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 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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Simple Indian Potato Crush

One way that villagers all over India cook potatoes is to mix with a mash of green chilli, onions and salt. It is that simple, but so delicious. It doesn’t really need a recipe, but where would you be if the post ended here?

The flavour of the chilli and onion are infused into the potatoes by grinding them coarsely with salt with a mortar and pestle (don’t use a spice grinder or processor, you need a pounding not a grinding action to do this successfully.

Similar recipes include Indian Mashed Potatoes, Saag Aloo, and Garlicky Potato Mash.

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

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Turnip and Swede Gratin

We’ve had a little focus on Swedes and Turnips last Winter, as we realised that we were not appreciating these underrated vegetables enough. It is Spring as I write, but swedes, turnips and parsnips are still in the green grocers, and the weather is cold. So we decided to add a gratin to our list of recipes for these Wintery roots.

Similar recipes include Vegetables with Indian FlavoursPotatoes and Cumin Gratin, Sweet Potato Gratin, and Gratineed Tomatoes.

Browse all of our Swede recipes and all of our Turnip dishes. Our Gratins are here.  Or explore our Mid Spring recipes.

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Amaranth Plain Masiyal | Thandukkeerai – Araikkeerai Plain Masiyal

It is quite fun exploring the use of Amaranth Leaves in both Indian and Middle Eastern cooking. Right now we are focused on Indian uses (of course) but will explore the uses in Middle Eastern and other cuisines as long as our season of Amaranth lasts. Luckily the plants are self-sowing, so there will be another amaranth forest next year, no doubt.

This dish is another Masiyal with Amaranth Leaves – the third one we have made. 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. In Vol 1, and she includes 3 recipes for Amaranth leaves in the chapter on Aviyal.

Generally masiyal is made with toor dal but less commonly it is made without dal, as in this recipe. The  vegetables generally are mashed or finely chopped, and there are (generally) no ground or powdered spices, only seasoning with a few selected whole spices.

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 Puli Keerai, Ridged Gourd Masiyal, Sampangi Pitlai, Poritha Kootu, and Spinach Chutney.

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

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Beetroot with Black Pepper

This is one of the simplest ways of enjoying beetroot, so simple indeed that everyone must surely already know its joys. If memory serves me correctly, it was the deciding factor in my falling in love with this vegetable. My Mother was not a good vegetable cook – they would be boiled to nothingness and then served without any accompaniment. No dressing, no seasonings, no beautiful black pepper to go with the ruby globes. And, truth be told, most of our beetroot experience was with pickled beetroot – always a bit tart for my tastes back then.

There is indeed a great affinity between beetroot, butter and black pepper. Who can deny it? And this is exactly what this recipe is. For completeness, and because I love simple cooking, I am including it.

Similar recipes include Roast Beetroot Salad with Sweetcorn, Beetroot Salad with Honey Ginger Dressing, and Crimson Beetroot Fry.

Browse all of our Beetroot dishes, especially the Beetroot Salads, and explore all of our Mid Spring recipes.

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Roasted Cauliflower with Cumin and Sumac

What’s not to like about Roasted Cauliflower? In this house it is considered one of the best ways to treat cauliflower. This recipe rubs florets with cumin powder and sumac (for a delightful tang) and roasts them slowly until golden and tender.

The cauliflower can be cooked whole, of course, and we sometimes do that. When there are not so many of us for lunch or dinner, we break it into florets to avoid excessive left-overs. I have included instructions for both whole baked and floret-baked.

This is such a good dish.

Similar recipes include Roasted Cauliflower, Grape and Creamy Cheddar Salad, Roasted Cauliflower and White Bean Puree, and Rice and Cauliflower Pilaf.

Browse all of our Cauliflower recipes, and explore our Mid Spring collection of recipes.

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Slow Braised Red Peppers in Olive Oil

When you are on your own (or not), and you have some left over red peppers in the fridge, and you are thinking, quick and easy eating for supper, take the red pepper (or two) and slow cook it in olive oil with some thyme (oh the aroma!).

Similar recipes include Roasted Red Pepper Salad with Mozzarella and White Beans, Grilled Sweet Peppers and Eggplant Salad, and Roasted Red Peppers Salad.

Browse all of our Capsicum recipes and all of our Italian dishes. Or simply browse our Mid Spring collection of dishes.

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South Indian Plantain Dish | Vazhakkai Poriyal

There are advantages and disadvantages to living in downtown outer-suburban capital city. It is countrified living, but the access to specialist products such as good cheeses, excellent olive oils etc is limited. I found out the other day that I can’t buy Bitter Lemon around here – there goes my Gin and Bitter Lemon. Is that out of fashion now?

What I am eternally grateful for, you don’t know how much, is the range of fruit and vegetables that are common in my area but not seen in the inner-suburban groceries and supermarkets where I used to live. Plantains. Mangoes all year. Pomelo. Mustard Greens. Chilli Leaves. Betel Leaves. Pea Eggplants. Apple Eggplants. Okra. Green Mangoes.  FRESH PINEAPPLES FOR $1!! I could go on and on. This availability has radicalised our kitchen’s menu. Every trip I want to bow down to the owners of the Vietnamese grocery in particular. Total gratitude.

So today the dish is a quick curry of plantain, stir fried and then simmered in spices to make a Poriyal from Tamil Nadu in South India. It is very very delicious with some rice (mix with a little ghee and a pinch or two of poppy seeds), some sambar (plantain can be a bit dry in texture, so it is good to have it with a wet dish) and some chutney. Finish with some curd/yoghurt if you wish.

Similar dishes include Plantain in Tamarind Gravy (make this dish with plantain instead of eggplant in the recipe), Plantain Pulissery (make this dish with plantain instead of pineapple in the recipe), and Carrot and Bean Poriyal.

Browse all of our Plantain recipes, and all of our Poriyal dishes. You can browse all of our Indian dishes. Our Indian Essentials are here. Or explore our Mid Summer of recipes.

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Curly Kale with Ginger and Garlic

Occasionally the urge for green vegetables hits, usually when you are tired, overworked, stressed or anxious. How wonderful a large plate of greens looks, smells and tastes at those times. Don’t worry, we have your back, try this kale dish. It combines the great Asian flavours of garlic, ginger, spring onions (scallions) and a little soy. Quick to make, it is just a few minutes from stove to table.

Similar dishes include Spinach and Sweetcorn Bhurji, Chickpeas and Beetroot Greens with Chilli, and Orzo with Wilted Spinach.

Browse all of our Kale dishes, and our Spinach/Greens recipes. Our Asian dishes are here. Or explore our Early Spring dishes.

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