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Thakkali Thokku | Tomato Thokku

Thokku is a spicy South Indian condiment, relatively similar to our Indian pickles and chutneys. Thokku can be made from vegetables, fruits and even herbs. Thokku is slow cooked which gives it a longer shelf life. Thokku can be stored up to a month if stored and handled properly. Thokku is usually served as a side dish with idli and dosa or mixed with hot rice or curd rice. 

When tomatoes are available at cheap prices, I buy them and make this tomato thokku. This thakkali thokku is a very versatile condiment. It can be served with any South Indian tiffin items, rice, chapathi or as a spread. This recipe is a typical Brahmin style one with no onions or garlic. I make another version with onion and garlic, which I will post later. This homemade tomato thokku is much better and healthier than the store brought ones. The thokku stays good up to a month in the fridge. So next time you find tomatoes at a cheap rate in the markets, get some and make this delicious thokku. 


{ South Indian spicy condiment with tomato and spices }
Yields about 200g


6-7 medium tomatoes
2 ½ tbsp gingelly oil / sesame oil / nallennai
1 tsp mustard seeds
¼ tsp asafoetida / hing / perugayam
2-3 sprigs curry leaves
¼ tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp red chilly powder
1 tbsp grated jaggery
1 tsp fenugreek powder / methi powder
Salt to taste


1. Wash the tomatoes and pat them dry. Chop them into small pieces.

2. Heat a kadai and add oil. Add mustard seeds and when it splutters, add asafoetida and curry leaves.

3. Add the tomatoes and mix well. Cook in medium heat until the tomatoes soften and turn mushy. Then add turmeric powder, red chilly powder, jaggery, salt and mix well.

4.  Cook the tomatoes on a low-medium heat for about 25-30 minutes or until all the water has evaporated and the tomato mixture has thickened up.

5. Add fenugreek powder and adjust salt if required. Cook for another 3-4 minutes and remove from heat. Cool completely and transfer to airtight bottle.

Serving Suggestion ~ Dosa and idli, curd rice, chapathi or bread.

Notes and Tips
  • If your tomatoes are less sour, add 1-2 tsp tamarind paste or thick tamarind extract along with spices.
  • Adjust the amount of red chilly powder according to your spice preference.
  • If you find the thokku is spicy at the end, add little more jaggery and adjust.
  • Always use a dry and clean spoon to take out thokku.
  • To make fenugreek powder, dry roast fenugreek seeds (do not brown too much) and powder them finely.

Murungaikkai Sambar | Drumstick Sambar

Sambar is a regular fare in most South Indian homes. I sometimes can't make my mind as to what curry to make for rice and I mostly end up making sambar. Also I can finish off the leftover with idli or dosa for dinner and don't worry about making chutney! I have already posted few other sambar recipes before - ladies finger sambar, pumpkin sambar, vendhaya keerai sambar, radish sambar etc, today I am posting another simple sambar with drumstick / murungaikkai.

Drumstick is available only in a particular season in Indian markets, but after trying the frozen ones I am quite happy that there are good as the fresh ones and I don't have to wait for the drumstick season in markets. This is a simple and quite easy sambar recipe that beginners and bachelors can try. The sambar goes well with rice and any thoran/poriyal and also with dosa and idli. I served with kothavarangai (cluster beans) fry, rice and papadam. Let's see how to make this drumstick sambar.


{ South Indian style curry with lentils, drumstick and spices }
Serves 3


½ cup toor dal / yellow pigeon peas
1 tsp oil
2 murungaikkai / drumstick, cut into 3-inch pieces
10-12 shallots / chinna vengayam
1 medium tomato, cut into cubes
½ tbsp tamarind paste / gooseberry-sized tamarind
¼ tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp sambar powder
Salt to taste

To temper:
2 tsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 dry red chillies
Pinch of asafoetida / hing
Few curry leaves


1. Wash and pressure cook the dal with 1 ½ cup water and a pinch of turmeric powder for 3 whistles. Mash well and set aside.

2. Soak the tamarind in 1 cup warm water and extract the tamarind juice. If using tamarind paste, dissolve in 1 cup warm water.

3. Heat a kadai and add oil. Add the shallots and fry till they turn pink. Then add tomato and fry for 2-3 minutes.

4. Add drumstick, turmeric powder, sambar powder, salt and saute for 1-2 minutes. Then add ½ - ¾ cup water and cook the drumstick.

5. Once the drumstick is cooked, add the tamarind extract. Bring to boil and boil till raw smell of tamarind goes. Add dal, required water and simmer for for 4-5 minutes.

6. In a small pan, heat oil and add mustard seeds. When it crackles, add dry chillies, asafoetida and curry leaves. Pour over the sambar.

Serving Suggestion ~ Rice and thoran/poriyal or idli/dosa.

Notes and Tips
  • Make sure the drumstick is cooked well before adding the tamarind extract.
  • Instead of shallots, you can also use 1 medium onion, cut into quarters.

Kothavarangai Poriyal | Cluster Beans Stir Fry

Living away from India, there are many things I miss - family, friends, festivals and of course food! I try to cook the dishes that we miss being away from home. But here we don't get many vegetables we usually cook with back in India and sometimes have to resort to frozen vegetables. After some bitter experiences with frozen veggies, I completely stopped buying them. During a usual grocery shopping at Indian store, I saw this packet of pre-cut cluster beans in frozen section. I love cluster beans and was tempted to buy them.

Cluster beans is a type of green beans with a slightly bitter taste. It is known as kothavarangai in Tamil, guar/gawar in Hindi and kothamara in Malayalam. This low-calorie and nutrient rich vegetable is good for heart, bones and diabetics. It helps reducing cholesterol level, managing blood pressure and improves blood circulation. We usually make sambar, poriyal (stir-fry), usili (stir fry with lentils), kootu and sabji / curries with this beans.

I made a South Indian style stir fry with that packet of cluster beans and luckily it tasted good. I felt they were slightly more bitter than the fresh ones. The tamarind and sugar helped to balance the bitterness. This stir fry tastes best when served with rice and sambar, but it also goes well with any kuzhambu and curd rice.  Let's see how to make this healthy cluster beans stir fry.


{ South Indian style cluster beans stir fry with coconut }
Serves 3


300 gm kothavarangai / cluster beans
3 tbsp grated coconut
2-3 green chillies
½ tsp tamarind paste / marble-size tamarind
3 tsp coconut oil / sunflower oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 red chillies
Pinch of asafoetida / hing / perugayam
½ tsp split urad dal / ulatham paruppu
1 sprig curry leaves
¼ tsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste


1. Trim the ends of the beans and chop them finely. If using frozen pre-cut beans, wash the beans once and drain water completely.

2. Grind the coconut and green chillies coarsely. Soak tamarind in 3 tbsp warm water and extract the juice. If using tamarind paste, dilute in 3 tbsp warm water.

3. In a pan heat oil and add mustard seeds. When in splutters add red chillies, asafoetida, urad dal, curry leaves and fry till dal turn golden.

3. Add beans, turmeric powder and fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the tamarind extract, salt and mix well. Cover and cook until the beans has cooked, stirring in between.

4. If any water is left, cook uncovered till the water has evaporated. Now add the coconut-green chilly mixture and fry for another 3-4 minutes.

Notes and Tips
  • If you find the beans is too bitter, add little sugar while cooking the beans.
  • We usually prepare without onion and garlic. If you want, you can add 1 small chopped onion and 2 garlic cloves after tempering.
  • Before adding coconut, make sure there is no water left after cooking beans.
  • I used pre-cut beans which where already chopped into ½-inch long pieces. 
  • Adjust green chillies according to your spice preference.

Whole Wheat Honey Oatmeal Bread #BreadBakers

I recently joined a bread baking group called Bread Bakers where each month we bake a bread based on a theme or ingredient. This month's host Rocio of Kids and Chic selected oatmeal as the theme and we had to bake a sweet or savory bread with steel-cut, rolled or quick oats. If you love bread baking and want to be part of this wonderful group, go through the details at the end of the post. I baked this whole wheat bread with honey and oats, and being my first attempt in baking a sandwich bread from scratch I'm quite happy at the results.

Nothing beats the taste and aroma of home made bread. The whole house smelled so good and the taste was so much better than store-brought breads. This bread recipe is quite easy and simple for beginners to try out. This recipe uses a mixture of whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour which makes the bread not too dense or heavy. The honey and milk gives a soft crumb and adds a subtle sweetness. This bread is great to make sandwiches or toast it and slather with your favorite jam or butter. Now let's see how to make this whole wheat honey oatmeal bread.


{ Homemade whole wheat sandwich bread with honey and rolled oats }
Recipe Source ~ Girl Versus Dough
Makes a 9" loaf


4 tbsp / 60g unsalted butter
1 cup water
1 cup milk
2 tbsp honey
2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
2 ¼ tsp instant yeast
2 ½ tsp salt

For topping:
1 tbsp milk
1 tbsp rolled oats


1. Melt the butter and allow to cool slightly. In a microwave-safe bowl, pour milk and water and heat until warm, about 30-45 seconds.

2. Add honey to this and mix well. In a large bowl add wheat flour, all-purpose flour, oats, yeast and mix well.

3. Add butter, milk-water-honey mixture and salt to the flour mixture. Mix the dough using a wooden spoon.

4. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Lightly flour your hands and knead until dough is smooth, elastic and slightly sticky, about 10-15 minutes.

5. Keep the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel. Let the dough rise for 1 hour or until doubled.

6. Once the dough is doubled, punch down and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Flatten the dough into a 8 x 8-inch square.

7. Tightly roll the dough into a log, tucking in the sides. Place the dough, seam side down, in a lightly greased or parchment lined 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.

8. Cover with a tea towel and let the dough rise until it reaches the edges of the pan (not doubled), about 20-30 minutes.

9. Preheat the oven to 190 °C | 375 °F. Brush the top lightly with milk and sprinkle oats.

10. Bake for 40-50 minutes, rotating halfway through baking, until loaf is deep brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

11. Let the loaf cool on the wire rack for 5 min, then remove from loaf pan, place on cooking rack and allow to cool completely.

Notes and Tips
  • If using active dry yeast, add yeast to milk-water mixture with honey and let sit for 10 minutes or until yeast is foamy.
  • Rising times may be longer if you are active dry yeast.
  • If you are using a stand mixture, use the dough hook and knead on medium speed for 5-6 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic.
  • If you are using a loaf pan that is not dark or non stick, bake at 200 °C |  400 °F.
  • Cover with a aluminum foil if the bread is turning too brown.

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to

Oatmeal Bread themed #BreadBakers:

Pomegranate Milkshake

Seeding a pomegranate may seem like a lot of work but do you how nutrient dense these red jewel-like seeds are? Pomegranates are rich in antioxidants than any other fruits. In fact, a glass of pomegranate juice has more antioxidants than green tea or berries. Regular intake of pomegranate lowers blood pressure and cholesterol and also prevents heart diseases and cancer. Many studies have shown that pomegranate helps in relieving stress and depression. 

Pomegranate milkshake is a simple milkshake with pomegranate seeds, milk and vanilla ice cream. If you don't like to eat the pomegranate seeds as such like me, this milkshake is a great way to add pomegranate to your diet. You can modify this milkshake recipe to make it more healthier by adding oats, nuts or any seeds too. For a low-fat version, skip the ice cream and use low-fat milk. Now let's see how to make this delicious milkshake.


{ Creamy milkshake with pomegranate and vanilla ice cream }
Serves 2


2 pomegranates
1 ½ cup chilled milk
1 scoop vanilla ice cream ice cream
Sugar or honey, as needed


1. Cut the pomegranate and de-seed it removing any white pith or rinds. Place the seeds in a blender and pulse a few times to release the juice.

2. Using a mesh strainer, strain the pomegranate juice into a bowl. Using the back of a spoon, push the pulp and extract as much juice as possible.

3. Add the juice, milk, ice cream and honey/sugar to the blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into glass and serve immediately.

Notes and Tips
  • If you want a low-fat milkshake, you can skip the ice cream.
  • Straining is optional, but it gives a smooth creamy milkshake.
  • You can also blend all the ingredients together and strain the milkshake using a strainer.

Gobi Paratha | Cauliflower Paratha

Parathas are a popular breakfast item in North India. A paratha is nothing but a whole wheat flat bread stuffed with a filling made of mashed/grated vegetables or chopped greens, spices and herbs. I love making parathas as it does not need any side dish, just some plain yogurt and pickle is enough. Parathas are great to pack for lunchbox for kids and adults too. Also see my aloo paratha, palak paratha and mooli paratha recipes.

Gobi aka cauliflower paratha is one of my favorite parathas. These parathas are stuffed with grated cauliflower, onion and spices. Making perfect paratha needs some practice. Even now, some days my parathas don't come out so well. So instead of the traditional way of rolling, stuffing and folding, I stuffed the filling between 2 rolled out chapathi dough. I find the latter method better in many ways. First of all it's easy and you don't have to worry of parathas breaking. Secondly, you can add more stuffing and it remains soft for a long time. Serve the parathas hot with yogurt / raita and pickle. 


{ Whole wheat flat bread stuffed with a cauliflower filling }
Makes 6


For the dough:
1 ½ cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp oil
Salt to taste

For the filling:
2 tsp oil
¾ tsp cumin seeds / jeera
1 small onion, finely chopped
1-2 green chillies, finely chopped
1 tsp grated ginger
2 cup grated cauliflower
¼ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp red chilly powder
½ tsp garam masala
½ tsp amchur powder / dry mango powder
Salt to taste
2 tbsp finely chopped coriander

Extra wheat flour, for rolling
Oil / ghee, to drizzle


To make the dough:
1. Add wheat flour, salt and oil in a bowl and combine. Add water little by little and knead well to form a smooth and semi-soft dough. Cover and keep aside for 30 minutes.

To make the filling:
1. Heat a pan with oil and add cumin seeds. When it sizzles, add onion, green chilly and ginger. Saute till onion turns soft.

2. Add the grated cauliflower and saute for 2-3 minutes. Then add turmeric powder, red chilly powder, garam masala, amchur powder and salt.

3. Mix well and saute for 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add the coriander leaves and mix. Allow to cool slightly.

To make paratha:

Method 1:
1. Divide the dough into 6 equal portions. Take one ball and keep covered the rest of the dough.

2. Roll out the ball into a 4-inch circle. Place 2 heaped tablespoons of the cauliflower filling in the middle and bring together all sides and seal.

3. Pinch off the extra dough and gently flatten them. Dust lightly with flour and roll them gently into a 6-7 inch circle.

4. Heat a tawa or griddle and place the paratha. Cook the paratha by smearing little oil or ghee until golden brown on both sides.

Method 2:
1. Divide the dough into small lime size balls. Take 2 balls and roll out into 5-inch circle. Keep covered the rest of the dough.

2. Spread filling on one chapathi leaving a ¼-inch border and cover with another chapathi. Seal the sides and gently roll to a 6-7 inch circle.

3. Heat a tawa or griddle and place the paratha. Cook the paratha by smearing little oil or ghee until golden brown on both sides.

Serving Suggestion ~ Raita / plain yogurt, pickle and salad.

Notes and Tips
  • Make sure all sides are sealed well and do not apply too much pressure while rolling the paratha.
  • Adjust the spices according to your taste preference.

American Style Vanilla Biscotti

Biscotti are long, thick twice baked cookies originally from Italy. Because the cookies are baked twice, they are crunchy and crisp. Traditionally biscotti are almond flavored, but modern versions of biscotti have many flavors and include dried fruits and nuts too. Biscotti are served with coffee, tea or hot cocoa, in which they are dunked to soften them. Check out my savoury caraway cheddar biscotti.

This American style biscotti is not quite hard like the traditional Italian biscotti. If you have never tired biscotti before, this recipe is the one to start with. It's an easy and foolproof recipe. You can keep it plain or try different variations by adding dried fruits, nuts or any chips. Biscotti can be stored in airtight container for weeks, but I'm sure it won't last that long! I enjoyed them with a cup of peach green tea. Now let's see how to make these vanilla biscotti.


{ American-style vanilla biscotti }
Recipe Source ~ King Arthur Flour
Yields 20-25 biscotti


85 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 ½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp almond extract
2 large eggs
2 cup all-purpose flour / maida
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C | 350°F. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper.

2. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, sugar, vanilla extract, almond extract until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

3. Add the eggs one by one and beat again till the mixture is smooth. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt and add to the batter.

4. Beat on low speed until everything comes together to form a sticky dough. Divide the dough in half and place the dough in the baking tray.

5. Lightly wet your hands and shape the dough into two 9 x 2-inch logs of ¾-inch thickness. Smooth the tops and sides of the dough.

6. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the dough starts to turn brown around the edges. Remove from the oven and cool for 10-15 minutes.

7. Lightly spray the dough with water. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into ¾-inch thick pieces. Place the biscotti upright on the baking tray.

8. Bake at 160°C | 325°F for 25 to 30 minutes or until they turn golden. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool.

Notes and Tips
  • Spraying the baked dough with water reduces the crumbling while slicing them.
  • Slice the biscotti only after it has cooled down. If you cut them while it's soft, it will crumble.
  • You can add dried fruits, nuts or chocolate chips to the dough.