Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Grape juice

Many a times we squeeze fresh juice from raw grapes but by that way the juice would not get the color of the grapes. Also some people can't take grape juice , because of its cooling nature. But here is a method to extract the juice along with its natural color and suitable for all body types.
Few months back hubby brought a big pack of red grapes but it was a large quantity for him. So I made few recipes using it.  I saved some grapes for juice, so that he can take it to office for snack time:) This is not a regular juicing technique for grapes. But I love it very much, as my mom got this recipe from her sister, my Gandhi chithi . During one fine summer, when our chithi was visiting us, mom tried to make some grape juice as welcome drink instead of regular lime juice. Chithi told amma to follow the below method so that kids can drink it without any hesitation and after that she had used this recipe every time she made this juice and now I am continuing that:)

Grapes - 200 gm (2 coffee mug full approx)
water - 5 cups
sugar - 2 tsp per cup

Rinse the grapes thrice or till it runs clear.
Add 1 tbsp salt per 2 cups of rinsing water and let it soak to remove any chemicals (optional).
Again wash well in water. Drain water and keep aside.
Bring 5 cups of water to boil and add the grapes.
wait till it boils and grapes start cracking.
Switch off. Keep closed for 10 minutes. Let cool.
Take out the grapes alone and squeeze using hands. Add the sugar and scrub the fruit with sugar and extract all the juice.
Repeat with the boiled water and extract all the juice from grapes.
Filter to remove any seeds or skin.
Pour in a pitcher, let cool completely and serve chilled.

Red / black grapes look gorgeous by this recipe. I have used red grapes here.
Prepare this juice few hours before serving, let cool in room temperature or serve chilled.
Stays good in fridge for a 3 days.
Sour grapes will make incredibly tasty juice.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Chicken soup (thick)

Chicken soup recipe varies from country to country and even city to city, as it is the most sought entree during cold weather. In my native place we make clear soups which are plain and simple. But in Chennai, the chicken soups are thicker and made with more spices, flour, veggies to satisfy everyone. Try this and enjoy!
Chennai chicken soup

Chicken - 200 gm
(drumstick or any piece with bones. while buying whole chicken  reserve neck and some ribs for making soup or broth.)
red onion / shallot - 1/2 cup
garlic - 1 whole
butter - 2 tsp + 1 tsp
AP flour - 2 tbsp
tomato - 2
cilantro , mint - handful
cumin, fennel - 1/2 tsp each
cloves - 2
bay leaf -1
cinnamon -1 inch
turmeric powder - 1 tsp
pepper powder - as per need
cumin powder - as per need
salt - as per need

Clean and rinse the chicken. Cut the chicken into small pieces. 
Heat 2 tsp butter in a large pan. Add 2 cloves, fennel, bay leaf, cinnamon, cumin. Put the onion and peeled garlic and fry till they get tender.
In a pressure cooker vessel  put the chicken, 2 cups water, turmeric powder, chopped tomato, chopped cilantro, mint, fried onion garlic.
Pressure cook for 1 whistle, reduce flame and cook for 10 minutes. switch off.
After the pressure is gone,  open the lid. Take out the chicken pieces and mash the other ingredients using a spoon.
In the mean time heat 1 tsp butter in the large pan and fry the 2 tbsp maida (AP flour) for few seconds. Pour the cooked chicken along with all the soup to the soup pan. Add 3 cups of water.
Add required salt, pepper powder, cumin powder. Bring it to a boil. Switch off or keep warm till served. Chicken soup is ready!

Serve along with main course or appetizer.
Makes 5 servings.
Sometimes I add 1 knorr soup cube to thicken the soup, instead of flour. Both tastes good.
Instead of pepper powder,  grind 1 tbsp black pepper, 1 tsp sea salt  and  1 tsp cumin to add to this soup.
If needed garnish with freshly chopped spring onion or cilantro.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Beetroot Halwa

We have four beautiful nieces (Shakthi, Angel, Nissi and Mathangi) in our family. Though living miles apart these girls are always in my heart. I am happy to introduce them all to my blogger friends. This week Shakthi is celebrating her birthday and I am dedicating this dessert for her. Happy Birthday Shakthi (Darshi pappa) !.

Beetroot is one of the beautiful creations of God and I love buying it and eating it anytime and any form :) Beetroot halwa recipe is almost similar to carrot halwa, but needs lesser milk (my version). I like the rich color of beets and the deep flavor of this halwa.  My mom used to make this sometimes and we would eat it as a dessert or a spread on bread. Try this and enjoy!

 Happy birthday Darshi pappa!
Beetroot - 3 (300 gm)
sugar - 3/4 cup
condensed milk - 2 tbsp + 3/4 cup water
(or milk - 1 1/2 cup)
ghee - 3 tsp
cashew - 10
cardamom powder - 1/4 tsp
rose essence - 1 drop

Peel the beetroot and shred it (coarse side of shredder is enough).
Take a thick bottom pan. Fry the cashew in ghee and take out.
In the remaining ghee add the shredded beetroot, fry till raw smell reduces (2 minutes).
Add the water (or milk) and cook covered in low heat.
As soon as the beetroot is cooked completely, add sugar, condensed milk and stir continuously in high heat (10 minute). Stir till the halwa comes out of the edges without sticking.
Add cardamom powder, rose essence, fried cashew and stir well.
Take out and keep in serving bowl.
Beetroot halwa is ready!

Serving suggestion:
Serve as dessert.
A scoop of ice cream with this halwa will make it more delicious.

Note: (updated : Mar 6 2015)
Nowadays before switching off, I mix 2 tbsp wheat flour / AP flour with 1/4 cup water and add this to halwa. Then I cook very well so that this halwa becomes glossy.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sardine fish curry

Sardine is one of my most favorite fishes. Sardine being one of the lowest in the food chain in sea world, it is lesser polluted than the bigger fishes. By the same time the health benefits outweigh the  bigger fishes. I haven't seen any fresh sardine in the region I am living. Though canned sardine is popular among Italians and dieticians, I wanted to devour Indian sardines in a curry. So bought a pack of frozen sardines from Indian grocery store and made a kulambu (curry) and fry on a weekend. Sardine is one of the lesser expensive fishes in Tamilnadu, but it costs almost $ 7.00 / 2 lb pack here.... closer to pomfret :) Interestingly enough, my hubby will eat bigger fishes like king fish and only a few selective varieties. I made him eat this by helping him picking out all those tiny bones from sardine in his plate,  as if we do for a child and he ate a few fishes too :) Just like my dad, he too feels weird to take some fish curry in his lunch box :)  But my dad's friends, my friends and hubby's friends , all like my fish curry and that's the trophy for this recipe:) Anyways , I eat this whole sardine fish along with those tiny bones and I love that head too, but exported frozen ones are neatly cleaned and packed ....which makes me still search for fresh sardines:)  I am narrating  a basic fish kulambu recipe, which is loved by people of Tamilnadu especially Tirunelveli:).

Other names: Indian sardine fish curry, saalai meen kuzhambu, chaala meen kulambu, mathi meen kulambu
Fish platter: White rice, sardine fry , beans poriyal, chaala meen kulambu, boiled egg.

Chaalai meen kuzhambu

Indian sardine (mathi / chaalai meen)

Sardine fish - 1 lb
sesame oil - 2 tbsp
mustard seeds- 1 tsp
fenugreek seeds- 1 tsp
Tamarind - 1 small keylime size
Red chilly powder -1.5 tsp
coriander powder- 3 tsp
turmeric powder-1/4 tsp
tomato - 1
green chillies - 2
curry leaves- 2 sprigs.

To grind:
shredded coconut - 1/2 cup
shallot - 8
cumin seeds - 1 tsp

wash the fish and remove all the fins and scales by a knife.
Slit along its stomach, cut off the gills and mouth. Retain or discard the head portion.
I suggest retaining the head, if we are buying fresh sardines.
Run your finger all through the slit portion to remove intestines and any wastes.
Rinse well twice or thrice till water runs clear.
Apply little turmeric powder , salt over the fish and keep aside.

Extract juice from tamarind and add chilli powder, coriander powder, pinch of turmeric powder, salt and mix well.Keep aside.

Heat the sesame oil in vessel. (Fish curry prepared in earthen vessel tastes good).Add mustard and fenugreek seeds. After the mustard seeds crackle add the curry leaves .

Then add finely chopped tomato and saute till oil separates.
Add tamarind juice mixture and let it boil for 5 minutes.
Then add the finely ground coconut-onion paste.
Immediately after this starts boiling , reduce flame and wait till raw smell vaishes.
Add the fish.
cover the vessel partially to allow steam to go, reduce heat to minimum. Put the chopped green chillies and curry leaves.
Cook for 10 minutes in that low heat.
DO NOT stir the curry after adding the fish, otherwise you may end up with broken pieces. If needed gently shake the vessel, by holding the sides.
Switch off.

Serving suggestions:
Serve hot with rice, Idly or dosai .

*Always use a shallow-wide vessel to make meen kulambu.
*Earthern vessels are traditionally used in my native place for preparing fish curry. If using earthern vessels (mann pathiram) then we keep a separate vessel for non veg, this is a traditional habit there.
*I don't know why, but my mom used to insist on preparing some greens (spinach) or any green vegetables like beans along with this kind of fish curry. So I too follow that :)
*The fish kulambu tastes better the next day and I love to have it with idly or bread for breakfast ....anytime:)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ragi paal kolukkattai payasam

Paal kozhukattai is a recipe handed down through generations in my family and I am passing it to my food blogger friends. Paal kolukattai(dumpling) payasam is a kheer made of small rice (powder) balls soaked in sweetened milk. Just like that I prepared a payasam using ragi. It tastes delicious , hope you all try this millet kozhukattai payasam in your kitchen and enjoy !

Ragi , kelvagaragu , keppai - finger millet
Millet kheer.

Ragi flour - 1/2 cup
hot water - 1/2 cup (as needed)
salt - a pinch
coconut milk from can (thick)- 1/4 cup
cashew - few
ghee - 1 tsp
jaggery / brown sugar - 1/2 cup
Cardamom powder - 1/4 tsp

Dry roast the ragi till it smells nice. Switch off.
Put 2 tbsp sugar to the flour. Bring water to boil along with salt. Add this water little by little and mix until it becomes a soft dough.
Make tiny balls.
Bring 3 cups of water to boil in a separate vessel.
Add a handful of ragi balls, wait for few seconds to see the water boiling again.
Repeat and add all the balls. Cook in boiling water for 2 minutes. We can call the cooked balls as ragi kolukattai.
Drain and take out the cooked ragi kolukkattai. Retain only 1/2 cup (or as per need) of that cooked water and discard the excess. Add jaggery / brown sugar and bring to a boil. Add all the ragi kolukkattai. Add the coconut milk and switch off immediately.
Fry the cashew in ghee and add to the payasam along with 1/4 tsp crushed cardamom powder.
Ragi paal kolukattai is ready!

Serving suggestion:
Serve warm as dessert or snack.
Makes 2 servings.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Plain coriander powder

Preparing the basic masala powders is the key element for a successful Indian recipe.  Homemade masala is always pure and inexpensive. Sometimes we may be tempted to buy a readymade powder, but the taste would be quite different than our home version. So I try to make all powders other than chilly powder at home here (I don't know to handle that hot flavor). In Chennai preparing the powders is very easy because of the availability of Sunlight and proximity of grinding mills. But here we have to employ some more techniques to get our own masala.
While growing up I had seen mom preparing turmeric powder, idly podi, coriander powder, sambar powder, curry masala powder, chilly powder, paruppu podi,  Soapnut hair wash powder (Shikakai), bathing powder and many other powders on a regular basis, as if it is a ritual:) I used to mock at her for her dedication, but now I understand the necessity:)
At that time we used to have 2 helpers for her....always one trustworthy lady from our village to stay with us and one from our locality for bigger tasks on hourly basis.  Mom would buy bulk quantities of basic ingredients, dry them in Sunlight and our local maid would take it to a dry grinding mill to powder them. The masalas would last long up to 3 or 4 months.
Here is the basic coriander powder we use in Tamilnadu or any Indian recipe.
Homemade Coriander powder.

Coriander seeds - 1 lb

Method 1 (small batch):
Take the coriander seeds in a winnowing pan (sulavu / muram) and separate the chaff from seeds.
Heat a thick bottom wok.
Put one cup of coriander seed, reduce flame to minimum and fry for 1 minute (till it gets crispy).
Don't let it brown for Tamilnadu recipes, as we need a tender smell of coriander just like Achi's masala. Take it out.
Just like that repeat in small batches for the remaining coriander.
Spread the coriander on a newspaper and  let it cool.
Powder it in a mixie , let cool completely and store in airtight container.
This is the method I employ for smaller batches of coriander without drying in Sun.

Method 2 (traditional):

Coriander seed - 2 kg.

Take the coriander seeds in a winnowing pan (sulavu / muram) and separate the chaff from seeds.
Sundry the coriander seeds for 10 hours (till it turns crispy) .....from morning to evening.
Dry grind it to a fine powder in a nearby mill.
Before grinding it in a mill, make sure that they haven't put anything with lot of flavor for the previous person...that smell will stick to ours:) Mom would suggest us to wait till it is clean or would grind wheat / rice before giving our masala items:)
After bringing it home, immediately spread it on newspapers and let the powder gets cool completely (otherwise the powder turns brown).
Store in airtight containers.
Once in a month keep the containers in hot Sunlight for 10 hours to avoid pests.

Use this coriander powder in any kulambu, fries, Sambar as per recipe.
The ratio between coriander powder and chilly powder in most of my cooking is 3:1.
This is the purest form of fresh coriander powder and it makes every recipe delicious.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Simple mutton soup

This is a very simple soup / clear soup I prepare using goat ribs.Some weekends I try my best to give Xav some spicy soups before lunch, as it is our tradition in my parents house. I buy lamb meat WITH bones whenever I want to make a mutton kuruma (whereas mutton curry can be made using boneless or boney meat).Mutton kuruma tastes good with less spicy rice like coconut milk rice or ghee rice.  I cook the mutton in pressure cooker and before pouring the cooked ribs to the kuruma, I take out some of the cooked broth for soup. Though hubby is a picky eater, he will eagerly ask for a few more servings of this soup, which makes me very very happy:)
Though there are many versions of mutton soup in Tamilnadu (India), I like this quick soup also very much. I prefer serving this kind of soup at least 15-30 minutes before meal, to make room for lunch:). This clear soup should be served in smaller cups just like this picture for a native touch and it can be conveniently sipped instead of using a spoon:)
lamb meat (ribs) - 150 gm
shallot - 6
garlic - 1 whole
cilantro - handful (chopped)
mint leaf - few
turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
whole black pepper - 1 tsp
cumin - 1 tsp
black pepper powder - to taste
salt - to taste

Clean the  meat in water.
Add turmeric powder, cilantro, mint and 3 cups of water. Keep aside.
Peel the onion and garlic. Chop them coarsely.
In a tbsp of butter / oil fry the shallot and onion and add to the mutton.
Grind whole black pepper and cumin to a fine powder and add it to the above.
Pressure cook this till we get one whistle. Reduce flame and cook in medium heat for 15 minutes.
Then switch off. After the pressure is released, open and take out 1.5 cups of clear soup (no need to take out the meat or bones....it is optional). Keep aside the remaining broth and meat for preparing a kuruma.
Add required salt to the soup and mix well.
Serve in small bowls and garnish with black pepper powder.

Mutton soup is ready!

Serving suggestions:
Serve as appetizer.

Perfect Traditional Adai Dosai

Perfect traditional Adai dosai. To grind: Idly rice / any rice - 1cup Raw rice (Basmati) - 1 cup Thoor dhal - 1/4 cup Channa dhal - 1/2 cup ...