Basics – Sambar Powder and Brinjal, Okra Sambar

I typed, retyped and deleted already 5 times now, will not keep this post waiting for another day…all I have to say is I’m enjoying doing basic recipe’s. Fortunately or unfortunately I don’t get all required spice powder’s here, which has kicked the basic instinct in me to start everything from scratch. Thanks to coffee powder maker, it grounded my sambar powder beautifully. This post is heavly loaded with pictures…I did the shoot on a bright sunny day with good light diffusor (2 white curtains) and also made proper use of camera stand. Took the pictures in raw format and did minimal editing. Totally it was enjoyable recipe to make and to shoot!
Sambar powder recipe is from mom and aunt, it does’t taste like commercial or something from restaurants, but i can say it has simple, beautiful and fresh flavour. I’m proud of making sambar powder by myself, considering my limitations of vegetarian cooking ability!
Though there are so many varieties of sambar and every house has a unique way to prepare it, this is how its made at home. I prefer thicker consistency for rice and more runny for idly and vada.
Geek note: using camera stand brought great clarity and sharpness to pictures. Will stick to it from now on, can’t trust my wobbly hands anymore. Also thumbs up for pictures in raw formant, you can play a lot with it. Happy cooking peeps!

Spring time! Aviyal – Mixed Vegetable in Creamy Coconut Sauce

“People are like stained windows, they sparkle and shine when sun is out” – Elisabeth Kubler-Rose

Happy, spirited up are the day when vitamin D is activated. Yes much awaited Sun is finally here in my part of the world. Warmth, colourful blossoms and green “the” colour is just wonderful.  And all of sudden there was big shift, slipping to few 10’s of degree, rain and grey sky….I was said welcome to Belgium! But flowers are still smiling, dancing along with rain and green is getting intense!  The weather and nature are like artist and poems quite unpredictable yet beautiful! 

Spring time reminds me about fresh vegetable in India and this recipe is loaded with many vegetables in coconut sauce. This is very popular recipe from south India Kerala – God’s own country, which is usually is made with coconut paste, mum makes them with fresh thick coconut milk, more rich and creamy. When mum visited me in Finland in 2011, she smuggled brought all veggies and our home grown coconut and we prepared this recipe, yes two years back…I did tell you my hard drive cries most of the time for some fresh air! 

Till I enjoy the sun, rain and weekend…..you enjoy the aviyal (Mom’s version, not an authentic version) and glimpse of spring from my part of my world!! 

                 Airy light papads …or call it as flying breads

                 My mint plant is growing very happily at home!

Ingredients

Vegetables (All together you need 300 grams)
White pumpkin
Beans
Carrot
Yam
Raw Banana
Potato
Brinjal / Eggplant
Drumstick

100 ml Yoghurt
200 ml Thick Coconut milk (or coconut cream)
1/4 tspn Turmeric powder
1 spring of Curry leaves
4 to 5 Green chillies (ground to paste)
Salt according to taste

For Tempering 
2 tbspn Coconut oil
3/4 tspn Mustered seeds
A pinch Asafoetida
2 spring of Curry leaves

Method
Steam all vegetable along with some water, till it is half cooked, along with green chilli paste, turmeric, salt and one spring of curry leaves.
(You can steam all the vegetable in pressure cooker without weight, or pot boil till it is half cooked.)

After vegetable is half cooked, add coconut milk along with water from vegetables and slowly bring it a boil till it thickens, then add yoghurt and give it a boil for just two minutes. (Don’t over boil them, else the yoghurt will curdle)

Next do the tempering. Warm coconut oil, add muster seeds, let it splutter then add Asafoetida and curry leaves let it splutter. Then add to the vegetable mixture

Rich, flavourful aviyal is ready to serve with rice and crispy papad! 

Easter holidays! – Pan fried fish fillet

Lots of cooking, photography and shopping was my agenda during easter break. Rarely I’m focused during weekends to completely the agendas, but this holiday was exception. So there was heavy shopping, good amount of photography and mild storm in the kitchen. Pan fried fish fillet with caramelised onions was simple yet flavourful. Great thing is that it hardly takes anytime to cook. Palak dhal with ginger & pepper eggplant fry was for soul. Chicken breast in spicy tomato sauce for a cold evening. Mushroom briyani with greek yogurt enough to miss home. Wanted to end with red wine chocolate cake, not sure what went wrong it had excess moisture, which made the cake very gooey.  Have to retry this cake, because the cake had great taste and flavour of wine was tantalising!
Wish I could share mushroom briyani recipe as well, i have great recipe from my sister but every time I jazz up the recipe according to my own mood, that I don’t end up documenting here. I’m still optimising the basmathi rice I get in Belgium, I don’t get aged rice so most of my food is getting mushy! Sigh! Anyhow people here is pan fried fish with caramelised onions! And hope you all had a eventful and colourful easter!
Oh btw…Do you guys by any chance have any idea to shoo away the winter? Or may should I bribe The Summer by saying “Honey how about Tres Leches cupcake with mascarpone frosting?”….Lets see if this work, if at all weather God/Goddess reads this!!!

Fish fry
 
Ingredients
Two fish fillet (I used roodbaars meaning red fish) All white fish would be great!
Half lime
1/4 tspn lemon/lime zest
Sea salt
3 fresh spring of thyme
1 tspn finely chopped fresh dill
1- 2 pod of garlic grated
Pepper according to your taste
Dash of chilly flakes (I insist touch if spiciness is heaven with caramelised onions!)
2 tbspn of extra virgin olive oil
Method
Mix all this ingredients with fish fillet and let them marinate in refrigerator for about 1 to 2 hours.
Pan fry them on medium heat till fish gets cooked for 3 to 4 mins and then turn the heat to high to get them roasted for about 3 to 4 mins.
Caramelised onions
Ingredients
1 large onion – thinly sliced
4 table spoon of olive oil (add butter if you wish)
Salt
Good pinch of sugar
Method
In a wide thick bottom pan on medium heat, pour oil. When oil warms, add sliced onions, salt and fry till onions become and soft transparent. Add sugar and let them fry till they are golden brown. In case if onions are getting dry add few table spoon of water when necessary!
Serve warm fish with caramelised onions along with rice cooked with peas and beam or mashed potatoes!
Enjoy!!

Present – Tamarind rice / Puli sadam / Pulihora

“I don’t live in either my past or my future. I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man. Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living now.” Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist 
That’s exactly how i see life now. Flooded with all love, attention, care from loved ones. Living to fullest in the present is the most beautiful thing. All I do is reach dear ones, talk endlessly over cup of tea, food and cakes. Past few weeks has been so much full of food, specially when most treasured friends cook everything special, it can’t get any better. One of the best experience from last week was when i went with my God mother to meet her friends (most of them were senior citizens) and did henna tattoo for them all (just for fun) their motherly affection, warm hugs, i came back home teared eye feeling human connection is the best in world.  

My study days used to start with things to do and end with seeing how far i reached. Now i wake up seeing glowing snow, tad bit of sunshine, decent hours of work, loads of giggle and end with yoga lessons. No wish list, no to do list, feed people, spread happiness and be merry. I’m very often asked so whats next? i say “let future be a surprise, i’m enjoying the present”. Though i know, what needs and have to be done for which i’m giving my efforts. I wouldn’t take it seriously but rather leave life to unfold itself. Efforts would never go vain. This attitude brings rays of thoughts then i see myself in the mirror and say not sure what is tomorrow, live now you deserve it! I know this a transition phase, i’m sure there are some challenges and reality check waiting for me, till they arrive i’m brave enough to live the way i want. 

Yet again this post is from winter 2010, mum cooked this rice. It is my most fav since childhood. Sometime i can’t believe how picky eater i have been since kid, this used to be one of those food (among very few) when i ate without any drama. This tamarind mix can be made well in advance and preserved. It stays for few months (say two months). You could also freeze it so it stay even more longer. It used to be one of goodies things that mum packed for me every time i flew from India or when she was here. On a busy/lazy days this mix can be mixed with warm fresh rice. It goes every well with potato chips, papads or scrambled eggs. For those who are wondering what those colored little things are? it is called vathal (Indian rice fryums, experts correct me if i’m wrong, which has to be fried before it is served) i adore them only to eat and not to fry. So people another recipe from mum. Do enjoy and live happily since you deserve the best “ting” :) 

Ingredients 
200 gram Tamarind
1 1/2 glass of water
1 tspn Fenugreek  seeds 
4 tbspn Sesame seeds 
100 ml oil

1/2 tspn Mustered seeds
1/2 tspn Cumin seeds
2 Spring of curry leaves
1 tbspn Split yellow chickpeas 6 tbspn un-roasted ground nut 
6 Green chilies slit
6 Red chilies
1/4 tspn Turmeric powder
Good pinch of Asafoetida powder
salt to taste

Method
Soak tamarind in water for about 20 – 30 minutes. Pulp tamarind to thick juice, if required add more water to extract tamarind juice and set them aside.

Dry roast fenugreek, sesame seeds separately till you get good flavors and grind them together into fine powder then set ground powder aside

In heavy bottom pan, add 100 ml of oil, once oil warms up, tip in mustered seed. Be careful since mustered will start to splutter. Once they stop to splutter add in cumin seeds.

Then add in split chickpeas and un-roasted ground nut. Fry for three minutes till raw flavors vanishes. Next added in curry leaves, green chilies and red chilies ( again green chilies can splutter).

Tip in turmeric powder and pour tamarind pulp. Add salt.
Now let them boil on medium heat till oil comes out, almost to a paste consistency.
Next add ground powder and pinch of asafoetida powder, give it a good mix.

Tamarind mix is now ready.

Slowly add in tamarind mix to warm rice till it reaches desired taste, if required add more salt. After it is mixed let them sit for about three hours for flavors to set in. Goes well with papads or simple potato chips!

Wish list – Kashmiri pulao

Hola gente! I had tank list of dreams to chase soon after PhD, like very student have, to do this to do that, my list is still growing. One on the priority is to travel to Spain, Iceland, Athens and once again to Rome to eat all over again and again! let me see how far i can go. When mum was here we planned but couldn’t get them working, winter was too rough on her. But we had gala time with heavy baking and shopping. She flew to India and i’m back to work as post doctorate researcher for short term, not doing much of research work i seriously mean it! You know dissertation hang over, i need full solid holiday to get out of it, which i hardly see any near! There are more than 15 recipes, many trip photos to edit and post, which should be one among the  wish list….so better get active and stop ranting (note to self).   
Lets go to Kashmiri pulao which mum made last year, for my Finnish God parents they thoroughly enjoyed it. Since combination of fruits, nuts and salty rice is something special. Not many may like and i can’t handle pineapple there. The very tiny tinky pineapple in photo was used just for the photoshoot. The use of fruit can be according to ones own choice, make sure to mix the fruit with lukewarm rice just before you serve, to prevent cooking of fruit, if done well in advance pulao may become slushy.

Ingredients 

150 gram basmathi rice
1 tbspn ghee
1 tbspn oil
1 large onion sliced
2-3 green chilies slit 
3 bay leaves 
1 star anies 
2 mace of nutmeg
good pinch of black cumin seeds/shajeera
5 cloves
2 inch cinnamon 
1/4 tspn ginger garlic paste
Salt to taste
Water required according to rice variety ( I used 1 and half glass of water)
Cut fruits 100 gram or more depending on your taste (we used apple, orange, grapes, mango, pomegranate and pear)
Almonds 10 numbers  skinned and fried to golden brown  (to skin soak almonds in water and peal the skin)
Cashews 10 numbers  fried to golden brown 
1 tbspn of finely chopped coriander 
Method
Soak basmathi rice for 30 minutes. In a big pot (heat medium high), add oil and ghee. When oil warms up, add in cinnamon, cloves, star anies wait for 30 seconds for them to warm, then quickly add in bay leaves, mace of nutmeg, green chilies. Next onion goes in soon after the spices starts to splutter, fry the onions till they turn transparent or pale pink, don’t fry for too long or colour of rice will change (manage heat accordingly). Followed by quick frying of  ginger garlic paste till raw flavor subsides. Drain the rice and and add in and fry for about 2 minutes. Add required amount of water, salt and cook for 2 minutes on high heat, then turn it to medium heat for about 12 – 15 minutes. Check after 10 minutes if the rice is 75 % cooked and turn the heat to low. (If you are using hot plate turn off the heat) and let them rest for another 10 minutes. After which give it a very gentle stir. Mix cut fruit, chopped coriander and fried nuts with lukwarm rice and serve immediately!

To prevent oxidation of fruits squeeze few drops of lemon juice.