May 25, 2007

Virindh (Tamil for Farewell party)

My parents crossed the proverbial seven seas to set foot on the land of Fortunes - Amerikya yesterday. The dutiful daughter *lol* that I am I went over to my house last weekend to help them pack for their long stay there. Also got the brilliant idea of doing a Virindh for them at home instead of oily restaurant food. Moreso I wanted to spare my mom the strain of cooking for all of us when there were other last minute details to be taken care of. Yeah, I decided to cook for them! You must be thinking that for a person who blogs about cooking and recipes, it should be a child's play. I tell you, its always easier to preach than to practice. In any field!!
I decided to do the Nalagri and Shavige Payasa for them as it would be easy on their systems(not too spicy).
I have a distinct characteristic - my memory does not have instant recall for nasty things. And because of this I dint remember an erstwhile experience of cooking shavige entirely in milk (It had turned out rock solid inspite of using around 2 litres of milk).
So there I was standing in front of the stove and dreaming about accolades as I added the milk to the cooked shavige without bothering to realise that it was still hot. By the time the table was laid for lunch, the payasa had solidified! So much so that my dad had to ask me what I had made or to put it in his words "What should I imagine this to be and eat?" :). In essence I ended up making shavige payasa without much milk or sugar!
As far as Nalagri was concerned, all was well as far as the cutting and steaming in cooker went. Even the boil and all went off pretty well. But the one mistake I did was not to have PA (performance anxiety). Let me explain - whenever I cook at my husband's house, I am always afraid that what I make will become a disaster and I will get labelled as the worst cook of their family. Its not easy to take criticism from in-laws :) So I take extra care and precautions with tasting and making sure it comes out right. But at my home I was totally relaxed and ended up taking my parents for granted. My father never complains about qualityof food unless extremely provoked (his philosophy is that he is thankful to God everyday for getting atleast that much). My mom will never say anything bad about her kids. She will never criticise because her philosophy is that her kids are the best :). With this ideal setting, I never bothered to taste much or think about making it perfect. Come lunch time and the Nalagri had become solidified like a curry because I hadnt added enough water while it boiled!
Sigh! So much for a Virindh!! But the best part was everyone was so nice to me and they ate it without much fuss!
Appa amma I hope to have become better at cooking by the time you are back. A Welcome Back party is due from me :)
For the rest of my readers, please dont jump to conclusions about my recipes. They are to the T :)

May 14, 2007

Regular chutney

You know when you go into a South Indian restaurant and you order Dosa or Idli and it is accompanied by all the colourful paste-like stuff. Thats what is Chutney! Chutney is a Robin to every dish thats Batman :). It accompanies many snacks and savouries and makes a meal more delightful. To top it all, it is one of the easiest Indian dippings to make.

Here I will give you the recipe for a regular all purpose chutney

What you need to make Chutney
Hurugadle 100 gms
1 small ball of tamarind
1/4 coconut
1 string of coriander
salt to taste
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp of asafoetida (optional)
1 tsp of oil

May 12, 2007


I was in Montreal last week and this time set a record of sorts by eating Indian food for most of my meals. I also had a discussion with my colleagues there about cooking Indian food and felt that there were a couple of easy things that would be nice for them to try out. One of them being Upma! Upma or Uppit is basically a south Indian (a little bit Maharashtrian also) dish which can be eaten for breakfast or an early evening snack or even light lunch or dinner. So its a pretty versatile dish in the sense of when one would want to eat it.

What you need to make Upma

  • 1 measure Semolina (Rava/Sooji/Cream of Wheat)
  • 1 and half measures Water
(To serve two people, two cups of semolina and 3 cups of water
should be good.)
  • 2 onions
  • 1 strand of coriander (cilantro)
  • 1 strand of curry leaves (optional) (whaddaya know, they do come out of a curry tree)
  • 2-4 green chillies
  • 1 spoon urad dal (white lentil)
  • 1 spoon chana dal (yellowish and made by splitting chickpea in half)
  • 1 spoon mustard (sarson/sasive)
  • 1 spoon cumin seeds (jeera)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • Salt to taste
  • 6 teaspoons of oil
Preparation for making Upma

  • Take a heavy bottomed vessel and put it on a low flame. Roast the semolina till it becomes a little brown or goldeny. It should be stirred continuosly to avoid burning.
  • Cut the onions into small pieces.
  • Wash and Cut the green chillies lengthwise if you want it to be spicier else cut it in circles.
  • Wash and cut the coriander into small pieces
  • Pluck the curry leaves . Do not use stem to cook. Wash and cut the curry leaves into small pieces
Method to make Upma

  • Heat a heavy bottomed vessel on a stove.
    • I always like to wash the vessels before I start cooking just to make sure no previous residue remains. We dont really use an mechanized dishwasher at home. The dishwasher is a lady who comes everyday to help with the house cleaning :)
  • When the vessel is nicely hot and there is no water in it put in the oil.
  • As the oil is getting hot add the mustard, channa dal, urad dal, jeera to it.
  • Wait till the mustard splutters and splits.
    • If you have never experienced this before keep a lid handy. As soon as mustard starts popping hold the lid in such a way that they dont fly into your face.
      Also, I would advice you to keep the flame low, one shouldnt end up frying the ingredients beyond recognition.
  • Add the turmeric and the chillies to the vessel.
  • Add the coriander and the curry leaves to the vessel.
  • Add the onions to the vessel and allow it to fry. You will know if its done when the onion turns glowy and soft to the touch.
  • Now add water to the vessel, keep the flame low and allow it to simmer.
  • When the water begins to boil, add salt.
  • This is the point when I taste the stuff just to make sure everything is right.
    • You know my mantra (if you have read my earlier blogs) - add sugar if the stuff is too hot.
  • When the water is on a full boil, semolina needs to be put in.
    • Herein lies the art of Upma - With one hand you need to stir the water continously and with the other pour the semolina slowly but steadily into the water. This is done inorder to avoid lumps.
  • The mixture in the vessel would have solidified to a large extent. Stir and fold the mixture evenly throughout.
  • Keep the flame low and allow it to simmer for five minutes.
My fundas

  • You could use vegetables like french beans, carrot or peas or all of these in Upma. It tastes excellent. All you need to do is to pre cook these vegetables and keep them ready. Put it in after the onion is fried before water is added.
  • You could garnish Upma with fried cashwenuts and/or coconut.
  • You could serve it with coconut chutney which I will post next.
  • A south Indian would wash down a plate of hot Upma with a hot cup of coffee. (R.K.Narayan style)
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