Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thinai (Foxtail Millet) Murukku

Healthy foods need not be boring. Whenever you crave for a deep-fried snack, substituting with the healthier grain is a smart choice. Foxtail millet murukku is a great teatime snack. There is no rice flour added. It has all the goodness of the millet.  Here is a simple recipe for a crispy snack.


Makes about 60

Foxtail millet flour - 2 cups
Dhalia powder (split roasted gram) - 1/2 cup
Melted butter - 2 tsp
Salt - 3/4 tsp
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Asafoetida - 1/4 tsp
Water - @1 and 1/3 cups plus 1 tbsp
Oil for deep frying


To make dahlia powder, just grind it in a dry grinder for a few runs and it all ready.

In a big bowl, add all the ingredients except water and mix thoroughly. Add water little by little and knead a smooth and soft dough.

Fill your murukku press (with desired nozzle shape - I used single star here) with small balls of the dough and squeeze into fine shape with a circular motion that resembles tight swirls on to a paper towel or a cotton towel.

Heat oil in a pan. When it is hot enough, gently transfer the swirls of squeezed dough into your hand and carefully drop into oil. Fry till golden brown on both sides. 

Make all the murukkus in the same way. Cool and store in an airtight container.

The measured quantity makes about 60 murukkus of say 2 to 3 in diameter size.


Add red chilli powder according to your taste.

If the dough is too tight, it will result in crumbly murukkus. They crumble when you try to transfer and in oil too. Add a tbsp or more water and adjust to the soft dough but not watery.

If you add melted butter, omit hot oil. Or instead of butter add 2 tbsp of hot oil. if you include both, the murukku crumbles.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Pirandai Thogayal

Pirandai (scientific name Cissus quandrangularis, also called as devil's backbone or adamant creeper) is a very common plant that grows all over the fence. I have seen that plant in that way right from my childhood. Anytime you need, just cut a few nodes lengths of the creeper from the fence and make yummy chutney or thogayal. I love it! Basically, I like more of thogayal (kind of pesto) than sambhar. This ranks first in my list, especially this recipe which is my mom's. She includes 14 ingredients in making this. Wow .....amazing taste. Pirandai thogayal is very common in brahmin households. It is made now and then for its health benefits (here is a list). This thogayal is always made during Thevasam (death anniversaries). Thevasam sappadu (meal) is very special and always everyone loves the food and it is also a ritual followed that grandkids and great-grandkids must eat that meal (belief is our forefathers come on that day and they will bless us). This recipe is always followed in our home (but we omit asafoetida if we prepare thogayal for thevasam).

The creeper is quite unique - the shape of the stem, its properties). Here is a picture of the plant growing in a pot on my terrace. It grows very easily. Just plant a node and water it. You will have a good amount of pirandai pretty soon. 

When using pirandai, make sure to pick tender stems. Chop off the nodes and discard them. Tender leaves can be used to prepare chutneys too. If you have stems that are a little matured, chop of the sharp edges. Sometimes handling pirandai may cause your palm or fingers to be itchy. If you feel so, just wash with a little tamarind extract or smear oil in your palms and then process pirandai. Generally, pirandai is used for making thogayal and its extract is also used for making tasty urad dhal appalams.

There are many ways to make this thogayal. I feel this recipe to be awesome. Just go ahead and try it. I am pretty sure you will agree with me. The 14 ingredients give a unique blend of flavors and overall give yummy magical flavors dancing in your tongue. It is raining heavily for the past few days and I craved to have this thogayal to brighten up a little. We had a wonderful meal. OK...a long intro for this pirandai and so here is the recipe. 


Pirandai - 1/4 cup, chopped
Curry leaves - 5 to 6 sprigs
Mustard - 1/2 tsp
Urad dhal, whole - 1 tsp
Black pepper - 1/4 tsp
Ginger - 1 to 1 and 1/2 in, peeled and chopped
Red chillies - 3
Asafoetida - 1/4 tsp
Green chilli - 1, chopped
Coconut - 1 and 1/2 tsp
Jaggery - 1 tsp
Tamarind - 1 tsp
Sesame oil - 2 -3 tsp

The ingredients for Pirandai thogayal


Chop the pirandai stems into small pieces, discard the nodes. (Tender leaves can be used too and they can be added along with the chopped stems to cook).

Heat a teaspoon of oil in a pan and saute the chopped stems of pirandai. It will change color. Keep aside. It should be cooked well or else it can make your tongue feel itchy.

In the same pan, heat 1 tsp of oil and fry red chillies, mustard, urad dhal, black pepper, tamarind, and asafoetida. Keep aside.

Heat another tsp of oil, add the green chilli, ginger and saute for a couple of mins. Add the curry leaves. continue to saute for 2 more mins. Add coconut and after a min, switch off the flame and let it cool.

Grind all the above with salt and a tsp of jaggery. Sprinkle water and grind to a smooth paste. Pirandai thogayal is all ready!

A bowl of rice mixed with a tsp of pirandai thogayal and a dollop of hot oil.....Heaven in your bowl!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Okkorai - A traditional Sweet For Diwali

Happy Diwali to all!

Okkorai - A traditional sweet made in every Iyengar home on the day of Diwali. Without okkorai, I can't think of celebrating Diwali.  Early in the morning after you get dressed and get blessings from elders, we run and enjoy fireworks. Then we come to eat a traditional breakfast of idli, okkorai, bajji with sweets and savories specially prepared for Diwali. Yummy! I love the taste of the okkorai. It is nutritious too! It can be made with readily available ingredients in the kitchen and uses less amount of ghee when compared to other sweets. Today is Diwali, its great to share okkorai with everyone.


To make the idlis:

Split yellow moong dhal - 1 cup

To make Okkorai:

Jaggery - 2 and 1/4 cup
Cardamom - 2
Cashew - 2 tbsp
Raisins - 2 tbsp
Ghee - 3 or 4 tbsp


Soak the moong dhal in water for 30 mins. Grind with a little water to make a batter that is neither too smooth nor coarse.  

Smear oil in idli plates, pour the moong batter and steam like idlies for 10 to 12 min. Cool and take out the idlies. Make it into a crumbly mixture.

In a heavy-bottomed vessel, add jaggery and 1/2 cup water. boil till jaggery dissolves. Filter and discard the impurities. Return the jaggery water to the stove and start boiling it. 

When a spoon of the thickened jaggery mix is dropped into the water in a bowl, you should be able to roll into a soft ball. it shouldn't dissolve. That's the consistency of jaggery needed to make okkorai. 

Add the crumbled moong idlies and slowly mix thoroughly till the are very well combined. Cook for a few minutes till the flavors are well combined. Heat 3 -4 tbsp of ghee. Fry cashews and raisins till golden brown. Add it to the okkorai. Mix and serve.

 Taste great hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Kovil Kadambam

Kadambam is a very traditional one-pot meal. It is often made in our homes. It is quite filling and a crowd-pleaser. It is made of very simple vegetables. Often this is a temple (Kovil in Tamil) prasadam (offering to God). We went to Nathan Kovil (aka Nandipura vinnagaram, a vaishnavite temple in a small village in the outskirts of Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu) on a trip. It was a kind of temple closing time. The kids were hungry and we were thinking about the distance we need to travel to find a restaurant. Reaching Nathan Kovil is not easy as there are no good roads or bus services (going in a group tour or so is better). After we finished our prayers, the temple priest gave the kadambam, which was offered to God. Many times, we really need to be gifted to get madapalli (temple kitchen is called madapalli) prasadams. When the priest gave the kadambam, each and every one of us felt so happy counting our blessings. What a taste! flavor! aroma!. The priest gave us more food after he learned that we had been on the run traveling to many temples that day.  The prasadam was quite special. We can't forget our trip to that temple. We had a great dinner. We were blessed to get the temple prasadam that day else we had to travel hungry for quite some time to the nearest town for food. Even today we talk about it and we named the kadambam that we make as Nathan Kovil kadambam.


Serves 4

Rice - 1/2 cup
Toor dhal - 1/4 cup
Turmeric - 1/8 tsp

To make sambhar podi

Oil - 11/2 tbsp
Channa dhal - 1and 1/2  tbsp
Urad dhal - 1 tbsp
Pepper - 1/8 tsp
Fenugreek - 1/8 tsp
Coriander seeds - 1 tbsp
Red chilli - 4 or 5
Coconut - 3 tbsp

For sambhar

Tamarind - 1/2 tbsp
water - 2-3 cups
turmeric - 1/4 tsp
salt - 3/4 tbsp.

Vegetables for sambhar

Ash gourd - 1/3 cup
Parangikai/ pumpkin - 1/3 cup
Sweet potatoes - 1/4 cup
Chayote squash - 1/4 cup
Cluster beans - 10, chopped to 1" long pieces
Okra - 10, chopped to 1" long pieces
Eggplant - 2, chopped
Plantain - 1/3 cup, chopped 1" long pieces (optional)
Jackfruit seeds - 8 (optional)

To season sambhar

Oil - 2tbsp
Mustard - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaf 2 sprigs
Asafoetida- 1/8 tsp


Ghee - 1 tsp
Oil - 1 tsp
Asafoetida - 1/8 tsp
Mustard - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaf - 2


Cook rice and dhal in a pressure cooker and keep aside. Add water to tamarind and extract its juice. In a pan, heat oil and roast the sambhar spice powder ingredients. Cool, grind, and keep aside.

Heat 2 tbsp oil and do the seasoning for sambhar. Add the chopped veggies fry for a couple of mins and add the extracted tamarind juice.

Let it simmer till the veggies are cooked but not mushy. Add turmeric powder, ground sambhar spice mix, salt, and simmer for a few minutes. The freshly ground sambhar spice powder gives an immense aroma and flavor.

Mash the cooked rice and dhal a little and add it to the simmering sambhar mix. gently fold in and mix thoroughly. Let it simmer for 5 min. till everything is mixed thoroughly and a nice aroma lifts you up.

If it is too thick, just add a little amount of water. Adjust salt if needed. Heat a pan add ghee and oil. Add the ingredients from garnishing seasoning and add it to the rice mix. The kadamba sadam - temple style is all ready. Dig in! It is great with fried vathal or appalam (papad).