Friday, October 26, 2012

Simple mango pickle

There are pickles and then there are more pickles. Every state, every street and every house in India have their own tried and tested pickle recipes. There are elaborate ones which require 3 or 4 paatis* to sit around on a summer afternoon chopping and mixing the ingredients. Then there are simple ones that take about 5 minutes to make and even lesser time to finish eating it.

I love raw mangoes. Even more than the reknown banganapallis, rhumanis and neelams. I was always envious of people who had mango trees at home and would look wistfully at those laden trees enroute to school and wonder why we have the boring coconut trees at home instead of the interesting mango. You can't climb them, you can't make pickles from coconut, and you don't wait in anticpation of summer  - they are laden throught the year. You see the point! but anyways nobody listened to my logic and we still have those boring coconut trees. And no I am not going to experiment on a coconut pickle.

So As a child, every summer I eagerly look forward to the bounty of mangoes sent in from various neighbours who were blessed with mango trees. And every day, I would search various corners in the kitchen and pantry for the mangoes hidden from my eyes so that I wouldnt eat all of them at once. (Maybe thats why they never approved of growing mango trees at home. Would have been tough to hide a tree).

I vividly remember one season, when a grand aunt of mine prepared the authentic avakkai pickle at home. Each mango washed and dried by hand, cut into the right size with a little bit of the kernel stuck on it (to stop it from spoiling soon), careful measurements of pickle powders mixed into it and pouring ladle full of oil and allowing the mixture "to rest". What she actually forgot was to put the "jadi"** away from me. Like crows that crowd around vathals in the sun - I happily picked away at the pieces every time I walked past the room with the jadi. (I did walk past quite a number of times. Busy me). By the time she realized it, well what shall we say -  a jadi half full is better than one thats empty.

The reason for the story is to highlight my impatience when it comes to making pickles. So why take elaborate efforts at avakkai and vadumangai pickles, if its going to be eaten during the making itself. 

This simple and almost instant pickle recipe below is one that is served in most South Indian wedding meals. An instant pickle of diced mangoes in chilli powder,salt and oil mix. I have also added pickle powder to give it a zing but that is totally optional though I would recommend it. It may not have the longevity of the traditional pickles, but is a delight on a plate. It normally goes well with curd rice. But I eat it with everything. (I eat it as a snack too.)

** Ceramic jars used to store pickles, salt and tamarind.

Recipe Source: Own


Raw Green Mangor - 1 cup, diced
Red Chilli Powder - 1T
Turmeric - 1t
Salt - 1T (or to taste)
Gingelly Oil (Indian Sesame seed oil) - 1/4 cup

Pickle Powder (Optional but recommended):

Mustard - 1t
Fenugreek - 1/2t
Cumin - 1t


Mustard - 1t
Asafoetida - 1pinch


Dry roast the pickle powder ingredients separately and grind into a fine powder.

Wash and dry the mango thoroughly and dice it. (You can leave the skin on if you prefer it. I havent.)
Mix the chilli powder, turmeric and salt with the diced mango and set aside. Heat oil in a pan and splutter the mustard seeds and add asafoetida.
If using pickle powder, add half a teaspoon of it to the oil and immediately switch off the stove.
Pour the oil mixture onto the mango pieces. Taste and adjust the spices.
 Mix well and allow it to rest for half an hour. 

Serve with curd rice.


This pickle will last for a day in room temperature and in the fridge for 2 days depending on the quality of the mango. I havent tested this as there is nothing left at the end of the day.
The remaining pickle powder can be stored in the fridge for later use but the flavor is reduced. So would recommend grinding only required quantity.
  • You can add finely chopped garlic if you like the taste.
  • The salt and chilli powder can be adjusted according to your taste.
  • You can totally omit the pickle powder and still make it with just chilli powder and salt along with the rest of the ingredients. It would still taste awesome.
  • The pickle powder is quite pungent. So add a little at a time to arrive at your preferrred taste.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Quick Capsicum Fry

This recipe is a keeper for those days when I am too tired to do elaborate side dishes. It requires minimal prep and can be a side for rice based dishes at lunch or for rotis at dinner time. Total time required is under 10 minutes including chopping.



Capsicum - 1 large, sliced
Mustard seeds - 1t
Urad dal - 1t
Cumin - 1t
Red chilly powder - 1t
Fenugreek powder (methi) - 1t (refer notes)
Turmeric - 1/2t
Salt to taste
Oil - 1T


Heat oil in a pan. Splutter mustard seeds, urad dal and cumin.
Add the capsicum and fry well.
Add the turmeric, chilly powder and salt and fry until the capsicum is cooked.
Add the fenugreek powder and mix well. Leave it on stove for about 2 minutes. Switch off and serve.


Fenugreek powder is made by dry roasting methi(fenugreek)) seeds until they turn a bit dark and grinding them into a powder. With its health benefits, methi powder can be used in many dishes and can also be added while making buttermilk. Adding this powder to sambar gives a lovely aroma. Just a pinch of it is sufficient as too much of it can make the dish bitter.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Broccoli Usili

For all its fame of being a powerhouse of nutrients, the Broccoli is definitely an acquired taste. Whether you have acquired it or not will be evident from the presence or absence of various bits of the vegetable pushed around your plate.

Glamorous as it sounds "Oh I'm making broccoli soup today!, I make sure that I have broccoli on my plate everyday", I am yet to acquire the taste. To me, eating broccoli makes me feel like a cow chewing its cuds.  Dont get me wrong. A lot of people love broccoli. It is a healthy vegetable and I am plagued by guilt everytime I walk past the broccoli basket in the market - mocking at me for not feeding healthy vegetables to my family. So invariably it finds its way into my fridge and looks at me every day as it moves through its lifecycle hoping that my sleepy face would take it out that day.

Well today is a lucky day for that broccoli in my fridge. (or it would have been its last day). At our house, we make usili with everything that is in a terminal stage. The addition of the lentils adds protein (and masks the flavor and texture - remember the cow!), brings the dish alive (pun intended)  and makes me happy that not only did I save the vegetable from the dustbin, but I actually made it even more healthier. Wow.

Combined with a simple rasam, this makes for a complete meal. And makes me acquire the taste for broccoli.

Broccoli Usili
Recipe Souce: Own


Broccoli - 1, cut into small florets
Chilli Powder - 1T (I use Sambar Powder)
Oil - 1/2 t
Salt to taste

For the Usili

Tuar Dal - 1/4 cup
Channa Dal - 1/4 cup
Dried Red Chillies - 4-5
Asafoetida - 1 pinch
Turmeric - 1/2t
Mustard seeds - 1 t
Urad dal - 1t
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Oil to grease the plate



Soak the dals for 2 - 3 hours and grind it coarsley along with the chillies, asafoetida and turmeric.
Using an idli plate (or any steamer plate or a microwave steamer), place the ground usili like idlies (dumplings) and steam them for 15 minutes.
Remove and crumble the required quanitiy of the usili idli on a plate. The rest of the usili idlies can be removed and stored in ziploc bags/containers in the freezer for later use.
Heat one teaspoon of oil in a pan. Splutter mustard seeds, urad dal and curry leaves. Add the crumbled usili and fry well. Remove onto a plate.
In the same pan, add 1/2 teaspoon of oil and fry the broccoli florets. The color will turn dark green. Do not allow it to wilt. Add chilli powder and salt and fry until they are cooked but still crunchy. Add the usili and fry until the broccoli is mixed well. Garnish with coriander leaves.

Serve with rice and rasam.

  •  The same recipe can be used for various vegetables like beans, karamani and even spinach.
  • While using the frozen usilis, defrost them by leaving it in room temperature for about an hour or in the microwave by sprinkling a bit of water and reheating it in a closed container for 2-3 minutes.
  • The dals and spice levels can be adjusted to each one's preferences. It is a very forgiving recipe.
  • Any excess usili can also be made into pakoras by adding chopped onion and chillies.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Kuzhi Paniyaram

For a long time, the traditional paniyaram was relegated to the kitchens of chettinad households. Invented by diligent home chefs who were keen on not wasting food especially idli/dosa batter that was painstakingly hand ground. So the batter took on various avataars - idli on day 1, dosa on day 2, uthappam on day 3 and finally it became the delectable paniyaram. Spongy and soft with just the hint of onion, chillies and spices, the humble kuzhi paniyaram has come a long way.

The traditional kuzhi paniyaram pan has 7 or 11 holes/indents. The pan itself can be of aluminium/hindolium, cast iron or non-stick. The latter required minimum conditioning while the first two need to be seasoned and conditioned well.

This dish will take a bit of oil and even if you are a serious health freak, it is hard to say no to a plate of steaming paniyarams with spicy coconut chutney.There are so many variations to the paniyaram. It can be sweet, or made with grated veggies or if you are adventurous , then with stuffings as well.

The recipe below is for the basic paniyaram made with an onion and green chilly seasoning.

It goes well with any type of chutney, but the best match is coconut chutney or peanut chutney.

Recipe Source: My Mother in Law
Makes 21 paniyarams


Dosa Batter - 3 cups (refer notes)
Onions -2, finely chopped
Green Chillies - 4, finely chopped
Mustard seeds - 1t
Broken urad dal - 1t
Channa dal - 1/2t
Curry leaf - 1 sprig finely chopped
Coriander leaf - 1 sprig finely chopped
Ginger - 1 inch, minced finely
Oil - 1T + 1/2 cup
Grated carrot - 1/4 cup, optional


Heat oil in a kadai. Splutter mustard seeds, urad dal, channa dal, ginger and curry leaves. Add green chillies and onion and fry till onion turns pink.

Mix the seasoned onions and coriander leaves and grated carrot with the dosa batter and allow it to rest for 15 mins.

Meanwhile, heat the paniyaram pan. Add about 1/2 spoon of oil in each of the holes. (I used a nonstick paniyaram pan. Cast iron/aluminium pans would require more oil.)

Mix the batter and pour a small ladle full of batter into each of the holes. Close with the lid and wait for 3 mins. Open the lid and using a skewer or the stick that comes with the pan, turn each paniyaram gently without making any obvious damage to the paniyaram. Cook without the lid for another 3 mins. When both sides are evenly browned, remove them using the skewers. (To check if the paniyaram is done on the inside - a skewer inserted should come out clean).

Repeat the steps till you finish the batter. Any leftover batter can be stored in the fridge for 24 hours.

Serve hot with spicy coconut chutney.

  • Use sour dosa batter for the best results. I normally use batter that is atleast 5 days old.
  • Batter should be in the same consistency as used for dosa.
  • Grated veggies like carrots, beetroot, zucchini add color, flavor and nutrition.
  • You can also use Ebelskiver or poffertjes pan if you cannot get a paniyaram pan.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


While the Lord took 3 days, it has taken almost 2 years for me to get back to blogging. A cross country move, an even more overwhelming move from a career woman to being a stay at home mom.  And some minor road bumps like a laptop in terminal stages, a changing school schedule, and a broken camera all worked in tandem to put my blogging in the back burner.

But Spice Valley was never far in my mind. Every recipe that I tried, every food photo that I oggled at, and every pretty plate that I fixed would keep reminding me of the blog that was to be.

I'm finally back in the game again :-). A new camera (I promise to redeem those lousy mobile phone shots on couple of old posts), an additional 3 hours of time in a day (Ad now goes for full day school yay!) and the hours spent on all my favorite food blogs has now motivated me to get back to what I love doing (apart from the eating bit).

So here.'s to a new (and hopefully sustainable) blogging...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...