Kadamba Sambar/Saadam

Kadambam’ in Tamil refers to an assortment of similar things. It more commonly refers to a flower string which is a mixture of flowers like malli, marikozhundu, sampangi, davanam, kanakaambaram. The garland is extremely fragrant and the varying colors are such a treat to the eye. I love wearing this flower garland in my hair, particularly after an oil bath. The damp hair absorbs the scents of the flowers, leaving it fragrant even after two days. Now-a-days, I don’t see women wearing this garland anymore. White jasmine strings are preferred to a more country-esque kadambam. Come to think of it, wearing flowers itself is going out of style. I am an ardent lover of wearing flower strings and I miss it dearly.

Kadamba sambar, a speciality from my native, Thanjavur, is akin to its namesake garland. The vegetables are varied in terms of color, texture, taste and looks, yet aesthetically delightful. The recipe is very similar to arachu vitta sambar, but the vegetables make a difference.

But this is ezhukari kuzhambu, one may say. Yes and no. Yes, because, they both are special kinds of sambar made with more than one vegetable. No, because, ezhukari kuzhambu is never meant to be eaten with rice. Its more of a side dish. Secondly, ezhukari kuzhambu is always made during the winter months, predominantly with winter vegetables and squash. On the other hand, kadamba sambar is made all year around and is always mixed with rice. That’s not much of a difference, you say? Well, that’s up to you. Call it any name you want, its scrumptious.

Vegetables in harmony - Kadamba sambar with a sprinkle of dessicated coconut

This sambar is usually made with ‘naatu karigai’, which is Tamil for country vegetables. So vegetables like cauliflower, green beans, beetroot are off limits. Also, I have used coconut milk which is not conventional. But I would recommend it highly. And, so the ghee. But if you want to make this vegan like I did, you can omit that too. I have also used a handful of dried jackfruit seeds that I collected during summer. They take a long time to cook, about 8-10 whistles in the pressure cooker.

Kadamba Sambar
(serves 2-4, depending on how much you like sambar)


Mixed vegetables – 4-5 cups, cut into 1 inch thin strips
(Flat beans, carrot, plantain, winter melon/white pumpkin, red pumpkin, ladies finger/okra, brinjal, drumstick, peas, Indian lima beans, elephant yam, sweet potato, any kind of greens, etc)
Tamarind paste – 3 tbsp
Tomato – 1, chopped
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
Coconut milk – ¼ cup (optional)
Toor dal – ½ cup, pressure cooked till soft
Asafoetida – a pinch/ or a little amount dissolved in hot water, if using blocks
Cilantro – 2 tbsp, chopped

Spice mixture

Chana dal – 2 tbsp
Coriander seeds – 1 tbsp
Urad dal – 1 tsp
Red chillies – 6
Fenugreek seeds – 1 tsp
Grated coconut – ¼ cup
Oil – 1 tbsp

Roast chana dal through fenugreek seeds in oil. Cool and grind along with coconut to a smooth paste.


Oil/ghee – 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Curry leaves - few


Dissolve tamarind paste in 1 cup of water. In a deep vessel, boil tamarind water along with salt, turmeric powder, tomato and mixed vegetables for about 15 minutes. The vegetable should be fully cooked and the tamarind shouldn’t smell raw anymore.

Add the cooked dal and spice paste and allow sambar to boil for 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Finally add the coconut milk, if using and switch off the flame. Mix well and let the coconut milk to heat through. Stir in asafoetida and cilantro.

In a small skillet, heat oil/ghee and splutter mustard seeds. Remove from flame and add curry leaves. Add this seasoning to the sambar. Serve this sambar with rice and additional ghee, if preferred.

Mix generous ladles of sambar into rice (called saadam in Tamil), mix well and serve warm ‘Kadamba Saadam’ with crunchy cucumber slices, vegetable chips or appalam. The rice should not be dry, but porridge like consistency.

If you want to include onions, slice ‘em thin and sauté with mustard seeds while seasoning and add to the sambar. Omit asafoetida though, as it doesn’t go well with onions or garlic.

Steaming hot kadamba sadam, specked with jackfruit seed - comfort in a bowl

This is my entry to Rice Mela, hosted by uber-energetic Srivalli. This is also my fourth and last entry to Vegan Ventures, round 2, which runs till the end of this month. See you all next week. Have a great time with your family.

Kadamba sambar on other blogs:
Live 2 Cook
The 'yum' blog

A Few Things…

A gentle reminder that Does My Blog Look Good in This – Nov ’08 closes tomorrow by midnight EST. If you haven’t sent your entry yet, please hurry.

Vegan Ventures, round 2, the other event I am hosting this month, is open for another 10 days. I have received some fantastic entries so far. Keep ‘em coming.

Checkout my latest post at The Daily Tiffin - Chocolate Spoons.

Tofu Fajitas

Fajita is a flavorful way to enjoy tofu. Tofu responds extremely well to any kind of marinade, by absorbing the flavors like a sponge. I usually marinate them for more than 8 hours for a couple of reasons. One, the tofu gets more time to soak up the flavour. Two, the flavors of the marinade also dictate the direction in which the recipe is carried along. Once that is defined, cooking is a snap. Which means, I don’t have ponder over what to cook, with my head stuck inside the ice box.

Take this marinade, for example. Once the tofu is doused with the Mexican flavours, I know I can make fajitas for a work week lunch or dinner. I have used chipotle (smoked jalapeno), that imparts a beautiful smokey flavour. They usually come in cans with a red sauce called adobo, and are available in most of the super markets. If you can’t find it, then use red chilli powder, a tbsp of ketchup and more cumin powder.

Tofu Fajitas
(serves 2)


Firm or extra firm tofu – 1 block
Onion – 1, sliced thin
Green pepper – 1, sliced thin
Red pepper – 1, sliced thin
Dried oregano – ½ tsp
Cilantro – 2 tbsp, minced


Chipotle in adobo – 2, minced
Adobo sauce – 2 tsp
Garlic – 1 clove, minced
Cumin powder – ½ tsp
Lime juice – 2 tbsp
Dried oregano – ½ tsp


Firmly press tofu between layers of paper towel to remove as much liquid as possible, then cut into two pieces, width wise. Mix all of the marinade ingredients together, and pour over tofu slices. Toss gently to coat all over, and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes to 48 hours.

Heat about a tbsp of oil in a skillet over high heat. Sear the tofu slices until they are browned on both sides. Transfer to a plate, cool slightly and cut into thin strips. In the same skillet, heat another tsp of oil and add onion, green and red pepper, oregano, cilantro, salt and pepper, and stir fry over heat until browned and fragrant.

Serve tofu and pepper mixture with warm tortillas (or rotis). You can also serve along with brown rice, black beans, guacamole, and salsa for a complete Mexican platter. This is my third entry to Vegan Ventures, round 2.

Quinoa – Carrot Paratha/Flatbread

There are about 9 kinds of whole grains in my currently-understocked-pantry, as I am writing this post. I barely eat white rice anymore; just twice or thrice a month. No, this is not a fashion statement (unlike the “I don’t watch Indian movies, only ingleeesh” kind), but more of a health-conscious one. Like family heirlooms, both our family trees have generous genetic ailments waiting to be bestowed upon us. No thank you (not so for the diamonds. Am I clear?).

Discovering the world of whole grains and their various cooking methods is such a delight. But once in a while, we do long for our childhood favourites. There are some dishes that we grew up with and the sight, smell and taste bring back a gush of memories from our early days. Now I am learning to incorporate the whole grains in Indian recipes. It doesn’t turn out well all the time. There are some bad days (as with any cooking experiments) and then there are days with outstanding results. Quinoa paratha is one such dish.

Quinoa, the wonder grain

This recipe is an extrapolation of this upma. I kept the seasoning to a minimum just like the upma. Tastewise, these parathas weren’t any different than the usual wheat ones, but the addition of quinoa did make them soft and supple. I am sure there will be more 'whole-grain-flatbreads' from my kitchen.

Before going to the recipe, I am thrilled to announce that Margot at Coffee and Vanilla has nominated me for this month’s Inspiring Food Photography. I have some tough competition with fellow nominees, Michelle of Green Gourmet and Leemei of My Cooking Hut. If you have enjoyed your visits here, please hop over there and vote for me (yeah, shameless self promotion. I know!).

Quinoa – Carrot Paratha/Flatbread
(makes 16-18 medium sized parathas)


Quinoa – ¾ cup, uncooked
Whole wheat flour – 3 to 3½ cups
Carrot – 1 cup, finely shredded
Onion – ¼ cup, shredded
Green chilli – 1, minced
Carom seeds/ajwain – 1 tbsp
Cilantro – ¼ cup, minced

Oil – for cooking


Cook quinoa with 1 cup of water. You can either do this using a pressure cooker for 2 whistles, or on stovetop. Fluff, and let cool, but not completely.

I made the dough using food processor. Using the shredder attachment, shred carrots, onion and green chillies. Remove the attachment, fit the blade, add warm quinoa and salt, and pulse everything together, until it forms a solid mass. Add 2 cups of flour and pulse until the dough forms into a ball. Turn the dough onto a big bowl or working area, sprinkle cilantro and carom seeds on top of it. Add flour ¼ cup at a time until the dough isn’t sticky anymore. Knead for 5 more minutes until it is soft and elastic.

If you don’t have a food processor, prepare vegetables separately, grind the cooked quinoa coarsely and proceed as mentioned above, until you are left with a soft and elastic dough.

Cover with a moist towel and let the dough rest for 20 to 30 minutes. Prepare vegetables or gravy to go along with the paratha. I served mine with Ashwini's Green Peas Curry. I have made this curry with different legumes. It tastes absolutely fantastic every single time.

When ready, pinch a lemon sized ball of dough, (about 2 inch), dust and roll on a well floured surface, as thin as you can. Cook on preheated flat skillet, with a light drizzle of oil on one side. The parathas are done when they develop light brown spots on both sides.

These flatbreads were naturally soft. But I find cooking any kind of roti/paratha (the non-stuffed kind) over medium-high heat ensures the soft texture. You have to be careful not to burn the roti, by flipping every 30 seconds. These parathas were done just after 2 flips.

This is my second entry for Vegan Ventures, round 2. This event celebrates the National Vegan month, November. More whole grain recipes can be found at JFI - Whole Grains roundup.

Bulgur Stuffed Tomatoes

I realized that its been long since I posted a recipe. Not that I ain’t cooking. In fact, I did try a lot of new recipes from my bookmarked folder in this past month. But to plate and photograph our meals feels like too much work. Pure indolence, I should say. Adding to that, the emails that are waiting to be answered, the reader bursting with unread posts, the deadlines - not at all encouraging.

But today, I got over my lethargy, and clicked a few shots. Nothing fancy, a clove of garlic, a sprig rosemary, and yeah, these stuffed tomatoes. It was comforting, and made me feel ‘in the zone’. Oh yeah, I can get back to blogging.

Bulgur Stuffed Tomatoes
(serves 2)


Tomatoes – 6, medium sized
Bulgur wheat – ¾ cup
Scallions – 2, finely chopped
Mint – 2 tbsp, finely chopped
Parsley or cilantro – 2 tbsp, finely chopped
Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes – 1 tsp
Roasted pumpkin seeds – ¼ cup
Dried oregano – 1 tsp
Olive oil – 1 tbsp
Juice of a lemon


Slice the tops off the tomatoes and set aside. Scoop out the flesh from the tomatoes to allow room for the stuffing. Take care not to break the skin. Strain this pulp and add to the filling.

Make the stuffing by soaking the bulgur wheat in warm water for 30 minutes. Drain and squeeze excess water, if any. Mix with all the other ingredients mentioned above, except dried oregano. Also, reserve 1 tbsp of pumpkin seeds for garnish.

Preheat oven to 350F. Season the inside of the tomatoes with pepper (too much salt can make the tomatoes soggy). Fill with the bulgur stuffing and replace the reserved tomato tops. Place them on a lightly oiled baking dish, pour a little water around them and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the tomato tops, sprinkle with the reserved pumpkin seeds and dried oregano, and serve hot or at room temperature.

I served them with a side salad for a light lunch. You can also serve ‘em with garlic bread and soup for a hearty dinner. This is my first entry to Vegan Ventures, round 2, an event in observed during November, the National Vegan Month.

I am far behind in keeping up with the other blogs and the various events. I promise to be back in the scene as soon as I settle a few things in the background.

Does My Blog Look Good In This – November 2008

I am honored to host this edition of ‘Does My Blog Look Good in This’ (DMBLGiT), a monthly food-photography challenge that showcases some of the best photographs that have appeared on food blogs. Many thanks to Andrew of Spittoon Extra for this opportunity.

To participate, send a favorite photo of yours that has appeared on your blog during October 2008. A panel of judges will then review your entries on the basis of

  • Aesthetics: composition, food styling, lighting, focus, etc.
  • Edibility: “does the photo make us want to dive in and eat the food?”
  • Originality: the photograph that catches our attention and makes us want to say “wow!”, displaying something we might not have seen before.
  • Overall Winner: top overall scores in all three categories combined.
  • There are three overall winners for photographs with the highest point totals in all three categories combined, and one winner in each of the three individual categories.

For complete set of instructions on participation, visit Spittoon Extra.

The judges panel for this month consists of these gifted and talented food bloggers/photographers.

  • Graeme of Blood Sugar, a student of photography from Lincoln. Photography is a continuous process of experimenting and learning. His blog showcases exactly that. He is currently working on an interesting project called ‘Culture Stills’.
  • Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook, the creator of the esteemed and popular event My Legume Love Affair. A multi-faceted, eloquent writer, she makes food blogging all the more interesting.
  • Lauren of Vegan Yum Yum, who has won the VegNews Veggie Award for best blog of 2008. Congrats Lauren! Her post on food photography is a must read for aspiring food photographers.
  • Meeta of What's For Lunch Honey?, a master photographer, a conscious cook and an accomplished food blogger. She is also the owner of The Daily Tiffin. Run by a talented bunch of bloggers, the blog focuses on family, children, health and many more.
  • And, of course, myself (nothing much to say).

So, here are the rules for participation

  1. Send a photo that has appeared on your blog during October 2008. The photo should be food and/or drink related. No diptychs allowed.
  2. Only one entry per person
  3. The photograph must have been taken by you.
  4. Deadline for submissions : 21, November 2008
  5. Send your entry to tastypalettes@gmail.com with ‘DMBLGiT’ in the subject line with the following details
    • your name
    • your blog’s name and URL
    • the photograph that you wish to enter, of no more than 800 pixels wide (height doesn’t matter)
    • your photograph’s title
    • URL of the post containing the photograph
    • type of camera used, lens if you wish
(By submitting a photo, entrants agree to their picture being redisplayed and altered in size on the host's page and on the SpittoonExtra DMBLGIT page.)

You can find this month’s entries in this gallery. I will upload your submissions as and when I receive ‘em. You can access the gallery anytime by clicking the icon in the left pane, under 'Events'. For last month's winners, visit Cafe Fernando.

Wishing you all good luck!

Update: Winners announced here.