Monday, May 3, 2010

Comfort Food- the South Indian version

After a weekend full of pigging out, felt like some simple comfort food today. In our house, this means some good old "annu-chaaru," and some potato chips on the side. I usually like to make some simple vegetable on the side as well- yeah, I am a vegetable freak and given a chance, I can utilize every single vegetable available in my cooking. Yes, really!

Translation: Annu-Chaaru= Rice Rasam.

"Chaaru," better known as "Rasam," is a South Indian spicy tangy soup made with tomatoes and lentils and a special spice powder. Tamarind pulp is the conventional addition to this, however, I prefer lemon juice. So all I do is cook some pigeon peas, the lentils, (better known as toor dal) in the pressure cooker (don't forget to wash it at least 4-5 times to remove that metanil yellow I talked about in a previous post!) for at least 5 minutes. Gotta make sure that the lentils are well done. Al dente does not work in this case. See below:

Uncooked lentils

Cooked until nice and mushy (yeah, not very eye-appealing!)

While the lentils are cooking in the pressure cooker, I start boiling a pot of water combined with tomato paste, salt, spice powder (I get that from my mom in India- must learn how to make it) and sometimes, like today, I add a few curry leaves. The curry leaves impart a lovely flavor as well as aroma to the whole concoction. Once the whole thing has come to a good boil (I boil it for at least 5 minutes), I add the mushy cooked lentils (usually about 2-3 tablespoons works well- some people like it thicker. For thicker rasam, just add more lentils). Give it a stir and taste. If it works for your taste buds, there, you are done! If not, generally it might need some extra salt or maybe even that spice powder or, as it happens often in my case, just a tad bit more tomato paste. Another quick boil. In the end, I garnish with splattered mustard seeds and crushed cumin (I use a teaspoon of ghee, i.e. clarified butter.......come on, you gotta use the real stuff!). And right before eating, I add a few teaspoons of lemon juice. Ta-da! The "Chaaru" is ready!

The nice spicy tangy tomato lentil soup!

For the veggie side, I decided to make a very simple quick Kai-Lan, also called Gai-Lan or in plain simple language, Chinese Broccoli. As the name suggests, it is a bit similar to broccoli in taste. Well, it might stink to some people. It has that typical broccoli or cauliflower or cabbage or brussel sprouts smell to it, just a little bit milder, though.........

Cooking this vegetable literally takes about 4 minutes. No kidding! So I wash the leaves and stems. Sometimes there are small little yellow flowers on top. They are edible too. After washing, I chop it all. Then take a pan, put 2 teaspoons of oil into it. Splatter some mustard seeds and immediately throw in the washed and chopped kai-lan. Add salt to taste, give it a quick stir and cover with lid. After 3 minutes, take off the lid and stir once more and then switch off the stove. It gets cooked in that heat itself. Remove from heat after another minute. I like the kai lan to retain its lovely green color. I usually add a couple green chillies too just for a bite. Didn't do so today. And done! Healthy, ton of iron (leafy green veggie) and tasty!

Kai-Lan or Gai-Lan or Chinese Broccoli

Chopped up Kai-Lan (notice the intermittent yellow flowers?)

Ready to eat!

Am off to the grocery store to get milk (we seem to be consuming milk like crazy of late!). Will get a packet of salted kettle chips as well. You see, I am not fond of people going, "What? No Chips with annu-chaaru??"


sparth said...

OK - I am convinced now that you are on a healthy diet - methinks that you are on a "program" for the upcoming India trip!! Keep it up!

Dreamer said...

Haha! you will be surprised to hear that I have been cooking & eating this kind of food for over a decade now! Guess one way to look at it is that I am "super fit"-- hence everything I eat, even healthy vegetables, gets converted into FAT! Now whaddayasay?