Archive for November, 2006

A Sunny Sandwich from SunTV!

Yes, yes,when we first got the cable, we were guilty of being a slave to SunTV especially on Sundays; We used to be glued to the box starting at about 9:30a.m., and watch all the programs from movies to star interviews to other shows ,however gross/boring/junky they were. And the advertisements!! oh man I have to write about these. The ads are soooo colourful and vibrant that it was hard to take our eyes off the TV set even for a moment!!:-)) This went on for a couple of weeks until the novelty wore off and now except for the cookery show called sunday samaiyal (Sunday cooking!) which I still watch rain or shine!!!:-)) we have pretty much reduced watching Sun TV!!!. Anyway,the cooking show has four parts: A five star cooking which features a chef making fancy stuff, a village recipe by an old gutsy lady who is famous in tamil movies(More information about this section is given by Revathi of En Ulagum blog), a Healthy meal cooked by a dietician using low fat stuff for junta on diet or having diabetes etc. and a modern cooking section on the microwave by an actress who makes stove top recipes on the microwave. Some of the dishes are pretty nice and watching the show makes one realize how much globalization has impacted the cooking style in India!

Anyway last week after we returned from our Thanksgiving bash at L.A, we decided to go on a diet at least for a week to avoid the tyres of fat building up on our waists!!:-)) and viola this Sunday the dietician in Sunday Samaiyal made a veggie-sprout sandwich which was incredibly healthy, filling and most importantly low fat!!! It was as if she heard about our diet!!:-))So Below is the recipe.

Ingredients (for making 8 sandwiches)

1 loaf whole wheat bread

1 green/red/yellow bell pepper chopped fine

1 cup of mushroom chopped fine

1 cup onions chopped fine

1 cup sprouts cooked until soft

1/4 cup paneer cut into tinly pieces

1 green chilly chopped

1 tsp jeera

1 tsp vegetable/olive oil

1/2 tsp pav bhaji masala

1/4 tsp chat masala(optional)

1/4 tsp curry powder(optional)

salt to taste


To the hot oil taken in a wok, add the jeera and once it sputters, add the green chilles. Fry the onions, then throw in the bell peppers and mushrooms. Once they are cooked, put the sprouts,paneer,Pav bhaji masala, chat masala,curry powder, salt and sautee for sometime. This is the stuffing for the sandwich.The rest is very simple. To one slice of the bread spoon in about 2 tblspoons of this veggie-sprout stuffing ,cover it with the other slice and cook in a sandwich maker greased with 1/4 tspoon of ghee. these can be served with ketchup or eaten by itself!They were tasty and filling.



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A Fantastic Thanksgiving Feast!

I have been really lax in blogging since Thanksgiving. We had been to our friends, Gayathri and Shankar’s place in L.A. We stayed with them and went around L.A. and San Diego. We had a fabulous time sight seeing and literally hogging the delicious meals that they cooked for us! On Thurday afternoon we had a sumptuous and mouth-watering south Indian lunch. We tucked it all in with gusto. Below is the picture of the spread that they cooked!!!


Starting clockwise from the small bowl on the left: Potato curry, Moor Kuzhambu(like kadhi/Buttermilk stew) ,appalam(papads),Puli Kuzahmbu(Tamarind stew),kootu-curry,Cabbage-carrot curry with coconut,Tomato rasam and in the center is my favourite dish which is Taro root fry! We had rice which is not included in the photo.

Dinner was an Italian meal of mushroom ravioli in Alfredo sauce garnished with sun dried tomatoes,A huge,tasty veggie pizza and a light salad in the side. To top it all we had the scrumptious cheese cake ,which Gayathri had posted earlier here, as dessert. It was a wonderful,cheesy, meal. Man, we had an amazing time there and of course foodies that we are, the food added to our joy!!:-))

Mushroom ravioli in Alfredo sauce garnished with sun-dried tomatoes.


Veggie Pizza and the salad(you can see the edge of the salad bowl in the picture)

Added to these appetizing home cooked food we also gorged ourselves during our trip to San Diego the next day and so now we are strictly on diet of sandwich,soup and salad!!:-(((

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Our comfort food: Puzhinikkai Kootu (Winter melon stew)

When I first came to California and saw the shiny,glazed white piece of a cut winter melon in an Indian store, I was overjoyed! This was the veggie with which my mom used to make a yummy savoury stew to go with rice. It is now our one pot meal when I come home tired after a day’s work!! Winter Melon though not widely found in the U.S.A, is very popular in south India especially in Madras, the city I grew up in. It is used in Northern India to make delicious Agra Petha, which is a famous sweet meat.I have to confess that until I decided to participate in the Weekend Herb Blogging(WHB) hosted by Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen , I did not have much idea about the nutritional value of this veggie. All I knew from my amma was that it was ‘good for health’ . So I did some research and found some interesting information about it.

The origin of this class of vegetable is supposed to be in South East Asia and is now grown in other parts of Asia too.These are melons grown on plants similar to cantaloupes but without their distinctive odour. They ripen late and are actually grown as fruit but eaten as vegetable. It belongs to the same group of fruits like the Honey Ball, Honeydew, Casaba, Crenshaw and Persian. Another interesting fact is that it is used in Chinese Medicine to regulate blood sugar.It also cools and detoxifies the body, quenches thirst and relieves irritability. It is also called Chinese wax gourd/ large fuzzy melon/ tallow gourd,/wax gourd,/white gourd,/winter gourd/white pumpkin. Here are some pictures of the different varieties of winter melon. The one used in this stew is usually the large round one. Now for the recipe:

This recipe serves 4


one quarter cut piece of a winter melon

1/2 cup moong dal( yellow mung beans)

1/4 tspoon turmeric powder

one or two red chilli pepper

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/4 cup grated coconut

3 tspoons broken urad dal ( black gram dal)

1 tspoon mustard seeds

2 tspoons vegetable oil

some curry leaves cut in to bits

some chopped cilanthro

salt to taste



Wash the moong dal,add a little water and turmeric powder to it. Pressure cook this until two whistles(one can also cook it on the stove top like any other beans) . Cut the winter melon into bite size pieces(discard the green skin and also the seeds) and cook them either in the microwave or the stove top with a little water. You know it is cooked when the pieces become soft and sort of transparent. In the meanwhile, in a flat skillet to 1 tspoon oil, add 2tspoons of urad dal, cumin seeds, red chilli pepper(s),curry leaves and fry in a medium-low flame. When the urad dal becomes golden brown, turn off the flame and add the grated coconut. After the mixture cools, grind in a blender to a smooth paste with about 2 tbspoons of water. Mix this paste with the cooked dal using a ladle.

Now for the finale: In a deep bottomed skillet fry mustard seeds ,after they pop, add the remaining urad dal in 1 tspoon of oil. Add the cooked winter melon(with water; if you have drained the water add about 1/4 cup of water) and sautee a bit. Stir in the coconut-dal mixture and a little salt. Bring the stew to a boil and switch off the stove. Garnish with chopped cilanthro.

Note: It might sound like a lot of work, but most of it is done simultaneously by the pressure cooker and the microwave. It is especially easy if the veggies are cut earlier.

This is my entry for this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging(WHB) which is hosted by Nandita of Saffron Trail

Thanks Kalyn for hosting this event. I learnt a lot about this vegetable because of this. Also thanks to Nandita for hosting WHB.


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Venn Pongal- A dish packed with Flavour!

Venn Pongal, a traditional dish in South India is the equivalent to kichidi made in North India. It is basically a rice and moong dal that is over cooked and dressed up with spices. In kichidi, ginger and jeera are invariably used while in Pongal it is ginger,pepper and jeera that produce the glorious taste. ‘Venn’ is actually ‘vellai’ which means white in tamil.Since the end result is a nice creamy white rice with risotto like consistency, it is called thus. Back home, my appa is very fond of this dish and it made frequent appearances in my amma’s tiffin menu. Well, after getting hitched, I found that this dish ranks first in hubby’s tiffin choices too!!

Venn Pongal is also a star dish forĀ  Pongal which is also a festival( sometimes called harvest festival) celebrated in my home state of Tamil Nadu to give thanks to nature for endowing us with abundance of crops especially rice, the staple food of southern India.For more information of this festival check out

Hence it seemed apt to submit this dish for the Monthly Mingle #6 blogging event organized by Meeta of What’s for lunch honey.


This is the first blogging event I am participating in after I started my blog and I am as apprehensive as a high school student taking her final exams :-))). I hope this debut is at least a decent success!! So this dish is to ‘give thanks’ to my husband for being a supportive, caring better half and most importantly for being the tolerant, ‘official taster’ of all my culinary experiments, good or bad.

I made Venn pongal last evening for our dinner with coconut-cilanthro chutney. My MIL taught me how to make this first and here I have adapted her recipe with my variations. So below is the recipe

Serves 4


1 and1/4 cup of rice

1/3 cup moong dal

7 cups of water

1/2 tbspoon cumin seeds

1 tbspoon peppercorns

2-3 tbspoons ghee

1/4 inch ginger chopped fine

2 tbspoons cashew nuts

some curry leaves

salt to taste



First take the cumin with half the peppercorns and grind into a coarse mixture.

In a pressure pan first dry roast the moong dal until it loses its raw smell and turns slightly brown. Add the rice to this and switch off the stove. Keep this aside.

Again in the pan add about 1 tspoon of ghee and fry the cashew nuts until goldern brown. Remove and reserve it.

In the same pan put in another tspoon of ghee and fry coarsely the ground cumin-peppercorn mixture and the remaining peppercorns . Then add chopped ginger pieces and curry leaves. Wait a minute and then add roasted rice, moong dal ,salt to taste and mix all the stuff in the pan roughly. Pour the 7 cups of water to this.Close the pressure pan ,turn heat to medium and put the weight on. Switch off after one whistle and wait for the pressure to reduce. Open pan, throw in reserved cashew nuts and remaining amount of ghee. Mix the somewhat semi solid rice thoroughly and serve with a dollop of ghee and a side of cilanthro-coconut chutney.


1. If you feel that there is excess water in the pongal, heat pan in medium-low until rice thickens.

2. One can also add the fried cumin-peppercorn mixture to cooked rice-moong mixture. I used to do this before but found it very difficult to mix everything in the pongal.

3. The more the ghee ,more the cholestrol but better the taste!!!:-))

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A Fake Meat fare—–Spinach-Soya nuggets pulav

I made this dish when the organization I volunteer for had a pot-luck during training. This was before the spinach scare,when anyone could happily incorporate spinach in their daily fare. After proudly volunteering ‘vegetable pulav’, when I reached home my pantry was empty, except for some bell peppers and baby spinach in my fridge which I had stored for making a salad!! A little more rummaging produced some soy nuggets and then I was ready to cook!

The side for this dish at the pot luck was channa masala,volunteered by another Indian girl who I shall call L . During lunch time, when I opened the box after re-heating the rice, L, who was waiting for me to set the main dish saw the rice and immediately asked me whether it was vegetarian!!! I was surprised since I did write vegetable pulav in the sheet, but once I saw the soya nuggets peeping out like mutton pieces I realized that it really looked like meat pieces or at least like something alien to the vegetarian!!! I hastened to reassure her that it was Nutrella Soya Nuggets and the look of relief on her face was evident! Anyway it was a huge success with everyone at the training, Indian or otherwise and so here goes the recipe:

The recipe below would serve about 10 people if the dish is made in a potluck and about 6 people if made as a one pot meal with just raitha.


2 green bell pepper chopped into small pieces

1/2 packet of frozen peas

One big bag of baby spinach chopped coarsely

3 medium sized red onions

1/2 a packet of Nestle Soya nuggets soaked in warm water for 15 minutes

1 small red onion chopped fine

2 green chilli slit lengthwise

1 bay leaf

1/2 inch piece of cinnamon stick

4-5 cloves

1/2 inch piece ginger chopped fine

4 cloves garlic chopped fine

1 tsp fennel seeds

1/2tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp dhania powder

1/2 tsp red chilli powder or curry powder (I had ‘Shan” curry powder)

1/2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp oil

1/2 tsp ghee or clarified butter

salt to taste

3 cups of Basmati rice washed and soaked in water for 15 minutes


Heat oil and ghee in pressure pan or cooker, add the fennel seeds, bay leaf, cinnamon stick and clove and fry until they bring a nice aroma to the room. Then add the green chillies and chopped onion. When the onion starts to turn transparent add the ginger and garlic pieces. After a minute of stirring with the ladle, add the bell peppers and wait a minute. Then add the turmeric powder,dhania powder, red chilli powder/curry powder,salt and mix thoroughly. Now throw in the chopped spinach ,soya nuggets and the frozen peas and give the pan a shimmy shake. Once the spinach leaves are sort of coated with the water from the veggies and the spices, drain and add the rice. Mix the whole medley,add 3 cups of water and close the pressure pan. Put the weight and reduce the heat to medium-low. After exactly 15 minutes turn off the heat whether you hear a whistle or not. Wait for another 15 minutes ,open the pan, add the garam masala and mix gently. Close the pan, wait for another 5 minutes for the rice to absorb the masala and serve hot with raitha. I made onion raitha for my husband that day.


1. It is extremely important to pressure cook in low only for 15 minutes and turn the heat off after 15 minutes to prevent the rice from sticking to the pan.
2. The ratio of the rice to water I use is 1:, if you are cooking in a pressure cooker, since the veggies let out some water too. After a number of attempts of making soggy pulav (which I passed off as Khicidi:-)) with different measures of water,I found that this ratio works for me

3. This is of course a general tip: any vegetable can be added.

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Bhinid Do Pyaza :Okra in a bed of onions with yogurt base

Bhindi/Okra/Lady’s finger is one of the vivacious vegetables in the produce section of the Indian store.Back home, this elegant, vividly green veggie is a favorite in my family. My amma makes either crunchy okra fry or delicious okra sambar. Recently my friend Pinal had subscribed to the famous Tarla Dalal’s recipes and enthusiastically forwarded all of them to me. One of the recipes was Bhindi Do Pyaza which was different from the one’s I had tasted. In her websiteTarla Dalal says: “Do pyaza” denotes presence of double the quantity of onions than that found in any other style of preparation. The curds added towards the end of this dish add more sharpness to this dish.

I followed mostly the original recipe except that instead of slicing the bhindis I cut them into 1/3″ pieces because I didn’t notice the word “sliced” in her recipe until I saw the picture in the website.That is why I like great pictures of food which speak volumes more than just the recipe; or you could just say that I was impatient and overlooked the writing:-))But anyway no harm done since they are very tasty this way too! I added about 1/4 tsp of garam masala in the end because I like the mouth-watering fragrance it immediately generates!! The garnish of cilanthro in the picture is also my addition to bring more color and flavor. The picture of the curry in her website, looks crunchy while mine looks a lot softer. I am blogging this recipe for my sister! I confess that I like this dish because it is a simple,tasty and healthy one pot meal which I can cook easily after a tiring day’s work!! This is also my hubby’s favorite curry and goes well with parathas and rotis. Thanks to Pinal for forwarding this wonderful recipe to me.

Serves 4


3 cups bhindi (ladies finger), cut into 1/3″ pieces

1 and 1/2 cups onions, chopped

3 teaspoons cumin seeds (jeera)

1 teaspoon nigella seeds (kalonji)

1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder (haldi)

3 teaspoons ginger paste

1 to 2 green chillies, chopped

1/2 cup yogurt, whisked

3 tablespoons oil

1/4 tsp garam masala (optional)

roughtly chopped cilanthro to garnish (optional)

salt to taste


Heat the oil in a pan, add the cumin seeds and nigella seeds
and allow the seeds to crackle.

Add the onions, turmeric powder, ginger paste and green chillies and cook till the onions are tender.

Add the bhindi and salt and cook over a medium flame till the bhindi is tender.

Add the whisked yogurt and cook till the yogurt dries out.

Add 1/4 tsp garam masala,turn off the stove and serve hot with parathas or rotis.

Handy tips by Tarla Dalal

1.Bhindi tends to get sticky while cooking. Do not cover the pan while cooking and the stickiness will dry out without the presence of steam.

2. Cook the bhindi over a slow flame for best results.

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