Thursday, August 20, 2009

Kappa Biriyani - Tapioca (Cassava) with Beef

Anything Kappa does not last for long in our house once made. So we always make this in large quantities. It can be had as a main meal or as a filling snack. Remember those hungry evenings when you get back from work ready to eat an elephant? Just roll the Kappa Biriyani into a large ball and take as big bites as you can and that will assuage the hunger right away. To heat or not to heat is totally up to you...

I didn't dare venture into making Tapioca here till later. But once I hit on the right way of doing things, cannonballs couldn't stop me. The easiest for Kappa is of course this drum cut version. That has its own charms but the version with beef is unparalleled in yumness and I can't keep my hands off of it once prepared.

In The Mix

Tapioca - 4 to 5 roots or pieces.
Shredded Coconut - 2/3 cup
Red onion - 1 full - thinly sliced (can use 5-8 large shallots also)
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Green chili - 2 or 3
Salt to taste

For The Beef

Beef - 1/2 to 1 lbs or what comes in a small pack
Red onion - 1 large thinly sliced
garam masala - 1/2 tsp
turmeric powder- 1/4 tsp
coriander powder- 2 to 3 tbsp
chili powder - 3 tsp
ginger - 1" pelled and thinly sliced
garlic - 2 or 3 pods, crushed & then sliced across
curry leaves - as many as makes you happy or 1 sprig
salt to taste
oil to season
mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp

How To Do

This method of preparation was considered labor intensive and I wasn't going to try anything regardless of how good it tasted. Then I figured out an easy way - sans some elegance - and now Kappa Biriyani is a regular feature whenever we come across a healthy bunch of tapioca roots in the Chinese store. Drum cut the 'kappa' like you would for the 'chendamuriayan' and peel off the skin. Normally the next laborious step is to chip away into smaller pieces till only the central vein remains. This step is not a must and you can just go on and cook with salt and water. The only drawback is you might have to pull out veins from the final dish. If an ardent eater like me thinks it is not a big problem then you can can plunge along with me and have an easy life with Kappa Biriyani to keep you company:-) It is easier to just remove the vein gently from the cooked tapioca whenever you come across one. There you have it. I have divulged the secret! Anyway, do cook the tapioca please and drain the water. Be careful not to get burnt while doing this.

Add The Gravy
Prepare the gravy mix while tapioca is being cooked. Take the coconut, tumeric, salt, onion and green chilies and grind together in a blender with enough water. As soon as the water is drained from the cooked tapioca, make a hole and add half of the mix towards the bottom. Add the rest to the top and cover over with tapioca. Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes on low heat. Be nearby to prevent any burning up. Then remove from heat and mash with a wooden spoon like there is no tomorrow. As mentioned above, do remove any veins that you come across. I will not be responsible for any vein damage. Mix well so that the gravy is well spread and the tapioca is mashed nicely. Not too mashed up but mashed enough to keep it all sticking together.

Add The Beef

The beef can be prepared at this stage as I have done many times or while tapioca is on the stove. Either way it will be OK.

Break mustard in heated oil and add onion and curry leaves. Add salt and saute well. Add ginger and garlic and saute on low heat. Once everything mixes together nicely and begins to brown, add all the powders together. Add a little water to help all blend together in the pan. Roast till the familar scent of the spices fill the air and add the meat. Fry on medium heat for a few minutes. Cover and cook. No need to add water at this stage.

Add this beef to the prepared tapioca and mix gently but surely together till the biriyani of your dream emerges. Sit down and enjoy with a cup of coffee and some pickle or yogurt if you are into those. Will keep in fridge for almost a week and watch your hungry evenings fly by like a dream...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

KaLLappam - Traditional Appam with Toddy (7-UP)

What I remember when I hear "KaLLappam" is the sizzle from the pan as the batter hits it. Unlike regular breakfast items KaLLappam was made in the evening. That is, one evening in particular which is the day before the feast of St. George (Gevarghese in the vernacular) . The very finest (creme' la creme') appams made from the top of the batter were set aside to be sent to the nearby famous church holding the Saint's name. It used to be, this stack contained 21 appams plus one for each of the animals of the farm since St.George is the protector of all animals as well as offers protection from the not so nice ones. These saintly appams also had the most perfect shape.

The best combo is with fresh chicken and potato curry. It is good on its own too. I enjoy them with honey. But then I enjoy anything with honey.

Speaking of honey, Mom used to have these wooden boxes supported on single stocky posts placed here and there. Honey bees setup their homes in these boxes on their own and through forced settlement. The box was shaped like a house and inside it had rows and rows wooden rectangular frames that the bees filled with honey combs. Pure white, fluffy combs filled with golden honey .....Yumm...... The vast yard lined with mango trees and flower plants spilling over from our garden on the west side of the house had many such homes. I was a little afraid of the bees in the beginning but curiosity got the better of me and gradually I was a regular visitor. I discovered that if I pretty much stand still in a strategic place then they won't worry about me and I can happily observe the goings on at the tiny entrance to their home. It was interesting to identify the ones who came back with a stash of honey drunk pollen on their backs. In the heat of summer we set small bowls of water next to the entrance so they'll have some relief. We also had to put pesticide around the post to keep bugs and insects away from their neat homes.

There were locals with expertise in these things. They knew how to separate out a queen so another hive can develop around her. It was mostly during the mango/cashew season that wild bees setup their homes on the land, I mean on trees. Once the queen was found, her wings were cut so she will stay and keep the hive with her. This little lady had such powers! I remember when I first set eyes on a queen bee. They are darker and a little bigger than your average worker bee. In all my years with them I never got stung except when finally I poked a finger into their home just to have that experience:-) My son on the other hand got stung by a bee on his bare feet while playing on the grass at the Y. It is an event that he speaks of with much remembrance.

Oh My! I should never talk about the good old days I guess. Keeps me going like the energizer bunny. Let us move on. KaLLappam got its name from the rising agent used in it which is a natural form of local liquor ("kaLLu" or toddy) harvested from coconut/palm trees. This obviously is in short supply here and my sister-in-law is owed credit for disclosing to me how 7 UP can be used as a pretty good sub. I also add some yeast for good measure. If you have the real toddy then that is all we need for the batter to rise. We made it after a long time since Mom and I had a craving for it.

In The Mix

rice flour - 4 cups
finely shredded coconut - 3 cups
yeast - 1/2 tsp (I use Fleischmann's Rapid Rise Yeast which can be mixed as is)
sugar - 2 tbsp (optional)
7-UP - 3 cups
cumin powder - 1/2 tsp
salt & water - as needed

How To Do

Mix flour and coconut powder with all the other ingredients. Add water only for the sake of consistency. The batter should be thick set and not runny but should be so it can be ladled with ease. Because the coconut is added in the shredded form the batter will be thick to begin with so care must be taken if water is needed. Set aside in warm oven at least 5 hours or till the batter starts to rise. It is very critical that you start making the appams as soon as it rises for the appams to stay soft long term.

Slowly pour the batter on to a medium heated pan. Slighly flatten to round out the shape only if needed.

The appams are sized like pancakes and can be made in groups of 4 or more in a 12" pan. Turn them over once. A minute or 2 on each side should do.

If we made KaLLappams in the evening that meant it it served for breakfast next day too. A break from early morning breakfast preparations before going for the Sunday Mass. Me, I am OK with them any time of the day! These will keep for as long as a week in the fridge and is a filling evening snack.

Note: Bee pics from our backyard added on August 19, 2009.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Koon Thoran - A Mushroom Coconut Preparation

When Mom is in residence, old recipes pop up like mushrooms. Pun intended:-) Mushroom is a favorite of my Mom's and also my husband's. Wouldn't you say the planets are just aligned for this one? Just what I thought too. So we'd been eating these lovey-dovey little umbrellas with a generous addition of coconut under the guise of a thoran and no one is complaining.

Back in the farm, you know rainy season has taken root when mushrooms appear as if overnight. They range from large sprawling ones to dainty little beauties. The poisonous genre never looked great and so were easily distinguishable, says Mom. I used to find them everywhere. Under the fallen tree, on the side of a little walkway, on the stone fence separating one part of the land from another, next to the stream filled with tiny water creatures that flowed only during the rainy season and even under that moss filled rock jutting out of place anywhere. They also remind me of the lilies that used to sprout in abundance with brilliance and beauty all over our upper land. Both in white and pretty peach. Mom used to say that the lilies sprout to commemorate a special event and I used to look at them and ponder on that. It is said that when St. Joseph went to seek Mother Mary's hand, she wasn't quite sure of it as he was rather old compared to others with similar intentions and prayed for a sign. Then these lilies sprouted on his walking stick and that clinched the deal. Sweet. eh? What are lilies doing in a mushroom recipe? I don't know either:-) Here comes the recipe.

In The Mix

Mushroom - 1 lbs (can be brown or white)
turmeric - 1/2 tsp

coconut powder/grated coconut - 3/4 cup
shallot - 2 or 3
green chili - 4 to 5
turmeric - 1/4 tsp

How To Do

Prepare the mushrooms first by removing the skin on the umbrella part. It will peel off easily from the edge of the umbrella to top center. Break off the stem, peel off skin and dice along with the cleaned tops. Now wash and drain with water and 1/2 tsp or more turmeric. This is necessary to remove any unwanted flavors. I think this step is probably because mushrooms grow close to ground and are subjected to all kinds of things going over, under or on them...

Now mix with salt and curry leaves and set to cook after adding a few table spoons of water.
If you add more water, it will take forever to dry up since mushroom's own water will show up too while being cooked. Cover and after a minute or two of high heat, cook on low for a few minutes. Prepare the coconut gravy now.

Coarsely grate the coconut, 1/4 tsp turmeric, green chilies with enough salt and water. Add this to the top of the mushroom and cover and cook again for 5-10 minutes. Do not stir at this time. Dry to your preference, stir towards the end and consume with hot white rice!

Mom does not like any other curry with mushroom. No non-veg I mean. Says they won't go with the mushrooms. Just your good old rice and mushrooms. Works for me! She also talks of these "doll mushrooms" that are supposed to be even more delicious. Not sure how to get a hold of those here.