Saturday, October 26, 2013

Masala Bread Toast

Masala bread toast was a staple breakfast when I was a child. It is a vegetarian version of the French toast but with an Indian twist.

Masala Bread Toast ( Indian style vegetarian French Toast)


4 Bread slices (I have used white sandwich bread)
2-3 T milk
Butter for toasting

To Grind:

1 bunch of coriander leaves
1/4 cup pottukadalai (roasted gram dal)
1 onion
1 clove of garlic (optional)
2-3 green chillies
salt to taste


1. Grind items given under "to grind" into a smooth paste
2. Add milk until it is a thick spreadable paste.
3. Heat a flat skillet and add butter. Spread the masala paste on one side of the bread and place that side on the hot skillet.
4. As it toasts spread the paste on the top side. Flip the bread slice and allow the other side to cook as well.
5. Serve hot.


1. The toast will be a bit on the softer side. You can try toasting it on a pop up toaster. But remember to keep the paste thick as it should not drip.
2. You can substitute the green chillies with dry red chillies for a different taste. You can even omit the chillies and use pepper powder instead..

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Easy Potato Curry

It has been a hectic couple of weeks with school runs, multiple activity classes and not to mention the flu season here resulting in Little A being a bit under weather and not to mention bound to the house. I have been making a lot of flu-fighting meals - lots of soups, peppery rasams and spicy stir-fries. This is an easy potato curry that is an absolute favorite here. There is no prep required and can be done in 10-15 minutes.

Easy Potato Curry


1/2 kg Potato - cut into small cubes
2 onions - finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic - finely minced
1 t Turmeric Powder
2 t Red Chilly Powder or Sambar Powder (I have used sambar powder)
Salt to taste
1/2 t Mustard seeds
1/2 t Broken Urad Dal
1 sprig of curry leaves
Coriander leaves for garnish
1 T Oil


1. Heat oil in a pan. Season with mustard seeds, urad dal and curry leaves
2. Add the minced garlic and fry
3. Add the chopped onion and fry till they turn soft
4. Add the potatoes, turmeric, chilly powder and salt. Mix well.
5. Add 1/2 cup of water and allow the potatoes to cook on open pan.
6. Stir well and when the water is fully absorbed and potatoes are cooked, mix well and allow them to brown.
7. Remove from heat. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with rice.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Babycorn Pepper Fry

We were bored with usual set of vegetables that are available here and after multiple rotations in dal, sambar, curry and stir fry, we wanted to try something different. There were 3 packets of baby corn lying the fridge (what was I thinking when I picked THREE!!). As I had just ground a fresh batch of black pepper powder, I decided to make a simple baby corn pepper fry and served it with lunch. Its simple fast and quite easy too.

Baby Corn Pepper Fry


12 - 15 Baby Corn, sliced
1 large onion - finely chopped
1/2" piece of Ginger - minced finely
2 cloves of garlic - minced finely
1 green chilly - minced
1 T corn flour
1 T black pepper powder
1/2 t Jeera
Curry leaves
salt to taste
1 T Oil


1. Heat Oil in a pan.
2. Add the jeera and curry leaves. Add ginger, garlic and green chilly
3. Add chopped onions and fry till soft
4. Add the sliced baby corn and fry well.
5. Add pepper and salt and mix well.
6. After a minute, when the baby corn is 3/4th cooked, sprinkle the cornflour and mix well. Keep tossing until the baby corn is nicely roasted.
7. Serve hot.


  • If the babycorn is not tender enough, blanch them first in hot water.
  • You can use the same recipe for paneer and cauliflower. Cauliflower needs to be blanched first.
  • Adjust the pepper quanitity according to your taste.
  • Garnish with coriander leaves or spring onions.
  • It goes well with rasam and sambar rice.
  • For a slight change in taste, you can replace gram flour (kadalai maavu) instead of corn flour for a Chettinad style pepper fry.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Masal Vadai / Masala Vadai / Paruppu Vadai

I was not a big fan of this popular Chennai street food - Masal Vadai. While it was popular among masses - to me, it was "Eli Vadai" (it's commonly used as a bait in rat(eli in tamil) traps - as the aroma is so tempting that it is haute cuisine for the rodents). As a child I used to patiently pull out every single onion and et al out of the vadai making it a cumbersome task for me to eat it and also to dispose the ruins secretly. As I grew up, it was easy - I refused to eat this vadai saying only rats eat it :-).

 Like how bad karma follows you everywhere, it is an irony that my in-laws love masal vadai. So I got around to making them though I don't wolf down as much as I would normally do if its medhu vadai. While I personally prefer the latter, I  do enjoy making the masal vadai because of its simplicity and popularity. This is an easy version and makes for a crispy hot tea time snack.


1 cup Channa Dal / Gram Dal / Kadalai Paruppu
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
2-3 cloves Garlic
1" piece Ginger
1 t Garam Masala
3-4 green chillies
1 large Onion, finely chopped
2 T Mint leaves, finely chopped
2 T Coriander leaves, finely chopped
1 T Curry Leaves, finely chopped
1 t Rice flour (optional)
Salt to taste
Oil for deep frying


1.Soak Channa dal in sufficient water for 2 hours.

2. Retain a handful of the soaked dal and grind the rest with ginger, garlic, cumin seeds, green chillies and garam masala into a coarse paste.

3. Remove onto a bowl  and add in the retained dal, onions, salt, mint coriander and curry leaves leaves and mix well.

4. Add the rice flour if using and mix well. Shape into small balls, flatten them slightly and deep fry in hot oil until the outer turns into golden brown.

6. Serve hot with chutney and a steaming cup of coffee / tea.


1. Adding rice flour helps bring in some crispiness to the vadai.
2. You can use the same recipe to make pakoras. Instead of making small balls, you pinch a bit of the batter and drop it in hot oil.
3. You can also add boiled and mashed vazhakkai for an interesting twist.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Peanut Salad / Verkadalai Sundal

A very popular street food in India, this peanut salad (or sundal??)is simple, easy to make and yummy. Goes well with a good book or a nice movie!!


Raw Peanuts - 1 cup (soak overnight / 4 hours and pressure cook for 2 whistles)
Onion - 1 finely chopped
Tomato - 1 finely chopped
Green Chillies - 2 finely chopped
Cucumber - 1/2 finely chopped (optional)
Carrot - 1/2 finely grated (optional)
Chilli Powder - 1t
Black Salt/Rock salt - to taste (if not available substitute with table salt)
Lemon Juice - 1 T
Coriander leaves - for garnish


Mix the peanuts, onion and tomato (cucumbers and carrot,) and green chillies if using in a large bowl.
Sprinkle the chilli powder and salt and mix well. Add lemon juice and mix again.
Garnish with coriander leaves.
You can serve it warm or cold.

Serving Suggestion: Roll a newspaper layered with tissue into a cone (You dont want newsprint ink in your food). Stuff the salad into the cone till the brim. Sit next to a window and eat while watching the world go by.

Friday, May 24, 2013

BisiBele Bath (Sambar Rice)

When Little A started school, I was hoping that her exposure to lunch boxes from other homes will open up opportunities for expanding her food chain. When her teacher proudly told me that they dont allow kids to share snacks / lunches I was disappointed. (apparently it was for hygiene and allergy reasons). I wish she had  seen "lunch-times" at my school. 

 I guess most of us would remember those times when we would wait to see what others have brought for lunch. We did not have air-conditioned lunch halls. Instead we had an open field where groups of us would have invisible territories where we gather around to open those stainless steel / Milton hot boxes. Lunch would always be a shared affair wherein you get to taste stuff that arent usually made at home or made differently in other homes. Bittergourd chips from L's home, Potato roast from B's lunch box, Peanut kuzhambu from P's mom, Chocolate cake from D and a range for other cuisines opened the doors for future foodies.  

I believe the experience made us appreciate cuisines, respect food cultures and also be tolerant to food preferences. Sadly Little A would get to experience this only on playdates and parties. 

I still recreate some of my friend's lunch box dishes at home for that touch of nostalgia. I was hunting for the recipe for Bisi Bele Bath which my friend G's mom had made for a pot-luck lunch almost 12 years ago. I landed on the recipe from Food Connoisseur authored by R another friend of mine - who had fallen for the same delectable dish. I have adapted the recipe with minor changes to suit our taste.

Bisi Bele Bath is a medley of rice, dal and vegetables along with spices. The dish has its origins in Karnataka and like any other popular dish has its own local twists.


Rice – 1 cup  ( I use Thai Jasmine rice for flavor. But ponni rice is also fine).
Tuar Dal – 3/4 cup
Peanuts - 1TSambar Onion or Shallots - 15 - 20, Peel and slice (refer notes)
Tomato - 1
Mixed Vegetables - 1 cup (I have used 1 carrot, 1 potato, 3-4 green beans, 1/4 cup green peas) Refer notes
Sambar Powder - 2T
Tamarind - lemon sized - soak and extract pulp
Salt to taste
Turmeric – 1 pinch
Ghee – 2T
Curry Leaves - 1 Sprig

For the masala

Corriander seed -6T
Dried Red chilly - 15-20
Channa Dal - 2T
Asafoetida - 1 pinch (around 1/4t)
Fenugreek - 1t
Cinnamon - 1 inch stick
Cloves - 2
Black Peppercorns - 1t
Garlic - 2
Marathi Moggu - 1
Grated coconut - 3T (refer notes)
Ghee - 1t


1. Wash and soak the rice and dal together along with the peanuts.
2. Pressure cook the rice, dal and peanuts in 6 cups of water along with a pinch of turmeric.
3. When the rice-dal is cooking, prepare the masala. 
4. Heat 1 teaspoon of ghee in a kadai and add all the masala ingredients one by one except coconut. When the spices have browned add the grated coconut and fry till it is brown. Cool and grind to a coarse powder. 
5. Heat ghee in a large pressure pan / kadai. Add the curry leaves and onions and fry well.
6. Add the mixed vegetables and fry well.
7. Add the tomatoes and turmeric and mix well.
8. Add sambar powder and tamarind pulp along with a cup of water and bring to a boil.
9. Take two tablespoons of the ground masala and mix with water to make a paste.
10. Add the paste to the vegetables and bring to a boil. Simmer and allow the vegetable to be cooked till soft(you can pressure cook for 1 whistle at this stage). 
11. Mash the rice-dal and add it to the boiling vegetables. Add salt and mix well. 
12. Taste and adjust spice and salt. If less spicy add some more masala paste and mix well. Add a cup of water if it is too thick bring to a boil and mix well.
13. Switch off the stove and add a dollop of ghee on top. (highly recommended)
14. Serve hot with appalam and pickle.


  • The masala powder can be made in bulk and stored in the fridge. But the flavor will not be the same when it is 2-3 weeks old. I normally make it fresh when I have guests and use the leftover powder for a quick weekday lunch.
  • You can use a wide range of vegetables like Raw banana, drumstick (recommended), radish, avarakkai etc. Don't overload the vegetables. It should be more of rice-dal with a sprinkling of vegetables in every bite. 
  • Small Onions / Pearl Onions / Shallots gives the dish a wonderful flavor. If you do not get them, then substitute with 1 big onion. Some people add them whole but I dont like finding them in my food. So I have sliced them.
  • Traditionally Kopparai (Dry coconut) is used for Bisi Bele Bath. If you have them, then do use it instead of grated coconut as it takes the dish to another level. 
  • BisiBele Bath should be gooey. It should not be dry. If you find it dry, then adjust water at step 12. 
  • You can also garnish with cashew nuts roasted in ghee.
  • Do not skimp on the ghee as BisiBele bath is not for the calorie conscious. Even without the ghee its not going to be low calorie. So go ahead and indulge :-)
  • It usually is a dark brown color but the shades may differ depending on the quality of tamarind used.
  • Always serve it hot with a dollop of ghee.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Hyderabadi Dahi Bhindi Masala

This recipe is from my favorite blog - Edible Garden. Its my go-to-place for new recipes, ideas to use-up whats in my pantry and last but not least drooling over the beautiful food pictures. Nags - you are an inspiration :-)

When I read this recipe - I realized that for the first time I had every single ingredient listed at home and it took me just 30 minutes to get this dish done. It tastes just like a restuarant dish - a bit rich and heavy for an everyday lunch but would definitely be a party pleaser!.

Now to the main ingredient in this dish - Vendakkai aka Lady's Finger aka Okra. I remember as kids, we were told that eating ladies finger will "give you more brains" , "make you good at maths" (really!!). I did google it to check if the brain boosting properties were a myth or a reality. This is what i found.  The nutrition details of vendakkai reads like the ingredient list on a multivitamin bottle -  vitamins C, A, E, K, and B complex, as well as iron, calcium, potassium, sodium, copper, magnesium, selenium, manganese, zinc, and phyto-nutrients. I dont know if it really increases brain mass as my grandmother believed - but it does help with digestion, diabetes and other lifestyle diseases.

Whether it is healthy or not, vendakkai continues to reign the hearts of most people and suits a wide range of cuisines. Today's recipe is Hyderabadi Dahi Bhindi - a dish that looks complex but is actually super easy to prepare. Go ahead and try it. It will garner quite a few "wows" at your dinner table.

Recipe Source: Edible Garden (orignally from Monsoon Spice)


1kg - Vendakkai / Okra / Lady's Finger
1 large onion, finely chopped
1T Tomato Paste (substitute with 2 large tomatoes)
1 t Ginger Garlic Paste
1 cup Curd
1 T grated coconut
6-8 cashews
1T milk
1t Red chilly powder
1t Garam Masala
1t Coriander powder
1/2t Turmeric
1t Kasuri Methi (Dried Methi leaves0
1/2t Amchur powder (Dried mango powder)
salt to taste

For Seasoning:

1t Mustard seeds
1t Urad Dal
1/2 t Cumin seeds
3 Dried Red Chilly
1 pinch of asafoetida
1 sprig of curry leaves
1t oil


1. Slice the vendakkai into discs and smear a pinch of salt and mix well. Set aside for 30 minutes.
2. Soak the cashews in 1 tablespoon of milk for 10 minutes and grind to a paste along with the coconut.
3. Heat oil in a pan and roast the vendakkai until crisp. You can also deep fry them. Remove and set aside.
4. In the same pan, heat the remaining oil and season with items given under seasoning
5. Add the onions and fry until soft.
6. Add ginger garlic paste and fry until the raw smell goes. Add all the powders and mix well.
7. Add the tomato paste / chopped tomatoes and fry well. I have used tomato paste and therefore added some water to dilute it and mix well.
8. Add the ground paste and fry well.
9. Add the curd and simmer.
10. Add the kasoori methi, salt and mix. Continue on simmer. If you find the gravy thick, then add some water.
11. Add the fried vendakkai/okra pieces and mix well. Allow flavors to meld (about 2 to 3 minutes)
12. Serve hot with pulao or rotis.


  • If you want vendakkai that does not turn sticky while cooking, remember to leave them at room temperature for two days after you bring them home. They tend to wilt a little bit and thats when the stickiness doesnt show up.
  • The original recipe calls for an optional pinch of sugar which I have omitted.
  • The recipe can be used with paneer or mixed vegetables or even cauliflower.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pepper Chicken Vindaloo

One of the easiest chicken dishes, this Pepper Chicken Vindaloo requires no marination and no frying and grinding spices. Its simple and easy and especially suited for beginners. If you are new to cooking non-vegetarian food, then this dish is an absolute no-brainer.



Chicken - 1/2 kg (any cut would do - boneless or drumstick or wings. I have used boneless)
Onion - 2, finely chopped
Green Chillies - 2, slit
Ginger-garlic paste - 1 T
Garam Masala - 1/2t
Red Chilly powder - 1t (optional)
Coriander powder - 1T
Ground black pepper - 1T
Vinegar - 1T
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves - for garnish

Mustard seeds - 1t
Cinnamon - 1 small stick
Cloves - 2


1. Heat oil in a pan. Add items given for seasoning.
2. Add garam masala and green chillies
3. Add onions and fry till they turn pink and soft.
4. Add ginger garlic paste and fry until the raw smell goes.
5. Add Red chilly powder and coriander powder and add a glass of water.
6. Add the washed and cut chicken pieces and salt and simmer for 5 minutes.
7. Add the vinegar and continue on medium flame. If it seems dry then add a little bit of water.
8. Add ground black pepper and mix well and simmer until the chicken is full cooked.
9. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with rice or rotis.


1. Chicken releases water while cooking. Hence add very less water at the beginning of the cooking process. You can adjust as you go.

2. Adding garam masala at the time of seasoning releases the aroma of spices when they hit the hot oil.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Healthy Brown Capsicum Rice

On hot summer days (which is infact everyday in Penang!) I normally prefer making one-pot lunches. Meals that are simple to make, wholesome in combining grains / lentils /veggies and involves just one pot to wash up. One such easy meal is the Simple Capsicum rice. You can make the spice powder in advance and store it (I normally make these spice powders in bulk and store them in my refrigerator) and voila - the entire meal would take just under 30 minutes to prepare.

This recipe is adapted from Sailus Food - a delectable blog with a variety of recipes.  I have made this with brown rice to give a nutritious twist. Brown Rice is one of my new finds and it took a while for me to get the grips on the water ratio and cooking times. It is a bit on the chewy side and I doubt if small kids would like the texture but it suits well for the Indian mixed rice dishes. If you are health conscious - then do give it a try. It is filling and is much more nutritious than polished rice as the outer husk is still on and therefore adds a lot of fibre to your meals. For more details on the nutrition value of brown rice check out these pages. If you do not have brown rice - simply substitute with regular white rice or basmati.

Capsicum Rice


Brown Rice - 1 cup (washed and cooked with 3 cups of water on stove top / pressure cooked as per instructions on packet)
Capsicum - 1 - sliced or chopped
Onion - 1 sliced 
Roasted Peanuts - 1 T
Salt to taste

Spice Powder:
Red Chilly - 5-6
Dhania (Coriander seeds) - 1T
Cumin Seeds - 1t
Broken Urad dal - 1T
Cinnamon - 1 inch stick
Curry leaves - 1 handful
Roasted Peanuts - 2T
Ghee - 1/2t

To Season
Mustard Seeds - 1t
Curry Leaves - a handful
Ghee / Oil - 1 t


1. Spice Powder - Heat ghee in a pan and roast cumin seeds, urad dal, red chillies, dhania, cinnamon and curry leaves together. Once they turn golden, add the roasted peanuts and mix well. Grind to a coarse powder.

2. Heat ghee / oil in a big pan. Add mustard seeds and curry leaves.
3. Add the sliced onions and fry till they turn pink
4. Add the capsicum and fry until they are  cooked but are still crunchy. 
5. Add salt and mix well. If you taste it at this stage, the capsicum should be a bit salty.
6. Add the rice, spice powder and mix well. Taste and adjust salt. 
7. Garnish with roasted peanuts and serve with raitha.


  •  If you are not sure about the salt quantity, then add the salt while cooking the rice and omit while frying the vegetables.
  • Store excess spice powder in a tightly lidded jar in the fridge. Use within a month.
  • If you are making this for kids - then use basmati rice and increase the quantity of ghee for added flavor

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sarkkarai Pongal

Everytime I make idlis at home I think of those days not so long ago when you just had to stop by Saravana Bhavan or Murugan Idli kadai in T.Nagar (enroute to work!!) for a plate of steaming idlies lined with multi color chutneys and spicy sambar followed by a scorching hot filter coffee. Dangerous as it can cause food coma immediately resulting in loss of productivity for half a day :-). You didnt have to worry about cleaning the idli plates, wonder whether you can keep the sambar for lunch and put away the batter. Takes the joy out of eating a hearty breakfast. 

I particularly used to enjoy the Murugan Idli shop breakfast especially because there is no confusion on what to order :-). Jumbo idlies with buckets of sambar and their smaller bucket of idli podi. Not many people know that while the Murugan Idli Shop chain of restaurants are famous for their giant soft idlies, there is another one on their menu that may not be as famous as the idli but is to die for. The warm, brown Sarkkarai Pongal - sweet without overpowering,gooey and dripping with ghee, it used to feature in every breakfast we had there. 

This recipe is not from the restaurant, but from my grandmother. It is normally made for couple of festivals and ofcourse as and when we fancy it. The major effort required is to grate the jaggery which I have outsourced to the man of the house. So here you go - a delectable sweet not found in sweet shops. Tempting!


1 cup of rice
1/2 cup of yellow moong dal/payatham paruppu
1 cup of grated jaggery
2 tablespoon ghee
10 cashews broken
10 raisins
2 pods of cardomom (or a pinch of cardomom powder)
a pinch of salt


1. In a dry pan, lightly roast the yellow moong dal until it lightly browns.
2. Add the moong dal to the rice and wash 2 or three times.
3. Add 5 cups of water and a pinch of salt and pressure cook for three whistles. The rice and dal should be mashed up and not be very dry.
4. In a deep pan, heat jaggery along with 1 cup of water. Wait until the jaggery melts and combines well. Remove any scum from the jaggery that may float on top.
5. It is not required to bring the jaggery liquid to any particular consistency. When it thickens slightly, add the mashed rice and dal along with cardomom powder. (If using cardomom pods then add it while seasoning in ghee). Mix well until the rice is well coated with the jaggery liquid.
6. Heat a small pan with ghee and roast the cashews and raisins (along with cardomom pods if using).
8. Add the cashew and raisins along with the ghee to the pongal.
9. Mix well and remove from heat.
10. Serve warm


  • Thai Rice that is available here in South East Asia is best suited for making pongal. It is gooey and has a heavenly flavor. If Thai rice is not available, you can any polished or unpolished rice except for basmati.
  • Adjust the jaggery quantity according to your taste. If you find the pongal to be less sweet, then heat some more jaggery and water until dissolved and add to the pongal and mix well.
  • The jaggery can be grated in advance and stored in the fridge.
  • Adding a pinch of salt enhances the sweetness of the dish.
  • Don't compromise on the ghee or cashews. No point in a low calorie sarkkarai pongal. Not worth it :-)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Green Chilli and Ginger Pickle / Puli Inji

This is a simple home-made pickle recipe that requires very little effort and even lesser number of ingredients.
A great combination of pungent ginger, hot green chillies, sour tamarind with just a hint of jaggery and absolutely no oil. Ideal for those tastebuds that need some kick.

Green Chilli and Ginger Pickle / Puli Inji


Chopped Ginger - 1 cup
Finely chopped green chilly - 1/2 cup
Tamarind - Lemon Sized
Jaggery - 1/4 cup
Asafoetida - a pinch (optional)
Salt to taste


Mix all the ingredients together in a pan and add 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and allow it to thicken.
Once the mixture thickens, remove from heat. Cool and store in a bottle.

This will stay for 10 days at room temperature. Will stay for 3 weeks when refridgerated.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Mac & Squash - A Creamy Pasta with Roasted Squash

A lot of kids here live on the traditional American Mac and Cheese. Its nothing but macroni (pasta) in a cheese sauce. Its rich and heavy and more of a junk food than an Italian entree. I have always wanted to make a healthier version of the Mac and Cheese and what better choice than the nutrient rich yellow squash. The kids cannot figure out the vegetable and would love the rich and creamy taste. Just think of it as Mac and Cheese with more character :-).

 I had some squash leftover after making "poosanikkai sambar" for the Pongal festival last week. If you are in India, then squash is nothing but yellow pumpkin ("manjal poosanikkai). This is a simple recipe made with just roasted squash. You can use any type of pasta but it goes well with macroni or penne as these shapes can hold the sauce well.



1/4 kg of Squash
1 cup of uncooked pasta (macroni or penne)
3 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup Milk (I have used full cream)
1 teaspoon Red Chilly powder or paprika
1/2 teaspoon Parsley flakes for garnishing (optional)
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
salt to taste


1. Wash and cut the squash into thick slices without the skin.
2. Heat butter in a pan and  gently roast the slices until they brown a little and turn soft.
3. Remove from heat, cool and blend into a smooth paste.
4. While the squash is cooling, cook pasta as per package instructions. (heat a pot of water until boiling. Add a teaspoon of salt and pasta along with a teaspoon of olive oil and cook till its soft but not squishy or sticky. It should be of the texture popularly known as "al dente" or to be firm but not hard).
5. In the same pan used for roasting, heat the remaining butter. Add the minced garlic and mix well.
6. Add the squash paste with a little water (you can use the water used for cooking pasta) and heat gently.
7. Add the chilly / paprika powder and salt and mix well
8. Add the milk and continue heating gently.
9. Add the cooked pasta and mix well. Heat until the pasta is well coated with salt. If you find the dish getting dry/thick, add some more water or milk.
10. Taste and adjust salt.
11. Garnish with parsley or chilli flakes.
12. Serve hot with garlic bread.


1. Grated Cheese can be used for garnishing.
2. Adjust the milk to build the right consistency for the pasta.
3. You can substitute cream instead of the milk but that would make the dish very rich.
4.  You can carrots while roasting for a different twist.
5. For an Indianized verison, add a pinch of garam masala along with the red chilly powder.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Meen Kuzhambu/ Tangy Fish Curry

A lot of people have asked me on why there is only one non-vegetarian recipe in Crimson Spice. Simple reason - I prefer vegetarian food. But the same cannot be said of the staunch carnivores  who are part of my  family. So here is a simple South Indian Fish Curry recipe for all you carnivores out there. Hopefully I should be able to post more non-vegetarian recipes as I try catering to the non-vegetarians at home.



Fish -1/2 kg (I have used snapper. Refer notes)
Pearl Onions - 5 or 6, sliced
Tamarind - Lemon Size
Red Chilly Powder/Sambar powder - 1T
Turmeric - 1t
Mustard Seeds - 1t
Fenugrek - 1t
Asafoetida - a pinch
Vadagam - 1 t (optional)
Salt to taste

Grind to a paste

3 large onions
2 tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup curry leaves


1. Wash and clean the fish. Cut into big chunks.
2. Soak the tamarind in water and extract the paste.
3. Heat oil in a saucepan. When the oil is hot, add mustard seeds, fenugreek, asafoetida.
4. Add the pearl onions and fry well.
5. Add the ground paste, red chilly powder and turmeric and fry well until the raw smell goes.
6. Add the tamarind paste and bring to a boil.
7. Add the fish pieces and salt and continue boiling until the fish is cooked and you can see the oil leave the sides of the pan.
8. Serve with plain rice.

  • Any kind of fish would work for this recipe. I prefer ones with less bones.
  • This can be kept without refrigeration for 3 days and upto a week in the fridge. The dish is thought to taste better the next day.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Medhu Vadai / Ulundu Vadai - A Step-Wise Tutorial

Warning: This is a super-long post. It is meant for those who want to make vadais and those who have been eating vadais all their lives without knowing the complexity of making one.

There are certain dishes in Indian cooking that are meant to showcase the skill levels of the cook who makes them. Have you seen that man in the corner chips store standing outside in front of a huge cauldron of boiling oil. He has a grater held at an angle and deftly slices the potato or banana in such a manner that it lands into the cauldron without even a drop of oil spluttering out. Next time you walk by a tea-stall, watch the man cool the tea  in a gravity defying display(i think its called tea-pulling!! I am not joking. Google it and see :-)).  It is the same with making jalebis and jangris - SKILL. Skill that I have realized that comes with practice and not by watching Masterchef. 

How is it that our grandmothers and mothers exhibit the same skill in making complicated dishes that require great sense of geometry and physics considering that they are not making it day in and day out like the chipswallah or tea master. I have watched with fascination during Diwali, Pongal and other festivals as frail hands mix and shape beautiful and delicate pieces of "kozhukkattai" with such precision that each piece is of the same dimension and contains the same amount of filling. (I made kozhukkattai once and the experience is better left unsaid. Think globs of undercooked flour! ).

One of the dishes that involves skill and practice that I have learnt  am learning is Medhu Vadais.  It is a breakfast dish in South India and is served in most restaurants along with steaming Pongal or soft idlies and a bucket of sambar and chutney. Due to the efforts involved, it is not an everyday dish in homes and is more of a festival food.

 I have been trying to make these vadais ever since I was allowed to come near a pan of hot oil. It involves bringing your hands close to boiling oil to drop the batter and therefore is not exactly a mom-and-me cookie making stuff. Making vadais is like a military operation. Coming to my experience, after exactly five attempts (done over 2 years and 5 festivals), my vadais now justify their name. It took 3 attempts for me to get that darn hole in the vadai (until then I was making medhu bonda). 

But none of the results were inedible. When I look back, it is not that difficult - especially not as difficult as kozhukkattai. (I am sure my kozhukattai would take atleast 10 trials. Look out for that post in 2016).

I made medhu vadais for the recent festival and it came out pretty decent. I agree that the shapes are no way close to precision and dont even start me on the hole. But if you ask me - how boring is it to have the same shaped vadai - I like my vadais to have character. Thats why I dont clone them. Infact I tell my family that life is like a plate of vadais. You never know which size or shape you are going to get them (hehe. Sorry Forrest Gump)

So here you go - my first post with steps - a tutorial on how to make Medhu Vadais. 

Disclaimer: This post may sound too much if you are my grandmother or a born vadai maker. I am no way close to a vadai expert (just look at that darn hole and you would know) and this post is not meant to be a Masterclass in vadai making. This is to help amateur vadai makers like me to impress their family. Do go through the extensive notes at the end of the recipe. (It is longer than the recipe itself).  If you have suggestions or advice, please feel free to leave them as comments. Will update the post with the same. 

Medhu Vadai / Ullundu Vadai / Deep-fried Indian Dumplings
Makes about 10-15 small vadais


1 cup Whole Urad Dal (skinned white variety)
2 tablespoons Rice flour
1 tablespoon Ginger, finely chopped
Salt to taste
Oil for deep frying


2 Onions finely chopped
3-4 Green chillies, finely chopped
1/2 cup Coriander leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup Curry leaves , finely chopped


Making the batter:

1. Wash the urad dal two or three times and soak in sufficient water for 1 to 2 hours.

2. Drain and grind to a smooth paste in a mixie or grinder along with the ginger. (Refer notes). Please add very little water during the grinding process. Adding water would result in loose batter that cannot be shaped into vadais. Ideally if you find the batter to be dry creating a strain on the grinder, then just sprinkle some water by hand and continue grinding until you get a smooth batter. The batter will be thick.

3. Just before stopping the grinding process, add the required amount of salt.

4. Mix in rice flour and the items given under seasoning.

5. Keep the batter in the refridgerator until frying.

Shaping and Frying the vadais:

1. Heat sufficient oil. Check if the oil has reached the correct temperature by dropping a small bit of the batter into the oil. If the batter immediately rises to the top, then the oil is ready. Else remove that piece and wait some more.

2.Keep a small bowl of water on your kitchentop. Wet your fingers and take about 1 tablespoon amount of batter with the four fingers on your hand.

3. Keep the batter on the top portion of the four fingers and using the thumb of your hand pat the batter and create a round shape to the batter.

4.. Using the thumb, make a hole in the
middle of the batter.

5. Gently slide the batter into the hot oil. Keep the stove on medium flame to ensure even cooking.Repeat from Step 2 for the rest of the vadais.

6 Gently turn the vada until both sides are golden brown.

7. Use a slotted ladle / spoon (jalli karandi) and remove onto a kitchen towel

8. The vadai should be crisp, evenly browned to a golden hue and should not have any oil on it. The insides should be white and fluffy.

9. Serve hot with chutney and sambar. Or go ahead and make some sambar vadai or thayir vadai (refer notes)


  • A wet grinder is the most ideal appliance for grinding the batter. If you dont have one, then a mixie would do. Do watch out for over-heating on account of longer grinding time in a mixie.  I have used a wet grinder.

  • The important aspect is the water content to the batter. It would seem difficult to grind without water. But take note that the urad dal has been soaked and therefore has a bit of water content. I would have added only about one or two tablespoons of water throughout the grinding process.  Too much water can be a disaster. If you do end up with a loose batter, try adding more rice flour. Or make medhu bondas. 
  • Rice flour helps in making crisp vadais. Too much of it will change the taste of the vadai. So keep it under 2 tablespoons.
  • Adding salt too early in the grinding would result in hard vadais. You can even add the salt after removing the batter to a vessel.
  • Adding ginger at the time of grinding is optional. It helps in not having to bite into ginger bits while eating. If you dont want to grind them, then add it along with the onion and chillies. Again it is optional.
  • Chilling the batter for 5 to 10 minutes enhances the texture of the vadai. Not mandatory. You can skip it if you want to make the vadais quickly.
  • Quantity of oil depends on the size of kadai and the size of the vadai.
  • If the oil is not of the right temperature, then it will result in oily and oil soaked vadais. If its too hot and smoking, then it will result in the vadai being cooked only on the outside with the middle remaining raw. Adjust the heat while frying to ensure even temperature.
  • If  you want to make bigger vadais or shaping and dropping the vadai and bringing your hands near the hot oil sounds dangerous, then do try it the traditional way with a small piece of banana leaf smeared with oil held in your left and using your right hand shape the vadai on the leaf and turn the leaf over slightly above the oil to drop the batter into the oil. Alternatively, you can use the slotted ladle that you use to fry and shape the vada on it directly and drop it into the oil. 
  • If you are a first-timer, then focus on making the vadai edible for the first couple of attempts. Don't fret too much over the shape. It will come with experience. Trust me :-)
  • With experience, you would be able to fry a batch of 4 or more vadais at a time.  Do not crowd too much as they may not get evenly cooked. 
  • If vadais seem to look oily, then keep the batter again in the fridge for 10-15 minutes. Alternatively add some more rice flour.
  • You can make the batter the previous day and store it in the refrigerator until frying. I have kept the batter in the fridge for a maximum of two days without affecting the taste and quality of the vadai. I am not sure about the maximum time it can be stored.


1. You can omit any or all of the seasonings given if you like plain vadais
2. You can add roasted and crushed pepper, small pieces of coconut to the batter.
3. Restaurants normally add cooking soda/baking soda to the batter just before frying for giant sized crisp vadais. This is optional when you are making at home. I did not use it.
4. Soak the leftover vadais in sambar and garnish with chopped onions and chillies for a delectable sambar vadai.
5.Soak the vadais in curd that has been seasoned with mustard seeds, urad dal and chillies. Garnish with shredded carrot and serve chilled. This is the yummy thayir vadai.

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