Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sarkkarai Pongal

Everytime I make idlis at home I think of those days not so long ago when you just had to stop by Saravana Bhavan or Murugan Idli kadai in T.Nagar (enroute to work!!) for a plate of steaming idlies lined with multi color chutneys and spicy sambar followed by a scorching hot filter coffee. Dangerous as it can cause food coma immediately resulting in loss of productivity for half a day :-). You didnt have to worry about cleaning the idli plates, wonder whether you can keep the sambar for lunch and put away the batter. Takes the joy out of eating a hearty breakfast. 

I particularly used to enjoy the Murugan Idli shop breakfast especially because there is no confusion on what to order :-). Jumbo idlies with buckets of sambar and their smaller bucket of idli podi. Not many people know that while the Murugan Idli Shop chain of restaurants are famous for their giant soft idlies, there is another one on their menu that may not be as famous as the idli but is to die for. The warm, brown Sarkkarai Pongal - sweet without overpowering,gooey and dripping with ghee, it used to feature in every breakfast we had there. 

This recipe is not from the restaurant, but from my grandmother. It is normally made for couple of festivals and ofcourse as and when we fancy it. The major effort required is to grate the jaggery which I have outsourced to the man of the house. So here you go - a delectable sweet not found in sweet shops. Tempting!


1 cup of rice
1/2 cup of yellow moong dal/payatham paruppu
1 cup of grated jaggery
2 tablespoon ghee
10 cashews broken
10 raisins
2 pods of cardomom (or a pinch of cardomom powder)
a pinch of salt


1. In a dry pan, lightly roast the yellow moong dal until it lightly browns.
2. Add the moong dal to the rice and wash 2 or three times.
3. Add 5 cups of water and a pinch of salt and pressure cook for three whistles. The rice and dal should be mashed up and not be very dry.
4. In a deep pan, heat jaggery along with 1 cup of water. Wait until the jaggery melts and combines well. Remove any scum from the jaggery that may float on top.
5. It is not required to bring the jaggery liquid to any particular consistency. When it thickens slightly, add the mashed rice and dal along with cardomom powder. (If using cardomom pods then add it while seasoning in ghee). Mix well until the rice is well coated with the jaggery liquid.
6. Heat a small pan with ghee and roast the cashews and raisins (along with cardomom pods if using).
8. Add the cashew and raisins along with the ghee to the pongal.
9. Mix well and remove from heat.
10. Serve warm


  • Thai Rice that is available here in South East Asia is best suited for making pongal. It is gooey and has a heavenly flavor. If Thai rice is not available, you can any polished or unpolished rice except for basmati.
  • Adjust the jaggery quantity according to your taste. If you find the pongal to be less sweet, then heat some more jaggery and water until dissolved and add to the pongal and mix well.
  • The jaggery can be grated in advance and stored in the fridge.
  • Adding a pinch of salt enhances the sweetness of the dish.
  • Don't compromise on the ghee or cashews. No point in a low calorie sarkkarai pongal. Not worth it :-)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Green Chilli and Ginger Pickle / Puli Inji

This is a simple home-made pickle recipe that requires very little effort and even lesser number of ingredients.
A great combination of pungent ginger, hot green chillies, sour tamarind with just a hint of jaggery and absolutely no oil. Ideal for those tastebuds that need some kick.

Green Chilli and Ginger Pickle / Puli Inji


Chopped Ginger - 1 cup
Finely chopped green chilly - 1/2 cup
Tamarind - Lemon Sized
Jaggery - 1/4 cup
Asafoetida - a pinch (optional)
Salt to taste


Mix all the ingredients together in a pan and add 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and allow it to thicken.
Once the mixture thickens, remove from heat. Cool and store in a bottle.

This will stay for 10 days at room temperature. Will stay for 3 weeks when refridgerated.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Mac & Squash - A Creamy Pasta with Roasted Squash

A lot of kids here live on the traditional American Mac and Cheese. Its nothing but macroni (pasta) in a cheese sauce. Its rich and heavy and more of a junk food than an Italian entree. I have always wanted to make a healthier version of the Mac and Cheese and what better choice than the nutrient rich yellow squash. The kids cannot figure out the vegetable and would love the rich and creamy taste. Just think of it as Mac and Cheese with more character :-).

 I had some squash leftover after making "poosanikkai sambar" for the Pongal festival last week. If you are in India, then squash is nothing but yellow pumpkin ("manjal poosanikkai). This is a simple recipe made with just roasted squash. You can use any type of pasta but it goes well with macroni or penne as these shapes can hold the sauce well.



1/4 kg of Squash
1 cup of uncooked pasta (macroni or penne)
3 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup Milk (I have used full cream)
1 teaspoon Red Chilly powder or paprika
1/2 teaspoon Parsley flakes for garnishing (optional)
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
salt to taste


1. Wash and cut the squash into thick slices without the skin.
2. Heat butter in a pan and  gently roast the slices until they brown a little and turn soft.
3. Remove from heat, cool and blend into a smooth paste.
4. While the squash is cooling, cook pasta as per package instructions. (heat a pot of water until boiling. Add a teaspoon of salt and pasta along with a teaspoon of olive oil and cook till its soft but not squishy or sticky. It should be of the texture popularly known as "al dente" or to be firm but not hard).
5. In the same pan used for roasting, heat the remaining butter. Add the minced garlic and mix well.
6. Add the squash paste with a little water (you can use the water used for cooking pasta) and heat gently.
7. Add the chilly / paprika powder and salt and mix well
8. Add the milk and continue heating gently.
9. Add the cooked pasta and mix well. Heat until the pasta is well coated with salt. If you find the dish getting dry/thick, add some more water or milk.
10. Taste and adjust salt.
11. Garnish with parsley or chilli flakes.
12. Serve hot with garlic bread.


1. Grated Cheese can be used for garnishing.
2. Adjust the milk to build the right consistency for the pasta.
3. You can substitute cream instead of the milk but that would make the dish very rich.
4.  You can carrots while roasting for a different twist.
5. For an Indianized verison, add a pinch of garam masala along with the red chilly powder.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Meen Kuzhambu/ Tangy Fish Curry

A lot of people have asked me on why there is only one non-vegetarian recipe in Crimson Spice. Simple reason - I prefer vegetarian food. But the same cannot be said of the staunch carnivores  who are part of my  family. So here is a simple South Indian Fish Curry recipe for all you carnivores out there. Hopefully I should be able to post more non-vegetarian recipes as I try catering to the non-vegetarians at home.



Fish -1/2 kg (I have used snapper. Refer notes)
Pearl Onions - 5 or 6, sliced
Tamarind - Lemon Size
Red Chilly Powder/Sambar powder - 1T
Turmeric - 1t
Mustard Seeds - 1t
Fenugrek - 1t
Asafoetida - a pinch
Vadagam - 1 t (optional)
Salt to taste

Grind to a paste

3 large onions
2 tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup curry leaves


1. Wash and clean the fish. Cut into big chunks.
2. Soak the tamarind in water and extract the paste.
3. Heat oil in a saucepan. When the oil is hot, add mustard seeds, fenugreek, asafoetida.
4. Add the pearl onions and fry well.
5. Add the ground paste, red chilly powder and turmeric and fry well until the raw smell goes.
6. Add the tamarind paste and bring to a boil.
7. Add the fish pieces and salt and continue boiling until the fish is cooked and you can see the oil leave the sides of the pan.
8. Serve with plain rice.

  • Any kind of fish would work for this recipe. I prefer ones with less bones.
  • This can be kept without refrigeration for 3 days and upto a week in the fridge. The dish is thought to taste better the next day.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Medhu Vadai / Ulundu Vadai - A Step-Wise Tutorial

Warning: This is a super-long post. It is meant for those who want to make vadais and those who have been eating vadais all their lives without knowing the complexity of making one.

There are certain dishes in Indian cooking that are meant to showcase the skill levels of the cook who makes them. Have you seen that man in the corner chips store standing outside in front of a huge cauldron of boiling oil. He has a grater held at an angle and deftly slices the potato or banana in such a manner that it lands into the cauldron without even a drop of oil spluttering out. Next time you walk by a tea-stall, watch the man cool the tea  in a gravity defying display(i think its called tea-pulling!! I am not joking. Google it and see :-)).  It is the same with making jalebis and jangris - SKILL. Skill that I have realized that comes with practice and not by watching Masterchef. 

How is it that our grandmothers and mothers exhibit the same skill in making complicated dishes that require great sense of geometry and physics considering that they are not making it day in and day out like the chipswallah or tea master. I have watched with fascination during Diwali, Pongal and other festivals as frail hands mix and shape beautiful and delicate pieces of "kozhukkattai" with such precision that each piece is of the same dimension and contains the same amount of filling. (I made kozhukkattai once and the experience is better left unsaid. Think globs of undercooked flour! ).

One of the dishes that involves skill and practice that I have learnt  am learning is Medhu Vadais.  It is a breakfast dish in South India and is served in most restaurants along with steaming Pongal or soft idlies and a bucket of sambar and chutney. Due to the efforts involved, it is not an everyday dish in homes and is more of a festival food.

 I have been trying to make these vadais ever since I was allowed to come near a pan of hot oil. It involves bringing your hands close to boiling oil to drop the batter and therefore is not exactly a mom-and-me cookie making stuff. Making vadais is like a military operation. Coming to my experience, after exactly five attempts (done over 2 years and 5 festivals), my vadais now justify their name. It took 3 attempts for me to get that darn hole in the vadai (until then I was making medhu bonda). 

But none of the results were inedible. When I look back, it is not that difficult - especially not as difficult as kozhukkattai. (I am sure my kozhukattai would take atleast 10 trials. Look out for that post in 2016).

I made medhu vadais for the recent festival and it came out pretty decent. I agree that the shapes are no way close to precision and dont even start me on the hole. But if you ask me - how boring is it to have the same shaped vadai - I like my vadais to have character. Thats why I dont clone them. Infact I tell my family that life is like a plate of vadais. You never know which size or shape you are going to get them (hehe. Sorry Forrest Gump)

So here you go - my first post with steps - a tutorial on how to make Medhu Vadais. 

Disclaimer: This post may sound too much if you are my grandmother or a born vadai maker. I am no way close to a vadai expert (just look at that darn hole and you would know) and this post is not meant to be a Masterclass in vadai making. This is to help amateur vadai makers like me to impress their family. Do go through the extensive notes at the end of the recipe. (It is longer than the recipe itself).  If you have suggestions or advice, please feel free to leave them as comments. Will update the post with the same. 

Medhu Vadai / Ullundu Vadai / Deep-fried Indian Dumplings
Makes about 10-15 small vadais


1 cup Whole Urad Dal (skinned white variety)
2 tablespoons Rice flour
1 tablespoon Ginger, finely chopped
Salt to taste
Oil for deep frying


2 Onions finely chopped
3-4 Green chillies, finely chopped
1/2 cup Coriander leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup Curry leaves , finely chopped


Making the batter:

1. Wash the urad dal two or three times and soak in sufficient water for 1 to 2 hours.

2. Drain and grind to a smooth paste in a mixie or grinder along with the ginger. (Refer notes). Please add very little water during the grinding process. Adding water would result in loose batter that cannot be shaped into vadais. Ideally if you find the batter to be dry creating a strain on the grinder, then just sprinkle some water by hand and continue grinding until you get a smooth batter. The batter will be thick.

3. Just before stopping the grinding process, add the required amount of salt.

4. Mix in rice flour and the items given under seasoning.

5. Keep the batter in the refridgerator until frying.

Shaping and Frying the vadais:

1. Heat sufficient oil. Check if the oil has reached the correct temperature by dropping a small bit of the batter into the oil. If the batter immediately rises to the top, then the oil is ready. Else remove that piece and wait some more.

2.Keep a small bowl of water on your kitchentop. Wet your fingers and take about 1 tablespoon amount of batter with the four fingers on your hand.

3. Keep the batter on the top portion of the four fingers and using the thumb of your hand pat the batter and create a round shape to the batter.

4.. Using the thumb, make a hole in the
middle of the batter.

5. Gently slide the batter into the hot oil. Keep the stove on medium flame to ensure even cooking.Repeat from Step 2 for the rest of the vadais.

6 Gently turn the vada until both sides are golden brown.

7. Use a slotted ladle / spoon (jalli karandi) and remove onto a kitchen towel

8. The vadai should be crisp, evenly browned to a golden hue and should not have any oil on it. The insides should be white and fluffy.

9. Serve hot with chutney and sambar. Or go ahead and make some sambar vadai or thayir vadai (refer notes)


  • A wet grinder is the most ideal appliance for grinding the batter. If you dont have one, then a mixie would do. Do watch out for over-heating on account of longer grinding time in a mixie.  I have used a wet grinder.

  • The important aspect is the water content to the batter. It would seem difficult to grind without water. But take note that the urad dal has been soaked and therefore has a bit of water content. I would have added only about one or two tablespoons of water throughout the grinding process.  Too much water can be a disaster. If you do end up with a loose batter, try adding more rice flour. Or make medhu bondas. 
  • Rice flour helps in making crisp vadais. Too much of it will change the taste of the vadai. So keep it under 2 tablespoons.
  • Adding salt too early in the grinding would result in hard vadais. You can even add the salt after removing the batter to a vessel.
  • Adding ginger at the time of grinding is optional. It helps in not having to bite into ginger bits while eating. If you dont want to grind them, then add it along with the onion and chillies. Again it is optional.
  • Chilling the batter for 5 to 10 minutes enhances the texture of the vadai. Not mandatory. You can skip it if you want to make the vadais quickly.
  • Quantity of oil depends on the size of kadai and the size of the vadai.
  • If the oil is not of the right temperature, then it will result in oily and oil soaked vadais. If its too hot and smoking, then it will result in the vadai being cooked only on the outside with the middle remaining raw. Adjust the heat while frying to ensure even temperature.
  • If  you want to make bigger vadais or shaping and dropping the vadai and bringing your hands near the hot oil sounds dangerous, then do try it the traditional way with a small piece of banana leaf smeared with oil held in your left and using your right hand shape the vadai on the leaf and turn the leaf over slightly above the oil to drop the batter into the oil. Alternatively, you can use the slotted ladle that you use to fry and shape the vada on it directly and drop it into the oil. 
  • If you are a first-timer, then focus on making the vadai edible for the first couple of attempts. Don't fret too much over the shape. It will come with experience. Trust me :-)
  • With experience, you would be able to fry a batch of 4 or more vadais at a time.  Do not crowd too much as they may not get evenly cooked. 
  • If vadais seem to look oily, then keep the batter again in the fridge for 10-15 minutes. Alternatively add some more rice flour.
  • You can make the batter the previous day and store it in the refrigerator until frying. I have kept the batter in the fridge for a maximum of two days without affecting the taste and quality of the vadai. I am not sure about the maximum time it can be stored.


1. You can omit any or all of the seasonings given if you like plain vadais
2. You can add roasted and crushed pepper, small pieces of coconut to the batter.
3. Restaurants normally add cooking soda/baking soda to the batter just before frying for giant sized crisp vadais. This is optional when you are making at home. I did not use it.
4. Soak the leftover vadais in sambar and garnish with chopped onions and chillies for a delectable sambar vadai.
5.Soak the vadais in curd that has been seasoned with mustard seeds, urad dal and chillies. Garnish with shredded carrot and serve chilled. This is the yummy thayir vadai.

Baingan Raita

Raita is an Indian condiment made with curd/yoghurt and served as an accompaniment to the main course. It is made with raw vegetables like cucumber, onions, tomatoes,carrot or roasted vegetables. Sometimes even fruits like apple or pinapple are used.  This dish is common to both North and South Indian kitchens and is called a "pachadi" in South India.

One of the easiest ways to add a bit of jazz to your dinner table is to serve a raita or pachadi made with a fancy vegetable. Today's recipe is a simple "cooked" raita made with brinjals.

Baingan Raita (Brinjal Raita)


1 Brinjal,
1 t Red chilly powder
1/2 t Turmeric
1/2 t Mustard Seeds
1/2 t Broken Urad Dal
a pinch of asafoetida
1 t oil
Salt to taste
3-4 curry leaves
1 cup Fresh Curd


1. Wash the brinjal and cut into discs. Pat dry the discs on a kitchen towel to remove moisture.
2. Heat oil in a pan and add mustrad seeds, urad dal, asafoetida and curry leaves
3. Add the brinjal along with the chilli powder and turmeric.
4. Fry until it is cooked but still remains crunchy.
5. Add the salt and mix well
6. Remove from heat and cool.
7. Mix in the curd and taste and adjust salt if required.
8. Garnish with coriander leaves or chilli flakes.


1. You can use the same recipe to make zucchini or capsicum raitha.
2. This is not the same as the South Indian roasted brinjal pachadi (sutta kathrikkai pachadi)
3. Any type of brinjal can be used for this recipe.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Maggi Masala Noodles with Vegetables

If I ever had the power to award a Nobel Food Prize - my first choice would definitely be Maggi. It revolutionized an entire generation's food chain and looking at Little A's passion for instant noodles, it makes me wonder if there has been some genetic inclination to it as well. Whatever it is, for the last two decades, the answer to the following situations has been the same
  • Hungry after school? 
  • Tired after long day at work?
  • Don't feel like cooking?
  • Don't know how to cook?
  • Nothing at home?
MAGGI!. All you need is just 2 glasses of water and a heat source. On the stove, in a rice cooker, in an electric kettle, inside a microwave and in cases of some people I know - straight out of the packet (no, not me. I do have a lot of food fetishes. But I don't eat raw Maggi!)

A lot of people have cautioned me about the bad effects of instant noodles. For even a die-hard Maggi fan - I am sometimes paranoid of feeding it to Little A who adores it (In fact she has designated Friday as "Noodles Day" and takes it for lunch to school and every day asks "is it Friday today)!. But I have had this stuff for almost 2 decades and if nothing has happened so far. So it can't be that bad - right?  

I never knew that each country had its own variation of flavors - so was quite surprised to see Maggi Mee Goreng, Maggie Tom Yum and Maggi Curry Ayam here in Malaysia and of course I didn't like it. I want my Masala and so each time we come back from India - there are always couple of packets in my luggage. I was happy to find a store in Kuala Lumpur that stocked the "Indian Maggi Masala" and grabbed a few. 

A lot of people cook Maggi in different ways. Some cook noodles separately, drain and mix the masala. Some like it plain. Some may eat it plain out of necessity or laziness. Even in our home, I like it with vegetables, my husband likes it with just curry leaves and Little A likes it plain. 

Today's recipe is my favorite version of the 2-minute noodles. You can substitute with any instant noodle brand. 

Maggie Masala with Vegetables


1 packet Maggi Noodles (I used masala flavor. You can subsitute for any other instant noodles brand).
1/2 onion - finely chopped
1/2 carrot - finely chopped
1/2 capsicum - finely chopped
2-3 green chillies - finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder or sambar powder
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon oil


1. Heat oil in a deep pan.
2. Add the green chillies and onion and fry well
3. Add the onions and fry. Add the carrot and capsicum and fry well.
4. Add red chilli powder and salt and fry well.
5. Add the tastemaker in the packet and mix well.
6. Add the required quantity of water as mentioned in the packet.
7. Break the noodles and add to the pan.
8. Cook until the noodles are done
9. Serve hot.


1. Adjust green chillies and chilly powder according to taste and tolerance
2. You can add garam masala if you like for an Indianized curry taste
3. Add a drop of soy sauce while cooking vegetables for a slightly sour twist. But skip the salt as soy sauce would have salt.
4. Tomatoes also add a slightly sour taste. Add it if you like it.
5. I like to make my noodles slightly "soupy". So I add an extra 1/4 cup of water. If you prefer dry, the cook as per the packet instructions.

P.S - It was quite a task to take the photos without grabbing a couple of fork fulls of the stuff. Darn! I am addicted to it. It took exactly 5 minutes to reach this point.

Note: This is not a paid post.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Easy Broccoli Soup

Living in a tropical country means that you start enjoying light lunches better than full course meals - especially if you also have to do the washing up after cooking the full course meal. On days when its just me for lunch, I prefer making a light lunch with soup and a sandwich or a salad. Its fast, easy, healthy and most importantly less cleaning up ;-)

This easy broccoli soup has very little ingredients and can be tweaked to your taste. You can make it light with olive oil and skimmed milk or you can go the full length with butter and cream. This soup is a bit thick - so any leftovers can be used for an easy broccoli pesto pasta as well. Do refer the notes for all the possible variations.

Easy Broccoli Soup


1 Broccoli - washed and cut into florets
1/2 Carrot - diced
2 cloves of garlic - chopped finely
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup milk (I used full cream milk)
Salt to taste


1. Heat the olive oil in a pressure pan. Add the pepper and garlic. Allow the garlic to brown a little for that burnt garlic flavor
2. Add the carrots and saute well.
3. Add the Broccoli and mix well. The broccoli will start turning a dark green.
4. Add 1 or 2 cups of water and salt and pressure cook for 1 whistle. If cooking in a pan, then allow the mixture to come to a boil and simmer for 15 -20 minutes until the broccoli is well done.
5. Switch off and strain the solids and keep the liquid in the same pan. Cool and blend the solids into a smooth paste in the mixie. You can also use a handblender and also leave in a few bits if you prefer.
6. Add the paste back to the liquid and mix well. Heat the soup again.
7. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Add the milk and gently mix well until the soup is well mixed and heated (not boiling).
8. Serve hot with croutons or bread sticks.


1. If you don't like the burnt garlic flavor, then substitute with ginger or omit all together.

2. For a clear soup, discard the solids and omit the milk

3. You can substitute potatoes instead of carrots. For the kids, try using sweet potatoes for a healthier option.

4. Add a couple of walnuts or almonds while blitzing the solids for a richer tasting soup. This paste can be directly used as a pasta sauce. Add milk and pour over any cooked pasta.

5. Butter adds a beautiful taste - but it also increases the calories. But if you are like me - then you can justify that the broccoli is so healthy that it compensates the butter :-)

6. You can use cream instead of milk for slightly sweeter and richer taste.

7. For a power-packed version, add 1/4 cup of oats along with the broccoli and pressure cook.

This is not the end of variations. I will keep updating as and when I try different things with this soup. Do you have any ideas???

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Keerai Kuzhambu - South Indian Spinach Gravy with Lentils

One of my  cooking handicaps is the inability to identify different types of spinach. In Chennai markets I used to be awestruck by the way some ladies used to ask for siru keerai, mulai keerai or vendhaya keerai by name, then proceed to check if they were good (Whatever they check for I wouldn't know. I only check for holes. And that is also to make sure that the vendor doesn't think I am naive) and buy accordingly. I wouldn't be able to identify regular spinach from hibiscus leaves. Yeah. I am that bad. I used to stand next to some of these experienced ladies and carefully pick up whatever they had picked up. Sometimes I ask them directly what they would do with it - poriyal or kootu and if all else fails I will ask the lady who sells it who would give me strange looks.

Coming to Penang I saw the innate love for greens with both the local and the Chinese population. And of course the rows and rows of different types of greens in every market. Most of the times the shopkeeper would give me only the Chinese or local name and I would come home and google it to see if it is in anyway related to the ones I have cooked in Chennai. So by trial and error I have shortlisted couple of varieties here and luckily the supermarkets have their names on them. So it is not difficult to select the right ones. 

But sometimes I am overcome with the eagerness to try new variety of spinach and just last week the market lady showed me something which I thought looked like palak. She also said it is good with stir-fry. So brought it home and promptly made it into a keerai poriyal with onion and garlic. After a couple of minutes of stir frying, I realized something was not right. Yeah. the darn thing was generating some gel-like substance that coated the entire stuff in a gelatinous glob. Of course it did not make it to the lunch table. So now I have vowed to abstain from trying anything new. It may last for a week until I see some other new vegetable.

But not to worry, today's recipe is a basic South Indian comfort food especially in Tamil Nadu. It is very close cousin of the North Indian Dal Palak. It is made regularly in most households almost on a daily basis. Traditionally, this is made in a "mannu chatti" or terracota pots. The heat and the porous nature of the vessel along with the labor-intensive hand blending with a "mathu" brings out the best in the dish. I have seen my mom do it the traditional way. Cook in the chatti, then take it off the heat and using a kitchen towel, sit on the floor deftly holding the pot and churning it with the mathu.  Any type of spinach would work for this but apparently it tastes best with "paruppu keerai". If you know what that is and can identify it - go ahead and use it. But if you are "spinach challenged" like me, then you can use any edible spinach. (stress on the word edible after my last experience).

Keerai Kozhambu - A Spinach and Lentil based Gravy


Spinach - 1 bunch
Tuar Dal - 1/2 cup, pressure cooked till soft and mashed
Onion - 1, chopped
Tomato - 1, chopped
Green Chilly - 1, slit
Garlic - 1 clove, smashed
Tamarind paste - 1t
Sambar Powder - 1T
Turmeric - 1t
Salt to taste

For Seasoning
Mustard seeds - 1/2t
Broken Urad dal - 1/2t
Asafoetida (Hing) - a pinch
Curry Leaves - 1T
Vadagam - 1t (Refer Notes)
Ghee - 1t


1. Pressure cook and mash the tuar dal with a pinch of turmeric.
2. Rinse and chop the spinach.
3. Heat oil in a kadai/ pan. Add the green chilly, garlic and onions and fry well.
4. Add the tomatoes and fry well.
5. Add the spinach, sambar powder and fry well.
6. Add the tamarind paste along with 1/4 cup of water and mix well.
7. Add the dal and add some more water and allow it to come to a boil.
8. Traditionally a "mathu" is used at this stage to blend the spinach and dal. But if you find that time-consuming, then go ahead and use a mixie/blender. I have used the stick-type hand blender. If using a hand-blender, then mash the dal and spinach-onion-tomato mix directly on the stove. Do not make into a smooth blend but leave a few bits of spinach/ onions etc. If using a blender, then switch off the stove,allow the mixture to cool and blend.
9. Add salt and bring the blended mixture to a boil.
10. In a small pan, heat some ghee. Season with the seasoning ingredients mentioned above.
11. Add the seasoning to the boiling kuzhambu
12. Serve hot with rice.


1. For best results use mann chatti and a mathu. But that is extremely labor intensive. So if you are like me - then use a pressure pan and hand blender for fast results.
2. Vadagam - It is a kind of dried seasoning made up of onion and garlic and other spices that are made into a ball and stored for the rest of the year. Adds great flavor to south indian gravies. Check out the recipe here. I have not attempted to make these at home but get mine from India. Please note that it is quite pungent even in its dried form - so you can imagine the nasal assault it will have during the making! Do not try this at home unless you have an independent well-ventilated house. On hindsight - maybe I will make it at home to take revenge on my durian-loving neighbors ;-)

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