Cook's Hideout: December 2006

December 31, 2006

Red Lentil & Coconut Soup

This month's JFI is hosted by lovely Ashwini at Food for Thought and has thought of a very interesting ingredient - Coconut. To be honest, I don't use a lot of fresh coconut in my cooking. This is mainly because of lack of coconut breaking skills or special gadgets. I remember the very first time I bought a coconut, we went into a corner in our apartment parking lot for an undisturbed breaking ritual. For some reason, I feel all the surfaces in my apartment are too fragile for breaking the big nut.

I use grated coconut in most of the dishes and for recipes that call for fresh coconut, I usually soak the same in small amount of warm water for about 15-20 minutes. This soaked coconut tastes almost fresh.

My entry for this month's Jihva for Ingredients is a Spiced Red Lentil and Coconut Soup. This recipe is from my "The Greatest ever Vegetarian Cookbook", edited by Nicola Graimes. This soup is very hearty and a meal in itself (with chunks of warmed naan bread or thick slices of toast).
  • Red Onions - 2, finely chopped
  • Jalapeño chili - 1, seeded and finely sliced
  • Garlic cloves - 2, chopped
  • Lemon grass - 1" piece, finely sliced
  • Red Lentils - 1 cup, rinsed
  • Ground Coriander - 1 tsp
  • Paprika - 1 tsp
  • Coconut milk - 1 16 oz. can
  • Lime - 1
  • Spring onions - 3, chopped
  • Cilantro - 1 cup, finely chopped
  • Salt and Pepper - to taste
  • Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large pan and add the onions, chili, garlic and lemon grass. Cook for 5 minutes or until the onions have softened, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the lentils and spices. Pour in the coconut milk and 900ml (3 3/4 cups) water, and stir. Bring to the boil, stir, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the lentils are soft and mushy.
  • Pour in the lime juice and add the spring onions and fresh coriander, reserving a little of each for the garnish. Season, then ladle into bowls. Garnish with the reserved spring onions and coriander.
This recipe is adapted from The Greatest Ever Vegetarian Cookbook, Edited by Nicola Graimes.

December 27, 2006

Onion-Green Pepper Sambar

I googled the word “Sambar” and was really surprised to see the number of results displayed (around 75,000 of them). I knew sambar is a very versatile dish, but I didn’t realize that each household in south India have their own way of making it. When you think of sambar, you think of (idlis, of course.. but that’s not what I’m thinking here J) spicy lentil-tamarind based soup with veggies. But the different ways in which all these ingredients come together, gives rise to a plethora of sambar recipes.
Doesn't that book look wicked?? This is the book that I carried with me to write down recipes from my mom, my mother-in-law and the TV (there are like 4 different cooking shows on 4 different telugu channels in the span of 2 hours in India and I made sure that I didn’t miss out anything interesting on any of the shows). I have some authentic Andhra dishes and some fancy (can I use that word for food???) dishes in the book that I have to try. Will post about them soon.

For now, here is my mom’s way of making sambar. I used potatoes, green peppers and onions for this.

Toor dal – 1 cup
Onions – 1 large, thinly sliced
Green pepper – 1 medium, sliced thin
Potatoes – 2 medium, sliced thin
Tomatoes – 2 medium, chopped fine
Tamarind paste – 2 tbsp
Salt – to taste

For Sambar paste:
Chana dal – 2 tbsp
Urad dal – 2 tbsp
Red chilies – 6
Coriander seeds – 1 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Pepper cloves – ½ tsp
Fenugreek seeds - 1/4 tsp
Grated coconut (fresh or dry) – 4 tbsp

For Tadka:
Mustard Seeds - 1 tsp
Cumin Seeds - 1 tsp
Curry leaves - 6

Rice with Goruchikkudukaya kura, Sambar, Gongura pachadi & onions


  • To make the paste, fry all ingredients except for coconut in 1 tsp ghee. Cool and grind into a smooth paste along with grated coconut. Keep aside.
  • Pressure cook dal until very very smooth (I usually wait for atleast half a dozen whistles in my cooker). Boil the veggies in just enough water till tender.
  • Add chopped tomatoes, cover and cook tomatoes turn mushy.
  • Add the cooked dal (mash it a little bit for smoother texture), tamarind paste, ground paste, salt and 2 cups of water.
  • Bring it to a slow simmer and cook till you get the desired consistency. Add water if you like your sambar on the liquidy side.
  • Heat 1 tsp oil in a small pan, add cumin seeds, mustard seeds and curry leaves. After the seeds splutter add it to sambar. Mix well.
I always end up making a whole big pot of sambar that lasts for atleast 3-4 meals and I don’t mind that because the taste just keeps getting better the next day. Enjoy with idli or rice.
Check out Sailu's, Trupti's, Mythreyee's, Revathi's and Indira's sambar recipes.

December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas with Andhra Cake

Wish you all a very Happy Christmas.

I made Chocolate chip cookies, Pound cake and a special Andhra Cake (its not baked, but rather cooked cake) for Christmas this year.
This is the newest help that I bought from India this time. Its a multi-function table-top grinder (Ultra pride+). Making idlis and dosas is going to be a jiffy now (its just going to more convenient than regular blender).

My Ammamma used to make big fluffy Dibba rottes (literally translated into "Fat bread") in a round brass utensil (ittadi ginne). It resembles a cake in both shape and texture and hence the name Andhra cake.
Th cake is basically made with fresh idli batter which is not fermented.

Urad dal (minapappu) - 1 cup
Idli rawa - 2 cups
Jeera - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
  • Soak urad dal and idli rawa (separately) for 4-5 hours.
  • Grind urad dal into smooth batter by adding little water. Add pre-soaked idli rawa to the batter and mix well. Add jeera to the batter and mix well.
  • In a deep (either round or flat bottom) pan, heat 2 tsp oil on medium heat, add about 2 cups (or more depending on the size of your pan) of batter. Place a small steel plate or spoon in the batter, so that the inside gets cooked evenly. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until the rotte comes out without sticking to the bottom.
  • Turn the rotte over and cook on the other side for another 7-10 minutes.
  • Remove from the pan, cut into wedges and serve with chutney, sambhar or pachadi.

December 21, 2006

Sorakaya Kura

Personally sorakaya (bottle gourd, lauki) is not a very exciting veggie. It doesn’t fall into the category of kid’s favorite’s alu (potato) or bendakaya (okra), but rather sits along with broccoli and brussel sprouts. I remember, as a kid, eating sorakaraya kura with the least interest and telling my mom not to cook it anymore. But now, after all the years of not liking sorakaya, I started experimenting and using it more than I could imagine 10 years ago.

A little research on bottle gourd told me that is not an important source of any nutrient. The composition of 100 grams of young bottle gourd includes 20 mg calcium and 6 mg of Vitamin C. It is low is saturated fat and cholesterol and high in dietary fiber, riboflavin, zinc, thiamin, iron, magnesium and manganese.

The gourd itself doesn’t have any discernible taste, and the dish is mostly acquired taste from the spices and other ingredients put in it. I used Nagpur garam masala that my mom made (she said it has about 31 or 33 spices in it) and it gave the dish spicy kick.

Sorakaya (bottle gourd)– 1 medium, peeled and cubed
Onion – 1 small
Tomato puree – 2 tbsp
Green chilies – 3
Besan – 3 tsp
Milk – ¼ cup
Water – 1 cup
Garam masala – 1 tsp
Red chili powder – ½ tsp
Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
Cumin seeds - ½ tsp
Curry leaves – 5
Salt – to taste

  • Heat 2 tsp oil in a pan, add the seeds and curry leaves, after the seeds splutter, add onions, turmeric and sauté till lightly browned.
  • Add sorakaya pieces and green chilies, cover and cook till tender.
  • When the gourd is tender, add tomato puree and cook for 1 minute.
  • Mix besan with milk into a smooth paste without lumps. Add this to the veggies with water and red chili powder. Cover and cook for 5 minutes on low flame.
  • Add garam masala and salt, cover and cook for another 2 minutes.
You might have noticed that I have started adding milk in all the dishes. The reason being, my husband doesn’t like dairy, milk/ yogurt/ buttermilk, products that are white and have a distinct milk taste. So I’m sneaking in milk into everything, so he (we) would get the necessary nutrients and calcium. Good idea.. right??

December 14, 2006

Methi-Soya Chunk Masala

I’m back from my short and sweet India trip. Had a great time with the family, great home food, good long chats, quick shopping and bam.. I was on my flight back. I was a little sick when I started in India and was totally sick after getting here (I guess home sickness and the cold weather hit right in my face). I’m slowly getting back to routine cooking and blog hopping.
I had planned on participating in JFI-Jaggery and I had my mom cook Chalimidi with jaggery, but due to technical difficulties I couldn’t post anything from India. I’m going to post it sometime soon.
Getting back to the dish in question, Methi-Soya Chunks masala, I remembered seeing a dish with methi leaves and soya chunks on one of the food blogs, but I completely forgot which one and couldn’t find it again. I just went with my instincts here and it turned out pretty good. This would go well with Jeera rice or chapathis.

Methi leaves – 1 big bunch
Mini soya chunks- ½ cup (boiled per package directions)
Onion – 1 big
Tomato – 2 ripe
Green chilies – 2
Milk – ¼ cup
Corn flour – 1 tsp (mix with little water to form a smooth paste)
Red chili powder – 1 tsp
Turmeric – pinch
Cumin powder – 1 tsp
Cumin seeds (jeera) – ½ tsp
Salt – to taste
  • Heat 1 tsp of oil in a pan, add jeera and let the seeds splutter. Fry onions till they turn light brown.
  • Add tomatoes and cook covered till done.
  • Add methi leaves, turmeric, cumin powder and red chili powder. Cover and cook till the leaves wilt, about 5 minutes.
  • Mean while dry fry the boiled soya chunks (optional). I just like the texture of fried chunks.
  • After the leaves are wilted, add the milk and bring it to a slow simmer. Add the fried chunks and salt, cook for 3-5 minutes. Add corn flour mixture and cook for 1 minute or until the gravy thickens. Serve with rice or chapathi.


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