Paruppu Podi (Lentil Powder)

There are different versions of Paruppu Podi and I have seen many variations within my own family and friends circle but this is my favorite. It has to be, since this is my mother’s recipe! Every time I have visited India in the past, my mom or one of my aunts would prepare this and pack it for me to carry back home. But recently, I decided to try it out myself and was delighted by the result. I now regularly make this and have it ready in my pantry. That way, on busy weekends, breakfast becomes easy by making some idlis or dosas and serving it with this paruppu podi mixed with some oil. 

Ingredients:

Urad dal – 1/2 cup
Roasted chana dal / Fried gram – 1 cup
Dry coconut slices (Copra) – 1/4 cup
Dry red chillies – 5
Hing/ Asafoetida – 1/4 tsp
Sesame seeds – 1/4 cup
Channa dal – 1/4 cup
Salt – to taste

Method:

  • Dry roast each of the above ingredients (except salt) separately until golden brown
  • Let the ingredients cool down completely
  • Add salt and grind all ingredients together into a fine powder
  • Serve with hot rice and ghee or mix couple of teaspoons of the powder with a teaspoon of olive oil and serve with idli or dosa

Tip: When making Mysore masala dosa, make a paste by mixing this powder with oil and apply it on the dosa before adding the potato filling. Tastes yum!

Lemon Rice

Growing up, lemon rice was one of those dishes that was whipped up quickly on a festival and more commonly for picnics. It’s so easy to make! And with the right accompaniments, it’s always a hit. Some roasted potatoes or mixture or even appalam or mango pickle, every south Indian has their own favorite to go with this dish.

Ingredients:

Rice* – 1 cup
Peanuts – 1/2 cup
Lemon – 1, large
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Urad dal – 1 tsp
Split Bengal Gram/Kadalai paruppu – 1 tsp
Curry leaves – 10
Green chillies – 4
Fresh Coriander – 1/4 cup, chopped
Salt to taste
Oil
Asafoetida – a pinch
Turmeric – 1/2 tsp

Method:

  • In a pan, heat a teaspoon of oil and fry peanuts until they turn color; remove and set aside
  • In the same pan,  heat some more oil and add mustard seeds
  • Once they crackle, add urad dal, split bengal gram, chopped green chillies, asafoetida, turmeric and curry leaves 
  • Saute for a minute and then take off heat
  • Squeeze juice of half a lemon into this, mix and add it to the rice
  • Mix well, add chopped coriander, roasted peanuts and salt to taste
  • Squeeze the remaining lemon juice into the rice
  • Adjust salt and lemon juice according to taste

Note: *To cook a cup of rice, add two cups of water and pressure cook for three whistles. Alternately, you can cook the rice over an open flame just until it’s a little underdone. Drain and set aside on a large plate to cool completely. You can even use old rice in this recipe. It’s important that the rice is completely cooled before using. You can use either sona masuri rice or basmati.

Carrot Puttu

This is a recipe that I learnt from my mother when I visited India last year. This is a very good lunch box option, be it with chapatis or rice. The flavor of fennel seeds and the texture from the roasted gram flour make this dish so delicious that I like having this by itself! 

Ingredients:

Grated carrot – 2 cups, tightly packed
Fennel seeds/ saunf – 1 tsp
Cinnamon – 1/2 inch piece
Cloves – 3
Garlic, finely chopped – 4 cloves
Onion, finely chopped – 1 cup
Green chilies, finely chopped – 2
Turmeric powderr – 1/2 tsp
Coriander leaves, finely chopped – 4 to 5 stalks
Roasted chana dal – 1/4 cup
Salt – to taste
Oil – 4 tsp

Method:

  • Heat 2 tsp oil in a pan, preferably one that is wide and shallow
  • Add cinnamon, cloves and fennel seeds
  • Follow by adding garlic and green chilies and saute well
  • Add chopped onion and saute well until light golden in color
  • Add coriander leaves and give it another toss or two
  • Add the carrots and mix well
  • Add turmeric and salt and cook under low to medium heat for about 12-15 minutes. You do not need cover the pan or add water
  • While the carrot is cooking, grind the roasted chana dal into a fine powder
  • Once the carrot is cooked, add the chana dal powder and mix well
  • Saute well for about 6-8 minutes until carrots turn golden brown
  • Add remaining 2 tsp of oil if needed to get a crispy texture
  • Serve with chapatis or rice and your choice of curry

Tip: The same recipe can be used for cabbage as well. If using cabbage, add little bit of water and cover and cook for the same amount of time as mentioned above.

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.

Fusilli with Basil Pesto

On a recent trip to Italy, I got to gorge on some of the best pasta ever and that included pasta with pesto sauce at a restaurant by the beach. I have always loved pesto but never actually tried making it myself (Costco sells a yummy bottled version!). Inspired during the holiday, I decided to make this beautiful sauce, borrowing from Antonio Carluccio, known to be the godfather of Italian food. You can find the original recipe here

Ingredients:

Basil leaves – 60 gms
Pine nuts – 2 tbsp
Extra virgin olive oil – 1/2 cup
Grated Parmesan cheese – 4 tbsp + extra for garnish
Grated Pecorino Cheese – 4 tbsp
Garlic – 1 clove
Fusilli pasta – 2.5 cups
Broccoli – 1 cup
Salt to taste

Method:

  • Bring water to a boil in a pot, add salt to taste and the pasta; cook for ten minutes till the pasta is al dente
  • With about five minutes left for the pasta to cook, toss in the broccoli florets
  • Combine the basil leaves, pine nuts, oil, cheese and garlic in a blender or food processor and blitz till everything is well-combined and you get a less-than-smooth sauce
  • Drain the pasta and broccoli
  • Mix this with the sauce
  • Garnish with parmesan cheese and serve immediately

Note: I have used fusilli pasta in this recipe. You can use any pasta that has a few curves and twists so that the sauce clings on to it.

Watermelon-Feta Salad

It’s hot and sweaty where we live, bang in the middle of summer. And slices of watermelon are a welcome relief! Nevertheless, this salad is a good one to have for lunch or dinner.

Ingredients:

Watermelon, chopped – 2 cups
Arugula – 2 handfuls
Feta cheese – 2 tbsp
Lime juice – 2 tsp
Extra virgin olive oil – 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste

Method:

  • Whisk together the olive oil and lime juice and set aside
  • Combine the rest of the ingredients and pour in the above liquid mix
  • Serve immediately

Note: You can play around with the quantity of ingredients as per your taste.
– You could even add chopped almonds or walnuts to the salad.
– If you do not have extra virgin olive oil, you can use regular olive oil.
– Feta cheese adds a lovely saltiness to the dish. But if you can’t find any, use grated parmesan or pecorino.

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

Summer Corn Salad

A friend of mine brought this salad to a potluck lunch last year and it is one of the best things I have eaten. Simple but packed full of flavor! It’s also versatile enough to play around with the ingredients. Toss in some cooked rajma or pasta. You can add some chaat masala or coriander-chilli chutney for an Indian twist. You can even throw in some shredded chicken. My friend recommends the use of black salt in this salad. I didn’t have any, so I ended up using regular salt. It’s a good salad to prepare ahead and perfect on a hot summer day. Thank you, V, for bringing this to school 🙂

Ingredients

Corn – 4 cobs
Bell pepper – 1/2
Spring Onions – 1/2 cup, chopped
Tomato – 1/2
Potato – 1/2, boiled
Lime – 1/2
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
Yogurt – 3 tbsp
Garlic – 3 cloves
Tortilla Chips – 1 cup, crushed

Method

  • Place the corn in a pressure cooker with water. Cook for one whistle. Once pressure releases, remove the corn and slice length-wise such that you get the kernels.
  • Add chopped bell peppers, tomato and potato
  • Add spring onions (all of the white part and some of the green)
  • Refrigerate this mix

Assembling

  • Just before serving, add salt and black pepper to taste
  • Mince the garlic cloves and add to the yoghurt. Add this dressing to the salad
  • Squeeze the juice of half a lime
  • Toss in crushed chips