Category: Amma & Accha Telugu

Celebrating Spring: Potato Sambar

You know, when something is good, it becomes a classic. This potato sambar, for example. I remember two generations before me, my mother and grandmother, enjoying this delicious and hearty dish. Idly and potato sambar – “more amma…” I would always ask for more when I was a child. Who knew digging into the earth for potatoes would unearth all these precious memory jewels as well! Fresh produce patriotism plus the nostalgia – that’s what this potato sambar is for me now.

I realize that potatoes are not for everyone in this calorie-conscious atmosphere. But baby and new crop potatoes are truly wonderful, and I do think they are worth that extra mile walk.

Toor Dal Mash, Pearl Onions, Tomato and Red Potatoes for Potato Sambar
Toor Dal Mash, Pearl Onions, Tomato and Red Potatoes for Potato Sambar

Potato Sambar
(for 2 or 4, for 4 to 2 meals)

Ingredients:
3/4 cup, Toor dal
2 medium sized, fresh potatoes. Cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds (no dice)
10 pearl onions, peel the skin and cut off the ends
1 ripe tomato, finely chopped
Half lime-sized tamarind
1 tablespoon, sambar powder
1/4 teaspoon each, red chilli powder and turmeric powder
1 teaspoon, salt or to taste
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves for garnish

For Curry Leaf Tadka:
2 teaspoons, peanut oil
One sprig of fresh curry leaves, 6 small dry red chilli pieces, 1/4 teaspoon each – mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and hing

Method:
Toor dal: In a heavy cooking pot or pressure cooker, take toor dal. Wash and clean the dal. Add two cups of water, quarter teaspoon of turmeric. Mix, cover and cook until the dal is soft and then mash it to smooth paste. Keep it aside.

Tamarind: Soak half lime-sized ball of tamarind in one cup of warm water for 15 minutes. Squeeze it out between your fingers to extract the juice and discard the pith and seeds.

Prepare the Sambar: In a big pot, heat to medium and add the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the chillies, mustard seeds, fenugreek, hing and curry leaves and saute for 2 minutes. Add the onion and brown lightly. Add the potatoes and tomatoes. Cook, partially covered until potatoes are fork-tender.

Add the tamarind extract, mashed toor dal that was kept aside to the vegetables. Stir in sambar powder, red chilli powder and salt. Add a cup of water. Allow this to boil and then simmer for 10 minutes. Garnish with cilantro leaves and remove from heat.

Serve potato sambar warm with rice, idlies or vada. Or fill a cup with sambar and sip with a spoon. However you serve, potato sambar makes a nutritious and satisfying meal.

Potato Sambar and Rava Idly
Potato Sambar and Rava Idly ~ A Meal, Last Weekend

Spring Harvest : New Potatoes for Potato Upma

Red potatoes I planted last winter are taking up quite a bit of precious space with their healthy blooms this spring. I read that flowering means potatoes can be harvested. I like the potatoes when they are in baby, immature stage, when the skin is still very delicate and they have not had as much time to convert their sugar into starch. I didn’t want the potatoes to fully develop into big mature ones with thick skin. So, to recover some planting space and to harvest some tender potatoes, yesterday I removed the potato plants and dug up the new potatoes. It was like an easy treasure hunt to unearth these baby ruby beauties. I got about 16 potatoes, from two plants. Not bad, considering that I didn’t do anything extra, like adding fertilizer, except watering the plants occasionally.

16 potatoes and 3 recipes – one recipe each for three days. That is the menu this week. First recipe on the list, a classic from childhood and my husband Vijay’s favorite, Potato Upma. Potatoes are cut, sautéed with other vegetables and then steamed with roasted rava in potato upma. For Vijay, upma is not upma unless it has some potatoes and tomatoes in it.

Freshly Harvested Red Potatoes
Spring Harvest: New (Immature), Red Potatoes

Potato Upma
(for two or four, for two to one meal)

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon, peanut oil
From Masala dabba: 1/4 teaspoon each, urad dal, cumin and mustard seeds
1 sprig, fresh curry leaves,
1 onion, finely chopped, about a cup
4 green chillies (Indian or Thai variety), finely chopped
1 tomato, finely chopped, about half cup
2 potatoes, finely cubed, about a cup
Roasted cashews or peanuts, about quarter cup
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 and 1/2 cups, Roasted Upma Rava (available at Indian grocery)
3 cups water

Method:
In a large skillet, heat peanut oil over medium heat. Add urad dal, cumin, mustard seeds and curry leaves. Toast the ingredients to fragrance. Add the onion and chillies, stir-fry until the onion softens, about five minutes. Add tomatoes and potatoes. Cook, stirring often for another five minutes. Add water to the skillet. Stir in salt. Raise the heat to medium-high and cover the skillet. When water starts to boil and lifts up the lid, remove the cover and reduce the heat to low. Add roasted rava, stirring constantly with a sturdy ladle so that the rava mixes well with water without any lumps. Sprinkle cashews or peanuts and steamcook, stirring frequently until there is no liquid left on the surface and the rava looks like creamy pudding.

Serve Potato Upma warm with chutney, pickle, podi or sambar.

Potato Upma
Potato Upma with Pappula Podi and Carrots ~ for Meal Today

Chanadal Chaaru (Sanagabedala Rasam)

As I get older, like many of you, I am becoming thankful for our culinary heritage. I think our cuisine is the best kind diet out there, simply because it doesn’t need or depend on farm-raised animal and ultra-processed products for flavor and sustenance. Natural plant based ingredients have divine powers and most of the Indian recipes are based on that valuable khajana. Example is the following recipe. This lentil based chaaru is a frequent guest at family table, and all it needs is a fistful of chana dal, few vegetables and good, old spices. Chana dal is known to reduce and maintain blood sugar levels, plus it is a low calorie lentil. For those of you who are on diet, trying to control sugar levels or thinking of some new rasam, this chana dal chaaru is the best fit for a filling stomach.

Chana Dal (Sanaga Bedalu)
Chana Dal (Sanaga Bedalu)

Chana dal Chaaru
(for 4 to 6 servings)

Ingredients:
1/3 cup of chana dal
1 small shallot or red onion, sliced thinly lengthwise
1 small ripe tomato, cut to small pieces
2 tablespoons – tamarind pulp or lemon juice
1 tablespoon, rasam or garam masala powder
1/2 teaspoon each – chilli powder and salt
1/4 teaspoon – turmeric
For Hing tadka: a tablespoon of peanut oil, one sprig of fresh curry leaves, pinch each – asafetida (hing), cumin and mustard seeds

Method:
1. Take chana dal in a pressure cooker. Rinse and add about 2 cups of water. Pressure cook the dal the soft. Mash the dal to smooth with a wood masher.
2. Add onion, tomato and tamarind to the mashed dal. Stir in rasam powder, chilli powder, salt and turmeric. Add about half cup of water. Partially cover the pot and simmer the chaaru for about 10-15 minutes on medium heat.
3. At the end, do the hing tadka and add it to the rasam. For hing tadka, heat peanut oil in a small pan or vessel. Add and toast curry leaves, hing, cumin and mustard seeds in that order. Stirring, toast to fragrance. Add this hing tadka to the simmering chana chaaru. Mix well.
4. Serve hot or warm over cooked rice with some papad or pickle. Or good as it is to sip like soopa.

Chana Dal Chaaru
Good for Diabetics, Chana Dal Chaaru for Meal Today and for
Home Remedies Event at Talented Ruchika Cooks

Sri Rama Navami Naivedyam

Sri Rama Navami Naivedyam
Phuspam, Phalam, Panakam and Vadapappu ~ Naivedyam on Sri Ramanavami

Panakam Prasadam
(for a chembu or two glasses of Panakam)

2 tablespoons of Jaggery pieces
2 glasses of cold water
Pinch of sonti powder

Add jaggery and sonti to water. Mix until jaggery disssolves completely in water. Offer to Bhagavan and then enjoy the refreshing taste of Panakam Prasadam with family and friends.

Pesara + Attu = Pesarattu

Aficionados of Andhra restaurants are passionate about pesarattus. The golden, crispy texture and the creamy upma filling make the pesarattu a favorite breakfast item to many. It’s easy to understand the name Pesarattu if you are familiar with Telugu language. You see, moong beans are called Pesara and the other name for dosa is Attu in Telugu. When you put the two together, Pesara + Attu = Pesarattu. When you spell it out loud, the name has a nice lyrical quality to it. It’s a good name.

Pesarattus are mainly three types depending on the moong beans (pesalu).

1. Pesarattu with sprouted moong beans: Super nutritious, supreme in taste and my favorite.
2. Pesarattu with split moong beans: The official pesarattu of Andhra. Excellent taste.
3. Pesarattu with yellow moong dal: Golden in color and good taste.

Depending on the filling, pesarattu can be made to our wish and nutritional needs. Traditionally, upma, ginger pickle and spicy powders are applied to the pesarattu just before the pesarattu is fold over. Or simply, cut onions and few cumin seeds are sprinkled over the pesarattu just before it is removed from the skillet. However, we can also fill them with anything we like. For variety, in recent months, I started experimenting by adding different fillings, for example, some minced herbs like mint, methi or dill, steamed or sautéed vegetables and fruit preserve or honey. There are so many combinations; it is really easy to start your own taste of tradition with pesarattu.

Today’s recipe is with yellow moong dal. Warm, golden hued and in good flavor, topped with cumin seeds, these pesarattus are easy to prepare, make a filling meal for those of us who are on diet and can add some variety to routine weekday fare.

pesara bedalu
Pesara Bedalu (Yellow Moong Dal)

Pesarattu with Pesara Bedalu:
(for 10 to 12 Pesarattus)

Ingredients:
2 cups, yellow moong dal
2 tablespoons, rice (uncooked, any variety will do)
4 green chillies (Indian or Thai variety)
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, skin peeled and coarsely chopped
We also need a well-seasoned dosa skillet, quarter cup oil or ghee and a tablespoon of cumin seeds to prepare pesarattu.

Method:
1. Clean the dal and rice. Take them in a big vessel and cover with water. Soak for at least six hours. When it is time to prepare pesarattu, pour the soaked the dal and rice over a colander and drain water.

2. Take the soaked dal and rice in a mixer or food processor. Add salt, green chillies and ginger. Blend the ingredients to silky- smooth batter. In between, mix and add about a cup of water for easy blending. Remove to a vessel. This is pesarattu batter.

3. Place a dosa skillet over stovetop. Heat over medium-high heat. Rub the skillet surface lightly with half-cut onion or oil. When the skillet is hot, pour a ladleful of batter and spread it thinly into a circle. Sprinkle half teaspoon oil or ghee, and few pinches of cumin seeds over the pesarattu. As the bottom starts to get red, gently lift up the edges with a spatula and turn to the other side. Cook for couple of seconds and turn it over again. Fold to half and remove to a plate.

4. Serve it right away when it is still hot with some chutney, curry or pickle.

pesarattu
Pesarattu with Peanut Chutney, Red Chilli Pickle and Almonds ~ for Meal Today, and for
JFI-Breakfast at Talented Suma Gandlur’s Veggie Platter

Ugadi Naivedyam

Ugadi Naivedyam 2010
Ugadi Naivedyam

We have invited couple of our friends for lunch to celebrate the Ugadi festival today. And for the Bhakthi ending with the bhukthi, I have prepared the traditional Ugadi naivedyam:

భక్షాలు (Bobbatlu, Puran Poli)
మామిడికాయ పులిహొర (Mango Pulihora)
ఉల్లిపాయ మరియు ఆలు బజ్జిలు (Bajji)
అన్నము (Sona Masuri Rice)
మామిడి-బీరకాయ పప్పు (Mango-Turai Dal)
బీరకాయ పొడి కుర (Turai with no onion)
ఆలుగడ్డ పొడి కూర (Festival Day Alu Preparation)
భక్షాల చారు (Bhakshala Rasam)
పెరుగు (Yogurt)
అరటి మరియు పియర్ పoడ్లు (Banana and Pear Fruits)

Hope you too had a wonderful day. You know how food tastes so good when shared with others. Would you like to share what you have made for meal today?

Masala Vada

Vada’s exquisite flavor and deep aroma brought to perfection over the centuries, evoke and accentuate the subtlest nuances of taste. Its warm appeal have long been celebrated in a cuisine which demands that the eye as well as the palate find satisfaction. Its gritty, yielding texture has been prized for being addictive in nature and gentle on the tongue. Vada varieties are many in South India, and masala vada is one of the most popular and my favorite. Composed of chana dal and spices, grounded and fried, held with the fingers, vadas are eaten like a snack or part of the main meal with much gusto.

There are several versions of masala vada and the following is from my home, a basic vada recipe without onions.

Chana Dal

Masala Vada
(for about 16 to 18 vadas)

Ingredients:
2 cups, Chana dal (sanaga bedalu)
6 dried red chilli, about 2-inches long each
1/2 teaspoon each- cumin and ajwan (vaamu)
1 teaspoon, salt
1 or 2 sprigs of fresh curry leaves
1×1 inch piece of fresh ginger, skin peeled, coarsely chopped
Peanut oil, about 3 cups to deep-fry the vadas

Method:
1. Soak chana dal in water for at least 4 hours. Strain dal to remove water. In a clean cloth or kitchen towel, spread the dal to air-dry for about 30 minutes. This helps to make the masala vadas properly and they absorb very little of oil in which they are fried.

2. Keep a fistful of chana dal on the side. Take the remaining dal in a blender or food processor or in a mortar. Add dried chilli, cumin, ajwan, salt, curry leaves and ginger pieces. Process the ingredients until they form a coarse mixture. Don’t grind too smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Add fistful of chana dal we kept aside to the mix and combine well. Coarse texture and intact chana dal are the two essential elements in a memorable vada experience. (The batter can be made in advance and refrigerated before frying.)

3. On your clean palm (hand), shape the mixture into one to two inch round patties of about half-inch thickness. Heat oil suitable for frying. Gently add the vadas to hot oil and and fry to golden color in batches. This is traditional method. Alternatively, fry the vadas on a lightly oiled skillet until they are lightly browned on both sides.

Serve the vadas hot as a tasty snack or part of the vindu bhojanam. They stay good for a week when refrigerated.

Masala Vadas
Masala Vada for Manchi(u) Roju

Sajja Rotte-Upma (Bajra Roti-Upma)

I made my grandmother’s recipe today. My grandma is about 80 years young, full of vitality, from Nandikotkur and now lives in Hyderabad with my uncle’s family. She used to (still does sometimes) prepare either sorghum or bajra roti for breakfast everyday when we were growing up. The leftover rotis are made into a roti-upma for evening snack. Roti-upma (or Rottupma) may sound unique, but it is pretty common in Nandyal and Nandikotkur areas of Andhra. The recipe is simple. Take rotis, preferably leftover and hardened. Break them into small pieces. Sauté with upma ingredients. Easy and tasty, I love my grandma’s roti-upma.

Sajja Rotte (Bajra Rotis)

Sajja Rotte-Upma (Bajra Roti-Upma)

Bajra rotis – 3 or 4
Onion – 1 big one
Green chillies – 3 or 4
Fresh cilantro – 4 or 5 sprigs
Turmeric -1/4 teaspoon
Salt – 1/2 teaspoon or to taste
For tadka: a tablespoon of peanut oil and a pinch each – cumin and mustard seeds, and few curry leaves

Tear rotis into small, bite-sized pieces. Finely chop onion, chillies and cilantro to small pieces.

Heat oil in an iron skillet. To the hot oil, add curry leaves, cumin and mustard seeds. Sauté, stirring constantly. When seeds start to pop, add onion and green chilli. Cook until onion pieces soften and turn brown. Add the roti pieces, turmeric and salt. Sprinkle cilantro. Stir-fry for five minutes, mixing in-between. Serve the tasty roti-upma hot.

I also added a cup of sprouted moong beans at the end to increase the nutritional value and make the meal substantial. Millet and Moong sprouts, that’s good food.

Sajja Rotte Upma
Sajja Rotte Upma ~ For Meal Today


Bajra rotis are available at Swami Narayan Mandir for interested Houstonians.

Raw Rocks from Bharath ~ Coconut Pacchadi

On New Year’s, some break champagne bottles and we break coconuts. Traditional welcome always comes in the form of coconut for us. Coconut is highly valuable in our culture. A culinary chameleon, coconut not only symbolizes life but it also sustains the jeevam.

And this is what I’ve prepared with the Pooja coconut for our meal today – A sharp pacchadi. Surely this must be the most popular of all from Southern India where it is served over steamed rice or with dosa. This pacchadi is often recommended to those whose appetite needs a flavor boost. And who doesn’t in this mind numbing cold weather?

Fresh Coconut, Red Onion and Green Chilli

Raw Rocks from Bharath ~ Coconut Pacchadi
(serves 2 or 4 for 2 or 1 meal)

Fresh coconut, grated – about 2 cups
Shallot or red onions, chopped – about 1/2 cup
Green chillies, Indian or Thai type – 6 to 8
Tamarind pulp – 2 tablespoons
Salt – 1/2 teaspoon or to taste

Take coconut, onion and chillies in a Sumeet style mixer or in a mortar. Add tamarind and salt. Blend or pulverize to coarse paste without adding any water. Remove to a cup. Serve with rice and dal or with breakfast items like dosa, idly, and pongal etc.

Coconut Pacchadi prepared in this way does not keep very well for storage more than a day because it’s a ‘Raw Rocks’ kind of Bharath recipe, and must be eaten fresh.

Coconut Pacchadi in a Coconut Shell
Coconut Pacchadi in a Coconut Shell ~ Celebrating ‘Raw Rocks’ in 2010

Nippattu (Pappu Chekka) on a Snow Day

Snow Day in Houston
Snow Day in Houston
Snow Day in Houston
Snow Day in Houston

We never thought snow would follow us to Houston. We really thought we left snow back in Pittsburgh and in Seattle. But we were wrong. Like a dear dream of deep sleep, though it took some time, it found us here in Houston. We had beautiful snow scenery last Friday and early Saturday mornings. Thick white snow covered homes, lawns and neighborhood roads on Friday, cold crisp sunny morning on Saturday. It seemed like the weather followed us to bring all the beautiful memories from yester-years.

That rare occasion called for a culinary celebration. A cold quiet weekend needed something that would warm and spice up the time. That is why we made Nippattu: a popular snack of Andhra and south India that is crunchy and moderately hot.

Nippattu (Pappu Chekka)
(makes about 20 to 25 palm-sized Nippattu)

2 cups, rice flour (Biyyam Pindi)
1/4 cup, besan flour (Sanaga Pindi)
1/4 cup, finely chopped fresh curry leaves
2 tablespoons each- rehydrated chana dal & roasted peanuts
1 tablespoon, coarsely ground green chilli
1 tablespoon, ghee
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon each- cumin, ajwan and sesame seeds

Take the flours into a large bowl. Add all the other ingredients and mix well. Work the softened ghee into the mix and add just enough water to make a firm dough.

Tear out small portion of dough and place it on a wax paper. Flatten it a bit and using your fingers, spread out the nippattu in a circle until it is about 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Nippattu come in all sizes and shapes, so don’t worry about the perfect shape.

Heat oil in a pan, suitable to deep-frying. Add the nippattu gently into hot oil and deep fry to pale gold. Remove to paper-covered tray. Make all the Nippattu this way.

Cool and store. Nippattu stay fresh upto a month or more when stored in a airtight container. They make best tea, coffee and movie time snack.

Nippattu with Tea ~ A Savory Snack on a Cold Day
Nippattu with Tea ~ A Savory Snack on a Snow Day

© Recipe and Photos Copyright 2009 Indira Singari.

Pleasant Pull of The Past ~ Curry Leaf Podi

We went to a friend’s home last weekend. Our conversations these days invariably lead to gardening and plants. She has this beautiful and big curry leaf plant of 7 years old in her backyard which is almost a tree now. I guess it was amusing to see my admiration, she cut few branches on the spot for me. Such fearlessness! I am so old, I can remember the scarce days when I used to actually count the curry leaves before adding them to a recipe. Thanks to the generous friend, I finally made the beloved karivepaaku podi (curry leaf podi) at home today.

Curry leaf podi is a cherished Andhra tradition. This spicy seasoning with intense curry leaf aroma will taste great when mixed with rice or sprinkled over lightly cooked vegetables or even on salads. Curry leaf podi can be prepared in many ways. The following recipe is from my amma.

Fresh Curry Leaves
Fresh Curry Leaves ~ dried under Gentle Autumn Sun

Karivepaaku Podi (Curry Leaf Podi)

4 cups of tightly packed fresh curry leaves
1/4 cup of sesame seeds
12 red chillies, Indian variety, about ring-finger length each
1 teaspoon cumin
2 garlic cloves, skin peeled, slivered
1 teaspoon sea salt

Curry Leaves: Rinse curry leaves under water and gently pat them dry with a towel. Spread them on a cotton cloth to sun-dry under afternoon sun. The leaves will loose moisture and become dry but still retain green color. Do not sun-burn the leaves to black.

Gently fry the curry leaves on low heat in a cast-iron pan. Take care not to black or burn the leaves. Remove them to a plate to cool. The purpose of sun-drying and roasting is to let the leaves lose the moisture so that when powdered, they will remain dry and healthy to consume. Even after all this process, the leaves have to retain green color.

Roast: In the same skillet, add and roast dried chillies, garlic to brown. Remove. Add cumin and sesame seeds and roast until the sesame seeds are a few shades darker and emit a toasted aroma. Some seeds will actually start to pop out of the pan. Empty the contents of the skillet onto a plate and cool.

Powder: Add the cooled and roasted ingredients to a Sumeet style mixer or coffee grinder. Grind to fine powder. Cool completely and store in a clean jar with tight lid. It remains fresh and flavorful up to 3 months.

The tasty curry leaf podi can be enjoyed in many ways. Mix it with hot cooked rice and ghee, or rice and dal. Sprinkle the podi on warm chapati, idly, dosa or pesarattu. Great last minute seasoning to skillet-sautéed curries, like roasted potatoes, carrots, beans etc. Curry leaf podi is a wonderful thing to have in the kitchen.

Curry Leaf Podi (Karivepaaku Podi)
Curry Leaf Podi (Karivepaaku Podi)

Podi (Telugu) = Powder (E)
© Recipe and Photos Copyright 2009 Indira Singari.

WV4 ~ Ginger Buttermilk (Allam Majjiga)

Nitya Malli from Frontyard
Nitya Malli (Vinca/Periwinkle)

Morning:
A glass of ragi ganji without sweetener
Was in a rush, so just had few pieces of apple

Noon:
Half cup of leftover Pea Sprouts Soopa with Kale
One cup of Spinach sautéed with onion and fresh garbanzos
One cup of Tomato dal in rasam consistency

Evening:
A glass of ginger flavored buttermilk from homemade yogurt

Night:
One cup of cut carrots and cucumbers
One big bowl of hot tomato rasam
For dessert: half apple grated and added to a cup of cold soymilk. No smoothie but tasted good on this warm summer night.

Workout:
Weights and Abs class, and an hour walk at the gym – morning
Gardening in the evening

In retrospect:
Busy day, stressed out by evening and that triggered carbo cravings. Big bowl of hot, hot tomato rasam and cold ginger buttermilk saved the day.

Indian Yogurt, Ginger and Kavvam
Indian Yogurt, Ginger and Kavvam

Ginger Flavored Buttermilk (Allam Majjiga)

Ginger buttermilk saved the day many times in my life. My mother prescribes it to comfort stomachache, headache, sunstroke and lack of energy. It’s a cure-all elixir in her world. Continuing the tradition is this amma’s daughter. There is a saying in the Sutras “Just as nectar is for Gods, buttermilk is for humans”. I believe it.

Preparing buttermilk at home is very easy.

Take a ladle full of homemade yogurt in a glass. Add a pinch of salt. Churn with a Kavvam (traditional wooden churner from Bharath) until well blended. Then add a cup of water and churn again until a light froth appears on top.

To flavor the buttermilk with ginger: Take a thumb sized fresh ginger. Peel the skin and grate it finely. Take the grated ginger with your fingers and squeeze the ginger juice into buttermilk. Churn again until well mixed.

Enjoy this refreshing drink after a meal. You could also add few pieces of crushed ice or ice cubes for that cold effect. Ginger buttermilk is a neat alternative, if you are trying to avoid caffeinated drinks.

Allam Majjiga
Allam Majjiga ~ for Today’s Meal

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