Friday, January 30, 2009

Ananda Vikatan

Ananda Vikatan ( 29 Jan - 4 Feb) profiled the Cooking Solo for 500 event. I was thrilled that the correspondent stayed for the full three hours and watched fascinated !

Monday, January 26, 2009

1001 More kulambu ( Buttermilk Stew )

Aah.. it is nice to be back blogging ! The cooking solo for 500 event drained me completely and it took me over a week to slip back into normal routine !

Kulambu is a sour stew, usually cooked with tamarind. In more kulambu (buttermilk sour stew), we use yogurt / buttermilk as a souring agent, instead of tamarind. It is a very simple stew and need not even be cooked, though it is normally briefly heated. Konkani Tambli is a version of uncooked More Kulambu. (Note : Yogurt curdles on prolonged cooking). Ash gourd / stir fried Okra are common additives. The north Indian Kadi belongs to the more kulambu family and uses pakodi ( fried gram flour dumplings) in place of veggies. Though not traditional, a variety of fermented milk products from across the world ( KefirViili  , Kaymak, sour cream etc) or other yogurts ( goat, mare, camel) can also be used to cook up never before cooked, exotic more kulambu.

 This cookbook lists 1000 simplified buttermilk stews, the More Kulambu, cooked in Tamilnadu. Ten bases are combined with ten different additives and ten different flavouring to create a thousand different more kulambu varieties.  The building blocks are listed below: 

The bases:
A mixture of coconut , cumin, green / red chilies are blended together with various combinations of roast and groud fenugreek, coriander seeds, soaked / roasted lentils to cook up an array of bases. In an interesting variation, the Devasa ( Death anniversary) More kulambu is ultra orthodox and uses black pepper (native to India) instead of chilies (the ‘foreign’ import). 

Flavouring :
A variety of fried spices like mustard, curry leaves, fenugreek, red chili, asafetida as listed in column 2 can be used. 

Additives :
Boiled Ash gourd, str fried okra are the most often used vegetables. However almost any vegetable can be used. More kulambu tastes great with cooked stuff ( boiled lentil balls – paruppu urundai, pakodi or even torn papad). (Quick tip : use cut up ready made masala vada as a vegetable substitute).

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Eenadu Jan 18 2009

Eenadu, the Telugu newspaper, with the second largest circulation in India, profiled the event. I was thrilled that the reporter stayed for the full three hours, watching fascinated and ate with us.

Press Coverage - Dinamani 18 Jan 2009

Dinamani, a leading Tamil daily carried a short article on Jan 18 about the event.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cooking Solo for 500 - The Story

Hiya fellow bloggers, friends, Couchsurfers, Chennai Food guide members and critics, 

First of all, a big thanks. Thanks for your blogs and good wishes. Thanks for spurring me on. The cooking Solo for 500 really exceeded expectations. 

The event stemmed from an argument with a few professional chefs who claimed One page cookbooks were over simplified and are not practical. I know one page cookbooks work flawlessly on a small scale - I've been cooking with them for years and my friends swear by it. But I was not sure if they would work on a large scale. On impulse, I challenged them that I'll follow the One page cookbook recipes exactly, to cook up something never attempted before - cook solo a 10 course marriage feast for  500 people in under 3 hours. By then I was worked up and also added that there will be dishes from all four South Indian states - Tamilnadu, Andhra, Kerala and 

Karnataka. The bragging felt so good that I got carried away and bet that I'll start from scratch - which means cutting up vegetables, blending chilies, pureeing tomatoes etc. The only help I would take would be to remove the huge cooked pots from the fire. So the challenge was on – start from scratch and cook solo a 10 course marriage feast for 500 people in under three hours. I have cooked for people from over 25 countries and wanted to use this event to dispel the myth that South Indian cuisine was too spicy for foreigners.

My main concern was that I have never cooked for a party larger than 20 and have never handled the huge vessels and other equipment used for large scale cooking. But I was convinced that my simple recipes would work. So the challenge was on.

I then compiled 10 simple recipes , from all four southern states, which are relatively fool proof and can be cooked fast. The next big challenge was to raise the huge amount of money to book a respectable marriage hall, hire equipment, invite people and do the thousand odd things you need to do to assemble 500 people, media and invite friends from across the world.

I badly wanted to do a dry run, but it meant another large outlay of funds and so it never hapened.

So finally, on Jan 17, the show was on. With the media and a crowd of volunteers inspecting the kitchen and verifying that nothing was prepared, I started cooking at 3.15 PM. Handling the heavy 40 Kg vessels and the 6 foot long ladles was much tougher than I thought. It took me over two hours to get comfortable with the equipment. But things started easing up and I got my rhythm back. By then the kitchen was packed with people and media. Finally, after 2 hours, thirty seven minutes and forty seconds, I lifted the last cauldron of Semiya payasam ( vermicelli  milk pudding ) off the fire and wild cheering broke out.  Yes, One page cookbooks work !

A short bragging session,  photo shoot and a couple of interviews later, it was feeding time and I held my breath. Over the next two hours, the stack of 500 plates shrunk and vanished. This was the only way we were keeping track of the number of people. A small pile of around 100 plates was washed and stacked again. After 523 plates, there was still enough food for around 100 people, which was distributed locally.  I was thrilled that people from across the country had traveled huge distances to attend and that people from 10 different countries tasted South Indian marriage cuisine. Feeding so many people gave me such a big rush !. 

Here’s the event in pictures.

BTW, I now am cocky enough to bet that I can repeat this for twice the people in  half the time . I'm convinced that One Page Cookbooks are so simple to follow and are so fail proof , that I'm betting I can teach a novice cook to repeat this, with just a one day training session - any takers ?  

Here's the proposed menu

1. Ash gourd Olan 

2. Majjiga pulusu

3. Jeeragae Tambli

4. Shallot Sambar

5. Pepper Rasam

6. Garlic Kulambu 

7. Cabbage Kootu

8. Potato Podimas

9. Tomato pappu

10. Sago payasam

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I did it !

One page cookbooks work ! To prove the point, I cooked a 10 course meal for 500 people yesterday evening in under three hours. Right from chopping vegetables to getting food on the table, it took me 2 hours, thirty seven minutes and forty seconds. 

A nice gathering of friends ( I'm surprised that over a hundred of my friends turned up !)  and great fun. A healthy coverage by the media. Will post more pics soon. 

Friday, January 16, 2009

1001 Easy Jambalaya ( Cajun / Creole One pot meal)

 Jambalaya :

Jambalaya is a one pot meal with rice, meat and vegetables. It is the Cajun / Creole adaptation of the Spanish Paella. Replace the seafood in Spanish paella with meats and it starts resembling Jambalaya.

Cajuns & Creoles :  
Acadia, (a region in Eastern Canada) was a part of the French colonial empire in the 1700’s. Under a treaty, the French ceded it to the English. The Acadians refused to swear loyalty to the English and were evicted under the Great Expulsion. Many eventually settled inLouisiana, a former French colony. Louisiana already had a large native French speaking population, a large number of them being the second born sons of aristocrats seeking adventure and fortune in the New World, later came to be called  Creoles. Louisiana in turn was ceded by French to Spain. The Acadians morphed under the Spanish and Creole influence and became a distinct ethnic group - the Cajuns. Bell pepper, onion, and celery are added to almost everything and are called the holy trinity of Cajun cuisine. Parsley, bay leaf, spring onions and dried cayenne pepper are common Cajun flavourings. The Cajun refugees, forced to live off the land, rebuilt their cuisine around locally available rice, vegetables, crawfish and game meat – setting  “a table in the wilderness” Cajun meals are simple - rice, skillet cooked cornbread vegetables, game meat / seafood. Creole cuisine is more elaborate with its European influenced recipes and French sauces The Creole version of Jambalaya uses tomatoes and Cajun versions do not. 

With the intermingling of so many  cultures, Lousiana cuisine has given rise to a delightful array of unique dishes like Jambalaya, Gumbo ( thick stew , usually with Okra) and eTouffee ( Seafood stew, served with rice).

As with 1001 one page cookbooks, 10 different bases are combined with 10 flavouring agents and ten additives to create a thousand easy Jambalaya recipes, numbered from 000 to 999. 

The bases
 A variety of meats as listed in column 1 are used as a base.

The flavouring
Celery, onion and bell peppers form the basic flavouring. A variety of other flavouring listed in column 2 can also be used.

The additives
Almost any vegetable as listed in column 3  can be used .

Thursday, January 15, 2009

1001 Easy Vegan Chili ( Spicy Bean Stew)

Replace the animal protein with plant protein in a meat based chili and you get a vegan chili.

This cookbook lists 10 different beans / lentils, which are combined with 10 flavouring agents and ten additives to create a thousand vegan chili recipes, numbered from 000 to 999.

 The base
Only a handful of beans / lentils are commonly used in chili. But we now have acces to  a huge variety of  other beans / lentils any of which can be used as a base. When in season, you can experiment with using  fresh beans / lentils. All beans can be sprouted and you can try using them in place of dry beans.  The quick cooking lentils, so popular in Indian cuisine, need no pre soaking and can be used to whip up a bowl of chili fast.  Larger beans however,  need to be soaked overnight.

 The flavouring
Cumin, onion and garlic form the basic flavouring. A couple of pinches of the mild Kashmiri chili powder can be used to lend a deep reed color to the chili. A variety of other flavouring listed in column 2 can also be used.

 The additives
A variety of vegetables as listed in column 3 can be cooked along with the beans to cook up a huge array of chili.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

1001 Simple Chili ( Spicy Meat / Bean Stew)

Chili pepper was domesticated 10,000 years ago in the Americas. 500 years back, they travelled with Columbus to Spain and soon spread across the world. When eaten, capsaicinoids (a group of plant chemicals occurring in chilies) fool the brain into believing that the mouth is on fire.  The brain responds by raising heart rate, increasing sweat, and releases endorphins (the feel-good hormone), to soothe the body. This 'rush' is what makes chilies so addictive. 
Added to meat and cooked into a stew with some flavouring, it soon became a wildly popular stew - Chili con carne (literally peppers with meat). Beans were probably added later to stretch the stew and in many versions they replace meat.  With its name shortened to Chili, it is now the official dish of Texas.   
A huge variety of meats / beans can be used along with a variety of flavouring and additives as listed above. A dash of beer / wine / sour cream / vinegar / pickle juice can be mixed in before serving.

Chili can be served straight or with crackers, cooked rice, pasta, tamale, corn bread, cinnamon rolls, sandwiches or tortillas. They can also be used as a topping for hot dog, cheese & fries, corn chips or mashed potatoes. A glass of ice cold beer, cola or milk goes well with a bowl of chili. Chili can be thick, soupy or watery. They can be thickened  with masa, cornflour or crushed crackers. They age well, getting tastier with storage. The traditional recipes call for long gentle cooking over a few hours. A pressure cooker reduces the cooking time dramatically. The Indian whistling pressure cooker is probably the easiest and fastest way to cook chili. A variety of chilies can be used to cook the chili. The chilies so used can be fresh, dried, boiled or even grilled. Each variation subtly alters the taste and flavour of the stew.  
Thousands of ‘the most authentic and tastiest’ versions exist with bitter feuding over the inclusion or omission of meat / beans/ flavouring agents . This cookbook focuses on fool proof, simple chili recipes that a first time cook can cook up on the very first try.  The emphasis as always, is more on ease of preparation than on gourmet cooking.

As with most One page cookbooks, 10 different bases are combined with 10 flavouring agents and ten additives to create a thousand chili recipes, numbered from 000 to 999.

The bases
 A variety of meats / beans or both are used as a base. Meat can be ground ( available as chili grind) or chopped into bite sized cubes. Larger beans need to be soaked overnight and smaller ones can be cooked without soaking.

The flavouring
Cumin, onion and garlic form the basic flavouring. A variety of other flavouring listed in column 2 can also be used.

The additives
Most chilies do not use any vegetables (with the exception of tomato). But a variety of vegetables as listed in column 3 can be used.

Experiment and cook up your own versions !

And that's my entry for San Antonio's Chili cookoff Challenge.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Made my day !

M was good enough to write about the Cooking Solo for 500 event. With luck, it should hit the papers  before the event.  It sure made my day ! I do hope her book gets published this year. My, how well she writes ! 

Sunday, January 11, 2009

1001 Kootu : Mild Coconut - Lentil curries of Tamilnadu

Kootus are mild, thick curries built from boiled lentils and coconut. They are cooked with a variety of dals , though Bengal gram ( Kadalai paruppu), Tuvar dal ( Tuvaram paruppu) and Mung dal ( Pasi paruppu) are the most common.

A kootu without boiled lentils starts resembling a poriyal and a kootu without coconut borders on becoming a dal curry. So cooking a kootu without coconut or lentils is best left to experts.

A Kootu is always mildly flavoured. Too much of spices / chilies are never used. This is why tamarind is rarely used. However, our love for tamarind is so strong that it is sometimes added to cook up a puli kootu (Tamarind kootu).
A kootu cooked with yogurt is a Thayir kootu. The popular Aviyal is a type of thayir kootu. A sweetish pal kootu is cooked up from from milk / coconut milk - and can almost be called a Kuruma. Like most Tamil curries, all kootus can be garnished with a pinch of mustard and curry leaves fried in oil.

Kootus can be eaten not just with rice, but with a variety of flatbreads like chappatis and parathas. Being mild, they also serve as an excellent introduction to south Indian cuisine.

Model recipes
Suganya's Kootu
Zlamushka's poricha kootu
Snake gourd kootu
Laksh's seven vegetable Puli kootu

Nirmala's Soya Palak Kootu
Shriya's Mixed vegetable Kootu

Kamala's Manathakkali Keerai Kootu

Laavanya's Cabbage Kootu with Fennel

Kootus with a twist
Kalai's Keerai Kootu
Onions and tomatoes are rare in Kootus. Here's a recipe with one. And for a double twist, coconut is absent.
Sarada's unusual Cilantro Kootu
Cilantro is rarely used as a vegetable. Here , it takes the place of a spinach.
Maheswari's Ridgegourd Kootu
Another Kootu without coconut
Sarada's Parangikkai paal kootu

Kootu with a triple twist - without either coconut or dal but with Sambar powder !

And that is my last submission for AFAM - coconut, and reposted for MLLA, an event started by Susan.

1001 Chettinadu Curries

Click the image on the left to view the cookbook.

:: Chettinad Curries – A Primer ::
You don’t usually see a tiny region giving birth to a whole new cuisine. Chettinadu (The land of Chettiars) has this distinction of creating one of the most aromatic cuisines of India. In direct contrast to Brahmin cuisine, Chettinad cuisine uses meat and exotic spices extensively. Contrary to popular belief, Chettinad cuisine is neither spicy nor oily. It is however, bursting with flavour.
Chettinad is a small region in southern Tamilnadu consisting of Karaikudi and 74 other villages. It is not a geographic entity and so does not have a clear cut boundary. This is the homeland of the Nattukottai Chettiars (Nagarathar). Being one of the driest areas of Tamilnadu, it is not conducive to agriculture. Unable to farm, its people instead became successful traders, bankers and businessmen, going as far as south-east Asia to trade. Their enormous success and legendary wealth are reflected in their palatial houses and the expensive spices used in their cuisine.

The Curry base:
Chettinadu curries are built from the same four basic building blocks as all south Indian curries – lentils, yogurt, tamarind and coconut. What makes them unique are the flavouring and certain cooking techniques used.
In spite of their great wealth, Chettiars frown upon wastage of any sort. In their curry, the Mandi, even the water used to wash rice grains (Arisi Mandi) is not wasted. Polished rice always has a thin coating of flour on it. The water used to wash rice grains dissolves this flour. When added to the curry, this water not only adds nutrients, but also acts as a thickener. See Solai’s Mandi.
When the regular Pulikulambu is flavoured with fennel, it becomes a uniquely chettinad curry. (See Malar’s plantain Pulikulambu.) Similarly, the regular more kulambu uses a blended mixture of coconut, cumin and chilies. Add fennel and some ginger- garlic paste and this spiced up more kulambu becomes a Chettinad curry.

Chettinadu Kara Kulambu is just a regular kulambu on steroids. Here onions, tomatoes and garlic are stir fried, mashed and mixed with tamarind paste to cook up a rich, thick kulambu. (See SEEC’s Kara Kulambu)

Perattal ( stirred up) is another unique curry where boiled vegetables are stirred and cooked with freshly ground masala paste. (See Pasi Payaru Perattal). The simple Paruppu is spiced up with garlic, onions and chilies, becoming the Paruppu masiyal. Similarly the humble rasam is flavoured by fennel, ginger and garlic morphing into the Chettinad rasam. Even Keerai Masiyal, the quintessential Brahmin curry is jazzed up with garlic to morph into a more flavourful avatar.

Chettinadu cuisine derives its punch from exotic spices like marathi mokku (dried flower pods), anasipoo (star anise) and kalpasi (dried bark). Other spices like fennel, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf, ginger and garlic are commonly used in everyday cooking. Using readymade masalas is frowned upon. Most spice mixes are freshly ground.

In fact, a quick and dirty method of converting a normal Tamil curry into a Chettinad curry is by adding some fried fennel, ginger and garlic. The use of fennel however is not very common in other parts of Tamilnadu and is actually frowned upon by Brahmins.

Chettinadu cuisine uses all the traditional vegetables, spinach and pulses of Tamilnadu cuisine. It also uses a variety of sun dried vegetables reflecting the aridity of the region. Some curries pair well with certain vegetables and these combinations are frequently cooked. Thayir pachadis frequently use carrot, cucumber, gooseberry, boiled snake gourd & ash gourd. Mandi is usually cooked with spinach, chilies, okra, mochai, or sun dried vegetables.

Keerai Masiyals usually use mulai keerai, arai keerai, manathakkali keerai, ponnanganni keerai or siru keerai.

Kootus are made with eggplant, chow-chow or banana stem. Puli kulambu uses okra, bitter gourd, eggplant or bottle gourd. More kulambu usually has eggplant, okra, ash gourd, drumstick, okra or colocasia.

With these principles in place, feel free to experiment with these building blocks and flavourings to cook up a huge variety of Chettinad curries.

Srimathi of Few minute wonders is hosting RCI: Chettinadu Vegetarian Cuisine and am reposting this for the event.

10 Simple Pappu ( Andhra's lentil stews)

Click the image on left to view the cookbook.

This cookbook lists 10 simplified, thick lentil stews from Andhra. For more detailed recipes,  check out the links from fellow bloggers listed below. The following stews are listed in this cookbook:

0.:  Mudda Pappu  

1.:   Pesaru pappu   

2.:   Tomato pappu  

3.:  Mamdikkaya pappu  

4.:  Nimmakkaya Pappu  

5.:  Dosakkaya Pappu   

6.:  Thota koora pappu   

7.:  Chinta chiguru pappu    

8.:   Gongura pappu   

9.:  Beerakkaya pesaru pappu   

And this is my first entry to SRA's legume love affair,. As the turmeric used intensifies the yellow colour of the lentils, this also would be a good fit for Sunshine Moms FIC - Yellow

1001 Paratha Pizzas

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When my 6 year old nephew K insisted he’ll have nothing but pizza for dinner, and I had no pizza dough ready, I just topped a parota with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and baked it. He loved it, though he later casually remarked that he  liked the Indian pizza that I made ( you can’t fool kids !) . I was surprised to see the same offered in Hotel Chendur on Greams road. Actually, paratha pizzas are easier to make and infinitely variable. With hundreds of parathas being cooked across India, a paratha pizza makes great sense. It could be a nice fusion food, with mozzarella cheese alone being a ‘novel’ addition. 

What is pizza anyway ? A flatbread topped with cheese, sauce, toppings  and baked. A variety of flatbreads can be used as a pizza base. All these are leavened ( using yeast / baking powder), because a thick unleavened bread  will be tough and chewy . Parathas are not leavened – traditional Indian cuisine uses neither yeast nor baking powder. Instaed it invented its own technique to make a thick bread edible – by layering it like a puff pastry or by stuffing it with a variety of goodies. This unique invention led to an array of thick but soft flatbreads – the parathas. 

So instead of using a leavened flatbread as a pizza base, we here use a range of parathas. These are quicker to make, infinitely variable and are familiar to Indians. And they do taste bloody delicious. 

The change I’ve made in the recipe is not to use oil while cooking the parathas so that they remain dry and not oily.

Perfect for this cold weather, warm and cozy and fits in perfectly with Pallavi's Sunday Snacks event. It also fits in well with Sindhura's Bread Mania event.

10 Simple Chinese Sauces

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I had the pleasure of hosting Martha Ma, a second generation American, who's an educator, health counselor, media maker, producer, artist, designer and a hard core foodie.  A Chinese, born in Korea and settled in New York, she was able to cut across cuisines. I wasted no time in getting her to help me put down 3 blogs on Chinese dipping sauces, Soy sauce pickles and Kimchi. I never realised how simple Chinese sauces and pickles can be !

One tip - use the best possible Soya sauce ( brewed & not synthetic) and anything you cook up would be delicious !

Saturday, January 10, 2009

1001 Kulfi ( No cook Indian Ice cream)

Click the image on the left to view the cookbook. 

Kulfi is traditionally made from thickened cow / buffalo milk. However, a variety of bases as listed in column 1 can be used . A variety of  ‘plant milk’ like Almond milk, Rice milk or Cashew milk can be easily made at home and used as a base for kulfis. The most common ‘plant milk’ used in India is coconut milk.

Kulfis can be flavored in various ways as listed in column 2

 Almost anything edible as listed in column 3 can be used in a Kulfi. 

 This simple, no cook, fail proof  dessert never fails to please !

Friday, January 09, 2009

100 Simple Fresh Salsas

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This cookbook lists 100 simple fresh salsas from 00 to 99. Ten different bases are paired with ten different flavourings to create a hundred different salsas. 

The base :
Though tomato and tomatillos are the most popular bases, a variety of fruits and vegetables can be made into salsas. Column 1 lists 10 different bases.

The flavouring :
A variety of flavouring agents as listed in column 2 can be used in salsas. 

And this goes to Weekend Herb Blogging  initiated by cook almost anything and hosted by Haalo and to Lakshmi's  SWC Salads.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

10 Homemade Kulfi ( Indian Ice cream)

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This cookbook lists ten easy to make Kulfis listed below:

1.:   Kesar Kulfi ( Saffron Kulfi)

2.:   Elaichi Kulfi ( Cardamom Kulfi)

3.:   Badam / Pista kulfi ( Almond / Pistachio Kulfi)

4.:   Kismis Kulfi (Dry fruit kulfi )

5.:   Mango Kulfi

6.:   Malai Kulfi.( Creamy Kulfi)

7.:   Coconut Kulfi

8.:   Vanilla Kulfi

9.:   Cinnamon Kulfi

10.: Chocolate Kulfi


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

1001 Fresh Indian Chutneys

Click the image on the left to view the cookbook.

Anything edible blended to a paste with chilies, lemon juice / tamarind would taste good seems to be the logic behind chutneys. A variety of bases (column 1) are blended with a variety of souring agents (column 3) and flavoured by various spices (column2) to create an array of chutneys. 
It is probably one of the easiest dips to make – just throw everything in a blender and blend to a paste – how much simpler can it get ? 
South India is the chutney capital, with a mind boggling array of chutneys. Thuvaiyal, Masiyal, Thayir Pachadi – all belong to the chutney family. Thuvaiyals are made by blending raw / boiled vegetables / roasted pulses with red chili and tamarind. Masiyals / Kotsu are cooked chutneys made by blending boiled vegetables with green chilies and lemon juice. Thayir Pachadis are made by mixing raw / boiled vegetables with seasoned yogurt.
The equivalents of Indian chutneys exist in many cuisines. Many foreign ‘chutneys’ omit the chilies and use vinegar / lemon as a souring agent. Toasted sesame seeds blended with olive oil, lemon and salt give the famous Tahini or Sesame chutney.  Mustard when ground to a paste with turmeric, salt and vinegar / wine becomes the delicious mustard dip, so popular in the west. We'd probably call it mustard chutney. If Avacados had been known in India, we'd certainly have had Avacado chutney by pureeing its flesh with salt, chili and lime juice. But now, we only know it as Guacamole. Walnut chutney or Muhammara is made by blending walnuts, chili, garlic, lemon juice, salt and olive oil.

Chutneys can be sweet or sour, spicy or mild, thin or thick, chunky or smooth, cooked or uncooked. They can be made with fruits, salad vegetables, cooked vegetables, roast lentils, nuts or seeds.  Mango, apple, pear, tamarind, onions, tomato, raisins, groundnut, chana dal, coconut, garlic, ginger, mint, cilantro, chilies - all are used across the country as a chutney base. This base is usually blended with a souring agent (lemon / tamarind), chilies (fresh green / dry red) and salt into a thick paste.  Chutneys traveled with the British to their colonies and to Britain, where they have become increasingly popular. The fresh chutney, with its short shelf life was not ideal for mass production. Hence most supermarket chutneys are now a kind of jam / pickle, being cooked with sugar & vinegar. Fruit chutneys (Mangos, apples, onions, raisins) are simmered with vinegar, sugar, spices and bottled, giving rise to a 'chutney' which is almost never eaten in India, but fill the supermarket shelves abroad. These spicy fruit jams masquerading as chutneys are also popular in the Caribbean, South Africa and in US. Taste a freshly blended coconut chutney / cilantro chutney and you'll see how little effort is needed to create this delicious dip and how much more flavourful they are compared to the packed versions.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Cooking solo for 500 - Game plan & Insider's tips

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Cooking for 500 - The game plan

This cookbook lists 10 recipes that I’m cooking for the Cooking Solo for 500 event. The event showcases the unity of South Indian cuisine and promotes One page cookbooks. The following recipes would be served in the Jan 17 cookout in Chennai.  All are invited ! 

1.: Cabbage Kootu (Cabbage – coconut – lentil curry) ( Palghat Iyer recipe)

2.: Drumstick Sambar (Tamarind – lentil stew) (Tamilnadu)

3.: Mysore Rasam (Lentil stock- tamarind thin curry)  (Karnataka)

4.: Dali Thove (Flavoured lentils) (Karnataka).

5.: Tomato Pappu (Tomato – lentil stew) (Andhra).

6.: Shunti Tambli ( Coconut - ginger - yogurt blended curry) (Konkani).

7.: Boondi Thayir Pachadi ( Fried gram flour droplets in yougrt) ( Tamilnadu)

8.: Semia Payasam ( Vermicelli pudding) ( Tamilnadu)

9.:  More Milagai (Fried, sun dried chilies) ( Tamilnadu) 

10.: Paruppu (Mashed lentils)  

Monday, January 05, 2009

10 fresh Street food Chutneys

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This cookbook lists 10 street food chutneys listed below :

1.:   Khatta Meeta chutney  ( Sweet & Sour Chutney)

2.:   Sweet chutney

3.:   Red chutney

4.:   Green chutney 

5.:   White chutney 

6.:   Brown chutney

7.:   Mint chutney 

8.:.  Chili chutney 

9.:   Onion - Tomato chutney  

10.: Tamarind chutney  

10 Non veg stuffed parathas

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This cookbook lists 10 simplified non veg stuffed parathas listed below :

 1.: Egg Paratha  

2.: Salami Paratha  

3.: Prawn Paratha 

4.: Chicken Paratha

5.: Kheema paratha

6.: Fish Paratha  

7.: Crab Paratha 

8.:  Dry fish paratha

9.: Beef / Pork Paratha

10.: Preserved meat paratha    

Friday, January 02, 2009

10 South Indian Lentil Recipes

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10 Simple South Indian Lentil Recipes :

All the recipes listed in the One page cookbooks give just the essence of a recipe, without getting into details. They are designed to minimise mistakes and reveal the big picture at a glance. With the overall idea in mind, do take a look at more detailed recipes from fellow bloggers listed below and cook up your own variations.

1.: Paruppu ( Plain boiled lentils) – the simplest dal of them all. Plain tuvar dal/ Mung dal is boiled with a dash of turmeric powder and eaten mixed with hot rice and ghee. This is traditionally eaten at the start of a meal. Most Brahmin kids still grow up on ‘Pappu Mammu’. There are versions which call for spicing up the dal. This curry is so basic, that I’m unable to find any recipe online !

2.: Dali Thoye (Spiced lentil curry)
This is a spiced up Tuvar dal curry much loved in Mangalore / Konkani regions.

3.: Paruppu Podi (Lentil - chili Powder)
Lentils cooked in numerous ways are consumed across South India. This recipe and the next one use roast and ground lentils. Paruppu Podi is just roast tuvar dal ground into a powder with red chilies and salt.

4.: Paruppu Thogayal (Blended lentil curry)
Paruppu Thogayal is just roast tuvar dal ground into a paste with coconut, red chilies and salt. A bit of tamarind paste is also occasionally blended in.

5.: Kosambari (Soaked lentil salad)
Here's a recipe which uses soaked, raw lentils. Mung dal tastes delicious when just soaked in water. Tuvar dal does not. So this is the only recipe where they cannot be used interchangeably.

6.: Nimmakkaya Pappu (Sour lentil curry)
A much loved lentil dish in Andhra, this is just boiled lentils mixed with lemon juice. A variety of vegetables can also be boiled along with the dal giving rise to variations like Dosakkaya Pappu, Mamdikkaya pappu etc.,

7.: Paruppu Rasam (Thin lentil curry)
A thin soupy curry, this is nothing but spiced up lentil water. Some recipes call for a dash of lemon juice mixed in with Paruppu rasam. Contrary to popular belief, a Rasam or Sambar need not always have tamarind or need not always use Sambar powder / Rasam powder for flavouring.

8.: Paruppu Sambar (Sour Lentil curry)
A thick, chunky curry, Paruppu Sambar is just a thicker version of Paruppu Rasam. It took me quite a while to accept the fact that Kulambu and Sambar are just thicker Rasams !

9.:. Paruppu Kootu (Lentil - coconut - cumin curry) When coconut, cumin and chili paste is mixed with boiled tuvar dal, we get the delicious Paruppu Kootu. A variety of boiled vegetables can be aded to this Kootu.

10.: Molagootal ( Mixed lentil curry) When coconut-chili-cumin paste is cooked together with tuvar dal and vegetables and flavoured with coconut oil, we get the Kerala Brahmin special, the Molagootal.

And that goes to Srivalli's MLLA, an event started by Susan.

1001 Rasam ( Thin South Indian curries)

Rasam meaning ‘extract / essence’, is a clear , thin South Indian curry. Though normally eaten mixed with hot cooked rice, It can be and is usually drunk as a soup.It is usually made from lentil stock ( the water in which tuvar dal has been boiled) and tamarind paste.The famous Mulligatawny soup of the Western world is actually a rasam (Mulligatawny is actually Milagu Thanni or Pepper water) .

Called Chaaru in Telugu and Saaru in Karnataka, Rasams are cooked all over South India, with minor variations across regions. Iyengars elevate it to the status of ambrosia calling it amudhu.

Tamilnadu and Karnataka take their rasams seriously and serve them at every meal. Some of the most innovative Rasams come from Karnataka. It is here you'll find chopped onions, green beans, spinach and coconut in Rasams. It is in Karnataka we see vegetable stock (water in which vegetables have been boiled) being used for making the delicious Rasam called Bus saaru.

Rasam is nothing but a clear sambar / kulambu. The most basic rasam is just flavoured tamarind water. In fact, the early rasams were nothing more than boiled tamarind water served with a pinch of salt and pepper. Rasams are still known as Puli Charu (tamarind juice) in pockets of Tamilnadu. Later, mashed lentils or lentil stock (the water in which lentils have been boiled) was added to fortify the rasam, thus creating the rasam we know and love today.

The defining characteristics of a Rasam are sourness, flavouring and its clear, watery consistency.
The sourness comes usually from Tamarind, flavour from
rasam podi / Sambar podi. By varying the sourness, flavouring and the goodies added, we can cook up scores of rasams. The one page cookbook summarises many of these variations.

Change Souring agent

Change the souring agent and new families of rasams appear. Replace tamarind with tomato and you have
Thakkali rasam. Use Mango and you have Manga rasam. Use buttermilk and you have more rasam and so on
Tamarind juice can be mixed with other juices to make more rasams. Mix in orange juice with tamarind and you have
Orange rasam, mix in coconut milk with tamarind water and you have coconut milk rasam and so on. Feel free to experiment with a variety of juices.

Change lentils

Change the lentils used and you have the
tuvaram paruppu rasam, pasi parppu rasam, Chana dal rasam, Horse gram rasam or masoor dal rasam.
Column 1 lists the types of rasams you can cook up by changing the souring agent and the lentils.

Change flavouring
Change the flavouring style and new classes of rasams like thalithu kottiya rasam, podi potta rasam,
poricha rasam, seeraka rasam, milagu rasam etc., spring up.
Column 2 summarises these changes. Feel free to add a pinch more or less of flavouring to your taste.

Change goodies

Change goodies used and more rasams appear. Use garlic and you have
poondu rasam. Use rose petals and you have paneer rasam, use lentil balls and you have Paruppu Urundai Rasam and so on.

Thus, a staggering array of rasams can be cooked with minor variations of the basic building blocks.

As Rasam is a thin clear soup, all rules of soup making apply. The western world has a range of soups and you can borrow techniques from these soups to make rasam tastier.
Tip 1 : Using
Instead of using plain water, you can use
vegetable stock (the water in which veggies have been boiled). This would give rasam a depth of flavor. For a clear rasam, use a fine mesh filter and filter out the solids just before serving. Add garnish to this clear rasam and serve. Non vegetarians can experiment with a range of meat stocks.
Tip 2 : Using
bouquet garni
A popular flavouring technique is to tie herbs / spices in a cheesecloth bundle which is steeped in the cooking liquid to flavor it. This technique is ideally suited for Rasams. Experiment with a variety of herbs / spices to cook up a range of exotic rasams.
Tip 3 : Garnish & Presentation
The techniques of garnishing and presenting a western clear soup work great for all rasams.

Understand these basic building blocks and you have a supply of Rasams to last a lifetime.
Happy cooking !

And that goes to Lisa's No Croutons required event.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

10 Simple Awadhi Recipes

TThis cookbook lists 10 Awadhi curries, greatly simplified, so that a first time cook can easily cook them. The following recipes are listed in this cookbook:

1.:  Boondi Raita (Yogurt dip)  

2.:  Baingan ka raita ( Eggplant yogurt dip) 

3.:  Nawabi Guchhi (Rich Mushroom curry)  

4.:  Akbari Sabji ( Mixed vegetables with nuts and raisins) 

5.:  Aloo Tamatar Shola (Potato - tomato curry) 

6.:  Paneer Korma (Cottage Cheese curry)

7.:  Lachcha Paratha 

8.:   Warqui Paratha ( Rich layered flatbread )

9.:  Muglai Paneer (Cottage cheese sour curry)

10.: Sultani Dal (Rich lentil curry)

Awadh/ Oudh

 Today's Lucknow and surrounding regions were a province of the ancient Hindu Kosala kingdom. After Lord Rama's coronation, it is believed they were gifted by Him to Lakshmana and was called Lakshmanpur. It fell to the Moguls in the 1100's and came to be called Awadh / Oudh (probably from Ayodhya, the Kosala capital). It was administered by a series of Nawabs (governors). It later became a separate kingdom with the support of the British and was ruled by a succession of Kings (Haider and Shahs).

Awadhi Cuisine

The princely Awadhi cuisine is characterized by the use of expensive spices (cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, saffron), nuts, dried fruits, milk, cream and the choicest cuts of meat. These are used to cook up rich, mild, slow cooked curries. The presentation is equally flamboyant, with the use of wafer thin, edible varq (silver and gold leaf).  

Use of deep fried onion and fried onion paste, prolonged slow & gentle cooking in sealed clay pots, extensive use of grilling are all hallmarks of Awadhi cuisine. Flavouring by asafetida & fried black mustard, common in Indian cuisine is completely avoided. Butter / ghee / matured mustard oil are used for cooking. Cooking rice with meat / vegetables (Biriyani) & making rich layered parathas are techniques perfected by Bawarchis (Royal cooks) who served these at the  Dastarkhwan ( Awadhi feast).

Infusing a smoky flavour:  Place a betel leaf on the curry. Place a small live charcoal on it. Pour a spoon of ghee and keep the curry covered for 10 minutes.

And that is for Siri's RCI- Awadh,  an event started by Lakshmi.

1001 Indian Potstickers

Click the image on the left to see the cookbook.

This cookbook lists 1000 simple Pot Stickers designed to be cooked in an Indian kitchen. 

Potstickers are Chinese dumplings, pan-fried on one side and steamed on the other. With a crunchy side and a soft side, they have a great mouth-feel. China probably has more varieties of dumplings than the rest of the world combined. Chinese dumplings are boiled (shujiao), steamed ( zhengjiao), shallow fried ( jianjiao), deep fried (goutie) or use a combination of these cooking techniques. Pot stickers (so named as they stick to the pan on cooking) are also known as wortip / Peking Ravioli or pan-fried dumplings.

 Modak ( kozhukattai) is the closest equivalent to potstickers we have in India as the combination of pan frying and steaming is not commonly used in Indian cuisine. This delightful combination of techniques from the Chinese cuisine can be adopted for creating a wide variety of Indian potstickers. Though traditional potstickers use just wheat flour, we can apply our roti making expertise to combine an array of different flours with different flavourings and fillings to create a huge array of Indian potstickers. If you’ve learnt to make a roti, you can make a pot sticker. And if you are in a rush, you can use any dry curry as a quick filling.

And that goes yto Pallavi's Sunday Snacks.

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"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 !

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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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