Mizhukku puratti (Vegetable fry)

Ingredients
green beans – 1 inch lengths – 2 cups
plantains or green bananas – cubed – 1 cup
salt to taste

Method
Lots and Lots of oil (just kidding – 3 teaspoons oil)

Soak the plantains in warm water and turmeric. Drain well and cook with salt.

Cook the beans separately in a little water. ( Zap it to save time – add a half cup of water and salt, cover and mwave it at high for 4 to 6 minutes).

Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the beans (drain off any water left), Stir for a minute and then add the plantains. Stir till nice and browned.

hint: This curry may be made with any cooked vegetable.
Source: Maya Nair

Richard’s All Continents Guaranteed Idli

Ingredients
1 cup black gram (urad) dal, skinned
1 teaspoon methi (fenugreek) seed (optional)
1/4 cup flattened rice (poha) (optional)
3 cups idli rice
1 cup Kerala matta rice (or long grain rice of your choice)
1 tsp salt
spray oil, melted butter, or ghee for greasing steaming plate

Equipment
Pressure cooker with weight removed
Powerful blender or specialized idli grinder such as Ultra Grind+
Idli steaming plates

Method
Lightly wash dal, and cover with water and allow to soak for 4 – 6 hours. Wash the rice, cover with water, and allow to soak 4 – 6 hours as well. If using methi and/or flattened rice, add to rice.

Grind rice to the consistency of cream of rice in blender or Ultra Grind.

Grind urad to a fine paste, and then grind together until mixed well. You can simply add the dal to the ground rice mix in an Ultra Grinder, but I don’t recommend this trick in a blender. Stir in the salt with a spoon.

Ideally, ferment the batter in an Instant Pot with a yogurt setting. Instant Pot slow cookers (the Aura Pro) with yogurt settings work as well as the pressure cookers. Don’t fill more than half full to allow for fermentation rise, and cover with glass lid. Instant Pot is indispensable for Indian cooking, so get a good one (not the Lux, it has no yogurt setting) from Amazon, Costco, Walmart, or wherever.  I have three of them.

Note: Beware that the yogurt button on the Aura Pro has a memory, so make sure it doesn’t default to yogurt boil. Push the button again to change from boil to regular yogurt if this is the case.

Note: Alternate method for people who don’t have Instant Pots: If you don’t have a yogurt maker, place batter in a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap or foil, and put in a warm place to ferment until double in bulk. A good place is an oven pre-warmed to 130-160 degrees Fahrenheit and kept warm by a 40 watt light bulb in an automotive trouble light. An ice chest warmed with the trouble light will work as well.

The process is similar to making sourdough bread or yogurt. The amount of time the rising will take depends on the temperature: The batter will double in 8 hours if the temperature in the container is over 95 F, and at lower temperatures it can take as long as 30 hours. If the batter doesn’t rise, don’t despair, just find a warmer place. Under no conditions should the batter be allowed to get hotter than 110 F.

Some people substitute rava (sooji, cream of wheat) for rice, especially in colder climates like the Frisco Bay Area, because their batter doesn’t rise. This is an unnecessary compromise, and people so inclined may just has well go to the Pasand Restaurant and eat their idli bricks.

The fermentation process depends on the presence of wild yeast, which comes from the air. It appears to stick well to the urad dal and to the methi.

Don’t use baking soda, baking powder, yeast, or yogurt to “help” fermentation. I’ve conducted controlled experiments on these agents, and methi outperforms them. Baking soda, baking powder, and yogurt retard fermentation, but a little baking soda or powder added just before cooking makes for a fluffier idli if you didn’t get a vigorous ferment.

Salt is essential to the fermentation process because it kills microbes that compete with the yeasts that make good flavor and good rise. This scientific paper explains idli fermentation: Ghosh D, Chattopadhyay P. Preparation of idli batter, its properties and nutritional improvement during fermentation. J Food Sci Technol. 2011;48(5):610–615. doi:10.1007/s13197-010-0148-4

After your batter has gone nuts, you are ready to make idlis. If your fermentation was weak (batter didn’t double insize) you can add baking soda or powder and stir it into the batter slightly, just enough to evenly distribute the powder and not enough to make the bubbles completely subside.

Put an inch or so of water in the pressure cooker and let it heat to boiling while you load the idli plates with batter. Grease idli plates (you can probably use egg poachers if you want, but I never have) with spray-on oil, butter, or ghee and fill them (almost full) with the idli batter. It’s best to leave a gap of 1/4 to 1/8 inch. After all are loaded, place the plate in the pressure cooker and lock the lid on with the weight removed, as you want to steam the idlis, not pressure cook them.

Set the temp high enough for a steady stream of steam, but not so high that it spits. The idlis need to steam for 12-16 minutes.

Eat with coconut chutney, idli chutney powder, or sambar. Extras can be refrigerated or even frozen and re-heated in a microwave, but they won’t be as fluffy. The same idli batter can be use to make dosa (fry like pancakes) and sannan (steam.) It’s best to thin the batter to make paper dosa.

Idli plates can be purchased at your local Indian grocery or on-line. I prefer the teflon coated plates. If you don’t have a fancy grinder, you can buy pre-ground rice and dal, prepared idli mix, and ready-made batter from the better Indian grocery stores. You can also buy pretty decent frozen coconut chutney and idli podi (AKA chutney powder) at the same shops, but you may as well make your own Sambar because it’s not that hard. A pre-made sambar powder will save time.

Fish moilly (malay fish curry)

This dish is a traditional Kerala take on Malay fish curry.

Per Madhur Jaffrey’s Flavours of India: “Noted for its abundance of fish, Kerala cuisine is fragrant with coconut and spices. The recipe for Fish moilly is particularly delicious.

Kerala, which nestles along India’s south-western coast, has a warm, sunny climate and rich tropical greenery. The name means “the land of the coconuts”, and these are prized not only commercially, but also in the kitchen. They are an important ingredient in many Kerala dishes, like this delicious fish dish. Traditionally made with seer fish – kingfish steaks – it works as well with cod steaks or halibut or haddock fillets. In Kerala, this dish is served with rice, but you may serve it with boiled potatoes and a salad.”

Ingredients
About 1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1 lb (450g) fish steaks or fillets, cut into 2 inch cubes
4 Tbs. coconut oil or vegetable oil
1 medium large red onion finely sliced
6 fresh hot green chilies finely sliced
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely shredded
About 30 fresh curry leaves, if available
7 fl oz (1 cup) coconut milk, well stirred from a can or fresh
2 Tbs. lime juice

Method
Mix 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the turmeric together. Rub over the fish. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large wide, non-stick pan or wok over a medium heat. When hot add the onion, chilies and ginger. Stir once or twice. Add the curry leaves. Stir and fry for three to four minutes until the onion is soft.

Add 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder and 5 fl oz (3/4 cup) water. Mix well. When the mixture boils add the fish. Spoon the sauce over the fish.

Add 3/4 teaspoon salt. Turn the heat down. Cover and simmer for four to five minutes, spooning the sauce over the fish and shaking the pan gently to prevent sticking.

Add the coconut milk, shake pan and add more salt if needed. Cover and simmer for a further three to four minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. Add the lime juice.

Shake again and remove from the heat, then serve.

Sambar I

Ingredients
1/2 cup (heaped) thur dal (papu)
2 Tbs. coconut gratings
1 Tbs. bengal gram dal
2 sprig curry leaves
1 tsp. mustard seeds
tamarind lump (the size of a marble)
2 tsp. (heaped) coriander seeds
2 Tbs. oil
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 bunch coriander leaves
1/2 tsp. fenugreek
seeds salt to taste
8 pepper corns
chunks of vegetables (tomato, turmeric, onion, squash, potato, asafoetida (ingua) okra, raw banana, 6 red chilies (just about anything))

Method
Wash thur dal thoroughly. Boil 1 liter of water. Drop dal in boiling water. Cook until soft.

Take a little oil in a frying pan on another flame. Roast mustard, coriander, fenugreek, cumin, pepper, turmeric, red chilies, asafoetida, bengal gram dal, coconut gratings and 1 sprig of curry leaves – all in the same sequence, until brown.

Grind all the roasted ingredients with tamarind to a fairly smooth paste. To the cooked thur dal, add vegetable pieces and a few coriander leaves.

Cook until tender. Then add salt along with ground masala (paste made above) and some water.

Boil well. When done, remove from flame.

Garnish with bits of coriander leaves. This is usually served with idli or rice.

Chile Chutney

Ingredients
10 fresh red New Mexico chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded & stemmed
10-12 almonds or cashews
1 lump tamarind pulp about the size of a small lime
1 1/2 Tbs. raisins
1 tsp salt
1 small onion, minced

Method
Grind the first five ingredients together, preferably to a fine paste, and store in a jar for a week. When about to use, add the minced onion and mix well. Yield: 1-2 cups. Delicious with rice dishes.

Note: This chutney, from one of India’s southernmost states, taste better once it has been stored a week.

Manga kari (Mango pickle I)

Ingredients
green mango – 1
medium chili powder – 2 tablespoon (Ayyo!)
mustard seeds – 1/4 teaspoon
methi seeds – 1/2 teaspoon
turmeric powder – 1/4 teaspoon
hing powder – 1 teaspoon
curry leaves (fresh – yummm!)

Method
Cut the mango into small pieces. In a pan, add the oil and pop the mustard seeds.

Add the mangos and saute for a few minutes. Roast the methi seeds and grind to a powder (this acts as a preservative).

Add this to the manga and also add the the rest of the stuff.

hint: Mix the chopped mango with salt and store it in a glass jar for a couple of days before this curry is made.

Source: Maya Nair