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Pagarkai poriyal/Bitter Gourd Stir Fry – Bitterness at its Best!

Bitter Gourd Stir Fry: I love walking through the streets with my kid beside, answering her all the way. I make it a point that I don’t do bulk purchase, so that I get to do some lil’ purchases almost everyday, a chance to increase my kid’s curiosity to know the groceries, the place, the surrounding – I find her happiness in seeing the lil’ birds chirping, butterflies & dragon flies flying beside, the lil’ kitten playing in one of the shops as we walk.

Now, I’ve shifted my purchases to supermarkets just like many other here and we miss those small vendors. I hope the demonetization mayhem clears soon and wish the small vendors see their ray of hope. Nevertheless, I walk along the streets just like my kid – with free mind, empty hand and cashless. And trying my best to use my creativity to explain her why people stand in queues in ATMs & Banks

I got these bitter gourds, from one of the small vendors atleast a week back and it stayed good in my fridge. I just got the opportunity to prepare this dish and the main highlight of this dish is that it tastes good with the bitterness intact.

pavakkai poriyal

2 medium sized bitter gourds
1/2 medium sized onion(finely chopped)
1 tomato(finely chopped)
1/2 tspn mustard seeds
1/2 tspn cummin seeds
1 red chilly
1 sprig of curry leaves
pinch of turmeric
1 tspn chilly powder
salt to taste.

1. Slit the bitter gourds and remove the seeds(the hard ones). Cut the bitter gourd into pieces and keep aside.
2. Heat oil in a pan. Add the mustard seeds to splutter. Then add the cummin seeds, curry leaves and the red chilly.
3. Now add the onions and stir until golden brown. Then add the tomatoes, turmeric powder, salt and saute until the tomatoes become mushy.
4. Now add the bittergourd, stir well, sprinkle some water and cook with closed lid for 5-7 minutes in low flame.
5. Once the bittergourd is almost cooked, add the chilly powder and stir. Cook for another 2-3 minutes in medium to high flame unitl all the moist is absorbed.
6. Serve hot with steamed rice and sambar/puli kuzhambhu.

Happy Cooking!

Mini Thattu Vadai/Thattai – So Crispy!

Minu Thattu Vadai:  A popular snack from South India, thattu vadai is made occasionally on auspicious days in South Indian households. With few ingredients and a couple of techniques, the authentic taste of thattu vadai can be easily brought out.

I’m a great fan of mini thattu vadai and anyone from salem can’t forget the taste of thattu vadai set that comes with the combination of grated veggies and spicy mint&tomato sauce. Thattu vadai set is a famous street food in salem and there are hundreds of shops that sell it. While I reserve the thattu vadai set preparation for my future post, here is the recipe for the very base ingredient, mini thattu vadai itself.

mini thattu vadai


mini thattu vadai

1 cup rice flour(store bought)
1 tblspn urad dal powder
1&1/2 tblspn roasted gram(chutney dal)
1 tspn chilly powder
1/4 tspn asafoetida/hing
2 tblspn butter
2 Sprig of curry leaves(finely chopped)
salt to taste

1. Dry roast the urad dal until it turns slight brown. Transfer it to a bowl and let it cool off. Now grind it in a mixer and sieve to get the fine powder. Keep aside.
2. Mix all the ingredients – rice flour, urad dal powder, roasted gram, chilly powder, asafoeatida, curry leaves and butter. Mix until the butter mixes well with the flour.
3. At this stage, add water lil-by-lil to get a really smooth dough. Keep aside
4. Now make the dough into small ball shapes. Place the them on a plastic sheet and place another plastic sheet over it such the dough balls are in-between two plastic sheets.
5. Now press the dough using a flat surfaced cup to get round shape like that of thattai. Pierce with fork in couple of places on thattai to avoid puffing.
6. Heat oil in a kadai. When the oil is hot enough, deep fry the thattai in medium flame.
7. When it turns brown, remove with a oil strainer and place them on paper towel.
8. Now your crispy mini thattu vadai is ready.

1. The dough has to be really soft enough so we get the round edges without breaking.
2. Mini thattu vadai is made lil thicker compared to the big ones and they cook easily.
3. Instead of roasted gram, you can add any nuts(crushed) of your liking.

Happy Cooking!

Pasi paruppu mullanghi sambar/Radish Moong dal Sambar – A must try!

Radish Moong Dal Sambar: South India is best known for its Idlies, Dosas and Sambar varieties. You can expect sambar preparation in every South Indian household atleast once a week. By just varying the vegetable they end up making different sambar varieties and each vegetable infuse distinct taste to the preparation.

I specifically like the combination of moong dal and radish – It’s a light and feel so good sambar. I always believe the fact that when the taste of the main ingredients dominate the preparation, the dish turns out to be very delicious. With less spice, the Radish moong dal combo makes the sambar so enticing and It’s a must try for the viewers!

Radish moong dal sambar

1/2 cup Split moong dal
1 & 1/2 cup Radish(cut into round slices)
1/2 medium sized onion(finely chopped)
2 tomatoes(quartered)
1 & 1/2 inch tamarind(soaked in water and juice extracted)
1/4 tspn turmeric powder
2 tspn chilly powder
1 Red chilly
1 Green chilly
3 Garlic pods
1 tspn cummin seeds
1/2 tspn mustard seeds
1 sprig of curry leaves
pinch of hing
salt to taste
few coriander leaves

1. Dry roast the moong dal until they turn slight brown. Then rinse them twice and pressure cook along with turmeric, 1/2 tspn cummin seeds, drop of oil for 3-4 whistle until moong dal turns soft without losing shape.
2. In a tawa, spread the radish evenly and heat it in medium flame for 5 minutes. Flip sides in-between. This way the raw smell of radish goes off and its water content is also reduced.
3. Add the radish, chilly powder, chopped tomatoes to cooked moong dal and pressure cook for 1 whistle.
4. Now add the tamarind juice and let the sambar boil for 5-7 minutes in medium to high flame.
5. Side-by, prepare the seasoning. Heat 2-3 tblspn oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds to splutter. Add curry leaves, remaining 1/2 tspn cummin seeds, red chilly, hing, green chilly, garlic pods. Then add the onions and sauté until golden brown. Add this seasoning to the sambar and boil for another 2 minutes. Switch off the stove.
6. Sprinkle coriander leaves and serve hot with steamed rice/idli/dosa.

Happy Cooking!

Kadalai Mittai/Peanut chikki – An Interesting Make!

Kadalai Mittai : This is one of the most difficult posts that I’ve worked on so far. To get to this final stage of presentation, I had run into many trial and error stages and in the process, I’ve learnt the techniques to get the desired sugar syrup consistency for Kadalai Mittai and the caramel decoration.

One of the very popular and traditonal snack of South India, kadalai mittai is absolutely delicious and at the sametime nutritious. First time when I tried it, It was completely off shape without getting to the setting stage and couldn’t really lift it from the plate in which I’ve set. Next time when I tried, I got the shape and I was able to remove it from the plate but it was chewy. In both Instances, I failed making the correct sugar syrup consistency. Finally I was able to get it right with the just over soft ball sugar syrup consistency. Then I thought, its all about sugar syrup and somehow wanted to bring that concept into my kadalai mittai presentation.

Longtime back, I was fascinated by the caramel mesh presentation in the movie “no reservation” and then in Chef Vikas Khanna show. Though, I didn’t have any intention of trying it out, Kadalai mittai has inspired me to learn new techniques in caramel decoration which again involved so many sittings to get it right. Altogether, it was a tough make and I’m happy with the results.

kadalai mittai/peanut chikki

1 cup peanuts
3/4 cup jaggery
1/4 cup water
2 cardamom (crushed)

1. Crush the jaggery using a pestle and soak it in 1/4 cup water. Add crushed cardamom to it and Keep aside. Give it a stir now and then. While we work on other process of peanut, jaggery should have been melted.
2. Dry roast the peanuts in low-medium flame until you get light dark spots . At this stage, you would be able to remove the husk easily when you rub it between palms. Switch off the stove and transfer it to a flat vessel for dehusking. After cooling, rub between palms to dehusk the peanuts.
3. Crush it with mortar and pestle in batches. Keep aside.
crushed peanut
4. If the jaggery is completely melted, filter it to remove impurities. Else, heat the jaggery syrup in low heat to melt them completely and then filter it.
5. Heat the filtered jaggery syrup to get the softball consistency or just over soft ball consistency. Add the crushed peanut and stir for half a minute. Switch off the stove.
6. Transfer it to the plate for setting. Using flat spatula, even it out on the top and sides. Make slight marker line on top using knife without pressing.
7. After 3-5 minutes cut deeply along the marker line. Now you would be able to get the defined shape. Let it cool off completely.
8. Now you can easily lift it from the plate and your kadalai mittai is ready.

Happy Cooking!

1. Soak the jaggery first because when you heat it directly, sometime the syrup might reach a stage where it would be diffcult to pass through the filter.
2. Focusing on the sugar syrup consistency and the preparation, I haven’t taken the pics of the jaggery syrup – I will soon do a separate posting on sugar syrup and the different string consistencies

Traditional Mysore Pak – Guest contribution from Sivakami!

Mysore Pak: My kid’s school is a great place for me to network with other mommies. We are a group now and with the lil time to catch up everyday, we discuss a lot of things that are common. With Diwali around the corner, Sivakami has shared with me her mysore pak preparation that has been passed on by her grandma to her mom.

A busy mom of two kids, Sivakami takes that extra step to give only home made snacks for her kids. Since Mysore Pak is the most sought after snack and requires bit of practice to get the right consistency, I visited her place to take a pic of her preparation. It was a great experience and felt like a real food photographer.

This preparation is more of the hard type – the traditional recipe that was popular back then as we were kids. Now-a-days we get the floating ghee soft Mysore pak. Either way its a Sinful treat!

mysore pak traditional

1 cup besan flour/chickpea flour
2 cup sugar
1&1/2 cup ghee
1/2 cup water
2 cardamom(crushed and powdered)

1. Add 1 tblspn ghee to besan flour and dry roast the flour in medium flame. Let it cool off. Use hands to even out the flour and sieve it.
2. Apply ghee in a plate (for transfer the final mix), sprinkle sugar and keep aside.
3. Add sugar, crushed cardamom to water and boil it till you get a soft ball consistency(almost two string consistency). Just if you take the sugar syrup between fingers, you would be in the verge of getting two strings. Keep in low-medium flame.
4. Add this stage add the besan flour lil by lil. Keep stiring as you add the flour.
5. Keep adding ghee as you stir. At a stage where the flour thickens separating ghee, it froths a lil and doesn’t stick to the pan, switch off the stove and transfer to the greased plate.
6. Just spread gently without pressing. After a 3-5 minutes make marks with knife and cut it. Let it cool off completely.
7. Separate the pieces and relish.

Happy Cooking!

Ellu urundai/ Sesame seeds ladoo

Ellu Urundai(til/sesame seeds ladoo) – There’s lot of health benefits associated with ellu/sesame seeds. And, sesame seed oil is popular in  South Indian cuisine. Still my mom uses it in lot of tangy hot curries and as a mix for idli podi.

I remember when we were child, my mom used to religiously do hair and scalp massage for us with warmed sesame seed oil every week. It helps to reduce body heat and helps retain the hair shine. They say, every bit of sesame plant has got medicinal value and so plays an important role in ayurvedic medicines.

Coming to Ellu urandai, it’s a great nutritional snack for kids and when combined with karpatti vellam(palm sugar) it becomes a healthy sweet too. With lil effort, ellu urandai can be made in no time.

sesame seed laddoo/ ellu urandai/ til ladoo

1 cup White Sesame Seed
1/2 cup jaggery( achu vellam or karupatti)
2 cardamom
pinch of salt

1. Dry roast the sesame seeds until they pop out and you start getting the sesame aroma. Dry roast in low to medium flame. Let it cool off. Keep aside.
2. Grate the jaggery or smash it with a pestle. Keep aside.
3. Now add the roasted sesame seeds, cardamom, salt in a mixer and blend it to a coarse powder. To this add the pounded jaggery and blend it to a fine moist powder.
4. Using hands, make it into small ball shapes. The oil content in the sesame seeds helps to retain the shape. Now your sesame ladoo is ready to be eaten.

Happy Cooking!

Butter Murukku – Just Melts!

Butter Murukku Recipe: With festive seasons around, I’m all set to make snacks and sweets. You can expect more of it in Sarah’s Kitchen in the upcoming posts.

Butter murukku is one of the popular South Indian snack and as the name goes, it disappears so easily as we munch on it. It’s an easy to make recipe and requires just few ingredients for the preparation. It’s so delicate that it breaks of easily into pieces and even if we try making into some shape, it crumbles of easily. For that reason, it’s mostly available in pieces and can be prepared by pressing the dough directly over the hot using the murukku press at an angle.

Instead of pressing the dough directly over hot oil, I’ve used the alternate method to press the dough on a flat laddle and then dropped it in the oil. I’ve shaped it the way its typically made in any South Indian Household.

Butter Murukku

1 cup rice flour
1/4 cup roasted gram flour
1 tsp sesame seeds
2 tblspn butter
pinch of hing
salt to taste

1. Dry roast the sesame seeds until they start to pop out.  Keep aside.
2. Freshly grind the roasted gram flour using roasted grams/pottu kadalai/chutney dal. Keep aside.
3. Now mix all the ingredients – Rice flour, roasted gram flour, sesame seeds, butter, hing, salt. Mix well using hands until the butter is completely mixed with the flour.
4. Now add water and make it into a soft dough just like chappati dough. Keep aside
5. Heat oil in a Kadai. Oil should be hot enough so that when you drop a very small piece of dough, it should surface immediately. After the oil is hot enough, keep in medium flame.
6. Use the murukku press to make round shape on back of a flat laddle and drop it one-by-one in the hot oil.
butter murukku dough
7. Don’t flip the murukku as soon as you have dropped in the oil. Wait for the sizzling sound of the oil to slightly reduce and then flip over. And when the sizzling sound completely subsides, remove the murukkus from the oil.
8. Remove the murukkus from hot oil using a oil strainer and keep them over paper towel.
9. Keep the murukkus open while they are hot. After its completely cooled off, you can store it in airtight container.

1. You can add 2 tblspn besan flour to the murukku dough for better shape.
2. You can also add cummin seeds to the murukku dough

Happy Cooking!

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