Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Andhra Style Pappu Kura - Tomato Dal

The beauty of Indian cooking is that even the vegetarian dishes from each region has a unique and addictive taste.I am and have always been a great fan of Andhra Style Dal. I remember when we used to go to Telugu Restaurants in Jacksonville, Dal was always a separate part of the buffet lunch or dinner.Typically the dal is eaten with rice and a crunchy snack like pakoras. Since then, I became a seasoned cook and tried many recipes, but the perfect tasting Dal which I ate at those restaurants always eluded me.After many years of trial, I have got the secret recipe to make this amazing finger licking Dal. I will give to you the most simple and tastiest Tomato Dal recipe I  have ever tried.Thanks to my close friend Sireesha Bangalore for generously sharing the recipe with the exact measures of ingredients.Whenever I make this Dal, I feel grateful for our friendship and remember Sireesha.

This is very easy and fast.It does not require any special preparations and always yields fantastic results.It can be made in a jiffy if you have the Hawkins or a similar pressure cooker.I have the Hawkins small pressure cooker which I always use to make this dish.


Toor Dal: 1 cup
Water: 2 cups
Tomatoes: 2-3 big
Onion: 1 Medium sized
Garlic: 3 cloves
Fenugreek Seeds( Methi) - 1 Teaspoon
Chilli Powder: 1 Teaspoon
Turmeric Powder: A pinch
Tamarind: a small cherry sized piece
Green chillies - 1-2 ( Optional)
Salt: 1 Teaspoon or per taste
Coriander Leaves - A small bunch finely chopped for garnishing

Ghee: 1-2 Teaspoon
Mustard: 1 Teaspoon
Red Chilli: 1 (Optional)
Jeera: 1 Teaspoon
Curry Leaves: 1 Sprig


1.Soak the Toor Dal for 1 hour.
2.Finely chop the onion,tomatoes,garlic.Slit the green chillies.
3.In a Pressure pan or cooker, add the soaked toor dal, onion tomatoes,garlic, salt, chilli powder, turmeric powder, fenugreek seeds, green chillies and the tamarind piece
4.Add enough water so that all the ingredients are immersed.2 to 2.5 cups water is usually enough.

5. Pressure cook for 2 to 4 whistles until the dal is fully cooked.If using Hawkins small cooker, cook for 8 or more whistles to ensure Dal is full cooked.(The whistles come very fast)
6.Once the cooker is opened, mash the cooked Dal mixture to a fine paste using a ladle or blender.
7.Adjust by adding some water if too thick and keep in to boil for a few minutes
8.In the meantime, add the ingredients for seasoning to the ghee and add it to the boiling Dal. Switch off the stove.
9.Garnish with Coriander leaves.Tasty Dal is ready to serve with rice.

1. Soaking Toor Dal is optional.This is just to ensure that the Toor Dal cooks fast.
2.I usually make the above recipe with 3/4 cup of Dal and it tastes just as good.The Dal in the recipe can be a little less than a cup.
3.A handful of Masoor Dal can also be added.This is however optional.
4.The green chillies are optional.This makes the dal extra hot.
5.Do not forget to add the fenugreek seeds.They are responsible for the yummy taste. Actually the Dal does not taste bitter at all.And it is very cooling and good for the health.You can add 1 to 2 teaspoons.
6.Add the tamarind on top of all the ingredients in the cooker.Do not extract it using water and add. Dal does not cook if you add tamarind water to it Just add a small piece in its raw form.It gives a tangy taste to the dal.
7.Since this is Tomato Dal, be generous  with the tomatoes for the authentic taste.
8.Seasoning with ghee gives it additional taste.If ghee is not available, oil can be substituted.
9.Use the buttermilk churner called as matthu for mashing the dal. Alternately, you can use a ladle or even a blender.
10.This Dal is best served hot with rice and papad.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Looking Back On 2015

At the end of every year, we look back and take stock of what that time held for us.Needless to say, now is the time I have been thinking back about this year 2015, which is about to come to a close.Though it has been an exciting event filled year, this one has been a mixed bag of good and bad surprises as life often tends to be.For me, this is one way to have a record of events to look back on and reminiscence.

A Retake of the Good, The Bad and the Ugly.....

 The Good:  Some good things have happened here in Australia since the start of the year.We applied for permanent residency after the surprise round of firing happening in my husband's company at the start of the year.We got it on  3 July.We got to witness the housing boom in Sydney with many houses crossing epic prices.

In many ways it was a fresh start for me this year.My passion as an artist...well...yes...I am an artist as well.... was rewarded.I will write about that some other time. But the good thing is I exhibited in some places and my paintings at the Parramatta Open Art Exhibition won me some prizes.My painting Titled "Soulmate" won me the first prize - a cash award of $500 and another one titled celebration won me a third prize.It feels very good to establish myself as a local artist.Keeping my fingers crossed for my paintings to sell.

 The Bad:The bad stuff to happen this year were the deaths of two family members dear to us, on my husbands side.His grandmother passed away and his uncle as well shortly after. It just gave us time to reflect on how short life is and how there are no guarantees as to how or when we will leave this earth.We were stuck here and everyone knows that death of dear ones leave you with a lot of time to think about your mortality, especially when you are abroad.I just hope that all this thinking leaves us less material loving and more compassionate as  human beings.

 The Ugly: The good and bad cannot be heard without mention of the ugly. And the ugly here has been the recent flooding happening in Chennai. Water logging in houses with the smell of sewage water is something which many of us in Chennai will not be able to forget for a very long time.Many lives were lost.The amount of water released from the various reservoirs near Chembarambakkam , Adyar has been epic and unheard of. It is just that Chennai was not prepared for rains of this level.Property has been damaged severely and the help which has been pouring around has just shown us how strong this community is. I personally feel it is a time for all of us to realize that we need to start giving back what we have taken from nature for granted. Since it is Chennai we are talking about, many of us will have already realized that the only help that we are going to be getting is from the people nearby and not any political bighead or leader.

 Now is the time for us to implement steps of waste management  on a individual level and use the power of social media to try to repair not only our homes, but the roads, drains and filth surrounding us.It should not take a flood for us to stop littering in streets and living with garbage around us.Most of all, we should not forget to question our leaders on what is being done with the tax payers money.It is  time for us to stop living selfish and to start to thinking about the greater good of Chennai in every little thing we do.

Happy New Year Everyone.I hope 2016 brings all good surprises for us.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Tried and Tested Recipes

In this era of technology where most of us learn cooking from recipes and videos that we find online, I wanted to share some links of  various websites where I found good recipes and the final version also came out very well.I personally do not stand to gain anything from providing these links and am doing this as a basic guide to people starting out on cooking.
This might be time saving for many of us, because while there are many links to the same items, some give really excellent results when compared to many others.This is in no way saying that the other versions are bad. Rather these are fail proof ones which are guaranteed to give good results.I will also add anything which I learned from these recipes as well as tips and tricks to get them well.

Gulab Jamuns: Well, for me the ready made Gulab Jamun mix never did yield good results and thus began my search all over the web for a recipe guaranteed to give good end results.I found the one recipe here

This one gives perfect gulab jamuns each and every time. Just be sure to follow the instructions exactly and the measures as well.Now thanks to Bhajias Cooking, Gulab Jamuns are a breeze for me.

Chettinad Tomato Chutney: There are many versions of tomato chutney.This one came out really very well in my trial today and they tasted yummy with the dosas. I really loved this chettinad version and the idea of adding coconut milk instead of coconut was a bit novel for me.You can find the chutney recipe here.

Tiffin Sambar/Moong Dal Sambar: We love the slightly watery sambar which we used to taste in the roadside eat outs in Chennai with the hot steaming idlis and dosas.On the search for the perfect recipe for this sambar. I found this recipe here , which yields the most yummy sambar each and every time.I have tried this four to five times and every time, the end result has been nothing but lip licking delicious  tiffin sambar, which we can drink out of a bowl.Give it a try and you won't be dissapointed.Be sure to check it out here

Dal Tadka: Anyone ever wondered how the simple yellow great tasting dal at the restaurant gets made.I did and a search on the net and further trial and error of various recipes led me to the ultimate one.I must say I was very impressed with this recipe that I do make a habit of checking this website for other recipes as well.Kudos to Dassana Amit for her wonderful recipes. Check out the recipe for Moong Dal Tadka here

 Vegetable Pulav: The recipe for the tastiest pulav after looking at many websites and the feedback, I rather stumbled upon this wonderful website.It kind of gives an intro to chettinad cooking.What I really love about Solai's Chettinad Kitchen  is that the recipes have the exact measures.This is very important when you are starting out new and have no idea what makes what.This wonderful recipe for vegetable pulav is one of my all time favorites and has never failed to give me excellent results time and again.The idea of adding coconut milk is also new.If using instant coconut milk, try adding a little less than 1 cup to 2 cups water as given in the recipe.It makes the rice very filling and heavy.No potatoes in this one.....Check it out here and enjoy.Also check out Solai's Kitchen for many other wonderful recipes.

Methi Paratha Punjabi Style: I have always been reluctant to try these parathas because the measures of spices to be used always to be very tricky.I however found out this video where the measures and instructions worked for methi paratha.I loved that the dhania or corriander seeds are added in theink whole form rather than as a powder.It gave an amazing taste to these parathas.Check out this youtube video for the tastiest methi parathas here

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Catching Happiness

For some time since our return to Sydney Australia, I have been filled with a sense of contentment that I am able to do justice to what matters to me.This really brings out the sensitive side in me.When I look at everyone around busy with their life and the activities which make it so, I question myself, "Are they happy?".
This truly gets me to thinking about my emotional well being.Am I happy? What is there to be happy about.I have a routine with my family to look after, but what makes me really happy? I would like to work a job, now that my little girl has joined preschool. Again, will the job or the money it will bring me make me happy? Will I have the time to do the stuff that I love - to paint and learn to paint new stuff, to be creative.Or will I  reach the far end of my life, doing something just because everyone else is doing it.That is a question that is always constantly on my mind.I also know that the mind is fickle and what I consider to be a happy state today may not be necessarily  so tomorrow.Despite that, I am unable to stop myself from this quest.

How do you catch happiness?

 If materials would make you happy, then why do you want more.After a time, clothes do not give you joy, nor does listening to music in your latest Iphone. The plot of your favorite author does not excite you anymore.The sparkle seems to have gone for good.It seems as if happiness is a bubble which bursts when you try to catch it.But we being human , run behind this complex feeling, which has no fixed definition for the high state it helps to keep us in, albeit even for a small period of time.We do so many things in the hope of getting high on that addictive state - being happy.

Many times, there is that empty feeling, that something was to be , which was missed.Rather, would I be right in saying that this was not how you thought life would be? As it so happens, while I am sitting here writing this, I am given a reminder of life's quirks, the necessary oddities which makes life as it is.When I feel grateful for being where I am right now, I feel a sense of peace, which for a moment could be defined as happiness.

What's making me happy?

I  am going to make a poor attempt at listing out stuff  making me happy, which may lose its relevance in a minute or so. But still, its something. I feel happy when I have a routine. I have taken up regular exercising and yoga. It makes me tired, active and ensures a good night's sleep. I love to keep myself active. So I volunteer to fill up my time being useful to people in some way if I can.I make time to paint as that is one of the things which I truly love.I spend time doing a full cooking routine daily. A happy tummy makes for a happy me.Less of oils, fries and more of sprouts to give me that feeling of well being. I spend a lot of quality time with my little one. I am happy when she is happy.It gives me happiness to see her grow into a healthy and confident child. I also take out time to listen to new songs and dance with my little one.
I am learning to live happy from within. Reaching out to something or someone is not a sure way to be happy in the long run. I understand that it is simply trying to fill the time when I feel alone or sad.

If you read this, take a moment to think about what makes you happy. Relax and enjoy being there .And feel free to drop in a line telling me what makes you truly happy.

We were there - Auckland Central

I have been wanting to write this one for a long time.But sometimes, life just gets in the way of your best laid plans and before you know it, the months fly by. Just as life throws many unexpected surprises our way, we have become richer in our experience after the rather unexpected, but charming stay for about two months in New Zealand.We stayed in Auckland City Center, which is considered to be one of the populated cities in New Zealand.That we've had the chance to stay here and enjoy this land of beauty and purity  -  we are lucky indeed.

Auckland Central:  We had the chance to stay at THE VOLT apartments, which is ideally situated in the Queen Street.This is one of the main streets in Auckland Central where there is maximum activity in terms of things to do, places to hang out and eat outs ranging from New York firewood pizzas to Asian cuisine, especially Indian, Thai and Chinese.I have been to various places in my life and this is one of the friendliest cities I have ever been to .Though there are not many people around, when you live there for some time, the relaxed atmosphere gets to you.Though living in what is considered a populated city in Auckland, I felt healthier than I have ever felt anywhere.The fresh water, authentic tasting fruits ,vegetables and the pleasant weather all year round, gives you a lot of energy.

It is full of slopes and curves, but nevertheless, it is a heaven for those amongst you who may have a passion in photography.Even ordinary places appear beautiful and filled with color in photos and that indeed is what I consider the magic of New Zealand.We were there during winter and truth be told, eventually you get used to the drizzling rain which comes on and off as well as the chilly winds and never step out without your  hooded overcoat.Umbrellas are of little or no use as the strong wind quite turns it upside down and it becomes quite comical with you trying to hold onto your umbrella, pulled away by the wind.

The city is quite costly, but the hive of activity which distinctly separates it from its counterparts is what lends color and life to it.There is always something always underway, be it the demonstrations by various ethnic groups or  dances by the Hare Krishna Group or various art groups choosing to perform in the Queen street in its wide pavements to the passing audience.

It is said that Southern New Zealand is more beautiful and scenic.We were in Northern New Zealand and I can fully understand how true it is that nature has bestowed this land with all that is her best in terms of fertile land, a pleasant weather and wonderful, friendly people.While City Central is a relatively small place which can easily covered, it is filled with small pebble paved streets, adding character and an old world charm to the place.It is a lot of fun to explore these narrow streets on your own and discover those quaint little eat outs,  fashion shops and take in the breathtaking scene around you that is New Zealand.

Maybe this is just us, but we were very lazy and did not actually go anywhere specific in New Zealand for sight seeing.I do not have any regrets that we did not get a chance to see Southern New Zealand.To be in New Zealand was enough of a dream and those memories would last me a lifetime.

Truth be told, it was only when I got to know that we would have to move out of New Zealand because of project reasons, that I felt a twinge of nostalgia that I would never again get the chance to walk around Victoria Street and my favorite Forte Street and admire all those wonderful scenes, which I had taken for granted.I went around and tried to cram as much of New Zealand in a few hours walk as could.These were memories to treasure for a lifetime.

I am happy that I got the chance to share my experience with you all.If you are searching for that dream destination, make sure to make this one of your stops and be amazed.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Indian Cinema - After the happily everafter ?

It seems so funny and ironic that the majority of Indian cinema, especially Tamil films are often about love - first love, new love, falling in love and no one cares about what happens after the happily ever after.The true question should not be just about finding love, but a truthful portrayal of what happens after the happily ever after.While films are made to cater to the society, the most pertinent question arises nonetheless - Are we as the masses of Tamil Nadu incapable of  demanding meaningful films?
A masala film (i.e one which has the usual uplifting story,a beautiful heroine, some sort of hero,song dance sequence, fights and a happy ending) may be okay for the occasional relaxation, but true cinema stays in the mind of the audience, makes him ponder over the state of the society and how one can be a part in addressing the various social problems.Human life is often made of  circumstances, involves ever changing relationships and it seems so unfair that cinema focuses solely on the emotion of love, when others such as the relationship between parents and children or in laws are sorely ignored.

While you can see that many new subjects are being explored in tamil cinema, the majority are the ones with the same themes - like a hero, a bad guy/situation , a girl, some friends, song and dance etc.It is worthy to point out that newer versions of relationships are being explored according to the changing generation and values.

But please, someone show us the gritty reality of what happens after the happily ever after.It would make us realize that the boring moments in life of waking up, brushing, cooking /cleaning, going to work, playing with our children, which is common to us all, is what is real.Sometimes, we are lucky to have these constant  moments in our lives.When you hear about all the bomb blasts, murders and accidents happening in life, there is a part of you which is happy that it was not you.The ordinary life which we lead may not be so ordinary after all.Accidents make you ponder over the miracle that is life and this should rightly be so.

Directors, please show us the problems of married life without any fanfare, which we ordinary people face.Portray the intensity of the man woman relationship and the simple moments that keep it going.What does an ordinary man take joy in and what are the problems running in the heads of people who are entering the cradle of adulthood.How does the feeling of being responsible for another little life feel.There are so many things unexplored in tamil cinema.

A film is about touching lives.When we come out of the theatre, let us experience the joy, which is unique, when the wonder of ordinary lives are artfully portrayed.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Perfect Appam - To Tickle Your Taste Buds

In every woman's life, there are recipes which are passed from mother to daughter and those passed as part of the extended family through in laws.This appam recipe is one of the tasty ones which I learned from my mother in law.I remember writing down the exact measurements and procedure from her after marriage and this recipe has always delivered the most wonderful, heavenly tasting appams.
Here in Sydney, I have found two places recently, where you can find delicious appams.The first place is the famous Sydney Murugan Temple, where appam is available by the name of String Hoppers on Friday and Saturday.This appam is relatively small, has coconut cream in the center with something brown and sweet.I love it, though its taste is a bit different from what we make at home.Similar appam is available in an Indian and Srilankan Take Away shop located in Wentworthville, on the road from the station to Udaya Stores, the one place where you can find stuff for all your South Indian kitchen requirements.

My mother-in-law says that the appams she tasted in Malaysia were the best ones to date.The appams which I am talking about is a staple food of Kerala and pronounced aa-pams.They can be served with coconut milk, veg stew or a similar non-veg gravy.

Avil/Poha - 1 Cup
Pachai Arisi/Raw rice - 3 Cups
Urad Dhal  - 3 Spoons
Salt - To taste
Cooking Soda - A pinch
Coconut Water - 1 Cup( if available)
Yeast - 1/2 tsp or very little for fermentation(Optional)

Important: Appa Chatti is required for perfect appams.

1.Soak the poha, rice and urad dhal separately for 2 hours
2.First grind the poha and Urad dhal together  to a fine paste and keep the batter separately.Then grind the    rice separately to a very fine paste and mix it well with the other paste.
3.Add the required salt, and the pinch of soda
4.Keep for fermentation.It usually takes about 10-12 hours for it to be fully fermented.
5.The fermented batter can be kept in the refrigerator and freshly used.
6.1 cup of coconut milk or coconut water may be added to the fermented batter for extra taste just before use.
Making Appams:Place the appa chatti in the stove and wait till it is properly heated.Coat the chatti with a spoon of oil using a tissue paper, before making appam, i.e., pouring the batter. Pour a ladle of batter into the appa chatti and give in a swirl, so that the batter gets evenly coated.The batter is thinner in the sides and more in the middle.The appa chatti is a concave shaped vessel, and hence helps in achieving its shape.Close the appa chatti and wait for a minute or two till the appam is well cooked, before taking it off with the suitable ladle provided with the chatti.
Some Tips and Tricks
Over the years, these are the small things I have found regarding appams.
  • Many people use cooked rice instead of poha.It is said to give very soft appams.I have personally never tried it.
  • If you want to make appams tomorrow, it is best to prepare the batter fresh sometime today.
  • If you live in a cold place, place the batter in a pre-heated oven to help in the fermentation.Fully fermented batter is very important to make appams.Without  proper fermentation, appams will not be fluffy or taste good.
  • Using yeast : I use dry yeast and do not add the cooking soda.Add 1/2 spoon of dry yeast to a little of warm water with a bit of sugar.Add the dissolved yeast water to the batter before keeping for fermentation.
  •  When you take batter from the vessel, it is best to use it up fully.So I usually take the batter in a small bowl and use it up fully.Never mix the used batter back to the unused one.Else it will become watery.