This is the
second time I have baked with Speculaaskruiden in 45 daysand both times its
been because someone else prompted me to do so! The first time I baked Speculaas/ Speculoos was because a friend sent me the beautiful wooden windmill
shaped moulds that are traditionally used to bake these spiced biscuits. This
second time was because it was the challenge of the month down at The Daring Bakers.
As we in India
know, the Dutch established a presence in India to trade and boost their
economy out of textiles/ silks, spices, coffee,
rubber, tobacco, tea, precious stones, indigo, opium and saltpetre which was an
important ingredient in gunpowder. They did this by eventually driving out the
Portuguese who had a monopoly on the pepper and other spice trade in India and then
monopolised it from the 1600s till the 1800s when the British took it over. So
it isn’t surprising to see a lot of spices that we use in India being used in cooking/
baking in the Netherlands.
spices were used only by the very rich because they were expensive, and also
for baking during the festivities. In the Netherlands, Christmas is celebrated
on the 6th of December as St. Nicholas Day and Speculaas/ Speculoos/
Spekulatius which are crunchy spiced biscuits baked specially for this season. A
special spice mix called Speculaaskruiden made with cinnamon, cloves, mace,
ginger, pepper, cardamom, coriander, anise seeds and nutmeg is used in these
biscuits. Now the proportion of the spices and the spices themselves would depend
different family recipes but they would have cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and
Having eaten the
famous Lotus brand of Speculoos and become fans of this particular biscuit, and
having made some of my own and liked them even better, I knew I had to try this
version called Gevulde Speculaas. Gevulde Speculaas is nothing but a sort of
Speculaas pie where an almond paste/ filling is baked between two layers of Speculoos
dough, so you have a crunchy biscuit exterior that hides a soft nutty middle.
I used my own
mix of Speculaaskruiden that I had left over from making Speculoos/ Speculaas
and made this egg-free. To make my almond paste, I used milk instead of egg,
and a little lime juice. Unfortunately, I added a little more milk than I
should have and my paste wasn’t as thick as I would have liked it. So I added a
little semolina to dry out my almond paste and also some desiccated coconut,
and that’s the recipe you’ll see below. It is not traditional, but it’s what I
used and it was good!
I was also a bit
lazy and did not skin my almonds (I don’t get skinned ones at the stores here)
and ground them skin and all. This is why I have a brown coloured filling in my
Gevulde Speculaas, which tastes just as nice but perhaps doesn’t make for great
The other nice
thing about this recipe is that it can be broken into parts and be done ahead.
You can make the almond paste and the Speculaas dough a day or two ahead and refrigerate
them. The almond paste can be stored a little longer in the freezer. This also
improves the flavour from spices.
*To skin the
almonds, drop them in boiling water and turn off the heat. After about 5
minutes, drain the water.The skin of
the almonds would have loosened. Pinch off the skin and it will slip off the
almonds. Air dry the almonds before grinding them. I store my almonds in the
freezer and usually grind them straight from the freezer.
Make the almond
To grind the
almonds, put them in your grinder jar and run them till they’re coarsely
ground. Then add the granulated sugar and grind them till they’re fine.
Then add the
lime juice and the milk and run the grinder till its mixed into a smooth paste.
Transfer this paste to a bowl and add the semolina, desiccated coconut and lime
zest and mix well. You should have a thick paste that will spread when pressed
out with a spoon. If you prefer you can have the paste thick so that it can be
rolled out. Store this in the fridge (or freezer) till required.
Now make the
I used my food
processor but you can do this by hand. Put the flour, baking powder, sugar,
salt and spices in the processor bowl. Pulse a couple of times to mix. Then add
the butter cubes and knead till the dough comes together as crumbs. Add as much
(or little) of the milk as necessary to have a smooth dough. The dough should
not be very soft. Do not over process or overwork the dough.
Divide the dough
into two almost equal portions (one portion slightly larger than the other),
shape into a smooth ball and then flatten into thick discs. Wrap both discs of dough
in cling wrap. Refrigerate them for at least 2 hours and overnight is good too.
baking the Gevulde Speculaas:
You can use a
rectangular pan (8” by 10”) and you can cut out the Speculaas into neat
squares. I used an 8” round fluted tart pan with a removable base.
Take the almond
paste out of the fridge/ freezer ahead so that it is soft enough to spread.
Take the dough
discs out of the refrigerator and let it soften enough so that it can be rolled
out easily. Lightly dust your working surface with flour and roll out the
dough. You can roll out the dough between two layers of parchment or plastic
wrap as this will make it easier to roll out the dough and transfer it to the
First roll out
the slightly larger disc so that it will fit into your baking pan at the bottom
and up the sides. Place this into the greased pan and lightly press in to fit.
Evenly spread the almond paste on this base, or if it is thicker, roll it out
to fit the pan. Roll out the other disc of dough to just fit the top. Place
this on the paste and press down gently at the edges using your fingers tips.
Decorate with the halved almonds.
Bake the Gevulde
Speculaas at 180C (350F) for about 40 minutes till the top feels firm. Cool in
the pan completely and gently unmould. Cut and serve with coffee, tea, milk or
hot chocolate. This tastes best fresh
but you can refrigerate this after wrapping it in clingfilm, but do warm it
slightly before serving. This Speculaas is rich and very filling so this recipe
should serve 10 to 12.
here are a lot
of recipes or food ideas that I have book marked because I have wanted to
explore them further. Unfortunately, my list of bookmarks grows inversely
proportional to the number of recipes/ ideas that I manage to take off that
list! As I mentioned
somewhere earlier, I don’t make New Year resolutions for 2 reasons. The first
reason being that I don’t think one needs the New Year to make resolutions
because if they are worth making and seeing through, than they can be done at
any time of the year. The second reason (And this is probably the real reason
if I will admit it to myself) is that I’m sure to break any reason I make on
the first day of January, before the month is out!
All that aside,
I made a decision (not a resolution, mind you) to try and work my way through
that list of bookmarks starting with some bread. I’m always ready to bake bread
and if I come across something new or different (not necessarily difficult) I
make a note of it. So I set myself a goal to definitely bake one bread off my
list every month. Then it also struck me that it might be fun to bake bread in
company, even though virtual, so I asked my friends if they would like to join me. I must say I was quite surprised at the response! And this marks the
beginning of a bread baking series of baking a bread a month, together, as a
group of food bloggers.
I put together
the group of all the food bloggers who said they wanted to bake along, and sent
everyone the recipe. If we are a group then we ought to have a name since we
were going to baking together throughout 2103. I came up with “We Knead To
Bake” which I thought sounded right.
The first bread
I picked to bake was a Pull-Apart Bread Loaf. I believe I was searching the net for
something else, not even bread, when I came across a stacked Pull-Apart bread
somewhat like this and this. More than anything else, it was the rustic look of
the bread, and the thought that I could make a bread that came apart in
“slices” without cutting it that I found attractive.
A whole lot of
the Pull-Aparts I saw were sweet and involved a lot of butter and eggs. While I
have nothing against eggs (well not too many of them at one go) I thought baking
egg-free might be nice since I know many of those who are baking this bread
don’t eat eggs. Also given that December was all about sweet stuff I decided to
make my Pull-Apart Bread savoury and filled it with mixed herbs, grated Cheddar
cheese, crushed cumin seeds and black pepper.
experience with this bread is all good. It looks great and is really quite easy
to make. Best of all, its soft and so good that it will have disappeared within
an hour of baking/ serving it! This is a very versatile dough/ bread in that
you can play around with the filling, and even make a sweet version. If you
would like to go with a sweet filling, just omit the garlic in the dough and
add 1/4 cup sugar to the dough while kneading.
If you don’t
have a loaf tin, you can make this as small rolls with the slices of dough
stacked in a muffin cups or maybe in a bundt pan or even a cake tin. Or make
them as traditionally shaped cinnamon bun style rolls. Whichever way you shape
them, this bread is worth baking. If you don’t believe me, ask all those who
bake along with me.
Cheese Pull-Apart Bread
For the Dough:
1/2 cup warm
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp active dry
2 3/4 to 3 cups
1 tsp salt
soft at room temperature
3/4 to 1 tsp
3/4 cup milk (+
a couple of tbsp to brush over the bread)
For the Filling:
15 to 20gm
2 tsp dried Provencal
or mixed herbs*
1 tsp crushed
red chilli flakes to taste
1/2 cup grated
always, I used my food processor but you may knead the dough by hand.
In a small bowl,
dissolve the sugar and the yeast in the 1/2 cup of warm milk. Keep aside for
about 5 minutes till the yeast mixture bubbles up.
Put 2 3/4 cup of
flour, salt, softened butter, and garlic paste in the food processor bowl (or a
large bowl) and pulse a couple of times to mix. Then add the yeast mixture and
the 3/4 cup of milk and knead till you have a soft, smooth and elastic/ pliable
dough which is not sticky. Add a little extra flour if your dough is sticking,
but only just as much as is necessary.
Shape the dough
into a ball and place it in a well-oiled bowl, turning the dough to coat it
completely with oil. Cover and let it rise for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until
almost double in volume.
Dust your work
surface lightly with flour. Deflate the dough, shape it into a square and roll
the dough out into a larger square that is about 12’ by 12”. Brush the surface
of the square with the melted butter. Evenly sprinkle the herbs, pepper/ chilli
flakes and the cumin seeds and then the grated cheese. Use a rolling pin to
very lightly press the topping into the dough to ensure the topping doesn’t
fall off when you are stacking the strips (#1).
Using a pizza
cutter, slice the dough from top to bottom into 6 long and even strips – they
do not have to be perfect. Lay each strip on top of the next, with the topping
facing upwards, until you have a stack of the strips (#2)
You can put the
2 strips cut from the sides in the middle of the stack so it looks neater.
Using a pastry scraper or a sharp knife, cut straight down through the stack dividing
it into 6 equal pieces (6 square stacks).
lightly flour a 9” by 4” (or 5”) loaf tin. Butter and lightly flour a 9 x 5
loaf pan. Layer the square slices, cut sides down into the loaf tin (#3).
Cover the loaf
tin dough with a towel and allow the dough to rise for an hour. Lightly brush
some milk over the top of the loaf (#4).
Bake the dough
at 180C (350F) for about 30 to 40 minutes until it is done and the top is
golden brown. This recipe bakes one 9” by 5” loaf (#5).
The collection of links below will take you to the individual posts of all those who baked with me this month. There's quite a variety of Pull-Apart breads with the most interesting fillings, some sweet and some savoury. Do come back, in a month's time to see what we all bake in February. In the meanwhile, happy browsing!
You get my
drift. I have no need to preserve tomatoes, because one of the many perks of
living in India is that there are a lot of vegetables and some fruit too, that
we get in plenty all the year round. However I felt like making a simple jam
with ripe tomatoes, one without too many spices or other additions, so that the
flavour of the tomatoes would come through. Making sweet jams is just fine, but
there usually no takers for this kind in my home. We rarely have a
butter-and-jam-with-toast kind of breakfast and prefer our traditional Indian
savoury sort of breakfasts.
But a sweet and
savoury or tangy sort of jam or chutney is more in demand because we can eat
with dosas or Indian flat breads like chappathis or parathas. I prefer to snack
on crackers topped with this sort of jam/ chutney with maybe a little sharp
grated cheese and some chopped coriander. Its an excellent thing to have with a
steaming hot cup of masala tea.
I had some
strawberries which were threatening to spoil, so I threw those into my jam.
They add a nice colour and flavour to the jam, but you can leave them out. I rarely
add vinegar to my jams/ preserves/ chutneys because we don’t like the
sharpness/ acidity it adds. Since I usually make small batches of these I don’t
need to use vinegar for its preservative properties. But this once, I decided
to add a bit of apple cider vinegar to my jam, and I liked it. This is a sweet
jam with a savoury notes.
I sometimes get
lazy while cooking and take shortcuts. Whenever I have to make a tomato
anything that involves cooking the heck out of them, I tend to take an easy way
out. It helps that my daughter doesn’t particularly like tomatoes if she can
see them as pieces in anything I cook. So I tend to run tomatoes in my blender
(skin, seeds and all) so they’re just broken down and a little chunky. It gives texture to your sauce, chutney or
jam. These days, if you are to be considered someone who knows their food and
are a food blogger, food must be about “texture” amongst other things, or you don’t
make the grade!
So here’s my
recipe for a Sweet & Savoury Tomato Jam. It’s not the first one out there,
but it’s the one that appeals to our tastes, and we really like it. If you
should make it, please feel free to adjust the amounts/ proportions of the
ingredients to suit your taste. You can use white granulated sugar in place of brown sugar and you will have a more red than brownish coloured jam. For a twist, try using powdered jaggery instead of sugar.
Savoury Tomato Jam
1 1/2 kg ripe
2 medium sized
onions, finely chopped
1 cup chopped
1/2 cup to 3/4
cup brown sugar (depending on how tart your tomatoes are)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp red chilli
flakes (or to taste)
Juice of 1 lime
1 1/2 tsp
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp apple
cider vinegar (optional)
As I mentioned
earlier, I sometimes get lazy while cooking and take shortcuts. So I just chop
the tomatoes and run them in blender till they broken down but still a little
If you prefer to
do it the “proper” way then fill a pan with enough water to submerge the
tomatoes and bring it to boil. Cut the stem/ the top off the tomatoes and then
slice a shallow “X” at the bottom of the tomatoes.
Put the tomatoes
into the boiling water, turn down the heat to medium, and leave them there till
the skins loosen. Take the tomatoes out with a slotted spoon and once they have
cooled, just pinch off the skins. Discard the skins, and chop the tomatoes.
I prefer to have
my onions puréed so I run them along with the tomatoes in the blender. Put the chopped
or crushed/ chunky tomatoes, onions (if using chopped), strawberries, the sugar,
salt and chilli flakes in a thick bottomed pan and bring to boil while stirring
occasionally. Turn the heat down to low and cook the mixture till it becomes
thick. Don’t forget to stir it on and off so it doesn’t stick to the bottom and
coriander and cumin powders and the apple cider vinegar. Cook for another 5
minutes, and take the jam off the heat. Let it cool completely and transfer to
sterilized jar. Refrigerate. This recipe makes 1 medium sized jar of tomato
I have often
thought that if I were to win the lottery and lots of money, one thing I would
do would be to tour the world. It is extremely unlikely that I would win
anyway, since I don’t buy lottery tickets.
There are however, a few places on
my “must-see eventually” and they definitely don’t need me to win the lottery. One of them is
Pondicherry (now known as Puducherry) which lies on the other side of the
Indian peninsula from where I live. From here it is about 800km (a little over
500miles) to Pondicherry, which is closer to Chennai and a 2 1/2 hour drive
the Indian East Coast, is one of the states of India and a
former French colony, and often referred to as the “French Riviera of the
East”! It is also home to the world famous Aurobindo Ashram. So it is not
surprising that the cuisine of Pondicherry, like everything else there, is
heavily influenced by the French way of life. It is a unique and vibrant fusion of Tamil and French cooking that has also
borrowed from Indian, Portuguese and Malaysian cooking. In Pondicherrian cuisine, many typically French dishes have been adapted to suit tastebuds used to spicier Indian food yet with minimal use of spices.
I just realised
how much connected to Tamil cuisine this style of cooking is when I recognised
a lot of dishes that we make at home, though the recipes are a bit different! I
can also see the Portuguese influence in the Dodol and the Assad. The
Pondicherry Kitchen was originally written in French as “French Cuisine Traditionnelle
de Pondichery” and recently published in an English version. The author spent several
years collecting old recipes and culinary secrets from in and around
Pondicherry, many of them transmitted orally through generations and put them
together in the book.
starts with a brief introduction and is divided into various chapters mostly
based on ingredients like Rice, Egg, Chicken, Turkey, Lamb, Seafood, etc and Snacks, Rasam and Cakes & Sweetmeats. Most
of the recipes in this book are non-vegetarian naturally, but a number of them
are vegetarian. It is interesting to note that the use of coconut is minimal in
this cuisine unlike in other South Indian cooking. Some of the recipes in this book include Cottamali Kiraiy Cutney (Coriander Chutney), Takaali Pajam Chutney (Tomato Chutney), Vadavam Tovayal, Mimosa Muthaiy (Oeufs Mimosa), Erral Urundaiy Curry (Curry de Boulettes de Crevettes), Athu Kary Roll (Lamb Papillote), Pachaiy Patani Curry (Mouton aux Petits Pois), Ragou (Ragoût), Chow Chow Sauce Planche (Chow Chow Sauce Blanche) and Maraval Kujangu Cake (Tapioca Cake).
One thing I
really liked about this book is the Recipe Index where each chapter has been
listed with the recipes in it and the pages they are on, but I wish this had
been put at the beginning of the book rather than pushed to the back of the
The recipes all
have a brief introduction and both traditional names and their English versions
are given. Almost all of them are simple to cook and require ingredients that
are commonly used in Indian cooking. Almost every regional Indian cuisine has
its own particular mix of spices and Pondicherry cuisine is no different. The
author starts the book with a chapter on Spices & Condiments which details
these “masalas”, the different kinds of “Kootu Thool”, Vadavam and Vassanaiy
On the flip
side, the book has rather lack-lustre photographs of some of the dishes which
take away from the recipes, and they are all clumped together in two lots in
the middle of the book. A couple of the recipes I tried out also seemed to be
on the spicier side, which is probably the way those dishes are meant to be. So I
would suggest a bit of caution, and ask you to use your judgement while adding
chillies especially if you are not used to very spicy food.
This is a book
worth having in your cookbook collection if you are interested in exploring the
lesser known regional Indian cuisines. It is also a cookbook that would appeal
to a plate that is adventurous or one looking for more global influenced Indian
style of cooking.
About the Author
Tirouvanziam-Louis holds Masters degrees in French and English, and a PhD in
sociolinguistics, and she teaches languages at the Lycée Français of
Pondicherry. The French government has honoured her with the distinction of
Chevalier des Palmes Academiques. She has written 2 cookbooks in French and
hopes to translate the second one also to English. She and her husband, Dr Bernard
A. Louis, live in Pondicherry.
through the vegetarian recipes in The Pondicherry Kitchen, it seemed that many
of them were variations of dishes that I normally cook at home. I was tempted
to try out a couple of the sweet recipes (and I will later) but ultimately
settled for a savoury recipe, the Puducherry (Pondicherry) Sambhar. What struck
me as different about this recipe from the Sambhar we usually make, apart from
the lack of coconut, is the use of garlic, cumin seeds and fresh coriander
leaves. I have to say it works very well just like the other unusual Sambhar I
now often make. I just went a little easy on the garlic and a bit on the red chillies for my sambhar.
If you would like to try your luck at winning this book,
please leave a comment at this post telling me why you would think this
cookbook might have a place on your bookshelf and in your kitchen. Please also
leave your mail-id or a link to yourself that I can find easily in case you
happen to be the lucky winner. If I have to search and dig around to find you, I will choose an alternate winner for the book.
This giveaway is open only to readers in India. If you live
outside India you're welcome to participate so long as you have a shipping
address within India.
The giveaway is open till the midnight of 30th of January,
oday is the 14th
of January, 2013 and a very auspicious day that is much celebrated across most
states of India. Depending on where it is celebrated, this festival is known as
Lohri, Bihu, Makara Sankranthi and Thai Pongal.
astrology is an intrinsic part of Hindu life and important astronomical events
are woven into Hindu celebrations and festivities. This day, Makara Sankranthi,
marks the beginning of the Sun’s transit from the Tropic of Cancer northwards
towards the Tropic of Capricorn (Makara) or from the “Dakshinayana” to the
“Uttarayana”. This day (from the 13th
to the 15th of the month in other parts of India) is celebrated as
the end of winter and beginning of warmer days in the North. It is also a
celebration of the winter harvest and a Thanksgiving of sorts.
It is also the
first day of the Tamil month of “Thai” (pronounced short to rhyme with “thigh”)
hence the name Thai Pongal. “Pongal” means to “boil/ spill over” and in
Tamilnadu, this day is typically started with heating milk in a auspiciously
decorated clay pot until it boils and spills over. This is supposed to
symbolise the beginning of a warmer weather and a hope that the coming year
would “overflow” with peace and prosperity.
Pongal is actually celebrated over 4 days. The first day is celebrated as
“Bhogi”. A sort of ritualistic spring cleaning is done and all old and useless
things in the house are cleaned out and piled outside. Homes are painted and
decorated. Even domestic cattle (usually cows) have their horns painted in
beautiful patterns. Early in the morning on “Bhogi”, everyone gathers around
and the mound is lit into a bonfire.
The second day
is “Thai Pongal” (which is today) when milk is ritually boiled and spilt, and
rice and split moong lentil dish cooked with milk is prepared in two versions –
sweet and savoury. The sweet version is Chakkarai/ Sakkarai Pongal (cooked with
jaggery) and the savoury one is called Venn Pongal.
The third day is
celebrated as “Maatu Pongal”. “Mattu” refers to cows and they were considered
not only very important in an agricultural society where they not only provided
milk and organic fertilizer (cow dung which was also dried and used to burn in
fires)) but were used on the farms and in the fields. They were the wealth of
the farmer. The cows are decorated in bright colours and flowers, and ritually
honoured. In the countryside, this is day for cattle races and “Jallikattu”
which is bull taming sport.
The fourth day
is “Kaanum Pongal” and is a day for family get-togethers and reunions or
visiting family and friends. “Kaanum” means seeing and traditionally it was a
day for the farming families (especially landlords) to thank all who would have
helped and supported them through the harvest, with gifts of clothes, money and
As PalakkadIyers, we celebrate Pongal but a lot differently from the way it is celebrated
in Tamilnadu. We celebrate only the Makara Sankranthi day and it is a simple
affair. Makara Sankranti is also a time to remember departed ancestors, so all
male members in our community who have lost one or both parents perform the
“Tharpanam” which is a ritual remembrance of ancestors. We don’t do the
ritual boiling over of milk but we make Pongal, the sweet and savoury rice and
lentil preparations, and offer it to God after which the family enjoys it for
celebrate “Maatu Pongal” the next day. Traditionally, when keeping cows at home
was a part of life, they were washed, decorated and fed Pongal and bananas.
Since cows are not a part of urban life, we only do the ritual feeding of crows
with rice (cooked the previous day) and yogurt, coconut, jaggery and banana,
with some turmeric and betel nuts, all placed on pieces of banana leaves in the
backyard. This is done early in the morning, only by the women and girl
children of the house.
Ven Pongal is very
popular in Tamilnadu even on non-festive days and often served as breakfast. It
is not a spicy rice preparation and pairs well with any gravy dish that’s a bit
spicy and tangy. Traditionally, it is usually served warm with coconut chutney
and sambhar (a tangy vegetable and lentil curry) or a similar gravy dish that
is tangy. Here however, I’m serving mine here with a non-traditonal (for us)
There are a
couple of things to keep in mind while cooking Pongal, whether sweet or
1.Use a short or medium grained raw rice
(not boiled or parboiled) to make Pongal. Sona Masuri is good variety of rice to
use. Do not use Basmati or any long grained or aromatic rice to make it. There
is a misconception amongst people who are not familiar with Indian cooking that
Indian rice dishes need to be made with Basmati rice for authenticity.
will rarely find Basmati rice used in South Indian cooking except for Biryani,
Pulaoor perhaps Phirni.
2.Pongal, when it is cooked, resembles
Italian risotto. It should be moist, but not wet and definitely not dry. If
your cooked rice and lentil looks dry, you can add a little milk to make it
3.These are celebratory dishes and so use
quite a bit of ghee. A little skimping on the ghee is fine, but if you don’t
use enough, it will make a difference in the taste, and texture. There is also
no tempering with mustard seeds here.
4.You will find a lot of variation in the
recipes for Ven Pongal all of which are probably authentic but differ depending
on who is cooking them. However all will have rice, split moong lentils, cumin,
black peppercorns and ghee.
5.This version is the one that my mother,
and her mother before her, cooked. In this version the peppercorns are usually
left whole but you can coarsely crush them open if you prefer. Keeping them
whole means your Pongal will not be too spicy, and those who don’t want the
“fire” can pick them out while eating.
6.Traditionally, the only fat in this dish
is ghee. In Tamilnadu, I have eaten this many places with lots of ghee which is
not a great way to eat this dish, but it seems to help keep the “moist” texture
of the dish.
better way to cook Ven Pongal is to add a little ghee to the rice and lentils
while they’re cooking. This helps the sticky rice from clumping together when
cold. The best way to eat Ven Pongal is warm as soon as it is cooked.
Venn Pongal (South Indian Rice & Split Lentil Risotto)
1 cup short
grain raw rice (sona masoori is good)
1/2 cup split
yellow dal (moong dal)
1 tsp ghee
3/4 cup milk (or
more if required)
About 5 cups
Salt to taste
(this dish should be salty enough to just about taste it in the rice)
4 to 5 tbsp ghee
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp whole
black pepper (or coarsely crushed if you prefer)
2 sprigs curry
Heat the 1 tsp
of ghee in a pan and roast the split moong lentils, over medium heat, stirring
constantly until the lentils give off an aroma and start turning golden brown. Do
not brown the lentils. Take this off the stove and cook the roasted lentils and
rice together with the milk, water and salt either on the stove-top, MW or in a
pressure cooker until they’re well cooked and bit mushy. If your rice-lentil
mixture seems a little dry add a bit of milk to make it moist.
freshly harvested rice is cooked for Pongal. New rice requires more water than
aged rice. So the amount of water needed to cook your rice will depend on the
variety of rice and its age.
In a small pan, heat
the ghee (do let it become smoking hot), and add the cumin seeds. Stir a couple
of times and add the asafoetida powder and black peppercorns. Stir once and
turn off the heat. Add the curry leaves. Stir once or twice and once they crisp
up, add this seasoning to the rice-lentil mixture.
Mix well, and do
not worry if the rice looks mushy; it’s meant to be that way. Serve hot with Coconut
Chutney and Gojju/ Ghotsu or Sambhar. This recipe serves 3 to 4 when served
with other accompaniments.
A Gojju is a
side dish from the Indian state of Karnataka. It is a dish of vegetables in a
gravy and a nice blend of spicy and tangy from the tamarind used in it, with just
a hint of sweet. Gojju is made with vegetables like okra (vendakkai), bitter gourd
(parikkai/ pavakkai,) capsicum/ green bell peppers, onions and even pineapples
In our home we
make something similar to Gojju, but we call it “Puli Pachadi” where “puli” is
“tamarind”. A Puli Pachadi can be made with and without coconut.
This is a Tomato
Gojju and requires no tamarind as the tomatoes themselves provide the tang
here. You can also add onions to this dish for a twist, but we don’t use onions
in festive cooking so I’m leaving it out in this recipe.You can also run the tomatoes in a blender so
that you have chunky tomato pulp which cooks faster. Do not purée the tomatoes.
Gotsu (Spicy Tomato Chutney)
2 tsp oil
1 tsp mustard
1 1/2 tsp split
black gram lentils (urad dal)
1 1/2 tsp Bengal
gram lentils (chana dal)
2 sprigs curry
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chilli
2 tsp Rasam
powder (or 1 tsp of Sambhar powder +1 tsp of coriander powder)*
1 tbsp powdered
Salt to taste
2 to 3 tsp
chopped fresh coriander for garnishing
*You can use
commercially available Rasam powder or Sambhar powder for this.
Heat the oil in
a heavy bottomed pan. Add the mustard seeds and stir. Once they splutter, add
the black gram and Bengal gram lentils and stir occasionally, over medium heat,
till they start browning. Now add the asafoetida powder and curry leaves. Stir
a couple of times and add the chopped (or chunky) tomatoes.
Turn up the heat
a little and add the turmeric and chilli powders, and the salt. Also add about
a 1/4 cup of water and once everything comes to a boil, tuen the heat down to
medium-low. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until the tomato is cooked,
and the liquid has come down by half.
Add the powdered
jaggery and the Rasam powder/ Sambhar + coriander powder. Stir well and cook
for another couple of minutes, then take it off the heat. The finished Gojju/
Gotsu should have a semi-solid consistency.
Transfer to a
serving bowl and garnish with chopped fresh coriander and serve. This recipe
will serve 3 with other accompaniments. You can serve this also with Indian
breads like chapattis and parathas, and dosas.
A Simple Coconut
Coming from a
part of India where coconuts are very much a part of the landscape, it is
little wonder that we use a lot of coconut in our traditional cooking. In the
good old days before the advent of high-rise living, every self-respecting
Keralite has at least half a dozen coconut trees around his house. Many of us
may no longer have the convenience or even luxury of a home grown coconut, and
have to buy them at the market or store.
One of the
simplest coconut dishes in Kerala is the coconut chutney. There are literally a
thousand different ways to make coconut chutney depending on what you put into
it. It can be a thick chutney (called Thogaiyal/ Chammandhi) or a more semi-liquid
variation which accompanies most South Indian “tiffin’ like Idlis, Dosas, UppumaKozhukottai, etc.
can be made in a variety of flavours, but at the simplest, it is made by
grinding together only freshly grated coconut and green chillies with a little
water and tempered/ seasoned with mustard seeds, lentils (urad dal) and curry
leaves in coconut oil. It is a chutney that is full of the flavour and taste of
coconut, featuring it at its best.
recipe is Coconut Chutney at its simplest and best. You can add a little bit of
fresh coriander leaves (and sliced onions too) to the coconut while grinding it
for variation. If you would like to use a little less coconut in your chutney, reduce
the coconut to 2 cups and grind about 1/2 cup of pan roasted Bengal gram/
Dhaliya (not the Bengal gram lentil) to the coconut while grinding. Some people
choose to add a bit of tamarind or even raw mango if it is the season for an
interesting twist in taste.
Put the coconut
and chillies in the bowl of your mixer/ grinder/ blender and grind to a smooth
paste with a little water at a time(not too much) to a smooth paste. Transfer
this to a serving bowl.
Heat the coconut
oil, add the mustard seeds and let them splutter. Then over low heat, add the
lentils and let them become a golden brown. Add the broken chillies, stir once
or twice and turn off the heat. Add the curry leaves and once they crisp, add
the seasoning to the chutney. Mix in and serve.
should serve3 to 4.
everyone who celebrates Makar Sankranthi and Pongal,