Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wheat rava idly from Vcuisine

I was familiar with rava idly but not out of wheat rava. When I saw Viji akka's post on Wheat rava idly, I decided the menu for Sunday breakfast. Usually, Sunday breakfast is puttu/kadala. If for some reasons, I am not making it, then the other option is gothumba rava upuma. So, the same ingredients ( i also add veggies to the upma ), but cooked differently. The addition of crushed pepper corns gives a nice flavor to the idlis. Needless to say, all liked this idli version. I followed Viji akka's recipe to the T except one substituion.I am giving the recipe for the benefit of non-readers of Vcuisine (since it is private) and also for my future referance.

For the batter

Slightly roasted wheat rava (Godumbai Rava) - 2 cups
Urad dal powder - 2 tblspn
Water - 1 1/2 cups
Baking soda - 1/2 tspn

If you don't have urad dal powder handy, soak 2 tblspn of dal for 30 minutes or so and grind to a smooth paste. Mix urad dal powder in 1/2 cup water without forming any lumps. Add the remaining water and stir in the wheat rava and salt. Mix well and ferment it for 6 hrs or leave it overnight.


oil+ghee - 2 tbspn

grated ginger - 1 tspn

hing powder - 1/2 tspn

coarsely crusheed pepper corns and jeera - 1 tspn

curry leaves

Veggies that can be used - Peas (fresh ones tastes good), diced carrot, capsicum, fresh maize. I used only fresh peas and carrot.

Before preparing the idlis, do the seasoning.

Take a skillet and add oil+ghee. Add the seasoning as given. Finally add the chopped veggies and cook for a minute.

Stir the seasoned veggies to the idli batter. Add 1/2 tspn of baking soda to the batter. (The original recipe says Eno fruit salt)

Spoon the batter into greased idli moulds. Steam cook for 10-15 mts. Serve with any chutney of your choice.

Tomato Ginger Thokku

I adapted tomato ginger thokku also from Viji akka's recipe. Since I was lazy to extract the juice from ginger, I grinded blanched tomatoes along with chopped ginger and proceeded with her recipe

Take a skillet and do the seasoning. Add sesame oil. Add mustard , curry leaves, hing powder. Add the tomato-ginger puree and cook for 3 minutes. Then add the spices - 1/2 tspn of red chilly powder, fenugreek and mustard powder each. Continue cooking till oil starts floating. Yes its really an easy spicy thokku.

Curd Rice or Bagala Bath

Nothing is as comforting and filling as curd rice. When I was in chennai, I used to go to "Grands Sweets"(famous sweets stall in chennai) just to have curd rice(they used to give everyone for free as a sample). It was so delicious that I wanted to make it just like they did. I have heard that their secret ingredient is - butter. Yes they add butter and mix it with rice, yogurt and other flavour enhancing ingredients like grated ginger, greenchllies, hing, curry leaves, grated cucumber and coriander leaves. Once in a while you can enjoy this meal without any feeling of guilt!


Cook one cup of rice and add a table spoon of butter while mixing yogurt and other ingredients.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Five Stages of Kitchen Product Purchasing

Back in the Fall of 2007 I read an article about the Five Stages of Kitchen Remodeling, part of a larger report, called Homesight 2007, by Oregon-based CNW Research, in NKBA's Profiles Magazine. This study is not public, but commissioned by Meredith Publishing (BH&G).

CNW conducts exhaustive market research into consumer spending and Homesight 2007 is all about consumer spending in the area of residential remodeling. Their study is based on over 3 million remodeling projects and over one million respondents.

The article, from "THE CONSUMER SHOPPING EXPERIENCE" was written by Tom Troland, Meredith Research Solutions; and Art Spinella, CNW Research.

I scanned it at the time with interest as blogfodder and am finally getting back to commenting on the study results.

Unfortunately Profiles Magazine does not have an online version; so this is going to involve LOTS of typing (sigh). I will condense and paraphrase as best I can.

A. There is a PROCESS to decisionmaking about all home improvement projects. The process is the same regardless of the size of the project.

B. Women regard kitchen remodels as the PREMIER project they can undertake in their homes (Men go for entertainment spaces and finished basements).

C. Women take responsibility for most decisionmaking for a kitchen remodel.

D. The process of product selection is a learning curve. Decisionmaking is more VOLATILE in a kitchen remodel than in any other room in the house, with consumers changing their minds many times as they get educated in the process.

E. The average duration of a kitchen remodel, from first inkling to completion is two years...many take longer. (I just got an email from Edie in San Francisco, who has been planning for eight years).

F. Kitchen remodeling consumers are most influenced in their decisions by retailers.

G. "Empty Nesters" and "Mature Families" are most likely to undertake a kitchen remodel.

H. Shoppers should be aware of the "status quotient" that different brands project and how they affect their decisions.

I. The difference between estimated budget and what is spent is +13-14%, regardless of project size.



Projects often start small and escalate. A need for a new major appliance,
for instance, can precipitate a kitchen remodel if other conditions are right.

Wish List created.

Magazines are the major resource for ideas.

More than 50% create a project folder at this stage.

19 project categories and 52 brands considered.


More product categories, but brands are narrowed.


In this stage products expand to 28 and brands to 75!

Frenetic shopping!

Learning - seeking advice.

The tipping point.

Brands still on the wish list have a good chance of being purchased.
Brands already dropped have little chance.


25 products, 35 brands (almost 1 for 1)

choices and focus narrowing.

Criteria are set.

"Style" for overall project is set.
No longer open to change.
Salespeople who "won't listen" risk losing the sale.


19 products, 21 brands.

Store visits.

Can wish list meet budget goals?

Does delivery time impact the choices?

Should project be postponed or delayed?

Even at this late stage in the game,
fully 1/3 of all home remodeling
projects will be delayed up to five years.
Of those delayed,
17% will never be completed in full.

So. This is what is known about the "process" and selling to the kitchen remodeling products consumer. If you are reading this on my blog, this probably means YOU.

Now you know why magazines focusing on kitchen remodeling are all women-centric;>D

It's interesting to me that the only mention of DESIGN is Stage 4: Design & Style Comparisons. I don't think Design in that sense means spaceplanning and design, so I'm really not quite sure where such an all-important part of the "process" gets done???

My advice: Do the spaceplanning and design first and save yourself a lot of headaches. Most of the above frenetic running around and getting educated is really moot when you are working with an experienced designer who can guide you, partner with you and help you achieve your budget.


Monday, January 28, 2008

Onion Rava upma

Making perfect upma can be tricky. Tips to make upma:
1. Ratio of water and rava should be exactly 2 : 1.
2. Be generous with the oil. Adding more oil makes it tastier obviously. For 1 cup of rava add 2 tbsp of oil.
3. Make sure you fry rava well on very low flame till it gives a nice aroma.
4. Add boiling water to roasted rava. Do not add warm water.

Thai Velli Kolam (of 25th Jan)

As I had mentioned in the earlier post on pongal, these are the set of kolams, drawn for the friday,25th Jan. I had drawn few more,but failed to take the snaps.

Morappam/Kuzhi paniyaram

Morappam is a favourite evening tiffin. Me and my sister ask Amma to prepare this on Sundays when we watch movies. Perfect evening snack. Those days, as kids, we never bothered about it being drenched in oil. But things have changed now. I have bought a non-stick appam pan specially for making oil-less(not oil-free !!!) morappams. With non-stick pans, the oil used will be somewhat equal to what is required in preparing a dosa. Thats manageable. So here goes the recipe.

Idly/Dosa batter - 1 cup
Medium sized onion - 1 no


Mustard seeds - 1 tspn

Chana dal - 1 tspn

Finely chopped green chilly - 2 nos

Curd chilly - 2 nos

Curry leaves - few

Hing powder - 1/4 tspn.

Heat oil in a skillet. Do the seasoning as given and add to the batter.

Stir in the finely chopped onions. Add salt. Mix well.

Adjust the consistency by adding water, so that it is thinner than dosa batter.

Fill the non-stick appam pits each with 1/2 tspn of oil. Pour spoonfuls of the batter into each pit. It will take two minutes to cook one side.

Flip the morappams upside down. Cook the other side also.

Since it is spicy on its own, serve them with a mug of steaming hot coffe/tea. If desired can serve with any chutney of your choice.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Mixed Vegetables

You can throw in any vegetables you have. The main secret ingredient for a tasty curry is - Badshah kitchen king masala. It gives a unique taste and goes well with any north indian side dish.

Simple Vegetable pulav

1. Heat oil -3 to 4 tblsp (more the better :)).
2. Fry cloves(4-5), cinnamon(2 sticks), bay leaf, star anisee(1-2), elaichi (2).
3. Add chopped onions and green chillies. Fry for 2-3 minutes.
4. Add chopped carrots, potatoes, capsicum, peas, salt and fry for 5 minutes.
5. It should not be fully cooked.
6. Soak a cup of basmathi rice for 15 minutes. Rinse, then add these fried veges to the rice and cook it in the rice cooker.
7. Garnish with coriander leaves. Adding fried bread pieces is optional.

Tomato Dosai


Raw rice - ½ cup
Boiled rice - ½ cup
Urad dhal - 4 tsp
3 medium sized tomatoes
Red chillies -3
Hing - 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste


1. Soak rice & dhal for 2-3 hrs.
2. Drain. Add chopped tomatoes, red chillies and grind to a smooth paste without adding water.
3. Do not add water.
4. Add salt & hing.
5. Rest for 4-5 hrs & make dosas, the usual way.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Comment On Arrol Gellner's Appliance Advice

Bay Area architect and author Arrol Gellner is one of my idols.

His syndicated column, Architext, appears in the San Francisco Chronicle and I always read it eagerly for Arrol's insights into design and architecture, building and remodeling.

In today's column, Save money on a remodel by planning for later upgrades - Part 2, he wrote:

"since the dimensions of built-in appliances are standardized, the old units can be easily removed and replaced with fancier stuff when money becomes available."

Dear Mr Gellner,
I have enjoyed your architectural columns in the Chronicle for years and highly respect your abilities, knowledge and talents.
However, I must call you on a teensy error in your otherwise wonderful column of January 26, 2008.

While I agree with all of your ideas for lowering costs in new construction and remodeling by buying modestly priced replaceable products and then changing them out down the road; you have given readers the wrong impression about "the dimensions of built-in appliances" being "standardized".

Would that such were so.
Every kitchen designer would leap for JOY at the thought!

This issue probably causes more costly problems, mistakes and delays than any other potential problem area in building and remodeling residential kitchens.

In fact, kitchen appliance cutout sizes vary all over the map.
The only place you are likely to find consistency is with the same manufacturer in the same year. And every manufacturer reserves the right to make changes within a model year, so we have to constantly be on our guard against such changes.

Here are the current cutout sizes for two commonly specified 27" built-in single ovens from KitchenAid and GE:



Single Oven Installed in Cabinet
A. 27" min. cabinet width
B. 1" top of cutout to bottom of upper cabinet door
C. 32" bottom of cutout to floor
D. 25-1/2" cutout width
E. 1-1/2" min. bottom of cutout to top of cabinet door
F. 27-3/4" cutout height
A. 23-1/4" min. cutout depth
B. 23" recessed oven depth


Single Oven Wall-Mount or Cabinet Installation (in inches)
27" recommended cabinet width
Opening width 25" min. - 25-1/4" max
Opening height 27-5/8" min. - 28-1/8" max.
Minimum cabinet depth 23-5/8"
Recommended cutout location 32-1/2" from floor
Allow 3/4" for overlap over all edges of cutout.

Here is a Dacor Oven:

Cabinet Width 27”
Cutout Width 25 1/2”
Cutout Height 27 3/8”
Oven overlays 3/4” Each Side; 1/2” Top; 1/6" Bottom.
24” minimum interior cabinet depth.
Back of cabinet may need to be removed.
1/8” minimum clearance from appliance to adjacent cabinet doors/drawers.

Close, but no cigar. In fact, these three ovens are not swappable without alterations to the cabinets into which they are recessed. And, if clearances to doors are taken into account as well, they might not even safely fit WITH alterations.

Our clients, the consumers, don't help much either: they think they can change their minds on their appliances with impunity.

These issues constantly pose threats to the solvency and profitability of kitchen cabinet dealers and designers, since errors and delays are the bane of our existence, and very costly to boot.

Every time a client changes their choice of appliances after the design and drawings and specifications have been completed, there are myriad places in drawings and cabinet orders that have to be changed as a result. And all such changes have to be assessed for their impact on the overall design and fit of the rest of the products in the kitchen.

I have a caveat engraved on every set of appliance specifications I create that says:


Such warnings are common on architectural plans the world over.
But when the designer is ordering and furnishing many thousands of dollars worth of cabinetry specially built to fit built-in appliances, the words take on special meaning.

Thank you for your great work and wisdom...and Architext!

Peggy Deras, CKD, CID

Dear Peggy:

Good call on pointing out that not all appliance sizes are
standardized. I was thinking more of push-in appliances such as
dishwashers, ranges, compactors and refrigerators and less about
appliances such as wall ovens and cooktops that require cutouts.
You're quite right to complain that the latter are "all over the
map", and this has caused me some grief in the past as well. Maybe
someday all of these will be as easily exchanged as a dishwasher is.

Keep up the good work on the blog, and thanks for taking time to write.


Arrol Gellner

Friday, January 25, 2008

Noi arisi pongal (Puli Pongal)

Noi arisi is nothing but broken rice, the rice used to make kanji. This pongal is rice cooked in tamarind water. It is a one pot dish. This is my Dad's faviourite. M paatti (maternal grandma) cooks this best. Even when my Mom cooks, it cannot match my paati's. Its probably because, paati always cooked on stovetop, unlike my Mom/self who takes the easiest route - pressure cooking.

You get broken rice , specially marked for Kanji. If you are unable to get it, grind the rice in mixie. Make sure it is just broken and not powdered.

Let me get into the procedure now.
Things needed

Broken rice - 1 cup
Tamarind - small lemon size

Turmeric - 1/4 tspn

Water - 2 cups
Salt to taste

Sesame oil - 1 tblspn
mustard - 1 tspn
chana dal - 1 tspn
red chilly - 3 nos
curd chilly - 3 nos (add more if you like it)
curry leaves - few
Hing powder - 1/2 tspn

Soak the tamrind in water. Extract the tamarind juice and add water to it so that tamarind plus water will be 2 1/2 cups.

Take the pressure cooker. Add oil and do the seasoning with mustard seeds, chana dal, red chilly and curd chilly broken, curry leaves and hing powder.

Add the tamrind water and turmeric.
Stir in the washed rice and salt.
Mix well. Pressure cook for 3 whistles.

Open it after 20 minutes. Yummy puli pongal will be ready. You can serve with papad or any vadams.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

More On Green Cabinetry

Laurie Burke, over at Kitchen Design Notes, has a great post today called "Not All Green Products Are Alike".

She details how some kitchen and bath products manufacturers are "greenwashing" their products in their advertising.

Suddenly! EVERYTHING is green!

I think we can all see that this is so. And I think it is a positive trend, even though the products may not be all the advertising says they are...right now.

This just means you have to be careful about what you believe and what you buy, if you are really serious about buying green.

But, really, that's nothing new. Is it? Today's shoppers have this wonderful World Wide Web at their disposal to research and learn all about products: The good, the bad. the UGLY, the lies, and the truths. If you can't get the truth from the makers, you can sure hear it from the users. Even concerted efforts to plant green stories can not silence detractors on the Web.

A while back I blogged here about Crystal Cabinet Works' efforts toward sustainability in their manufacturing processes: Green Cabinets by Crystal.

The thing that impresses me so about their effort is that they began it back in the early to mid 1990's. And it was not greenwashing either. They did it for the health of their employees, who were exposed to "all that stuff" day in and day out. They also did it for their surrounding community, in Princeton Minnesota, and their state, which was asking businesses to clean up the environment for residents and workers.

So, while their Green-Core cabinets are at the cutting edge of green cabinetry in the U.S., their catalyzed varnish finishes have been water-based for years and thus healthier for their employees and the people who buy their products...Green-Core or not! And their particle board, plywood and MDF, are also low-VOC and low-formaldehyde for the same reasons. In fact, every component of their manufacturing process, from the lighting to hybrid vehicles driven by employees and scrap wood used for plant heating, has been examined to make it the best possible choice for a healthy environment.

Another company that has been doing green cabinetry for a lot longer than it has been "fashionable" is Neil Kelly Cabinets, up in Portland Oregon. They were the first company in the U.S., to my knowledge, to make a green cabinet box.

Neil Kelly has a responsibility to continuously improve our products and processes as we work toward the goal of becoming a sustainable company. We will make our business decisions taking the environment, product quality, service quality, and profitability into account. We will continue to educate ourselves as new information and technology become available. We will partner with our suppliers and trade-contractors to share information and resources toward this goal. We will work to make our industry more sustainable as we work to make ourselves more sustainable. We understand that a healthy future for our children and grandchildren demands that we honor this pledge.

To help us achieve the goal of sustainability, we will:

Strive to educate ourselves and our clients about sustainable products and practices
Strive to meet the criteria of The Natural Step as we make choices for our business
Strive to reduce our energy use
Strive to promote and use products that are sustainable
Strive to reduce our waste
Strive to reuse and recycle as possible
Strive to design and build in a sustainable way
Strive to be a leader in our industry in this regard as we do in other areas

Now I have never been a Neil Kelly Cabinets dealer like I was once a Crystal Dealer, so I don't have intimate knowledge of their products. But as a kitchen designer I know and respect the Certified Kitchen Designers who have worked with Neil Kelly for years and what inspired Kelly to go the extra distance toward sustainability long ago.

I'd be interested to hear about any other cabinet manufacturers or large shops building green cabinets with green finishes in green factories in the U.S. and abroad. If you know of one, please let me know too....Long post. Sorry.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008


When I came across the AFAM event, I noted the fruit is Papaya. I was pondering what to prepare with it. Its mostly used as a vegetable in my kitchen. If it is ripe, it is eaten. I wanted to dish out a not so common recipe using Pappaya. I was discussing with MIL regarding this. It was then she mentioned about Jujups and told me that she has noted the recipe in one of her diaries. She added that she has not tried making it. The search for the recipe diary turned successful. But the Jujups recipe was not in the diary pages, it was noted down in a sheet of paper. The sheet has possibly survived a minimum of 25 years. One can imagine its condition. It was so delicate. If I hold the sheet in my hand, it will turn into pieces. Actually it was almost in pieces. Being in between the diary sheets for so many years, it was maintaining the sturcture somehow.Anyway, I managed to write the ingredients and method and bid a farewell to the paper.

I was not sure how it will turn out. Nonetheless, decided to go ahead with the recipe. My MIL also said she is not sure if the recipe is a fool proof one. Till the final stage of the prepration, I was apprehensive of the end result. Finally, it was worth the effort. It turned out much better than the store bought one. This recipe is a keeper for me.

Before you all get impatient with my long introduction, let me go to the recipe now.
You will require

Grated pappaya - 2 cups

Salt - 2 tspn

Sugar - 1 1/2 cups

Water - 3/4 cup

Essence (your choice) - 1 tspn (I used orange)

Lime - 2 Nos


Select a ripe and firm papaya. Else when you grate, it will turn mushy.

Soak the grated papaya in water with 2 tspn salt added to it. Leave this for half an hour

Wash and drain the papaya
Take a kadai or a heavy bottom vessel.

Add 3/4 cup water and papaya. Cover and cook the papaya till the whole water is evaporated. It took 15 minutes for me.

Add sugar to it. Keep stirring. When the sugar melts and the papaya turns into a sticky mass, add essence and lime juice. This step took 10 minutes

Cook for 2 minutes. Remove from fire.

Grease a plate with ghee and transfer the cooked mixture to it.

When it is warm and you can hold in your hand, take a spoon
full and shape it. Dip your fingers in water and start rolling. It will be easier to shape them.

Later roll on sugar and keep it aside.

Enjoy your jujups. Once you taste this, you will stop buying from stores.

Next time, I should try in MW. I can make it with less physical strain.

This goes to the monthly event AFAM, hosted by Nags for the month of Jan with the fruit - Papaya.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Pongal and Sankaranti Special

Wish you a very happy Pongal-Sankranthi.

Sakkarai Pongal

Milk - 3 cups
Water -1 cup
Rice - 1 cup
Green gram dal (moong) -1/4 cup
Powdered Jaggery -1 1/2 cups
Cardamom - 6(powdered)
Cashewnuts -50 gms
Raisins - 50 gms
Ghee -2 Tbsps.


Wash rice and moong dhal together and let it drain. Boil milk and water in a thick bottomed pan. Add rice and dal and cook in low flame until smooth. Add powdered jaggery and let it blend with the rice and dal mixture. Add ghee and powdered cardamom. Stir well and remove from fire. Roast cashewnuts and raisins in one more spoon of ghee. Pour the garnishing on the hot pongal.Serve it with a dash of hot ghee.

Urad Dal Vadai

Black Gram Dal (urad dal)-1 Cup
Fresh Ginger -1" piece
Curry Leaves -A Few
Black Pepper - 1/2 Tsp
Jeera -1/2 Tsp
Salt - To Taste
Oil - For Frying

Soak urad dhal in enough water for 25 minutes. Drain the dhal and grind it with ginger and salt, without adding water. Remove from the mixer. Mix in coarsely crushed pepper and jeera (cumin seeds),and finely chopped curry leaves. You can adds a spoonful of coconut gratings as well. This is optional. Dip your palms in cold water. Take 2 Tbsps of the batter and flatten on your palm. Make a hole in the centre and slide it into hot oil. Fry on low flame until crisp and golden. Serve hot with chutney or sambar.

Ellu Bella – Healthy Sesame Seed and Jaggery tidbit

Ellu or Sesame Seeds - 2 Cups
Ground Nuts -1/4 Cup
Roasted Gram -1/4 Cup
Cube Jaggery – 100g
Diamond Sugar -1/4 cup
Copra - 1/2

Lightly roast the sesame seeds until you get a pleasant aroma. Roast and remove the red husk from the groundnuts. Break the jaggery into small squares. Scrape and cut copra into small pieces. Mix the prepared ingredients with roasted gram and diamond sugar. Serve ellu bella.

Friday, January 18, 2008


It is a very traditional tiffin. It is mostly prepapred in the evenings since it is labelled as a ligh tiffin. It is known as Koozhu in Kerala whereas in TamilNadu it is called morkali.
It is an easy to make tiffin with simple ingredients.

Rice flour - 1 cup

Buttermilk - 1 cup

Water - 1 cup

Salt as required

For Seasoning

Oil - 1 tblspn

Mustard - 1 tspn

Chana dal- 1 tspn

Curry leaves- few nos

Green chilly (chopped) - 1 nos

Curd chillies (thayir molagai) - 3 Nos

Take a bowl. Add oil. Keep in MW for 30 seconds.

Add mustard and again keep for 30 seconds. When mustard splutters, add the rest of the seasoning and leave for 1 minute.

In another bowl, make a thin batter out of the rice flour, buttermilk, water and salt. Mix well. Pour the batter over the seasonings in the first bowl.

Cook in MW high for 4 minutes. Stir once in between.It will be cooked well.

If you touch with a wet finger, it should not stick to your finger.

It can be eaten as it is else can be cut in to pieces.

To cut into pieces,grease a plate with oil and spread the kali on it and level it with a spoon. Cut into squares and serve cool with pickle or chutney of your choice.

This can be cooked on stove top also. Now you can guess why I cooked in MW. Yes, this goes to Srivalli for her MEC-Tiffin, the theme for the month of January.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Kolli Vadam (Tapioca Papad-Sundried)

Once summer sets in, one can see plastic sheets with various type of karuvadams and vathals dried in front of the houses. This is a common sight in my village.

I started before the actual summer set in. Then I will have rush to finish the drying before it gets really hot. Now, I can be little late in starting with the drying work, since sun is bearable till around 10:30 in the morning.

This weekend I made kolli vadam. I have to prepare one more batch. May be in the coming weekend.

Tapioca powder (store bought) - 1/2 kg

Raw rice - 1/2 cup

Pepper powder - 3 tspn

Salt and Hing - as per taste

Oil - 2 tbspn

Wash and soak the raw rice for 2 hrs and grind it to a fine paste.

Allow it to ferment for 6 hrs. It should get a sour taste. I left it overnight.

Make a batter of the tapioca powder and the rice paste with water. Add hing and salt. The batter should be thinner than dosa batter.You measure the said batter. Water required is twice the measure of the batter.

Take a thick bottomed vessel big enough to accomodate the water and batter and some extra space. Once cooked, it will increase in quantity. I used the uruli. It is convenient to prepare karuvadam maavu (dough for sun dried fritters) in the uruli.

Add water. When water is warm, slowly add the batter without forming lumps. Keep stirring. When it starts to thicken, add 2 tbspn of oil and the pepper powder. Mix well. Make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.

It took 10 minutes for me to get the glazy texture. May be it cooked fast since I used uruli. When it gets a glazy texture, you can switch off the heat. Keep it in the same vessel for 5 minutes before you transfer to another vessel.

When it comes to room temperature, drop spoonfuls on a plastic sheet and slightly spread them to the size of a puri with the back of the spoon. Don't make it too thin.

After 4 hours of drying in the sun, try flipping it over. It should get dried in 2 days if it is very sunny.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Happy Pongal

Happy Pongal/Shankaranthi to all of you......
With the start of Makaram/Thai month, every thursday evening, our courtyards will be cleaned and adorned by kolam/rangoli. We put using rice/kola powder and rice paste. Some people change the kolams on monday evenings also. That is Tuesdays and Fridays will have fresh kolams made. I rarely change on tuesdays. But for Fridays it is always new kolam.
This is the start of the series for the month of kolam

Neivedyam for pongal

Monday, January 14, 2008

Vendakkai Vathal

Vendakkai vathal /kondattam (sun dried lady's finger )

Vegetables in season are preserved by sun drying them. Popular veggies sun dried are bhindi,chick peas, mango etc.

Vendakkai vathal on deep frying will be crisp and tasty. You can use the fried ones in preparing raitas too. My vegetable vendor generously gave me 2 Kg of bhindi almost free. So I decided to convert them to vattals.

You will require


Tamarind - lemon size

Chilly powder - 2 tspn

Turmeric - 1/2 tspn


Wash and dry the bhindis.

Cut them into 1/2 inch long pieces.

Soak the tamarind in warm water.

Extract the juice and add water to it so that it comes to 1 1/2 cup.

Add salt, turmeric and chilly powder. (Adjust these according to your taste)

Transfer the cut bhindi pieces to a pressure cooker. (You can cook directly in the cooker.)

Pour the tamarind mixture.

Steam cook for 15 minutes. (No need to put whistle.)

Drain and dry it under the sun. I got it dried with in 2 days.

sun dried

oil fried

Friday, January 11, 2008

Masala Koorka

Koorka Upperi cooked in grounded masala

It is diffucult to find any Keralite who doesn't have an affinity for this tuber - Koorka. I don't know what it is called in English. With some googling, I found it is called Chinese Potatoes.

This is season, where the vegetable markets are flooded with various kinds of tubers like Kaavathu (Thiruvadira special), Chembu, Kappa/Poola/Kolli and Koorka. I think most of the homes buy kaavathu for preparing kootu/poduthuval on the Thiruvathirai day. After the festival, it is not found with the vendors also. Few homes, who has grown them in their backyards, might prepare, more than once.

Koorka is one of the favourites of the season. Its purely a season root. These small tubers are difficult to be cleaned. But once cooked and eaten, you will forget the laborius task of cleaning them.

There are various, so called easy ways, to remove the skin. Some people put them in cloth/gunny bag and hit it on the ground several times. There are who wash and pressure cook them with the skin and then later on peel off the skin, like we do with potatoes. What I follow is soak them in water for an hour or so. Then scrub them on the washing stone. That seems to be easy for me. Almost all the skin comes out in the process. Whatever little is sticking can be removed, whilie chopping them into pieces.

Now to the preparation

Cleaned and chopped koorka - 2 cups

For Masala

Pearl onion - 10 nos

Red chilly - 4 nos

Coriander seeds - 1 tspn

Make a fine paste of this. Add little water while grinding.

Pressure cook koorka with little turmeric for 3 whistles. It doesn't turn soft even on pressure cooking. So if you keep for an extra whistle also, no need to worry.

Take a kadai and add coconut oil. Season with mustard and curry leaves. Add the grounded masala. Let the masala cook for a minute or two till the raw smell goes.

Add the koorka and salt. Mix well.

Cook till the masala gets coated over the koorka and it is roasted.

Serve with hot rice and sambhar.

Koorka tastes good if it is made as simple 'Mezhukkuparatti' also.

Just add oil,cooked koorkha and salt . Cook till it gets roasted. This is also very yummy.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Particle Board vs. Plywood Shootout

I am having quite an exchange, over at This Old House Discussions, on the relative merits of 65 lb. particle board, plywood and MDF.

Take a look.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Ulliyum Molakkum - Pearl onion and red chilly chutney

This red hot chutney (both in color and taste) is a must dip for Idlis and dosas in the wayside eateries (thattukada) and teashops (chaaya kada). In Kerala, in the mornings,tiffin is also served in the teashops. During the latter part of the day, only kadi (bajji/bonda/vada) is served with tea. If any of you have had idli/dosa for breakfast in any restaurant in Kerala, this chutney must have adored your plate.
It is such a simple recipe. It tastes better when grinded on the ammikkal (grinding stone). It blends well unlike in the mixer grinder.
Even now if i prepare in small quantities, I use an ammikkal to get the right texture. This time I blended in the mixie.

Pearl Onions (Sambhar Onions) - 15 Nos
Red chilly - 7 Nos
Salt to taste

Just blend all the three to a fine paste. The color of the chutney is very appealing.
Steaming idlis and a cup of hot tea with mulakku chutney as dip, is a deadly combination for breakfast.

No doubt,this goes to RCI-Kerala hosted by Jyothsna of CurryBazaar

Since Onion is the main ingredient, this has to be part of the JFI-Onion, hosted by Radhika of Radhiskitchen

Monday, January 07, 2008

Coconut chammandi podi (Chutney powder)

Since the name Kerala means land of coconuts, I thought how can I send entries without a recipe, with coconut as a main ingredient. I wanted to try something which is not so very synonymous with Kerala cuisine for a non-keralite. The usual recipes that comes to one's mind when they talk of Kerala is Puttu-Kadala, Aappam-Ishtu, Avial, Kaalan, Paaladhapradhaman... and the list goes on.

Chutney powder or Chammanthi podi is a common chutney powder in all Keralite homes. The recipe has its own variations. Here is my recipe which uses only few ingredients and gives you a very tasty podi. This goes well with idli, dosa and of course with steaming rice mixed with oil.

Grated coconut - 2 cups
Red chilly - 20 nos
Urad dhal - 1/4 cup
Hing - a small piece or 3 tblspn powder
Tamarind - goosebery size
Salt to taste

Roast the coconut in oil till brown. I kept the grated coconut in MW high for 10 minutes. Later roasted in the kadai for 2 minutes.
Dry roast urad dal.
Add a teaspoon of oil to the skillet. If you are using hing piece, add that to the oil. When it gets fried, remove from oil and add red chillies. Hing piece is fried in oil for easier grinding, else it will be sticky.

When it cools to room temp, powder chillies, urad dal, hing and tamarind. Then add the coconut and salt. Powder fine. Transfer to a air tight bottle.

This my second entry to RCI- Cuisine of Kerala hosted this month by Jyothsna of Currybazar

Gooseberry pickle

Gooseberry Pickle (Nellikai Achar)

An easy to make pickle. In Kerala, during gooseberry season, this pickle will surely find a place in any sadhya(feast). This pickle doesn't have a very long shelf life as it is with pickles as such. It stays fresh for more than a week on refrigeration.

You need

Gooseberry - 1/2 Kg

Salt - 3 tbspn

Water - 2 tblspn

Oil - 2 tblspn

Roast the below ingredients in a tablespoon of oil and powder when it cools to room temperature

Red chilly - 15 Nos. (Adjust accordingly)

Methi seeds- 2 tspn

Hing powder - 2 tspn.

First start roasting the chillies. When it is almost done, add methi seeds and hing powder.

Preparing the berries

Keep the g.berries in a vessel and pressure cook the g.berries for 3 whistles. No need to add water.

When cooled, slightly crush the berries and remove the seed. Take care that it doesnot turn mushy.

Take salt and water in a vessel and boil it for 2 minutes or more so that the salt is completely dissolved. Leave it to cool.

Add the boiled salt water, powdered chilly to the deseeded berries and mix well.

Heat 2 tblspn of oil and when cooled,pour over the pickled berries and transfer to airtight bottles.

This is the first time I am participating for any event in blogosphere. Being a Keralite, I am more than happy to sent in this entry to RCI-Cuisine of Kerala hosted by Jyothsna of CurryBazaar.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Builders = Remodelers...Or So the Story Goes

"Contractors Turn to Home Remodeling as New Construction Slows"
Associated Press (12/20/07)

In the Madison, Wis., area, some contractors are undertaking more remodeling jobs in the wake of sluggish home construction. Michael F. Simon Builders previously did roughly 60 percent new home construction and 40 percent remodeling. But that has now reversed, according to the firm's Phil Simon. The National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) says more Americans remodeled their kitchens in 2007 compared to last year, but spent less on each renovation. As a result, homeowners spent approximately $96.2 billion in 2007 compared to $127 billion in 2006, says the NKBA. But the overall number of bathroom renovations increased, as did the amount spent on them, according to the NKBA. Mike Sweeney of Sweeney Construction says projects are becoming smaller and people are spending money more carefully.

This story illustrates what happens when new home building goes "south".

Now let's take a look at what's really going on here:

Builders are seeing their livelihoods drying up, so they are now calling themselves remodelers.

This happens whenever there is a slow down in building...Nothing to worry about. Right?


Builders build houses for developers, working at arm's length with architects and engineers. They are NOT accustomed to working on a home with people LIVING IN IT! They are builders because they PREFER not to have homeowners looking over their shoulders.

At most they have to put up with visits from the buyers. Often there are no buyers yet; so they are simply pleasing themselves and the developer/architect/engineer.

Remodelers, on the other hand, work with homeowners on EVERY project. They are familiar with the post-it-notes routine of constant communication with their employers...YOU. They know that the lifeblood of their future business is referrals from happy past customers, architects and designers; and that communication and partnership with their customers is paramount to their success.

Builders build and remodelers remodel, and the twain only meets in times of stress in the industry...When builders are trying to figure out how to pay their next house payment or buy groceries.

These are the times that try a good remodeler's soul; as builders working out of the backs of pickup trucks descend on the built-out neighborhoods around San Francisco Bay and create low-ball estimates to muscle in on remodeling work.

Last time it happened was 1989-1995, when we had our last housing bust. Many well regarded and experienced remodelers retired during those years because the competition for jobs just got too ugly. I fully expect that things will be the same this time around.

Now I am not saying that '89-'95 didn't produce a few good remodelers from the thousands of builders who became remodeler wanna-be's; just that I don't want to see MY clients be the guinea pigs:

I had one client during that period who paid for her tile roof material twice because the roofing contractor her general contractor hired went bust and didn't pay the supplier. No, her contractor hadn't bothered to get a lien release before paying the roofer. He hadn't sent her a copy of the lien either.

This was the same whole house remodel where the contractor "overlooked" the fact that an addition built onto the back of the existing house was built right on the ground with no foundation. The first day on the job he hit her with a change order that was half again his original bid.

What you, as remodeling consumers, need to realize is that the price you get in a low-ball bid is not the price you will ultimately pay if the contractor overlooks obvious deficiencies in the plans and figures he/she will make it up in change orders. Believe me, you won't be in a position to negotiate when your home is torn apart.

These are the times to go over credentials with a fine tooth comb and check and double check licenses and insurance and references; and quality of work with your own eyeballs. And if all the work is not within easy driving distance, then beware the roving builder!

Pay attention to quality contractor referrals by professionals. Get FIXED PRICE BIDS on well planned and documented projects. Cross all your t's and dot all your i's.

Don't say I didn't tell you.