Sunday, June 10, 2007

T is for Tomato Red Pepper Saar

The myriad cuisines of India all love their vegetables! Veggies are diced and sliced, grated and mashed, stir-fried and curried into hundreds of vegetable dishes. In this series, the A to Z of Indian Vegetables, we take an alphabetical journey through the various avatars of vegetables relished in Indian cuisine. For each letter, we will make a tasty vegetable dish that illustrates one manner in which vegetables are savored in India.
The "T" of Indian Vegetables
The letter T inspired twenty-seven tempting Indian flavors!

First, the T vegetables...

First, the ripe and red-tinged tomato, botanically a fruit, but used as a vegetable in the kitchen, whose antioxidant properties are much-touted! This new world fruit is a relatively late addition to the Indian kitchen, but has been embraced lovingly and whole-heartedly into Indian cuisine. Here are five tasty traditional ways that use the tomato as a main ingredient and not just an accessory to the recipe, plus a special bonus- one highly creative way to use the tomato.

Laavslife of Nuggets of our Life shares a favorite dish from her childhood- an aromatic Tomato Kurma just waiting to be sopped up with soft spongy idlis.

Aarti of Aarti's Corner shares two traditional Marathi tomato dishes- a spicy soup with an aromatic ghee tempering, called Tomatoche Saar, and a simple stir-fry with tomato, called Tomatochi Bhaaji, which would be a great side-dish for any meal.

Suma of Veggie Platter remembers the train travels from her childhood, memories of a delicious tomato dish that is eaten with puris- her is her lip-smacking recipe for some authentic Kannada Tomato Gojju.

The Cook of Live To Cook makes an unusual Northern Indian curry- her Bhagara Tomato has little tomatoes soaking in a rich spicy gravy of coconut, sesame seeds and peanuts.

Linda of Out Of The Garden beautifully illustrates the versatility of the tomato, and how a creative cook can use it to make delicious variations of traditional dishes. She conquers her culinary trepidation and whips up a superb batch of fluffy and tempting Tomato Dhokla, sandwiched with pan-roasted eggplant for a gourmet finish!

Now for three root vegetables: the first of which is the Turnip: an inexpensive and easily available root vegetable, that is often under-used. I confess that I have yet to buy and use a turnip! Here, G V Barve of Add Flavor uses not the turnip itself, but the turnip leaves to make a typical Tamilian preparation, a coarse chutney that makes for a flavorful side-dish- Turnip leaves thuvayal.

The next vegetable is a rather exotic one for me: Taro root, also known as dasheen. The huge elephant-ear leaves of this plant find their way into many Indian dishes, but today, here are two crispy ways with the taro root.

Suganya of Tasty Palettes shares her mother's signature dish- a much-requested (and I can see why!) sizzling platter of Taro Root Fry.

Sheela of Delectable Victuals is inspired by hash browns, but she takes this cooking method to the next level with her grated Pan-fried Taro Root that looks golden brown and perfectly delicious.

The last root vegetable is another tropical starchy root, the Tapioca or cassava. Sukanya of Hot N' Sweet Bowl uses it in her favorite sweet dish- her grandmother's recipe for Tapioca Puttu- a comforting sweet mash of tapioca and coconut.

Now for two T vegetables that are beloved in India, although they are harder to find abroad. The first is the Turiya, known in English as the ridged gourd. Its hard ridged skin conceals a juicy, delicious interior. Richa of As Dear As Salt shares an unusual and quick way to cook this lovely veggie- she stir-fries it with some store-bought taro leaf bundles (patra) to make a platter of Turiya Patra- sounds like the perfect weeknight dinner.

The next Indian vegetable is the teeny-tiny tendli (Hindi) or tondli (Marathi), also known as the ivy gourd- a veggie that resembles a diminutive cucumber. Here are five simple and tasty everyday ways to prepare this dainTy vegetable.

Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi team the tondli with the traditional Maharashtrian goda masala to make a smoky and flavorful Tondlichi Bhaji.

Tee of Bhaatukli also gives the tondli a typical Maharashtrian treatment, cooking it with a sprinkling of peanuts and chickpea flour to make Tondli Peeth Perun Bhaaji.

Raaga of The Singing Chef chooses a traditional dish from Konkani cuisine. A flavorful tempering accompanied by a dash of chickpea flour results in this savory dish of Tendlya Talasani.

Asha of Aroma/ Foodie's Hope makes a dish from Kannada cuisine- a gentle stir-fry flavored with aromatic curry leaves called Tondekai Palya.

Mahek of Love 4 Cooking blends tendli with rice and a few select spices to make a steaming hot batch of Tendli Bhat.

The last T vegetable is truly an exotic one for me: Trai Tao or Chinese red date. The Cook of Live To Cook writes a remarkable post about discovering a seemingly foreign food and ending up rediscovering an old favorite! Read on for the story and for her recipe for a sweet relish, Elandha pazha Pachchidi.

The next T food is a tiny and toothsome seed, Til or sesame seeds. With a nutty taste and a rich mouth-feel, sesame seeds find their way into many savory and sweet Indian dishes. Here, TC of The Cooker uses an assortment of nutritious veggies and shapes them into cutlets, then coats them with sesame seeds and bakes them into these irresistible Til Kobi Cutlets.

Now come a slew delicious T dishes from all over India and the world...

The first is an appetizer called the tikki, loved across the length and breadth of India, and also known by other names such as patties and cutlets (like the entry just before this); these are savory burgers that are generally pan-fried. The word "tikki" refers to the round, flat shape of these tasty morsels. Nandita of Saffron Trail makes an unusual combination of mushroom and potato, flavors it with nigella seeds, and shapes some sizzling hot Tikkis to beat the monsoon drizzle.

Next comes a Maharashtrian relish that is as fiery as can be: Thecha translates as pounded in Marathi and is nothing but garlic and chillies pounded together into a taste-bud tingling dip. Madhuli of My Foodcourt blends garlic, chillies, peanuts and salt into a thick Thecha that will set your senses on fire.

The next dish also comes from Maharashtra, a savory multigrain pancake called the Thalipeeth. Priyanka of Lajawaab takes the multigrain flour- bhajani- and turns it into beautiful golden Thalipeeth which would be delicious with the thecha from the preceding entry!

Then comes the magic number: Three! Dhana of Fresh Kitchen craves Indo-Chinese food, so she tosses together a trio of vegetables- capsicum, green peas and carrots- with staples like rice and soy sauce to make a hearty Three-Vegetable Fried Rice.

Next, Swapna of Swad is inspired by Mexican cuisine and whips up a batch of spicy, nutritious and filling Taco Soup.

Now for two T culinary techniques, based on special kitchen equipment.

The first is the tava or skillet. A rugged iron tava is tenacious enough to be handed down from generation to generation. Pooja of Khana Pina tosses some earthy mushrooms in a spicy semolina coating, then quickly fries them in a hot tava to result in this sizzling platter of Tava Fried Mushrooms.

The second is an oven, taken to the next level: the tandoor. This drum-shaped clay oven is not commonly used in individual homes; at one time, community tandoors were common in some parts of North India, and today, tandoor ovens can be found in restaurants. But tandoori cuisine, with its tantalizing taste, is often replicated at home with yummy results.

Saju of Chachi's Kitchen eschews artificial food colors, instead using a vibrant blend of tomato and paprika to make a batch of luscious Tandoori Cauliflower and Potatoes.

Mahek of Love 4 Cooking shares her recipe for some Tandoori Cauliflower made with a mouth-watering spicy marinade.

Let's end on a refreshing note; in this hot sultry season, here is a Tropical dessert that will serve as a tonic for the heat-weary soul. Coffee of The Spice Cafe combines cool coconut with zesty lime to churn out a thirst-quenching Tropical Coconut Sorbet.

T is for Tomato Red Pepper Saar: Soups

The traditional Indian meal features an abundance of dishes- there are crispy appetizers and steamed ones, salads and stir-fries galore, and all kinds of breads and rice dishes. One starting course that is an integral part of the Western meal is not really a big part of the Indian meal- the soup course. Even so, many restaurants in India often model themselves on their Western counterparts, and there will be a rather incongruous listing of soups at the beginning of most menus. You can almost be sure that you will find certain soups in the menu: tomato soup is a perennial favorite, for instance. With the wild popularity of Indo-Chinese cuisine in India, other popular soups are sweet corn soup and hot and sour soup.

India is also the birth-place of the mulligatawny soup, a British concoction whose name derives from the Tamilian term for "pepper water". Of course, all the Indian dals can be classified and served as soups; you could say they are "rasam for the soul". I have defeated many colds with swift and frequent gulps of fiery pepper rasam, or tangy lemon-ginger rasam or mild tomato rasam.

Well, this is not really soup season, but here it is: my favorite "soup": a Maharashtrian dish called saar. Saar captures so many flavors in every sip- there is a aroma of spice and heat from chillies, a richness from the coconut milk, and a wake-me-up tang from the tomato. Normally, there is a hefty dose of jaggery (unrefined Indian brown sugar) in saar to provide a wonderful sweet tint, but here I use red bell pepper for a fresh sweetness and a little smoky flavor, while adding a small amount of jaggery to round off the taste.

Tomato Red Pepper Saar

(makes about 4 servings)

Canned tomatoes, chopped, 2 C including the juice
Red bell pepper, 1
Onion, 1 small
Coconut milk, 3/4 C (use 1/2 C if you prefer a milder coconut taste
Jaggery, 1 heaping t
Salt to taste
Ghee, 1 t
Cumin seeds, 1 t
Curry leaves, 5-6
Dried red chillies, broken in half, 3-4
pinch of asafoetida
1. Cut the red bell pepper and onion into large dice, In a saucepan, combine tomatoes, onions, red pepper and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes.
2. Turn the heat off. Process the vegetables to a puree using an immersion blender/ blender/ food processor and return to pan.
3. Stir in the coconut milk, jaggery and salt and heat gently until barely simmering (so that the jaggery is dissolved).
4. In a separate small skillet, make the tempering by heating ghee, then adding the rest of the tempering ingredients. Pour the tempering over the vegetable-coconut mixture, stir and serve.

1. Make a traditional saar with only tomato, skipping the red peppers.
2. Make a vegan version by using oil or margarine for the tempering.
3. Using peppercorns instead of red chillies for a different type of heat.

Serving Suggestions
1. Serve saar as a soup!
2. Serve it cold as a spicy beverage or non-alcoholic aperitif.
3. Serve it as a side dish for a meal. I served it as an accompaniment to some egg pilaf.

Fellow bloggers have come up a spicy-tangy-sweet array of soups...

Rasam as soup...
Understanding Rasam from Gopium,
Pomegranate Rasam from Saffron Trail,

Two types of corn soup...
Breakfast Corn Soup from The Green Jackfruit,
Sweet Corn Soup from Aayi's Recipes,

More slurp-able ideas...
Mulligatawny Soup from Ahaar,
Tomato Soup from Past, Present and Me,
Red Masoor Dal from Bong Mom's Cookbook,

Previously on the A to Z of Indian Vegetables...
A is for Aloo Gobi: North-Indian Stir-Fry
B is for Bharli Mirchi: Stuffed Vegetables
C is for Carrot-Cashew Payasam: Desserts
D is for Dum ki Arbi: Dum Style of Cooking
E is for Egg-Fried Rice: Rice and Vegetables
F is for Foogath: South-Indian Stir-Fry
G is for Gobi Paratha: Vegetables in Breads
H is for Hariyali Tikki: Vegetables in Appetizers
I is for Idli with Vegetables: Vegetables for Breakfast
J is for Jalfrezi Vegetables: Restaurant Style
K is for Kati Roll: Vegetables and Paneer
L is for Lasuni Dal Palak: Vegetables and Lentils
M is for Malai Kofta: Dumplings
N is for Nargisi Kebab: Vegetables and Eggs
O is for Onion Chutney: Vegetables in Chutneys
P is for Pattagobi Pachadi: Vegetables in Salads
Q is for Quick Carrot Pickles: Vegetables in Pickles
R is for Radish Paratha: Root Vegetables
S is for Spinach Amti: Green Leafy Vegetables


  1. Excellent round up as usual.Tamato saaru looks delicious.I make some what similar.
    Enjoy the lazy Sunday:)

  2. Wow Nupur, what an assortment! The tomato-red pepper saar looks fabulous (and so does the egg pilaf!)! I could have a bowl of that in any season :)

    Your new profile pic is lovely btw :)

  3. Tomato Pepper Saar!!!!! That is so delicious!!!!!! It sounds like soup with an indian touch to it. :)

    Great round up as usual. :)

  4. Superb Roundup..
    Saar looks good.. saar ani eff pilaf khaichi iccha jhali ekdum :D
    Will try wit the bell pepper addition! :)

  5. Love your new pic! And each Sunday I marvel your efforts at doing such huge round ups-a hug for that!

  6. This saar is a must-try Nupur and I will do so.

    I have fallen back on writing up a few letters and we are now at T! Have to do some writing soon.

    Thanks as always for this valuable information.

  7. nupur the tomato saar looks very tempting!!! i have never tried it with coconut milk and red peppers. will try it out sometime. and congrats on your convocation!!!

  8. Another fabulous letter of the alphabet. I will be sad to get to "Z"!

  9. Red pepper in soup. I would have never thought that. The saar looks silky :)

  10. Oh! I just noticed yr new profile pic. You look so different in this than the old one :)

  11. Terrific roundup! I'll take that soup in any season!! I like the idea of adding red pepper.

  12. Yum, your saar sounds delicious! The pureed veggies must give it nice body. I was very interested in the tendli entries. I've been noticing them in the Indian grocery and wondering what they are - I think I know the answer now!

  13. Hi Nupur,
    Tomato Saar with coconut milk. It's interesting, learning so many things from u Nupur :-). Will definately give it a try. Thanks.
    Guess what? I made your rajma parathas too. They were fabulous, so soft. My husband said!what rajma? I am crazy, until he tasted it. He finished all of them before even taken the pictures. Will post pictures some other time. Is that u in the picture u look so different here.


  14. Enjoyed this round up too :)

  15. The Saar looks yummy and excellent round up Nupur. Variety of dishes and it is almost like a library now to refer. Good job. Viji

  16. Hey Nupur,

    Thanks to you for introducing all of us to such myriad tastes and flavors. Tomato saar looks delicious and I am very soon going to try it:)) I have my own version of tomato saar that i learnt from a cousin of mine. And as u put it it sure scares away all the coughs and colds.

    In this version, I dice tommatoes into quarters and put it into pressure cooker with jsut 2 teaspoons of toor dal and some haldi. Pressure cook it untill 4 whistles. Allow it to cool and mash it properly till the tomatoes and toor dal are homogenous. Heat a lil bit of oil in a skillet, add lots of curry leaves, hing and whole peppercorns. When the peppercorns start popping, add the tomato mixture, stir properly. Add a pinch of chilli powder and pepper powder, salt and sugar. You may add water to adjsut the consistency. This tomato saar goes best with "chitranna". I will someday post this receipe on the blog..

    Take care

  17. This is my all time favorite saar. Haven't tried with red bell pepper and jaggery.
    Excellent round-up as usual, Nupur. And congrats on graduation!

  18. Hi Nupur... this sounds like my kind of soup - I love the combination of coconut milk and spices!

  19. What a lovely color. Coconut milk is one ingredient I have never used. I need to try this.
    Thank you very much for sharing this and for the great round up.

  20. Hi Nupur ! a little late in catching up with your mouth watering one of a kind receipes on this blog .... very busy playing the role of a grandma to my visiting grandkids from out of town! as usual, you have pretty much covered the letter *T* TO PERFECTION - TO A *T* - ANY PUN INTENDED IS INTENTIONAL ! dear one , what about 'Turmeric' the wonderful ingredient in all Indian cooking ? besides , adding color to all the indian dishes , it has healing properties as well ! just thought , i will add that in!

    love and best wishes , your fan

  21. What a treasure trove! This will keep me busy deciding what to try for a while!

    I have a very silly idea for an "X" veggie. How about "Xscapes", as in "escapes", for garlic scapes?
    Yes, very silly. Sorry, the internal bad punster is out of control again!

  22. I'm making this right now instead of tea and as my MBP entry :-)



  24. mmmm....this looks so delicious!


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