Category Archives: Tamilian Cuisine

Baked Thatai/Nippatu

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I’ve been waiting with eagerness the whole of last week to share this recipe as a ‘gokulashtami’ / ‘janmashtami’ special and here goes! I love savory crunchy tidbits synonymous to the festival season in India. But what I don’t like is the fact that most often they are all deep fried. Thatai in Tamil or Nippatu in Kannada is a snack made from rice flour and some spices and shaped like flat little plates, and hence the name in Tamil. Now that I have started expanding my cooking capabilities, I decided to be a little adventurous and tried a healthy baked version of the traditional Thatai. Of course I was a little nervous. I didn’t want to ruin it. But it turns out that baked Thatai is really simple to make. It doesn’t use too much oil and can be just as crispy and crunchy as the deep fried version.

For the first time, I made sure to take snapshots of all the steps. So this post has step by step illustration of the recipe. 🙂

Crunchy baked Thatai

The recipe:
Source – my Paati (maternal grandmother)
Preparation time – 20 minutes
Baking time – 20 minutes
Makes around 20 mid sized Thatai

Here’s what you’ll need:
1 cup rice flour
2 tbsp Urad dal (roasted and ground into a flour)
3 tbsp grated coconut
2 tbsp Channa dal (soaked in water for 30 minutes)
2 tbsp peanuts (roasted and crushed into big bits)
1/2 tbsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp asafoetida (hing)
2 tbsp oil (to mix into the dough)
A few chopped curry leaves
Salt to taste

2-3 tbsp oil for baking

How to make it:

1. Lightly roast the urad dal for a couple of minutes. Let it cool and then grind it into a smooth flour.

Lightly roasted urad dal, waiting to be ground

2. Mix all the ingredients together.

All the ingredients, ready to be mixed

3. Add a little water and knead it into a workable dough.

The Thatai dough

4. Let the oven preheat to 350 deg F and grease the baking tray with 1 tbsp of oil.

5. Now to flatten out the thatais, break lime sized balls from the dough, roll it into a smooth ball. Add a drop of oil on your palm and start flattening the ball. This step can be a little tricky and the thatai might start sticking to your hand. If it does so flatten it out on your palm just a little, then transfer it to the baking tray and then flatten it out further. (I moved them from the plate to the tray just before baking it.)

Thatai – before baking

6. Fill out the baking tray neatly and place it into the preheated oven. After 10 minutes, take them out and flip them over and continue to bake them for 10-15 more minutes, until reddish brown in color. (You can reduce the temperature to 300 F after the first 10 minutes.)

7. Let them cool over some paper towels and then store in an airtight container.

Additional notes:

  1. By adjusting the level of urad dal flour, you can play the level of crispness vs. brittleness. We like it slightly brittle at home, giving our teeth something to work on. So I used a tad lesser urad dal flour.
  2. I had a little trouble getting the edges of the thatai to be neat and circular. My mother explained that this could be because the rice flour wasn’t smooth enough. So it might be useful to seive the flour if its not too smooth.
  3. I was worried about the thatai sticking to the tray while baking, but it was so easy to remove, thanks to the lack of any gluten in the mixture. 🙂
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Puliyogare (Tamarind rice)

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Week 1, Recipe 3

So here comes the final recipe for this week, just in the nick of time, Puliyogare! 🙂 This dish has become a easy fix choice when the H and I are both hungry and we want something quick and without too much effort. You can have this ready in approximately 15 minutes and the result is a rice that is delicious, homely, and tastes so much better than the store bought ready-mixes. So why not try it one day? 🙂

Puliyogare served with yogurt and cucumber

The Recipe:

Source – Mum

Cooking time – 15 minutes

Serves – 2

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 tbsp peanuts (shelled)
  • 1/2 tbsp channa dal (bengal gram dal)
  • 1 tsp urad dal
  • 1/2 tsp mustard
  • 1 green chilli (slit along its length)
  • 5-7 curry leaves (torn into bits)
  • 1 tbsp dried coconut grated (or freshly grated coconut)
  • 1 heaped tbsp rasam powder
  • 1 lemon sized ball tamarind (diluted in 1 cup of warm water)
  • 1/2 tbsp jaggery
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds (roasted and powdered)
  • 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds (methi) (roasted and powdered)
  • 1 generous pinch of asafoetida
  • 2-3 tbsp cooking oil (optional: could use sesame oil)
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup rice

How to make it:

  1. Cook the rice with 1 tsp oil in an open pot. I used the microwave so that I could check on the rice regularly and make sure it wasn’t mushy. If you’re using the pressure cooker be careful not to add too much water or overcook by letting it whistle too many times.
  2. While the rice is cooking, we need to aim to get the puliyogare gojju ready. So heat the oil in a pan and add the peanuts. Roast them for a minute and throw in the channa dal. Continue roasting until both of them just begin to turn light brown. At this stage, add the mustard seeds. Once they splutter, add the Urad dal. Lower the flame and roast until the dal just turns dark brown. Be carfeul not to burn them.
  3. Once they’re ready, throw in the chilli and the curry leaves. Then add the grated coconut and stir well. It’s recommended to use dry coconut if you want to store it for a longer time or carry it with you while traveling etc. But fresh coconut tastes great too, which I used while making this today.
  4. Add the rasam powder, give it a good stir quickly and add the diluted tamarind pulp. To soften and dilute the tamarind faster, I normally put it in a bowl, add some water and stick it into the microwave for 30 seconds and then squeeze out the pulp. Add the jaggery and salt and boil until it thickens into a paste. When its almost ready, add the sesame seeds powder and methi powder and mix well. Give it a taste check to reach the right level of saltiness, sourness and sweetiness you want. 🙂
  5. The rice should be ready by this time. Add the mixture to the rice and fold it in lightly, without mashing the rice too much. Drizzling a little oil while mixing would be handy as well. Make sure to taste the rice one more time to ensure you’re good on the salt front.
  6. Serve warm with curd and urad dal papad.

Note: There would be hundreds of recipes out there on how to make to most authentic/best puliyogare in Iyengar style, each being tuned to the tastes of the individual. I don’t make any claims, I offer you one possible recipe handed down from my mum. Feel free to alter it according to your tastes. The best part about this dish is that it is so robust that you can alter some ingredients and probably skip some that you don’t have in your pantry and still be happy with the end product. No wonder this dish used to be/is a no-fail last resort when maamis have last minute guests for dinner. 🙂

Majjige Huli (Morkozhambu)

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Week 1, Recipe 2

OK folks, so here’s the second recipe as part of the mini marathon this month. Majjige huli in Kannada or Morkozhambu in Tamil is a curd based sambar most famous for its appearance during weddings and the festive season. It is often served along with other types of sambar like hulthove in kannadiga weddings. This can be made with different types of vegetables and the popular ones are ash-gourd, ladies finger, drumstick. My mum also makes it with the leaves and stem from amaranth (known as dhantina soppu in kannada). This time I’ve made it with drumstick. Anyway, let’s get started with the recipe under the spotlight, Drumstick Majjige Huli.

Majjige Huli / Morkozhambu

The Recipe:

Source – Mum

Preparation time – 15 minutes

Cooking time – 15 minutes

Serves – 3-4

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 drumsticks (chopped) (or 1 big cup of veggies like ash-gourd or bhindi chopped into thumb sized pieces)
  • 2 tbsp channa dal (Bengal gram dal)
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds (Dhania)
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds (Jeera)
  • 2 dried red chillies
  • 2 green chillies
  • 4 heaped tbsp coconut (grated)
  • 3-4 strands fresh coriander leaves)
  • a pinch of turmeric
  • a generous pinch of asafoetida (hing)
  • 2 cups curd (preferably slightly sour)
  • 2 – 3 tbsp freshly squeezed tamarind pulp (optional)
  • salt to taste

For the seasoning:

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard
  • a generous pinch of hing
  • a few curry leaves

How to make it:

  1. Soak the channa dal in warm water for 2-3 hours.
  2. Take 1.5 cups of water in a vessel and boil the chopped vegetable (drumstick in this case). If you’re using bhindi, first saute it in a pan with a little oil and then boil it in water. Add a small pinch of turmeric and salt to it.
  3. While the veggies are cooking, grind the dal along with the dhania seeds, jeera, red chillies and green chillies, coconut, coriander, and hing. Make sure to grind it into a fairly smooth paste.
  4. Add the mixture to the boiling vegetable. Add one cup of water and continue boiling for another 10 minutes until the mixture is cooked.
  5. Once ready, add the curd. Using tamarind is a good trick if you want achieve the right level of sourness when you don’t have sour curd. If you’re using the readymade concentrated tamarind, then 1 tsp should be sufficient.
  6. Upon adding the curd boil for a maximum of 2 minutes. Be careful not to overcook at this stage since the the curd will begin to break away leaving behind water. Give it a quick taste check and its almost ready.
  7. Last step, seasoning. Heat the pan with oil. Add the mustard seeds and wait for them to pop. Turn off the stove and add the hing and curry leaves and the dish is ready to be served piping hot with rice.

Note: In case you want to make this dish in advance and you’re not serving it right away, then hold off step 6 and 7. Keep everything ready and add the curd and boil for a couple of minutes just before serving.

My recipe is kind of a cross between the kannadiga and tamilian versions. Ash-gourd, drumstick and bhindi are the most popular veggies used. Have you ever eaten majjige huli/morkozhambu made of other vegetables? I’d love to try them. 🙂

Adai (South Indian Lentil Pancake)

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After a short lull, I’m back to the blogosphere with renewed energies and one thing I’m learning along the way is that blogging everyday regularly requires discipline. Having made that reflection, my aim in the coming days is to get at least 3 posts out every week. My test period is the month of July and by the end of 4 weeks I aim to have posted 12 good quality recipes. This might not seem like much, after the super-hit film, ‘Julie and Julia’, which I loved by the way. But I have decided to start with baby steps. 🙂

So here goes, Week 1, Recipe 1.

I’m really excited to share with you a recipe for Adai, a scrumptious, wholesome dosa-like pancake! Adai is a mixture of different lentils, rice and spices ground together into a coarse batter and is popular evening snack in Tamil households. I’ve borrowed this no-fail formula for my mum, who got it from my Paati. The recipe below produces enough batter to make around 10-12 palm-sized Adais. This is actually quite a filling snack (could even be my dinner) so you can’t eat too many together. It would be too heavy on your stomach as well. I normally make this batter and store it in the refrigerator for almost 2 weeks and it tastes perfectly fine (just follow the tip at the end of the post). Just a pointer, though very easy to make it requires the dals and rice to be soaked in water for at least 5 hours, so you need to plan for this a day in advance. Try it and let me know how it turned out. 🙂

Adai served with mint chutney and curd

The Recipe:
Source – Mum
Makes 10 – 12 palm sized Adai
Here’s what you’ll need:
For the batter
  • 1 1/4 cup rice
  • 1/4 cup Chana dal (dal from bengal gram)
  • 1/4 cup Toor dal
  • 1/4 Moong dal
  • slightly less than 1/4 cup Urad dal
  • 3 – 4 dried red chillies
  • a generous pinch of asafoetida (hing)
  • salt to taste

While making the Adai

  • 1 big onion (chopped)
  • 3 heaped tbsp coconut (grated)
  • 4-5 curry leaves (chopped)
  • a few strands of coriander (chopped)
  • Oil (around 2-3 tsp for each adai)

How to make it:

  1. Soak the rice and dals together in sufficient water overnight. If you are running a little short of time, you could use soak them for 4 – 5 hours in hot water.
  2. After the dals have been allowed to bathe and swell wash them thoroughly. Put them in a liquidizer, add the dried chillies, hing, salt and 1/2 a cup of water and grind into a slightly coarse batter. The consistency of the batter should be much thicker than dosa batter. And be sure not to grind it completely smooth like you would with the batter for dosa or idli. The coarseness of the batter adds the characteristic taste integral to the Adai. Let the batter sit for 2 hours at least, before you make the first one.
  3. Add the chopped onions, coconut, coriander and curry leaves to the batter and mix well. Give it a quick taste check to make sure the salt is just fine.
  4. Take a flat pan (tawa) and heat on high flame. Add a little oil on the pan. When the pan is sufficiently hot, scoop 2 ladlefuls of the batter on the pan. Spread it out and make a small coin sized hole (around 1/2 an inch) in the centre of the adai. Drizzle a little oil around the edges and in the hole you just made. Now reduce the flame to medium high and cover with a lid for around a minute. Once it seems done on one side, flip it over and let the other side cook under slow to medium flame, just to make sure that the adai is completely cooked inside. Wait until it is golden brown or as crisp as you like it and then its ready to be served.
  5. Serve hot with curd. The adai tastes great plain or with curd, chutney, pickle etc. I served it with pudina chutney and cold curd out of the fridge. Delicious!

A couple of ideas:

  • As I said at the beginning of the post, I make the batter using these proportions and it serves the Husband and me for 3- 4 times over 2 weeks. So what I normally do is refrigerate the batter and pour out as much required into a separate bowl and add the onions etc. just while I make them. That way the batter stays fresh long.
  • You could try adding some chopped green chillies or pudina to flavor it up a notch further.

So how do you make your Adai? Have you tried any variations to the classic?

Mixed Vegetable Kootu

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Today I’d like to share the recipe for mixed vegetable kootu. It is a popular dish from the state of Tamil Nadu and forms an integral part of tamil feasts. It is a healthy combination of different types of veggies, lentils and a freshly ground paste of coconut and spices. While we were growing up, my mum regularly made different types of kootus, slightly varying the ingrdients and my sister and I loved it absolutely. I on the other hand don’t make them as often. I’m waiting to come into possession of a little jar that would be ideal for grinding masalas. Until then I need to manage with my big blending jar. Enough about my travails of being away from home, let’s get down to business. 🙂

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The Recipe:

Source – Mum

Cooking time – 30 minutes

Serves – 3-4

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1/3 cup dal (you can use toor dal or moong dal)
  • 1 cup of chopped vegetables (carrots, peas, french beans, cauliflower, cabbage)
  • 1 tomato roughly chopped (optional)
  • 4 heaped tbsp of grated coconut
  • 2 – 4 dried chillies (depending on the level of hotness you can handle)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • A generous pinch of hing
  • A pinch of turmeric
  • Salt to taste

For the seasoning (Optional)

  • 1/4 tsp mustard
  • 1 dried red chilli
  • A few curry leaves
  • 2 tsp oil

How to make it:

  1. Add a pinch of turmeric and cook dal with sufficient water. If you plan to use moong dal then roast it in a pan for a 2 – 3 minutes. It brings out a nice flavor. If you’re using toor dal, then I recommend you use the pressure cooker to speed things up.
  2. Take the cooked dal in a vessel, add 1 – 1.5 cups of water and the chopped vegetables, tomatoes and salt and cook for 15 minutes. I used only cauliflower and tomatoes today.
  3. While the dal and veggies are cooking, grind the coconut, cumin seeds, and dried chillies into a fine paste. Add this paste and a pinch of hing to boiling mixture when the veggies are 3/4th done. Boil for 5 more minutes.
  4. Heat oil in a pan, add the mustard seeds and wait till they crackle. Turn off the heat, add the dried chilli and curry leaves and quickly pour it over the kootu. (The kootu tastes great even if you don’t season)

Rasam (South Indian tomato and lentil soup)

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This is a basic recipe for the humble rasam. This lentil soup consisting of dal, tomato and spices is a must-have in tambram meals. It forms a part of the staple three course meal at the in-laws, the recipe being handed down from Paatima to MIL. I have borrowed this from Paatima, hoping to one day achieve the magic taste that her seasoned hands stir up everyday.

The recipe:

Source – Paatima

Cooking time – 30 minutes

Serves – 3 – 4

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1/3 cup dal (boiled or pressure cooked)
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes (roughly chopped)
  • 2 tbsp freshly sqeezed tamarind pulp or 1/2 tsp tamarind concentrate
  • 2 tsp rasam powder
  • A pinch of asafoetida (hing)
  • A pinch of pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 – 3 curry leaves (optional)
  • 2 – 3 coriander leaves (optional)
  • 1 tsp ghee (Great if you have it. If not, butter could be a substitute)
  • Salt to taste

How to make it:

  1. Take 2 – 3 cups of water in a pot. Add the chopped tomatoes, rasam powder, hing, tamarind pulp, corinder leaves, and salt. I skipped the coriander in my recipe because I didn’t have any today. Cook this mixture for 15 – 20 minutes.
  2. Lightly whisk the cooked dal with an egg-beater or a spoon to partially mash the dal.
  3. Pour the dal and a small pinch of pepper (optional) into the boiling tomato soup and adjust the level of water to achieve a thin soupy consistency. Continue to cook for 5 minutes. Taste check for your preferred level of salt and tanginess (tamarind). Once you’re happy, remove it from the stove.
  4. The final step is to season the rasam. Heat the ghee in a pan and add in the mustard seeds. Once they crackle, throw in a sprig of curry leaves and a pinch of hing. Season the rasam with this hot mixture.  (I used butter since I don’t store ghee at home. Butter provides the same taste like ghee, however the flipside is that it tends to burn more easily.)
  5. Serve hot with rice. You can also serve it by itself as a soup.

Note: Step 4 might seem like a trivial step that we sometimes feel like eliminating for the wont of time, and to let you all into a secret, I’ve done that a couple of times myself. But  I highly recommend that you go the whole hog and do this final step, especially if you’re making this for guests. 😉  May be its just an acquired sense of smell but the aroma from the ghee transforms this soup into a divine concoction and fills the place with a wonderful waft, bringing hungry stomachs to the dinner table. 🙂

Stir-Fried Cauliflower (South Indian Style)

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The H loves cauliflower and this is his all time favorite preparation. I learnt this dish from my MIL and had a request from my sister to share the secret with her. 🙂 Plus we were both craving for a simple no-frills lunch so I made this to go along with good old rasam.

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The recipe:

Source – MIL

Preparation time – 10 minutes

Cooking time – 15 minutes

Serves – 2 – 3

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Half portion of a Cauliflower (chopped into small to medium sized florets)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1/4 tsp mustard
  • 1/4 tsp urad dal
  • 2 dried chillies
  • 1 tsp sambar powder/chilli powder
  • A pinch of turmeric
  • A pinch of asafoetida (hing)
  • A few curry leaves (roughly torn)
  • Salt to taste

How to make it:

  1. Heat oil in a wok/kadai/non stick pan. I normally use olive oil for most of my cooking, unless the dish is very traditional and calls for a specific type of oil. You are welcome to use any oil you are most comfortable with.
  2. Once the oil is hot, add the mustard and wait for it to pop. Then add in the urad dal, dried chillies, hing, turmeric, and curry leaves in quick succession. Add the chopped onions and stir until they turn translucent.
  3. Add the chopped cauliflower bits. Follow up with the sambar/chilli powder and salt. Give it a good stir. Sprinkle a tbsp of water into the pan and cover with a lid. Cook on medium heat for 10 – 12 minutes, giving it an occasional stir.

You can stop cooking when it is still slightly crunchy or go the whole way. This can be served with rice or rotis. A couple of tips:

  • If you are new to the kitchen, make sure to always add the turmeric and hing JUST BEFORE adding the vegetables. They tend to burn easily otherwise, and you don’t want that.
  • I’ve started using sambar powder instead of  red chilli powder in a lot of south indian stir fries. I learnt this trick from the MIL again. Since the sambar powder also contains lentils in it, you can add this powder more generously without making the curry too spicy or burning the powder.