Sunday, October 11, 2009


This is one of the more traditional Diwali snacks. It is also known as Maida biscuit in Andhra. The original recipe is slightly sweet, but this can also be made savory by eliminating the sugar from the recipe and adding ajwain, jeera, pepper or kasoori methi depending on preference. This is a really simple recipe which appeals to both kids and adults. Though it is mostly shaped into small diamonds, if you have the patience and imagination, it can be cut into any shape and varied sized. My daughter wanted to make star shaped ones and my son wanted tiny squares.


All purpose flour (Maida), 2 cups

Rawa ¼ cup

Milk, ¾ to 1 cup, warmed

Butter, 8 tbsp

Sugar, 4 tbsp mixed into the warm milk

Cardamom powder, ¼ tsp

Baking powder, a pinch (optional)

Salt, a pinch

Oil for frying

Mix together maida, rawa, cardamom powder, baking powder, salt and butter till the mixture resembles wet sand.

Slowly add the sweetened, warm milk and mix into a soft dough. Milk can be substituted by water. Cover with a wet cloth and set aside for at least 15 minutes. Heat oil for frying on medium high.

Divide the dough into 4 portions. When working on one portion, keep the rest covered. Roll out the dough into a large 1 cm thick circle. Cut into desired shapes.

Fry these in oil turning continuously on medium high heat for about 5 minutes. When golden brown, remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Store in an air tight container up to 4 weeks.


I set out to make chekkalu (nippattu/thattai, depends on which part of the south you are from) deep fried, crunchy, small, flat and round snacks for Diwali. As I put the first batch into the oil for frying, I experienced a major setback! The fried gram dal in the chekkalu started to separate from the dough and started to float around in the oil. Not a good thing.So now, I had to immediately change plans and with a little added effort, there emerged cheedai. I had to painfully pick out each one of the ¾ cup of friend gram dal from the dough before I proceeded to do anything else. The change of plans turned out to be better in another way too as they were quicker to make and a lot more could be fried at a time, which helped me finish up way before I would have been done frying all the thattais. So here is my improvised version of cheedai.


2 cups of rice flour

4 tbsp butter, softened

½ an onion finely chopped

½ tsp chilli powder

¼ tsp cumin powder

Salt to taste

Hing (asafoetida), a pinch

Oil for deep frying

Mix all of the above ingredients well till the mixture looks like wet sand. Add warm water and make into a dough, Cover with a wet cloth and set aside for 10 minutes.

Heat oil for deep frying. Divide the dough into 8 portions. Roll each into a log, 2 cms in diameter. Cut the log into 1 cm pieces.

Roll each of these into little balls. Deep fry on medium low heat for 8-10 minutes turning them over occasionally. When they turn light brown in color, remove and drain on paper towels. Store in an air tight container when completely cooled.

Friday, October 2, 2009


My sister who will be visiting us end of this year has already sent a request list of foods that she would like to eat when she gets here. Pongal with tomato pulusu tops her list. This simple, classic combination is a favorite of most South Indians. It is generally eaten for breakfast, but also makes for great brunch when paired with udad vadas, or it can also be a wholesome meal in itself. Pongal can be made to be a healthy fulfilling meal or can be transformed into a rich and sinful delicacy as the occasion demands.
Pongal can be eaten just by itself, or with sambar, or chutneys, the most common one being coconut chutney. But, the most favored accompaniment is the tomato gojju or pulusu.

1 cup rice
1 cup moong dal
1 tbsp of cashew pieces
1 tsp black pepper, crushed into large pieces
1 tsp jeera, pounded lightly
½ tsp of finely chopped ginger
5-6 curry leaves
A pinch of asafoetida (hing)
4 tbsps ghee
1 tbsp oil

Dry roast the rice and the moong dal for 5 minutes on medium heat. Place the roasted daal and rice into a pressure cooker, add 4 ½ cups of water and pressure cook till soft. Set aside. In a large saucepan heat oil and 1 tbsp of ghee. Add the cashew pieces, asafoetida, pepper, jeera, ginger and the curry leaves. Add the cooked daal and rice mixture, salt and mix well on low heat for 2 minutes. Stir in the ghee and mix well. Pongal can be thinned with water if required.

6 ripe tomatoes chopped
1 onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic chopped
½ tsp of chopped ginger
3 green chillies, slit
Whole garam masala (1 cardamom, 2 cloves, ½ inch cinnamon)
½ tsp mustard
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp udad dal
½ tsp chilli powder
½ tsp coriander powder
½ tsp cumin powder
Pinch of turmeric
1 tbsp oil
Cilantro and mint for garnish
Heat oil in a saucepan and add whole spices and udad dal. Add the onions, ginger, garlic and green chillies and cook till the onions turn transparent. Add the tomatoes, turmeric, spice powders, cover and cook till the tomatoes soften. Add salt, a cup of water and cook on low heat for 5 more minutes. Mash the tomatoes with the back of a ladle.

Remove from heat, add the chopped cilantro and mint and serve along with Pongal.