Monday, January 30, 2012

Book Review : Southern Flavours by Chandra Padmanabhan

For many years now, I have been reading cookbooks like I read any other novel, its always been as interesting, if not more ! At first I assumed I was the only one, but after I started my blog, I realised I have lots of company !!

I got this beautiful book called 'Southern Flavours, the best of South Indian Cuisine' by Chandra Padmanabhan from Blogadda, as part of their book review program. I have read some of her recipes from other blogs, but never owned any of her books until now

southern flavours
Luckily for me, this book has the best recipes from her three previous books, Dakshin, Southern Spice and Simply South with an added 50 new recipes

Southern Flavours has a wide array of vegetarian recipes from all four southern states - Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka, all neatly categorized into various sections like Sambar, Rasam, Poriyal and Kootu, Rice, Snacks, Sweets and Accompaniments like Chutneys, Podi and Pachadi.
The category names are more Tamil-centric, but it does have many recipes from each region
Like the section on 'Sambar' has a Vatral Kuzhambu from Tamil Nadu, Nupindi Pulusu from Andhra, Theeyal from Kerala and Majjige Huli from Karnataka, in addition to many more.
This book has a good share of recipes from all four states, though I felt a few more from Kerala would have balanced it better.

If you have a kitchen that stocks basic ingredients used in an Indian kitchen, then you should be able to make almost all the dishes mentioned in the book. The instructions are detailed and clear, making it simple to follow.
There is also a 'Table of measures' with metric and US equivalents
A list of the special utensils like the paniyaram chatti, used in South Indian cooking is also mentioned, with pictures

This book even has the right way to cook rice - in a pressure cooker, on the stove-top or in the microwave. I thought this is very useful to new cooks and to people who are not very confident with cooking rice in either one of these methods


It features some typical Udupi recipes, Chettinad recipes and recipes from the Hebbar Iyengar and Palghat Iyer communities, in addition to the more popular recipes from the four states
What really warmed my heart was that there were quite a few recipes from the Saraswat Konkani kitchens of Mangalore like Song, Ghashhi, Mangalore Saar and Kairas. This cuisine doesn’t get featured so much in any of the regular South Indian cookbooks, from what I have seen so far, so it was a nice surprise to these here !

A real value add here in this book is the number of healthy options for some traditional recipes, like an oats upma, ragi (finger millet) idli, oats rava idli, ragi (finger millet) vadai, kadhamba dosai (multigrain pancakes) and some recipes that use broken wheat instead of rice. This is very useful especially now, when more and more people are getting conscious about cooking and eating healthy.

carrot payasam

There are quite a few family favourite recipes, some from her sister-in-law, mother, aunts and her mother-in-law, who had the biggest influence on her cooking. There are some recipes picked up from cooks she had along the way and some from her friends.
An interesting one is Chitra’s keerai parrapu ussili – I have always had and heard of ussili made with different varieties of beans, but never with greens. There is also a Vendhayam poriyal, fenugreek sprouts stir fry, which is something really unusual and as she says, its considered good for diabetic patients

A really interesting feature in this book is the section on ‘Buffet Spreads’ and ‘Suggested Menus’. The buffet spreads have 2 options that cover recipes from all four states and there are 6 ‘Suggested Menu’ options that are something that can be made for a regular meal and not as elaborate as the buffet spread
This will definitely be a big help to people who are not familiar with South Indian cuisine and are not sure what to pair with what, and even to the ones cooking it regularly who would like to add some twists to a routine combination of dishes


Colourful pictures of some mouth-watering food (though I would have loved to see more of them), easily explained recipes for a new cook, some unique and interesting recipes and healthy alternatives to traditional recipes makes this book a really good one for a collection of South Indian recipes!

About the author

Chandra Padmanabhan, a graduate from Calcutta University, has been associated with the publishing industry for a long time. 'Dakshin', her best selling book published in '94 is still popular in many countries across the world. Her other book 'Simply South' has won the GOURMAND award for the second best Vegetarian cookbook in 2009

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

This is my first ever book review and the longest post I've written !
I hope you enjoyed reading it.

I am sure many recipes from this book will show up here soon.


April '12: Made Mangai Ogaray / Raw Mango Rice from this book. Click here to see the recipe

kancheepuram idli1

Aug '12: Made Kancheepuram idlis from this book. Click here to see the recipe

Friday, January 13, 2012

Undhiyu - Winter special dish from Gujarat

Uttarayan celebrated on January 14th in Gujarat, is a time for kite-flying in and gorging on some delicious undhiyu, poori, jalebi and til chikki
My neighbour makes some amazingly crisp chikki with peanuts and sesame and I always get my share during Uttarayan...


Ahmedabad is almost distinctly divided into the old city or the walled area and the new Satellite area. The old area has houses that go up vertically, literally with one room on a floor, landing up in an open terrace. The shops in this area are big enough to hold in the shopkeeper and 2 customers, maybe. The new area has plush bungalows, high rise apartments and huge shopping malls sprouting everywhere.
All traditional festivals are celebrated with great gusto in the old area, as compared to the new areas. I have managed to go into the old areas twice during Uttarayan. Its like a different world out there, everyone is up on their terrace, with music players, dhols (drums) and whistles, or more recently, the vuvuzela look alikes...
Everytime someone manages to cut somebody else's kite, the music and whistling gets louder and the victorious shouts of 'kaipo che', which means 'we cut the kite' echo around...
If you have seen the Salman Khan starrer 'Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam', you know what I am talking about...
The mood is really upbeat and the radio channels have contests all thru the week that win you 100 kites !

Anyway, back to the favourite topic of any self-respecting Amdavadi - Food !!

Undhiyu is a delicious mix of vegetables, mainly root vegetables, some beans and muthias cooked in a green masala. The traditional ones are cooked in an earthen pot over firewood, the ones in restaurants float in a lot of oil and here's my version which I learnt from a Gujarati friend here...


Here's what went into my Undhiyu - sweet potatoes, purple yam / kand, banana, baby potatoes, small brinjals, papdi / stringed flat beans, tuver dana the green masala and of course, the muthias from this post

Most of these vegetables are seasonal, and many may not be available outside of Gujarat. I have mentioned alternate vegetables that are more easily available, which can be used instead. And there are a whole lot of vegetables used, so a little of each makes quite a bit of undhiyu !

Undhiyu / Undhiya

What you need -

1 cup stringed broad beans / surti papdi
1 purple yam / kand or use yam or raw banana instead
5 baby potatoes
5 small brinjals / eggplants
1 sweet potato
1/2 cup tuver dana / fresh pigeon peas or use peas instead
1/2 cup fresh broad bean seeds / Papdi dana / avarekai
1-2 ripe bananas (try not to leave this out, it adds a lovely taste)
8-10 methi muthia
5-6 tbsp oil
1 tsp ajwain / carom seeds
salt to taste

Green masala

1.5 cup fresh grated coconut
1 cup cleaned and chopped coriander leaves
3-4 stalks of garlic chives / hara lasan (use garlic or can omit)
4-6 green chillies
1" piece ginger
1 tbsp dhania / coriander seed powder
1 tbsp jeera / cumin powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp lemon juice

What you do with it -

For the green masala
Chop and clean the green chillies and ginger and pulse without water to make a coarse paste. If using garlic cloves, grind along with the green chillies and ginger
Chop the green garlic if using mix all the ingredients listed under green masala and keep aside

Peel the purple yam / raw bananas, sweet potato and the baby potatoes
Chop the yam and sweet potato into large chunks. Rinse well and keep aside
Note: If you are using the purple yam, please peel, wash in a colander, without touching the yam, drain and keep aside. Washing the yam with your hands can cause a lot of itching
Cut the ripe banana with the skin on, into thick slices
Rub the green masala on the purple yam and sweet potato and ripe bananas and allow it to sit in the masala for about 10 mins
Wash the brinjals and the make 2 cuts, like a criss-cross on one end of the brinjals and baby potatoes
Use the green masala and stuff the potatoes and brinjals and keep aside

Heat 3-4 tbsp oil in a deep bottomed pan or a pressure pan / cooker. If you have the oil that you fried the muthias in, then that's the best to use here
Add the ajwain and then the papdi
Add the tuver dana / peas and avarekai sprinkle some green masala over this
Stir once or twice
Layer it with the yam and sweet potato
Then the stuffed potatoes and brinjals
Right on top, add the ripe bananas and methi muthias
Spread the remaining green masala, 1/2 tsp salt over this and then a tbsp or two of oil over it
If you are using a pressure cooker, then you layer it in this order, so the ones that need least cooking are right on top
In a pan, you may need to add each layer, cover and cook for about 5 mins before you add the next
Do not stir the vegetables at any point
Sprinkle a little water if needed at any point, but keep it to a minimum
I made this in a pressure pan and allowed it to cook for 1-2 whistles over a low flame
It could take over 20 mins in a deep pan
Once it done, spoon it out into a serving dish and serve hot with puris

You may land up with quite a bit of leftovers if its not too many of you eating this. To re-heat, I put mine in a pre-heated oven for about 5 mins. Tasted really good !

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Methi Muthias - Gujarati snack

Uttarayan is a very popular festival here in Gujarat. It is celebrated on January 14th, the day that other parts of India celebrate Pongal, Magh Bihu, Lohri and Makar Sankranti

It is a big kite flying festival here in Ahmedabad. There is also an International kite festival held in Ahmedabad a few days before Uttarayan. Its great fun in the old areas of Ahmedabad, called 'Pols' where everyone is up on their terraces flying kites, blowing something like a vuvuzela, beating drums and of course, eating !!
Undhiyu, poori, jalebi and chikkis made of til and peanuts are on the menu for Uttarayan...


Undhiyu / Undhiya is a winter special made with a whole lot of root vegetables, tubers, beans and muthias and cooked with some fresh spices.
Muthias are Step 1 towards making Undhiya / Undhiyu, a very popular Gujarati dish, made in winters. It has a lot of root vegetables, which are available during winters. My next post will be on Undhiyu, so tune in again soon...

Muthias can be had as a snack too, with some chutney and tea !

What you need -

1.5 cups cleaned and chopped methi / fenugreek leaves
1 cup wheat flour
2 tbsp sooji / rava
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp dhania / coriander seed powder
1/2 tbsp jeera / cumin seed powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp white til / sesame seeds
1 tbsp oil
a pinch of fruit salt / eno (optional)
juice of half a lemon
oil for deep frying

What you do with it

Add the chopped methi leaves in a bowl
Add all the spice powders, salt and sugar and oil and mix well
Then add the flour and sooji and the lemon juice and knead into a stiff dough
Add eno if using at this point. I didn't use it.
Add as little water as required to bind the dough
Heat oil in a deep bottomed pan
Make small balls with the dough and then roll them into oblong shapes
Deep fry the muthias in oil
Drain the excess oil on an absorbent paper and enjoy with hot tea and chutney

Monday, January 9, 2012

Raw Banana Chettinad style / Valakkai Varuval

Last week TH brought back about 3 dozens of raw bananas from his factory !! Well, they manufacture industrial products, but the gardeners have utilised the garden area well by having a lot of vegetables growing there...There are days when he brings back 8-10 bunches of baby spinach, bags of tender okra and cluster beans, and now raw bananas...

Raw Banana Varuval

I kept a dozen and distributed the rest among my friends...I decided on a Chettinad style of making this. TH's maternal grandfather is from Chettinad and so my mother-in-law makes quite a few dishes the Chettinad way. This is a recipe I learnt from her

Chettinad food is spicy and full of flavours. Fennel, peppercorn, cinnamon and red chillies are some of the most commonly used spices. The fennel and garlic in this dish really gives it a very different flavour from the regular poriyals...
Enjoy this with some hot rice and rasam

What you need -

3 regular size raw bananas (I used 8 small ones)
1 medium onion chopped
1 tomato chopped
1 tbsp fennel seeds
3-4 cloves of garlic
a few curry leaves
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
salt to taste
1 tbsp oil

What you do with it -

Cut the skin off the raw bananas and then slice in half lengthwise and then cut into slices
Soak in water with turmeric till you need to use it
Crush the garlic pods with the flat side of a knife, instead of cutting it, makes it more flavourful that way
In a pan, heat the oil and then add garlic and fennel seeds. Once the garlic changes colour, add the curry leaves and onions
Saute for 2 mins, add the chilli powder and tomatoes and fry for 2-3 mins
Then add the banana pieces and salt. Sprinkle some water over it and cover
Cook on a low flame till the banana is cooked. This wont't take too long, just another 4-5 mins
Serve hot with rice and rasam

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Strawberry Scones and my blog is 3 !

Yes, my blog is 3 !! I can't believe I have been at it for 3 years...I am famous for taking up an interest with great enthusiasm and then one day, sooner than I'd like, its gone, just like that. Finito.

Morning walks, gymming, learning a musical instrument, dance, music, and too many others to remember...They all begin with a great determination and interest and I almost see myself like a pro in whatever I take up, but then the speed at which the interest declines surprises me (I guess those who know me are not so shocked or surprised anymore)

I must really like cooking and blogging (I really do), that's the only reason its seen me this far...3 years may not be such a big deal, but going by my history, its huge !!

strawberry scones

I've really enjoyed trying out new recipes from different books, blogs and some cookery shows in these three years. Substituting with what's available locally, slight twists and tweaks to the original recipes to suit my tastes, its been fun all along !

Here is one of those that I perhaps only read about in Enid Blyton books. Most of Blyton's books would have these grandmothers baking cakes, cookies and scones for their tea time, sunlit tables with a dainty tablecloth, vase with flowers - it all sounded just so beautiful...

I had never tasted scones till I tried baking these savoury ones with chives

For my blog's 3rd birthday, I have some seriously healthy strawberry scones for you. I had made some candied orange peels last month and added some of those along with the strawberries. This recipe is adapted from Indira's beautiful blog Mahanandi with a whole lot of changes
The wheat flour made it a bit dense, and more cake like, but the strawberries in between made up for it !

Thank you all for reading my blog...Its what keeps me going...Have a great year ahead !

Strawberry Scones

What you need -

1 cup maida / APF
1 cup whole wheat flour
4 tbsp brown sugar (add 1 tbsp more if you like it sweeter)
a pinch of salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3 tbsp chilled butter, chopped into pieces
1 cup chopped strawberries
3-4 tbsp candied orange peels, cut into small bits
1/2 to 3/4 cup youghurt

What you do with it -

Sieve the flours, baking powder and baking soda
Add the salt and sugar to it
Add chopped butter. If the temperature is warm, please keep the butter in the fridge till you need it
To this flour mixture, add strawberries and candied orange peels
Add the yogurt gradually and mix to form a tight, sticky dough. Fold in gently and knead for 2 mins
Turn the dough out onto a floured or greased parchment paper covered baking sheet and press it out into a big round till its about 1/2 to 1 inch thick
I used my hand to flatten it out since the dough was too delicate to be rolled out
You could grease a rolling pin and roll out the dough to the required thickness
Preheat the oven to 220 C or 425 F. When the oven is ready, place the baking sheet and bake for 15-20 mins
The crust is crisp and the inside is soft. Slice into triangles and serve hot


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