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Poriyals, thorans & more

Life is beautiful.

She longed to be set free. To fly away to a distant place where the sun always shone down on earth. Where the steady golden rays of the sun penetrated into all places and drove away the darkness. Where even rains did not chase away the sunlight but would fill the sky with rainbow. Flowers bloomed all through the year. To a place where she was in a harmonious relationship with nature. It fed her body & soul. She would taste food of elemental beauty.

The place would be filled by melodious music from the chirping of the birds and flowing river. The music would captivate her soul and fill her mind with positivity. And this would trigger the hidden joy inside her to break free and engulf her permanently. 

All chains that tied her and kept her from her freedom would melt away, never to return.

She would be deliriously happy, forever

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Chettinad Urulai

The land of spices and aromas always fascinated me. The natives of the place are considered as ‘master chefs’. The region is well known for its architecture and temples too. The 18th century mansions comprise a spacious rooms and courtyards. They are embellished with imported marble, crystals, exquisite mirrors and teak that give it a magnificent look. The temples were built as per vaastu shaastra and by Tamil dynasties like Cholas. 

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I can`t wait to visit the land of food paradise – Chettinad, a region of Sivaganga district of Tamil Nadu! Traditional, this small community have been traders and bankers by profession. The natives of this plave are known as Chettiars. So much has been told about their mouthwatering and addictive cuisine. With vast varieties of spices that go into making their delicacies, it is no doubt that its ‘flavor‘ is spread far and wide. The rich spices give a magical spin on the dishes that make them so addictive. The cuisine is one of the spiciest in India. Popular dishes of the Chettinad region are kara kulambu (South Indian sambhar), paal paniyaram, vellai paniyaram, kuzhi paniyaram, kozhakattai, seeyam. Gravies and stir fries are generally had with rice or rice based dishes like dosa, appam, idiyappam, adai and idlis. 

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With all the popularity given to the cuisine, I was eager to taste their delicacies. But a visit to the place was no where close to sight. So I had to manage with the existing situation. Why not try one of their specialties on Prathi Ruchi kitchen? I did a bit of browsing to get familiar with the basic of the cuisine – the basic spices and techniques. Spices commonly used are marati moggu (dried flower pods), saunf (fennel), dagad phool (stone flower), cinnamon, cloves and of course red chillies. And lots and lots of chillies! Then there is black pepper. Chettinad cuisine is incomplete without pepper. Tamarind is what gives the sour element to most of their dishes. Lentils are used in plenty. Pickles in brine with fruits and vegetables are again a specialty of this region. The base for all their food is meals need to be healthy but economical at the same time. 

Then I picked a dish which tempted me right from its name –  Chettinad Urulai. Urulai is nothing but potatoes. Stir fried potatoes coated with aromatic spices. Serve them as a side with rice and sambhar or as a starter too. Either ways they taste finger licking good.

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Chettinad Urulai
Serves 4
Mouthwatering recipe from the Chettinad cuisine of Tamil Nadu.
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Ingredients
  1. 1/2 kg baby potatoes (aloo) OR 4 medium sized potatoes
  2. 3 tsp ghee
  3. 3 tsp oil
  4. 2-4 curry leaves
For masala paste
  1. 1 medium onion
  2. 1/2" 3-4 cloves garlic
  3. 1 tsp red chilli powder or 2 to 3 whole dry red chillies
  4. 1 tsp coriander (dhania) powder
  5. 1/2 tsp cumin (jeera) powder
  6. 1/2 tsp turmeric (haldi) powder
  7. 1 tsp tamarind (imli) paste
  8. salt
  9. 1/2 tsp peppercorns
  10. 1/2 to 3/4 tsp fennel (saunf) seeds
  11. 4 curry leaves
For garnish
  1. fried curry leaves and green chillies
  2. lime wedges
Instructions
  1. Peel and cube potatoes. If using baby potatoes, peel and halve them. Prick with fork. Immerse them in water to avoid discolouration. Drain before adding the paste.
  2. Grind together ingredients under 'masala paste' to a thick paste, adding little water only if needed.
  3. In a mixing bowl put the masala paste, potatoes (drained), 1 tsp oil. Mix and let marinate for 1 to 2 hours or even overnight.
  4. In a pressure pan put the marinated potato mixture, little water (about 1/4 cup). Pressure cook upto 2 whistles or till cooked but still firm.
  5. In a wide pan put ghee, curry leaves, contents of the cooker. Cook over low flame till evenly roasted. In between shake pan gently to stir but not to break the potatoes.
  6. Serve as a side dish with rice meals or as a starter.
Notes
  1. You can substitute tamarind with 2 tbsp curd (slightly sour).
  2. If you do not have much time to marinate, you can marinate for upto 15 mins too.
  3. Adjust chilli powder/ dry red chilli as per spice level desired.
Prathi Ruchi Recipes http://prathiruchi.com/recipes/
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Ghee roast

…the popular Mangalorean delicacy, the origins and what makes it so popular?

The very mention of the word ‘ghee roast‘ can alert your taste buds  and for those who are already familiar with it will longingly remember the fiery red, spicy and tangy dish. Even the generous amount of ghee (clarified butter) that goes into making this Mangalorean delicacy is hard to sway you from your desire to relish them again! It is an extremely spicy and rich dish and yet you remain undismayed and the determination to have them only increases. 

 

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Potato Bhaji

Who can say no to a potato dish? Well, not me, that`s for sure. This potato bhaji is another of our family favorite dish. It is a simple, hearty and filling South Indian version of aloo bhaji. Nothing extravagant about this dish. Its as simple as it can get. A dish relished by all kinds of people, in different parts of South India. It can find its way into filling for a dosa to make masala dosa or served as side dish to pooris. A similar kind of bhaji is used to make one of the more sinful dishes of potato – aloo bondas.

 

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Gobi Tawa Fry

 

 Cauliflower sauteed with loads of curry leaves..

The sizzle and smell of coconut oil or clarified butter as it is being seasoned with quintessential South Indian spices – mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds or the urad dal (split gram gram) are a common comforting sound in all South Indian homes. These spices or dals along with asafoetida or cumin seeds or dry red chillies are some of the most basic ingredients that go into a South Indian tadka for flavoring traditional recipes.

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tadka or bagaar  is the process  tempering where whole spices are added to hot oil or ghee and fried briefly, not more than a minute but just enough to flavor the oil with the aroma of the spices.

 

 

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Tip of the Week
Eating Bananas can help fight depression.
Food Facts
Nachos, the Mexican dish, were invented in 1943 by a guy named ‘Ignacio Nacho Anaya’. The original nachos consisted of fried corn tortillas covered with melted cheddar cheese and sliced jalapeno peppers.