
If you are looking for a newer crab recipe, then try this and enjoy!

Have a crab as appetizer as soon as it is recommendation:)

Crab pepper fry with rice and fried king fish.

Have another look at my crab fry...flipped side :)

Small crab - 6

To grind:
Coconut - 1/2 cup
black pepper - 2 tbsp
cumin - 1 tsp
shallot - 4
To mince:
garlic - 1 whole
fennel - 1 tsp
oil - 2 tbsp
red onion - 1
curry leaf - few sprigs
turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
garam masala powder - 1tbsp
coriander powder - 3 tsp
green chillies - 4
tomato puree - 1/2 cup
salt - to taste

How to clean the crab:
Wash the crabs twice or thrice till there is no impurities.
Open the shell in stomach side (opens like a pocket with button) and discard that shell (retain other shells surrounding the meat).
Do this for all the crabs, keep them in water , squeeze and remove the yellow and green portions from stomach.
Keep the legs intact.
If cooking the long king crab legs, then gently break it at joints and cut the longest limb into two (helps the masala to penetrate better). This step is not necessary for soft crabs.

Take a  wide huge thick bottom vessel.
Heat oil , add fennel and let it get red.
Then add the finely chopped onion and fry till it gets red.
Then add the minced garlic and fry for a few seconds.
Grind the items given to a fine paste with little water.
Now put the masala, tomato puree, turmeric powder, salt, garam masala, slit green chilly, coriander powder along with cleaned crab in to the vessel.
Close tightly, cook in medium flame and stir every 3 minutes.
After few minutes the crabs will turn red color while cooking, reduce flame.
Cook for 15 minutes or till the curry gets thicker.
Add fresh curry leaves, chopped cilantro and switch off.
If needed sprinkle few drops of lemon.
Crab pepper fry is ready!

Serving suggestions:
Serve as side dish / main curry over plain rice.
Tastes great with curd rice.
Makes a starter dish too.

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...