Menu ideas for one pot South Indian meal party

Every month Foodbuzz hosts an online event called 24×24 which showcases 24 meals in 24 hours.When I got the email for monthly contest I immediately knew the kind of dinner party I wanted to throw: a comfort food that my mom would make from the basic ingredients available in the kitchen. Hearing the news that my submission got accepted I instantly called up my new-found friends for “One pot South Indian meals dinner party”. This month I am one of the featured publishers chosen to document a meal whipped from the kitchen staples, and yesterday’s dinner was special for sure.  I went with the theme – budget friendly pantry meals and created a menu,  keeping in mind my husband’s favorite one liner “Going ethnic means going global” – so here I am making a simple meal that reflects my South Indian origin.

My pantry is stocked with basic Indian spices like turmeric, chili and cilantro powder, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, whole spices like cloves, cardamon, cinnamon and dry red chillies, herbs (some dried and some fresh), ghee – clarified butter, oils from sesame, sunflower and olive, tamarind fruit, three varieties of rice, lentils like yellow split peas, frozen coconut, frozen and fresh and cans of few beans. With these staples, I can make more than 25 dishes and these were the pantry essentials I had during my student life too. Everyday cooking requires meager use of the spice mix, which makes them be used over a long period of time. Indian cooking is simple, affordable and healthy. Even with minimum spices, wholesome meals can be cooked. Like Italian cuisine, nothing goes waste in Indian cooking, any left overs will be turned into a new dish. 

Now take a peek into my domain – the kitchen I love the most and my pantry – the one I totally depend on for everyday cooking. I mustered all the courage in the world to show the utterly cluttered pantry of mine. Feel free to voice your views on what you feel about that and also  tell me what are the things you stock in your pantry?


Indians love their pressure cooker and I have four in total, each in different sizes – Small, Medium, Large and Extra-large, just like in clothing stores 🙂 I steam the vegetables and cook my dhaal (lentils), meat, rice, payasams (dessert), you name it and that would have been cooked in my cooker. You can find no house without one.  It makes cooking fast and saves ton loads of gas. We have been part of reducing carbon footprint for over 50 years now. That’s something to be proud of. Anyways coming back to my foodbuzz event, for today’s dinner – all the dishes were cooked in the pressure cooker.

A one pot meal…

One that can be cooked in no time in a pressure cooker…

That is delicious and quick to fix…

Perfect lunch box food…

A definite party hit…

One that fits the bill perfectly is my menu for today.

What’s on the menu?
1. Bisi-bele-bath – Rice-lentil based dish
2. Cucumber raita – Cold yogurt seasoned with cumin
3. Cabbage poriyal – Cabbage stir fried with mustard seeds and coconut oil
4. Pathirpeni – Indian dessert

I invited three of my blogger friends, Prerna of Indian Simmer, Rose of Magpies recipes and Kankana of Sunshine and Smile to join me for dinner. We had such a lovely time talking about food, blogging and everything under the sky. All of our Curious Georges had fun playing together, hugging, pulling toys and laughing together. Since all the three were such talented blogger and ardent foodies, I was so nervous about they liking my food. Two of them were from Northern part of India and Rose is from Kerala, so I took this opportunity to introduce them to the foods I have grown up eating.

Since my little one needs to be carried and pampered almost 24X7, I managed to whip just the entree, side dish and dessert and decided to go for a store bought salsa and chips for the appetizer. I know that is no South Indian dish, please show me some love and forgive that part of the meal 🙂

After munching few chips, we started right away with Bisi-bele-bath. A South Indian rice based meal made with equal portions of rice, lentils and vegetables cooked in an exotic spice blend. Bisi-bele-bhaath translates to hot-lentil-rice in Kannada, A South Indian language. My mom’s second sister, S periamma is known for this dish and I call this her signature recipe. For any family lunch or potluck parties, she would prepare this and the moment she opens her hot pack box, the wonderful flavor of nutty sesame oil will waft through the air and tickle our taste buds in a way that would attract all my cousins to the dining table like bees buzzing around a flower. To get that brilliant taste, she shared her trade secret. Finish the rice with few drizzle of sesame oil at the end, she announced when I asked her for the recipe. Yes perimma I followed your recipe and that tip and everyone loved the outcome. Thank you lovely lady!

I served bisibelebath with cool raita and potato chips and cabbage stir fry. I quickly chopped all the veggies, made the spice mix, soaked some tamarind in water, washed the rice and lentil. Saute, pour and stir – pressure cooker was set to cook for 10 whistles. Once done, the rice-lentil medley was garnished with fresh cilantro. I left them hot in the pressure cooker until the guests arrived. 

For the side, I steamed the cabbage for 1 whistle and tempered the fuming oil with mustard seeds, curry leaves, onions and green chillies. Saute and mixed in the cooked cabbage and for little color, I added turmeric powder and finally drizzled some coconut oil for an added earthiness. Stirred to combine and ready to enjoy.  We paired the food with Cabernet Sauvignon, Robert Mondavi wine.

Finally for dessert, I made pathirpeni. That dish was totally new to them and I was so glad that I included it. It is a noodle-shaped dry dish which is soaked in aromatic milk infused with saffron, cardamons and nuts. I pressure cooked the whole milk with cardamons for 8 whistles and once they steam has settled, I mixed in saffron strands, coarse rice powder, nuts and sugar to taste. I bought cute ceramic glasses similar to shot glasses. I placed the noodles at the bottom and pour the warm milk over it and garnished with some chopped nuts. 
I’ll post the recipes of bisibelebath and cabbage poriyal in the coming weeks. Since the Pathirpeni was such a favorite,  I have posted that recipe couple of days back. Many thanks to Foodbuzz for organizing this event every month. Also special thanks to my most supportive husband who took care of my little cub while I cleaned and prepped my kitchen, and four gorgeous ladies including Rose’s mom and Little dumpling – P, Cutie angel – A for making it a lovely evening. Delicious food, good wine and awesome girlfriends!!!
1. For women with gestational diabetes, replace white rice with brown rice. Its better to overcook the brown rice, as the mushy consistency of the brown rice  when mixed with lentils and other spices will not taste any different from white rice.

Update on Jan 10th 2012:

Hope over to my good friend Grishma’s blog to know the recipe for bisi-bela-bhaath. She is such a warm person who is so passionate about cooking and I love her smile 🙂 Infact I see magic in her hands be it with food or garden. Yes she is a pro gardener who attempts to grow every possible vegetable, fruit and herbs in town. Hop over to her space to know more her and her love for food and cooking.

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  1. congrats on the 24 x 24 glad to hear you had a fabulous time with our wonderful blogging friends 🙂
    food looks superb

  2. Great news!! Congratulations for 24×24 🙂 Loved reading your story and I soo wish I was in CA to join you guys…but will see u guys when I visit Fremont next time. BTW your kitchen looks super organized 🙂

  3. You know how much I loved your kitchen and you my friend are an a amazing host. Once again thanks a bunch for inviting me over. It was such a fun afternoon with you guys and the happy kids 🙂

  4. Congrats on 24×24! Thanks for sharing your kitchen! I love how bright it is – my kitchen is so dark… 🙁 Food looks great and I'm sure it was a wonderful time!

  5. Everything was simply delicious Vijitha!Loved the pathirpeni and the hearty bisi bele bath! Thanks so much for the yum food and the fun afternoon 🙂 We definitely should do this more often.

  6. Congrats on ur 24×24 VS..ur kitchen looks beautiful and well organized…Comforting dishes..

  7. Ur kitchen is absolutely gorgeous.. jus like the ones in magazines.. Simply delicious South Indian meals..

  8. Congrats Vijitha..and what a lovely post ! You have a lovely kitchen and believe me, your pantry looks way better than mine 🙂

  9. Vijitha,

    Congratulations! on Foodbuzz 24×24.. it must be an awesome feeling of elation!
    Also, noticed that your blog got a makeover, love the new look!
    Isn't it a sweet co-incidence that I posted Bisi Bele Baath as well today? 🙂

  10. You kitchen is wide open and beautiful! and if you call that a clutter, god knows what you are going to call my pantry:) I won't even talk about it…

    lovely homey comfort food and I am eying those chips and the dessert right now.

  11. Hey Viji,

    Congratulations on the foodbuzz event dear. Gorgeous kitchen with the island and loads of delicious food to drool over. Bisibelabath looks awesome and pathirpeni is yum, my mom's fav. You have made it so perfect. Happy to know that you had fun time with blogger friends.

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