Sunday, 9 September 2012

In the Kitchen with a Plate of Spicy Singapore Chicken Noodles


I have to tell you, I have an intense carnal love for noodles. Out of the blue, an image, of me twirling noodles with a fork (tried my hand at chopsticks but never mastered the art; though my mom is an expert at using these) pops into my mind and refuses to budge. There are times when I crave these thready, slurpy satisfaction so much I tend to display withdrawal symptoms if I don't get my fix!

My love began during my childhood in Kerala, when we would have yummy noodles prepared by my mum or at times eat out at a Chinese restaurant. (where they served more Indian-Chinese, I would say) I never ordered the fried rice, always the delicious Mixed Noodles which I would douse with the chilli vinegar and spicy sauce. I loved it and I pigged out. I was happy at the end of a huge bowl of those flat thready stuff! :)

To this day, a bowl of it makes me happy. When cravings hit, the easiest and quickest solution is, of course, instant noodles, of which, there is always a supply at home. (Reju’s favorite midnight meal when his tummy is full and yet shockingly hungry for absolutely no reason!) However, it isn't healthy or well… nourishing. And, that's where this yummy Singapore Chicken Noodles trumps everything. Easy to put together and just scrumptious, I may have just found a healthy way to feed my addiction! :-))


Today’s dish is so yummy that you wouldn’t want to put your forks down. A very spirited and flavourful noodle dish. I love the bold flavors and the fiery combination of noodles and curry powder. The flavors of pungent curry powder, salty notes from soy sauce and the heat from the chilli will explode in your mouth. There is nothing elegant about this dish, but there is everything downright scrumptious to it. It’s simply the best standby meal, ready in minutes with ingredients you are sure to have in your pantry.

I’d like to say a huge Hi! and welcome to everyone who’s visiting my little space for the first time. It’s great to have you all over and hope you’ll stay around for more. Maybe you’d like to get to know me better, or just browse through a few of my recipes, grab a cup of tea and enjoy. Hope you are ready to join me on my crazy roller coaster ride.

More fun news to come later, so stay tuned.

Ingredients

Egg Noodles - 1 pkt
Vegetable oil or Peanut oil (whichever is available) - 1 and ½ tbsp
Chicken Thigh fillets (trimmed and thinly sliced) - 500 to 600 gms (refer notes)
Vegetables - julienned (refer notes)
Big Onion (halved and thinly sliced) - 1 (medium)
Shallots (finely sliced) - 4 to 5
Green chillies (slit lengthwise) - 1 to 2 (adjust as per spice tolerance)
Ginger (finely sliced or chopped) - 1 small piece
Garlic (crushed) - 3 cloves
Spring onion - 2 to 3 sticks (leaves separated)
Curry powder - 1 tbsp (refer notes)
Chicken stock - 2 to 3 tbsp
Soy sauce - 1 to 2 tbsp
Brown Sugar - 1 tsp
Pepper (freshly ground) – ¼ tsp
Salt - to taste (if necessary)


Method

Cook the noodles as per instructions on the packet. Drain and keep aside. Cook the frozen peas in boiling water for a few minutes. Run under cold water to retain the fresh green colour and set aside.

Cook the chicken in the pressure cooker for upto 1 whistle. Switch off flame and open immediately. (refer notes) Cut the cooked chicken into thick strips. Keep aside.

Heat a wok over a high heat. Add a little oil and swirl to coat the wok. Add the chicken pieces and stir fry for 3 to 4 minutes till moisture has evaporated and chicken is cooked through. Transfer to a plate.

Into the same wok, pour in some more oil (if necessary) and add the green chillies, big onions, shallots, spring onion bulbs, garlic and ginger and sauté till onions soften. Throw in the bell peppers, carrots, peas and sprouts. Add the veggies one by one, according to the time it takes for it to cook. Make sure you cook each vegetable a little, like a couple of stirrings before you add the next. Once the veggies are done, add the soy sauce, sugar and cooked chicken into the wok and stir fry 2 minutes or until heated through. Now add the cooked noodles along with the curry powder and pepper and toss till combined well. Check for salt and add if necessary. (don’t overdo the salt because the curry powder and soy sauce may have enough) Gently toss or sauté the noodles to avoid noodles from breaking. Pour in the chicken stock and stir fry on high heat for a few minutes till moisture has evaporated completely and the noodles turn glossy. Add chopped spring onion leaves and toss. Switch off heat and serve hot.


Notes:

1. It is not necessary you use only chicken thigh fillets for this dish. Feel free to use any cut of chicken that is available in your refrigerator. If you are using chicken on the bone, make sure you remove all bones.

2. Veggies used in the dish are: Carrot - 1, Frozen Green Peas - 3/4 cup, Red or Green Pepper/Capsicum (seeded, deveined and thinly sliced) - 1, Bean Sprouts - 3/4 cup.

3. Curry powder is a blend of up to 20 different herbs and spices, including the commonly used: cardamom, chillies, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, mace, nutmeg, pepper, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, saffron, tamarind and turmeric. (which gives curry its characteristic golden color) In Indian cooking curry powder is freshly ground each day (making it far more flavorful and pungent than the mixes sold in the store) and comes in "standard" and "hot" versions.

Storage and Availability: Curry powder quickly loses its pungency. It will keep for 2 months in an airtight container. It is available all through the year in any supermarket.

4. You do not need to cook the chicken in a pressure cooker. You can always do it directly in the wok while sautéing the chicken pieces and toss till cooked through.

5. For best results, make sure you use good quality egg noodles.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

An Emotional High: Chicken 65 - Southern Style Fried Chicken


I had a quiet and lovely birthday yesterday which was well spent with Reju. It's such a blessing these days that workplaces have become so flexible that they can connect from anywhere in the world and still work! Awesome. So, Reju decided to work from home yesterday and I was overjoyed to have him around. We also had a yummy dinner at a restaurant called the "Four Seasons" quite close to home. We gobbled up some authentic Hyderabadi Dum Biriyani which is the restaurant's signature dish. It definitely was one of the best Mutton Biriyanis we ever had. I have to say a dish with a lot of finesse. Totally satisfied my love for Biriyani!

I was so overwhelmed by all the calls and text messages I received on my birthday, made me feel extremely special. Thanks a ton everyone.

I was watching "Love Bites With Joey", a new culinary show hosted by supermodel Joey Mathew who hails from Kerala. Though I don't really follow her show very regularly, I happened to stumble upon one of the episodes where she was cooking up a lovely Southern spread for family and friends. One particular dish caught my eye and that was Joey's version of Chicken 65 - Southern Style Fried Chicken.


Being a Foodie my element is Food and so do not ask how an irresistible dish like this can send me into day dreams of munching onto well roasted chicken. It just happens! Within a few seconds of watching the show, I had imagined what tonight's dinner would be. Thank you Joey.

This dish is simple and tasty - the type we will often enjoy on a weeknight, quick to prepare but full of flavor. The pressure cooker takes care of most of the cooking, where it is cooked with a variety of spices and aromatics and then roasted to bring out maximum aroma and flavor.

A good chicken dish once in a while is something I adore. Chicken is versatile, tastes wonderfully juicy if cooked to perfection and can be used in soups, salads or as a whole dish.

A medley of roasted chicken and spices aromatized with the ever flavorful coconut oil, to me it comes close to heaven! Of course this dish is very popular and there are so many different versions of it. This recipe however is slightly different from the ones I have tasted earlier and has a lovely rustic flavor attached.

Chicken cooked in it's own juices and roasted to perfection, it truly is Delicious!

Ingredients

Chicken (with bone; cut into large pieces) - 1 kg (refer notes)
Big onion - 1 (large)
Ginger - 1 medium size chunk
Garlic - 4 cloves
Salt and Pepper - to taste
Red Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Cumin powder - 1 tsp
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Curd - 400 gms (refer notes)
Water - 2 tbsp
Coconut oil - just enough to shallow fry the chicken pieces (refer notes)


Method

Grind together onion, garlic and ginger in a blender into a fine paste. (refer notes) Keep aside.

Make a marinade base by mixing together the curd, ground onion mixture, red chilli powder, salt, cumin powder, coriander powder and pepper powder.

Make light gashes on the chicken pieces and soak them in the marinade for 20 to 30 minutes. (overnight marination is the best)

Take a pressure cooker with water (refer notes) and arrange the chicken pieces in it. Cover and pressure cook till the first whistle comes through. Remove from heat and let the chicken cook in the residual steam for a few minutes.

Open the lid of the pressure cooker and check if chicken is cooked. Reduce any gravy that is left in the cooker till the chicken is dry.

Heat oil in a pan. Arrange the semi-cooked chicken pieces on the pan and roast (refer notes) on medium to high heat till it browns evenly all over. Remember this is simple shallow frying and roasting and hence do not overdo the oil because this will make it too greasy and unappealing.

Notes:

1. You can use any cut of chicken and cut according to desired size. (breast, thigh, with bone etc...) I love using chicken on the bone because I think it is plump, tasty and juicy.

2. You can also use yoghurt instead of curd, whichever is available. If you are using yoghurt, lightly beat it before preparing the marinade.

3. You can use any refined oil also to fry up the chicken pieces. But of course like I always say, coconut oil enhances flavor. The quantity of coconut oil can be adjusted according to your liking. If you are using a good quality non-stick pan, you can use less oil and the frying would be just fine. For the very health conscious, grilling this moistly marinated chicken would be a good option.

4. If you find that your onion, garlic and ginger need a little moisture to initiate the grinding or blending process, add a little curd into it.

5. Water can be added into the pressure cooker if you are frying the chicken in about half an hour after marination. If you decide to marinate your chicken pieces overnight, it is not necessary to add any water while cooking it in the pressure cooker.

6. Fry the semi-cooked chicken in batches of 4 to 5 pieces (adjust according to size of pan) to ensure even browning of all the chicken pieces.

We enjoyed this dish very much where all the brilliant flavors come together and harmonize so well. The light crispy crust and succulent chicken offer a feast for the eyes and the flavors of the spices, aromatics and coconut oil highlights the tastebuds so exquisitely. Thumbs up from my man too, he enjoyed the delicious flavors of the dish.

Enjoy and bon appetite!

Recipe Courtesy: Love Bites With Joey, NDTV Good Times

Friday, 31 August 2012

Ripe Bananas and Coconut - "The Perfect Marriage" - Kuruku Kaalan


I realized something very amusing while I prepared Onasadya for the first time this year - Most of the dishes on the menu use similar ingredients and cooking methods and yet are unique in flavour and appearance! It’s amazing how slight alterations in the same ingredients can bring about such huge differences in flavors.

Kaalan is another proud entry, lined up in a Sadya, and again depending on regional differences, the consistency and ingredients of this dish vary from one place to the other. This dish is not just an integral part of the Kerala Sadya but can also be found in most Kerala homes as a dish consumed on a daily basis. The reason for the popularity of this dish is two-fold – Simplicity in preparation and it’s excellent shelf life. Kaalan can stay fresh for upto 2 weeks (I have heard that it’s flavors are enhanced as time passes) at room temperature if stored properly in good quality air-tight containers.


Though I wasn’t able to get this dish ready on the table during Onam, I tried my hand at it for the first time today. If I had known it was this simple, I definitely would have made it with the Sadya. :( That’s OK, there is always a next time! My mum prepares the most awesome Kaalan and I must say that my attempt at preparing it was quite good!

The slightly ripe bananas and the freshly grated coconut is a beautiful example of the celebration of cooking. This dish works amazingly well together and will definitely put you on top if prepared for family and friends. A sure winner, you guys HAVE to try this at home and it will leave you feeling blooming good. And so without further ado, I present to you the brilliant - Banana Kuruku Kaalan

Ingredients

Banana (1 and ¼ inch cubes) - 18 pieces (half ripe) (refer notes)
Green chillies (slit lengthwise) - 8 to 9 (adjust as per spice tolerance)
Curry leaves - 2 sprigs
Salt - to taste
Water - ½ cup
Curd/Yoghurt (sour; beaten) - 3 cups (make sure it's not too sour, but just enough)
Turmeric powder - ½ tsp
Chilli powder - ½ tsp
Coconut (grated) - 1 cup
Cumin seeds/Jeera - a pinch
Coconut oil - 4 tsp
Mustard seeds - ½ tsp
Fenugreek seeds/Uluva - 1/8 tsp
Red chillies (each slit into 2 pieces) - 3 to 4


Method

Cook together banana pieces, slit green chillies, a few curry leaves and salt in water. Cook till the banana pieces are soft.

Mix curd with a pinch of salt, turmeric and chilli powder. Pour this mixture over the banana pieces. Keep aside.

Grind grated coconut along with cumin seeds into a fine paste. Keep aside.

Heat the coconut oil in an earthen-ware pan (chatty) or any other pan that is available and splutter mustard seeds. Throw in the fenugreek seeds, curry leaves and red chillies and fry these ingredients in turn. (That is; add each ingredient one by one, frying for a few seconds. Be careful not to burn the ingredients)

Now add the ground coconut mixture to the above seasoning and saut'e on a low flame till raw smell disappears and the masala is roasted well. Remove from flame and leave to cool.

Once the roasted coconut-masala has cooled completely, add this to the prepared curd-banana mixture and stir till combined well. Place the earthen-ware pan with the Kaalan on a low flame and keep stirring carefully till the Kaalan reaches the desired consistency. (refer notes) Switch off flame and stir continuously till it becomes cold.


Store the Kaalan in a porcelain jar and use when required. (refer notes)

Notes:

1. If the bananas are not ripe enough, you can add a little powdered jaggery to the Kaalan for that required sweetness, towards the end. Do not add too much but just enough.

2. I don't like my Kaalan too thick and hence took it off the flame when the gravy was slightly loose. But for those of you who prefer a thick consistency, keep stirring the curry carefully till it thickens. Stirring the curry is very crucial because it prevents the curd/yoghurt from curdling.

3. The Kaalan can be stored in an airtight porcelain jar for a few days at room temperature (you can refrigerate it if you want to) and used when required.

Hope you all had a fantastic Onam. We had a lovely Onasadya at a small restaurant here in Bangalore, thoroughly enjoyed it. Special thanks to my lovely hubby, Reju for treating me with that yummy Sadya. He is totally amazed by my mighty love for the "Sadya"! But don't worry Reju, I still love you more!!! :)

Recipe Courtesy: The Family Cook Book by Mrs. K.M. Mathew

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

"Onam Vannallo Ponnonam Vannallo..." - Pal Payasam


Let me start today’s post by wishing all my wonderful readers a Happy and Blessed Onam 2012.

I love Kerala at this time of the year where everyone is dressed in traditional Kerala attire of Kasavu/Kerala sarees, Pattu Paavaada (skirt and blouse), Mundu etc. That lovely blend of cream and gold is a treat to the eye. And today I bring you something sweet, the Pal Payasam.


Payasam or Kheer is essentially a rice pudding, which is a traditional South Indian sweet dish. It is made by boiling rice or broken wheat with milk and sugar, and flavored with cardamom, raisins, saffron, cashewnuts, pistachios or almonds. It is typically served during a meal or also consumed alone as a dessert.

Kheer is prepared in festivals, temples, and all special occasions. Payasa or Payasam (used in South India) or payesh (used in the Bengal region) are derived from the Sanskrit word "Payas" which also means "Milk". It is prepared using milk, rice, ghee, sugar/jaggery, khoya. Some also add a little bit of heavy cream or condensed milk to give it a more rich flavor. It is often garnished with slivered almonds, cashews, raisins and pistachios. It is an essential dish in many Hindu feasts and celebrations. While the dish is most often made with rice, it can also be made with other ingredients such as vermicelli.

Rice was known to the Romans, and possibly introduced to Europe as a food crop as early as the 8th or 10th century AD, and so the recipe for the popular English Rice Pudding is believed by some to be descended from Payasam/Kheer.


The South Indian version, payasam or payasa is an integral part of a traditional South Indian meal. The South Indian payasam also makes extensive use of jaggery and coconut milk in place of sugar and milk.

In a Kerala Sadya, payasam is served at the end of the hearty meal. Hot payasam served after a delicious and elaborate feast of rice, sambar and other dishes is relished by all Malayalees. Payasam is often served on the banana leaf itself and eaten along with bananas and pappad - "Pappadam-Pazham-Payasam". Sounds wierd?! Well, that's the right way of eating payasam at an Onam Sadya. In Malayalee or Kerala cuisine, there are several different kinds of payasam that can be prepared from a wide variety of fruits and starch bases, famous ones being: Chakka Pradhaman made from jackfruit pulp, Ada Pradhaman and  Palada Pradhaman made from flat ground rice chips, Parippu Pradhaman made from split green gram, Gothambu Payasam made from broken wheat, Semiya Payasam made from vermicelli, Mambazha Payasam made from fresh ripe mangoes etc...

Ingredients

Red Rice - 1/2 cup (refer notes)
Milk - 5 cups (refer notes)
Sugar - 1 and 1/4 cups
Cardamom (crushed) - 2 (or 2 pinches of cardamom powder)


Method

Wash and clean the red rice. Keep aside.

In a pressure cooker (refer notes), add the washed rice, milk, sugar and crushed cardamom. Mix well. Cover and cook at medium to low flame. (I cooked it for 7 to 8 minutes on medium flame and the rest of the cooking was done on sim) When the steam appears, place the pressure cooker weight on it and cook for about 40 mts (preferably avoiding any whistles) on a low flame.

At the end of 40 minutes, switch off flame and keep closed for 1 and 1/2 to 2 hrs. Open the lid of the pressure cooker and give it a good stir. Check for sugar and add if necessary. (you can add 2 pinches of cardamom powder if you did not add crushed cardamoms before. Combine well.). If you find the payasam too thick, dilute it by adding boiled milk. Serve warm or cold. (I love cold payasam. My hubby and I preferred it cold, but you can always have it warm too.)

This is not the authentic payasam but a quick and easy payasam. The traditional method of preparing payasam involves more time and effort. I love this recipe for it’s simplicity and awesome flavors.


Notes:

1. In case you don't have red rice, you can always use sona masoori or basmati rice in this recipe.

2. If you are using full fat milk, you can add 4 cups of milk + 1 cup of water.

3. Make sure you use a fairly large pressure cooker because the milk tends to ooze out while cooking.

What better way to welcome Maveli this Onam! An absolutely crack-a-lackin Pal Payasam just for you! Enjoy.....Have a great day and year ahead. God bless.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

"Akale Onam Pularumpol..." - Varutharachu Sambar


An Onasadya is incomplete without the freshly prepared spicy Sambar. It gives the whole meal a definition and lifts the Sadya to a new dimension.


Sambar or Sambhar is a dish that holds origin and a very important place in South Indian cuisine. It refers to a vegetable stew or chowder based on a broth made with tamarind paste and split pigeon peas and tempered with coconut oil, mustard seeds, red chillies and curry leaves. Each state in South India prepares it with a typical variation, adapted to it’s taste and environment. The origins of this dish are uncertain, although legend has that it originated in the kitchen of Thanjavur Marathas ruler Shahuji, during the 18th century from the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu.


Sambar is reflective of a broad and ancient tradition of lentil-based vegetable stews in Southern India. Malayalees all over love this dish and prepare it in different ways. (differs from one region to another)

Nowadays, a ready-made spice mix for Sambar (Sambar powder) is easily available in all stores and super markets. But back in our ancestral homes, this spice mix was freshly ground and prepared and the wonderful aroma produced from these ancient kitchens was simply heavenly!

Sambar makes use of a wide variety of vegetables or vegetable combinations. Some of the veggies used are: Drumstick, Pearl Onion, Potato, Yellow Cucumber, Winter Melon/Ash Gourd, Pumpkin, Carrot, Okra/Ladies Finger/Vendakka, Elephant Yam/Chena, Raw Banana, Tindora/Kovakka, Beans, Brinjal/Eggplant, Snake Gourd, Radish etc…Sambar is an excellent curry option for kiddies who usually pick on veggies on their plates.

I have always had this crazy romance with Sambar ever since I was young. My mum used to prepare this very often at home and we always ended up having big bowls of this delicious curry even before we started off on the main meal. The complexity of texture and flavour makes the dish what it is.

Today I have for you, Varutharachu Sambar - Sambar prepared with roasted coconut and a mixture of freshly ground spices.


Ingredients

Split Pigeon Peas (toor dal) - 1/2 cup
Potato (cut into large cubes) - 2 (small)
Drumstick (cut into 2 inch pieces) - 1
Winter Melon/Kumbalanga (cut into medium sized cubes) - 2 cups
Carrot (cubed) - 2 (small)
Okra/Ladies Finger/Vendakka (cut into  1 and ½ inch pieces) – 5 to 6
Tomato (diced) - 1 (medium)
Tamarind – Size of a small lemon
Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
Green chillies (slit lengthwise) - 2
Pearl onions (whole or cut into half) – 12 to 15
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Coriander leaves/Cilantro (finely chopped) – 1 tbsp
Salt - to taste

To Roast and Grind

Coconut (grated) - 1/2 cup
Coriander seeds – 3 to 4 tsp
Dry Red chillies – 4 to 5
Asafoetida/Hing/Kaayam powder - 1/4 tsp
Shallots/Pearl onions (finely sliced) - 2
Curry leaves - a few
Fenugreek seeds/Uluva - 1/4 tsp
Split Urad dal/Uzhunnu parippu - 1 tsp
Chana dal/Kadala parippu - 1 tsp
Coconut oil – ½ to 1 tsp (refer notes)


For Seasoning

Coconut oil – 2 to 3 tsp
Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
Shallots/Pearl onions (finely sliced) – 2 to 3 (optional)
Dry Red chillies – 2 to 3
Curry leaves - 1 sprig

Method

Soak tamarind in 1/4 cup of warm water and extract its juice. Keep aside.

Heat oil in a pan and add fenugreek seeds. Fry till lightly browned and add the split urad dal and chana dal. Fry until they turn golden brown. Now add the asafoetida and fry for a few seconds till aroma comes through. Transfer this to a bowl and leave to cool. In the same pan, fry the coriander seeds and dry red chillies. Saut’e till they give out a nice aroma and raw smell disappears. Throw in the slit pearl onions, curry leaves and grated coconut and fry till the coconut turns brown (take care not to burn the coconut). Keep aside to cool. Grind to a powder in a mixer. Add a little water and grind to a fine paste.

Cook the pigeon peas/toor dal along with diced tomatoes in a pressure cooker adding enough water. Cook for 1 whistle. Open the lid of the pressure cooker when pressure has fully escaped and mash the dal-tomato mixture. Toss in the veggies - potato, pearl onion, winter melon, carrot, drumstick (refer notes) with turmeric powder (1/4 tsp), enough water and salt. Pressure cook for upto 1 whistle.

Meanwhile saut’e the okra pieces in a little oil until their slime disappears. Remove lid of the pressure cooker and add tamarind extract/juice into it. Throw in the sautéed okra pieces and a few curry leaves. Bring to a boil. Give it a good stir. Add the ground coconut paste and rest of the turmeric powder. Check for salt and add if necessary. Adjust the gravy according to your desired consistency. Cook for 6 to 7 minutes on a gentle simmer. Switch off flame.


Preparation of Seasoning

Heat coconut oil in a small pan and splutter mustard seeds. Add finely sliced pearl onions and fry till light brown. (if you are using them) Add the dry red chillies and curry leaves and fry for a few seconds. Pour over the prepared sambar. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves. Keep covered for at least 20 to 25 minutes before serving. Serve hot with rice and pappads.

Notes:

1. Coconut oil enhances the flavour of the curry and lifts it to a whole new level. For health benefits, I tend to use a lesser quantity of coconut oil in my cooking. I avoided using coconut oil while frying the spices and grated coconut for the ground mixture. I only added it while preparing the seasoning/tempering. Please feel free to add more if you like the flavor.

2. Don’t limit your use of veggies to those I have mentioned in the recipe. You can add whichever vegetables are available in your refrigerator.

"Ona Thappan Ezhunellum Nerathoru Thaalapoli..." - Sadya Parippu


With just one more day to go for Onam 2012, I can’t wait to eat the authentic Onam feast tomorrow at one of the restaurants in Bangalore. Crossing my fingers and toes for an awesome and sumptuous meal.


One of the most modest and humble entries on the Onasadya is the Parippu. Served with piping hot rice, a drop ghee and crisp pappads (pappadams), this dish is absolute bliss! It is one of the simplest dishes on the menu and it definitely helps adjust the palate to accommodate the following “explosion of flavors” from the myriad of dishes served on the banana leaf. Keralites generally prepare Parippu in different ways, sometimes with an onion-tomato base or a mixture of ground coconut or a touch of freshly squeezed coconut milk.


However when it comes to a Sadya, this dish is dressed up in it’s simplest form. Cooked with a hint of green chillies and ginger and seasoned with aromatic coconut oil and curry leaves, the Parippu is “Simplicity at it’s best”. Like any Sadya, this dish too has a variety of ways in which it can be cooked depending on each region and can be cooked with either Green Gram Lentils (moong dal) or Split Pigeon Pea (toor dal).

I don’t think I can ever imagine a Sadya without kickstarting it off with this yummy and nutritious dish.


Ingredients

Split Pigeon Pea (toor Dal) – ½ cup (refer notes)
Shallots/Pearl onions (finely sliced) – 6 to 7 (refer notes)
Garlic (finely chopped) – 2 cloves (refer notes)
Ginger (finely chopped) – 1 piece (small)
Green chillies (slit lengthwise) – 2
Water (just enough to immerse the dal) (refer notes)
Coconut oil/ghee – ½ to ¾ tbsp (refer notes)
Curry leaves – 1 to 2 sprigs

Method

Pressure cook the split pigeon pea/toor dal along with the pearl onions, garlic, ginger, green chillies, a few curry leaves, a pinch of salt and water for 1 or 2 whistles. (adjust cooking time according to your pressure cooker) Open the lid of the pressure cooker after 3 to 4 minutes. Mash the dal lightly. Check for salt and adjust accordingly. Pour in fresh coconut oil/ghee and crushed curry leaves. (crushed between your palms to enhance flavour) Cover and keep aside for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot with rice, a drop of flavourful ghee and crispy pappadams.


Notes:

1. I used split pigeon peas to cook this dish. These lentils don’t need too much water to cook. You can also use green gram lentils (moong dal) to prepare this dish. If you are using green gram lentils, make sure you add atleast 1 and ½ cups of water for ½ cup of the lentils to make sure the lentils are cooked well and ensure the right consistency.

2. When you are preparing the Parippu for Sadya, you can avoid the use of garlic and pearl onions. Of course, adding it will do no harm!

3. You can add either fresh coconut oil or ghee at the end. But I prefer the use of coconut oil because the dish is served with ghee anyway.

4. This dish has a semi-thick consistency. So make sure you adjust the gravy consistency accordingly.

5. To make it healthier, you can add winter melon or ash gourd or yellow cucumber cubes (1 big piece of any 1 of the veggies)  to the cooked dal and cook it for another 2 whistles or till veggie is cooked. For an authentic Onasadya, this is not added.

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. I’m sure you now understand why I said this dish is definitely “Simplicity at it’s best”. Enjoy!

Monday, 27 August 2012

"Onathumbikal Paadum Puzhayoram..." - Masala Kootu Curry


With just two more days to go for the special festival of Onam, most of you must be busy with Onam celebrations at your apartment complexes, clubs, schools and colleges. I love all the colour that Onam has to offer in every way, be it magnificent floral carpets, (pookalam) colourful Onam games such Pulikali and of course the much-loved grand and vibrant Onam Sadya!

The Kerala Sadya is very diverse and differs from one place to another. Each district in Kerala boasts of it’s own famous version of certain dishes on this grand spread. But I have to say that each of these versions are gobsmackingly delicious.


Today’s dish, the irrestible Kootukari or Kootu curry.

Kootu curry is yet another prominent dish in the Sadya of Kerala, South India. This dish is a combo of one or more veggies cooked with black chickpeas and red cow peas and flavoured with the irresistible aroma of freshly roasted grated coconut. And as I mentioned earlier each place in Kerala has it’s own version of certain dishes of the Sadya. The Northern part of Kerala prepares a sweet version of this same curry. But today, I have for you the Masala Kootu Curry.


No Sadya is complete without the famous Kootu curry. I absolutely am in love with this dish and don’t need a Sadya to gobble it all up, a simple and tasty sambar and steaming hot rice is just perfect!

So here you go, Masala Kootu Curry, just for you!


Ingredients

Raw Banana (diced) - 2 (small)
Yam/Chena (diced) - 1 and 1/2 cups
Curry leaves - 1 to 2 sprigs
Green chillies (slit lengthwise) - 3 to 4
Black Chickpeas/Kaala Chana/Karuthu Kadala (soaked overnight) - 3/4 cup
Red Cow Peas/Black Eyed Beans/Vanpayar (optional) - 1/4 cup
Grated coconut – 1 and ½ to 2 cups
Chilly powder – ½ tsp
Cumin powder - 1 tsp
Garam masala powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
Salt - to taste

For Seasoning

Coconut oil - 1 tbsp
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Dry Red chillies - 3 to 4
Mustard seeds - ½ tsp


Method

Cook the Black chickpeas in a pressure cooker with adequate water and salt and cook upto 5 whistles. (cooking time differs from one pressure cooker to another, so adjust accordingly) Make sure the chickpeas is cooked well but holds it’s shape and is not mashed up. Drain water (if there is any excess water) and keep aside.

Cook the red cow peas (if you are using this in your dish) in a pressure cooker with enough water and salt for 4 to 5 whistles. (adjust cooking time according to your pressure cooker; again make sure it is cooked well but holds it's shape)

Cook the raw banana and yam cubes along with turmeric powder, chilly powder, green chillies, curry leaves, enough water and salt. Cook until they are done and the water evaporates completely. Throw in the garam masala powder, cumin powder, cooked chickpeas and red cow peas. Combine well.

Heat a non-stick pan and roast the grated coconut until it turns brown (be careful not to burn it). Crush it slightly (optional) with your hands and add to the cooked vegetable mixture. Check for salt at this time and adjust accordingly.

Preparation of Seasoning

In a small pan, heat coconut oil and splutter mustards. Fry the dry red chillies and curry leaves for a few seconds. (make sure not to burn the ingredients) Pour over the prepared Kootu curry. Keep covered for 10 minutes. Serve hot with rice.


Yum Yum Yum!!! :)

Notes:

1. You can also use winter melon in this recipe.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

"Uthrada Poonilave Va" - Olan


To be a vegetarian in India is very easy, not the least because of the variety of veggies and greens you find here. South Indian cooking is quite partial to the use of fruits of the earth, having endured centuries of the caste system, where, vegetarian Brahmins, occupied the pride of place atop.


Nostalgia definitely hit me while I prepared this yummy dish to go with my special Onam spread as my loving mom prepared this quite often back home and I wanted to go back to the comfort of my mom’s wonderful cooking. And thus I turned to this simple but deeply satisfying traditional stew made with yellow cucumber. It’s a mild stew, that is tamely spiced with green chillies and has very fresh flavors incorporated into it allowing the flavour of the vegetable to come through.

So over to today’s dish: The Olan.


Olan is yet another inevitable dish on the traditional Sadya menu. This dish is very subtle in flavour and avoids the use of any spices or masala. The mildly sweet coconut milk, crushed curry leaves and aromatic coconut oil gives this dish a spectacular clean fresh flavour. It’s unique taste and aroma makes an Onam Sadya complete. Veggies like pumpkin, yard long beans/Achinga Payar, Winter Melon, Ash Gourd and Yellow Cucumber are commonly used in this recipe. Today I have prepared Olan with yellow cucumber. Here goes the recipe.

Ingredients

Yellow Cucumber/Vellarikka (peeled and cubed evenly) - 250 gms
Red Cow Peas/Black-Eyed Beans/Vanpayar - 1/4 cup
Green chillies (slit lengthwise) - 2 to 3
Coconut milk (semi-thick) - 1 cup
Coconut milk (thick) - 1/4 cup
Salt - to taste
Curry leaves - 1 to 2 sprigs
Coconut oil - 2 tsp (refer notes)


Method

Soak the beans in water for 10 to 15 minutes. (optional) Drain and pressure cook this along with enough salt and water. (refer notes) Cook till done. (3 to 5 whistles approximately) Drain (if there is any excess water) and keep aside.

Cook the yellow cucumber cubes (refer notes) with green chillies, salt, adequate water, (about 1/2 cup) and curry leaves.

Once the cucumber cubes are cooked, (be careful not to overcook them, it should hold it's shape) add the cooked beans along with the semi-thick coconut milk. Mix well and bring to a boil. Adjust gravy to get the right consistency. Make sure the Olan is not too watery. Now pour in the thick coconut milk, crushed curry leaves (crushed between your palms to release more flavor), coconut oil and remove from heat. Mix well and cover with lid for 15 minutes. (this helps to incorporate flavors better) Serve hot/warm with rice. It was yummy. Ah! Bliss!


Notes:

1. I did not add too much coconut oil. Feel free to adjust the quantity of oil used. The more the tastier.

2. It is not necessary to soak the Red Cow peas before cooking it. You can directly pressure cook it. The cooking time differs from one pressure cooker to another. Also, be sure to add more water while cooking it because the beans doubles in size once cooked.

3. Make sure the yellow cucumber is cut into evenly sized cubes to ensure proper cooking.

We had this as a side to our Onam Sadya. You can always include this as a dish in your daily meal. It works really well with the right food combinations.

Thanks very much to all my readers for your appreciation.

Friday, 24 August 2012

"Poopattum Aarpuviliyumaayi Onam Varavaayi" - Beetroot Pachadi


Continuing with my Onasadya special series, I have yet another delectable treat for you.


Ever since I got pregnant, loads of people have been telling me to eat beetroot regularly because of all it's natural goodness and nutrition. As you all already know, I love any veggie in any form. But the beets; they trumped me! I have detested beets (I know that's a very strong word to use, bud sadly is true) since I was a wee little one. I don't like their colour (they look like they are bleeding!) or their taste, which to me is just isn't there. But last week, I tried my hand at Beetroot Pachadi and here came the evidence of transformation. I was amazed at how good these roots were that heretofore I could not palate suddenly became something I could nosh on!


Today's recipe is the Beetroot Pachadi. Pachadi, refers to a traditional South Indian side-dish. Broadly translated, it refers to food which has been pounded. The definition of the word pachadi is different among different South Indian regions. But in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, pachadi is eaten fresh and typically made of finely chopped boiled veggies cooked with coconut, green or red chillies and tempered in oil with mustard seeds and curry leaves. Curd/yogurt based pachadi can be made of any vegetable, although beetroot, cucumbers, squash, mango, bitter gourd or pineapple are common. Pachadi is commonly eaten with rice and a lentil curry.

So, inspired by the Onasadya, I made this lovely Beetroot Pachadi. Beets being naturally steeped in sugar just bloomed in the cooking process. They were sweet and crunchy and they turn from blood red to a beautiful and magical pink colour when mixed with the yoghurt and coconut, which is so much more welcoming. Fresh beets clubbed with freshly grated coconut is just perfect and not in the least overpowering! A delicious accompaniment to go with your yummy Sadya.

Here is the recipe.

Ingredients

Beetroot (peeled & grated/chopped finely) - 1 (medium) (refer notes)
Green chillies (finely chopped) - 2
Yoghurt - 1/2 cup
Salt - to taste

For Grinding

Coconut (grated) - 1/2 cup
Cumin seeds - 1/4 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp

For Seasoning

Coconut oil - 1 to 2 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Dry Red chilli - 1 to 2
Curry leaves - 1 sprig


Method

Heat oil in a pan and add the grated/chopped beetroot, green chillies, adequate salt and a little water. (just enough to cook the beetroot) Cook until done. (cover and cook for a minute or two and then cook on an open flame) Keep aside. (do not throw away the excess water if any)

Grind the coconut along with cumin seeds to a fine paste adding a touch of water, if necessary, in a mixer. Once this paste is ground as desired, add the mustard seeds and give it a twist or two till it blends in. (you can either run the mixer while doing this or simply crush the mustard seeds using a mortar and pestle) Add this ground mixture to the cooked beetroot and place it back on the flame. Cook the beetroot-coconut mixture for a few minutes till raw smell disappears. Switch off flame and leave aside to cool. Once the mixture has cooled enough, add the yoghurt and mix till combined well. Check for salt and adjust if necessary.

Preparation of Seasoning

Heat coconut oil in pan and splutter mustard seeds. Throw in the dry red chillies and curry leaves and fry for a few seconds. (be careful not to burn any of the ingredients) Switch off flame and pour this seasoning over the prepared beetroot pachadi. Mix well and serve warm or at room temperature.

Notes:

1. You can grate or chop up the beets in the food processor. I followed this method because it makes it so simple.
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