Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Chettinad Chicken Curry

I am vegetarian but have been only for about 20 years. Before that, I was someone who loved chicken and bacon! I loved it so much that a friend took a bet with me that I couldn't be vegetarian for 3 months - I did it and found it so easy that I just stayed vegetarian - and have no regrets.

I do, though, frequently make chicken or fish for my husband and daughter, who are consummate non-vegetarians! This is one that is (I hear!) finger-looking good.


(that's my daughter trying to eat the chicken - she couldn't wait for me to finish taking the photos! lol!)

Chettinad is a region of Tamil Nadu that was populated by the Chettiars, who are a prosperous banking and business community. Chettinad cuisine is typically spicy. Here's an excerpt from Wikipedia that summarizes it well:
Chettinad cuisine is famous for its use of a variety of spices used in preparing mainly non-vegetarian food. The dishes are hot and pungent with fresh ground masalas, and topped with a boiled egg that is usually considered an essential part of a meal. They also use a variety of sun dried meats and salted vegetables, reflecting the dry environment of the region. The meat is restricted to fish, prawn, lobster, crab, chicken and mutton. Chettiars do not eat beef and pork.




Chettinad Chicken Curry

Marinade:
1 tbsp plain yogurt
3 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste
2 tsp salt

Grind together A and B:
A. Saute in oil till brown - 10 shallots and 3 cloves garlic
B. Saute separately without oil till brown:
1 tsp cinnamon
2 pieces of cardamom
2 cloves
1 tsp nutmeg powder
1 tsp fennel seeds (saunf)
1 tsp fenugreek
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp peppercorn
2 tbsp coriander seeds

2 bay leaves
1 tsp turmeric
6-8 pieces of chicken (any type of pieces you'd like - I used an assortment of skinless chicken)

Marinate chicken for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
In a little oil, add the bay leaves, ground paste and salt and saute.
Add turmeric and marinated chicken and 1/4 cup water.
Cook till chicken is done.

Enjoy the chicken curry with rice or over idiyappams.

Monday, April 28, 2008

My First Award



Thank you, Madhuram, for thinking of me and for the lovely award! The Yummy Blog award was first conceptualized by Roopa of Kitchen Treats, and passed to me by Madhuram of Eggless Cooking. I'm so honored. I'm enjoying blogging, cooking and taking photographs and getting this award meant so much to me!

“Yummy blog award is the award given to the blog with the most yummy recipes/photos”

Now to my favorite desserts (you have to quote them as part of the rules of getting the award). Some of you may know that I can't bake anything elaborate and don't have much of a sweet tooth. What I do enjoy is:

Vanilla Ice Cream with Hot Chocolate Sauce and Nuts.
Molten Lava Chocolate Cake

(I guess it's all about the Chocolate!)

I pass the award onto these four very deserving people:

Jamie @ Flavor Pantry

Sig @ Live To Eat

A Life(time) of Cooking

Suganya @ Tasty Palettes

I forgot to mention the rules for the award recipients. Here they are, in Roopa's words:

The person who receives the award should display the "Yummy Blog !" logo on their blog and also the meaning of the award which is "Yummy blog award is the award given to the blog with most yummy recipes/photos" The receiver should also quote their favorite yummy-licious :) dessert(s) that they have ever prepared/eaten. Dont restrict yourself to any dessert, chocolate bars also welcome:). Also the receiver should pass on the award to four other bloggers who's blog they find "yummy" and let them know about the rules:)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Spicy Potatoes for Comfort

Jihva for Love made me think immediately of my mother. My mother was and is my inspiration to cook. I don't think I'll ever be as creative and adventurous in my cooking as she is, but I strive to be. Growing up, we took her cooking for granted. I didn't pay attention when my friends would love to come over and actually ask my mom to make their favorites.

Every week my mom would try out one or two new dishes on us. We were exposed to international foods very early in our lives. Tacos, home-made pizzas, noodles, pasta, cheese-baked vegetables...the list goes on. She got us to love soups and salads, and to taste everything. Our palettes became quite refined as we grew older.

Sundays were always family time. For about 40 years (I hear!), we've had the exact same menu for breakfast and lunch on Sunday. FORTY years! And we look forward to it every sunday! Breakfast is always dosas with small onion sambar, coconut chutney and milagai podi (a spicy powder made with roasted lentils and chillies). Lunch is always small, spicy potatoes, rasam, and peas (or sometimes if peas weren't available, carrot).

When I moved to the US, I'd make my sunday lunch as a special treat for myself when I was home-sick, or needed comforting. It always reminded me of home and of my mother. I have now continued this tradition in my house. And I try very hard to make my daughter as exposed to international foods as I was.

Every sunday though, our menu doesn't change. And I hope I can carry on the tradition. And I hope my daughter's friends will soon be asking me for their favorites! This is the potatoes we always made at home - its very near and dear to my heart for it will always represent sundays with my family, reading the newspaper and chatting about the week.



Spicy Potatoes

1/2 kg small (new) potatoes, peeled
2 tsp chilli powder*
Salt, to taste
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 tbsp oil
4-5 curry leaves

Pierce each potato with a fork once or twice, and cook in salted water. Remove when they are parboiled or slightly resistant to a knife.

Heat oil in a pan. Saute the garlic, curry leaves and chilli powder for about 2-3 minutes (or until the raw smell of garlic has disappeared). Add the potatoes and toss to coat with the spices. Continue cooking on a low heat, until the potatoes are cooked through.

*(Sometimes I use crushed red pepper instead of chilli powder, and that tastes great too).

Here's to family food traditions.

I want to thank Indira for this event and Jigyasa and Prathibha for choosing this theme that allowed me to recognize my mother and all the unspoken ways she passes on wisdom. My mother wasn't okay with having her picture in the blog, and so I couldn't post it...

Friday, April 25, 2008

Veggie Tacos

Surprisingly, my mom used to make tacos for us quite regularly when we were kids. Being in a traditional Indian home, it seems quite unusual that she loved tacos and got us to love it too. Coming home, tired and hungry from school, we'd see that we had tacos for dinner and our faces would all light up.

I would order burritos and quesadillas and fajitas but never did have a taco in a restaurant! Now, moving back home, I saw these ready-made taco shells, and decided to give it a shot. It brought back great memories and it's now been re-introduced as a regular feature on the menu.



Veggie Tacos

1 can baked beans
1-2 cups of cooked corn
2 tomatoes, chopped
2-3 sprigs cilantro, chopped
1/2 tsp chilli powder (or) garam masala
Spicy tomato ketchup (I used Maggi Hot and Sweet) (or) Medium Spicy Salsa
1-2 Jalapenos or green chillies (optional), chopped
1 cup Mozzarella, shredded

Tacos are very easy and a great snack or a light entree - its just a question of assembling them with your favorite fillings. Here, I've used simple ingredients that are easy to find.

If you'd like to try your hand at making the shells, here's a great resource. You can also get ready-made shells and heat them in your oven for about 10 minutes when ready to use.

Heat the baked beans in a pan. Add chilli powder or garam masala. I also added chopped jalapenos. Once heated through and blended in with the spices, remove from heat.

To arrange:
Fill each taco shell with the a layer of baked beans. Then add a layer of cooked corn sprinkled with cilantro. Next, add a layer of tomatoes (you could also use chopped raw onions), and then a layer of cheese. Top with the spicy ketchup or salsa.



Be creative and add any ingredient you'd like - grilled green peppers, grilled onions, minced beef/chicken... Enjoy.

This is my entry for AWED by DK of Culinary Bazaar.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

French Toast

My daughter's favorite. I'm not a huge fan of dessert for breakfast, so usually make mine without the sugar...



French Toast

2 eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1 Tbsp sugar
6 slices bread (crusts off)
2 Tbsp butter

Lightly beat eggs. Whisk in milk and sugar.
Melt 1/2 the butter in a pan.
Add a slice of bread to the egg mixture. Turn the bread and allow to become saturated.
Place in the pan and brown on both sides.
Repeat with the remaining bread.
Drizzle with maple syrup and enjoy!






This is my entry for the Food for Plastic Challenge III, hosted by What's Cooking?. Tupperware has named April "Children's Month" and will be donating part of their proceeds to Boys' and Girls' Clubs.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Dressing Up Paneer



Cilantro is probably my most favorite herb. I use it almost every day in one form or the other. The subtle flavors it imparts is what I look for. I love the leaves as a garnish. I cook the stems in rasam to give a sudden burst of flavor.

Since most people are familiar with cilantro, I thought I'd mention some lesser-known facts about it here:

1. Coriander is thought to have been introduced to Britain by the Romans as a meat preserver. Coriander seed and leaf was very widely used in medieval cuisine. Even today, coriander seed is an important ingredient in many sausage products. Coriander was brought to the British colonies in North America in 1670 and was one of the first spices cultivated by early settlers.

2. The seeds have a lemony citrus flavour when crushed, due to the presence of the terpenes linalool and pinene. It is also described as warm, nutty, spicy, and orange-flavoured. They are usually dried but can be eaten green.

3. Some people perceive an unpleasant "soapy" taste and/or a rank smell when dealing with cilantro. This is believed to be a result of an enzyme that changes the way they taste coriander leaves, a genetic trait, but has yet to be fully researched
(courtesy Wikipedia)

I've been making paneer at home for about 3-4 months now. I was always a bit apprehensive about it, but it all worked out well the very first try, and I haven't looked back since. Home-made paneer has a lovely crumbly, soft texture which I can't find in the store-bought varieties.

I was minding my own business, making my paneer (and from non-fat milk - a healthy bonus!), when I chanced upon this post by Allen at Eating Out Loud (be sure to check out his blog - its quite amazing). He totally changed my view of paneer.

Deciding that I needed to dress it up, I followed his simple steps but made mine from fat-free milk, added cilantro and went a step further and added crushed walnuts as well (just to give it a little crunch).



Dressed-Up Paneer

1 1/2 liters fat-free milk
Juice of 1 lemon
2 sprigs cilantro leaves, chopped
4-5 walnuts, crushed

You can see a detailed log of making paneer here.

Heat the milk. When the milk has begun to boil, add the lemon juice. It should curdle in a minute or two. If not fully curdled, add more lemon juice. When curdled, strain the mixture and transfer to a muslin cloth. At this point, I added the cilantro and walnuts.

Tie the mixture tight and hang the muslin cloth (I hang the muslin from the tap in my kitchen sink, so the water drains into the sink). Allow to drain for a full 10-15 minutes. Squeeze the muslin once more. It should look something like this:



Now keep the strained mixture under a heavy weight (I used a pressure cooker filled with water!).



Leave it alone for about 1/2 hour. It should now resemble this:




That's it. It came out perfectly. We ate the paneer on wholewheat crackers, with a little chaat masala sprinkled on top (had to introduce a little bit of the Indian element with the chaat masala!). The possibilities for dressing up paneer are endless - I've already tried cumin (jeera); crushed red peppers; bits of apple. Its all been delicious so far!





This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook, and originally created by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen. Thank you for hosting!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Pasta



I've been looking forward to this month's Taste & Create event, hosted by Myamii at For the Love of Food. I was paired with Cara of Cara's Cravings and absolutely loved going through her blog. Being a novice baker and a vegetarian, I usually skip over most recipes that mention "yeast" or "meat" :) But this was different. Cara's blog has a little bit for everyone and loads of lovely photos!

After days of clicking, I finally chose to make her Roasted Squash and Ricotta Pasta (though I must've bookmarked a dozen recipes to try later!). I made just a few changes, but stuck to the original recipe for the most part.



It was absolutely delicious and everyone was licking their plates clean. She also taught me quite a few "tricks" - like adding pasta water when making the sauce and how to roast garlic!! Here's her original recipe (my remarks are in italics)

Roasted Squash and Ricotta pasta

12 oz butternut squash, peeled and diced (I used pumpkin because I searched for 3 days and couldn't find any squash in my city!)
1 small onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
salt & pepper
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta
6 oz whole wheat spaghetti (I used fettucine)
baby spinach, about 2 handfuls (had to omit this - I waited the same 3 days and the grocery stores never got the right spinach. I love spinach - so was a little sad about that)
2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted

Preheat oven to 375F. Arrange squash and onions on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray, sprinkle with salt pepper, and nutmeg, spritz with olive oil and toss around. Place the two cloves of garlic on a small square of foil spritzed with olive oil, and wrap it up. Put on the baking sheet with the onions and squash. Roast for about 40 minutes, until vegetables are tender and lightly browned.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the spaghetti. Meanwhile, combine ricotta cheese, the roasted garlic, and about 1/2 cup of the cooked squash in a blender. Add 1-2 ladles of pasta water and puree.

Drain the pasta and return it to the pan, keeping warm Combine with the ricotta sauce and the spinach, stirring to coat the pasta and wilt the spinach. Fold in the remaining vegetables. Garnish each serving with pine nuts.



It was delicious. Thanks, Cara. This is going to be a regular feature in our pasta nights.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Lemon Rice: A Taste of Yellow

The Taste of Yellow, hosted by Barbara, is an event which, along with the Lance Armstrong Foundation, helps support those who live with the effects of cancer.



This is such a great cause, I urge everyone who is reading this to participate.



Lemon Rice

2 cups cooked rice
Juice of 1 lemon
1 pinch turmeric powder
Salt, to taste

For tempering:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fenugreek powder
1 tsp Black Gram
1 tsp Bengal Gram

In a pan, heat oil and add the ingredients for tempering. When the mustard seeds begin to splutter, add the turmeric powder, lemon juice and salt and leave till just heated through (do not leave on for more than a minute, as the juice tends to become bitter if heated for too long).

Remove from heat and toss with the cooked rice.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Olan

In honor of Vishu, I wanted to post my favorite Keralite dish. The very first time I tasted this dish I fell in love with it.

I've made it many times since, and it comes out perfectly every time. Its really simple and a lovely tribute to Kerala food, thats always slightly sweet and very tasty.



Olan (Pumpkin with Coconut Milk)

1 cup Pumpkin, cubed
3 Green Chillies, julienned
1 Onion, julienned
1 tsp Ginger, shredded
4 Curry Leaves
1 cup Coconut Milk
1 tsp Coconut Oil (optional, and you could use whatever oil is at hand)
Salt, to taste

Cook the pumpkin, chillies, onion and curry leaves in a little water (just enough water to cook the pumpkin).

When the pumpkin is cooked and soft, add salt. Continue cooking until the dish thickens.

When the curry is thick, add the coconut milk and oil. Let it heat together on a low flame for another minute or two. Remove from heat.

Serve with steamed rice.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Akki Roti



Originally from Karnataka, this "roti" is close to a thin adai. Akki means Rice in Kannada, and these are thick, soft rice crepes.

I've loved these rotis (pronounced "rotti") ever since I was a little girl and would get them for breakfast when I holidayed with my grandparents in Bangalore.

Easy to make and packed with flavor, these are great for a hearty breakfast or brunch. In the original recipe, you would essentially make a dough and pat the dough onto a pan to form a thick rotti/ tortilla. But I like them thin and crispy - and so, I made a batter rather than a dough by mixing in lots of water to make it of pouring consistency.



Akki Roti

2 cups Rice Flour
4 green chillies, chopped
1/2 cup grated coconut
2 tbsp coriander, chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 pinch asafetida
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 onion, chopped
Salt, to taste

Mix all the ingredients with a little oil in warm water. I added enough water to make a thin batter.
Spread some oil on a heated pan and pour a 1/4 cupful onto the pan. Cover and let steam. Turn over and drizzle some oil on top.
Cook well on both sides till golden brown.



I love to eat it all by itself. But it tastes very good with a mild chutney.



I'm sending this one to Srivalli @ Cooking4allseasons for the Dosa Mela. This is the last one, I promise. As you can see, I'm a dosa freak too, Srivalli!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Neer Dosa

Originating from Coorg and Mangalore, Neer Dosa is a light, soft dosa. At first it seems really easy to make, but getting that soft consistency proved to be quite an uphill task. Finally we managed to make some pretty decent ones.

Neer Dosa

2 cups Raw Rice
Salt, to taste
Oil, fry frying

Wash and soak the rice for 2-3 hours (I soaked it overnight). Then grind to a very thin paste. Remove from the grinder and add salt and water to make a very thin consistency. (And when it says thin, it has to be just a little thicker than water! Otherwise, it just doesn't get cooked on the dosa pan.)..



Heat the dosa tava, apply a little oil and pour one ladleful of batter so it spreads in a thin, even layer. Cover and keep for a second. Then remove it carefully.



They were quite lovely towards the end! I served it with coconut chutney and tomato curry.

This is for Valli's Dosa Mela at Cooking4allseasons.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Mysore Rasam

Rasam, I find, is one of those things that you can't cook by recipe alone. There has to be a feel for the dish, an innate sense of what and how much goes in. I've always been a cook of proportions, preferring to follow recipes, and so, my rasams were never fabulous (or ever measured up to what I had growing up).



A friend gave me a cookbook when I left for the US to study, and said "read it when you are feeling homesick". I didn't take it out for almost 3 months and then one day, I desperately wanted rasam. I tried this book and it was the best I've ever had.

Rasam is a thin, slightly spicy soup with a lentil base. It is delicious mixed with rice, but tastes as good just as a drink.



Mysore Rasam (adapted from Dakshin by Chandra Padmanabhan)

1/2 cup red gram dal or masoor dal
3-4 small tomatoes, quartered
3 tsp Mysore Rasam Powder (recipe follows)
2 tbsp jaggery, powdered (I use sugar and it tastes as good)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 small bunch coriander leaves, chopped
1 tsp juice of tamarind
salt to taste

For tempering:
1 tbsp ghee
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 red chilli, halved
1/2 tsp asafetida powder
a few curry leaves

Procedure:

Heat the oil and add the tempering ingredients. When the mustard starts to splutter, add the tomatoes, jaggery/sugar, tamarind extract, mysore rasam powder, salt and turmeric.
Keep on a low flame and let it simmer until the raw tamarind smell disappears. Add the cooked dal and let it simmer for another 5 or so minutes. Add the coconut milk, coriander and remove from heat.


Mysore Rasam Powder

2 cups dhania or coriander seeds
1/4 cup peppercorns
1/4 cup cumin seeds
4 tsp fenugreek leaves
1 bunch curry leaves
2 cups red chillies
3 tsp oil
2 tsp turmeric powder

Roast the coriander seeds, peppercorns, cumin, fenugreek and curry leaves on a dry pan.
In another pan, fry the red chillies in the oil.
Combine all the ingredients and grind to a fine powder.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Vermicelli Upma

Vermicelli (or Semiya as it is known in southern India), is a versatile ingredient used in different types of foods. Most popularly it is used in kheer or payasam (a sweet dessert pudding) and in upma. Sometimes, it is even used as a substitute for rice in a yogurt-rice mix. It looks and feels like a thin rice noodle, and is probably the closest thing that India has to the noodle.



Here, I've made a semiya upma. A very popular breakfast food in several parts of India, and a huge favorite of mine.

1 cup vermicelli, lightly toasted to a golden color
1.5 cups water
2-3 green chillies, slit lengthwise
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp mustard seeds, for seasoning
2-3 curry leaves, for seasoning
Salt, to taste

Add a tablespoon of oil to a saute pan. When the oil is warm, add the mustard seeds. When the mustard starts to splutter, add the curry leaves, green chillies and onions and fry for a couple of minutes.

Add the water and salt to the pan and let it come to a boil. Now add the vermicelli and keep stirring. The water will be absorbed and the vermicelli noodles will become soft. Remove from heat.

Enjoy!

This is my entry for Presto Pasta Night. Check out some of the recipes - they're delicious.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Pesarat

Pesarat is a dosa made of green gram lentils and is absolutely delicious and nutritious. I'm always looking for ways to make my favorite staples healthier and tastier, and this combines both. The green gram provides a big protein punch, which is so important to us vegetarians. And it adds a bit of a nutty texture to regular dosa, which, to me, makes it tastier as well.




1 cup Green Gram Whole lentils, soaked for 1 hour
3 Green chillies, chopped fine
2 Onions, chopped fine
1 Bunch Coriander leaves, chopped fine

Grind the lentils to a pancake dough-type consistency with a little water. Add the chopped green chillies, onions and coriander.

Spread like crepes on a heated pan. Turn over when slightly brown and cook the other side for a minute or two.

Serve with chutney.

This is my contribution to Srivalli @ Cooking 4 all Seasons's Dosa Mela

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Travel File: Bandhavgarh National Park



Recently we traveled to the state of Madhya Pradesh in India and visited the lovely tiger reserve, Bandhavghar. It was absolutely stunning! And I was totally taken aback by the cuisine of the state. It was delicious, healthy and lovely. To hear about the beauty and serenity of the Park and the (almost spiritual) photos of nature, click here. To hear about the cuisine first, stay here.

We stayed at the Mahua Kothi lodge which is a joint venture by the Taj Group of Hotels and CC Africa. They have very scarce access to varieties of food, and so, they mostly stick to MP food and fresh ingredients grown in their own garden. Here's that beautiful vegetable garden:



A photographic culinary journey.

Every morning, we'd start the journey into the forest at 5 am and return at 10 am. Needless to say, we were all hungry by 8.30 am. There in a little part of the forest, our guide stops at a little resthouse and took out a grand picnic and spread it on the bonnet of the jeep!





We had fresh biscuits and muffins, oranges, parathas and kathi rolls. And of course hot coffee and tea as well a different kind of juice every day. Refreshed, we used to continue our forays into the forest. When we headed back to the hotel, we would find a man waiting with cold towels and a fully laid out breakfast of fruits and fresh cottage cheese along with biscuits, juice and tea.



After that we'd take a nature walk for a couple of hours around the 100 acres of the lodge, or take a swim in the beautiful pool. Then it was time for lunch! And every single day, the lunch was a delight to behold. There would be 3 kinds of vegetables, one chicken or fish or lamb, dal, pappad and a salad served with roti and rice. The meal would always start with a cold soup for lunch and a hot soup for dinner.

And we would dine outside under the popular Mahua tree. Mahua is a local tree that grows in most parts of Madhya Pradesh. The fruit of the tree is used to make a local toddy, and is sometimes used as an ingredient in breads or rotis. The smell of the fruit is lovely and intoxicating. The leaves provide a treat for monkeys and deer.




In this particular meal, we started with the most delicious cold raw mango and mint soup. The chef very graciously gave me the recipe after I almost begged for it! He says "Cook the raw mango with a little bit of green chilli until it is very soft. Then blend with a cup or so of water. Add the mint leaves in the very end and blend only for a minute or two. Add salt". LOL! Every single recipe of his was so simple and utterly delicious.



This was followed by the actual meal (though I could've made a meal of two bowls of their soup!). And I forgot to mention that they make their own pickles. The one shown here was a jackfruit pickle and a ginger-garlic pickle. The former was fabulous!




We would then leave around 3 for our evening 4 hour drive into the forest. When we arrived back at 7, we'd be greeted by a "snack" and tea. Usually this consisted of biscuits and one kind of "tikki". The one shown here is a sabudana-potato-cilantro tikki. The other one that I loved was a cottage cheese-apricot tikki. I have resolved to make them both this week at home!



Every meal was finished by a different dessert everyday. Most days it was phirnee or kheer, but one day the chef produced a fresh fig icecream that was to die for!



A perfect way to end the day. Needless to say, the place was so stunning, I will be returning as soon as possible. To see more photographs of the brilliance of the National Park, please click here.