Thursday, December 31, 2009

Memories the Essence of Life ~ Best of 2009!

Memories are like shades that we walk under,
from the scorching sun or pouring rain,
you always have something over your head
to keep you going....

The best part of 2009 on personal has been that, I have started recording my thoughts and emotions that hit me at the most unexpected moment! I really wish at those times that I had recorder that can record the thoughts that flow..but then again..

When 2009 started I was full of hopes that this year would see the light of my cookbook. Somehow it was to happen in 2010. I was happy that I was atleast able to release a smaller version in eBook format that gave me hopes of a good on in happening.

Though the year has been the fastest one ever to be remembered, it brought along many moments to cherish and celebrate. My parents came back to India, we celebrated our 10th anniversary, I got a nephew and my boys got their admission in a school near by. So many highlights on the personal front.

In blogging front, I was able to write about Diabetes with Dad's help. celebrated the first year of Spice your Life. I am hoping that blog will get more patronage as this one. I am sure it will take off in the new year. I have many plans for it still. But of course the best part was starting Indian Cooking Challenge, which has over 100 members and all of us learn cooking traditional Indian dishes!

I started the year with My Legume Love affair and ending it with the same event.

Then I talked about Menu planning and I had a planner up which many readers asked for and said it was useful for them.

The year was active with quite a few events being held. After My Legume Love affair, it was Meeta's MM, then my own Melas of Mango and Sweets!

With Sia saying she wanted contribution for a blog that would talk beyond everything on Indian Cuisine, we came about a group Blog called Beyond Curries.

Then I had one of a kind experience by cooking for over 100 ppl along with my colleagues for my office anniversary celebration. It was beyond words to explain we shared.

When once it was a easy task, now turned into an impossible situation. That is cooking, clicking and posting on the same day. But I managed somehow with the Navratri Celebrations.

Though I would have wanted to do more posts, I found myself cooking our regular and repeated stuff on daily basis. So my plans include making new ones coming year.

On a personal level, I have more projects thought out for myself. I will be talking about them of course!

When I sit back to think on what and how I have progressed in thought process, the most significant one would be that I started thinking more positively about everything. Memories seem to be the most prominent of all. Like a sponge sucking everything, my mind seem to gasp whatever that comes up. I know it's the right way. Will write about it more in detail.

With this and the thoughts that my project takes wings soon, I take leave. I sincerely thank all my readers who have supported my dreams and make this space very dear to me. I hope I can continue receiving it in coming years too.

Traditions are what makes this life more meaningful. I hope with this a new one is formed.

I wish all my readers and friends a very happy New Year

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mattikaya Vankaya Pullagura ~ Cluster Beans, Brinjal gravy Andhra Special!

I know its been a week since my last post. We have been pretty busy coughing and rocking through the week. The cough and cold started with the boys, then Athamma caught it, followed by hubby dear. Though it isn't so cold these days, it always ends up that December brings in cold and cough without fail. So much so that I didn't realize the week passing and we are almost just two days away from the new year!

I know my best of 2009 is still pending, hopefully I should get inspiration for it within next two days. I am hoping you will all send in yours as well including the my legume love affair!

Though with the cold and cough, we did manage to have a great weekend with family and kids enjoyed the weekend. Which is what matters in the end I think.

Anyway today's recipe is almost 100 years old, if you count that my grandmom learnt it from her mom and passed on to my mom. Who, actually was late in sharing this with me. It's a typical rustic Andhra dish, made with basic ingredients available at home but yet tastes great with plain rice! This was reserved for the cookbook but I thought it makes a great recipe for the blog too!

Our Meal ~ Mattikaya Vankaya Pullagura with Rice, Tomato Rasam and Perugu

Do try this and let me know how you like it!

Before I leave, just wanted to mention about Jennifer's awesome job in getting an interfaith calendar together! I got to know Jennifer through Dosa Mela and was amazed at her interest and knowledge in Indian culture and cuisine.

I just had a look at the calendar and must say it is simple too much of a hard work. Imagine about 100 entries or holidays listed, covering holidays of Muslim, Christian, Hindu (pan--Hindu, Kerala, Tamil and few other select regional South Indian holidays), Jewish, and select Jain and Buddhist with government holidays of both India and America and created a PDF calendar.

Please check out her site and get impressed!


Mattikaya Vankaya Pullagura ~ Cluster Beans, Brinjal gravy

Ingredients Needed:

Cluster Beans/ Mattikaya/ Gawar Beans - 150 gms
Brinjal- 150 gms
Green Chili - 2 chil
Shallot / Small onions - 50 gms
Garlic pods - 3 -4
Tomatoes - 2 medium
Turmeric a pinch
Salt to taste
Tamarind - marble size
Oil - 2 tsp
Fenugreek / Methi
Cumin Seeds
Curry leaves few

Method to prepare:

Trim cluster beans and chop into 1" pieces, brinjals into squares.

Pan cook cluster beans with little water till done, drain the beans from water and keep aside.

Heat a pan with oil, add mustard, fenugreek, cumin, curry leaves and fry for a min.

Then add green chilies, shallot onions, garlic and fry again till onions turn brown.

Once the onions are done, add in the cooked cluster beans and fry for a min. Then add in the brinjal pieces.

Fry for 5 mins, till the brinjal turn colour. Then add chopped tomatoes, salt and turmeric and continue frying till tomatoes are little soft and cooked. Add 1 cup of water, simmer for 5 mins, then add tamarind.

Cook for another 5 mins, remove from stove, mash well using a lentil masher.

Serve with steamed rice.

Notes: After mashing you won't be able to see the cluster beans or the brinjals as whole, but only partial should be visible. This should not be mashed using a food processor, but only with a masher. You can also use the back of a thick ladle if you don't have a lentil masher.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Lunch Box Series : LBS#54 ~ Beans Paruppu Usili!

Its been raining all of last week and through the weekend too. Naturally there is nothing more beautiful than being welcomed by a rainy morning, forget about the fact of navigating your way through it to office. Konda's exams got over by Saturday and it also saw us being tensed over the boys's admission results. We were naturally excited seeing their names, though secretly I hoped they will be featured in the second list. Yes, its one of those cases of having it best when it comes last too. By then, our school of choice will also announce and we need not worry about requesting for refunds from this school etc. But life never offers everything on a plate. And one look at the disappointed parent's, we counted out blessings and came away.


Having one school confirmed, we still went to attend the interview at the third school, much against our wishes. We were not keen but just took them anyway. From the moment we got on, we sensed the boys were not in the right mood. But I was actually happy knowing I wasn't wrong in judging my boys wrongly! Imagine being shocked out of your socks by such angelic expressions and correct answers in the previous two schools. I couldn't believe for a moment they were my boys..:)) I always knew it was the angel playing on these elves. Well I finally had it confirmed after their performance in this final school.

The moment we went in for the interview, one teacher asked Peddu his name. He was giggling away and with his cheeks bolted nodded no for a reply. Chinnu openly said he is not going to answer! The teachers (much shocked, tried not to show it) then showed them a puzzle and asked them to put assemble, as defiant they took some other object and started playing with it. Both of us were red with embarrassment on not knowing what to do with their behavior. Though the teachers were sweet and understanding to the fact that a 3 year old can have loads of mood swings, this was taking to extremes. I was sad knowing that we missed a chance at getting admission to one of the best schools. Anyway a bird in hand is worth hundred on fly, goes the adage!

Life can be unpredictable and it can offer many surprises. We learn from each of them. For past few days I have been on a philosophical vein, never more on my best. Whether I make myself understood or not, please bear my rants!

Saying that, since this being a cooking blog can't run away without sharing a recipe right. And Beans Paruppu Usili is my most favorite of all.

Paruppu Usili which is typically made by Tamil Brahmins has always been my all time favorite. I remember having this in wedding feast and used to just love it. During childhood, Amma somehow never got around making this at home often. So the only occasion that we get a chance are the wedding feasts. So it was really a fun filled affair for me.

Once I started cooking, I, of course made sure to remember all those dishes and finally once got down preparing it. Then there has never been a stop. I now make it quite often not just for its taste but it's protein filled pack. The first time I made, I ended up making so much that I forced everybody to eat saying it's good for health. This time round managed to make just enough.

Today's Lunch Box had

Valai Thandu Kootu
Beans Paruppu Usili
Curd Rice


Beans Paruppu Usili

Soaking Time : 30 - 40 mins
Preparation Time : 10 mins
Cooking Time : 30 mins

Ingredients needed:

Bengal Gram - 100 gms
Beans - 150 gms
Red Chillies - 4 - 5 long
Salt to taste

Mustard seeds + Urud dal - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves few
Asafetida a pinch

Method to prepare.

Soak Channa dal in water for 30 mins.

Chop beans to fine pieces. Parboil it in a pan with half a glass water.

Drain water from the channa dal and coarsely grind it with red chillis.

Heat a kadai and add mustard, curry leaves. Once it splutters, add dal mix and cover and cook in sim for 10 mins. Stirring frequently to ensure it doesn't get burnt. Sprinkle water if it gets dry.

Then add boiled beans and mix well. Simmer with lid for few minutes.

Goes very well with Sambar!

I was thinking what I should make for My Legume Love affair. And this came to mind. I know Channa dal is something we use everyday, yet this simple dish can bring me so much joy.

Its a great pleasure to host My Legume Love affair 18th edition in my blog, an event started by Susan.

Hope you are all getting ready to send me some! Wish this gentle reminder is enough!

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tamarind Extract ~ Indian Basics Step by Step Recipe!

Did you miss me? Ok rather I missed talking about a really new dish that I prepared in a while. I was flipping through the posts and thought I haven't really tried many new dishes in recent times. The fact is, we trending on hectic periods in life. You ask when I don't say that? Well that is true too. I almost feel we are doing a rat race. Now don't ask me when I saw a rat running. Come home, I can show you many.

On Sunday, during the early hours of morning when we got up to get ready for a temple visit, hubby dear and I were sipping our precious coffee, we saw a rat making a bee line from the PC to a huge doll. Imagine this is the PC that I am right now tapping my legs against and that rat could be well cursing me for disturbing it. But really, I am trying not to get worried whether the rat is going to bite me or any of the numerous cables lying around! But imagine our shock seeing that! We just thought couple of weeks back that we saw the last of the rats at home. I know this is the first time I am talking about the rats, story for another day.

Anyway we finally started for the temple by 6.30 am, didn't take the boys as they were down with cold and cough since Saturday. They are much better now but didn't want to tax them. They were happy resting with Athamma, not that they knew we left them behind. They happily thought we went to office. It was only Konda and us making the trip. We couldn't have asked for a better day. The climate was perfect and was so cool. We almost expected it to be very sunny, but there was a forecast of cyclone, so we were trilled traveling through a cool December morning.

The temple was a 3 hr drive, half way of which you will be trying to navigate through the traffic. The other half takes you through a kaleidoscope of scenes, the beautiful India in its essence, the villages, the breathtaking beauty of the crops, the innocent children playing on the streets, the men idling away under the trees, the woman busy with their chores. Can anything be more beautiful than this? Yes acres and acres of green all over. Infact I felt my eyes couldn't take all of it. All shades of green, so much infact divine!

My love for green can fit many posts, so its suffice to say I had an overdose of my love. While I can ramble on and on, I am sure you will get impatient and want to know whats today's recipe is about.

Update: This post was scheduled for Monday, when I was seen very anxious about my boys interview. But somehow I missed the schedule. So finally today with much relaxed mind, happy with the boys interviews done very well. Our boys made us feel very proud by answering all questions, except for asserting apple to be tomato...:)..I loved their confidence in nodding their heads to say it was indeed a tomato!


Ok back to the topic on hand, it's not a recipe on its own but one of the basic ingredient needed for Indian cooking. The Tamarind extract or pulp. This is the most frequent and sought out one in my pantry. We infact stock it in bulk and I am sure I will be lost if I can't get hold of this.

In Tamil Nadu, you have a wide range of dishes made with tamarind as the base, so imagine its importance. Previously when I used to make Rasam or Sambar, I normally soak 30 mins before squeezing the life out of the poor tamarind. But now whether it really saves me time or not, I though I save myself some moments of anxiety by automating the process. Yes, I soak a big ball size tamarind and really really squeeze it till its last breath and store it in the frige for a week's use. Of course before making sure it is really flat, I mean by cooking it.

I thought I would share some of the basic antics I do around the kitchen these days...I am sure many of you must be already doing this or know of this. Yet it is for those of you, who could get some idea on being vanity struck on the fact of saving some minutes!

As I said there is really no recipe, just take a big ball of tamarind and wash once in water. Then soak in water for 30 minutes or as long as you can forget it.

Then if you have a good arm, (or if you want to vent your anger at somebody, imagine they are within your fist!..:)) just squeeze well to extract maximum juice out of it. You can add water and continue doing it till you feel you have really done with it. Throw away the waste.

In a thick bottom pan, pour this water and bring to boil. Again you can have this on stove and forget yourself in better things to do.

Obviously it will continue to boil till it can reach the end, at this stage you will see a really thick paste like in the picture. I know clicking these were the hardest thing to do. They never came out well. Finally hubby dear came to rescue, so you have him to thank for pictures.

The final product will be a thick paste. Cool it and then store it in a bottle. This can be refrigerated for more than two weeks, if it lasts that many days. It normally lasts me for a week.


Previously I used to extract just the water and store, it used to get fermented. Now after boiling and making a thick paste and refrigerated, all you need to take is just a spoon for either Rasam or Sambar.

If you feel you need to increase the shelf life you can add turmeric and salt. But I haven't found the need. Even after 2 weeks, I have found it to be fresh.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Lunch Box Series : LBS#53 ~ Steamed Baby Bitter Gourds!

I know I say this often but it is true. I don't know where the time flies, taking along with it the days! It felt just yesterday that I welcomed the new year and I have another one fast approaching the corner. And its been ages since I recorded our daily activities.


The thing is we have been busy standing in long queues. Yes it was time for the boys admission to LKGs and the entire last week was spent standing in long lines since early morning to get the form. And this week spent standing to submit them. And yes, next week will be spent attending the interviews scheduled in 3 different schools. Hearing on the amount we might have to shell out as building funds had our heads spinning, but we have managed to keep it safe, in hope it won't happen to us. Good hopes!

On the account of getting the boys prepared for the questions, I ask each of them regular questions. I ask Peddu, Kanna, What's your name? Pat comes the reply "kara, srikara", like in Bond style. Never knew my boy takes after his mom. But I gently reminded him that his name is not Kara but he insisted so I left at that. Then I turned to Chinnu, showing a cloth that was green in colour, asked him what colour it was. With a twinkle in his eyes, he replied it was Red! I frowned at him and he looked elsewhere. This was the third time, I was trying, so with gentleness I could hardly muster, I pleaded again. Pat came the reply "Green." Will the teacher have the same soft tone? I doubt!

I appreciate the play school teachers making the boys learn the alphabets as in a song, but I hardly can decipher which letter they say, I hope the school teachers know this.

When I look at the drafts I see many Lunch box combination lying around. I feel so bad for not posting on time. But then things have been really hectic and I haven't really prepared anything new in a while.

But this simple steamed baby bitter gourd was the most toughest dish I ever made. Yes, hubby dear was always raving about this that his colleague used to get for lunch. Back home he used to explain this but I never would get to imagine how to make this. Finally I decided I would just get it and make.

Finally I was able to get him nod with approval and I just couldn't believe it was so simple.

Today's Lunch Box had

Chow chow dal
Steamed Baby Bitter gourds
Curd Rice


Actually there is no recipe, but after the hassles I went through to get the dish out I thought I would take the pleasure in sharing my joy!

Steamed Baby Bitter Gourds

Ingredients Needed

Baby Bitter Gourds - 250 gms
Salt to taste
Turmeric a pinch
Water - just enough to cover it

Method to prepare:

Wash and trim the baby bitter gourds on both ends.

In a non stick pan, add water bring to boil. Then add the bitter gourd, salt and turmeric. Cover with a lid and cook till it is done.

Check in between to ensure it does not get burnt. Simmer after 10 mins and cook on low flame till all water evaporates.

When the gourds are cooked but you still see some water left in the pan, simply cook on high flame while you keep stirring it. The gourds have to be just soft and succulent.

Serve it just as it.


  • These are not the regular bitter gourds that grow to be long in shape. What you see in the picture are the fully grown ones.
  • Pick baby bitter gourds of same size. This is important as these are just steamed.
  • I am not sure if these are available everywhere but if you get them, nothing like it!
  • These baby bitter gourds are not so bitter as the regular ones, so just salt and turmeric is more than enough. Maybe when you can relish the really bitter ones, these may not be so bitter or that is what I have understood from my folks reaction..:)

This tastes great with dal.

That's all for today, have a great weekend.

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Announcing the "Best of year 2009" Event!

I really don't know how I forgot but at this time every year I always keep thinking back on how the days, months rolled away so quick. Since blogging I have been recording what I have been doing in blogging. The many new things I learnt and the many new friends I have made.

The past two years have been great. Though I am not yet close to publishing my book, I am happy that my eBook is published and received well. I am just waiting for the day I write about my printed book.

Since I hosted the Best of 2008 last year, I remembered I haven't done anything like that this year. Ok another reason to pause and think about how this wonderful year has been and being thankful for whatever has come our way.

If you are interested to take such a time to pause and think back, I would welcome you to share it with me.

It can also be whatever else you want to share with me and your readers.

I am just giving few items for you to get started. It can be these or whatever you want to share:
1. Top 5 or 10 recipes of the year
2. Best dish of the month
3. Best recipe prepared from other blogs
4. Best Meal of the year
5 New things discovered in the year (can include anything related to cooking)
6. Best post or picture for each month or year
7. New blogs discovered
8. Cooking resolutions for the Year 2009!

Lets celebrate the new year with a recap of what we did during 2009!

I have pretty much mentioned what I did last year.

Guidelines for the event.
1. Write your post by 31st December 2009. Feel free to use logo.
2. In your post, include a link to this announcement.
3. Mail me your details to with the subject line "Best of 2009".
I hope you will enjoy doing this recap.
Hoping to read the many wonderful things that happened around!

Times like this I tend to become sloppy and very sentimental, so you can read about the 2007 and 2008 here.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pori Urundai For Karthikai Deepam!

Happy Karthigai Deepam to all my Readers!

It was Karthigai deepam yesterday and I didn't realize until Amma told me. It kind of slipped my memory. But how can I not remember Karthigai Deepam? As every festival, this too has special memories associated. This festival is very special to Tamil Nadu and since having lived here all my life, this has become part of our celebrations too.

Having said that, I knew what the festival is about though when Konda asked why it is celebrated, I found it hard to paraphrase it. So here are the notes on the festival.

Karthikai Deepam is a festival of lights celebrated by Tamil Hindus on the full moon day of Karthikai month (November/December), which is observed in every home and in every temple. This occurs on the day when the moon is in conjunction with the constellation Karthigai (Pleiades) and purnima. This constellation appears as a group of six stars in the firmament in the shape of a pendant from the ear. Many legends and lyrical poetry have grown round this star. The six stars are considered in Indian mythology as the six celestial nymphs who reared the six babies in the saravana tank which later were joined together to form the six faced Muruga. He is therefore called Karthikeya, the one brought up by the Karthigai nymphs. Houses and streets are lit up with rows of oil lamps (Deepam) in the evening of the festival day. - Source Wiki

But no where linked with these were our sentiments that I shared with my brother. We used to save some crackers for the day and used to look forward to fire them. On the day it is not only welcomed for the crackers but for the special treat that Amma makes with Puffed Rice and Jaggary. These are the famous Pori Urundai, a special variety of puffed rice that is available only on this day. The markets are vibrant and busy selling heaps and heaps of these puffed rice.

Recently when my dinner was planned to be Uggani, I ended up in a shop that sells exclusively the puffed and beaten rice products. I was amazed I never went that way. Finally I walked away carrying 3 bags of puffed rice and promising myself to be back there again. But Deepam completely went off my mind, else I would've got another bag.

So when Amma reminded me, the first thought that came to mind were these lovely laddos that is made with puffed rice and jaggary. She asked me not to worry as I will not have time to make these coming back from office. Well I was blessed to taste these again as Amma made them for me. And another surprise was Athamma made these delicious Horse gram stuffed vadas, deep fried! I must say, there is really something so basic about digging into a deep fried snack. The satisfaction you get is priceless, atleast for me!

For today it is going to be Pori Urundai!

Coming to my eBook, I was so happy receiving the user comments. Everybody who bought the book were so happy with the way it has turned. I was really so thrilled hearing their comments. If you are interested to buy it, you can get the details here. I am sure it will make a great festival gift!

My heartfelt thanks to all your wishes and support!

Pori Urundai Recipe!

Puffed Rice / Poha / Pori - 1 Kg
Jaggary - 1/2 Kg
Cardamon - 1/2 tsp
Rice flour for dusting - 2 tsp

Method to prepare:

Clean the puffed rice to remove any unwanted particles that may be present in it.

In a wide mouth kadai, melt jaggary and remove impurities. Then continue boiling it, till you get the right syrup. (till it reaches a consistency of a ball). This can be identified by dropping a drop of the jaggary into a bowl of water and trying to make a ball. You should be able to get a solid ball of the melted jaggary.

Once the jaggary reaches this stage, add the poha and mix well.

Bring the pan/kadai down, and coat your palm with rice flour and quickly gather the poha jaggry mix into tight balls. Coating your palm with rice flour will prevent it from sticking.

Notes: By adding the poha to the kadai and mixing gets you the right consistency.

Store these in a container, these normally stays crispy for a week or so.

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