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Malabar spinach – Another andhra delicacy

When I was preparing this dish today, it suddenly occurred to me why I had not blogged about this recipe.. It is in the top 5 of Ravi’s favourites and a typical andhra preparation. These days I dont cook much for myself. Its either kichdi with some veggies or soup and veggies as I am trying to get on a diet.  I am not forcing Ravi to do the diet thing with me – its a sheer torture for him given his work load and study load. I added a handful of spinach to my soup for lunch and prepared bachalakoora for him for dinner.

Greens are little heavier on the digestive system so at my home in India “No greens for dinner “. I dont remember my mother ever serving any kind of greens for dinner.  Naturally even now I refrain from eating greens at night. 

This spinach preparation is very interesting. Usually the tamarind added to any curries is ripe ones but for this dish raw tamarind juice is added. Raw tamarind unlike the ripe ones cannot be deshelled.  So it is crushed with the shell and made into a coarse paste with salt and stored.  Just before using a tablespoon of the paste is diluted in water and the extracted juice is strained of any shells and added to the spinach curry.

Malabar spinach is the indian variety of spinach – very different from the actual spinach we get here in US. Its leaves are broader, thicker and slimy. The berries of malabar spinach are violet/indigo in color – we used to crush the berries and use it for April fools’ day –

See here for the image and more information

Three cups chopped malabar spinach
Four green chillies chopped
half an onion chopped
Juice of one tablespoon raw tamarind paste (Optionally use regular tamarind paste )
Oil – 2 tbl
half cup – Boiled channa dal ( half boiled )
Turmeric half tsp
chilli powder two tsps
For seasoning – Mustard, cumin – half teaspoon each

Heat oil and when the oil is hot add mustard.
When the mustard splutters add cumin, green chillies and onions.
Saute for a few minutes.
Add chopped spinach and saute for 5 minutes. Spinach cooks in its own water.
Seperately boil half cup channa dal for 5 minutes
Strain the water from the channa dal and add the dal to the sauteing spinach
Add juice from the tamarind
Add salt, turmeric and chilli powder
Cover and cook until most of the water is absorbed.

Raw tamarind

Raw tamarind paste

Malabar spinach

Malabar spinach with Channa dal

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February 12, 2008 Posted by | Andhra Cooking, Everyday food, High Fibre | 1 Comment

Jonna kudumulu – Andhra Corn Tamales

Corn is a popular grain used in Indian villages. I think the use of corn is fast fading away from Indian Kitchens. Mokkajonna Kudumulu is one corn preparation famous in Telangana border regions and very nutritous breakfast. I googled for more details about Kudumulu – but could not find any. Have you heard about mokka jonna kudumulu ?I have never heard of it until I knew Ravi. I personally have been able to appreciate andhra cooking as done at ravis’ home as much as I devour my moms’ cooking. Sans the spicyness ofcourse.Before marriage, I thought there is not much difference between Tamil and Andhra household. But there is an amazing array of differences. Andhra – I find is heavily influenced by aryan culture and Tamilnadu deep into dravidian culture. I found this underlying difference in all the traditions, customs and habits of the Andhraites.Culinary-speak – Tamilians start with sambar and end with buttermilk. Telugus start with powder/pickles/ chutney, dals and finish off with thick curds. Any veggie curries or sautes’ are mixed with rice before starting on the liquid course. Ofcouser sambars, charu and rasam is still enjoyed – but I discovered its very impolite to pour sambar over rice for the first course. For Tamils it will be impolite if its not done that way !!! Tamilians love all that is diluted and easier to pass thro the oesophagus.Another culinary tradition I was surprised is – Puliyohara or Tamarind/Lemon Rice. For Telugus, its like an important dish in parties or when you have guests at home. On the other hand people from TN find it very rude to serve tamarind/lemon rice because its said to be made with left-over rice.

So at my household, if ravi absolutely loves a dish, I do an andhra preparation. If I absolutely love a dish its done as per my moms way. Same goes for festivals too – I make it a point to celebrate Ugadi and Tamil New Year so neither of us feel missed out.

All this is based on my personal experiences and not generalization in any way. Coming back to mokkjonna kudumulu – Mokkajonna means corn and kudumulu refers to a steamed dish. Though the name may be really difficult to pronounce the actual dish is very very easy. Fresh corn is ground without any water and steamed in the corn husks. Corn idlis anyone ??

For RCI-Andhra, Ravi and I prepared this dish with frozen corn that we get here in US but it did not come out right. Its because of the water content in the frozen corn.

When I went to India Ravis’ mom prepared this dish for us to show how it is to be done. The recipe is darn simple. Just grind the corn without any water to make a paste. Take a big blob of the paste onto a cleaned corn husk and make a patty out of it. Pile up the husks randomly. Alternatively it can also be done in a idli steamer.

Tastefront, its not soft like a tamale, but much more firmer and harder than idlis. It just tastes little bit bland with the natural sweetness of corn. Like the taste of ragi mudda. Just basic but very comforting. And the side dish determines the kind of taste for the dish. Eaten with sugar it tasted like dessert, with fish curry it would be savoury. For reasons beyond my brain, its eaten with Ridgegourd curry. I personally did not like the combination. I would rather have it with sugar. Or probably pickle or fish curry.

Dry indian yellow corn

 
ground corn 
arranged in the corn husks
Thank you Sailu, for coming up with Taste of India. Really appreciated when FBD is going down.

January 29, 2008 Posted by | Andhra Cooking | 9 Comments

Any Guesses ??

This is really an easy one to guess. But then we have enough of them in life !!

It is sundried bittergourd. Thanks for playing it with me.

Fried sundried bittergourd


Sundried bittergourd

January 25, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Bay Area Bloggers Meet

Shankari and I were thinking about meeting together after our intermittant chats and a looonngg 2 hour phone chat..

Somewhere down the line Shankari came up with the idea of bunch of Indian food bloggers meeting in bay area and we were so excited about it. She coordinated with other bloggers around here and boooomm

WE ARE GONNA MEET !!!!!

Are you blogging about Indian Food, living in the bay area and want to say hi to those unknown faces behind those blogs, here is a chance !!!!

Ofcourse there are some rules to participate- Shoot an email to indian.cooking@gmail.com. More details here at shankari’s blog. Thank you dear for coordinating this.

Looking forward to some fun !

January 21, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Nellikai Pachadi – Gooseberry Thokku

Call it thokku, pachadi, chutney. I tried gooseberry pachadi today and pleased with the results. We have run out of home-made pickles that comes from India. I referred to Jeyashree’s Recipe and Indira’s recipe .
As you all know by now, I suck at write ups. So here is the result in pictures.

Three pounds of frozen gooseberries. For information about gooseberry refer wiki


roasted cup of red round chillies, tablespoon of fenugreek and 5 tablespoons mustard – Cool and grind this in a coffee grinder – (Spice mix powder)


Gooseberries steamed in idlicooker for 10 mins


Remove seeds and grind into a paste


Heat a cup of oil, Add slices of 10 garlic. Add the gooseberry paste and a teaspoon of turmeric

Add the spice powder, 4 tblsp salt and approximately 1 cup of sambar powder. Continued to saute for 30+ minutes. Then add quarter cup oil seasoned with two tablespoon mustard.

Cooled and bottled.

Disclaimer : The quantity are approximate. I kept adjusting the sambar powder and salt until I got the right taste.

January 20, 2008 Posted by | Andhra Cooking | 8 Comments

Fish in Banana leaves

Ever since I saw this grilled Trout I wanted to have it with the side salad. However I dont have a grill. I had to rely on the conventional oven but then cooking fish does not take a lot of time. The fish I used was Canadian Mackerel – It was very fleshy. I had 2 fish – Used 2 different types of rubs to suit our individual tastes.Thank you Sig for the recipe !

Stuffing

1 long green chilli – chopped
5 curry leaves,
3 slices of onion
2 slices of lemon

Rub the outside of the fish with a thick paste of red chilli, turmeric, salt and lemon and stuff with all under stuffing.I rubbed another fish with pepper powder, cumin powder, salt and lemon and the same stuffing except the chillies

Wrapped them in banana leaves and enclosed in aluminium wraps just like Sig blogged. Left the fish packets for an hour to marinate before popping them inside the oven at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Then opened the packet and broiled it for 4 minutes to crisp up the skin. I served with a simple garden salad with corn with a home made yoghurt dressing.

It was very filling – I think it would make a good lunch than a dinner because it felt a little heavy.

We finished the salad with a sorakai halwa ( Duddhi, Bottlegourd ). Grate 1 bottlegourd and saute with one teaspoon of ghee until most of the water is evaporated. Use a low heat. Add 2 and half tablespoon of sugar and keep sauteing until more of the water evaporates. Add another 2 teaspoon of ghee and keep sauteing until all the water evaporates. The whole halwa will roll like a ball without sticking to the pan. Sprinkle a couple of pinches of cardamom powder. Serve with crushed almonds.
The taste was very very good. But I might not do it often because for one bottlegourd it took almost 3 tablespoon of sugar. Ravi and I shared it.

January 10, 2008 Posted by | Everyday food, High Fibre, Low cholesterol, Weight-loss | 8 Comments

Addicted to having a job !

This is supposed to be a food blog. But bear with me on this one.

For more than 6 months now I have been thinking of quitting my job. Why ? Just like that. I just want to take life easy and not follow a routine. I have been working for such a long time to keep myself in status in the US of A. I felt liberated when we got EAD. It was such a nice feeling after years of feeling bonded and slogging like a slave. It was the usual run of the mill life of a software engineer on H1B. 24 hour phone support, product deployment at wee hours or midnights, constant torture from consulting company. So when I got the news that I got EAD I screamed my lungs off !!

I was more than happy to quit my job and move to a new city and start fresh. I took a software job again but with a work life balance. After more than 2 years now I have the freedom not to have a job but I am just not able to let it go. My friends and parents are constantly telling me that my mind will be a devils’ workshop if I am idle at home. My mom swears that I cannot be at home after that comfort feeling of having a job. Ravi is scared that I might eat his brains off if I am at home.

Dressing like a professional, being in the midst of go-getters, participating in meetings and see your ideas valued is a very nice feeling. Seeing your programs in action is exciting. Many days after a dull start at home, I had felt my day brighten up because of my job. Because of the change in atmosphere around me ! Personal tensions, worries ease out a bit during the day. Lets face it – To see money in the bank is a nice feeling. It also makes a lot of sense that a woman should be able to support herself and her family.

On the other hand, I feel so sad not find anything to eat when I come home tired after work. I keep asking myself – why do I have to slog so much and not have a fresh cooked meal at home !! The long commute is also not very enjoyable. Having done the same thing over and over again, I am not enjoying my work anymore. I would love to try volunteer work, attend yoga classes, go to photoshop class, finish off my tanjore painting and cook more !

But are these just lame excuses to loathe around at home doing nothing ? Are my dear ones right that I will start sulking and see the grass greener on the other side ? Or am I just addicted to having a routine job ?

Anyone identifying with me ??

January 8, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 17 Comments

Rain rain go away ! Come again another day!

We had a storm this weekend here in the bay area. But by any standards much much lighter version than those that we have in India. Rain back home is an experience – the battering noise against concrete, the coconut- and palm trees swaying in the fierce winds, hissing of the winds and water rolling and flowing – Its such a beauty.

This is the blissful part of rains in India

But having saying that, its a totally different story from the other side of the window. Its a nightmare getting back from school/college/office. You have my condolences if you traveling in the state-owned buses. Like a true martyr you would be trying to defend yourself from the water dripping in from all sides. With some luck the windows might close. The streets will be flooded with just 15 minutes of lashing rains because of the failed drainage system. The flooded roads just makes the unclosed manholes and other dangers invisible. Not to forget that all sorts of dung would be by now mixed into the flooded rains. For those of you who think I am exaggerating see this video.

So for us with such adventurous experiences this recent storm in the bay area was childs play !! Really.. Seeing the local news covering close ups of branches falling, power cuts and fallen waste bins minute by minute as if it was an emergency was like comedy to me.

I went to office without an umbrella and truly enjoyed the faint reminder of the indian rain here. We had friends over on saturday and had mirchi bajji and samosas with hot tea. Then we got a good movie and watched over dinner. I bought fish and a lot of goodies for cooking over the week. I prepared it per Sig’s recipe – that is another post.
Here is what I bought to cook over the week from Coconut Hill goodies from kerala is their speciality.


Purchase for the week
– Drumstick leaves, plantain, banana blosom, green tamarind, sprouted channa, uppu manga( Mango in brine ) and rosamatta rice. I forgot to include snakegourd, fish and malabar spinach. I think I bought way more than I can cook in a week. Lets see.


Kanji Uppumanga – Inspired by Shn – Mishmash’s Kanji & Payar

Last but not the least after the mirchi bajjis and samosas I had to have something light for dinner. I made a light gruel with the broken rosamatta rice and relished it with uppu manga. (Mango slices in brine ) – Heavenly..

January 7, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Revisiting My Blog

( This post was inteded for Nupur’s event – I guess I am late. But nevertheless )

I started the blog for quite a few reasons

1. Very Inspired by Indira of Mahanandi
2. My passion for food
3. To engage myself while Ravi is busy with his MBA.
4. To record some family favourites especially low-cholesterol dishes

I remember the evening when I was searching for some telugu recipe and landed at Mahanandi. Looking at the karela neatly arranged on aluminum foil Ravi exclaimed “Now this is what I call passion, not the blog but the quest for perfection !!”

Then I wondered, can I too do this, after all food is something I love deep down. It was the time when Ravi was deeply engrossed with MBA and I had nothing to do except a full time job where I could work from home. Probably a month later I registered en-ulagam.

I have been blogging a little less than two years now and made a few good friends here. My passion & creativity for food continued to grow with food blog events. I became even more busy than Ravi.

Bloglife 2007 has been very good. Here are the highlights

  • I got into the next level of personal association with some blogger friends. I was thrilled to exchange pictures, learn about their families and talk about non-food related subject. I felt like having a pen friend.
  • Recorded some family favorites and my favorites. I just cannot shortlist. Every dish I created was with lots of love for what I did.
  • Inji’s loud and clear voice about “Plagiarism”. She took my request to announce a Anti-Plagiarism day and we all made a post against yahoo. It was covered by the press.
  • Starting Tamilcuisine with Prema was a very good learning experience. It taught me how to and how not to relate to people – I have to thank Shaheen, Prema and Inji. Thanks to Kanchana and Jasmine for pitching in .
  • I achieved 100000 magic number of visitors to my blog
  • My proud acquiring for my blog my irumbu kadai ( cast iron pan) from my mom.
  • Last but not the least, I was able to pull away myself from participating in blog events. It took too much of my energy, was becoming kind of addiction and with blog events propping up almost every day, it turned out my menu on the real life table was getting dictated by blog events. I had to stop it somewhere. Thanks to work pressure, upcoming india trip, I was able to achieve this.

2008 Bloglife I have a few things to do :

  1. Take a back up of my recipes posted.
  2. Learn food photography tips and tricks
  3. Record more of amma’s specialities and the other recipes listed below
  4. I love to host the site on my own web server, I have the know-how to do it but I dont know whether I will have the time. Lets see.

These are the recipes on my to-blog list:

Ammas’ specialties

  • Mutton potato drumstick kuruma
  • Keeraithandu mochakottai karakozhambu – Spicy kozhambu made with stem of greens and fieldbeans
  • Pacharisi thengai payasam – Coconut-Rice-Kheer
  • Paruppu urundai kozhambu – Kozhambu made with lentil dumplings
  • Thengai paal sadam – Coconut milk rice
  • Mullangi yera kozhambu – Shrimp radish kozhambu
  • Nethili kuruma – Sardines kuruma
  • Beetroot halwa
  • Gulab jamun
  • Sambar powder recipe
  • Rasam powder recipe
For Ravi
  • Hyderabadi biriyani
  • Erra karam dosa – Dosa smeared with red chilli paste and sprinkled with spiced powders
  • Ravis grandma’s Idly karam – I like this one better than my moms’
  • Mokkajonna kudumulu – I got this recipe already need to post it. Indian cousin of tamale.
Healthy stuffies
  • Kalyana murungai – I dont know whether I will even get this greens
  • Keezhanelli urundai – That is what we eat back home when we had jaundice – another greens
  • Veppa urundai – Neem leaves paste – for de-worming
  • Seeraga kashayam – To relieve that bloated feeling made with roasted cumin
  • Nochi ilai aavi – Steaming to relieve sinus block with this leaves.

See you all in the New Year !

Wishing you and your dear ones Good Health, Happiness and success in whatever you do.. Happy New Year !!

December 31, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Homemade Organic Shampoos – Going Brown !!

I am on a hunt for natural – chemical free products. Thanks to Suganya of Tasty Palettes, I switched to Seventh Generation products a few months ago. I have been researching on organic shampoos without much success. Manufacturers are trying all gimmicks to cheat customers with words like “all-natural”, “botanical extracts”, “pure plant extracts”. They even dare to put the organic label on the bottles and then disclaimer that no human eyes can read – Certification from Belgium, European standards etc etc

Aritha – Soap nut and the seed inside. The nuts are size of marbles


Shikakai – Acacia Concinna
Image source http://www.aminet.or.jp/~zen/hena/maha/img7/shikakai.jpg
Wiki : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shikakai


Dried Shikakai pods have been used for centuries as a hair cleanser. It is a mild cleanser relatively low in pH and does not strip the hair of natural oils. So it was obviously the choice for cleansing hair in olden times. Washing hair is a elaborate routine back home. Shampoos were strict no-nos at home. I hated shikakai – hair was not like those models on TV, the silky wavy hairs I longed for !! With shikakai it was nowhere close to those shimmering shampooed hair.

I would run around dodging my mother because shikakai also causes irritation when it gets into eyes and my mother got them in my eyes everrry singglle time and I would be crying and yelling at her.

I longed for the shampoos because the model on the TV advertisement was always smiling when washing her hair – shampoo never irriate your eyes. So I thought !!! Finally my mother gave up and I remember using Egg shampoo ( I think it was Pond’s) the first time. I loved the squishy yellow fragrant precious liquid and when my mom started scrubbing my hair I was all smiling with my eyes widee open ! And before I knew it got in my eyes and there I was crying and wailing – only this time my mother was yelling at me !!!

This time around when I went to India I got shikakai powder – homemade. PRECIOUS !

The shikakai pods are similar to tamarind pods. A fine powder of around half kilo of these pods along with a tablespoon each of rice, fenugreek, a handful of dried hibiscus flowers and a few sun-dried lemon peel – Makes one heck of a hair shampoo/tonic.

Aritha is also a natural hair cleanser. It is called soapnut in english, soapukai in tamil – so you get the idea. They are dried berries enclosing a seed inside. They lather with water and can be safely used on hair. Since soapnut strips hair of oils it should be used in lesser amounts and works fantastically with shikakai powder. Gently crush the the nuts to break them open and remove the seeds. Grind them in a clean dry coffee grinder and store air tight.

Aritha/soapnut berries are found here in US in the indian groceries. Alternatively you also get Hesh Aritha powder. Mix with 3 tablespoons shikakai powder to 1 tablespoon soapnut powder in little water and work up a chemical free lather.

If you have strained water from rice ( starchy water drained after cooking rice ), then use it as a conditioner – This water contains nutrients and is considered an excellent conditioner for hair.

Shikakai & Aritha powder paste – Herbal shampoo – Closest to getting organic


Aritha powder – Coffee grinder does the job.

December 27, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 8 Comments