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

Grains, Greens, and Grated Coconuts Cookbook Review and Recipe ~ by Veena Parrikar

Veena Parrikar is a dear friend of Mahanandi and me and an occasional guest author on Mahanandi. Her first article was on Iceland. This is her second article, an insightful and engaging cookbook review. I thank Veena for this wonderful contribution!
~ Indira


There are perhaps as many misconceptions about Indian cuisine as there are restaurants named “Bombay Garden”.

Indian food is tandoori chicken, aloo-matar, saag-paneer, and naan.
It is hot and spicy.
Vegetables are cooked to death.
It starts with frying onions and tomatoes to pulp and ends with a garnish of coriander leaves

One can hardly blame the Western and even some of the Eastern world for harboring these notions. Most Indian restaurants outside India serve the same tired old fare under various guises. The exceptions to these are the upscale “fusion-Indian” restaurants; after all, Indian food cannot be admitted into the Michelin club without a French or “contemporary” accent (pun intended). Over the past few years, South Indian restaurants have slowly gained ground and it is not uncommon to see a Chinese eating masala dosa with her bare hands or a middle-aged white guy slurping rasam at the neighborhood Madras Cafe or Udupi Palace in the USA. The silly notions about Indian food, however, are far from being a thing of the past. For example, the threat of homogenization, albeit of a different kind, hangs heavy like the odor of yesterday’s takeout. The complexity and variation among and within the cuisines of the four states of Southern India (Karnataka, Kerala, Tamilnadu, and Andhra Pradesh) could never be guessed if one were to go by the menus of these South Indian restaurants. Most of them do not stray far from the familiar idli, vada, masala dosa, uttappam, sambar and rasam, with an indifferent nod to some rice varieties, such as curd rice, lemon rice and tamarind rice. Desserts are still “balls in sugar syrup” (gulab jamun), “ricotta cheese in evaporated milk” (rasmalai), or the occasional rava kesari, leaving in the cold a rich repertoire of jaggery-based sweets that is one of the hallmarks of the cuisines of Southern (and some other states of) India.

To be sure, even within India, availability of the authentic, traditional fare is limited to small niche restaurants, special festivals at star hotels, or if you are lucky, at the homes of neighbors and friends from other communities. Your best bet then, is to recreate many of these dishes in your kitchen, with the help of such cookbooks as Meenakshi Ammal’s Cook and See, Chandra Padmanabhan’s Dakshin, Saranya Hegde’s Mangalorean Cuisine, Saraswat Mahila Samaj’s Rasachandrika, and Jigyasa-Pratibha’s Cooking at Home with Pedatha.

A new addition to this stellar lineup of traditional Indian cookbooks is Ammini Ramachandran’s Grains, Greens, and Grated Coconuts: Recipes and Remembrances of a Vegetarian Legacy.

Grains, Greens and Grated Coconuts ~ Cookbook by Ammini Ramachandran
Grains, Greens and Grated Coconuts ~ Cookbook by Ammini Ramachandran

Ammini’s book fills a lacuna in the Indian cookbook landscape. Books on the cuisine of Kerala abound; however, most of them have a predominance of seafood dishes. Small wonder then that Kerala food, like most other coastal cuisines, is perceived to be primarily non-vegetarian. One food writer and journalist in India even declared that most Malayali vegetarian dishes are terrible! One knows, of course, not to take such statements without the proverbial pinch of salt, and a large one at that. Having encountered the delectable and varied vegetarian fare of the coastal cuisines of Goa and Karnataka, I had always suspected a similar treasure existed in Kerala. Eating and learning it, was another matter altogether, what with the lack of Kerala-food restaurants, close friends from the state, or opportunities to set forth on a voyage of discovery to its shores. With Grains, Greens, and Grated Coconuts, some of the vegetarian food of Kerala is now just a coconut (or two) away.

The present state of Kerala was formed by the merger of Kochi (Cochin), Tiruvithamcore (Travancore), and Malabar. Each of these regions, originally Hindu, was subject to varying degrees of Muslim and Christian influences. Accordingly, Kerala cuisine represents the confluence of Hindu, Muslim, and Christian traditions. Grains, Greens, and Grated Coconuts presents the traditional vegetarian cuisine of central Kerala including some from the Kochi royalty. It is one of the first cookbooks to focus on a Hindu culinary tradition of Kerala.

Grains, Greens, and Grated Coconuts is one of the finest Indian cookbooks to have been written in recent times. Here’s why:

1. Traditional food, when presented for a worldwide (read Western) audience, undergoes a simplification, motivated largely by the authors’ and publishers’ goal to widen the book’s market reach. Recipes are modified to exclude exotic or not-easily-available ingredients; difficult processes might be eliminated or substituted with commercial alternatives; and dishes that do not conform to the health fad of the day might be passed over. Except for a few dishes, food from Kerala is obscure even to many Indians, leave alone the non-Indian readers. Ammini has barely made any changes to her family recipes, yet her presentation makes them seem extremely do-able. She does not hesitate to include preparations with such exotic vegetables as breadfruit, jackfruit, and suran. Ammini has pulled off a seemingly impossible feat in Grains, Greens, and Grated Coconuts: she has preserved the originality of her traditional family recipes, and made them accessible to those outside the tradition, without overwhelming the reader with tedious detail. Novice cooks might miss having pictures of the finished dishes; the clarity of instructions, however, make up for this to a very large extent.

2. There is none of the anything-goes attitude to ingredients adopted by many modern Indian cookbooks published in the West. No false assurances are provided about difficult ingredients such as coconut milk. She tells us that coconut milk powder can be used instead, but clearly informs that the taste will not be authentic. We are told right at the onset: “My mother always insisted, “Never skimp on the quality or quantity of ingredients,” and I believe it is the first lesson in good cooking.” This is reflected in the meticulous detail provided in the chapter on ingredients.

3. Ammini’s family recipes create dishes that would go a long way in dispelling some of the popular myths about Indian cuisine. Spices are used in skillful moderation (garam masala powder never makes an apperance in this book), the vegetables and grains hold their shape and retain their flavour, and you will encounter delicate and subtly-flavoured curries that will never be found in a restaurant.

4. There is a detailed chapter on the history and development of ancient spice trade in Kerala, and to those who have not previously enquired into such matters, this chapter offers many surprises. The book also provides a very engaging account of the kitchens, culinary customs, and festivals and celebrations of Ammini’s maiden family. A world that is now almost extinct rises vividly from the pages and for a brief while, you forget the harried and hurried pace of your existence (and the pre-made frozen food in your kitchen). This is a serious yet enjoyable work, not just another cloying food “memoir” that is in fashion these days.

The book has been written for a Western audience, but readers in India will find much of profit. Such ancient traditional recipes do not come by very often. I am no alarmist, but it seems as though our traditional cuisines will soon exist only within the homes of determined souls or in five-star hotels. Even wedding feasts in India - the last stronghold of traditional food - seem to have embraced a global integration philosophy: Mushroom Pasta and Gobi Manchurian now jostle for buffet space with tava vegetables, Spanish rice, and Shahi Paneer.

Our culinary traditions, not unlike our ancient classical music, have been poorly documented for far too long, what with the practitioners jealously guarding their treasures from outsiders for various reasons. With the passing of generations, more and more of this body of knowledge will be lost. We hope there will be many more Amminis, who will not only document their family or community recipes painstakingly and truthfully, but also share it generously with others.

Srimati Ammini Ramachandran
Srimati Ammini Ramachandran ~ Cookbook Author


Pacha Sambar: Sambar with Fresh Green Spices
(Recipe from Grains, Greens, and Grated Coconuts)

I was intrigued by this recipe as it did not include sambar powder, and at first glance, seemed similar to some of my daal-vegetable preparations. The finished dish was neither like the familiar sambar nor my usual daal-with-vegetables. With powdered spices (except asafetida and turmeric) as well as ginger-garlic absent, the flavour of toor dal is allowed to hold centerstage, complemented by the freshness of the potatoes, herbs, and lemon juice. I stayed faithful to the recipe as I am wont to do when attempting traditional recipes for the first time. There is a slight error of omission in the recipe, but a missing pinch of turmeric is not a show-stopper.


1 cup toor dal
1 medium russet potato or 3 taro, peeled and cubed
2 medium tomatoes cubed
Salt to taste
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
¾ cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
¼ cup finely chopped fresh fenugreek leaves (preferred, if available)
or ½ teaspoon ground fenugreek
6 fresh green chilies (serrano or Thai), thinly sliced (less for a milder taste)
4 tablespoons lemon juice

For seasoning and garnish:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 dried red cayenne, serrano, or Thai chili, halved
¼ teaspoon asafetida powder
20 to 25 fresh curry leaves

Ingredients for Pacha Sambar
Clockwise:Toor Dal, Fresh Fenugreek, Tomatoes, Curry Leaves, Green Chillies, Potatoes, Lemons, Cilantro

Wash and clean the toor dal in several changes of water, until the water runs clear. If you are using oily toor dal, the oil must be washed off before starting to cook. Place the toor dal in a saucepan with two and a half cups of water and a half-teaspoon of turmeric powder. Bring it to a boil over medium heat, then turn down the heat, and cook for twenty-five to thirty minutes. (As an alternative, you may use a pressure cooker to cook the dal, following the manufacturer’s directions. It will take about six to eight minutes to cook in a pressure cooker.) As the dal cooks, it should be fairly thick but still liquid; stir in another half-cup of water if it is too thick. Mash the cooked toor dal thoroughly with a spoon, and set it aside.

Combine the potato (or taro), tomatoes, salt, turmeric, and two cups of water in a saucepan over medium heat, and bring it to a boil. Stir in the cilantro, fenugreek, and green chilies. Reduce the heat, and cook until the potatoes are fork tender. Stir in the cooked toor dal, and simmer for four to five minutes. Stir in the lemon juice. Remove it from the heat, and set it aside.

Heat two tablespoons of oil in a small skillet, and add the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds start sputtering, add the halved red chili, asafetida, and curry leaves. Remove it from the stove, and pour the seasoning over the cooked curry. Cover and set aside for ten minutes, to
allow the flavors to blend. Serve hot with rice and a second curry.

Makes 4 to 6 servings if served with another curry, as is traditional.

Pacha Sambar: Sambar with Fresh Green Spices
Pacha Sambar: Sambar with Fresh Green Spices

~Guest Post by Veena Parrikar

Ammini Ramachandran’s website :
For a detailed list of contents and exceprts from the book, see
Grains, Greens and Grated Coconut is available at, and Barnes&Nobles
Recommend this cookbook to your local libraries
Author and Book Cover Photo Credits: Ammini Ramachandran, Recipe Photo Credits: Rajan Parrikar
Veena Parrikar’s previous article at Mahanandi: Iceland

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Potato, Toor Dal, Kottimera(Cilantro), Menthi Kura(Fenugreek), Reviews: Cookbooks, Veena Parrikar (Monday March 19, 2007 at 12:22 am- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

Dazzling Dals ~ Brinjal Dal (Vankaya Pappu)

Brinjal Dal mixed with Rice and Ghee (Vankaya Pappu Muddalu)

Traditionally in Nandyala, dal is usually prepared with less water. The idea is to make round balls of rice, dal and ghee called pappu mudda or amma/mama mudda . Mothers prepare this small rounds to feed children in our homes. Less water means tight dal means firm, round amma mudda.

We love this type of rice-dal muddas. For dal fans, this less water dal is a must try. You will be hooked, I promise. The taste is completely different from watery type of dal. There are some vegetables which suit this type of tight dal, and brinjal is one of them. Young, firm, white fleshed brinjals are cooked with toor dal and red chilli powder. The taste is really special and this traditional dal from Rayalaseema region is a must try for purple/green brinjal fans.

Firm, white fleshed purple brinjal pieces and Toor dal


½ cup of toor dal and 1½ cups of water
2 purple or green young, firm and white fleshed brinjals - cut to small pieces
1 onion - cut to chunks
½ tsp each - red chilli powder, turmeric and salt
2 marble sized tamarind pieces

Popu or tadka ingredients:
1 tsp of oil and
½ tsp each - chopped garlic, curry leaves, urad dal, cumin and mustard seeds

Take toor dal in a pressure cooker. Wash and drain. To this washed dal, add one and half cups of water. Also the brinjal, onion, red chilli powder, turmeric and tamarind. Mix with a spoon. Cover and pressure-cook to two or three whistles until the dal is cooked to fall-apart stage.

Once all the valve pressure is released, remove the lid. Add salt. With a wood masher or whisk, mash the dal to smooth consistency. Have a taste and adjust the salt level to your liking.

Now in a saucepan, heat oil to do the popu or tadka. Add and toast the popu ingredients in the order mentioned above starting with chopped garlic and the final item would be toasting the mustard seeds. When mustard seeds start to jump around, add the mashed dal to this popu. Mix and cover with a lid.

To serve, add a small cup of cooked rice to a plate. To it, add a tablespoon of ghee and a big ladle full of dal. Combine them all thoroughly. Shape the mixture into round balls using your hand. Place the rounds on a plate and enjoy. A side dish of curry/ papad/pickle will enhance the experience very much. Finish off the meal with a glass of buttermilk or yogurt and some fruit for dessert.

Brinjal Dal mixed with Rice and Ghee (Vankaya Pappu Muddalu)

Kitchen Notes:
From Telugu to English, Mudda = Round shape
Prepare this dal only with white fleshed, firm brinjals. Black seeded ones are not suitable and the dal will taste bitter.
We usually add red chilli powder to brinjal dal. Not that good with green chillies

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Toor Dal, Amma & Authentic Andhra, Vankaya (Brinjal) (Wednesday March 7, 2007 at 6:52 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:

Dondakaya Pappu (Tindora Dal)

I have postponed blogging about this recipe as long as I could. A dal with Tindora (Dondakaya) and toordal - it may sound preposterous and audacious, but people do prepare it in Andhra (Nandyala), and there are some who like it. In case of me, I like it mainly because everything Indian is precious to me now.:)

If you are one of those who would cook tindoras in a pressure cooker or by adding water to the curry, then you might like this traditional Andhra tindora dal recipe as well. Tomato dal with tindora touch is what this tindora (dondakaya) pappu is.

Green Chillies, Toor dal, Tindora (dondakaya)
Green Chillies, Toor Dal, Tindora (dondakaya)


10 tindoras (dondakayalu), cut thinly crosswise, like coin shape
(Discard red colored, ripe flesh ones)
10 to 12 green chillies - finely chopped
1 medium sized onion - cut into chunks
1 medium sized tomato - cut into small pieces

Pressure Cook:
In a pressure cooker, take 4 fistfuls of toor dal and wash them first. Add the cut vegetables, ¼ teaspoon of turmeric, tablespoon of tamarind pieces and 2 cups of water. Cover and pressure-cook till two or three whistles. Turn off the heat and wait for the pressure to go off. When all the valve pressure is released, open the lid. Add about ½ teaspoon of salt. With a wood masher, mash the dal to smooth consistency.

Do the popu or tadka:
In a dal-pot, heat a teaspoon of peanut oil. Add and toast 6 each-curry leaves and dried red chilli pieces, one teaspoon each of- minced garlic, urad dal, cumin and mustard seeds - in the order mentioned. When mustard seeds start to dance, quickly add the mashed dal from pressure cooker and mix. Cover with a lid and let it sit for few minutes for flavors to mingle well.

Serve a big serving spoon size rice on a plate. With similar kind of spoon, serve dal. Sprinkle one teaspoon of ghee. Mix rice, dal and ghee with hand. Shape into small ping-pong shaped rounds. Like a truffle, savor each round. A curry, pickle or papadam on the side not only enhances this experience a lot, this is how the rice-dal combo is eaten in many Andhra households.

Tindora (Dondakaya) dal mixed with rice and on the side tindora curry. A glass of tomato rasam and a glass of buttermilk (not in the picture) - Our meal today

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Toor Dal, Dondakaya(Tindora), Amma & Authentic Andhra (Tuesday November 14, 2006 at 3:06 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

Lemon Cucumber Dal (Budamkaya Pappu)

Produce from Pike Place Market: Pear, Budamkaya, Poluru Vankaya(Asian Pear, Lemon Cuke & Brinjal)

For the last 3 weekends, we were going to pike place market (one of the tourist attractions of Seattle, famous for 3 F’s: fish, fresh produce and flowers. This place is like our ‘ritu bazar’ but in a grand scale.) just to browse and also for a walk. It’s about 15 to 20 minute walk from my home. Going there is easy, it’s all downhill but the return walk, oh boy, it’s steep almost 90 degree uphill, sweat inducing, power workout type of walk. Why walk, why not take car, you may ask. Of course we could, but there is a parking fee and we really should do some exercise. Particularly me who gained some weight during moving time. I have been checking out the stalls in pike place market and what I have noticed is it can be a tourist trap. But if you know where to find, you could get some good deals also. I was looking for such stalls and found two, so far. They sell some Indian vegetables like Asian pears, budamkaya (lemon cucumber or lemon cuke) and Poluru Vankaya (Thai Brinjal), along with some other farm-fresh produce. Last weekend I bought these vegetables and prepared a meal - a dal with budamkaya and a curry with brinjals and dessert is the plain fruit.

You know what we call pretty, plump babies affectionately in Telugu - “Budamkaya”. See the middle one in the photo above - this adorable, yellow colored, shot put shaped vegetable is called ‘Budamkaya‘ in Telugu and here sold as lemon cucumber or lemon cukes. Tastes mildly sweet with just a tiny hint of tanginess, like cucumber with lemon juice sprinkled on. Great on its own, lightly peel the cuke, cut into cubes, sprinkle some salt and pepper for a delightful healthy snack. We also prepare raita with yogurt, pickle (beautifully blogged by Sailaja of Sailu’s Kitchen) and dal with it. This vegetable with toor dal and in combination of rice makes an easy lunch and one of my favorite meals.

Budamkaya, peeled and cut into cubes, Onion and Green Chillies


4 fistfuls (¾ cup) of Toor dal:
Budamkaya: peeled and cut into cubes about 2 cups
1 medium onion and 8 to 10 green chillies - all cut into small pieces
Small marble sized tamarind
½ tsp of each - turmeric and salt or to taste
For popu or tadka:
1 tsp of peanut oil
½ tsp of each - mustard seeds, cumin, urad dal, minced garlic and
Few curry leaves, dried red chilli pieces

Take toor dal, budamkaya(lemon cuke), onion, green chillies, tamarind and turmeric in a pressure cooker.

Add one glass of water. Mix the ingredients and close the lid. Pressure cook until 3 whistles. Turn off the heat and wait 10 to 15 minutes for the pressure to get released. Open the lid, add salt and with a wood masher or whisk, mash the dal to smooth consistency.

In a vessel, take 1 teaspoon of peanut oil. Heat and do the popu or tadka. Add and toast garlic, curry leaves, red chilli pieces, urad dal, cumin and mustard seeds- in that order. When the seeds start to splutter, immediately add the mashed dal to the tadka. Mix and cover with a lid.

Tastes great with rice or with chapati.

Vankaya Kura, Budamkaya Pappu and Annamu (Brinjal Curry, Lemon Cucumber Dal and Rice)

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Toor Dal, Amma & Authentic Andhra, Budamkaya (Lemon Cuke) (Monday October 9, 2006 at 8:49 am- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

Spinach ~ Garlic Dal (Palakura~Vellulli Pappu)

Toor dal and spinach - no onions but lots of roasted garlic makes this dal unique. You may already know, spinach and garlic make a great combination. In this recipe, garlic is finely chopped and roasted to gold color. Cooking in this manner completely changes the character of the garlic. The garlicy smell disappears and what standouts is the mellow sweet and cashew nut like taste, giving the spinach dal a flavorful boost.

Preparation is 3-step process. (1) Cook toor dal until it falls apart (2) saute garlic and spinach (3) mix cooked toor dal and spinach-garlic. Add seasoning and simmer the whole combination for few minutes.


½ cup of toor dal and half teaspoon of turmeric in 1 cup of water
Cook the dal until it falls apart
Mash the dal to smooth paste using a wood masher and keep it aside

Meanwhile Prep Work:
1 bunch of spinach - cut into small pieces
1 small whole bulb of garlic - peel and chop garlic into small pieces
4 dried red chillies - cut them into small pieces
Soak marble-sized tamarind in half-cup of water for juice

Do the Tadka:
Heat a tablespoon of peanut oil in a big saucepan. Add and toast:
Dried red chilli pieces
Few pieces of curry leaves
One teaspoon of each - cumin and mustard seeds

Stir in garlic. Saute to until golden. Take care not to burn.
Add the finely chopped spinach and saute until the leaves wilt and come together

Stir in and Simmer:
Stir in smoothly mashed toor dal to this sauteed spinach-garlic mixture
Add a tablespoon of tamarind juice, also half teaspoon each of - chilli powder and salt or to taste.
Stir to combine. If the dal is too tight, add about half cup of water.
Mix; close the lid and simmer for about 15 minutes on low heat.

Serve hot with ghee and rice for a great satisfying meal.

Spinach-Garlic Dal with Rice
Pickle, Rice, Spinach-Garlic Dal and Ghee - Meal Today

Recipe Source: Amma, Nandyala

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Toor Dal, Spinach, Amma & Authentic Andhra, Garlic (Vellulli) (Monday June 26, 2006 at 1:34 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

Toor Dal (Kandi Pappu)

Toor Dal (Kandi Pappu)
Dal For Life ~ Toor Dal (Kandi Pappu)
Preparing For JFI ~ Dal on July 1st and For This Week’s Indian Kitchen

Dal with lots of ghee, simple plain dal, dal in rasam and sambhar - homesick or tired of home, feeling indulgent or not feeling well - for every mood and for every occasion, Toor dal is ‘the dal’ for us at least 300 days out of 365 days of a year.

After rice, toor dal is the most important food ingredient we, Andhra log would have in our homes. Our parents, their parents, for all of us, the building bone is toor dal protein. We may move to different countries, talk or think in different language, one thing that’s going to be a constant in our lives foodwise is toor dal.

The light golden color, the way they cook easily, their taste - smooth and unique, the way they would fill us up without making us sweat and make us feel satisfied without being overwhelming. I love everything about toor dal. I confess I am a dal fiend and a toor dal addict. I am sure millions of other Bharat vaasi are also passionate about this dal just like me.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Toor Dal, The Essentials, Amma & Authentic Andhra, Indian Ingredients, Indian Kitchen (Sunday June 25, 2006 at 6:42 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

Maamidikaya Pappu (Mango Dal)

We celebrate Ugadi (New Year) festival on 30th of March this year, and Ugadi is all about mangoes traditionally. Back in India, we decorate our houses with mango leave garlands; at home we prepare recipes with unripe mangoes. You see, by March and April, the bazars are usually flooded with mangoes. First the unripe mangoes in a beautiful shade of pure green, then golden yellow colored ripe mangoes make an appearance at local ‘ritu bazars’ tantalizing the senses. No wonder, we celebrate mango season with a festival.

But here, where I live, green mangoes are hard to come by. I had to travel 100 miles, paid humungous amounts, just because I couldn’t resist a beautiful tradition and I’m very lucky to get them. With the green mangoes I purchased, here is one, an original Andhra recipe - ‘Mango dal’. Green mango cooked with toordal. Little bit tart, fruity with a hint of caramel undertones from mango and earthy nutty smoothness because of toor dal - is a taste that one will never forget.

Green mango, Chilli Powder, Turmeric, Toordal and Onion - Ingredients for Mango dal (Click on the image to get a closer look)

Green mango, Chilli Powder, Turmeric, Toordal and onion - Ingredients for Mango dal


1 green mango
1 medium sized red onion - sliced into big chunks
4 fistfuls of toor dal (¾ cup)
1 teaspoon of chilli powder
¼ teaspoon of turmeric
½ teaspoon of salt or to taste

1 tsp of peanut oil or ghee
1 tsp of each - mustard seeds, cumin, urad dal, chana dal
4 to 6 dried red chilli pieces and curry leaves
2 garlic cloves - finely chopped

1.Wash green mango thoroughly to remove any pesticide sprayings. Dry it with a towel then cut it into small cubes. I don’t like to peel the mango skin for this recipe. The tough outer skin of mango, imparts kind of tarty flavor to the dal, so following the tradition, I keep the skin. Scrape any white flesh attached to the seed with a peeler and then only discard the seed. (see this photo for the stripped seed.)

2. Take toordal, mango, onion, chilli powder and turmeric in a pressure cooker. Add one and half cups of water. Close the lid and pressure cook until 3 whistles or until you are sure the dal is soft and mushy. Turn off the heat and wait for the pressure to go off.

3. After all the valve pressure is released, remove the lid. The contents usually are cooked soft by now, add salt and with a wood masher or whisker, mash the dal, until all the toordal turns into fine mush.

4. In a vessel, heat peanut oil or ghee, Toast the popu ingredients in this order. First add dried red chilli pieces, garlic and chana dal. Then urad dal and curry leaves, finally add and toast cumin and mustard seeds.

5. Remove the mashed mango dal from pressure cooker and add it to the popu in the vessel. Stir to mix and cover the vessel with a lid so that the dal could absorb the flavors of popu

Serve with rice and ghee, a dry sauté curry by the side and some papads for a memorable meal.
My preference: Mix mango dal with rice and ghee thoroughly. Shape the mixture into small rounds and have them with papads preferably sago (sabudana) papad.

Mango dal and rice mudda in a sabudana papad
(Maamidikaya pappannam mudda on a saggubiyyam vadiyam)
Mango dal mixed with rice&ghee. Shaped into round ball & placed on a deep fried sago(sabudana) papad.

For mango dal, we in our homes, use only chilli powder. Do not substitute it with green chillies.
Sago (sabudana) papads are available in Indian grocery shops and green unripe mangoes- during spring and summer seasons.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Toor Dal, Amma & Authentic Andhra, Mamidikaya (Green Mango) (Monday March 27, 2006 at 10:45 am- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

Sambhar with Shallots (Baby Onions)

Last week I purchased one packet of shallots (baby onions). With them, I prepared a south Indian special ’shallot sambhar’ i.e. tiny, baby onions are first peeled out of their dry skin/coverings, then cooked as whole, in thick lentil (toor dal) soup. Tasty and delightful! Like all babies, they are tiny bundles of joy, a gastronomic kind:) and worth the high price.

 Shallot(Baby onion) Sambhar, Toor dal
Shallot Sambhar - Light and refreshing


My sambhar cooking routine is a three-step process.

1. Pressure-cook the toor dal until soft, so that it can be mashed/pureed into smooth paste. Soak the tamarind in water to extract the juice.

2. In the meantime, cut and cook vegetables for sambhar- usually tomatoes and vegetables (shallots). The process I follow is like this. Heat one teaspoon of oil a big saucepan, add and toast popu ingredients. To it, I’ll add chopped tomatoes and cook them until they turn soft and mushy. Then I’ll add and cook shallots (or vegetables), one cup of water and also the seasoning (sambhar powder, turmeric, red chilli powder and salt).

3. Simmering 1 and 2 together- To the cooked tomato-shallot mixture, add the mashed toor dal paste and tamarind juice. Stirring in between, let simmer for about 15 to 30 minutes. Just before turning off the heat, garnish with finely chopped cilantro and serve.

4 fistfuls of toor dal (3/4 cup)
12 to 15 shallots (baby onions)
2 ripe juicy tomatoes
1 tablespoon of tamarind juice
1 tsp of sambhar powder
1/2 tsp of red chilli powder and salt
1/4 tsp of turmeric
Cilantro for garnish
Popu or tadka:
1 tsp each of mustard seeds, cumin, urad dal, curry leaves, minced garlic. Also few curry leaves and dried red chilli pieces
I prepared this sambhar for idlies and for idly sambhar, I usually add half tsp of cloves & cinnamon powder, to spice up the sambhar a little bit.

Mashed Toor dal, Tamarind juice, tomatoes, shallots (Baby onions), cloves and cinnamon
Ingredients for shallot sambhar

For more detailed sambhar recipe (like how to prepare home made sambhar powder etc.,), check out my other blogged recipes- Okra Sambhar and white radish sambhar.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Toor Dal, Amma & Authentic Andhra, Onions, Shallots (Monday February 20, 2006 at 3:28 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

Ridge Gourd Dal (Beerakaya Pappu)

Everyone has their own food weaknesses. Mine has always been rice and dal. I loose my dietary control over this combination. I am a dal-holic.:) So, what did I do with ridge gourd purchased from ‘Lotus’ yesterday, I have ridge gourd dal. Simple yet divinely tasty when mixed with rice and ghee. Today, no portion control for me.

Ridge Gourd (Beera Kaya, Turai) Pressure Cooked Ridge Gourd and Toor Dal Mixture
Ridge Gourd - In bite sized pieces………….. ……………Presssure-cooked toor dal and vegetable mixture

for two for two meals

Toor dal - 4 fistfuls (¾ cup)
One medium sized ridge gourd
outer ridges peeled first and then cut into small cubes
One medium sized onion & 6 to 10 green chilli peppers -all finely chopped
1 tablespoon of tamarind extract
¼ tsp of turmeric
½ tsp of salt
For popu or tadka: 1 tsp each of mustard seeds, cumin, urad dal, minced garlic and curry leaves

Take toor dal, vegetables (listed above), tamarind and turmeric in a pressure cooker. Add about two cups of water. Pressure-cook them til 3 whistles or until they turn soft. Wait until it’s safe to open the lid, then add salt to this cooked mix. With a wood masher, make a smooth paste of the cooked dal-veggies. At this stage, for a more soup kind of dal, add water to your liking, stir and bring it to a boil. (Do this step only if you add more water to the cooked-mashed dal. Otherwise it’s not necessary to cook the dal further.)

In a steel vessel, heat one teaspoon of peanut oil. Sauté the popu or tadka ingredients until golden, then add the mashed dal-veggie paste from the cooker. Mix the dal with popu ingredients thoroughly. Serve hot with rice and ghee.

Ridge Gourd Dal with rice and curry

Ridge gourd dal and curry with rice and ghee - my weakness and indulgence.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Toor Dal, Amma & Authentic Andhra, Beera kaaya(Ridge Gourd) (Thursday February 9, 2006 at 2:36 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

Methi/Fenugreek Dal (Menthi Kura Pappu)

Fresh Fenugreek, Menthi Kura, Methi

First thing one notices about fresh fenugreek is how beautiful and delicate the leaves are. Then the smell, aromatherapy in truest sense, when pressure cooked with toor dal or sautéed with potatoes, any other vegetable, the leaves release wonderful fragrance. ‘Johnson and Johnson-A family company’, who makes money by beguiling the families with air fresheners and scented oils, if they get the whiff of fresh fenugreek, you bet, you’d see an ayurvedic or eastern themed fenugreek scented oil on shop shelves for sure.

Fenugreek is one of those green leafy veggies, looks innocently innocuous but when cooked, dazzles & grabs your attention by its wonderful aroma and makes you try and like it. For a dal-rice addict like me, nothing beats the taste of rice and dal made of fresh fenugreek leaves. Very tasty and nutrititous, it’s one of my favorite foods. Fenugreek and toor dal combination is a true and tested recipe, very popular in our Raayala seema region of Andhra, again one of those I learned from my mother.

Methi leaves, onion, tomato, green chillies, toor dal and tamarind - ingredients for methi dal


One bunch of fresh fenugreek - washed and leaves plucked
4 fistfuls of Toor dal
1 medium sized onion and tomato - chopped
1o green chillies - finely chopped
Small lime sized tamarind
1/4 tsp of turmeric
Salt to taste

For popu or tadka :

1 tsp each of oil or ghee, mustard seeds, cumin and urad dal
1 garlic clove - finely chopped
Few curry leaves and few pieces of dry red chillies

Cook dal: In a pressure cooker, take toor dal, fenugreek leaves, onion, tomato, green chillies, tamarind and turmeric - add one glass of water and pressure cook them till 3 whistles. When the valve pressure is all released, remove the lid, add half teaspoon of salt and mash the dal using a wood masher to smooth paste.

Do the popu: In a deep bottomed vessel, heat one teaspoon of oil, add the remaining popu or tadka ingredients. Saute till the seeds start crackling, garlic turns red. Pour the cooked and mashed dal, stir well and cover. Tastes great with rice and chapati.

Methi dal (Fenugreek Dal, Menthi Kura Pappu) with Rice and Ghee

Fenugreek dal (Methi Dal or Menthi Kura Pappu) and rice with ghee.

Recipe Source: amma
Fenugreek is available both fresh and frozen in most of Indian grocery shops here in US

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Toor Dal, Amma & Authentic Andhra, Menthi Kura(Fenugreek) (Tuesday December 27, 2005 at 9:54 am- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

Gongura Pappu(Dal)

I’ve been quite busy for the past couple of days, cleaning up the house, rearranging things. All these are part of the preparation for the most important festival, ‘Vijaya Dasami’. The ten-day festival, also called ‘Dassera’ or ‘Nava Ratri’, celebrates the Goddess Durga, the Mother Force of Hindu Scriptures. The festival starts from today, 4th Oct and ends on 12th with grand prayers, processions and feasts.

It is very easy to let go of these traditions and say “whatever or next year”. Because we live in an isolated environment, far from our traditions and festivals, particularly from the festive mood and the atmosphere. I understand the values and importance of these festivals so I try to be enthusiastic to follow the rituals and celebrate as much as possible.

What I am going to do on my food blog during these ten days of festival is to try to write about all the food items that I am going to prepare on the grand festival day, Vijaya Dasami. I usually prepare: a dal, two types of curries, rasam, chutney, papads, bajji, chitrannam with lemons, rice and bhakshalu(poli). I am planning to write about one item each day for the next ten days.

I am going to start my festival food with dal, not any dal but the Andhra special -Gongura dal.

Gongura Leaf

For the uninitiated in Andhra cuisine, Gongura is a leafy vegetable and has very distinctive sour taste. For the past couple of years we are able to purchase it in Indian stores, here in US too. I am sorry but I don’t know its English name, it’s usually sold here also as ‘Gongura’, under its Telugu name. When cooked with toor dal or as pickle, it wakes up, more like zings the taste buds and makes you crave its unique taste.


1 bunch of Gongura, leaves separated & washed
1 cup or four fistfuls of toor dal
Green chillies at least 6, jalapeno variety
1 medium sized onion, cut into small pieces
1/2 tsp of turmeric

What makes this recipe unique(my family variation) and so tasty is adding one garlic clove, half tsp of coriander seeds and cumin, all together made into smooth paste and then added to the dal. This paste compliments and gives wonderful aroma and taste when cooked with gongura.

In a pressure cooker, take all of the above ingredients and add one glass of water. Mix them once and pressure cook until three to four whistles or until toordal is tender and breaks apart when held. Wait until the pressure is released, remove the lid and add one teaspoon of salt to this cooked mixture and mash it with a wooden pappu gutti or using an immersion blender into smooth paste.

Now, in a sauce pan, over low medium heat, do the popu or tadka (means toasting the mustard, cumin seeds, red chilli pieces and curry leaves in one tablespoon of ghee or oil). Add the cooked and mashed gongura dal to this popu. Stir all of it once and cover with a lid. Gongura dal is ready.

Tastes great with rice or jowar roti. Best way ofcourse is the combination of this dal mixed with rice, ghee and papad.

Gongura Dal and Rice on a Sago Papad
Gongura and rice mudda(ball) on sabudana(sago) papad.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Toor Dal, Gongura(Sour Greens), Amma & Authentic Andhra (Tuesday October 4, 2005 at 9:46 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:

Paruppu Usili with Green Beans

Paruppu Usili or Lentil Curry, even though it’s an old classic from South India, I never made this at home before. Shammi’s post tempted me to try it. I liked the ingredients and nutritional aspects of this curry and also the quick way it can be made.

I followed Shammi’s recipe mostly.Toor dal-Chana dal, red chilli paste and in the background finely chopped green beans and onions - Ingredients for Paruppu Usili

-Soaked two fistfuls each of toor dal and chana dal overnight.

-Grinded the dals with half tsp of salt and six dry red chillies and pinch of hing into coarse matter, without adding any water.
-Fresh green beans are the vegetable I chose to make Parappu Usli.
-I chopped beans, one medium sized onion and one garlic clove finely.

Did the popu (frying mustard seeds, cumin and curry leaves in 1 tsp of oil), then added onions and garlic, sautéed them for few minutes. Then added the coarsely grounded dal paste and green beans. Cooked them covered on low medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pinch of turmeric and salt to my taste, with these final touches and few more minutes on stove - my new favorite curry was ready for chapatis.

Chapati with Paruppu Usili made of Green beans (Roti and Lentil Curry with Green Beans)

Thanks Shammi for showing this classic recipe.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Toor Dal, Green Beans, Chana Dal (Friday July 8, 2005 at 6:56 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

Chappidi Pappu (Plain Toor Dal Rasam)

The recipe for this lentil soup comes from the kitchens of my amma and ammamma. During the summer months in Rayalaseema, when temperatures reach 100F* and above, my mother prepares this watery rasam (soup) with toor dal, to calm our stomachs from summer heat.

4 fistfuls of toor dal (half cup)
2 garlic cloves peeled,
½ teaspoon of red chilli powder & turmeric
Salt to taste
2 glasses of water
popu or tadka ingredients: 1 tsp each of cumin, mustard seeds, curry leaves

Toordal, garlic, red chilli powder

Take toor dal in a pressure cooker, add a glass of water, garlic, red chilli powder and turmeric. Close the lid and pressure cook them until 3 whistles. (Or simmer them in a saucepan until they are very tender and beginning to breakdown.) Once the valve pressure is all released, remove the lid and mash the dal to smooth paste. Add another glass of hot water and salt. Bring this diluted rasam to a boil.

Meanwhile, do the popu or tiragamata(frying mustard seeds, cumin and curry leaves in one tsp of oil) in a vessel, add this popu to the rasam. Because of extra glass of water addition, we’ve to cook the rasam for 10 more minutes on medium heat, partially covering the vessel. This simmering process brings out the richness of toor dal. Turn off the heat, let cool little bit, and serve warm.

Toordal Rasam

This cream less creamy toor dal soup is great on its own, or you can have it with rice and ghee - a light meal any day of the week.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Toor Dal, Amma & Authentic Andhra, Dals (Lentils & Legumes) (Thursday June 2, 2005 at 8:09 am- permalink)
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