Sakkara Pongal (sweet lentil and rice porridge)

The last time I posted, I talked about the savoury version of this dish called Venn Pongal. It’s now time for the sweet version. Indian desserts are not everyone’s cup of tea but having grown up eating them, my palette can take a fair amount of sweetness. Of course, I’m also genetically and geographically predisposed to Type II Diabetes (I wonder why) and so I have to watch what I eat and exercise to make up for my sweet tooth. However, come Pongal time, I can’t help but make a small quantity of this delicious dessert to share.

In India, it is typical to serve the dessert or some form of “sweet” at the start of the meal – especially if it is a happy and festive occasion. In the case of the festival of Pongal, Sakkara Pongal is served first or alongside Venn Pongal. You always eat a bit of the sweet version first before tucking into the savoury version. Having babbled enough about the dish, here’s the recipe for it. Continue reading

Venn Pongal ( A spicy rice and lentil porridge)

At the same time as I was in Rome, my extended family in India were celebrating a harvest festival called ‘Pongal’ (pronounced ‘pon’ as in pontiff and ‘gal’ as in seagull) in the state of Tamil Nadu and ‘Sankranti’ (pronounced ‘sun’ + ‘kra as in kraal+’ n’ + ‘thi’ as in ‘thick’)  in the state of Karnataka. This festival marks the end of the winter and the beginning of the new harvest season in these parts of the country.

Wikipedia explains quite nicely how the festival is celebrated in the state of Karnataka http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Makar_Sankranti#Karnataka and in the state of Tamil Nadu http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Makar_Sankranti#Tamil_Nadu. Since both my parents grew up in Tamil Nadu but my sister and I were brought up in Karnataka, we grew up celebrating both versions of this harvest festival. The Tamil version involves the preparation of this rice and lentil porridge called ‘Pongal’  where the festival gets its name from.  It is a dish that I fondly remember from my childhood days and is a recipe I learnt from mum who learnt from her mum. It comes in a sweet version – Sakkara pongal (meaning sugary pongal) and Venn pongal (meaning savoury pongal). I will share recipes for both dishes with you in separate pages to make reading easier and the next time I make them at home, I’ll put up a picture or two.

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Basic Tiramisu

I’ve just returned from a short trip to Rome and the inspiration to post these recipes comes from there. Given Tiramisu (meaning  ‘pick-me-up’  in Italian as it contains coffee) comes from Italy, I had to try one in Rome. I’ll admit the sample size was one but I must say that I have eaten better Tiramisu outside of Italy. Usually, I see Tiramisu in a cake-like form where a piece is cut for you upon ordering. The Roman version was an individual serve in a glass bowl where the layers were very distinct and the egg-y, creamy, sugary layer  was just a big blob of whipped cream. I was a little bit disappointed but perhaps that is the real deal and what I’ve been eating all this while isn’t. I’ll leave you with these recipes and you can tell me what you think of these “fake” recipes.

Warning: This recipe contains raw eggs so please stay away from it if you are pregnant or have allergies. 

This basic recipe is from an Italian cooking class I went to a class about 6 years ago. My teacher back then  says in her notes that it’s a Sophia Loren recipe so thank you to Sophia. I have made it on several occasions including when I first met my partner’s parents and it is a hit every time!

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Raspberry and Spekulatius Tiramisu

Warning: This recipe contains raw eggs so please stay away from it if you are pregnant or have allergies. 

Spekulatius biscuits are thin, crunchy biscuits with what tastes like mixed spice in them. In addition, if you look on their underside, they have a thin layer of slivered almonds stuck to them. Overall, it is a very tasty biscuit for tea-dipping, for the recipe below or on its own.

This second recipe for Tiramisu is one I learnt from my French housemate who makes some rather delectable desserts. She said that it was a hand-me-down recipe too so I have no proper quotable source for it I’m afraid.

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Crust-less vegetable quiche

I’m a vegetarian and in the early days of our dating, my partner would scratch his head to come up with things he could cook for me. He stole this recipe from his mum who is  an amazing cook. Thank you sweetie for this recipe.

Being crust-less, this recipe keeps the quiche on the slightly more healthy side. Someone once said to me that a single pie has a golf ball sized blob of butter in it’s flaky layers. One can only imagine how much more fat a pie crust which is about 4 times the size of a regular pie has. While I don’t skimp on fat where it is required (eg: in a tiramisu), this recipe is really tasty without the need for it.

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Mysteries of dal

In my first two recipes, I’ve mentioned a few ‘dals’. ‘Dal’ is the Hindi word for lentils. The Kannada word for lentils is ‘Bele’ pronounced ‘Bay-leh’ where you roll your tongue on the ‘l’. The Tamil word for lentils is ‘Parippu’  pronounced ‘par-ruh-puh’. The Telegu word for lentils is ‘Pappu’ pronounced ‘pa-puh’. Lentils feature in a lot of Indian dishes irrespective of their state of origin. Their usage varies depending on the dish and region but they are a prominent feature. For vegetarians and vegans, lentils are a great source of protein.

I understand that some of the lentils I mention might not be familiar to some of you. I thought I should post some pictures and names as a guide but people have already beaten me to it and have done a much better job that I could have. So please check these websites out if you’d like to know what they look like and how to cook them. Continue reading

Bread uppittu (Kannada) or upma (Tamil)

 As wikipedia quite rightly describes, Upma (Tamil) and Uppittu (Kannada) are the amalgamation of two separate words (The ‘U’ in both words is pronounced as in blue). In both languages ‘Uppu’ means salt. ‘Ma’ is short for ‘maavu’ in Tamil which means flour. Similarly, in Kannada ‘ittu’ is short for ‘hittu’ which also means flour. So essentially, it means ‘salty flour’. Upittu is dish ideal for situations where you have lots of visitors and not much time or patience. It is also great for a quick meal and finishing of leftover vegetables. Not surprisingly, it is quite filling and dad has nicknamed it ‘concrete’ because according to him, once it gets into your belly, it just sits there forever.

This blog is not about the traditional upma/uppittu which Wikipedia describes pretty well (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upma) but a recipe for a cheat’s take on it. Instead of semolina, which is used in the authentic version, I use bits of white bread. This can also be substituted with left over rotis/chappatis/wraps and any slightly stale bread. Continue reading