Sunday, October 26, 2008

You say Khichdi, I say Pongal

The idea that there are some foods you can always go back to, a meal that while not necessarily being uber healthy, still nourishes mind, body and spirit, a food that is at once comforting and replenishing....was quite alien to me when I first came to the US. I mean, all foods are replenishing, aren't they? One is supposed to enjoy all that's offered on your plate. If not enjoy, then at least respect and consume. That's what we were taught growing up in our middle class tambram homes.

Yes, there were dishes that we looked forward to, dishes that wouldn't be on offer everyday. Dishes that Amma would make when she was running out of options owing to a sudden deficit in the pantry or a sudden pesky illness or uninvited guests. So then, what would Amma make? Thakaali Vengayam, Uruali kizhangu roast, or some good ol' Upma!

So, yes, one could argue that while not called as such, we did indeed have comfort foods.

Having grown up and older now, and having experimented with many a recipe that Google spat up, I realize that there are some dishes that I make that even I can call comforting.

Pongal is one of those comfort foods. Ask any respecting tambram, and she would vehemently agree. Why is it comforting you ask? How can it not be, with oodles of freshly made ghee, cashews, fresh whole pepper, finely roasted cumin seeds, fresh curry leaves, rice and lentils?

And when accompanied by the tamarind infused Gotsu...bliss!

The recipe below is adapted of course, and not quite the traditional Ven Pongal recipe. Some might even call it Khichdi. But I tried this many a time, and its mighty close to the Pongal me mom makes, so Pongal it is!


Half cup rice, fourth of a cup moong dal, fourth of a cup masoor dal. Total of one cup.

Wash and let to sit.

Meanwhile heat ghee/butter, season with jeera, ginger, whole or powdered pepper, turmeric, asafoetida.

Add 3.5 cups water and let boil. Add the rice, dal, saute for a bit.

Stir in salt, cover and allow to simmer for 10-12 mts.

Can also add sauteed cashewnuts to the mixture, either with the rice and dal or after the Pongal is cooked.


Season mustard, asafoetida, channa dal, toor dal, turmeric, fenugreek seeds, then add 3 green chillies, one red chilly,some ginger, add one onion, saute, add 2 tomatoes (I added one fresh and 2-3 tbsps of canned tomato),saute, add tamarind water as is necessary, let it simmer and thicken.

Tamarind water: About 2 cups water, with one tea spoon tamarind paste.


Aug 27. The dal seems a little kadak.Flavorful though.

Oct 15. Made it with 2 cups- 1 cup rice and 1 cup of mixed daal. Also added maybe 6.5 cups of water. Turned out to be perfect Pongal consistency. Allowed to cook for probably 20 mts. Made it in the cooker.

Had also allowed the rice and daal to rest for atleast 3-4 hours.

Note: I looked high and low for this recipe's inspiration. Have not found the link yet.
The gotsu is adapted from Gemini Mahadevan's "Samaikalaame"

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

This ought to be on a menu somewhere!

Veggie Burger on Grilled Sourdough & Veggies....
1 Large slice Trader Joe's Sourdough bread
1/3 Avocado
1/2 tomato
1/2 onion
Bruschetta Spread
Stonewall Kitchen Wasabi Mustard
Pecorino cheese
1 Morningstar Asian Veggie Patty

The Asian veggie patty from Morningstar is really good. Great flavor & lots of protein.
Grill it in a non-stick pan at medium heat for about 3 minutes on each side. You can use a paper towel to dab any excess grease that comes out of it.

Saute the onions until they turn brown followed by the tomatoes. Stick the bread in to the broiler for a couple of minutes. That should suffice.
The Trader Joe's sourdough bread is ideal for this sandwich. It keeps well. Just stick the loaf in the freezer and use when needed.

Cut the bread in half. The TJ sourdough bread tends to come in large slices. One slice can be cut in half for the sandwich.
Spread the bruschetta mix on one slice of bread and the wasabi mustard on the other.
The Bruschetta spread & the Wasabi Mustard make the burger moist.

Assemble the sandwich.

The Pecorino cheese adds a nice finish.

Enjoy! With some curly potato chips on the side, of course!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sunny Sonoma

Spent the last week in California with family and friends and boy was it fun!
We drove up to the Sonoma vineyards one of those days, and visited Buena Vista, Benziger and Cohns'. Stopped for a quick bite at the Basque Cafe in downtown Sonoma. The sandwich was bland but tasty nevertheless-roasted eggplant, bellpeppers and some lettuce?

Also tried something called the Florentine, basically caramelized almond slices dipped in chocolate. Yum!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Chapaathi and Daal

I used to hate chapaathis as a kid. May be it was that my already mature aesthetic senses couldn't bear to eat anything that began life as an almost colorless, beige piece of moldy dough.

But then you grow up and realize that things don't have to look good to taste good. And so, I have been teaching myself the fine art of making chapathis for the last several weeks now.

My first piece of rolled out dough looked like the continental United States, but things have improved since. They turn out thin and smooth and puff out more often than not.

Last week, I made some moong dal, but south Indian style, in that I followed Gemini Mahadevan's recipe.

Here's the recipe from the book:

தக்காளி உருளை கிழங்கு சாகு-A: (Pg.99)

பச்சை மிளகாய் 8, இஞ்சி ஒரு துண்டு, தக்காளிப்பழம் 175 கிராம், உருளை கிழங்கு 175 கிராம், பாசிபருப்பு ௧00 மில்லிகிராம் , மஞ்சள்பொடி அரை டீஸ்பூன், உப்பு 2 டீஸ்பூன், ஜீரகம் அரை டீஸ்பூன், எலுமிச்சம்பழம் இரண்டு, கடுகு 1 டீஸ்பூன்.

பச்சைமிலகைகளைக் கீறிக்கொண்டு , இஞ்சியை நறுக்கிக்கொள்ளவும். உருளைகிழங்குகளை வேகவைத்து உரித்துப் பொடி பண்ணவும். தக்காளியை நறுக்கிக்கொள்ளவும் . பாசிப்பருப்பை வேக வைத்துக்கொள்ளவும்.

ஈயம் பூசிய ஒரு பாத்திரத்தில் கடுகு தாளித்து, சீரகத்தை போட்டுச் சிவந்ததும் பச்சைமிளகாய், இஞ்சி, தக்காளி எல்லாவற்றையும் போட்டு வதக்கி, உப்பு, மஞ்சள் பொடியைப் போட்டு, ௨00 மில்லி தண்ணீரையும் ஊற்றி வேக வைக்கவும். சுமார் 3 நிமிடங்கள்வரை கொதித்ததும், பொடி பண்ணிய உருளைக்கிழங்குகளைப போட்டுக் கிளறி, பாசிப்பருப்பையும் சேர்த்துக் கலந்து கீழே இறக்கி, காயம் ஊற்றவும். எலுமிச்சம் பழத்தைப் பிழிந்து கலக்கவும்.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Coffee skin

Reading Toast, Nigel Slater's memoir. Funnily enough, found some familiar anecdotes. Like his hatred of the skin that surfaces on hot coffee, or chocolate or any milky beverage.
God, I how I hated paal aadai! That's what we called it-dressed milk would be a rudimentary Tamil to English translation.

Why doesn't aadai form on my morning cuppa joe anymore?

Which brings me to the question of why people have kids. See, as you grow up, you forget more and more of your childhood and memories from childhood fade away at an increasing rate. You get nostalgic every time you attempt to recall those evanescent memories of paal aadai, band-aids, wonder bars, choppu saamaan, and thakaali vengaayam.

So, what do normal adults do? They recreate these memories, not for themselves, but for a fairly good approximation of themselves-their offspring. This way, you don't have the time for reminiscence or nostalgia. You simply recreate them.

There, my pop sociology for the day. Quite crass and unsophisticated. But these are my attempts at grappling with issues of parenthood and parenting and why people procreate.