Monday, March 31, 2008

Chettinadu tomato chutney

I've had my eye on a tomato chutney recipe that Hema of Vegetarian Concoctions posted on her blog back in February. I’m assuming it was a variation on her own Chettinadu tomato chutney, but really it’s her friend Ranjini’s recipe. (Thanks, ladies!)

I’ve been meaning to make it ever since (how many times do you think I might have said this over the years?) – and now, only a couple of months later, here I am, posting about my attempt at making the chutney!

The ingredients are pretty much the same, only the proportions are somewhat different, because I made a larger quantity than specified in the recipe (me being forced to use up some tomatoes that were getting suspiciously soft – and how many times have you heard THAT from me about some vegetable or other?). Oh okay, I also substituted a couple of ingredients…

It’s a pretty good chutney and keeps well for a day or so. Probably would live a bit longer in the fridge, but I didn’t bother with that.

I had it with dosas made with the muthu samba rice that I nearly threw out...

but I’m glad I didn’t, because now I can send this post off to
Srivalli’s Dosa Mela in the happy aftermath of my samba experiment!

Recipe for:
Chettinadu tomato chutney


2 medium onions, chopped
5-6 small tomatoes, chopped
½” piece ginger, chopped or sliced
2 tbsp chana dal
1 tbsp urad dal
¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
Turmeric – a pinch
1 tbsp chopped coriander
1 tbsp mint leaves, chopped
4 dried red chillies (or to taste)
Pinch of asafoetida powder (optional)
1 tbsp and 1 tsp oil
Salt to taste
1 tsp mustard seeds
A few fresh curry leaves, torn in half


1. Heat 1 tbsp of oil, and red chillies, urad dal, chana dal, fenugreek seeds and asafoetida powder.

2. Stir till the dals turn golden brown,

then add onion and cook till soft and translucent.

3. Then add the chopped tomatoes, ginger and turmeric powder and cook till the tomatoes turn mushy.

4. Add the mint and coriander leaves and stir them in.

Cook for a minute or two, then turn the heat off.

5. Once the mixture is cool, grind it to a fairly smooth paste (with maybe 2-3 tbsp of water if required) and mix in salt to taste.

6. Heat the remaining tsp of oil in a small pan. Put in the mustard seeds and curry leaves, cover and let the seeds pop.

7. Pour this tempering over the tomato chutney and serve with dosa, idli, chapati, etc.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Muthu samba rice - the verdict is in...

It's official. After some experimenting over this weekend with the muthu samba rice that proved so nauseatingly odoriferous the first time around, I have made the decision that... it STAYS! I wont be throwing it away. Yay!

Make no mistake, I wont be using it as cooking rice any time soon (unless it's to try a different batch when I buy some). Neither will I be making idlis with it (erk - the smell!!! Like the batter had been faintly infused with concentrate of l'eau de dead rat. Ditto for the taste).


When I made dosas with the very same batter which I used to make the experimental idlis, the smell and taste were magically, mysteriously, miraculously neutralised and I ended up with dosas that were perfect in texture and aroma and taste.

Dont ask me how that works, because I have literally no clue. I'm just happy that I wont have to throw away the muthu samba rice. Phew.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Why does muthu samba rice stink?

I bought a kilo of this rice last year from a Sri Lankan shop, thinking it would be an interesting variation to try out. Of course, me being me, the bag of muthu samba rice sat in a box from the moment it arrived home. I didnt get around to cooking it until today when I thought I’d try something different.

Oh boy, did I ever get something different!

I cooked one cup of muthu samba rice with two cups of water. I didnt smell the uncooked rice - why would I? As far as I'm concerned, other than basmati, no other rice smells mouthwatering in its uncooked state. (If I'm wrong, educate me, people!) Anyway, when I opened the cooker and took the lid off the container in which I'd cooked the rice, I got a whiff of something really unpleasant. I didnt for one moment think that it was from the container itself, until I bent over it and took a deep breath of the cooked rice.


It smelt awful. Like something gone bad, actually. I couldn’t believe that rice could stink like that, and I could see no reason why it should. Dry uncooked rice cant go bad, right? It’s not something that would decay like organic matter. Sure, rice acquires weevils and worms in humid climates, but even then the rice doesn’t actually stink, does it?

I couldn’t figure out why it smelt so bad. I thought the reek would diminish if the rice cooled a little, but it didn’t. I even tried eating a little mixed with sambar, so see if it would mask the smell – but my sambar proved ineffective. The rice tasted as horrible as it smelt. (In case you’re wondering, it was vendakkai (okra) sambar. Not a flavour you can overpower easily in the normal course of events.)

I really don’t know why this should be so. I’m reluctant to try cooking it again the way I did. I certainly dont want to try making idlis or dosas with it. Two cups of water for one cup of rice proved too much, by the way – the rice was swimming after being cooked! What I’d like to know – and if anybody out there has any information, I’d be really grateful – is:

- How do you cook this rice? Does it need soaking beforehand?

- Is it MEANT to smell like that? Is it a Sri Lankan speciality that I’m ignorant of and unaccustomed to? Is it unpleasant only to my nose or something?

- If it’s not meant to be smelly when cooked, how do you cook it so that the smell is removed?

I don’t want to throw away the remaining rice if I can help it – I hate the idea of wasting rice. (I had to throw away the cooked rice, albeit with a heavy heart.)

So, any ideas, anybody?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Tagged by Sra - 7 weird things meme

Tagged by Sra of When my soup came alive. I cant remember if I've done this before, but since I like tags, I'm happy to do it again. I just hope I don't repeat myself!

1. Indians and Japanese (that I know of in particular) are sometimes seen as "weaselly" – or even as downright liars - by some Westerners because they (the Indians and the Japanese) agree to suggestions or statements even when they really disagree or when they have no intention of doing anything. This is not because they (yep, the Indians and the Japanese) are untrustworthy or congenital liars, but because they (yeah, the Indians and the Japanese) are polite. It's just that they hate to disagree with or contradict a customer (who of course is always right), or to refuse somebody something – so they nod their head where they should shake it, and say "PaNnidalaam saar" (translation: it can be done saar) where they should truthfully (but not so politely) say "PaNnamudiyaadhu saar" (translation: It cant be done saar). Excessive politeness is what gets them (yeah, still the Indians and the Japanese) this somewhat unwarranted negative reputation.

So that's the background for my first characteristic: Vagueness. But that is deliberate. I prefer not to lie and my personal motto is "If you cant say something nice without lying, don't say anything at all". This sounds admirable, but quite often is really tricky to carry out in practice, especially in real life – by which I mean when you're face-to-face with somebody wearing something hideous who asks you: "What do you think of it?" I evade the issue with something like "That's different" or "Where did you get that?" – or is that weaselly too?

It's easy to remain silent on blogs. Nothing to say that won't be trite or meaningless? Easy. Don't comment!

2. I like to map out a plan of action in my head before an appointment or anything that requires me to be someplace at a certain time. I divvy up the time available, allotting myself so many minutes to do this, that or the other. If things don't go according to the PoA, I have to rearrange the remaining time to my plan. If that doesn't work either, or if it seems like the whole thing is irretrievably messed up, I've been known to simply abandon it and go off and read a book instead. All this planning and rearranging happens in my head - it's not vocalised or written down. So, to anybody who's watching, I've got elaborately ready to go somewhere, then just flopped down with a book. (I'm not weird, honest.)

3. I don't like parties. I especially don't like parties where I might meet people I don't know or don't like. I go to great lengths to avoid them (parties and people both) – and yes, those are occasions where telling a thumping big lie is not only unavoidable, but required! (I only said I prefer not to lie.)

4. I'm a creature of habit, of late. I'm not organised, but some things are nearly sacrosanct. For instance, my car keys always go in my handbag. If I put them anywhere else for any reason, I completely forget the keys and their location both. In fact, if you were to ask me where I'd placed the keys, I'd say "In my handbag" even if I myself had left them elsewhere. Nothing to do with telling a lie and everything to do with habit. Then when they're not in my handbag when I need them, I go around yelling "Who moved my keys?" and unfairly accusing Pete of having Done The Deed. (Well, isnt that what husbands are for?)

5. I get artistic "urges" - usually to do some embroidery or fabric painting - which I find embarrassing. I don't consider myself a proper artist because I haven't done anything original. Those arty urges always seem like "adhigaprasangi-thanam" (rough translation: "presumptuousness") in me – I feel they should belong to a real artist. That said, though, when I feel like embroidering or painting, I cant think of anything else until I get that urge out of my system. Sometimes the urge is purged before I complete the painting or embroidery. In which case the work stays unfinished till the next "gotta do it" impulse comes along.

6. I have a great sense of rhythm when it comes to music. Unfortunately it remains internalised. If I try to give in to my inner rhythm, it manifests itself on the outside, to the onlooker, as a series of little twitches. I’ve been told it looks like I’m being given little electric shocks. (That’s another reason to avoid parties.) I don’t dance.

7. Just looking at a slug oozing along makes me want to barf. Slugs are the best emetic as far as I’m concerned – never mind salty water or anything else. Show me a slug and the contents of my stomach will make themselves evident remarkably quickly. I HATE slugs!

I dont know who else has or hasnt done this tag already - but I'm requesting these folks to take it up if they dont mind or if they havent done it yet: Suganya of Tasty Palettes, Linda of Out of the Garden, and Chitra of Taste Goblet