Sunday, June 28, 2009

Uzhunnuvada (Urad Dal Vada) with Coconut Chutney - Doughnut shaped snack made with Urad Dal

Uzhunnu Vada needs no introduction :) Made from Urad Dal, it is served with Sambar and or Chutney or both. Crispy and yummy, it is a favorite among kids and grown ups.

Idli, Vada, Sambar & Chutney would undoubtedly rank very high in the top ten breakfast favorites if you ask any South Indian. Combined with Filter Coffee, (or Filter Kaapi) it can't get any better than that if you ask me. Definitely in my top five list :)

We had this crispy crunchy snack for our evening tea this weekend. Enjoyed it with friends - what could be better than that?

Ingredients for the Vada-
Whole or split Urad Dal (without the skin) - 2 cups
Thai Green Chillies - 10 or 12 chopped- adjust according to desired level of heat
Ginger - 1 inch piece, chopped very fine
Curry Leaves - 3 or 4 sprigs, chopped coarsely
Asafoetida (Hing) - 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon
Peppercorns - optional - 2 tablespoons
Finely minced fresh coconut - optional - 2 tablespoons
Oil for frying
Salt - about 3/4 teaspoons - adjust according to taste
Yeilds about 25 - 30 medium sized vadas

Method -
Rinse urad dal in water a few times until the rinsing water runs clear. Soak rinsed urad dal in water for one and a half hours.
Drain the soaked dal, reserve the soaking water. Add salt and asafoetida to the soaked dal, grind to a smooth paste in batches. Add tablespoons of soaking liquid as required, to assist grinding. Make sure you don't add too much water, making the doughnut shape would be hard with a watery dough. This is the reason salt is added at the beginning, because adding salt at the end and mixing it up will release moisture which will then turn the dough watery.

In a medium sized bowl, add the ground dal, chopped green chillies, curry leaves, chopped ginger, peppercorns, minced coconut, and mix well to combine evenly. Take about 2 cups of water in a bowl, set it next to the ground dal mixture. Moistening the palms will release the vadas easily from your palm.

Heat oil in a pan. The oil should be sufficient enough to deep fry 5 or 6 vadas at one time. Drop a tiny ball of dough in the oil to make sure it is heated just right. If the tiny ball rises to the surface soon, it means that oil has heated just right.

Dip the fingers of the right hand in the water bowl. Pat your left palm with the wet right hand. Make a lemon sized ball of dough with the right hand and form a circular, flat patty on the left hand. Make a hole in the patty with the right index finger and gently release it onto your right hand. Slide the vada into hot oil. Depending on the pan and the amount of oil, you should be able to make about 5 or 6 vadas in a batch. Continue making vadas, each time with wet fingers.
I know this might sound silly but please make sure you don't accidentally dip your fingers in oil. (My classmate in college while making samosas, did this and showed up in the hostel with three blistered fingers. oh no!)

To serve crisp vadas for a party, here is a tip I learnt from my dad. When making large numbers, the vadas are fried in two batches. The first time, the vadas stay in hot oil for barely a minute or two, to hold their shape. The entire dough is made into vadas, fried quickly and removed from oil. This can be done ahead of time. Here are the vadas, fried quickly once - notice how they are still pale brownish white but holding their shape. These are clearly not cooked in the inside as you can tell.

When the vadas are fried the second time, add 7 or 8 vadas in a batch instead of 5 or 6. Don't worry about overcrowding the pan because they won't stick to each other since they are already fried once. I do this everytime I make them. I have seen that double frying gives home made vadas the restaurant style crunch. Once they are golden brown in color, remove from oil. Serve hot with Coconut Chutney.

Coconut Chutney Ingredients-
Grated coconut - 1 cup - fresh or frozen. If using frozen, thaw to room temparature.
Thai green chillies - 5 or 6 - according to your taste
Ginger - 1/2 inch piece
Pottukkadalai (Dalia) - 2 tablespoons
Cilantro - 5 or 6 stems with leaves - cleaned well and chopped
Salt - according to taste

Method -
Grind everything well in a blender or mixie jar with sufficient water and transfer to a serving bowl. Adding tadka to the chutney is optional.

Enjoy with friends and loved ones :)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Drumstick leaves Molagoottal - Muringa leaves and Moong daal with coconut and spices

Drumstick or Muringakkai is a very popular vegetable in South India. How can it not be, with dishes like the flavorful Muringakkai sambar? Muringai ilai Molagoottal, the topic of this post, is made using drumstick leaves and lentils, and is a very popular dish among Palakkad Iyers. It is traditionally made with Toor dal but my mom always makes it with Moong dal.

In a typical everyday menu in our household, Muringai ilai molagoottal would accompany white rice topped with a dollop of ghee, with arachu kalakki and rasam. Arachu kalakki (means mish-mash, if you ask me) is a curd based side dish with fresh cucumbers or tomatoes, spiced with green chillies and ginger and tempered with mustard seeds, red chillies and curry leaves. After this dual main course (molagoottal and arachukalakki makes a pair, so does molagoottal & rasam) the third course would be rice and curd with a simple pickle, or more rasam :)

We use the Moringa leaves primarily to make molagoottal and muringai ilai adai. Muringai ilai adai is a crepe similar to dosa but thicker, and is one of our favorite breakfast dishes.

In my grandfather's house that I grew up, we had a muringakkai tree in our yard. It stood near the mossy dark laterite wall surrounding the yard and was visible from the road leading to our house. Tall and slender, the branches of the tree swayed back and forth with the 15 or so drumsticks in various stages of growth. The branches would break at the slightest tug so harvesting them was best left to the elders. As a kid, I loved gathering the fresh flowers that fell. About half of them were on our side of the wall and the other half lay scattered on the dusty road. My mom made a poriyal(stir-fry) for me, with the ten or fifteen flowers I brought in. Mildly spiced and full of freshly grated coconuts, I loved to eat it with Thayir saadam (Curd rice). The poriyal wasn't even sufficient for the tiny me, how could I share it? She would add a handful of drumstick leaves to make up for the quantity but the poriyal with just the flowers was my favorite.

Two years back, we brought home a muringakkai plant from our local farmers' market here and have been enjoying it since. Even though we live in sunny Florida, we've had an extreme cold spell in winter the last two years when local TV channels advise you to cover your plants in order to protect them. We would wrap the plants in our backyard with blankets, then wait with our fingers crossed, hoping they make it. The first winter with us, the muringakkai plant didn't make it - or so we thought. When we removed the blanket, the poor plant with its wilted leaves looked so sad and cold. The ice formed in the cells apparently killed the plant, we said to ourselves. One sunny beautiful day in the next month or so, my husband caught a tiny & tender baby shoot sprouting out from the ground, saying hello to the morning sun! Looks like we have a fighter :)

Wikipedia lists extensive uses of this plant, Moringa oleifera. "The leaves are highly nutritious, being a significant source of Beta-carotene, Vitamin C, Protein, Iron and Pottassium. "

More from Wikipedia below - I have highlighted the nutritional comparisons with other vegetables/fruits.

A large number of reports on the nutritional qualities of Moringa now exist in both the scientific and the popular literature. Moringa leaves contain more Vitamin A than carrots, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach, more Vitamin C than oranges, and more potassium than bananas, and that the protein quality of Moringa leaves rivals that of milk and eggs. The oral histories recorded by Lowell Fuglie in Senegal and throughout West Africa, who reports countless instances of lifesaving nutritional rescue that are attributed to Moringa (Fuglie, L.J., 1999, 2000). In fact, the nutritional properties of Moringa are now so well known that there seems to be little doubt of the substantial health benefit to be realized by consumption of Moringa leaf powder in situations where starvation is imminent. Nonetheless, the outcomes of well controlled and well documented clinical studies are still clearly of great value. (Jed W. Fahey, 2005)

The Wikipedia article on Moringa is here, it is very informative and it talks about ben oil, which is extracted from Moringa seeds. Make sure to check it out. But don't go just yet!

Muringai ilai Molagoottal Ingredients -
Drumstick leaves de-stemmed and rinsed in cold water - 2 cups
Dry roasted Moong Daal - 1 cup. (Alternatively, you can use Toor dal too)
Toast the Moong dal in a pan, stirring well so it doesn't stick to the pan, for about 6-8 minutes
until it is brownish & toasted. This toasting ensures the dal doesn't get too mushy when it is pressure cooked.

To grind into a paste -
Urad dal - 2 tablespoons
Red chillies - 2 or 3 - depending on your level of heat.
Grated coconut - 1/2 cup
Cumin seeds(Jeera) - 1 teaspoon
In a small pan, add 1 tsp oil, add the urad dal and fry it without burning until it turns brownish red. Now add the red chillies and fry it in the oil. Remove from fire and transfer to a blender/mixie jar. Add the jeera and grated coconut, grind well into a smooth paste. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of water to assist grinding. Set aside.

For tempering -
Mustard seeds - 1/2 teaspoon
Urad dal - 1/2 teaspoon
Red chillies - 1 or 2
Curry leaves - 2 sprigs

Method -
Pressure cook the dal with a pinch of salt and turmeric powder.

In a pan, add the ground coconut paste, the cooked dal, 1/2 cup water and mix well. Add the cleaned muringai ilai leaves, bring it to a boil. Boil for a couple minutes and check for salt.

Remove from fire. Now is the time for tadka, or tempering. In a small pan, add 1 tsp oil and when it is hot, add mustard seeds. When they splutter, add urad dal, red chillies and curry leaves and mix well. Add this to the curry that was just removed from fire.

Mix well, serve hot. There you have it. Nutritious and yummy!

Leftovers make an excellent side dish for rotis. When you reheat the dish, just add a chopped and saute-ed onion, tomato and a couple more green chillies.

My little one loves molagoottal with plain rice and ghee. So I am sending this to Cooking For Kids - Leafy greens hosted by Pavani, conceptualized by Sharmi, of Neivedyam. Here is the original event announcement at Sharmi's blog.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Daring Cooks' June Challenge - Potstickers with homemade Paneer filling

Jen, of use real butter chose Chinese dumplings to be the Daring Cooks' June challenge. When I saw this, the first filling that came to mind was Paneer. This is my first time participating in the Daring Cooks'; I had fun all the way.

When I started thinking about Chinese dumplings, Ulundhu kozhukkattai came to my mind. The wrapper is made using rice flour and the filling would be Urad dal usli. This is traditionally made during Ganesh chaturthi, accompanied by Ganeshji's favorite, the very famous Modakam. The filling in Modakam is poornam (made by cooking grated coconut in jaggery & ghee, spiced with cardamom). To describe the shape of modakam, imagine a white pearly & soft ball the size of a lemon with one pointy end, filled with gooey yummy poornam. The savory one is boat shaped, pretty much like the shape of the chinese dumplings, except that they weren't pleated like the chinese dumplings. My dad tells me that the savory one was made boat shaped inorder to distinguish between this and the sweet version. Yummy.

I decided to go for all purpose flour. To make it slightly more nutritious, I added an itsy bitsy bit of oat flour. I didn't want to risk making it taste oatsey (I just invented a new word? lol) but still wanted to satisfy my 'make it healthy' reminder that pops up everytime :) so I added just 2 tablespoons. I got around 16-18 dumplings, so each would have had approximately 2/18ths of a tablespoon of oat flour in it. Very little, yet something. So on hindsight, I'll make it double the next time. I got this oatsey smart idea from Usha after reading her post about Oat Pav. Thanks Usha, for the awesome tip!

So, going to the recipe:

Ingredients for the Paneer filling -
Paneer - I made paneer using six cups of whole milk. The paneer I got was almost the size of a large grapefruit. I know that sounds kinda vague, but I am pretty sure it should have weighed at least a pound. Even slightly more. Crumble the paneer into smaller chunks and keep aside.
Onion - 1/2 of 1 large red onion, chopped finely
Tomato - 1 Roma tomato, chopped finely
Cilantro - 5 or 6 stems, leaves and all, cleaned and washed
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Chilly powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 teaspoon
Cumin seeds (Jeera) - 1/4 teaspoon

Spice powder -
Saunf (Fennel seeds) - 1/4 teaspoon
Cloves - 5 or 6
Cardamom - 5 or 6
Dry roast the spices one after the other in a pan to toast well and release the oils, make a fine powder. I use my favourite gadget, my goodold mortar and pestle for this.

Method to make the filling -
Heat a pan, add about 1 tablespoon oil. Add the cumin seeds. When it splutters, add the onion and saute for about 3 minutes until tender and transluscent. Now add the tomatoes, turmeric powder and a pinch or two of salt. Cook for a few minutes until the tomatoes are mushy and cooked. Add the coriander and chilly powder and fry for about a minute without burning. Add the crumbled paneer and mix in well. Break all the lumps and mix evenly. Once it is uniformly mixed, add the spice powder and combine well and remove from fire. Add the chopped cilantro and mix well. Check for salt, set aside in a bowl to cool.

Ingredients for the wrapper -
Unbleached all purpose flour - 1 cup
Salt - 1/4 teaspoon
Oats flour - 2 tablespoons ( I powder steel cut oats in my mixie and save it in a ziplock in my freezer to use anytime)
Water - 1/4 cup or slightly more

Method to make the wrappers-
Combine the flours in a bowl, add salt and mix well. Make a dough adding water as required. The dough should not be sticky. Knead it well for a couple minutes and make balls the size of gooseberries (nellikkai).

Flatten each ball as thin as possible, and make pleats. I learnt this technique from the user Lisa at the Daring Kitchen. Lisa has detailed pictures in the daring cooks' forum. Very helpful pics Lisa. Thanks for all your effort for putting it together. Here is Lisa's post at her blog.

Apparently you could make 3, 4 or 6 pleats on each side of the dumpling. Not wanting to make it too complicated, I went for just 3. Basically you make 3 pleats on one side, 3 pleats on the other, fill it with the filling. Wet the inside of the pleats with water, then stick them together.

Method to cook the Dumplings -
Dumplings can be cooked in a variety of different ways- boiled, steamed, or pan fried.
Potstickers, which are essentially dumplings, are saute-ed on one side, and then steam cooked. In other words, you would add oil to a flat bottomed pan, then arrange the dumplings on the pan and heat it briefly to brown the bottom side, then add water to the pan and close it with a lid. The dumplings would be cooked in the steam. They are then served with dipping sauce, with the brown sides facing up.

I decided to do that and happily I realized I could easily just pan fry them without water. I picked a round bottomed pan for this, added about 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of oil and arranged about 6 -8 of the dumplings. With my handy pair of tongs, I shifted them back and forth to make sure as much of the wrapper was getting cooked. When brown on one side, I turned them over and did the same. Then, I turned the heat to low, and closed the lid. Now with a keen eye on it (a keen pair of eyes actually), I let it cook for a few minutes on each side. I had about 3 batches to pan-fry.

I had initially planned to serve this with khatti-meethi chutney but due to shortage of time, ended up serving my potstickers with ketchup. We had this for our evening chai. Yummy, all of us loved it. Pretty filling snack I should say :)

I find this has to be eaten right away when pan-fried. When it is cool, it seems to have a tendency to harden when cooked this way. I have 3 of them that were leftovers, I'll find out for sure tomorrow. A couple minutes in the microwave should warm them up, I am guessing. The next time, I might try just steaming them.

I already have a bunch of fillings lined up in my mind for this. Amma had a brilliant idea too. Potstickers, I see you being a regular in our kitchen.


Monday, June 1, 2009

Mango Pudding

If you ask me which is my favorite color, the reply would most likely be a long & inconclusive answer. Coz I love them all! I am pretty sure there are others that have the same opinion. Or, my short answer would be, 'it depends' :)
Like the smell of my favorite foods, each color to me brings fond memories of dear ones, like yellow. It is my dad's absolute favourite color. My mom has all kinds of saris in all shades of yellow-bright yellow being the most prominent of them. She even has more than two that are the exact same! When I was a little girl, all the dresses he would bring me after his trips were yellow. As a newly married couple, he took us to this new mall in Chennai to get our onakkodi for our first Onam. It was this beautiful beautiful salwar in this bright yellow and white and lovely green. Absolutely lovely. After almost 10 years, the style of the salwar is not trendy anymore but I looove wearing it.

After that intro you wouldn't be surprised that I picked yellow for FIC:Favourite, conceptualized by Sunshinemom of TongueTicklers and hosted by Curry Leaf. My parents just got here to spend the summer with us, so I made mango pudding for my dad on Sunday. We enjoyed the bright yellow, sinfully yummy (with all the calorie rich ingredients!) pudding. But then when I sat down to write about it, I realized that the deadline for FIC:Favourite was yesterday which I narrowly missed.

Since this is a dessert with Mango, I am sending it to Srivalli's Mango Mela.
Being a novice blogger, it is great to discover creative blogs and interesting events every day. Awesome blogs and really lovely events, ladies. Hats off to you gals!

Now off to the recipe -
This is quick to assemble. Like someone said, this is the dessert you make when you've planned to put together a nice fancy dinner for a bunch of people but don't want to compromise and serve store bought icecream, at the same time, you are so overwhelmed to think about dessert :)

I have made this two or three times with gelatin earlier, before I knew that gelatin is of animal origin. Ever since I knew that, I have been wondering about agar agar, the plant substitute for gelatine. I used agar agar on Saturday morning according to package directions on one of my own test recipes. It was yummy to eat when slightly warm before I chilled it in the fridge, but it turned stone hard in a matter of 2 hours! I couldn't even scoop it out. Yes, it was that bad :(
I am so glad I didn't try agar agar for the first time in the mango pudding. Phew! So when I made the pudding on Sunday, I used much much less than the suggested quantity of agar agar, it turned out just the way I wanted.

Ingredients -
1, 8 oz pack of Cream Cheese (I used the Philadelphia brand)
1, can of Kesar Mango Pulp - the can I used was 1 lb and 14 oz (850 gm)
1, 8 oz can of sweetened condensed milk (I have used Carnation and La Lechera, both are fine)
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon agar agar powder - I read somewhere that it is also available as flakes. This is a fine powder that I used. I bought this one at the healthfood store. It's brand name is 'Now'.

Method -
It would be better to take the cream cheese out of the refrigerator and leave it on the countertop for 1 or 2 hours before you mix everything together. This makes it easier to beat.
Warm 1/2 cup of water in a pan and add the agar agar powder slowly while stirring the water so no lumps are formed. Alternatively, you can mix the agar agar powder in 1/2 cup water very well and bring it to a boil while stirring really well. Boil for a good 4 or 5 minutes so the agar agar powder sortof dissolves in water and the whole thing becomes semi jelly like. Set aside. (I kept an eye on it, stirring it once in a while.)

In a medium to large bowl, empty the cream cheese from the pack and beat well with an electric beater for 2 or 3 minutes without any lumps. To this, add the mango pulp and beat well for another 2 or 3 minutes. Now add the can of condensed milk and beat again to incorporate everything. To this add the agar agar mixture and beat it; make sure it is well incorporated. Pour this mix into a serving bowl and cover it, chill in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 hours or overnight.
There you have it, creamy and delectable mango pudding. We loved having this luscious pudding for dessert after our Sunday lunch. Made from the high calorie condensed milk and cream cheese, what's not to like? :)