Saturday, March 14, 2015

Instant green chilli pickle: Get you chilli fix

Sometimes a new product or idea can spread like fire, which is exactly what happened when the chilli pepper was introduced to the Indian continent by the Portuguese who in turn brought it from either the Caribbean islands or Chile/Brazil.

Indian cooking and Ayurveda are not exactly accepting of "foreign" foods but the green chilli was quickly incorporated into our cuisine and particularly Ayurvedic medicines. The chilli pepper soon pushed aside the black pepper in many Ayurvedic formulations to cure diseases from Cholera to medicated ointments/balms to relieve joint aches. Today one cannot dream of indian cooking without the chilli in its many forms, fresh, dry, powder, marinated...

Last week I visited the produce market several times and each time I picked a batch of green chillies....I cannot understand why I did that considering we don't really consume too many chillies as the boys don't like to eat even faintly spicy foods! It's okay though, as I really needed to make a batch of Instant chilli pickle. Ever since I started eating unpolished brown rice, Jowar berries and ragi rotis...I CRAVE some chilli heat, so I always have a small jar of this pickle in the fridge. It goes well with dal roti/rice or mixed into a salad.


100-150 gms fresh green chillies, washed, dried and cut into small pieces

1/3 cup split mustard seeds
1tbsp Nigella seeds
1/2 cup white vinegar
3tbsp mustard oil or any oil you may have at home
1tsp turmeric powder
2-3 tbsp salt


Mix all the ingredients and stir well. Store in a glass jar, preferably in the refrigerator to keep the chillies crisp. The pickle is ready to consume in a few days after the chilli heat has had a chance to mellow in the salty sour brine.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Pasta Perfect: Aglio Olio e peperoncino

For a foodie there is nothing more sublime then biting into a piece of Pasta that has been cooked just right. Add a burst of flavor from fresh garlic and a hint of heat from chilli flakes tied together with the silky texture of olive oil and you are sure to be transported into sheer bliss.

I ALWAYS have several packages of dried pasta in my pantry, and the Penne shape is the preferred choice for the boys at home....something about its shape and ridges that hold on to a sauce real well!

When I'm all out of ideas and the fridge is nearing empty, a big bowl of Aglio Olio e peperoncino is the dish I love to make. Good quality olive oil, loads of freshly minced garlic, a generous pinch of bright red chilli flakes, chopped parsley and you have made a soul satisfying dish. The trick to making this fabulous bowl of pasta is cooking the pasta only 90% through and using a very good quality extra virgin olive oil that is from the first cold pressing. The flavor of the oil is very important as it adds a bit of fruity acidity to the dish. However if you don't have a good EVOO, just add some lemon/lime zest to the pasta.

1 package dried pasta of your choice (approx 500 gms), cooked al dente
6-8 tbsp EVOO ( olive oil)
3-4 tbsp minced/finely chopped garlic
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
1/2 tsp lime zest (optional)

Bring a large pot of water (3-4 ltr) to a boil. Add 2 tsp of salt, the dried pasta and let it cook on a medium flame for about 8 mins or as per the directions on the package. When about 90% cooked (still a bit firm to the bite) remove from heat and drain the pasta, keeping aside 200 ml of the drained water. Set aside. Heat olive oil, add minced garlic, chili flakes and parsley and let it sizzle for a minute. In a large bowl place the pasta and add the olive oil mixture, add lemon zest and toss so that all the pasta is coated, adding few tablespoons at a time of the pasta water to keep it moist. Taste for salt and add more if needed. Serve immediately into individual bowls and garnish with some fresh parsley and Parmesan cheese! Mangia!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Gift of Community: Mangalorean Wedding Pickle

I first tasted this pickle at my dearest friend P's home. She had just returned from a family wedding and this was part of the goodies she brought back with her. While catching up at dinner we were served this amazing pickle! My hubby who is very fond of all things sweet and sour tasted this pickle and boy did he like it. It is was an unusual combination to us.....Ivy gourd and carrots! Never imagined that it would/could make such an addictive pickle.

P dug up her copy of the Mangalorean Ladies club cookbook and we found the recipe. I made a batch and on tasting, P gave it 2 thumbs up in terms of taste and flavor. 

This pickle is prepared weeks before a wedding takes place in the community. Women relatives and neighbors gather one afternoon and cut the vegetables to make the pickle.... such a warm and communal feeling that we lack in the modern era of nuclear families.

Fast forward.

A few year ago when we were in India for a short stint I was able to team up with a neighbor G mami (age 75+) and made pickles and preserves all through the summer, it was such great fun as I relived some of my childhood summers through the process! My only regret was that I did not try making papads. G Mami is the quintessential "Iyer Mami"  immensely talented and is like the Energizer bunny, always doing something whether it be cooking meals for the family (she cooks most of the 3 course meals daily) visiting temples, maintaining fasts and conducting poojas and had very busy social calendar. However she always had time to do so many "other"activities, I often wondered how she did it and if I would have the same enthusiasm and vigour when I am her age. When Making this pickle I thought she may not appreciate it, but her family liked it so much that she made a batch too!

500 gms, carots, peeled and sliced into inch long matchsticks
500 gms, tendli, (ivy gourd) thinly sliced
1 cup garlic, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup crushed garlic
1/2 cup green chillies, sliced
1/4 cup curry leaves
1 1/2 cup vinegar
1 1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sesame oil
2tbsp + 2 tbsp salt

Pickle powder
1cup dry red chillies ( mix Byadgi and spicy chilies in equal amounts)
2 tbsp Chana dal2 tbsp urad dal (dhuli)
1 tsp sesame seeds
1/2 tsp methi Dana
1/2 tsp mustard seeds

Dry roast all the above ingredients, individually on a pan on low heat. Mix and make a fine powder. Set aside.
Mix 2 tbsp salt with carrots and tendli/kundru and place in a large plastic container. Set a plate smaller than the bowl on top of the vegetable and place couple of heavy cans so that the vegetables are made to sink into the juice/liquid that it releases. Allow it to brine for a day or two. Remove from the brine and sun dry the vegetables for another two days.After the vegetables have dried, make the pickle powder and keep aside. Heat vinegar and water and boil the garlic and green chillies till the color fades (10-12 minutes). Remove the garlic and green chillies and keep aside. In the remaining vinegar solution, add the sugar and allow it to melt and become a bit syrupy (approx. 3/4 cup).Heat sesame oil, add crushed garlic ( use a large kadhai to do this, as the oil will froth up quite a bit), cook for a minute, and add curry leaves. Turn off the flame and as it cools add the garlic and green chillies (boiled). Add the dry vegetables and the vinegar syrup and powdered masala. Taste to check for salt. Store in a glass/porcelain container and it is ready to use in two days.
* The traditional recipe also calls for raw papaya....I did not use it.
* * I use this pickle as a sandwich spread, or on top of rotis, with plain rice and dal.....endless uses! 
* * * Its addictive..... :)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

When you are in a squeeze try Lemon Rice

This diminutive fruit wields great power and can transform many a dish. I love lemon rice, a traditional South Indian rice staple and is often made when you have surprise guests or in a time crunch or to make when traveling.

3 cups cooked white/brown or unpolished rice
Juice of 2 limes/lemons, reserved
2tbsp raw/roasted peanuts (optional)
1tbsp Urad dal
1 tbsp Chana dal
2 tsp ginger, finely chopped
1 tsp turmeric
1tsp chopped green chilli
1/2 tsp hing/asafoetida
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
Few curry leaves
Chopped coriander leaves for garnish
2 tsp oil
Salt to taste

Heat oil in a pan, add urad dal, Chana dal, peanuts and allow them to brown, add mustard, hing, curry leaves, green chilli, turmeric and salt. Stir for a moment. Add lime juice and stir to mix ingredients. Add the rice and Stir on low flame till all ingredients are well mixed. Turn off, garnish with coriander leaves and serve with chutney and raita/yoghurt.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Pinwheel Delight: Patra, Patarvelia or Alu Vadi

I don't like to spend hours on end in the Kitchen to cook up a meal. Ideally I like to spend no more than 30 minutes from start to finish! I'm usually asked how is it possible to put together an Indian meal comprising of Dal, Subji ( dry/gravy vegetable dish), salad, roti and rice in such little time. The trick is in planning ahead and breaking up the process and a trusty pressure cooker. While the rice and dal cook in the cooker, I chop up vegetables for the Subji, salad and the Dal seasoning, so it's quite easy to put a meal together!

You ask, how does a time and motion study work into this post....well it doesn't!
One of the few dishes I'm willing to spend more than half hour on, is the quintessential Gujarati snack time favorite, the Patra, Patarvelia or Alu Vadi. Oh how my better half loves this dish, so I make it once a month if I can find the Taro/colocassia leaves at the supermarket and make a double batch so that there is always some in the freezer.

For Patra stuffing

9-12 large patra leaves (colocasia leaves), about a foot long each
1/2 cup thick tamarind extract
2 cups gramflour (besan)
1/2 cup chopped coriander leaves, finely chopped
2 tbsp grated coconut (optional)
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp crushed ginger
2 tbsp crushed green chilli
2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp asafoetida
salt to taste

For seasoning
2-3 tbsp. oil
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
 1 tbsp coriander leaves, finely chopped
1 tbsp coconut grated fine
1/4 cup water

Clean, wash and wipe leaves. Cut thick veins on the leave using a paring knife taking care not to tear the leaf. Lightly roll with a rolling pin over the veins and set aside.

Mix all ingredients for stuffing and make a thick paste. Place the underside of the leaf facing up on a flat surface and apply a thinnish layer of the paste all over the leaf. Place another leaf over it. Create 2-3 layers of leaves/paste, with the final layer being that of paste. Now carefully fold 1 inch of the edge of the leaf towards the center on either side of the leaf. Then starting on the widest part of the leaf start rolling the leaves into a log similar to rolling a Swiss roll. Making sure that the roll is tightly rolled. Repeat steps with balance of leaves.

Heat a steamer pot and using either a Steamer basket/perforated tray or dhokla stand place the prepared rolls, cover and steam for 25-35 mins on a medium flame. Make sure to check water levels in the steamer pot occasionally. The rolls are done when you insert a knife into the roll and it comes out clean. Allow it to cool completely and cut into discs 1/2- 3/4 inch thick with a sharp knife in a gentle sawing motion, taking care not to tear the outer leaves. Set aside.

Heat oil in a pan add mustard seeds and allow to sputter. Turn off the flame and add rest of the ingredients. Gently slide the discs and allow to brown. Serve warm or cold with green coriander chutney.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

At the root of good health: Fresh Turmeric, Ginger Pickle

Fresh Turmeric root has many medically proven benefits. From the dreaded Cancer, Alzheimer's, Rheumatic Arthritis, IBS to common ailments like influenza, cough/cold to asthma.

Yesterday, on a food forum a poster asked why turmeric was used to boil meat? The answer is that Turmeric has anti microbial properties which are said to kill several strains of microbes like salmonella and candida that tend to spoil non refrigerated foods.

This is a "fresh" pickle my Mom made whenever there was a profusion of fresh turmeric root at the green grocer. In SEA it's fairly easy to find fresh turmeric root at most vegetable vendors, and we often found it at most East Indian/Chinese grocers in the US.

Here is the recipe for an easy pickle, crunchy and tangy! Since the recipe uses no oil or vinegar, this pickle is best to stored in the fridge or it losses its tartness and crunchy bite. 

I make a cold (cooked)millet salad with tomatoes, sliced onion and couple of generous spoons of the pickle. Sometimes I eat it with dosa/idli, or tossed with boiled pasta, or as a topping to my sub style sandwich.

Turmeric ginger chilli pickle


1 cup turmeric root, peeled and sliced
1/4 ginger, peeled and finely chopped
5 green chillies, chopped
Juice of 2 large limes
Salt to taste
Mix the turmeric, ginger and green chillies with salt and lime juice. Store in a recycled glass jar.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Gourmet Goddess: A Sasam Tale

I joined the Indian Women's Organization and found its a great way to meet like minded individuals, especially when you are new to a place. They organize many noteworthy events and as recent as last week a sub group titled Gourmet Goddess planned an event.....but of course I just had to attend/join a group with such a fabulous name!

The show-n-tell held last week was themed Mango: Sweet and Savoury. Each member had to cook/bring a dish featuring the main ingredient: the Mango, and each participant had to do a brief introduction and method of making the dish. 

I felt I should make a dish that would be a bit unique....but what? So I questioned friends, asked on a food forum, and then realized I had a dish in my own repertoire! The Sasam, a Konkani GSB dish that is very essential to their cuisine. Sasam means mustard in Konkani language and the dish features a gravy made with coconut and mustard. The dish is very versatile, can be eaten warm or cold, thick gravy or runny, and spicy or mild, you control the ingredients to your taste!

Photo Courtesy, Vidhya Nair

Konkani Mango/Pineapple Sasam


3 Cups, peeled and cubed fruit (mango, pineapple or both)
1/2 Cup mango pulp
10-12 chopped green/red grapes, chopped in half
1 cup fresh grated coconut (white only)
2-4 dry roasted whole red chillies
1 tsp tamarind paste
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp grated jaggery
1 tsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
6-8 curry leaves
Salt to taste


Mix jaggery with fruit, pulp and set aside. Grind coconut, red chili and mustard to a fine paste, add salt and mix with fruit. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Adding chopped grapes enhance the taste and presentation.

Optional:  Heat oil add mustard seeds and let it sputter, add curry leaves and pour over fruit mix.

Since the dish is not cooked, it's flavor and quality will deteriorate rapidly if kept at room temperature.