Eggplant Side Dish for Biryani (Kathrika Pachadi)

Every time I went to a wedding or to any event where Biryani was served as the main dish, I would see a small serving of a red masala being served along with it – the famous Kathrika Pachadi or Kathrika Masala as we call it in Tamil. Even restaurant Biryani servings are incomplete without this spicy and tangy pachadi.

To be honest I’ve never touched it except maybe once or twice. I never took to eating it. In our home it was always the yoghurt salad (thayir pachadi or raita) that was an accompaniment for biryani. My mother in law taught me how to make this dish recently and I loved how she made it. It tasted amazing with Biryani, since now I’m lactose intolerant and can’t have my yoghurt salad. As usual, I always keep a record of any new dishes I learn, because I know good recipes come from humans and not the internet. So here is the recipe I learnt.


Eggplant – 2 nos.
Onion – 2 small
Tomato – 2 small
Sesame Seeds – 1 tbsp
Peanuts – 3 1/2 tbsp
Coconut shredded – 2 tbsp
Mint Leaves – few
Corriander Leaves – a small bunch
Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
Chilli Powder – 1/2 tsp (adjust according to requirement)
Corriander Powder – 4 tsp
Garam Masala – 1/4 tsp
Ginger Garlic Paste – 1/4 tsp
Peppercorns – a few
Tamarind – lime-sized ball (adjust according to requirement)
Sesame Oil – 1/3rd cup
Salt – to taste


1. Dry roast the sesame seeds and the peanuts separately and set them aside to cool on two steel plates.

2. Make four slits at the base of the eggplant and cut it halfway (do not cut all the way through) such that the brinjal is still intact as a whole. If your eggplant takes longer to cook then cut it into two or or four pieces. Soak them in water to prevent them from them turning brown.

3. Soak the tamarind in some warm water.

4. Chop the onions finely and set aside.

5. Blend the tomatoes to a fine paste and set aside.

6 Now remove the skin of the peanuts by rubbing against them with the palms of your hands. Gently blow over the plate so that the skin flies off and you are left with the peanuts alone. Please do this near a dustbin so that you can clean up later.

7. Grind to a fine paste the peanuts, sesame seeds and the shredded coconut and set aside.

8. In a heavy bottomed vessel heat sesame oil, once it’s hot enough add the peppercorns to season.

9. Add the chopped onions and saute till they turn translucent.

10. Add the ginger-garlic paste and the mint leaves and stir for about 2 minutes.

11. Lower the flame and add in all the powders and stir well for another 2 minutes so that the raw smell goes off.

12. Add the eggplants and let them fry well in the oil.

13. Cover and cook till the eggplant is well cooked and soft.

14. Add the pureed tomatoes, and saute till the oil floats on the sides.

15. Add the tamarind water. Stir well.

16. Lower the flame and add the ground paste, constantly stirring. You can add water if necessary. Do not increase the flame as the paste has a tendency to thicken and burn at the bottom of the vessel.

17. Cook until the oil floats on top. Garnish with a bunch of chopped corriander leaves. Yummy kathrika pachadi is ready!

Note: Adjust the chilli powder and the tamarind according to your taste. Increasing both makes the dish more tastier. Unfortunately we are not blessed with such strong stomachs.

Mutton Biryani with Kathrika Pachadi


Barnyard Millet Sweet Pongal

While living with multiple health issues, to balance everything is always a challenge. Recently I craved something sweet but it also needed to be gluten-free and low on the glycemic index. Sweet pongal was one sweet I really enjoyed when I worked in Chennai. I remember grabbing it from friends who got it to work and belting the whole tub, refusing to share it. I think I went mad after such stuff because back in my home I wasn’t exposed to these wide variety of traditional dishes.

There was minimal variety and I felt like we always ate the same stuff over and over again. Cooking something healthy was definitely not on my parents’ agenda. They never had the awareness nor did they bother to educate themselves until my dad started having all sorts of health issues at the age of 50 plus. By then it was too late. We had given up tradition for heavily processed food. I grew up on the worst kind of junk and processed foods available and eventually by the age of 32 years I lost my health as well.

If there is one thing I learnt in the midst of all of this, it is to follow our ancestors. Eat organic, unadulterated and process-free produce. They ate themselves to health and longevity, while now the world is eating themselves to sickness and death.

One of the things I’ve heard my ancestors consumed were millets in the form of ‘kanji’ (porridge). I’m taking about when my grandmother was a litte girl. Even in my mother’s time that traditional practice was done away with. Now the benefits of consuming these tiny seeds are being considered once again.

Also, I’ve never heard of sugar being used regularly in my grandparents home. It was ‘karpetti’ (palm sugar) for coffee and daily use or ‘vellam’ (unrefined cane sugar) for sweets like pongal. Snacks using sugar were made probably when there were festivals. But that was about it. That very sugar became a big part of my daily life from the time I was born till I touched my late 30s and started to deal with health issues. Thanks to that wretched ingredient I lost 30% of my teeth to caries and dental decay. After marriage I drastically cut down on our sugar usage just because we didn’t like things that were extremely sweet, like overly sweetened tea or coffee.

Fast forward to now, my household is 95% sugar-free. No, we don’t use low calories sweeteners either. Nothing is more worse for your body than something man invented. I try to stick to traditional sugars like palm sugar, cane sugar or ‘pana kalkand’ (for which I don’t the English name).

Sweet pongal is traditionally made with rice which is high on the glycemic index. I recently saw many posts where I read that both sweet and savoury pongal can be made using millets as an alternate to rice and hence decided to give it a try. I really thank God for women who try to cook healthier dishes. I truly believe it is up to us to teach the right things to the next generation so that they don’t end up making the same mistakes our previous generation did. Recently, we even started making our traditional upma using millets. We have also started adding millets to our dosa batter. I am so glad it doesn’t disturb my gut in any way.

I’m sharing the recipe I tried at home and you can modify this to suit your taste buds especially the amount of jaggery you use. This recipe does call for the use of copious amounts of ghee. There is a reason our ancestors used ghee. The fat helps reduce the rate at which the sugar levels spike in the blood. Of course our ancestors used high quality ghee made at home (cows were raised at home and fed clean food back then), not the crap that comes from the food industry, adulterated with loads of vanaspathi (hydrogenated vegetable oil). Even famous brands like GRB are utter crap. All this has been learnt the hard way. I have finally mastered making ghee from butter at home. It’s the first time I’ve eaten real ghee after the one I’ve had at my grandma’s home as a young child. So here’s the recipe. Hope you find joy in discovering hidden treasures from the past.



  • Barnyard Millet (or any millet of your choice) – 1 azhakku (small cup)
  • Moong Dal – 1/2 cup
  • Jaggery – 200 gms
  • Saffron (optional) – few strands
  • Cardamom powder – 1 tsp
  • Ghee – 7 tbsp
  • Raisins – as desired
  • Nuts (blanched almonds, pine nuts/ cashews) – as desired


1. Wash the moong dal thoroughly. Wash the millets in a really fine sieve.

2. Add 3 tbsps of ghee to a heavy-bottomed pressure cooker and roast the moong dal. As it starts to turn mild brown, add the millets. Roast well and add 7 azhakku or cups of water, the saffron strands and cardamom powder, mix well and seal the pressure cooker.

3. As the steam starts to release through the vent, place the whistle on the lid. Keep the flame on medium-low and wait for 6 whistles. Switch off the flame and let the pressure release on its own.

4. In the meanwhile, heat the jaggery in 1/2 cup of water until it completely dissolves.

5. Once the pressure has released, open the pressure cooker, strain the jaggery syrup into it using a stainless steel sieve to collect any impurities. Stir well and check the level of sweetness.

6. Heat the remaining ghee in a small skillet, roast the raisins, as they start to bloat, add the nuts and roast until they turn mild brown and crisp.

7. Add these roasted raisins and nuts into the sweet pongal and stir well. You can add more ghee if you like. Ghee enhances the flavour of this dish.

We enjoyed this sweet pongal a lot and could hardly make out any difference between the traditional one made with rice and this one. You can use any millet of your choice. I have a whole variety of millets stocked up so I keep alternating. I’ve already spoken about the Tamil measurement of an azhakku in one of my previous blogs. I’m so used to that measurement since my childhood days, I can’t seem to let go of it now and move onto English measurements. I’ve used blanched almonds and pine nuts as I’m trying to keep the entire dish as low FODMAP as possible. You can go ahead and use the usual, cashew nuts which are delicious. Definitely do give this recipe a try if you’re keen on healthier versions of traditional dishes. Happy cooking!


Inipu (Sweet) Paniyaram – Gluten Free Version

Traditional recipes have always been buried and new modern ones have come up to replace methods that have been followed for years. However it is a joy to dig deep and find those buried treasures, because there is a remarkable taste in traditional recipes, one that cannot be replicated by modern replacements.

By the time I was growing up, paniyaram at my place and at my aunt’s home was made with wheat. Traditionally it was a mix of fermented rice and urad dal. Why was that replaced with wheat? To make things easy and less painstaking. With wheat it became an instant paniyaram. Little did we know then that gluten was an absolute poison to the system. Anyway years later, after I got diagnosed with celiac disease and had to go gluten free, I’ve discovered the harm gluten can do to ones body, not because gluten itself is bad but because modern wheat is so modified and processed that we’d dare not compare it to what our ancestors consumed decades ago.

Since I needed a gluten-free version of my favourite paniyaram I started my search and came up with this recipe, adapted from here and there with my own tweaks and twists.

So let’s dive right into the recipe. DISCLAIMER: This recipe needs a hell lot of patience. Please skip if you’re looking for something simple and compromising.

Golden Brown Paniyarams


Raw Ponni Rice – 4 cups or aazhaku

Urad Dal – 1 tbsp per cup

Karpetti (Palm Jaggery- 2 1/2 blocks or discs

Ripe Bananas Big – 5 nos.

Cardamom Powder – 1/2 tsp

Organic Coconut Oil


1. Wash and soak the rice and urad dal together for about 4-5 hours.

2. Grind to a fine paste using a high speed processor or mixie. Use minimal water for the grinding.

3. Transfer to a steel container, add a pinch of salt, mix well and leave overnight on kitchen counter for the batter to ferment.

4. Take the palm jaggery in a steel vessel, add minimal amount of water and melt the jaggery till it dissolves completely. Allow it to cool.

5. Grind the bananas into a smooth paste using a blender or processor and add it to the batter. Also add in the cardamom powder. Mix well.

6. Filter the melted jaggery into the batter. Mix well and check the consistency of the batter. It should be slightly more thicker than dosa batter. Also check if the batter is sweet enough for your taste.

7. Heat the paniyaram pan. Grease each pit with 1/4 tsp of coconut oil. Keep the flame on the lowest possible setting. Pour 3/4th of each pit with the paniyaram batter. Close and cook for about a minute and a half. Flip the paniyaram in the pits, close the lid again and cook it for a minute. Once the paniyaram is golden brown on both sides it is done.

This paniyaram is the softest and fluffiest sweet you’ll ever eat, if you have the patience to prepare it.

You’re better off getting a 12 pit paniyaram pan. I made the mistake of getting only a 6 pit pan and that makes it all the more slower.

Keep the flame low. If you increase the flame be ready to savour some burnt paniyarams.

Fermenting the batter is important. If it doesn’t ferment properly the entire recipe becomes a flop.

Adjust the sweetness according to your taste. My family does not prefer cloyingly sweet stuff.

You can store the leftovers in a steel container and store it for upto 5 days. When heated for a minute in the microwave it becomes soft again.


Quick Onion-Tomato Chutney

I’m right now at the point where I wish I had 48 hours in a day so I could complete everything that I need to do. So any quick fixes in the kitchen is a blessing. I made this quick chutney today and after a short break, everyone in our home is eating my cooking because I chucked out my domestic help for fear of the coronavirus. Everyone loved this. I realized that I prepare my food with love and passion and not in a hurry to get it done and move to the next work. So here are the ingredients and steps I followed. Hope this helps you in your fast paced kitchen.



Onion – 1 nos. big

Tomatoes – 2 nos. medium

Red chilli – 1/4th of one long chilli (adjust as per your taste)

Curry Leaves – 2 sprigs

Garlic pods – 2 nos.

Mustard Seeds – 1 tsp

Salt – to taste

Sesame/ Gingelly Oil – 2 tbsp


  1. In a pan add add 1 1/2 tbsp of sesame oil (based on my sister who is a doctor and my friends’ advice, I switched to cold pressed sesame oil and the taste is amazing and I feel a few changes healthwise). Once the oil has heated up well add a sprig of curry leaves and 2 pods of crushed garlic. Saute well.
  2. When the garlic has fried well, add in the onions, red chilli and some salt and saute until the onions turn translucent.
  3. Add in the tomatoes, keep the flame on high, cover and cook for about 2 minutes, checking in between to ensure it doesn’t burn at the bottom. This step helps cook the tomatoes.
  4. Once the tomatoes are nice and mushy saute the same on medium flame for about 2 to 3 minutes till all the water content evaporates. (Please do not try shortcuts for these steps as it greatly alters the taste and is one of the main reasons my maid’s cooking did not taste great).
  5. Switch off the flame and allow to cool.
  6. Throw the contents into a high speed blender and grind to a smooth paste.
  7. Transfer to a steel bowl.
  8. In a seasoning pan add 1/2 tbsp sesame oil. Once the oil is hot, add in the mustard seeds. Once they start to splutter, add a sprig of curry leaves and switch off the flame.
  9. Add the seasoning into the bowl of chutney. Lip-smacking chutney is now ready to serve with fluffy soft idlies or thin crispy dosas. Enjoy!

Simple Egg Fry Recipe – Tirunelveli Style

This is an authentic recipe from my native (Tirunelveli). I’ve not seen anyone prepare eggs this way except my aunt. My aunt was an amazing cook. I remember all those days when I used to go to her home as a small kid and spend hours there talking to her and eating yummy food. Those were some beautiful memories. Out under the skylight, kerosene stove, dosa, sambhar and blissful conversations. So here is this simple but delicious recipe handed down by my maternal aunt. I cannot stress enough on the importance of coconut oil for this recipe. That is the very ingredient that gives this dish its unique flavour.


Eggs – 4 nos.
Shallots – 10 nos.
Cumin Seeds – 1 tsp
Pepper Corns – 1 tsp (optional)
Coconut Oil – 1 tbsp


  1. In a high speed mixer/blender add the shallots, cumin seeds and pepper corns. Grind to a fine paste.

  2. In a pan, heat the coconut oil, once it gets hot add in the spice paste and fry till the water content evaporates and the paste has fried well.

  3. Now crack open the eggs into the pan and stir well for a couple of minutes. Yummy egg is ready! This goes well with rasam rice and sambhar rice or even plain old curd rice. Enjoy!