Thursday, July 31, 2008

Coffee love

Dear foodies,

Here are my two coffee pics for Click -Coffee & Tea for the month of July.


Update 2: The above photo won the first place in the Click: Reader's Choice category! Yayyy! THANK YOU all soo much for voting. I am really thrilled by it and the smile cannot get any longer on my face today :) It also made it to the 4th place in the Click: Spectra and Click: Concept categories which are the icing on the cake for me. A huge Thank you to all the judges and a special one to Bee and Jai! Congrats to the other winners :) Click here to see the winning entries.
And I get a precious badge, yipieee


The first photo is my entry to the event. I took these photos only y'day and would have loved to spend more time with the second photo. I like the idea behind it, but the execution could have been better. You can look at the camera settings for each photograph at my Flickr page by clicking on the photos. I post-processed the first photo a little by using a focal B&W filter. Here is another post I made last year confessing my coffee love :D and also a photo of the coffee filter that creates the magic.

Update 1: Here is a better processed version of the second photo, thanks to Manisha :)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tomato Rasam/chaaru

Update: See previous post to read why the bowl might have cracked.
Dear foodies,

Every meal at home consisted of a vegetable side dish which was steam cooked/stir fried/chutney and then a lentil-based dish like sambar/kootu/pappu(dal) and then a light rasam/chaaru and it finally ended with some curd/buttermilk. There would then be variations of this menu based on the vegetables available and our moods, but the underlying pattern would remain. You need vegetables for your vitamins and nutrients, lentils for your proteins and, rice for carbs.

For instance, when my mom makes majjiga pulusu, it will either have lentil dumplings in it or would be paired with usili to balance out the absence of lentil. Similarly if we were having a tamarind based pulusu it would have a kandipappu oorpindi for company and a mysore chaaru, which has relatively more dal than your usual chaaru, would be paired with simple stir fries without additional sambar. If eaten right, you end up having a lot more vegetables than rice. The combinations like this are just endless.... isn't this a smart way of having a balanced meal every single day. Almost all combo's go by a similar mantra, well almost, I cannot place this into one :D

During my mom's stay here she cooked like this every single day, and had it all done by 7:30am so I could pack my lunch!! While I would make any ONE dish from the entire spread and call it a meal by itself!

Rasam/chaaru has been an integral part of the meal, it also shares the title for 'a comforting meal' with a few others. Rasam usually has a souring ingredient as its base which is then flavored with some dal water and spices, mainly pepper and coriander seed. It aids in digestion and a cup of warm rasam is super comforting when the weather is cold or if you are hit by cold/fever. The sourness for the rasam can come from tomatoes, tamarind, lime juice or mangoes. I have also seen recipes with pomegranate, pineapple and kokum as their base, though we never used them at home. The dal water needed for the rasam is the water in which the toor dal is boiled. The cooked toor dal is mashed and as the dal settles to the bottom, the lightly flavored water on the top is ladled out to make the rasam and the remaining dal is used in sambar or pappu.

Here is a recipe that uses mainly tomatoes and a hint of tamarind
  • 2-3 nos- ripe tomatoes, medium sized
  • 2 cups - dal water
  • 1 Tbsp - rasam powder (recipe coming up)
  • pulp from a marble sized tamarind ball
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 4-6 coriander stalks with leaves, tied together with a twine or use just the leaves
  • 1 tsp ghee (recommended, if not, use oil)
  • a pinch of hing/asafoetida
  • 1 tsp jeera/cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds (optional)
  • 2-3 curry leaves
  • Microwave 1 1/2 cup of water for a minute with the tamarind and extract the pulp (or use a tsp of tamarind extract). Wash and quarter the tomatoes.
  • Place a saucepan on medium heat and add the tamarind water, tomatoes, rasam powder, turmeric, salt and coriander leaves. Bring it to a boil and simmer until the raw smell of the rasam powder subsides and the tomatoes turn to a mush.
  • Mash the tomatoes with the back of your ladle or if you choose so, fish them out to another bowl, remove the skin, and mash them a little before adding them back to the rasam water
  • Now add the dal water and let it simmer, you will see a slight foam on top after a few minutes indicating that the rasam is ready. In the meanwhile get the tadka ready, heat the ghee and splutter the jeera, add the curry leaves and when the begin to crackle add the asafoetida, toss it into the rasam and cover with a lid until ready to serve.
  • Enjoy with warm rice or on it own in a glass.
The tadka for rasam in always in ghee and jeera, while for sambar its with oil and mustard seeds at my place. The coriander leaves are a must have for a good rasam. The pepper and coriander seeds in the rasam powder are sharp and soothing in their own way while the ghee mellows out the flavors and comforts your throat. The pepper rasam is coming up, but I'll bring you my mom's recipe for the rasam powder next...

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Dear foodies,

Kya aisa bhi hota hai ?

My mother made gojju, to be used in making pulihora/tamarind rice later. I was out of plastic containers and stored it in this stainless steel davara/bowl. A week later I check on it and find this! hmmm...wrong choice

Update: My friend Ashwin saw my blog post and explained to me why the bowl cracked, here it is in his own words "The tartaric acid from Gojju forms a brittle intermediate with the Carbon content in Steel. A temperature gradient will accentuate any possible crack formation during this chemical process. Like taking the davara out of the fridge would be a good enough reason for the crack to proliferate",
So there, you know the science behind the crack now try deciphering the meaning behind his poems :)

P.S: On a totally different note, do you remember that show on DD, Aisa bhi hota hai...they would cover weird tidbits from around the world...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Avial - a vegetable superpower!

Dear foodies,

This is one dish I truly grew up too, Avial. From avoiding it every single time it made its way to the table... to craving it. I was just like the stereotypical kid I guess, hating avial only because it had sooo many vegetables in one dish :)) Only later recently did I started appreciating it for its flavor.

Avial is a subtly flavored dish that holds its beauty in the medley of vegetables which are steam cooked and later simmered in a coconut based gravy, bringing the whole dish together. The recipe for this dish is fairly uncomplicated but you hardly find good avials in the restaurants. Even the Udipi restaurant's, known to specialize in South Indian cuisine, fail to get it spot on. Infact the Udipi frozen packs are better than that! By the way, I love their frozen masala dosa, totally unhealthy I agree, but its good!

Avial - Vegetables simmered in a mild coconut curry
  • 3 cups cubed vegetables
         Common vegetables used in Avial are white pumpkin, (yellow pumpkin is not a substitute), yam, potato, raw banana, beans, cluster beans, drumsticks, peas, brinjal (eggplant), carrot and raw mango. No cauliflower or cabbage or capsicums here! You could substitute the white pumpkin with bottle gourd (sorakaya) and the raw mango with some sour curds or tamarind. 
    Grind to paste:
      • 1 Tbsp raw/uncooked rice (soaked in water for 15mins)
      • 1 tsp Cumin seeds
      • 1/2 cup freshly, grated coconut
      • 2 green chillies (no red ones here)
    • 1/2 cup sour curds
    • 11/2 tsp coconut oil
    • 4-5 curry leaves
    • Salt to taste
    • Boil the vegetables till done adding just enough water. You could add them all to the cooker one after the other based on cooking times. The potatoes, yam, raw banana, drumstick and pumpkin go in first, carrots, beans and raw mango a few minutes later, lastly brinjal and peas.
    • Once they are close to done, add the ground coconut paste and salt. Simmer for 5-8 mins and turn off the heat. Then add the curds making sure the vegetables are luke warm to avoid curdling.
    • Top it off with chopped curry leaves and 1tsp of coconut oil. Serve with warm rice/venn-pongal/puri/chapathi or just have a bowlful :)
    It was wonderful having my mom do the cooking. Perfectly blended flavors, right what I was craving, there is definitely magic in those hands! No matter how closely I follow her recipes, I can never make it the way she does it, and her's happen to be my benchmark for perfection :( I have a lot more of her recipes coming up. The pumpkin or the bottle gourd is essential I think, they add the juicy bites to the dish and do not let the heavier' potatoes and yam take over. The coconut oil in the end might seem a little to strong if its your first time, but do give it a try, it adds a really nice touch to the dish. But be careful with the amt you add, a little goes a looong way here :) No tadka's required, but you could heat the oil a little bit to mellow out the taste if needed.

    Friday, July 11, 2008

    Chocolatey temptations

    evDear Foodies,

    This post is not about the Cadbury's Temptation bars, though I could surely dedicate a post to them, they used to be on the list of things to bring back from India visits whenever our frnds travelled :) My friends know really well that chocolates are one of my favorite things, coming to think of it, I think most of my favs are so obvious making it really easy to find gifts for me :(

    When I was just about to leave work for the day, I checked ET's post, she spoke about brownies and cupcakes. I couldn't resist and read through the whole post which was a perfect trap. Sinful chocolate, egg-less and ready in 10mins! I could not argue against it, an hour and a half after I reached home we were indulging in these absolutely delicious cupcakes. I did not have cupcake liners and so sprayed my muffin pan with some oil spray and scooped the batter directly into them.

    the recipe ...
    I earnestly tried to stick to the exact recipe, but change is the only constant, right? So here goes, I sifted all the dry ingredients and for the wet I reduced the amount of oil & used 2 tsp flax seeds microwaved with water for a min; Soy milk instead of regular milk was added. For the coffee flavor I used the Nescafe instant coffee powder you get at the Indian store and it did not surface as the superpower. It was chocolate'dom all throughout. My mom actually found it a little too bitter and we might have it with some dulce de leche ice cream later tonight to balance the flavors :D

    I used organic unsweetened cocoa and might use a little more sugar or lesser cocoa powder next time if I plan to serve the cupcakes on their own. (I was lucky to have forgotten to add the chunks of dark chocolate bar I had initially planned!) The cream cheese frosting in the original recipe by Nicole that ET followed could also be a good pairing for the dark chocolate flavor. I loved the texture and flavor they had. The cupcakes were springy giving me a tough time stacking them up for the second pic since they kept bouncing off one another! I guess the changes I made caused them to rise smoothly into a convex shape unlike the ones ET and Nicole seem to have got. Thank you ET (and Nicole)!

    Get into your kitchen this weekend and whip up a tiny batch of these gorgeous cupcakes for breakfast. How many of you are chocolate lovers ?

    Have a great weekend all!

    Thursday, July 10, 2008

    Extend a helping hand...

    Dear Foodies,

    you have 5 more days to do so ...

    Any one who is a follower of food blogs could not have missed the humongous effort that came together for the cause of funding a years supply of alternative cancer medication for Bri. (If you missed it, read the message below). Jai and Bee along with Manisha, Shankari and Garrett organized this fundraiser and achieved outstanding success by meeting the 12K mark in record time. Thank you!

    The initial deadline was set for July 15th, donations are still flowing in and will be accepted until that point. With raising costs of everything around us all the extra money collected will surely help Bri with her medical costs. There are also fabulous gifts waiting to be won in a raffle, many with a near 100% chance of wins. Find something you like and bid for it.

    is an update on Bri's health. The CLICK event is closed and the winners have also been announced, but you can elook at the photos submitted here. If you haven't gotten a chance to make a donation or would like to extend the amount, kindly do so by the 15th of July.

    About the fund raiser:

    This is an appeal on behalf of a group of food bloggers who are friends of Briana Brownlow @ Figs With Bri.

    Bri was diagnosed with breast cancer two and half years ago. A mastectomy, chemotherapy and two years of relatively good health later, the cancer is back. It has metastasized to other parts of her body. At the age of 15, Bri lost her 41-year old mother to the disease. Now, she’s waging her own war against breast cancer. More about it here.

    She is going through intensive chemo and other treatments and needs to focus single-mindedly on healing and finding what treatment works best for her. Her health insurance, unfortunately, does not cover holistic alternatives which she would like to try. Bri and her husband Marc have enough on their plates right now in addition to worrying about her medical bills.

    The team organising the JUNE edition of CLICK at Jugalbandi has organised a fundraiser to help Bri and her family meet her out-of-pocket medical costs for ONE YEAR.

    CLICK is a monthly theme-based photography contest hosted by Jugalbandi. This month’s theme is: YELLOW for Bri

    Yellow is the colour of hope. Through the work of the LiveStrong Foundation, it has also come to signify the fight against cancer.

    The entries can be viewed HERE. The deadline for entries is June 30, 2008. The fundraiser will extend until July 15, 2008.

    The target amount is 12,000 U.S. dollars. We appeal to our fellow bloggers and readers to help us achieve this. Bri deserves a chance to explore all options, even if her insurance company thinks otherwise.

    There’s a raffle with exciting prizes on offer. After viewing the list, you may make your donation HERE or at the Chip-In button on any participating site.

    Your donation can be made securely through credit card or Pay Pal and goes directly to Bri’s account.

    This month’s photo contest also has some prizes. Details HERE.

    You can support this campaign by donating to the fundraiser, by participating in CLICK: the photo event, and by publicising this campaign.

    Have a great day!

    Friday, July 04, 2008

    Happy 4th...

    Dear Foodies,

    Rebel04 041

    Have a fun and safe weekend !

    Wednesday, July 02, 2008

    Tips will be encouraged

    Dear Foodies,

    Curry leaf (or karivepaku or kadipatta or karivepalai) is a essential and unique ingredient of Indian cuisine. I pick it up during my visit to the Indian store rather thoughtlessly every single time and toss it into the tadka with the same attitude. And just as casually as I pick it up at the store, I set it aside on my plate while eating too !! How many of you eat it, honestly ?

    Despite this alienation on the plate, when there was a ban and subsequent shortage of curry leaf at the stores a few months back, I began to miss it! Whenever I found a ziploc bag of these aromatic leaves in the freezer section of the Indian store, I grabbed and stored it into my freezer. I have been doing it for a few months now and realized I had about 5 packs of it at home :)) Yes! I am that greedy gal who picked up the last pack leaving you none...

    Well, all that wasn't enough either and when my mother was filling huge suitcases with goodies for us I told her about the ban here. She industriously got a huge crop of fresh leaves from our neighbor's garden, washed, dried and powdered them to use here. This was a convenient method both for transporting it and prolonging its life. But the best result was it saved us the trouble of discarding it on the plate. So if you are leaf-pickers just like me or cook for people who are, try this out..

    Wash and spread the curry leaves on a kitchen towel and set it to dry for a day or two. You can do this right in your kitchen. After the moisture in them is nearly out, dry roast/fry them in a pan just to get rid of any moisture and crisp them. Powder them coarsely and store in a airtight jar or ziploc bag. Use a pinch or two in your tadka and see it melt into your curry away from your prying eyes...
    But hey, do save a few of the freshest leaves or what would you top that yummy dal or that warm rasam you just made for the blo.... err family :)

    This is not the curry leaf powder that is mixed with rice and had, for that you would want to dry roast (or use 1tsp oil) some urad dal, channa dal, dry red chillies, hing/ingua, a tiny piece of tamarind and grind to a coarse powder along with the powdered leaves. Add salt to taste and enjoy it with warm rice mixed with a dollop of ghee and some curd on the'll love it!

    Curry leaves are known to be a medicinal herb, according to Wiki they are "antidiabetic [2], antioxidant [3], antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, anti-hypercholesterolemic etc." Here is another article that details their advantages. An excerpt from it
    Apart from cooking, the curry leaf has a number of medicinal uses also. It is an essential ingredient of almost all traditional medicine systems of peninsular India, sometimes with amazingly good results. Unani, Ayurveda and other systems use it to cure ailments such as piles, to allay heat of the body and are useful in leucoderma and blood disorders, and this has been proven by experts of western medicine also. In India, the curry leaf is used to prevent conditions such as nausea and stomach upsets. It is also used in treating skin irritations and poisonous bites. Its oils are invaluable as repellants and to cure skin disorders common to the tropics.
    Did you know of this use for curry leaves ?
    It can also be ground into a paste with some turmeric and applied on acne infected skin for a few days. The result is a glowing, clear skin
    Need to try it out with your little kitchen tips. What short cuts do you seek in your kitchen? .. any easy beauty tips ??

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