Monday, August 31, 2009

No cook Vadam / Vadagam varieties ( Tamil sun dried crispies)

This cookbook lists 1000 variations of no-cook vadams from 000 to 999. As with all One page cookbooks, 000 is the easiest recipe and 999 the hardest. The variations of  the following vadams are listed in this cookbook


Sadham vadam

Avil Adam

Pori Vadam

Paruppu vadam

Idli vadam

Thayir avil vadam

Karamani vadam

Thenga vadam


Vadam Logic: Sun dry spiced lentil – processed cereal paste in various shapes. Deep fry and use

Shaping Vadams:  Depending on the thickness of the batter, you can shape vadams in various ways. If the batter is very thick, with the consistency of a chapatti dough, you can pinch off small pieces ( killu vadam) or extrude it with a muruku press ( or a cookie press) into different shapes ( long thin strips, coiled tubes like a jalebi, short, thick strips etc). If the batter has the consistency of thick soup you can pour a spoonful of it on a  plastic sheet cloth and spread into small rounds

The Base
Processed cereals ( Rice flakes, puffed rice, cooked rice, even Idlis) are mashed into a paste form the base for many vadams. Soaked and ground dals (Urad dal, cowpea, tuvar dal, chana dal ), coconut are also used as a base. These are usually mixed with chili & salt.

Almost anything can be used to flavouir a vadam. The traditional flavourings are listed in column 2.

Traditional additives are listed in column 3. Bone vine grows wild in countryside is a unique additive. A variety of food colours are now used to make colourful vadams. Sesame lends a nice flavour, but is prone to spoilage on long storage. Feel free to experiment with your favourite additives

Though vadams last long, they do deteriorate over time. It is advisable to use them within an year or refrigerate them for longer storage. Freezing vadams for a week after sun drying them would help improve their shelf life (as freezing kills off any insect larvae / eggs)

Thalippu Vadam   / Thalippu Vadagam or Vengaya Vadagam is the secret ingredient in divinely flavoured kulambu / kootu / poriyal / sambar. Traditional thalippu (fried seasoning) ingredients are mixed with crushed shallots , garlic and are sun cooked it for a couple of days. They are then shaped into lemon sized balls and are sun dried completely. A small bit of the ball is broken, fried in oil and used to flavour curries, imparting a deep, rich  flavour to them. Surprisingly, Castor oil, a powerful laxative is traditionally used to shape this vadagam !     As Vadouvan, it has started to gain global fame and is now used in traditional western dishes. Like all vadagams, they can be oven roasted instead of being sun dried.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Easy Tamil Vatrals ( Sun dried veggies)

This cookbook lists 10 simple vatrals ( sun dried vegetables). The logic is simple :

Vatrals : Sun dried goodies:  Sun dry raw / marinated/ blanched vegetables, deep fry and use.

Sundrying is one of the oldest ways to preserve foodstuff.  Enzymes/ other natural chemicals within food / Microorganisms from outside are the main causes of food spoilage. Sun dries out water (and enzymes). This absence of water prevents the growth of microorganisms. So food is prevented from both internal and external spoilage.  Sun drying works only when the weather is really hot. Almost any fruit / vegetable without too much water content can be sun dried.  Large pieces do not sun dry well as the water deep inside does not evaporate fast. In coastal areas, a large variety of fish/ prawns is sun dried into karuvadu . It is interesting to note that only vegetables indigenous to India are sun dried into vatrals. Introduced vegetables like beans, carrots, tomatoes, mushrooms etc are not made into vatrals. The following vatrals are listed in this cookbook :

1.       Avarakkai Vatral

2.       Kothavarangai Vatral

3.       Vepampoo vatral

4.       Kathirikai Vatral

5.       Chenai vatral

6.       Sundakkai Vatral

7.       Kovakkai Vatral

8.       Manathakkali Vatral

9.       Vendakkai Vatral

10.   Thamarai thandu vatral

11.   Pavakkai vatral


Using Vatrals :

1. Vatrals can act as vegetable substitutes in kulambu  & sambar. Just add them straight to the gravy and let simmer till cooked.

2. Brush vatral with oil and microwave on high for 30 seconds to a minute or deep fry them in hot oil. Use to accompany curry and rice.

3.Deep fried / microwaved vatrals can be  crumbled into a coarse powder and eaten mixed in with hot rice and ghee.  

Tips :

1.  Hot, dry, breezy days are best for vatrals.  A temperature of 85ºF or above, with humidity below 60 % is ideal for vatral making..

2. Keep vartals on a raised, perforated surface so that air can circulate all around them. Keep them covered with a cheese cloth to deter pests.
3.  An oven or a dehydrator can be used instead of sun drying.
4. After sun drying, keep vatrals for 4-5 days in the freezer to make them last longer (Freezing kills off most insects / insect eggs).
5. Though not commonly practiced in south India, tomatoes can be cut into quarters, sun dried and used in gravies / as pizza topping.
6. Sun dried vatrals still have around 5-10% moisture left. So they do deteriorate eventually. Use them within a year.
7. While sun drying, keep vatrals indoors at night or they might soak up moisture from the cool night air.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Popsicle Varieties

Popsicle : The fool proof frozen dessert

Pour a liquid in a mould, insert a stick and freeze it – how much more simpler can a recipe get? No wonder these are popular across the world as popsicles in America, Paletas in Latin America, Ice pops in Ireland, Ice lollies in UK, Icy pole in Australia, Freezies in Canada, Kuchi Ice in Tamilnadu and Kulfi in north India.

Almost any liquid can be frozen into a wide variety of popsicles. Each has a special name – the Hispanic paletas are made from frozen fruit puree, Indian kulfi is made from frozen milk, French sorbet is made from frozen juice / puree. Adult popsicles can be made from a variety of spirits / cocktails. Column 2 lists flavouring ideas and column 3 lists additives which would give pops a nice texture. Be creative – even Boiled sago, boiled vermicelli, & coconut are common in south Indian popsicles. I was surprised to find corn in a popsicle !

Making Layered Popsicles :

Add a layer of a base. Let it freeze. Add a different coloured layer. Let freeze. Repeat to have as many layers as needed.


Tips :

1. If the Popsicle has not set hard, you can still serve it in a cup as a slush.

2. Frozen pops keep well in the freezer.

3. Small plastic /  paper cups/ yogurt cups - even ice trays work well as popsicle moulds . Popsicle moulds are readily available and are very easy to use.

4. Immerse the mould in warm water so that the pop can be removed easily.

5. Sugarcane cut into finger length sticks, swizzle sticks, lollipop with candy, toothpicks , sturdy twigs make interesting sticks.

6. If the liquid is not thick enough, the stick will not stay upright. So freeze the liquid for 3 -4 hours and then insert sticks. Or cover the mould with foil and poke the stick through foil.

7. Pops can be made even without a refrigerator. Fill a large container half way with crushed ice, mix in salt (salt dramatically lowers the temperature of ice) and bury the popsicle moulds in ice. They should set within a couple of hours. The Indian Kulfi is traditionally made this way.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pakodas ( Crunchy fritters from Tamilnadu )

Any edible flour can be used to coat a variety of goodies which can then be deep fried into crispy treats – The Pakodas.  South Indian Pakodas belong to the fritter family consisting of  North Indian pakoras, Japanese tempuras, American hush puppies, South Indian bajji, North Indian bhajias, South Indian bondas, Japanese kakiage, , French beignets., Italian frittas and all such crispy, deep fried recipes, which exist in virtually every cuisine. All these are nothing but goodies dipped in batter and deep fried into crunchy treats. Pakodas are unique that they use dry flour as a coating and not batter. The water content of the goodies used is enough for the flour to cling to them. Unlike other members of the fritter family, Pakodas are shapeless.

 Different cuisines prefer different flours. All of them / a combination of them can be used for pakodas. Column 1 lists some of them. A range of flavouring agents listed in column 2 can be mixed in with the flour to cook up scores of variations.  A variety of goodies listed in column 3 can be mixed with the flour and deep fried. There are no fixed rules about the goodies & flour combination. Experiment with your favourite goodies!

 Understanding the principle behind deep frying is the only way to cook a light and crispy fritter every time.

 Deep frying principle : Keep the oil clean and at the right temperature

1. Use safflower or sunflower oil which can heat up to higher temperatures.
2. Have enough oil so that it is at least twice the depth of the food you fry. Using less oil results in its temperature dropping fast when you add stuff to it is added.
3. Fry at the right temperature. Too high and you burn the batter. Too low and the batter soaks up oil and becomes greasy.
4. If the oil smokes, it is too hot. To check temperature, drop a couple of bits of batter into the oil. At the right temperature, batter sinks a bit, but bobs right up and browns within a minute. If the batter sinks, oil is not hot enough. If it dances on the surface, oil is too hot.
5. Do not overcrowd the oil. Carefully add the batter, leaving lots of space around each piece. Too much food causes oil temperature to drop and makes the food greasy.
6. Cook with fresh oil. Unless filtered and stored well, oil earlier used gives a stale flavour.
7. Cook with clean oil. After every couple of batches, filter away the particles of batter floating around.

 Safety First

1. Never fill over half the pan with oil.
2.  A smoking oil can catch fire. Reduce heat immediately.
3. To clean oil spills, sprinkle flour and wipe clean.
4. Avoid frying stuff with high water content as it splashes heavily.
5. If oil catches fire, cover the pot immediately to cut off air supply.
6. Gently slip the batter into oil. Plonking it in would cause splashes.

 The flour:
Different cuisines use different flours. Column 1 lists some of them

1.       Gram flour forms the base for most North Indian pakoras , South Indian bajjis, Bondas and Pakodas.

2.       Wheat flour is the base for Japanese Tempuras.

3.       Pearl millet flour is not very usual but can be used to get crunchy pakodas.

4.        Yellow corn meal batter is used in southern states of America to cook up Corn fritters / Hush Puppies .

5.       Finger millet flour is used to cook up Ragi pakoras popular in Tamilnadu.

6.       Rice flour is used to cook up Almojabanas. , a Puerto Rican recipe. It is also mixed in with gram flour to cook crispy pakodas.

7.       Rava (cream of wheat) is used estensively in Konkan cuisine to cook up a crunchy fritter.

8.      Any edible flour can be used to cook a pakoda. Some all purpose flour is usually mixed in so that the flour clings well.

 The flavouring :
A range of flavouring agents listed in column 2 can be mixed in with the batter to cook up scores of variations. Some fritters like the Tempura use little or no flavouring.

The goodies:
A variety of goodies listed in column 3 can be dredged in the flour and deep fried. There are no fixed rules about the goodies & flour combination. Each flour and goodie combo will have its own crunch. Experiment with your favourite goodies!

This post was inspired by Nandu’s world famous Pakodas. I’ve repeatedly bumped into people who are exceptional in cooking up one recipe – and stop at that. When you have mastered a core principle ( deep frying in this case), you can easily extend your expertise in cooking up a huge array of similar recipes – by just varying the building blocks. This is what One page cookbooks are all about. I hope we get to see a post on more world famous pakodas from Nandu. J

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Cooking in a Hotel room ( or just about anywhere)

Cooking with basic equipment

It is easy to cook in a hotel room if you choose the recipes right. You need very basic tools – a knife, an electric kettle and an electric iron. If you do not have an electric kettle / electric iron in your hotel room, you need to have a Thermos flask and access to boiling water ( see One page cookbooks: Vacuum flask recipes for details)

Cooking in a Hotel room – Basics.

Buy carbohydrates from the super market. This may be sliced bread, pita , tortilla , chappati or even cooked pasta / noodles. Cooking carbs takes time and is generally messy. So have a supply of them. (A good idea is to carry a small pack of muesli. See 1001 Museli cookbook).

If you have access to a heat source, you can cook quite a few recipes. An electric kettle / electric iron can double as kitchen equipment. Carrying a mini immersion heater (as long as your finger – usually used to heat water for shaving) is a good idea.  


1. Clean everything after cooking. Clean an electric kettle by filling it with water and letting it boil for a few minutes.

2. Electric irons are usually Teflon coated and easy to clean. Just wipe them well before and after cooking. 
3. Though electric irons are electrically insulated, never touch the cooking surface with your bare hands.

4. Keep the electric kettle over a pile of news papers / tissues / towel as it might bubble and spill over.

5. Be creative – fill your sliced bread with salsa to make a sandwich or roll up salsa in a tortilla to make a burrito. Just mix a carb base with veggies / eggs/ meats to fix up a variety of recipes.

6. A soup can double as a sauce. Make it slightly thicker and pour it over cooked noodles / pasta to have a filling meal.

10 Easy Indian Halwa

Click the image on the left to view the cookbook.

This cookbook lists 10 easy Indian halwas listed below. 

1.:   Carrot Halwa   

2.:   Beetroot Halwa  

3.:   Kasi Halwa    

4.:   Chayote Halwa      

5.:   Bottle gourd  Halwa     

6.:   Bread Halwa    

7.:   Apple Halwa    

8.:.  Jackfruit Halwa  

9.:   Pineapple Halwa 

10.: Papaya  Halwa  

And that's my entry to Paajaka's sweet series and to SHF - Aug 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tamil Vegetables

Here are some common vegetables used in South Indian cuisine. Click on the image to see the Tamil names of the vegetables.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

10 Pooris ( Deep fried Indian flatbreads)

This cookbook lists 10 simplified deep fried Indian breads. For more detailed recipes, check out the links from fellow bloggers listed below. The following breads are listed in this cookbook:

1.:  Poori  : You can look at Poori as a deep fried Chapatti. Whole wheat dough is rolled into a thin circle which is then deep-fried to make a poori. This is popular in south India and is eaten with potato curry.

2.: Luchi  is poori made from refined wheat flour ( maida). These are popular in East India, especially Bengal and Orissa.

3.: Jeera Poori has cumin powder and cumin seeds kneaded into the dough.

4.: Masala Poori is spicy with chili powder and garam masala kneaded in.

5.: Methi Poori has chopped fenugreek leaves mixed into the dough.

6.: Missi Poori a Rajasthani specialty is made from a mixture of wheat flour and gram flour.

7.: Palak Poori has boiled and mashed spinach mixed in. A variety of spinach can be used here.

8.: Paneer Poori is stuffed with grated paneer.

9.: Aloo poori has a stuffing of potatoes

10.: Dal Poori uses boiled and mashed tuvar dal as the stuffing. A variety of boiled and mashed pulses can be used in place of tuvar dal.

And this is my first entry to A Mad Tea Party's Party time !

Pani Poori Variations ( North Indian Street Food)

Pani Poori also called Phuchka/ Gol Gappa, was probably invented in Benaras. It is the cornerstone of the huge, North Indian street food industry. This fried, golf ball sized crunchy shell is filled with stuffing, topped up with a liquid and is popped whole into the mouth. This bite sized morsel meal mimics a full meal with its bread, curry and wash-down liquid combination. The liquid / stuffing vary from region to region.

This cookbook lists 1000 Pani Poori varieties. Ten different stuffings are paired with ten different additives and ten different liquids to create a thousand different Pani Pooris.

The Stuffing:
A variety of stuffing listed in column 1 can be used as a base. Remember that the stuffing mimics a curry. So almost any curry can be used as a stuffing. Boiled and mashed Potatoes are the most popular stuffing across India. The Marathi version uses Boondi and many east Indian versions use sprouts / boiled Mung beans. Meats / cheeses are almost never used in Indian Pani pooris, but that is no reason why you should avoid them. Almost any dry curry can be used as a stuffing. Even left over not-so-dry curries can be used to stuff pooris, in which case, you need not add extra liquid.

 The additives :
A variety of additives are mixed in with the stuffing for flavour/ texture. Some common additives are listed in column 2.

Liquid :
Pani poori is topped off with a sour liquid, which helps in washing it down, and enables one to wolf down dozens of pani pooris without drinking water. The liquid can range from very sour to very sweet / spicy depending on the region. Vodka is a recent addition and vodka Pani poori was a recent rage in Bombay. The liquid is stored in huge earthern pots wrapped with a red, moist towel to keep it cool. The vendor takes a poori in his left hand, punctures it with his thumb, adds  stuffing with his right hand, takes the stuffed poori in his right hand and dunks it into the pot, filling it with liquid. It is placed in the customers plate and is immediately gulped down.

6 pooris usually make a plate. The idea of mimicking a meal is carried to its conclusion with the final poori being served with a sweet chutney (mimicking the dessert).

Pani poori can also be served dry without a liquid. When yogurt is used it is called Dahi Poori ( yogurt – bread). When curried green peas masala is used as liquid, the stuffing is omitted and it is called a masala poori. When sev is used, it is called Sev Poori

Unpuffed Pooris : While frying, it is likely that the pooris do not puff up. These are called Papdi and are not wasted. The stuffing  is arranged over them, additives are sprinkled, drenched with a chutney and served as a Papdi. Dahi Papdi, Masala Papdi are common. Broken pani pooris are also crushed and used as papdi. 

Boiling Beans: Soak a handful of dried, whole mung / chickpeas / green peas in water overnight. Add two cups of water and pressure cook for three whistles.

Making Poori : Take a handful each all purpose flour, wheat flour and semolina. Add two pinches of salt and baking powder. Knead with water to a stiff dough. Roll into a large thin sheet. Cut with an inverted lid into small, bite sized circles. Deep fry both sides in oil till puffed and golden. Readymade pooris are widely available.


Tips :

Microwave the shells for few seconds and they’ll be a lot crunchier.

Keep the liquid cold. A crunchy poori with a cool liquid tastes divine !

Mini Phyllo shells can be used in place of Pooris. 

And this is my second entry to A Mad Tea Party's Party time !

Thursday, August 13, 2009

1001 Sprouted Sundal ( Dry South Indian Curries)

A Sundal is a dry Tamil curry traditionally made from boiled lentils/ beans / pulses. It becomes extra delicious and healthier when made from sprouts.

This cookbook lists 1000 simplified sprouted sundal, Ten different sprouts are combined with ten different additives and ten different flavouring to create a thousand different Sundals.   The following Sundals are listed in this cookbook :

1.:Pasi Payaru Sundal

2.:Mysore Paruppu Sundal

3.:Mooku Kadalai Sundal

4.:Konda Kadalai Sundal

5.:Ulundu Sundal

6.:Vendaiya Sundal

7.:Pattani Sundal

8.:Kollu Sundal

9.:Soya Sundal

Sundals made from sprouted pulses are not very common. But they are extra healthy as sprouts are packed with nutrients and plant enzymes, easily absorbed by the human body. Almost all edible whole beans, pulses and cereals can be sprouted and eaten raw, but some sprouts (Red kidney beans / Buckwheat) cause allergic reactions. 

Sprouting Pulses:  Soak a cup of whole beans or lentils overnight. Drain water and rinse well. Line a colander with cloth. Add soaked beans, fold edges of cloth over, covering it. Sprinkle a cup of water over them twice a day. In 2-3 days, sprouted beans would be ready. (Each seed has its own sprouting time, generally between 2 - 5 days). Remember, sprouts need moisture, warmth and indirect sunlight to grow well. 

Sprouts not rinsed regularly will turn sour.
Sprouts left germinating too long will develop leaves and become baby greens.
Sprouts left standing in water would rot.
Sprouts not moistened regularly will dry out.
Sprouted well, each cup of dry beans / pulses yield would yield nearly 3 cups of sprouts.
Placing a weight on top of beans while sprouting would yield larger, crunchier sprouts.
Always use edible beans / pulses. Never use seeds intended for planting as they are treated with toxins.

And this is for  Andrea's Grow your OwnJFI - Sprouts  and to MLLA.

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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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