Four Clan Kitchen

What we eat everyday

Archive for the ‘Side Dishes’ Category

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 »

Baba Ghanouj

Posted by fourclankitchen on May 2, 2014


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I know that no one needs another baba ghanouj (ghanoush, ganoush)  recipe.  But this is my archive and I simply need to have it here so I don’t have to go looking all over the web when I am ready to make it.  This is my version and it adds a serrano pepper, some sesame oil and cilantro: this is what makes my tongue happy, but you can omit these if you want.  I make it frequently and almost always eyeball it, so the measurements here are  not that precise.  When we run out of left overs,  it serves as a great lunch.  All you have to do is to add a pita, naan or tortilla.


photo 1



2 medium-large eggplants (Italian Globe eggplants are just fine).

3 cloves of garlic, peeled (scale according your preference).

1 serrano pepper, stemmed and coarsely chopped

1/3 cup sesame paste (Tahini):

3 tbs. olive oil, more for drizzling if you are into the picture perfect look.

1-2 tbs toasted sesame oil (I used 2)

2-4 tbs. lemon juice or to taste (My eggplants were large, I used 4)

salt, to taste  (I used 1 1/2 tsp)

pinch of cayenne, optional.

a hand full of cilantro (you can use up your stems if you like),  optional.


photo 2


1.  Preheat oven to 400˚F.  Line a jelly roll pan with foil.  Cut each eggplant into half and lightly oil and salt them.

2. Roast, cut side down for about 40 min.  The eggplants should be wrinkled and completely soft.  If not,  continue to roast until they reach this stage (you can do this on a hot grill: it takes about 30 mins, with frequent turning).

3. Let the eggplants cool till they can be handled, then peel off the skin (I often don’t bother, it makes no difference to the flavor).

4.  Put all ingredients in the food processor (except salt and lemon) and zap until you get a perfectly smooth baba ghanouj.  A few bits of cilantro  might not blend, but it still tastes great.

5. Add salt and lemon, taste and adjust.

6. It may need a bit more sesame oil to make the sesame flavor more intense, so adjust accordingly.


photo 3

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Peapods with poppy seed dressing

Posted by fourclankitchen on April 2, 2014

photo 1

Poppy Seed Dressing This poppy seed dressing (from Saveur via the cookbook author Helen Corbitt) is one of the best I have ever had and it goes well with everything from peaches and strawberries, to salads to pea pods.   I made the following changes to the original recipe.  I substituted the grated onion for 1 tsp of powdered onion, since I did not see myself grating an onion by hand (do not grate with a food processor, the onion and juice will be bitter).  I figured this would also give the dressing greater shelf-life.  I also skipped the canola oil and went with all olive oil, but I don’t think it makes a big difference here. Do not omit the onion or the mustard,  these are key ingredients.  If you want a well-emulsified dressing,  you are going to have to make it in a bottle and shake it like the devil.  Or you could whisk it.  Even if you don’t do either, the dressing will taste divine.  MAKES ABOUT 2 CUPS

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2 tbsp. poppy seeds

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup white wine vinegar

2 tsp. dry mustard powder

2 tsp. kosher salt (Diamond Crystal.  Adjust to taste for all other salts).

1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp powdered onion  (the original recipe calls for 1 small yellow onion, finely grated, juice reserved)

3/4 cup canola oil

1/4 cup olive oil

Method: 1. Lightly toast the poppy seeds, swirling pan constantly, about 3 minutes. Add sugar, vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, and onion powder, and cook, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves and mixture begins to simmer. Remove from heat and transfer to a blender. Add oil, and blend until smooth.  Keep refrigerated. I have no idea how long it will last in the fridge,  but I have been using it for 3 weeks.

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Pea pods 


2 tbs. oil



Poppy seed dressing


1. Heat 2 tbs of oil in a heavy (cast-iron) pan.

2.  Add the pea pods in one layer to the pan.

3. Wait to stir for a couple of min till one side develops flecks of brown.

4. Now turn over and cook for a few minutes till browned to your liking.

5. Remove from heat and add the desired amount dressing.  Adjust the salt to your taste.

Posted in condiments, salads, Side Dishes, Uncategorized, vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Curried Tofu Salad

Posted by fourclankitchen on November 17, 2012

There are those who eat tofu as a meat substitute.  I think it is a mediocre meat substitute, but is really good on its own, particularly because it can take on any flavor you ask it to.   Take for instance the red curry tofu salad our local co-op sells. It has Indian curry powder and some cajun spices in it and it tastes like a wonderful blend of the two.  Whoda thunk? Its delicious, but expensive.  You shouldn’t  pay 7.99/lb for a bit of tofu.  So I resolved to make it with the ingredients I had on hand.  My take on this salad is very close to the store bought version, its just slightly less greasy and certainly a lot cheaper.  This is definitely going to enter my lunch pantheon.  Try it and you might also get hooked to eating tofu as well.  It would also be wonderful with chicken: I will try that next.


1 pk extra firm tofu cut lengthwise into three slabs

2 tbs. vegetable oil, divided

2 tbs mayonnaise (the store sells a vegan version with vegennaise: no idea how this is made, but it tastes just fine)

1 tbs. apple cider vinegar (or other vinegar)

1/2 tsp old bay seasoning (or any cajun seasoning, barbecue dry rub etc.  you have)

1/2 tsp sugar

1/4 tsp curry pwd

pinch of cayenne (the hot stuff)

five grinds black pepper

salt to taste

1 large carrot, shredded in the food processor or on a grater

1 stalk celery finely diced or shredded in the food processor

2-3 tbs. finely diced onion (preferably a sweet variety, do not grate in food processor)

1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro


The day before you will make your salad, drain the tofu brick on paper towels, taking as much moisture off as possible.  Leave uncovered in fridge overnight.

Heat 1/2 -1 tbs oil in a griddle or sauté pan (the amount will depend on the type of pan you use, you don’t want the tofu to stick and you don’t want it greasy).

When hot, turn the stove to medium high and place your tofu slabs in the pan and brown, about 4 min per side (provided the tofu was drained as outlined above).

Remove from the flame and let the tofu cool down to room temperature.

Meanwhile,  whisk the mayo, oil, vinegar, sugar and spices together and let the flavors blend.

Process your vegetables.

Cut the tofu into small cubes and mix together the vegetables, the dressing and the tofu.  Be gentle so you don’t break the tofu to bits.  Taste and adjust the salt, sugar and vinegar.

Let the salad sit for at least half an hour in the fridge before serving or consuming.

Posted in Asian, Brunch, Chinese, Main Dishes, salads, Side Dishes, vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Small batch sweet hot pepper pickles

Posted by fourclankitchen on October 20, 2012

I am still putting away things that I grew over the summer.  This year, I had a real nice crop of anaheim peppers.  For reasons that I don’t understand, this batch was way hotter than what I usually get at the grocery store, but I guess that is not so unusual for peppers.  These were just the right heat for me to make hot and sweet pepper pickles.  There was no recipe that I could find, so I basically made them like Thai cucumber pickles (or my best guess as to how they are made). If you are like me and like to be hit all at once with hot, sweet, salty, bitter and sour, then these are for you.  They are also really easy to make.


6 Anaheim peppers, cut cross-wise into discs (any pepper that is mild to seriously hot will do here, so adjust according to your heat tolerance)

3 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely pounded

2 cups vinegar

1/2-2/3 cup sugar

1-1 1/2 tsp Diamond kosher salt (You will want less of any other type of kosher or table salt)


1. Put the vinegar, sugar and salt in a large sauce pan and bring to a boil.

2.  Add the garlic and peppers, turn off the fire ( If you boil the peppers, they lose their color).

3.  Taste and adjust the salt and sugar.   Store in a non reactive container in the fridge.

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