Archive for the ‘Home made basics’ Category

Back to Basics: Home made Sambhar Powder

Friday, August 27th, 2010

When is enough never enough? I’d say with Sambhar powder :)

I have three big plastic containers filled with sambhar powder, sitting in my freezer (best way to store them), made by my mom. She makes it a point to pack kilos of sambhar powder, paruppu podi(dal powder for rice), kootu podi (dal powder for vegetables), idli milagai podi(gun powder), pickles, vadams etc etc to bring back when we go home. Whenever some relative travels this side, her first question is always,” Do you have enough sambhar powder or shall I send some”?.

It is alright with mom if her dear daughter and SIL go without electricity if a Hurricane hits but the kitchen should be stocked with sambhar powder 😉

Jokes apart, the taste of sambhar with homemade sambhar powder is awesome! Once, only once when the stock was over I have bought store bought powder, N and I felt that store bought powder does not taste like the typical Iyer sambar powder that we are used to. I made a call home and within a few weeks I got a big pack of sambar powder from home, thanks to some folks traveling back and forth. Besides, these make good instant gifts with unexpected friends- you just have to ask and you’ll know.

I feel guilty everytime I ask her but I realized it gives mom satisfaction. Once when I was telling this story to a relative old enough to be my grandma, she cooly said, “My daughter has a 10 year old daughter and I still make sambhar powder for her”…So I decided to be guilt free and enjoy these simple pleasures that you cant get anywhere else.

Now there are two different sambhar powders, one that is sundried and ground in the food mill, the other called as arachu vitta sambhar powder(freshly ground sambhar paste instead of a powder), you can also get the taste of arachu vitta sambhar by just sprinkling a teaspoon of the powder while using regular/store bought powders.

I guess there is no specific recipe for the powder as mom’s have their own recipe- adding extra coriander seeds or pepper or cumin to varying proportions.

Method 1:


Toor Dal: 1/2 kg
Chana Dal- 1/2 Kg
Coriander seeds- 3/4 kg
Dried red chilies- 1/4 kg
Fenugreek seeds- 25g
Thick Asafoedita(not powder)- 50 g

How to: First fry fenugreek seeds to a golden brown color. Keep it aside. Then fry chana dal, toor dal, dry red chilies and coriander seeds in the same order. Cool.

Fry asafoetida in oil and cool. Grind all ingredients together to a powder in a coffee grinder/blender and use as sambhar powder.

Traditional one:

Coriander seeds- 3 cups
Pepper- 1 cup
Toor dal- 1 cup
Chana dal- 1 cup
Fenugreek seeds- less than 1/4 cup
Dried red chilies- 3 cups
Whole dried turmeric- about 10 or 15

Dry all these ingredients in the sun and then blend them to a fine powder(done in a food mill in India).

Method 3:

Arachu vitta sambhar recipe can be found here.

The powder recipe:

Chana dal -(Kadalai paruppu)- 2 tbsp
Coriander seeds- 4 tbsp
Fenugreek seeds (methi seeds) – a pinch
Red chilies- 6
Coconut- 5 tbsp


Fry the ingredients given under the section to “grind”. Toast coriander seeds, red chilies, chana dal, fenugreek seeds together without adding any oil till they turn golden brown color. Transfer to a blender.

Ingredients- Sambar

Add coconut to the hot pan and quickly stir fry for a minute before it turns brown (Look for a golden color). Transfer to the blender. Adding coconut along with other ingredients will toast the coconut quicker and all other ingredients will be raw. So fry coconut at the last minute.


Let these ingredients cool and grind to a smooth, fine powder in one whole grinding pulse. Do not stop and grind and do not open the lid of the blender as soon as you stop grinding. You’ll be celebrating Holi if you do so :)

Store this powder in an airtight container in the fridge/freezer if you are going to use it to flavor the sambhar. To use the powder for fresh sambhar(one time use), add water and make it to a smooth paste. Follow the recipe for sambhar like here.

Another tip is that though the sambhar powder can be used in making vathakozhambus, there is also a seperate flavor powder to make vathakozhambu which can be found here.

What are you waiting for? Make some hot idli sambhar!

This sambhar powder goes to aqua’s Back to basics event, started by Jaya.


For Jay’s Lets Relishh Paneer event, my entries are:

Paneer Tikka
Malai Paneer- Paneer with rich cream and cashew sauce
My favorite flavored paneer- chili infused paneer in a fried rice

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Freezing fresh from the garden

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

While blog hopping I have seen a lot of garden updates and about growing different vegetables and sometimes I try them in my own little vegetable garden. When I see the colorful flowers especially yellow flowers of Okras, Purple color of Eggplants or a light shade of violet of the long beans, I just have to show the garden to my neighbors and friends for Ooh’s and Aaah’s.

But let’s talk about Step 2: The garden is growing so well that you harvest long beans and okras by the dozen every week and you are running out of recipes to put them in. You have shared so many bags of okras with the neighbors that they are running away at the sight of the vegetable! At this stage I usually start freezing the vegetables to use after a few days.

Here is how it goes:

Usually to freeze a vegetable like daikon(radish), remove the skin, chop it in to desired shape and drop them in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Remove them from the hot water, transfer the vegetable to a bowl of cold water (preferably an ice bath), then drain all the excess water from the vegetable and store them in zip lock bags or plastic storage containers. Make sure that you write the date when you made the frozen vegetable and use it within 3 months.

The same method can be used for freezing peas, beans, carrots and beets.

For okras, chop them but do not cook them in water. Store the chopped okras as it is in a freezer bag.

My garden produces so much of cilantro and mint that I end up freezing them too. For mint, I make a mint paste and store it, ready to use for any recipe, but for cilantro you can either make a cilantro paste or simply wash, dry the cilantro in a kitchen towel and chop them finely and store it in the freezer.

For curry leaves, wash and dry the leaves in a kitchen towel in a cool dry place in the kitchen. Then microwave it for a minute- two minutes, depending on your microwave powder and store the curry leaves in an airtight container.

Too many tomatoes from the garden?? Make it into a tomato puree and store it ready to use!! Or better make the onion- tomato masala paste, the base for most Indian gravies and store it for a busy weeknight dinner curry.

Do not store the eggplants as they are(whole), even if it is a small purple eggplant, how much ever you try, you cannot thaw it to make it fresh. Eggplants will turn black in color when frozen as whole and will be like leather when used directly in cooking after that. Neither will they absorb the flavor or taste good.

For broad beans(Avaraikkai), remove the thin vein that runs on both sides, chop it and then store it. No point in storing the broad beans as whole and later defrosting and removing the stems.

Picked too many strawberries from the farm near by? Freeze them as whole berries or make a berry puree. Use the puree in muffins like this recipe.

Too many Bananas from the backyard or from the store? Remove the skin of the banana(must), chop it and store in the freezer. Then use it in smoothies or in sheera.

Do you have a garden too? Do share your trips and tricks on storing with us!

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Home Made Bengay/Moov for Body Aches (Karpoora Thailam)

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

Whenever we get a knee pain or sprains we tend to apply some creams(analgesic) like bengay to provide warmth and relieve the pain. But would you believe the ingredients are so simple and you can even make it at home? My mom never trusted any of these chemicals and she believed that since it is applied on the skin, our system can absorb it. The more you apply to relieve the pain, the more you are adding chemicals to the system.

Instead of using these pain relievers she would make a instant home made analgesic(a rub) to apply and she would massage with it. When I was in University studying Chemistry, I could understand the principle behind it. The ingredients are the same, some oil as a base and camphor. The base oil my mom uses is Sesame oil, called a Nallenai in Tamil, which literally translates to Good oil!!

I learnt this from my mom and now a days N too has stopped using all these rubs and he asks me to make this instead of buying some unknown chemicals.

Home made analgesic:

Ingredients: (serves for 4 applications)

Sesame oil- 1/4 cup
Camphor-6 capsules
An old, beaten up pan


There are a couple of things you should remember before starting to make this rub. Both oil and camphor can catch fire, so do not play with heating. Be careful and do not leave it at any stage unnoticed.

Heat a pan without adding anything to it, till you can see slight fumes coming out of the pan. Reduce the flame, pour the oil and heat it for a minute.

Remove the oil pan from fire.. This is very important as hot oil and camphor can give fumes or fire.

Powder the camphor. Sprinkle the camphor powder into the oil. You can see some sizzle, but it is OK. Let it cool for 3-4 minutes.

Oil is ready!

You can cool it and store in a container. If it cools, the oil will get creamy like a store bought rub. You can either use the cream or the oil. If you need to massage with the oil, wait till you can handle the heat of the oil (till it is warm and not hot).

Apply the lukewarm oil either on the back or hands or leg,depending on the area of swelling, sprain or pain and start massaging lightly. Do not rub heavily as the oil will warm up on its own once it comes to contact with the skin due to massage. The person receiving the oil massage can feel the warmth too. If a hot shower is taken after the oil massage, the relief will be instant.

This is something I make often (as N travels a lot and comes back with aches all over) and it is simple and works every time. You don’t have to worry about side effects as you know what ingredients are there.

How to use: Either as oil or cream
Used for: Body aches due to strain or sprain
Who can use: Adults and kids(reduce the dosage and just apply in minimum quantities)

This Home made bengay goes straight to the Home Remedies Event I am hosting, an event started by A2Zvegetariancuisine

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Ghee (Indian Clarified Butter)

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

As today is karthigai, the festival of lamps I wanted to make the traditional pori urundai (puffed rice balls in syrup)and so started with making fresh ghee.

When we first moved here, though I was successful in making yogurt and paneer I was never able to make butter out of yogurt/butter milk. Back home though there were Aavin and Nilgris to sell fresh butter and ghee. After a few discussions with mom, I bought some unsalted butter(Land o’Lakes) and tried making ghee.

It turned out to be smooth and silky and since then I have been making ghee every week. Just for the two of us, I use one stick of butter at a time. The ghee is usually fresh this way. And, I dont have to worry about buying a pound of ghee and working out ways to finish it soon.


Unsalted Butter- 1 stick


Heat a heavy bottom pan(kadai is the best) on medium-low heat and place the stick of butter at room temperature. Keep watching the butter as it slowly melts and bubbles(it will look like a soapy mess at this time).

Wait for another 3-4 minutes after this stage and you can see the froth clearing away. Keep watching the pan as it may turn transparent in seconds.

Keep a clean bowl ready(preferably stainless steel and not glass). Filter the ghee into this container and let it cool. Store in a air tight container and use a dry spoon to scoop out ghee.

Make sure that you dont heat the butter after it turns transparent. That way the ghee would be burnt and will be brown and bitter. Timing the stages of melting is the important step in making fresh ghee.

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