Traditional Lunch Series - Day 6 (Mor Kozhambu, Vazhakkai Curry)

Sorry for the two day break in series...not that i did not cook, but the weather has been too glorious to sit and blog. I have been lingering around in the balcony watching from the heights as the monsoons sweep over the landscape, clicking photos of the grey clouds with silver linings, and generally lazing around in the pleasant turn in the weather scene. It was so hot and sultry beginning June that I was fervently praying for an early monsoon - and it has started in full force from the middle of last week. The plants in my balcony are enjoying it and so am I :) Here's the pending two days account one after the other. I also have a wonderful bread coming up for you, called the Tassajara bread that we baked yesterday. Will find some time to sneak the baking notes somewhere in the middle of the traditional lunch series.

Day 6 Menu - Mor Kozhambu & Vazhakkai curry

Mor Kozhambu is a buttermilk based Tamil 'kadhi', which can have fried or sauteed okra pieces, chunks of cooked white pumpkin, or fried colocassia pieces. Even plain, it is delicious, very easy to make with the minimum of ingredients. It is also a delicious accompaniment to dosas and idlis which no hotel will ever serve you. There are two varieties of this buttermilk based kozhambu, one made with green chillies, which is pale green in colour and one made with red chillies, which is a pale pink in colour. The recipe varies in the masala that is ground for each.

Mor Kozhambu along with onion uthappam is truly mouth watering. When had with rice, it is usually accompanied by a vegetable-paruppu usili which is cooked veggies like beans / tendli mixed with crumbled steamed lentil paste, so that the proteins from the lentil usili make up for the lack of dal in the mor kozhambu. However, I made this with a simple plantain saute, which is also an equally superb combination.

Recipe for Mor Kozhambu (Pink variety)
Serves 4

3 cups thick buttermilk, slightly sour is better
1 cup water
To saute: 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds, 1 tbsp raw rice grains, 3 dried red chillies
1/4 cup fresh coconut
1 tsp salt
Tempering: 1 tsp oil, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, 1 sprig curry leaves, 1 dried red chilli

1. Whisk the buttermilk and water in a heavy bottomed pan.
2. In a wok, heat 1/2 tsp oil, saute the fenugreek seeds, raw rice and dried chillies till the seeds turn darker (not brown though), and the rice becomes opaque. Remove, cool and grind with the coconut into a fine paste, using upto 1/4 cup water.
3. Add this paste to the buttermilk. Season with salt.
4. Place this mix on low heat, stirring all the while . This is the most important step, as even a minute of leaving this on the gas will make the buttermilk separate into whey and curd, which will render this dish useless.
5. Gentle heat and constant stirring until this comes to a simmer, will cook the paste keeping the buttermilk intact.
6. In the wok, heat a tsp of oil. Temper with the ingredients given and transfer it over the mor kozhambu. Keep covered until ready to serve.

If adding vegetables, chunks of cooked white pumpkin, or boiled, sliced and fried colocassia slices, or fried okra slices can be added to the kozhambu during step.5 (simmering stage)

Recipe for Vazhakkai curry
Serves 3-4

4 medium sized slim plantains (do not choose the short thick variety for this recipe)
1 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp red chilli powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp salt

1. Tail and top the plantains. Lightly peel them. Cut through vertically into two and then slice to get semi circular slices of medium thickness. This is the only effort involved in this recipe.
2. Heat the oil in the wok. Splutter mustard and cumin seeds, add the plantain slices.
3. Add the turmeric, red chilli powder, salt, stir to mix well.
4. Sprinkle water, cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring around 1-2 times in between until the plantain is soft and cooked.
5. If you want a crisper curry, add a tbsp of oil at this stage and let the curry crisp on a low flame without stirring for up to 5 minutes.

Lunch Series so far

Day 1
- Vengaya Sambar, Vendakkai curry, Potato Roast
Day 2 - Peerkangai thuvaiyal, Red Chauli
Day 3 - Keerai Milagoottal, Cabbage Curry
Day 4 - Capsicum Baath, Pumpkin pachidi, Thair saadam
Day 5 - Carrot Sambar, Avaraikkai Curry
Day 6 - Mor Kozhambu, Vazhakkai Curry

Traditional Lunch Series - Day 5 (Carrot Sambar, Avarakkai Curry)

Here's wishing my dear friend Sig and her partner of 10 years Siv a very Happy Anniversary! Here's to many many more decades of togetherness, love and warmth sweetheart.

Nothing much to ramble or 'show' today. The menu was an attempt to clear up the Sword beans (English equivalent of Avaraikkai ) my help had chopped up yesterday. The fat sweet carrots found themselves sliced and being thrown into the Carrot sambar...where they swam until they were devoured by us.

Recipe for Avaraikkai Curry (Dry Sword Beans Saute)
Serves 3

3 cups finely sliced beans (first top, tail and remove the stringy fibre if any from the sides)
1 tsp oil
1 pinch asafoetida
1 long dried red chilli
1 tsp udad dal
fat pinch turmeric powder
salt to taste
1 tbsp scraped coconut

1. Pressure cook the chopped beans in one of the separators of the pressure cooker, for two whistles and on sim for another 4-5 minutes. Take care not to add water to the container in which you are cooking the beans or they will get mushy on pressure cooking. Cooking them dry is akin to steaming and they get soft yet hold their shape at the end of the cooking process.
2. In a wok, heat the oil. Put in the asafoetida, then splutter mustard seeds.
3. Add the udad dal, saute till golden. Throw in the cooked beans with salt and turmeric. Stir to mix well and garnish with fresh coconut.

Recipe for Carrot Sambar
Serves 4

3/4 cup tur dal pressure cooked in 2 cups water, mashed well
3 medium carrots, scrubbed and thickly sliced
1/2 cup thin tamarind puree or 1 tbsp tamarind paste
3 tsp sambar powder
1 tsp oil
Tempering: asafoetida, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, fresh curry leaves
Salt to taste

1. Pressure cook the carrots in the other separator while cooking the beans with a sprinkling of water and pinch of salt.
2. In a heavy bottomed pan, heat oil, temper with asafoetida, mustard seeds, curry leaves.
3. Add the cooked carrot slices. Saute for a few seconds. Add the mashed dal and tamarind puree / paste. Bring to a simmer.
4. Make a slurry of the sambar powder in 1/2 cup water, add it to the pan, simmer for 2-3 minutes. Season with salt, taste and adjust.
5. Serve hot with steamed rice and a dry curry.

You can also add raw carrots in stage 3, add some water, cover and let the carrots cook in the pan itself. Pressure cooking makes this very quick, and you can save over 8 minutes while waiting for the carrots to cook in the pan. You can leave the sambar thick or thin it with some water to get a desired consistency.

Making a variety of sambars using the same technique
Sliced radish, beetroot chunks, bitter gourd slices, pumpkin chunks can be similarly used as a substitute to carrot to get radish, beetroot, bitter gourd, pumpkin sambar respectively. Capsicum squares can also be used, but these can just be sauteed in stage 3 instead of being pressure cooked.

Traditional Lunch Series - Day 4 (Capsicum baath, Pumpkin Pachidi, Thair Saadam)

Capsicum baath is something I tasted in Mysore in one of the several feasts during my cousin's wedding. This was served on the day after the wedding where just the family members from both the bride's and the groom's side gathered for a final farewell. And what a meal it was...the taste of this rice preparation lingered on and on...well after we boarded the train to come back home. Some of them were lucky enough to get a 'packet' of this to eat on the journey back...

The next time I tasted this was some weeks ago when Geetha Chithi made this 'on-demand' and I ate this for 4 continuous meals without tiring (she had prepared quite a quantity) . Yesterday evening when she called me, she gave me the idea of making this for lunch, and why not I though, as I had a bag of fresh capsicums (green bell peppers) waiting just to be made into a Capsicum Baath. A word of clarification regarding 'baath' - while it is pronounced just as you would the English word 'bath', it has nothing to do with it. It simply means a 'kalandha saadam' or a mixed rice preparation, which can be eaten as it is or with a 'pachidi' (raita). The same recipe can be used to make Kathrikkai Baath by just substituting the capsicums with eggplants. I suppose this recipe is of Hebbal Iyengar origins. Please correct me if I am wrong. The spices used in this are quite similar to my favourite Bisi Bele Baath recipe blogged by Saakshi, which she says is an authentic Hebbal Iyengar recipe.

Recipe for Capsicum Baath - A perfect showcase of Indian spices
(Bell Pepper Spice Rice)
Serves 4-6 people as the first course of the meal, which is concluded by Thair Saadam :)

Please do not be afraid of the long list of spices that is going to follow. This is virtually a spice garden of a recipe, but the end result is a beautiful amalgam showcasing how seamlessly Indian spices can blend with each other....and most of these will be easily found in an Indian kitchen, or your nearest Indian grocery.

1 1/2 cups normal grain rice ( I used Doobraj)
5 large green bell peppers, cut into medium squares (no seeds)
1/4 cup peanuts
1 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp salt

For Spice Mix
1/2 tsp ghee / oil
4 large dried red chillies
2 tbsp chana dal (Split skinned Bengal gram dal)
1 tbsp udad dal
handful of coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp whole black pepper corns
4 one inch long cinnamon sticks
5-6 cloves
1 green cardamom
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1/4 cup grated coconut (fresh or dried)

1 tbsp jaggery (optional)
1 tbsp tamarind soaked in water for 10 minutes

Step I - Cooking the rice
Pressure cook the picked and washed rice with 3 cups water, for 2-3 whistles. Switch off and cool.

Step II - Preparing the capsicum
In a wok, heat a tbsp of oil. Splutter the mustard and cumin seeds. Add the peanuts. Saute for 2 minutes till they change colour. Then add in the diced capsicum, on a low-medium flame, stir fry till the capsicum is softened but still a little crisp.

Step III - Preparing the spice mix
While the capsicum is cooking on a low flame, heat another wok on the other burner. Add the spices (red chilli through bay leaves - reserving the coconut and sesame seeds). Continuously saute on a low flame till the dals turn lightly golden and everything begins to release its aroma (around 7 minutes) . Remove and cool.
In the same wok, lightly toast the grated coconut till fragrant - around 2 minutes. Remove onto the above dish.
Next toast the sesame seeds. When they start popping (in around 2 minutes), remove them too.
In a mixer, pulse all the above toasted items along with the soaked tamarind and jaggery, till you get a coarse powder.

Step IV - Assembling the baath
In a large deep dish, remove the cooked rice and cool for 10 minutes, separating with a fork if necessary.
Over this add the capsicum-peanut mix as well as the coarsely powdered spice mix, with adequate salt (around 2 tsp). Toss lightly with clean fingertips, until the rice is uniformly coated with the spices and the vegetable mix. Check for salt and adjust accordingly.

This is best prepared 3-4 hours in advance of the meal, as the flavours are at their very best after few hours of sitting around.

Our accompanying raita was made from golden pumpkin, finely chopped, microwave cooked, mashed and mixed with yogurt and a standard mustard-curry leaf tempering. You can also do a ripe-banana raita or a simple cucumber raita. Take care to keep the raita simple and spice-free as the rice is already brimming with spices.

That was a longish recipe and I'm feeling pretty exhausted!

Next and final course was Thair Saadam, which needs no introduction to any Indian. The quintessential yogurt and rice without which no traditional meal ends in Tamil-land. For a daily meal, rice and yogurt are mixed with deft fingers and eaten with a pickle or sambar (if leftover from the first course). On some special days, yogurt rice is brought pre-mixed to the table with a delicate tempering.
I used half broken wheat and half rice for this preparation today (no special reason). Mash with plenty of yogurt (half milk and half yogurt if you are going to leave it out to sour, or lots of milk and tiny bit of yogurt if it is going to be consumed after several hours as the milk will set to curd along with the rice, and our Tamil grannies know how to time this to perfection).
Season with salt.
In a tadka ladle or small wok, heat a tsp of oil. Add bits of minced green chillies, bits of minced fresh ginger, mustard seeds, curry leaves and a pinch of asafoetida. Turn over into the yogurt rice. Give a stir.
Serve chilled with your favourite pickle. (My current favourite is Tomato Thokku from Grand Sweets)

Lunch Series so far

Day 1
- Vengaya Sambar, Vendakkai curry, Potato Roast
Day 2 - Peerkangai thuvaiyal, Red Chauli
Day 3 - Keerai Milagoottal, Cabbage curry
Day 4 - Capsicum Baath, Pumpkin pachidi, Thair saadam

Recipe for Keerai Kootaan / Milagoottal and Cabbage Poriyal

Yesterday I managed to get some fresh spinach at my local grocery shop. Cabbage is another thing I always pick up on my visits. It is a useful thing for making simple saute curry for lunch, or koottu. For dinners, it adds crunch to our noodles / fried rice - and I even use it to add bulk to left over dosa batter to make crunchy uthapams for breakfast.

Spinach is best used on the same day or at max the following day. That's how Keerai Milagootal managed to feature on today's menu. The ideal partner to this would be a potato roast (always ideal for everything :) or a sliced plantain roast. Since I rarely find the slender plantains suited for this curry, cabbage seemed the next best option.

Milagoottal or Kootan is a Kerala derivative into Tamil cuisine and since my roots are in Tirunelveli which is almost close to the Kerala border, some of our dishes have the 'ubiquitous to Kerala' coconut ground in the gravy of the vegetables. Aviyal is as much our cuisine as much as it is a part of the Keralite sadya. So is the milagoottal, which we call Keerai Kootan at home. This goes well with a mangai pachidi, in which the tender mangoes that have been used to make the vadumangai pickle are removed from the spicy brine, washed and ground to a coarse paste, which is then mixed into yogurt.

For me, there is no better way to consume spinach. Mashed fresh spinach leaves mixed with mashed cooked paruppu (tur dal) and spiced with a mix of fried red chillies-udad dal - black pepper-rice grains is the perfect way to get my dose of iron, protein and comfort for the day!

Recipe for Keerai Kootan
Serves 3-4

Step I - Preparing the spinach
Take 2 bunches spinach. Pluck the leaves and tender stems. Washed thoroughly in bucket of sink full of water, several times. Chop finely. In a heavy pan, place the chopped spinach with a pinch of salt and 1/4 cup water. Boil the spinach till wilted and mash with back of a round ladle. Do not cover while cooking to retain green colour.

Step II- For spice paste
Fry the following in 1/2 tsp oil in a wok till dal turns golden-
1 tbsp udad dal
3 medium dried red chillies
1 tsp whole black pepper
1 tbsp rice (uncooked raw grains)

Grind the above with 1/4 cup of fresh grated coconut, using upto 1/4 cup water into a fine paste. Remove from blender and keep aside.

Step III - Paruppu (dal)
Take under 3/4 cup of tur dal, wash well, pressure cook till very soft with 2 cups water. (2 whistles and on sim for 5 minutes)
Mash this well with a ladle. Keep aside.

Step IV - Assembling all 3 parts and tempering the kootan In a pan with the mashed spinach, add the mashed dal and the ground spice paste. Stir to mix well. Add salt to taste. Bring to a simmer. Remove from flame.
For tempering - heat 1 tsp oil, to this add 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp udad dal, few curry leaves. Once seeds splutter and dal turns golden, transfer this tempering over the prepared kootan.

Serve hot with rice.

This is the simplest possible preparation of cabbage which my mom makes often and beautifully well. Readers will be aware that I keep raving about how Tamil Brahmin cooking keeps things basic, utterly simple and yet superb to taste. No over cooking, no over spicing and not much oil either - all working towards bringing out the true flavour of vegetables. As I say, we are not afraid to taste the real vegetable in the dish :)

Recipe for Cabbage Curry / Cabbage Poriyal
Serves 3-4


1 tbsp oil (coconut or vegetable oil)
2 dried red chillies
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp udad dal
1 sprig curry leaves
6 cups finely chopped cabbage
1/2-1 tsp salt
2 tbsp fresh grated coconut

DirectionsIn a large heavy-bottomed wok, heat the oil. Splutter mustard seeds, fry the broken red chillies and udad dal for 30 seconds. Add the curry leaves and stir them until they turn bright green (few seconds)
Add the finely chopped cabbage, salt and stir for a minute or so on high flame.
Cover and steam cook for a total for 8-10 minutes on a low flame. If you are making this in a light-weight kadai, you may need to sprinkle a little water 2-3 times so that the cabbage does not stick to the pan and burn.
Once cooked, remove from kadai into a bowl, garnish with fresh coconut and serve hot.

Lunch Series so far

Day 1
- Vengaya Sambar, Vendakkai curry, Potato Roast

Day 2 - Peerkangai thuvaiyal, Red Chauli
Day 3 - Keerai Milagoottal, Cabbage curry

Traditional Lunch Series - Day 2 (Peerkangai thuvaiyal and Red chauli in gravy)

While one is a traditional recipe, the other is not. Both were had with rice, but I'm sure it will taste good with rotis too.

Peerkangai (Ridge gourd) thuvaiyal
Red Chauli beans
Served with rice, yogurt, sweet Kesar mango slices, Lime pickle

Thuvaiyal is a kind of Indian pesto, consisting of a vegetable and a mix of sauteed spices best served with rice. This also works great as an unusual sandwich spread with some cheese / cream cheese.

Recipe for Peerkangai Thuvaiyal
Earlier version
This time I adapted from the Meenakshi Ammal Cook and See

3 medium ridge gourds
1 tsp oil
fat pinch asafoetida powder
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp udad dal
4-5 dried red chillies, broken into pieces
small ball of tamarind, soaked in water (marble sized)
1/4 cup fresh grated coconut
1 tsp or more salt

1. Wash the ridge gourd, light peel the ridges (optional) and dice.
2. In a wok, heat the oil, add the mustard seeds, red chillies, udad dal and fry till the dal turns golden. Remove from heat and keep aside.
3. In the same wok, throw in the diced ridge gourd with a pinch of salt and turmeric, saute for 2 min, add 1/4 cup water, cover and cook till soft.
4. Grind the cooled spice mix (mustard, red chillies, udad dal) with the coconut and softened tamarind to a coarse powder. Remove from mixer and keep aside.
5. Grind the cooled cooked ridge gourd to a coarse paste, in the final pulse, add the earlier ground masala to this, with enough salt to taste and blend.

Remove in a bowl and serve with steaming rice. Rice and thuvaiyal are mixed with some gingelly oil for the perfect combination. Ghee also works fine.

Red Chauli
These dried lentils are the red version of black eyed peas, which make an appearance off and on in the supermarket. This time, I brought a pack of these red chauli beans home. The recipe is for a kootu kind of preparation that can be mixed with rice, or had with rotis or even soft dosais.

1 cup dried chauli beans, soaked overnight or for at least 4-6 hours
2 tsp oil
pinch of asafoetida
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp salt or to taste
Lemon juice, coriander leaves

1. Pressure cook the soaked beans with 2 cups of fresh water for two whistles. Switch off cooker and cool until the masala is prepared.
2. Heat the oil in a wok. Start with asafoetida, splutter the mustard and cumin seeds. Add curry leaves, saute till they crackle.
3. Add the chopped tomatoes and all the spice powders & salt. Stir for 4-5 minutes on a low flame till the tomatoes are mushy.
4. Open the cooled cooker and add the cooked beans to the tomato paste. Stir in up to one cup of water to adjust consistency. If you want more gravy, add extra water and a slurry of rice flour / gram flour in water in the final stage and bring to a simmer.
5. Adjust the salt. Add lemon juice or tamarind juice for tanginess and garnish with fresh coriander leaves.

[Pictures shall be uploaded later]

Day 1
- Vengaya Sambar, Vendakkai Curry, Potato Roast
Day 2 - Peerkangai Thuvaiyal, Red Chauli

Traditional Lunch Series - Day 1 ( Vengaya sambar, Vendakkai curry, Potato Roast )

For the next few days - we are going to be having traditional Tambram food for lunch. When it's just me, I usually make one-pot meals which have a fair balance of carbs, proteins and loads of vegetables. Now that I have company for the next couple of weeks, proper lunch it is!

I'm just doing this for fun to chronicle how many such traditional (read non-fusion) recipes I can cook :) Anyway it is also a great way to share authentic (almost) recipes from my heritage with anyone who may be interested.

All items are accompanied by rice / broken wheat and with lots of yogurt to end the meal and serve 3-4 people

Day One - Sunday

  • Vengaya Sambar
  • Potato Roast
  • Vendakai Curry
  • Special add on: Fried vadam

Recipe for Vengaya Sambar (Onion sambar)

3/4 cup tur dal (pressure cooked with pinch of hing and mashed)
5 medium sized onions, peeled & quartered
2 tsp oil
fat pinch asafoetida
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 sprigs curry leaves
1 dried red chilli broken
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp ready tamarind paste or 1 large lemon sized ball soaked in water and extracted
3 tsp sambar powder
1 tsp salt or to taste


1. In a heavy pan, heat the oil. Temper with asafoetida, fenugreek, mustard, curry leaves, dried chilli and saute for a few seconds.
2. Add the quartered onions, turmeric, pinch of salt, saute on medium heat for 1-2 minutes.
3. Add a glass of water, cover and cook till onions are soft.
4. In a bowl, make a slurry with sambar powder, tamarind paste and 1/2 cup water.
5. Add this slurry to the softened onions, bring to a simmer.
6. Next add the mashed dal, salt, bring to a simmer.
7. Check for salt and sourness, adjust and bring to a simmer again.

Remove from flame and keep covered until ready to serve with rice.

This tastes better after 1-2 hours of making it, as the flavours improve with time.
You can use chinna vengayam (Madras onions / Shallots) instead of regular onions.
I will share with you the recipe for homemade sambar powder in a later post, you can use MTR sambar powder instead.

Recipe for Potato Roast

5 medium potoes, boiled, skinned and cubed
2 tbsp oil

For the dry marinade:
1 tbsp fine rice flour
1/4-1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp red chilli powder
2 tsp coriander powder

Tempering ingredients:
fat pinch asafoetida
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp Bengal gram dal (chana dal)
1 tsp udad dal
2 sprigs curry leaves

1 tbsp finely chopped coriander for garnish


1. Sprinkle the ingredients for the dry marinade on the boiled potato cubes, coat using light hands and keep aside for 15 min - half hour.
2. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan, add all the tempering ingredients, stir around till the dals turn golden.
3. Add the spiced potato cubes, toss well to coat with whole spices. Let the potato brown on a low flame. For this it is necessary that you don't keep tossing them around, keep them on a low flame and turn around after 10 minutes, to brown the other sides.
4. Once ready, garnish with coriander and serve hot.

The udad dal, bengal gram, fennel seeds and curry leaves are not added in a typical Iyer style roast, I have incorporated some Chettinad flavours in this. So you can avoid them to make a simpler roast.

Recipe for Vendakkai Curry (Dry okra / lady's finger / bhindi saute)

A curry in Tamil Brahmin cuisine is a dry sauteed preparation, not involving any gravy. Most 'curries' are prepared in the similar manner using a variety of vegetables.


2 cups thickly sliced okra
(Preparation: Wash okra well, wipe completely dry, top, tail and slice with a dry knife)
1 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 broken dried red chillies
1 tsp udad dal
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp salt

In a wok, heat oil. Splutter the mustard seeds, fry the red chillies and saute the udad dal till golden. Add in the sliced okra, tumeric and salt and saute on medium flame off and on for 7-8 minutes till okra is cooked yet lightly crunchy.
Do not cover while cooking.

Serve with rice and rasam / sambar / mor kozhambu.

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