Huli Pudi / Sambar powder

Sometime I come across categorical statements declaring the 'curry powder' to  be the innovation of creative British babus posted in India. I feel very sorry for such authors. They have absolutely no clue as to  how diverse India is and  how diverse the cuisine is. I am pretty sure that a north-Indian cook can very well assume it to be the fact. May be no 'Indian' ever made curry powder. But a south-Indian would rather jump into a well than accept the statement. We always had a variety of spice blends to make our life easy in the kitchen. It might have been that the recipe for such blends were not seriously published until after some Brit did. The turmeric based concotion that the standard curry powder is, on the other hand might just be a corrupt version of our own spice blends, that was mild enough to be on the bland British table.
My own grandmother had at least 3 spice blends - one the Huli Pudi, Tili Saaru Pudi and Palya pudi.I also have Rasam Pudi in my pantry. These apart from the assorted Chutney pudis!
My grandmother is an expert  when it comes to spice blends. This last season, the batch she made turned out to be a spice-gold! Everyone is  hoarding them. Mine own supplies reaching the  bottom of the jar very soon, I reached out to several  people in the family,  to check if they have some  to spare. Well, everyone is polite but firm in turning me down.May be I will have to make my  own this later this season. I have made it  before, and will make it once more. Hope next batch my grandmother  turns out will be just as delicious and hopefully I should be getting my quota too.

Long long ago, many summers and springs ago, my grandmother spent a week with me at my place. I made sure that I get most of my recipes from her. She was younger then and she had the energy to show me her signature recipes. This one is also from that session. Most often than not all her measurements were in terms of 'paavu-ser' or even eye-balled. I kind of took to standardize it.

We will need,

Dried red chillies (any combination of Byadagi (for colour and flavour) and Guntur (for heat) chillies) ½ kg
Dhania  ½ kg
Jeera 1.5 pav
Black pepper corns 1 chatak (about 12 grams)
Cinnamon 50 gms
Marti Moggu 2-3
Turmeric  1 chatak  (about 12 grams)
Hing 1 chatak (about 12 grams)
Channa dal ½ pav (30 grams)
Urad Dal ½ pav  (about 30 grams)
Fenugreek Seeds upto ½ pav (about 30 grams)
Mustard seeds upto ½ pav (about 30 grams)
Jaggery  1/2 Cup (crushed)
Curry leaves dried roasted 2 big bunches
Coarse sea salt a handful 

  • Toast all the ingredients except Jaggery and sea salt, one by one till fragrant and toasted. Remove and cool completely. 
  • In a clean dry grinder combine all the toasted spices, salt and Jaggery and pulse till smooth. Else it can be done at one of the flour mills. The flour mill version tends to be smoother because we do not have control over the texture. If the spices are milled at home, I did prefer the blend to be slightly coarse. 
  • Store in an air tight jar. The blend stays good for years! It can also be packed in multiple layers of plastic bags, tightly sealed and store in the crisper tray of refrigerator. I personally prefer to make smaller and more frequent batches of Huli Pudi.
Thanks onlyfishrecipes for thinking of me. Very sweet of you indeed. I need to share a random story about myself.I hate the cream that forms on top of the milk. I have tried eating it several times,but make me sick. Guess it is the texture. But I love cooking with it!

Passing it on to Nagashree, Sushma , Tina, Radha and Priya

Cauliflower roast

The weather though sort of gloomy and raining is growing warmer.. My sunflower seeds are now saplings , so are my mums. Sadly, the coriander did not want to be with us. Guess the seeds were irradiated and therefore sterile. I think I will get a sapling from the supermarket this week end. Well I should say chilli flakes are keeping my young green friends happy, the squirrel and the other rodents  are some how put off by the pungency of the chilli flakes. The other day I read in Wall Street Journal that even  Elephants are put off by the chillies, no wonder the tiny squirrels are. I am so much looking forward to pick our own vegetables! What better can it get, vegetables off the patch, delicious and fresh. I love having a vegetable patch but living in an apartment is not exactly vegetable-patch-friendly. Probably the only time I regret not owning a house is the spring when the entire city is full of potting earth, pots, seeds and saplings. May be one day my dream will come true.

As the warmer season kicks in, I am gradually bidding good-bye to our winter favorites -chard, kale,  cauliflower, cabbage etc. Have not had the chard and kale in more than two weeks now and this is the last of cauliflower for this season. I can barely wait for the squash, fresh greens and all the delicious vegetables, two-three more weeks and I will be jumping up and down with joy. Well the Strawberries are already here.

So the Strawberries are here,can the squash and beans be far behind? I bet P.B.Shelly is rolling in his grave!

It is roast cauliflower for now. The deal with cauliflower is that, it needs to be cooked just right, cook for too long, it will turn into a mush, if uncooked it smells sulfurous and very tough. Stove top cooking is not really the easiest way to cook cauliflower. I never seem to get the desired results on the stove tops these days. May be the new stove cannot crank up the heat like the old one did. So I take a little help from my oven. It is easy and needs no baby-sitting. So here it is.

We will need,

Cauliflower 2 lbs cut  into florets
Peanut oil 2-3 tbsp
Chilli powder 1/2 tsp (Adjust according to taste)
Jeera powder 1 tbsp
Juice and zest or half a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
fresh coriander a handful

  • Pre-heat the oven to 450F.
  • Place the oil in a large mixing bowl. Throw in the chilli powder, Jeera powder and salt into the bowl and combine it well.
  • Throw the cleaned and cut cauliflower florets into the mixing bowl. Toss well.
  • Arrange the cauliflower in a single layer on a cookie sheet and pop it into the oven for about 15-20 minutes till the cauliflower is tender crisp. Keep a close eye, for the time varies with ovens.
  • Remove the cauliflower into another bowl and throw in the coriander, lemon zest. 
  • Squeeze the juice of the lemon to taste. Adjust salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Arrabiatta ? nah...It's Jeera-abiatta!

I have always been fascinated by Italian, French and Spanish cuisine. The dream combination would be Spanish tapas, Italian main course followed by a French dessert. Slurp! That sounds delicious and is sending my brain into a tizzy. Before I loose myself, Italian food is good if eaten at the right place and right time. For me, that meant one of these chain restaurants here or the specialty restaurants back home that would charge an arm and a leg for a simple dish of pasta. Of late I have stopped relishing the standard pasta fare served at these restaurants. They are loaded with grease and cheese and hardly any thing to address the need of my palate so long used to complicated spices and their flavors. May be it is aging too. As I grow older I realize I cannot be eating the way I used to anymore. Now a days, If I need my stomach to be peaceful, I need to avoid all those grease laden food these chain restaurant serve. So I started making my own sauces to enjoy an Italian inspired-Kannada dinner!! I find Marinara very boring. Alfredo, love it but yes, it can be way too rich. So say Hi to Jeera-abiatta sauce.

Serves 6-8

Extra-Virgin olive oil 1/4 C
Cardamon 1
Bay leaf 2
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Garlic clove 2
Green chillies 2 (Add more if you like it hot)
Italian herb blend   a generous pinch
Tomatoes 14 oz  can  2
Sugar as desired
Salt to taste

  • Heat the oil in a thick bottom sauce pan. Throw in the cardamon, bay leaves and Jeera.
  • Once the spices start to sizzle, Throw in the garlic and slit green chillies. Saute till garlic is fragrant about 10 seconds.
  • Throw in the herb blend. Once the herbs are fragrant , throw in the tomatoes along with their juice. Bring it to a boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes till the sauce kind of thickens a bit.
  • Once the sauce is slightly cool, transfer the sauce to a blender and pulse till the tomatoes are slightly chunky but sauce-like.
  • Adjust salt and sugar and remove from heat. Toss with desired cooked pasta and serve.

Badanekayi Sukka

It is pickling season back home. I can actually smell the salty air, as the mangoes, limes and a variety of other vegetables are brined and left to settle down a bit before they get doused in all the spices. When I close my eyes, I see my grandmother sitting the way she does while working on time consuming processes like pickling, folding one of her legs while the other remains out stretched as she cuts the carefully selected vegetable with her 'Eelege Mane', a sharp rather large cleaver life knife fitted on to a wooden plank. She would get very upset when we as kids would run into her right after our hours on the dusty streets playing and yelling. She was so very finicky about keeping her kitchen clean, more so while pickling. Probably that is why, her pickles last so long, at least two years. She would not touch the huge pickling jar on Tuesdays, Fridays and assorted other occasions. I do not remember then any more! All I remember was the being shoed away during the pickling process and being enticed for the watching over the Happalas.

The 'Happala' or Papad process on the contary was something she could not do with out us! She would lure us with tasty treats for watching over her Happalas set to sun dry on the terrace. We would arm ourselves  with long sticks and drive away birds, monkeys, squirrel  and  other unwanted intruders. I might not have appreciated her efforts as a kid, but now I look back and see how much of an effort it was for the poor soul. Was it enthusiasm for life or love for family I do not know. All I know is when I do have grand kids of my own, I want to be just like her.

 Serves 3-4

Eggplants 1 lb (The slender green Eerinagere variety would be perfect in this dish)
Peanut oil 3 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp + 1 tsp
Fennel 1/4 tsp
Green Chillies 5-6 (adjust according to taste)
Garlic cloves 2
Kopra  1/4 cup
Dhania seeds 1 tbsp
Cloves 4
Cinnamon 1/2"
Jaggery 1 tbsp (crushed)
Tamarind concentrate 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste

  • Chop the eggplant into lengthwise and then into 2" strips. Soak it in water and set it aside.
  • Heat oil in a wok. Throw in the mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp of Jeera and fennel seeds. 
  • Once they stop spluttering, drain the eggplants well and throw it into the wok. Stir gently and saute till they are slightly tender about 5 minutes.
  • Throw in the chillies and minced garlic. Saute for a few more minutes till the garlic is fragrant.
  • In a spice grinder, combine the remaining Jeera, dhania seeds, Kopra, cloves and cinnamon. Pulse till the mixture reduces to a meal.
  • Throw the spice mixture into the eggplants along with the turmeric. Stir well. Saute till the spices are fragrant another 5 minutes or so.
  • Throw in the tamarind concentrate about 1/2 cup of water and Jaggery. Simmer till the eggplants and tender.
  • Adjust salt and serve warm with Akki Rotti
  • Sending it to Healthy diet event created by dear Priya

Hagalakayi fry / Bitter gourd fry

It is again a cloudy and gloomy looking day. I am a sunny gal! Love it when it is bright and sunny outside and would not mind it if it is a little hot either. But rains and clouds, take the spirit of my soul away. All I want to do is curl up in bed and sip something warm, cuddled up with a book or my laptop in my favorite blanket. Obviously that is so much of a luxury to expect especially with Sunny boy home with me all the time.  Thankfully I did not have to cook much today as we are sitting over lots of left over from earlier in the week. Thanks to my maniacal shopping bouts. I just make a quick soup for Sunny boy and fixed a salad for myself. Dinner is waiting for us in the fridge for now.  Part of it is the Hagalakayi fry that I made yesterday.

Me and Honey both love bitter gourd. I always buy them when ever I see them fresh and inviting. We also pick them up from the farms during the growing season. I can barely wait for the season to start though. I always make the Gojju . Of late I wanted to try it in a different dish, may be with potatoes just the way they did back in Sabarmati, JNU. Not that they were great by any chance, but it was one of the few things they served that made me happy. It was during those days that I realized people either loved this vegetable or hated it to the core. There were people like me, fighting with out mess staff for more bitter gourd, and then there were others fighting for the potatoes. I think it would  have been a better idea for the cooks to make two different dishes, one entirely of bitter gourd and the other of potatoes, that way both the camps would be happy. 

Last night was our movie night. We watched Kannada movie called Milana and had a TV dinner of Pulkhas, bitter gourd and a few other things. Sunny boy still does not appreciate bitter gourd as much as his parents. Let alone bitter gourd, I did be happy if he eats any vegetable at all. He is a thorough protein boy which makes me sad. Wonder when at all he would start loving vegetables as much as I do.

Serves 2

Bitter gourd  3 medium sliced 
Potatoes 3 medium chopped into cubes 1"
Peanut oil 4 tsps
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Green chillies 5-6 (adjust according to taste)
Onions 2 medium chopped
Jeera powder 2 tsp
Dhania powder 2 tsp
Amchoor to taste (optional, omit this if the tomato is tart)
Tomato 1 medium chopped
Sugar 1 tbsp
Salt to taste

  •  Heat 2 tsp oil in a wok. Toss the bitter gourd in and fry it till the bitter gourd is brown. Do not move them much in the wok, else it will take for ever to brown. Remove from the wok and set it aside.
  • Heat the remaining oil in the same wok. Throw in the mustard, Jeera, chillies followed by the onion. Once the onions are golden brown, throw in the potatoes. Add a pinch of salt and cover. Cook till the potatoes are almost cooked but still is firm. 
  • Throw in the Jeera powder, Dhania powder and Amchoor if using. Stir fry for a few seconds. Throw in the tomatoes and cover. Cook till the tomatoes are tender.
  • Return the bitter gourd back to the wok and mix everything. Adjust the salt and throw in the sugar. Cook for a couple more minutes for the bitter gourd to heat up nicely. Remove from heat and serve hot with Phulkas or any other bread of choice.

Kumbalakayi Kayirasa /Pumpkin coconut curry

I am very fond of my vegetables. I am so lost without them. My brain stops functioning if I do not have at least 5 vegetables in my refrigerator-pantry. That makes me greedy. When ever I go shopping for vegetables, I end up buying way more than what the three of us can finish. My previous vegetable shopping trip ended similarly. I had run out of onions midweek and though I will just pick up a couple of bags of onions at the Indian stores. As usual I picked up the shopping basket, went into the vegetable aisle not wanting to make eye contact with any of the vegetables sitting on the shelves, lest I fall in love. Sunny boy who was with me started with his mischief, he picked up one huge cabbage in his tiny hands and came running to me. 'Amma cabbage togoli' and with that his tiny hands dropped the beast of a cabbage into our shopping basket in one loud thud! 'No baby' I said as I tried to figure out where to put the cabbage back. We had had cabbage that very day and there was enough in the fridge to last for a couple more meals.But before I could find a place for the cabbage, me eyes caught the sight of this very beautiful and fresh hunk of Pumpkin, beckoning me. Ah! it was perfect piece of pumpkin, the flesh was bright orange, the rind shinny and green, the seeds were still moist. My eyes devoured half the pumpkin right then and there. Thankfully we are not charged for doing that. I had to get that pumpkin. Sunny boy helped the piece of pumpkin into our shopping basket. My love affair did not end with just pumpkin that day. It continued with two different types of mushrooms, some ash gourd, spring onions, a red bell pepper and more. Now after coming home and opening the produce tray of my fridge, I came out of my stupor. I already had so many vegetables to be finished in the next couple of days. 
This is the story every week, sometime even twice a week; that is how many times I go shopping for food. I guess that is part of being a foodie. I never go shopping for clothes, shoes etc. I always shop for food, from farmers' market to super market.

So once I had the pumpkin home, I kept thinking about what to make out of it. Somehow I could not get my head to stop thinking about Kayirasa. A very simple curry with very mild spices. If people find Indian food spicy, they should start with Kayirasa. It is a silky smooth, rich broth of coconut, chillies,ginger and some herbs, mild and slightly sweet. The silkiness possible only if the coconut is ground in an old fashioned stone mortar. I have tried various blenders, food processors, none of them come close to the old fashioned stone mortar in terms of efficiency. It is indeed not a bad idea to use some coconut milk instead. But this time I did use the coconut ground up sort of coarse.

Serves 4

Pumpkin 1.5 lb
Coconut 1 cup
Green chillies 5-6 (adjust according to taste)
Ginger 1" piece
Turmeric a generous pinch
Coriander fresh a handful
Jeera 1 tsp
Ghee 1 tsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Hing a dash
Salt to taste

  • Clean the pumpkin, remove the rind and discard it. Scoop out the seeds and chop it into 1" cubes. Wash it and place it in a thick bottom pot with about 3 cups of water and cook on a medium heat.
  • While the pumpkin cooks, grind the coconut, green chillies, turmeric, coriander, jeera and 3 tbsp water into a very smooth paste. Reserve.
  • Once the pumpkin is cooked but still firm enough to bite, stir in the ground paste of coconut. Stir well and add more water to get the curry to the desired consistency, start with 1/4 cup of water at time and keep adding more as required. Once the curry comes to a boil, turn of the heat.
  • To prepare the Oggarane, heat ghee in a pan. Toss in the mustard seed and hing. Pour the prepared ghee over the curry and adjust salt. Serve immediately with hot rice.
Goes out to the VFAM Pumpkin event.


I have always been a daddy's gal. I went with him everywhere he went, rode pillion with him on his motorbike as he performed an acrobatic maneuver, went to pubs/bars and munched on chips and ketchup while he downed lagers, climbed Chamundi hills by foot twice a week and went jogging early in the morning halfheartedly. It was fun. Neighbours called us Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Cousins joked that I was my father's walking heart. But as I grew up, Pappa was posted to a far a place and we could visit him only during school holidays. It was arduous in the beginning without my trusted ally cum friend cum guide cum eveything.  That was the time, when just the three of us, me Amma and my sister stayed back  home and spent countless hours together and became the best of buddies.

My Amma, a petite woman, always had a problem finding the right footwear and bangles because no one makes them small enough for her. She might as well have better luck in a well stocked kids' store. But her size  does not say anything about the person she actually is, she is the emotional support -the buttress that holds all of us together. As me and my sister stepped into teenage, we became best of pals. We shared stories from college, gossiped and had great fun. She would help me with my Kannada papers as I was so poor in writing my mother tongue. She is a voracious reader and has an amazing memory power. Before we got internet at home, Amma was our go to source of information :) After all these years what do I have to say to her? Thanks for being there and standing all my idiosyncrasies. 

Amma is needless to say a fabulous cook, not as good as her mother but her Vangibath wins hands down my Grandmother's.Amma also makes awesome Tovve. I love it with just some hot rice and ghee. 
Serves 4

Toor dal 1/2 cup
Turmeric a generous pinch
Ghee 2 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Hing a dash
Curry leaves a handful
Red Chillies 2 (Byadagi variety)
Green Chillies 2  add more if preferred
Salt to taste
Lime juice to taste

  • Wash the dal in several changes of water. Combine it with 4 cups of water, turmeric and a drop of ghee.
  • Set the mixture in a pressure cooker and cook till the dal is done.Remove from heat and allow it to cool.
  • Once the pressure cooker is cool enough,  open the lid.
  • Prepare the Oggarane. Heat the remaining ghee, toss in the mustard, Jeera and Hing in quick succession. Once the spluttering stop, throw in the curry leaves and chillies. Once the mixture is fragrant, pour it over the cooked dal.
  • Adjust salt and lime juice to taste and serve with hot rice.
Goes to CC #10 Mom's recipe hosted by dear Sravani.