Jul 15, 2013

Mango in a Sweet Sauce - Mangai Pachadi

Sleep-ins, cousins, playing in the sun, sun burns and mangoes - no summer was complete without these. Raw or ripe, mangoes were a part of our everyday lunch during the summer months, in Chennai. Curd rice and golden, ripe mangoes were a favorite as it meant effortless cooking for my mom, and juicy sweetness for us.
Manga pachadi is made by cooking raw, tangy mangoes in a sweet jaggery sauce. The juxtaposition of the sharp mangoes against the cloying sweetness of jaggery is quite genius.
Mango in jaggery sauce - mangai pachadi

  • Raw mango - 2
  • jaggery / vellum , powdered - 1 cup, packed
  • green chili - 2
  • turmeric powder - 1 tsp
  • cilantro, for garnish
  • kadalai paruppu / broken channa dal - 1 tbsp
  • mustard seeds - 1 tsp
  • cumin seeds - 1 tsp
  • curry leaves - 1 or 2 sprigs
  • oil, for sauteing
  1. Wash and quarter the mangoes. Leave the skin on. I usually cut once on either side of the pit/seed/stone and then cut the side in half. Do not discard the seed.
  2. In a wide mouthed saute pan,  add the mangoes, green chilies slit in half and turmeric powder. Add just enough water to cover the mangoes halfway. Cook covered until the mangoes turn soft. Watch out for water boiling over. This should take anywhere between 10 and 15 minutes.
  3. If needed, turn the mango pieces a couple of times so all sides are cooked in the water.
  4. While the mangoes are cooking, heat powdered jaggery in 2 tbsp of water . If needed, add just enough water to avoid burning. Heat this on low heat until the jaggery has melted.
  5. Remove the jaggery water from fire and let cool.
  6. When it has cooled, pour the jaggery water in to the mango pan, through a seive. This will help remove impurities, if any.
  7. Cook until all water has evoprated and the mango pulp has congealed.
  8. In a separate saute pan, heat oil for sauteing. When the oil is ready, add kadalai paruppu. Fry this in the oil until it turns golden brown. Now add cumin and mustard seeds. 
  9. When the seeds splatter, add washed and dried curry leaves. If you are using asafetida, add it now. Add this mixture to the mango pachaadi,
  10. Remove from fire and serve with sambar rice or curd rice.

Jun 3, 2013

Signing off for Summer

When I started this blog, here's what I promised myself:

  1. I will not post more than twice in a week. This is my way of restricting the time I spend blogging (and cooking and photographing for the blog) 
  2. I will not cook for the sake of blogging about it. This is why I haven't posted anything fancy yet. I am trying to cook only what we would normally eat, so I do not spend any undue time towards blogging. My kids (like many others) are very sensitive and do not take it lightly when I share my attention between them and anything else.
  3. Summer breaks are fun only until a certain age. I mean to let my kids enjoy it. So, I will be restricting my online time - not just blogging - during the next 2 months.
Why am I telling you this? Just to let you know that I am on a blogging break, enjoying our summer with the kids, picnicking, cycling, hiking and otherwise taking in the summer air. We also have a few field trips planned. 
I am sure there are really talented bloggers out there who can balance several trails of their life with a smile on their face. Hats off to those people. I wish to be like that when I grow up :) As far now, I will be back in August (or late July) with a load of posts on the Summer treats we enjoyed and more!

Happy Summer!!! 

May 20, 2013

Homemade Cheez-its - A Pinterest Find

I had pinned this a while back on my food board, but never got a chance to make these until now. These are easy to make with just a few ingredients. The dough and preparation reminded me of pie crusts, so you know how easy this is going to be.
Homemade cheez-its
Cheez-its and gold fish crackers are a few of my daughter's favorite snacks. And, even her school teacher recommends gold fish as one of the "healthy snacks". But, I was never  convinced that the bright orange "cheese" that sticks to your fingers could be really cheese and hence healthy.
When I saw this pin, I was inspired to try some. It was an instant hit at my home. I should warn you that even though the serving suggestion is for 4, it will be over in half an hour. Do not blame me!
The original author even made her own goldfish cookie cutter for this recipe. I wish to do that someday...

We used a couple of icing tips and veggie cutters for the small shapes. I also used my pizza cutter to cut squares (our version of cheez-it). A fluted cutter like the spoons we get in India (with a fluted wheel on the back) would be very helpful, I guess. My daughter was assigned the task of cutting and arranging, and I should say she did a pretty good job. This could be a great rainy day activity.
Ready for the oven

We put numerous holes (with a fork, tooth pick or skewer, depending on the shape) on the crackers but they still puffed up a little, when it came out of the oven. but, these were super crispy, so no complaints!
Baked Cheez-its
For my subsequent batches, I realized that rolling out a small portion of dough helps in rolling it out really thin. So, I pinched out a little dough and left the rest wrapped up in plastic while I worked on the pinched-off dough.
I also used my pizza cutter to cut some sticks, as an experiment. We baked these for an additional 5 minutes to avoid chewy bits in the middle.

Cheese Sticks
 Go on, grab a fistful!

Cheez-it - Crispy and Gone in 60 seconds!
Source: Tasty Kitchen
Verdict: Liked it as is
Will I make it again: Yes, for sure.

May 13, 2013

Kuzhi Paniyaram - Savory Rice Turnovers

Kuzhi Paniyaram is a small, round ball of rice flour deep fried in oil. This results in a crispy snack with a soft, chewy center. You could liken this to Medhu Vadai, except that medhu vadai uses only urad flour, while kuzhi paniyaram uses rice and urad flour.
Kuzhi Paniyaram

Unlike medhu vadai, you need a specialty pan to cook these. The traditional ones are made with cast iron or brass. The more modern ones are nonstick coated. Due to the benefits of cooking in cast iron cookware, and the possible side effects of cooking with nonstick cookware, I use a cast iron pan for this. A properly seasoned cast iron pan could develop nonstick characteristics and will require little or no oil.
Kuzhi Paniyram in aebleskiver pan

I bought mine at cooking.com . Go ahead, click on that link. Cooking.com does not even know I exist on this planet! It is an Aebleskiver pan that is used in Danish cooking. But, it looks and cooks just like the South Indian Kuzhi Paniyaram pan.
The kuzhi paniyaram batter is prepared much the same way as idli batter. Aromatic spices are added to the fermented batter. Rounded spoonfuls of batter are ladled into the seasoned aebleskiver pan and cooked similar to turnovers. Growing up, I remember one of my neighbors cook these frequently. She would pour oil on top of the filled molds and effectively deep fry the paniyaram in the confined environment. Of course, using that much oil is considered a sin now :) So, I try to use just a tablespoon.


  • Idli rice - 2 cups
  • Urad dal - 1/2 cup
  • Green chilies - 3
  • Ginger -  1 inch piece
  • Coconut - 5 square inches
  • mustard seeds - 1 tsp
  • cumin seeds - 1 tsp
  • curry leaves - 5
  • oil - 2 tbsps, divided 
  • salt, to taste
Mise en Place / Prep:
  1. Wash and soak idli rice and urad dal together in fresh water for 4 hours. Grind it coarsely (to the consistency of idli batter).
  2. When you are ready to make the paniyaram, finely chop green chilies, curry leaves and ginger. Chop the coconut into 1/2 inch square pieces.
  1. In a small kadai or saute pan on medium fire, add 1 tbsp of oil . When it is heated, add mustard seeds and cumin seeds. When the mustard seeds splatter, add in the chopped green chilies, curry leaves and ginger. Once the ginger has fried, remove from fire.
  2. Stir in  this seasoning into the prepared batter. Also add the chopped coconut.
  3. Season a kuzhi paniyaram or aebleskiver pan with 1 tsp of oil. Use your fingers/paper towel or cheesecloth to swipe the surface of the concave rounded molds with this oil.
  4. Start this pan on medium high fire. When the pan has heated up, lower the heat to medium low.
  5. With a rounded spoon, spoon in the seasoned batter in to the rounded molds. The batter should be level with the rim of each round mold.
  6. Cook uncovered for about 5 minutes. If you insert a bamboo skewer in the middle of the paniyaram, it should come out clean (very similar to cake doneness test).
  7. Using the skewer, flip the paniyaram and let the other side cook for a couple more minutes.
  8. When completely cooked, remove to a plate.
  9. Scrape out dried batter (if any) and season the pan again (only if needed).
  10. Repeat steps 5 through 9 until all batter is used up.
  11. Serve hot with any chutney.
Kuzhi Paniyaram and Peanut Chutney

  1. To up the nutrition value and eye candy, you could add a few tablespoons of grated carrots or cabbage to the batter.
  2. Skip the part on preparing batter and instead use leftover idli/dosa batter.
  3. Oiling the cast iron pan before the first batch is essential. This ensures that the cooked paniyaram is released easily from the pan. 
  4. Once the pan has heated up, lower the heat and maintain it. Cast iron takes a while to heat up and retains heat for a long time.

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