Date Pickle

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This request is from my friend, A.R. She loves this pickle. I debated posting this recipe but finally thought….all good things are better when they are shared! This pickle is very good accompaniment to a spicy rice dish like biriyani. It is sweet and spicy at the same time.

Date Pickle
Ingredients:
3 Cups (about a 24 oz container) chopped Dates
2 cups vinegar
 1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
2 tbsp ginger, sliced finely
2 tbsp  garlic, sliced finely
3 green chilies, chopped finely
few sprigs of curry leaves
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp Pickle masala or to taste ( can usually find at Indian stores, I like Periyar and Grandma’s brand)
1 tbsp kashmiri chili powder
Method:
Soak the chopped dates in 2 cups of vinegar to soften for 10-15 minutes. Place in saucepan and add 1 tablespoon sugar and cook until soft. Mash up big pieces.
 In another saucepan add oil and then mustard seed, After they are done spluttering add sliced ginger, garlic, green chilies, curry leaves and fry for just a few minutes. Do not brown.  Add salt, pickle masala, and  kashmiri chili pdr. Sauté for a minute or so then add dates. Remove from heat and add little vinegar as needed to make a chutney or jam like consistency.
Place in clean bottles
 Yields about 30 oz or 2 pint jars
Can be stored in refrigerator for a few weeks.

Kerala Diamond Cuts

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Christmas time is always a nostalgic time and these diamond cuts always recreates memories of those long gone. My paternal grandmother would make these fired, crispy, sugar coated snacks when we would visit her in Kottayam over the summer. Being a diabetic, she would reserve some without adding the sugar coating. When my dad would visit us in Muncie he would ask me and my mom to make these crunchy snacks so probably reminded him of his dear mom too.  I make these every Christmas and this year decided to use them as favors.  The cumin seeds added to the sugar syrup makes it perfect. It is a great accompaniment with a cup of afternoon coffee or tea. There is a North Indian version called Shakara para but I think they add sugar to only the dough and no sugar coating on the outside like these diamond cuts.

Kerala Diamond Cuts

Ingredients:

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2  cup  powdered sugar

pinch salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cardamom powder

1 tbs ghee

Sugar syrup– 1 cup sugar and 4  tbs water, 1 tsp cumin seeds—combine together and bring t a boil and set aside

Method:

Combine the flour, salt, baking pdr, cardamom pdr, powdered sugar and ghee. Rub together to incorporate all the ghee and add water little by little to make a soft dough. Cover with a damp cloth and set aside for 20 mts. In the meantime make the sugar syrup and set aside.

Take sectioned balls of dough and roll out onto a floured surface into a fairly thin sheet. Use a knife or pastry cutter and make vertical strips and then cut on the bias diagonally.

Heat up oil in a frying pan and deep fry diamonds a deep golden brown. After frying all the dough, sprinkle the sugar syrup over the cuts and toss until all is coated and glistening. Spread out in a thin layer on a cookie sheet. I added some colored sprinkles due give them a festive flair. Allow to air dry, tossing intermittently. Once all have dried, transfer to an air tight tin.

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Sambar- Spicy South Indian Lentils

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I make sambar at least once a week. It is a spicy, tangy lentil dish packed with protein and flavor. Usually an accompaniment with plain rice, idli, dosai or  vada. A true south Indian meal is rarely complete without it. It always tastes better the next day. I cook the dhal in my rice cooker– it has a soup setting so no fuss. But you can cook the dhal on the stove. This is a recipe for a weekday sambar, nothing fancy, easy to prepare.

Sambar

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

1 cup Toor dhal, rinsed

1 tsp turmeric

3-4  cups water

2 cups mixed chopped vegetables- Zucchini, carrots, potatoes, eggplant, beans, , etc (can also use froz vegetables)

1 cup frozen okra

1 cup chopped sliced cherry or grape tomatoes

2-3  tbs sambar masala (found at any Indian grocery store, I like Periyar or Eastern brand, you may add more or less according to how spicy you want it)

1-2  tbsp tamarind paste dissolved in a 1/4 cup water and strained

1 tsp asafetida (Hing or chayyam)

Salt to taste

Chopped cilantro for garnish

Seasoning: 1 tsp oil, 1/4 tsp mustard seeds, 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds (uluva), 2-3 red chilies, 1 small onion-sliced,

Method:

Wash the toor dhal well and place in a rice cooker with 3 cups water and 1 tsp turmeric and cook on medium heat until well cooked and dhal is falling apart. You can also use a pressure cooker as well for 3 whistles or use a pot on the stove. Mash up the cooked dhal– I usually use my immersion mixer and give it a few twirls to make it more smooth but some prefer to keep it a little chunky.

Place all the vegetables, except the okra and the tomatoes– in a microwave safe bowl. Add 1/2 cup water and 1 tsp salt and a pinch of turmeric. Microwave for 5-7 mts or until cooked. With a slotted spoon transfer the vegetables to the cooked dhal. (Reserve the water to use for thinning out the sambar if too thick.)

Add sambar powder and let boil for a few minutes. Turn down heat, add the asafetida and the tamarind paste water. Do not let boil after adding tamarind or it will become frothy.

If the sambar is too thick, add some of reserved water. Add salt to taste. It will thicken some as it cools. Add frozen okra, cover and remove from stove. The frozen okra will cook quickly and won’t get slimy this way.. If using fresh okra, add and let the sambar simmer for a few minutes before turning it off.

Season Heat oil in a small frying pan, add mustard seeds, allow to splutter. Add fenugreek seeds, red chilies and sliced onion and a pinch of salt. Allow to brown. Add the tomatoes and sauté for a few minutes. Add this seasoning to the sambar and garnish with chopped cilantro leaves

Green Tomato Pachadi

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Pachadi is a yogurt accompaniment found with any Kerala meal. It can be made with different vegetables or even fruits. It is very similar to raita that is made in north India. The yogurt is seasoned with curry leaves and mustard seeds and gently heated. Yogurt is a critical component of any Indian meal—it soothes the GI tract after a spicy meal and acts as a digestant. No meal is complete without that last bit of rice and yogurt.

Green tomatoes are firm and have almost an apple like consistency with very little water content.

green cherry tomatoes Houston, Tx

green cherry tomatoes Houston, Tx (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You can make a pachadi out of most any vegetable– spinach, okra, tomato, pineapple, beetroot, mango, cucumber, eggplant, and list goes on. They all will follow the same method in the following recipe.

Green Tomato Pachadi

Ingredients:

1 large green tomato- sliced

3-4 diced green chilies

1/2 a diced onion

2-3 diced garlic

few sprigs of curry leaves

1 tbs oil

1/2 tsp mustard seeds

2 cups plain yogurt

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Method

In a sauce pan heat up oil. Then add mustard seeds. After they have spluttered, add onions, green chilies, curry leaves and garlic. Add salt to taste. When onions have softened, add green tomatoes. Sauté until tomato is cooked. Remove from stove and add yogurt stirring well. Return to stove and heat on a low flam until yogurt is warm. (It will curdle if placed on a high flame. Keep stirring)

Serve with any Indian meal. Serves 6

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Crunchy Murukku – A Tea Time Snack

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I have always wanted to try making murukku. I am definitely not an expert at this and know there are many variations. They didn’t turn out too bad for a first time and the pics came out well.

This is a crunchy snack perfect with a cup of coffee or tea.

Crunchy Murukku

Ingredients:
1 cup rice flour
1/4 cup urad flour
1/4 c besan flour (a.k.a-Channa dhal/Gram/garbanzo/chick pea flour)
2 tbsp softened butter ( is a must)
2 tsp red chili powder- or to taste
1/4 tsp hing or asafetida
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp white sesame seeds
Enough water to make dough

Method:
Heat up the flours individually in a dry frying pan and combine together. Do not brown, just heat up. Heat up the cumin seeds and sesame seeds the same way until fragrant. Add to the flours. Add the rest of the ingredients and add water gradually until you get a soft firm dough. Cover and set aside.
Cut squares of foil and grease.
Place dough into a murukku maker ( see pic below) with the star attachment and swirl into a 2-3 inch circle. Heat oil in a frying pan and drop into oil a few at a time. Flip over and fry until golden. Drain on a paper towel.Makes about 20-30 pieces depending on size. Store in a covered container or Ziploc bag.

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Note: You probably can make this with a cookie press or a piping bag, if you can find a really small star attachment.

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Grape Salad

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I had bought some green grapes that were more sour than sweet so decided to make a salad out of it. I have seen a similar salad at my friends house adding pomegranate seeds. It is very light and a perfect side item anytime.

Grape Salad:

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Ingredients:
A bunch of grapes, halved
1/2 seedless cucumber, peeled and diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 onion, diced
2 green chilies, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped cilantro

Method:
Toss a ingredients together and chill. Serve as side salad. Feeds 5-6.

Pork Peralan and Tomato Raita

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Peralan is a type of dish that does not have much gravy—not to say that this is a dry dish but somewhere in between. It is coated with the gravy—the meaning of ” perali” in malayalam. You can make a peralan with any protein–chicken, beef, pork, shrimp. Asha likes this dish soo much she asked me to bring it in my carry-on when we went and visited her this past week. This accompanied by Tomato raita, white rice, and chips is one of her favorite meals.

Pork Peralan

Ingredients:

2 lbs country style pork ribs (can get boneless or with bone) Cut into 1-2 inch squares

1 Large onion, sliced

3 green chilies, sliced

3 tsp ginger garlic paste or equal amts of sliced ginger and garlic

1/2 tsp mustard seeds

handful of curry leaves

1/4 cup sliced coconut-if available

Masalas

1 tsp Turmeric

1 tsp paprika

2 tsp cayenne chili powder

2 tsp coriander powder

2 tsp cumin powder

1 heaping tablespoon  meat/chicken masala

1 tsp garam masala

Salt to taste

Cilantro to garnish

METHOD:

Rinse meat well and let drain. In a large frying pan, add 1 tablespoon or so of oil, when hot add mustard seeds. After done popping add sliced onions and let brown, add curry leaves, ginger, garlic, green chillies and coconut pieces. Saute til softened then add salt and all the masalas…fry for a minute or so then add cubed pork pieces. Add a little water so it is not too dry. Cook on medium high  heat, uncovered for about 20-30 mts. Add little water occasionally if it looks like it is getting dry. When cooked add chopped cilantro.

Serve with white rice or chapathy.

Tomato Raita

1 large can of petite diced tomato (can use fresh, chopped tomatoes as well)

1 large container of plain Yogurt, beaten until smooth

1/2 tsp mustard seeds

1 large onion diced

2 tsp sliced ginger and garlic or paste

handful of curry leaves

2-3 sliced green chilies

1-2 dry red chilies

Pinch of cumin powder and asafoetida, chili pdr, turmeric

1 tbsp veg oil as needed

Cilantro leaves chopped, for garnish

METHOD

In a shallow fryinng pan heat oil and add mustard seeds, when done popping add onions, ginger, garlic, green chilies, curry leaves, red chilies and saute. Add salt to taste. Then add tomatoes and cook down well. May take 15 mts. You are trying to evaporate as much liquid as possible. Add cumin pdr, chili pdr, turmeric and asafoetida. Remove from stove and whisk in beaten yogurt gradually,  mixing constantly or else will curdle when it hits the hot tomato mixture. You may add a little water to make it less thick. Put back on stove and mix continuously until yogurt is warm to hot. Garnish with cilantro

Onam dishes….Inji Puli—Perfect balance of Sweet and Sour….

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It is Ladies lunch time again!  After a long and hectic summer break for everyone, we meet again. We have been having monthly ladies lunches for maybe 5  yrs now. I fell off the circuit after returning to work. Missed the camraderie, gossip and trying everyones varied cuisines. We have such a diverse group that we can travel thru a different state of India every month.

 That is what I love about our small town…..we have people from almost every region in India that not one group is a majority (…well maybe Andra Pradesh has the lead)  but we all come together as Indians of varying backgrounds. There are no separate Malayalee (people from the state of Kerala—where I originate from)  groups, Tamil Sangam, Kannada Kootam, etc….  meeting on their own, doing their own thing, celebrating their own festivals. We celebrate together. I always quote a friend, Rajagopal, who jokingly said our town is utopia…. maybe it is.

Anyway back to Ladies Lunch.I am hosting the ladies lunch this week in honor of a Kerala festival called Onam.  Onam is akin to Thanksgiving in the US. It is a harvest festival as well as the return of the great king Mahabali. He returns once a year to be with the people of Kerala once a year( …..long story involving a demon, being banished from his home, etc….most Indian folklore follows the same story line…..maybeI’ll tell that story another time) Anyway, one of the traditions of Onam is the Onam Sadya(feast), a vegetarian feast served on a freshly cut banana leaf . More than  30 different dishes are served one after another with a method to the service and how it is placed on the banana leaf . It is a slow and steady eating ritual done only once a year. Everyone in Kerala celebrates Onam, Christian, Muslim or Hindu alike.

I thought I would do a  “mini-Onam” lunch. Now, “mini” and Onam do not go together but more so “mini” and anything I do don’t go together!!   

So one of Onam recipes I’ll share is sweet and sour and spicy, all at the same time—

Inji Puli Curry   (Ginger Tamarind Curry)

This is  one of my favorites. I don’t know why everyone doesn’t make this more often than during Onam.There is saying– “Inji puli ondinkkal 10 para choru oonam”  “—if there is inji puli then you can eat 10 measures of rice”……. And yes, it is best with plain white rice.It really is an accompaniment than a curry as a little goes a long way. They also say that Inji Puli is like Life at its’ optimum—–a perfect balance of Sweet and Sour. So, friends, I wish you all a perfect Inji Puli Life!!

Inji Puli Curry

Ingredients:

4 cups of sliced fresh ginger

 3 Dried Red chilies
 
8-10 fresh curry leaves
2 sliced green chilies1/2 cup chopped onionTamarind- lemon sized ball dissolved in 2 cups of water1 cup dark brown sugar

1 tsp red chili pdr

 1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp Mustard seeds

 pinch of asafoetida

Salt to taste

1/2 cup Coconut oil (can use Vegetable or Canola oil)

1 tsp Chana Dhal
1 tsp Urad dhal
 
 Method

a large frying pan heat coconut oil to medium heat and  add the sliced ginger. Fry unti golden brown. Take care not to burn it. All that ginger will reduce to half  when fried.

Remove ginger to a separate plate leaving oil in pan. Into oil add the mustard seeds. After spluttering add curry leaves, red chilies and dhals. Then add chopped onions, green chilies and let brown slighly. Add chili pdr, garam masala, salt. Then add tamarind water and fried ginger. When boiling add the brown sugar and let thicken. Add the asafoetida and remove from stove. Let cool and transfer to a clean jar. Will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks or so.

Perfect with some  piping hot rice ….That’s all I’ll need for dinner tonight! Now as for my son ..that’s a different story–I’ll have to buy him a pizza or something ! 🙂

Inji Puli