Pongal (South Indian Khichdi)

Pongal (South Indian Khichdi)

Pongal or Kara pongal (as known in Bangalore) is the south Indian version of Khichdi (a dish prepared with rice and lentils). This is a popular breakfast dish in south India and you can find it at any tiffin center. At my place, this is a quick recipe which my aunt makes when we crib about lunch or when we are hungry at odd times like 4-5 pm. This is her recipe of Pongal. Dal and rice are pressure cooked and a tempering of cashewnuts, black pepper, curry leaves, and cumin seeds in ghee is added to complete this yummy and quick breakfast.

Pongal and Vada served at the Tirupati Tirumala temple is the best Pongal I have ever eaten. Long time ago, when the Tirumala temple was not so commercial, common man could taste this pongal. You can still try your luck if you visit the temple for morning prayers. The most important thing to keep in mind for this recipe is to do the tempering (tadka) in ghee ONLY. That is what gives it the wonderful flavour. Remember to eat this hot and fresh. This can be served with coconut chutney and sambhar.

Pongal (South Indian Khichdi)

Ingredients

Serves  4

For Pongal

  • 3/4th cup rice
  • 1/4th cup moong dal
  • ½ inch piece of ginger grated (optional)
  • 4 cups water
  • Salt to taste

For Tempering

  • 3 tbsp ghee
  • 1 tbsp peppercorns
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 12-15 curry leaves
  • ¼ tsp asafoetida
  • 10-12 cashewnuts

Recipe

Combine the ingredients for pongal and pressure cook for 4 whistles on low flame. Once the pressure is released, open the cooker and mash the pongal with back of a spoon.

Heat ghee in a pan. Add cumin seeds. Once the seeds pop, add curry leaves and asafoetida. Add peppercorns and cashew nuts and sauté till the cashews are lightly browned.

Pour this tempering on the pongal and mix well. Serve hot with coconut chutney.

 

Berries Parfait (Berries Shrikhand)

Berries Parfait (Berries Shrikhand)

This Diwali, east meets west i.e. shrikhand meets Parfait. I am a big shrikhand fan but it has to be home made. My grandmother makes the best shrikhand. It’s not extremely sweet or heavy like the shrikhand you get in stores. I am a parfait fan too; especially the strawberry parfait. When I saw fresh cranberries at the grocery store, shrikhand parfait was the first thought to cross my mind. I bought lot of them and put them in the freezer for next dessert.

You can also use blueberries and raspberries for this dessert. Berries are not only rich in antioxidants, but are low in calories and yummy too. I wanted to cut the sour taste of cranberries with the sweetness of strawberries and black currant. I used fresh strawberries and black currant juice for the berry compote.

For the shrikhand part, you can either use hung yogurt or use the Greek yogurt which is ready to use. I used my grandma’s method and hung fresh yogurt in muslin cloth for 5-6 hours to let all the water drain. But the Greek yogurt works equally well if you want a quick dessert. Sugar and lime juice in this recipe depend on the taste of berries. Since I was using black currant juice and the strawberries were sweeter, I used less sugar. You can store the extra compote in refrigerator and add it to yogurt and make a quick dessert.

This time I gave a miss to the cocoa powder for dusting and used my favorite memory boosting spice – Cinnamon to add the nutty flavor to the fresh cream. You can layer it in shot glasses, square glasses, or any other way you want. Make sure to chill it for at least 2 hours before eating or serving.

Berries Parfait (Berries Shrikhand)

Ingredients

Serves 2

For Shrikhand

  • 2/3 cup hung yogurt or Greek yogurt
  • 1 ½ tbsp. Icing sugar or powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla essence

For Berries Compote

  • ½ cup chopped strawberries
  • ½ cup cranberries
  • ¼ cup blackcurrant juice (I used Ribena)
  • 2 tbsp sugar (if the berries are very sour add 1 more tbsp. sugar)

Garnish

  • 1 tbsp finely chopped strawberries
  • Whipped cream (appx 4 tbsp)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon powder

Recipe

Whip together the shrikhand ingredients till you get a smooth and creamy mixture (approximately 2 minutes) and chill for 1 hour.

Put all the Compote ingredients in a pan and let in boil on low flame till you get a thick sauce like consistency (approximately 12-15 minutes should be good enough). Keep stirring in between. Let it cool completely.

Now layer the dessert glass with alternate layers of compote and shrikhand, start with a layer of compote and end with a layer of shrikhand. Top with a layer of chopped strawberries and pipe or spoon some whipped cream and dust it with cinnamon powder.

Chill for at least two hours before serving.

If you are using the ready to pipe whipped cream, you can add the whipped cream just before serving.

 

Broccoli Sauce Pasta

Broccoli Sauce Pasta

Pasta is as dear to me as idli or Panipuri. I can eat it as all the three meals in one day and will still be happy to have it again the next day.  The first time I had pasta was in Cardiff. My friend Deepak’s mom had come down from Moscow for his birthday and she introduced me to pasta and taught me how to make it. There is no looking back since then. I experiment a lot with pasta and this is one of my experiments gone right.

This sauce goes well with Fettuccine pasta but I had only Penne at home and craving for pasta wins over all other preferences hands down – always!  It tasted good with Penne pasta too.

I like the red sauce more as it is healthier and closer to the spicy Indian flavours. White sauce is more of a comfort food. Only problem with the white sauce is that you have to eat it right away. The left over or cold pasta doesn’t taste as good as the red sauce pasta tastes the next day. To avoid myself the guilt of eating so much of refined flour and cheese, I try to compensate by adding something healthier. This time it was Broccoli (I just LOVE Broccoli) and I loved it.

Make sure to serve this pasta hot. Reheating is not recommended as the refined flour will get stickier and the sauce will get thicker too.

Broccoli Sauce Pasta

Ingredients

Serves 2

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • ½ tsp pepper powder
  • ½ broccoli (steamed and chopped)
  • 3 tbsp plain flour (maida)
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup cheese (I use mild cheddar cheese)
  • 10-15 leaves basil chopped
  • 3 cups of pasta cooked al dente
  • Salt to taste

Recipe

Heat olive oil in a pan. Add garlic, oregano and chilli flakes. Sauté for 30-40 seconds. Add onions and cook for 2-3 mins till the onions are translucent. Add flour and sauté for 2 mins. Add milk, pepper, basil leaves, broccoli pieces, cheese, and salt and cook for a minute and switch off the gas. Cool slightly and blend everything to a smooth sauce using a blender or mixer.

Put it back on low flame and check for salt, seasoning, and thickness. If the sauce is too thick you can add some milk or water at this time. Add pasta and toss it well and switch off the gas.

Serve immediately.

 

Tomato Garlic Dal (Lentils cooked with Tomatoes and Garlic)

Tomato Garlic Dal (Lentils cooked with Tomatoes and Garlic)

Dal is a part of everyday meal in India. It is a preparation of lentils with different spices and vegetables. Dal rice or dal roti is a staple diet of most of the Indian homes. Tomato dal or tamatar ki dal is one of the simplest and common dishes in Indian kitchen. You can call it the Indian comfort food. This dish is simple, tasty, and full of nutrition.

Onion and garlic are kind of banned in my home and that explains my love for these two flavors. I love the burnt garlic flavor in this dal. Plain rice or jeera rice is the best complement for this dal but I like it with hot rotis too.

Tomato Garlic Dal (Lentils cooked with Tomatoes and Garlic)

Ingredients

Serves 4

  • 1 cup split pigeon peas (toor/arhar dal) washed and soaked for 15 mins
  • ¼ tsp mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 inch piece of ginger grated
  • 8-10 curry leaves
  • 2 green chillies slit
  • 2 dry red chillies
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic sliced
  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes washed and chopped
  • 2 tsp red chilli powder
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • ¼ tsp garam masala
  • Approximately 3 cups of water for cooking the dal
  • 1-2 cups of water (if required in case the dal is too thick)
  • 2 tsp of ghee/oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves

Recipe

Pressure cook the dal in 3 cups of water with salt for 3-4 whistles. It should be cooked enough to be mashed when you mix it. Once the cooker is cooled, mash the dal and keep aside.

Heat ghee/oil in a kadhai or pan. Add the mustard and cumin seeds. Once the seeds pop, add curry leaves, green chillies, and ginger. Cook for 30-40 seconds. Add garlic and cook till the garlic starts browning. Add onions and cook on low flame till onions start browning.

Add tomatoes and salt. Remember the dal already has salt so add salt for tomatoes only. Cook on low flame till tomatoes are cooked and can be mashed with the back of a spoon. Add turmeric, chilli powder, coriander powder, and garam masala. Mix well and cook till oil separates.

Add the cooked dal to this and mix well. If the dal is too thick you can add ½ to 1 cup of water. Some people like the dal thick while some enjoy a thinner consistency so add water as per preference.

Check for seasoning and add salt or spice as required. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add chopped coriander and serve with hot rice.

Jacket Potatoes

Jacket Potatoes

Jacket potatoes are my favorite weekend meal. I love to be a couch potato on Friday nights with my favorite comfort foods by my side. Jacket potato is one of them. I was introduced to jacket potatoes in Cardiff. One of my friends used to have it as a quick meal. Just bake the potato, slit it into half and add corn and cheese and bake for some more time and done! Sounds good but not exciting and being a south Indian I wanted to add spice to this. Since then I have added numerous fillings to this dish but the most favorite of my fillings is the sweetcorn and capsicum filling.

Russet potatoes are perfect for this dish. They already have a mushy texture and this time I added grated paneer to the filling and it just added to the texture.

I like to top this dish with cheddar cheese but you can experiment with mozzarella or other similar cheese. I experiment a lot with jacket potatoes. Sometimes I lace the potatoes with chilli sauce before adding the fillings. Sometimes I top the potatoes with sour cream. You can even add different herbs to flavor the potatoes.

These jacket potatoes can be enjoyed with tomato sauce or any cream-based dips. I like them with the yogurt and mint dip.

Jacket Potatoes

Ingredients

Makes 8 jacket potatoes

  • 4 large russet potatoes, half boiled with salt
  • ¼ cup sweet corn, boiled
  • ¼ red bell pepper, ¼ green bell pepper, ¼ yellow bell pepper finely chopped
  • 2tbsp grated cottage cheese (paneer)
  • ¼ tsp oregano
  • ¼ tsp chilli flakes
  • ¼ tsp white pepper powder
  • 2 pods garlic
  • 1/4th onion finely chopped
  • 4-5 fresh basil leaves chopped or ¼tsp dried basil
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • Salt to taste

Recipe

Halve each half boiled potato vertically. Slice off a thin round from bottom, so each piece will stand firm. Scoop the potatoes leaving thin wall on sides. Chop the scooped potato and keep aside.

Heat oil in a pan. Add garlic, oregano, and chilli flakes. Add onions and sauté for a minute or till the onions are translucent. Add capsicum and sauté for 1-2 mins. Add corn and saute for one minute. Add paneer, salt, pepper powder, basil leaves, and salt. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Add the scooped potatoes and mix well till the potatoes are mashed.

Cool the mixture a little. Fill the mixture in the potatoes and top them with grated cheese.

Preheat the oven and bake the potatoes at 200 degrees for 15 minutes or till the cheese on top is slightly browned.