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Healthful Indian Flavors with Alamelu - Program #106

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Episode Description

Culinary instructor and author Alamelu Vairavan makes a lentil based comfort food of Spinach Kootu; prepares a tasty and aromatic cauliflower rice dish seasoned with spices; and, creates an exquisite chicken dish originating from the Chettinad region of South India, Chettinad Chicken Masala.

Guest Info

Segment #1
Cauliflower Rice

Segment #2
Chettinad Chicken Masal

Segment #3
Spinach Kootu


Cauliflower Rice


  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 to 4 slivers cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon urad dal
  • 1 cup onion, cut lengthwise
  • 2 cups cauliflower florets
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper and cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander


  1. Rinse and cook basmati rice in 2 cups of water. Let it cool for few minutes. Set aside.
  2. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a wide-bottomed skillet. Add oil and heat over medium heat. When oil is hot, but not smoking, add bay leaf, and cinnamon sticks.
  3. Add cumin seeds and urad dal and fry over medium heat until cumin are golden brown.
  4. Add onion and cauliflower and stir-fry for a few minutes.
  5. Add black pepper and cumin powder and salt. Continue cooking, covered, over medium heat until cauliflower is tender. About 1 tablespoon of water should be added to facilitate the cooking of the cauliflower.
  6. Add cooked basmati rice. Stir well into cauliflower mixture. Cover and allow to steam over low heat until rice becomes softer and absorbs the flavor of the cauliflower.
  7. Add peanuts and coriander and fluff the rice gently.
  8. Optional step: 1 teaspoon of melted butter or ghee may be added to rice to enhance flavor. Mix well.

*** Serves 4

Chettinad Chicken Masal


  • 2 pounds chicken (about 6 pieces: thighs (or) breasts)
  • 4 tablespoon oil
  • 2 to 4 slivers cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped tomato
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper and cumin powder
  • 1 cup tomato sauce


  1. Wash chicken thoroughly and remove skin. Chicken parts may be cooked whole or cut into smaller pieces (thighs or breasts). Set aside.
  2. In a wide-bottomed iron skillet, place oil and heat over medium heat. When oil is hot, but not smoking, add cinnamon sticks, bay leaf, fennel and cumin seeds. Fry until cumin seeds become brown.
  3. Add onion, tomato, garlic, ginger, and turmeric powder and stir well. Stir-fry until onions are tender.
  4. Add chicken pieces. Brown well and cook on high heat until chicken become opaque (partially cooked). Reduce heat.
  5. Add curry powder, cayenne powder, salt, and black pepper and cumin powder. Stir well. Add tomato sauce and stir.
  6. Cook, covered, over medium-low heat stirring frequently until chicken becomes tender and has absorbed the flavors of the sauce (30 to 45 minutes). You may add 1/4 cup of water to enable the thorough cooking of the chicken without it sticking to the skillet.

Spinach Kootu


  • 1/2 cup yellow split-peas
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 dried whole red chilli pepper
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon urad dal
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 green chili pepper, chopped


  1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add yellow split peas and turmeric powder. Reduce heat to medium high and cook, uncovered, for about 30 minutes until split peas become creamy. If water seems to have evaporated during the cooking process, add another cup of water and cook until split peas becomes creamy. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. When oil is hot, but not smoking, stir in red chili pepper, mustard seeds, and urad dal. Fry, covered, until mustard seeds burst (listen for popping sound) and urad dal is golden.
  3. Add onion and garlic. Stir-fry for approximately 1 minute.
  4. Stir in thawed spinach. Add cooked split pea mixture and 1 cup of warm water.
  5. Add cumin powder, salt, and green chili pepper, if desired, to spinach mixture. Blend well with ingredients in saucepan.
  6. Cover and cook over low heat for another 5 to 7 minutes, until spinach is cooked and all ingredients are thoroughly blended.