Growing up, she was the one who took care my sister and I most of the time since my mom is a working mom. My grandma was the one who taught me everything starting from kolams to cooking and I loved way she bragged about me much to annoyance of my sis and my cousins :) Even during my last India trip, which was a couple of years ago, my grandma went to the grinding mill all by herself (she was around 80 years at that time) carrying a big bucket to grind chili powder for me. She made sure our kitchens (starting from my mom's kitchen to mine, my sister's, and my cousins' kitchens) were all well stocked up with chili powders, vadagam, and all powders. Most of my childhood memories of her was with her always carrying a cleaning device and sometimes chasing us with that :)
I love the way she called me "geethama". I miss her a lot and will always cherish her memories close to my heart hoping that she is up there somewhere watching us all with love. I do not want to make my mom emotional with this post, so I am not sharing her photo here but I do have some of my ayah's recipes. To me, my ayah's cooking is the best cooking in the world. I love the aroma that waffles through the house when she cooks. She always uses fennel seeds or fennel powder in everything and that's how I started loving fennel. Even a simple dish, which is cooked her will be so tasty. Some of her famous dishes are kadappa, vatha kuzumbu with paruppu thovayal, fish kuzumbu, fish fry and so many more.
This is one of grandma's signature dishes. The interesting variation of her dish is that she sometimes makes this with channa dhal instead of moong dhal. If you like regular kadappa with moong dhal, you will fall in love with this version. Adding fresh ginger-garlic paste is a must here as it makes a huge flavor difference to this dish. This is typically served with idlis and dosas but my mom usually makes this as a side dish for chappathis.
1. Channa dhal (or) moong dhal 1/2 cup. This dish is made with moong dhal mostly.
2. Onion, medium size, 1.
3. Tomatoes, medium size, 2.
4. Potatoes, large, 1.
5. Green chilies, 2.
6. Grated coconut, 2 tablespoons.
7. Garlic, 2 pods.
8. Ginger, a small piece.
9. Turmeric powder, a pinch.
10. Cinnamon sticks, 2.
11. Fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon.
12. Salt, as per taste.
13. Chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon.
14. Coriander powder, 1 teaspoon.
15. Curry leaves, a sprig.
Cook the channa dhal with a pinch of salt and keep it aside. Cook the potato either in the pressure cooker or microwave, peel the skin, and crumble it coarsely. Grind the green chilies, coconut, garlic and ginger into a fine paste. Dice the onions and tomatoes into small pieces.
Heat a pan with a tablespoon of oil. Once the oil is hot, add the cinnamon sticks and fennel seeds and fry them for a few seconds. Then add the diced onions and curry leaves and sautee for a few minutes until the onions turn translucent. Then add the tomatoes and keep sauteeing until everything is blended. Now add the ground paste, chili powder, coriander powder, and salt and keep stirring under low flame for 2-3 minutes. Add the cooked dhal and crumbled potatoes after 2 minutes, mix everything well and let it cook for 5 more minutes before switching off the stove. If need 1/2 cup of water can be added if the kadappa is too thick. Serve hot with idlis, dosas, or chapathis.
This is a classic combination. This does not need any other side dishes. Just rice, vatha kuzumbu with paruppu thovayal, and papads is such a tasty meal all by itself.
- Small onions, 1 cup (or) regular onions, 2.
- Tomatoes, medium sized, 2.
- Garlic, 3-4 cloves.
- Ginger-garlic paste 1 teaspoon.
- Tamarind, 1 lemon-sized ball.
- Chili powder, 2 teaspoons.
- Coriander powder, 2 tablespoons.
- Sambar powder, 1 teaspoon (optional).
- Turmeric powder, ¼ teaspoon.
- Curry leaves for seasoning.
- Salt for taste.
- Vadakam for seasoning (optional).
- Mustard seeds for seasoning.
- Sundai kaai ( sun-dried turkey berries) or manathakkali vathal (sun-dried black nightshade berries), 1 teaspoon.
Extract thick tamarind juice from the tamarind and dice the onions and tomatoes into small pieces. The small onions can also be left as whole. Heat a pan with some sesame oil. When the oil is hot enough, add the mustard seeds and let it splutter. Then add the vadakam and the vathal and fry for a few seconds and then add chopped onions and sauté for a few minutes until the onions turn brown. Add the tomatoes, curry leaves, garlic cloves, and ginger-garlic paste and keep sautéing until everything is blended. Add the powders one bye one and keep frying on a low flame with another tablespoon of oil until good smell comes from the mixture. Add the tamarind juice and salt along with a cup of water and cook closed in medium flame for 10-12 minutes and the gravy starts to thicken. Serve hot with rice, idlis or dosas.
Toor dhal or channa dhal, 1/2 cup.
Grated coconut, 2-3 tablespoons.
Dried red chilies, 2-3 depending upon preferred heat level.
Garlic, 2 pods (optional).
Tamarind, a very small piece.
Cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon. (optional)
Salt, as per taste.
Roast all the ingredients given in the list except the coconut and salt and let it cool. Blend everything into a coarse mixture and serve with rice, idlis, or dosas.
Note: This thovayal does not need any seasonings. The garlic and cumin seeds can be omitted if preferred. Both the variations taste good.