Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spicy Green Beans with Sesame Seeds - Comfort food at its best!

Every once in a while, I crave for something that I've not eaten in a long time. It doesn't matter what it ends up to be - It could be a dish that mom makes, or a dish that I ate at my friend's place or something that I relished during a dinner at a restaurant. Sometimes, strangely it could even just bring back memories about my vacation somewhere! But once that craving is planted in me, it will ignite and will keep growing until I get that tang of it. Sometimes we end-up hunting for that restaurant that we visited long ago, or sometimes I cook it myself no matter how busy I am. Its that certain thing that sticks in my memory that I can't seem to forget when I crave for it. It may sound ridiculous, but any food lover's craving is very similar to what I said.

This is one such dish that I started having a craving for, since last week. I used to make it often a while back, but don't know why I suddenly discontinued! But after spotting fresh green beans often in my local grocery, I started longing for this spicy dish! I just couldn't resist picking some of them last weekend. How can I not? I had to hunt back for the recipe in my notes and finally made it today!

From a former green beans hater, to making many dishes nowadays with green beans is quite a significant progress for me. I was never fond of green beans. Call me unsophisticated, but I never liked its flavor and texture especially when in its crunchy. Back in India, the only recipe that I am familiar with green beans is the "poriyal". That according to me, in those days, was so bland and lethargic that it didn't attract me. So I lived in ignorance, unaware of the pleasure this vegetable offers when its made spicy! Now I am a convert. Spicy green beans is one of my favourites now. Especially when I make it this way with sesame seeds, its a pleasure to taste it! Pair it with Rice and sambar, its a fulfilling menu! Its interesting to me, the fact that, with just a little thought, and a touch here and there, a basic vegetable can become something exciting!

  • Green Beans - chopped to 2 inch pieces - 3 cups
  • Onions - 1 medium
  • Garlic - 3 cloves
  • White or Black Sesame seeds - 1 tbsp
  • Chilli powder - 1 tsp
  • Garam masala - 1 tsp
  • Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
  • Sesame seeds - 1 tsp (for seasoning)
  • Boil the chopped green beans with salt until its 3/4 th cooked.
  • Dry roast the sesame seeds until they turn golden brown. Blend them together with chilli powder and salt to a fine powder. Set aside.
  • Heat oil in a pan, season with cumin seeds and sesame seeds.
  • Fry chopped onions and chopped garlic and saute for 3 mins.
  • Now add the cooked beans and increase the heat until the water completely evaporates.
  • Add the sesame seeds powder, mix well, cover and cook for 5 mins.
  • Once the beans are fully cooked, add the garam masala, saute for a couple of mins, or until the mixture is fully dry.
Serve hot with Rotis or Rice.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Onion Pickle

A few days ago, I was wondering why do I dislike making Indian pickles at home. Is it because of that time consuming process? Or is it too much effort like -- bulk chopping, drying in sun etc.? Or that endless waiting while it gets soaked in bottles for days? Or because there's no instant gratification and I have to wait patiently for days? Well, may be perhaps its not my style of cooking, which is usually quick fix meals -- Cut this, cut that, add a little bit of this and a little bit of that, a little fry or boil -- and out of the kitchen! I'm sure its not as easy as it sounds, but I think you know what I mean.

To avoid all the hassle of making pickles at home, I instead prefer visiting an Indian grocery store, pick-up my favorite pickle and satisfy my craving. I've nothing to do with those recipes that are time consuming or with a long list of ingredients, but I'm not cooking them if I can enjoy an equally delicious store-bought product. In fact, I'm not even a serious pickle fan, I can enjoy my meal without any pickle too, but it unquestionably does add a perk to my meal when I have it! While growing up, none of us were too fond of pickles and mom never made it at home too. But I did like it when I tasted it from my friends' lunch boxes during school/college days. Nowadays the store-bought pickles are as good as home-made ones, except my all time favorite ginger pickle. So far, I've not found anything in store thats comparable to my mother-in-law's home-made ginger pickle. So, I don't mind following her recipe and making ginger pickle at home, but only if my hubby comes forward to take the pain of grating that big bulk of ginger!

While browsing a magazine recently, this onion pickle caught my eye, as it looked super delicious in the picture, and appeared to be very simple to make. I surrender when an interesting recipe comes by like this one. May be its my ignorance, but I have never heard of onion pickle until now. Onions as such being such a staple ingredient in Indian cooking, I wonder how were they ignored for pickling! After glancing through the ingredients and instructions, I knew for sure this would come out good, and it didn't disappoint me! It was divine with Curd-rice, and yesterday I couldn't help having a second round of curd-rice with this tongue tickling pickle!

This will stay in fridge for a couple of months.

  • Pearl Onions/Shallots/Sambar Vengayam - about 25 counts
  • Fenugreek seeds - 1 tsp
  • Jaggery - 1 tbsp (optional)
  • Tamarind paste - 2 tbsp
  • Chilli powder - 1.5 tsp
  • Turmeric - 1/2 tsp
  • Mustard Seeds - 1 tsp
  • Gingely oil - 1/2 cup (You can substitute with any vegetable oil)
  • Peel off the skin from the onions, and chop them to 1 inch pieces. If they are smaller, you can leave them as such without chopping.
  • Mix the tamarind paste with 2 cups of water.
  • Dry roast the fenugreek seeds and a hot pan, make a fine powder and set aside.
  • In the same pan, heat the oil, season with mustard seeds. Once they pop, add the onions and fry in high heat for 3-4 mins.
  • Add turmeric, chilli powder and salt and fry for a few mins.
  • Now add the tamarind juice, jaggery and increase the heat until it starts boiling.
  • Lower the heat and cover for about 20 mins. Once the onions are cooked fully, add the fenugreek powder, increase the heat and keep stirring until it becomes a thick paste.

Enjoy with Idlis/Dosas/Rotis - tastes best with curd rice! Actually, I enjoyed this with plain rice too and it tasted awesome!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Spicy Drumsticks & Brinjal Curry

Even Spring is not fully here yet, and I can't wait for summer already! I've already started dreaming about our camping trips and beach days, but those still seem to be a looong wait for me. I hate this in-the-middle-of weather, when it seems to be Spring, but not really. My sweaters make frequent visits to my storage box, but also come out with same frequency! Weather keeps fluctuating a lot. Mornings are colder while I cover myself with coats, and the afternoon becomes really warm or vice-versa. And I also get torn between my sandals and shoes.

Alright, without much ramblings today, I'll move on to this recipe. Someone asked me the other day, what was my favorite vegetable during my younger years. Being from India, like many of us, I was stuck with plenty of choices. Obviously, Indian cooking deals with abundant vegetables resulting in a profuse selection of vegetarian dishes. But one thing that stood unique as I thought about it more, was Drumstick! It doesn't take much to please me - Give me a bowl of rice and any drumstick dish, I will be delighted! I'm sure many of you enjoy this vegetable like me! I absolutely drool and enjoy fresh made sambar with drumsticks! Thats a killer for me. I love to scrape off that tender pulpy flesh and enjoy it. More than taste, its fun to eat this vegetable!

This is another of those traditional handed-down-from-mom recipes. But I can't seem to duplicate her taste, and lack that extra whiff that I usually find in her dish. Well, I'm sure it came out pretty well, but my mind automatically seems to compare with hers, everytime I make this. Though this is a tropical vegetable, I make this vegetable round the year, because I do get frozen drumsticks here, and thats the only version I get here :-( Even in severe winter, cooking this vegetable brings summer into my home, because I've grown up eating this vegetable in a warmer weather.

As usual, pretty basic ingredients and not so complicated recipe.


  • Drumsticks - 2
  • Indian Eggplants (smaller ones) - 6
  • Onions - 2 medium (divided)
  • Tomato - 1 medium
  • Chilli powder - 1 tsp
  • Cumin powder - 1 tsp
  • Turmeric - a few pinches
  • G.Chillies - 2
  • Fennel seeds - 1 tsp

For the paste:

  • Ginger/Garlic Paste - 2 tsp
  • Cinnamon - 1 inch
  • Cloves - 2
  • Fennel seeds - 1 tsp
  • Shredded Coconut - 3 tbsp


  • Pressure cook together the following for 2 whistles (depends on your pressure cooker) - Chopped Drumsticks, Chopped Brinjals, 1 medium onion (chopped), chopped tomatoes, chilli powder, turmeric and cumin powder and salt.
  • Note: You can also use Japanese eggplants instead of Indian Brinjals. But do not pressure cook them, you can chop and fry them separately with 2 tsp oil and cover it for 10 mins until almost cooked. Then add in the curry at the final stage.
  • Make a smooth paste of the above mentioned ingredients for the paste. Set aside.
  • Heat oil in a pan, season with fennel seeds. Once they turn golden brown, add the remaining Onions and then the Green chillies. Cook for some time until the onions turn color.
  • Now add the pressure cooked ingredients. Increase the heat and then add the paste. Fry and let the mixture boil until the water is almost evaporated.
  • Now, turn the heat to medium and slow fry for 5 more mins until you get a nice colored thick curry.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Idlis with Onion Ghotsu - Time for Comfort..

What is your comfort food? Mine is a long list, but the most favorite is Curd rice with spicy potatoes! :) Doesn't it taste divine and soothing, especially with that slurp? :) I'm salivating at the thought of it. I've been having hankering for comfort foods lately. For the past few days I have almost been cooking only my comfort foods and haven't attempted anything new. Sure, trying different cuisines and making variations in everyday food is ofcourse stimulating. However, after a series of new dishes, most of us long for our favorite & familiar taste to comfort ourselves. To me, comfort food is a home-cooked informal meal, that I can sit & eat on the couch, with my feet tucked in under me. These foods are far from gourmet and usually reminds me of home cooking. Something that I am familiar with, and something I know for sure I'll enjoy. Especially after a long stressful day, or after continuous travel, its so comforting.

I've been slammed at work last week, and absolutely no time for elaborate cooking in the kitchen. Not that I ran out of cooking imagination, there is always the interest and inspiration to make good food, but simply because my schedule has been recently busy with my office projects. In times like these, I'm in need of serious comfort. Last week, as I said, we've been living on comfort foods. Idlis/Dosas for 3 days in a row. One day take-out and another couple of days with Lemon rasam and Potatoes, and there goes the week!

During the middle of the week, I made this Onion Ghotsu for Idlis - my hubby's favorite. I learnt that most men really enjoy sitting down to a nice home-cooked meal, especially when it contains some of their all-time favorite food, perhaps it sends the message that they are special! Mine is no exception :) He loves comfort food and is more fond of simple and tasty home-made dishes than spending those big bucks for those few spoons of gourmet food under a dim light. Since last month, he's been asking me to cook a few of his favorites and he thought I had almost forgotten to make them! Ofcourse I did not, and to prove him, I cooked one of his favorites, Onion Ghotsu! I remember enjoying this yummy and simple recipe during my newly-wedded days. Onion Ghotsu is one of the dishes that my hubby's family practically lived on. My mother-in-law used to make varieties of accompaniments for Idlis/Dosas every morning. This was one of those lovely accompaniments for Idlis. Very flavorful and very easy.

  • Red Onion - 2 medium (chopped extra fine)
  • Tomatoes - 2 medium
  • G.Chillies - 3 small
  • Turmeric - a few pinches
  • Chilli powder - 1 tsp (or as required)
  • Cinnamon - 1 inch
  • Cloves - 2
  • Fennel seeds - 1 tsp
  • Curry Leaves & Corriander Leaves - a few
For the paste:
  • Shredded coconut (fresh) - 4 tbsps
  • Pottu Kadalai/Roasted Chana Dal/Chana Dalia - 2 tbsp
  • Ginger - 1/2 inch
  • Fennel Seeds - 1 tsp
  • Cumin Seeds - 1 tsp
  • KasaKasa - 1 tsp
  • Make a smooth paste from the ingredients mentioned above for the paste.
  • Heat oil, season with cinnamon, cloves and fennel seeds. When they pop, add the onions, g.chillies & curry leaves. Fry for a few mins until the onions are fried well.
  • Add tomatoes, turmeric and chilli powder and fry them until the tomatoes lose shape completely. Mash the mixture with the spatula, add 1 cup water and salt & cover and let it cook for around 10 mins in medium heat.
  • Now add the ground paste, mix well and cover for another 5 mins. Boil the mixture until it becomes a nice thick gravy.
  • Garnish with corriander leaves.