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Friday, December 23, 2011

Simple Salted Tukdi (Diamond Cuts)

Time for another recipe! I love the long breaks from blogging (I am rather surprised to be saying this) - you see, Christmas is nearing and everyday has so many activities and events packed into it, that there is hardly any time left for blogging :-) I am sitting by the window sill as I write this post, a lovely corner of a kitchen at my brother's place. Well, I am here to celebrate Christmas & new year with my brother's family and the weather is so beautiful, I am actually wearing a light sweater. And no, it's not snowing where they live - deserts are cold too! (wink wink)


I know I haven't been regular with my posts since a while now - well, travelling to another country with a child can be taxing - and the excitement of meeting relatives, being with family, shopping and simply switching off to an 'on-a-vacation' mood overshadows the need to blog regularly :-) So while I still have another couple of Christmas posts lined up as planned, I don't think they will make it to the blog before Christmas day, so you will see these coming up one by one at my leisure - in between the shopping and the lazing and stuffing myself with all the gorgeous food - yeah, I may just post one recipe in a few days :-)

Well, without boring you any further, let me tell you that today's recipe is not the actual Thukdi recipe as many people prefer to eat - this is basically a by-product of the Neurio session - the leftover dough actually was cut up, deep fried to provide the much needed comfort food for my son - I would call these mildly salted plain Thukdis the close cousin of the cheeslings - very crispy, very light & terribly economical. A different Thukdi recipe will follow as soon as I try them (I am busy making cakes and other Kuswar at my bro's place) - so do watch this space for more recipes!!


Simple Salted Tukdi
You Need:
  • 1 cup (125gm) maida (all purpose flour)
  • a little less than 1/4 cup of warm water
  • 1/4 tsp (or to taste) sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • oil for deep frying
  • 1/4 tsp salt dissolved in 2 tbsp water (if you like mildly salted tukdi)
Method:
1. In a wide pan (the one used to knead dough for chapathis) place the flour, salt to taste and sugar to taste and add warm water in parts. Mix with your fingertips until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Proceed to knead into a smooth pliable dough. Allow it to rest for 5 mins
2. Pinch out lime sized balls of dough and roll them out flat into a round shape (like a thin chapathi).
3. Run a cookie cutter/pizza blade diagonally across the chapathi to make diamond or square shapes. Repeat until all the dough has been used up to roll into chapathis and cut into shapes.
4. Heat oil on a medium high flame for deep frying. Drop the diamond shapes into the hot oil and fry until the colour changes to pinkish brown. If you wish to make them salted, add 1 tsp of salt water per batch before they brown. When the gurgling noise subsides you can remove the tukdi out.
5. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on a absorbent kitchen tissue and when it is completely cooled, store in an airtight container.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pathekaan (Banana Chips) - Kuswar 4 - and Celebrating Terra Madre at the Mumbai Food Bloggers' Meet

While I had planned back to back posts of the Kuswar series, I had to take a short break to focus on what I was going to make for the potluck dinner on Saturday, the 10th of December where the food bloggers in Mumbai met. Incidentally on the 10th of December  the global network of Slow Food and Terra Madre came together to celebrate the Terra Madre ('Terra' stands for earth and 'Madre' means mother) and promote local food. Terra Madre is coordinated by the Slow Food Organisation, a movement which lays emphasis on using locally available ingredients and traditional cooking methods to preserve culinary diversity.    This movement was started as a resistance to the opening of McDonald's in Rome in 1986 and was officially founded in 1989 'to counter the rise of fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people's dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world" read more

The Mumbai food bloggers' also celebrated the Terra Madre Day by way of a potluck dinner - organised by Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal and hosted by Nikhil Merchant - each one of us was required to bring a dish that was made with ingredients that were either local or seasonal or a dish that was traditional and/or uncommon. It was my first time to the bloggers meet & was very excited to meet everyone. I chose to take a traditional Mangalorean dish that was pretty unpopular outside Mangalore, was made differently by each community in Mangalore and suited the theme of Slow Cooking very aptly. Any guesses? Well, I made the quintessential Mangalorean Pathrade/Pathrode in a curry. Since I was aware that there would be vegans and vegetarians as well, I prepared a vegan (without meat and ghee) version and a non vegetarian (mutton curry) version. For those of you who don't know what Pathrade is - well, it is nothing but rice cakes made of rice and colocasia (arbi) leaves and spices. The Catholics steam this mixture in Teak leaves. Mangalorean Bunts, Konkans and Brahmins make it differently - ground masala paste is smeared on each leaf and then stacked one above the other, rolled and steamed or cut into pieces and fried before consuming. Since I didn't find Teak leaves in Mumbai, I simply steamed the cakes in banana leaves - the result was just perfect.


The dishes brought by others revolved around the same theme - I was not only introduced to new cuisines but also unfamiliar ingredients, methods and flavours. We also had two chefs who graced the event,. one of them was Vikas Khanna (of MasterChef India fame) who is also a Michelin starred Indian chef based in New York. Since I religiously follow MasterChef India (which he also judges) it was a huge surprise and a pleasure to have him present at the meet.

Coming back to our recipe for today - whoever doesn't like banana chips, please raise your hand - I am sure there are very few people who do not like these addictive chips made from our humble Nendra bananas. Nendra Bale (in Kannada) /Nandarkai (in Konkani) as we call them in Mangalore are colloquially known as the Macho banana or Kerala Banana. They are usually consumed in their ripe form and are very nutritious and delicious. Some people can barely finish a whole large banana in one go and you can equate each banana to at least 6-7 elaichi bananas! That's a lot of bananas eh? In the South, the dried & powdered form of the semi ripe banana is one of the first foods offered to babies when they are weaned as it is highly nutritious and naturally sweet which is what appeals to fussy eaters as well.


These ubiquitous chips score over the potato chips in South India and are a favourite among many people I know. These much loved chips however are not made in most homes in Mangalore today, maybe because not everyone has the time & patience to slice & fry the unripe bananas and maybe because many do not know the process. Neither did I - just learnt them from my MIL recently and was amazed at the simplicity of making them at home - honestly, I think this is one snack I don't mind deep frying at home (I am not a fan of deep fried foods but have to give in to the pressure from hubs & the little brat once in a way). Making your own banana chips is the best way to ensure a cost effective (unless you are frying in olive oil!) and fresh batch made right in your kitchen. Since you have complete control over the quality of oil used to deep fry you can ensure that you have healthier snacks at home. I have made these twice in the past 3 weeks and each time they have been finished before I could even store them in an airtight box!


These chips are called as 'Pathekaan' (n is silent - just a nasal pronunciation) in Konkani and figure in the Kuswar platter which is usually dominated by sweets. The Pathekaan along with Khara Kaddi (spicy sticks made of chickpea flour) are probably the only two items that are savoury. If you can find raw Nendra bananas, do give these chips a try. You will love them!


Pathekaan (Banana Chips)
Yield: 300gm (approx)

You Need:
  • 4 raw Nendrakai bananas
  • oil for deep frying
For the salt solution
  • 1/2 - 3/4th tsp salt (for moderately salty chips)
  • 3 tbsp water
You also need:
  • a potato chip slicer or a mandolin blade



Preparing the bananas
1.) Wash the bananas & pat them dry. Run a knife gently along the length of each banana taking care to see that the knife does not cut through the flesh of the banana - make cuts with the knife only as deep as the outer green skin. When you have made approx 5-6 such vertical cuts, carefully skin the bananas using the tip of the knife if required. Peel the entire banana & retain the peels - you can cook an interesting side dish (Click for recipe). 
2.) Repeat the process and peel all the bananas & immediately place them in a large bowl of water - this will help the bananas to retain the colour otherwise they will turn black


Preparing the salt solution
Dissolve the salt into the water. Keep it aside

Deep frying the chips
1.) Heat oil for deep frying in a heavy bottomed kadhai or a deep wok. Let the flame be medium high. Hold the slicer at a safe height over the kadhai & quickly slice the banana so that the pieces drop into the hot oil. 
2.) Using a slotted spoon give the chips a stir and continue to cook them on a medium high flame. The colour will slowly begin to change from off-white to pale yellow & then bright yellow. Ensure that you give a mix every now & then so all the chips fry evenly.
3.) Around 1-1/2 minutes into the frying process, add about 2 tsp of the salt solution into the kadhai. You will hear a furious gurgling of the oil as the salt water spreads into the kadhai. Wait for this sound to subside.
4.) You can then remove the chips ladle by ladle. Ensure that the oil has been drained from the chips by placing the ladle against the side of the kadhai for a few seconds before transferring onto an absorbent kitchen tissue. Continue to fry the remaining bananas.
5.) Allow the chips to cool completely before storing them in an airtight container. The chips keep well for 10-12 days if they haven't been eaten by then!


Pic1: Slice the banana into the hot oil
Pic2: Fry until the colour turns into a bright yellow, scoop out the chips with a slotted spoon
Pic3: Drain excess oil on an absorbent kitchen tissue
Pic4: Store in an airtight container

Notes:
  • Ensure that you buy absolutely raw bananas as they will be hard to slice once they start to ripen. If you do not find this variety, you can use plantains too (plantains are the variety that are used for cooking)
  • An average wide mouthed kadhai accomodates chips of one banana at a time. Do not overcrowd the kadhai as the chips will not fry evenly. 
  • You need to slice the banana quickly and carefully as the heat can get uncomfortable if you delay (as we call 'Dhaau' in Konkani - which can burn your hands if you are inexperienced with this). Also, take care not to drop the slices from such as height that the oil splash outside the pan.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Neurio/Nevries (Crescent Shaped Sweet Puffs) ~ Traditional Mangalorean Kuswar


It's been a year since this blog was reborn - I cannot write further unless I thank the people who believed in me & with a word of encouragement, a gentle nudge & a loving (?) kick got me to revive this blog - I haven't looked back ever since and I hope to carry on with as much passion & enthusiasm as I have done the whole year through in recording the recipes that I try out in my kitchen. So thanks to my friend May, cousin Prema & hubby Roshan who in various ways (in the order mentioned above) coaxed me to continue writing this blog. My biggest support has been my hubby to whom I dedicate this post. Neurio??? You may ask, well, yes, although he is my biggest critic and the one who gives me a thumbs up or thumbs down signal each time something is whipped up in my kitchen, he was travelling when I made the Neurio and didn't get even a crumb to eat when he returned. So yes, this is for you Roshan - feast your eyes on these pics, willya! 


I am sure most of you have eaten the Neurio which are are popularly called as Karanji with slight variations in the filling. Karanjis are made especially during Diwali, at least in South India and are a significant item on the Kuswar platter as well during Christmas. In my opinion Neurios are best made at home as the filling is fresh, fragrant & juicy - unlike the store bought variety which is made weeks in advance and tastes rancid (stale) if you have been unlucky enough to pick up old stock.

Making Neurio (Nevries) at home is lots of fun. Among all the Kuswar items I learnt to make them first from my MIL a few years ago. It is one sweet that falls into the dual category - simple yet complex - simple because technically it's not as difficult as it looks - the dough & the filling is damn easy to make and complex only in terms of the steps involved in doling out each Nevri. Make the dough, prepare the mixture for the filling, roll out puris, place the filling, fold, cut the edges, deep fry! So yes, an extra pair of hands can be a blessing. But people like me who live away from home and have no help beyond a pair of 3 year old hands which generously help by eating up half the mixture can also make it with great elan!


Describing a Nevri is what I like to do best - a crescent shaped sweet samosa with a crunchy exterior and a delightful centre - a filling made of sesame, cashewnuts, poppy seeds, kopra , raisins, sugar (or jaggery) & cardamom - is like a coming together of a large family made up of a variety of members, their characters, temperaments, shapes, sizes & nuances - each bringing in a special flavour & fragrance into the family - the presence of all brings great sweetness into one's life and an absence of even one is greatly felt. 
Such are our Indian festivals - the great Indian family that comes together brings all this & more. This reminds me of one of my favourite quotes 

~ "A family that prays together & eats together definitely stays together" ~


Neurio/Sweet Puffs
Yield: approx 25-27

You Need:

For the dough:
  • 2-1/2 cups/ 300gm maida (all purpose flour) + extra for rolling
  • 1 fistful / 25gm (approx) rawa (semolina)
  • 3/4th cup (approx) warm water
  • a sprinkling of sugar
  • salt to taste
For the filling:
  • 1/3 cup/50gm sesame seeds (til)
  • 1/3 cup/50gm broken cashewnuts (kaju)
  • 2 tbsp poppy seeds (khus khus)
  • 1/4 cup slivered/chopped dried coconut (kopra) - optional
  • 1/2 cup grated coconut
  • 2 tbsp (approx) /40gm raisins (kishmish) - cleaned, washed & dried
  • 3 tbsp/25gm caster sugar or regular granulated sugar powdered
  • 2-3 cardamoms (elaichi) powdered - optional
For deep frying
  • approx 1 litre oil
Method:

To make the dough
1. In a large wide bowl mix the maida, rawa and the salt and sprinkle about 1/2 cup of the warm water working your way towards kneading the mixture. Initially the mixture will look like bread crumbs. Use the heel of your palm to knead into a smooth dough. This can take 5-7 minutes, add parts of the reserved water until your dough is smooth & pliable. Reserve any remaining water aside.
2. Cover the dough with a damp cloth for a few minutes until required.

To make the filling
1. Heat a tawa/skillet and roast the sesame seeds, broken cashewnuts, grated coconut & poppy seeds one by one on a slow flame until just about roasted. Do not over roast them as they will turn bitter.
2. Mix all the ingredients (except the raisins & kopra) in a large bowl & add the powdered sugar. Transfer this mixture on to the hot tawa once again and continue to stir until the entire mixture turns sticky (as the sugar begins to melt). Keep aside

To assemble
1. Make small lime size balls out of the dough, dust with a little flour and roll them into thin flat circles, the size of puris.
2. Place about 1 tsp of the sticky mixture right in the centre of the puri, place a couple of slivers of kopra and raisins each on the mixture.
3. Use the reserved water to moisten the edges of the puri - this helps to seal the edges as the water acts as a glue between the edges. Fold the puri in half such that it forms a crescent shape (semi circle). Seal the edges carefully and use a cookie cutting blade/pizza cutter to trim the jagged edges or just use a fork to make a pretty design around the edges.
4. Repeat the steps until all the filling has been used up. Retain the extra dough (if any) to make Tukdi (recipe to follow)

To deep fry
1. Heat oil on a medium high flame for deep frying in a large heavy bottomed wide kadhai or wok. Test the preparedness of the oil by dropping a small ball of dough into the oil. If it comes up to the surface immediately (within 2-3 seconds) the oil is ready for deep frying.
2. Depending on how large your kadhai is carefully drop 6-7 nevris into the hot oil and fry both the sides till golden in colour.
3. Remove using a slotted colander, drain excess oil and transfer the nevris onto an absorbent kitchen towel
4. Let the nevris cool completely before you store it in airtight containers. Nevris keep well for 10-12 days after which the filling may turn rancid.


Stepwise:
Pic1: Make lime size balls
Pic2: Roll out the dough into medium sized puris
Pic3: Place the mixture/filling in the centre leaving out enough space around the edges

Pic4: Moisten the edges with water - this helps to seal the edges properly else they will open up while frying
Pic5: Fold the puri into half forming a crescent (half moon) shape. Gently seal the edges with your fingers
Pic6: Trim the edges using a pizza cutter or a fork

Pic7: Drop neuries into the hot oil
Pic8: Fry on both sides and add oil on the surface of the neuries until they puff up
Pic9: Fry till pinkish brown & remove


               Above Pic: You can either use a cookie/pizza cutter or a fork to trim the edges or make a design

Notes:
It is preferable not to roast the raisins as they taste sour when you eat the nevri, you can just place them onto  the mixture while preparing the neuries
If you still have some dough remaining after using up all the mixture you can make simple salted Thukdi out of it (recipe to follow)



Monday, December 5, 2011

Kokkisan/Roce Cookies/Rose Cookies ~ Traditional Mangalorean Kuswar


So 'tis the season to be jolly! We had one helluva weekend - ate out, watched a movie, celebrated a friend's birthday and yes, put up the Christmas tree and my little fellow decorated it too - well, almost! He put up all the trinkets on one single branch & dragged the rest of the decoration around in the hall - so we spent double the time cleaning up after the mess he had created. Anyway, if this isn't fun, what is? When I was younger we had a real tree - a particular variety that is commonly called as the Christmas tree in India.

Since my mum & dad were passionate about gardening we even had a plant nursery for a few years and so having a few Christmas trees at home was a common thing. Our tree at home (the one I claimed for myself) grew steadily as the years passed by and eventually had to be transferred from its pot to the ground to accommodate its robust roots. What seemed like an easy task to decorate it turned into a challenge as it grew taller and more decoration had to be bought every year - however, it was always fun to decorate it along with my cousins and then beg our dads or brothers to put up the lights as well. Some of them blinked softly every few seconds and those are the ones I really liked. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Kidyo/Kidiyo/Kulkuls (Sweet Dough Curls) - Christmas Goodies ~ Kuswar 1




The word 'Kuswar' instantly brings to mind the Kulkuls that are loved by the people of all ages. Kulkuls can be eaten plain (made with slightly sweetened dough) or rolled in (mael) sugar icing (preferred by kids especially). Kuswar is almost synonymous with the twin terms Kidyo-Gulio. Gulio refers to Rice Marbles which are often hard to bite and most people I know skip even making them. I haven't made them yet, but did make the Kulkuls several times in the past couple of years.

Although most of the Kuswar used to be made at home when I was a kid, as the years passed by we stuck to making just the kulkuls & rice laddoos (thandhlache laadu) at home and the rest of the Kuswar was bakery bought. My dad would buy the plum cake, neuries (sweet puffs), kokkisan (roce cookies) in addition to walnuts, oranges (from Coorg) and Nendra bananas (also called as macho bananas). This odd combination of sweets (home made & bakery bought), seasonal fruits & nuts made Christmas even more special. While the rest of the goodies got over soon, the kulkuls lasted well into the new year.


It's sad that today not too many families make these Kuswar goodies, the younger generation is definitely missing out on all the fun that we used to have as kids, sitting round the dining table curling the kulkuls with forks or combs. I just introduced this lovely custom to my son who was more than willing to help my husband & me curl the kulkuls



I have attempted the kidyo with just 1/4kg flour, it makes just a small batch enough for 2-3 people with average appetites :-) Make sure that if you are doubling or tripling the quantity of flour, you have some company, an extra pair of hands to curl the dough lest you give up half way! Trust me, you will be happy with the results and enjoy the whole experience if you are attempting this for the first time, so keep going! Enjoy!!



Kidyo/Kulkuls
Yield: 1 small batch

You Need
  • 250gm maida /all purpose flour
  • 1 egg (optional) * see notes
  • approx 1/4 cup freshly extracted coconut milk or lukewarm water 
  • 1 tbsp sugar * see notes
  • 1 tbsp warm oil
  • a sprinkling of salt to taste
  • oil for deep frying
For the sugar glaze/icing
  • 75-100gm sugar (depends on how thick an icing you prefer)
  • 1/4 cup water (approx)
You will also require:
  • a unused/clean comb or fork
  • a small bowl with a few drops of oil to grease the fork/comb
  • a large & wide mouthed heavy bottomed wok/kadhai for deep frying
  • slotted spoon
  • large flat dish to place the curls
Method:
Preparing the dough
In a large bowl (used to knead dough for chapathis) mix the maida, salt, sugar and egg until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. To this add the coconut milk in parts - using only as much as required to help knead the flour into a smooth pliable dough. For best results knead the dough well for at least 5-7 minutes wetting your fingers with coconut milk every now & then to help achieve a smooth dough. (see notes). Keep the dough aside - cover with a damp cloth so that the dough doesn't dry up during the process of making the dough curls

Curling the kulkuls
Depending on the kind of design you wish - choose the thin or thicker bristle side of the comb or a fork. Slightly grease it with a dab of oil (let it not drip). Make small marble size balls of the dough and flatten each ball over the bristles/fork to form a thin rectangular patch. Start rolling it from one side using a little pressure on your finger tips so that the dough has the impression of the bristles/fork. Seal the edges gently - ensure that the impression is not lost. Place the curl on a large lightly greased plate. Continue the process to make more curls until all the dough is used up




              Pic1                                           Pic 2                                               Pic 3 
                 
Pic 1: Marble sized balls of dough
Pic 2: Kulkuls made using a comb
Pic 3: Kulkuls made using a fork

(Design courtesy: Mr. Husband! - Thank you R!)

Deep Frying the kulkuls
Heat oil in the kadhai on a medium high flame (see notes). When the oil is ready for frying, drop as many kulkuls as the kadhai will hold. Be careful not to let the oil splatter on your face! Reduce the heat a bit if necessary and fry until the kulkuls are golden pink. Do not let them brown too much. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain excess oil against the side of the kadhai & transfer onto an absorbent kitchen tissue. Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Kulkuls keep fresh for upto 2 weeks


Glazing the kulkuls
The next day, make the syrup by heating the sugar and the water to make a syrup. When the syrup thickens and coats the back of the spoon, toss in the kulkuls and hold the pan on both sides and gently toss the kulkuls so that all of them are uniformly coated with the syrup. Transfer the kulkuls on a large plate or clean banana leaf and quickly separate them with a fork so that they don't stick to each other. Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

                   Above pic: kulkuls freshly rolled in the icing syrup and waiting to cool

Notes:
1. I have tried making kulkuls with different measurements at least 4 times. The trick in getting the perfect kulkuls - the Mangalorean way (a bit hard yet crispy to the bite) is to knead the dough well and to use a bit oil while kneading. Adding the egg is optional as I have noticed that it makes the kulkuls softer.
Some people add baking powder to the dough - this never worked for me as I got fat and fully bloomed kulkuls - not my type. I prefer the thinner Mangalorean variety of Kulkuls that snap at every bite.
2. You can even add butter instead of oil, however, the shelf life reduces as butter can smell rancid after a while.
3. Some recipes call for semolina/rawa to be added to the flour. This apparently makes the kulkuls more crisp with an almost biscuit-like crunch (again, not something I prefer). Do make sure however to lightly roast the rawa if you intend adding it as it helps the dough to cook faster
4. If you don't intend glazing the kulkuls you may add an extra tbsp of sugar to the dough to sweeten it. Plain  kulkuls taste great too.
5. The oil for deep frying must be adequately heated and at the right temperature to ensure that the insides of the kulkuls are fried as well. Smoking hot oil will brown the kulkuls on the outside faster and leave the insides uncooked. Inadequate heating of the oil will result in kulkuls that will soften after they cool and won't be crisp as desired. To test the readiness of the oil drop a small (mustard size) ball of dough into the hot oil, if it pops up to the surface within 2-3 seconds, your oil is ready for frying
6. If your dough is not soft & pliable you will find it difficult to curl them and the edges wont seal resulting in them opening up during the frying process, so ensure that your dough is kneaded well and is really soft - to test it, after kneading, poke your thumb into the dough ball, if it makes a smooth impression & the dough doesn't stick to your fingers, then your dough is correct. Well kneaded dough ensures that your kulkuls seal off at the edges without applying too much pressure. If at any stage you find that the dough is rough, add a few drops of oil to knead instead of water or coconut milk. When you break off the marble size balls it should be elastic and not break in abrupt jerks


P.S
Kulkuls are called as or Kidyo/Kidiyo in Konkani which means worm. Before you say eeks, let me tell you that they are called so simply because they look like silkworms. Let the name not discourage you to make these lovely sweets. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Preparing For The Season of Love

My dear friends, I am more than delighted to write this post as I eagerly await the month that starts tomorrow ~ December ~ a month that brings good cheer and happiness to millions across the world as it is in this month that we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, Lord & Saviour, on the 25th of December. Christians across the world celebrate the birth of the One whose life and teachings are the foundation of Christianity.

As per the Christian calendar we are currently observing the season of Advent (from the Latin word adventus meaning "coming"which starts on the fourth Sunday before December 25th and ends on the day of the Nativity of Christ (25th of December) after which starts the Christmastide which lasts twelve days (this is the origin of the Christmas carol - The Twelve Days of Christmas) and ends on the 6th of January (Epiphany) which is also celebrated as the Feast of the Three Kings (The Magi)

Jesus
"The Reason For The Season"

Although I have been waiting to write this post since ages, I was waiting for Advent to start. The season of Advent is the symbolic time of preparation of one's self for the coming of the Lord. Along with this, a host of other preparations are made and it is a time of love and happiness, bonding and togetherness. It is also the time when families meet and greet each other and gifts are exchanged. Sadly, in today's world the whole focus of Christmas has shifted from the commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ (the Son of God who came down to this earth for the salvation of the whole world) to the famous Santa Claus (originally Saint Nicholas, a kind soul) who as per folklore is said to bring gifts to the homes of children who have been on their best behaviour the whole year through (well, even I believed this when I was a kid!). Undoubtedly, Christmas becomes more delightful for kids and adults alike when we have Santa look-alikes wandering around adding a sparkle to the celebrations. 

However, the real meaning of Christmas is beyond Santa and beyond the festivities, the gifts, the food, the cards, the decorations, the X'mas Tree and the commercialisation of this meaningful feast. In short, the real meaning of Christmas is truly the giving of love everyday!

(The story of the birth of Jesus - from the Candle Bible For Kids)

I have a lot of memories revolving Christmas and what it meant to me when I was a child. It brings back vibrant memories of colours, food, music, movies and people. The events that surround this festival, the countdown to the actual day, the enthusiasm and cheer is something else. If I were to open the chest of my memories, I would not be able to pick just one. There are just too many! When I was in school we used to have the Crib competition to look forward to. A crib is a miniature model of the actual scene of The Nativity - the manger where Jesus was born. It typically consists of a open manger (a trough or an open box in which feed for livestock is placed - as in a stable) and the worldly parents of Jesus - Mary & Joseph and shepherds and their livestock that were present in the area surrounding the manger. The best presentation of this Nativity scene would fetch prizes. I remember that whoever was interested to take part would have to form teams and give their names & I used to always participate with my bunch of friends - a mix of Christian & non-Christians. The participation mattered, not the winning (err, well, the winning mattered too and the disappointment always followed when we didn't win - haha!)

(A typical crib on display outside churches in Mangalore)

The run up to Christmas also had me listening to and singing the carols. Christmas carol (also called a noël) is a carol (song or hymn) whose lyrics are on the theme of Christmas or the winter season in general and which are traditionally sung in the period before Christmas. Since I was part of the Church Choir we used to go Carolling (singing the carols from door to door) - those days were so much fun! 

My mother and I would also make trips to the greeting card shops (there was no Archies or Hallmark in those days - just 'Jerosa Company' or 'St Joseph's Art Printers) to buy our quota of Christmas greeting cards with the warmest of wishes and those that had pictures of the scene of The Nativity or western houses with snow on their roofs and everywhere, pictures of all kinds of Christmas paraphernalia - pictures of a Santa with a goodie bag laden with gifts wrapped in bright colours or a scene of a Christmas tree heavily decorated, a fireplace with wood crackling away and a cat cuddled on a small carpet enjoying the warmth. Oh! how I wished I was part of such scenes! But the tropical climate of Mangalore never saw any winters - well, a few chilly evenings here & there and the adults in my family used to say 'Illeshe Thand podla' (it's beginning to get cold) - so with temperatures as high as 28-29 degrees C at night we would wrap ourselves in thick blankets and drift to sleep with some carols playing softly on our dual cassette deck (our most prized possession in those days almost as coveted as the iPad itself). On some sultry evenings after dinnertime I would sit with my cousins on the steps of our house and gaze into the dark night bejewelled with sparkling stars that took the position of the Three Kings (Orion's Belt) and a child's imagination transported me back into history to the time when Jesus was born.

Since my childhood saw me reading a lot of Enid Blyton books, I used to wish that it would snow in Mangalore too and that Santa would visit me via the chimney (which didn't exist although I made several trips to the dusty, cobweb ridden attic to find that secret door). But obviously none of that happened. No snow & no Santa, despite the hundreds of letters I wrote to him & threw over our old Guava tree. Then there was this year when my brother took pity on me & threw in some 'phoren maal' (his prized collection of imported stationary) in an old sock & left it by my bedside. Boy! Was I thrilled!! (I din't tell him I was so skeptical about it and that I knew who the 'Santa' was). 

The first couple of weeks of December also heralded the onset of the making of Kuswar (the traditional collection of Christmas sweets & savouries) in every family. The popular sweetmeats that in addition to the quintessential plum cake and that are part of the Kuswar are kidiyo (kulkuls/deep fried pastry dough curls), gulio (Rice Marbles), neurio (nevri/sweet puffs), kokkisan (roce/rose cookies), thandhlache laadu (rice laddoos), thilache laadu (sesame seed & jaggery laddoos), rulaonche laadu (semolina laddoos), tukdi (sweet or savoury deep fried diamond shaped pastry dough), pathekan (banana chips), chakliyo (chaklis/rice & lentil spirals), sukur unde (deep fried balls of lentils & jaggery), khaara kaddi (spicy rice & lentil sticks) to name a few. Each family picks their own favourites in the above mentioned list.


Kuswar prepared by my mum-in-law for X'mas 2010

As per the tradition every household used to make huge batches of Kuswar that was sufficient for the members of the household after having distributed it amongst the neighbours, friends, relatives, guests and to the poor and needy who were invited to come home for some alms giving. So one can imagine how much Kuswar used to be religiously prepared by the ladies of the house under the able supervision of the matron of the house (usually the grandma). Kuswar that was made well in advance (as early as in November or early December), stored in airtight steel boxes used to last the whole month through and well into the first week of January. My mother however discontinued making many of the items as the years rolled by, so I had to relearn to make many of them after I got married. Today there are many new items added to the traditional Kuswar platter - milk cream, marzipan, coconut toffee, banana halwa, coconut laddoos to name a few. I hope to learn them one by one in time for next Christmas if not this one ;-)

Ready made Kuswar is available in many bakeries in Mangalore today. People consider it far easier to just shell out some money & buy the Kuswar than to actually toil over it. However, there is no guarantee of the freshness or quality of bakery bought stuff as bakers start the baking & making of eatables at least 2 months in advance. Today as the traditional joint families have been de clustered, women from nuclear families find it difficult to cope up with the challenges of the Kuswar making process (trust me, if you plan to make it single handedly like I did with small kids hanging around for good measure, it can take quite some time & a huge amount of your patience). The cheerfulness and camaraderie that we once shared with fellow 'Kuswar makers' (a.k.a siblings, cousins & aunts) is probably a thing of the past. I know a lot of people (especially you my dear readers who have written in to me since the past couple of months, asking for Kuswar recipes) who armed with the Kuswar recipes would cheerfully want to bring back the old times of making Kuswar at home and so in the days to come, I will post a few recipes that I have been personally tried & tested twice in my kitchen. This is my humble attempt to help all of us recreate the magic of Christmas.

Have a blessed & meaningful season folks!!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Rice Wine

It's never too late to post a wine recipe is it? Well, I think you may just have another wine, just in time for Christmas if you make it right away! Pronto! Got caught up in a million little things at home and somehow although I've been grooving to the Christmas songs I am yet to execute my long list of Christmas To-Dos. I am so excited to look forward to the lovely and busy month of December. Birthdays, shopping, travelling, meeting family & friends, celebrating Christmas and then bringing in the New Year and a brand new month & year before we head back to our lives here in Mumbai. So many things to do and so little time! Well, I am saying this despite the fact that I've been planning for Christmas since two months, time never seems enough. I have a whole laundry list of things to do - try out new recipes & post them on the blog, buy gifts and wrap them, put up the Christmas tree & decorations - all before the 18th of Dec before I travel. Phew!


The past couple of weeks saw me scavenging around for wine bottles. Well, these are not specially crafted bottles (like the decanter) but just pretty ones that I wanted to store the wine in and possibly gift someone. It is really sad that in a place like Mumbai where it is almost impossible to return empty handed from a shopping trip for anything that you fancy, I did not find a single bottle! Shoppers Stop, Lifestyle, Home Centre, Home Stop and my local crockery-wala - the answer was always 'no'. Finally I went to Andheri Market and asked for a wine bottle or bottle to store wine and got puzzled looks in return. Eventually I had to shed my inhibitions and bluntly ask for 'sharaab ka bothal' (liquor bottle) and got smirks instead. As if I was going to a liquor shop to buy my quota of booze. Tsk tsk!



The only option I was left with was to actually empty my collection of liquor/wines in my bar at home (which my man only likes to collect although both of us don't go beyond an occasional beer or wine while we entertain guests). Anyway, a big lesson learnt - never attempt making wine at home unless you have enough bottles to store it in! (and of course a large glass/ceramic jar to make the wine in).You see, after I made the ginger wine (which is tasting better with every passing day) I caught this major obsession to try out wine after wine from my mum's handwritten book [I am clarifying this as I got mails from readers asking if my mother had published a book - well, no, she hasn't authored any although it's not such a bad idea , I must tell her!:-)]

So coming back to the Rice wine, the very name gives you a feel that this could be the typical oriental variety. Rice wine features prominently in Chinese & East Asian's cuisines. The Japanese Sake (pronounced as Sa-Keh) is gaining popularity thanks to restaurants that bring world cuisine especially the Sushi to the table. Although in Japan Sake is more of a general term for all kind of alcoholic beverages, the rice alcohol is called the Nihonshu and is made through a brewing process more like that of beer than a regular fermenting process that the wine calls for.

So that makes us Mangaloreans the pioneers in making sweet wine made of rice by the fermenting process (ha! Just kidding). Rice wine looks & tastes almost like toddy (palm wine) in its nascent stages. Mine turned out a bit more strong since I was over ambitious about making the entire quantity of wine (with 4.5 litres of wine when my ceramic jar could hold only 4 litres of liquid). So as and how the rice & sugar was added to the water, the water started spilling out of the jar. Tsk tsk! Too bad I didn't realise that the jar needs to be really large to accommodate all that water, sugar & rice - I had the Thirsty Crow story unfolding right in front of my eyes :-( I did remove a litre of water from the jar, so that explains why the wine is a lot more strong than intended - but that's ok, I can drink my blues away someday in the future and get totally intoxicated, haha!


I think Ginger & Rice wines are so apt for the Christmas season - Mangalorean tradition says so. Grape wine however is an all season wine and is more associated with the wedding celebrations (but let's not get into the discussion of whether they even serve genuine wine at weddings these days)

Do try this wine right away if you want to taste it just in time for Christmas. Instead of the customary 3 weeks, you may keep this wine to ferment for 17-18 days (or until the frothing stops) and then decant. Bottle it just before serving. Making it for New Year is not such a bad idea (assuming you have already made the ginger wine for Christmas)


Rice Wine
Preparation time: 10 mins | Fermenting time: 3 weeks | Yield: approx 4.5 litres

You Need:
  • 4-1/2 litres boiled & cooled water
  • 350 gm raw rice * see notes
  • 1.5 kg sugar 
  • juice of 3 limes (or lemons)
  • 120 gm raisins (preferably golden)
  • 1-1/2 tbsp dried yeast (I used DCL)
  • 50ml brandy
You will also require:
  • a clean & dry 6 litre glass or ceramic jar ('buyaon' in Konkani/ 'bharani' in Kannada) 
  • a long spoon or spatula to stir the contents
  • clean & dry empty wine or liquor bottles (approx 3 standard bottles)
  • a strainer
  • a large, clean & dry steel vessel to strain out the contents
  • a clean & dry funnel to pour the wine into the bottle
Method:
1. Extract the juice of the limes. Clean raisins, wash, dry & set aside. Dissolve the yeast in a little lukewarm water.
2. Place all the ingredients including the water into the ceramic jar and stir the sugar until it is mixed well (doesn't need to dissolve right away as granulated sugar will take sometime to dissolve which is ok)
3. Keep the jar in a warm dry place of your kitchen. Stir the contents with the long spoon/spatula once a day. Gently squeeze the puffed up raisins that float to surface with your fingers - this is just to get all the juices out of the raisins.
4. After 3 weeks strain the contents into the clean, dry steel vessel. Discard the rice & raisin skins. Add the brandy, give it a stir and store the liquid back into the washed & dried ceramic jar until you are ready to bottle it or use a funnel to fill the bottles with the wine.
5. Ensure that the bottles are placed where they needn't be moved around (this is because the decanting process requires the containers to be absolutely still as the sediment settles to the bottom of the bottles).

Notes:
You can use any type of raw rice (belthige as its called in Kannada, Surai as its called in Konkani) I used cheaper quality Basmati rice. You needn't wash the rice.



Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Raw Banana Peel Upkari/Sauté (Kelyachya Saliche Upkari)

So I've been trying out a lot of dishes lately. Most of them are in preparation of the upcoming Christmas season - well, that's just a clue for you, I won't divulge in more details as I am waiting to post those recipes from Dec 1st onwards. For now, I will post the recipe of one of the by-products of an ingredient. No prizes for guessing that I am talking about the Raw Banana here.


Isn't it nice when you try out something for the first time and realise that you can actually get two dishes for the price of one? Well, I set out to make something out of raw bananas and just when I was going to throw the peel my hubby made his grand entry into the kitchen as said he could make a quick dish out of the fleshy peels. "Eh?" I exclaimed, not because I was surprised that one could put the peels to good use but because I was surprised that he would be actually cooking that day (doesn't happen too often these days). Maybe I inspire him! Hehe. Ok, so he donned his virtual apron and quickly put this yummy & simple dish together.


Getting the most out of every vegetable is something I need to learn. Back in Mangalore people prepare this dish although it was never done in my house. Maybe I should attempt making such dishes out of peels and skins of fruits and vegetables and make a section on this blog just for such recipes. Since eating organic and not wasting food has suddenly become fashionable, I am sure a lot of you would be interested to try this out.  


You can try making this dish out of raw bananas as plantains have a thinner skin and you may not get much of the white flesh as they are used for cooking anyway. Aren't Bananas and Plantains the same you may say. Well, no, raw Bananas are edible as a fruit  once they ripen and turn yellow, red (or pale green in the case of the green Cavendish) and are generally not 'cooked' as a side dish. 'Plantain' on the other hand must be cooked before consuming. Plantains are firmer, have more starch content and less sugar content than Bananas and do not grow as long as Bananas.

(Above Pic: Flesh of the peels scraped out and ready to be cooked)

So the next time you buy raw bananas to make a sweet or savoury dish out of it, don't discard the peels. Try making this dish. You won't be disappointed, I promise. 



Raw Banana Peel Upkari
Serves 2

You Need:
  • the peels of 4 raw bananas * see notes
  • 1/2 onion finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp tamarind paste or 1 tbsp tamarind juice
  • salt to taste
For the seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp mustard
  • 1/2 tsp urad dal
  • 5-6 curry leaves
  • 1 clove garlic crushed
  • 1 tsp vegetable masala powder * see notes
  • 1/2 onion finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp oil for frying
Method:
1. Wash & place each peel on a cutting board - green side facing down and carefully scrape out the white fleshy portion. The green (outer surface) is fibrous (called as 'naar' in Konkani) and is not edible. So the easier way of removing it is to scrape out the white flesh off the green fibre than doing it the other way round. 
2. Mince the white portion of the peel and place it in a wok or kadhai and add enough water to cover it, salt to taste, 1/2 a chopped onion, turmeric & tamarind paste/juice and cook it on a medium flame till half the water has dried up. Stir in between to avoid it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. When the peels have partially cooked. Turn off the flame & keep it aside
3. In another heavy bottomed pan heat the oil, reduce the flame and toss in the mustard. When it stops spluttering add the urad dal, curry leaves and crushed garlic. Stir it, taking care to see that the contents do not burn. Add the remaining 1/2 chopped onion and fry till translucent. Add the vegetable masala powder (you can turn off the flame to avoid burning). 
4. Add the pre-cooked peel mixture and its water. Check salt to taste & allow to cook for a further 2 minutes on a slow flame.
5. Turn off the flame & serve hot with rice or chapathis.

Notes:
To peel a raw banana run a knife along the length of the banana, making a shallow slit all the way down taking care to see that the inside flesh is not bruised. Once you have made several slits, gently use the tip of the knife to remove the peel off the flesh.
If you do not have the Mangalorean vegetable masala powder, you can use any masala powder that is suitable for vegetables or a blend of spices or may even use Bafat powder.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Chicken Chettinad

I've been waiting to try out the Chicken Chettinad since the time I ate it in a small restaurant in Bangalore some aeons ago. Never thought I had the recipe sitting right inside my Sanjeev Kapoor collection on my book shelf. What triggered me to flip through the book was when I saw it on my friend/blogger Cherie's blog and from that day on I have decided to go through all the recipes in my existing (and ever growing) collection of recipe books and toss them away (read 'donate') if I haven't cooked even one dish from it for over a year. Looks like my New Year's resolution has already been made. At least this will help me focus on the important things in life and make the much needed space on my book shelf for better things.


By the way, I totally agree with Cherie that although Chicken Chettinad was born in Tamil Nadu it tastes a lot like a Mangalorean dish - replete with a host of tongue tickling spices and grated coconut that makes it well, almost a cousin of the Kori Aajadina (Chicken Sukka). The minor difference would be the generous use of fragrant spices like Fennel (Saunf) & Star Anise (which is the dominant flavour) in the Chicken Chettinad. We Mangaloreans use a lot of tamarind in our curries which is replaced by the tomato here. Apparently in some regions of Tamil Nadu, this dish is prepared without the coconut, so you may skip the same, however, I think it tastes bests with some coarsely ground coconut.



By the way, if the Mangaloreans have'nt noticed yet, the serving dish used here is made of 'pouli' (in Konkani) or the Areca nut palm leaf which are eco friendly and are used to make plates & dishes meant for a one time use. I see these are catching up in Mangalore where caterers use them to serve food. I was quite impressed with them when my mum bought me a pack (knowing my latest obsession of collecting cutlery for the blog). I went and bought another pack of smaller bowls from Nilgiris Supermarket, opp S.D.M College, M.G. Road, Mangalore

So well, isn't it a case of presenting Chettinad in a Mangalorean way? ;-)

Chicken Chettinad
Serves 4

You Need:
  • 1 kg chicken
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 3 medium sized tomatoes
  • 1 large sprig or 10-12 curry leaves (karipatta)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander (for garnish)
  • salt to taste
  • 3 tbsp oil for frying
For the masala
  • 6-8 long dry red chillies (I used Bedgi) * see notes
  • 2 tsp poppy seeds (khus khus)
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 inch piece cinnamon
  • 3 green cardamoms
  • 1/2 star anise (chakri phool)
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds (saunf)
  • 1 cup or 1/2 a grated coconut 
  • 2 inches ginger
  • 6 garlic flakes
  • 2-3 tsp oil for roasting
Masala powders
  • 1/4 tsp red chilli powder (you may skip this) * see notes
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
Method:
1. Clean the chicken and cut it into medium size pieces. Wash and drain on a colander.
2. Heat some oil in a a skillet/tawa and roast the long dry red chillies, poppy seeds, coriander and cumin seeds, green cardamoms, cloves, cinnamon, fennel, star anise and grated coconut and grind to a coarse paste along with ginger & garlic.
3. Heat oil in a large wok/kadhai and fry the onions till golden. Toss in the curry leaves and fry for a few seconds and then add the ground paste and saute for some time. Add the chopped tomatoes, red chilli powder and the turmeric powder and fry for a couple of minutes
4. Add the chicken pieces, mix well and cook for 5 minutes on a medium high flame. Add salt to taste and 1 cup water, lime juice. Cover & cook till done. If you want more gravy add a little extra water to achieve the desired consistency.
5. Garnish with chopped coriander and serve hot with rice or chapathis

Notes:
You may use 6 red chillies and skip the the chilli powder if your tolerance to spice is low. You can also use Kashmiri chillies if you don't have the Bedgi variety and add the red chilli powder.
The original recipe asks for 1 tsp chilli powder which increases the spice level of this dish


Friday, December 23, 2011

Simple Salted Tukdi (Diamond Cuts)

Time for another recipe! I love the long breaks from blogging (I am rather surprised to be saying this) - you see, Christmas is nearing and everyday has so many activities and events packed into it, that there is hardly any time left for blogging :-) I am sitting by the window sill as I write this post, a lovely corner of a kitchen at my brother's place. Well, I am here to celebrate Christmas & new year with my brother's family and the weather is so beautiful, I am actually wearing a light sweater. And no, it's not snowing where they live - deserts are cold too! (wink wink)


I know I haven't been regular with my posts since a while now - well, travelling to another country with a child can be taxing - and the excitement of meeting relatives, being with family, shopping and simply switching off to an 'on-a-vacation' mood overshadows the need to blog regularly :-) So while I still have another couple of Christmas posts lined up as planned, I don't think they will make it to the blog before Christmas day, so you will see these coming up one by one at my leisure - in between the shopping and the lazing and stuffing myself with all the gorgeous food - yeah, I may just post one recipe in a few days :-)

Well, without boring you any further, let me tell you that today's recipe is not the actual Thukdi recipe as many people prefer to eat - this is basically a by-product of the Neurio session - the leftover dough actually was cut up, deep fried to provide the much needed comfort food for my son - I would call these mildly salted plain Thukdis the close cousin of the cheeslings - very crispy, very light & terribly economical. A different Thukdi recipe will follow as soon as I try them (I am busy making cakes and other Kuswar at my bro's place) - so do watch this space for more recipes!!


Simple Salted Tukdi
You Need:
  • 1 cup (125gm) maida (all purpose flour)
  • a little less than 1/4 cup of warm water
  • 1/4 tsp (or to taste) sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • oil for deep frying
  • 1/4 tsp salt dissolved in 2 tbsp water (if you like mildly salted tukdi)
Method:
1. In a wide pan (the one used to knead dough for chapathis) place the flour, salt to taste and sugar to taste and add warm water in parts. Mix with your fingertips until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Proceed to knead into a smooth pliable dough. Allow it to rest for 5 mins
2. Pinch out lime sized balls of dough and roll them out flat into a round shape (like a thin chapathi).
3. Run a cookie cutter/pizza blade diagonally across the chapathi to make diamond or square shapes. Repeat until all the dough has been used up to roll into chapathis and cut into shapes.
4. Heat oil on a medium high flame for deep frying. Drop the diamond shapes into the hot oil and fry until the colour changes to pinkish brown. If you wish to make them salted, add 1 tsp of salt water per batch before they brown. When the gurgling noise subsides you can remove the tukdi out.
5. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on a absorbent kitchen tissue and when it is completely cooled, store in an airtight container.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pathekaan (Banana Chips) - Kuswar 4 - and Celebrating Terra Madre at the Mumbai Food Bloggers' Meet

While I had planned back to back posts of the Kuswar series, I had to take a short break to focus on what I was going to make for the potluck dinner on Saturday, the 10th of December where the food bloggers in Mumbai met. Incidentally on the 10th of December  the global network of Slow Food and Terra Madre came together to celebrate the Terra Madre ('Terra' stands for earth and 'Madre' means mother) and promote local food. Terra Madre is coordinated by the Slow Food Organisation, a movement which lays emphasis on using locally available ingredients and traditional cooking methods to preserve culinary diversity.    This movement was started as a resistance to the opening of McDonald's in Rome in 1986 and was officially founded in 1989 'to counter the rise of fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people's dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world" read more

The Mumbai food bloggers' also celebrated the Terra Madre Day by way of a potluck dinner - organised by Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal and hosted by Nikhil Merchant - each one of us was required to bring a dish that was made with ingredients that were either local or seasonal or a dish that was traditional and/or uncommon. It was my first time to the bloggers meet & was very excited to meet everyone. I chose to take a traditional Mangalorean dish that was pretty unpopular outside Mangalore, was made differently by each community in Mangalore and suited the theme of Slow Cooking very aptly. Any guesses? Well, I made the quintessential Mangalorean Pathrade/Pathrode in a curry. Since I was aware that there would be vegans and vegetarians as well, I prepared a vegan (without meat and ghee) version and a non vegetarian (mutton curry) version. For those of you who don't know what Pathrade is - well, it is nothing but rice cakes made of rice and colocasia (arbi) leaves and spices. The Catholics steam this mixture in Teak leaves. Mangalorean Bunts, Konkans and Brahmins make it differently - ground masala paste is smeared on each leaf and then stacked one above the other, rolled and steamed or cut into pieces and fried before consuming. Since I didn't find Teak leaves in Mumbai, I simply steamed the cakes in banana leaves - the result was just perfect.


The dishes brought by others revolved around the same theme - I was not only introduced to new cuisines but also unfamiliar ingredients, methods and flavours. We also had two chefs who graced the event,. one of them was Vikas Khanna (of MasterChef India fame) who is also a Michelin starred Indian chef based in New York. Since I religiously follow MasterChef India (which he also judges) it was a huge surprise and a pleasure to have him present at the meet.

Coming back to our recipe for today - whoever doesn't like banana chips, please raise your hand - I am sure there are very few people who do not like these addictive chips made from our humble Nendra bananas. Nendra Bale (in Kannada) /Nandarkai (in Konkani) as we call them in Mangalore are colloquially known as the Macho banana or Kerala Banana. They are usually consumed in their ripe form and are very nutritious and delicious. Some people can barely finish a whole large banana in one go and you can equate each banana to at least 6-7 elaichi bananas! That's a lot of bananas eh? In the South, the dried & powdered form of the semi ripe banana is one of the first foods offered to babies when they are weaned as it is highly nutritious and naturally sweet which is what appeals to fussy eaters as well.


These ubiquitous chips score over the potato chips in South India and are a favourite among many people I know. These much loved chips however are not made in most homes in Mangalore today, maybe because not everyone has the time & patience to slice & fry the unripe bananas and maybe because many do not know the process. Neither did I - just learnt them from my MIL recently and was amazed at the simplicity of making them at home - honestly, I think this is one snack I don't mind deep frying at home (I am not a fan of deep fried foods but have to give in to the pressure from hubs & the little brat once in a way). Making your own banana chips is the best way to ensure a cost effective (unless you are frying in olive oil!) and fresh batch made right in your kitchen. Since you have complete control over the quality of oil used to deep fry you can ensure that you have healthier snacks at home. I have made these twice in the past 3 weeks and each time they have been finished before I could even store them in an airtight box!


These chips are called as 'Pathekaan' (n is silent - just a nasal pronunciation) in Konkani and figure in the Kuswar platter which is usually dominated by sweets. The Pathekaan along with Khara Kaddi (spicy sticks made of chickpea flour) are probably the only two items that are savoury. If you can find raw Nendra bananas, do give these chips a try. You will love them!


Pathekaan (Banana Chips)
Yield: 300gm (approx)

You Need:
  • 4 raw Nendrakai bananas
  • oil for deep frying
For the salt solution
  • 1/2 - 3/4th tsp salt (for moderately salty chips)
  • 3 tbsp water
You also need:
  • a potato chip slicer or a mandolin blade



Preparing the bananas
1.) Wash the bananas & pat them dry. Run a knife gently along the length of each banana taking care to see that the knife does not cut through the flesh of the banana - make cuts with the knife only as deep as the outer green skin. When you have made approx 5-6 such vertical cuts, carefully skin the bananas using the tip of the knife if required. Peel the entire banana & retain the peels - you can cook an interesting side dish (Click for recipe). 
2.) Repeat the process and peel all the bananas & immediately place them in a large bowl of water - this will help the bananas to retain the colour otherwise they will turn black


Preparing the salt solution
Dissolve the salt into the water. Keep it aside

Deep frying the chips
1.) Heat oil for deep frying in a heavy bottomed kadhai or a deep wok. Let the flame be medium high. Hold the slicer at a safe height over the kadhai & quickly slice the banana so that the pieces drop into the hot oil. 
2.) Using a slotted spoon give the chips a stir and continue to cook them on a medium high flame. The colour will slowly begin to change from off-white to pale yellow & then bright yellow. Ensure that you give a mix every now & then so all the chips fry evenly.
3.) Around 1-1/2 minutes into the frying process, add about 2 tsp of the salt solution into the kadhai. You will hear a furious gurgling of the oil as the salt water spreads into the kadhai. Wait for this sound to subside.
4.) You can then remove the chips ladle by ladle. Ensure that the oil has been drained from the chips by placing the ladle against the side of the kadhai for a few seconds before transferring onto an absorbent kitchen tissue. Continue to fry the remaining bananas.
5.) Allow the chips to cool completely before storing them in an airtight container. The chips keep well for 10-12 days if they haven't been eaten by then!


Pic1: Slice the banana into the hot oil
Pic2: Fry until the colour turns into a bright yellow, scoop out the chips with a slotted spoon
Pic3: Drain excess oil on an absorbent kitchen tissue
Pic4: Store in an airtight container

Notes:
  • Ensure that you buy absolutely raw bananas as they will be hard to slice once they start to ripen. If you do not find this variety, you can use plantains too (plantains are the variety that are used for cooking)
  • An average wide mouthed kadhai accomodates chips of one banana at a time. Do not overcrowd the kadhai as the chips will not fry evenly. 
  • You need to slice the banana quickly and carefully as the heat can get uncomfortable if you delay (as we call 'Dhaau' in Konkani - which can burn your hands if you are inexperienced with this). Also, take care not to drop the slices from such as height that the oil splash outside the pan.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Neurio/Nevries (Crescent Shaped Sweet Puffs) ~ Traditional Mangalorean Kuswar


It's been a year since this blog was reborn - I cannot write further unless I thank the people who believed in me & with a word of encouragement, a gentle nudge & a loving (?) kick got me to revive this blog - I haven't looked back ever since and I hope to carry on with as much passion & enthusiasm as I have done the whole year through in recording the recipes that I try out in my kitchen. So thanks to my friend May, cousin Prema & hubby Roshan who in various ways (in the order mentioned above) coaxed me to continue writing this blog. My biggest support has been my hubby to whom I dedicate this post. Neurio??? You may ask, well, yes, although he is my biggest critic and the one who gives me a thumbs up or thumbs down signal each time something is whipped up in my kitchen, he was travelling when I made the Neurio and didn't get even a crumb to eat when he returned. So yes, this is for you Roshan - feast your eyes on these pics, willya! 


I am sure most of you have eaten the Neurio which are are popularly called as Karanji with slight variations in the filling. Karanjis are made especially during Diwali, at least in South India and are a significant item on the Kuswar platter as well during Christmas. In my opinion Neurios are best made at home as the filling is fresh, fragrant & juicy - unlike the store bought variety which is made weeks in advance and tastes rancid (stale) if you have been unlucky enough to pick up old stock.

Making Neurio (Nevries) at home is lots of fun. Among all the Kuswar items I learnt to make them first from my MIL a few years ago. It is one sweet that falls into the dual category - simple yet complex - simple because technically it's not as difficult as it looks - the dough & the filling is damn easy to make and complex only in terms of the steps involved in doling out each Nevri. Make the dough, prepare the mixture for the filling, roll out puris, place the filling, fold, cut the edges, deep fry! So yes, an extra pair of hands can be a blessing. But people like me who live away from home and have no help beyond a pair of 3 year old hands which generously help by eating up half the mixture can also make it with great elan!


Describing a Nevri is what I like to do best - a crescent shaped sweet samosa with a crunchy exterior and a delightful centre - a filling made of sesame, cashewnuts, poppy seeds, kopra , raisins, sugar (or jaggery) & cardamom - is like a coming together of a large family made up of a variety of members, their characters, temperaments, shapes, sizes & nuances - each bringing in a special flavour & fragrance into the family - the presence of all brings great sweetness into one's life and an absence of even one is greatly felt. 
Such are our Indian festivals - the great Indian family that comes together brings all this & more. This reminds me of one of my favourite quotes 

~ "A family that prays together & eats together definitely stays together" ~


Neurio/Sweet Puffs
Yield: approx 25-27

You Need:

For the dough:
  • 2-1/2 cups/ 300gm maida (all purpose flour) + extra for rolling
  • 1 fistful / 25gm (approx) rawa (semolina)
  • 3/4th cup (approx) warm water
  • a sprinkling of sugar
  • salt to taste
For the filling:
  • 1/3 cup/50gm sesame seeds (til)
  • 1/3 cup/50gm broken cashewnuts (kaju)
  • 2 tbsp poppy seeds (khus khus)
  • 1/4 cup slivered/chopped dried coconut (kopra) - optional
  • 1/2 cup grated coconut
  • 2 tbsp (approx) /40gm raisins (kishmish) - cleaned, washed & dried
  • 3 tbsp/25gm caster sugar or regular granulated sugar powdered
  • 2-3 cardamoms (elaichi) powdered - optional
For deep frying
  • approx 1 litre oil
Method:

To make the dough
1. In a large wide bowl mix the maida, rawa and the salt and sprinkle about 1/2 cup of the warm water working your way towards kneading the mixture. Initially the mixture will look like bread crumbs. Use the heel of your palm to knead into a smooth dough. This can take 5-7 minutes, add parts of the reserved water until your dough is smooth & pliable. Reserve any remaining water aside.
2. Cover the dough with a damp cloth for a few minutes until required.

To make the filling
1. Heat a tawa/skillet and roast the sesame seeds, broken cashewnuts, grated coconut & poppy seeds one by one on a slow flame until just about roasted. Do not over roast them as they will turn bitter.
2. Mix all the ingredients (except the raisins & kopra) in a large bowl & add the powdered sugar. Transfer this mixture on to the hot tawa once again and continue to stir until the entire mixture turns sticky (as the sugar begins to melt). Keep aside

To assemble
1. Make small lime size balls out of the dough, dust with a little flour and roll them into thin flat circles, the size of puris.
2. Place about 1 tsp of the sticky mixture right in the centre of the puri, place a couple of slivers of kopra and raisins each on the mixture.
3. Use the reserved water to moisten the edges of the puri - this helps to seal the edges as the water acts as a glue between the edges. Fold the puri in half such that it forms a crescent shape (semi circle). Seal the edges carefully and use a cookie cutting blade/pizza cutter to trim the jagged edges or just use a fork to make a pretty design around the edges.
4. Repeat the steps until all the filling has been used up. Retain the extra dough (if any) to make Tukdi (recipe to follow)

To deep fry
1. Heat oil on a medium high flame for deep frying in a large heavy bottomed wide kadhai or wok. Test the preparedness of the oil by dropping a small ball of dough into the oil. If it comes up to the surface immediately (within 2-3 seconds) the oil is ready for deep frying.
2. Depending on how large your kadhai is carefully drop 6-7 nevris into the hot oil and fry both the sides till golden in colour.
3. Remove using a slotted colander, drain excess oil and transfer the nevris onto an absorbent kitchen towel
4. Let the nevris cool completely before you store it in airtight containers. Nevris keep well for 10-12 days after which the filling may turn rancid.


Stepwise:
Pic1: Make lime size balls
Pic2: Roll out the dough into medium sized puris
Pic3: Place the mixture/filling in the centre leaving out enough space around the edges

Pic4: Moisten the edges with water - this helps to seal the edges properly else they will open up while frying
Pic5: Fold the puri into half forming a crescent (half moon) shape. Gently seal the edges with your fingers
Pic6: Trim the edges using a pizza cutter or a fork

Pic7: Drop neuries into the hot oil
Pic8: Fry on both sides and add oil on the surface of the neuries until they puff up
Pic9: Fry till pinkish brown & remove


               Above Pic: You can either use a cookie/pizza cutter or a fork to trim the edges or make a design

Notes:
It is preferable not to roast the raisins as they taste sour when you eat the nevri, you can just place them onto  the mixture while preparing the neuries
If you still have some dough remaining after using up all the mixture you can make simple salted Thukdi out of it (recipe to follow)



Monday, December 5, 2011

Kokkisan/Roce Cookies/Rose Cookies ~ Traditional Mangalorean Kuswar


So 'tis the season to be jolly! We had one helluva weekend - ate out, watched a movie, celebrated a friend's birthday and yes, put up the Christmas tree and my little fellow decorated it too - well, almost! He put up all the trinkets on one single branch & dragged the rest of the decoration around in the hall - so we spent double the time cleaning up after the mess he had created. Anyway, if this isn't fun, what is? When I was younger we had a real tree - a particular variety that is commonly called as the Christmas tree in India.

Since my mum & dad were passionate about gardening we even had a plant nursery for a few years and so having a few Christmas trees at home was a common thing. Our tree at home (the one I claimed for myself) grew steadily as the years passed by and eventually had to be transferred from its pot to the ground to accommodate its robust roots. What seemed like an easy task to decorate it turned into a challenge as it grew taller and more decoration had to be bought every year - however, it was always fun to decorate it along with my cousins and then beg our dads or brothers to put up the lights as well. Some of them blinked softly every few seconds and those are the ones I really liked. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Kidyo/Kidiyo/Kulkuls (Sweet Dough Curls) - Christmas Goodies ~ Kuswar 1




The word 'Kuswar' instantly brings to mind the Kulkuls that are loved by the people of all ages. Kulkuls can be eaten plain (made with slightly sweetened dough) or rolled in (mael) sugar icing (preferred by kids especially). Kuswar is almost synonymous with the twin terms Kidyo-Gulio. Gulio refers to Rice Marbles which are often hard to bite and most people I know skip even making them. I haven't made them yet, but did make the Kulkuls several times in the past couple of years.

Although most of the Kuswar used to be made at home when I was a kid, as the years passed by we stuck to making just the kulkuls & rice laddoos (thandhlache laadu) at home and the rest of the Kuswar was bakery bought. My dad would buy the plum cake, neuries (sweet puffs), kokkisan (roce cookies) in addition to walnuts, oranges (from Coorg) and Nendra bananas (also called as macho bananas). This odd combination of sweets (home made & bakery bought), seasonal fruits & nuts made Christmas even more special. While the rest of the goodies got over soon, the kulkuls lasted well into the new year.


It's sad that today not too many families make these Kuswar goodies, the younger generation is definitely missing out on all the fun that we used to have as kids, sitting round the dining table curling the kulkuls with forks or combs. I just introduced this lovely custom to my son who was more than willing to help my husband & me curl the kulkuls



I have attempted the kidyo with just 1/4kg flour, it makes just a small batch enough for 2-3 people with average appetites :-) Make sure that if you are doubling or tripling the quantity of flour, you have some company, an extra pair of hands to curl the dough lest you give up half way! Trust me, you will be happy with the results and enjoy the whole experience if you are attempting this for the first time, so keep going! Enjoy!!



Kidyo/Kulkuls
Yield: 1 small batch

You Need
  • 250gm maida /all purpose flour
  • 1 egg (optional) * see notes
  • approx 1/4 cup freshly extracted coconut milk or lukewarm water 
  • 1 tbsp sugar * see notes
  • 1 tbsp warm oil
  • a sprinkling of salt to taste
  • oil for deep frying
For the sugar glaze/icing
  • 75-100gm sugar (depends on how thick an icing you prefer)
  • 1/4 cup water (approx)
You will also require:
  • a unused/clean comb or fork
  • a small bowl with a few drops of oil to grease the fork/comb
  • a large & wide mouthed heavy bottomed wok/kadhai for deep frying
  • slotted spoon
  • large flat dish to place the curls
Method:
Preparing the dough
In a large bowl (used to knead dough for chapathis) mix the maida, salt, sugar and egg until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. To this add the coconut milk in parts - using only as much as required to help knead the flour into a smooth pliable dough. For best results knead the dough well for at least 5-7 minutes wetting your fingers with coconut milk every now & then to help achieve a smooth dough. (see notes). Keep the dough aside - cover with a damp cloth so that the dough doesn't dry up during the process of making the dough curls

Curling the kulkuls
Depending on the kind of design you wish - choose the thin or thicker bristle side of the comb or a fork. Slightly grease it with a dab of oil (let it not drip). Make small marble size balls of the dough and flatten each ball over the bristles/fork to form a thin rectangular patch. Start rolling it from one side using a little pressure on your finger tips so that the dough has the impression of the bristles/fork. Seal the edges gently - ensure that the impression is not lost. Place the curl on a large lightly greased plate. Continue the process to make more curls until all the dough is used up




              Pic1                                           Pic 2                                               Pic 3 
                 
Pic 1: Marble sized balls of dough
Pic 2: Kulkuls made using a comb
Pic 3: Kulkuls made using a fork

(Design courtesy: Mr. Husband! - Thank you R!)

Deep Frying the kulkuls
Heat oil in the kadhai on a medium high flame (see notes). When the oil is ready for frying, drop as many kulkuls as the kadhai will hold. Be careful not to let the oil splatter on your face! Reduce the heat a bit if necessary and fry until the kulkuls are golden pink. Do not let them brown too much. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain excess oil against the side of the kadhai & transfer onto an absorbent kitchen tissue. Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Kulkuls keep fresh for upto 2 weeks


Glazing the kulkuls
The next day, make the syrup by heating the sugar and the water to make a syrup. When the syrup thickens and coats the back of the spoon, toss in the kulkuls and hold the pan on both sides and gently toss the kulkuls so that all of them are uniformly coated with the syrup. Transfer the kulkuls on a large plate or clean banana leaf and quickly separate them with a fork so that they don't stick to each other. Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

                   Above pic: kulkuls freshly rolled in the icing syrup and waiting to cool

Notes:
1. I have tried making kulkuls with different measurements at least 4 times. The trick in getting the perfect kulkuls - the Mangalorean way (a bit hard yet crispy to the bite) is to knead the dough well and to use a bit oil while kneading. Adding the egg is optional as I have noticed that it makes the kulkuls softer.
Some people add baking powder to the dough - this never worked for me as I got fat and fully bloomed kulkuls - not my type. I prefer the thinner Mangalorean variety of Kulkuls that snap at every bite.
2. You can even add butter instead of oil, however, the shelf life reduces as butter can smell rancid after a while.
3. Some recipes call for semolina/rawa to be added to the flour. This apparently makes the kulkuls more crisp with an almost biscuit-like crunch (again, not something I prefer). Do make sure however to lightly roast the rawa if you intend adding it as it helps the dough to cook faster
4. If you don't intend glazing the kulkuls you may add an extra tbsp of sugar to the dough to sweeten it. Plain  kulkuls taste great too.
5. The oil for deep frying must be adequately heated and at the right temperature to ensure that the insides of the kulkuls are fried as well. Smoking hot oil will brown the kulkuls on the outside faster and leave the insides uncooked. Inadequate heating of the oil will result in kulkuls that will soften after they cool and won't be crisp as desired. To test the readiness of the oil drop a small (mustard size) ball of dough into the hot oil, if it pops up to the surface within 2-3 seconds, your oil is ready for frying
6. If your dough is not soft & pliable you will find it difficult to curl them and the edges wont seal resulting in them opening up during the frying process, so ensure that your dough is kneaded well and is really soft - to test it, after kneading, poke your thumb into the dough ball, if it makes a smooth impression & the dough doesn't stick to your fingers, then your dough is correct. Well kneaded dough ensures that your kulkuls seal off at the edges without applying too much pressure. If at any stage you find that the dough is rough, add a few drops of oil to knead instead of water or coconut milk. When you break off the marble size balls it should be elastic and not break in abrupt jerks


P.S
Kulkuls are called as or Kidyo/Kidiyo in Konkani which means worm. Before you say eeks, let me tell you that they are called so simply because they look like silkworms. Let the name not discourage you to make these lovely sweets. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Preparing For The Season of Love

My dear friends, I am more than delighted to write this post as I eagerly await the month that starts tomorrow ~ December ~ a month that brings good cheer and happiness to millions across the world as it is in this month that we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, Lord & Saviour, on the 25th of December. Christians across the world celebrate the birth of the One whose life and teachings are the foundation of Christianity.

As per the Christian calendar we are currently observing the season of Advent (from the Latin word adventus meaning "coming"which starts on the fourth Sunday before December 25th and ends on the day of the Nativity of Christ (25th of December) after which starts the Christmastide which lasts twelve days (this is the origin of the Christmas carol - The Twelve Days of Christmas) and ends on the 6th of January (Epiphany) which is also celebrated as the Feast of the Three Kings (The Magi)

Jesus
"The Reason For The Season"

Although I have been waiting to write this post since ages, I was waiting for Advent to start. The season of Advent is the symbolic time of preparation of one's self for the coming of the Lord. Along with this, a host of other preparations are made and it is a time of love and happiness, bonding and togetherness. It is also the time when families meet and greet each other and gifts are exchanged. Sadly, in today's world the whole focus of Christmas has shifted from the commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ (the Son of God who came down to this earth for the salvation of the whole world) to the famous Santa Claus (originally Saint Nicholas, a kind soul) who as per folklore is said to bring gifts to the homes of children who have been on their best behaviour the whole year through (well, even I believed this when I was a kid!). Undoubtedly, Christmas becomes more delightful for kids and adults alike when we have Santa look-alikes wandering around adding a sparkle to the celebrations. 

However, the real meaning of Christmas is beyond Santa and beyond the festivities, the gifts, the food, the cards, the decorations, the X'mas Tree and the commercialisation of this meaningful feast. In short, the real meaning of Christmas is truly the giving of love everyday!

(The story of the birth of Jesus - from the Candle Bible For Kids)

I have a lot of memories revolving Christmas and what it meant to me when I was a child. It brings back vibrant memories of colours, food, music, movies and people. The events that surround this festival, the countdown to the actual day, the enthusiasm and cheer is something else. If I were to open the chest of my memories, I would not be able to pick just one. There are just too many! When I was in school we used to have the Crib competition to look forward to. A crib is a miniature model of the actual scene of The Nativity - the manger where Jesus was born. It typically consists of a open manger (a trough or an open box in which feed for livestock is placed - as in a stable) and the worldly parents of Jesus - Mary & Joseph and shepherds and their livestock that were present in the area surrounding the manger. The best presentation of this Nativity scene would fetch prizes. I remember that whoever was interested to take part would have to form teams and give their names & I used to always participate with my bunch of friends - a mix of Christian & non-Christians. The participation mattered, not the winning (err, well, the winning mattered too and the disappointment always followed when we didn't win - haha!)

(A typical crib on display outside churches in Mangalore)

The run up to Christmas also had me listening to and singing the carols. Christmas carol (also called a noël) is a carol (song or hymn) whose lyrics are on the theme of Christmas or the winter season in general and which are traditionally sung in the period before Christmas. Since I was part of the Church Choir we used to go Carolling (singing the carols from door to door) - those days were so much fun! 

My mother and I would also make trips to the greeting card shops (there was no Archies or Hallmark in those days - just 'Jerosa Company' or 'St Joseph's Art Printers) to buy our quota of Christmas greeting cards with the warmest of wishes and those that had pictures of the scene of The Nativity or western houses with snow on their roofs and everywhere, pictures of all kinds of Christmas paraphernalia - pictures of a Santa with a goodie bag laden with gifts wrapped in bright colours or a scene of a Christmas tree heavily decorated, a fireplace with wood crackling away and a cat cuddled on a small carpet enjoying the warmth. Oh! how I wished I was part of such scenes! But the tropical climate of Mangalore never saw any winters - well, a few chilly evenings here & there and the adults in my family used to say 'Illeshe Thand podla' (it's beginning to get cold) - so with temperatures as high as 28-29 degrees C at night we would wrap ourselves in thick blankets and drift to sleep with some carols playing softly on our dual cassette deck (our most prized possession in those days almost as coveted as the iPad itself). On some sultry evenings after dinnertime I would sit with my cousins on the steps of our house and gaze into the dark night bejewelled with sparkling stars that took the position of the Three Kings (Orion's Belt) and a child's imagination transported me back into history to the time when Jesus was born.

Since my childhood saw me reading a lot of Enid Blyton books, I used to wish that it would snow in Mangalore too and that Santa would visit me via the chimney (which didn't exist although I made several trips to the dusty, cobweb ridden attic to find that secret door). But obviously none of that happened. No snow & no Santa, despite the hundreds of letters I wrote to him & threw over our old Guava tree. Then there was this year when my brother took pity on me & threw in some 'phoren maal' (his prized collection of imported stationary) in an old sock & left it by my bedside. Boy! Was I thrilled!! (I din't tell him I was so skeptical about it and that I knew who the 'Santa' was). 

The first couple of weeks of December also heralded the onset of the making of Kuswar (the traditional collection of Christmas sweets & savouries) in every family. The popular sweetmeats that in addition to the quintessential plum cake and that are part of the Kuswar are kidiyo (kulkuls/deep fried pastry dough curls), gulio (Rice Marbles), neurio (nevri/sweet puffs), kokkisan (roce/rose cookies), thandhlache laadu (rice laddoos), thilache laadu (sesame seed & jaggery laddoos), rulaonche laadu (semolina laddoos), tukdi (sweet or savoury deep fried diamond shaped pastry dough), pathekan (banana chips), chakliyo (chaklis/rice & lentil spirals), sukur unde (deep fried balls of lentils & jaggery), khaara kaddi (spicy rice & lentil sticks) to name a few. Each family picks their own favourites in the above mentioned list.


Kuswar prepared by my mum-in-law for X'mas 2010

As per the tradition every household used to make huge batches of Kuswar that was sufficient for the members of the household after having distributed it amongst the neighbours, friends, relatives, guests and to the poor and needy who were invited to come home for some alms giving. So one can imagine how much Kuswar used to be religiously prepared by the ladies of the house under the able supervision of the matron of the house (usually the grandma). Kuswar that was made well in advance (as early as in November or early December), stored in airtight steel boxes used to last the whole month through and well into the first week of January. My mother however discontinued making many of the items as the years rolled by, so I had to relearn to make many of them after I got married. Today there are many new items added to the traditional Kuswar platter - milk cream, marzipan, coconut toffee, banana halwa, coconut laddoos to name a few. I hope to learn them one by one in time for next Christmas if not this one ;-)

Ready made Kuswar is available in many bakeries in Mangalore today. People consider it far easier to just shell out some money & buy the Kuswar than to actually toil over it. However, there is no guarantee of the freshness or quality of bakery bought stuff as bakers start the baking & making of eatables at least 2 months in advance. Today as the traditional joint families have been de clustered, women from nuclear families find it difficult to cope up with the challenges of the Kuswar making process (trust me, if you plan to make it single handedly like I did with small kids hanging around for good measure, it can take quite some time & a huge amount of your patience). The cheerfulness and camaraderie that we once shared with fellow 'Kuswar makers' (a.k.a siblings, cousins & aunts) is probably a thing of the past. I know a lot of people (especially you my dear readers who have written in to me since the past couple of months, asking for Kuswar recipes) who armed with the Kuswar recipes would cheerfully want to bring back the old times of making Kuswar at home and so in the days to come, I will post a few recipes that I have been personally tried & tested twice in my kitchen. This is my humble attempt to help all of us recreate the magic of Christmas.

Have a blessed & meaningful season folks!!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Rice Wine

It's never too late to post a wine recipe is it? Well, I think you may just have another wine, just in time for Christmas if you make it right away! Pronto! Got caught up in a million little things at home and somehow although I've been grooving to the Christmas songs I am yet to execute my long list of Christmas To-Dos. I am so excited to look forward to the lovely and busy month of December. Birthdays, shopping, travelling, meeting family & friends, celebrating Christmas and then bringing in the New Year and a brand new month & year before we head back to our lives here in Mumbai. So many things to do and so little time! Well, I am saying this despite the fact that I've been planning for Christmas since two months, time never seems enough. I have a whole laundry list of things to do - try out new recipes & post them on the blog, buy gifts and wrap them, put up the Christmas tree & decorations - all before the 18th of Dec before I travel. Phew!


The past couple of weeks saw me scavenging around for wine bottles. Well, these are not specially crafted bottles (like the decanter) but just pretty ones that I wanted to store the wine in and possibly gift someone. It is really sad that in a place like Mumbai where it is almost impossible to return empty handed from a shopping trip for anything that you fancy, I did not find a single bottle! Shoppers Stop, Lifestyle, Home Centre, Home Stop and my local crockery-wala - the answer was always 'no'. Finally I went to Andheri Market and asked for a wine bottle or bottle to store wine and got puzzled looks in return. Eventually I had to shed my inhibitions and bluntly ask for 'sharaab ka bothal' (liquor bottle) and got smirks instead. As if I was going to a liquor shop to buy my quota of booze. Tsk tsk!



The only option I was left with was to actually empty my collection of liquor/wines in my bar at home (which my man only likes to collect although both of us don't go beyond an occasional beer or wine while we entertain guests). Anyway, a big lesson learnt - never attempt making wine at home unless you have enough bottles to store it in! (and of course a large glass/ceramic jar to make the wine in).You see, after I made the ginger wine (which is tasting better with every passing day) I caught this major obsession to try out wine after wine from my mum's handwritten book [I am clarifying this as I got mails from readers asking if my mother had published a book - well, no, she hasn't authored any although it's not such a bad idea , I must tell her!:-)]

So coming back to the Rice wine, the very name gives you a feel that this could be the typical oriental variety. Rice wine features prominently in Chinese & East Asian's cuisines. The Japanese Sake (pronounced as Sa-Keh) is gaining popularity thanks to restaurants that bring world cuisine especially the Sushi to the table. Although in Japan Sake is more of a general term for all kind of alcoholic beverages, the rice alcohol is called the Nihonshu and is made through a brewing process more like that of beer than a regular fermenting process that the wine calls for.

So that makes us Mangaloreans the pioneers in making sweet wine made of rice by the fermenting process (ha! Just kidding). Rice wine looks & tastes almost like toddy (palm wine) in its nascent stages. Mine turned out a bit more strong since I was over ambitious about making the entire quantity of wine (with 4.5 litres of wine when my ceramic jar could hold only 4 litres of liquid). So as and how the rice & sugar was added to the water, the water started spilling out of the jar. Tsk tsk! Too bad I didn't realise that the jar needs to be really large to accommodate all that water, sugar & rice - I had the Thirsty Crow story unfolding right in front of my eyes :-( I did remove a litre of water from the jar, so that explains why the wine is a lot more strong than intended - but that's ok, I can drink my blues away someday in the future and get totally intoxicated, haha!


I think Ginger & Rice wines are so apt for the Christmas season - Mangalorean tradition says so. Grape wine however is an all season wine and is more associated with the wedding celebrations (but let's not get into the discussion of whether they even serve genuine wine at weddings these days)

Do try this wine right away if you want to taste it just in time for Christmas. Instead of the customary 3 weeks, you may keep this wine to ferment for 17-18 days (or until the frothing stops) and then decant. Bottle it just before serving. Making it for New Year is not such a bad idea (assuming you have already made the ginger wine for Christmas)


Rice Wine
Preparation time: 10 mins | Fermenting time: 3 weeks | Yield: approx 4.5 litres

You Need:
  • 4-1/2 litres boiled & cooled water
  • 350 gm raw rice * see notes
  • 1.5 kg sugar 
  • juice of 3 limes (or lemons)
  • 120 gm raisins (preferably golden)
  • 1-1/2 tbsp dried yeast (I used DCL)
  • 50ml brandy
You will also require:
  • a clean & dry 6 litre glass or ceramic jar ('buyaon' in Konkani/ 'bharani' in Kannada) 
  • a long spoon or spatula to stir the contents
  • clean & dry empty wine or liquor bottles (approx 3 standard bottles)
  • a strainer
  • a large, clean & dry steel vessel to strain out the contents
  • a clean & dry funnel to pour the wine into the bottle
Method:
1. Extract the juice of the limes. Clean raisins, wash, dry & set aside. Dissolve the yeast in a little lukewarm water.
2. Place all the ingredients including the water into the ceramic jar and stir the sugar until it is mixed well (doesn't need to dissolve right away as granulated sugar will take sometime to dissolve which is ok)
3. Keep the jar in a warm dry place of your kitchen. Stir the contents with the long spoon/spatula once a day. Gently squeeze the puffed up raisins that float to surface with your fingers - this is just to get all the juices out of the raisins.
4. After 3 weeks strain the contents into the clean, dry steel vessel. Discard the rice & raisin skins. Add the brandy, give it a stir and store the liquid back into the washed & dried ceramic jar until you are ready to bottle it or use a funnel to fill the bottles with the wine.
5. Ensure that the bottles are placed where they needn't be moved around (this is because the decanting process requires the containers to be absolutely still as the sediment settles to the bottom of the bottles).

Notes:
You can use any type of raw rice (belthige as its called in Kannada, Surai as its called in Konkani) I used cheaper quality Basmati rice. You needn't wash the rice.



Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Raw Banana Peel Upkari/Sauté (Kelyachya Saliche Upkari)

So I've been trying out a lot of dishes lately. Most of them are in preparation of the upcoming Christmas season - well, that's just a clue for you, I won't divulge in more details as I am waiting to post those recipes from Dec 1st onwards. For now, I will post the recipe of one of the by-products of an ingredient. No prizes for guessing that I am talking about the Raw Banana here.


Isn't it nice when you try out something for the first time and realise that you can actually get two dishes for the price of one? Well, I set out to make something out of raw bananas and just when I was going to throw the peel my hubby made his grand entry into the kitchen as said he could make a quick dish out of the fleshy peels. "Eh?" I exclaimed, not because I was surprised that one could put the peels to good use but because I was surprised that he would be actually cooking that day (doesn't happen too often these days). Maybe I inspire him! Hehe. Ok, so he donned his virtual apron and quickly put this yummy & simple dish together.


Getting the most out of every vegetable is something I need to learn. Back in Mangalore people prepare this dish although it was never done in my house. Maybe I should attempt making such dishes out of peels and skins of fruits and vegetables and make a section on this blog just for such recipes. Since eating organic and not wasting food has suddenly become fashionable, I am sure a lot of you would be interested to try this out.  


You can try making this dish out of raw bananas as plantains have a thinner skin and you may not get much of the white flesh as they are used for cooking anyway. Aren't Bananas and Plantains the same you may say. Well, no, raw Bananas are edible as a fruit  once they ripen and turn yellow, red (or pale green in the case of the green Cavendish) and are generally not 'cooked' as a side dish. 'Plantain' on the other hand must be cooked before consuming. Plantains are firmer, have more starch content and less sugar content than Bananas and do not grow as long as Bananas.

(Above Pic: Flesh of the peels scraped out and ready to be cooked)

So the next time you buy raw bananas to make a sweet or savoury dish out of it, don't discard the peels. Try making this dish. You won't be disappointed, I promise. 



Raw Banana Peel Upkari
Serves 2

You Need:
  • the peels of 4 raw bananas * see notes
  • 1/2 onion finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp tamarind paste or 1 tbsp tamarind juice
  • salt to taste
For the seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp mustard
  • 1/2 tsp urad dal
  • 5-6 curry leaves
  • 1 clove garlic crushed
  • 1 tsp vegetable masala powder * see notes
  • 1/2 onion finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp oil for frying
Method:
1. Wash & place each peel on a cutting board - green side facing down and carefully scrape out the white fleshy portion. The green (outer surface) is fibrous (called as 'naar' in Konkani) and is not edible. So the easier way of removing it is to scrape out the white flesh off the green fibre than doing it the other way round. 
2. Mince the white portion of the peel and place it in a wok or kadhai and add enough water to cover it, salt to taste, 1/2 a chopped onion, turmeric & tamarind paste/juice and cook it on a medium flame till half the water has dried up. Stir in between to avoid it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. When the peels have partially cooked. Turn off the flame & keep it aside
3. In another heavy bottomed pan heat the oil, reduce the flame and toss in the mustard. When it stops spluttering add the urad dal, curry leaves and crushed garlic. Stir it, taking care to see that the contents do not burn. Add the remaining 1/2 chopped onion and fry till translucent. Add the vegetable masala powder (you can turn off the flame to avoid burning). 
4. Add the pre-cooked peel mixture and its water. Check salt to taste & allow to cook for a further 2 minutes on a slow flame.
5. Turn off the flame & serve hot with rice or chapathis.

Notes:
To peel a raw banana run a knife along the length of the banana, making a shallow slit all the way down taking care to see that the inside flesh is not bruised. Once you have made several slits, gently use the tip of the knife to remove the peel off the flesh.
If you do not have the Mangalorean vegetable masala powder, you can use any masala powder that is suitable for vegetables or a blend of spices or may even use Bafat powder.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Chicken Chettinad

I've been waiting to try out the Chicken Chettinad since the time I ate it in a small restaurant in Bangalore some aeons ago. Never thought I had the recipe sitting right inside my Sanjeev Kapoor collection on my book shelf. What triggered me to flip through the book was when I saw it on my friend/blogger Cherie's blog and from that day on I have decided to go through all the recipes in my existing (and ever growing) collection of recipe books and toss them away (read 'donate') if I haven't cooked even one dish from it for over a year. Looks like my New Year's resolution has already been made. At least this will help me focus on the important things in life and make the much needed space on my book shelf for better things.


By the way, I totally agree with Cherie that although Chicken Chettinad was born in Tamil Nadu it tastes a lot like a Mangalorean dish - replete with a host of tongue tickling spices and grated coconut that makes it well, almost a cousin of the Kori Aajadina (Chicken Sukka). The minor difference would be the generous use of fragrant spices like Fennel (Saunf) & Star Anise (which is the dominant flavour) in the Chicken Chettinad. We Mangaloreans use a lot of tamarind in our curries which is replaced by the tomato here. Apparently in some regions of Tamil Nadu, this dish is prepared without the coconut, so you may skip the same, however, I think it tastes bests with some coarsely ground coconut.



By the way, if the Mangaloreans have'nt noticed yet, the serving dish used here is made of 'pouli' (in Konkani) or the Areca nut palm leaf which are eco friendly and are used to make plates & dishes meant for a one time use. I see these are catching up in Mangalore where caterers use them to serve food. I was quite impressed with them when my mum bought me a pack (knowing my latest obsession of collecting cutlery for the blog). I went and bought another pack of smaller bowls from Nilgiris Supermarket, opp S.D.M College, M.G. Road, Mangalore

So well, isn't it a case of presenting Chettinad in a Mangalorean way? ;-)

Chicken Chettinad
Serves 4

You Need:
  • 1 kg chicken
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 3 medium sized tomatoes
  • 1 large sprig or 10-12 curry leaves (karipatta)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander (for garnish)
  • salt to taste
  • 3 tbsp oil for frying
For the masala
  • 6-8 long dry red chillies (I used Bedgi) * see notes
  • 2 tsp poppy seeds (khus khus)
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 inch piece cinnamon
  • 3 green cardamoms
  • 1/2 star anise (chakri phool)
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds (saunf)
  • 1 cup or 1/2 a grated coconut 
  • 2 inches ginger
  • 6 garlic flakes
  • 2-3 tsp oil for roasting
Masala powders
  • 1/4 tsp red chilli powder (you may skip this) * see notes
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
Method:
1. Clean the chicken and cut it into medium size pieces. Wash and drain on a colander.
2. Heat some oil in a a skillet/tawa and roast the long dry red chillies, poppy seeds, coriander and cumin seeds, green cardamoms, cloves, cinnamon, fennel, star anise and grated coconut and grind to a coarse paste along with ginger & garlic.
3. Heat oil in a large wok/kadhai and fry the onions till golden. Toss in the curry leaves and fry for a few seconds and then add the ground paste and saute for some time. Add the chopped tomatoes, red chilli powder and the turmeric powder and fry for a couple of minutes
4. Add the chicken pieces, mix well and cook for 5 minutes on a medium high flame. Add salt to taste and 1 cup water, lime juice. Cover & cook till done. If you want more gravy add a little extra water to achieve the desired consistency.
5. Garnish with chopped coriander and serve hot with rice or chapathis

Notes:
You may use 6 red chillies and skip the the chilli powder if your tolerance to spice is low. You can also use Kashmiri chillies if you don't have the Bedgi variety and add the red chilli powder.
The original recipe asks for 1 tsp chilli powder which increases the spice level of this dish