Showing posts with label Bengaluru. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bengaluru. Show all posts

13 April 2014

E is for Ellu / Sesame seeds | Recipe for Ellu Saadham / Sesame Rice

Padhinettam Perukku, also called Aadi Perukku, is celebrated on the 18th day of the Tamil month, Aadi (mid-July to mid-August roughly), indicating the start of monsoons. Padhinettu means 18 and Perukku means 'rising' and on this day, the rivers are swollen with water from the rains. I've heard stories from my great-grandmother on how they would pack tiffin carriers full of different kinds of rice dishes and enjoy a picnic on the banks of the village river. The different rice varieties are prepared as an offering for the river goddess. Lemon rice, coconut rice, tamarind rice, sweet rice, curd rice and of course my favourite, sesame rice are some of the types of rice dishes prepared on this day. Of course, in smaller families in the city, families choose to prepare 2-3 kinds of rice along with meal finale-ie. curd rice. Even to this day, my family believes that on this day, there will always be heavy rainfall, and co-incidence or whatever, the rain gods do stick to their predictions!

Since when I was a child, I was a fan of all the rice varieties- or kalandha saadham as it is called in Tamil. Usually, there would be a koottu and some plain rice too along with these on the menu and of course, fried appalams and vadams to go with the kalandha saadham. Although sesame is quite a complex flavour, I have been in love with all dishes made using sesame seeds, right since childhood. Ellu-urundai or sesame seed chikki (praline) shaped as balls are prepared on the srardham (thevasam) days to remember the deceased ancestors. As a kid, I have asked my grandmother why she made this only on those special days. Needless to say, my such questions were not appreciated in those days :D Subbu's Kitchen writes more on the thevasam recipes that includes my favourite, ellu-urundai. 

A few years ago, when I was on a holiday in Hong Kong, I fell in love with black sesame seed ice cream. I had never imagined that this could be an ice cream flavour!

Sesame seeds also feature in this special dish called Thalagam, also made on specific festival day called Thiruvadharai. The toasted sesame seeds are ground to a paste along with roasted coconut, udad dal, fenugreek seeds, rice and red chillies to make an intensely fragrant masala. This makes the 'curry' really thick without any addition of dal. Think of it as a sambar variety minus the dal and completely unique flavours. The only way to taste this is to invite yourself to a Tambrahm friend's house or make it yourself. I don't think there are any restaurants that have this on their menu.

Coming to the recipe of Ellu Saadham, sesame seeds are dry roasted till they pop. This is ground to a coarse powder with some other spices, to prepare the mix. Rice is steamed and cooled and to the cooled rice, the freshly prepared podi is added and gently mixed together. The tadka of curry leaves and red chillies with some udad dal for crunch is of course mandatory :)

Recipe for Ellu Saadham / Sesame Rice
Serves 2

2 cups cooked rice
3 dried red chillies
2 tsp udad dal
2 tbsp white sesame seeds
1/2 tsp salt

For tempering:
2 tsp gingelly oil or vegetable oil
½ tsp mustard seeds
1-2 tsp udad dal
sprig of curry leaves

While cooking the rice, ensure that you use lesser water and reduce cooking time slightly so that the grains are separate. Once cooked, spread out to cool on a large plate / thali.
In a small kadai, using a few drops of oil, fry the red chillies and udad dal till the dal is golden is colour. Remove and keep aside. In the same kadai, sauté the sesame seeds until they emit a nice aroma and start popping. Once the popping stops, remove them along with the fried chillies and udad dal and grind to a coarse powder in the mixer along with 1/2 tsp of salt.
Spread this powder on the cooked rice.
In the same kadai, heat the oil for tempering. Once oil is hot, add mustard seeds, udad dal, curry leaves – once mustard seeds pop and udad dal is golden, transfer on the rice. Gently toss around with a flat steel spatula (so that rice is not mashed up) until the rice is coated with the spices. Serve hot along with fried vadams or appalams (papad) and a raita on the side.

This post is a part of the A-Z Blogging Challenge. 

Hope you've enjoyed my earlier posts:
A is for Avial
B is for Beans Paruppu Usili

C is for Chow Chow

D is for Dosa

9 April 2014

C is for Chow Chow

Source: Wikimedia commons

Chow chow doesn't mean eating twice. It is the name of a squash.

Tambrahms and their obsession with all vegetables of the gourd family is legendary. Such a gourd-loving community we are. Give us a gourd and we'll make a koottu, a curry or a thogayal out of it and call it a meal. As a child, I'd rummage through the shopping bags brought in from the market, and I'd see this vegetable- chow-chow and I'd dread the next few meal times, knowing fully well that it would be unleashed on me pretty soon. While I didn't full-blown hate it, I almost borderline hated it. 

In my family, they fondly call it Bangalore-Kathrikkai (Kathrikkai being the Tamil word for brinjal) - and I know for certain that my grandmother loves it to bits. I have no clue how someone can love this vegetable with no personality whatsoever. If you go through the Wiki-page dedicated to Chow Chow, also called Chayote Squash, you'll realise that it has caught the fancy of not just Tambrahms, but communities around the world. Being from the squash family, it grows easily and it's cheap and I suppose, being a cheap food helps gain popularity especially in times of economic depression.

When I was getting to know my husband better, I once quizzed him on his favourite foods. He told me that he was a very non-fussy eater and anything outside the gourd family was okay with him. Now that pretty much excludes a LOT of dishes from our Tambrahm cuisine! I did manage to go by the gourd rule for a few months into the marriage, but being the true-self respecting Tambrahm, pumpkins started making an appearance in sambar and bottle-gourd paired with chana dal in a curry and so on. I didn't hear any complaints, except for a small mumble, whenever I announced that there was Pudavalangai (snake gourd) curry or Pumpkin sambar for lunch. Years passed. We were once seated at one of the darshinis in Bangalore, waiting to order breakfast. Those days, I was a Bombay girl, just visiting Bangalore for a function for a couple of days. The waiter came to our table. The husband order chow chow baath. Imagine my shock! I was wondering what made him order this vile (even to me) chayote squash in rice!! Before I could express my horror, the waiter came back with the dish (speedy service indeed). The plate had a scoop of upma and a scoop of kesari. Sigh of relief. It was then I realised that Chow Chow baath was a popular breakfast item here, and it had nothing to do with the vegetable chow chow. Instead, it was a serving each of kaara baath (upma) and kesari baath (rava kesari), the perfect savoury-sweet combination.

I read this story about how this vegetable, called Choko, in Australia, was rumoured to be used in their McDonald's apple pies, instead of apples, as they were cheap, maintained their shape and Australia's tropical & sub-tropical regions actually didn't produce apples. This does give me an idea of trying it in a dessert some day - crazy, whacky, but worth a try. May be on the 1st of April.

In my home, the much loved Bangalore-Kathrikai makes its appearance two ways. The peels and the flesh are used to make a (delicious!!) thogayal, which is a word for chutneys. It is also written as thuvaiyal. Before I started loving gingelly oil, asafoetida and all other things very typically Tambrahm, even this thogayal was on my no-no list. But as I grew older and genetic love for our traditional foods took over, I can now imagine a plate of steaming hot rice, a big dollop of this thogayal and a generous spoon of gingelly oil all mixed together and eaten with some fried vadams- oh goodness, a mini heaven. The same thogayal is made with Peerkangai (Ridge gourd) using the peels, the fibres, everything. I cannot say my tastebuds detect much of a difference in the taste, for most gourds taste quite similar. Bland.

The second way to prepare this is make a Koottu. For the uninitiated, koottu is any vegetable+mashed dal+fresh coconut-spice masala with the ubiquitous tadka. The fresh koottu masala can make anything boring taste good - red chillies, black pepper, udad dal, coconut - these guys can rescue the most boring of vegetables and they do a fairly successful job with the chow chow. When cooked, it doesn't become all melt in mouth like the bottle gourd, or transparent like the white pumpkin. It kind of stubbornly hangs on to to its shape and its (slightly) weird taste, no matter what you do with it (expect mash the hell out of it in a thogayal, in which it does a surrender).

Lunch Idea: Chow Chow (or any other) Thogayal, Rice, Raw Banana Curry

Recipe for Chow Chow Thogayal (Chayote Squash Chutney)
Makes 1 generous cup

2 medium sized chow chow / chayote squash
1/4 cup scraped fresh or frozen coconut
a tiny piece of tamarind soaked in 2-3 tsp of water
2.5 tsp gingelly oil or any other cooking oil
2 tbsp + 1 tsp udad dal
4 medium dried red chillies
1/2-3/4 tsp salt
2 sprigs curry leaves
Fat pinch asafoetida
1/2 tsp mustard seeds


  1. Vertically halve the squash. Cut out the seed. Don't peel but scrape any spikes that may be there on the skin and dice or slice it.
  2. Heat 1/2 tsp oil in a pan. Add 2 tbsp udad dal and red chillies and saute on medium heat until the udad dal is golden brown. Remove onto a plate and cool for few minutes.
  3. Heat the remaining 1 tsp oil in same pan. On high heat, saute the chow chow for 30 seconds.
  4. Reduce the flame, add 1/4 cup water, pinch of salt, cover and cook till chow chow is tender and fully cooked.
  5. In small mixer-grind the fried udad dal-red chillies, soaked tamarind and coconut to coarse paste. To this add the cooled cooked chow chow, salt and scrape the sides of the mixer and grind to a paste. Remove this into a bowl.
  6. Heat 1-2 tsp oil in a tempering ladle or small kadai. Add pinch of asafoetida, mustard seeds, once they splutter, add curry leaves and udad dal. Wait for dal to turn golden and transfer the tempering over the thogayal.

Traditionally a lot more coconut is used, so you could use up to 1/2 cup. Remember to increase the quantity of chilis used if more coconut is used.

This post is a part of the A-Z Blogging Challenge of April 2014.

Earlier Posts
A is for Avial
B is for Beans Paruppu Usili

28 November 2012

Look Ma, I'm on a food show!

I have a fun announcement to share today. In October, I was contacted by Small Screen  (the same wonderful guys behind the insanely popular show Highway on My Plate) if I would like to co-host the Bangalore episode of Twist of Taste, now into its second season. This is a food show by Michelin starred chef  from UK, Vineet Bhatia.

While the offer excited me, I was petrified to be sharing screen space with such a renowned chef and of course, that bit about facing the camera for national television. Well, I did bite the bullet, went ahead for the shoot and my fears were all shot down, one by one. Partner at Small Screen, Prashant Sareen and director of the show, was there personally to guide me and calm my nerves. 

There was NO MAKE UP involved, can you beat that?! I was all the time fearing that there would be so much pancake make up on my face that I wouldn't even be able to smile in my maiden telly appearance. There were no dialogues handed out to me, I was free to converse anything I wanted, with the chef. 

Coming to Chef Bhatia, he is probably one of the most humble people I have met. He made me feel totally at home, over many tumblers of filter coffee and then over a few glasses of beer, discussing food and tasting food all the time. Now, I've quite changed my opinion about chefs.

We shot over two days covering the hot spots and old institutions in Bangalore, and at a break neck speed, because the first day, we managed to get only 3 hours in the evening, thanks to a Karnataka Bandh. The entire crew at Small Screen were most caring about a newbie facing the camera. It was wonderful working with everybody on this show!

I would love for my readers to catch my first foodie appearance. Here are the details:

Twist of Taste - Bangalore Episode
Fox Traveller Channel
9pm - Dec 2, 2012, Sunday

Fox Traveller is available on the following DTH networks:
Tata Sky - Channel 553
Hathway Cable - Channel 470
Airtel TV - Channel 342
Dish TV - Channe 647
Videocon DTH - Channel 605
Sun Direct - Channel 547

And if you miss it, this is the schedule for the repeat episode.
Wednesday 930 pm
Thursday 430pm
Friday 730pm
Saturday 830 am
Saturday 1030 am

And for those of you with no access to cable, I'm sure there will be a YouTube link I can share with you later.

*waiting for Sunday with nervous anticipation*