Sunday, May 31, 2009

Varuththa Upma

Varuththa upma is one great tasting snack that I love. It is very easy to make, but requires considerable amount of oil because of which I don't make it quite often :-).

Ingredients (1 - 2 servings):

Rice flour - about 3 cups
Tamarind soaked in water - about the size of a small lemon
(If using paste, about 3/4 teapsoon of it)
Cooking oil - 2 tablespoons
Mustard seeds - 1 teaspoon
Channa dhal - 1 tablespoon
Asafoetida - 1/2 teaspoon
Dried red chillies - 3 to 4 broken into small pieces
Curry leaves - a few
Turmeric powder - a pinch
Salt to taste


1. Extract the essence from the soaked tamarind to yield about a 3/4 cup (using a measuring cup) of tamarind juice. If using paste, dilute it with 3/4 cup of water and set aside.
2. In a bowl, mix rice flour with the tamarind extract from step 1, asafoetida and salt such that it is not watery but pours down from a spoon. Set the mixture aside.
3. In a pan, heat some cooking oil, pop mustard seeds, add the channa dhal, curry leaves, turmeric powder and dried red chillies and fry until the channa dhal turns light golden brown in color.
4. To step 3, add the rice flour mixture from step 2 and keep stirring it. The water slowly evaporates and the contents slowly solidfy. From this point forward, it is going to be a test for your arm and shoulder muscles ;-). Yes, you have to continuously stir it on medium heat until the mixture completely solidifies and begins to break into small pieces and gets fried well in the oil. It takes about 20 minutes to get there after which you will be done.
5. Serve as is or with puli inji.

This snack would definitely be on the menu whenever Grandma visited us :-).

Monday, May 18, 2009

Peerkkangaai (Ridge Gourd) Thogayal

Ridge gourd, called peerkkangaai in Tamil and beerakaaya in Telugu, can be used in different forms. I personally like the thogayal made with this vegetable rather than the paal koottu or sambar or anything else. It is very simple and easy to make. One cannot go wrong!!!! Also, peerkkangaai after it is left to dry on its vine can be used as a natural loofah :-).

Ingredients (about3 - 4 servings):

Ridge gourd - 2 medium sized, washed, peeled and cut into small cubes
Cooking oil - 2 teaspoons
Dried red chillies - 3 to 4 (vary this to suit your taste)
Tamarind - 1/2 inch stick if fresh/about 1/4 teaspoon if using paste
Urad dhal - about 1/4 cup (using a measuring cup)
Asafoetida - 1/4 teaspoon
Salt to taste


1. Heat about a teaspoon of oil in a pan, fry red chillies first followed by urad dhal, tamarind and asafoetida, until the urad dhal turns light golden brown in color and set aside to cool down.
2. In the same pan from step 1, add another teaspoon of oil and fry the cubed ridge gourd until it becomes tender (this doesn't take too long). The ridge gourd leaves a lot of water during this process and drastically reduces in size. Set this aside to cool.
3. Grind the contents from step 1 and 2 with very little or no water to a paste. Peerkkangaai thogayal is ready (seasoning with mustard is optional)!

Peerkkangaai thogayal and moar kuzhambu make a wonderful combo. Enjoy!!!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Simple Peanut Chutney

I was way too hungry the moment I finished making idlis today and had initially thought I'd have them with yogurt or sugar, but then I changed my mind and started craving for some chutney to go with my idlis and owing to the extent to which I was hungry, didn't want to make anything complicated that would take some time to prepare. While I was thinking of a really quick chutney to make, I saw this unopened can of lightly salted, roasted peanuts lying in my shelf and instantly knew what I was going to make. Having roasted peanuts at home came in handy today :-).

Ingredients (about 2 - 3 servings):

Roasted peanuts - a cup (using a measuring cup)
Green chillies - 2 to 3 cut into pieces (vary this to suit your taste)
Tamarind - 1/4 inch piece if fresh/less than 1/4 teaspoon if using paste

Salt to taste

For seasoning:

Cooking oil - 1 teaspoon
Mustard seeds - 1/2 teaspoon

Urad dhal - 1/4 teaspoon

Asafoetida - a pinch

Dried red chilli - 1
Curry leaves - a few


1. Grind the roasted peanuts, green chillies and tamarind to a paste along with salt and set aside.
2. In a small pan, heat some cooking oil, pop mustard seeds, add asafoetida dried red chilli, curry leaves and urad dhal and fry until the urad dhal turns light golden brown in color. Now, transfer the contents to ground peanuts from step 1, mix and serve.


I usually have some seasoning (mustard, asafoetida and urad dhal) handy. It saved me the extra few minutes today!!!

To contribute more to the flavor, you can add a couple of cloves of crushed garlic in the seasoning or while grinding. You can serve this chutney with idli, dosai, chappathi and upmas.

This goes to 15 minute cooking @ Spices etc... hosted by Mahimaa.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Veggie Au Gratin With A Twist

Au gratin refers to the French style of broiling breadcrumbs and butter on top of a casserole dish of any type until they are brown and crispy. The most popular au gratin recipes use a white sauce in which the main ingredient is cooked prior to baking it in the oven and finishing it the au gratin way. When I visited my dear friend Sunitha, she made au gratin in a different way and it immediately caught my attention. Ever since, it has been a regular in my kitchen too. The highlight is, there is absolutely no necessity to stand by the stove once the cutting and assembling is done. So, here it is, veggie au gratin with a twist!


The number of servings depends on the size of the casserole and there is no strict measurements used here. You can add more or less of what you like or don't like :-). Isn't it very flexible???

Veggies of your choice (potatoes are a must though)
(I like to use potatoes, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and carrots)
Store bought marinara sauce
Sour cream
Grated mozarella cheese (you can use any variety that you like or a blend of 2 or 3 different kinds)
Pickled jalapenos (for that little extra heat)
Minced garlic
Black pepper powder
Butter to grease the casserole


1. Slice all the veggies and set aside. You can even chop the pickled jalapenos so that you get a piece on two in each bite.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. Grease a casserole with some butter. Place a layer of potatoes first, sprinkle some salt and pepper on top, add a thin layer of grated cheese and throw in some minced garlic and pickled jalapenos. Add another layer of any veggie (or a mix of veggies) of your choice, sprinkle some salt and pepper again and coat the top with some marinara sauce followed by sour cream (I tend to mix the sour cream and marinara sauce ahead of time so that it is easy to layer) and cheese. Now, you can repeat the layering again based on the depth of your casserole, but make sure you save a lot of cheese for the topmost layer. The cheese will melt and brown on the top giving it that crunch on the outside.
4. Throw the casserole into the preheated oven and bake for about 50 minutes to an hour with the last 3 -5 minutes on broil (oh yeah, this is for that nice crispy cheese layer on the top). Make sure you keep a check on it during the last 10 - 15 minutes.

I simply loved it the very first time I had it. Oh my, I can't wait to have it again!!! Try it and let me know if you liked it :-).