Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Not again

Oh Dear God, its started again. I mean the moral policing business in Chennai. What is happening to my dear state in recent years? First there was a huge uproar for a sensible talk from a pretty actress and then there was this new dress code for college students and now Shriya’s dress. A dress of all things on Earth!

I grew up in a Coimbatore and went to one of those super Godly catholic schools run by strict nuns. The uniform I wore was a white shirt and half skirt. I had worn that for 12 years and no one even winked. The same school has a salwar kameez as uniform now. All the government/municipal schools which had half saris as uniform have changed to Salwar kameez. Are we retreating into some kind of old Victorian world and the current 50 somethings are steering us towards that era? I really don’t get it. I am of the opinion that ancient Tamilians (those who wrote all the sangam poems) were very liberal when it came to clothes. In one of the old Puranannuru poems, there is a sentence describing the clothes the leading lady wears. It describes that the material the lady wore was so fine that one could see through her dress. Can’t imagine what the Moral Police would do if someone was to write a similar poem, let alone wear such a dress.

Is this Talibanization of TamilNadu? And oh, as if there is not enough on the platter, Tamilans can no longer celebrate New Year in April, instead it will be in January. Is there any sense amidst this madness or is it madness to search for sense?

Monday, 21 January 2008

Kozhuva Meen Tilappichathu (Kerala Anchovy Curry)

Of late I haven't kept myself updated with the events in the food blogosphere. It all boils down to laziness. When I read about the RCI Kerala event, my laziness had to take a holiday. The recipe I am blogging about hopefully is an authentic Kerala one. I got it from this site and made a few modifications - not to the ingredients, but to the way they were prepared. It is bit strange that I could not find any information or about how authentic this recipe is. If any of you out there know more about this recipe, please let me know. I would like to know about its origin and this is one of the reasons that I am posting this recipe as part of RCI Kerala. It is strange in another way - the ingredients are crushed (only very old recipes call for crushing instead of grinding) and the sour element is got by Vinegar (I would expect Vinegar to be associated with Goan cuisine). With the rattling done, the recipe procedure goes like this......

Kozhuva (Nethili) - 500 gms
To Grind (coarsely)
Small onions - 25 (or 2 big red onions)
Garlic - 2 pods
Ginger - 1 inch
Green chillies - 3
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Chilli powder - 1 Tbsp
Curry leaves - 1 twig
Lemon juice - Juice of half a lemon/lime
salt as required.

The original recipe calls for crushing the ingredients under grind. Although on holiday, my laziness would not let go of me completely and hence I got my good old blender and intended to ground them coarsely and ended up grinding them smoothly. Anyway after grinding them, heat oil and pour the ground ingredients and chillies. Adding ginger and garlic for a fish curry is a first for me. When the raw smell of the ginger-garlic is considerably less, add the turmeric and chilli powder along with some curry leaves and water. Let the gravy bubble for a few minutes. Add the fish to the gravy and wait until the fish is cooked. Take the fish off the stove and add the lemon juice. The original called for vinegar, but somehow I couldn't get myself to add vinegar to this curry. My apprehension of adding ginger and garlic for the curry was completely misplaced and the result was yummy. All I can say is, I am glad that I tried out this recipe and will definitely try it when I can get hold of some more anchovies.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Chettinad Kozhi varuval (Chettinad chicken fry)

I am a convert, ever since I watched Hugh’s chicken run on Channel 4. The program highlighted the pitiable conditions of the intensively reared chicken (popularly called broiler chicken in India) Vs the better conditions of free range chicken. You can find more about it here. The site has a facility where you can find free range chicken near the place you live in the UK. This program got me thinking hard and long. Now that is something that doesn’t happen often, I mean the thinking bit. If truffles are cultivated and available in plenty would they demand the respect they have now. As food becomes cheap we loose respect for it and abuse it. To turn this around, I have chosen to buy free range chicken and decrease the frequency of chicken consumption. What I do is buy one whole chicken and get the hubby to cut it (he can be a real sweetheart sometimes) and store it in different bags in the freezer by cuts – bony bits, fleshy bits and the thighs. The bony bits for kuzhambu, fleshy bits for varuval and the thighs go under the grill.

Let me give my brain its much needed rest and stop rambling about my new found enthusiasm for free range chicken and get to the recipe. This Chettinad chicken varuval is Mrs Mano’s recipe. She posts her recipes here. I have tried many of her recipes with stunning results and wouldn’t shy away from recommending them. Alright before you loose patience here goes the recipe.... (ah finally)


  • Chicken – 750 gms


  • Garlic – 4 pods
  • Ginger – 1 inch
  • Fennel – 1 Tbsp
  • Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
  • Coriander powder – 1tsp
  • Chilli powder – 1 Tbsp
  • Pepper – 1 Tbsp
  • Lemon juice – 1 Tbsp
  • Yogurt – 1 Tbsp
  • Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
  • Salt as required

Frying 1

  • Onion - 1 chopped
  • Tomato – 1 chopped
  • Ginger-Garlic paste – 1½ Tbsp

Frying 2

  • Onion – ½ sliced
  • Curry leaves – 1 twig
  • Red chillies – 3
  • Pepper powder – 1 tsp


Grind together all the ingredients under ‘Grind’ to a paste. Marinate the chicken with this paste for a couple of hours. Heat oil in a pan and fry the onions. When the onions are soft add the ginger-garlic paste and then the tomatoes. Fry until the tomatoes are soft and the oil comes out. To this add the chicken with very little water and cook until done and the water is evaporated. In another pan heat some oil and fry the red chillies, curry leaves and the sliced onions. When almost done add the pepper powder to the onion and mix it well. Add the fried onion to the cooked chicken and give it a stir. Vola there you have a lip smacking chicken dish. Although the list of ingredients looks exhausting, it does not take a lot of time to make this. So please don’t let the long list put you off from trying the recipe and of course you can adjust the spice level.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Pongalo Pongal

Wish you all a happy Pongal and Sankranti. As I am writing this, news has come out that the Supreme Court has lifted the ban on Jallikattu (Phew that was close). I shudder to think how folks from my native town would have reacted if the ban had stayed. Jallikattu reminds me of the rare occasions we celebrated Pongal at my maternal grandmother’s village. The village falls on the wrong side of Vaigai river and cannot benefit from the river water. As is the case with most Indian villages, the harvest mainly depends on the mercy of the monsoons. And we all know how our dear old monsoons behave.

The village folks rarely celebrated Pongal as there was little to harvest and very little to celebrate about. When the monsoons are well behaved, the harvest is bountiful and Pongal is celebrated with such gusto that, town folks like me wonder why our parents left the village. The huts and houses are white washed, the cows decorated with colourful dots on their body and vibrant colours painted on their horns - the atmosphere is electric. There is something in the air which brings joy by merely inhaling it. I am missing all that this very moment and to a certain extent depressed (too harsh a word, I know) that my children cannot experience it.

I do try hard to bring in the spirit at home. Although my younger troops don’t agree with the Naragasuran version of the Deepavali story (they go with the ‘Rama coming from forest’ version), bringing in the Deepavali spirit is much easier. Help comes in the form of schools discussing the ‘Hindu’ festival. When it comes to Pongal it is hard, but I keep trying. It doesn’t hurt to taste some yummy Pongal and other delicacies in the process. Pongalo Pongal !!!!!!!

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Nethili Meen Varuval (Spicy fried anchovies)

Happy New Year everyone! I am back from hibernation! Here I am fulfilling one of my New Year resolutions – not to neglect my blog. Abiding by Newton’s third law, I am also breaking one of my resolutions by posting a non-veg recipe. Ah it is the first post in the New Year and it has to be a special recipe and this one sure is. Anchovy is a special fish and I can still remember the taste of my athai’s (aunt) nethili meen kuzhambu. She is one hell of a cook and fish is her speciality. The way anchovies are used in Italian and Greek cooking is wonderful and has opened my eyes to the wonders of using them as an ingredient. This recipe is an Indian one and is sure to tickle your taste buds. Since it is a small fish, they can be eaten whole, although some people insist on cleaning before cooking. For this recipe I used slightly larger ones, which were cleaned. If they are really small, I wouldn’t bother with cleaning. Here goes how to make it,

Set 1
Anchovies – 200gms
Rice flour – 2 Tbsps
Chilli Powder – 1 tsp
Coriander Powder – 1 Tbsp
Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
Salt as required
Lemon juice – 1 Tbsp

Set 2
· Onions – 1 thinly sliced
· Garlic – 3 pods crushed
· Ginger – 1 inch grated
· Sambhar powder – 1 Tbsp
· Fennel seeds – 1 Tbsp
· Lemon juice – 1 Tbsp
· Curry Leaves – a twig

Mix all the ingredients under set 1 and leave to marinate for half an hour. Pan or deep-fry them until cooked and set aside.
Heat some of the left over oil in a pan and add the fennel seeds and curry leaves. Then add the onions and fry them until golden. To this add the ginger, garlic and sambhar powder and fry until they are well mixed. To this add the fried anchovies and lemon juice and stir carefully until well mixed.This is a yummy dish that will lift your spirits and keep you going on those dark rainy winter days.