Saturday, 8 December 2007

Kerala Eral Kuzhambu (Kerala Prawn Curry)


A Madhu Jaffery recipe again with a twist. This is from her book ‘The flavours of India’ and she opens the recipe with the line ‘I Love this dish with a passion’. I have made a twist, a tip I found here. Having spent 21 years of my lifetime in Coimbatore, means that the Kerala influence is inescapable. We had a neighbour from Kerala who also happened to be a great cook. She would share many of her special dishes with our family. I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Kerala and I cherish that experience. Lots of yummy food everywhere we went. Unfortunately I was with a gang who was fussy about food and was complaining. Nevertheless I enjoyed the food and loved it. Nothing I am ever going to say will do justice to Kerala food. Here goes the recipe,

  • Prawns - 600 gms (Shelled and deveined)
  • Onion - 1 (medium sized thinly sliced into half moons)
  • Garlic - 5 (cut into thin pieces)
  • Ginger - 1 inch (grated)
  • Chilli powder - ½ tsp
  • Paprika - 2 Tbsp
  • Turmeric Powder - ¼ tsp
  • Coconut milk - 400 ml
  • Curry leaves - 1 twig
  • Green chillies - 3
  • Tamarind - lemon size
  • Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
  • Oil - 2Tbsp
  • Salt as required


Grinding

    • Coriander seeds - 3 Tbsps
    • Fenugreek seeds - ¼ tsp
    • Pepper - 1 tsp
    • Curry leaves - 1 twig

Dry roast the coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds and pepper and powder it in a blender with the curry leaves. Once the powder is fine add 5 raw prawns to it and grind it with some water. Heat the tamarind with water for 2 minutes on high. Dilute with cold water and extract the juice. Heat oil and add the mustard seeds and when they pop add the curry leaves, onion, garlic and fry till brown. Once brown add the ginger and sauté for one more minute. To this add the chilli, paprika, turmeric powders and the ground paste and fry till blended. Add the tamarind extract, salt,green chillies and let it bubble. To this gravy add the coconut milk and the prawns. When the prawns are cooked, remove from fire and enjoy with hot boiled rice. If you enjoy very spicy food, the paprika can be replaced with chilli powder. The gravy is thick and would go well with Chapatti as well. This dish is a treat for your senses. It looks, smells and tastes divine.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Beans and Chickpeas Salad

Apologies to all for subjecting you to my bad photos in my previous posts. Today I found out that one of my younger troops had changed the settings in the camera and the results are – well you have already seen them. To be fair, bad photographic skills run in my family line. My dad took pictures of my mom in London with her head cut off. We ended up with many pictures of my mother from neck down. Till date I am not sure if my dad has poor sense for photography or if he did take those pictures on purpose. Anyways back to food it is salad time again. There was a warning in my previous post about S wanting to eat salad everyday (before you get all the wrong ideas, let me clarify that salad is considered a snack by S and not a meal). Now that the purpose is clear, I can go ahead with the recipe


Salad

  • Chickpeas – 1 can
  • Haricot beans – 1 can
  • Onion – ½ sliced
  • Carrot – 1 (cut in the middle and slice into thin half moons)
  • Cucumber – ½ cut thinly
  • Lettuce – ½ shredded
  • Sesame seeds – 2 Tbsp (dry toasted)
  • Green chillies – 2 (slit in the middle)
  • Jalapeno peppers – 10 pieces (optional).

Salad dressing

  • Sesame oil – 2 parts
  • Olive oil – 1 part
  • Soy sauce – 2 parts
  • Lemon – 1 part
  • Salt as required

Drain the peas and beans from the can and run them under cold water. Warm them up in a microwave and mix with other salad ingredients. The Jalapeno peppers are optional, I added them as I wanted to finish off the bottle. For the dressing combine all the dressing ingredients and whisk until an emulsion is formed. Since soy sauce is salty and hence less salt is required for this salad. This dressing is simply delicious. I am planning to make plenty of it, store in the fridge and add it in small amounts to any salad I make. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix it well. Since this is a warm salad, it is perfect for those cold winter evenings as a snack. As an after thought I added some dill to the salad (for no particular reason) and the dill actually went very well with salad. In retrospect, a pinch of the fennel falvour with fennel bulbs and/or seeds would also lift the salad. That is an idea for my next recipe.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Avocado Salad

A few years back, I went vegetarian (don’t ask me why) and ended up eating yogurt rice all the time. I did not have the energy or time to cook something vegetarian for me, while the family ate something else. Re entering into the Non-Vegetarian world (not because I didn’t like eating yogurt rice all the time, in fact I still love it) made me realize that my family ate very little veggie food. Since then I have made it a point to limit meat and chicken to one day a week. It has been a battle ever since. My blog is a good reflection of my battles and their outcomes. Before this entry the veggie score stands at 14 while the non-veggie is close behind at 13. Leveling the scores would mean a loss and who likes loosing. So here I am with a vegetarian salad recipe. Oh yes you read that right, a salad it is and a vegetarian one at that. It is my own recipe made with ingredients that I could reach in my store cupboard and fridge without much effort.

So here goes my recipe with a toast to all things veggie

  • Avocado – 2 (Chopped into bite size pieces)
  • Lettuce - ½ (tear into bite size pieces)
  • Jalapeno chillies – 10 cut pieces (straight from the jar)
  • Cucumber – ½ shredded
  • Red Onion – 1 thinly sliced
  • Coriander leaves – 2 Tbsp (roughly shredded)

Salad Dressing

  • Olive oil – 3 Tbsp (preferably extra Virgin)
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Chilli flakes as required (how else can I convince S to eat a salad)
  • Salt to taste

Place the avocado, lettuce, jalapeno chillies, cucumber, red onion and some coriander leaves in a salad bowl. To make the dressing combine the salad dressing ingredients with a whisk until it form an emulsion like liquid and adjust seasoning. Pour the salad dressing over the veggies and mix well. That is how this yummy salad can be made and can be enjoyed any time of the day. The salad turned out so yummy that S wants salad everyday – now that is something I never even dreamed would come out of his mouth. To make this salad a meal by itself, grilled or any kind of cooked chicken can be added. There I go again, am I ever going to win the battle!!!!

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Spicy Bolognese sauce


Italian food is one of my favorite. It is there on my top three list and I love to try different Italian recipes. This spicy Bolognese sauce of mine is influenced by Delia’s recipe which you can find here. As a South Indian I had to spice the sauce, not that I like spicing all food that I come across. But when I read a recipe, I feel it could do with some spices and this was one such. I cut down on the meat level demanded by the original and used lamb mince instead of beef mince. This went down very well with the troops. I also spotted a potential to camouflage veggies in this recipe - will have to try that next time.

This is how it can be made

  • Lamb mince – 500gms
  • Canned tomatoes – 2
  • Tomato puree – 4 Tbsp
  • Onion – 1 chopped
  • Garlic – 2 big finely chopped
  • Nutmeg – 1/2 grated
  • Coriander powder – 3 Tbsp
  • Chilli powder – 1 Tbsp
  • Cumin powder – ½ tsp
  • Olive oil – 4 Tbsp

Heat the olive oil and add the onion and garlic and fry for a few minutes. Add the mince to this and fry until the mince turns brown. Add the canned tomatoes, tomato puree and the spices and mix it all up. Season with salt and pepper and enough water and let it bubble. Once the gravy starts bubbling reduce the fire and let it simmer for 2 hours without the lid(this is important). The end result will be a thick brown-reddish sauce. It tastes yummy with Spaghetti. The sauce could also be frozen and goes well with rice and chapatti too.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Meen Varuval (Spicy fried fish)


It is Fish time again. My family especially my son can’t get enough of fish. This is a pan fried recipe. The fish could also be deep fried, but pan frying saves a bit of oil and so I prefer it. The marinade is very simple and the marinating time required is also only about an hour.

  • Coriander powder – 2 Tbsp
  • Chilli powder – 1 Tbsp
  • Cumin powder – 1 Tbsp
  • Fennel powder – 1 Tbsp
  • Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
  • Salt as required
  • Lemon juice – 1 Tbsp
  • Fish steaks – 4 medium size or 2 large ones.
  • Oil

Mix all the ingredients and make a paste with some water. Rub the paste on the fish and leave it to marinate for at least an hour. Heat a pan and pour about 5 Tbsp of oil. When the oil is hot add the fish steaks and fry them 5 minutes on each side. If the steak is thick the fish may need more time to cook. The fish goes very well as a side dish with many rice dishes. I made it with King Fish steak. But any firm fish will suit the recipe.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Chicken Biryani


Deepavali cannot be Deepavali without Biryani for me. My mother makes Biryani on that day. Many of friends think it is odd to cook non-veg on Deepavali. As with almost all recipes there are many different versions. I learnt to make mine from my cousin who is a fantastic cook. She was my savior when I first came to the big bad(or good) city of Chennai. She actually taught me the basics of many things apart from cooking like the art of buying make-up and draping a sari really-really fast. We don’t see each other or talk often now, living in different continents doesn’t help. Following in the family footsteps I made Chicken Biryani for Deepavali. Before I go in depth detailing my family history here is the recipe.

  • Red Onions – ½ Kg
  • Tomatoes – ½ Kg
  • Ginger-garlic paste – 2 Tbsp
  • Slit green chillies - 5
  • Mint leaves – a big bunch
  • Coriander leaves – a big bunch
  • Cardamom – 2
  • Bay leaf – 1
  • Cinnamon – a long stick
  • Cloves – 3
  • Chicken – 1 Kg
  • Oil – 6 Tbsp
  • Basmati rice – 1 Kg ( 4 cups)
  • Salt as required

Slice the onions thinly, and chop the tomatoes finely. Chop the coriander and the mint leaves finely. Wash and rinse the rice. The preparation and cooking takes time. Heat the oil in a hard bottom vessel and add in the spices. When they start to pop add the green chillies. And when the skin of the green chillies start to turn white add in the sliced onions and fry. This is the most important stage of cooking. The deep dark brown color comes from these well fried onions. The quantity of onions should reduce to at least one fourth the original volume. When the onions are a deep brown and reduce considerably in volume add the tomatoes and fry them till the oil floats on the top. After this add the ginger garlic paste and fry till the raw smell disappears. Then add in the chopped leaves and again fry till they are well combined and sweated down. Add the chicken into the masala and coat the chicken well with this. Add the washed rice and 6 ½ cup of water and mix well. Season with salt and leave the vessel open until bubbles start to appear. Close with a lid and get the stove flame to as low as possible. You could also finish the cooking in a mild oven. To maintain the flavours, you can seal the lid with dough made from wheat flour. It takes approximately 25 minutes to cook, you can check by opening the lid to see if all is well. You can serve the Biryani with onion raita. I always make more, so there will be plenty of left-overs for the next day. The re-heated Biryani, the day after tastes even better. Enjoy!!!

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Cabbage and Pattani Poriyal (Cabbage and peas stir fry)

Stir fry dishes are very popular in the region I come from. But they are not called stir fries, we call them poriyal. With a simple tempering process, the vegetables are transformed into delicacies that one craves for. Strangely I like cabbage poriyal, in fact I like cabbage in all forms. This poriyal is generally had as side dish for rice and would go well for Chapatti as well. This recipe can be adopted for any vegetable. I just added the peas to get a two dimensional color to the finished product. With the daylight becoming shorter, the photos of the food under my kitchen light are shaded and sometimes they end up like stills out of a badly shot Mani Ratnam movie.

  • Shredded or grated Cabbage – 2 cups
  • Peas – ½ cup
  • Green chillies – 2
  • Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
  • Urad dal – 1 tsp
  • Curry leaves – 1 twig
  • Salt as required.

Steam the cabbage and the peas till nearly done. I like a little crunch, but if you like it well done, you can cook it thru. Heat a spoon of oil and add the mustard seeds. When they pop add the urad dal and when they turn golden add the curry leaves and the slit green chillies. After a few seconds add the steamed cabbage, peas and season it with salt. Stir fry it for a few minutes and remove from fire. It is a simple and easy dish.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Tandoori Chicken

I love all things food. I remember cherishing a copy of Folio – food edition that came long ago with ‘The Hindu’. The food of a region reflects the culture to some extent and one of favorite day dreams while traveling is – discovering an ancient recipe book while digging (I am always a foodie anthropologists in my day dreams) in the Indus valley (thinking big). I love to know what the ancients ate, no matter the geography and wouldn’t mind trying out recipes. Anyway back to reality and the best I could do is watch cookery programs on TV. As a native I am interested in how the British perceive Indian food, so of particular interest are the food programs that are actually shot in India. All famous TV cooks have done it. From Keith Floyd to the latest Gary Rhodes many have made the trip. Of them all, Madhu Jaffery’s series scores the highest and Gary Rhodes the lowest. He did not find a pudding in India worth cooking and that I guess sums it all about his understanding of Indian food. I chanced upon the Tandoori chicken recipe on the Indian series that Madhu did. This chicken was made by a street vendor in Amritsar. I can’t kick myself enough for not committing the recipe to paper. But I made an attempt with the aid of my brain calls and the results were certainly worth a try. Especially if you have parties, this recipe can come in handy as you can marinate the chicken the day before and cook it in an oven on that day.

You will need


  • Chicken thighs (with legs) - 4
  • Single cream – 50 ml
  • Ginger-garlic paste – 2 Tbsp
  • Coriander powder – 2 Tbsp
  • Chilli powder – 1 Tbsp
  • Cumin powder – 1 Tbsp
  • Garam masala – 1 Tbsp
  • Red food color – ¼ tsp (optional)
  • Lemon juice – 2 Tbsp
  • Chat masala – 2 Tbsp
  • Salt as required

Make the marinade by mixing all the powder except the chat masala with the cream, lemon juice, ginger-garlic paste and salt. Remove the skin from the chicken and clean and dry them. Make deep slits on the thighs. Rub the marinade on the chicken and well into the slits. If you want to reduce or increase the heat, adjust the chilli powder accordingly. Cover with a Clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, the more the better. When the chicken is ready to cook, preheat the oven to as high as possible. Bring the chicken to room temperature and rub it with some oil. When the oven is really hot, keep the chicken into the oven on a baking tray. After 10 minutes turn the chicken over and baste it with the juices in the tray or with some oil. When both the sides are cooked (you can check by piercing the chicken and if the juices run clear then it is cooked) remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes. Then cut the thighs into 2 (you will get a drumstick and the actual thigh part). Toss the chicken or rub it gently with chat masala powder (this does make a difference) and the chicken is ready to serve. Every time I make it, the chickens are well received.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Meen Kuzhambu (South Indian Fish Curry)

Bang after an extremely busy and lazy period. How you may ask one can be both at the same. Actually this is what I specialize in and am good at it - 30 years of practice helps. It has been festivities involving fireworks first for bonfire and then for Deepavali. I have been bingeing on too many goodies that is way beyond my waist could cope with. Trying to sober down but without much success. This meen kuzhambu recipe reflects my position, trying hard to sober down but returning to old ways. So here is the recipe for meen kuzhambu for the pure pleasure of food. I got the recipe from this site (a great place for discussing food especially South Indian style) and have pretty much used it without any change.

  • Shallots – 1 cup (or 1 large red onion)
  • Coconut – ½ a coconut
  • Tamarind – lemon size
  • Tomato – 1
  • Corriander powder – 4 Tbsp
  • Chilli powder – 2 Tbsp
  • Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
  • Salt
  • Fish – 750 gms
  • Fenugreek seeds
  • Curry Leaves
  • Sesame oil – 3 tbsp

Peel and chop the onions except 6 of the small onions. Is using a big onion chop it to medium size and reserve ¼th of them. Grind the coconut, tomato and the reserved onions to a fine paste. To this add the powders and grind again. Extract the tamarind juice and mix it with the ground paste. Clean the fish and rub it with turmeric powder and salt. Heat 2 Tbsp of sesame oil in a pan. Any oil can be used, in Tamil Nadu sesame oil is used to get a unique flavour. When the oil is hot add the fenugreek seeds (this gives a wonderful aroma) and add the curry leaves and onions and fry until the onions turns colour. Then add the ground paste with some water. This has to bubble of for atleast 20 mins. Use more water if the curry is thick. Then add the fish of your choice. King Fish goes very well for this recipe. Cook the curry till the fish is cooked. Pour over the remaining sesame oil on the curry and close it with a lid and enjoy. I have tried some other fish curry recipes as well, but none is as good as this one. The Kuzhambu taste even better the next day.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Beans Poriyal (Spicy Beans Stir Fry)


Got off the phone after a long chat with my mom and as of this moment I am filled with random thoughts. First and foremost, how will life be when I am 55? The very thought of me and S sitting by the fire on a cold evening waiting for a call from one of our children, gives me shudders. Suddenly I am homesick, I want to go home and give my mom a big hug, go around the Meenaskhi Amman temple and taste the panniyaram from the raod side vendor in Madurai. So what you may ask prevents me from actually getting on the plane and shooting off to India? Apart from the family politics it is my green policy - Don’t want to contribute to the extra amount of Carbon Di Oxide. Okay that is a lousy reason. Leaving the reasoning behind and concentrating on the task at hand – What can make me feel better. A dash to Sparkhill and tucking into some of those oily samosas? The traffic on the road puts me off from going anywhere near that place. Remember I have an affinity to Traffic Jams.

Back to the present suddenly I start counting my blessings. One of them is my best friend B who is baby sitting my troops today, the whole day. Ain’t I lucky? Thanking my stars and hoping that the stars will be shinning 25 years later, I decided to cook beans poriyal for B. This is something that mom used to make often and a recipe that I had never asked her. I just simply know how to make it after eating it for ages. So here goes my recipe

  • Dwarf Beans – 200 Gms
  • Grated Coconut – 1 Tbsp
  • Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
  • Urad dal – 1 tsp
  • Asafetida – a pinch
  • Slit Green chilles – 3runchy and hence don’t cook them thru.
  • Curry leaves – a twig

Chop the beans and steam them till ¾ cooked. I like the beans to have a little crunch. Grate the coconut. The easiest way is grating fresh coconut using a blender and running it till the coconut is coarse. Better still if you get hold of some frozen coconut you can use them. If using desiccated coconut, soak them for a while in water and then drain the water and use the coconut. Heat a spoon of oil in a pan and temper it with mustard seeds, urad dal, green chillies and curry leaves. When Mustard seed pops up add the steamed beans and stir fry for a minute or two. Season it with salt at this stage. Remove from stove and add the coconut. Mix thoroughly and server it as a side dish. It goes well with rice, noodles and pasta. This recipe is quick, easy, simple and yummy.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Pasta Bake

Everyone has a different pasta bake recipe. I tumbled upon mine by combining two recipes watched on TV. If truth be told, this recipe was a result of confusion – one of those stories with happy endings. After a few iterations, pasta bake has become one of my camouflage dishes. You can add in any vegetable, steamed and mashed of course to evade detection. My kids love it and it doesn’t take too much effort to cook, what more could a mother want. I love it too; it’s a shame that S doesn’t like pasta. This is what he is missing……..
My troops are an undisciplined lot and could not wait until their Commander took a picture

  • Pasta – 200 gms
  • Cheese grated – 150 gms (this can be adjusted to taste)
  • Basil leaves – chopped

Optional Garnish

· Cooked Tuna steaks – 50 gms

· Cooked Prawns - 6

White Sauce

· Flour – 1 Tbsp

· Butter or Olive oil – 2 Tbsp

· Milk – ½ cup

· Grated cheese – 1 handful (optional)

Vegetable sauce

· Carrots – 2

· Potato – 1

· Any combination vegetables can be used although I stay away from cauliflower and cabbage

Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. For the white sauce, melt the butter in the pan and add the flour. Mix the flour and the butter and combine it well. Start adding milk in spoonfuls and keep mixing. When the milk is combined well with the flour mixture add some more. Continue the process add milk-keep stirring to avoid lumps. When you have finished with the milk add the cheese. Stir it only in one direction (not both ways), it has some thing to do with the proteins in the cheese. The white sauce is done when the cheese is melted. The consistency of the sauce is a little thicker than single cream.

If you are one of those lucky parents whose kids eat veggies or don’t have kids then you don’t have to make the sauce, just steam the vegetables you want to use.

If you are like me then steam the vegetables and puree it in a blender. Now for the assembling bit – Place the pasta in a baking bowl and add the white sauce, vegetable sauce/or vegetables and then add the optional garnish. You don’t have to add the fish, I do, just to further the temptation for my children who happen to love fish and prawns. Alternately you could add cooked chicken or anything your heart desires. Mix them all thoroughly and cover with grated cheese. My choice of cheese is Mild cheddar (kid friendly), but Parmesan would go well too. Add the chopped basil on top and bake it for 20 mins at 200 C in a preheated oven. The basil crisps up during the baking process and needless to say is delicious. Go on give it a try, you will not regret it. Although I have presented it as a kiddie recipe, it is equally good for adults. Perfect food to enjoy on the sofa before the TV.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Sarkkarai Pongal


If there is one dish that has probably survived without much change for centuries, it must be Pongal – Tamil food can’t get any more authentic than that. The cooking method might have changed over time, but the dish itself has undergone only little change.

The finished product depends on the quality of the main ingredients used, rice and Jaggery. Par boiled rice is generally consumed in TamilNadu, it always intrigues me as to why par boiled rice isn’t used for making Pongal. I am sure there must be some significance. I make Sarkkarai Pongal for most festivals including Saraswathi Poojai as it is simple to make and delicious to eat. Hence decided to enter it for the RCI Tamilnadu festival food event. This recipe of mine is influenced by reading various tips from this place, a wonderful site for discussing food. So here goes my recipe

  • Rice – 1 cup
  • Jaggery – 1 cup (Oh yes I have a sweet tooth)
  • Cardamom – 2 (roughly smashed)
  • Ghee/butter – 1 spoon
  • Milk – 1 cup
  • Cashew nut/raisins/thinly sliced coconut strips – as per taste

Pressure cook the rice with 1 cup milk and 2 cups water. Once cooked mash it with a spoon as much as you can. In a thick bottom pan place the jaggery and ½ cup water on slow flame to melt it. Skim away any impurities that may come on the top. There are different varieties of jaggery and many people consider achu vellam the best. I use a combination of achu vellam and karupati (this gives a nice brown colour to the Pongal). After skimming away the top layer, add the cooked rice and stir well till all the water in the mixture is absorbed into the rice and the rice reaches a thick consistency. In a small pan heat the butter or ghee and add the cashew nuts, raisins and/or the coconut strips. When the cashew is golden brown and the raisins swell add this garnish to the rice and mix well. Finish off by adding some crushed cardamom. Some like to finish off with a generous amount of butter. There you have it, a dish favoured by all Gods!

P.S - a handful of moong dal is generally added to the rice in the cooker. I have found that moong flares my younger troops eczema and so I haven't included it in the recipe. I feel it doesn't make a big difference to the taste.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Chicken Tikka Masala and perfection

Just when one thought that one had enough dose of CTM, no not from the Baltis, rather from the plethora of food programs, there comes along a program from BBC (little surprise there) in its ‘quest’ to find the ‘perfect’ CTM, whatever that means.

The perfectionist in this case is the famous Heston Blumenthal of ‘The Fat Duck’. He travels to Delhi (where else) in search for the perfect Chicken Tikka Masala. Until this point the program followed the time and tested track. And then it went a step further in search of perfection. No the tandoori oven in the car park dug by the chef didn’t shock me. All the lab tests conducted to verify if yogurt really made a difference to the marinade didn’t do the trick. The double marinade and the technique didn’t move me. The way the sauce or rather what went inside got me jumping mad on the sofa – A regular tomato sauce with the usual onion, ginger, garlic and tomato paste (cooked in a pressure cooker and reduced) was underway when suddenly the chef tossed in some cashew butter that is ground cashew nut paste for you and me. The crown of the whole episode was when a can of coconut milk went in. Everything that happened after that including the butter did not matter much. And this ladies and gentleman is the perfect Chicken Tikka masala.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Prawn Pakoda


My family loves sea food and prawns are always a treat. I made these yummy little things for some friends. Who can resist some deep fried goodies especially when the goodies happen to be prawns! Prawns come in different shapes and sizes and I happen to think that the small fresh water ones we get in India (read as Madurai) are the best flavoured ones. Ah well I am partial in everything that is remotely connected with Madurai, how could I not be? Here in UK it is hard to find uncooked small prawns and so we have to settle for the bigger variety. It is nevertheless yummy and is delicious in curries, pastas and everything else they are made with. Once again this recipe is adapted from my ‘Rs 15’ cook book. What ever will I do without it!!

  • Prawns – 250 gms
  • Gram flour (Kadlai mavu) – 3 Tbsp
  • Rice flour – 4 Tbsp
  • Chilli powder – 3 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil for deep frying

Mix the flours, chilli powder and salt to the prawns and let it rest for half an hour. The water in the prawns help to bind the marinade with the prawns. If using cooked prawns, make a loose paste of the flours, salt and chilli powder with some water and then add the prawns to the paste. Also reduce the salt level if using cooked prawns. Heat the oil in a wok and deep fry them. This can be served as a starter or as an accompaniment. If serving as a starter, you can make a dip using soy sauce, rice vinegar, oil, minced garlic, chillies and chopped coriander to go with it. Enjoy the prawn pakodas.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Ghee Rice


Ghee rice as the name suggests is a very rich concoction and meant for special occasions. My mother who doesn’t believe in coconut milk has never cooked it. When at school my friends talked about ghee rice, I always thought that it meant white rice mixed with ghee. I can’t remember when I first tasted the actual Ghee rice or when I cooked it first or where I got this recipe from. But this is a pretty standard recipe, mildly flavored by spices and needless to say a little unfriendly around the hips.

Without much ado here is the recipe,

  • Onion – 1 thinly sliced
  • Green chillies – 5
  • Cardamom – 2
  • Cloves - 2
  • Cinnamon – 1 inch stick
  • Bay leaf – 1
  • Ginger-garlic paste – 1 Tbsp
  • Cashewnuts – 10 (optional)
  • Basmati rice – 2 cups
  • Ghee or butter – 50 gms
  • Coconut milk – 1 cup
  • Mixed chopped vegetables – 1 cup (carrot, peas and potato)

Heat the butter or ghee in a pan and add the spices. In recent years I use sunflower oil or Olive oil. Then add the onions and Chillies and fry until it is soft (don’t brown them). Then add the ginger and garlic paste and fry till the raw smell disappears. To this add the cashew nuts and the vegetables. Any vegetable can be added, to make it look nice include green and red colour vegetables like peas, beans, broccoli, carrot. I tend to add frozen vegetables, saves time on cutting the veggies. Saute them for a few minutes and then add the washed rice and fry it briefly in the ghee mixture. For 2 cups of rice, 4 cups of liquid is required. Add one cup of coconut milk (The tinned ones are very good) and add 3 cups of water. The general rule is to add one fourth of coconut milk and three fourths water. When the water starts boiling reduce the fire to the least possible level and close with a lid and cook until done. For 2 cups of rice, it generally takes 20 mins to cook thru. When done mix the rice gently with a fork or the back of a wooden spoon. Server hot with a raita and enjoy all the praise from the guests. If I use frozen veggies and coconut milk from a can, this rice gets ready in 30 minutes.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Sausages with carrots

Proudly presenting another successful camouflage dish – Sausages with carrots. This is strictly for kids who can eat Non-veg but would refuse to eat veegies. If someone in your house hold falls in this category read on, else well you can read on and make it a bit spicy to adapt to your taste. This recipe is adapted from Marcella Hazan’s ‘The essesntials of Classic Italian cooking’. The original calls for red cabbage. Since my son can smell a cabbage from miles away, I tried carrots and it turned out yummy. In addition for the first time in 3 years, my older son actually ate grated carrots knowing exactly what he was eating. It is a milestone today and thanks to blogging for marking this momentous day.

This is a quick and easy recipe with stunning results (if you like sausages).

  • Sausage – 3
  • Carrot – 1 large or 3 small grated
  • Garlic – 1 Tbsp chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Cook the sausage in a griddle or a frying pan. Prick the sausages with a fork while cooking to ooze some of the fat in the sausage. Once done, slice the sausages into 1 inch thick pieces.

Heat a spoon of oil olive in a pan and add the garlic. When the garlic turns brown add the grated carrot (in the original recipe, red cabbage is recommended). Cook this until done, turning the carrots gently in the pan and season with salt and pepper. Add the cooked sliced sausages and mix together. Serve it as a main course or as a side dish and enjoy. My kids lapped it up and Oh boy am I one happy bunny?

Vendakkai pachadi (Spicy Okra with lentils)

This is one of my signature dishes, mainly as it meets the elusive balance of being appreciated by S and maintaining a no-protest status from the children. This is from ‘Rs 15 cook book’ (that’s the nickname for my precious book) that I picked up in Chennai road side. S has never been keen on Okra until he tasted this. It is also one of my Veggie camouflage dish. The smaller troops don’t realize what goes down their throat and the battle is won without a war. If only mothers had a say in the decision making process, the world would be a better place. Me and my wishful thinking!

To the recipe now


  • Vendakkai (Okra) - 200 gms (sliced very thinly)
  • Onion medium size – 1 chopped
  • Tomato – 1 chopped
  • Green chillies – 2
  • Sambhar powder – 2 Tbsp (if not using sambhar powder substitute with 1 Tbsp of Corriander powder and 1Tbsp od chilli powder)
  • Tamarind – size of half lemon
  • Garlic – 1 clove (chopped or sliced)
  • Curry leaves – 1 twig
  • Mustard seeds – 1 Tbsp
  • Urad dal – 1 tsp
  • Oil for cooking
  • Salt according to taste
  • Paruppu (yellow lentils ) – ½ cup
  • Turmeric powder – ½ tsp

Pressure cook the lentils with some turmeric powder until half cooked. Soak the tamarind in little water and heat it for a minute in microwave (high) and sqeeze the juice out. Heat the oil (sesame oil tends to add a special flavour for this dish) and when hot enough add the mustard seeds. When they start popping add the urad dal. When the dal turns brown add the curry leaves and then the chopped onions and garlic. Fry until the onions are soft. Then add the sliced okra and keep frying. The pan tends to brown rapidly during this process and it is important to turn the veggie. After 5 minutes, add the green chillies (whole) and then the tomato. Add the sambhar powder and some water to avoid the browning of the pan. When the okra is half cooked add the lentils and water if necessary. Close with lid and cook until the okra and the lentils are cooked thru. Add the tamarind juice and let it boil for a few minutes. If the pachadi has too much water, increase the heat to reduce the water. The dish should be semi dry. It is generally meant to be a side dish. As a result of camouflaging, my dish turns out to be gravy that can be mixed with rice. The okra just melts (really my kids have never found out what goes through their mouth and they wolf it down) in your mouth. This is great as an accompaniment for all rice dishes and yummy with chapatti.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Karuvadu Thokku ( Salted dried fish dry curry)

It has been a hectic week so far and I haven’t had the time to post anything or to do anything else that could be labeled as leisure. To quantify it with an example, I missed the Nigella Express program (yeah it is that busy). When life gets this mechanical, the only way I keep my sanity to bearable limits is by cooking and eating, what else. So as a me and me only dish, the karuvadu thokku came into existence. None of my troops are keen on karuvadu , but hey I am the mummy. For the last 4 years (my vegetarian years), dried fish was banned in our household. It is time for a revival, what better way than this one, my mom’s recipe. Thokku might not be the right description for this dish, but then again remember I am the Mummy. So here goes the recipe…….

  • Karuvadu (salted dried fish) – about 10 small pieces
  • Onions – 2 medium size
  • Garlic – 2 cloves
  • Tomato – 2 medium size
  • Chilli powder – 1 Tbsp
  • Fennel seeds – 1 tsp
  • Curry leaves – 1 twig

Heat a spoon of oil in a pan and add the fennel seeds and curry leaves. When the seeds change colour add the chopped onions, garlic and sauté till they turn golden brown. Then add the tomatoes and fry till they are mushy and combined well with the onions. Then add the chilli powder and fry for a few minutes. Now add the karuvadu (washed and cut into very small bite sized pieces) and fry into the masala. Add few spoons of water to prevent it from burning. I like the karuvadu to be cooked for a long time about 15 minutes. Add water from time to time the thokku is dry. Salt should be added last if required. It is a great for Sambhar and Yogurt rice. If made a bit mushy then it would go great with idlis too.

As expected none of my troops wanted to have anything to do with karuvadu. Ah well sanity preserved.

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Sunday Lunch


Thinking about a few different ways of putting this elegantly found me seriously wanting in English vocabulary. Putting it bluntly, my family is non-vegetarian and Sundays were the days when the menu was non-vegetarian. Being predominantly vegetarian, the once in a week departure from routine was special and it was made more special as it would be had at a leisurely pace with the whole family, followed by a through reading of the ‘HINDU’ magazines and a small nap. Brings back fond memories, good old days! Life has developed into a fast pace that it is a month since I laid hand on ‘Sunday Times’. I would love to pass on this Sunday feeling to my children and try to make it a special one. After being a vegetarian for the last 3 years, my system is still in the process of adapting itself to meat/chicken and fish. This week we had some friends over for Sunday lunch and so it had to be good. Ever since we found that one of my troops have a bit of cholesterol more than absolutely necessary, we have cut down on red meat. Today I made an exception and decided to treat us to a yummy lamb curry. Baked chicken, some boiled eggs, carrot raita and rasam rounded up the menu nicely. It was a hit and with some pleasant conversations, it was an ideal Sunday.

Cooking from Blogs


The chicken recipe for this Sunday lunch was from this wonderful blog. The movement my eyes met this recipe, it was so tempting that I knew I had to make it. Instead of a whole chicken as suggested, I tried chicken thighs. It turned out so good that I might try it again.Thanks Maneka !

Chettinad Aatukkari Kuzhambu (South Indian Lamb Curry)

Generally I tend to adapt recipes to my taste. This is one of a few recipes that I follow faithfully and thanks to Madhu Jaffrey. I found this wonderful recipe from a Madhu Jaffrey book in the library and copied some pages 4 years back. Unfortunately, my memory is weak and fails to find the book name. I have never even tried another recipe for lamb kuzhambu(curry) after discovering this treasure. You will have to try it to appreciate it and I promise you will not regret. It is a bit laborious, but worth every bit.

A bit of caution though – This is pure indulgence and a little heavy around the waist.

This is how it can be prepared for 1Kg lamb.

Lamb/mutton – 1 Kg

Dry grind

  • Fennel seeds – 2 Tbsp
  • Poppy seeds – 2 Tbsp
  • Corriander powder – 2 Tbsp
  • Chilli powder – 2 Tbsp
  • Turmeric powder – ½ tsp

Wet grind

  • Garlic – 8 cloves
  • Ginger – 1 inch piece
  • Coconut – 3/4th of ½ a medium size coconut

Tempering

  • Fennel seeds – 1 spoon
  • Cloves – 2
  • Aniseed flower – 1
  • Cinnamon – 2 sticks
  • Curry leaves – 2 twigs

Others

  • Onion – 1
  • Tomato – 1
  • Oil – 4 Tbsp
  • Salt

Grind the dry ingredients into a fine powder. Grind the wet ingredients into a smooth paste. Chop the onions and quarter the tomatoes.

Heat oil in a thick bottom pan and add the tempering ingredients. Once the fennel seeds change colour add the chopped onions and fry till golden. Add the powders and fry for 2 minutes. When it starts sticking to the pan add the quartered tomatoes and fry till they are slightly mushy. At this stage add the ginger-garlic-coconut paste and fry well till the raw smell disappears. The masala might need some water to stop it sticking it to the pan. When a nice aroma comes from the masala add the washed and diced lamb/mutton. There are two ways you can do it. The quickie way is to cook the meat in a cooker and add the cooked meat to the masala. The round about way is to add the lamb raw and add 4 cups of water to the masala. Close the gravy with a lid and simmer until the lamb is cooked. This might take some time and not very environmentally friendly. The guilt can be erased to some extent as it is once-in-a-while dish and it really is worth it. Once the lamb is done and the gravy reaches your desired consistency switch off the flame. The consistency I prefer is thick gravy. It is great for boiled rice and idlis. Hot steaming idilis with mutton kuzhambu is S’s favourite and mine too.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Mushroom onion fry




This is one of my recipes that are made as a quick fix, with whatever is available in the fridge and pantry. I am prone to this style of cooking. S was amused at my style of cooking when we were newly married (not anymore, he is used to it) and told his friend that he never gets to eat the same thing twice as I come up with different dishes all the time. The real reason behind the variety is that, I would forget what I put in a dish the previous time and wouldn’t know how to reproduce it. Anything that feels good to my heart will go into it. Some mushrooms were left in the fridge and the thought of having something nice and spicy with rasam rice were reasons good enough for cooking it.

Mushrooms - 4 large field sliced (about 300 gms)
Onion - 1 sliced
Tomato puree - 1 Tbsp
Chilli powder - 1 Tbsp
Paprika - 1 Tbsp


Cumin seeds – 1 tsp


Fennel seeds – 1tsp
salt

Heat oil in a pan and add the cumin and fennel seeds and then add sliced mushrooms and onions. Fry them till they are soft. Add the tomato puree, chilli powder, paprika and salt. Cook until done. It is not necessary to add water as the liquid that comes from mushroom while cooking is sufficient. Don't wash the mushrooms, clean them with a kitchen towel. This turned out really well, well enough to blog the recipe. It tasted great with dosai the next day too.


This is the first time I am committing my ad hoc recipe to paper. Thanks to blogging.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Rasam (Spicy Tamarind soup)


The general tendency of Indians is to spice up almost all food. Their British counterparts do the same, but in the reverse direction. The result - the world is rewarded with three dishes chicken tikka masala, kedgeree and mulligatawny soup. Rasam is the origin for mulligatawny soup meaning milagu thanni (pepper water). Probably Rasam is one of the few dishes that are reminiscence of an old cuisine that managed to retain its originality even after the deadly chillies were unleashed from South America. In the part of the world where I come from, a cook is judged by the quality of rasam they whip up. Unfortunately for me my dad never liked rasam and so my mother made it occasionally. I think a balance has been reached, when I married S who can make fantastic rasam. I never cook rasam as S makes the best rasam. Every guest who comes home for a meal unfailingly has a second helping of rasam rice.

This is a special recipe because there is no powder involved and all the ingredients are assembled from scratch. Here is how he makes it. This recipe makes about 3 liters of Rasam. S doesn’t believe in small quantities!


  • Tamarind – 1 lime size ball
  • Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
  • Tomato – ½
  • Salt
  • Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
  • Curry leaves – 1 twig
  • Corriander leaves – to garnish

To grind

  • Garlic – 1 whole pod
  • Cumin seeds – 3 Tbsp
  • Curry Leaves – 1 twig
  • Red chillies – 4
  • Pepper corns – ½ spoon

Grind the ingredients under ‘To Grind’ in a blender. Extract juice from the tamarind and squeeze the half cut tomato into the tamarind juice and add in the tomato pulp also in the juice. To this add the turmeric powder, asafetida and the ground paste. Add salt and taste it. You can adjust for seasoning at this stage. S feels it is very important to taste it at this stage. Heat oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. After they pop add the tamarind water mixture. Another thumb rule is to always add the water to the tempering of mustard seeds and oil, never the opposite. It makes a difference to the end result. The last bit is never to let the rasam boil. When it just starts boiling, take it off the flame and garnish with coriander leaves. This is a bit garlicy in taste. You have to taste it to appreciate the flavours of rasam.


Variations:

If you want to make parupu rasam, then add some mashed paruppu and the water that it was cooked in.

To make it a tomato rasam, squeeze 1 more tomato and add the pulp.

To make it a pepper rasam, reduce the red chillies and add more pepper corns.

Mulu Kathirikkai vathakal (Stuffed Aubergine curry)

One of my colleagues hates aubergines. My reaction always is - wait until you set foot in Andhra to change your mind. One has to give it to the Andhrites for their imagination for creating many many varity and in so doing taking the humble aubergine to great heights. There are so many recipes that I have a theory which goes like this – For every great aubergine recipe from Andhra there are minimum 5 greater aubergine recipes from the same region. This is one such recipe, combination of two recipes one from a cookbook by Mallika Badrinath and the other from my ex-colleague. It is divine with plain boiled rice.

You will need

  • Aubergine – 300 gms
  • Sambhar powder – 4 tbsp (if the sambhar powder is bland add some more to make it hotter)
  • Coconut – 3 Tbsp grated (if you want a smoother texture then grind the coconut)
  • Tamarind – size of ½ a lime
  • Onions – 2 small (finely chopped)
  • Channa dal – 2 Tbsp
  • Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
  • Oil.

Microwave the tamarind for 2 minutes high with some water. Dilute with some cold water and extract the juice. The juice should be thick and so the water used must be as little as possible. Heat some oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds and when they pop add the channa dal and wait until they turn light brown. Add the chopped onions till they turn soft. In a bowl mix the onions, sambhar powder, tamarind juice, coconut and salt.

Slit the aubergine into 4 on the top without cutting them. The idea is to keep them whole and stuff the onion mixture in them. The aubergine have to be stuffed individually.

Basic Recipe Courtesy Mrs Mallika Badrinath

Heat 3 Tbsp oil in a pan. Add the aubergine to the oil and if you have any of the onion mixture left add it on top. Fry for a few minutes, then add water, close the pan and let it cook. Check every 5 minutes for water and move the aubergine without breaking them if they are sticking to the pan. The more oil in the pan, the less possibility for the curry sticking in the pan. As a result you will end up with an oily, but lip smacking curry. Once the aubergine are done, remove from heat and serve with hot boiled rice. If Nigella were to taste it she would probably describe it as ‘Hmm out of the world’.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Pasta with Vegetable Sauce

My older son does not like vegetables and can make my life difficult by refusing to touch anything that has vegetable. Well that is a rather blunt statement that many mothers would concur with. It is a constant quest of mine to find techniques to camouflage vegetables and make it look edible for a 6 year old. The idea for this was formed after watching a program in BBC about food. This dish is a tried and trusted recipe that works with my kids and the best part is my son loves it. They look forward for 'Pasta Days' which is generally on Thursday. Mind you, he doesn't know what goes in it though. So all the mothers out there, here is stress free veggie route.

You will need

Pasta - 3 handfuls
For the Sauce
Onion - 1
Tomato - 2
Mixed Vegetables - 1 lb
Garlic - 2 cloves


Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. I prefer Penne pasta as it can take in more sauce.
For the sauce steam the mixed vegetables. The ones I use mostly are beans, carrots and peas. However over the last year, I started using seasonal vegetables and had success with courgettes, butternut squash, celery, pumpkin, potatoes, peppers and broccoli (yes, you read that right, cauliflower however is not suitable).
Heat a spoon of oil in the pan and add the chopped onions, garlic and tomatoes. Once they are soft and cooked add the steamed vegetables and mix it for few minutes. Let the vegetables cool and use a blender to grind them into a smooth sauce.
Serve the pasta with sauce. The sauce is delicious. For the senior troops, I spice it up with some chilli powder and serve it as a chutney for Idli and Dosai.