Saturday, December 25, 2010

Paneer-Potato Stuffed Banana Peppers (Stuffed Bajji Molagai)

Madras weather has been pleasant these few weeks and the city metamorphoses into a butterfly, with music, dance and drama lovers donning on their festival finery for the December 'season'. The sabha's also cater to the non-'season' participants.....literally. The hubs of art and culture are redolent with mellifluous notes and tantalizing aromas.
One such aroma that assailed me, as I buzzed past an auditorium, was that of molaga bajji (batter fried banana peppers). Spurred by a hedonistic urge, I picked up some of the peppers and headed home, only to be confronted by a dilemma. I don't like deep frying. It's not the calories, I don't like left over oil.
I remembered reading about cheese stuffed jalapenos and re-found them on Divya Vikram's Dil Se. I used paneer/cottage cheese and potato for the stuffing. 


Banana Peppers/ Bajji Molagai - I used 4 (and got 8 'bajjis')
Paneer - 200gms (1 packet)
Potato - 1 medium sized, boiled
Salt - to taste
Mozzarella cheese - a little bit
Corriander leaves/ Cilantro - a little bit
Cooking oil - 1 tbsp

Pre-heat oven to 190C

Liquidize boiled potato and paneer with some salt to get a thick homogeneous paste.

Slit the peppers lengthwise and de-seed carefully. Wash hands immediately and apply a bit of oil. 

Banana Peppers - deseeded

Lightly oil the peppers and stuff the hollows with the paneer-potato paste, top with Mozzarella and cilantro.

Stuffed Peppers

Pop it into the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and wait till it is ready to be handled. Serve with ketchup or eat it as it is. 

Ready, steady, Bite!

It was delicious. I have some of the potato paneer paste waiting for some peppers....and will probably make it again very soon!

Vazhaikkai Kadalakka Kootu (Plantain and Groundnut Curry)

Vazhaikkai Kadalakka Kootu......definitely a mouthful. Its a simple no fuss, part-of-regular-meal affair, rendered unique by whole groundnuts. The pressure cooked/ steamed 'al dente' groundnuts are a welcome break to the monotony of the routine soft diet.
I have no cookbooks or references for everyday cooking and traditional fare. My mother is my repertoire of Tirunelvelli/ Palakad Tam Brahm cuisine. Here is this first of my entries which will hopefully be a repository of almost everything I learn from
This kootu can also be made with kathirikkai/ brinjals/eggplant, at which point it ceases to be Palakkad Tam Brahm cuisine and leans towards becoming North Arcot Tam Brahm delicacy. (Input from the Mr)


Plantains - 2, medium sized
Groundnuts - 2/3rd cup
Tamarind - a gooseberry sized ball
Turmeric powder - 1 tsp

To grind:
Coconut - 1/2 grated
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Urad dal - 1 tbsp
Red Chillies - 3-4
Curry leaves - 8-10

Soak the groundnuts overnight and pressure cook them for three whistles, with a little salt. Soak tamarind in warm water and squeeze pulp. After the cooker depressurizes, transfer the peanuts to a kadai/ wok and add plantains cut into largish chunks. Add tamarind pulp, turmeric powder and salt. Cover and cook till plantain is tender.
Lightly roast mustard seeds, urad dal, red chillies. Grind with coconut and curry leaves. Add to plantain-groundnut cooking in wok. Cover and cook for another five to ten minutes. Temper with mustard seeds and whole red chilli.
Vazikkai-Kadallakai Kootu is ready to be served with rice, rasam and papad and I'm sending it to Chitra Amma's Kitchen for the Kadalaekai Parishe.

Plantain Groundnut Kootu

Friday, December 24, 2010

Banh Khoai Mi nuong (Vietnamese Cassava Cake Baked)

Asian cuisine isn't really on the top of my list. But when I came across the A.W.E.D - Vietnamese event announcement on Priya Mitharwal's Mharo Rajasthan's Recipes, I decided to give it a shot. 

Most of the entrees were non vegetarian and I wasn't feeling 'salad-y' so I jumped to the desserts section. There were a couple of recipes which looked promising and I settled on the Banh Khoai Mi nuong.

Cassava is tapioca or marchini kizhangu or kappa. It appears to be Cassava season, with vendors on push carts hawking these large brown tubers. Having decided on the dessert, the only think I needed was the tuber itself, which was easily purchased.

Cassava tuber

I got the recipe from here and tweaked it a wee bit. Since shredded cassava is not a luxury available here, I did the shredding.

Cassava tubers : 1 1/2 cups 
Eggs - 2
Sugar - 1 cup
Coconut milk - 200 ml (first pressed milk extracted from 3 coconuts)
Banana/ plantain leaves - 2 sheets
Butter - 1 tbsp

Preheat oven to 200C
Preparing the tubers:
You'll need to buy 500 gms of Cassava (after peeling, soaking and shredding you'll be left with about 1 2/3rd cups for finely grated cassava). Peel the tough dark brown skin of the Cassava and soak in water for five minutes. Scrub the surface to get rid of any remaining reel/ mud. Stretch you arms and flex your muscles and use a cheese grater (yes, the one with the small holes) to finely grated cassava. The tuber releases a thick white liquid, not unlike first pressed coconut milk. This is the starch that gives the cake its unique consistency. Once you have 1 1/2 cups you can relax, that's all the recipe asks for.

You can read about how to extract coconut milk here. The original recipe asked for 400 ml and I stopped with only 200 ml since the batter appeared very fluid.

I also reduced the amount of egg in the recipe. I did not want a very 'eggy' cake....

Beat the eggs and sugar till light yellow and add the other ingredients. Lightly butter a baking dish and line with lightly buttered banana leaves. Use more leaves if you fell the need, the leaves should, I think, overhang from the sides of the baking dish. Pour batter into dish and bake for 35 to 40 mins. I also broiled it for a few minutes to slightly brown the upper crust. After baking, remove from oven let it cool a bit and de-pan by lifting the banana leaves. I tipped the cake onto another plate and lost the upper crust. 

Banh Khoai Mi
Piece of cake
 The cake was sticky, just like it was supposed to be. My mind refused to accept it as cake...mor like a well set pudding. And the coconut flavour was very strong. I'm not sure if the lemon peel and rum of the original recipe would have balanced the 'coconuttiness'. 

Verdict: The crust was delicious and maybe the batter can be used to make crepes? There wasn't much of a crumb to speak of and the cake does not make a good accompaniment for tea, as suggested at the site I got the recipe. We had the cake after dinner with some vanilla ice cream, which mellowed the coconut flavour. Would I make this again? I think I'm game for the steamed version of the same cake, only I just might omit the eggs the next time.

So off I send my Banh Khoai Mi nuong to A.W.E.D Vietnam hosted by Priya and inspired by DK

Friday, December 17, 2010

Olan (Pumpkin stewed in coconut milk)

Olan is one of my favourite foods and no Keralite feast (Sadya) is complete without it. It wasn't so when I was much younger and didn't appreciate this simple and wholesome dish. As long as I remember, my mother would make it with green skinned pumpkins and use sprouted green gram. And the only part I would deign to eat was the green gram - and I used to call it Olan Kottai (Olan seeds) clue how that came about. When I started exploring the world of food and more importantly appreciating it, I came across a few versions of this preparation, all of them had either pumpkin or ash gourd or both. And the beans was usually cowpeas or black-eyed kidney beans. I guess the green gram/ moong dal was my mother's variation and that's how I make my Olan too.

So with elan I present - Olan 

(Serves four)

Pumpkin - 600 gms
Green chillies - 1 to 4 (even zero or even more - as spicy as you like it)
Green gram - 50 gms (soaked and sprouted)
Curry leaves - a fistful
Coconut - 1 grated
Salt - to taste
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Red chilli - 1 (optional)
Coconut oil - 1 tsp

Extracting coconut milk:
Grind the coconut and squeeze milk, this first pressed milk with be thick. Put the coconut back in the grinder and add half cup of warm water and repeat process. Once the milk is extracted the coconut has to be discarded. The second and third pressed milk are obviously thinner.The amount of milk depends on how fresh the coconut is.
Grated Coconut
Coconut Milk

Putting it together: 
Peel, de-seed and remove the stringy flesh from the pumpkin. Slice the pumpkin about 1/4" thick and 1 1/2" wide.

The Pumpkin
The Pumpkin sliced

Cook the green gram in water with a pinch of salt. When cooked, add the pumpkin slices, slit green chilli and curry leaves. Let the pumpkin cook covered till tender, but retain its shape. If over cooked it becomes mushy and what you have is something soupy, which still tastes good.

Add the coconut milk and let it simmer for a few minutes till it just comes to boil. Remove from heat and keep covered. Heat the coconut oil and add mustard seeds and the dry red chilli, when the mustard seeds start sputtering, pour them on to the Olan. Serve it hot with rice and any tamarind/ tomato based chutney/ curry.


I'm sending this across to Janet of Tastespace, who is hosting this month's Siri's Healing Foods event with Winter Squash as the theme.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Red Bean (Rajma) and Sesame Dip or Rajma made Hummus style

I have surfed food blogs for a while and hoped to participate in some of the events, whose round-ups I'd come across once-in-a-while and did wonder how it comes about. And then... I serendipitously stumbled upon Priya of Mharo Rajasthan's Recipes, who is hosting My Legume Love Affair - #30 (MLLA #30), an event originally conceived by Susan of The Well- Seasoned Cook. So here goes my second blog and my first entry into food blog events! I also wish to thank Priya for listing out a whole series of events and their deadlines on her page.

I've always been partial to pulses, beans, lentils....members of the leguminosae family. Its a rare day when I don't use them in my daily ritual of creating food for my family. I have many favourites when it comes to how I like them cooked and I think this would be true of many of you.

Hummus bi tahini is my all time favourite dip where 'Hummus' refers to chickpeas and 'tahini' is simply sesame seed paste. It goes with bread, chappati, chips and is perfect all by itself. I used to have an almost endless supply of tahini paste from the gulf, till my parents returned for good and created a need for making tahini from scratch. I think that may have been one of  the first recipes I searched for on the net. 

The last couple of weeks have been hectic and amidst the hurry-burry, I had an urge to make rajma curry (for my entry into MLLA). The rajma (red bean) was soaked and cooked and just didn't have the will to go through with the curry. I let it rest and began thinking afresh. I spotted my jar of sesame seeds (ellu/ til) and thought.....'why not????'

So here goes Rajma bi Tahini: (not sure what rajma is in Arabic)


Rajma - 250gms
Sesame seeds (white)- 50 gms
Garlic - 3-4 cloves
Lemon juice - 1 1/2 tbsp
Salt - to taste
Olive oil - 4 tbsp 

Soak the rajma in warm to hot water overnight, preferably in a hot pack. Pressure cook for 6 to 7 whistles, allow the cooker to cool before opening. The Rajma should be soft and crushable to paste with a spoon.

Lightly roast the sesame seeds till they appear golden and set them aside on a plate to cool. Once the seeds have cooled to room temperature, load them in a dry grinder and pulverize. As the seeds get crushed they release their oil and become a cohesive mass, not 'powdery'. You mar have to keep scraping the sides of the mixie jar till you get a smooth textured paste. Add the olive oil and run the mixie and your tahini paste is ready.

Tahini paste

In the wet grinder jar, add the cooked, cooled rajma, tahini paste, garlic, salt, lemon juice and blend to smoothness. Add some water if required.

Transfer to a serving dish and garnish. I used some whole cooked rajma for garnish and left out the olive oil. I refrigerated the rajma bi tahini and served it for dinner with lightly toasted bread and carrot-cucumber-onion salad. The dip was creamy and tasted good. The Mr. gave it full marks but more importantly my daughter kept asking for more and she's all of 16 months.

I hope I have all in order before rushing this to Priya and Susan for MLLA #30.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Vazhaipoo Vadai - Banana Flower Fritters

Now that I'm here....where I didn't expect to be...I'm excited.
I love cooking, and look for interesting things to dish up and making everyday food interesting..... And so began my saga of raking food blogs to enliven and sustain various ventures in my kitchen.
My debut contribution will be banana flower fritters.
I've never had banana flowers in any form. I've bypassed the 'stuff' in markets and vegetable stalls, not because I chose to ignore it but because it never fell withing the radar of material I'd use. So why the change of heart?
We have plantain trees in our backyard and I'm attached to them since they seem to thrive with minimum fuss. The saplings were a gift and were planted when I was preparing to introduce my daughter to our world. I've been watching my DD and the trees grow and was thrilled when when I noticed that one of them was going to fruit. 
I watched and watched and watched. Green plantain leaves slowly unfurled to reveal a large burgundy coloured flower. The flower began to shed its petals (?) to reveal the fruit in miniature. My well meaning gardener, who wasn't aware that I would want a picture of the flower with its fruit on the tree for my soon-to-be-blog, brought me the flower and beamed with pride at having got the flower at the 'right' time. 
I proceeded to make the fritters. Why the fritters? Well having never had the flower, I felt it would be most easily appreciated in this form.


Vazhaipoo (Banana flower) - 1 medium size

Kadalai paruppu or Channa dal - 1/2 cup

Ulutham paruppu or Urad dal - 1/2 cup

Payatham paruppu or yellow Mung dal - 1/4 cup

Red chillies - 3 to 4 (more or less as you like it)

Salt -  1 1/4 tsp (vary according to taste)

Curry leaves - 8 to 10 leaves 

Buttermilk - 1 cup

Asafoetida - a generous pinch

Oil for deep frying.

Wash and then soak the dals in warm water.

Peel the burgundy petals to reveal the florets, which are red/pink initially and become white as to remove layer upon layer. And when you can peel no more, you will find the heart, which is also edible. The outer 4 to 5 layers of florets need some more attention. A long stalk with a flat white bulb at the tip and a 'plasticky' sheath need to be removed - these parts are inedible. As you keep peeling the flower, the burgundy petals become pale and then white and the florets become more tender. The tender florets can be used as they are. Chop the florets. Wash thoroughly in water and transfer to a bowl of buttermilk diluted in two cups of water.

The florets

The dals should have just soaked, grind with red chillies, curry leaves and salt. Try not to add any water and keep the batter coarse but cohesive.

Drain the buttermilk and squeeze the banana florets to remove excess fluid. Mix into batter and add the asafoetida.

Batter - ready to use

Heat oil in a wok. Drop a pea sized bit of batter, if it rises immediately, its hot enough to fry the fritters.

Take a lemon sized ball and flatten it slightly on the palm of your hand and gently slide it into the wok. Turn the fritters to fry evenly on both sides. When the fritters are a nice golden brown, remove with a slotted spoon and collect in a dish lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil. Continue till you've used up all the batter.

Eat the vadai when its hot to appreciate it. I got 18 vadais, which kept disappearing as I made them. The fritters were delicious by themselves and if I were to choose an accompaniment I'd make a spicy tomato chutney/ dip.

There was one flip side to this endeavour, I couldn't appreciate the flavour of the flower (if it has any). I'm all set to making other dishes with this erstwhile neglected element in my kitchen as my trees bear fruit.