Thani Kootu

Thani Kootu is a popular Thanjavur recipe traditionally prepared for Sumangali Prarthanai, Sankaranthi and other festivals. In this dish, 5 different vegetables are prepared in separate jaggery kootus – a delicious and tangy South Indian base for the vegetables which is made with tamarind, freshly ground spices and jaggery. Jaggery brings out the tanginess of the tamarind in a surprising way.

Thani means stand alone in Tamil, and this indicates how the vegetables are made into separate dishes rather than mixed together. The different Thani Kootu dishes are generally serve with plain steamed rice. The base can also be served on its own without any vegetable added. It is pretty delicious!

To make it easy to prepare these dishes we make a large pot of the base Kootu, then divide it into five. The vegetables are cooked separately, and then added to the bases. It is common today to combine the vegetables in one dish, but traditionally, five different ones were made.

By the way, Sumangali Prarthanai is a thanksgiving religious function to honour our female ancestors.

The recipe is one of Meenakshi Ammal’s from her cook books Cook and See. One of our very special projects in the kitchen is to cook through these books, as they are very traditional Tamil recipes.You can find all of Ammal’s dishes that we have made here. Most of them are from Vol 1 so far.

Similar dishes include Okra Tamarind Kootu, Green Bean Kootu, and Brinjal Kootu.

Browse all of our Kootu dishes. All of our Indian recipes are here, and our Indian Essentials are here. Or explore our Early Autumn recipes.

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Monk’s Ayurvedic Dal with Green Peppers

One can’t overemphasise the delicious and nourishing qualities of mung beans. Use the whole green beans for delicious, grounded, darker flavours, and the hulled yellow split mung dal for lighter, summery yet nourishing flavours.

This dal comes again from The Monk’s Cookbook by the beloved Monks on Kauai. A very simple dish but one packed with flavours. Their recipe feeds 20, and I have modified it down to a family meal size. It takes no more than about 45 mins to cook – 35 – 40 for the dal and the rest for the tadka.

Similar dishes include Monk’s Bhindi Subzi, Simple Monk’s Dal, and Fenugreek Kuzhambu.

Browse all of our recipes from the Monk’s Cookbook, and all of our Dals. All of our Indian recipes are here, and the Indian Essential Series is here. Or explore our Early Summer dishes.

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Cluster Beans Kootu

This kootu recipe is one that can be made with cluster beans alone or with added cooked bean seeds or whole cooked chickpeas. It is easy and quite versatile. I love the taste of cluster beans with their gentle bitterness, and make it most often with them alone.

Sambar vadams can be used in this dish, but they are difficult to find here. Add them if you wish.

The recipe is one of Meenakshi Ammal‘s from her cook books Cook and See. One of our very special projects in the kitchen is to cook through these books, as they are very traditional Tamil recipes.You can find all of Ammal’s dishes that we have made here. Most of them are from Vol 1 so far.

Similar recipes include Thani Kootu, Cluster Bean Dal Kootu, Sambar, and Mango Kootu.

Browse all of our Kootu recipes and all of our Cluster Bean dishes.  All of our Indian recipes are here, and our Indian Essentials are here. Or explore our Late Spring recipes.

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Monk’s Simple Mung Dal with Tomatoes

Periodically I love to go back to The Monk’s Cookbook as it is a connection to the wonderful monks of Kauai, and because the recipes in this book are always simple, not too much fuss, but tasty and healthy. And this Mung Dal is a true comfort dish, using whole mung beans cooked with tomatoes and a few spices.

Similar dishes include Monks Dal with Green PeppersMonk’s Simple Toor Dal, Daikon Dal, and Mung Dal with Cumin and Spinach.

Browse all of our recipes from The Monk’s Cookbook, and all of our Dal recipes. Our Mung recipes are here, our Indian dishes here, and our series on Indian Essentials here. Or explore our Early Summer recipes.

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Keerai Masiyal | Amaranth Leaf Masiyal

There are a number of Amaranth greens available in South India – Mulaikkeerai, Muli Thandu or Thandukkeerai, and Arikkeerai. The most common variety of amaranth that is grown here, Foxtail Amaranth, is Thandukkeerai, but it is grown for ornamental reasons in gardens, not culinary ones. It is very difficult to find the  different varieties in shops unless you search the Asian markets.

The different varieties do have different tastes and properties – for example, some are heating to the body and some are cooling to the body. In India, the crops of Amaranth are also dependent on the season – the cooling ones in the hottest parts of the year, the heating ones in the coldest times of the year. Here, there is no such availability, information or attention to detail. Do use whichever amaranth is available to you.

We generally think of Masiyal as being made with toor dal or a mixture of toor dal and mung dal. However Meenakshi Ammal in her books Cook and See has several recipes for Amaranth Masiyal (in Vol. 1) that do not contain any dal. This one mashes the leaves, and I have to say it is very delicious. One of the defining characteristics of Masiyal is that there are no ground or powdered spices, only seasoning with a few selected whole spices. It allows the ingredients to shine rather than being overwhelmed with spices, onions or garlic. That is the beauty of all traditional Tamil food.

Similar dishes include Poritha Kootu, Mung Bean Soup with Amaranth, and Poritha Kuzhambu with Amaranth.

Browse all of our Amaranth dishes and all of our Masiyal recipes.  All of our Indian recipes are here, and our Indian Essentials are here. Or explore our Early Autumn dishes.

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Hara Mung Dal Fry with Fenugreek Leaves

Whole Mung beans feature a lot in our kitchen as we love the earthy taste. They are comforting and nourishing and we will cook up a large pot of Mung Soup or Dal in times of stress or tiredness.

This recipe is a North Indian style Green Mung Dal (Hara Mung Dal Tadka with Methi) that is great with chapatti or roti, and rice. Boondhi Raita, Kachumber, or vegetable dish can be added. The dal is cooked and then mixed with a paste of tomatoes, onions, ginger, garlic and spices. It is particularly good.

Similar recipes include Khar (Garlicky Mung Beans), Mung Bean Soup with Amaranth Greens, and Sprouted Mung Sundal.

Browse all of our Mung recipes, and all of our Dals. All of our Indian recipes are here, and our Indian Essentials are here. Or explore our Late Summer recipes.

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Vendakkai Puli Kootu | Okra Tamarind Kootu

Okra is so very good in the shops right now, as I write, so I grabbed some from the Asian market in my last shopping trip. Lovely thin, tender, long spears of goodness – how we love them.

You will love this recipe. It is as simple as Indian cooking can get. The okra is sliced and cooked with tamarind, green chillies and a little toor dal. Other recipes will add tomatoes, onions, garlic, sambar powder or other spices, coconut, etc, but I prefer this simple, honest preparation from the Palghat (Palakkad) area of Kerala. I have made it quite thick, as you can see, as I prefer it that way, but you can have more sauce if you prefer. I found this approach in the book Classic Tamil Brahman Cuisine by Viji Varadarajan.

Similar recipes include Cluster Bean Kootu, Okra Patia, Bhindi Bhaji, and Okra Kuzhambu.

Browse all of our Okra dishes and all of our Kerala recipes. All of our Indian recipes are here, and our Indian Essentials are here. Or explore our Mid Summer recipes.

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Sprouts Usal

Sprouts must be one of the healthiest foods on the planet, and so easy to make at home. You can sprout any whole lentil from your Indian shop and most from your supermarket – also some spices like fenugreek which makes lovely sprouts.

The sprouts are added to oil and spices, and are quickly tossed. Then water is added and the sprouts are left to steam until soft. This is quite different to the Chinese/Asian treatment of sprouts, which is to stirfry them. It is a reflection of the different style of sprouts used in the two areas. In India, sprouts are short, barely 1 cm long. Lentils and beans are sprouted until the tiny sprout has shown its face, and then they are cooked. In Chinese cuisines, the sprouts are left to grow until 5 or 6 cm long to add crunchy, fresh, textural elements to a dish.

In India, there is a difference between Usal and Misal dishes – sometimes the two dishes are confused. Usal is a spiced sprouts dish made with one or more sprouted lentils and beans. Traditionally Usal is made with sprouts of moth beans (matki). Usal can be eaten as is, or Misal is made. For Misal, the cooked sprouts are immersed in a spicy thin gravy and topped with farsan, sev, onion, coriander and lemon wedges. Both Misal and Usal can be eaten with Pav – Indian bread buns.

Usually people mix elements of both dishes, according to their taste and preferences – here the Usal is topped with coriander, coconut, onion and lemon.

The book Tiffin by Srinivas is not only a terrific read, it has many recipes are full flavoured and perfectly balanced. This recipe is one for a mix of sprouts, cooked over low heat with spices.  Delicious.

Similar recipes include Masoor Sprouts Rice, Pudla with Mung Sprouts, and Sprouts Sundal.

Browse all of our Sprouts recipes and all of our Usal dishes. All of our Indian recipes are here, and our Indian Essentials are here. Or explore our Early Summer recipes.

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Chana Masala | Channa Masala

My notes on the recipe for this dish say beautiful, hot, deep complex layers of flavour. We’ve been making this for many years, so I am not sure how we missed posting the recipe for you.

Chana Masala is a spicy Punjabi dish where chickpeas are simmered in a sauce made with tomatoes and 11 spices that are perfectly balanced to provide an experience of each spice, should you care to be aware of them.

Is it chana or channa? Transliteration of any other script is always contentious around spelling and pronunciation, let alone in India where different languages and scripts abound. For decades I have called it channa but the consensus online now seems to be chana. Here, on my blog, you will see both. Chana from now on, but older recipes will be channa.

BTW, anardana seeds are dried, sour pomegranate seeds, available from your North Indian grocery.

Similar recipes include Turmeric Chickpeas, Tray Baked Spicy Turmeric Chickpeas, Turkish Soup with Chickpeas, Roasted Eggplant with Crushed Chickpeas, and Chickpea Fingers with Tomato Salsa.

Browse all of our Punjabi dishes and all of our Chickpea recipes. All of our Indian recipes are here, and our Indian Essentials are here. Or explore our Mid Summer dishes.

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Malabar Spinach with Urad Dal

Malabar Spinach is freely available in Asian and other shops from Mid Summer, and is a lovely alternative to real spinach and other greens. Today we cook it fairly simply with urad dal for a very earthy dish that has a slight bitterness. It does not use many spices, and is gorgeous with some potatoes with chilli and onion.

Similar dishes include Malabar Spinach Pakora, and Malabar Spinach in Spicy Gravy.

Browse all of our Malabar Spinach recipes and all of our Urad recipes. All of our Indian recipes are here, and our Indian Essentials are here. Or explore our Mid Autumn dishes.

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