Sunday, October 24, 2010

Asparagus Paruppu Usuli (Lentil Mix)

Oct 24th 2010

Usuli is another south indian side-dish that is extremely tasty but often not made by our generation because it falls under that too much prep work category. Easy as it is, I have seen it being delegated to that "must-have-list" when mom or mom-in-law comes visiting.

I like this dish for the simple reason that the paruppu (lentil) mix that you add to your vegetable of choice can be prepped in advance one weekend when you have some time to spare and can be used another weekend when you don't have too much of that elusive time. Additionally it is a lifesaver when you have guests over suddenly. And it is a good way to get your vegetable and protein within one meal.

Difficulty level : Easy - Medium

Time: 30 min ( Prep Time), 20 min ( Cooking Time)

  • Thoor dhal ( 1 cup)
  • Chana dhal ( 1/3 cup)
  • Urad dhal ( 1 tbsp)
  • Red and green chillies ( 2 -3 nos each)
  • Asafoetida or hing
  • salt
  • Curry leaves
  • Turmeric powder
  • oil
  • mustard (1 tbsps)
  • chana dhal (1 1/2 tbsp)
  • urad dhal (1 1/2 tbsp)
  • Asparagus (a bunch)
Method de Preparation
  1. Soak the first three dhals together in water for about an hour. Drain for a 1/2 hour and then grind coarsely in the blender with the chillies, hing, curry leaves and some salt. This paste should be quite thick like hummus for example. Don't soak or drain for too long as then the dhal will end up becoming too soggy and will not separate out.
  2. Add a tbsp of oil to the paste and mix well and cook in a pressure cooker without the weight (meaning used a steamer) for a good 10-15 min until you see a lot of steam come out.  This is a good time to close your eyes and visualize how you would like to let out steam the same way! Turn off heat and allow both yourself and the cooker to cool.
  3. Meanwhile wash and chop the asparagus finely. Bend the asparagus and the point where you see it no longer bends and that is the part that needs to be discarded, however I uniformly just discard the last 1 inch or so. Use any other green vegetable here - beans, broccoli, Avarakkai, Kothavarangai etc. I especially like asparagus because I think the taste compares to the mother of paruppu usulis - vazhaipu paruppu usuli (Banana flower).
  4. Take oil in a pan, add mustard and when it splutters, add the chana and urad dhal and a few red chillies too if you like. Finally add a couple of curry leaves and add the steamed mix and separate it out into powder like consistency. If you are making more than what you will use at one go, at this point make separate packets and freeze once cooled.
  5. Cook the asparagus sprinkled with water and salt/turmeric and a little bit of oil in a pan. When you find the vegetable softened and cooked (~ 4-5 min) add the required amount of usuli to it and your paruppu usuli is ready.
  6. Serve this with rice and ghee or with any kind of Morkhuzambu.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Chow Chow Sweet Kootu (Chayote Squash Sweet Curry)

Oct 23rd 2010

Chayote Squash is one of my favorite vegetables for a few reasons. It can be used in curries, as a vegetable and is something that is very usable in dishes for kids because it has a sweet taste of its own and does not need too much seasoning. Additionally it can be stored for more than a week and still stays good before cooking. This recipe you can say has its roots from my Palghat iyer background as it uses coconut and jaggery :) This goes very well with rice and podi or on the side with chappatis too. 

  • Chayote Squash -2 nos (cut in small symmetrical cubes)
  • Chana dhal - 1/2 cup
  • Oil
  • Mustard  (1 tbsp)
  • Urad Dhal ( 1 tbsp)
  • grated coconut ( 1 tbsp)
  • turmeric powder
  • salt
  • jaggery  or brown sugar ( 1 tbsp)
To grind

  • red chillies (1-2 nos)
  • grated coconut ( 1 tbsp)
  • jeera ( 1 tsp)
  • Curry leaves ( 2 nos)
Method de Preparation
  1. Grind red chillies, coconut, curry leaves and jeera and keep aside.
  2. Cook chana dhal and chayote squash in a pressure cooker with salt/turmeric and water (~ 1:3) slightly. Allow equivalent of 1 whistle. Alternative is to cook just the chana dhal in the cooker with just enough water and the chayote squash outside to prevent it from becoming mashed.
  3. When done, take the cooked mix out, transfer into a container and place on heat directly.
  4. Add the ground mixture and allow everything to come together. When you see the mixture begin to foam and bubble turn off heat. At this point, add the jaggery and it will dissolve on its own.
  5. Season in oil a little bit of mustard, when it splutters add urad dhal and finally the other 1 tbsp of coconut and roast till slightly brown. 
  6. Transfer carefully to top the dish like you will do if you are the chef on food network and enjoy!


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Kadamba Sambar ( Mixed-Vegetable Lentil Soup)

October 18th 2010

Sambar is to a south indian meal what bread is to American Cuisine, or cheese is to  Italian cuisine. It is kind of the main entree when you prepare a south indian meal consisting of these lentil soups - sambar, rasam and the like. 

Sambar can be made with many types of vegetables - onions, drumstick, potato, spinach, okra  (vendakka) etc. Kadambam means a mix. The first thing that comes to my mind is the Kadambam string of flowers that are sold that one would wear on their hair. It is a mix of orange, white flowers and some green leaves/stalks. I am somehow very fond of this highly colorful beautiful concoction. Similarly a Kadamba sambar means one in which you use many different vegetables and allow the flavors to all come together. You can use any of the above and add carrots, cauliflowers etc. Try to not add too many and too different types as you will not be able to savor the flavors.

This is served with rice and a side of any vegetable and of course some appalam/papadam or  karuvadam would be complete bliss!

Difficulty level : Medium

Time: 20 min ( Prep Time), 20 min ( Cooking Time)

  • Toor dhal ( 1 cup) cooked in the pressure cooker with water in the ratio 1:3
  • Tamarind ( a small lemon size ball)  or 1 to 1 1/2 tbsp tamarind paste
  • Vegetables ( onions, capsicum, carrot, okra, brinjal) - cut in medium size about 1 1/2 cup
  • Tomates -2 nos - blend into juice 
  • sambar powder - 2 tbsps
  • Turmeric powder - 1 tsp
  • oil
  • mustard ( 1 tbsp)
  • urad dhal  (1 tbsp)
  • red chilly ( 2 nos)
  • curry leaves ( 3 nos)
  • cilantro (choppped into pieces) to season
  • Salt to taste
Method de Preparation
  1. Cook toor dal well in pressure cooker, and keep aside. Allow 3 whistles or equivalent.
  2. Extract tamarind juice by soaking it water, squeezing pulp, and repeat till water no longer turns brown in color. Easy way is to heat the tamarind in water for a  min in the microwave. This softens the pulp and allows you to extract the juice easily. This should yield about a cup or a 1 1/2 of tamarind water. Alternate is to use 1 tbsp tamarind paste.
  3. Take oil (about 2 tbsps) in a vessel, when heated, add mustard and allow to splutter.
  4. Add the red chilly and urad dhal and when slightly brown add the onions.
  5. Saute till half done, add the other vegetables.
  6. Keep medium heat and saute till well cooked. Add a little bit of salt and turmeric.
  7. When well cooked (squeeze vegetable to check- brinjal is the BLACK SHEEP here), add the tamarind juice.
  8. Allow to boil for about 4-5 min till the raw smell goes. In the meantime make the tomato puree in the blender.
  9. Add the tomato puree to the tamarind vegetable solution. Add a pinch of turmeric if needed and half the quantity of sambar powder.
  10. When tomato juice is cooked well ( raw smell goes - 2 mins or so), add required quantity of thoor dhal. [ If you are novice how do you know what is the required quantity? - Required quantity simply means adding enough thoor dhal such that the tangy taste of the tamarind is neutralized by this lentil, you can add 3/4 of the quantity mentioned above, take a quick taste and add the rest if required. Another hint is you will see the color change from a dark brown to more of a light brown as you add the dhal.]
  11. To this add the remaining quantity of sambar powder (take out any lumps) and required amount of salt and allow the whole mix to come together. About 2-3 mins. Turn off heat once you notice slight bubbles of heat in the liquid.
  12. Garnish with curry leaves and cilantro and serve hot with a rice and a tsp of ghee.       
Warning:  This is not a dish that is easy to master or of fixed proportions. I would try to make it at least thrice before you give up. Trust me once you master it, the taste and aroma will be worth it. And you will also start to notice the mediocre quality of sambar served in most Indian restaurants outside of India, don't say I did not warn you!

Variations:  You could add potatoes or cauliflower or drumstick too to the vegetables and skip the onions if you like.

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