Normally cheesy gratin dishes would be Winter fare in this house, but it is late Spring as I write, and we have the heating on and three layers of clothes. It is cold and wet. It might be 10 days from Summer but it feels like mid Winter. It HAS to be potatoes and cheese. Plus the oven warms the kitchen nicely.
Kootu (Koottu) is a type of Kuzhambu, and contains a combination of vegetable combined with Mung Dal and freshly ground mild spices. Varieties of Kootu include Poritha Kootu and Kothsu (Gothsu).
Sometimes Kootu is called a Lentil Vegetable Stew. It certainly is thicker than Poritha Kuzhambu, with more vegetables. It is generally eaten with rice, without any need for an accompanying vegetable dish. You could say that Poritha Kuzhambu and Poritha Kootu are very similar, except that Poritha Kootu is made with Mung Dal rather than Toor Dal, has more vegetables and is much thicker than Kuzhambu.
This Kootu is slightly unusual. It uses a little Sambar Powder which is rarely used in Kootu. And although some Kootu recipes contain tamarind, this one does not.
Cumin is considered the defining spice for Kootu. Sometimes pepper is used. Many kootus are spiced with a coconut, cumin and green chillies paste but this recipe, from Meenakshi Ammal, varies that by using red chillies.
The dish is not spicy – very little spice is used. It celebrates the taste and textures of the dal and the vegetables. You will enjoy it. You can purchase your Sambar Powder at an Indian grocery, or better still, make your own.
As usual, Meenakshi Ammal’s recipe takes some unpicking as it does contradict itself. It always takes a bit of a detective work to unravel the recipes in Vol 1 of her 4 volume set of Cook and See.
Late Winter comes and we begin to look forward to Spring. However the weather gods have other ideas, plunging us into the coldest weather of the winter, stormy and wet, and very very cold.
We really did fall in love with dried broad beans this year. After a hiccup at the beginning – we really didn’t know a lot about how to handle these large beauties – we have settled into a routine of using them every couple of weeks. Totally delicious.
The smaller, peeled dried fava beans are easier to use, but if you can’t find them, use the larger (gigantic) unpeeled ones. The peeled dried broad beans are quite small, whereas the unpeeled ones are large beans. Soak the large ones overnight, then pop them out of their peels before cooking. If they don’t come out of the skins easily, try soaking them in boiling water for 20 – 30 mins. They should come off easily then. I like to peel them in front of the TV the night before I am using them. It makes this meditative task very easy.
This recipe doesn’t saute the onions and celery, but rather pops them into the pot with the beans and the stock. In Greece it is believed that sauteing them before hand makes the dish heavier, and if you think about it, it is an excellent observation. I like to keep this soup lighter, but by all means saute off the aromatics beforehand if you wish.
As Winter marches on, we want dishes that we can cook in the oven, to add another source of heat to warm the kitchen. Baked dishes are also usually hearty, so they warm and nourish the body in a way that we only seek in Winter. Gratin dishes are so perfect, ticking every box.
This dish layers potatoes with cheese, covers them with milk and cream, and bakes it until bubbling and golden. Delicious!
Healthy, warming and nourishing, a perfect soup for the coldest of days.
This recipe has macrobiotic overtones, but feel free to play with flavours in any way that you wish. It has the interesting flavours of sesame oil, tamari and umeboshi vinegar.
The recipe comes from a scribbled recipe on a piece of paper, as many of my recipes do. I have collected them over millennia, it seems. To the original recipe I have added some olive oil as the stated sesame oil was not enough for sautéing the onions and vegetables.
Would you like to try similar recipes? Try Adzuki Bean and Barley Soup with Pumpkin, Parsnip and Barley Soup with Sage and Garlic, Barley Soup with Vegetables, and Farmhouse Barley and Vegetable Soup.
Our first days of Winter this year have broken records for low overnight temperatures, and immediately one’s attention turns to wintery ingredients and dishes. Parsnips, Barley, Potatoes, Celeriac. Mung Beans, Fava Beans. And indeed, Mashed Potato.
This is a simple twist to the humble but delicious mash. It adds garlic, – use smoked garlic if you have it – to potatoes as they cook, and then makes them delicious and luxurious with butter and cream. Winter, welcome!
This is an amazing taste experience. Make sure you try it and I promise it will be on your 10 Favourite Ways to Eat Cauliflower list
This is a surprising and wonderful dish from India. You can’t imagine how good the combination is just by looking at the list of ingredients. There is something quite magical about Aloo Gobi.
This particular recipe combines a paste of coconut, green chilli and green coriander leaves with spices and the potatoes and cauliflower. It makes for a wonderfully flavoured dish of this famous vegetable combination. Cauliflower and potatoes do go so well together.
Try to find a kadhai (Indian wok) for your Indian cooking if you can. They are generally available from Indian grocery shops. A kadhai will make it easier to cook many Indian dishes.
I would also recommend reading this article on cooking with yoghurt that will help you avoid the yoghurt splitting.
After years of not using mayonnaise in my salads (I don’t eat eggs so don’t make my own and don’t love it enough to purchase it), I whipped up my Mother’s very retro eggless mayo that she always made with a can of condensed milk, white vinegar and mustard (or other flavouring).
Now we have a couple of salads that use mayo – A Quick Tomato Salad with Mustardy Mayo, and today’s salad which is sort of a wild variation on Salade Niçoise. Salade Nicoise is a salad that originated in the French city of Nice. It is traditionally made of tomatoes, olives, and other accompaniments, dressed with olive oil, or in later years, mayonnaise. This is a variation on that theme that I quite love.
Or perhaps Fennel Salads? Try Fennel Salad with Orange Vinaigrette, Fennel Salad with Fresh Prunes, and Nashi Pear, Celery and Fennel Salad with Panch Phoron Crunch.
Or are you after just Salads? Try Onion Salad with Sesame Oil, Green Salad with Chickpeas, Preserved Lemon and Feta, and Vermicelli and Green Mango Salad.
We are working through the different types of Poritha Kuzhambu, where the spice paste is fried in ghee before being ground. There are Poritha Kuzhambus, Poritha Koottu and Pitlai, Gothsu and Masiyal. They can be with and without tamarind, stuffed full of vegetables or just one or two.
This is our second Pitlai, Sampangi, which traditionally has drumsticks as part of the vegetable mix, with 3 or 4 others. The spice mix used in this recipe differs from the first Pitlai recipe – it does not include coriander or channa dal (Bengal Gram), but does include peppercorns. The chillies are ground in the paste rather than left whole in the tadka. I have been explaining to some people recently how subtle differences from recipe to recipe results in a different dish, and the taste difference is remarkable IF we allow our tastebuds the time to register. This isn’t so common in our society, we eat so fast, but in India these differences are important. The other key difference in this recipe is the variety of vegetables, as many as 4 can be used in this dish, rather than 1 or 2.
Explore all of our Kuzhambu recipes here and all of our Sambar dishes. You might like to browse our Indian recipes and our Indian Essentials. Or simple take some time to check out our Early Autumn collection.
Pitlai is a South Indian recipe using some basic vegetables and cooked in a coconut-based gravy with specific spices that have been fried in ghee. It sits close to Poritha Kuzhambu and Poritha Kootu, but the spice mix varies from these.
South India adores its rice, and so the different cuisines of the South include a huge range of gravy-like dishes that are ladled over warm rice to be mixed and enjoyed. It makes sense, right? Rasam, Sambar, Kuzhambu, Kootu etc are the most common. Pitlai sits in that group too, and some will say it is a type of Sambar and others will say it is a type of Kuzhambu. Meenakshi Ammal sits her Pitlai recipes within her Poritha Kuzhambu and Poritha Kootu section – those with a fried spice mix/ paste. The dish varies slightly from any of the above – in consistency, spices used, and the vegetables that are added – bitter gourd and eggplant are definite favourites. Like the other Poritha dishes, it is the ground paste of spices, the coconut, and the predominance of lentils, that serve to thicken the dish. A tiny amount of rice flour can help if needed.
Pitlai includes coriander and Bengal Gram in its coconut-based spice paste, and this is the difference from the Poritha Kootu and Poritha Kuzhambu pastes. As I say about South Indian dishes – change out one spice and the dish has a different name, a different way of eating, a different time of day to eat it and different vegetables to include in it. 🙂
Pitlai is made all over South India and each region will have its own interpretation of the dish. This is a recipe from the Tamil Brahmin Cuisine.
Bengal has so many different types of khichuri (kitchari), its quite mind blowing. They adore their them. This one is a kitchari with the classic combo of peas, cauliflower and potato, together with an onion-spice mix. It is quite a flavoursome dish, and another addition to our 17 or so published and scheduled kitchari dishes.
You might guess that kitchari is also well loved in this house – a more nourishing and comforting dish is hard to find. The vegetables in this one add to its nutritional value as well as flavour and texture. Bengali’s make kitchari on rainy days, it is popular in the monsoon season – but don’t be held back. Make this dish at any time of the year.
Kitchari is also very good for babies and invalids.
It is difficult to get the local Bengali rice unless you have a specialist Indian grocer near you, so use Basmati rice. You might like to begin the recipe by making your own ginger paste and Bengali Garam Masala.
Or explore all of our Kitchari recipes and we have a number of Indian mixed rice dishes. Browse all of our Rice dishes. Our Bengali recipes are here, all of our Indian recipes here and our Indian Essentials here. Or explore our Early Autumn collection of recipes.
An unashamedly Retro Dish perfect for Modern Times.
Potatoes and Cumin are a great match. This retro baked dish is a great dish for any time of the year, and extremely wonderful in cooler Autumn months and Winter. It layers the potato with black pepper and cumin seed, and tops it with juicy tomatoes, breadcrumbs and parsley. It is a comforting dish, home cooking at its best. Who would not want to come home to a dish like this?
Would you like to try even more Gratin recipes? Try Gratineed Sweet Potato, Potato Gratin with Cream and Pomodori Gratinati – Tomatoes Gratineed with Cheese.
Feel free to browse recipes from our Retro Recipes series – recipes from our previous blog that ran from 1995 – 2005. You might also like our Potato recipes here and our Gratin Recipes. Or you might like to browse Tomato recipes. Check out our easy Mid Autumn recipes.
This uncomplicated soup is nourishing, comforting and warming, with no other flavours except cauliflower, potato, and black pepper.
South Indian soups need some explaining. The are quite diametrically opposed to dishes that could be called soups but are not – rasam, for example, or thin dhal, or even a sambar. For the most part, the true South Indian Soup is a simple, uncomplicated vegetable soup that is not spiced. Thus the vegetable becomes the feature, not the layers of spices. There is no artifice in these soups at all.
Presumably, these soups are of Anglo-Indian origin and have gained enough popularity to become part of the cuisine, or perhaps they are the result of the occupation of regions by other countries, namely France and Portugal. In many ways they are a little 1950’s, yet beautiful in their pared back simplicity
This uncomplicated Cauliflower Soup is nourishing, comforting and warming, with no other flavours except cauliflower, potato, and black pepper.
Are you after other Indian Soups? Try South Indian Spring Onion Soup, Indian Tomato and Potato Soup, Tomato, Lemongrass and Ginger Soup, and Tomato and Dal Soup. See also How to Make a Light, Infused Vegetable Stock/Broth, Indian Style.
Gratin – sometimes written as gratinée or au gratin—is a very flexible recipe where an ingredient is cooked in a shallow dish – a gratin dish which is an oval-shaped oven-safe baking and serving pan. The Gratin is topped with cheese or buttery breadcrumbs that will crisp up when the dish is baked in a hot oven or placed under a grill. Adding just cream will also produce a lightly browned crust if baked in high heat. Gratins are usually served straight from the dish.
Gratin originated in French cuisine. The best known gratin dishes are Potato Gratin and Pommes Dauphinoises. Many Tians are gratins too, only in disguise! Also Baked Pasta dishes! Often vegetables are covered with cheese, cream, and/or breadcrumbs and baked or grilled for a beautiful gratin dish.
This recipe is a beautiful, buttery, creamy gratin that combines zucchini with potatoes and flavours it with thyme. A wonderful match.
You might also like to browse all of our Gratin dishes here, and all of our Potato recipes here. Or all of the Zucchini recipes here and here. Check out our easy Early Autumn recipes. Also, feel free to browse vegetarian recipes from our first blog from 1995 – 2006 in our Retro Recipes series.
For that little bit of indulgence on a wintery night
A quick snack for evenings when you are craving something a little naughty but not so naughty, and a little spice but not so spicy. This definitely is for you.
These baked potato wedges are flavoured with cumin, black pepper and salt. You can add a little chilli powder if you like. You will love them for a quick plate of food when you have the munchies.