Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


Green Onion Kootu

It is official. Winter has arrived. Yes, we feel the bite of winter’s freezing hands down south here in Alabama too. But I am not as dismayed with the season as I was last year. Nausea all alone in the house was not fun but what is fun is having a home full of people and a kitchen that is always bustling with activity, be it something as simple as making a pot of tea or Amma rustling up wholesome South Indian food!
green onion kootuOne of the best things about my mother-in-law is her innate talent of creating something nutritious with fresh flavorful ingredients. Since Appa has a strict diet regimen, her choices when it comes to selecting vegetables is very rigorous. If you are one of those people who thinks that a diet that revolves around healthy cooking (low oil, lots of green leafy veggies kind) is snoozville, I am very sure that Amma’s cooking will change your mind.

This week’s bounty hunting at our local ethnic market brought to us some beautiful bunches of green onion. Now, this is not a vegetable we generally use in Indian cooking. Or so I thought until our trip to Indian last year. The day we landed in Madras, Amma cooked up some Sambar with green onions which found a huge fan in me. I would not be exaggerating if I said I had dreams about it until last Sunday. And then I found a new green onion dish to haunt my dreams: the Green Onion Kootu.

Although She laughed at me when I said I was going to write about it on the blog next, she agreed that it was a dish that connoisseurs of Indian food should taste! So after hurriedly clicking pictures of it, I decided that this Kootu deserves a big reveal as soon as possible. With the weather turning all frigid on us, I deemed this the perfect timing!

Green Onion Kootu

One bunch green onions, whites and greens chopped

Two Tbsps Mung Dal, washed

One Tbsp Sambar powder. Rasam, Cumin-Coriander or even curry powder would work but it would give it a different taste

One tsp turmeric powder

One tsp salt

For Tempering:
One tsp mustard seeds

One tsp Urad Dal

One tsp asafoetida

Few curry leaves

Cook the green onions and Mung Dal with enough water, turmeric powder, Sambar powder and salt. When done, temper with mustard seeds, Urad Dal, asafoetida and curry leaves. If you are serving it as a side, make sure it is thick (thicken with AP/corn/rice flour). This dish could also be served as a soup. Squeeze half a lime and make some Papads (or cut a fresh loaf of bread) to dunk into the soup.

Since we made it for a casual lunch, we left out the cilantro for garnish. You could go ahead and dress it up.

Be safe, y’all! I heard it is going to be a messy week.


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Okay, this dish is not literally “mashed” but the native word for this recipe (in Tamil), Masiyal, means exactly that. Me-kinda-thinks the name came about because the lentils and vegetables used in this dish are cooked very fine. Think borderline mashed-That’s how well cooked they are. This mixture is then combined with other flavorings and simmered until it reaches a very thick soup-like consistency. Masiyal belongs to the South Indian Sambar family, which means, it can be eaten with rice as a main dish,  as an appetizer in the form of a thick soup (accompanied by bread, of course) or as a side with Dosa, Idli or Upma. The options, as always, are aplenty.

MasiyalMy mother is an ace at making this dish. Give her any vegetable and she can make a bowl of the most delicious Masiyal ever. So it was only fitting that when I made my (long) list of food I wanted Amma to make when she got here, I included this one. She made it with some Senaikizhangu we had bought at the Indian grocery store a couple of weeks ago. This brings us to that wonderful question I’ve been dreading: what on earth is Senaikizhangu? Erm, well, it is called Elephant Yam in English but I am pretty sure that the rest of the world has no clue about the existence of this tuber. It tastes pretty earthy (duh, right?), has thick brown skin and many a person I know is unfortunately allergic to this yam.

So if you don’t find this vegetable, want to avoid taking a risk with your allergies that are probably playing a havoc in your life already this spring, or have tasted and detest this vegetable from the bottom of your heart, you can make it with carrot, zucchini, yellow squash or okra. But if you are a serious foodie and cannot wait to taste Senaikizhangu, I would suggest you go to a big chain like Patel Brothers (if you live in USA). If you are one of those lucky ones who happen to live in India, you probably know where to get it already.

Senaikizhangu (or any other veggie you fancy) Masiyal

Two cups of the vegetable of your choice, diced into medium-sized pieces

One cup Toor Dal

Two Tbsps tamarind paste dissolved in two cups of water

Four Thai green chili peppers, slit

One tsp turmeric powder

Half tsp cayenne pepper powder

Pinch of asafoetida

Salt to taste

One Tbsp cooking oil

One tsp mustard seeds

A few curry leaves and a sprig of cilantro (optional but recommended)

To dry roast and grind:

One tsp fenugreek seeds

Three dried red chili peppers

Pressure cook the vegetables, Dal, turmeric and salt in six cups of water. When done, whisk slightly. Heat a pan with the oil. Add the mustard seeds. When they start popping, add the green chili peppers, curry leaves and asafoetida. Pour in the tamarind water. Add a little salt and let it boil on medium heat for a few minutes until the raw flavor of tamarind leaves. Add the Dal/Veggie mixture to the pan and mix in the cayenne pepper powder and ground fenugreek powder. Check for salt. If the consistency is too thick, add a little water. If it is too thin, whisk in some rice or AP flour. Off the heat and garnish with cilantro.

I had it with rice today and have some stored for breakfast tomorrow… and lunch. And hopefully for dinner again.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend, folks!



Everyday Dal

I think it is the quintessential South Indian dad thing: going to a “multi-cuisine” Indian restaurant with the family (whilst cribbing about the overwhelming flavor of Masala in every dish that rolls out of the kitchen). And raining on the parade by ordering a drab ‘ol Dal with his Phulka while the rest of us act specifically embarrassing, like kids in a candy shop, and drool all over the lengthy menu while trying to decide what to order. Oh, it gets worse. We would all ultimately end up over-ordering, thanks to all the excitement over the non-home cooked meal and would look towards Appa, asking him politely if he wanted some, subtly screaming for help with finishing off the meal. He would grimly shake his head and go on with demolishing his Dal, saving the proper dressing-down about wasting food (the take away box would never hold him back, no sir!) for later.

dal tadka3We’ve never been adventurous foodies at home, hence, we had a hand-full of restaurants that we would always frequent: Sree Ram Bhavan, Dhabba Express and later, Madras Race Club (where we set up camp and refused to go anywhere else since the late 90’s). Although the similarities between every restaurant we’ve visited were never stark, the plain Dal, I’ve noticed, were actual doppelgangers: it would always be Dal Tadka… which, as I grow older I find, is not as boring as I always thought it was. Tadka, in Hindi, simply means tempering. So Dal Tadka roughly means Tempered Dal.

It is my go-to Dal these days and we love it with Rotis, Phulkas (so that my dad’s spirit is happy) and Jeera rice. Today, I decided not to be lazy and went in search of a nice homestyle Pulao for the Dal. And as she has been for months now, Nags at Edible Garden came to my rescue. Her simple veggie Pulao, I discovered today, was the perfect compliment to my Dal Tadka. The only small substitution I made was using brown rice instead of white and my trusty slow/rice cooker came to my aid by cooking the best Pulao-worthy plain rice. So if you need the recipe for the awesome Pulao, you could follow the link to her blog and recipe on this post. As for the Dal Tadka, here is the recipe-

Dal Tadka

3/4 cup red gram Dal (Toor)

3/4 cup Mung Dal

Six pods of garlic and a small piece of ginger, chopped

Four Thai chili peppers, washed and stalks removed

One huge head of onion and two Roma tomatoes, finely chopped (separately)

Two dried red chilis, broken into halves

Two tsps salt

A pinch turmeric powder

One tsp each Jeera, Mustard seeds and Nigella seeds (optional but recommended)

A pinch of Asafoetida powder

A tsp Am-Choor (dried mango powder) which you can substitute with fresh lime juice

Lots of fresh cilantro leaves

Wash the Dals together and soak them in warm water for half hour. Pressure cook/cook in your rice cooker or a saucepan with the Thai chilis, chopped ginger-garlic, turmeric powder, little salt until well-cooked. Fish out the chilis and whisk the cooked Dal. Heat oil in a pan and add the “Tadka” ingredients: Jeera, mustard, Nigella seeds and asafoetida. When it starts popping, add the onion and saute till translucent on med-low flame. Add the tomato now and cook until slightly mushy. Mix in the Dal with the Masala. When it starts boiling, switch off the heat. Stir in the Am-Choor/lime juice and garnish with cilantro leaves.

dal tadka



Dal Revamped!

I love Dal. There, I said it. I love Dal in any form, Tuvar with little salt, turmeric and boiled in the traditional cooker (for eight whistles, as it is in my home), Moong like in the Kootu that was the star of one of my previous posts, Urad mashed up with Rajma in rich Dal Makhani or a mix of all of these in Panchratni Dal.

Dal or Paruppu as we call it in Tamil, is a comfort food with multiple Indian foundations. Since it needs no big introduction on my blog, I dive straight into the story. For a change, it is a short one.

A sleep-deprived me at 9 O’clock last night: Oh shoot! I haven’t made anything for dinner or tomorrow’s lunch.

The Mister (engrossed in tv): Err… um…

SD Me grabs my most favorite book of all from the kitchen. Tarla Dalal’s Punjabi Khana. I skim for a quick Dal recipe (and believe me, the book has loads!) and settle on Dal Amritsari. It needs Urad Dal and it needs to be soaked overnight. Now, knowing Urad, it really does need an overnight soak, for which I had no time or patience. I decide to use Moong instead. I have all the other condiments and spices this recipe calls for except onion. Darn! This is a flop show. I brainstorm… er… with myself and come up with a solution. My Indian pressure cooker comes to my aid.

SD Me (after maniacally skimming through the book while the better half sat oblivious, engrossed in watching some movie called Knowing)): Yay! I got the perfect recipe for tonight’s dinner. Life is bright again!

TM: Ooh yumm! I am sure it is going to be tasty, honey.

A very excited SD Me describes what I am making and TM nods along enthusiastically. The day was saved albeit a little late.

Here is a little bit of history on the dish for the ones who want to know: Amritsar is the spiritual capital for the Sikhs (I assume most of us know about the sect or have done enough research online in the recent past) It houses the beautiful Golden Temple which actually attracts more visitors that the Taj Mahal in India! This Dal is a native of the city and a tribute of sorts to beautiful Amritsar.

So here is the recipe, with my alterations.

My Dal Amritsari


3/4 cup Moong Dal

One tsp salt

Three huge garlic pods grated

One medium-sized tomato

One small piece of ginger cut into small pieces (I love the taste of ginger pieces in my food. If you don’t, go ahead and grate it too)

One small Thai green chili

One tsp Garam Masala (which is not curry powder, btw)

One tsp Amchur (optional but I love it for the tang. You get this in an Indian grocery store)

One tsp each coriander and cumin powder (on my latest grocery expedition to Atlanta, I found out that the Indian stores stock up a blend of coriander and cumin. Coolest!)

One Tbsp onion powder (my solution to the ongoing onion scarcity at home)

Quarter tsp cayenne pepper powder

A pinch turmeric powder

Half cup cream (you could substitute half the quantity with milk)

One tsp cumin seeds

Cilantro to garnish


Pressure cook (you could also use the electric cooker or a dutch oven) the dal with the onion powder, half the grated garlic, salt and two cups of water. When done, mash the mixture and add the cream. Keep aside. Heat a saute pan or a wok with one Tbsp butter and one Tbsp oil. Add the cumin seeds. When they start browning, add the tomato, chili, remaining garlic and all of the ginger. Saute on medium flame for three minutes. Now add the Garam Masala, turmeric powder, cayenne pepper powder, coriander-cumin powder and Amchur (if using). This mixture will form a Masala base for the Dal. When the oil separates from the mixture, add the Dal to it and adjust the seasonings. Garnish with cilantro leaves.

We ate this with oats in the night and with rice in the afternoon. Yummy!

So after dinner, the Mister: That was wonderful. What was it?

I guess some people are trained not to listen. Not that I mind because the element of surprise never ends 🙂


PS: I have just one small request. That is, comment. I love the zig-zag line my traffic graph forms on my dashboard. I have seen activity increase on this blog, which is my labor of love. The best thing you could do to make my day is comment, tell me what you think. I would love that!


Southern Comfort

If you stumbled upon this blog post thinking it is about some novel American Southern food, you are in for a disappointment. But if you do stay and read on, you will discover that it is about as much a novel Indian Southern dish. We love it, though it is just one of those normal everyday dish back home which with a little bit of alteration, can play double duty. And at the end of this post, I promise to share a little story like I always do.

So Kootu is a little like the Greek lentil soup which we eat with rice, a side-dish (like the Okra Curry) and Thuvayal. The dish is sometimes seasoned with coconut and cumin. In some parts of South India, it is even cooked in tamarind. The North of India has its own version of Kootu called Dal. It is made with a combination of Dals (lentils), cooked and fried with Masala. That dish deserves its own post which I will post soon. Here is how I made the South Indian Kootu:


One Chayote (or two carrots, half a head cauliflower or cabbage, a bunch of green beans or a combination of all of these) diced

One cup Toor Dal (from the Indian store or the Ethnic food section in your grocery store)

Couple of Serrano peppers

One and a half tsp Sambar powder (back to Indian store or I will post the recipe soon)

A pinch of pepper powder

Salt to taste

One tsp mustard seeds

One tsp Urad dal

Two Tbsp coconut (optional)

A pinch cumin powder

A pinch Asafoetida powder (optional)

Two Tbsp oil

Cilantro for garnishing


Add the lentils, veggies, salt, Sambar powder, peppers, salt and pepper powder to two cups of water. Cook them. In a pan, heat the oil, add the mustard seeds, when they crackle, add the Urad dal, Asafoetida, cumin powder and coconut. Fry a little and add the cooked mixture to the pan. Switch the stove off when it starts boiling. Garnish with cilantro.

So the story. During one of dad’s health-kicks, my mother used to make a small portion of Kootu every morning for his breakfast. He used to mix in a splash of soy sauce, couple of tsps of vinegar, some green chili sauce and eat it. One Saturday, I woke up early enough to catch him eating his breakfast and he gave me a spoon of the Kootu. It tasted so yummy that my mother had to pour me a bowl of it just to get me off my dad’s!

Try it, it is addictive.