Monday, April 27, 2009

Simple Thayir Pachadis ( Tamil Raw yogurt curries)

Click the image to view and print the cookbook. This cookbook lists variations of the following Thayir Pachadis :

0.: Easy Thayir Pachadi 

1.: Dangar Pachadi 

2.: Malli Thayir pachadi

3.: Thenga Thayir Pachadi

4.: Milagu Thayir Pachadi

5.: Manga Thayir Pachadi

6.: Nelli Thayir Pachadi 

7.: Arachu Kalakki

8.: Thick Thayir Pachadi

Anything edible mixed with yogurt would taste good seems to be the logic behind the Tamil Thayir Pachadis. They can be prepared in a snap and can used as curry, sauce or dip.

Salad veggies like onion, carrot, cucumber, onion etc are chopped fine and mixed with yogurt to make basic thayir pachadis. Vegetables that can't be eaten raw are boiled / grilled/ fried and mixed with yogurt.  In fact, almost anything edible can be and usually is mixed with yogurt to make an endless number of recipes. Omit ‘south Indian stuff’ from above recipes (coconut, vadumanga, urad flour etc) and they become north Indian Raitas. Omit ‘Indian stuff’ ( Mustard, asafetida, gooseberry, yam etc) these recipes become international. They can be safely served to anyone across the world. The raita / Thayir pachadi thus transforms into  a yogurt dip, popular across the world.

Though most raitas / pachadis use plain yogurt, our access to world cuisine and advances in food processing have now expanded our choice of the type of yogurt used. You can use all yogurt varieties to make these recipes.

Making Yogurt:  Heat a cup of milk and bring it to a boil. Let cool till it is lukewarm. Mix in a spoon of yogurt. Let rest for 3-6 hours in a warm place.

International 'Thayir pachadis / Raitas'

#  Mix in grated garlic , chopped mint, olive oil and lemon juice with yogurt and chopped cucumber and you have the Greek Tzatziki.

# Mix in grated garlic, black pepper and chopped mint with yogurt and you have the Mint- yogurt dip popular in Middle east and Central Asia.

# Mix in grated garlic, lemon juice and chopped mint with yogurt and you have the Lebanese Yogurt dip.

# Mix in grated garlic, olive oil, crumbled feta cheese and chopped onions with yogurt and you have Turkey's Feta Yogurt dip.

# Mix in grated garlic, lemon juice, tahini ( sesame – olive oil paste) and salt to yogurt and you have the famous African dip Zanaadi Bil - Tahin.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

10 Recipes from South Indian Temple Kitchens

South Indian Temple Cuisine:
 Temple towns in India act as the fountainhead of culinary innovation. Palani invented the Panchamirtham Rasagullas & Rice Kheer were perfected in the Puri Jagannath temple. Udupi, the abode of Lord Krishna has given birth to a huge hotel industry, spawning innumerable hotels across the country.  The Tirupathi Laddoo, Sabarimala Aravana payasam and Ambalapuzha Paal payasam are so unique and popular that over 30 tonnes of Aravana payasam and over 150,000 laddoos are distributed to devotees every day  on festive days. Food cooked in temples do not use onions / garlic as they are believed to stimulate baser emotions. Asafetida is used as a substitute. ‘English’ vegetables (that were introduced to India in the last few hundred years) like potatoes, tomato, cauliflower, beans, cabbage etc are not usually used. Ultra orthodox temples still use pepper (native to India) and not chili (introduced later by the Dutch). Many temples use only fruits / vegetables grown in or around the temples. So, though a variety of rice is served as Prasad, tomato rice is conspicuous by its absence ( as tomatoes are not native to India). 

This cookbook lists 10 prasadams ( divine offerings) from South Indian Temple kitchens, graded from easy to tough. They are greatly simplified so that a first time cook can easily cook them. 

1.: Udupi Kosambari  (Soaked lentil salad)

2.: Palani Panchamirtham (No-cook Jam)

3.: Lemon rice   

4.: Thenga Sadham (Coconut Rice)

5.: Sundal ( Spiced Chickpeas) 

6.: Muniyodharan Pongal (Rice – whole gram porridge) 

7.: Dadhiyojanam (Yogurt Rice ) 

8.: Pulihora (Tamarind Rice) 

9.:.Kesari (Semolina pudding)

10.: Sakkara Pongal  (Jaggery rice)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Simple Kongunadu Recipes

Kongunadu Cuisine:
 Ancient Tamilnadu ( Nadu : Country) was divided into  Chera Nadu ( South west, famous for its elephants), Chola Nadu (centre- famous for its rice) , Pandiya Nadu (South east, famous for its pearls) , Kongu nadu ( North west, famous for its cows) and Thondai nadu (North-east,  famous for its poets). Cheras ruled from around Thrissur, Pandiyas from Madurai and Cholas from Tanjore. Kongu nadu (The land of honey) belonged to one or other of these dynasties over time. Later it came briefly under the rule of Delhi Moguls, Vijayanagara empire, Madurai Nayaks and finally the British.  Surrounded by mountains, Kongunadu was able to maintain its identity and cuisine over time. Blessed with Bhavani, Noyyal Amaravathi and Cauvery rivers, Kongunadu cuisine reflects the richness of its land.

Extensive use of copra (dried coconut), lentils, millets (samai, thinai, kambu, ragi), roasted groundnut paste and fresh ground spice mixes are hall marks of Kongu cuisine. Use of coconut shell as a  meat tenderizer, use of drumstick leaves to clarify ghee & Panchamirtham  are some of Kongunadu’s culinary innovations. 

This cookbook lists 10 Kongunadu recipes given below. They are greatly simplified so that a first time cook can easily cook them. For detailed recipes and great pictures, check out my fellow bloggers below..

1.:  Pacha puli Rasam ( Raw tamarind thin curry)

2.:  Panchamirtham (Mixed fruit Jam ) 

3.: Ragi Kali  (Red millet porridge ) 

4.: Kamban Koozhu (Pearl millet gruel) 

5.: Easy Elaneer Payasam (Coconut water pudding ) 

6.:  Arisi Paruppu Sadham (Lentil Rice) 

7.: Kollu Masiyal (Mashed Horse gram ) 

8.:  Payaru Thirattal (Lentil & Ground nut  curry)  

9.:. Kadamba Sadham ( Mixed lentil rice) 

10.:  Kadanja Paruppu (Mashed lentils)  

Friday, April 24, 2009

10 flatbreads of the Grand Moghuls

Muglai Cuisine:
Richness defines the royal Mogul (Persian for Mongol) cuisine. Arriving from Central Asia, Moguls ruled most of India for almost 400 years. During this time, their Persian cuisine fused with Indian cuisine and evolved into the Mogul cuisine. Use of Tandoor and the art of leavening flatbreads were Mogul’s gift to Indian cuisine. Unlike traditional Indian flatbreads which are very basic and are cooked on a skillet, Mogul flatbreads are flamboyant- using a variety of rich spices, nuts and cream. They are usually baked in a tandoor or shallow fried in ghee. When cooked on a skillet, they are usually layered. In spite of such rich cuisine, it is interesting to note that Akbar, the greatest Mogul, ate just once a day!

This cookbook lists 10 Mogul breads, greatly simplified, so that a first time cook can easily cook them. The following breads are listed in this cookbook: Click on the links to see more detailed recipes and pictures from my fellow bloggers.

1.:    Naan (Leavened flatbread)  

2.:   Sheermal ( Saffron flavoured flatbread)

3.:   Lachcha Paratha  (Layered flatbread) 

4.:  Warqui Paratha ( Creamy, layered flatbread )

5.:   Mughlai Paratha ( Egg washed layered flatbread ) 

6.:    Badshahi Naan (Deep fried Leavened flatbread) 

7.:   Peshawari Naan (Naan stuffed with nuts & dry fruits)  

8.:   Easy Bakharkhani (Cardamom Flat bread ) 

9.:   Traditional Bakharkhani (Layered creamy flatbread)    

10.:   Cheese Bakharkhani (Sweet layered flatbread)   

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ananda Vikatan - Express Cooking part 2

Here's part 2 of the 52 part series Express Cooking. All the 10 recipes were cooked using one small saucepan, 10 plastic cups, 1 mixie, 1 knife, a 7 compartment spice box and 1 microwave. It took me around 40 minutes to cook 10 dishes ( photos at the left) and this time includes  kitchen cleanup time too !   

From next week onwards we move on to One page cookbooks which free you from the tyranny of a single recipe, and shows how you can mix and match stuff according to a few simple rules.

I promise you that you'll find this way much more fun, creative and fulfilling than slavishly duplicating a recipe.

I've had my share of ribbing from friends on Ramki, the Kitchen King title. But I guess I have to learn to live with it as I guess Vikatan would persist in addressing me as such throughout this series ! 

Ananda Vikatan Express cooking series part 1/52

I was surprised and to be honest mildly pleased to see Ananda Vikatan referring to me as Ramki, the Kitchen King ! I do not deserve this title and would certainly be embarassed to use it. I like to think of myself as a primary school teacher, teaching how to string up words into meaningful sentences. In my One page Cookbooks, I explain how the base, flavouring and additive combinations are strung up into meaningful recipes according to a few simple rules.  But this is the very first step and there is much more to cooking than this. 

After you move over from primary school (One page cookbooks), some of you might end up as poets( gourmet cook). I might never write an immortal poem, but I wish and hope some of you will do that ( create great recipes). I'll get my kicks from the knowledge that I played a part in helping you form your first sentences ( basic cooking). 

This issue of Ananda Vikatan carries the first of a series of articles titled Express Cooking where I cookup quick and easy recipes, which first timers can easily create. 

This series will hopefully run for an year, at the end of which it would be published as a book. For this issue, I got a friend of mine, Nathalie Van Der Berg, a Dutch girl on her first visit to India, to cook up traditional Tamil dishes. She has not cooked before and has never seen / heard of  these dishes. So, with just a 10 minute instruction and armed with this One page cookbook, she started cooking and cooked up Carrot Thayir pachadi, Thenga Thogayal and Kaara podi in 10 minutes flat.

Yes, Tamil cuisine is easy, if you get the basics right !

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Microwaved Egg Curries

Click the image to view the cookbook. This cookbook lists 1000 microwave egg curries, greatly simplified, so that a first time cook can easily cook them.  Eggs cooked in 10 different ways are combined with ten different bases and 10 different flavouring techniques to create a thousand different recipes.  These recipes are graded from easy to tough – 000 being the easiest and 999 being the toughest.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

1001 Podis in Tamil

Finally, after numerous requests, here's the first One page cookbook in Tamil. More to follow... The English version is here . Click the image for to view and print the cookbook.
All One page cookbooks follow the same format. Learn one, and you've learnt them all. Each One page cookbook lists 1000 recipes numbered from 000 to 999. (For example recipe number 200 is Thengai Milagai Podi, 500 is Kollu Podi, 420 is Poondu podi and so on). The first digit denotes the base ( column 1), second digit denotes the flavouring ( column 2) and the third denotes additives ( column 3).  The preparation of all these recipes is identical as explained in the master recipe. 
For example, in this case, choose any base from column 1, any flavouring from column 2 and  any additive from column 3. Add all to a mixie ( blender). Add two dry red chilies, two pinches of salt and blend to a fine / coarse powder. Eat mixed with hot rice and ghee or as a side dish with idli / dosa . Delicious !

You might also want to check out Tamil cuisine calendar Part 1 & Part 2. Almost everything you've ever eaten and would ever eat is here  :)

Interesting Podi recipes from fellow bloggers...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pickles from the British Raj

Pickles of the British Raj

The British steeped Indian fruits and vegetables in vinegar along with mild Indian spices to create a range of fusion pickles.  They do not use mustard powder / chili powder used in almost all Indian pickles and so are very mild by Indian standards.


1.:  Red Cabbage Pickle  .

2.:  Red Cauliflower Pickle

3.:  Bombay Onion Pickle 

4.:  Dry Mango Pickle  

5.:  Sweet Mango Pickle 

6.:  Mint Flavoured Vinegar 

7.:  Chili Vinegar 

8.:  Dates pickle

9.: Tamarind Fish Pickle 

10.: Whole Mango Pickle

Simple Pounded Chutneys

Travel cooking / cooking with basic equipment

While planning on a All India trip on my motorbike, I started collecting /developing recipes which can be prepared on the road / hotel room / train / while camping or anywhere with the most basic equipment. A simple pestle and mortar, a knife and a grater is all you need to prepare a variety of chutneys listed here. These make ideal recipes for those with no kitchen / students living in hostels. 5 minutes of pounding and patience is all you need to cook these.


Pounded chutneys taste much better than the ones blended in a blender. This is because a high speed blender heats up and partially cooks the food. The difference in taste is dramatic in coconut chutneys.


A pestle and mortar is also a great way to grind up very small quantities of spices.


The following recipes are listed in this cookbook :

1.: Mint / Cilantro / Tamarind leaves chutney.

2.: Mango chutney.

3.: Pottukadalai Chutney

4.: Groundnut / Sesame / Cashew chutney.

5.: Coconut chutney.

6.: Radish Chutney

7.: Shallots /Onion / Garlic chutney

8.: Baby Tamarind pod chutney

9.: Grilled vegetable bharta

Monday, April 13, 2009

Simple Vacuum Flask Recipes

Click the image on the left to see the cookbook. This cookbook lists 10 simple recipes designed to be cooked in a vacuum flask, graded from easy to tough. The following recipes are listed : 

1.:  Instant Soup 

2.:  Instant noodles

3.:  Oatmeal  

4.:  Poached eggs / Boiled Eggs

5.:  Yogurt 

6.:  Sprouts  

7.:  Mung dal Curry  

8.:. Plain rice

9.:  Millets / Bulgur / Barley  

10.: Vegetable rice  


Cooking with basic equipment

While planning on a All India trip on my motorbike, I started collecting /developing recipes which can be prepared on the road / hotel room / train / while camping or almost anywhere with the most basic equipment. I was thrilled to find out that a thermos flask filled with boiling water is all you need to cook up a complete meal, wherever you are! So these make ideal recipes for those with no kitchen / students living in hostels / travelers.

Cooking in a thermos flask

Almost anything which can be cooked with boiling water on a stove top can be cooked in a thermos flask. A thermos flask in fact behaves like a pot of boiling water. Since it is insulated, the trapped heat is not lost. This retained heat is sufficient to cook many recipes. Though it takes much longer than stove top cooking, the conveniences far outweigh the longer cooking time. It uses 90% less fuel, can be used anywhere, has no odour, no heat and requires no supervision / stirring. Food always comes out edible and there is no chance of over cooking. And best of all, you can have piping hot food, whenever and wherever you want!


Contrary to popular belief, you do not need boiling water to cook most food. Starches, cellulose cook in 65 to 85 degrees. This is why these can be cooked in a thermos.


The goal is to retain as much heat inside the thermos as possible. This can be done by the following.

1. Preheat thermos by filling up thermos flask with boiling water. Let stand for 5 minutes. Drain water and fill to top with boiling water.

2. Avoid frequent opening.

 You can get thermos refilled with boiling water at most hotels / tea stalls. Use a wide mouthed Thermos so that you can add / remove foods easily.

10 Pickle Varieties

Pickling Basics

Pickling was invented thousands of years back to preserve food. Almost anything can be pickled but the western world has stopped with cucumbers / gherkins. In Asia, almost everything is indeed pickled. Some pickles can stay fresh for years, getting better with age, whereas others need to be consumed fast. If you have a fridge and consume your pickles in less than a week, you can forget all pickling safety rules. Irrespective of what you do, the refrigeration would prevent food spoilage.

To understand how pickles can stay fresh for years without refrigeration, we need to understand what causes food to spoil.

Causes of food spoilage: Externally, food is attacked by a variety of microorganisms. Internally, it is attacked by its own enzymes. The goal of all pickling is to inhibit these two actions.

Minimizing spoilage:
Internal spoilage is controlled by salting, sun drying or cooking. These minimize enzyme action. The microbial action is minimized by immersing foodstuffs in an acidic solution or a liquid like honey / sugar syrup / oil which seals food completely. Fermentation is another technique used where ‘good’ micro organisms are allowed to act on the food. This is similar to cheese / wine making. Various combinations of these techniques are used to create an amazing array of pickles.

Blanching veggies
Bring two cups (400 ml) of water to a boil. Add four pinches of salt and a handful of chopped vegetables. Let cook for 3 minutes. Drain water and wash vegetables under cold water to stop cooking.

This cookbook lists 10 different types of pickles listed below :

1.:  Salted Pickles  

2.:  Vinegar Pickles 

3.:  Honeyed Pickles

4.:  Soy Sauce Pickles

5.:  Lemon Juice Pickles 

6.:  Instant Indian Pickles   

7.:  Sweet Pickles   

8.:. Sun Cooked Pickles  

9.:   Pressed Pickles

10.: Fermented Pickles

10 Curries from the British Raj

British Raj Cuisine A fusion of Indian spices & cooking techniques with western ingredients (vinegar, beef, ham, smoked kippers etc) created this cuisine, so loved by the British.

The base:

Onion paste, yogurt, coconut milk, pureed greens and lentils form the base of most Raj curries.  

Raj Curry Paste

 Take eight pinches of coriander power, a pinch of cumin powder, two pinches each of turmeric powder, chili powder, pepper powder, mustard powder, a spoon of ginger garlic paste,  four pinches each of salt, sugar and roasted chana dal flour. Mix in enough vinegar to make a thick paste. Heat four spoons of mustard oil. Add paste, stir and fry for 5 minutes. Let cool and bottle.

Tips :

1. No veggies are normally added to meat curries.

2. Coriander / cumin are not used in mild / creamy curries

3. Ginger not used in sea food curries.

4. Mustard oil / Ghee is the preferred fat.

Simple Egg Salads 1001

Egg Salads – A Primer:  A mix of eggs with fresh veggies make protein packed, filling salads. Eggs cooked in numerous ways can go into the salad. With a few simple rules, you can easily create delicious salads.

1. Choose fresh fruits/leaves/ veggies / sprouts.

2. Shake off excess water after washing fruits / veggies

3. Mix in the dressing just before serving to avoid salads becoming soggy.

4. Cut fruit / veggies/ meats into uniform, bite sized pieces.

6. Always tear leaves, as cutting them would cause them to wilt.

  7.  Hollowed out fruit / vegetable halves / bowl shaped cabbage leaves  make great       salad serving bowls .Small cabbage leaves / grape leaves make cute spoons.

All these salads make great sandwich fillings too !  For low calorie salads, choose dressings like lemon juice / yogurt / vinegar and replace the nuts with croutons as a garnish.


Try replacing eggs with other protein sources like a handful of baked beans / cooked chicken / canned tuna, cooked ham, cooked lobster / crab / prawns for a range of exciting salads.


Full meal Salads:
When you add the following to any of the salads above, the salad becomes a complete meal.

1. Half a handful of cheese (paneer, feta etc) : Cheese &       Egg Salad.

2. Half a handful of cooked rice or half a handful of     cracked wheat (Bulgur wheat) soaked in boiling water     for 10 minutes. : Grain & Egg  Salad.

3. A handful of cooked couscous / pasta   : Pasta/     Couscous  & Egg Salad.

4. Half a handful of chopped and boiled potato: Potato &     Egg  Salad.

5. Half a handful of chopped bread: Bread& Egg Salad.

Soy sauce, oils, vinegar have been used as dressings for thousands of years. Creamy emulsions like vinaigrette & Mayonnaise are some of the most popular dressings.

Quick and Simple Tamil Cooking

To dispel the myth that traditional Tamil cooking is elaborate, time consuming and takes years to learn, Ananda Vikatan  , the leading Tamil weekly had asked me to come up with a series of recipes which can be learnt and cooked very fast. I decided to go a step further and got a friend of mine, Nathalie Van Der Berg, a Dutch girl on her first visit to India, to cook up these recipes. She has not cooked before and has never seen / heard of  these dishes. So, with just a 10 minute instruction and armed with this One page cookbook, she started cooking. The reporters loved it. And all of us later ate what got cooked - it is indeed very hard to go wrong with Tamil cuisine, if you understand the basics straight.

This one page cookbook showcases the recipes which were cooked. Check out the next issue of Ananda Vikatan for the full story.

In fact, Hussein, the photograher, who has never cooked before vowed to start rightaway ! The flipside was that they found the idea of a foreign girl cooking traditional Tamil dishes so fascinating, that I guess I'll be completely sidelined in this article as they shot thrice as many pictures of her as they did of me :)

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Blog Archive

Cooking is fun - Duplication is a pain !

"It is extraordinary to me that the idea of creating thousands of recipes by mixing building blocks takes immediately to people or it doesn’t take at all. .... If it doesn’t grab a person right away, ... you can talk to him for years and show him demos, and it doesn’t make any difference. They just don’t seem able to grasp the concept, simple as it is". ( Thanks Warren Buffett !)

"What's angering about instructions in many cookbooks is that they imply there's only one way to cook a dish - their way. And that presumption wipes out all the creativity." Cook dishes your way - Download  1001 South Indian curries now and learn to cook, not to duplicate ! ( Thanks Robert Pirsig !)

"Recipe purity is no different from racial purity or linguistic purity. It just does not exist. Cuisines are alive and change all the time. What is traditional today was esoteric just a few decades back. So being a 'foodist' is as bad as being a racist !

About Me

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Chennai, Tamilnadu, India
Okay, let me start from the very beginning. 1500 crore years ago, with a Big Bang, the Universe is born. It expands dramatically. Hydrogen forms, contracts under gravity and lights up, forming stars. Some stars explode, dusting space with the building blocks of life. These condense into planets, one of which is Earth. Over time, self replicating molecules appear, multiply and become more complex. They create elaborate survival machines (cells, plants, animals). A variety of lifeforms evolve. Soon, humans arise, discover fire, invent language, agriculture and religion. Civilisations rise and fall. Alexander marches into India. Moguls establish an empire. Britain follows. Independence. Partition. Bloodshed. The license raj is in full sway. I'm born. India struggles to find its place. Liberalisation. The Internet arrives! I move from Tirupur to Chennai. Start a company. Expand into Malaysia, Singapore and the Middle East. Poof! Dot com bust. Funding dries up. Struggle. Retire. Discover the joy of cooking, giving, friendships and the pleasures of a simple life. Life seems less complicated. Pizza Republic, Pita Bite and Bhojan Express bloom !

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