Kale and Spinach Masala Vada(i)

What’s your indulgence on a cold miserable day? NC brought out in full spate some miserable and grumpy days to the boot. Nagging cold weather accompanied by some rain and a weather that could not decide between holding onto winter and hopping aboard the spring train. Yikes !

Now imagine a day where the sun refused to peek out and the bare branches of the trees formed a sticky silhouette to temper the gray dull skies. The weather even managed to incite my boisterous and slightly neurotic lab to snooze . And quite a vent hugger she was. The warm draft of air from the heater vent provided the perfect huggable carpet spot for her and I could hear her stretching and yawning.

Kale and Spinach Masala (Vadai)

I would have loved to take out that raggedy brown blanket, stretch out on the recliner with a hot cuppa and indulge in a book. Any book. But since kids would arrive from school and look forward to something that could perk them up.

Kale and Spinach Masala (Vadai)

 

So a hot steaming cup of chai it is and a plate piled with piping hot and steaming baby kale and baby spinach masala vada(i). Chockful of these and the lentils provide much of the protein and flavors of fennel and ginger and garlic. Seriously folks, you would be missing out if you do not make these.

Kale and Spinach Masala ( Vadai)

A   plate piled high with piping hot, crispy, golden brown masala vada(i).. packed with kale and spinach and spiced with those flavors that make it extra special – protein packed indulgence and hot steaming cuppa to  make it even more better. It’s ok to indulge once in a while and it sure calls for it today !

Now what’s your excuse and what’s your indulgence?

Soaking time : 3 hrs   Prep time : 15 min   Cooking time : 25-30 min  Pieces : about 30 

Serves a hungry lot !

Ingredients:

Pulses and Cereals: Soaked for about 3 hrs or so.

  • Dry split Channa dal : 3/4 cup
  • Dry Toor Dal : 1/4 cup
  • Flax seeds : 2 Tbsp
  • Rice : brown/ white : 2 Tbsp.

Vegetables/Herbs

  • Baby Spinach : 1 cup : chopped
  • Baby Kale : 1 cup chopped
  • Onion : 1 medium size : chopped fine
  • Garlic cloves: 3 : chopped fine
  • Cilantro : 1/4 cup, chopped fine
  • Mint leaves : 8-10, chopped fine
  • Green chilies : 8-10. chopped fine ( adjusted to spice level)
  • Ginger : peeled, 1 inch , chopped fine

Dry Spices: ( preference can dictate the kind of spices added)

  • Fennel seeds / Saunf : 1 Tbsp
  • Salt : 1.5 tsp , adjusted to taste.

Frying:

  • Deep frying in peanut/ canola/vegetable /saffola oil of your choice.

Method:

  • Grind to a thick and coarse consistency the soaked ingredients listed under pulses/ cereals
  • The batter should not be extra fine or smooth but be ground enough to show occasional whole soaked dals with coarse consistency and done so just the little amount of water required. Do not make it too watery or mush, then the vada(i)s will soak up extra oil.
  • Add in all the ingredients listed in spices and mix well.
  • Add in the ingredients listed in vegetables and herbs and mix well.
  • Let the batter rest for about 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile heat the oil on medium high heat.
  • Test the temperature of oil by putting in a tiny dropful of batter. If it floats immediately to the top and is sizzling, you can begin the process of making vada(i)s.

Shaping, Frying the Vada(i)s

  • You can use the flat side of a ziploc bag, dab it with oil and drop 2 Tbsp. of coarse batter, flatten to get a round disc and gently slide it the  oil.
  • Or the method I prefer, is to use my fingers and palms to shape the flattened discs and slide them gently in oil.
  • Fry in medium high heat about 6-8  in batch or so.  The discs are about 2-3 inches in diameter.
  • Fry these in medium high heat to a nice even brown. Do not fry in very high heat. If you do so, the outer layer will get cooked faster than the inner one and it is not something you will relish!
  • Enjoy with a hot cup of tea and the mush awaited book of your choice!

Upma Kozhukattai/Pidi Kozhukattai

A staple in most tambram households, ours was no different and this was a relished dish back home. The process is  a multistep one and is not at all labor intensive to be feared. You can entirely cut down the process by a step when you use Rice Rava or Idli Rava. Please note this is entirely different from sooji/ wheat rava .

The idea that this being rice based, is more easier on the stomach for digestion unlike the sooji which is more stripped of its fiber content.

If you would like to make the rava at home, then you will simply have to coarsely powder  the raw rice to a granular stage. Sieve it to get rid of the flour , so you have only the granular stage of rice with you.

There are 2 ways to make this

——  Take 2 cups of  raw rice ( basmati, sona masoori ) and run it through your food processor/ blender to get the coarse stage.

——  In a wide wok, heat 2 -3 Tbsp. of Tuvar dal, 1 Tbsp. of channa dal and 1/2 tbsp of whole black pepper. Slightly warm it  to get the flavors crackling and coarsely pound it along with the raw rice. This option has a more fiery outcome but is simply delicious .

Upma Kozhukattai/Pidi Kozhukattai

 

For my preparation, I used the store bought Idli rice rava. I believe this would be the parboiled variety, but it works well too.

Serves : 6

Prep time :    

  • Stage 1 : Making the upma : 10-15 min   
  • Stage 2 :  Cooling time 10 min
  • Stage 3 : Making the globes : 15 min
  • Stage 4 : Steaming : 12- 15 min

Makes about 18-24 ( depending on the size of the globe )             

Ingredients :

Base Ingredients:

  • Idli rava or Rice Rava – 2 cup
  • Fresh or frozen grated coconut  – 1/2 cup
  • Water – 5 cup
  • Salt  : 1.5 tsp. ( adjusted to taste)

Tempering/ Tadka :

  • Flavorless oil / coconut oil / Gingelly oil : 2.5 Tbsp.
  • Jeera : 1.25 tsp.
  • Mustard Seeds :1.25 tsp.
  • Channa dal : 1.5  Tbsp.
  • Split urad dal ( de husked ) : 1 Tbsp.
  • Hing/ Asafoetida : a huge/ generous pinch
  • Red chilies : 4 -5, split in 2 pieces each
  • Black whole pepper : 6-8. slightly crushed
  • Ginger : skinned, 1 inch , grated.
  • Curry Leaves  – 12

Method:

  • You will need a heavy bottomed or good non stick kadai or saucepan for this with a well fitting lid.
  • Heat the kadai/ sauce pan with the oil and temper with asafoetida, mustard seeds and jeera. Once the seeds crackle add the channa dal and urad dal and on golden -browning ( it is a term, I made it up ), add the split red chilies and curry leaves and ginger and black peppercorns. 
  • Add the 5 cups of water and when it reached a slight boil , add in the grated coconut  and salt. Stir to ensure distribution of salt. Let it come to a full boil now.
  • Once it reaches the full boil, lower the heat to medium and add the rice rava ( idli rava) and stir well.
  • Cover with the lid and let it cook on low for about 7-8 minutes.
  • The water would be completely absorbed when you open the lid after this time  and  you can turn off the flame now. Stir once again very well  and let it cool for a few minutes.
  • Meanwhile get a steamer ready. You can use pressure cooker vessel with idli stand. It works perfect or  I just used a colander over a pot of boiling water  to steam it.
  • Dip you hands in cold water or if you can handle the heat just go ahead, make big lemon or golf sized balls with cooked upma. I particularly like the round globes, but my grandma would make the oblong ones.
  • Steam it for about 12 – 15 minutes.
  • Let it stand for a couple of minutes and then serve hot with chutney and sambar.

Upma Kozhukattai/Pidi Kozhukattai

Notes :

  • Usually the Idli rava / rice rava cooking ratio is 1 cup : 2 cups of water. But the brand I seem to use yields a very dry mix. Hence I increased the rava : water ratio. Use what works for you.
  • I would not omit the grated coconut. It adds to tenderness of the upma outcome. It is worth it. 
  • If you do not have red chilies, use green chilies.
  • Another variation would be to pulse the coconut along with few sprigs of cilantro. It yields a good flavor too.

 

Kothamalli Podi – Fresh Coriander/ Cilantro Chutney Powder (Dry)

75 years of experience all bundled in a 5 feet petite frame. Hands that have worked a gazillion times to feed much of the family, friends of the family, extended family and friends of the extended family. And not necessarily gone by the book. She does not need measuring cups and tools. Her weathered hands just scoops and scores. Nothing fancy about it , but the taste is always impeccable. 

A bit of this and bit of that, and much love added as well. The age has definitely slowed down the bundle of activity a lot and I am witness to it . And just as to defy it, she clears the fridge out of 3 bundles of cilantro – fresh and not so fresh ones and makes her spice mix . Oh and what a hit it is at home. The flavor and aroma of it is simply outstanding and is a great accompaniment to everything from Idli’s and Dosai’s to a great topping on buttered toasts and sprinkled over fresh plain yogurt…Just eat it plain, with oil, swirled in yogurt or as you wish…Whatever you do , do not miss out on this one !

Kothamalli Podi - Fresh Coriander/ Cilantro Chutney Powder ( Dry)

 

A great way to finish up large bunches of abundant cilantro or coriander leaves, a great substitute for regular coconut or tomato chutney and molagaipodi, a wonderful spice flavoring for rice and an awesome way to eat up large quantities of green. A finger licking concoction from the hands of a culinary expert , my MIL .

 

Kothamalli Podi - Fresh Coriander/ Cilantro Chutney Powder ( Dry)

Prep time : 10-15 min +  over night drying time for washed coriander leaves

Active time : 15 min

Shelf life : 1 month , best stored in refrigerator to prevent loss of flavor

Ingredients:

  • Fresh coriander bunches, trimmed : 3 -4, large bunches
  • Channa Dal : 1/2 cup
  • Split, de husked Urad dal : 1/2 cup
  • Dry red chilies – 10 ( spicy kind)
  • Dry Bydagi or kashmiri chilies – 4 ( non spicy, but adds vibrant hue)
  • Sesame Oil/ Saffola oil/ canola oil : 2 Tbsp.
  • Asafoetida : A generous pinch ( 1 tsp.)
  • Salt : 1.5 tsp. + adjusted to taste
  • Dry tamarind : 3-6  inches
  • Powdered Jaggery : 1/2 tsp.
  • Turmeric powder : 1/2 tsp.

Method:

Preparation of the coriander leaves:

  • Trim the ends of the large bunches. I simply twisted out about 3 inches from the bottom to remove the stems. Wash in cold water very well. At least 3-4 times to remove the impurities.
  • Spread out on a paper towel or napkin, in a cool dry place to dry in shade. I usually do this very late in the evening and it dries overnight on the counter.

Preparation of the dry chutney mix:

  • In a wide skillet add half a tbsp. of the oil of choice and roast dry chilies and dry tamarind and set aside to cool.
  • Add in additional 1 Tbsp. of oil and roast the channa dal and urad dal sequentially to yield brown roasted lentils. Do not speed up this process. You will have burnt lentils on your hand. Medium high is the way to go. Also do not roast both the lentils together. Channa dal takes time to roast and split urad dal will brown faster. So take it step by step. Remove and set aside to cool.
  • Add in the remaining half tbsp. of oil and add the washed, dried  cilantro  with turmeric and half a tsp. of salt and wilt the cilantro. I believe this will also preserve the green color of the leaves. Remove and set aside to cool
  • In a blender, add the red chilies and roasted tamarind and blend to a coarse mix and set aside in a mixing bowl.
  • Add in the dals and jaggery and salt and whiz to a very coarse mix and empty out in the same mixing bowl.
  • Add in the wilted cilantro and whiz a couple of times to shred it, add in the dal- chili mix to give a final couple of spins to yield a very coarse, granular, dry mix.
  • Remove , taste test for salt and spices and store in cool dry place. As in my case, these were transferred to mason jars and stored in the refrigerator.

Kothamalli Podi - Fresh Coriander/ Cilantro Chutney Powder ( Dry)

Notes: Do not over blend , you will be left with a thick paste. Pulsing is the way to go. Your aim is to have a coarse powdery mix of cilantro and lentils. You will notice the natural flavor and texture of cilantro this way. Another option is to roughly chop the cilantro after drying it and before wilting it in the skillet. This way you will have more even mix rather than rustic  texture. Either way you cannot go wrong with it.

 

Kothamalli Podi - Fresh Coriander/ Cilantro Chutney Powder ( Dry)

 

Pic ref : If you are wondering above the tag on Manirathnam on one of my pictures it refers to a maverick and extremely talented director of Indian cinema – who made movies using the diffused and dark light effect.  When I shot this picture, I thought of him 🙂

Samai Idli – Steamed, Little Millet Cakes

Millets the natural food from the arid areas of southern India found their way into my cuisine over a period of time. This particular one has been used and tried and tested many times. If you are looking for a great way to substitute the rice out of your routine , little millets or Samai or Vrat ka chawal is a great alternative. With a lower  GI than rice, this is a welcome indulgence on breakfast mornings..

Soft fluffy Idlis served with piping hot mixed vegetable sambar ( recipe will be updated for this later )  , coconut mint chutney  and Idli chili  powder ( also known as Molagai podi or chutney powder). True weekend indulgence without alarming calories .

Samai Idli - Steamed, Little Millet Cakes

Ingredients:

  • Samai arisi / little millet / Kutki  : 2 Cups
  • Urad dal / whole or split without skin : 1/2 cup
  • Red poha : 1/4 cup
  • Methi seeds : 1 tsp
  • Toor dal : 1 tsp.
  • Salt : 1.5 tsp + as required
  • Water as required to grind

Pre-Prep:

  • Soaking the millets and pre prep : Soak for 6 hrs – overnight:
  • Wash the millets very well and soak in copius amount of water. Enough for it to be absorbed.
  • Wash the urad dal as well and  soak along with fenugreek or methi seeds and toor dal.
  • Soak the Poha about 20 minutes before you grind the batter. Infact you can soak it just as you start grinding the urad dal.

 Grinding the batter & fermentation: 1 hr + fermentation time

  • Grind the urad dal  and methi seeds and toordal  in your mixer grinder or wet grinder until pale and fluffy. Add water in small quantities while you grind.
  • Scoop out the fluffy dal mix in a wide and deep mixing bowl.
  • Next add the soaked poha and samai millet and grind to a fine grain mix. There is no need to to grind it to a super fine paste. A little grainy structure would yield a preferable texture for the Idlis. So add water as and  when required while grinding.
  • Mix this along with the urad dal batter and add salt . Ensure salt is homogeneously mixed.
  • The consistency of batter is neither too thick or watery.
  • Cover and keep in a warm place .
  • Fermented batter will swell in volume so make sure your mixing bowl can handle the volume.
  • Hot humid weather will  speed up the fermentation process. So it might take anywhere from 7 hrs to overnight for your batter to reach the desired stage of fermentation.

Steaming the Idlis:

  • Grease Idli moulds and keep aside.
  • Using the steamer/ cooker of your choice add the water and heat it well.
  • Stir the batter well scoop ladlefuls on to the prepped idli moulds.
  • Steam for about 7-10 minutes.
  • Turn of the flame, rest it for a minute or two. You should be able to demould it now.

Serve hot accompanied with chutney, sambar and chutney/ Molagai podi.

Notes:

  • This batter makes awesome dosas well. I tried it out and it was really good.
  • Makes about 32-40 Idlis depending on the size of the idli mould. 
  • Fermentation of the batter is essential to maximize the nutritional value of the millet.

Coconut Mint Chutney

An eternal favorite at home this simple chutney made of fresh or frozen grated coconut , roasted channa dal or dalia and flavored with fresh mint is a notch above the usual. The entire assembly is done in minutes literally and you will have one of the best tasting accompaniments ever for dosa or idlis.. Well aware of moderation being the key, this coconut  chutney is perfect when you do not over indulge.

Fresh ingredients bring to the table the flavor that is best described lip smacking !

Grated coconut  ground with fresh mint, chili and ginger and seasoned with crackled mustard seeds and split urad dal.. Now how can you resist it?

Coconut Mint Chutney

Ingredients:

For chutney:

  • Fresh or frozen grated coconut : 1/3 cup
  • Roasted Channa dal or Dalia : 1/4 cup
  • Fresh green chilies – 4-5 ( please adjust according to spice level)
  • Ginger : skinned, 1 inch piece
  • Fresh mint leaves : 10-12
  • Salt : 1 tsp.+ adjusted to taste
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup of water

Seasoning :

  • Oil : 1 tsp.
  • Mustard seeds : 1/2 tsp.
  • Split white Urad Dal : /2 tsp.
  • Asafoetida : a generous pinch
  • Curry leaves : 4-6 , torn in halves ( I was out of these)

Method:

  • If using frozen coconut , do bring it to room temp before grinding. Alternatively nuke it in the microwave for about 15-30 seconds.
  • Initially coarse blends the ingredients listed under chutney without adding water. Then add the required amount of water to smoothen out the consistency and to bring it to required thickness.Smooth grinding is essential otherwise flavor is lost.
  • To season it, heat a tsp. of oil in a skillet or fry pan and add the mustard seeds and hing. The seeds will crackle and you can subsequently add the  split urad dal and curry leaves. Allow the dal to brown a bit and scoop everything out and add to the chutney.
  • That’s it . Ready to serve with piping hot idlis or dosa.

You might want to try it with these as well.

Coconut Mint Chutney

Varaitions:

  • You can substitute coriander leaves or cilantro for mint. It would give you a different dimension.
  • Squeezing half a lime will impart tanginess and would be awesome as well.

 

Kothamalli Thogayal/ Coriander leaves Chutney

Don’t you just love greens??…We love it here too. Love green chutneys and sandwich spreads.. but this one is special.. It indulges your senses with the tanginess of tamarind and the freshness of the coriander leaves sautéed, oh but just for a minute.

Kothamalli Thogayal/ Coriander leaves Chutney

Thickened by browned urad dal and black pepper it is a culinary sensation when you let your self indulge in it when mixed with hot steaming rice and ghee ( if you are really really brave) or with gingelly oil . Goes great as well with puffed up phulkas and Molagaootal. C’mon now the last one cannot surprise you.. for anyone with a remote connection to Palakkad will understand one’s love for it. In my household the love for Molagootal can sometimes rival familial bonds of affection 🙂

 

Kothamalli Thogayal/ Coriander leaves Chutney

A quick and easy prep and takes about 15 – 20 minutes;

Prep time : 5-8 minutes  Cook  time : 5-7 minutes   Serves – 6-8

Ingredients:

  • Split , Skinned Urad Dal : 1/2 cup
  • Tamarind piece : 1 inch ( alternate : use 1 tsp. of tamarind paste)
  • Red chilies : 4 ( adjust to spice level)
  • Black peppercorns : 1 tsp.
  • Salt  : 1 tsp.
  • Oil of choice : 1.5 – 2 tsp.
  • Water : 1 tbsp. to aid in grinding
  • Coriander leaves : 1.5 – 2 cups , chopped roughly

Method:

  1. Warm a non stick or cast iron skillet or kadhai and add the oil in it.
  2. Add the red chilies and urad dal and black pepper corns and roast it until the dal attains a  golden brown color and the black pepper corns start to sputter. Add the tamarind piece if using and sauté for another min or so.
  3. Drain and set aside to cool.
  4. Turn of the flame and in the remnants of the oil with sustained heat, add the chopped fresh coriander leaves and sauté for a min or two. The idea is to take the raw edge of the coriander leaves but retain the natural color and freshness  of it.
  5. Remove and set aside to cool.
  6. Once sufficiently cooled, in an efficient blender grind the sautéed dal and spices first. You will get a coarse powder . Add the salt and the slightly wilted coriander leaves next and grind it with the aid of a tablespoon or so of water.
  7. Note : if you are using tamarind paste, you will add it along with the leaves to be ground.
  8. The consistency of this chutney or relish  is not very smooth or find ground. It is not meant to be. The coarseness of it will lend a very earthy and rustic flavor.
  9. There is not need to add any extra seasoning to this. But if it becomes too spicy to handle then definitely season it with mustard seeds spluttered in a tsp. of hot oil . It will bring down the spice level a couple of notches.

Enjoy!!!

Raw Banana Crispy Skillet Fry – Masala Vazhakkai Varuval

Raw Bananas / Kaccha Kela/ Vazhakkai/ Plantains  are a great source of Potassium , Magnesium , Vitamins and more. Infact these are a staple in the tropical parts of the worlds. Make no mistake, this very much different from the unripe green bananas and dessert bananas.  Their skin is tough to peel and you need to use a peeler or knife . They also contain less sugar than the dessert bananas as well. The are often treated akin to potatoes in their usage. Often a staple in many south indian households, there are quite a few preparations of this. Kababs, Podimas, Cutlets, kola vadai . stews and so many more to tease your tease buds!

Raw Banana Crispy Skillet Fry - Vazhakkai Varuval

 Quick to cook, versatile in its prep , chock full of nutrients and economically available – no wonder it is quite popular.

This particular preparation will yield particularly crispy plantain fry without a heavy dose of oil  and has an awesome crunch and flavor  on the surface  and tender texture inside.  This dish is really good paired with steaming rice and a stew or with hot phulkas and a dal. Or simple fry it to an extra few minutes and pick it and eat it as such. Told you, it is that good !  (I have added preparation methods for barbecue and grilling as well. Do check out the notes section) 

Raw Banana Crispy Skillet Fry - Vazhakkai Varuval

Prep time : 10 min  Marinating time :  15 min Cooking time : 15 min  Serves : 4-6

Ingredients:

Vegetables: 

  • Raw Bananas : 5-6, medium to large in size

 For the Marinade:

  • Chickpea flour/ Besan : 1 .5 Tbsp.
  • Rice flour : 1 Tbsp.
  • Sambar powder : 1 tsp + extra as required for spice
  • Kashmiri Chili powder : 1 tsp.
  • Ginger : 1 inch, skinned and grated
  • Water / Yoghurt : 1 Tbsp. + 1 more if required
  • Salt : 1 tsp . + adjusted to taste 

Seasoning and Skillet Frying :

  • Oil : 1 Tbsp. ( you can add more if you think you can take it)
  • Curry leaves : 6-8 ( washed very well )
  • Mustard seeds : 1 tsp.
  • Hing/ Asafoetida : A generous pinch

Preparation:

  • Fill a bowl with enough water so it can accommodate the sliced bananas.
  • Trim the ends of the Raw bananas and slice/ peel the skin . Slice it in 1/4 inch thick slices and immerse in water immediately. Why ? Well if you don’t, it will start to blacken very soon.
  • In a separate mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients listed under the marinade. This will not be watery or thick gooey marinade . It will resemble a wet rub more.
  • Drain the slices and add these to the marinade. Toss it gently so each and every slice gets coated very well. The moisture from the slices will now make the rub more wet and help in the coating . Take care to not add too much water / yoghurt in the initial marinade rub please!
  • Let it sit for about 15 min or so. Once marinated it is ready to get pan-fried.
  • In a wide flat bottomed skillet ( preferably nonstick or well seasoned cast iron will work wonders too ) add a tbsp. of oil ( you can add one more if you would like to) and on heating add the seasonings. Let it splutter and then add the marinated raw banana slices in a  single layer as much as possible.  You will need to cook this on medium high heat and let it brown evenly on one side and flip to the other side to cook it nice and brown again. I initially covered it and cooked it for a couple of minutes to hasten the process and then cooked It uncovered so I could retain the crunch.
  •  Gently toss it please, if not you are more likely to split the thinner sliced ones. In about 15 minutes or so you will have nice and crisp fried sliced of raw banana . Check and adjust for salt if required.
  • Serve it hot with rice or phulkas and a stew !

Raw Banana Crispy Skillet Fry - Vazhakkai Varuval

Notes :

  1. Want to add a twist? Add  a dash of tamarind paste , some saunf or fennel seeds and some garam masala and a whole new burst of flavors happens.
  2. Want to grill this? It would be awesome. Make thicker slices, poke some holes to facilitate the marination and let it sit for about a couple of hours and then proceed to grill.
  3. You can add a thick gooey marinade paste as well made of yoghurt and tandoori masala and skewer barbeque it. It would be really good.
  4. Add some mint and cilantro fine ground to this as well. Totally lip smacking !!

Beetroot leaves Thogayal/Chutney/Relish

A trip to any grocery store invariably ends up in me looking for fresh beets. And if it is usually packed with leaves, then the fresher the better naturally. The gorgeous color  and crispness of the leaves is a natural draw for me. Actually I am a sucker when it comes to all kinds of fresh leafy greens (Make it most of the veggies ). Can never resist the siren’s call !!!

 Beetroot leaves Thogayal/Chutney/Relish

So there was this lushest pack of beets beckoning to me in the produce section of HT. Gorgeous bright green leaves with veins of deep red and big fat beets clustered to it. I just had to pick it up! Don’t judge me please, I can always rationalize it as  how one can never have too many veggies. So in any case, these gorgeous beauties came home and I was itching to make something out of it. Usually the leaves can be sautéed and made with a bit of soaked dal to yield a side accompaniment. But I want something else..  I wanted to make this relish that my mom and grandma could practically whip out of any vegetable. The basic recipe remains the same but the varieties it yields with it as the base is  amazing. This is great as a spread, a side dish or to simply use it up mixed with rice and veggies as well.

 

Gorgeous green leaves with thick red veins !
Gorgeous green leaves with thick red veins !

Beet leaves sautéed and fine ground with roasted urad dal, tamarind, red chilies, whole black pepper to yield a slightly spicy, a bit tangy and wonderful earthy relish/ spread/thogayal. Chockfull of nutrients in a bowl!

Prep time : 10 min  Cook time : 10 min  Yields :  8 -10 servings

Shelf life : 1 week refrigerated.

 Ingredients:

  • Beet leaves – trim stem, chop roughly to yield 2 cups
  • Skinned, split Urad Dal : 1/2 cup
  • Wet tamarind : 1 inch piece
  • Whole black pepper : 1/4  Tbsp.
  • Red chilies ( mix mild to high heat) – 4-6 or lower according to spice level
  • Oil : 2 tsp.
  • Salt : 1 tsp + to taste
  • Water : 1/3 cup – add as required to grind

 Optional : Seasoning ( but highly recommended)

  • Oil : 1 tsp.
  • Curry leaves : 4-6
  • Mustard seeds : 1 tsp.
  • Hing : a generous pinch

Method:

  • In a  skillet  add initially 1 tsp. of oil and on heating add chilies and whole black peppers,
  • Add washed,skinned, split urad dal and roast till it is a nice brown in color. Drain and set aside to cool.
  • In the same skillet , add another tsp. of oil and now add the thoroughly washed and cut beet leaves and sauté till it is tender. Say about 5 minutes. Add the piece of tamarind. Turn off the flame and scoop it side in another plate to cool.
  • On cooling , grind the dal and chili and pepper mix initially along with salt to a rough grind.
  • Add the leaves and tamarind and a couple of tablespoons of water and grind till you reach your desired consistency. Add more water if desired. A smoother relish will be easier to handle but will have lower shelf life if you add too much water. 

Optional Seasoning but highly recommended:

  • Heat oil in skillet, add hing and when it sizzles add mustard seeds which will splutter in the heat and then add curry leaves.
  • Turn off the flame and pour it over the relish and mix it well.
  • This is a great way to temper the spices as well enhance the taste if the relish along with increasing the shelf life a bit.
A thick spicy chutney/relish/thogayal chock full of nutrients !
A thick spicy chutney/relish/thogayal chock full of nutrients !

Enjoy with hot steamed rice, phulkas , dal and even a slice of toast!

Vazhakkai Podimas – Steamed & Shredded Raw Banana Stir Fry

Disclaimer : This post had been sitting in the drafts for quite sometime . Why ? No clue but it surely deserves its place in the sun. I hope you too would enjoy  making it.

Back to Basics:

Some days you just want to reach deep down and go all the traditional style.. More like listening to call from your soul and indulge int the food you grew up on.. At least partially for me. While I was certainly exposed to a wide range, but a few just stick by you. Take this  dish made out of raw banana for example. I have just about made anything from kabab to koftas  from it, but this simple steamed version with just a hint of tanginess is so easy to make. Huge plus, it uses just  a couple of tbsp. of oil for about 5-6 of those plantains and uses lime/ lemon for the tart effect. Fresh taste that simply lingers in your mouth ! So when I do talk about the raw banana it is not the banana which u peel and eat. This is the tropical version or plantains which gets cooked.

Vazhakkai Podimas - Steamed & Shredded Raw Banana Stir Fry

If you are familiar with the southern part of India, two particular states enjoy these – Kerala and Tamill Nadu. They each have their variations and I suppose each family would have their own spin of it. Well this  is mine 🙂

 Cook time : 25-30 min            Serves : 4-6

Ingredients:

  • Vazhakkai/Raw Banana –  5-6 medium numbers
  • Ginger – skinned, 1 inch, grated
  • Turmeric Powder/ Haldi : 1 tsp
  • Asafoetida/ Hing : A pinch
  • Salt  : 1 tsp. + to taste
  • Dry Red chillies ( medium  spice ) : 4 , split in half
  • Mustard Seeds – 1.5 tsp.
  • Split, de husked Urad Dal : 1.5 Tbsp.
  • Curry Leaves : 8-10
  • Oil – 1.5 – 2 Tbsp.
  • Juice of lime / lemon – 1 -2 Tbsp. depending on the sourness level

 Method:

  • Take a huge stock pot and fill it nearly 2/3 with water. The idea being to immerse all the cut pieces of the raw banana in it. Therefore give enough room for it.
  • Trim the ends of the raw banana and cut it into 2-3 pieces depending on the length of it. You are looking for about 3-4 inches of it in length.
  • Add a pinch of salt and bring it boil for a about 5 minutes or so. DO NOT OVERCOOK IT. You just want it a tad tender. A prick in the center of the banana will tell you if you cooked al dente.
  • Strain the water, cool & peel the thick outer layer. If done properly, these would just peel off .  Cool well and grate.
  • Heat a wok, stir fry pan or kadai with oil.
  • Add  the Hing, turmeric powder then mustard seeds  and once it splutters  add grated ginger, and the add the split red chilies and then urad dal and fry till golden brown . Stir it for another 30 seconds.
  • Add curry leaves, and  the grated plantains stir once.
  • Add salt to taste and toss gently. You want to retain the individual grate texture and not mushy it .
  • Cook this on low heat for about 5 minutes or so. Stir it a couple of times gently to ensure the spices are coated well.
  • Turn off the heat and let it cool for a few minutes.
  • Add the juice of limes and toss it once and serve with hot rice and any stew of your choice.

Vazhakkai Podimas - Steamed & Shredded Raw Banana Stir Fry

 Notes:

  • Substitute the red chilies for 3-4 green chillies and 1/4 cup of fresh grated coconut.
  • Do not add the red chilies and ginger  during the tadka stage , but add the dry grind mix of green chilies, ginger and coconut at the penultimate step.
  • Cook, cool and then add the juice of lime. Tastes really good !

Mixed Veg in White Gravy/ White Vegetable Korma

There was this particular little nook in the city of Chennai ( then Madras) where I grew up which boasted of some great restaurants. Not the fancy shmancy type mind you, but the small ones that bring out the flavors of the cuisine. One particular one had this dish as their signature one and it was always served with flaky layered flat breads aka paratha. Not just any paratha, but this was the malabar parotta, an erstwhile cousin of the lacchha kind , except it was made of APF or refined flour.  Hot piping korma, served with flaky bread and a cup of steaming hot coffee. You would forget about the calories for once and indulge in this fare. This was so worth it on an occasion! 

Mixed Veg in White Gravy/ White Vegetable Korma

 An awesome combination of mixed vegetables stewed in white gravy with perfect combination of spices. Do not be overwhelmed by the exhaustive list of spices. This is a quick prep one.

Mixed Veg in White Gravy/ White Vegetable Korma

 Prep time : 15 minutes  Cook time : 20-25 minutes  Serves : 4-6

Ingredients:

Vegetables:

  • Carrot – 1/4 cup, diced
  • Beans – 1/4 cup, 1 inch pieces
  • Peas – 1/4 cup
  • Cauliflower – 1/2 cup, small florets
  • Potato – 1/ 4 cups, diced
  • Bell pepper ( green/ colored) – 1/4 cup diced
  • Salt – 1 tsp.

For the gravy/ Masala Paste:

  • Fresh or frozen Grated Coconut – 1/4 cup
  • Cashew/ Almonds – 6-8
  • Khus Khus ( white poppy seeds) – 1 tsp
  • Cinnamon – 1 inch piece
  • Clove – 2
  • Cardamom – 1 ( whole green)
  • Fennel seeds  – 1 tsp
  • Green chilies – 4-6
  • Ginger – 1/2 inch piece
  • Garlic – 2 pods- (optional)
  • Oil : 1 tsp.

 Seasoning:

  • Oil : 1 Tbsp.
  • Onion – 1 medium, chopped finely
  • Bayleaf : 1
  • Fresh Curry leaves : 4-6
  • Cloves ( black) : 1

 Garnish:

  • Fine chopped cilantro : 2 Tbsp.

 Method:

 Preparation of the Gravy:

  • In a wide saucepan ( with a lid, so it can be used later too) add in 1 tsp of oil.
  • When it heats up  add in the whole spices to begin with and roast for a minute or two,  adding the ginger and chilies and garlic pods if using next, followed by the cashews to a get gentle brown hue, then the coconut and the poppy seeds.
  • Remove set aside to cool.
  • When cooled down blend it  with a cup of water or so to get a nice smooth sauce or paste. The gravy yield should be nearly 1.5 cups to 2 cups.

Preparing the Korma

  • In the same wide saucepan ( needs a lid) , add in 1 Tbsp of oil . When it heats up add in a clove, the bayleaf , fresh curry leaves. It should sizzle a bit. Add in the fine chopped onion and sauté till well cooked.
  • Meanwhile microwave/ parboil or steam the veggies  with a tsp of salt . Should take about 5-7 minutes in the microwave. The veggies are cooked till they are almost done. ( The final cooking would be done when it simmers in the gravy)
  • Once cooked, add in these veggies to the sauce pan and stir for a minute or two along with the onions.
  • Add in the prepared masala paste or gravy, cover the pan and let it boil or about 5 minutes or so. Lower the heat and simmer for another minute or two.  Over cooking will impact the flavor and consistency of the dish. Would definitely recommend to do a salt and spice taste test at this point.
  • Switch off the heat. Serve it hot garnished with fresh chopped cilantro.

Accompaniments:

I served this korma piping hot with Masala Avocado Paratha or flat breads and a simple Jeera rice.

Masala Avocado Paratha – Whole wheat flat bread, perfectly spiced.

Mixed Veg in White Gravy/ White Vegetable Korma

 

Pan cooked Jeera Rice – Fragrant Basmati rice cooked with tadka of Cumin seeds in ghee or butter .

steaming jeera rice
steaming jeera rice

 Notes:

If you would like to make a richer version of this you can always add in some pan-fried cashews and a dash of cream to this preparation.