About 1000 years old south Indian delicacy, idli, is now gaining popularity all over the world as a healthy breakfast. Various studies conducted by renowned institutions around the globe state in unison that idli is one of the best breakfasts as naturally fermented rice & lentil batter is used in its preparation. Idli is a soft spongy steamed cake made using fermented rice & lentil batter prepared often in almost every South Indian’s household.
At the mere sight of a canister filled with idli-dosa batter inside my refrigerator I feel totally relaxed as it helps my meal planning easier. With this multi-purpose batter I can make simple podi dosa when I feel lazy, or treat ourselves with a sumptuous feast, or give a traditional twist to overcome our meal monotony. It is needless to say that this batter is the quintessential stock inside the refrigerator in every South Indian’s home across the globe.
Pongal is the harvest festival celebrated in Tamilnadu by worshiping Sun & earth to express our gratitude for the entire year’s harvests. On this day we still follow the traditional method of cooking rice in brass, stainless steel or earthen pots. We decorate the Pongal Paanai (pot) with kolam drawn using rice flour & turmeric powder and tie the ginger or turmeric sprouts around its neck. Pongal means boiling over, it signifies prosperity & abundance, and hence it is considered auspicious to have boiled over while cooking pongal. We use Pongal paanai rather than electric cooker or pressure cooker as spilling over happens only when cooking pongal in pot.
Kadamba sambar is a traditional flavorful South Indian curry prepared with assorted (kadambam) vegetables & tubers usually served with rice. It is popularly known as idi sambar (meaning pounded sambar) in Tirunelveli & Kanyakumari regions, as the spice powder was earlier prepared by pounding in a large stone mortar (ural) using a 3-feet long metal-tipped wooden pestle (ulakkai).
Indians usually celebrate every new beginning by distributing sweet boondi laddu, but we follow a tradition of serving sweet boondi to celebrate a new beginning in our family particularly when a new-born arrives home. Today I follow the same tradition and serve tapioca pearls payasam garnished with sweet boondhi (chickpea flour pearls) on this New Year.
Indian medicine system recommends anything that tastes astringent such as banana flowers, pomegranate, red gram (toor dal), Indian blackberry (black plum), etc. for women’s health as they keep uterus healthy. Consuming cooked banana flower with curd or yoghurt is believed to be one of the most efficient ways of treating excessive bleeding during menstruation as it increases the level of progesterone. So it is always better to prepare banana flower lentil crumble (vazhaipoo paruppu usili) and serve with yoghurt curry (mor-kulambu).
Since moringa trees are primarily grown for their seed pods (drumsticks), moringa flowers are hardly available in the market. So we prepare poriyal in small quantity exclusively for a lactating mother in our family. It is preferred to cook buds & young white blossoms gently and use them in salad, soup, or curry. Please beware that it is not recommended to take moringa flowers during pregnancy as it may lead to miscarriage.
Idli with ketti chutney is a popular street food among bachelors who miss their home-cooked food for breakfast. Both my grandmothers prepared ketti chutney (meaning thick chutney) everyday, and they taste delicious when served particularly with spongy idli/ dosa. Nowadays we don’t prepare this chutney often, and we prefer to make a quick watery chutney that does not require any tempering.
Dal Tadka is a simple but a hearty lentil curry flavored with fried cumin seeds & red chillies. It is the most popular dish served with roti, naan, or pulav, and it can be prepared easily with commonly available ingredients in no time. Dal can be made spicy by adding the tadka (tempering) or rich by preparing the tadka in ghee. Without tadka this dal can be devoured as a hot lentil soup on a cold winter night.
It is a bizarre phenomenon that some of the vegetarians here, particularly elders, do not like the strong flavor of fennel seeds and they avoid taking the foods spiced with fennel seeds even in restaurants. But I like its sweet flavor and I usually add them into spicy vegetable kurma & paruppu vadai (lentil patties) for the delicious flavor. Masal vadai are prepared by deep frying lentil dough and served as a snack along with coconut chutney.
Ridge gourd (Luffa acutangula) is a native vegetable that grows plentifully in every village in South India. Mildly-sweet flesh and the fibrous peel of ridge gourds are edible, so we generally prepare gothsu as a side for idli & dosa and kootu for rice using the flesh, and chutney (dip) using the peel.
It was quite captivating to see an array of flavorful creamy curries in green, red, orange & yellow colors when we dined at a restaurant in Chiang Mai, Thailand a few years ago. Hence I brought back Thai herbs & spices used for making those curries and prepared vegetable curries. I was extremely delighted that I could manage to bring out the similar flavor, texture and also the perfect color.
Chukku-malli kaapi is a traditional South Indian digestive elixir prepared using dried ginger & other spices, herbs and palm jaggery. Since Indian medicine systems like Siddha or Ayurveda recommends to take fresh ginger in an empty stomach in the morning & dried ginger later in the day to improve the digestion.
Cassava (yucca/ manioc) plants are widely grown in India as their roots are used for culinary purposes & leaves for their medicinal properties. These gluten-free tubers are known as maravalli kizhangu in northern districts of Tamilnadu & yezhilai kizhangu (meaning seven leaves) in southern districts.Since they are available in plenty during Nov-Dec, I have been making cassava poriyal often for lunch and also serve as an evening snack.
Thoothuvalai (Solanum trilobatum) is a quickly spreading herb usually props up in our surroundings after a good spell of rain. It is a medicinal plant used in Indian medicines Ayurveda & Siddha to treat respiratory problems like asthma, cough, cold & flu.
I have been nominated for The Sunshine Blogger Award by my blogger friend Savvy Raj whose works I love & admire and I want to say thank you to her. You can visit her blog that spreads positivity through her poems and showcases her beautiful artworks.
When I noticed a bottle of left-over Nutella kept unused for some days, I badly wanted to use it up in one shot and hence I decided to bake an eggless Nutella cake. Although the idea of combining chocolate & banana together is not liked by some, it worked wonders for me, and I was extremely delighted with the outcome of luscious cake with moist texture & tender crumbs.
Sodhi is an exotic Sri Lankan curry prepared with lentils and vegetables stewed in coconut milk. Although sodhi is not a spicy curry, it has grown popular among the people living in & around Tirunelveli who usually enjoy spicy curries. Meals with sodhi served at the wedding feasts in our family is a lavish spread of creamy sodhi, pungent ginger chutney, spicy potato fries, crunchy appalam, scrumptious coconut milk dessert (payasam), sweet boondhi and fresh curd as below. Wedding in our family is usually hosted by bride’s family. However bride’s family is treated with a sumptuous meal (maruveetu sappadu) with sodhi the day after marriage, and it is a unique custom prevalent here to signify the confluence of both the families.
Biryani is a medley of rice, vegetables (or meat) & spices popular in India, Srilanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other countries in south Asia & central Asia. Traditionally biryani is cooked over hot coal in a sealed cooking pot allowing the aroma of spices permeated into the vegetables (or meat) & rice. This method of cooking in low heat is known as “Dum” process. Now I have prepared Paneer Dum biryani in this process over stove top, nowadays dum biryani is also prepared using slow cooker, or baked in the oven.
Kofta is a soft potato dumpling soaked in mildly spiced delectable curry, and it is greatly enjoyed by children and others who are not accustomed to the heat of red chilli. In this recipe ginger is used to make the gravy spicy and red chilli powder is added mainly for the color & flavor, however red chilli powder may be added little more according to our palate.
Hot, sweet & sour rasam can be revelled as a comforting soup on a rainy day or winter nights. Usually south Indian rasam is prepared with tomato or lemon and also using dried neem flowers for Tamil New Year. But adding pineapple into rasam makes such a humble dish even more palatable as it lends a pleasant sweet & sour flavour.
Generally vegetable fritters are prepared using the batter made of cornstarch & all purpose flour but we, South Indians, use chickpea (Bengal gram) flour for the batter and prepare fritters using the locally grown vegetables. Nevertheless people with sensitive stomach used to avoid taking these fritters as gram flour causes flatulence & indigestion. So I have added powdered ajwain (omam seeds) that are commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat stomach ache, indigestion, gastritis & flatulence. I have replaced baking soda with dosa batter that aids in digestion of gram flour and is useful to make the fritters fluffy. I have also added little ghee into the batter for the delicious aroma.
Neivilangai is a melt-in-mouth lentil flour laddu popular among South Indians & Sri Lankans. Generally North Indians use Bengal gram flour or wheat flour whereas South Indians use green gram flour or black gram flour for making delicious laddu. Neivilangai has always been featured in our family’s Deepavali menu every year. You may check out our other Deepavali recipes here.
Thattai (meaning flat disc) are inexorably delicious crackers prepared in our family for Deepavali. It is so astonishing to find numerous varieties of thattai made all over India using various lentils, grains & spices, and hence it has varied flavour, texture or colour in every state, every district and also in every family. These crispy savory discs have been given different names in different regions viz., thattu vadai in Salem, thattai murukku in Tamilnadu, nippattu in Karnataka, chekkalu in Andhra Pradesh, papdi in North India.
Porivilangai is a traditional laddu made using pan-roasted rice & palm jaggery. Our grandmother used to prepare these laddus for Deepavali that falls in October or November, and my aunts used to keep them for us till our visit during summer. In those days these flavorful porivilangai were made into hard orange-sized balls but now I have made small soft laddus that can be stored only for few days, you can also check out the recipe for a similar laddu called Neivilangai made of lentil flour.
Although Navrathri in south India is synonymous with savoury sundal, traditionally sweet payasam is also offered for neivedhyam during Navarathri. I have prepared ada pradhaman, a creamy dessert popular in Kerala & southern Tamilnadu. Onam sadhya menu is incomplete without ada pradhaman. I still remember the delicious ada pradhaman prepared by my aunt lived in Nagercoil and I thank her for introducing us such a sweet delicacy.
Radish (mullangi) sambar tastes as delicious as shallot (chinna vengayam) sambar as they both absorb the flavors of all the spices used in sambar. Hence I like to savour mullangi sambar not only with hot steaming rice but also with idli or dosa.
Peas pulao is a simple but delicious and aromatic rice dish. It is so captivating to see the rice dish dotted with green peas, and hence it can be served to the guests at the family gatherings.
Generally I prepare omam kuzhambu when we return home from a vacation, or after attending a wedding ceremony for few days, as omam is beneficial to treat indigestion or flatulence. I also make omam kuzhambu and serve with hot steaming rice & roasted papad (sutta appalam), when we crave for a home-cooked food that soothes our stomach.
Aloo paratha, an Indian bread stuffed with spicy potato, is a hearty meal that can be packed for children’s lunch box. We can serve hot aloo paratha for breakfast or dinner along with spicy garlic-tomato dip (instead of pickle) & refreshing onion raita.