Recent Posts

Panakam -Traditional Indian Summer Cooler of Jaggery and Dry Ginger

Panakam -Traditional Indian Summer Cooler of Jaggery and Dry Ginger

Panakam or Panagam: Traditional chilled drink of Jaggery water with dry ginger -specially made for Sri Rama Navami festival – easy, refreshing and healthy

Pathiya Peerkangai Thogayal with Pirandai Bone Setter for a New Mom

Pathiya Peerkangai Thogayal with Pirandai Bone Setter for a New Mom

Cooking for the New Mom – Peerkangai thogayal (thurai or ridge gourd chutney) with pirandai Bone setter stem gives the special nutritional benefits needed by the new mother

Kothavarangai Paruppu Usili – Cluster Beans Dhal Paste Curry

Kothavarangai Paruppu Usili – Cluster Beans Dhal Paste Curry

A childhood favourite, I loved the Paruppu Usili made by my Mom – she would make it with banana flower (vazhaipoo) or guar / cluster beans (kothavarangai). I had attempted to make the this curry once or twice but was not happy with the results. Now that my daughter Mridula wanted a recipe for an authentic paruppu usili, I decided to make it once more. This time I researched the various steps for making the curry. Meenakshi Ammal’s  Samaithu Par or Cook and See cookbook, Vol 1, has the recipe for the Plantain Flower Dhal Paste Curry, and for the Cluster Beans Dhal Paste Curry. I have modified the recipe quite a bit, following what I recollected of the process my mother used.

Cluster Beans Paruppu Usili_Paruppu Usili
Cluster Beans Paruppu Usili

The Paruppu Usili is a simple dry curry which goes well with a kuzhambu such as a vathal kuzhambu (which I prepared today for lunch) or with sambar, milagu kozhambu or mor kuzhambu. It tastes good with rasam too. In fact you can have this curry with just about any South Indian style gravy (kuzhambu or rasam) or with chappaties and dhal.

Slice the beans finely
Slice the beans finely

The Cook and See book suggests that the vegetable be cooked with water on the stove top. I prefer to steam the sliced vegetables. All you need is for the vegetables to be cooked well with a bite still remaining and not overcooked and soggy, and for the dhal paste to have the right consistency. Again, the cookbook does not suggest steaming the dhal paste, but I have seen my mother steaming it, and I preferred the dhal to be well cooked, so I have also steamed the dhal after grinding it to a paste.

Kitchen Tips for making Cluster beans Paruppu Usili:

  1. I saved time by steaming the cluster bean slices and the dhal paste in the steamer container in my pasta cooker. Both need about the same amount of time so this was convenient. You will need 10 minutes after the water begins to boil, for the vegetables to cook.
  2. An idli plate kept in the idli cooker/ pressure cooker, with adequate water for 10 minutes of steaming, and without the weight on the cooker lid, could be used. Alternatively, steam the paste and the vegetables on a plate fitted into a kadai or frying pan, again with sufficient water for steaming for about 10 minutes(from the time the water begins to boil).
  3. After steaming the dhal paste, allow it to cool and then crumble it with your hand, as it would have caked after steaming. Crumbling will help stir it nicely into the cooked vegetables and the tempering.
  4. This is a dry curry and moisture would impact the consistency and taste. Squeeze out any excess water from the cooked beans. Also,  grind the dhal -chilli paste without adding water to it.
  5. Select young tender cluster beans as more mature ones tend to be stringy, fibrous and bitter.

Health & Nutrition benefits of Cluster Beans:

  • The Cluster beans or Guar Beans are known to have various nutritional benefits: They contain potassium and folate and are said to be heart -healthy and improves cardio health; they are rich in water soluble dietary fibre which helps reduce blood cholesterol as well as improves digestion and reduces bowel complaints. They have a low glycemic index and hence are good to include in a diabetic diet.
  • Cluster Beans are rich in vitamins such a Vitamin K, minerals such as calcium and phosphorous and hence can help strengthen bone health and teeth, as well as a soluble form of iron which is easy for the body to absorb. They are said to help maintain blood pressure. Low in calorific content carbohydrates, the cluster beans are a good source of folic acid for pregnant women.
  • Cancer Fighting: Cluster beans have properties that attack and destroy free radicals in the body, and may be helpful in fighting Cancer.
  • The plantain flower paruppu usili is very tasty, but the process of removing the stamen from each little flower and then slicing the sticky blossoms is a little time consuming. Making paruppu usili with cluster beans, French beans, snake gourd, raw plantain (raw banana) cabbage or yam, is easier and faster.


Lunch today is something I  am looking forward to: kotavarangai paruppu usili, orange peel vathal kuzhambu (again my mother’s recipe) and  hot rice with potato chips!

The paruppu usili tastes real good. Im wondering whether I can make a quesadilla with some of it. With a yogurt dip as an accompaniment. Will let you know how that goes!
The link below is to a vendor to whom PepperOnPizza.com is affiliated. If you click and purchase through the link, I will earn a small commission. I only promote brands and products that I trust.

SaveSave

Easy Vegetable Koottu -Veggies & Lentil Stew for the New Mom

Easy Vegetable Koottu -Veggies & Lentil Stew for the New Mom

Easy, Quick to make Vegetable Koottu for the new Mom, Vegetables cooked with moong dal lentils and turmeric, tempered with curry leaves, mustard, fenugreek and cumin

Thin crust Tomato Mozzarella Pizza

Thin crust Tomato Mozzarella Pizza

Simple to make and an amazingly tasty classic pizza, topped with Tomato, Bell Peppers and Mozarella cheese. The basil leaves and freshly ground pepper take it to a another dimension. Try a variant with different toppings, taking you to Pizza Heaven! The recipe for the pizza dough is from The Greens

Easy Basic Pizza Dough – Anyone can make Pizza

Easy Basic Pizza Dough – Anyone can make Pizza

Move over, Dominos, Pizza Hut, et al! Home made Pizza has arrived! Having finally got the hang of making pizza dough at home, weekends have become Pizza dinner days. With my easy tomato basil sauce stocked up in the fridge, along with pizza dough made every 2 weeks or so and frozen till the weekend, it takes 5 minutes to prepare the toppings and spread them on the pizza base. Into the oven and out again in 12 minutes or less.

The recipe below for Pizza dough is adapted from the River Cottage Veg Everyday Cook book’s Magic Bread Dough Recipe. I had earlier followed recipes from Jamie Oliver as well as from the Greens cookbook, but have finally settled down with this recipe for Pizza dough, which I have tweaked for my own use. Jamie’s pizza dough is similar in method to the one below, however as it makes a large quantity of dough, I don’t often use it. The Greens cookbook has a recipe for making pizza dough out of rye flour and wheat flour, and that is something I will be going back to, soon, as I want to shift from all purpose / maida flour to whole wheat flour.

The ingredients listed below may be doubled to make more dough. I wouldn’t advise reducing it to make smaller quantities though, as the proportions for yeast, water and oil may not hold. Some amount of kneading is required, but as this is a soft dough, it is not difficult to knead. And it is good exercise!

The recipe for pizza dough below follows the process of proofing the yeast before adding it to the flour, as this is a practice I invariably follow. The original recipe does not require this to be done as quick blend yeast is suggested, whereas I use active dry yeast.

Dough rising times can vary between 1 hour to 2 or more, depending on the climate as well as the potency of the yeast. Usually when I make the pizza dough at home at Bangalore, the dough doubles in size in under 2 hours.

Pizza dough_pizza dough after it rises
Pizza dough_pizza dough after it rises

Similarly, the baking time varies from oven to oven. I usually set my oven temperature at 250 deg C and a thin crust pizza bakes in 10 minutes. Recently when I used another OTG oven where I set the temperature at 240, it took 15- 20 minutes for each Pizza to bake.

Homemade Thin Crust Pizza_PepperOnPizza.com
Homemade Thin Crust Pizza

For recipes for different pizza toppings, check the links below on this blog:

  1. Tomato Mozzarella Pizza 
  2. Kale And Onion Pizza

For the recipe for a Tomato Basil Pizza Sauce on this blog: Easy Tomato Basil Sauce
Till recently, good quality yeast was not easily available in India. Now there are some premium qualities available in Stores that supply ingredients and equipment for Baking, such as Arife, in various cities, and online on Amazon.

My affiliate link for one such Baker’s yeast on Amazon is given below. If you buy through that link, I would earn a small commission on the sale. I only recommend products which I trust.


Fresh Ripe Strawberries – Delicious Bites of Nutrition

Fresh Ripe Strawberries – Delicious Bites of Nutrition

Strawberries are plentifully available this month, and I am making the most of the short season. Every time I step into the little supermarket near the apartment at Hyderabad, I see these small plastic boxes tightly filled with ripe red strawberries. Natasha looooves strawberries and is […]

Easy Tomato Basil Sauce For Pasta or Pizza

Easy Tomato Basil Sauce For Pasta or Pizza

This easy, 6 ingredient (counting salt, pepper and oil, each as ingredients) Tomato Basil Sauce for Pasta or Pizza is a very basic and simple sauce. I make it about once a month and then freeze it in separate small portions so that there is […]

Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing with Chia Seeds

Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing with Chia Seeds

Really easy, delicious and healthy Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing with Chia Seeds – takes less than 5 minutes to put together and goes with most salads. Specially good with salad greens such as Swiss chard, kale, spinach, mustard greens and other large leaved greens which are slightly bitter to the taste. I like the Strawberry poppyseed dressing best with Dandelion greens, as the sweet and tart taste of the dressing offsets the bitterness of the dandelion leaves. The mustard paste tones down the sweetness of the strawberries and honey.

Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing with Dandelion Leaves Salad_PepperOnPizza.com
Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing with Dandelion Leaves Salad

Link to the recipe for a Dandelion Greens, Mango and Couscous Salad on this blog: http://www.pepperonpizza.com/salad-dandelion-greens-couscous-recipe

Origin and History:

Strawberries have been known since Roman times and are said to have been first cultivated in Brittany, France in the 18th century and then in the later half of the 18th century as a cross breed between a North American and a Chilean variety. They are grown in most parts of the world and numerous varieties of the plant exist. BBC GoodFood says that in 1714, a French engineer commissioned to Chile and Peru, observed that the strawberry native to those regions was much larger than those found in Europe. He decided to bring back a sample of this strawberry to cultivate in France. The end result was a large, juicy, sweet hybrid (the modern garden strawberry) that became extremely popular in Europe. 

Wikipedia says that “The strawberry fruit was mentioned in ancient Roman literature in reference to its medicinal use. The French began taking the strawberry from the forest to their gardens for harvest in the 14th century. Charles V, France’s king from 1364 to 1380, had 1,200 strawberry plants in his royal garden. In the early 15th century western European monks were using the wild strawberry in their illuminated manuscripts. The strawberry is found in Italian, Flemish, and German art, and in English miniatures. The entire strawberry plant was used to treat depressive illnesses……The combination of strawberries and cream was created by Thomas Wolsey in the court of King Henry VIII.”

Culinary Uses:

Wikipedia says that Strawberries can be taken fresh, or frozen, made into jams, preserves, or dried and used in prepared foods, such as cereal bars. Strawberries and strawberry flavorings are a popular addition to dairy products, such as strawberry- flavored milk, strawberry ice cream, milkshakes, smoothies and yogurts. Strawberries and cream is a popular dessert during the British summer, famously consumed at the Wimbledon tennis tournament. In Sweden, strawberries are a traditional dessert served on Midsummer Eve. In some countries, strawberry pies, strawberry rhubarb pies, or strawberry shortcake are also popular. In Greece, strawberries are sprinkled with sugar and then dipped in Metaxa, a famous brandy, and served as a dessert. In Italy, strawberries have been used for various desserts and as a popular flavoring for gelato.

One of the best tasting strawberry jams I have had is from a tea plantation in Southern India, where the jam has whole strawberries which melt in your mouth. I have also enjoyed a morning of strawberry picking with my granddaughter Tamma, at Connecticut.

The recipe below for the Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing is an easy one and enhances the flavours of several leafy salads. The dressing should be used when fresh and chilled before serving. Not only does it look and taste good but has several health and nutrient benefits.

Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing
Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing

Health and Nutrition:

Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamins C and K as well as being rich in fibre, folic acid, manganese and potassium as well as having lesser quantities of other vitamins. Strawberries are known to have been used throughout history as a medicine for digestive ailments, teeth whitening and skin irritations. Their fibre and fructose content may help regulate blood sugar levels by slowing digestion and the fibre is thought to have a satiating effect. Leaves can be eaten raw, cooked or used to make tea. Certain studies have suggested that strawberry consumption may have beneficial effects in humans such as lowering blood LDL cholesterol levels, total cholesterol, reducing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, and decreasing the spike in blood sugar after high sugar meals and the spike in blood cholesterol seen after high-fat meals

Fresh Strawberries
Fresh Strawberries

Strawberries contain significant amounts of phytonutrients and flavanoids which gives them their bright red colour. The vibrant red is due to large amounts of anthocyanidin, which also means they contain powerful antioxidants and are thought to protect against inflammation, cancer and heart disease.

Poppy seeds or khus khus as they are known in India, were used as a condiment in cooking, since the time of the Ancient Egyptians. Through the Arab traders, opium cultivation spread to Persia, ancient Khorasan, and India. Today, seeds of poppy is a well established commercial crop in many parts of the world including Czech Republic, Germany, Turkey, France, India, and East European region. However, poppy seeds are nutritious oilseeds and though they are obtained from the dry pods of the opium poppy, they are considered very safe to use as food and contain negligible quantities of toxic alkaloids of the opium poppy. In fact, these chemicals have been found to have beneficial effects as they soothe nervous irritability, act as painkillers and in many traditional medicines are used in the preparations of cough mixtures, expectorants, etc.

Poppy seeds contain many plant derived chemical compounds that found to have anti-oxidant, disease preventing and health promoting properties. Their unique nutty aromatic flavor is due to  fatty acids and essential volatile oils, which comprise about 50% of their net weight. The seeds are especially rich in oleic and linoleic acids which help lower LDL or “bad cholesterol” and increase HDL or “good cholesterol” levels in the blood. The outer husk of the seed is a good source of dietary fiber. Poppy seeds are an excellent source of B-complex vitamins as well as minerals like iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc and magnesium.

Chia seeds belong to the mint family and are native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala. Wikipedia says that the 16th century Codex Mendoza provides evidence that it was cultivated by the Aztec in pre-Columbian times and economic historians say it may have been as important as maize as a food crop. It was given as an annual tribute by the people to the Rulers in 21 of the 38 Aztec provincial states. Ground or whole chia seeds are still used in Paraguay, Bolivia, Argentina, Mexico, and Guatemala for nutritious drinks and food.

Chia seeds are usually added to other foods as a topping or in smoothies, breakfast cereals, energy bars, granola bars, yogurt, tortillas, and bread. Chia seed (tokhm-e-sharbatī, meaning “beverage seed”) is used to prepare a sharbat in Iran. The gel from ground seeds may be used to replace the egg content in cakes while providing other nutrients, and is a common substitute in vegan baking.

Though research is still ongoing, Chia seeds are considered to have several important nutrients. They are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help to raise the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol and are a rich source of thiamine and niacin, and a moderate source of riboflavin and folate. They have high amounts of the dietary minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc.

Even small quantities of Poppy seeds and chia seeds can give nutritional benefits, and the quantities suggested in this recipe for Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing can contribute to good health.

Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing – Kitchen Tips

1.Use the best quality ingredients when selecting the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and honey, to get the full flavours of this delicious salad dressing.

2. Check that the poppy seeds are fresh, otherwise they will affect the taste of the dressing.

3. Check the strawberries for bruises or for grey patches in the skin, cut them out before you make the strawberry poppyseed dressing.

For a variation, make the Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing with garlic instead of chia seeds (or add garlic as an additional ingredient) and substitute White vinegar for the Balsamic.

Strawberry Poppyseed dressing with Garlic
Strawberry Poppyseed dressing with Garlic

Rajma – How to make the best Rajma Masala Curry

Rajma – How to make the best Rajma Masala Curry

Flavourful, nutritious Rajma masala curry of pre-soaked, well cooked red kidney beans in a thick onion gravy, spices & turmeric. Best with hot Rice or with flatbread.