Four Clan Kitchen

What we eat everyday

Onion-Tomato Chutney

Posted by fourclankitchen on January 24, 2015


This is a versatile and delicious condiment that is at home with an Indian flatbread, a rice pilaf,  tortilla chips or grilled chicken or vegetables.  Really,  you could eat it by the teaspoonful with no accompaniment  and feel that life is good.  It is served in Indian restaurants as an accompaniment to Dosas (rice crepes) and is apparently a staple in many homes in the southern half of India.

This version is based on an adaptation of a recipe I found at  although I made some minor changes to fit what I had on hand and what is easily available.  These changes follow the recipe.



2 tbs oil

1 really large onion or 2 or 3 small ones, coarsely chopped.

4 large dried red peppers, torn into large pieces  (these can be as hot or mild as you please, see note below)

2 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1 tsp minced  ginger (optional, not in the original)

1 tsp minced garlic (not in the original recipe)

Large pinch Asafoetida (hing), omit if you don’t have access to it

A few bits of the seedless tamarind or 1/2 tsp of tamarind concentrate (see note below)

1 tsp almond or peanut butter (the original recipe calls for 50 g of cashew nuts or sesame seeds, peanuts or roasted yellow split peas, see notes  below)

3/4 tsp  brown sugar (original recipe calls for jaggery, see notes)

salt to taste



1.  Heat oil in a large cast iron or other skillet.

2.  Add the red chile pieces, hing, ginger and garlic to the oil, stir for a few seconds, then add the onions and salt.  Continue to saute till the onions pick up a light brown color.  The browner the onions, the more complex the chutney will be, but you do not want to crisp the onions.

3. Now add the tomatoes, almond butter and brown sugar and sauté until the tomatoes turn soft.

4.  Cool and then blend in a blender or a food process until smooth.  You may have to add a few tsp of water to get the consistency you desire.  Taste and adjust the salt and sugar.

5.  Serve as a condiment or side with rice, flat breads, roasted vegetables or chicken  or as a schmear for any sandwich.


Notes on the Special Ingredients and their substitutions:

1.  Dried red peppers:  The main point here is the color and the flavor and not the heat.  The recipe calls for the large and rather mild Kashmiri chillies.  Here in the US, it is easy to find dried red peppers used in Mexican cooking.  I picked up a bunch at the local grocery store (they are also available at Whole Foods)- these were simply called Mexican Peppers and were pretty hot.  If you want a milder pepper, go for the dried Anaheims and discard the seeds.  Do not use the Indian, Thai or Chinese small red peppers, they will most likely kill you.

2. Dried tamarind cakes  (nearly seedless) are sold in Indian and oriental grocery stores (see image).  You have to break off a chunk of the desired size.  In this recipe you can dump the chunk directly into the skillet, but for most recipes, you soak in warm water for 15 minutes and rub the tamarind with your hands and strain it to get the pulp.  If you are feeling lazy,  you can go the tamarind concentrate route (see image of the container).  I also see cans of tamarind juice sold in the Mexican section of grocery stores, this work just as well and are probably the best option if available.

3.  Jaggery is unrefined sugar sold in lumps at the Indian grocery store.  Brown sugar is a fine substitute.

4.  I used almond butter instead of the 4 options the original recipe provided.  I think the point here is a mellow richness and smoothness to a chutney that can have a very dramatic flavor profile.  So I figured that almond butter is a fine substitute for whole cashews or peanuts since they do become butter-ish once they are blended anyway.


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Pongal (a savory rice and lentil dish from Southern India)

Posted by fourclankitchen on December 30, 2014

IMG_0808There was a South Indian temple opposite my childhood home.  All winter,  folks gathered here in the morning after their Prabhat Pheri, a form of exercise, music and prayer combined.  After singing for some more time, they distributed a prasad, sacred food eaten after being offered to the Gods.  This temple offered Pongal, a savory lentil and rice dish,  on small strips of banana leaves.  It tasted divine and my mother claimed that only prasad could taste this good because in fact it was blessed by the gods.  I can still taste this on my tongue and smell the banana leaf steaming under the hot Pongal.

I later learned that Pongal was a standard breakfast dish in many Southern Indian homes and that as with its north Indian counterpart (khichdi),  there are as many versions of it as there are homes.

Here is a version that is pretty close to what my tongue remembers from my childhood.

A note about some of the harder to find ingredients in the tempering.  The core ingredients are the ghee (or other oil), mustard seeds and pepper corns.  The other ingredients can be omitted,  but the flavor will not be the same.




1. 1 cup rice  (any long grain rice will do,  I used a combination of jasmine and basmati)

2. 1/4-1/2 cup hulled moong dal (skinned yellow mung bean lentils, the  kind available in Indian and Chinese grocery stores).

3. 3 1/4 cup water (more or less depending on your desired consistency and whether you use a pressure cooker or not).  You want approximately twice the amount of water as your rice and dal combined.

4. Salt to taste.


Tempering (tadka)

1.  2 tbsp ghee

2. 1 tsp brown mustard seeds

3.  1 tsp cumin seeds

3. 1 tsp. pepper corn

4. 1 tsp ginger  (I did not have this, but do not omit)

5. large pinch asafoetida (hing)

6.  1-2 tbsp. cashew nuts  ( I did not have this, but do not omit or substitute)

7.  1-3 dried red chillies

8.  10-15 fresh curry leaves  (do not omit)



1.  Dry roast the unwashed mung beans in a skillet until they turn color slightly and become fragrant.  You can omit this step, but it imparts a nutty flavor to the beans and ensures that the rice and beans cook evenly.

2. Mix mung beans with the rice and wash in several changes of water until the water runs clear.

3.  Place the rice and lentil mix in a pressure cooker and add water.

4.  Season with salt (the water should taste like sea water) and pressure cook till the cooker whistles once.  Adjust for your own cooker.  If you don’t have one,  cook in a large pot, until the rice and mung beans become completely soft, but still hold shape.  The water should have all been absorbed.

5. Temper the Pongal as follows:

Heat the ghee in  a small skillet.  When hot add all listed ingredients, saving the hing and cashews for last.  When the seeds sputter and release their fragrance, remove from heat and add to the Pongal.

Mix gently,  adjust the salt and eat plain, with yogurt, an Indian chutney or sambar.

Posted in Asian, Breakfast, Brunch, Indian Food, Main Dishes, Side Dishes, vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Russian Teacakes (Mexican Wedding Cakes)

Posted by fourclankitchen on October 14, 2014

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It does not matter what you call them, these are easy to make and delicious!  Our family makes them for Christmas, but today  I am mailing these  to send to my son who is off to college because they keep well at room temperature for several days.  I use the Betty Crocker recipe except that I substitute 1/2 cup of flour with the same amount of almond meal (ground almonds).  I also add almond extract to enhance the almond flavor.  Using the food processor makes the whole thing easy and makes the fewest dishes.  So here goes:


2 sticks (1 cup butter) softened (don’t skip this step)

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp almond extract

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 1/2 almond meal   (if yo don’t have this simply skip and use 2 1/4 cup flour)

3/4 cup finely ground nuts (I used walnuts)

1/2 tsp salt

Extra powdered sugar to roll the cookies.

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1.  Preheat oven to 400˚F.

2. In a food processor,  finely grind the walnuts and set aside.

3. Add the butter, powdered sugar and the extracts and blend.

4. Add the flour, almond meal, ground nuts, salt and pulse until the dough comes together.

5.  Remove from the processor, shape into a smooth ball and roll into 24 balls.

6.  Place  balls on an ungreased cookie sheet about 1″ apart.  You may need to do this in 2 batches.

7.  Bake 10-12 min (do not over bake).  The cookies should not be brown when you pull them out.

8.  Roll cookies in powdered sugar while still warm, then roll again.

9.  Store in a tight box between pieces of parchment.  The cookie freezes well and as I said above, it also travels well.

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Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake

Posted by fourclankitchen on August 17, 2014

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I saw this cake on one of my favorite blogs: Alexandra Cooks.  Just about everything I have made from this website has been great, so I highly recommend a visit.   This cake is called torta caprese, which I am guessing is Italian in origin.  It is gluten free and has no leavening besides beaten eggs and it is grand enough to serve at any kind of gathering.  So it is very versatile.  For grand cakes, it is also simple to make,  but it does require a number of dishes and bowls and proper sequencing.  So read the recipe all the way through before you launch into it.

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1. 2 cups almond meal/almond flour.

(Note: The original recipe calls for 12 oz or 2 cups of whole almonds. I used almond meal, but  when I measured 12 oz of almond meal, it was nearly 4 cups worth.  So I used 2 cups of almond meal, this worked fine.  I have also used 2 cups of whole almonds.  So I think may be the 12 oz is a misprint).

2. 1+ 1/4 cups sugar, divided

3. 8 oz bittersweet, coarsely chopped chocolate (2 bars of Ghiardelli)

4. 1/2 pound (2 sticks) salted butter (original recipe calls for unsalted butter, but that seemed wrong since know other salt is added)

5. 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature

6. 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (I omitted)

7. 2 tsp almond extract (not in the original recipe)

8. Confectioners’ sugar for sprinkling

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1.  Preheat oven to 325 and shift a rack to the bottom or bottom third of your oven.   Butter a 9″ springform pan, line with parchment paper and butter the paper as well.

2. Separate your egg whites and yolks, putting each in large bowls.

3.  Beat yolks with 1 cup of sugar for about 5 min until the yolks are light lemon colored and have increased in volume by a lot.

4.  Melt 2 sticks butter in the microwave in a largish bowl about a minute.  Then add the chocolate and mix.  Microwave for 30 seconds, mix and repeat if needed to melt the chocolate entirely.  Depending on the microwave, the first 30 seconds should do it, since the butter is already warmed up.  Do not overdo this step, or your chocolate will seize (separate from the cocoa butter and form little criddlies-you cannot recover from this mistake to my knowledge).

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5.  Fold in the almond meal into the egg yolks.  Then add the chocolate mix and almond extract (or grand mariner).

6.  Using a stand mixer, beat eggs whites at a slow speed for a minute or two, then add the remaining  1/4 cup of sugar and beat at high speed  till it forms firm peaks.

7.  Fold in the chocolate mix into the egg whites and mix gently to incorporate (don’t deflate the eggs).

8.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for 55-90 min (mine took 80 min), until an inserted tester comes out clean.

9.  Cool in pan for 15 min.  Remove the edges of the pan and cool completely.

10.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.

The cake is moist and lasts several days, so it is a good make-ahead cake.

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Cherry Jam (Small batch, no pectin)

Posted by fourclankitchen on August 5, 2014

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I love the idea of preserving summer fruits, but cannot abide canning.  I am always on the lookout for small batch jam recipes, because lets face it,  I don’t want to pit 5 lbs of cherries.  I winged this cherry jam and found that you can add way less sugar than standard recipes  and still have a perfectly flavored and gelled jam. You also don’t need to add pectin to most cooked jams.   The flavor of this jam is truly great.  It takes a while and you have to be around, but it is real easy to put together.

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2.5 lbs cherries

1 cup sugar

½ cup water

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1. Stem and pit cherries (a cherry pitter is useful here).

2. Pulse the cherries in the food processor to obtain a coarse puree. Do not over process.

3. Place the cherries in a medium sized sauce pan with the water and cook cherries uncovered  on medium for 20 min until completely soft.   Stir on and off. Do not leave the kitchen while doing this.

4. Add the sugar and turn down the heat so that the jam is at a bare simmer. Stir frequently. Boil until the jam starts to leave tracks on the bottom of the pan (mine took about 45 min, but this can differ quite a bit depending on your heat level). You an also use a candy thermometer and cook to 220˚F (the temperature at which jam sets) , but I find eyeballing to be simpler and pretty accurate.

5. Allow to cool, then ladle the jam into clean jars. Freeze if not using immediately.   This makes 1 ½ jars of jam, not worth canning. Freezing the bottle not targeted for immediate consumption works just fine for me. But by all means consult some other resource for canning to ensure safety.

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