I first had Birinji Rice when my family moved to Chennai in 1957. It was a vegetarian delicacy served at weddings instead of mutton biriyani. Though my family felt disappointed at the lack of meat, I loved its taste, and I used to pester my mother to make it but she didn’t know how – which is not surprising as the key ingredient, kalpasi, was not known in Thirunelveli at that time. Fast forward 63 years, and I finally made my own version which matches the flavour of the birinji rice I used to enjoy so much at Christian weddings. This also makes part of a nice feast at any occasion where meat side dishes are served. It can also be used for a purely vegan/vegetarian feast along with Vegetable Kuruma and Sweet and Sour Brinjal Masala.
I came across the concept of combining dhal with celery, as Celery Sambar, in a North Indian cookbook. It was a misnomer, as the dish was not a sambar because it did not have either the ingredients or the procedure that makes a sambar a sambar and gives it its distinctive flavour. This recipe was just a curry. It still appealed to me, though, as celery is not used in Tamil cooking, and it tickled both my curiosity and my taste buds. After several attempts I have retained the ingredients but changed the procedure to make it quick and easy. I have also pressure cooked the celery because my son complained that the celery stalks were too crunchy 😀
I am celebrating my 250th recipe on this blog! I wanted to follow Indian jubilee traditions by posting a recipe of a sweet but I then thought of creating something which is unique in using a minimal number of spices and with a short cooking time. I also wanted it to be low fat with minimum wasted nutrients. The result is this fried chicken which is mouth wateringly delicious, quick and easy to make, saves fuel, and is good for health – it sounds impossible, but it is true!
Freshwater fish dishes are relished only in interior Tamil Nadu. People in Chennai are not familiar with the taste of these fish and sometimes even mock those who consume it. But now that even marine fish are cultivated in freshwater lakes and can be bought online, the lake pomfret costs Rs. 300/kg while marine pomfret costs Rs. 800/kg! Therefore I have been developing recipes using freshwater fish. In this recipe I have combined the strong smelling radish with the mild flavoured lake pomfret and also avoided using chilli powder. Instead I have used mustard powder to give it a slight bite. This mild fish curry is a great success in my house – not with my fish hating son of course 🙂 It goes very well with chappatis, unlike the traditional fish curries.
When I walked into a food store a week ago, I saw these beautiful limes, and when I saw the price my mouth fell open because lime, which sold for Rs. 400 a kilo in October, was only Rs. 60 a kilo. I immediately selected bright yellow ones without any blemish and decided to try this lime pickle. My mother-in-law had collected recipes from all those who visited her, but she hadn’t tried out any of those. I found this curious lime pickle recipe which boiled the limes instead of the traditional method of soaking them in brine for a couple of weeks (like this Sweet and Sour Lime Pickle I had posted earlier). I had to standardise this recipe as amounts of spices and sugar were not mentioned. Even the use of green chillies was marked in the margin. To my, and my family’s, delight it tasted absolutely divine 🙂
After the internet developed so much, buying fish has become easier these days. Fish vendors either call you or message you on your preferences, and deliver the fish all cleaned and ready to cook. I got some lovely prawns recently. I didn’t have the time to grind the masalas, and I created this very simple and easy to prepare prawn fried rice. I used an extra amount of water to cook the prawns so that I will have sufficient stock to cook the rice. This enhanced the flavour of the fried rice, and we just couldn’t stop eating it.
In Thirunelveli, we make two kinds of curries using prawn/fish and coconut milk. I have already posted the recipe for Meen Asadhu using marine fish. Moli uses totally different kinds of spices for seasoning and does not include coriander powder. To me, both taste absolutely divine :), but I prefer moli for prawns. This is a quick and easy preparation if you are using reconstituted coconut milk and also purchase already shelled and deveined prawns. I serve this with either plain rice or chappatis.
I found this dish in my mother’s recipe book, which she had copied from her grandmother’s. I do not know if this dish is actually made in Calcutta 🙂 My great-grandmother hailed from Thanjavur, and her family were closely related to Vedanayagam Sastriar who was a Samasthana Kavignar (court poet) during King Serfoji II’s reign. I assume this recipe would have come through the court’s cooks as she was unlikely to have come across a Calcutta dish through other channels. It is very easy to prepare. My great-grandmother made this dish with mutton, but I tried it with chicken and found it to be vastly superior to the mutton version. This can be served with Khamiri Roti or Pooris.
May is the month when Tamil Nadu experiences extreme heat. Fresh mint leaves are widely available as everyone believes in their ability to cool. I got a big bundle of the freshest mint leaves and tried to find a recipe that used mint leaves, but wasn’t satisfied with the ones I found as they involved a lot of labour. I came up with this Pudhina Chicken recipe that could be prepared quickly as I didn’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen in this heat.
The temperature has crossed 36° C in Chennai, and you can hear the sound of kids playing all day. Yep, it’s the summer holidays, and that’s the perfect time to experiment with different types of ice cream. Papaya is available all year round, and relatively inexpensive. It is also quite nutritious, but as some people don’t like the taste of papaya, I thought of making an ice cream. I was inspired by Hawaiian cookery to make this extremely quick and easy and delectable papaya ice cream.