Friday, October 31, 2008

Coriander Mint Rice

My mom is an expert in making mint rice. This is a regular in our house as my dad and I love it.
Mint Rice does bring some good memories of my college days when I used to take it for lunch and my friends would finish it off leaving a small portion for me:)

I am sending this to Srivalli's Rice mela

Basmathi Rice-1 cup uncooked
Oil-1 tbsp

To tamper:
Cinnamon-an inch stick
Bay leaf-1
Star anise-1
Jeera-1 tsp

To grind:
Mint leaves-1/2 bunch
Coriander leaves-1/2 cup
Onion chopped-1 cup
Garlic cloves(optional)-2
Green chilli-1
Red chilli-1
Tamarind-a small piece

Rinse and soak basmathi rice in water for 15 minutes and cook with 2 cups of water. Set aside.
Grind the ingredients without adding water to a nice paste.
Heat oil and ghee in a pan and tamper with the above mentioned ingredients and add the ground paste. Simmer and cover. When the paste becomes thick and raw smell goes off(15 minutes approx), switch off the gas and mix the paste with rice. Serve with raitha and chips.

French Apple Tart

I've got a simple and delicious apple tart recipe which no require any butter mixed or frangipane. What I need is just a big packet of green apple with a shortcrust pastry which already had in my fridge, and took me no time to make this tart. I didn't produce a very beautiful rosy look for the tart but I'd say the apple tart smell very good while it's about the time I need to check whether it's done.
I feel the beauty of this tart is that you could still have a big piece of it after your dinner as it's quite a light dessert and not too sweet. You will like to have the second piece.
About the shortcrust pastry, I've been using the recipe for different kind of tarts and it's work very well. Its crusty and crumbly texture is very the English homemade pastry.
If you find the French apple tart is a bit lonely, just serve with a dollop of cream or vanilla ice cream to go with it. Fantastic!
For the shortcrust pastry (9 inches tart tin):
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp cold water
220g plain flour
110g unsalted cold butter, diced
20g sugar powder
pinch of salt
  1. Mix the eggs yolks with 2 tbsp cold water stir with a fork until well combine.
  2. Place the flour into the bowl of a food processor, followed by the cold butter and the salt. Turn the processor on and pulse several times until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  3. Add the egg yolk/water mixture and pulse again. Be careful not to overwork the pastry. Stop pulsing when the mixture has the consistency of chunky breadcrumbs.
  4. Turn the pastry out onto a clean, floured work surface and, with floured hands, bring together to make a dough, but don't knead.
  5. Shape into a flattened ball, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. You can keep the pastry at this stage for 2-3 days if not using it immediately.
  6. Remove the pastry from the fridge. On a clean, floured work surface, roll it out with a floured rolling pin until it's slightly larger than the flan ring. Using the rolling pin, lift the pastry and lay it over the flan ring.
  7. With your fingers, lightly press the pastry into the sides of the ring. Run a rolling pin over the top of the ring and pull away the excess pastry at the edges. Using your fingers, gently press the pastry up to slightly build up the height of the pastry at the edges.

Assemble the apple tart:

  1. Peel and core the apple then cut in to half and slice it into the thickness you like. I slice it quite thinly.
  2. Arrange the apples decoratively on the pastry shell, overlapping them. Sprinkle the sugar on top of the apples, top with butter cubes and bake in the middle of the 180'C preheated oven for 45 minutes or until the crust is cooked through and the apples are golden.
  3. Brush with the heated apricot jam while the tart is still hot.

Happy Holloween

Face- Akki Roti
Ears-potato Chips
Horns-Red chillis
Eyes, nose and eyebrows - quite obvious from the picture
Lips-Apple and Teeth -peanuts(incorporated this idea from here)

Looks pathetic.. :) Well I didn't want to spend money buying stuff for halloween which I know I will not be using in the future. So I just used whatever I had in my fridge.

framing continues

Happy Halloween!

The framing is  coming along great, and we're loving the fact that the room is starting to look like a room.  Working around the HVAC ductwork is a complete pain, but mostly because we're trying to take advantage of literally every inch possible.  Here is what it's looking like:

It's beautiful, isn't it?  I can't wait to cover it with sheetrock.  This is the only project getting attention lately, and with good reason.  We've set some ambitious goals and would love to spend Christmas on the first floor.  

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Set Dosa & Parsi Dhansak

Set Dosa

I got the recipe for set dosa from a tele cookery show. At first, the name did not interest me much. But when I saw the soft fluffy dosa, I wanted to give a try. And since then, it has been a regular for breakfast at my table. As always, there must be umpteen number of so-called authentic recipe for set dosa and this is what I have been following for some years now and haven't bothered to look for a better recipe, since this works out perfect for me.

Parboiled rice - 3 cups

Urad dal - 1 cup ( I use de-skinned whole urad)

Aval/poha - 1 cup

Fenugreek/methi seeds - 1 tblspn

I don't measure with the standard cup, since with that measurement we two will have to eat the same breakfast for more than a week. I measure with a small glass which must be less than the standard half cup.

Wash and soak rice and dal together for 6 hrs. Soak methi seeds separately. Wash and soak poha around 15 minutes before you grind. Grind all the ingredients together with salt till smooth. Batter consistency should be like that of idli batter. Ferment overnight.

Heat and grease the griddle (preferably cast-iron) with little oil. Pour a ladle full of the batter. The thickness of the batter should be such as when poured on the heated griddle it should automatically set itself into a fine thick circle. So you need not spread like for usual dosa. It should be thick like uthappam/pancake. Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Flip and again cover to cook the other side. Serve with any chutney or gravy of your choice. I have served with dhansak.

I first read about this dish at Saffron Trail. I followed her recipe to T. We all liked it very much. I make this often as a side to roti/dosas and more often to have with rice. I feel it tastes better with rice.

Tuvar dal,moong dal,masoor dal - 1/3 cup each to make one cup

Cubed pumpkin -1 cup

Onion -2


methi leaves - 1 cup

tamarind extract - 1 tblspn (Optional)



For Masala

Red chilly - 5 nos

cumin seeds - 1 tspn

coriander seeds - 1 tblspn

cinnamon - 1" piece

peppercorn - 4 nos
Ginger - a small wedge

garlic - 3 cloves

Roast the masala ingredients in oil till fragrant leaving out ginger and garlic. Grind together with ginger and garlic. Add water while grinding to get a smooth paste

Pressure cook 3 types of dal along with pumpkin. Make sure pumpkin size is big enough that it doesn't disappear in the dal on pressure cooking.

Take a pan and add oil. Saute onions till brown. Add the ground masala. Cook till oil separates. Add chopped methi and tomatoes. Cook till tomatoes turn mushy. I have used spinach/palak instead of methi this time. You can use dried methi also. Methi gives a nice flavor to the dish. Stir in the cooked dal and pumpkin. Add turmeric and salt. Adjust the consistency by adding water. Bring to a boil. Add the tamarind extract. Simmer for few minutes and remove from fire. Adding tamarind is purely optional. Add if you enjoy the slight tangy flavor. As I said before, Dhansak pairs well with dosa/chapathis/rice. Dhansak makes it to AFAM-Pumpkin hosted by Madhuram.

Set dosa goes to Srivalli's Rice Mela

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bread Channa

This one goes to Sunshinemom's FIC Brown event.

Channa-3/4 cup
Onion chopped-2 cups
Tomato-4 small
Jeera-1 tsp
Oil-2 tbsp
Ginger Garlic paste-1 tsp
Coriander leaves-a handful
Bread-3-4 slices

Spice powders(you can vary the measurement according to your taste):
Channa masala-2 tsp
Turmeric powder-1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder-as per taste
Badshah kitchen king masala-1/2 tsp(optional)

Soak channa overnight and pressure cook(5 to 6 whistles) until it is cooked. Drain the water and set aside.
Heat oil in a pan, tamper with jeera. Fry onions and ginger garlic paste till the raw smell goes and onions turn brown. Sprinkling little salt to onions makes them cook faster.
Add chopped tomatoes, spice powders, salt and fry till tomatoes are cooked. If the gravy is too dry, add water and simmer for 30 minutes. Add cooked channa and boil on medium heat for another 5 to 8 minutes. Garnish with coriander leaves.

Cut the edges of bread slices, toast them lightly with butter or ghee. Top it off with channa gravy and enjoy!

Cashew Nut Mix

I bought a packet of raw cashew nut from a cashew nut factory in Phuket and this recipe for people who always craving madly like me :P Enjoy!!
  • Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
    In a bowl, toss 1 cup raw cashews, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 2 pinch of cinnamon and curry powder and pinch of sea salt until well mixed.
  • Spread the mixture onto the baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, stirring half way through, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and scrape the nuts onto a plate to cool.
  • When the nuts are cool, put them into a bowl and toss together with 1/3 cup of halved dried apricots and raisins.
  • Store in an airtight container or follow the serving suggestion. I bet you will finish it within two days :P

Serving suggestions: Divide the mix into small individual containers for snacking. Spoon a few tablespoons over a serving of yogurt or frozen yogurt. Add a few tablespoons to a bowl of fruit salad

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I came across a new (to me) blog today, called

Its editor, Robert, is quite a good researcher, and I highly recommend a trip over there....Well, I'll just let him tell you himself:


A Note From the Editor

The concept of this website was born out of two things; my passion for home design, with a bent toward the products that flesh out a home, and a desire to share the information I collected about those products with others.

Maybe it’s best that I introduce myself first – my name is Robert Levesque and I founded this site for the reasons just mentioned, among a few others. Not far down that list of reasons was the fact that when I researched the remodeling of my own home, I found the information too scattered, and it took a lot of time to pull it all together and make useful sense out of it.

It is true that there are lots of choices that need to be made when you’re remodeling a home or building a new one. But help is available and hopefully I can provide some of that to you.

Sprinkled throughout this website you’ll find “editor’s notes” and “editor’s comments”. That’s me doing the talking. What I hope to do with these bits of information is provide you with my own opinion, insight and observations on a particular product or subject, as a balance to the factual information presented here.

It’s always helpful for me to hear someone’s own impression or experience with regard to some topic I’m interested in. It’s sort of a ‘real life’ opinion that allows me to make better judgements. My hope is that these bits of information provide similar help to you.

HomeStyleChoices was created to help people in the process of improving their homes. As our header line states, it’s about “presenting choices and helping you choose”.

Adai - a mixed lentil pancake

ADAI - a mixed lentil pancake

My friend and I visited each other and played for long hours in our vast gardens at Lakshmipuram, Mysore, on holidays unmindful of the meal timings. We were promptly called in for our meals at the appropriate time wherever we were, by my mother or by her mother. Many a time as we played in one of the gardens, as our mothers chatted away over the compound walls, across the rarely used service lane which separated the two houses. It was fun to shout out my friend’s name across the walls, indicating that my mother wanted to speak to her mother. She did the same to call my mother for a ‘meeting’. The stone bench under the guava tree was very convenient for me to stand up and throw my voice across. Since both the houses stood back to back, and the chatting took place at the bottom of the two gardens, there was total privacy and our mothers could converse even without stepping out of their homes.

On one such occasion my friend’s mother mentioned to my mother that I had savoured THREE adais for tiffin, “Not at all bad.She must have liked my Adais so much!” That day when I returned home, I told my mother about the delicious hot adais , that I ate at my friend’s place. Mother laughed and told me not to go over board while eating outside.

Adai is a heavy dish prepared with rice and a mixture of lentils. It can include onions or fenugreek leaves. I sometimes add finely chopped cabbage, grated carrots, or even drum stick leaves .
Rice – 1 cup
Tur dal – ¾ cup
Bengal gram dal – ¼ cup
Black gram dal – 1 tbsp
Asafoetida – 1 pinch
Red chillies – 3
Ginger – 1 " piece
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Curry leaves –a few
Fresh coriander leaves – little
Salt – ½ tsp

1. Soak the rice and dals together with the red chillies for half an hour.
2. Add ginger to the soaked ingredients, and grind into a thick and coarse batter.
3. Add chopped curry leaves and fresh coriander.
4. Mix in the cumin seeds, asafoetida and salt.
5. Chopped vegetables (such as carrots, cabbage, drumstick leaves, onion, capsicum and so on, as per your preference) may also be added at this stage.
6. Let the batter stand for about fifteen minutes.
7. Heat a tava and rub it with a drop of oil using a halved onion.
8. Pour a ladleful of the batter and spread it into a thick and round Adai.
9. Make a hole in the center with the edge of the spatula.
10. Drizzle with oil around the Adai and pour a drop of oil in the centre as well.
11. Cover with lid and cook for 2 minutes.
12. Remove lid and turn over the Adai and add a few drops of oil around.
13. Remove after a minute and serve with chutney, gojju or molaga podi.

Children like to have Adai with jaggery and ghee. Everybody at home prefers to eat the Adai while still hot. The crispy golden crust underneath (similar to a crunchy ama vadai!) and the soft top cooked in steam, makes it almost a two-in-one dish!

My sister-in-law has sent in photos of these dosai kals. These cast iron dosai kals (skillets) are from the temple town of Srirangam, in Tamil Nadu. Here is a link with a history of the temple. The shops outside the temple are famous for selling these kals.
There is a lot that is said about preparing a new cast iron kal, before it is ready for use. If a new cast iron kal is used, just as is it is, you will land up with a sticky mess when trying to make adais or dosais, not to mention the impurities and rust that can get into your food! The procedure of preparing a kal is called ‘pazhakarudu’ in Tamizh. It involves washing and soaking the vessel in arisi kanji (starchy water left from boiling rice) for about 24 hours. After that, it is rinsed, dried, and then has some oil coated on it on all sides. The kal turns out better results, as it keeps getting used. I rinse my dosai kal with luke warm water with mild soap and immediately dry it before keeping it away. Before each use, I rub it with a little oil using a halved onion instead of a brush.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Dried Fruit Milky Bread (鲜奶干果面包)

I miss my kitchen very much after a holiday break and I can't resist to do some baking. So I simply make something with whatever ingredients that left in the kitchen cabinet. This recipe suppose a "Sweet corn milky bread 鲜奶玉米面包" but I don't have sweet corn.
So I replaced it with some dried apricot and raisin and it's ok! The bread was quite soft and tender that came with the chewy dried fruits.
Recipe from 孟老师的100道面包
Bread flour 200g
Sugar 35g
Salt 1/4 teaspoon
Egg 35g
Yeast 3g
Fresh milk 100g
Unsalted butter 15g
Sweet Corn 80g or (40g dried apricot and 40g raisin)
How I made it:
  1. Mix all the (A) ingredients until smooth and well combine in medium speed with the dough hook mixing machine.
  2. Add in unsalted butter and mix in low speed. When everything well combine increase to medium speed until the dough become smooth and elastic. It tooks about 10 minutes.
  3. Add in sweet corn or dried fruits and mix in low speed.
  4. Transfer to a grease bowl and cover with a cling warp proof for 80 minutes.
  5. Divide the dough into five portions and shape it into smooth balls. I place it into a 17cm chiffon cake tin for second proofing at about 40 minutes.
  6. Egg wash the dough and bake at a 180'C preheated oven about 25 minutes.
  7. Transfer the dough into a cooling rack. I place the bread into a plastic bag when it's still slightly warm (not too hot). I think it could keep the bread a bit moisture at the outside and produce a soft and tender bread. Then transfer to an airtight container once it's completely cool down.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Deepawali Marundu Lehiyam - home made medicine


Lord Sri Krishna ended the atrocities of the demon Narakasura on this day and rescued the 16000 damsels who were captives of the asura and married them. This is a symbolic story which tells us that the Supreme Power, rescues mankind tormented by the worldly bondage, dispels ignorance or darkness, and leads mankind to supreme bliss and enlightenment.

Photo of fireworks over Chamundi Hills, Mysore, by Guggi Subramanyan

This is a happy occasion for every one to move forward from darkness to light, and to spread happiness all around. Festivities begin with cleaning and decorating of the house the previous day. The huge cauldrons used for heating water for the sacred bath, is scrubbed well. It is then decorated with turmeric powder and kumkum (vermillion powder). The sacred River Ganga is supposed to descend into the bath water on the eve of the festival. It is customary to greet people by enquiring them if they have had their Ganga Snaanam (Ganges Bath) on the Deepavali day.

After the neeru tumbuva habba (festival of water filling) a decorated wooden plank (manae) is placed in front of the decorated alter. New clothes which have to be worn after the Ganga Snaanam is neatly piled up on it. A big bowl of Gingelly oil (sesame oil) warmed up with a little Omam (Thymol, Ajwain) is also placed on one side. Just like Ganga is in the bath water, Goddess Lakshmi is supposed to reside in the oil. All the family members wake up well before dawn. The eldest lady of the family performs the 'ennae shastra' – by applying the sacred oil on the head, for all family members. After good oil bath, elders present the family members and all dependants with the new clothes and bless them.

Now is the time for the Deepawali Marundu or Lehiyam. At least ¼ teaspoon of this marundu (medicine) has to be swallowed by every one before binging on the elaborate sweet spread. This marundu contains all the ingredients to protect one from colds and coughs, indigestion and biliousness. One of my best friends is so fond of this marundu, that she relishes only this, and refuses to eat any other Deepawali sweet.

Here is the recipe for the DEEPWALI MARUNDU before you go to burst the first cracker. . .
Omam (thymol) - 2 tbsps
Coriander seeds – 2 tbsps
Black pepper – 2 tbsps
Cumin seeds – 2 tbsps
Dry or fresh ginger – to make 2 tbsps
Cardamom -2
Ghee – 4 tbsps
1. Warm up all the ingredients so that they can be ground into a fine powder. Roasting is not necessary.
2. Powder all the ingredients as fine as possible.
3. Add water and make it into a paste.
4. Measure the paste, and take twice the quantity of palm jaggery or plain jaggery
5. Cook the paste with jaggery till it becomes slushy, and add little ghee.
6. Cook until soft ball stage and add the remaining ghee.
7. Blend well and switch off flame.
8. When cooled, store in a clean dry bottle.

The Lehiyam or Marundu should be like a thick paste. Over cooking makes it hard. If that happens, it can be cut into small pieces and stored. Any which way, it retains its medicinal value!


Photo of fireworks over Chamundi Hills, Mysore, by Guggi Subramanyan

This post goes to JFI Nov '08 Festival Treats hosted by Srivalli of Cooking 4 all Seasons.

tribute to the pups

We're dog people. I have a suspicion that if a friend were to describe us to one of their friends they'd say something like "Craig and Jon are my friends. They have a bunch of dogs." There would be a follow up about our niceties, maybe even a comment about our home renovation aspirations and delusions, but overall we're dog-people. We're okay with that. We really like dogs - we like our dogs, we like other people's dogs, we really like commercials where dogs drag their butts across the carpet.

With Jaxxon’s first Birthday being today, I figured a shoutout was in order. Since Kanga is his Mother, and this also marks the one year anniversary of that awful Gizmo-got-wet reenactment, I’ll introduce her first. They’re all great dogs so I won’t go on and on about how they're loyal and beautiful and wonderful and well behaved and genius and rare… even though they are.

Kanga’s a first generation chocolate labradoodle, also called an F1 which means one parent is a poodle and one is a lab.
Jaxxon is a second generation brindle labradoodle, also called an F1B - which means one parent is an F1 and the other is a poodle.  Happy  Birthday, Jaxx.

And Leo, as I mentioned before is a mix of dachshund, poodle and maybe something else too…

Of course we have to mention the late Rue.  Rest in peace, buddy – we miss you terribly. 

I'll tell you what we don't miss - cleaning up after seven puppies.  Jaxxon's in the back in this picture:

Okay, back to work - we're having a very productive weekend, so hopefully another post later today.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Badam Cake (Almond Fudge)

Wish you and your family a very Happy Diwali!

Diwali is just around the corner and I made Badam Cake(or Halwa) today. After contemplating on various sweets, I decided to make this one because it brings back good memories of my Thalai Diwali(first Diwali after marriage). I have been wanting to try Vahrehvah Chef's recipes since long time. I tried his recipe and was so surprised with the end results. Believe me, it was out of the world! I did not compromise on ghee or sugar this time. Whenever I go to Chennai, my father gets me badam cake from a hotel(I don't remember the name). Those are the best ones I have ever had. My badam cake tasted very much like those and I am happy I can make a badam cake that tastes so authentic!

The above link is for Badam Halwa. I have slightly modified the measurements because I wanted to make a cake(which is the next stage of halwa).

This is going to Srivalli's JFI festival treats-Nov 08.
This is also going to Aparna's Sweet Celebrations event.

Badam/Almonds-1 and a 1/2 cups
Sugar- 1 and a 1/2 cups
Saffron-a few strands
Milk-1/2 cup
Ghee-1/2 cup ( Apparently badam cake comes out well with even lesser amount of ghee)
Cardamom-a pinch
Orange color-a pinch(optional)

Soak almonds in hot water for 1 hr and peel the skin.
Grind the peeled almonds with milk and saffron to a fine paste. If the mixie doesn't grind, add some more milk and grind. The paste should be thick.
Heat a nonstick pan on medium flame, add 1 tbsp of ghee, ground paste, cardamom, orange color and sugar. Keep on stirring continuously. Add 1 tbsp of ghee now and then while stirring. Don't stop stirring. Do so until the mixture becomes thick(takes about 30 minutes) and starts to leave the sides of the pan(at this stage, the mixture becomes like a soft dough and does not stick to the pan at all). Don't forget to keep adding ghee little by little while stirring.
Grease a plate with ghee, pour the mixture into it. Cool for 10 minutes and cut into pieces.

Deepawali Sweets - Milky Creamy Pal Poli

Mother used to prepare this sweet instead of the payasam on special occasions. Since all of us loved the creamy sweet, she prepared it very often along with our evening snacks and how we loved to lick our fingers even after gobbling up three or even four of them! Since it is an exotic sweet, rich with thick milk and dried fruits and nuts, it can be served cold or warm as a dessert in parties. INGREDIENTS:
Maida or plain white flour – 1 cup
Milk – 4 cups
Sugar – 1 ½ cups
Saffron – a few strands
Edible camphor - one tiny granule is optional
Cardamom powder – 1 pinch
Cashew nuts – 12
Raisins – a few
Ghee for frying the nuts – 1 tbsp
Salt – 1 pinch
Cooking oil for frying
1. Knead maida with a teaspoon of oil, salt and little water into a stiff dough.
2. Boil the milk for ten minutes and add sugar, saffron strands and the cardamom powder. (Its optional to add the edible camphor. Even a tiny bit extra can ruin the taste so be careful. Just one small granule is sufficient!)
3. Let the sugar dissolve and then decrease the heat.
4. Make marble size balls with the dough and roll out into small poories.
5. Fold the round into half, and again fold it to get a triangle shape.
6. Roll out the triangles. They should not be too thin.
7. Keep a shallow dish with the prepared milk handy before deep frying polis.
8. Heat oil and fry the triangular Polis one by one, until they are crisp and golden in colour.
9. Drain out the oil, and dip the Poli in the warm milk
10. When the next one is ready for the dip, take out the previously soaked one and place it on a plate.
11. Soak all the polis and arrange them on the plate.
12. When all the polis is done, pour the remaining milk over the arranged sweets.
13. Decorate the sweet platter with roasted cashew nuts and raisins.

Enjoy the milky creamy Poli, warm or cooled .

Friday, October 24, 2008

Third Coast Winners Star & Melissa

Congratulations to Shirley "Star" Diaz of Radio Rookies for her story "Growing Up in The System," produced with Melissa Robbins (former project manager and associate producer here at The Kitchen Sisters). They received the silver award at the Third Coast Audio Festival, 2008. 

Deepawali Sweets - Rava Urundai - Sweet Semolina Balls


Be it a wedding or an upanayanam (a ceremony to baptize a boy into brahamanhood -the one who has to realize Brahaman, or The Self, by chanting the Gayatri Mantra), a first or a 60th birthday, or Deepawali, Meenakshi Mami would be there to prepare the Seer Bakshanams- the sweets that would be displayed during the function, and then distributed among the relatives and guests. It is customary to prepare five varieties of sweets for these functions. Mami would get set for the elaborate preparations very early in the morning after a short prayer and her morning cup of coffee. As she was very much used to our house hold she took the liberty to take the needed things by herself and never bothered any one of us for the particular vessel or for the ingredients. My mother-in-law wanted to take hundred pieces each, of the five varieties of sweets for my nephew’s upanayanam. Meenakshi mami stayed with us for only three days, by which time she had prepared all the items and packed them too. She never had lunch or any other snack until she had finished her work for the day, except for a glass of lime juice in between. We were all amazed by the speed and ease with which she prepared the sweets, especially the Ravai Urundai which usually tends to fall apart if the sugar and ghee are not warm enough. We were very happy and surprised to see that not even a single urundai had crumbled when we reached my sister-in-law’s place after six hours of car journey.

Semolina - 1 cup
Sugar – 1¼ cups
Ghee - ¼ cup
Cashew nuts – 10
Raisins – a few
Cardamom – 4

1 .Dry roast semolina till red in colour, and giving out a pleasant aroma. Allow it to cool.
2. When it is thoroughly cooled, grind it with sugar and cardamom till it becomes a granular powder. The sugar becomes very fine and the semolina remains granular.
3. Heat ghee in a bandali (heavy bottomed pan) and add the cashew nuts and the raisins.
4. When the nuts turn golden in colour, add the ground semolina and sugar mixture and blend well. Switch off the heat immediately.
5. Take a handful of the mixture and press hard to shape it into an urundai (ball).
6. Wash your hands after shaping four or five balls, and then continue. This is to avoid the ‘erosion’ of the urundais, when they rub against the powder stuck in your hands.
7. The urundais can not hold shape, if the mixture becomes cold. Keep warming it up till all the urundais are shaped.

Warning - As you savour the crisp semolina and fine sugar melting in your mouth, you may find that eating every piece, becomes compulsive!
This post goes to JFI Nov '08 Festival Treats hosted by Srivalli of Cooking 4 all Seasons, as well as Yummy Festival Feast at Pallavi 's, All Thingz Yummy blog.

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Pazham Pori /Ripe Banana Fritters

Pazham pori/bajji is a vary popular snack of Kerala, especially in railway stations. I think this is one snack which is not confined to any particular region of Kerala. I always look forward to train journey through Kerala, for these Pazham pori's sold in the station. Its very easy to make, provided you have ripe nenthrapazham at hand. The only drawback is, it drinks lot of oil. I prepared using one banana, so that we will not have much to indulge in.

Ripe plantain - 1
Maida - 1/2 cup

Sugar - 1 tbspn

Rice flour - 1 tspn (For crispness)

salt, baking soda, yellow color - a pinch each
Oil for deep frying

Mix maida, sugar, rice flour, salt, baking soda and yellow colour well. Add water to make a thick batter.

Cut the banana into two. Slice them into medium thick slices.

Heat oil in a kadai. When oil is hot, dip the slice in the batter and slide carefully into the oil. Deep fry in medium heat. when the banana slice floats in the oil, slowly flip it using a slotted spoon. Fry till it turns golden brown and drain on absorbent paper. Serve hot with a cup of tea/coffee.

This is my entry to Sunday Snacks- Fry it event, hosted by Hima

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Radio Workshops

We've started an audio workshop program at our San Francisco office. The sessions run three hours and the group size is small. This is a great opportunity for people interested in radio production, oral history, journalism -- almost anything that has to do with interviewing and close listening. 

Davia covers miking techniques, sound gathering, use of archival audio, how to make interviewees comfortable, how to frame your questions, how to listen (which is harder than it looks), and more.

The fee is $100. The November sessions are full but if you're interested send us and email and we'll keep you posted about upcoming sessions in San Francisco and Santa Cruz.

Thengai Sadam/Coconut Rice

In my childhood days, kalandha sadham/ mixed rice preparations was not very common at home. It made occasional appearance when packing food for travel and invariably for Pathinettamperukku(Aadi-18). We used to look forward to the lemon rice, coconut rice, puliyodarai prepared for the same. That used to be the after-school tiffin for us, with generous helping of karuvadam and rice vadams. Later on,things changed. It was prepared when ever we wanted and we needn't wait for Aadi to arrive. And coconut rice tops my list of favorites. This is how I prepare it. Its ideal for lunch box too.

Rice - 1 cup
Grated coconut - 1 cup
Coconut oil- 4 tblspn
Mustard seeds -1 tspn
Urad dal - 1 tspn
Red chilly- 2nos
Hing - a pinch
Curry leaves - few
Pressure cook rice and spread on a plate to cool. Rice should not cook mushy. It should be cooked but the cooked rice grains should be separate.
Heat a tablespoon of coconut oil. Add mustard seeds. When it splutters, add urad dal, chillies broken into two,hing and curry leaves. Roast till dal turns light brown. Pour the seasoning over the rice. In the same pan, heat 3 tblspn of coconut oil and add the grated coconut. Roast the coconut till light brown. Add the roasted coconut along with salt to the rice. Mix gently. Serve with applams or any other deep fried fritters. For a change, I have served with an easy potato curry.
Pressure cook cubed potatoes, chopped onions, green chilly and ginger with salt and turmeric. Mash lightly with a ladle. Season with mustard and cumin. A tasty side dish is ready.

This is my entry to Rice Mela hosted by Srivalli

Print Recipe

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fluorescent Lighting and THE MERCURY PROBLEM

I have long not made it a secret that I favor fluorescent lighting over incandescent because of energy savings. I also favor LED lighting but that's another story.

I have taken some heat for my position from some who are protective of their rights to consume forever as they see fit without regard for the rest of humanity or the effect on our environment.

Here is an exchange with "Anonymous":

Anonymous said...

Fluorescent light is horrible and the tubes contain mercury.
There are better ways to conserve than forcing fluorescents on everyone.
There needs to be some "quality of life".
Maybe we should go back to paper and turn off all these computers?

Peggy Deras, CKD, CID said...

C'mon "Anonymous", haven't you heard Al Gore?

1. Fluorescents save energy compared to your precious incandescents. A LOT of energy.
2. They last a lot longer too.
3. You can spend a few more bucks and buy high CRI fluorescents and look good too!
4. Mercury can be mitigated if the spent lamps are properly disposed of.
5. Get with the program. We all are in this together.


Anonymous said...

Peggy, tell you what… if you want to push legislation, put a limit/tax on kWh used and let people use the kW any way they choose.

How much power does it take to support this website?

If the government tells me I can’t choose incandescent lights maybe they should tell you to stop posting & blogging.

And by the way, the majority of people will NOT dispose of CFLs properly, they will just chuck‘em in the trash. Forward thinkers know this, and they know the real consequence of mercury contamination. The proposed ban in USA will be reversed…. wait and see.

Well, now I have some additional ammunition in hand to quell the worries of people like Anonymous: The article is "MERCURY AND THE COMPACT FLUORESCENT LAMP" and appears in the Illuminate supplement to October 2008's Architectural Products magazine.

Apparently, even taking into account that NOBODY ever recycles their spent fluorescent bulbs/lamps, fluorescents put less mercury into the environment than the incandescents they replace because the additional burned coal needed to light the incandescents adds substantially more mercury to the environment.

Not only that, but the mercury released by burning coal is airborne methyl mercury. Airborne mercury enters the body through the lungs and is attributed to a wide range of health issues and contamination of water and fish.

The mercury in fluorescents is primarily elemental mercury, a health risk if treated improperly (ie. broken), but not inherently likely to become airborne unless vacuumed.

Also most (86-89%) of the mercury in a CFL is bound to the lamp glass itself and not released if broken.

So, now that we have several degrees more safety from mercury poisoning by using fluorescents, AND substantial energy savings, AND lots of bulb/lamp shapes and sizes, AND dimmable, AND a good color range and CRI; maybe, just maybe, people like Anonymous will try a few fluorescents in their own homes and find out they aren't so bad after all.

Give 'em a twist!


Deepawali Sweets - Papu Pati's Godi Halwa


This is a very special sweet adored by all my family members. My mother-in-law was a specialist in preparing this dish on all festive occasions. My nephew loved to relish this sweet prepared by his dear Pati. She did not mind all the laborious steps which she had to slog through in its preparation. She happily made two tambalams-ful (very large plate) of the halwa which would vanish in no time. The thought of the translucent and shiny halwa topped with blanched almonds and saffron strands makes my mouth water even now.

I had only watched her, and assisted her in the preparation and I never dared to try it out all by myself. Last year my nephew, who now resides in the U.S. visited us for a short stay. I immediately remembered his favourite (and ours!) Godi Halwa, my mother-in-law would have prepared had she been alive now. I pulled up courage and was determined to make the dish myself for my dear nephew. I tried it out by using broken wheat instead of whole wheat. and the mixer instead of the heavy grinding stone. Though the halwa was not comparable to my mother-in –law’s preparation, it had turned out well.

Broken wheat – 1 cup
Sugar – 1 cup
Ghee – ¼ cup
Cardamom powder – 1 pinch
Saffron – a few strands
Almonds – 15

1. Cover the broken wheat with water and soak for two hours.
2. Soak almonds in warm water, and remove the skin.
3. Soak the saffron strands in a little warm water.
4. Grind well the soaked wheat with water, and filter through a mesh to extract the wheat milk.
5. Grind it yet again with some more water and extract more milk.
6. Repeat the process till all the wheat milk is extracted, and discard the solids.
7. Add water, if necessary to make up four cups of wheat milk.
8. Start cooking the wheat milk with sugar in a heavy bottomed pan.
9. Keep stirring to avoid lumps.
10. Once it starts boiling it will thicken very fast. So keep stirring.
11. Add half of the ghee and keep cooking until the mixture becomes like a thick custard.
12. Add the soaked saffron and blend well.
13. Add the remaining ghee and cardamom powder and remove from heat when the halwa leaves the sides of the pan.
14. Pour into a greased plate and decorate with almonds.
15. The halwa will set like a custard when it cools down, and now you can cut them as desired.
Store it in the fridge in the plate as it is, and relish piece by piece when ever you crave for it!
A note from Dibs: Papu Pati’s godi halwa, is one of the most amazing sweets I have ever had. I would say the consistency of this halwa is between a custard and a jelly. A cut piece will hold its shape, but would be wobbly! Since only wheat milk is used, the halwa is a delicate translucent colour, and the ghee gives it a nice shiny gloss!

I really miss my Papu Pati!

Foodbuzz Publisher Community Launches

'World Foodie Power' - that's how we describe Foodbuzz.
Chitra Amma's Kitchen joined Foodbuzz a few months back. All that we can say is , we are so glad we did! We made heaps of foodie friends, and now we globe trot from our computers sampling different styles of cooking from Portland to Sydney! Cheers to the Foodbuzz team!

We are very proud of Deeba of 'Passionate About Baking' for getting our simply amazing Indian cuisine featured in 24, 24, 24 event of Foodbuzz. She has made a spread that's fit for a Maharaja! Congratulations Deeba!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Carrot Bell pepper soup or B for Bell pepper carrot soup

No. I am not going to continue this series till Z. It is just a coincidence that my dish starts with B. After trying low fat Mysore pak(Besan Burfi) which turned out to be a disaster, I lost the mood to make sweets for diwali. Though it was low fat, I felt guilty having them cause it had 2 tbsp of ghee and loads of sugar(yeah I tried making mysore pak with 2 tbsp of ghee and no wonder it became a halwa!). To compensate for the intake of mysore pak, I walked, walked and walked 3 miles and ended up making Carrot bell pepper soup for dinner by following Laavanya's Carrot coriander soup recipe.

I didn't have coriander leaves, so I substituted it with green bell pepper(1/4 cup). I also added little milk in the end to make it extra creamy. Otherwise I followed the same method. I am a soup fan and I liked this one very much!

Note: Adding more than 1/2 tsp of sambar powder will make the soup spicy.

finally - roughing in...

...that is, we finally started. I don't have much advice on roughing in walls (i.e. framing) - ambition overcomes ignorance, right? Describing ambition is something I'll work on later, for now I'll just show a few pictures.

There are nuances to each and every room, especially in these odd and old - I mean unique and character'filled - houses. You should be thinking ahead like Bobby Fisher. Assess the entire room every five minutes and consider what you're working around.



A little work, a lot of thinking - hopefully the rest of the week is productive as well.

Right now we're enjoying the crap out of this candle - autumn leaves by yankee candle.  It's a bundle of crisp fall leaves, cinnamon and Christmas tucked warmly into a granny-knitted blanket.