Friday, September 28, 2007

Coconut & tomato chutney

Tangy, spicy chutney to serve with idli or dosa. Adding tomato is a nice twist to the traditional coconut chutney. The following recipe was given to me by my cousin Usha. Though a relative newcomer, it is now one of my favorite chutney recipes!

fresh coconut - 2 cups grated
dry red chilies - 6 (less to reduce heat level)
tomato - 1 medium
onion - 1/2 sliced
oil - 2 tbsp
salt to taste

Heat 2 tbsp oil. Add red chilies to the oil. When it starts to turn slightly brown and fragrant, remove and keep aside. Add sliced onion and tomato in the same oil. Saute till mushy and remove.

Blend fresh coconut, and the rest of the ingredients with sufficient water to facilitate smooth griding.

For tempering:
oil - 1 tsp
mustard seeds - 1 tsp
urad dal - 1 tsp
curry leaves - 6
dry red chili pieces - 1 (broken in pieces)

Heat 1 tsp oil and add mustard seeds, curry leaves, urad dal, and red chilies. When mustard seeds are done popping, add the mixture to chutney. Chutney is ready to be served.

Chutney is a must for Dosa and Idli.

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Monday, September 10, 2007


One of the favorite memories of my childhood is waking up to a wonderful, fresh cooked breakfast. The sights, sounds, and smells are still with me today: the smell of mustard seeds and curry leaves in hot oil; kadala curry (black chick peas) slowly simmering in roasted, ground coconut and coriander; the smell of fermented idli batter waiting to be steamed.

Idli making is a laborious process. It may take a few trials to master it. Since the batter must be fermented overnight, weather plays an important role. The hot, humid, tropical climate in India makes it easier to ferment the batter. In the US, during winter, I leave the batter in a heated oven. If the pilot light is on, it produces sufficient heat to allow fermentation.

The perfect idli is soft, moist, somewhat grainy, and porous. It soaks up liquids like a sponge. Surely, there can't be anything better than a plateful of fluffy idlis and freshly ground coconut chutney for breakfast!


long grained rice : 4.5 cups
par boiled rice : .5 cup ( I use Uncle Ben's)
urad dal - 1 cup (available in Indian grocery stores)

Special equipment needed: Idli steamer

Clean rice and urad dal. Soak separately in plenty of water for 6-8 hrs till soft. Grind dal very smooth and soft with just enough water to facilitate easy griding. The urad batter should be fluffy and super smooth. Remove into a large mixing bowl. Grind rice with enough water till almost smooth but still somewhat grainy. Pour the ground rice to the ground dal. Using a wooden spoon or spatula mix thoroughly. The resulting batter is fairly thick, much thicker than pancake batter. When poured from a spoon, the batter will fall in a broken stream.

In my younger days, my mother used to make the batter using an "attu kal" carved out of stone. Now even in India, idli batter is made using blenders or motorised grinders made of stone.

Leave the batter in a warm place to ferment overnight. When fermented, the batter becomes spongy. When you are ready to steam idlis, add salt and mix well. Pour a drop of oil into the mould. Using a paper towel spread the oil on the mould. Pour the batter into the mould. Bring water to a rolling boil in the idli vessel, turn flame down to a simmer. Keep the moulds in the vessel, cover, and steam for 8 - 10 minutes.

Take the idli moulds from the steamer. The idlis are best taken out of the mould when the the mould has cooled down. Serve with coconut chutney and/or sambar.

The recipe may be halved or even quartered. 1 cup of rice makes about 10 idlis.

Idlis freeze very well! Microwave frozen idli with a wet paper-towel on top for 3 minutes before serving.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2007


Ahh rasam! The tangy, sinus clearing rasam! Addictive concoction of tomatoes, tamarind, pepper, and cumin! Potent as any cocktail even without the addition of alcohol! It awakens your taste buds as it spreads warmth through the body.

My rasam is simple. I love to make it in summer when ripe, luscious tomatoes are plentiful. You can also add some cooked dal (pigeon peas) to rasam, 1 or 2 tbsp. or so. If I have it handy, I add it. Perfectly fine to leave it out!


ripe tomatoes - 3 chopped
fresh tamarind - 1 tbsp. (may substitute with 1/2 tsp of tamarind concentrate)
turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp.
water - 3 cups
salt to taste
Note: If the tomatoes are really ripe and flavorful, you may not need to add much tamarind.

Spices for grinding:
whole black pepper: 1 tsp.
whole cumin - 1 tsp
whole red chili - 1
Grind the above ingredients in a spice/coffee grinder. Does not have to be ground fine, but somewhat smooth.

Add water and turmeric to chopped tomatoes. Cook till the tomatoes are mushy. Soak tamarind in 1/2 cup of water. Using your hand squeeze the tamarind to extract the jucies. (Alternatively, use tamarind concentrate.) Add tamarind extract to the pot (discard the tamarind solids) and continue to simmer for 5 minutes. Take off heat.

Using the back of your spoon, mash the cooked tomatoes well. Drain in a colander pressing the tomatoes with your spoon. Discard the seeds and skin. The pulp would disintergrate into the water. Bring the tomato broth to a boil. Simmer for 3-5 minutes. Add the powdered spices. Take off heat.

For tempering:
oil - 1 tsp.
asafoetida pd - 1/4 tsp.
mustard seeds - 1tsp.
dry red chili - 1 (broken into pieces)
fenugreek seeds - 1/4 tsp
curry leaves - 6

Heat oil in a small pan. Add asafoetida followed by the rest of the ingredients. When the mustard seeds have finished popping, add the whole tempering mixture to rasam. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves. Serve with rice.

Also, great to drink at the end of a meal!

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