Saturday, January 31, 2015

Cooking with millets : Millet Peas Upma


Another year bit the dust, another zillion resolutions have fallen by the wayside but hope springs eternal.

I am once again going to attempt to Blog Regularly, Cook differently, Eat healthy, Get Fit and Of course, reduce procrastination.
That last one had already fallen to the onslaught of my usual vices, this post is at least 25 days in coming :)
When I ruminate over my cooking style and variety, I find I am known for a few classics: My Cocoa Brownie, Idlis, Chola + Phulka, Aaloo and the myriad varieties of side dishes possible with it, Rasam, Daal, healthy muffins, granola, rajma, veg rice, waffles, paniyaram etc... 

I am certainly not discounting the value of the ability to cook regular food well.  It is nice when my youngest appreciates the basic Dosa + Coconut chutney I make for his snack box frequently.  Time is short, appreciation is rare and when I do get it I want to record it and frame it and press the play button every time I am bored/frustrated/tired..  I wish DH and my older son would join in the praise.

There are some other dishes I cook very well but don't interest dh and kids as much as they interest my dad, traditional Iyer food. In true Calvinesque fashion, I thought a good goal for the year would be introducing my kids to traditional Iyer foods made even more healthy (or horrible, from my older son's perspective) by cooking with millets etc...
Organic Pani Varagu
One of the first things I tried was making a millet Thiruvathirai Kali, a sweet risotto with lots of coconut.  DH and I loved it, my kids simply suffered through it :)  They, surprisingly, loved the side dish, ezhukari kootu, a stew made of 7 - 9 - 11 local vegetables.  The next attempt was the typical Arisi Upma made with Millets and Peas instead of the usual broken rice and daal.

My millet of choice for this dish is the Pani Varagu, i.e. the millet which growsi in fog.  I suppose this means this millet is harvested only in the winter?  There is a brand new organic shop in Besantnagar, right beside the Besantnagar Bus Stand.  They stock organic millets, oils, rice, wheat etc...  This is a blessing since Restore moved away to Kottivakkam on ECR.

Traditionally this dish involves coarsely breaking rice and lentils,sift the powdery part and then making the upma.   My younger son has been told to eat dinner by 7:00.  I come home by 6.15-6.30 and he immediately starts hounding me to get started with dinner.  I was in no mood to break daal and then sift it to separate the finer powder. Besides, lentils should be dry roasted before grinding for optimal flavour. I decided to substitute fresh peas.

Unlike the northern lattitudes, peas season here in hot chennai starts in the middle of December and ends by the end of March. In this period, when peas are 60Rs a Kg or lower, I shell at least a kilo of peas a week!  I use them wherever possible.

Millets are small, peas are fresh, I assumed they would cook in the same time.  I was right!  Dinner was done in 30 minutes flat from start to end.  I used my Hawkins futura pressure cooker, will certainly take longer in a traditional saucepan.

1 cup millet, Kodo Millet
2/3 cup fresh peas
1/2 cup fresh coconut grated.

1 tbspoon oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp chana daal
1 tsp urad daal
3 red chillies
1 pinch of hing

1 sprig curry leaves
1" piece ginger grated

Heat oil in the cooker, then add mustard and cumin.  
When mustard splutters add the 2 daals 
When the daals turn reddish add the chillies
When the chillies darken add the hing.
Add curry leaves, ginger and pour in 3 cups of water
Add the peas and bring the water to a boil.
Add the millet, coconut and salt to taste.
Cover the cooker with its lid and wait for steam to build up,
Once the cooker whistles, lower the heat to a simmer and wait for 3 minutes.
Turn the cooker off.


Open the pan after the pressure reduces to normal (10 minutes?) .
Serve with sugar and pickles.
Tastes best warm.

Millet Peas Upma, so popular I could photograph only a spoonful!


A rare case where virtuous cooking is fast and tasty. This is my contribution to Lisa's MLLA#79 started by Susan

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Plans, Excuses and Recipes

I won't say life has become busier, it is just the same as it always has been, thesis to finish, projects to chase down, kids to teach, cakes to bake, dishes to try etc... etc... I have somehow given away to daydreaming and watching more crime shows on TV rather than hunker down and getting everything done.  6 pm to 9 pm time is wasted on arguing, shopping and TV. 9 to 10 is dinner and 10 - 11.30 I work. Sometimes. 

 But, yet again, no more.  I have resumed my NTC workouts (3 days) and I already feel less lethargic despite the heat. I have kept up with interesting bakes and cakes though and learnt to not fool around with crowd pleasers like my Garlic Rasam, Vatral Kuzhambu, Arachivitta Sambhar, Paniyaram, Cocoa Brownies etc....

One of my favourite bakes of late is breakfast muffins with grapes, sattu mava and whole wheat flour instead of blueberries and APF.  It tasted awesome! The trick is to whip the eggs until it is triple atleast in volume and able to hold shape.  Results, in a much more tender crumb and airy muffin even when I skip the APF.

I tried Debbies one bowl Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp bar with Jackfruit Mango and Grapes instead of Strawberry and Rhubarb. The Jackfruit fragrance dominated but the mangoes and grapes tasted really delicious, crisp outside juicy inside and a little carmelized.  I forgot to save some of the flour mix to strew over the fruits, resulting in a more carmelized fruit flavour. No pic unfortunately.  The bars were over as soon as they were out of the oven.

I made an excellent sour cream poppy seed mango cake.  I used the indian version, white in colour called Khus Khus locally.  Nothing beats well roasted poppy seed flavour in cakes and adding coconut to it is just gilding the lily.  Khus Khus is supposed to be extremely cooling for the body.  The mango pieces were superfluous though.  They didnt add anything to the fruit flavour, remaining just a sudden change in texture, not altogether pleasant, when you eat the cake.

I discovered the best way to get my son to enjoy my very healthy pasta with a ton of vegetables is to simply disguise the vegetables, either as a salad on the side or roast all the vegetables and blend it into the sauce :)

I discovered I have done such a good job teaching my children to enjoy the flavours and not the sugar high, I found that they enjoyed today's Orange-Chocolate breakfast cake while I felt it needed a lil more sweet!


Come June I will have to pack 2 breakfasts and 4 lunches by 8.30 am! My plans for the coming school year includes. well, planning better so that I can cook and pack in 60 - 90 minutes :)

Indian Dabbas are spectacular.  I never understand why they don't share bento's popularity.  Perhaps because it is completely adapted to our cuisine?  The daal-roti/ sambhar-rice and veggies + curds ilk?  I have to pack 2 each for my kids, a small one for the morning break and one for the lunch break.

I want to try breakfast in a mug/jar 1 or 2 days a week - layer granola, fruits and yogurt in a single cup for breakfast on the go.  Granola / Muesli will of course be home made.  I would do muffins, pumpkin pies, fruit custard, dates nuts granola, cold sundals etc...

Lunch will have to include curd rice because it is my lil one's must have for lunch, . He firmly belongs to the above mentioned ilk, other box(es) could have the usual suspects, roti subji, vegetable pulao, pasta, sandwich, crepes, pancakes, idlis etc...

I have a list of things I need to try in the lunch box:

This lentil salad from Heidi.  Also her Fig leaf rice, though I will go with jasmine/hibiscus/lemon, all unsprayed in My Garden.  Her braised spring vegetables (I only roast mine)

Debbies egg sandwiches, sans eggs/meat (school has a vegetarian meals policy).  Her 3-bean chili. Her warm-lentil potato salad.  Her cheese blintz.   So many more.... What can I say?  If I were living in NYC, she might have to get out a no-stalking warrant against me.

I have decided to start a trial run next week, Mon-Fri.  Pics, Recipes and Reviews to follow.




Sunday, November 24, 2013

Vegetarian Sandwich with Hummus

My sister sent me a ton of hummus - a 500g Ragu bottle worth to be precise and I accepted with trepidation.  I have made hummus in the past and found it simply boring until I hit upon the idea of adding fresh home made panneer to it.  My sis batch was even more bland than mine if possible.

This time I am trying another trick:  Pickling vegetables a la Debbie of Smitten Kitchen.  I had to change the recipe of course.  I am getting the stuff ready close to midnight.  No to matchstick cutting, certainly yes to mandolin grating.  Gau had used the last of my distilled white vinegar to try and make a bouncy ball out of Raw Egg and I had completely forgotten to replenish my pantry.  Make do with Apple Cider.

I  mandolined carrots, beetroots and chopped onion and capsicum.  I put carrot in the bottom, then onions, beetroot and finally capsicum.  I heated 1 cup apple cider vinegar with an equal volume of water and about 1 teaspoon of sugar and salt, until they dissolved.  I cooled and poured it over the vegetables; Some of the vinegar ooze out when I put the lid  on.  The top layer is definitely not steeped in vinegar.  Thank God it was only capsicum, tastes awesome even raw.
Professional Looking Ain't it?

Beetroot took over the colour and I lost all signs of my pretty orange - white - red - green layering :(


I had picked up some random greens at Ottanchatiram in Adyar, hoping it had some magical goodnesss about it. This time my pick turned out to be mudakathan keerai.  I had no clue how it could taste.  I simply washed it clean, chopped it fine and sauteed it with shallots and green chillies.  I made patties with this keerai, potatoes, some grated cheese and some cooked lentils. 

Packed and ready to go

scary redness
The rest was easy.  Three slices of bread toasted, buttered on one side, then hummus and patties on one half, hummus and pickled vegetables on the other.   I could have jazzed it up further with a bit of pesto/mint chutney, but I didnt gave either on hand.  The lunch box was a super hit.

This is not so much a recipe as how I get my kid to eat different greens without standing by him with a stern face while he eats :D
One surefire successful way is sandwiches such as these, a little potato and cheese to perk up the flavours and jazzier presentation as compared to our traditional keerai masiyal and paruppu satham. 

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