Roz Ka Khana

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

Archive for the category “Sumathi’s Medley”

Black-Eyed Beans (Lobhia) with Tomatoes


This recipe has universal appeal because it blends techniques and tastes that are popular across cuisines. The dish pairs as well with a crusty batard or flat bread as with steamed rice and because it uses so few ingredients, is a breeze to put together.

The only mildly challenging part is cooking the dried black-eyed beans, or lobhia as they are called in Hindi. You’ll have to soak the beans in water first and allow for some generous cooking time. Of course, you could always use canned black-eyed beans, in which case this will be ready in a jiffy.

The dish improves with keeping so it’s a perfect make-ahead if you’re planning to entertain.

You could serve it on its own with tortillas and french bread or you could add some cheese and pop it under a hot grill before bringing it to the table. Alternately, top the dish with some roasted bell peppers or lightly sautéed strips of capsicum.


Serves 2-3

  • 1 cup dried black eyed beans or two 410g (14 oz) cans of cooked beans
  • Onion – 2 medium, finely chopped
  • Tomato – 4 medium, skinned and finely chopped, or a can of peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • Garlic – 4-5 cloves, finely minced
  • Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
  • Chilli powder or minced fresh green chillies (optional, to taste)
  • Garam masala – ½ tsp (optional)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt as needed
  • Butter (optional)


  • Soak the beans in water for about four hours.
  • Rinse, cover with plenty of water, and bring to a boil. Lower the flame and let the beans cook, stirring occasionally and adding more water so that there is always an inch of liquid above the beans. This could take about an hour and a half or slightly longer. Alternately, if you have a pressure cooker, cook the beans for about 10 minutes under pressure. Do not discard any excess water. If you are using canned beans, rinse thoroughly under running water and drain.
  • Mash a few cooked beans to thicken the gravy.
  • Heat the olive oil in a wok or pan and when hot add the cumin seeds and let them sizzle for a second or two.
  • Add the finely minced garlic cloves and fry for a few seconds.
  • Add the onion and fry on medium heat for about five minutes until they start to change color.
  • Add the fresh or canned chopped tomatoes and fry until the moisture evaporates and the mixture is homogenous.
  • Add the chilli powder and garam masala, if using, and fry for a few seconds.
  • Add the cooked beans, salt and some water if necessary, cook for about 10-15 minutes until the mixture thickens.
  • Add pats of butter and serve.



Pulut Hitam – Sticky Black Rice Pudding

Desserts made with sticky black rice are a specialty of Southeast Asia. This unpolished, short-grain rice is often labeled as glutinous rice, a reference to its consistency when cooked and not to its gluten content. The color isn’t black either, which becomes obvious when you start to wash it. The grains stain the water a deep wine and turn purplish when cooked.

It wasn’t until I started researching black rice that I discovered its health benefits. The pigment comes from anthocyanins, antioxidants found also in purple vegetables and fruits such as beetroot, blackberries, and mangosteen. Besides fiber, black rice is also rich in iron.

I first tasted sweetened black rice as a filling in a dumpling. However, a more popular black rice dessert, especially in Malaysia and Singapore, is pulut hitam (Malay for black glutinous rice), a mélange of the grain, coconut milk, and palm sugar.

This is not your traditional, mushy rice pudding. Black rice is far more assertive – it has a nutty flavor and retains some bite when cooked as the husks are still intact. This also means it requires more water and takes much longer to cook than its polished white counterpart so a bit of planning is necessary. But once you’re done with that stage, the dish requires very little effort.

The other nice thing about pulut hitam is that it allows you to experiment. You can use virtually any type of sugar. I have used the Indian jaggery and brown sugar with equal success. Pandan leaf (screwpine leaf) is the traditional flavoring ingredient but you can add cardamom pods or vanilla. You can also substitute the coconut milk with pouring or whipped cream, fruit puree, or even custard. The dessert pairs well with many fruits. Try mango or banana slices, or lychee for an exotic twist.


  • 200 g black glutinous rice
  • 200 g palm sugar (gula melaka) or jaggery (unrefined cane sugar), or brown sugar to taste
  • 6-8 cups water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 150 ml coconut milk



  • Two pandan leaves or three cardamom pods, skinned and crushed
  • Coconut cream and fruits to serve



1. Toast the rice in a frying pan or low oven to bring out the aroma. Wash and soak it for a couple of hours.

2. If you’re cooking the rice on an open fire, cover it with water and bring it to the boil. Add the pandan leaves, turn the heat to low and cook, stirring every now and then and adding more water as necessary until the grains are soft. The process may take 1.5-2 hours. Alternatively, you can use a slow cooker or a pressure cooker, if you have one. I usually let the rice cook overnight in a slow cooker. If you’re using a pressure cooker, allow about 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, boil 100 ml water and dissolve the palm sugar or jaggery and a pinch of salt until syrupy. Add the crushed cardamom pods, if using.

4. Stir the syrup into the rice.

4. Add the coconut milk.

5. Swirl some coconut cream on top and serve.



Sumathi’s Medley – Easy Gulab Jamuns


I was introduced to this recipe more than 30 years ago by some good friends in Lagos, Nigeria. These ladies were not only formidable cooks, they were also masters of substitution – they had to be since dinner parties were the chief mode of entertainment and while the markets had plenty of locally grown vegetables and fruit, food stores were rare and supplies, basic. In the eight years we lived in Lagos, I don’t think I ever saw a packet of potato chips. If you craved chips, of any kind, you made your own.

From the vantage point of today, it seems we had an amazingly healthy – and sustainable – diet but back then the difficulty in finding many common food items only increased the determination to find a way to recreate the dishes we could no longer get so easily. I learned many tips, tricks, and shortcuts during those years – my friends were generous with their knowledge and enormously patient – but if I had to pick the one recipe that has worked every time and everywhere, it would have to be the gulab jamun. The traditional way of making these spongy, syrup-soaked balls of fried dough is daunting what with first having to boil milk down to its solid form (khoya).

There is a reason why I call these “easy”. Here, milk powder replaces the milk solids. Give this recipe a try and you’ll be amazed at how incredibly simple the process is – you need no more than 30-40 minutes from start to finish. Do watch the frying though – the oil shouldn’t be too hot or the jamuns won’t cook inside.

The end product is lighter than the traditional jamun but tastes just as good.

Serve the jamuns warm. If you’re not fussed about the calories, add a scoop of ice cream!

Makes 8-10
2 cups sugar
2 ½ cups water
Crushed cardamom seeds (optional)
A pinch of saffron, soaked in a tablespoon of warm water (optional)

8 tablespoons full-fat milk powder
3 tablespoons self raising flour
¼ tsp baking soda
2-3 tbsps plain yogurt or full-fat milk
1-2 tsps butter or oil or ghee

1. Boil sugar and water until the mixture reduces a bit and the colour deepens to a pale caramel.
2. Add the crushed cardamom pods and saffron mix, if using.
3. Take the syrup off the flame but make sure it is warm when you add the fried balls to it.
4. Sieve the milk powder, self-raising flour, and baking soda.
5. Add the butter and then the yoghurt, a little at a time, and work the mixture with your hands until it forms a ball. Don’t overmix or you’ll end up with tough jamuns.
6. Heat the oil. If it starts to smoke, switch off the fire to let the temperature drop a bit – the oil should be hot enough so that a piece of bread rises to the top but not so hot that it browns immediately.
7. Break off small lime-sized pieces of dough and roll each between your hands to a smooth, crack-free ball. If the dough feels a bit dry, moisten your hands with some milk before rolling the balls.
8. Drop the balls in the oil. Turn them often so that they brown evenly.
9. Drain the balls and add them to the warm syrup. Wait for an hour or more for the balls to absorb the syrup and swell.

A different curry – Mango Pulissery

This is a different curry for sure but there’s more to this post than the food. Roz Ka Khana has a new contributor – that’s what’s refreshingly different. Introducing Sumathi Vaidyanathan – a veteran journalist and editor who’s worked for some high profile publications and most importantly an amazing cook. Years of travel and experiments with various global cuisines have led to some choice creations in her kitchen, and I have been lucky to taste many of them. Did I mention she also happens to be my aunt?

RKK presents “Sumathi’s Medley”, a special collection of recipes chosen, created and written by Sumathi. Here’s the first from her collection – Mango Pullisery.


It’s the tail end of the South Asian mango season and I’m loading up on the fruit, using it every way I know how.

And so the other day I ended up making a pulissery, a sweet, hot, sour concoction that I first tasted as a young girl in India, at the home of a friend from Kerala.

“Puli” is sour in Malayalam and pulissery loosely translates as “sour curry.”

Pulissery can also be made with ripe plantains and pineapple but in my view, ripe mangoes are the best.  Their velvety sweetness coated in a tangy yoghurt sauce flecked with chilli and coconut is bliss on the tongue.

You can use any firm fleshed mango to make this dish. In Kerala, the mango of choice is the Chandrakaran. A friend of mine prefers to use the smallest mangoes she can find – she peels the fruit and cooks it whole, seed and all. The end result is delicious but only if you are used to eating the mango South Asian style, with your hands.  If this is asking too much of your family and/or your guests, go the genteel way and cube the mangoes.

I used the Chaunsa and the Anwar Ratol from Pakistan, which shows up in the Singapore markets in the latter half of July. I love the Anwar Ratol; it is one of my favourites along with the Alphonso but the flesh does tend to be a bit spongy so if you’re cooking with it, expect the pieces to lose some of their shape.

The traditional pulissery is a hearty dish with lots of coconut and is meant to be eaten with rice. The version below is lighter and is a good addition to a buffet spread. I like to serve it in small individual bowls so it is easier to eat on its own.

Mango Pulissery


Serves 4 to 6


2 ripe mangoes

A pinch of turmeric powder

½-1 tsp salt

3 green chillies

4-5 tbsps plain sour yogurt

1 tablespoon grated coconut

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

For tempering

1 tbsp oil

1 tsp mustard seeds

3 red chillies

3-4 curry leaves



Wash, peel, and cube the mangoes.  You should end up with about a cup of cubed mangoes.


Soak the mango seeds and skin in a cup of hot water for about 10 minutes. Use your hands to strip the flesh off both until seeds and skin are clean and discard them.  If you have a lot of mango fibers in the water, run the liquid through a blender or strain it.

Put the mango cubes and water in a saucepan with the salt, green chillies, and turmeric. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes until the mango pieces are just soft. If the mango isn’t sweet enough, add a teaspoon or two of sugar.

Make a paste of the green chillies, coconut, and cumin seeds in a blender or in a mortar and pestle.

Whisk the yoghurt until it is smooth and add the paste to it. Mix thoroughly.


Add the yoghurt-coconut mixture to the mangoes in the saucepan, stirring constantly. It is important to lower the flame while you do this so that the yoghurt does not curdle. Bring the curry to a near boil and switch off the flame.

Heat the oil to smoking point in a small frying pan. Add the mustard seeds and allow them to pop.
Add the dry red chillies and the curry leaves and switch off the flame.
Pour the oil mixture on top of the curry and serve.




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