Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

Here's wishing everyone a healthy, happy, and prosperous new year. May 2008 be the best year yet! I'm taking a break and will be back in early 2008!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Pudhina Mutton (Mutton with Mint)

Aaaahhh... Pudhina mutton... Just thinking of it makes me drool! I have to say that this is my all time favorite mutton dish. Amma has been making it for years. She made it on a whim the first time. I guess that was her mistake because every time we had mutton in the house, I'd ask her to make only pudhina mutton. It got to the point that she got tired of making it and would beg me to let her make something else. My poor mother!

Well, I finally got her to give me the recipe so I can stop bugging her for it all the time. It's really an easy method with a huge payoff in terms of flavor. I'd describe the taste as very "green." What I mean is that the predominant flavors are mint, coriander leaves, and green chillies. They give the masala a very fresh and vibrant flavor. It's also very different from the usual mutton fry recipe you might be used to making.

So, without any further ado, here's the recipe.


Mutton - 2 lbs, cleaned and cut into small pieces
Beaten curd - 1/2 cup
Garam masala - 1/2 tsp
Onions - 1, sliced finely
Lime juice - few drops
Salt to taste

For grinding into smooth paste:
Coconut - 1/2 cup of grated coconut (thengai thiruval)
Green chillies - to taste
Jeera seeds - 1 1/2 tsp
Black peppercorns (milagu) - 1 tsp
Mint leaves - 1 cup, packed
Coriander leaves - 1/2 cup, packed
Garlic - 4 cloves
Ginger - 1 inch piece
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp


1. Cook mutton until soft in pressure cooker with little turmeric powder and salt for 5-6 whistles (more or less depending on your mutton). Let pressure release. Keep the mutton cooking water left in the pressure cooker for the next step.

2. Heat oil in pan. Add masala paste and fry until raw smell goes away. Then, add water remaining in pressure cooker with mutton and curd. Let boil until the mixture thickens a bit.

3. Now, add the cooked mutton and let simmer for 10 minutes on low flame. Add more water if necessary and add more salt, if needed.

4. Separately, fry sliced onions in some oil until golden brown. Add this to simmering mutton.

5. Lastly, add garam masala powder as you are turning off the heat. Adding a few drops of lemon or lime juice will really enhance the flavor of this dish!

6. Serve this with any roti, pulav rice, or biryani.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Pumpkin Puli Kuzhambu (Pumpkin in Tamarind Gravy)

Ok, so here's my latest addiction... Pumpkin puli kuzhambu. You know, I've always been the weird one in the family to like yellow pumpkin, just as a side dish... But no one else in the family seemed to be a big fan of this poor vegetable at all. Yet, I managed to do the seemingly impossible task of converting them to liking pumpkin by putting in in puli kuzhambu. The best part about this? My mother (a self professed pumpkin hater) is now a die hard fan of this kuzhambu!

I think it's the mild sweetness of the yellow pumpkin that sort of balances out the tanginess and the spiciness of the gravy. I have never been a fan of puli kuzhambu until recently and I can't seem to get enough of this one. So, please do yourselves a favor and try this one out sooooon!


Yellow pumpkin, diced - 2 cups
Shallots, chopped - 4
Tomatoes - 1 chopped
Chilli powder - 2 tsp or to taste
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Jeera powder - 1/2 tsp
Tamarind - lime size soaked in water and extracted
Salt to taste

Oil (Highly recommended - sesame oil)
Methi (vendheyam) seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 1 sprig


1. Heat oil in pan. Fry methi seeds and curry leaves for a few seconds. Add shallots and fry until golden brown.

2. Add the masala powders (turmeric, jeera, coriander, chilli powders) and fry for a few seconds.

3. Then, add tomatoes, yellow pumpkin, tamarind extract, water (enough for gravy), and salt to taste.

4. Allow to boil until raw smell of tamarind goes away and the pumpkin is cooked.

5. Serve over hot, steaming white rice and tell me you are not in love with this dish!
1. This same method can be used to make puli kuzhambu with other vegetables (e.g, eggplant and drumstick, okra, potato, etc.)

2. In using other vegetables, try adding 2-3 chopped cloves of garlic after the onions have browned. Add and fry it a little to enhance the flavor.

3. Using a whole head of garlic and no vegetables (except maybe drumsticks) would make this into poondu kuzhambu (garlic gravy).

Friday, December 14, 2007

Chocolate Kesari

Chocolate kesari... It probably sounds a little strange to hear the words chocolate and kesari together, right? I know, I know! Believe it or not, the idea for this dish came to me in a dream. So, I decided to try making it and it's really yummy! This kesari doesn't have an extremely intense chocolate flavor. Rather, the flavor is more of a supporting role to the overall dessert. The chocolate gives a certain background richness and adds complexity to the taste. Trust me, it's worth trying!

Somehow, it seemed like a fitting entry for the JFI - Chocolate event hosted by Deepz.

chocolate kesari


Rava/sooji - 1 cup
Sugar - 1 1/2 cups (adjust more or less as you like)
Water - 2 cups
Saffron/kesar/kumkuma poovu - generous pinch, soaked in 1/4 cup of warm milk
Cardamom - 2 pods, seeds crushed
Cocoa powder - 1 1/2 tbsp
Ghee - 1/4 -1/2 cup
Salt - pinch
Cashews - 6-8, broken in half
Raisins - small handful


1. Fry rava with 1 tsp ghee until you get a roasted smell and the color turns slightly. Keep aside. Mix cocoa powder with 2 tbsp melted ghee and keep separately.

2. Bring water to a boil. Lower the heat on the stove and add rava slowly to the boiling water, stirring constantly to prevent formation of lumps. I find a whisk is indispensable during this process! Continue stirring until the rava is cooked through.

3. At this point, add the sugar , salt, and stir again. Add the cocoa -ghee mixture. Continue stirring until the mixture thickens up. Note : adding sugar loosens consistency, so it needs to re-thicken.

4. Now, add the saffron soaked in milk. Slowly add about 2 tbsp of melted ghee. You can add more for a more rich taste, but I find it's not needed. When the sweet starts to leave the sides of the pot, you are done stirring! At this point, turn the heat off and add the powdered cardamom.

5. Fry the cashews and raisins in small amount of ghee and add to the kesari. Stir to combine. Your chocolate kesari is ready to serve! I garnished with a little bit of crushed pistachios (pista) for color and texture.

I'm thinking this would be a fun one to make on Valentine's day... I might make the chocolate kesari and put it in a heart shaped mold (sigh)!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Small onion sambar (Chinna vengayam sambar)

small onion sambar

Chinna vengayam sambar... It's a classic with idli. I have to say, it's my all time favorite sambar! It makes me drool. Man, I could eat 2 idlis with 2 buckets of this sambar!

Ok, that really made me laugh... See, eating idlis with tons of sambar runs in my family! My thatha (grandfather) was infamous for doing that. He'd go to a hotel and order idlis, but he'd keep calling the waiter to bring more and more sambar. Soon, he was known in the local hotels as well for his "sambar drinking!" My father and brother also do this. So, Amma knows to make a lot of onion sambar if we're having idli!

By the way, these days we only make sambar with moong dal (paasi paruppu) for dietary reasons, but please feel free to make this with tuvar dal (thuvaram paruppu) as well. Recipe is pretty simple and goes as follows:


Small onions - 2 cups (fresh or frozen), uncut
Moong dal - 1/2 cup
Green chillies - 8-10 or to taste
Jeera powder - 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Tamarind - small key lime size, soak in water and extract juice
Tomatoes - 1 medium, chopped

For seasoning:
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Urad dal - 1 tsp
Fenugreek seeds - 1/4 tsp (optional)
Curry leaves - 2 sprigs, plus few extra to add at the end
Coriander leaves - 2 tbsp, chopped, plus little extra to add at the end
Asafoetida/hing/perungayam - pinch
Whole red chillies - 2-3 or to taste


1. Cook moong dal separately with pinch of turmeric powder and pinch of jeera powder. This can be done on stove top or with the pressure cooker (1-2 whistles) since moong dal cooks very quickly. Mash slightly after cooked, if needed.

2. In another pot, do the seasoning with red chillies, mustard seeds, urad dal, curry leaves, asafoetida. Then, add small onions and fry until the onions are nearly cooked.

3. Now, add green chillies and tomatoes. Fry until tomatoes are little mushy. At this point, add tamarind extract, jeera powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, water(to give enough liquid) and salt to taste. Boil until raw smell is gone.

4. At this point, add the cooked dal and let it simmer for 5 minutes and turn off. Add few curry leaves and small amount of coriander leaves at the very end to enhance the flavor of the sambar. This is optional, but really adds sooo much flavor to the dish.

Enjoy with soft, fluffy idlis and tell me you don't want a bucket or 2 of sambar for yourself!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs... Talk about real comfort food! I never really used to be a fan of anything involving ground meat. I guess as I've grown older my tastes have changed as well. I simply adore this dish. It's not all that complicated and the taste... Oh, the taste... Sinfully delicious! Meat, tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil all slow simmered together. Yum!

I've heard that the tenderness to a meatball lies in adding bread to the ground meat. In particular, bread soaked in milk. The milk will help tenderize the meat as well as add a certain richness in the background. I have certainly noticed a big difference since I started doing it!

FYI, here's another great one to get the kids involved with. They'd love to make the meatballs for you! Alright, here's my recipe for meatballs...

Ground beef/chicken/turkey - 1 lb
Red onion - 2
Garlic - 5 cloves
Green chillies - 8 or to taste
Basil - 1/4 cup of chopped leaves
Canned tomatoes (sauce or ground peeled tomatoes) - 28 oz can
Tomato paste - 2 tbsp
Red chili flakes - 1 tbsp or to taste
Egg - 1
Bread slices - 2 soaked in milk and then squeezed out
Sugar - 1 tsp
Parmesan cheese - 2 tbsp, plus extra to sprinkle on top
Black pepper
Olive oil


1. To make the meatballs, grate 1 onion in a bowl. Add ground meat, egg, 2 chopped cloves of garlic, half of the basil leaves, 2 tbsp of grated Parmesan cheese, the bread(soaked in milk and squeezed out), salt, and pepper to taste. Combine the mixture together using your hands. Form balls slightly larger than golf balls out of the meat.

2. Heat olive oil in a pan. Brown the meatballs in batches and keep aside. Browned meatballs:

3. Now to make the sauce, add 1 chopped onion, the green chillies, and chili flakes to the olive oil remaining in the pan that the meatballs were browned in. Once the onions are browned, add the garlic and fry lightly.

4. Next, add the tomato paste and cook the raw smell out. Now, add the canned tomatoes, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil.

5. Once the sauce has come to a boil, carefully add the browned meatballs back into the pot along with any drippings that might have accumulated as they cooled. Reduce the heat to simmer.

6. Let the sauce cook for 20-30 minutes. Now, check for thickness and seasoning. Adjust seasonings as necessary and allow to thicken a bit if needed. Add the rest of the chopped basil at the very end of cooking (i.e., as you turn the sauce off).

7. Serve over cooked spaghetti and garnish with grated Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Garlic bread with cheese

Garlic bread... Yum! I think I've loved garlic bread for just about as long as I can remember. I mean, what's not to like? It's the best accompaniment to pasta dishes and even some soups. So, here's a pretty basic recipe that's pretty foolproof, but delicious at the same time!

Garlic - 4 -5 cloves, chopped
Shallot - 1 medium, chopped
Pecorino romano cheese - 1/4 cup grated
Sugar - 1/4 tsp
Pepper - freshly ground
Butter - 2 tbsp
Olive oil - 2 tbsp
Italian bread - 1 loaf (16 oz)


Heat butter and oil in a pan. When warm, add the shallots with the sugar and a pinch of salt. Saute until they become clear and translucent. Then, add the chopped garlic and fry for a few seconds. Add salt to taste and cool the mixture.

Now, cut the bread in half lengthwise, so that you have 2 long halves of bread. Put the bread in a lined pan and place in the oven on broil to toast on both sides. Reason for doing this is so that the bread gets really crispy. PLEASE make sure to keep a close eye on the bread when in the broiler. Toasting can take anywhere from 30 seconds to almost 2 minutes per side, depending on your oven!

Once the bread is toasted, take it out of the oven. Now, spread the shallot and garlic mixture on the bread. Drizzle all of the butter/oil mix onto the bread, as well. Then, sprinkle the cheese over the top of that. Finally, sprinkle fresh ground black pepper over the whole thing and place back in the broiler for a few seconds to melt the cheese. Literally, it takes seconds!

Serve with pasta dishes, soups, stews, etc. Enjoy!

Note: If you can't find pecorino romano, feel free to substitute parmigiano reggiano, asiago, etc. I just love the flavor of pecorino in this dish.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Milagai Chutney (Chilli Chutney)

Mmm... Milagai chutney... This one really brings back great memories. Amma has been making this for really as long as I can remember. She always used to tell stories of how it's been made in our family for generations. Our family is originally from a village, so the ingredients were literally picked from the field and ground into chutney. Pretty amazing, right? Can you get any fresher and more delicious?

However, we have no practical choice but to rely on the local market's produce section. Still, this chutney is fantastic. It's very strong, since it includes raw onions. The taste of this chutney, in combination with sambar, is just to die for! Ok, let's get rolling, shall we?


Red onion - 1 medium, or 2-3 shallots
Tomato - 1 small
Whole dried red chillies - 15 or to taste

For seasoning:
Sesame oil
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - few


Grind onion, tomato, red chillies with salt to a COARSE paste. (**Note: Something happens to onions if you grind them too much and they taste terrible when raw. So, please don't overgrind.**) Do the seasoning and pour over ground chutney. Spicy chutney is ready to eat with idli and sambar (the BEST combo!).

Of note, I don't think that tomato was in the original recipe. Amma has since added it to mellow the spiciness a little bit. So, feel free to try it without tomato and let me know if you like that version, too! :)

Poondu chutney (Garlic chutney)

So, we went to see my parents this past weekend. Man, oh man! Talk about having feasts! Amma and I made this chutney to eat with idli and sambar. This one is pungent and spicy. Plus, it is soooooo EASY! You will have yummy poondu chutney ready in literally 5 minutes time.

Just so you know... This chutney is not for the faint of heart or those who have immense concerns about having garlic breath. To those I ask this: Isn't getting garlic breath worth it to eat a yummy chutney? Besides, God invented mouthwash and breath mints for a reason! :) Ok, ok. Enough chit-chat. Let's get on with the recipe. Ok?


Garlic - 3 cloves
Whole red chillies - 15 or to taste

For seasoning:
Mustard seeds - 1/2 teaspoon
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Sesame oil or any light oil


People, this is so easy, it's almost embarrassing to write a method section! Just grind the garlic with the red chillies and salt in a mixie. Do the seasoning and pour over the freshly ground chutney. Enjoy spicy garlic chutney with idli, dosa!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Pumpkin Muffins

As I'm writing this, it's cold and grey outside. We're getting snow AGAIN! So, what's a great way to warm up?? Get a nice warm pumpkin muffin with a hot cup of coffee or tea! Mmm.... That makes me smile.

I tried these for the first time recently since my hubby likes anything sweet and was asking for pumpkin stuff. They're loaded with spices that make you feel warm and cozy (especially when the weather's chilly!). Also, the orange color on the inside of these muffins is just awesome!

Plus, they're a great way to sneak a vegetable into your picky child without them knowing. But if your child is not picky and likes to help you doing things, this is a great recipe to get them involved. They seem to love anything where they can get flour all over the kitchen!

One thing of note... Be careful to buy pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie filling when you're at the store. It's really easy to get confused and buy the wrong thing!


1 15-16 oz can of pumpkin puree
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, room temperature
Coarse sugar (e.g. Sugar in the Raw) for sprinkling


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line regular muffin tin with paper liners. *The recipe makes 12-18 muffins, so either you'll need 2 muffin tins or will have to bake them in 2 batches.*

2. Combine the dry ingredients (flours, baking soda, baking powder, raisins, walnuts, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and salt) in a large bowl. Beat wet ingredients (pumpkin puree, sugars, vegetable oil, and eggs) until smooth in another medium bowl using an electric beater or whisk. Stir the wet mixture into the dry mixture until just combined using a wooden spoon or a spatula.

3. Spoon the batter into the lined muffin cups. Fill each one about 2/3 full of batter. Sprinkle the tops with the coarse sugar. Bake on the center rack of the preheated oven for approximately 20-25 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of a muffin. If the toothpick comes out clean, the muffin is done. Serve warm and enjoy!

Methi Roti/Paratha

So, this is a simple recipe for methi roti. This is one that I've been eating for a long time. Amma and I used to make it together a lot at home. Made this one for dinner last night and was really awesome! It's good especially if you're bored of making the same old chappathi!


Methi leaves (vendheya keerai)- 1 medium to large bunch
Atta flour - 2 cups
Tomatoes - 1 medium, chopped
Cumin powder - 3/4 tsp
Green chillies - 4
Chilli powder - to taste
Salt - to taste
Oil or ghee
Warm water - enough to mix dough
Maida/all purpose flour - for rolling


1. Cut and clean the methi leaves. Heat a skillet with small amount of oil or ghee. Add methi leaves, green chillies, tomatoes, jeera powder, chilli powder, and salt all at once. Fry until the methi leaves have wilted and the tomatoes have softened. Keep the heat high to evaporate all the water that escapes. Cool the mixture.

2. Now, take the cooled methi mixture in a bowl. Add atta flour to that. Mix the dough by slowly adding small quantities of warm water. The dough should be a little loose, like for chappathi. Add a little more oil, if the dough gets too sticky. Let the dough rest for about 30 minutes.

3. After the dough has rested, take small balls of the dough and roll them out into round rotis using little maida flour. They should be rolled out to about the thickness of chappathi.

4. Place the roti on warm tava and sprinkle little oil around it. Once it bubbles a little, turn over and cook the other side. Add little more oil if needed. Enjoy warm with sweet lime pickle, curds, raita, or any other side dish you like!

We ate this with kovakkai kari that I made from a Sun TV cooking segment. See the recipe here on Kribha's site. Enjoy, guys!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Meen Kuzhambu (Fish Gravy)

Well, I guess that this would be considered to be my first "real" post, huh? I think it's only fitting that my first recipe should be dedicated to my mother. Amma has always been my culinary inspiration. She is such an amazing cook and a strong woman. So, what does meen kuzhambu have to do with Amma? Well, it turns out that being crazy about fish runs in our family! My mother loves fish as do her mother and her grandfather. So, you could say that this post is really dedicated to my family, but especially my mother!

What makes this meen kuzhambu really awesome is the flavor that the roasted spices gives it. Truly a delicious treat...!

Ok, let's get started!


2 lb fish, cut and cleaned
Shallots - 3-4
Cherry tomatoes - 1/4 cup
Whole red chillies, as per taste
Whole black pepper (milagu) - 2tsp
Coriander seeds - 2 tbsp
Fennel seeds (sombu) - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Tamarind - small lime size
Coconut, grated - 1/4 cup
Fenugreek seeds (methi, vendheyam) - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 2 sprigs
Salt to taste


1. Wash fish with turmeric powder and water. Soak tamarind in small amount of warm water for 15-20 minutes.

2. Cut shallots into medium dice. Cut cherry tomatoes in half.

3. Dry roast coriander seeds, black pepper, fennel, and red chillies until slightly golden and aromatic. Cool and grind into fine powder.

4. Grind grated coconut to paste adding very little water.

5. Heat oil in pan. Add vendheyam and let it brown and splutter. Add curry leaves and shallots. Fry until golden brown.

6. Now, add tamarind juice, ground spice powder, turmeric powder, tomatoes, and salt.

7. Boil until raw smell is gone. Check for salt and add fish pieces gently to simmering gravy.

8. Let cook on medium low heat for 5-7 minutes, add ground coconut paste and turn off.

Enjoy hot and spicy meen kuzhambu with hot rice!