Sunday, March 16, 2008

Rasam – Light Soup

Ideal when cold/coughs come visiting.

At least that is what my husband's parents vouched when we started making Rasam. Something both my husband and I are not very fond of. But a traditional recipe has its own charm esp when you live away from tradition. So it is that I ended up helping my MIL (henceforth to be referred as HMom for husband's mom) with a wish for some Rasam. Her recipes always have savory flavors. I am not sure how it got its name. If anyone knows, please don't hesitate to tell it here. I know it literally means 'fun' but memory defies this meaning when I try to remember the few times I tried to taste at friends' homes. There must be some other reason why it got its rather endearing name.

In The Mix

to grind:

freshly ground pepper - 1/2 tsp

garlic pods – 2 or 3 pods

ginger – ¾” piece

asafoetida (kaayam) - ¼ tsp

methi (uluva) - ½ tsp

cumin powder - ½ tsp

small onion – 1 can be substituted with ¼ to ½ of a shallot

coriander powder – 1tsp

chili powder – 1 tsp

turmeric - ¼ to ½ tsp

for the rest:

salt to taste

water – 4 cups

tomato – 1 chopped

tamarind paste – 1 ½ tsp

dry red chili – 2 or 3 torn into 2 or 3 pieces

methi - ¼ tsp

mustard - ¼ tsp

oil - ½ tbsp

coriander leaves (malli ila) - chopped

How To Do

Grind all the ingredients of 'to grind' mixed in ample water. Salt may be added at this time or later.

Break mustards in heated oil in a cooking pan and saute methi & dry red chilies. Now add the ground mix to this and saute mildly. Add 4 cups of water and let it boil. Add tamarind and tomatoes and boil. Tomato doesn't have to be fully cooked. Check for salt, boil for 3-4 minutes and remove from heat. Use hot with rice and papad. Add a sprinkle of chopped coriander leaves on top.

Can add one more tomato if tamarind is in short supply.

Good for a troubled tummy as well as during cough/cold. This is said to have a purifying effect on the respiratory tract as well as some taste to the tongue. Can also be had as a an energy drink:-) One can't ask more from such a quick and simple preparation I'd say!!

Note: Found this while searching for the meaning of Rasam in yahoo.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Idli and Dosa

Once kids arrived on the scene, came the need to feed them good nutritional food aka real food. I inquired long and short and one common answer was “but of course, we give them idli”. Being an idliless household till then, my first answer to this was Gits instant dosa powder which agreed very well with my son who loves anything sour like the dosa. It also agreed with me in terms of the time and effort required But then I was turned onto aspects of having healthy food in our lives and people indicated that instant dosa powder is not the best option esp for a child. So now what? Full fledged batter it is. Thus started my journey to make idli/dosa batter from scratch. I tried many combinations and finally settled on the following:

In The Mix

Urad Dal – 1 cup

Cream of Rice – 2 cups

Cooked Rice – 1 1/2 heaped tbsp

How To Do

Soak urad dal in hot water to begin with for 5-6 hours and puree well in mixer for about 4-5 minutes. Add the cooked rice to the blender while mixing. Once over add the cream of rice and mix all together. Keep overnight to ferment in a warm place. Our oven light gives enough warmth for fermentation and so I keep it in there. Once the sour (mouthwatering for some) smell of the fermented batter permeates the air, it is time to get to action. First step is to add salt to taste to the batter which I used to forget a lot! Now grease idli pans with oil and pour the batter to level.

For lack of a proper Idli steamer, I steam the idlis using a regular large pot improvised for my needs. I have a small steamer plate that came with some other kitchen utensil that helps keep the bottom of the idli pans/thattu above water level. Add a glass of water and place the idli thattu into the pot. Close the lid and steam cook for about 20 min at high heat.

Cool for a few minutes before getting the delectable idlis out. My daughter gobbles up quite a few to my immense delight. A first set with sugar and a second set with chutney!!

My son finishes at a more sedate pace being older and all.

To make dosas I use the same batter except for spreading it onto a heated flat pan instead of steaming. The pan must have some oil/pam sprayed before the batter hits it and drops of oil can be placed on top depending on your preference for it. No one can make a proper dosa like my MIL and this has been certified my son who surprisingly is a dosa connoisseur.... She makes the most thinly spread and crunchy dosa that he prefers so. Thank God for grandparents!

The batter can be kept in the fridge with no loss of taste for as much as a week and might even be a better option for a properly sour dosa taste. Breakfast items can always get me going. I hope to immortalize my masala dosa here later on:-)

To reheat the idlis: Wet a paper towel to damp and cover the idlis in it and heat in the microwave for 30-40 seconds. Let it sit in its own steam for a few minutes and the idli tastes as fresh as new.

For softer fluffier idlis:
HMom Tips: Use Idli rice instead of cream of rice and double the grinding time and quadruple the amount of cooked rice. I rather like the texture of the idly as it is in the above picture, but the one time I made it with idli rice, more cooked rice and more grinding time the idlis were fluffier and almost melted in one's mouth so it is definitely worth the effort if you like your idli to be that soft.

Added on September 20, 2009:
I had an Osterizer blender that I used for almost 9 years. When it finally died, we bought a Cuisinart blender with ice crusher and to my utter dismay it gave up in months. Not giving up on the brand we bought a similar model which again died too soon. Finally I decided it is time that we go for an actual grinder which is made for the exact purpose that we subject it to namely grinding urad dal and rice. I did a small research in this regard and was amazed to find the array of table top grinders available. Based on the many reviews we went for the Ultra Pride 1.25litre grinder. Luckily they had a local dealer and got the grinder last week. The grinding is done by stone parts and needless to say I am excited with the results. Couldn't help add this info here for someone else looking for a good grinder available in the US. The 2 litre version (Ultra Grind) is too large for a small family like ours. Pride is the right size and fits nicely on the table. The motor sound is a 100 times better than the blender and it is a pleasure to see the batter moving between the black grinding stones as of old. We had a Dosa festival this weekend with the never ending batter. The feel and look of the batter itself is of higher quality. Is it just my imagination or is it true that the same measures of material yielded more than the normal quantity? Anyway go for this Grinder and you will not regret it. Their service warranty seems good among other things. It took me about 15-20 minutes to grind 2:1 (3) cups of rice:urad with water. Make sure that a cup of water is the first thing that gets added and you will be fine from then on.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Chutney for Tapioca (Kappa) & Yams (Kachil)

We were making Chendan Kappa for a quick meal as we had some leftover fish curry and had some Kappa from a recent trip to the Chinese store. Then it occurred to me that it won’t be a bad idea to make some fresh chutney to go with it. So off I go in search of the easiest of chutneys that can be made. Mrs. KMM as always to the rescue! Here is the adapted recipe.

In The Mix:
Shredded dry coconut – ¾ cup
Green chilies – 2 or 3 sliced
Salt to taste
Shallots – 3 pods
Curry leaves (optional) -1 sprig
Yogurt – ¾ cup

How To Do:
Blend all the items except curry leaves and yogurt in a blender.
Add the yogurt and curry leaves. I didn’t add the leaves and still tasted great.
Keep chilled and enjoy with Kappa. Number of chilies and sourness of yogurt can be varied as desired.

Chutney turned out to be extremely tasty and went more than the fish curry!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Chendamuriyan Kappa - Drum Cut Tapioca

This is not the usual Tapioca preparation– kappa puzhukku- but the chendan version. Chenda means drum and so as the name implies tapioca is cut into drum shaped pieces after peeling. Best eaten with spicy hot red fish curry. Follows the same principle of taste where we prefer the plain rice over fried rice when ordering Red Curry in a Thai place. The heavenly taste of the plain Kappa is accentuated by the spicy fish curry. It is also good to eat with chutney.

For the Tapioca

Peeled Tapioca cut into drum shaped cylinders – from 2 or 3 logs
Salt to taste and water to cook.

Submerge the washed and cut tapioca drums in water. Add salt and let the water boil for a minute before turning to low heat to cover and cook. It takes about 15-20 minutes. Check if cooked well by trying to break up the drum pieces. If they break up easily and are soft then it is done. Drain well. We don’t want it to overcook as this one is not going to be mashed up. Besides, the pieces need some hardiness to hold in your hands and dip with gusto into the fish curry for proper savoring :-)