Arachuvita onion & murangai kai sambhar

One of the dishes that is synonymous with South Indian cooking is sambhar, a thick dahl and vegetable based gravy dish normally eaten with rice and often served as an accompaniment with  idlis & dosais (rice & urad dhal batter steamed dumplings and pancakes).  The key to any good sambhar is the spice powder which varies from household to household and we sometimes feel the recipes are guarded secrets passed on by word of mouth from one generation to the next.  One can find sambhar powder in most Asian grocery store which is a suitable substitute (our family recipe can be shared for a small fee  :-)).

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What do I need to make it?

  • 2 murangai kai (called moringa in English or more colloquially known as drumsticks in India) cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 10-12 small sambhar onions (available in Asian grocery stores – alternatively use baby onions)
  • Extract of a small ball of tamarind (alternatively ½ tsp of tamarind paste)
  • Handful fresh curry leaves
  • ½ cup of pressure cooked tuar dahl
  • 3 whole red chillies
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp channa dahl
  • Pinch of asafoetida
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
  • ½ cup fresh grated coconut
  • Handful of fresh coriander for garnish
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • Salt to taste

How much will I make?

Serves 4-6

How do I make it?

Heat a tablespoon of oil over medium heat and roast the coriander seeds, channa dahl and dried red chillies for a few minutes till the seeds change colour.   Once cooled, grind to a paste with fresh coconut and a pinch of asafoetida – use a little water.   Keep this aside.   In a separate pan, heat 2 tablespoons of coconut oil followed by the mustard seeds.   Once the seeds start to splutter add the curry leaves and vegetables.   Saute over medium heat for a couple of minutes and then add the extract of tamarind water, sambhar powder and a bit of salt.  Pour in 500 ml of water and cook over medium heat till the raw smell of the powder disappears and the vegetables are cooked.  Add the cooked dahl and paste and simmer for 5-10 minutes.   Adjust the seasoning, garnish with fresh coriander and switch off heat.  Serve hot with plain boiled rice.

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Curry leaf kuzhambu

This recipe is dedicated to all our fellow South Indians who have had a pepper or curry leaf kuzhambu in the past and had not tried making it possibly thinking it was quite challenging.   On the contrary this has to be one of the simplest dishes to pull together and one that keeps for quite a few days in the fridge.   For our non South Indian friends – kuzhambu is a variation of sambar without the addition of boiled tuar dahl.

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What do I need to make it?

  • Whole garlic bulb peeled
  • Small ball of tamarind – soaked in warm water

To be ground into a powder

  • 1 tsp tuar dahl
  • 1 tsp channa dahl
  • 2 tsp pepper corns
  • 3/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 dried whole red chillies
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 cup of curry leaves
  • 3 tbsp sesame oil (not toasted variety
  • Salt to taste

How much will I make?

Approximately 250 -300 ml

How do I make it?

Roast all the powder ingredients with a tablespoon of sesame oil – once roasted, grind to a fine powder.   Heat a pan with the remaining sesame oil and saute the garlic pods and powder for a couple of minutes before pouring in the tamarind water (without the pulp).  Add another cup of water, sprinkle salt and leave to simmer over a low heat.   The dish should thicken to the consistency of treacle – add a little extra water if it is too thick.   Once done serve with boiled rice.   The kuzhambu tastes even better as the days go by.

PS To make a melagu/pepper kuzhambu increase the quantity of coriander seeds to 2 tsp and reduce curry leaves to 1 strip.

Egg curry with rice vermicelli noodles

Having just seen an amazing laksa presented on Masterchef Australia  ‘The Professionals’ it inspired us to pull together an egg curry for a dinner party last night and serve it on a bed of rice vermicelli noodles with some garnish.   Unlike the laksa presented which had 40 different ingredients, the egg curry we made had a lot fewer ingredients and is relatively straightforward to make – our guests enjoyed the extra effort taken in presentation.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 8 boiled eggs
  • 2 medium potatoes peeled cubed and par boiled
  • 6-8 closed cup mushrooms quartered
  • 2 small plum tomatoes pureed
  • 400 ml coconut milk
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 4 green chillies pierced
  • Handful fresh curry leaves
  • Handful fresh coriander chopped for garnish
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • Salt to taste

Paste ingredients

    • 1 large onion
    • 5 cloves of garlic
    • 1 large piece of ginger peeled
    • Handful fresh coriander
    • 5 cardamom pods
    • 5 cloves
    • 1 small stick of cinnamon
    • 1 tsp black peppercorns

Garnish

    • 3 tbsp desiccated coconut dry roasted
    • 1 small onion sliced and shallow fried in coconut oil till brown
    • A few coriander leaves chopped

How much will I make?

Serves 4

How do I make it?

Heat a large pan with the coconut oil and then add the curry leaves and whole green chillies.  Stir for 30 seconds before adding the paste – fry off  for five minutes till the moisture evaporates and it starts to brown.  Then add the turmeric, red chilli and coriander powder and stir for 30 seconds.   Add the pureed tomatoes and cook over medium heat till the oil leaves the masala.   Finally add the mushrooms, par boiled potatoes and the coconut milk and simmer over low heat till the potatoes are cooked through.   Add half a cup of water if the gravy appears too thick.   Adjust the seasoning, add the boiled eggs and garnish with fresh chopped coriander.   Serve on a bed of rice vermicelli noodles, with a sprinkling of roasted desiccated coconut,  fried onions and a few coriander leaves.

Horse gram series – adai

Adai is a typical South Indian dish akin to the more popular dosai but the batter tends to be thicker and coarser.   Traditionally adai batter consists of a blend of rice, tuar dhal, red chillies and asafoetida.  The recipe below replaces the tuar dhal with horse gram and we have added a few extra ingredients.  The adai turned out very crisp and tasty.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 1 1/2 cups idli rice (available in most Asian grocery stores)
  • 1/2 cup whole black urad dahl
  • 1 cup dry roasted horse gram
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp asafoetida
  • 3-4 whole dried red chillies
  • Handful curry leaves
  • Salt to taste

How much will I make?

Around 20 adais depending on size

How do I make it?

Soak all the ingredients with some cold water till they are completely immersed and leave overnight.  Grind the ingredients with the water till you get a thick spreadable batter.   You might need to add more water during the grinding process to get the consistency right.   Leave the batter overnight to ferment a bit.   To prepare, heat your pan and spread a laddle of batter to form a disc.  Drizzle with some vegetable oil or sesame oil (for a more authentic taste) to ensure the adai doesn’t stick to the pan.  Cook on both sides till done.

Caribbean inspired caserole

It has been a while since we last cooked a casserole as our oven had given up on us and the replacement table top oven did the same a week ago.  We have since replaced it with another table top oven but with a built in convection fan which in theory should allow us to cook food more evenly.  We baked a gluten free chocolate cake in the oven earlier in the week and it seems to work fine.   Tonight we revisited a dish we made nearly six months ago and have been wanting to cook it again as we thoroughly enjoyed our first attempt at jerk chicken.  Rather than cooking the dish as originally prepared, we tried to be a bit creative and decided to replicate the flavours in a casserole instead and incorporated the black beans and rice into the dish versus an accompaniment as we had done previously.  The dish is more akin to a creole jambalaya in consistency than a casserole as there was very little liquid left.  Interestingly the dish seems quite balanced despite having some strong spices like all spice, cloves and nutmeg.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 500 gm boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 cup black beans soaked and then pressure cooked (about 400 gms of tinned black beans)
  • 1/2 cup of long grain rice washed and drained
  • 2 celery sticks sliced
  • 2 carrots roughly chopped
  • 2 large potatoes peeled and cubed
  • Small bunch of spring onion chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 scotch bonnet pepper de-seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp all spice powder
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 chicken stock cubes
  • 3 tsp of Malibu rum
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

For the marinade

    • 2 cloves of garlic
    • 1 inch piece of ginger peeled
    • 1 scotch bonnet pepper de-seeded
    • 1 tsp dried thyme
    • 1/2 tsp clove powder
    • 1/2 tsp nutmeg powder
    • 1 tsp all spice powder
    • 2 tsp muscavado sugar
    • 3 tsp Malibu rum
    • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • Salt to taste

How much will I make?

Serves 4

How do I make it?

For the marinade, use a pestle and mortar to crush the garlic, ginger and scotch bonnet pepper to a paste.  Then add the remaining ingredients and mix well.   Place the chicken thighs in the marinade and keep aside for an hour at least – the longer the better.  Heat your oven proof casserole dish and sear the chicken thighs on both sides till they colour a little bit.   Remove from the casserole and save any liquid to put back into the dish.   Wipe the casserole with a paper  towel and return to heat.  Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and saute the garlic and scotch bonnet pepper for 30 seconds before adding the celery and spring onions.   Continue sauteing for five minutes before adding the black pepper, dried thyme, all spice powder and Malibu rum.   Give it a good mix and then add the potatoes and carrots with the stock cubes.  Pour in the black beans with any remaining cooking liquor and the washed rice.  Add 1 cup of water and place the seared chicken thighs on top.   Cover the casserole and cook in a pre-heated oven at 200 degree Centigrade for an hour till the chicken is done.  Serve hot.

 

Horse Gram Series – Olan (stew)

As promised earlier we are going to try and pull together a few recipes using horse gram over the next few months.  Olan is one of the simplest dishes to make with the fewest of ingredients and the addition of fragrant coconut oil makes it one of our favourite comfort foods.  We normally make this dish with pressure cooked black eyed peas, however for this recipe we have substituted it with pressure cooked horse gram.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 2 courgettes peeled and cubed
  • 1/4 cup horse gram – soaked overnight and pressure cooked
  • 4-5 green chillies slit
  • Handful fresh curry leaves – washed and crushed in the hand to release their aroma
  • 2 1/2 tbsp of coconut milk powder (can be substituted with 200 ml of tinned coconut milk)
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • Salt to taste

How much will I make?

Serves 4

How do I make it?

Cook the courgettes, green chillies and curry leaves with a little bit of water over a low heat.   Once done add the pressure cooked horse gram and bring to a boil.   Sprinkle the coconut milk powder and adjust seasoning.   Switch off the heat and drizzle the coconut oil over the dish – serve hot with rice.

Risotto with wild mushrooms

We often watch a lot of cooking programs and one of the most dreaded dishes contestants have to prepare is a good risotto.  To be honest the thought of preparing it based on everything we have  heard and seen has been daunting and off putting.  Step in Jamie Oliver and the mystery and myth behind preparing a good basic risotto are dispelled.    We had our niece over with us over the weekend and decided to overcome our fears and attempted a wild mushroom risotto using Jamie’s “risotto bianco” recipe as a base.   It is a labour of love and needs patience but once mastered you will want to try other flavour combinations.  Next challenge – macaroons worthy of Adriano Zumbo’s seal of approval!

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What do I need to make it?

  • 200 gm arborio rice
  • 1 cup of dry white wine
  • 200 wild mushrooms
  • 50 gms re-hydrated porcini mushrooms
  • 4 button mushrooms sliced
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 2 stick of celery finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic chopped (2 for the mushrooms and 1 for the rice)
  • 60 gms Grana Padano cheese (or freshly grated Parmesan)
  • 1 vegetable stock cube dissolved in 500 ml of water
  • 50 gms butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Handful of parsley chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

How much will I make?

Serves 3

How do I make it?

First boil some water for the stock and keep dissolved stock aside.   Prepare the mushroom toppings in a separate pan – add a knob of butter, a couple of minced garlic cloves and the trio of mushrooms.   Saute over medium heat till done – season with salt and pepper before taking off the heat.

For the risotto – put the olive oil and a knob of butter into a separate pan, add the onion, garlic and celery, and cook very slowly for about 15 minutes without colouring. Once the vegetables have softened, add the rice and turn up the heat.  After a minute or two, pour in the white wine and allow the rice to absorb all the liquid – keep stirring gently.   Once the wine is full incorporated into the rice, reduce the heat to a simmer, add a pinch of salt/pepper and start adding the stock one ladle at a time – wait for the liquid to get absorbed before adding the next.  This takes 15-20 minutes and keep checking if the rice is cooked.   If the rice is not cooked and you run out of stock, use some hot water from the kettle till rice is done.  Once the rice is cooked, put in the grated cheese, chopped parsley and 50 gms of butter – stir, check seasoning, switch off the heat and cover the pan  and let it sit for a couple of minutes.  As Jamie says this is the most important part of the preparation as this is when it becomes amazingly creamy and oozy like it should be.   Serve the risotto hot in a bowl with a generous portion of the sauteed mushrooms.

Related Links:

Jamie Oliver’s “Risotto Bianco”