Living in Consciousness ~ Indi(r)a’s Food and Garden Weblog

Gasagasalu ~ Bendakaaya

Okra ~ Poppy Seed Curry:

When people think of Andhra kuralu (curries), they think of chana dal, chilli and coconut podi flavored ones. Although these are very commonly added to spice-up the vegetables, in our homes in Nandyala, Kurnool regions, along with peanuts and sesame, poppy seeds also make frequent appearance. Alone or together with coconut, both in dry style curries like the one I prepared today with okra and in sauce form like the one blogged here.

I realize that poppy seeds are not a familiar ingredient to many of you fellow Bharatiya. Their creamy-nut like flavor is really worth getting to know. You won’t regret trying, I assure you.

Poppy Seeds (Khus Khus, Gasagasalu)Poppy Seed PowderOkra (Bendakaya, Bendi, Ladies Fingers)


20 young and fresh looking okra (Bendakaya, Bendi)
3 tablespoons poppy seeds (Gasagasalu, Khus Khus)
3 dried red chillies - Indian variety
Salt and turmeric - to taste or ½ teaspoon each
Popu or tadka: 1 tablespoon peanut oil,
Pinch each - cumin, mustard seeds and 6 curry leaves

1 Trim the ends and cut the okra to quarter to half inch wide rounds. For a gummy free okra experience, follow the tips outlined here.

2 Roast poppy seeds in a dry, hot iron skillet for about 3 minutes, until they just start to color and release their aromas. Add dried red chillies and a pinch of salt and pound or blend all the ingredients together. Keep working until a nice, moist paste is formed. I usually use a spice grinder or Sumeet small jar for this purpose.

3 In a wide skillet, heat a tablespoon of oil. Add and toast the tadka ingredients first and then add the okra pieces. Mix once and fry the pieces, very rarely stirring, until they are free from moisture. A well seasoned cast-iron skillet charms the okra to a beautiful crispiness. If you have one, use it for this recipe. When okra pieces transform from clinging kids to leave me alone type teenagers, it’s time to introduce the adulthood delights with spices. Add the poppy seed powder, turmeric and salt. Mix gently and saute for few more minutes.

Serve the curry hot with rotis/chapatis or with rice and dal. Okra-poppy seed curry makes a great tasting side dish.

Okra-Poppy Seed Curry
Okra-Poppy Seed Curry with Ragi Roti and Olive Chutney ~ Meal Today

Recipe Source: Amma, Nandyala
Poppy Seed Based Recipes from Archives:
Brinjal-Potato Curry ~ on Oct 25th, 05
Banana Pepper-Baby Potatoes in Poppy Seed Sauce ~ on April 21st, 06
Moong Dal Payasam ~ on June 9th, 06
Ridgegourd (Turai/Beerakaya) in Poppy Seed Sauce ~ on May 22nd, 07
Ratatouille:India Inspired ~ on July 10th, 07

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Benda Kaaya(Okra), Amma & Authentic Andhra, Poppy Seeds (Tuesday August 28, 2007 at 9:45 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

Vegetarian Gumbo ~ India Inspired

When we lived in Houston, one of the recipes we picked up from that region was gumbo. Okra, vegetables, beans, rice and seafood/meat, together cooked in wheat flour broth (called roux). That is gumbo in a nutshell. Vijay is a big fan of seafood gumbo and often prepares shrimp gumbo at home. Being the non-meat eater that I am, I had to develop a vegetarian version for myself. The following recipe is the result of my trials.

I’ve made few changes to the traditional recipe to suit my taste. I replaced roux with lots of okra and coconut-spice seasoning. And for today’s meal, fresh chickpea sprouts and brown basmati have joined the excellent cast of gumbo characters.

Swampland approach, but a new appeal with Southern India seasoning, my vegetarian gumbo is a delightful one-pot dish. The side effects I have noticed so far, it’d inflict a dramatic mood change. Kindlier attitude towards fellow beings, even towards themselves, which at times could be of even greater importance, may happen.

Ingredients for Vegetarian Gumbo
Red Onion, Orange Capsicum, Tomato, Sprouted Chickpeas, Brown Basmati and Okra


1 tablespoon ghee
2 cloves of garlic - finely chopped
1 red onion, 2 capsicums and 4 tomatoes - finely chopped
20 okra - cut to half-inch rings
1 cup sprouted chickpeas (or beans of your choice)
½ cup brown basmati rice
Turmeric and salt - half teaspoon each or to taste

Southern India Seasoning :
Two tablespoons of grated fresh coconut, 6 dried red chillies, 6 cloves, quarter teaspoon cumin, fistful of fresh cilantro leaves, and a pinch of salt - blend to smooth, adding half cup of water in a mixer.

In a heavy pot, melt the ghee over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and cook until translucent. Add the capsicum, tomatoes, okra, chickpea sprouts and brown basmati rice. Mix and cook, occasionally stirring for about ten minutes. Add about three cups of water and also stir in the turmeric and salt. Cover the pot with a lid and cook for about another 15 minutes.

When the rice starts to get tender, stir in the coconut-spice seasoning. Mix gently and simmer another ten minutes or so. When the rice is cooked to tender, turn off the heat. Cover and let the gumbo sit for sometime. The whole thing will thicken further on cooling.

Vegetarian gumbo goes well with papadams. They are great to scoop up the gumbo.

Vegetarian Gumbo
Vegetarian Gumbo with Okra, Chickpea Sprouts and Brown Basmati, Served with Papadams ~ Our Meal

Kitchen notes:
Grated fresh coconut, Brown basmati rice and papadams of different shapes can be purchased at Indian grocery shops. (Before serving, papadams should be fried in oil until crisp.)

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Bell Pepper, Benda Kaaya(Okra), Brown Basmati, Sprouts (Molakalu) (Tuesday July 31, 2007 at 12:11 am- permalink)
Comments (16)

The New Home of Mahanandi:

Afghan Inspired Okra and Split Pea Stew

I rarely watch Telugu and Hindi movies these days. Back in my teens and twenties, I was quite a moviegoer. Minimum 4 to 6 movies per month, yes that big of a fan. Not anymore. Once enjoyable dramas have now became too much to bear and boring. I get my dramas from current events these days. But I do remember few movies from yesteryears. One such film is Amitabh Bachchan and Sridevi’s “Khuda Gawa” (God is My Witness) (1992). The movie was shot in then somewhat peaceful Afghanistan. The mountains, the pass - the landscape was breathtakingly captured in that movie and made a memorable impression on my mind.

Recently when I was asked to try out a meatless Afghan recipe from an Afghanistan cookbook by a friend, I immediately replied ‘yes’. Split peas and whole baby okras (leta bendakayalu) cooked to tender in tomato - dill sauce. I tried this recipe two months ago for the photo shoot for NPR. Few additions to taste; now, it’s a regular preparation at my kitchen. Like our sambhar and moong dal aamti, this tasty stew can make a decent meal by itself. This also can be eaten with rice or naan.


3 cups of split peas soaked in hot water for about one hour
12 to 15 tender baby okra of small finger length - ends removed
6 ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
1 red onion or 2 shallots, finely sliced
¼ cup of fresh dill (acquired taste, optional and avoid if you don’t like dill)
1 tsp each -salt, chilli powder, turmeric and dhania (coriander) powder
1 tsp of oil

Heat oil in a saucepan. Add and cook onions and tomatoes until they soften. Mush them by pressing with a back of big spoon. To this sauce, add okra, dill, split peas, all the seasoning and two cups of water. Cover and simmer the whole thing for about 20 minutes on medium-low heat. Until okra and split peas become tender and the stew reaches the thickness you desire. Serve warm.

Pot of Okra and Split Pea Stew
Warming up Winter Days ~ for Rosie’s “Spice is Right” Event

Recipe source and adapted from -
“Afghan Food & Cookery: Noshe Djan” by Helen Saberi and from NPR’s Kitchen Window - “Discovering Afghan Cuisine, a World Away” by Vijaysree Venkatraman

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Benda Kaaya(Okra), Peas (Split) (Thursday December 7, 2006 at 9:32 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

Pappu Chaaru with Bendakaya (bendi, Okra)

Cooked and Mashed Toor dal, Tamarind Extract, Jaggery
Cooked and Mashed Toor dal, Tamarind Extract, Jaggery

If toor dal, the mother of all dals, has offspring, it would have three. They would be the pappu (dal), the pappu chaaru and the sambhar. Our regular pappu (tadka dal) is like big sister, always there to feed us when we are short on time and out of meal ideas. Sambhar is the darling little one, so naturally show stopper and attention grabber. Needs all spice bling in the world (sambhar powder) to shine and of course would bring much joy to the party. Imagine a party without sambar. No way, right? Then there is the pappu chaaru, typical middle child. Some of us don’t even know it exists and some of us compare and confuse it with the first and last ones.

Pappu chaaru has same ingredients of dal (pappu) but the cooking method is different and we add jaggery to it. And looks like sambhar but doesn’t have the several special spices typical for sambhar in it. It may not be as regular or as flashy like pappu and sambhar in our homes, but pappu chaaru has many admirers and die-hard fans, sort of like underground following. When you get to know pappu chaaru, you would immediately grasp why millions of Andhra households adore this darling dish.

Typical Pappu chaaru has a consistency of fresh honey, not too watery or not too thick. Main ingredient is of course toor dal. Distinct nature comes from the addition of good quality jaggery and tamarind. In case of vegetables, constant are onions and ripe tomatoes - sometimes bendi or drumsticks are also added. Regulars - salt, red chilli powder and turmeric are added along with aqua. Curry leaves touch, that’s about it. Together they are cooked to a honey consistency and the end result does have an addictive quality like honey.

Pappu chaaru, dal and sambar, this is the order how my mother introduced us to toor dal. For that reason, pappu chaaru has always holds a special place in my heart.


Pressure cook:
4 fistfuls (1 cup) of toor dal in one glass of water to tender. Mash the dal to smooth.

1 onion - finely sliced lengthwise
1 ripe tomato - finely chopped
1-inch pieces - optional and to taste - Bendakaya (okra) or drumsticks (munagakaya), about 8 to 10 cut pieces

Do the popu and cook:
In a pot, heat a teaspoon of oil. Do the popu or tadka (toast curry leaves, dried red chilli pieces, cumin and mustard seeds in one teaspoon of peanut oil).
Add onions. Saute to soft. Add tomatoes and vegetables. Cook to tender, stirring often.
Add the cooked and mashed toordal.
Stir in salt, red chilli powder and turmeric to taste or ½ tsp each.
Add 2 tablespoons each - freshly prepared tamarind juice and jaggery pieces.
Add about a big glass of water. Mix and bring to a boil on high heat.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer the whole thing for about 10 to 15 minutes. Just before turning off the heat, sprinkle some finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves.

Let the pappu chaaru sit covered for at least 10 minutes and then serve warm with rice. Tastes extra good when it’s cold.

Okra Pappu Chaaru with Rice and Taro (Chaama Dumpa) Chips

Recipe source: Amma

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Toor Dal, Benda Kaaya(Okra), Amma & Authentic Andhra (Monday November 20, 2006 at 2:22 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

Okra in Yogurt Sauce (Bendakaya~Perugu Kura)

Okra in Yogurt Sauce (Dahi Bhindi)

This north Indian style curry is not a regular preparation at my home but a guest.

Though curry is quite easy to prepare and tastes soothingly smooth, I rarely make it mainly because this is not the dish that I grew up on. Okra-coconut curry and okra sambhar are what I am used to. Once in a while, like a visit from a cultural-exchange student, I do enjoy treating okra and myself in this special way.

Okra, Curry Leaves, Home-made Indian Yogurt


Prep the okra:
Pick 15 to 20 fresh, young looking okra (Bendakaya): Wash and wipe them dry with a clean kitchen cloth. Cut off both ends. Slice the middle portion into half-inch circular rings. (Follow the tips outlined here for clean, gum-free okra curry.)

Prep the yogurt:
1 cup of plain yogurt (I used traditional Indian home-made yogurt for this recipe). Take it in a cup and churn it for smooth consistency without any lumps.

Cook in a skillet:
Heat a teaspoon of peanut oil.
Add and toast 4 to 6 curry leaves, pinch of each - cumin and mustard seeds in that order.
When seeds start to dance around, add the okra rings.
On medium heat, cook the okra for the about 5 to 10 minutes covered until they soften little bit. Stir once or twice, more like shake the skillet and toss the okra. Leave the okra alone for spectacular crunchy results.

Final touch:
Add the silky~smooth yogurt.
Stir in turmeric, salt and red chilli powder to taste or ½ teaspoon each.
Sprinkle ½ teaspoon of each - Indian(garam) masala powder and dry coconut powder
Mix and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes on low heat.
Serve hot with rice or with roti. My personal preference is having it just plain in a cup with some more yogurt added.

Okra in Yogurt Sauce and Beetroot-Tomato Pulao
Okra in Yogurt Sauce and Beetroot-Tomato Pulao

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Benda Kaaya(Okra), Yogurt (Monday October 16, 2006 at 12:07 pm- permalink)
Comments (35)

The New Home of Mahanandi:

Okra Curry (BendaKaya Kura)

Bendakaya, Okra
Okra (Bendakaya in Telugu and Bendi in Hindi)

As a whole, okra looks handsome and wholesome.

Cut it open, you realise that you are dealing with one needy veggie. Like a toddler who hangs on to mother’s saree, okra clings to everything that is in sight. To the cutting board, to the knife, to the pot and it slips in your mouth too. No wonder it elicits strong reaction from people. I like okra and I don’t mind its clinginess because I know how to deal with it. I have few tricks and tips to make it less sticky. Keep in mind, I am talking about the fresh okra and not the frozen kind, which are hopeless to reform.

Cut Okra

Recipe and some tips:
(For two, for one serving)

20 to 25 fresh, whole okra - washed thoroughly, then rubbed in a clean cloth, to remove all the moisture. This small step alone reduces the clinginess by 50%. After making sure they are clean and dry, slice each one, crosswise into half centimeter thick pieces. By now you may notice, touch of knife brings out the thick, viscous substance in okra. So in between cutting, periodically, wipe the cutting board and knife with a paper towel to remove the sticky stuff that’s accumulated.

1 medium sized onion - finely chopped
6 green chillies and 1 tbs of coconut - made into smooth paste
Turmeric and salt to your taste
And the usual ingredients of popu or tadka


In a wide pan or in a well-seasoned iron skillet, heat one teaspoon of peanut oil. Do the popu or tadka (toasting 1 tsp of each, mustard seeds, cumin, curry leaves and chopped garlic).

Add and saute onions till soft and brown. Then add the cut okra slices. Sprinkle in turmeric, salt, and fine paste of greenchilli-coconut. Mix them all once, allow them to cook for 5 minutes, covered on medium heat.

After 5 minutes, remove the cover and stir them once. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let them saute or cook openly. This is the time to show restraint. Do not stir and mix at all, at this stage. The more you stir and the more okra breaksdown and oozes clingy stuff. So don’t stir. Let it cook undisturbed for 15 minutes. As a result, round okra slices will be intact in shape and tender, lightly browned in the bottom and crunchy - perfection. Serve hot.

Tastes good with rice-dal combination and also with chapatis/rotis.

Okra Curry with Rice
Okra curry and rice ~ Our Meal Today

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Indian Vegetables, Benda Kaaya(Okra), Amma & Authentic Andhra (Friday January 6, 2006 at 11:25 am- permalink)
Comments (31)

The New Home of Mahanandi:

Skillet Cornbread with Okra Topping

The first snow of the season has arrived this morning. The rain turned to snow for few minutes, giving us a brief glimpse of coming season. It was cold enough, so to warm the house and the stomach, I cranked up the oven to 400° F and baked cornbread with okra toppings. This is my first attempt at cornbread and it was a success, thanks to the detailed recipe written by Barbara of Tigers and Strawberries. I changed the recipe to my liking and also added crisply fried okra as cornbread topping.


Okra topping :
1 cup thinly sliced okra rounds, one onion, three green chillies and two garlic cloves all finely chopped. Saute them in oil, until they turn crisp and crunchy, like you normally do for a dry curry.

Cornbread Batter :
• Mix together 1 cup yellow cornmeal, 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour, 1 tsp each- baking powder and soda, 1/2 tsp salt.
• In another bowl, mix - 2 eggs (I removed yellows), 1 cup buttermilk, 4 tablespoons of molasses/sugar and 4 tablespoons of peanut oil.
• Combine the dry and wet ingredients.
• I also added half cup watermelon seeds that I brought from Nandyala to this mixture for some nutty crunch and nutritional value..

Covering sautéed okra with cornbread batter Sautéed okra fully covered with cornbread batter


Preheat the oven to 400 ° F. When you are ready with cornbread batter and sautéed okra, place the empty iron skillet in oven and heat it up (Barbara’s tip). Remove the hot skillet from the oven. First place the okra in the skillet, then pour the cornbread batter over it. Spread the batter neat and even with a spatula. Place the iron skillet in oven, bake at 400° F, for about 20 to 30 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.

Baked Skillet Cornbread with Okra Skillet Cornbread with Okra topping

Because this is for our lunch, I also baked some cauliflower florets and some baby lima beans along with cornbread. Just tossed the baby limas and cauliflower florets in some oil, salt and pepper. Spread them on a baking sheet and baked until they turn crisp.

We both liked cornbread with okra very much. Thanks Barbara for the wonderful cornbread recipe.

Baked lima beans are good too, but cauliflower florets…oy!. Not that good. I won’t be baking cauliflower again, ever!

Skillet Cornbread with Okra and on the side Baked Lima beans, cauliflower and a drink- Ragi Malt ...Our meal today
Skillet Cornbread with okra toppings, baked baby lima beans and baked cauliflower florets & Ragi malt ~ our meal today.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Benda Kaaya(Okra), Corn Meal (Thursday November 17, 2005 at 3:21 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

Sambar with Okra (Bendakaaya Sambar)

I bought okra (benda Kaayalu) from Wal-Mart supercenter’s frozen section last weekend. As mush as I detest Wal-Mart business practices, I still shop there occasionally for groceries during fall and winter times, as we live in a rural area, and fresh vegetables that I prefer are really pricy after the summer. This behemoth shop carries quite a range of fresh and frozen vegetables at affordable prices year long.

After reading some of the fellow food bloggers posts about okra, I was tempted to dish out my favorite okra recipe from Nandyala, the famous bendakaaya sambar (okra sambar).

Smooth and silky okra when cooked in sambar, absorbs all the wonderful flavors of sambar spices and takes ‘I can’t believe this is okra’ kind of avatar, and goes down without resistance when eaten.

Cooked Toor dal, tamarind juice, Turmeric, Sambhar powder, red chilli powder and salt, Okra Pieces, Cumin, Mustard seeds and curry leaves for popu, Onion and tomato


Toor dal (Kandi Pappu):
1 cup of Toor dal - In a pressure cooker, take toor dal and water in 1:2 ratio, cook to soft, and mash the dal to smooth consistency.
Sambar powder Preparation:
1 teaspoon each - cumin, coriander, fenugreek seeds, chana dal, urad dal and dry coconut, Dry roast. Cool. Powder them together to fine. Or buy readymade sambar powder from an Indian store. We need atleast a tablespoon of sambar powder for this recipe.
Soak key-lime sized tamarind in half cup of water for 10min. This will soften the tamarind. Squeeze the pulp and discard the seeds.
Veggies for Sambhar:
Cut - 10 to 15 whole okra, 10 to 15 cherry tomatoes and one onion (What shape and size, see the photo above)
Salt, red chilli powder and turmeric - half teaspoon each, or to taste.
For popu or tadka:
1 teaspoon peanut oil
½ tsp each - curry leaves, chopped garlic, cumin and mustard seeds

tomato, okra cooking before adding the mashed toor dal After adding the toor dal to tomato-okra soup (Notice the change of colors from red to yellow)
Cooked Okra-Tomato Veggie Mixture……. Toor dal added to the veggie mixture


In a big pot, take peanut oil. On medium heat, do the popu or tadka(toast curry leaves, garlic, cumin and mustard seeds). When seeds start to pop, add the onions and saute to soft. Then add tomatoes and okra pieces. Also stir in sambar powder, red chilli powder, turmeric, salt, tamarind and one glass of water. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat, cover the pan, let simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until the okra is tender.

Add the cooked and mashed toor dal to the simmering contents in the pot. Mix and have a taste. Adjust the salt and chilli powder to your taste and bring to a boil. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve. I usually let it sit for at least for about 15 to 30 minutes, so that when it is served, you can actually taste the flavor of sambar powder.

Okra Sambhar (Benda kaaya Sambhar) with Rice
Okra Sambhar with rice ~ Our Meal Today

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Toor Dal, Benda Kaaya(Okra), Amma & Authentic Andhra (Tuesday September 20, 2005 at 4:04 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi: