Verkadalai/Peanut Chutney

When it comes to chutneys, this is my absolute favorite. Even though this was prepared regularly at my house, every time I make this now, it takes me back to one of my fond childhood memories, where my mom would prepare this on the day of Varamahalakshmi Vratham festival. On that day, our lunch was more like breakfast where we would prepare idli, vada, masala sambar and specifically this chutney, along with other sweets and snacks. The consistency of this chutney is thick and coarse like a pesto (In Tamilnadu a thick chutney is called “getti chutney”), and not runny like other typical chutneys. I recall my mom and aunt preparing this with a grinding stone which actually gives better control over the consistency and texture than what you can get with an electric mixer or processor. But nevertheless, it is worth trying and hope you enjoy it!

Ingredients:

Urad dal/ Split black gram – 2 tbsp
Asafoetida/ Hing – a pinch
Dry red chillies – 1 or 2 (depending on size)
Raw peanuts – 1 cup
Green chillies – 2
Coconut pieces – 2/3 cup
Roasted chana dal/ Pottukadalai – 1/2 cup
Coriander leaves, chopped – 3 tbsp
Curry leaves – 4 to 5
Tamarind – small piece (approx 1 tsp)
Sugar – 1 tsp
Salt – to taste
Oil – 1 tbsp

Method:

  • Heat oil in a pan and add urad dal, hing and dry red chillies
  • Add peanuts and saute for a minute,
  • Add coconut and roasted chana dal and saute for couple more minutes
  • Add coriander leaves, curry leaves and tamarind
  • Saute until the peanuts and chana dal are just about golden brown in color
  • Remove from heat. Let it cool for about 5 minutes. Add salt and sugar
  • Transfer the ingredients to a mixer jar. Grind a couple of times without water until everything is powdered
  • Add water in very small quantities and grind until everything blends well into a semi-coarse paste
  • Serve with idli or dosa

Kovakka/Tindora/Ivy Gourd Poriyal

There are very few vegetables I enjoy eating thoroughly. Kovakka is one of them! I ate it often during school and college as the cook in my house would make it. I, however, began making it only after I tasted my sister’s version which is similar to this recipe. My additions are the coconut and coriander. A key ingredient in this recipe is the urad dal. Add lots of it and it makes this dish so tasty! If you spot this vegetable in the grocery store, please don’t be afraid to buy it. It’s so delicious and easy to make. You just need to wash the vegetable properly so as to remove any dirt, chop off the ends and then slice into thin circles. Easy-peasy! I also hear it’s very good for you especially if you are diabetic.

Ingredients:

Kovakka/Tindora/Ivy Gourd – 600 gms
Oil – 3 tbsp
Urad Dal – 3 tsp
Onion – 1/4 cup, chopped
Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
Salt to taste
Sambar powder – 3 tsp (see note)
Fresh coriander – 1/4 cup, chopped
Grated coconut – 4 tsp

Method:

  • Heat oil in a pan
  • Add urad dal and fry until it turns slightly brown
  • Add onion and fry until it begins to change color
  • Add chopped kovakka
  • Add salt, turmeric and sambar powder and mix well
  • Cover and cook for 10 minutes on medium flame, stirring once mid-way
  • Add coriander and coconut
  • Mix well and cook for a couple more minutes before turning off the heat
  • Serve hot with chapathi or as a side-dish with rice and curry

Note: Instead of Sambar powder, you could use a teaspoon of mild red chilli powder and a teaspoon of coriander powder. I use a powder that my mother-in-law makes that goes into sambar, rasam and even poriyals.

Eral Iguru/ Shrimp Coconut Kurma

This recipe is a very traditional Tamil Nadu style preparation of shrimp/prawn and you just cannot go wrong with this one! The curry has just a handful of basic ingredients but the shrimp itself adds immense seafood flavor making this dish so aromatic and mouth-watering. This dish is also very easy to prepare and barely takes time. The only lengthy process is that of cleaning/de-veining the shrimp but if we have access to cleaned shrimp, then it cannot get any simpler. This tastes best with rice or dosa.

Ingredients:

Shrimp/ prawn (small variety) – 20
Bay leaf – 2
Cinnamon – 1/2 inch piece
Cloves – 3
Onion, finely chopped – 1 cup
Tomato, finely chopped – 1/2 cup
Garlic cloves, slivered – 6 to 8
Turmeric – 1/2 tsp
Salt – to taste
Oil – 3 tbsp

To grind:
Green chilies – 3
Coriander leave stalks – 5 to 6
Coconut, grated – 1 cup

Method:

  • Clean and de-vein shrimp
  • Grind green chilies, coriander leaves and coconut into a smooth paste
  • Heat oil in a wide pot and add bay leaves, cinnamon stick and cloves
  • Add the garlic and saute well
  • Add onion and saute until it turns translucent
  • Add the tomato, turmeric and the ground paste and cook for couple more minutes
  • Add salt and a cup of water and bring it to a boil
  • Reduce the heat to medium and add the shrimp
  • Cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until desired consistency is achieved
  • Serve hot with rice or dosa

Tip: A good way to clean shrimp is to wash them in a bowl of turmeric water after removing the shell and veins.

Copra Chutney Powder (Chutney Podi)

One of my favorite accompaniments to dosai is chutney podi. It can be made ahead or even store-bought. While some brands are pretty good (my favorite is the coarsely ground kind from Grand Sweets, Chennai), I tasted this home-made version at my brother’s place and realised how addictive it tastes! It’s a recipe from my sister-in-law’s family. It’s super easy to make and can be stored up to two weeks. This podi does not require any sesame seed oil or ghee. You can have it as is, given that the copra is quite oily in itself.

Ingredients:

Copra/Dry coconut – 2 cups, finely grated (see note)
Garlic – 1 pod
Dry red chillies – 12
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Roasted Split Gram – 1/2 cup
Salt to taste
Oil

Method:

  • Blitz the copra in a food processor or grate finely and set aside
  • In a pan, dry roast the cumin seeds; allow to cool
  • In a pan, add a drop of vegetable oil and fry the dry red chillies; allow to cool
  • Combine the cumin seeds, dry red chillies and the whole garlic (cloves separated but unpeeled) and blitz them in a blender along with salt
  • Add the coconut and roasted split gram and blend again till the entire mixture is well-combined and ground well (it will not be a fine powder but a coarse one; ensure that everything is blitzed to as small a piece as possible)
  • Store in an air-tight container
  • Serve with dosai or idly

Note: I ground the copra in a food processer. And then ground it again even more finely in the mixer. If you do not have a food processor, you could grate it as finely as possible (exercise for the arms!) and then grind it in the mixer to get a finer powder. Another option is to slice the copra and then grind it in a mixer. Whatever works for you!

Coconut Chutney

Coconut Chutney is a staple south Indian recipe. Every household has its own version and it is crucial to a breakfast of dosai, idli or uthappam. As a child I remember spreading this chutney on a slice of bread, toasting it on a tava and then eating it with sugar. That hit of spice and sweet is yummy! Or you can stick to its more traditional use 🙂

My version is fairly simple and straight-forward. You can very easily leave out the coriander leaves, tamarind and roasted gram dal and you will still be left with a delicious chutney. 

Ingredients:

To Grind

Coconut – 1/2
Green chillies – 3
Ginger – 1 tsp, chopped
Roasted Gram dal – 2 tsp
Coriander leaves – 1/3 cup, chopped
Tamarind – 1 cm piece
Salt to taste

To Temper

Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
Urad dal – 1 tsp
Dry red chillies – 2
Curry leaves – 4
Oil

Method:

  • Grind all the ingredients mentioned under ‘To Grind’
  • Add enough water till you get a thick chutney consistency or more if you prefer it to be watery
  • Transfer to a clean container 
  • In a kadai, heat oil and add mustard seeds
  • Once they crackle, add cumin seeds, ural dal, dry red chillies and curry leaves
  • Add to the chutney and mix
  • Serve with dosai or idly

Akki Roti with Methi / Rice Flour Roti with Fenugreek Leaves

Akki Roti is a breakfast staple in Karnataka, and being from Bangalore myself, this is one of my favorite breakfast/dinner items. This is an easy and quick to prepare dish and requires very simple and basic ingredients. I have used Methi leaves in this version to make it more nutritious. Grated carrots are also used commonly. Again, this is one of those recipes where keeping the base ingredients the same, you can play with different add-ons like different types of greens or nuts. Any type of chutney goes well with Akki Roti but some tangy and spicy tomato chutney sure tastes great with it!

Ingredients:

Rice flour – 1.5 cups plus extra for dusting
Methi/ Fenugreek leaves – 2 cups
Onion, finely chopped – 2/3 cup
Coriander leaves, finely chopped – 4 tbsp
Green chillies, finely chopped – 2
Grated coconut – 4 tbsp
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
Salt – to taste
Oil – for pan frying

Method:

  • Wash the Methi leaves well and chop them finely
  • In a mixing bowl, take all the ingredients (except oil) and mix well

  • Add water gradually and knead into a soft dough

  • Divide the dough into equal sized portions
  • Take a sheet of parchment or wax paper and apply few drops of oil
  • Place the dough on the paper and press with your fingers. Do not use rolling pin
  • Use more oil or dust with extra flour if it gets sticky
  • Spread the dough into a nice circular roti

  • Heat a tawa/griddle and apply 1/4 tsp oil
  • Once the griddle is nice and hot, transfer the roti. For easy transfer, flip the parchment paper with the roti on the pan and slowly peel off the paper and re-use for next roti. If you are using wax paper, be quick in removing it as it is not as heat resistant as the parchment paper
  • Cook the roti well on both sides, about 2-3 minutes on each side until it starts browning slightly. Use extra oil if needed

  • Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining rotis
  • Serve with your choice of chutney

Onion Bhaji/Fritters

Deep-fried Pakoras and Bhajis have always been my favorite and love having them as a side with rice/Sambar/Rasam. My mom regularly made these and regardless of what type she made (potato, raw plantain, etc), there always had to be onion bhajis as well made specially for my sister who always insisted on these! It worked out well for me as I got to enjoy more than one variety! This recipe is one step above the basic bhaji and uses aromatics such as garlic, cumin and curry leaves for an enhanced flavor. Enjoy these as a side for lunch/dinner when you are out of veggies or as a snack on a cold rainy day with some piping hot chai!

Ingredients:

Onion, sliced lengthwise – 1 cup
Besan/ Chickpea flour – 3 tbsp
Rice flour – 3 tbsp
Red chilli powder – 1/4 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1/4 tsp
Garlic, crushed and finely chopped – 1 to 2
Curry leaves, finely chopped – 6 to 8
Baking soda – a pinch
Salt – to taste
Oil – for deep frying

Yield: 2 servings

Method:

  • In a bowl, mix all the dry ingredients except the onions

  • Gradually add water to make a thick paste. Start off with 2-3 tbsp of water and add more if needed. The consistency must be like a paste, slightly thicker than you would use for potato or plantain bhajis

  • Add the sliced onions and mix well. The batter should only lightly coat the onion

  • Heat oil in a kadai/wok
  • When the oil is ready (a small piece of the batter dropped should immediately rise to the top), add the onions. Use your fingers to separate them out as you are dropping them in the oil so as to not form big lumps. Also, do not overcrowd them or they will become soggy
  • Fry until golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on a paper towel
  • Serve as a side with any meal or as an evening snack

Butter Chicken

Ok, so this isn’t a dish you should be making often. This is my first attempt at making Butter Chicken and it turned out pretty decent! While this isn’t something I order at a restaurant (because I prefer spicy food), I enjoyed trying my hand at it. This recipe is from my sister who in turn got it from her friend back when they were in college together. I’ve made slight variations to the original recipe like the use of unsalted butter instead of salted. It’s great for a special occasion or when you have guests and goes well with steaming hot ghee rice.

Butter Chicken

Ingredients:

For the marinade:
Chicken – 500 gms
Yoghurt – 1 cup
Salt 
Chilli powder – 1 tsp
Black pepper powder – 1 tsp
Ginger-garlic paste – 2 tsp
Garam Masala – 2 tsp

For the gravy:
Tomatoes – 6
Unsalted butter – 50 gms
Ginger-garlic paste – 2 tbsp
Cashewnuts – 1/3 cup
Chilli powder – 1/4 tsp
Milk – 1.25 cups
Cream – 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp
Garam Masala – 1/2 tsp
Tandoori Masala – 1 tsp
Green chillies – 1
Sugar – 1/4 tsp
Bay leaf – 1
Salt to taste

Method:

Marinating the chicken:

  • Mix all the marinade ingredients together with the chicken and allow to rest for at least 2 hours in the fridge

Making the gravy:

  • Grind the tomatoes to a fairly fine paste
  • Soak the cashewnuts in hot water and allow to sit for about 15 minutes before grinding to a smooth paste 
  • Heat a wok and melt the butter
  • Add the bay leaf and stir
  • Add ginger-garlic paste and fry till the liquid evaporates
  • Add the ground tomatoes  and cool till it turns very dry and the fat separates
  • Add the cashewnut paste
  • Add chilli powder and fry till the fat separates
  • Switch off the stove and then add the milk and a cup of water to get a gravy
  • Turn on the heat again and bring to a boil
  • Cover the wok and simmer for about 7 minutes
  • Once again, remove from heat and stir in the 3/4 cup of cream
  • Add garam masala, tandoori masala, sugar and salt
  • Add the chicken and cook on a low flame till it becomes tender
  • Garnish with 2 tbsp of cream and green chillies

Note:
– I didn’t use store-bought tandoori masala but instead made my own following this recipe; I left out ground ginger, ground garlic, nutmeg and paprika since I did not have these ingredients
– Adjust the amount of milk and cream in this recipe depending on how rich you want it to be and how much gravy you would like
– You can also add tandoori color to the marinade which I left out since I didn’t have any

Adhirasam

With Deepavali just around the corner, what better way to celebrate this occasion than with some delicious Adhirasams. This is a very traditional South Indian dessert and it also happens to be my most favorite! The preparation itself does take a bit of an effort, but with the right ingredients, proportions and consistencies, one should be able to make some great Adhirasams. It is very important that the right type of rice is used. Traditionally, this sweet is prepared with red rice but if you cannot find it, you can use regular Sona-masoori rice.

Adhirasam

Ingredients:

Rice, raw – 500 gms
Jaggery – 250 gms
Water – 100 ml
Oil – 4 tbsp + for frying
Poppy seeds – 1/2 tsp
Fennel seeds, lightly crushed – 3/4 tsp
Cardamom powder – 1/4 tsp

Method:

  • Wash and soak the rice in water for 30 minutes
  • Drain the rice and spread it on a thin cotton cloth or paper towels and let it dry

Adhirasam2

  • When the rice is 80% dry, grind it into a fine powder. You don’t want the rice to be completely dry before grinding and you should be able to feel the moisture in the powder
  • Pass it through a sieve to remove any large, coarse particles
  • Add the poppy seeds, fennel seeds and cardamom powder and mix well
  • Take the jaggery and 100ml of water in a pan and bring it to a boil
  • Keep stirring and check for single string consistency. To check the consistency, take water in a small cup and drop a little bit of the jaggery in the water, If it does not dissolve in the water and you are able to roll it into a ball, then it has reached the right consistency

                                        

  • Pour it into the flour and mix well. The dough might seem loose but over time it will absorb all the moisture and get harder
  • Add 2-3 teaspoons of oil if needed while mixing. Pour the remaining of the 4 tbsp of oil over the dough and let it rest for a minimum of 2-3 hours or overnight

Adhirasam5

  • When you are ready to make the Adhirasams, heat oil in a wok or wide pan
  • Divide the dough into small balls
  • Using an oiled banana leaf or wax paper, press them into flat circles using your fingers. Use oil to avoid the dough sticking to your fingers. Do not use rolling pin unless you place the dough between two sheets of wax paper but you might get the best results using your fingers to roll the dough

                 Adhirasam6                   Adhirasam7

  • Make sure the oil is hot enough. Right before dropping the Adhirasam, lower the heat a bit
  • Once you drop each of them, do not move away from the pan as it will cook pretty quickly
  • When it rises to the top, flip it and cook the other. It shouldn’t take more than a minute to cook an entire Adhirasam

                                  

  • Remove from oil and with the help of another ladle or spatula, squeeze out the excess oil right into the wok and place it on a plate covered with paper towel and repeat the process

Tips:

  • Do not use Basmati or Ponni rice. The Adhirasams will not hold their shape and disintegrate when frying
  • If the dough is very loose, add some rice flour
  • If the dough is very hard, add few tablespoons of milk
  • After frying, do not leave the Adhirasams on the paper towel for too long as it might become very dry

Egg Kurma

I had this dish on a Sunday morning. Piping hot, with dosas! It was delicious. A recipe from my sister-in-law’s family, egg kurma was a regular in her growing up days. It tastes best with dosai. The spice levels have been kept to a minimum but you could easily notch it up a bit.

Egg Kurma

Ingredients:

To Grind:

Tomato – 1
Coconut pieces – 1/4 cup
Fennel seeds – 1/2 tsp

For the kurma

Oil
Fennel seeds – 1/2 tsp
Green chillies – 2
Onion – 1, large
Tomato – 1
Ginger-garlic paste – 1 tbsp
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Garam Masala – 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder – 2 tsp
Kashmiri Chilli powder – 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Egg – 6
Fresh coriander – 1/4 cup
Curry leaves – 1 sprig

Method:

  • Grind the ingredients mentioned under ‘To Grind’ to form a smooth paste; add a little water to reach a smooth consistency

Egg Kurma

  • In a wok, add oil
  • Add fennel seeds and allow to splutter
  • Add finely chopped onions and two slit green chillies and fry till the onions begin turning golden brown

Egg Kurma

  • Add ginger-garlic paste
  • Fry for a minute before adding chopped tomatoes
  • Add turmeric, garam masala, coriander powder and chilli powder
  • Stir for a couple minutes and then add the ground paste

Egg Kurma

  • Add about a 1/4 cup of water and mix well
  • Add salt to taste
  • Allow this to cook on a low flame for about ten minutes till you see the oil separating
  • At this stage, add about 3 cups of water (or more, depending on the consistency you need)

Egg Kurma

  • Bring this to a boil and allow the oil to separate (do this on a medium to low flame)
  • Add more salt if needed, at this stage
  • Break 6 eggs into the wok (you can break the eggs into a separate bowl and then add them; ensure that the eggs are whole and not whisked)
  • Once you add the eggs, do not stir
  • Cover the wok and cook on low flame for about 5 minutes
  • Then, stir slowly and check if eggs are cooked
  • Garnish with curry leaves and fresh coriander
  • Serve hot with dosai!