Saturday, August 1, 2009

Fried Stuffed Karela(Yenne Hagalakai)

My mother is visiting for the summer, well, she's been here for 3 weeks now. Of course, I have been eating all her her yummy food as if there's no tomorrow! But then I thought, let me slow down a bit and blog all her recipes... mostly to show my siblings what they are missing ;-) I know they are missing her back home very much... I have missed her for 10 years now. So guys deal with it for now!

Every night while having dinner... eating all her yummy cooking, my mind is constantly thinking of the next thing I want her to make. Some items from my childhood days pop up in my mind and then we talk at length as to who was there when she made it, what happened that day, who liked it the most and who ate how many... yep! we had some strong contenders amongst my cousins!

For the past month, Yenne Hagalakai has been floating around in my mind. I remember my mom making it a long time ago when we were young and some of my cousins were visiting. The only thing I remember is everybody sitting in the kitchen and prepping the karelas... I don't even how it tastes... but just thinking of it, I'm drooling here.

Today she's making it, and finally I get to taste it! Did it taste like how I had it in my mind? Absolutely! It was fantastic!

I have to warn people who are new or have not used this vegetable. Karela is called "Bitter Gourd". And true to it's name it is bitter! To like it, you definitely have to acquire that taste. The key is how you cook it, you really need to know how to handle the bitterness. Once you do that, you'll be a fan of this vegetable for ever! I absolutely love it! So does my DH now!

So here's my mother's recipe and the method - we had 4 very tender small karelas.

Ingredients for the stuffing -

ginger - 1 tsp
garlic - 1 tsp
diced onion - 1/2 cup
chopped curry leaves - 1 tsp
chopped cilantro - 1 tbs
chilli powder - 1/2 tbs
coriander powder - 1/2 tbs
cummin powder - 1 tsp
puttu kadale (dalia) powder - 1 tbs
salt to taste
tamarind paste - 1 tsp
jaggery - 1 tsp

Method -

1. Wash and dry the Karelas. Slit them in the middle without cutting open the edges. Scoop out the pulp from the inside. The Karelas should hollow inside.

2. Rub these empty shells outside and inside with little salt and turmeric. Let it sit for an hour or so. This brings out all the bitterness out and you can squeeze it out. Doesn't taste that bitter now.

3. Prepare the stuffing.
a. In a small pan, heat a teaspoon of oil. Fry the ingredients adding one by one in the following order - curry leaves, garlic, ginger, onion. saute till the onion start to soften.
b. Add chilli powder, coriander powder, salt, cummin powder, puttu kadale powder, tamarind and jaggary. Saute it well and let it cool before stuffing.
c. Stuff this into the hollow karelas and tie a string around them so that the stuffing won't fall out when you fry them. You can either shallow fry them in a pan or deep fry them. We deep fried as we had some left over oil from yesterday. (Amma made bonda yesterday).
d. Yummy fried karela ready! You can have this as an accompaniment with chapathi. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Chicken and Spinach Curry!

The things we do for Love!

I'm a vegetarian who cooks chicken for DH. Yes! Funny that I used to eat Chicken in India before I cam here. But the only version of chicken I had seen at parties, friends houses or restaurants is that it was doused in spices... I had not experienced cooking or handling raw chicken. I cam to US and had a Chicken wrap in McDs and that threw me off completely. I have not eaten it nor craved for it after that.

But DH does love to eat (altho he's not a heavy meat eater I should say or my other vegetarian cooking doesn't leave him craving for chicken - I think the later :) ) so I try to make a chicken dish every week. I have tried many many recipes from marinating overnight to complex spices. I borrow a lot of ideas from many recipes and optimize the recipe to fit my time and the ingredients I have at home. And I multitask a lot, I will have something on the stove while I chop or prep other ingredients and drop them into the pan. I make this dish under 20 mins (prep and cook)!

This recipe has become a sure hit with DH... everytime I make it, he loves it. And the bonus for me - it's so fast and easy to make and healthy!

So, here's the recipe -

Ingredients -

Onion - 2 medium chopped
Tomato - 1.5 cups diced (or 1 8 oz can of diced tomatoes - I use this)
Ginger and Garlic paste - 1/2 tbs each
Gharam masala powder - 1/2 tbs
Chillie Powder - 3/4 tbs
Cumin powder - 1/2 tsp
Kasuri Methi - 2 tbs; crushed
Cinnamon - 1 inch piece
Badi Elaichi - 2
salt - to taste
Spinach - 2 handful fresh rough chopped
Bell pepper - 1/2 medium diced. (I used green as that was on hand, you could certainly use any)
Chicken - 1.5 lbs dices to bite size pieces.
Oil - 1 tbs

Method -
  1. Heat a big saute pan with high side (need some depth) and add oil. Once the oil is hot, add the cinnamon and the badi elaichi.
  2. Add onions and saute them well till they just start to brown. In the mean time chop your chicken.
  3. Once the onion starts to brown, add the ginder and garlic paste, chillie powder, gharam masala powder, cumin powder and crushed kasuri methi. Saute for a minute or so.
  4. Add the diced tomatoes (fresh or canned) and let them cook down to almost a mush (about 4-5 mins).
  5. Add the diced chicken and saute them till the sides start to brown. Add salt and a cup of water and close the lid. Let the chicken cook through and the water should reduce almost to half.
  6. Now add the bell peepper and spinach and let it cook till the pepper and spinach wilts a bit. Turn off the heat. Done! (DH likes his peppers crunchy!)

Delicious healthy chicken with spinach and peppers ready!

Serve with rice or chapathis.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Masala Dosa and Sunday Memories!

I have a lot of good memories built in Bhadravathi, a small steel plant town, where we were raised and I did all my schooling and college. Even today, I can close my eyes and go back to our colony in Bhadravathi... I can see our house, our rooms, the places I used to go, play, hang out with friends, the roads I used to walk... Hmm... so calm and comforting. Not a rush in the world there... I go back to that comfortable place in my mind when I am stressed... it's a slice of time I will always hold dear in my heart.

My earliest memory from childhood is the Sunday routine... sometimes the routines feel so good when you are a kid. You know how your day is going to go and plan around it, mostly on how to skip doing home work :) and start playing or plan what to play in the afternoon and evenings - life was so simple then.

There were a couple of things my mother used to make for the Sunday breakfast, more of a brunch actually because it was around 10-11 am - Masala Dosa, Idli-Sambar, Bisi Bele Bath or Pulav and everything topped with a dollop of fresh home made butter! Yum!

I remember waking up and going through our ritual of getting our hair oiled or sometimes soaking my hair in fresh ground methi paste and sitting in the sun talking or mostly fighting with my sisters. There were so many people in our household, I remember my mother heating water in an outdoor antique looking copper boiler using wood or charcoal in addition to the big electric water heater. Then we used to get our hair washed (my Aunt used to help me as my hair was soooo long - to my waist!) using Shikakai powder (remember that? - oh! it used to sting our eyes so bad.) and then dry our hair in the sun... else my mother used to be so concerned we will catch a cold. Oh! I miss that luxury and it was so relaxing.

Then we sit down for a long leisurely breakfast/brunch at the dining table with the radio on and we hear "Akashwani! Bhadravathi kendra dinda moodi balaride 'Makala Karyakrama'... or 'nimma mechinna chitra geethegalu'... "... loosing count of how many dosas or idlis we used to eat with home fresh made butter... Hmmm... heaven!

Anyways, today I'll talk about the yummy Masala dosa with Potato masala, Coconut Chutney and Onion Sambar. I sure every household in South India have their own version for Masala Dosa.

(I just googled 'Masala Dosa Recipe' for my curiosity and the results that came back - 131,000! No Kidding!) So, what's another drop in an ocean, here's my version or mostly my Mother's :)

Batter (to be prepared the previous day) -

  1. Wash and Soak 3 cups of white rice, 1 cup of Urad(split blackgram) daal and 1 tbs Methi(fenugreek) seeds in enough water for atleast 4 to 5 hours or overnight.
  2. Grind the above soaked with little water into a smooth paste in batches if using a regular blender or in a wet grinder with 1 cup of warm cooked rice. Transfer to a big container with enough room for the batter to raise.
  3. Add salt to taste and mix well. Let this sit on the counter for at least 5-6 hours or overnight depending on the temp in your area.
  4. The batter should ferment and raise up at least bit.
Tips: If you live in a cold place like me, it's tought for the batter to ferment. You can get this a couple of ways -

- Warm the cooked rice in the mike for a min. This raises the temp of the batter a bit and kicks in the fermentation. You can substitute poha for rice (just soak it for 5 mins)
- You can leave it in the over with the pilot flame on... that keeps it warm
- Seal it well and leave it in clean place in your boiler room. This works for me well.

Potato Masala -

5 medium potatoes - boiled and peeled
2 medium onions - thinly sliced
4-5 green chillies - slit length wise (add more if you like the heat)
curry leaves - a sprig
turmeric - a pinch
salt - to taste
frozen/fresh peas - 1/4 cup (this is opetional and I used frozen peas)
Oil - 2 tbs
mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp (for seasoning)
cilantro - 1 tbs chopped

  1. Heat the oil in a thick bottomed pan. Once the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds and once the sputter, add the curry leaves and the slit chillies.
  2. Add the sliced onions and saute till the onions just start to get brown. Add the frozen peas if you are using and saute till they soften a bit.
  3. Add the turmeric and salt and stir a couple of times.
  4. Hand crush the boiled and peeled potatoes (make sure you don't mash it too smooth, I leave them a bit chunky) right into the pan and mix well. If it's too dry, add a bit of water (maybe a tablespoon or so - not much)
  5. Once mixed well, turn off the heat and add the chopped cilantro as garnish.
Onion Sambar -

pearl onions - 1 bag (around 20-25) peeled.
tomatoes - 2 medium; diced
thoor daal (split piegon peas) - 1.5 cups; cooked and mashed lightly
sambar powder - 3 tbs (add more if you want it spicy); I used homemade (recipe later); you can use MTR or iyengar sambar powder.
fresh/frozen coconut - 2 tbs (thaw the coconut if using frozen)
tamarind pulp - 1 tbs
salt - to taste
curry leaves - a sprig
Oil - 1 tbs
mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
aseofetida (hing) - a pinch
coriander - a handful chopped for garnishing

Grind coconut and sambar powder with little hot water.

  1. Heat oil in a medium or large sauce pot. Once the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds to sputter and add the curry leaves and hing.
  2. Add the tomatoes and saute for a couple of minute till they soften.
  3. Add the peeled onions and saute till the start to soften a bit.
  4. Now add the cooked daal, ground sambar powder adn coconut mixture, tamarind pulp and salt; add water to adjust the consistency (should be a thicker than tomato soup but thinner than mushroom soup); the quantity should come up to 6-7 cups.
  5. Reduce the heat and simmer this till everything mixes together and let it boil for 10 mins.
  6. Add cilantro for garnish and turn off the heat.
To Make the Dosas -

  1. Heat your Dosa tava or a flat smooth skillet.
  2. Take a laddle full of the batter, pour in the middle of the tava and spread the batter outward in concentric circles.
  3. Dot the dosa with oil or ghee or butter and close with a lid. The steam will cook the top side, then open the lid and let the bottom roast a bit if you like crispy like my DH!
  4. Add the potato masala and roll out the dosa
  5. serve this hot with sambar, potato masala and chutney (recipe later) and you will see happy faces at home!

Enjoy the delicious Masala Dosas!

Cold and blue day needs Warm and sunny Hal-Avalakki!

I'm not sure about the origin of this recipe. I haven't seen this version of avalakki (Poha) made in any of my friend's house or come to think of it even in any of my relative's houses. But I remember my mother making this ever since I was a little girl.

This used to be a quick evening snack right after my siblings and I come back from school. Growing up in Malnad area, the rainy season can be pretty cold and gray... walking back from school in the rain with our socks and shoes drenched - we would be shivering and crave for something warm. I loved having a plateful of this steaming snack. It just warms you inside out and puts a nice satisfied smile on your face. Even today when I feel cold and blue, I crave for this. The best thing is- it's so easy and quick to make.

Actually, if I think back about it... to combat an oncoming cold during rainy season - what better way than "milk and haldi"? But which kid in their right minds would drink milk and haldi? (I dread it even today!) I'm sure it would have been a nightmare for my mother to manage a household of 10+ (at anygiven time) and have 4 sick kids on hand. So, this might have been a neat trick my mother cooked up to get us kids to have some milk and haldi. The cold is taken care before it hits and the kids are satisfied. How cool!

So, here's the recipe - (serves 2)

Ingredients -

Onion - 1/2 cup diced
Green Chillies - 4-5 small; slit (or according to your taste)
Curry leaves - a sprig
Milk - 1.5 cups (I use skim milk, else it gets too thick. If using 2%, thin it ot with some water)
Tumeric (haldi) - 1 tsp
Avalakki (poha) - 1 cup (the medium or thick kind. the thin ones gets too mushy)
Salt to taste
Cilantro - 1 tbs chopped for garnish

If you want to improve on this and make it a little more healthy, you could add -
Frozen (or fresh) peas - 1/3 cup (this is optional) or
Fresh spinach - 1/2 cup roughly chopped

Ingredients for Oggarne (tadka) - 2 tbs oil, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp channa daal, 1 tsp urad daal.

Method -

- Heat a heavy bottom pan or kadai on medium heat. (Heavy bottom pans are best to cook milk)
- Add oil, once the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds. Wait till the mustard seeds sputter, then add the channa daal and urad daal. Roast these till golden brown.
- Add the curry leaves and split Green chillies. saute for 30 seconds. (I like it when the chillies blister in the hot oil.)
- Then add the onion and saute till they get soft and just start to brown on the edges.
- Add the peas or spinac if you are using them and cook them to soften a bit. They'll cook through further with the milk.
- At this time, add the salt and tumeric, add milk. Bring this to a boil and then add the avalakki, stir and reduce heat. The avalakki will cook and absorb the milk.
- Once the avalakki is cooked, turn off the heat just before all the milk is absorbed, and add cilantro as garnish.

Enjoy the delicious and satisfying hal-avalakki!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday Baby Girl! Welcome to the world!

SIL and BIL welcomed their first baby today. The long awaited Baby Girl is the first child in both the familys. On this Valentine's day she has brought much love and happiness to parents, grandparents and Uncles and Aunt.

Every Valentine's day to come will be filled with more love because of you.
We were still in bed this morning when the phone rang with the news that you have arrived. Your Dad's voice was excited and at the same time relieved that you were finally here safe.
Your grandparents were very excited too.

I'll be honest, it was a bitter sweet moment for us. We were happy that you were here safe and healthy and that everything went on without complications. At the same time we were sad that your cousin sisters, Sasha and Sonu left us and this world in Sep. We miss you my babies.

While you were opening your eyes in this world, here's what was happening in -
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama, savoring his first major victory in Congress, said Saturday that newly passed $787 billion economic stimulus legislation marks a "major milestone on our road to recovery."
At the same time, he cautioned, "This historic step won't be the end of what we do to turn our economy around, but rather the beginning. The problems that led us into this crisis are deep and widespread, and our response must be equal to the task."

PATTAYA: India’s Sania Mirza upset the sixth-seeded Thai Tamarine Tanasugarn 7-5, 6-4 in the quarterfinals of the Pattaya Open on Friday.
Sania had to toil hard for one hour and 44 minutes to emerge victorious. She will next meet the eighth seed Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia who also registered a shock 6-4, 6-1 victory over the second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark in another quarterfinal match.

Happy Birthday again!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Easter Flan – with a zing!

Usually, I plan lunches and dinner parties way ahead of time. But this time as I wanted to keep this Easter very low-key, I relaxed and took my own time, but eventually I had to rush in the end. So I had to come up with a dessert which was easy and quick.

With no time left to shop, I had to work with what I had.
In my refrigerator, I had eggs, milk, heavy whipping cream, strawberries, and cream cheese. In the pantry I had sugar, flour, condensed milk, evaporated milk, instant vanilla and chocolate pudding mixes. So my thoughts went I can make a strawberry trifle or a tart (very appropriate for spring – although it’s still cold here in NY) or a flan (very Easter appropriate with the eggs involved) or both the tart and the flan (over ambitious!).

So I quickly googled the recipes (our study is such a mess and I can’t get to my baking books)… this recipe looked so easy. I decided to go with it.

The first time I had Flan was in Las Vegas on our vacation in 2003. The minute I took a bite, it immediately reminded me of the Egg Pudding I used to make with a friend’s recipe back home using a pressure cooker! (details in a later blog).

I was a bit nervous whether it would come out of the mould as I didn’t have the flan pan or the ramekins, instead I just used my 6 inch corning ware dish. My contingency plan was – at the worst; I can just scoop out the flan and serve it in bowls or whip up some fresh cream for the strawberries. But this flan came out beautiful and it was such a huge hit that by evening none was left!

I Love it when there are no left over’s. For me, that means that the guests loved it!

I hope you all will give it a try and enjoy as much as we did! I sure will be making this often.

Here’s the recipe –


3/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
2 tablespoons Kahlua

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.


In a small saucepan, cook the sugar over medium heat until it starts to melt. Lower the heat and cook until caramelized to a golden brown. (Do not stir or touch the sugar, but swirl the pan to melt evenly.)

Pour into a metal flan mold or 9-inch cake pan. Turn the dish and swirl to evenly coat the bottom. Let caramel cool and harden. (I used my 2.5 quart corning ware dish – it worked perfectly)

Place the dish in a larger roasting pan and add hot water to come halfway up the sides of the baking dish.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the condensed and evaporated milks and Kahlua and whisk well to blend.

Pour into the prepared pan. Bake until set and just firm in the center but still jiggles slightly, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours.

To serve, run a thin sharp knife around the rim of the flan. Place a platter or large plate on top of the flan and gently flip over so the plate is on the bottom. Lift away the mold.

Cut into wedges and serve immediately.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Couscous - quick, easy and delicious!

I have eaten Couscous before in middle-eastern restaurants, at dinner parties etc, but it never caught my attention as it did when I had it at our friend’s in Maine. Nicole had made Couscous one of the days which caught my attention just by its looks; it was looking so pretty and colorful. She had vegetables and beans in it - looked very healthy too. I noticed her twin girls like it and were eating it by themselves. Later, I had a taste of it during lunch and instantly fell in love with it.

I knew I had to get the recipe and try it out at home. Nicole was very kind to share the recipe.

Right after we returned home, I went and bought “Near East Whole Grain Couscous” from a kosher store nearby and tried it out. It was so good and so satisfying. DH is always a bit skeptical about trying new things… but he loved it too. Now it’s a staple in our house.

I have made this so many times now. We have had it as an entree and also as a side dish. Every time it’s a hit!

So, I have stocked up my pantry with whole grain couscous from Trader’s Joe, because I know I’ll be using this very often from now on.

Thanks for the recipe Nicole!


1 packet Couscous (I used Near East Couscous; any other brand should work fine too.)

Olive oil – 2 tbs
Onion - 1 medium chopped
Garlic – 2 small cloves chopped
Carrot – 1 small; diced into small cubes (I used frozen)
String Beans – 4 or 5, cut into small pieces (I used frozen)
Corn – ½ cup frozen or fresh (I used frozen)
Scallions – 3 or 4; sliced thin
Garbanzo or Chickpeas – ½ can or ½ cup
Black beans – ½ can or ½ cup
Lemon Juice – ½ lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Note: Feel free to add any of your favorite veggies. I’m sure it’ll work with any veggies as long as they don’t turn too mushy.


Prepare couscous per the instructions on the package. Instead or Olive oil or butter, I used grapeseed oil (Nicole's tip :)) and added a pinch of salt to the water.

In a large skillet, heat Olive oil over a medium high heat and sauté garlic and Onions

Once the onions turn soft, add carrots, beans, corn and continue sautéing till the veggies cook. Takes about 4-5 minutes.

Once the veggies are cooked, add the scallions, chickpeas, black beans.

Add salt and pepper per your taste stir and sauté for a couple more minutes.

While this is cooking, fluff the couscous with a fork and add the couscous to the skillet. Mix everything together.

Turn off the stove, add the lemon juice, mix well and let it sit for a few minutes.

Serve warm or cold as an entrée or a side dish.