Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Today I was happy...

Today I was happy. I will tell you the reason. I did not win a prize nor did anyone praise me. But I felt a satisfaction that nothing else could have given me.

 I was going to the nearby shop to buy some vegetables and I saw some five or six young men, lads actually, may be in their late teens or early twenties, standing near the shop, all smoking cigarettes. I just could not bear the thought that these young men might develop cancer later, and ruin the rest of their lives. They were so young!

I approached them and described to them the untold sufferings one of my relatives [imaginary!] went through, who later died a painful death. Immediately one of them said, “let us snuff them out.” They all threw down their cigarettes and stamped them out. Maybe they just did it to humour an old lady, or maybe they took my advice seriously. Nevertheless, I walked away glad that I had made a small impact, and had persuaded them to stop smoking, even just this once. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Puli Mavu (Tamarind Upma)

This is a typical savoury dish of Tamil Nadu. It can be served as a snack with evening tea.


2 cups rice flour
1 lemon sized piece of tamarind
2 dried red chillies
¼ teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon urid dal
½ teaspoon channa dal
¼ teaspoon asafoetida
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
salt to taste
a few curry leaves
hot water


Extract the tamarind juice by soaking the tamarind piece in hot water and squeezing with your fingers.  Filter the mixture to obtain the tamarind extract.

In a bowl mix the tamarind extract, rice flour and salt to make a thick paste.  It should resemble the picture below.

Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. Once they start to splutter, add the channa dal, urid dal and chilli pieces. When the dal has turned a light brown colour, add the curry leaves, asafoetida and the rice flour and tamarind paste.

Stir continuously on a medium heat until the mixture becomes crumbly resembling bread crumbs.

It is delicious served with plain yoghurt!

Here's a picture of me cooking taken by my granddaughter!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Savoury steamed lentil parcels

While making sweet kozhakattai for Vinayaka Chathurti last week, I also made a savoury version which I would like to share with you.


1 cup urid dal
¼ cup channa dal
1 dried red chilli
1 fresh green chilli
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
¼ teaspoon asafoetida
Salt to taste
A few curry leaves torn into rough pieces


Soak the urid dal and channa dal in water for 2-3 hours. Then grind the dal , chilli, curry leaves and salt to form a coarse paste.

Steam the dal mixture in a pressure cooker (without the weight) for 10 minutes. Then remove and crumble the mixture with your fingers until it is the consistency of fine breadcrumbs.

In a pan heat the oil and add the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds start to splutter add the asafoetida and finally the dal mixture. Stir for one minute and then remove from the heat.

Make parcels using the method shown in the sweet kozhakattai recipe and steam. 

Enjoy your tasty, low fat and nutritious snack!

Monday, September 1, 2014

The secret to soft and fluffy idlis

It is known that India gave the concept of  ‘0’ to the world. We of Tamil Nadu can proudly say we gave the ‘idli’ to the world.

Idli, a low fat, nutritious and easily digestible steamed cake, usually requires the rice and urid dal components to be ground separately and to different consistencies. You never know the outcome until you take the idlis out of the cooker – it may be soft or stone hard.

By accident I found an easier method which I would like to share with you all. This has produced soft and fluffy idlis every single time!


7 cups of idli rice
2 cups of urid dal
1 tablespoon fenugreek
Salt as required


Soak the rice, urid dal and fenugreek overnight in water.  

The next morning, grind all the components together in a blender or idli grinder until it forms a smooth batter, adding water as necessary.

Add salt and mix well. Leave to ferment for at least 8 hours.

Then add the batter to an oiled idli pan and steam for 5-7 minutes.  

Serve with a chutney, such as a tangy tomato and onion, sambhar, and idli podi!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Thenga pal paysam (Coconut milk kheer)

A sweet and warming drink that can be made in less than half an hour! It makes a wonderful addition to any South Indian meal. 


½ cup coarse semolina
1 ½ cups water
1 cup jaggery or dark brown sugar
1 cup coconut milk
¼ teaspoon saffron
¼ teaspoon cardamom powder
1 tablespoon cashew nut pieces


1. First toast the semolina in a hot pan until it turns a light golden brown colour. 

2.  Cover with 1½ cups of water and bring to the boil. Cook for 3 minutes until the semolina is soft.  

3.  Keeping the mixture on a medium heat, add the powdered jaggery or brown sugar, and stir well       until the sugar melts.  

4. Add the coconut milk, simmer gently for 2 minutes and turn off the heat. 

5.  Toast the cashew nuts in a little ghee and add this to the paysam along with the powdered cardamom      and saffron and mix thoroughly.  It is delicious served hot or chilled!

Saturday, August 23, 2014


A delicious low-fat vegetable dish which can be adapted to include any left over vegetables you have!


2 cups chopped cauliflower
2 cups chopped tomatoes
½  cup beetroot
½  cup potato
½  cup green beans
½  cup carrot
½ cup onion
½ cup green bell pepper
½ inch piece fresh ginger
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1 tablespoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon chilli powder
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
handful of chopped coriander leaves
2 tablespoons of oil
salt to taste
2 cups water


1.  Chop all the vegetables into evenly sized pieces.

2. To a hot pan add the oil and cumin seeds. Once the seeds start spluttering add the chopped onion and ginger and sauté until the onions are soft and lightly browned.

3. Next, add the powdered coriander, cumin, turmeric and chilli and cook for 2-3 minutes.

4. Add the chopped tomatoes and salt and cook for 5 minutes until the tomatoes begin to soften. Then add all the remaining chopped vegetables and mix thoroughly.

5. Add two cups of water, cover and simmer for 10-15minutes until the vegetables are soft.

6. Finally, add the chopped coriander leaves and serve with a couple of chappatis.