Wednesday, April 29, 2009

News from Salt Institute Part 3 from Alix Blair, Guest Blogger

Friday night now (April 24th). The last two days have been the school-wide critique for every Salt student & their work thus far in the semester. Everyone has about 20 minutes to present their work and receive praise/critique. I fluxed between feeling like, "this is okay, I don't care, it's just a draft" ... to nervous butterflies, because clearly I care a lot about what people think of my work. The teachers chose the students randomly with no previous announcement-- that is, you never knew when it would be your turn. Thursday passed without my turn and this morning, Friday, I commented to my friend, "I bet I'll be last"... sure enough (should have bet money!) I was last. It definitely made me anxious all day, just wanting to get it over with.

I felt especially nervous because unlike most all of the radio students, I was behind in my work (thanks to the 20-30 hours of audio I had collected) to the point I had not yet shared any audio version with anybody. So I had not yet had any feedback, whereas most folks had already shared their stories several days earlier to other radio students. The way Salt teaches, you focus first on perfecting your script, your paper version, before you get to work in Protools-- essentially your story's laid out before you and your next steps are to make your audio clips, record narration, and mix it together (oh, so easy-- please read the intense sarcasm)

I started my ProTools session at 8am on Wednesday morning (I had already lined up my audio & made my cuts), so started the piece at 8am and finished (the draft that I shared today) at 3am the next morning.

A word about narration-- a misguided radio class T.A. in 2004 told me I sounded like a British robot (??? I know!) when I did narration. Though five years older (wiser?) now, I still dread, and I mean DREAD narration. (That TA, like a mean boy you once liked-- you never forget what they said and they, to this day, have no idea you still carry those words with you).

Narration: I read my entire narration three times. I put up the photographs of two friends (who are looking at the camera when the photo was taken) at my eye level, so when I read my narration, I was looking at them, to try to help me feel natural, like I was talking to them on the phone. Ira Glass spoke at the Merrill Auditorium in Portland a few days ago and said your narration should sound like you're talking to your best friend late at night in bed on the phone-- that kind of intimacy given to the radio listener. The first time, I just read my words straight through (I had already obsessed on trying to make my word choice sound conversational). The second time, I read "over the top", smiling the whole time, and even outloud pretending to be my friend asking me the question that my narration was trying to answer. And for the third time, the time that would be the most successful (no one called me a British robot, actually I was complemented on my voicing). I listened to my favorite Lil Wayne song and danced and sang it out as loud as I could. As soon as the song finished, I went straight into my third read.

Actually, in one of Davia's workshops she referenced the brilliant Brian Eno and his article about the power of singing in our lives. I have a terrible voice (once I was booed while singing kareoke) but Lil Wayne definitely helped with my narration as a radio producer.

And so out of those 20-30 hours of recorded tape, I came in just under 10 minutes (including my host intro)

One of my favorite sounds is my recording of hundreds of periwinkle snails spitting out ocean water (my story has a lot to do with periwinkle snails)
The voice of snails! Who knew!

Tomorrow, early, early morning (Saturday April 25th) to Boston for the Megapolis (Audio) Festival.
with love, Alix

This is me at 8:30 in the morning after going to bed at 3:30, from working on my audio story until 3 am.
I am very tired!!

Fish Tacos

Hamburgers, hot dogs, bratwurst - all delicious, if you ask me (especially with beer). It's not just the high fat content that makes them satisfying. It's the memories that punctuate each bite. When I chew into a hot dog, I can almost feel the thin elastic thread that kept hats on my head at childhood birthday parties. Hamburgers remind me of road trips. Bratwurst, street festivals.

Despite the good taste and memories, many of us need to cut down on meat. It's got too much saturated fat, too many calories. For a lighter option, consider cooking up these simple fish tacos. They're lower in fat than their meat-filled brethren, but still wonderfully flavorful. And, yes, good with beer.

2009 Cardamom Kitchen LLC All Rights Reserved

Serves 4


1 pound catfish fillets
1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 1/2 cups diced tomatoes
2 chopped scallions
2 tablespoons cilantro, roughly chopped
12 corn tortillas
Feta to garnish (optional)
2 15.5 ounce cans of sweet corn


1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2) Cover a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Place the fish on the baking sheet. In a small bowl, mix together cumin, garlic powder, oregano, cayenne, black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon. Sprinkle over fish.

3) Bake the fish until it becomes opaque and flakes when poked with a fork (about 15 minutes).

4) Combine the tomatoes, scallions, and cilantro in a bowl. Toss together and season with 3/4 teaspoon salt.

5) Place corn with liquid in a small saute pan. Heat on low for 5 minutes. (Do not allow liquid to simmer or boil.) Drain water.

6) Place the baked fish in a small bowl and pull it apart with a fork.

7) Heat tortillas in the microwave or with a cast iron skillet. (Warm skillet on high heat. Place a tortilla on skillet. Cook until it warms and softens. Remove from heat. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.)

8) Fill each tortilla with fish and tomato mixture.

9) Sprinkle with feta and serve with a side of the corn.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Chocolate Peda

I miss Indian sweets and snacks. I wish there was Grands or Krishna sweets in LA. This is a foolproof recipe for chocolate pedas which does not involve any cooking or microwaving. I have not added any sugar or butter. You can make these guilt free pedas in no time. So what are you chocolate lovers waiting for? Try this and let me know!

Yields 4 pedas.

Ovaltine/sweetened cocoa/any chocolate drink powder(I used ovaltine)-4 tbsp
Milk Powder-4 tbsp
Almond powder-4 tbsp
Marie Biscuits-2 small(powdered)
Evaporated milk-2 tbsp

Method:Add ImageMix all the ingredients together and make a soft dough.
If the dough is sticky, add 2 drops of oil.
Divide the dough into 4 portions and shape them any way you like.

This is my 2nd entry to my own event:
15 minute Cooking - May 20th

Also sending it to For the Love of Chocolate - April 30th

Note: If you don't have evaporated milk, you can use milk(boiled and cooled). But pedas will perish soon. You may have to refrigerate them.
Since these are uncooked, I would not overeat. 2 or 3 max :)


Pair this earthy flatbread with potato masala, meat or legumes.

2009 Cardamom Kitchen LLC All Rights Reserved

Serves 6


1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Butter or ghee (optional)


Combine 1 cup flour and salt in a bowl. Add oil and blend with your fingers.

Slowly pour in water and mix to form a large ball of dough.

Divide dough into 6 pieces and form into balls.

Dust a cutting board with a thin layer of remaining flour. Pat one ball into a disk. Roll into a flat, circle about 1/16 of an inch thick. Repeat with remaining dough.

Heat a cast iron skillet on medium-high. Place a circle of dough on skillet. Turn when bubbles form on the side that is touching the skillet.

Remove bread from skillet when bubbles have formed on second side. Coat with a thin layer of butter or ghee. Repeat with remaining dough.

Potato Masala

Millions of Americans love to sink a fork into the mealy, fluffy pleasure of mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving. (Sorry turkey. It's really all about the sides.) The rest of the year, potatoes are treated as a bother. Who takes time to cloak them in foil for baking? Or they are branded with a scarlet C - CARBS! However the real health risk may lie in the way they're commonly consumed - as sky-high mountains of fries or prairies of hash browns, loaded with grease? Egads!

As children, we ate baked potatoes once a week, as a side dish with barbequed beef. It was my dad's contribution to family meals. My mom used them in potato masala. On occasion, she paired the masala with dosa (a sour crepe made of lentils and rice flour). However, we usually ate it with chapathis (whole wheat flat bread). If you want to reignite your passion for potatoes, consider trying her potato masala recipe included below. It provides flavor, which we all crave, without all the grease.

2009 Cardamom Kitchen LLC All Rights Reserved

Serves 6 to 8


2 tablespoons canola oil
1/8 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 tablespoon urad dhal
2 cups diced onions
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 small jalapeno, cut lengthwise
1 cup chopped tomato
3 cups thinly sliced Russet potatoes
3/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped cilantro


Heat the oil in a saute pan on low heat. Add the mustard seeds and cover. When mustard begins to pop, add the urad dhal. Cook unil the urad dhal turns brown.

Increase the heat to medium. Add the onions, ginger, and jalapeno and stir. Cook until the onion become translucent.

Stir in the tomato and cook until it begins to soften.

Add the potatoes. Cook for 3 minutes.

Add the water, salt, turmeric, and stir.

Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook until the potatoes are tender (about 15 minutes).

Remove the jalapeno. Gently stir in the cilantro.

An All Peerkangai (Ridge Gourd) Meal


I decided to make Sunday an all peerkangai day after dilly dallying with the question ‘what to cook?’ nibbling at my mind for a long time. The fresh stock of Peerkangai (Ridge gourd ) in the refrigerator wooed me into taking this decision. Peerkangai paruppu with a mango thrown in for the tang, peerkangy chutney for the spice and peerkangai bajji to crunch, accompanied the staple hot rice . With sips of hot jeera rasam in between, we did enjoy the peerkangai meal after all!

Ridge Gourd & Raw Mango with Lentils

Ridge gourd (Peeled and cut into cubes) – 1 cup
Raw Mango (Peeled and cut into cubes) – 1 /2 cup
Tur dal (Reg gram or split pigeon peas) – ½ cup
Moong Dal (Green gram dal) – 1/2 cup
Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
Salt – 1 tsp
Oil – 2 tsps
Asafoetida – 1 pinch
Mustard seeds – ¼ tsp
Green chillies (Chopped) – 2
Fresh coriander leaves – a small bunch
1. Scrape the rough ridges of the ridge gourd and cut them into cubes.
2. Peel raw mango and cut into cubes.
3. Wash both dals and add the cut vegetables and turmeric powder.
4. Pressure cook with 3 cups of water.
5. When all the ingredients are cooked, mash them together with the back of a ladle and add salt and blend.
6. Heat oil and add the mustard seeds.
7. When it splutters add the asafoetida powder and the chopped green chillies.
8. Add the seasoning and chopped coriander leaves to the dal.

Now the delicious Peerkangai mangai paruppu is ready. Instead of using mango, the juice of one lime can be blended into the cooked dal just before seasoning. Relish it with hot rice and a teaspoon of ghee or with hot rotis

Ridge Gourd Chutney

Ridge gourd (Peel Scraped and cut into slices) – 1 cup
Mustard seeds – ¼ tsp
Urad Dal (Black gram dal) – 1 tbsp
Red chillies – 6
Asafoetida – 1 pinch
Tamarind – the size of a marble
Salt – ¾ tsp
1. Scrape the hard ridge off the gourd, and cut the gourd into small cubes.
2. Heat oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds.
3. When it splutters add the black gram dal and roast till it is golden in colour.
4. Add asafoetida and the broken red chillies.
5. When the chillies become crisp add the cut ridge gourd and sauté.
6. Decrease flame and cover with a lid.
7. Cook until the vegetable becomes soft, stirring it now and then.
8. Turn off fire and cool the ingredients.
9. Add tamarind and salt and grind it in a mixer.
10. Remove the chutney when the vegetable becomes smooth and the dal is still coarse.

Ridge Gourd Bajji

Ridge gourd – 1
Besan or Bengal gram flour -1 cup
Rice flour – ½ cup
Spice powder – ½ tsp
Asafoetida- 1 pinch
Salt – ¾ tsp
Curd – 1 cup
Oil – for frying.
1. Scrape ridge gourd and slice it into moderately thick rounds.
2. Blend all the other ingredients with little water to make a thick batter.
3. Heat oil in a pan.
4. Coat the ridge gourd slices with the batter by dipping them into it.
5. Drop the batter coated vegetable slices one by one into hot oil.
6. Turn them now and then to get an even golden brown colour when fried.
7. Drain on tissues and enjoy the bajjis with sauce or chutney while still hot.

Note from Dibs: The peerkangais here in Syndey are literally giant sized and are more than a foot long! I often feel like Bhima carrying a peerkangai from the Market! It is called 'Sin-Qua' here, and found in the section for Chinese Vegetables!!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

LED Downlight Q & A

Hello Peggy,

I read with great interest your blog on Kitchen-exchange in regards to LED lighting. I will be remodeling our kitchen, dining room, and living room and would like to use LED recessed lighting. This will be new construction so I will need the fixtures as well as the bulbs. Can you help me locate a supplier that deals with (California title 24 compliant) this product?

Thank You,



Hi Denise,

You can do that yourself by going to the Cree web site and asking them who offers their LED, LR4 & LR6, downlight products locally.

There is also a new LED downlight series by Juno that offers similar illumination quality (competition is good).

You can find both companies with Google.

You'll need to buy matching fixtures and lamps that have a GU-24 base (Bi-pin connections) to be in conformance with CA Title 24.

Remember: There are lots of cheap LED downlight lamps out there and only a couple, at this point, that really do a good job.

Good luck with your project and let us know how it goes.


P.S. Downlighting is only one way to light rooms.

You need "layers" of lighting to achieve the wonderful effects that really good lighting can create.

By themselves downlights create cones of light. They are best for TASK lighting (counters, desks, etc.).

You still need AMBIENT lighting. That's the fill light that takes our eyes and throats out of the shadows and makes people look as great as surfaces and objects.

Then there is ACCENT lighting, for when we want to highlight an object or surface for an unexpected punch of strong light.

Finally, DECORATIVE lighting encompasses the fixtures and lamps with artistic flair that become a focal point in a room (even though they may not actually light it very well at all).

A well conceived lighting plan will take all of these elements into account, as well as the activities that happen in the space.

Good ambient lighting is the hardest to create in most spaces, but the most important next to task lighting.

Conclusion: A smattering of downlights on your ceilings, the sole lighting scheme in so many homes these days, provides lighting roughly equivalent to hanging an arrangement of flashlights from your ceilings (Think Halloween and the flashlight under the chin). Not a very flattering way to light yourself, your family, or your guests.

To learn more about great lighting from my favorite lighting designer (and teacher), see

Art Gallery/Store

Today is Akshaya Tritiyai. It is one of the most auspicious days of the Hindu calendar which brings us luck and success. On this special day, I would like to introduce a deity maker and decorator to you all. He is none other than my Grandpa, Mr. Seshadrinath. He is a retired school principal and teacher. After his retirement, his passion for making idols turned into a full time job. Over the years he has made innumerable pieces that have been a sell out. Apart from adorning idols, he also writes wonderful poems. He is really gifted with so many talents!

He began with the figure of Lord Srinivasa. Initially he was carving out the figure from thermacole and used cloth, zari and beads to beautify the pieces. Now he has started using ceramic, papier mache, plaster of Paris and plastic which are long lasting. The process then involves pasting of beads of various colors, sparkling stones, jewellery, silk cloth(my grandpa shops for these materials himself) over the mould. The devotees are awed by Mr. Seshadrinath's intricate works and authentic representations of idols. A huge image(4 feet tall) of Sri Srinivasa and Goddess Ranganayaki that Mr.Seshadrinath made recently is a masterpiece! Many hotels and famous shops(like GRT, Vasantha Bavan) in Chennai have displayed idols made by my grandpa.

Sri Srinivasa and Goddess Ranganayaki(4 feet tall)

Not to forget scented and sandalwood soaps he uses for carving miniatures of elephants and the like.

Lord Rama

Lord Muruga

Goddess Saraswathi


Each medium-sized deity takes a month to be completed and the time he gets between one order and another, Mr. Seshadrinath utilizes to get earrings, neckpieces and zari for the deities. The price starts from $250 and varies from one idol to another. If you are genuinely interested in buying any idol, please contact seshadrimay1[at]rediffmail[.]com

A few months back, an article about my grandpa was published on Hindu.

All pictures are copyrighted. Please ask me first!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Badam Ragi Malt(almond-fingermillet porridge)

Ragi malt makes a perfect breakfast item. It can keep you full until lunch time. I added some MTR's badam mix to give a twist to this drink.

Serves 1

Ragi flour(fingermillet flour)-3-4 tsp
MTR's badam mix(or powdered almond)-1 tsp
Sugar-2 tsp
Milk- 1 glass
Cardamom-1/4 tsp

Heat milk in a pan.
Mix ragi with 1/2 cup of water and whisk well with a fork so that there are no lumps.
When milk starts to boil, add the ragi paste, badam mix, sugar and cardamom. Simmer for 2 minutes and serve hot.

And this goes to my event: 15minute Cooking - May 20th

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spinach Thoran

I hosted some friends for lunch on Easter. Being a dessert lover, I prepared the menu in reverse order, beginning with egg-shaped mini chocolate cakes soaked with framboise eau-de-vie and drizzled with ganache.

For the main course, I made basmathi rice, spinach thoran (sauted spinach), and fish mappas (mild fish curry). I was a little worried about serving the thoran after one of my guests said that she tries to avoid spicy food! Turns out, I had no reason to fret. It was the star of the meal.

If you're looking for a flavorful way to make spinach (a superfood with lots of potassim), try my mom's recipe included below. A few tips:
  • Twelve cups of spinach may sound like a lot, but it shrinks considerably when cooked.
  • Dry out the spinach leaves before cooking them or you'll end up with a soggy dish.
  • Increase the heat to medium high when you add the spinach or, again, you'll end up with soggy spinach.
  • You'll develop the best flavor profile using fresh spinach. However, to save time, you can substitute the fresh spinach with three cups of frozen spinach (that has been thawed). Start with step 2 if you use frozen spinach. Substitute step 5 with: "Add the thawed spinach and cook until it begins to loosen. Stir to blend the spinach and onion mixture."

2009 Cardamom Kitchen LLC All Rights Reserved

Serves 5 t0 6


2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 tablespoon urad dhal
1 cup finely sliced onion
2 dried red chilies
12 packed cups fresh spinach
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seeds
Dash of turmeric powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut


1) Wash and drain the spinach. Set it aside to dry or pat the leaves with a paper towel to absorb excess water. Chop.

2) Heat the oil in a large saute pan on low heat. Add the mustard seeds and cover.

3) When the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the urad dhal. Cook until the dhal turns light brown.

4) Add the onion and red peppers. Increase heat to medium and cook until the onions are translucent.

5) Add the spinach. Increase the heat to medium high. Cover and cook until the leaves begin to wilt. Stir to blend the spinach and onion mixture.

6) Add the garlic powder, cumin powder, turmeric powder, salt, and stir. Continue to cook until the spinach is completely wilted.

Free Hot Water Anyone?

How Do Solar Water Systems Work?
Solar panels are properly positioned at your property to directly collect the suns energy, that energy is transferred to the water pumping through the panels. It is then stored in a tank for use in either your domestic hot water or even to heat your house! Solar is also great for heating your pool in the summer or year round.
Why Solar? Is It Right For Me?
The cost of living is constantly on the rise. We have very little control over the cost of our utilities (gas, electric), however, with solar thermal systems You Own Your Own Utility Company! You don't have to worry about the rising cost of gas or electric simply because you are getting your energy from the Sun for Free! Can you answer yes to any of these questions?
  • Do you want to eliminate 60-80% of your water heating bills?
  • Would you like to utilize an unlimited supply of usable energy?
  • Are you looking to increase equity in your home?
  • Do you have concerns for you health, your family and the environment?
If you said yes to the above questions then Solar Is Right For You.
Can You Afford It?
Yes! You have probably already paid for it and didn't even realize it. It never fails, every month the utility company sends out a bill and every month you pay it (reluctantly no doubt). So, over time, you've most likely bought at least one or more solar system and have nothing to show for it. The Federal Stimulus Package is offering a Tax Credit of 30% total costs, now is the time!

Check out this article for more information on this topic:

Curry leaves Rice(Karuvepilai Saadham)

I realized that I haven't posted much South Indian recipes. From now on, I will make it a point to post traditional recipes from the South once in a while. My latest post in my health blog is all about curry leaves. They are very good for you. I almost forgot about this rice until I saw it in Sriharivatsan's blog. I tried this last weekend and loved it. I have made some changes to her recipe and here is my version.

Serves 2

Fresh Curry leaves-1 cup
Oil-1/2 tsp
Urud dal-1 tbsp
Hing-1/4 tsp
Red chillies-4
Mustard seeds-1 tsp
Whole pepper-1/2 tsp
Rice-3/4 cup(uncooked)

Cook rice and set aside.
Heat oil in a pan. Fry all the above ingredients together till curry leaves turn crisp and urud dal turns golden brown. Cool and grind to a coarse powder. Mix with hot rice and ghee. Serve with pappad.

Note:Rice should be cooked in such a way that the grains are separate and not mushy.

Maida Tattai - Flat Savoury Crispy Snack

At the age of fourteen, my father lost his mother while she gave birth to her daughter. My grand father was never around to take care of the kids, as his job in the railways often took him out of station or sent him on the ‘line’. My father’s grand mother (my great grand mother) had a tough time bringing up my hyper active father and his new born sister almost single handed. My great grand mother lived up to her 96th year to narrate amusing anecdotes about our father to us.

Father made his reluctant aunt open the ‘ugranam’ (storeroom) where a variety of meticulously prepared savouries like tattais and murukkus were stored. After ransacking the stock meant to last for at least a couple of months with all his friends, he threw a sweet thank you at his bewildered aunt and marched away into the garden with his gang, only to return for refueling after a vigourous out door game!

I have never taken any interest in learning to prepare these savouries as our needs were always taken care of by the elders in the family. Later on professionals were summoned to prepare them during functions at home. Nowadays these and many more savouries and sweets are available in shops which have sprung up every where in plenty.

Here I have tried to prepare maida tattai for this post with the instructions of my enthusiastic mami (maternal uncle’s wife) who has mastered the art of traditional as well as innovative cooking.
Maida or plain flour – 1 glass (my one glass can hold approximately 250 gms of an ingredient which is equivalent to what we call a ‘pav’ in Kannada.)
Rice flour – 1/3 glass
Roasted and powdered black gram dal (urad dal) – 1 heaped tbsp
Soaked and drained Bengal gram dal (chana dal) – 2 tbsps
Asafoetida – ¼ tsp
Salt – ¾ tsp
Spice powder (my Sambar powder) – 1 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Ghee or butter – 2 tbsps
Oil for frying

The required amount of maida is bundled up in a clean cloth and placed in a clean dry vessel.This vessel is then placed in the pressure cooker and steamed for 15 minutes without the whistle. After steaming, the maida will look like a hard dry piece of plaster of Paris. Crumble this into a fine powder using your hand.
1. Take a glass of the prepared maida in a wide mouthed vessel.
2. Add rice flour, roasted and powdered black gram dal, salt, asafoetida, ,spice powder, soaked dal and cumin seeds.
3. Add ghee or butter and mix the ingredients well till they look like bread crumbs.
4. Heat 4 tbsps of oil and pour all over the mixture and blend with a spoon.
5. Add water little by little and make a dough, like you would for a chappatis.
6. Make small lime size balls out of the dough.
7. Flatten one by one by pressing the ball between the palm of one hand, and the mount under the thumb of the other hand.
8. Make the tattais as thin as possible and fry them in batches of four or six in hot oil.
9. Drain them on absorbant paper and store in an air tight jar after it cools down.
Some Notes from my trial: Tattais will crumble and break away in the oil, if the oil is not fuming hot. My first few tattais crumbled away into the oil. I then realized it is to do with the oil temperature. You can reduce heat if needed, when the tattais are half done and change colour, lest they may get burnt. Tattais do tend to need lots of oil, so if you are feeling indulgent, this makes an ideal accompaniment with tea or coffee!! Overall, the result was a very delicious and cruncy snack.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Vengaya Pakoda - Onion in Besan Fritters

Vengaya pakoda is a very popular snack in Tamil Nadu. Its hard to find any bakery or tea stall with out selling these. These crispy pakodas is the most sought after accompaniment with a cup of hot tea/coffee. In Kerala, you will find the bajji version more popular. Pakodas are crunchy where as bajjis are crisp and soft. Though both are besan based, the batter consistency makes the difference. At my home, Amma used to make this on most of the Sundays. Post marriage, my husband's family love to have these pakodas/bajji as side for dinner. With the onset of monsoon, these will be made often in my home. This is a favorite with my hubby. There isn't any recipe for this. I usually follow eye ball measurement. without any exact measurement followed, each time it is made, it has a unique taste.

1 medium sized onion, chopped

handful of besan flour - 2 measures

handful of rice flour - 1 measure

salt to taste

a big pinch of chilli powder

few shakes of hing

chopped coriander & curry leaves (optional)

Water to prepare the batter

Oil to deep fry


Mix all the ingredients well. Add water little by little to get a thick batter. The batter should not be very stiff also. Adjust the salt and chilli powder to your taste.

Heat oil in a kadai. When hot, take some batter in your hand, crumble it into small pieces, directly into the oil. Be careful as you do this over the oil. Take care that your fingers do not go near oil. The idea is to get small pieces so that it will fry crisp else it will turn soft. This is a very forgiving recipe. Little more or less of any of the ingredients will not affect the taste but the crunchiness will vary. Too much of water or besan will give soft pakoras.

Drain on absorbent papers and when cool, you can store in airtight containers.

I am sending this to RFRU:Starters hosted by Sunshinemom, an event started by Ramki.

15 minute cooking @Spices etc.....

Do you have as little as 15 minutes to whip up something on a busy day? Join me in my kitchen and share your jiffy recipes! They can be anything from appetizers to desserts. A few examples of 15 minute recipes are milkshakes, sandwiches, salads, chutneys(thogayal), rotis, dhals(kootu), upma, kheer, dosas, microwave recipes etc. You can also send semi-homemade dishes. The aim of this event is to learn, share and store a collection of quick recipes(from different parts of India) in one place!

Here are the guidelines for the event:

Prepare any vegetarian dish(no eggs please) that will take no more than 15 minutes.
Post it in your blog between today and May 20th. There is no limit on the number of entries.
Link back to this announcement. Feel free to use the logo.
If you have already posted some quick recipes, make a fresh post along with this link.
If you don't have a blog, email me your recipes.

Email with the following details on or before May 20th(9 PM PST).
1. Blog Name
2. Dish name and the URL
3. Picture of the dish(300 px wide)
4. Rename the picture to dish name.

The round up will be posted by May 31st.

I am expecting good response from you all :)

The time required to do advance preparation like soaking, grinding, fermenting, chopping veggies is not counted. But I would still prefer recipes that will take only 15 minutes from start to end.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pal Payasam(Milk pudding)

Happy Tamil New Year to all my visitors and friends! Hope you had a feast on this occasion!

The addition of coconut in this payasam makes it delicious.


Rice-2 tbsp
Coconut-1/4 cup
milk-1/2 cup
Sugar-5 tbsp
Roasted nuts and raisins-to garnish
Saffron-a few strands
Cardamom-1/4 tsp
Food color(optional)-a pinch

Soak rice in water for 15 minutes.
Grind coconut and rice together with little water to a coarse paste.
Heat 1 cup of water in a vessel. When it starts boiling, add the ground paste.
Stir now and then and cook for 10 minutes(the mixture will become thick and rice should have cooked well by now).
Add milk, cardamom, saffron, sugar, food color and simmer for 10 minutes.
Roast chopped nuts in 1/2 tsp ghee and add it in the end.
Serve cold or hot.

Isn't it easy enough to try?

This is my entry to CFK: Rice - May 2nd hosted by Trupti, started by Sharmi.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tamizh New Year & Thirst Quenchers!


Ugadi arrived with a burst of tender green leaves and a colourful riot of flowers. More or less a fortnight after that the Tamizh new year has arrived bringing along the scorching heat of the summer Sun. The name of each Tamizh month is mentioned with a rhyming phrase which describes the weather conditions that particular month ushers in.Adi katril ammium parakkum’- means even the grinding stone flies away in the Adi wind. ‘Aipasi madam adai mazhai peyum’ – refers to the heavy rains during the Aipasi month. Likewise Chittirai madam - the first month of the new year is famous for its Kattiri veyil (The Cutting / scorching heat of the Sun). While the new year is celebrated with the seasonal mango and neem flower dishes, cool and refreshing dishes and drinks - Panakam, Neer mor and Kosumari -form the integral part of the festivities. These were also prepared during the Sri Rama Navami festival. (Birth day celebrations of Lord Sri Rama).

My mother’s mother was a multifaceted and dynamic lady. She was way ahead of her times in her thinking and actions. She looked every inch a perfect traditional ‘mami’ clad in her nine yards saree. She was very spiritual on the one side, and grandiose on the other when it came to entertaining guests, and magnanimous in her philanthropic activities. Her deft hands could swirl murukkus – a rice based savoury- with the same ease and perfection with which she played tennis.

I remember the Tannir Pandal (A shelter or shade built with bamboos and coconut leaves under which water and neer mor was distributed during Summer) which she promptly erected in front of her house during the month of Chittirai. A large earthen basin filled up with clean sand was placed on a table. The huge ‘panai’( mud pot) full of neer mor (watery butter milk ) was placed on this basin. This way the drink stayed cool all through the hot day. Grand mother served the neer mor in glasses to thirsty passers by. She felt immensely happy when they blessed her after quenching their thirst. This beautiful custom which was practiced as a mark of compassion to the fellow beings, and to uphold universal brotherhood by many homes, has now become restricted to only a few youth associations or temples in modern days .



Curd – 1 glass
Water – 5 glasses
Coriander leaves – a few
Curry leaves – a few
Fresh Ginger – 1” piece
Salt – 1 tsp
Lime – 1
Asafoetida – 1 pinch
Roasted and powdered fenugreek seeds – ¼ tsp
Oil – ½ tsp
Mustard seeds – ¼ tsp
Red chilly – 1( Optional)
1. Wash coriander and curry leaves and skin the ginger.
2. Grind them with salt and roasted fenugreek seed powder into a fine paste.
3. Add curd and run the mixer until all the ingredients blend.
4. Pour it into a large vessel and add five glasses of water.
5. Cut the lime and squeeze out the juice into the neer mor.
6. Discard seeds and then float the empty lime skin into the neer mor which gives it a good flavour. (Avoid the skin while serving.)
7. Heat the oil and add mustard seeds.
8. When it splutters add asafoetida powder and the broken red chillies, and pour the seasoning into the neer mor.
9. Chill and serve with ice cubes.

Jaggery – 1 cup
Lime – 1 large
Cardamom – 2
Saffron – a few strands
Dry ginger powder – 1 /4 tsp
Salt – 1 pinch
Pache kalpooram (Edible camphor) – equal to 1 pin head

Caution: Read about Camphor here. Camphor that you normally get is not edible. You need to ask particularly for EDIBLE CAMPHOR. Using the wrong camphor is poisonous! While edible camphor is mild compared to regular camphor, even the edible variety has a very strong smell and taste. Truely an amazing ingredient, and just a very tiny little spec will give your sweets and beverages a magical flavour - any more than that, will ruin the taste and flavour. METHOD:
1. Dissolve jaggery in one glass of warm water and filter it.
2. Add the saffron strands while it is still warm.
3. Squeeze the lime juice into it with out the seeds.
4. Add powdered cardamom , salt and the dry ginger powder.
5. Crush the pache kalpooram between the thumb and the fore finger and drop the powder into the Panakam.
6. Add 5 glasses of water and chill.
Enjoy the refreshing Panakam topped with ice cubes on a hot and sweltering day

Cucumber – 1
Raw mango – 1
Split Green gram dal (Mung dal) – 1 cup
coriander leaves – few stalks
Oil – 1 tsp
Mustard seeds – ¼ tsp
Asafoetida – 1 pinch
Chopped Green chillies - 1

1. Wash and soak split green gram dal for half an hour and drain.
2. Wash and cut cucumber and raw mango into small pieces. The peels can be retained if the vegetables are fresh and tender.
3. Chop the coriander leaves.
4. Mix all the above adding the salt.
5. Heat oil and add mustard seeds.
6. When it splutters add asafoetida and the chopped green chillies.
7. Pour the seasoning on the kosumari and mix before serving.

All the three dishes are very nourishing and refreshing during hot summer months. They help in cooling down the system and prevent dehydration , nausea , loss of apetite and pittam(Biliousness) - the other common symptoms prevalent during the summer months.

Friday, April 10, 2009


…has finally arrived.  Could legs be any sexier? 

Now I want a new coffee table.  We like the one we made, and we’ll use it elsewhere.  It’s just not a good fit for this couch.  I guess Noguchi is too big..? 

Oh, the blue room is the dining room – more on that later.