Saturday, May 23, 2015

South Indian Recipe Series: What is Tamarind?

My new essay with two recipes, one for Tomato Dal, which uses tamarind, and the other for a delicious accompaniment to the Dal, a recipe for Baby Radish Raita.

The essay and recipes are available on The Aerogram.

Tomato Dal

Baby Radish Raita
The flavor of tamarind — a fruity sourness — is a cornerstone of South Indian cooking. It’s more often than not paired with jaggery, especially in the cuisines of the northern part of Karnataka. Tamarind makes an appearance in South Indian staples such as rasam (a thin lentil soup), sambhar or dal (lentil and vegetable gravy), gojju (a condiment in which tamarind is the central ingredient and jaggery the able sidekick; it is served as an accompaniment to rice and rotis), chutneys and chutney powders.

Whenever I think of the tamarind and its role in a meal, I am reminded of a guitarist or a pianist, who as they are playing pieces in the center of their instruments, suddenly swoop down to the edge, to the bottom of the neck in the guitar or the edge of the piano keys, and strike a note that reverberates long after their fingers have gone back to the center. The tamarind is that note at the end — sharp, high pitched, with a taste that stays long after you’ve gone back to the somber breads or rice.

Chapati and Rice served with Tomato Dal and Baby Radish Raita

Friday, May 01, 2015

Recipe: Flax Seed Chutney Powder

You will find many websites touting the health benefits of flax seed, the tiny, shiny seeds of the plant that gives us linen, but this post is a recipe for an Indian condiment called Chutney Powder (Chutney Pudi or Podi in the various South Indian languages, pudi/podi meaning powder).

Chutney Powder is served with a variety of Indian dishes such as Idlis (rice/lentil cakes), Dosa (rice/lentil crepes), and the various rotis. It can also be eaten with rice and ghee or with bread toast and butter. As the name suggests chutney powder is the dry version of a chutney.

The flax seed I used in this recipe are the golden ones, unroasted. Light brown, dark brown and roasted varieties are also available. They might have need to be cleaned of stray stones and dried stalks. Flax seeds have a limited shelf life, so it's best to buy small quantities and store leftovers in the fridge. You can tell they've gone rancid if they have a strong smell, and trust me on this, it stinks and doesn't make you feel good either if you eat anything made of it. Good flax seeds have a mild nutty aroma.

Flax Seed Chutney Powder
Original Recipe by Kalindi Jagirdar Bagal 

Use the pulse function and grind the ingredients in short bursts, taking time to move around the ingredients with a spoon so they are well blended and don't get too oily or pasty. The powder should be slightly coarse, not smooth. 


½ cup flax seeds, cleaned

1½ tsp chili powder

1 tbsp tamarind, cleaned and deseeded

½ tbsp jaggery (if you have a sweet tooth, use more according to taste)

Salt to taste (about 1 tsp)


Grind together all the ingredients coarsely in a grinder. Pour into a plate and let cool. Store in an airtight jar.