Monday, December 29, 2008

Pazham Pori – Fried Ripe Plantains

The very mention of this snack brings the waterworks out of a Malayalee mouth, yet this is a universal snack enjoyed by people in the African and Asian continents and may be other places I am not aware of. The Keralite will content that this snack epitomizes the taste only when made with home grown Plantains aka, 'etha pazham' or 'nenthrakkaya'. I'd have to agree and yes of course my judgment is clouded:-)

My maternal Grandfather and then my Mom are the green thumbs in the family. I think the only one in my generation with such a thumb is my oldest brother. My Mom always had an enterprise of hers going on in parallel with our normal farm activities. First she eyes unused patches of land and decides which crop will grow there the best. Then she gathers moral, financial and labor support from my Grandfather, Dad and our Laborers in that order. It was always a pleasure to see the results of her enterprises. At times this could be a small but lushly grown peppercorn orchard, a fruitful garden of cocoa trees, a field of all varieties of plantain/banana plants etc. The best part always was taking a walk with her in the evenings for a visual enjoyment of the fruits of her labor both literally and figuratively! The way she talked of bringing it about always made for a sensible tale. She enjoyed talking about it and I loved hearing it. The most visually pleasing of course were the pepper vines as they grew entwined onto the Murikku trees which made for a very lush green background that one cannot resist but give in and drink up on. But most pleasing to the tummy was the bananas/plantains. I refer here to the small varieties of bananas as bananas and the large ones used for frying/steaming as plantains.

In her garden she had almost all varieties available commonly in Kerala. There were the 'njalipoovans', 'palayamkodans', 'kadalis', 'robustas' and many more. Don't know them by any other name. Robusta is the least favorite and palayamkodan used to be the most favorite to eat with 'puttu'. Now I seem to prefer 'njalipoovan' as that has a neutral pleasant flavor that appeals to all palates. When I visited the grocery stores here for the first time I gaped at the bountiful array of richly colored fruits and vegetables with awe. The amazement slowly gave way to disbelief when I found out that there is only “one” type of banana -yellow chiquitas- among all that variety. I even resigned myself to this sad fact. The odd plantains that sometimes showed up in grocery stores including Indian stores never were good enough to steam or fry. In recent years things have changed for the better. The local Indian store has chiquita – yes chiquita - plantains that come very close to the real thing and even the regular grocery stores sport them these days making it more convenient. Much to my delight the Indian store also has at least two varieties of the small bananas that tastes almost like the 'njalipoovan' of yore. Guess who makes a quick run to the Indian store to collect these bananas and gobble them up in no time? Isn't it great that yours truly is the only one with such a fancy for these small delights in the house and therefore the sole executor of the satisfying mission?

Once we discovered the large plantains I set about making the 'pazham pori'. We used to refer to it also as 'boli' back home which confused my husband to no end and which I changed as soon as I saw the 'real boli' from Trivandrum at a friend's place. I hope to get a recipe for that some day.

My Mom used to make 'pazham pori' often and she used to even have them prepared from a whole ripe bunch from her garden during the mid-summer vacations. They were cut into two lengthwise and kept in a bamboo basket after frying. The taste goes up exponentially the next day and didn't last much more than that. My HMom figured out this craving of mine and always take care to make this when we visit. My husband adores these too and when I make it here we have no difficulty polishing off platefuls between us. The kids blessedly are no big fans. While I sincerely regret that they find this not as delightful as I do, it also means Mom & Dad can enjoy all of it guilt free:-)

Now that you know I am crazy about bananas big or small, let us get back to business.

Here I make it a little different from how Mom used to make it.

In The Mix

large ripe plantains - 6

all purpose flour – 1 cup

milk – 1 cup

water – 1 cup

vanilla essence – 2-3 drops or 1/8 tsp

salt to taste

sugar – 4 tsp

oil – enough so the banana pieces are half submerged in it when frying

How To Do

Peel and cut the plantains in half and then each half into three pieces.

Mix all of the above except the oil together with a whisk. The amount of vanilla essence, salt and sugar can be modified according to your taste as the main intention is just to have all these flavors in there. Amount of flour can be added or removed depending on how much of it you want around the bananas. My husband prefers it covered in flour like in the 'chayakkada'/tea stall style and I prefer them leaner. This is the leaner version but if you add ½ cup more flour and keep the water and milk content the same then you get the other version.

Dip the cut plantains into the prepared mix.

Heat oil in a pan and when hot enough, add the dipped plantains one by one. Fry on each side for 1 min or so and drain on paper towels. Enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea and you are all set!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

It's That Time of The Year Again! Fruitcake ( from Spicyana)

I had never liked fruitcakes much and this didn't change when I tasted the fruit loaded brick of a fruitcake here too. But you can never underestimate the power of memories. The tangy taste of the fruitcakes I had with the little goblet of wine at wedding receptions apparently stayed with me. The whole memory was reawakened and became a forceful nostalgic quest for more when one of my friend's Mom made it here on a US visit and gave me a quite generous portion to take home. By the time the quest became insufferable – my logical mind could not believe that I actually wanted to make and eat this cake – her Mom had already gone back. So in a moment of courage – I am a follow the instructions on the cake mix box and make a pound cake once in a while girl - I set out on my always fruitful food blog searches for a recipe. After going through many excellent recipes, decided to try spicyana's fruitcake. I had always been fascinated by all those baked cakes.
I stayed true to the recipe with due exceptions made for what I could find and what I assumed. The Indian store I went to for shajeera said it is the same as kala jeera and so that is what I used. I made the caramel a little early in the day and it kinda hardened by the time it was to be added and I heated it up in the microwave to liquefy again. This did not seem to have affected the taste much. It was quite a success and by the time a week came around the cake was barely there! Every time I took the cake out for basting with Rum it went back in a little less:-)
The recipe is pretty much the same as at spicyana's. For some reason, I am not able to link to the single recipe but to a whole page which contains it and you will need to scroll down a bit to Dec 13 to find the recipe. I am reproducing it here with how I went about it so it is easier for me the next time. This is the second year I made it and intend to make it a regular feature of our X-mas activities. Family and friends who have tasted it love it and I myself have heavily fallen for it. Must be all that rum:-)
Dry Fruits
golden raisins - ¾ cup
black raisins - ¾ cup
dried apricots – 12 chopped
dried tart cherries - ¼ cup
orange juice (no pulp) – 1 cup
nutmeg powder – ¼ tsp
cloves – 3
honey – 2 tsp
rum – 4 tbsp (I used Bacardi Select original premium crafted rum. I am sure any rum is fine but being completely lost in that aisle, wanted to note what I finally picked)
grated orange rind – 2 tsp
Warm the orange juice, add all the dried fruits and the other ingredients together and keep for 2-3 days in an air tight container.
sugar – 1 cup
water – 5 tbsp
butter - ½ tsp
Take 1 cup sugar in a pan and add 1 tbsp water to it. Heat till you see a color change and stir continuously from this point. Keep on stirring till all the sugar melts into a nice golden brown. Add butter and stir. Add the remaining water. Take care to add the water very slowly so it won't splash up onto you. The solution will bubble up and all that but don't worry and keep on stirring and remove from heat to cool. Try to make the cake before the caramel hardens, but if it does, then carefully microwave it or melt again.
In The Cake Mix
all purpose flour – 2 ¾ cup
baking powder – 2 tsp
confectioner's sugar – 1 cup
butter – 1 cup
eggs – 5
cinnamon – a pinch
ground kala jeera (shajeera?) - ¾ tsp
vanilla essence – 1 tsp
soaked fruits and caramel from above
Did not use 1/4 cup chopped flour coated cashew nuts as we don't prefer it in the cakes but add if you do.
How To Do
Preheat oven to 300F.
This will make two round shallow pans of cake.
Grease the cake pans with butter or shortening. I do this by keeping the pan with the butter in the oven while heating up, then taking it out and spreading the melted butter around. Did not use parchment paper and did not flour the pans. Just lazy!
Sift the flour with baking powder and all the spice powders.
Melt the butter and add sugar. Beat with an electric hand mixer for a minute.
Beat the eggs and add to the butter-sugar mix. Add vanilla essence and caramel. Beat for 4 minutes.
Add the prepared flour now little by little and mix well with a whisk.
Add soaked fruits and whisk it in or stir in with a spoon.
Pour into pans and place it in the preheated oven for 60 minutes.
Since these pans are shallow, they don't need more than 60 minutes, but a deeper pan needed about 1 hr and 15 minutes.
Cake is done when a fork inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool for 15 minutes and unmold.
Bast with rum all around and cover in foil.
Repeat rum basting once a day for as many days as you are patient up to a week.
Not sure how long it will keep as every time it gets over within a week. I have mailed them across the US and reports indicate they were in perfect shape to be enjoyed on reception.
I can't believe I am making these cakes with gusto and would like to thank spicyana's winner of a recipe for making it possible.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Fish Cutlet - With Canned Tuna

New pic above was added Sep 25, 2009 since I had always wanted to add a better picture. Granted this is not as best as it could be but I realize it is the best I could do before the whole set is gobbled up each time I make them now that my little girl also has joined the fish cutlet bandwagon.

Some years back when I came here as a student there was nary a kitchen bone in my body. Luckily my room mate was a business undergrad from Srilanka with at least a few of those bones if not many. She also was up to experimenting in the kitchen. This is based mostly on the canned tuna cutlet that she made successfully in our student kitchen. It was rather a welcome change from the calcium fortified orange juice which stood in for a meal many times for lack of time and inclination. She also had a toffee recipe that I diligently wrote down in my Mrs KMM cookbook then. That will come later.

My husband the resident 'beef cutlet' expert (yummy ones too!) kind of looked down on these 'fish cutlets' and they never got made. Finally he has turned his attention to fish as a possibility and this got me to look back on the forgotten recipe. The final version is mostly the old recipe with some cookbook references and some advice from the expert especially on techniques.

In The Mix

canned tuna - 500g (18oz)
green chili - 3
ginger - 3/4" piece
red onion - 1/4"
eggs - 2
potatoes - 2 medium sized
cinnamon stick - 1 piece ground (or 1/4 tsp powder)
cloves - 4 ground (or 1/4 tsp powder)
salt and pepper powder - to taste (can add chili powder instead of pepper)
oil - 1 tbsp + enough for frying
bread crumbs - enough to cover the cutlets

How To Do

Boil the potatoes, remove skin and mash very well.
Chop or thinly dice the onion, ginger and green chilies together.
Heat oil and saute onion, ginger, chili mix with salt.
Add cinnamon and cloves. This is optional but will add to the taste.
Mix together and add the tuna. Add pepper and more salt if needed.
Saute for a while and add the mashed potato.
Stir together in medium heat for 5-8 minutes.
Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Make into nice oval shapes by rolling and then flattening with your finger. I am obviously not an expert in this as witnessed in the pictures:-)

Beat the egg, dip the cutlets into this and roll in bread crumbs one by one. My husband has a very convenient system where he dips the cutlet with one hand, drops into the bed of crumbs and roll with the other hand which prevents your rolling hand from lumping up. This is indeed useful.

Now fill a pan with enough oil to cover more than half of the cutlet's sides and fry each side for a minute or two. Drain on paper towels and enjoy with old fashioned onion/vinegar/chili salad or with rice and papad. Had leftover oil? Fry those papads in it. Fishy papads are pretty good!

For Onion Salad
Slice one red onion. Squeeze together with vinegar, water and salt in a large strainer. Check for salt and a touch of vinegary taste. Mix with thinly sliced green chilies and onion salad is ready.

The pic below was the original top picture when I first published the post. Don't want to get rid of it...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Thoran - A Veggie-Coconut Preparation

I received an award from Geeta of paytpooja. Geeta's blog is very informative and I love browsing there. It was a wonderful way to start an otherwise ordinary weekend. Thanks Geeta! I pass it on to all my readers and bloggers.

Thoran does not need an introduction for Malayalees. Nostalgia at its height is the smell of fresh grated coconut cooking with vegetables in coconut oil. I was not too much into any form of veggies when I was home but realized my folly when the smell hit me here and I felt this pang in my heart for the long lost days. Like mallugirl once said I guess it is better to try to recreate memories rather than abandoning them altogether. As usual once I hit the stride I just couldn't be stopped:-) So here I am with Thoran made of two veggies!! The recipes are alike, only the veggie changed. I used beans and tindora in these pictures and we ate it like treasured items. You know, when you finish most of the rice and curries but keep the yummiest portion to the end for a lasting taste.

Reminds me of an old forgotten story. My sister and I used to daringly pick 'champakka' from the rose apple trees in our yard and eat them with relish. I always kept the largest almost red fruits to the last for maximum enjoyment and most of the time ended up having no space for them:-) So it is not always a good idea to keep the best for the last...

Coming back to the Thoran, which nancy reminded me of, let me go over the short details of this delightful soul filling recipe below:

In The Mix
beans - 2 fresh bunches or 1 frozen packet (any veggies ex: tindora, cabbage etc can be prepared like this)
mustard - 1/4 tsp
urad dal - 1/4 tsp
onion - 1/2 sliced
green chili - 3 diced into circular shapes
curry leaves - as much as you want or 1 sprig
coconut powder - 1/2 cup (optionally can be hydrated in water a half hour or so before)
salt to taste
oil - 1/2 tbsp

How To Do
Cut the veggies or shell them as applicable if you are using fresh veggies. I had fun shelling some of the well grown beans which of course brought back memories of sitting with my mom and grandmother to shell them whenever they would let me. It was a kitchen duty grandmother enjoyed and therefore was her main responsibility just like shelling boiled eggs. If you can shell some beans, that will make it extra tasty. I couldn't get as much as I hoped and had to cut the rest but what I had still made a difference.

Cook the veggie with little or no water. Add salt to taste. Cook covered in high heat for 6 to 7 minutes. Dry out any remaining water. Since you are cooking on high heat, be sure to be somewhere close by so you won't have to be jolted back into reality by a burning smell..

Heat oil in a separate pan. Break mustard and urad dal. Add thinly sliced onions, green chilies and curry leaves in that order. Mix well and saute for a while. Add the coconut, mix and saute well. Now add the cooked veggie, blend all together and remove from heat. Enjoy with hot rice and butter milk curry. If the rice, thoran and butter milk are rolled into 'bally balls' as my kids would call it, you will keep on eating without realizing one's tummy getting to burst levels:-)

The appearance of the end result will slightly differ depending on how long you were willing to saute the coconut/onion mix as evidenced by the two preparations above.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fried Chicken - From Vanitha

Vanitha Magazine has this series where they write up on small local restaurants made famous through word of mouth. I find that I am becoming a fan of the one recipe that they usually give out from one of the popular items. So far everything I have tried have come out well. This is no exception.

The smell of the marinade is appetizing even before you start cooking. So I don't have to elaborate much on the aftermath. Guys and gals, get out your pans and aprons and get ready for a short and rewarding cooking experience.

In The Mix

Boned Chicken - 2 lbs (cut into medium pieces)
lemon drops - squeezed from 1/2 a lemon
salt to taste
oil - 1 cup or as needed

to crush
crushed red chili - 1 1/2 tbsp
turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
cumin powder - 2 tsp
ginger - 2" piece (cut into 2 or 3 pieces)
garlic - 10 lean cloves

How To Do

Crush the 'to crush' items by adding one at a time to the mix. Add salt and lemon drops to this and mix well.

Marinate the chicken in the mix for 1/2 to 1 hour.

Heat oil and fry/cook the chicken on both sides. Drain on paper towels and enjoy as is or with rice and veggies. It is as easy as it sounds and yummy to boot. Want to try? Go for it!

Sunday, October 5, 2008


I don't have a recipe today. Wanted to post about something which probably is well known among the initiated. This is best done when making fried chicken curry. I had almost forgotten the way my Mom used to do this and how I used to just wait for it. Well, the picture says it all. How to get three items with the labor of one!

Make sure some cooked rice is on hand.

Start making your favorite chicken curry. On its way to the finish line, stop right before where you reduce the gravy so it forms a thick coat. Scoop some up into a bowl with enough light gravy so it can accompany appam, porotta or chapathi. Item 1 is ready:-)

Now reduce the gravy to your end and Item 2 is ready as intended. Remove to serving dish.

But wait! Don't wash of the wok/pan/cheenachatti that you used to make the dish. I hope you left some small chicken crumbs and stuff in the pan. Bring out the rice and add to the pan. Mix all together with some salt and your instant fried rice and thus Item 3 is ready!

Enjoy the fried rice with yogurt, papad and if you must, the chicken dish you prepared.

Enjoy the earlier gravied dish another day with suitable accompaniments.

My Grandmother and I were opponents when the rice was prepared in this manner. No one else I guess even knew this was available since the two of us saw to it immediately! Then of course we won't be 'that hungry' for the subsequent lunch or dinner:-) Mom always did this in a special cheenachatti made of bronze that shone like gold on the inside and like onyx on the outside. Another household favorite here.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Chicken Vindaloo

Not long after I got married, my Hmom lovingly sent us a cookbook and a bunch of handwritten notes with her own recipes. Little did she know the impoverished nature of my relationship with the kitchen then! I used the cookbook in addition to my KMM's book but didn't dare go near the handwritten recipes as they were written by an expert for an expert. It is only recently that I have come to believe that I could try out stuff from it to good results.

Vindaloo is not a favorite of me or my husband but he loves it when it is done in pork. Since I am not a fan of that particular meat, I had long wanted to try the recipe with chicken instead. This is exactly what I did this weekend and it came out very well if my husband the vindaloo connoisseur is to be believed. I made a discovery alongside the process and it is that this vindaloo could be the meat version of 'meen pattichathu'. Also the resulting dish tastes a hundred times better if you realize it to be meat pickle akin to shrimp pickle. Do try it and let me know if this is true or not. That is, if you happen to catch a vindaloo bug while reading this:-)

In The Mix

chicken - 2 lbs cut into medium to small pieces ( boneless chicken is best for this recipe)
water - as needed (not more than 1 cup)
vinegar - 8 to 10 tbsp depending on yout tolerance to its taste
sugar - 1 tsp (decrease or increase sugar content based on resulting taste)

to grind
red chili powder - 4 tbsp
kashmiri chili powder - 2 tbsp
dry red chili powder - 1 tsp
turmeric powder - 3/4 tsp
cumin powder - 1 tsp
ginger - 1" piece
garlic - 6to7 small to medium cloves
mustard - 1 tbsp
salt - to taste

to season
mustard - 1/4 tsp
shallot - 1/2sliced
curry leaves - 1 sprig or less
oil - 1 tbsp

How To Do

Grind all the 'to grind' ingredients together in a blender with 2-3 tbsp of vinegar and some water.

Heat oil, break mustard and add sliced shallots and curry leaves and saute for a while. Add the ground mixture and saute well till the mix is roasted. Now add the remaining vinegar, sugar, salt if needed to the mix and add the chicken pieces. Mix well together and cover and cook in low heat. Should not take more than 15 minutes.

Dilute with water if needed or add more vinegar for personal taste. If there is more liquid, heat on high to reduce as this is better to taste with minimal gravy. Enjoy with rice and vegetables. Since this is rather new to me I have not yet perfected this recipe but have noted here all the adjustments I made while making this as reference.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Kadala/Channa Curry for Puttu

Obviously cooking's been going on in Cheenachatti. No one can survive that long without food! OK, maybe some:-) Puttu was one of the stars that made many appearances and I remembered that I had not blogged about Kadala Curry which almost unfailingly accompanies Puttu in its journeys to the netherworld, er.., I mean tummy. I usually make it with canned garbanzo beans which is the best kind of kadala for this kind of curry. Since it is already cooked, soaking and cooking times are pretty much taken care of. But today is when I got blogging time and feeling a little nostalgic, I had made the curry with black kadala. So this post is on that.

In The Mix

Channa/Kadala - 2 cups of black kadala (or 2-3 cans of garbanzo beans)
mustard - 1/2 tsp
curry leaves - a sprig or two
green chili - 3 each cut to 3-4 pieces lengthwise
red onion - 1/2 sliced
ginger - 1/2" piece sliced to splinters
coriander powder - 4 1/2 tbsp
chili powder -2 tsp
turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
garam masala - 1/4 tsp (made from equal measure mix of cardamom/cloves/cinnamon powder)
warm milk - 2 cups
water - 1 or 2 cups
salt to taste

How To Do

Soak kadala in water for 4-5 hours. This step is not needed when using canned garbanzo beans. Need to take care to drain the water out if using garbanzo.

Heat oil in a pan, break mustard and add curry leaves. Then saute onion, green chili and ginger in that order and mix well with salt. Add all the curry powders. Add 1-2 tbsp of water so everything mixes well together. Roast the mix till everyone at home get the scent of spice powders in the air and can't wait to taste the curry that goes with it:-)

Add the milk and water and boil. Add kadala, let boil once, lower heat to medium and cook covered for 12-15 minutes. (If you are adding garbanzo the cooking time is 2-3 minutes just so everything blends well.) Stir once or twice during this time so the milk won't get separated out too much. Channa curry is ready to be mixed in with puttu and devoured. Some eat this with flat appams and even rice and while I found it all not too bad, I must admit that for me kadala is made for puttu and puttu only.....

The seasoning part of breaking mustard with curry leaves can be done in the end too. Just do that in another small pan and add to the curry at the very end. The latter looks a lot better while taste remains pretty much the same in either case.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Smoothie - Smooth and Easy!

Smoothie shops are all abound. Yet there is only one shop that I care to have smoothie from and for this one I am willing to go the extra mile - the shop being at the other end of the mall :-) - just for my pine-orange-banana fix.

As always when a craving hits I have to get to work I guess. This was before food blogs. I had yet to discover them. But I could still search for a recipe couldn't I? I found a whole bunch and after many a try, public opinion settled on my current and final adaptation. Be forewarned that you will need a blender with ice crushing option for this.

In The Mix

ice cubes - 12
milk - 1 cup
ripe banana - 1
sugar - 4 tsp
frozen fruit concentrate - about 4 oz. or 120 ml.

How To Do

Put all the ingredients and blend using the 'ice crusher' button. Blend till all the ice is crushed but not so it turns into water. A smoothie needs the crunchiness of the 'yet to melt snow cone' ice texture to give it credit. Should not take more than a minute. Do the crushing in bursts to make sure the smoothie is retaining the desired texture. When it comes to a smoothie, it is all about texture, texture, texture. At least for me:-) Pour into glasses and settle down for a lazy afternoon. The above will make four cups.

Any fruit concentrate will do but pineapple-orange is the best with banana. Orange-mango is the next best and this is what I used here. I usually buy a 12 oz can and use 1/3rd of it each time. Also don't add more sugar than what is given no matter how much you are tempted as that will take away the subtle sweetness of the smoothie and render it rather common. I am sure using other fresh fruits instead of the fruit concentrate will also work but I just have not tried it, having found 'the one' already!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Vermicelli Pulau

Remember the vermicelli package that enticed me? I had two of those and this is what I did with the other one:-) The package had a recipe for pulau on it and that was just what I needed as a start. Lately my husband had been complaining a little more than usual about the successful marginalization of veggies on our dining table.

I am always open to veggies so long as they are not alone. So this turned out to be the perfect idea for a Sunday brunch. All steps except the veggie cooking details are as in the recipe. Since the experiment was successful, I followed the same steps albeit with the readily available cooked rice for many days till my husband went from pleasant surprise to shock to acceptance. And that was my cue to forget about veggies till next time:-))

In The Mix

vermicelli – 200gm

vegetables – any in the fridge. fresh or frozen. no need to thaw.

raw rice - 1/4 tsp

urad dal - 1/4 tsp

chopped onion - ¼ red red onion chopped

green chili – 3 sliced in thin circles

curry leaves - 1 sprig

water - 1 1/2 cup

salt to taste

oil - 3 tsp

How To Do

Cook veggies as follows: Heat 1 tsp oil in a pan. Stir in the veggies. Sprinkle salt and mix together. Cook by covering in high heat for 5 min. I had available frozen kovakka(tindora), beans, fresh carrots, and frozen cauliflower. They were languishing since I had good intentions but never got around to them. I put a handful of each in for the cooking. 5 or 6 minutes of covered cooking is more than enough. Don't add water.

Heat 1 tsp oil in another pan and fry the vermicelli for a minute or so or till golden brown. Remove the vermicelli and add remaining oil to the pan. Add rice and urad dal and saute lightly. Add the sliced chili and fry. Add curry leaves too and the cooked vegetables. Add the water to boil all together. Check salt and add as needed. Now mix in the fried vermicelli and cook covered for 5 minutes in medium heat. Stir occasionally to prevent clustering. Serve on its own or with yummy chicken masala .

The same process can be used with rice instead of vermicelli. I use cooked rice and so after the veggies are added no need to add water. Maybe 1 or 2 tbsp of water. Mix well and cover and cook for 1-2 minutes and you are all done!

Chicken Masala - from Live To Eat

When I have a chicken urge I take refuge in Malluspice's pages and had always been a satisfied customer. Armed with this confidence I tried out a chicken recipe from another blog - Live To Eat. The recipe was a little different from what I am used to and reminded me of a pork vindaloo recipe that we have tried sometimes. It came out very well with nicely blended flavors in an appealing color and goes totally with any kind of carb you have at home!!. I can see this will be a keeper. I am repeating the recipe here for my own reference. I scaled the measures up to go with the quantity I had.

In The Mix
chicken : 3 lbs cut into pieces
red onion - 2 chopped
tomatoes - 2 diced
cloves - 12
cardamom pods - 6
cinnammon stick - 3" thin stick broken to pieces
curry leaves - 1 sprig or 2
salt to taste
oil - 3 to 4 tbsp
water - 3 to 4 cups
To Grind: dry red chilies - 22
garlic pods - 12
ginger - 4" piece
mustard seeds - 2 tsp

How To Do

Grind the 'to grind' ingredients in a blender with little water. I was hesitant about using so much chili but the result was wonderful. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan to brown the onions and set aside. Heat 2 tbsp in the same pan, add cloves, cardamom and cinnamon and saute. After a minute add the ground mix and slow roast till oil separates. Add chopped tomatoes and stir till tomatoes are cooked. I added salt at this stage.

Add cut chicken pieces and mix well so the pieces are coated. Fry to brown. Now add onions and curry leaves and stir for another minute. Add 3 cups of hot water to the pan, mix well and cook covered in medium heat.

Goes with anything. Thanks to Live To Eat for a yummy recipe .

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Fish Fry & Fresh Caught Trout

You don't always have to go fishing like my brother to eat fresh caught fish. But you need good neighbors who do and graciously share their bounty. This is how we came to get a foot and half long fresh trout the other day. Since my son complained that we haven't been making fried fish - his favorite form of fish - I decided to do just that. Fried fish will always turn out to be tasty if you follow a few simple rules regardless of what is in the marinade.

1. Never freeze fish after you buy it. If you have to then always thaw in the fridge.
2. Add enough salt to the marinade. This is usually a little more than your usual salt to taste.
3. Marinate overnight in the fridge after scoring the pieces well.
4. Fry to crisp.

In The Mix

Fish cut into pieces and scored with a sharp knife on both sides- I had about 8-9 pieces from the trout
oil - 1 1/2 cups or enough to cover half of the fish pieces

For Marinade

fish masala powder - 1 tbsp (any brand will be fine)
chili powder - 1 tsp
kashmiri chili powder - 1 tbsp
powder mix of equal amounts of cinnamon, cloves, cardamom - 1/4 tsp
shallots - 1 chopped
vinegar - 2 or 3 tbsp
salt to taste

How To Do

Mix the marinade items together and marinate the fish overnight in the fridge. The cinnamon, cloves, cardamom powder is optional. If you don't have it, just add 1/2 tsp of coriander powder. Heat oil in a flat bottomed pan in high heat. Put the fish pieces in and lower the heat to between medium and high. After 3-4 minutes turn over to the other side. Again after 3-4 minutes remove from oil and drain on paper towels. You can leave the fish till your desired crispiness is achieved. This can be done by waiting long enough or by sprinkling some salt water on both sides right before you remove from the oil. The latter is a tip from my husband that I was quite amazed to see work well.

Enjoy with plain rice, yogurt and papadam or enjoy on its own fresh off the fire.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Semiya Payasam - Vermicelli Pudding

Guess it is time for a dessert. I have pretty much come to the end of my humble recipe arsenal anyway:-) The ones that I make the most often I mean. Semiya Payasam is actually being made the first time. It all started when my eyes fell on the colorful package of vermicelli during one of our Indian store trips. I have had the payasam quite often in Kerala as well as here and knew it was rather easy to make. Only problem was when the mood struck me, there were no cashews or raisins at home and so I went with almonds instead. Not a bad choice for a substitute. Wished I had the raisins though as I have a soft corner for those in any food, be it biriyani or dessert.

Speaking of almonds, I remember this almond tree on the way to the church that had great fascination for us kids. Especially on the way back when we were all hungry for lunch. It had really large leaves akin to oak trees but what attracted us were the green/purple fruits that dropped on the ground when birds were trying to chip off the outer shell. I don't know how the birds could break that shell and maybe they were just eating the soft outer layer, but we could collect 2 or 3 per person as a result of their efforts. Then the hard work of finding good stones to be the breaker and the breakee so we could pop the heavenly delicious almonds into our starved mouths. It was never enough and always left a thirst for more..Sorry to go on but my kids love a childhood story and let me continue for them. The tree had long since been cut down and I didn't know what we knew as 'badam' is what is called tropical almond till much later. If my older sister who was then a botany student was with me then she would name the botanical names of the trees and plants on the way. I was fascinated by botanical names and russian full names and some of them stay with me till now. I don't remember the plant alongside the botanical name though and searching on an impulse I find that 'terminalia cattappa' is this almond. Read all about the almonds here. Some of the other names I remember are 'mimosa pudica', 'lucas aspera' and of course 'hibiscus rosa-sinensis'. These names stay with you not for any reason but they are there as part of your memory. Maybe like Kunta Kinte's 'gambi bolongo' this may evolve over time and morph into similar sounding but different names.

Recipe for Semiya Payasam sans cashew and raisins.

In the Mix

vermcelli - 200gms (cut into shorter pieces if long)
almonds - 5 or 6 diced and fried
sugar - 1 cup
milk - 6 cups (i use 2% )
water - 6 cups (could be more or less depending on how thick you want the payasam to be)
vanilla essence - 1 or 2 drops
cardamom powder - 1/4 tsp
oil or ghee - 2 tsp

How To Do

Heat oil or ghee and fry the vermicelli till golden brown. Set aside.
Boil milk and water together. As always when heating milk be nearby to avoid boil overs and keep stirring. Add vermicelli and cook for 10-12 minutes. Keep the above caution about milk in mind. Add sugar, almonds, cardamom powder, vanilla essence and mix together for a few minutes. Remove from heat. Add more water or reduce as you like. This can be done at any stage so long as the payasam has not gone to room temp. Slurp on warm or cold depending on the mood.

I didn't have cardamom powder either. Before you wonder if I have anything at all of use in the kitchen let me disclose I indeed had regular cardamoms:-) Hmom to the rescue! Seeing our fashionably modern but quite useless pestle and mortar set from Williams-Sonoma, she packed off a "real" one that can do the deed with some friends as soon as she reached home.

So when you find you don't have a certain item in powdered form you can always go to the mortar. This worked out nicely and I even have extra for another time. Remember of course that with cardamom we need to remove the husks.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Payar Thalichathu – Seasoned Long Beans

Well well well, if it isn't a vegetable sizzling in cheenachatti today!!!

Yup, you are seeing it right. I have gone over to the other side. Just kidding!

But I have come a long way from when I used to genuinely worry what vegetarians can eat every day to be not hungry if they cannot eat meat and fish:-)

If ever I loved a veggie it was the 'payar thoran' that my mom used to make with freshly picked long beans from our own ginger fields, of course with fresh grated coconut and coconut oil. Speaking of coconut oil, we hadn't touched coconut oil since moving here but bought a bottle when my in-laws came. The familiar smell brought back memories of many a mouthwatering dish announcing themselves with the heady scent wafting in the air to the study room from the kitchen.....Can I please say: “Ah, those were the days...” A cliché but true.

But, I am not attempting to recreate the magic as I know it will be futile without those exact ingredients including the environment. I am just attempting to pass on a most simple veggie preparation that goes especially well with beans, okra, spinach. Mmm.. that is the end of my veggie repertoire. Do add any other similar veggies you can think of and it will come out fine. This came from my ever resourceful Hmom who has since made veggie eating a pleasure. When asked about his veggie intake my son said, “But Mom I do eat a lot of veggies”. Further investigation revealed that his veggie source sits between the bread and the burger as lettuce and tomato in a much frequented fast food joint:-) Hey, but we as a family love fresh carrots so we are OK! I digress again, so let us get back to my 'fast and simple' veggie preparation.

In The Mix:

Long Beans – 1 ½ packet (1 ½ lbs. - can be fresh cut or frozen)

shallots – 1 or 2 sliced

green chilies – 2 sliced into thin discs

crushed dry red chili – 1 tsp or as needed

curry leaves – as needed

salt to taste

oil – 1 tbsp

How To Do

Heat the oil in a pan. Add onion and curry leaves and mix well. Add salt to taste. Add green chilies and fry slightly. Now add crushed chili powder and stir together.

Add the beans and mix very well together. Cover and cook on high to medium heat. Cook to your desired crispiness. Now open the lid and dry out in low heat. This ensures that the veggie goodness gets absorbed instead of evaporating out. Enjoy with chapathi and yogurt or just plain rice and seasoned milk.

I found frozen packets of a variety native to Kerala in the local Indian store and I fervently hope they will diversify to a store near mcf some day since the brand was double horse. This is the one in the pic but we usually cook with frozen veggie packets from the regular grocery stores.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Small Mussel Fry /Kakka Irachi

This one is totally from my husband's household. Had not known that it could be made like this but once I saw how easy it was, I decided to keep it. We eat it more like a snack though:-)

In the Mix:

Mussel - 1/2 lbs ( can be bought in a Chinese store. 1 package will do)
Shallots : 2 or 3
ginger : 3/4" piece
green chili - 1 or 2
curry leaves - 1 or 2 sprigs
crushed chili - 1 tbsp
turmeric - 1/4 tsp
fresh ground pepper - 2 tsp
cloves powder - 1/4 tsp
cinnamon powder - 1/2 tsp
oil - 1 tbsp
salt to taste

How To Do

Chop shallots, ginger, green chili and curry leaves together. Set 1 tbsp of this aside.
Combine the chopped mix, mussels, crushed chili, turmeric, pepper, cloves and cinnamon together . Add salt to taste and cook till all the water is gone.

Heat oil in a pan and saute the set aside chopped mix. Add the cooked mussels and now fry well till dry. This will take some time and care must be taken not to burn the mix. If impatient then you can raise the heat and stay closeby to fasten the process. The color of the finished product should not be the fresh green it started with but a comfortable snacky brown.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

That Fresh Cup of Tea!

Ours was a coffee household. And I am a coffee girl. The only contact I had with tea is when we go on long road trips mostly to visit relatives or for shopping or to get things done and my Dad asks to stop the car in front of one of those roadside tea stalls in the pretext of getting the person who is driving a glass of hot tea while it truly is for him! I also used to try some and never really took to it. I did love all those trips with my Dad and cherish them all the more dearly now that he is no longer with us.

Guess who the tea boy is? That is right! My husband. So I have gingerly come to accept this drink as an item in the house. We always make coffee and tea in the microwave so there never is a problem drinking what we each crave:-)

All this changed a little when we visited India last time. My HDad always gets up early and is the one who makes tea. His tea is good! The kids having grown up a little I had a chance to observe his tea making and after coming back we decided to make tea the old fashioned way sometimes. Now this is a must for us on weekend evenings..

How do you make tea? It is easy and the only bad part would be cleaning up the bottom of the pan after tea is made. But if you have already fallen for the drink then this is not a problem.

This will make tea for two.

To prepare

water - 1 cup
milk - 1 cup
tea powder/leaves - 2 tbsp (we buy taj mahal or red label from the indian store)
sugar - 5 tsp

The Way
Boil the water and milk together. Wait near the pan lest you have a spillover mess. As soon as the milk boils up remove from heat. Will take around 3 minutes or more. If you were a little late and the milk keeps boiling over, then blow on top to keep it down. Add the tea powder and sugar and close with a plate/lid to cover completely. No need to stir.

Now you can go off and prepare your snacks in anticipation or just wait 5 minutes at the least. We used to joke that after closing the lid we should now checkout the garden or read the newspaper like HDad would do for proper timing:-) The longer it sits, the stronger the tea will be. You can also change the tea powder/sugar quantities based on your preference.

Open the lid and stir lightly with a spoon. Pour to cups through a small handheld collander and you are all done!

Number of cups should be the same as the number of people. Water to milk ratio is always 1:1.
Add as many table spoons of tea as there are people. Add 2times the number of people for sugar plus one more. So if you need to make tea for 5, that will be 2.5 cups of water, 2.5 cups of milk, 5 tbsp of tea and 11 tsp of sugar.

Potato Masala for Masala Dosa

We never used to make dosas at home growing up but later on due to popular demand I did master the art. I speak of the rice version in the footnote there as opposed to the 'cream of rice' version in the post. I have since discovered that the Dosa made with the 'rice' version is greatly preferred by my son the inhouse dosa critic. After taking a mouthful he pronounced "Hmm.. Mom this is almost as good as Amama's!" What more can I aspire for? The pics in this post are from the 'rice' version. Both versions can easily be used for idli and dosa depending on your time and 'work' tolerance.

The kids prefer plain dosa with sambhar and chutney on the side "just like at the dosa place" in my son's words meaning the Veggie Indian Restaurant we frequent. So the Masala version is just for my husband who adores it and is one contented person after a full course of home made Masala Dosas. I enjoy it too. I try to make the plain dosas into different shapes for the kiddos.

This one is for my Kannan

This one is for my Molu

Now to the Potato Masala. It is a no brainer, right? Boil some potatoes and do the seasoning and there you are. That is what I used to do too until HMom came on board. So this one is with all the little flavors she added to my original no-nonsense version. It is still easy as before, just a lot tastier.

In the Mix

potatoes - 2 large
tomato - 1 or 1/2 diced
ginger - 1/2" piece diced
green chili - 2 large sliced into thin circles
shallot - 1 or 2 sliced thin and long
lemon - 1/2 for squeezing
dry red chilies - 5 or six torn into small pieces
red chili flakes from the dry red chilies (crushed chili powder?) - 2 tsp
turmeric - 1/2 or 1/4 tsp depending on your color preference. I used 1/2 tsp in the pictures but I think somewhere b/n 1/2 and 1/4 tsp gives the right color.
olive oil - 2 tsp
raw rice - 1/2 tsp
urad dal - 1/2 tsp
salt to taste
curry leaves - 1 sprig or 2

How To Do

Start boiling the potatoes first.

Heat oil in a pan and break mustards. Add rice and urad dal and saute lightly taking care not to burn them. Add curry leaves and then add onion, ginger and green chilies and saute well.

Add torn dry red chili and mix well. Then add the crushed chili, turmeric and salt. Squeeze 4 or 5 drops of fresh lemon juice. Saute well and remove pan from heat if potato is not ready.

Peel the boiled potatoes and mash taking care to leave enough pieces for a good texture. Squeeze in a few drops of lemon and add salt. Mix gently together. Add to the seasoning and mix together. The potato masala is ready. Spoon as much as you want to the middle of the prepared dosa and fold together. Dip into sambhar and scoop up with chutney for a dosa fest of flavors in your mouth! Finish off with freshly prepared tea and now you just want to lie back and relax savoring the experience for a long time to come:-)

I folded in the plate for getting good pictures. It is best when the potato is spooned onto the dosa in the pan when done and folded there. Eat hot and crunchy for best results. I do this for weekend breakfasts or on weekday evenings.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Have you ever been sort of depressed and lethargic to blog anymore after the loss of a much loved draft? This is what happened to me. I had prepared a nice draft for my idiappam - my breakfast king of kings, mind you- and now it is not to be seen anywhere. I have searched hi and lo in my PC but it has gone for good. This somehow stopped me from writing again or moving onto the next one.

It doesn't last that long and I have to say a few comments here and there helped energize me again:-) So here I am and I still need to bring the idiappam to life so I can move on.

Idiappam has a special place in my heart. Like boiled eggs and fresh toasted cashew nuts, this one is a dear. It was not made that often in my home because it takes some hardwork to achieve the splendid results. After coming here, making 'idiappam' remained a dream. My few tries were futile due to lack of proper equipment and flour. The frozen ones were not that bad but somehow I was not satisfied with them. Then I started reading the food blogs and saw many bloggers making it as a matter of course. This gave me courage and hope. The delicious, melt in your mouth idiappams could be within my reach after all!

The one thing I asked for when my in-laws were coming was to bring me the best idiappam press they could find. Luckily for me my HMom's sister found a really nice one and here I am in idiappam land! The first time I tried it, I used regular rice. Those guys looked neat before cooking but melted together to an unrecognizable blob afterwards. Having seen how well the noodles came out of the press, I knew the culprit was the rice flour and so made a trip to the local Indian/Kerala store . My HMom had talked about 'Double Horse' brand being good in Kerala and this is exactly what I found at the store.. This time the result was astounding and the 3 batches I made disappeared really quickly and I couldn't wait to make another set in the space of 2 days!!!

I also wanted to say that while searching for an idiappam press I came across many sites that offer them commercially. The best one from which I also got a prompt response was this. It costs about $100 and I would have bought this if my in-laws weren't bringing one so soon.

The recipe follows the traditional steps. We make it a certain way though which my husband and kids enjoyed much.

In the Mix

idiappam flour - 1 cup (care must be taken that the flour you buy is pre-roasted for idiappam)
water - 1 1/2 cups (rule of thumb. use water time and half of the flour you take)
olive oil - 1 tbsp
salt to taste
coconut powder - 1/2 cup (fresh grated is best. if using the dried flakes, then hydrate with water sometime before you are ready make the idiappam)
sugar to taste

How To Do

Mix the hydrated coconut powder with sugar and set aside.

Boil water, salt and oil together. Remove from heat as it boils and add the flour little by little and mix well together with a wooden spoon. No need to mix with hand as the flour gets mixed well while under pressure inside the press:-) Discoveries laziness help you make!!

I use the idli thattu for this and so grease the idli pans lightly with oil. Fill the idiappam press with the prepared dough and press down so the noodles will fall onto the idli pans. After one or two layers, spoon some coconut sugar mix on top. Now add a few more layers to make the idiappam scoop. Repeat for all pans and steam cook just like you would for idli.

Best enjoyed with egg curry or stew and in dire circumstances, with kadala curry.

My husband says they don't put the coconut in between and that they use coconut milk as curry. But he is a total convert to this method and it is a pleasure to see his big hands and my daughter's little hands moving in unison towards the idiappam platter polishing them off methodically. Yours truly is not far behind either:-)

A quick fix that worked somewhat better than all others except the one mentioned above is to buy rice noodles from a chinese store and cook then in salted water. Drain well and then place them in the idli thattu with the coconut and all and steam cook a very short time. This is only if you have no way of getting to the real deal. OK? Tip is courtesy my eldest brother who also live in this part of the world.