Strawberry Kesari Bath| Rava Kesari With Strawberry

The daughter is big on naturally coloured foods at the moment. She is thrilled if I present her with a green soup or orange idlis or a pink roti or a blue payasam. That’s how this idea of Strawberry Kesari Bath came about. I had a box of strawberries lying in our refrigerator, and I thought of using them to create this pretty pink dessert for her. And, yes, she loved it! 🙂

Strawberry Kesari Bath or Rava Kesari with strawberry

A closer look at Strawberry Kesari Bath

Kesari Bath aka Rava Kesari is a popular sweet dish in South India, made using rava i.e. sooji or semolina. Redolent with ghee, it is a common feature on the menu in several Bangalore restaurants and at weddings as well. Pineapple Kesari is a variation of this sweet dish, equally popular in Bangalore.

I made this Strawberry Kesari on the same lines as the Pineapple Kesari, substituting one fruit for the other. Strawberries are in season now, and you get really lovely sweet ones, which are just perfect for this kesari. They lend a lovely natural pink colour to the dish too. Quite apt for this time of the year, considering it is the ‘month of love’ and all that! The Strawberry Kesari tastes absolutely delicious, too.

‘Warm Desserts’ theme at Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge

I’m sharing this recipe for Strawberry Kesari Bath with the Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge group that I’m part of.

The Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge is a group of enthusiastic food bloggers who share recipes based on a pre-determined theme, every month. The members are paired together every month, and each pair exchanges two ingredients secretly, unknown to the rest of the group. Each pair then uses these two ingredients to cook a dish that fits the theme of the month. The other group members then try to guess what the two secret ingredients could have been. Interesting, right?

So, this month, our hostess for the Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge is Rafeeda, the author of The Big Sweet Tooth. True to her blog’s name, Rafeeda is a huge dessert lover. You will find several interesting sweet dishes on her blog, such as this Lotus Milk Cake and this Lime Olive Oil Cake. She suggested that we all prepare some warm desserts this month, desserts that are best had straight off the gas (or oven).

My partner for the month was Anu of Ente Thattukada. She gave me two simple ingredients – raisins and sugar – and I decided to incorporate them into this Strawberry Kesari Bath. I’ve always loved kesari piping hot, so I didn’t have to think much when it came to the theme. 🙂

I suggested that Anu use jaggery and rice to make her dish, and she prepared this beautiful Sweet Pongal. Do check out her recipe!

How to make Strawberry Kesari Bath

Here is how I made it. This is a simple dish to make, requiring just a few minutes to put together.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  1. 3/4 cup fine rava (sooji or semolina)
  2. 2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons of ghee
  3. 1 tablespoon raisins
  4. 10-12 cashewnuts
  5. 1-1/2 cups water
  6. 3/4 cup sugar
  7. 6 big strawberries, 1 heaped cup when chopped

Method:

1. In a pan, heat 2 tablespoons ghee, then add in the rava. Roast the rava on medium flame for about 2 minutes, till it starts giving out a lovely aroma and becomes the consistency of wet sand. Ensure that the rava does not burn.

2. Immediately transfer the roasted rava to a plate. Keep this aside.

3. Remove the tops from the strawberries and grind to a coarse puree, in a mixer. Keep this aside.

4. Chop the cashewnuts roughly. Keep ready.

Top: Step 1, Bottom left and right: Step 3

5. Take the water in the same pan and place it on high flame. Allow it to come to a rolling boil.

6. At this stage, turn the heat down to medium. Stirring constantly, add the roasted rava to the pan little by little.

7. Now add the sugar to the pan, as well as the strawberry puree. Continue to keep the flame at medium. Mix well.

Top left and right: Steps 5 and 6, Bottom right, bottom left and above bottom left: Step 7

8. Cook everything together on medium heat for 2 minutes or so, or till the mixture starts to thicken. Stir intermittently.

9. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee in another small pan. Add in the chopped cashewnuts and raisins, and reduce flame to low. Fry on low heat till the raisins plump up and the cashewnuts get brown, ensuring that they do not burn. Add the ghee, along with the fried cashewnuts and raisins, to the mixture cooking in the other pan. Mix well.

10. Continue to cook for about a minute or so more or till the mixture has thickened up but is still a bit runny. Your Strawberry Kesari Bhat is ready at this stage – it will thicken further upon cooling. Serve the kesari hot, warm or at room temperature.

Top: Step 8, Bottom left and right: Steps 9 and 10

Tips & Tricks

1. Use fine rava – also called Bombay rava – to make the kesari. The more granular Bansi rava doesn’t really go well in this dish.

2. I have used only cashewnuts and raisins in this Strawberry Kesari Bath. You may add in some almonds too, if you prefer.

3. For best results, use a heavy-bottomed pan to make the kesari.

4. Adjust the quantity of sugar as per personal taste preferences. The above quantity worked perfectly for us.

5. Use ripe, sweet strawberries for best results. This will give a nice, fruity flavour to the kesari, whereas sour strawberries will make the dish taste sour-ish.

6. You can keep the strawberry puree coarse or smooth, as you prefer.

7. Remember to keep the flame at medium and stir constantly while you are adding the strawberry puree to the pan. This will help in preventing the formation of lumps.

8. Make sure the raisins and nuts do not get burnt while frying them, as that might alter the taste of the dish.

9. You can add more ghee to the Strawberry Kesari Bath, if you prefer. I use a little less than is usually done.

10. I use only water to cook the kesari, while some people use a mix of milk and water. You can do so too, if you so prefer.

11. Switch off the gas when the kesari is still a bit runny. Remember that it thickens up more on cooling.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Vatana Valor Bateta Tuver Nu Shaak| Gujarati Winter Special Curry

So, I finally got around to putting up, on the blog, the recipe for one of my most favourite Gujarati curries ever!Vatana Valor Bateta Tuver Nu Shaak is a heritage Gujarati dish, a classic. It is an absolutely delicious curry, veggies cooked in a green spice paste made using green chillies, coriander, ginger and garlic. An out-and-out flavour bomb this is!

Vatana Valor Bateta Tuver Nu Shaak, an eternal favourite at home!

More about this Vatana Valor Bateta Tuver Nu Shaak

Variations of this sabzi are prepared in Gujarati households everywhere, with the season dictating the major ingredients that go into it. The recipe I’m sharing today includes winter-special produce like vatana (Gujarati for green peas) and tuver dana (pigeon peas), along with valor (hyacinth beans) and bateta (potatoes). Towards the end of this post, I will also tell you how this curry is prepared in other seasons, as well as a few little tweaks you can make to this dish.

Top: Pigeon peas, Bottom left: Fresh green peas, Bottom right: Hyacinth beans.

This is a one-pot recipe, a dish you can prepare in a small pressure cooker. Once you have the ingredients ready, the curry can be put together in just a few minutes. With some hot phulka rotis or plain parathas, this makes for a brilliant side.

How to make Vatana Valor Bateta Tuver Nu Shaak

My grandmother learnt this recipe from a Gujarati friend of ours, years ago, back when we were living in Ahmedabad. It passed on to my mother over the years, and then to me. We have made this curry so many hundreds of times over – it was always a huge favourite at our place, and it still is.Here is how we make it.Ingredients (serves 4): To grind:

  1. A fistful of fresh coriander leaves
  2. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  3. 4-5 cloves of garlic
  4. 2 tablespoons peanuts
  5. 2 green chillies

Other ingredients:

  1. 2 cups of hyacinth beans (valor or avarekkai)
  2. 1 medium-sized potato (bateta or urulaikizhangu)
  3. 1 cup fresh shelled pigeon peas (tuver dana or tuvarai)
  4. 1 cup fresh shelled green peas (vatana or pattani)
  5. 1/2 tablespoon oil
  6. 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  7. 3/4 teaspoon carom seeds (ajwain, ajmo or omam)
  8. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  9. 1 tablespoon brown sesame seeds
  10. Salt to taste
  11. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  12. 3/4 teaspoon garam masala (optional)
  13. 1-1/2 tablespoon jaggery powder
  14. Red chilli powder to taste (optional)
  15. 1-1/4 cup water or as needed

For garnishing:

  1. Grated fresh coconut, as needed

Method: 1. We will start by prepping the vegetables needed to make the curry. Remove the tops, ends and strings from the hyacinth beans. Chop each one into two pieces. Measure out the shelled pigeon peas and green peas. Peel the potato and chop into large cubes. Keep aside.2. Next, we will prepare the paste required for the curry. Chop the coriander leaves roughly and add them to a mixer jar. Peel the garlic cloves and ginger, chop roughly, and add to the mixer jar too. Chop up the green chillies as well, and add to the mixer jar. Add in the peanuts too. Grind everything together to a smooth paste, along with a little water. Keep aside.

Top: Step 1, Bottom left and right: Steps 2 and 3

3. Now, we will start preparing the curry. Heat the oil in a small pressure cooker bottom. Add in the mustard seeds, and allow them to sputter. Then, add in the carom seeds, asafoetida and sesame seeds. Allow these ingredients to stay in the hot oil for a few seconds.4. Turn the flame to low-medium now. Add in all the vegetables we prepped earlier.5. Also add in salt to taste and the turmeric powder. Mix well, gently.6. Add in the jaggery powder and garam masala, if using. Mix everything gently but well.7. Now, add in the spice paste we ground earlier.

Top left and right: Steps 3 and 4, Bottom right: Step 5, Bottom left: Step 6, Above bottom left: Step 7

8. Wash the mixer jar with about 1/4 cup of water and add this to the pressure cooker bottom too.9. Add about 1 more cup of water to the pressure cooker bottom, or as needed to adjust the consistency of the curry. You need to keep the flame at low-medium. Mix well.10. Taste and adjust salt and jaggery if needed. Add in red chilli powder if the spiciness is not enough. Mix well.11. Now, close the pressure cooker and put the whistle on. Increase the flame to high. Allow 3 whistles on high flame. Let the pressure release naturally.12. When the pressure has completely gone down, open the cooker and mix up the curry gently. Your Vatana Valor Bateta Tuver Nu Shaak is ready. Serve it hot or warm, garnished with grated fresh coconut, with rotis or plain parathas.

Top left and right: Steps 8 and 9, Above bottom left: Step 10, Bottom left: Step 11, Bottom right: The curry, just after the pressure has gone down fully and the cooker has been opened

Tips & Tricks

1. Adjust the quantity of salt, green chillies and jaggery powder as per personal taste preferences.2. The garam masala is purely optional, but I would highly recommend using it. It adds a lovely flavour to the curry. You may use dhana-jiru (powdered coriander seeds and cumin), that quintessential spice in a Gujarati kitchen, instead of the garam masala.3. Adjust the quantity of water as needed.4. Using the red chilli powder is optional too. If the green chillies are hot enough, you may skip the red chilli powder entirely.5. I have used a small 5-litre pressure cooker to make this curry.6. You may roast the peanuts before adding them to the mixer jar. I usually don’t.7. You may add some fresh grated coconut while preparing the spice paste too. I usually don’t. I prefer garnishing the curry with fresh coconut instead.8. Adjust the number of whistles depending upon the make of your pressure cooker and the amount of water you are using. The above recipe works perfectly for us. Keep in mind that all the veggies need to be cooked through, but not overly mushy.9. Chop the potato into large cubes, to prevent them from getting too mushy.10. I have included the Gujarati and Tamil names of all the vegetables I have used in this curry, for better understanding.11. You may even make this curry in a pan. We have always used a pressure cooker to do so.12. I have used home-made garam masala here. You may use a store-bought version instead, too.13. This is almost an Undhiyu, but not quite. It uses way fewer ingredients than the Undhiyu and far less time, but tastes quite similar.14. The rule of thumb in this recipe is to use a 1:1:0.5 ratio of soft vegetables, seeds like green peas and pigeon peas, and root vegetables. If this ratio is maintained well, it gives a great consistency to the curry.15. A dash of lemon juice can be added, once the curry is ready. It is purely optional, and I usually skip it.16. This is a completely vegetarian and vegan preparation, suited to those following a plant-based diet. It can be made gluten-free too, by skipping the asafoetida used in the tempering. Most commercial brands of asafoetida available in India use wheat flour, to a lesser or greater extent – they are, therefore, best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. However, if you can find 100% gluten-free asafoetida, you could definitely use it.

Variations to the recipe

1. I have used 1 cup each of pigeon peas and green peas here. You may use 2 cups of pigeon peas or green peas instead.2. Skip the garlic in the spice paste, if you do not prefer it.3. I have used hyacinth beans here. You may use Surti papdi instead – a special variety of beans commonly available in Gujarat, especially in the winters. However, papdi is not found in South India. I have found that snow peas or sugarsnap peas work well in place of the hyacinth beans too. Bangalore peeps, you get snow peas and sugarsnap peas at Namdhari’s, in the winters.4. All vegetables used here are fresh. You may use frozen ones too, if you are in the practice of stocking them.5. In the summers, this curry can be made with frozen green peas, hyacinth beans and brinjals.6. You can substitute the potato for a carrot. You can even use a mix of potato and carrot.7. Methi muthiya can be added to this curry too, for extra flavour. I usually avoid them.8. I have used shelled fresh edamame (immature soya beans) in place of pigeon peas in this curry, and loved it too. I found the edamame in Namdhari’s, Bangalore.9. If you have access to shelled hyacinth beans or field beans (valor dana in Gujarati, avarekottai in Tamil), you can add those to the curry too.Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Arinelikkai Thokku| Instant Star Gooseberry Pickle

Arinelikkai Thokku, an instant pickle made using star gooseberries, is one of my most favourite of all times. It is a simple pickle to make, requiring the most basic of ingredients. It is absolutely delicious, though, a brilliant side to curd rice! Today, I’m going to share with you all our family recipe for Arinelikkai Thokku, the way in which we make it.

Delicious Arinelikkai Thokku or Instant Star Gooseberry Pickle

A closer look at Arinelikkai or star gooseberries

Star gooseberries are a close relative of the Indian gooseberry, but they do have a distinct personality all of their own. The Indian gooseberry has a round shape, like that of a lemon, while these are quite small. Star gooseberries get their name from the star-like shape the fruit has (these aren’t the same as starfruit, in case you were wondering!). They usually grow in clusters, and are a whole lot more tart than the Indian gooseberry.

The star gooseberries, washed and dried, ready to go into the pickle. Step 1 in the recipe, here.

Star gooseberries go by several names like Malay gooseberries, small gooseberries, Sri Lankan gooseberries, country gooseberries and starberries. In Tamil, they are referred to as ‘Arinelikkai‘ or ‘Arainelikkai‘. Their mouth-puckering sourness makes them the perfect candidate for jams, pickles and chutneys. They are also quite a popular munchie in South India, soaked in salt and drizzled with red chilli powder.

Star gooseberries are low on Vitamin C, unlike the Indian gooseberry that is packed with it. However, these berries also contain various nutrients and do have several health benefits. They are said to help cure cystic fibrosis of the lungs, purify blood, improve digestion, lowers blood pressure, improve appetite, and have antioxidant properties.

#BestOfBerries At Foodie Monday Blog Hop

I’m sharing this recipe in association with the Foodie Monday Blog Hop.

The Foodie Monday Blog Hop is a group of passionate food bloggers who share recipes based on a pre-determined theme, every Monday. This week, the theme is ‘Best of Berries’, wherein the members are showcasing a variety of recipes made using berries. I decided to use star gooseberries to create our family favourite, Arinelikkai Thokku, for the theme.

Poonam, the hugely talented chef and blogger at Annapurna, was the one who suggested the theme for the week. Do check out the winter immunity booster Amla Murabba that Poonam has shared. I have fond memories of dad buying the murabba every winter, while I was growing up, and I would love it so. Poonam’s murabba looks so amazing I’m definitely going to attempt making some at home this year!

How to make Arinelikkai Thokku

Like I was saying earlier, Arinelikkai Thokku is a very easy thing to prepare, with everyday ingredients from the Indian kitchen. There is no fancy stuff going in there, and yet this pickle manages to be absolutely, finger-lickingly delicious. This is a pickle that takes bare minutes to make (once you have the gooseberries prepared and ready!), and it can be used instantly too.

Here is how we make the Arinelikkai Thokku.

Ingredients (makes about 3/4 cup):

  1. About 300 grams of star gooseberries (arinelikkai)
  2. 3 tablespoons sesame oil (nalla ennai)
  3. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  4. 1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
  5. A sprig of curry leaves
  6. A pinch of fenugreek seeds (vendhayam)
  7. Salt to taste
  8. 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  9. 2 teaspoons red chilli powder or to taste
  10. 3/4 tablespoon jaggery powder or to taste

Method:

1. Wash the star gooseberries well under running water, to remove any traces of dirt from them. Pat dry using a cotton towel, then allow them to dry under the fan for at least half an hour. Make sure they are completely dry, without any trace of moisture on them.

2. Once the star gooseberries are completely dry, use a knife to make small slivers out of them and to remove the seeds. Discard the seeds. Collect the slivers in a bowl.

3. Now, we will start making the Arinelikkai Thokku. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the mustard seeds, and allow them to sputter. Then add in the fenugreek seeds, asafoetida and curry leaves, and allow them to stay in the hot oil for a couple of seconds.

4. Now, add in the slivered star gooseberries to the pan. Turn the flame down to medium.

5. Add in the salt and turmeric powder. Mix well. Cook on medium flame for about a minute.

Top left and right: Steps 2 and 3, Bottom left and right: Steps 4 and 5

6. Add in the red chilli powder at this stage. Mix well and continue to cook on medium flame for 2-3 minutes or till the gooseberries get tender. Stir intermittently.

7. Now add the jaggery powder to the pan. Mix well.

8. Continue to cook on medium flame for about 2 minutes more or till the gooseberries are completely cooked. The ingredients will start coming together as a homogenous mixture at this stage. Switch off gas at this stage. Your Arinelikkai Thokku is ready. Allow it to cool down fully before transferring to a clean, dry, air-tight bottle.

Top: Step 6, Bottom left and right: Steps 7 and 8

Tips & Tricks

1. Use sesame oil (nalla ennai) for best results. If you don’t have it, any other oil of your preference can be used. Sesame oil works the best, though.

2. Use a heavy-bottomed pan, for best results.

3. Adjust the quantity of salt, red chilli powder and jaggery powder as per personal taste preferences.

4. You may keep the star gooseberries whole, instead of de-seeding them and chopping them up like I have done here. That makes the proceedure all the more simple. The task of de-seeding and chopping these little berries is, indeed, time-consuming, but I would say the end result is every bit worth the effort.

5. You may add powdered mustard and fenugreek seeds to the pickle, too. We usually don’t.

6. Make sure the washed gooseberries are completely dry, before you use them in the pickle. Ensure that there is no trace of moisture on them. You may sun-dry them if you have access to ample sunlight.

7. You can use the bigger, round Indian gooseberries to make the pickle, exactly the same way as suggested above. However, the smaller star gooseberries are more tart and make for a more flavourful pickle.

8. Allow the Arinelikkai Thokku to completely cool down, before you bottle it. Store it refrigerated in a clean, dry, air-tight bottle and use a clean, dry spoon only.

9. This pickle stays well for up to a month month, even more if you have used a generous amount of salt and oil. However, we make it in small batches only and use it within 15 days or so.

10. The above recipe is completely vegetarian and vegan, suited to those following a plant-based diet.

11. To make this Arinelikkai Thokku gluten-free, simply skip the asafoetida used in the recipe. Most Indian brands of asafoetida do contain wheat flour to a greater or lesser extent and are, hence, best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. However, I would not recommend that – the asafoetida does add a beautiful fragrance to the pickle, and I simply cannot imagine making it without. Any pickle without asafoetida is a no-go for me, actually.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Carrot Vengaya Sadam| Carrot & Onion Rice

After the Carrot Payasam, here is one more delicious recipe using the root vegetable. I’m here today to present Carrot Vengaya Sadam, a rice dish made using carrot and onion.

Carrot Vengaya Sadam or Carrot & Onion Rice

A closer look at this Carrot Vengaya Sadam

This is an absolutely delicious dish that can be put together in a jiffy, especially if you have cooked rice at hand. It is slightly different from the typical South Indian rice dishes like Lemon Rice, Curd Rice and Coconut Rice in that it uses garam masala. It is a cross between a South Indian rice bath and North Indian pulav, if I may say so. makes for a lovely, welcome change from the usual, though.

I have fond memories of Amma packing this Carrot Vengaya Sadam in my lunch box for school. I used to adore it – the way she made it – and she ensured I got in my fill of veggies this way. 🙂 Today, I do the same with my bub, and she absolutely loves this dish too.

#VarietyRiceSpecial At Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This recipe is brought to you in association with the Foodie Monday Blog Hop.

The Foodie Monday Blog Hop is a group of passionate food bloggers who share recipes based on a pre-determined theme, every Monday. The theme this week is #VarietyRiceSpecial, wherein all of us are showcasing different rice dishes.

It was Narmadha of Nams Corner who suggested the theme this time around. She herself has several rice recipes up on her blog already. I am loving the sound of her Nasi Goreng or Indonesian Fried Rice, and am definitely trying it out some time!

How to make Carrot Vengaya Sadam

Here is how we make it.

Ingredients (serves 3-4):

  1. 1 cup rice
  2. 2 medium-sized carrots
  3. 1 medium-sized onion
  4. 2 green chillies
  5. 1/2 tablespoon oil
  6. 3/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
  7. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  8. Salt to taste
  9. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  10. 1/2 teaspoon garam masala or as per taste
  11. 1/2 teaspoon jaggery powder or as per taste
  12. Red chilli powder to taste
  13. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander
  14. Juice of 1/2 lemon or to taste

Method:

1. Wash the rice thoroughly under running water. Drain out all the water.

2. Place the washed and drained rice in a wide vessel. Add in 2-3/4 cups of water. Mix, and place the vessel in a pressure cooker. Pressure cook on high flame for 4 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally.

3. In the meantime, peel the carrot. Grate it thick.

4. Peel the onion. Chop finely.

5. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Keep it ready, along with the finely chopped coriander.

Top left: Step 1, Bottom right: Step 2, Top right: Step 3, Above leftmost bottom and leftmost bottom: Steps 4 and 5

6. When the pressure from the cooker has completely gone down, get the cooked rice out. Place it under the fan for it to cool down fully.

7. Once the rice has fully cooled down, fluff it up gently.

8. Now, we are ready to start making the Carrot Vengaya Sadam. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the mustard seeds and allow them to sputter. Add in the asafoetida, and allow it to stay in for a couple of seconds.

9. Now, add the chopped onion to the pan, along with the slit green chillies. Turn the flame down to medium. Saute on medium flame for a minute.

10. Add in the grated carrot, along with a bit of salt. Saute on medium flame for 2-3 minutes or till the onion and carrot are about 80% cooked.

Top left and right: Steps 6 and 7, Above leftmost bottom and leftmost bottom: Steps 8 and 9, Bottom right: Step 10

11. Add in salt to taste, turmeric powder, jaggery powder and garam masala. Mix well. Cook on medium flame for about 2 minutes or till the carrot and onion are completely cooked.

12. At this stage, turn the flame down to low. Add in the fluffed-up rice. Mix well, but gently, ensuring the grains of rice do not break.

13. Switch off gas and add in the finely chopped coriander.

14. Add in the lemon juice. Mix well, gently. The Carrot Vengaya Sadam is ready to serve. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with curd or Boondi Raita.

Top left and right: Steps 11 and 12, Bottom left and right: Steps 13 and 14

Is this rice dish vegan and gluten-free?

This is a completely vegetarian and vegan preparation, suited to those following a plant-based diet.

To make it gluten-free, simply skip the asafoetida used in the tempering. Most Indian brands of asafoetida do contain wheat flour, to a lesser or greater extent, and are best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. However, if you can find 100% gluten-free asafoetida, you could definitely use it.

I have used home-made garam masala here, which is vegan and gluten-free. However, if you are using a store-bought spice blend, do check out the ingredient list to make sure it meets your dietary requirements.

Tips & Tricks

1. I have used 2 medium-sized orange Ooty carrots here. You may use 1 long red Delhi carrot instead.

2. Omit the onion if you are preparing the rice for a festive or religious occasion.

3. I have used home-made garam masala here. You may use a store-bought version instead, too. Chana masala can also be used in place of garam masala.

4. I have used Sona Masoori rice here. You may use any other variety of rice you prefer.

5. Whole spices like cinnamon, bay leaves, cardamom and cumin can be added to the tempering, too. You may add in some curry leaves and groundnuts as well. Here, I have kept the rice really simple and avoided these ingredients.

6. For best results, use a heavy-bottomed pan.

7. Adjust the quantity of water you use depending upon how grainy you want the rice to be. The same goes for the pressure cooker whistles. The above quantity of water yields rice that is well-cooked but not mushy. To make a flavourful Carrot Vengaya Sadam, the rice needs to be cooked thoroughly but not mushy.

8. In the above recipe, I have cooked the rice fresh, cooled it and mixed it with cooked carrots and onion. If you have day-old cooked rice, you may use it instead.

9. Make sure the rice is completely cool before you fluff it up, otherwise it might become overly mushy.

10. You may skip the jaggery powder if you do not prefer using it. However, it does add a lovely flavour to the rice.

11. Adjust the quantity of salt, red chilli powder, garam masala and lemon juice as per personal taste preferences. You may want to skip the red chilli powder altogether if you are cooking for kids.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Pulikachal| Tamarind Paste For Rice

Pulikachal is a quintessential part of a Tam-Brahm kitchen, something that is almost always around. For the uninitiated, it refers to a paste made using tamarind and various spices. This paste is quite handy, as you will soon see.

Pulikachal or Puliogare Gojju

A closer look at the Pulikachal

Puli‘ is Tamil for ‘tamarind’, while ‘kachal‘ means ‘to boil’. ‘Pulikachal‘ thus means tamarind that has been boiled and reduced. Sesame oil, peanuts, several roasted and ground spices, jaggery and many other ingredients are added to the tamarind while it is reducing, and the end result is this delicious, delicious confection. Well-made Pulikachal is a thing of beauty, really.

Once prepared, Pulikachal can be stored for a couple of months at least. Mix this paste with some cooked and cooled rice and you have Puliogare or Puliodharai, aka ‘tamarind rice’, that staple of South Indian families while picnicking and travelling. It is also a saviour on those days when one does not want to indulge in elaborate cooking. Pulikachal also makes for a wonderful accompaniment to curd rice, another staple in the Tamilian kitchen. We also love having it with our idlis and dosas. We love it with toasted bread too! See just how multi-purpose this paste is?

Pulikachal is sometimes also called ‘Puliogare Gojju‘.

Variations to the Pulikachal

There are several different variations to the Pulikachal. Some versions use ginger and green chillies, while some have a generous amount of pepper added in. Some include coconut in it, while some add in a bit of mustard. Different states in South India make Pulikachal or Puliogare Gojju slightly differently.

Here, I have shared my family recipe for Pulikachal, the way we have always been making it. This is the Tamil Brahmin style of making it.

The A-Z Recipe Challenge

This recipe is brought to you in association with the A-Z Recipe Challenge.

The A-Z Recipe Challenge is undertaken by a group of passionate food bloggers who share use ingredients in alphabetical order from A-Z to develop recipes, one every month. The letter for this month is T, and I chose ‘tamarind’ as my star ingredient. I decided to share this tried and tested family recipe for the theme.

How to make Pulikachal

Here’s how we make Pulikachal.

Ingredients (yields about 1 cup):

To roast and grind:

  1. 1/4 cup coriander seeds
  2. 1/4 cup chana dal
  3. 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  4. 5-6 Salem Gundu dry red chillies
  5. 5-6 Bydagi dry red chillies
  6. 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
  7. 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds

Other ingredients:

  1. 1/2 tightly packed cup of tamarind
  2. 1/4 cup peanuts
  3. 2 sprigs fresh curry leaves
  4. 2-3 dry red chillies
  5. 2 + 2 tablespoons of sesame oil
  6. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  7. 1/8 teaspoon asafoetida
  8. 2-1/2 teaspoons of salt or to taste
  9. 3 tablespoons jaggery powder
  10. 3/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

Method:

1. Soak the tamarind in a little boiling water, for 15-20 minutes, for it to soften. Allow it to cool down enough to handle.

2. Measure out the ingredients required for roasting – coriander seeds, chana dal, fenugreek seeds, Salem Gundu dry red chillies and Bydagi dry red chillies. Measure out the black and white sesame seeds separately.

3. Wash the curry leaves well, to remove any traces of dirt on them. Dry them completely using a cotton cloth.

4. On a medium flame, dry roast the peanuts in a heavy-bottomed pan for 3-4 minutes or till they get crisp. Take care to ensure that they do not burn. Transfer the roasted peanuts to a plate and allow them to cool down fully.

Top left and right: Step 1, Centre left and right: Step 2 and 3, Bottom left and right: Step 4

5. In the same pan, add in the chana dal and dry roast for about a minute on medium flame. Then, add in the coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds and both varieties of dry red chillies, and roast for 2-3 minutes or till the lentils get nice and brown. Now, add both types of sesame seeds to the pan, and turn the flame down to low. Let the sesame seeds sputter. Then transfer all the roasted ingredients to a plate and allow them to cool down fully.

6. When the soaked tamarind has cooled down completely, extract all the juice from it. Add water little by little, to help with the extraction. Keep the extract a bit thick and not too watery.

7. When the roasted ingredients have completely cooled down, grind them together to a powder. The powder should not be too fine, just slightly coarse.

Top left and right: Step 5, Bottom left and right: Steps 6 and 7

8. Now, we will start making the Pulikachal. Heat 2 tablespoons of sesame oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the mustard seeds, and allow them to sputter. Then, add in the asafoetida, 2-3 dry red chillies, curry leaves and the roasted peanuts. Let these ingredients stay in for a few seconds.

9. Add the tamarind extract to the pan now, along with salt to taste and turmeric powder. Turn the flame down to medium. Cook on medium flame for 3-4 minutes or till the raw smell of the tamarind has completely gone.

10. Still keeping the flame at medium, add in the powder we ground earlier. Add it in while stirring constantly, so there are no lumps.

11. Add in the jaggery powder and mix well.

12. Continue to cook on medium flame for 3-4 minutes or till the mixture thickens. Stir intermittently. Switch off gas when it reaches a spreadable consistency.

13. At this stage, drizzle 2 tablespoons of sesame oil on top of the cooked paste. Mix well. Your Pulikachal is ready.

14. Allow the Pulikachal to cool down fully, then transfer to a clean, dry, air-tight bottle. Store refrigerated and use as needed, with a clean and dry spoon.

Top left and right: Steps 8 and 9, Centre left and right: Steps 10 and 11, Bottom left, centre and right: Steps 12, 13 and 14

Tips & Tricks

1. The colour of the Pulikachal will depend upon the type of tamarind you use. Aged tamarind works best in this recipe.

2. Sesame oil – ‘nalla ennai‘ in Tamil – works best in this Pulikachal.

3. If the tamarind you use has seeds or impurities, filter the extract before you use it in making the Pulikachal.

4. Do not be intimidated by the long list of ingredients and the lengthy proceedure outlined above. The making of Pulikachal is an easy process, though one that requires a bit of patience. I have merely mentioned everything in great detail, to clearly explain the process to one and all.

5. Make sure the ingredients do not burn while dry-roasting. Let them cool down fully before grinding.

6. Do not grind the dry-roasted ingredients to a fine powder. Keep it a little coarse. This gives texture and more flavour to the Pulikachal.

7. Use a heavy-bottomed pan to make the Pulikachal, for best results.

8. Do not skip the jaggery powder. It makes the Pulikachal more flavourful.

9. I have used a mix of the more spicy Salem Gundu and the less hot Bydagi dry red chillies here. You can adjust the number of dry red chillies as per personal taste preferences.

10. The Pulikachal is supposed to be a bit high on sweetish, sour, salty and spicy tastes, on its own. When it is mixed with rice, the flavours even out.

11. Allow the Pulikachal to cool down fully before transferring it to a clean, dry bottle. Stored refrigerated and used only with a clean, dry spoon, it lasts for at least a couple of months.

12. I have used a mix of white and black sesame seeds here. The black ones are slightly more concentrated in flavour and a bit more bitter than the white ones. You may use 2 tablespoons of either the white or black sesame seeds.

13. This Pulikachal recipe is completely vegetarian and vegan, suited to those following a plant-based diet.

14. To make this Pulikachal gluten-free, simply skip the asafoetida used in the tempering. Most Indian brands of asafoetida do contain wheat flour to a lesser or greater extent and are, therefore, best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. However, if you can find 100% gluten-free asafoetida, do go ahead and use it.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!