Roz Ka Khana

A blog about everyday food. Mostly Indian. All vegetarian.

Archive for the category “Amma’s recipes”

Easy Tomato Gothsu (Tomato Stew) – without onion or garlic

It’s the season of Navaratri (festival of Nine Nights) and besides the daily offerings of jaggery laden sweets and protein packed sundals (savory dish made with legumes) to the Goddess, I have to get creative with the daily menu. As with most temple offerings the food cooked during these 9 days is meant to be “saatwik” or strong in the sattwa guna or purity, leading to clarity and equanimity of the mind.

It can be debated as to how the list even originated as it dates back to Ayurveda and food that ancient Yogis consumed. The list we know of includes fresh leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and grains, legumes, interestingly diary (raw milk from happy cows:), ghee (clarified butter), raw honey etc. Meat and its by products, some pungent vegetables including onion and garlic were avoided as they were meant to stimulate the tamasik qualities leading to dullness of the mind and body. For the Yogis this was meant to be detrimental to their spiritual aspirations.

As I mentioned before I didn’t really fully understand (and still have some q’s) why some vegetables scientifically considered  healthy (like onion and garlic) were excluded from this diet. I do get the meat exclusion to some extent as it follows the doctrine of “you are what you eat” and the relationship between food and the mind. I suppose you could use the same logic to the other foods too?

Oh well. As for me, I tend to consider these 9 days as an excuse to undergo a detox of the body and mind. If you look at that explanation scientifically too Navaratri falls at the juncture of two seasons, when the fall season recedes and and winter season sets in (in the Northern hemisphere). There is a shift in pattern with nature too, the plants shed their leaves, fruits fall and go into a non productive mode, grains are being harvested and so on. The body (and mind) needs to undergo a periodic cleanse to get stronger for sustaining the bleak winter months. Hence the detox during this season which conveniently aligns with the festival too. Traditionally Navaratri is meant to be a time to fast and/or eat sparingly to allow the body to detox.

Isn’t it ironical that detoxes are becoming so popular in today’s times and when you really “peel the onion” (no pun intended;) they are manifestations of what the ancient Sutras and Ayurveda dictated eons ago? Suddenly Yogic practices, Ayurveda are becoming fashionable, a fad and fasting and detox diets once originally done for spiritual reasons are becoming a sought after lifestyle. We have come a full circle and the goal interestingly is the same. To be healthy and strong in body and mind.

So the many offerings to the Goddesses are made as saatwik as possible and for the same spiritual and possibly convenient reasons it trickles down into the daily menu as well.

Today’s prasadam (offering) was Venn Pongal, a traditional South Indian porridge made during festivals but also a filling breakfast or lunch dish. Made with rice and yellow mung beans, it packs enough fibre and protein to balance out the carbs. And garnished with dollops of ghee (clarified butter), another nutritious good fat packed with Vitamins A, D and K.

As an accompaniment for the Venn Pongal I made a Thakkali Gothsu or Spicy Tomato Stew. Super easy to make and quite a tasty accompaniment to the venn pongal, this is a recipe I learned from Amma (my mom). This dish can be made with onions too but for today I made it without them for all the reasons mentioned above:)



Medium sized tomatoes on the vine – 4, finely chopped

Green chilies – 4-5, slit

Curry leaves – a sprig

Jeera or cumin seeds – 1 tsp

Asafetida – a pinch

Mustard seeds – 1 tsp

Sambar powder – 2 -3 tsp (depending on spice level)

Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp

Cinatro – 1 small bunch chopped

Oil – 1 tsp

Salt to taste


1. Heat oil in a pan. When hot add the mustard seeds. After they begin to splutter add the jeera and asafetida.

2. Add the slit green chilies and curry leaves.


3. Add the chopped tomatoes, salt, turmeric powder. Mix well and sauté for 2 minutes.


4. Add the sambar powder, mix, add let cook for about 2-3 minutes.


5. Add about 1/4 cup of warm water and cook again for 5-7 minutes till it all begins to come together in a thin chutney like consistency.


6. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve hot.

Note: If you’re adding onions, add one medium sliced onion finely chopped, and add it right after the step where you sauté the green chilies and curry leaves. Sauté well till they turn translucent before you add the tomatoes.



Ginger and palm sugar punch (Panakam), Spiced Buttermilk (Neer Mor) and Lentil green mango salad (Kosumalli)


This is a bit late for posting a Rama Navami recipe but as with all festival recipes, I record them here for posterity. I’m sure this will come handy in the years to come to me or to another reader so it’s better late than never. As always with all the festival recipes here, these are Amma’s recipes.

Panakam, Neer Mor are not just Rama Navami recipes by the way. While legend goes that this was served during Sita and Rama’s (Hindu mythological God and Goddess for the uninitiated) wedding and during Rama’s birth, the tradition seems to have stuck as these are the post celebration drinks served to this day during most traditional South Indian Hindu weddings and birthdays.

The best part – they are probably some of the easiest festival recipes to make. And they are all raw which means no stove top needed and no messy clean ups so as you can guess this is my favorite festival recipe as well:) (Not counting the tadka/seasoning to the buttermilk of course where there is some stove top heating involved, but that step can be skipped if you’d like it to be completely raw. I recommend adding the seasoning as that adds the real traditional South Indian taste)

The panakam can easily pass off as a summer cooler punch the next time you have a summer lunch  get together. Its sweet but the ginger and lemon give it the apple lemon tea kind of zing and tart taste, perfect for a hot day.

And the neer mor (moar) or light buttermilk spiced with ginger and curry leaves is the perfect coolant for a hot summer outing in the sun. “Buttermilk cools the system” as my Appa (dad) says- this is still his go to drink when he returns home from his trips to the vegetable market. And according to him the secret to his “zen”:)

Recipe for Panakam:

  • 1/2 cup palm sugar or jaggery
  • 1 tsp dry ginger pd
  • 2 cardamom crushed (you may add the skin as well for flavor but we used only the crushed seeds)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice (optional)
Method: Powder the jaggery in a bowl, add about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of water. You can add or reduce the water depending on how sweet you like the punch. Strain the water to remove any sediments from the jaggery mixture.
Add dry ginger pd, and cardamom pd .Mix well. Add lemon juice. Serve cold or at room temperature.
Recipe for Neer Mor :
  • Yogurt -1/2 cup.
  • Water 1 1/2 cups 
  • Asafoetida -1/4 tsp
  • 1-green chili crushed,
  • few curry leaves
  • salt to taste
  • seasoning -1 tsp mustard seeds , 1/2 chopped green chilli.
Beat the yogurt in a bowl and mix with water. Mix the asafoetida & salt with little water separately. Add this to the beaten yoghurt. Crush the curry leaves and add.
For seasoning the buttermilk, heat 1/2 tsp oil in a small kadhai or heavy bottomed vessel, When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds. Wait till it splutters then add the crushed green chili (optional). Pour this onto the buttermilk. Mix well.
Recipe for Kosumalli or Kosambri (Raw moong dal, green mango salad)
  • 1/2 cup Indian yellow moong dal (skinned and split green gram)
  • 2 green chillies
  • 3 tbsp grated coconut
  • 1/2 raw mango grated
  • /1/2 cucumber cut in to very small pieces
  • salt to taste
For seasoning – 1/2 tsp mustard; 1 green chili crushed (optional)1 tsp oil, asfoetida – a pinch, a handful chopped cilantro
Wash & soak the moong dal for about 1/2 hr till it gets a bit soft. Drain the water, add salt, add the chopped cucumber and grated mango and coconut.
For seasoning, heat the oil, add mustard seeds. When they splutter add the crushed green chili, asafoetida. Add this to the moong dal salad. Garnish with cilantro. You may also add 1 tsp of lemon juice if needed.

Raw Almond Milk and Almond Meal recipe — Date Almond Pooran Poli

I did tell you about my fetish for all things juicing didn’t I? It’s become a habit now, starting every single morning breakfast with a fresh squeezed fruit and veggie juice followed by a late morning smoothie. And I pack a mason jar of juice to work as well for that 3pm “juice in leiu of tea” break. It’s working! I don’t feel the need for that cup of chai or joe anymore and the green juice or pomegranate juice does the trick. Fact is, I cannot think of a store bought carton of juice these days…and buying a smoothie at a cafe feels like sacrilege:) The Vitamix and Hurom now occupy a very prime position on my counter in the kitchen. I’m not sure if I can do a 100% raw and vegan diet but I am convinced that eating more raw veggies and fruits gives me that energy boost and keeps me going. So I guess I’m a 50-50 raw vegetarian:)

And so I have tried several juice and smoothie combinations that I hope to post on a more regular basis but something I have been meaning to try with my new juicer was making raw almond milk. Again, thanks to The Rawsome Life, and her inspiring Facebook posts, I finally got around to remembering to soak 1 cup of almonds last week to make fresh almond milk for the next day.

The method was so easy and the Hurom juicer makes it even more effortless. No need to peel the almonds and no need to filter. What you get is creamy, fresh, raw almond milk with powdery, dry almond meal. No mess, no fuss:)

And the best part, it yields almost 3-4 cups of almond milk, not bad for just 1 cup of almonds. And over 1 1/2 cups of almond meal.

As I mentioned earlier I’m also always looking for ideas to deal with juicer pulp. Amma made an amazing carrot, beetroot pulp halwa/barfi dessert the recipe of which I will post soon. With the almond milk, Amma had another brilliant idea. She used some of the almond meal with some dates to make Date Almond Puran Poli (stuffed wheat tortillas or parathas).

Here are the recipes for the above.

Raw Almond Milk:


Ingredients for almond milk:

1 cup raw almonds (with skin intact)

2-3 cups water.

1 tsp vanilla essence (raw vanilla bean is preferable but I didn’t have that in stock)

1 tsp agave syrup (or any sweetener of your choice. This is optional)


1. Soak 1 cup of almonds in about 2 cups water overnight.

2. The next morning, discard the water and add another 2 cups of fresh water.

3. Turn the juicer on and pour a ladle of almonds and water into it. Continue till all the almonds are ground.

4. Add the vanilla essence and any sweetener of your choice and stir well. Fresh almond milk is ready to serve!


Note – You can choose to peel the almonds as well. The skin will peel right off when you soak the almonds overnight. If not, you can also add some warm water in the morning and this will help peel the skin off.

You may also use the Vitamix blender to make fresh almond milk. Again peeling the almonds is preferable here.

You may also choose to filter the almond milk using a cheese cloth or milk strainer. I liked mine just the way it was as it gave a thicker creamier consistency.

Almond Meal Recipe – Date Almond Pooran Poli



1 cup almond meal

1/2 cup dates

1 tbsp ghee or clarified butter

1/4 cup wheat flour

1/4 cup all purpose flour

Salt to taste

Water 1/2 cup

Oil – 2 tsp


1. Take the almond meal and dates in a Vitamix jar and blend with Variable speed. use the tamper to mix the ingredients until the mixture resembles a coarse paste. Set this aside.


2. Now take a heavy bottom vessel and add 1 tbsp ghee to coat the sides of the pan.

2. Add the almond date mixture and heat for a few minutes, keep stirring in the pan until the mixture starts to concentrate in the center, and doesn’t stick much to the sides or the ladle.



3. Meanwhile, mix the wheat and all purpose flour in a mixing bowl, add salt and then add water and oil little by little until it forms a dough much like chapathi dough. Doesn’t stick to your fingers and is easy to pinch and form round balls.

4. Pinch of a piece of dough and make round balls about an inch to 1 1/2″ in diameter. This mixture should make about 6-8 pooran polis.

5. If the almond date mixture is cool enough, make small round balls (about 1/2-1″ in diameter depending on how big you want your polis) and keep aside.

6. Take a rolling pin and roll the balls into small flat tortilla shapes or rotis.

7. Place one small round of the almond date ball in the center of the small chapati and close the dough around it to form a roundish shape. Seal the edges.

8. Now take the almond date stuffed dough rounds and using wheat flour to dust the surface and a rolling pin, roll out the dough into circles about 3-4″ in diameter. The chapathis or polis should be thin enough but ensure that the stuffing doesn’t start to seep out too much.

10. Preheat a frying pan, place the poli on it, switch to low heat and cook on one side for 1 -2 minutes. Flip over and cook the other side till lightly browned. Apply a little ghee (optional) on both sides and remove immediately.

Note: If you’d like you may also add about a tbsp of Demerara or brown sugar to the date mixture, if you like your polis sweeter. We opted not to just to keep sugar out of this recipe:)

Pongalo Pongal!

Growing up, Pongal was one of my favorite festivals. As with the many festivals we celebrate in India, I loved the fact that we got to stay home and eat amazing food, and binge on Sakkarai Pongal:).

Pongal, as explained in my earlier post, is akin to Thanksgiving, marking the Harvest festival and obeisance to the Sun God. It is celebrated in South India as Sankranthi and in the North as Lohri. Sakkarai pongal is one of my all time favorite sweet dishes and I’ve been known to indulge in spoonfuls, um cupfuls of this dish laden with rice, sugar and ghee (clarified butter). I’ve tried to make a healthier version of Sakarai pongal with less ghee but the taste isn’t the same. I’ve given in and this is the version I’ve grown up with – it’s Amma’s version, which also happens to be my favorite recipe for Sakkarai Pongal.

We made the traditional venn pongal, Sakkarai pongal, vadai and Poli today to mark the Pongal and the Sun God must have been happy…it was such a bright and sunny day in Texas:).

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset


Rice – 1 cup

Moong dal – 1/3 cup

Jaggery – 3 cups

Milk – 1 cup

Water – 3 1/2 cups

Cashews, raisins, for garnish

Cardamom, crushed – 1 tsp

Ghee – 1/4 cup (you can use about 2 tbsp if you need less, but remember that the more ghee the better this tastes:)


1. Dry roast the moong dal till it is fragrant and turns light brown.

2. Add the rice and mix well.

3. Wash the moong dal and rice with water and drain.

4. Mix the water and milk in a large container and heat on a medium flame. When the mixture begins to boil, add the rice and dal and stir well.


5. After about 10 minutes, transfer this to a pressure cooker and cook for about 5 whistles. (If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can keep cooking it on the stove, while stirring. Make sure you keep the stove flame really low so as not to burn the mixture.)

6. Meanwhile, melt the jaggery in 3 1/2 cups of water on low heat. When the jaggery dissolves completely, strain the mixture to remove any impurities in the jaggery.

7. Continue to cook the strained mixture on a low heat until it caramelizes and becomes “stringy”.

8. Take the rice out of the cooker now, mash it well. Add this to the jaggery mixture and mix very well until its blended.

9. Now add some ghee and the crushed cardamom.

10. Lightly fry the cashews and raisins in ghee and add this to the pongal as garnish.

Vadai (fried lentil doughnuts)


Urad dal, soaked in water for about 1/2 hour – 1 cup

Grated ginger – 2 tbsp

Green chilies – 5

Cilantro, chopped – 1/2 cup


1. Wash the grad dal well and soak it in water for about half hour.

2. Drain the water and keep it in a separate bowl.

3. Grind the soaked dal with the ginger and green chilies to a fine paste.

4. Make sure to grind the dal little by little with very little water until it resembles a smooth paste.

5. Add chopped cilantro and curry leaves if needed.

6. Heat some oil in a round bottomed vessel, kadai.

7. Take the ground dal paste on your palm, flatten a bit and make a hole in the middle (like a donut hole)

8. Add this to the hot oil and deep fry till golden brown.

9. Enjoy hot with some sambar and chutney!

This post is spicy hot….

And no, this is not some cheap trick to make you look and read this post:). I’m talking about the spiciest pepper in the world, Bhut Jolakia or the ghost pepper. We happened to taste Amma’s and Anusuya’s Pacchai Milagai Thokku or green serrano and thai pepper (chili) chutney last week. The lunch conversation turned into a discussion around the spiciest pepper in the world. Did you know, for instance, that the Bhut Jolakia has over 800k to a million scovil units, the units used to measure the hotness in pepper? And that it’s three times more spicy than habanero pepper, which I always thought was the spiciest pepper I had had.

And you know by now, that we are a family that loves spicy food, from my 9 year old to my 75 year old mother-in-law:). So this conversation was enough to get the taste buds and curiosity stirred to look for this pepper in the local stores.

It may have been sheer coincidence but we were out shopping at Central Market that same day and Nikhil spotted this exact pepper in the produce aisle. I wasn’t expecting to find this so soon, and was amused that our conversation had fascinated Nikhil enough to look for it as well. This wasn’t the fresh but the dried ghost pepper, and the warning on the package was enough to tell us this was the right one indeed:)

We got right down to making Milagai Thokku with some serrano peppers and the ghost pepper. We used serrano only to balance the spice since one ghost pepper was said to be enough to get steam out of your ears:), but if you’re more courageous, try this chutney with thai chili peppers instead. I also think I would try to use fresh ghost pepper instead of the dry one. My only complaint with the dried pepper was that it had a slight smoky, almost chipotle pepper like taste that in my opnion, skewed the taste to a Tex-mex Milagai chutney instead:)


1/2 pound serrano chilies, finely chopped

2 dried ghost peppers, soaked in hot water for about 15 minutes

Tamarind paste – 1 tsp

Salt to taste

Sesame or til oil – 2 tbsp (you need the oil to preserve this chutney for a few days)

Mustard seeds – 1 tsp

Asafetida, crushed or powdered – 1/2 tsp


1. Grind the chopped serrano peppers, ghost pepper, tamarind and salt in a grinder to a fine paste. Make sure you don’t ad any water to this paste. The salt will help liquefy it.

2. Heat oil in a heavy bottom vessel (kadai) and when hot, add the mustard seeds and asafetida.

3. Add the ground paste and fry in the hot oil.

4. You will need to fry for about 10 minutes or so while stirring occasionally, till the oil appears around the sides of the chutney. The color of the chutney will also change from bright green to about greenish-brown.

5. Cool and transfer to an air tight vessel.

6. You can enjoy this with dosa, idli, rice or just about any Indian dish!

Indian Cooking Challenge – Gujarati Dal

I have been slacking again, and to be honest, nothing very inspiring has come along. I’ve tried a few dishes here and there over the last few weeks but didn’t have much to write home about, literally speaking. You know I’ve had that Indian Cooking Challenge badge for months now, and I’ve been following Srivalli of the Indian Cooking Challenge but never really got down to trying any of the challenges, for whatever reasons. I’m not making much sense, I know and am frankly running out of excuses too.

But I did glance at some of her past challenges and something I caught was probably inspiring enough to get me started again. I do have a weakness for Gujarati food, so the title is what got me going this time. This is about one month too late, though so I’m not submitting this post for the challenge but I did try:)

This recipe was apparently adapted from Sukham Ayu by Jigyasa Giri and Pratibha Jain.


Split red gram (Toor dal) ½ cup
Turmeric powder ½ tsp
Dry soft kokam 4-5 pieces
Hard dry dates (optional) 4, halved
Drumstick 4-5 pieces, 2 inch length
Groundnuts 1 tbsp
Green chillies 2, slit
Ginger 1 inch piece, chopped fine
Coriander powder 2 tsp
Cumin powder 1 tsp
Garam masala (refer tip, p. 49) ¼ tsp
Coriander leaves to garnish
Powdered rock salt to taste

The tempering

Butter or ghee 2 tsp
Mustard seeds ½ tsp
Fenugreek seeds ¼ tsp
Cumin seeds ½ tsp
Dry red chillies 2
Asafoetida powder ¼ tsp
Curry leaves 5-6

1. Wash and soak red gram for half an hour. Pressure-cook in 2 cups water along with turmeric to a soft consistency. Churn well.

2. Pour the churned gram into a thick bottomed pan and add all the ingredients (except garam masala, coriander leaves and tempering). Add 1 cup water and allow to simmer over low flame for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. In a wok, heat ghee for tempering. Pop the mustard and then add the fenugreek. Reduce flame and with the browning of the fenugreek, add cumin, red chillies, asafoetida powder and curry leaves.

4. Pour this tempering into the simmering dal. Allow to boil for another 5 minutes. Switch off flame and garnish with garam masala and fresh coriander leaves.

Serve with hot rice or chapathis.

I skipped the jaggery in this recipe and just used the dates. This dal is sweet so if you don’t care for the tangy sweetness you can skip the dates too.

Hot Bread Tikkas


Its Snow day #2 in Plano, TX…17F with a wind chill of minus whatever, 2 inches of ice, (ice, not snow) on the streets, rolling blackouts everywhere, frozen pipes…you’d think the world was coming to an end in Plano! Jokes aside, it has been pretty serious and I have to say I’m very thankful I’m still typing this. This means that I have power at home, heat to keep us warm, groceries to last us for at least the next day…and, internet connection.  At least for now. Thank you (silent prayer) for an uneventful day today.

You’d think that a day like this is perfect to cook and blog…only, when you have a bored 9 year old at home for 2 whole days and you have to work, its the perfect recipe for disasters, cooking or otherwise. “Amma, can you play with me?” or “Can I go outside to play by myself”…only to be back in 5 minutes with a frozen chin and a “Do we have anything to cover my chin?”  to “I’m sledding umm ice-skating outside”…aargh!! We’ve had painted t-shirts, hand made water bottle people traps (don’t ask!), catapults, paper ninjas strewn all over the house..all Nikhil’s original creations. And school just announced that they are closed again tomorrow. Help!! Who has time to cook, or blog!

But again, I’m thankful for Amma, who continues to ensure her babies (me and her grandson:) are well-fed, as she whips up the perfect antidote to a gloomy snow day…steaming hot bread tikkas! Add some chili sauce and ketchup and I’m all set for snow day #3:)


Whole wheat bread – cut into small squares – 4 slices

1 cup chickpea flour (besan)

1/2 Yellow onion chopped fine

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

1tbsp red chili powder (add more if you like it spicy)

1 tsp garam masala (available in Indian stores)

1 tbsp oil

1/2 cup water

salt to taste


Take the chickpea flour in a mixing bowl. Add about 1/2 cup water to make a smooth paste. The batter needs to be a little runny so as to coat the bread, not too watery but a slightly thicker paste, so adjust the water accordingly.

Add the onions, chili powder, salt and cilantro and mix well.

Take a bread cube, dip it in the batter so it coats the bread completely.

Heat a flat skillet and the oil, when the skillet is hot. Add the bread slices coated with the batter and shallow fry till well browned on all sides. Serve piping hot with ketchup or chili sauce.

Aviyal (Vegetable Stew in Coconut Chili Gravy)

This is one of Amma’s (my mom) famous recipes. I may have mentioned it here before, but she used to be referred to as “AP Mami” among her near and dear friends. Mami in Tamil refers to aunt and AP stood for Aviyal (vegetable stew) and Paal Payasam (a traditional Indian rice pudding or kheer). I can’t say much about the creativity of the title nor do I believe it does any justice to her incredible culinary skills, but the name stuck for a while. She became known for her Aviyal and Paal Payasam at pot lucks and other group dinners. Strangely I never really cared to learn these dishes from her growing up, and almost always took them for granted. But I never did develop a taste for Aviyal made by anyone else. And to add to this, I married a foodie, who has a similar taste (at least  with this dish, in many other cases, we are quite the opposite:), and who wouldn’t dream of having any other Aviyal but Amma’s.

Rambling aside, here’s the recipe the way Amma makes it. She refused to write it down for me so I had to watch her make it and ignore the “throw this in and add that” instructions. This is a very simple recipe and there’s just a few key things to remember as you cook this dish.

Ingredients: (to serve about 4 people)

1/4 cup beans, cut lengthwise into 1 inch pieces

1/4 cup white pumpkin cut into small quarters

5-6 drumsticks (saragava)

1/4 cup raw green plantain cut lengthwise into 1 inch pieces

1/4 cup yam cut into small quarters

1 1/2 cups grated coconut

10-12 green chilies (I use Thai green chilies, but you can use longer ones if you need to reduce the heat or deseed them)

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 cup plain lowfat yogurt, beaten

2 tbsp coconut oil

A few curry leaves


Take about 2 cups water in a saucepan, add the mixed chopped vegetables and turmeric and bring to a boil. Boil for a few minutes until cooked. Drain the water into a separate bowl and set aside. You can use this water later for the gravy if needed.

Grind the grated coconut and green chilies to a paste in a blender. You can add the vegetable water set aside (about 1/2 to 3/4 cup) to make a smooth (not too runny) paste.

Add this paste to the cooked vegetables, and add salt . Place the saucepan over a medium flame. This is the most important step to make the perfect aviyal. Make sure you are close to the stove and you are stirring frequently till the mixture comes to a light boil. Once you see the first signs of boiling, add the beaten yogurt and mix well for one more minute. Turn off the stove, add the curry leaves and the coconut oil. Enjoy with some hot white rice!

If you haven’t already noticed, Aviyal does look very similar to the vegetable stew posted earlier but is a different method. Both the dishes have their origins in Kerala though Aviyal is also a very popular dish in Tamil Nadu (states in South India). If you try both, let me know what you think of their distinct tastes.

Vella Adai (Steamed Jaggery Doughnuts)

It’s time to spring forward as daylight savings time begins! Not my favorite time of year especially when it comes to mornings. I feel like I’m always playing catch up until Fall arrives and it’s time to fall back:) I suppose that’s typical for someone like me who is more nocturnal, definitely not who you would call a “morning person”. As I write this, I can hear my 8 year old snoring as he cherishes his first day of Spring Break. Ahh, the joys of sleeping in and the joys of having a “break”.

I can’t complain though…I have had somewhat of a break since Amma and Appa have been here with me. Especially during special festive days like March 14, the day when we are supposed to observe Karadai Nombu, according to the Hindu calendar. Karadai Nombu is for the South Indian Hindus (read Tamil) what you would call “Karvaa Chauth” for North Indian Hindus (not literally, but the intent is similar)- a day when married ladies pray for the well being of their spouses.  I’ve always wondered why there wasn’t a similar day for men to honor their wives…Hallmark, are you listening?

If you’re intrigued to know more about the story behind this tradition, go here.

For the first time since I have been married, I ventured to make the “adais”. Amma has been here for the last couple of years and she usually makes it, and then there are some years where I tie the yellow thread that is customary but haven’t really gone the whole nine yards, pun intended:) In case you didn’t get that pun, the traditional way is also to wear a nine yards saree while breaking the fast, which I don’t do as well. So this year I did go all out, sort of, minus the nine yards.

Amma and I also sought the help of Viji Varadarajan, the author of “Festival Samaiyal” who has a book made for the likes of me, a glossary of all the traditional South Indian festivals, with step by step instructions on how to make the required menu for each. The recipe that follows for the Vella Adai and Uppu Adai is adapted from this book.

A quick background on Karadai Nombu (pronounced Kaa-ra-dai NO-m-bu). Also known as Savithri Nombu, this festival is celebrated in the month of Maasi (Feb-March). Sathi Savithri, the courageous woman, argues with the God of death, Yama, to free her husband, Sathyavan from the clutches of death. She eventually wins him over and her husband is brought back to life. On this day, women usually fast until the auspicious time arrives (when the Maasi month begins), and chant prayers for the longevity of their husbands. The Vella Adai (sweet steamed doughnut) and Uppu Adai (salted or savory doughnut) is usually offered with a dollop of butter. A piece of flower is tied to a yellow (sacred) thread and worn around the necks of married women (sumangalis). The area of worship is cleaned, and patterns with rice powder are drawn (kolam). Fresh plantain leaves are placed and the adais are served on these. The women eat first and break their fast followed by the rest of the household.

Ingredients for Vella Adai:

2 cups rice flour

2 tbsp Black eyed peas

2 tbsp coconut, chopped or grated

2 1/4 cups jaggery powdered

1/4 tsp cardamom

1 tbsp ghee or clarified butter

1 banana (optional)


1. Soak the black eyed peas in hot water for 20 mins. Pressure cook for one whistle or cook in a microwave on high for 2 mins.

2. Dry roast the rice flour for 8-10 minutes on a medium flame till it looks a little golden.

3. Take the powdered jaggery in a saucepan and add the 4 cups water to it. Melt the jaggery over a low flame. Strain if needed. Place it back on the stove and add the cooked beans, coconut, rice flour and cardamom powder.

4. Take off the flame and mix well to avoid lumping.

6. Return the mixture and cook for 8-10 minutes or until it starts sticking to the ladle. Switch off the stove.

7. Take lemon sized balls of this mixture, pat them in your palm to about 1 1/2 inch thick patties. You may grease your hands with a little butter if needed. You may also take a banana leaf, wet it a little and make the patties on the leaf to avoid sticking. make a hole in the center of the patty.

8. Place small pieces of banana leaves in idli moulds or in a steamer and steam for about 10-15 minutes.

9. Serve with a dollop of unsalted butter.

Uppu Adai (Salted or Savory steamed rice doughnuts)


2 cups rice flour

1 tbsp black eyed peas soaked and boiled as in the step above

2 tbsp chopped coconut

3/4 tsp salt or to taste

1 large banana leaf, cut into 3″ squares

For seasoning:

1/4 tsp mustard seeds

4-5 green chilies, chopped fine

1/2 tsp asafetida powder

a few curry leaves, chopped fine

1 1/2 tsp oil

1. As in step above, soak and boil the black eyed peas.

2. In a heavy bottomed vessel, heat the oil, add mustard seeds until they pop. Saute the chopped green chilies, add the coconut, asafetida, curry leaves, salt and cook for a few minutes.

3. Add 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Lower the flame and add the rice flour, stirring to avoid lumps.

4. Cover with a lid and simmer for about 10-15 minutes until the flour is cooked. Now add the beans and stir until it blends well. Take this off the stove.

5. Make patties as in the step above and steam them in idli moulds or in a steamer.

Bisi Bele Bhath Huli Quinoa (Spiced lentil and quinoa Gumbo)

A friend of ours recently introduced us to quinoa and all its benefits. Quinoa or KEEN-WAH as it is pronounced,  is 100% whole grain and I was excited to note that not only does it have fewer carbs than rice but is a great source of protein – 12% to 18%. To learn more about Quinoa and its benefits, go here.

We had been trying to find alternative methods to cut down rice from our diet. Brown rice, broken wheat are all great alternatives, but I find that neither has the protein content that quinoa provides. Basically, quinoa seems the closest to providing a balanced nutrition, the carbs, protein, Vit.B etc.

Of course, we tried it as an alternative to plain rice and then mixed it with plain yoghurt for the traditional South Indian staple, thayir saadhan or rather thayir quinoa! The other characteristic of quinoa that differentiates it from brown rice or broken wheat is that though there is a slight nutty flavor, you cannot taste it at all when you mix it with spices or curries. This, to me, is a perfect alternative to white rice!

Girish came up with the brilliant idea of trying bisi bele huli quinoa today for lunch and my mother got equally excited with the idea and pulled out her staple recipe for bisi bele huli bhaath. She and I got busy making it and I have to say it was awesome. So if you truly want to try this with rice, the recipe is just the same, only replace the quinoa with cooked rice.


Boiled Toor Dal (yellow pigeon peas)  – 1 cup

Cooked quinoa – 1 cup (1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water in a pressure cooker, or a rice cooker)

Madras Sambar Powder – 2 1/2 tsp (you can use the MTR brand)

Turmeric – 1 tsp

Tamarind – lemon size soaked in water and made into a paste

Beans – 1/2 cup julienne sliced

Carrots – 2 julienne sliced

Peas – 1/2 cup

Cauliflower – florets 1/2 cup

Masala – to be ground into a paste

Onions – 2

Garlic – 8 pods (optional, if you dont like the smell of garlic, you can skip)

Red chilies – 8-10

Ginger – 2 inches

Khus Khus – 2 tbsp (poppy seeds)

Cloves – 4

Cardamom – 2

Dalchini (Cinnamon sticks) – 2

Grated coconut – 1/2 cup

Oil – 1/2 cup

Garnishing: cilantro – 1/2 cup, cashew pieces – 1/2 cup, mustard seeds – 1 tsp, curry leaves – a bunch, red chilies – 2


1. Take 2 tsp of oil in a heavy bottomed pan, add all the ingredients for the masala and fry lightly for about 5 minutes.

2. Add the turmeric powder and fry again for 2 more minutes. Allow to cool.

3. Put all the ingredients in the pan, add the tamarind and the tomatoes and grind to a smooth paste. Keep this aside.

4. Now take the same kadai, add the remaining oil and lightly fry the vegetables for about 5 minutes.

5. Add the ground paste and continue to fry until the oil separates, for about 10 minutes. Then add the sambar powder.

6. Now add the boiled and mashed toor dal, add about a cup of water and leave it to boil, for about 5-7 minutes. Add salt to taste.

7. Now add the cooked quinoa to the above mixture, and mix well. Cook a little more for about 5 minutes until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.

8. In a separate pan, add a little oil, about 1 tsp. When the oil gets hot, add the mustard seeds and fry till they crackle. Now add the curry leaves and the red chilies. Add cashews and fry till they brown a little.

Add this to the bisi bele huli quinoa. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve hot.


Submitting this post to Cooking with Seeds event devised by Priya’s Versatile Recipes.

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