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


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Minced Chicken Kurma

Minced Chicken Kurma or Kheema Kurma..well, I was debating what the name of this recipe should be. Kheema Kurma sounded funny so I vetoed it. It brought to mind many such names of people that rhyme with their surnames - I won't get into the details - I will leave you to think of such names that you've come across in your life. Yeah yeah, a total time pass activity. But then, what are weekends for? To take it easy and relax.


That is pretty much what I will be doing this weekend. Going to finish my housework now & then do my weekly shopping at the supermarket. So without boring you with too many philosophical stories, will leave you with this simple recipe which I found in the Mangalore Ladies Club Recipe book and tweaked it a bit. It's a typical Kurma/Korma style of making chicken mince, so if you are only fond of eating mince in its red masala form, forget about this recipe. The cashewnut paste in this recipe lends this lovely creamy texture and flavour that is a perfect accompaniment to chapathis.


Minced Chicken Kurma
Serves 4

You Need:
  • 800gm chicken mince/kheema
  • 3 medium onions finely chopped
  • 3 small tomatoes finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup curds
  • 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  • 1/2 cup green peas
  • 50gms (or a fistful)cashewnuts ground to a paste
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream (optional)
  • oil for frying
Whole spices
  • 1/2 inch cinnamon
  • 2-3 cloves 
  • 2 cardamoms crushed
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds 
Dry masala
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder 
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder 
  • 1/2 tsp (or to taste) red chilli powder 
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala powder
For garnishing
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander
Method:
1. Wash & drain the mince in a fine slotted colander until all the water drains off.
2. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed kadhai or wok and add the whole spices and fry for a few seconds. Add the chopped onions and fry till pale & then add the dry masala powders and fry for 1/2 a minute. Add the chicken mince and fry for another 2-3 minutes.
3. Toss in the chopped tomatoes and ginger-garlic paste and fry well for another 5- 6minutes until it is almost dry. If the mince has let out a lot of water then don't add additional water. Else add 1/2 cup water and simmer for 6-7 minutes until most of the water evaporates & the mixture becomes dry.
4. Add curds and mix well. Add the cashewnut paste and mix again, allow to simmer on a slow flame for 5 minutes. If you wish to add some more water to make a thick gravy you can add about 1/2 cup water. 
5. Toss in the green peas, cover & cook for 2minutes. Turn off the flame
6. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves & serve hot with chapathis



Thursday, November 17, 2011

Muhammara

Did I ever tell you that I am raising a little chef at home? His enthusiasm in cooking amazes me & pleases me too. Since I definitely don't subscribe to the old school of thought that parents should let their kids play with gender specific toys, I went ahead and bought him a toy kitchen set some time ago. Although a lot of those 'utensils' are lost by now, he borrows my kitchen utensils especially my bake ware (his favourite are the balloon whisk and the bundt pan) and 'bakes' all day long. My guests are often entertained with some fresh from the (imaginary) oven bites that range from pita bread to cupcakes with ginger garlic paste as one of the key ingredients. Lol! Innocence at its best. However, even my baking efforts to entice him to eat what I bake has been falling flat. I have been trying to come up with all kinds of recipes with fruits or veggies sneaked into them so that he gets his dose of nutrition at least from my baking if not otherwise. So these days I simply conjure up an exotic name for a simple dish and hope he will eat it. Most times the trick works and I am happy.


When I picked up the Supermoms' Recipes, a book full of child friendly recipes put together by the moms and for the moms, I found this lovely mediterranean dip called the Muhammara which is a popular condiment & dip in Lebanon, Syria and Palestine, I knew I had to try it for my little fellow. I love making simple eats whenever R travels as it gives me a much required break from the kitchen and I can indulge in some non Mangalorean food. This dip is so easy to make and is lip smacking delicious. Take my word for it. Be generous with the olive oil and you will wipe your plates clean. I say this because my picky eater loved it so much.


Bell peppers are a great source of Vitamin B6, Folic Acid and Beta Carotene & Vitamin C both of which are powerful antioxidants. Walnuts are a rich source of amino acids and Omega 3 which is key in brain development. Adding the french beans or any other green vegetable like spinach or green peas is just an option to make kids eat healthy - you may skip it if you wish & increase the amount of breadcrumbs.

Muhammara can be served along with grilled meats or fish and kababs. Works best as a spread for a bread  sandwich or a dip for pita bread as well. By the way, I tried making my own pita bread and it turned out fab, but didn't have the courage to click pictures as I am terrible at rolling out dough in perfect rounds - so you see I cut them into triangles for the sake of presentation :D

This dip is especially for my two childhood friends Veda Pai & Lakshmi Bhat who had asked me to post some child friendly recipes which are suitable for the lunch box as well. Hope your little ones enjoy this dip!


Muhammara
Serves 2

You Need:

  • 2 red capsicums/bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 2 small cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tsp red chilli flakes/paprika
  • 100 gm french beans or any green vegetable (optional)
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs * see notes
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste
For garnishing

  • mint leaves
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

Method
1. Place the whole capsicums over a stove top flame and turn frequently until the skin has turned black uniformly - similar to how the brinjal/baingan's are roasted for the bharta. Once done, transfer to a large bowl, allow to cool off a bit before peeling off the blackened skin. Remove the stem & the seeds as well. Roughly chop the peppers & keep aside.
2. Heat a skillet/tawa & toast the walnuts for a few seconds and then roughly chop them. Steam/pressure cook the french beans for about 1-2 whistles, remove & refresh with cold water & drain on a colander.
3. Place all ingredients into a food processor and pulse it for a few seconds. Do not make a purée or a fine paste, you need to retain a grainy texture (almost like a coarse coconut chutney). 
4. Transfer contents into a serving bowl, garnish with mint leaves and drizzle extra virgin olive oil. Serve as is or chilled with pita bread.

Notes:
The original recipe calls for breadcrumbs, so if you wish you can skip the french beans and add more of the bread crumbs.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Egg Coconut Curry

Eggs are a wonderful way to transform a boring weekday lunch into something delightful. Known for their versatility they can add some panache to your menu whether you plan to have them for breakfast or lunch or in some baked goodies, sweets or savouries. Having half a dozen of them sitting patiently in the fridge is a blessing in disguise for me especially because most times I turn to them when I run out of ideas to rustle up a quick breakfast or  lunch or even when I fancy baking something on a whim (especially those bookmarked cake recipes that make me droooool!!)


Egg curry is almost a weekly staple in my house - quick to make and delicious when accompanied by rice. R loves egg curries with a thick coconut base and especially if there's a chunky potato to give the egg some company. Well, my taste differs a bit - I like egg Roce (coconut milk) curries - delicately flavoured and lighter (in texture) as compared to the thicker versions. But since R is not such a fan of Roce based curries, I have to make do with other varieties. Sigh! So while I go in search of more egg curry recipes, why don't you try this one? It's a nice recipe shared by my family friend Jenifer who has been kind enough to have shared many a good recipe with me. (categorised as Protestant Cuisine and some continental fare too such as Hummus, Lasagne, Chicken Roast)

Hope you enjoy making & eating this simple egg curry as much as I did!


Egg Coconut Curry
You Need:

  • 4-5 eggs
  • 1 large potato quartered (optional)
  • 1 cup grated coconut
  • 1/2 a medium onion roughly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp poppy seeds (khus khus)
  • 3 tsp bafat powder (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala powder *see notes
  • 1-1/2 tsp tamarind paste
  • 2 cloves garlic with skin
  • 1/2 inch ginger
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp oil for frying
For the tempering
  • 1/2 a medium onion finely sliced 
  • 1 sprig or 7-8 curry leaves (karipatta)
  • 2 tbsp oil
Method:
Hard boiling the eggs:
1.) Place the eggs in a deep pan filled with plain water (enough to cover the eggs) and bring the water to a rolling boil. Continue to boil for 12 minutes.
2.) Turn off the flame, transfer the eggs into fresh water at room temperature and when cool enough to handle, peel off the shells carefully.
3.) Slit each egg vertically just halfway into the egg. Keep aside. Click here to see some tips on how to boil eggs

Preparing the masala
1.) Heat some oil in a wok or non stick pan and roast the coconut for a couple of minutes before adding the roughly sliced onion and poppy seeds. Toast the ingredients on a slow flame until you get a nice aroma of roasted coconut & the colour changes to pale brown (biscuit colour).
2.) Toss in the bafat powder and garam masala and give the mixture a stir and turn off the flame. Allow to cool.
3.) Once cooled, use a little water to grind the toasted coconut mixture, tamarind, ginger, garlic & salt to taste to a fine paste.

Preparing the curry
1.) Heat oil for seasoning in a pan and toss in the curry leaves and the finely sliced onion and fry till the onion turns golden brown.
2.) Add the ground masala paste and fry for a couple of minutes on sim. Add water from the mixer jar and additional water if required to arrive at a thick gravy like consistency. Bring the gravy to a full boil.
3.) Add the potatoes and cook on sim for 3-4 minutes till the potatoes are cooked after which you can add the semi slit hard boiled eggs and simmer for a couple of minutes.
4. Turn off the flame & serve hot with rice

Notes:
Add the garam masala powder only if you are using plain chilli powder or bafat powder without the garam masala added to it. The Bafat powder recipe link I have provided above is for Bafat minus the garam masala, hence I have mentioned 1/2 tsp separately.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Tomato Rice

Sometimes the heart seeks something simple. My taste buds crave for something ordinary, something different. These are times when I randomly pick a bookmarked recipe & try it out. I also try out all the simple no fuss recipes when R is travelling, especially if he is travelling through the weekend, I keep my meals extra simple. Honestly, I hate to cook for survival. I love cooking for someone else and so when I don't have any adult company during meal times, I customise my recipes for the lil picky eater I have at home. Most times I tweak my existing recipes and make it child friendly, other times I just order food from out! Yup! It's that simple! No slogging over something which doesn't get any approval from the little tyrant.


I think the simplest of all meals in my opinion are those involving rice and especially a dish that you can whip up in no time. I came across this really simple & flavourful rice while I was blog hopping in Nisha's Kitchen and instantly bookmarked it. What's great about these typically South Indian style flavoured rice items is that most of them can be made with leftover rice. A lot like how the Chinese rustle up fried rice for breakfast by using up the previous day's rice.


My brief stint in Bangalore (I can never call it Bengalooru - ugh!) saw me frequenting Sukh Sagar, Koramangala and other such veg restaurants randomly named with a suffix of 'Sagar'. I used to have a lot of these different kinds of flavoured rice - tomato rice, lemon rice, vangi bhath (brinjal rice), puliogre (tamarind rice), khara bhath (spiced rice), bisi bele bhath (hot rice & lentils) & curd rice ~ each of them delicious & different in their own way although I had my personal favourites. But as much as I loved them during those days, I never attempted making them in my kitchen. This was my perfect chance to bring back some old memories. One spoonful of tomato rice and I was transported back to the time when I did my month long project work in Bangalore as part of my post-grad curriculum. I used to stay as a paying guest (P.G) along with my friend Rinku (of Rinku's Kitchen Treats) and we would leave every morning to our particular work places (where we did our project work) and many a time we had our lunch alone at such veg restaurants, with only the menu card for company :-( We would wait to get back in the evenings during that cold month of November and have some delicious meals cooked by the aunty who ran the place. With little money in our pockets, we had to 'kaam chalao' (make do) with simple food picking from the variety mentioned above for a whole month (or as long as the project lasted). These along with many other remain to be my most cherished memories of my college days. I am sure you will agree Rinks!


Tomato Rice
Serves 1-2

You Need:
  • 2 cups cooked rice (any long grained rice)
  • 1 heaped cup finely chopped tomatoes
  • 1 small green chilli (I skipped this)
  • 1 tsp or 1 inch finely chopped ginger
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 1 sprig or 7-8 curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp mustard (rai)
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp black gram dal (urad)
  • 1/4 tsp asafoetida (hing)
  • 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds (methi)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric (haldi)
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tsp oil
Method:
1. Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan and add the mustard, when it splutters, add the hing, methi seeds and urad dal. Stir on a low flame and then add the onions, green chillies, ginger and curry leaves.
2. Cook till the onions turn translucent and then add the turmeric and red chilli powders and cook for a minute.
3. Add the chopped tomatoes, mix well, cover & cook till tomatoes are fully cooked. Add salt to taste, mix well & turn off the flame.
4. Add the cooked rice & mix gently till well incorporated.
5. Serve hot with raitha or plain curds.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ginger Wine


'Tis the season to be jolly! Fa la la la la, la la la la!!

So how many of you have gotten into the Christmas mood already? Did I hear you say "me!". Well, I am in the mood for sure and I can't wait to play some Christmas carols and put up the tree & decorate it. Wow! Even the thought of Christmas puts a smile on my face. Now that my little one has reached an age where he can understand a lot of things, I think it is the right time to start some Christmas traditions at home. Things that he will fondly remember all his life. So I thought to myself, what better than to start early with some 'Christmassy' things - like making our first batch of home made wine?? Perfect!

Come October and my kitchen saw a lot of me - busy & excited to jot down recipes, gather the ingredients and kick start the preparations. While I am still preparing the rest of the Christmas goodies and the recipes will be posted in the run up to Christmas, I thought posting the ginger wine recipe would be helpful to all those who want to try making some home made wine. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Zucchini & Nutella Swirl Muffins

My fingers have been itching to type out this recipe & post it for a while now. I just can't seem to resist baking and although I made these muffins in about 10-12 days after I had tried the Zucchini & Choco Chip Loaf Cake, it took a while to actually get the post together. It was my first experience baking with Zucchini and I had more than enough for the cake & so I put away some in the deep freezer to make something else with it. 


Since I have always wanted to bake with my favourite chocolate & hazelnut spread - Nutella, I thought it was the perfect occasion to try out some muffins with dollops of Nutella spread on top. Babble.com which has some great recipes for every occasion & every need published one such article on healthy snacks for kids & I found this recipe from one of the links showcased in that article. Incidentally Ruchik Randhap has also been nominated as Babble's Top Mom Food Blogger nominees for 2011, so please do vote for me by clicking here and then scrolling down to #43 (which is my current ranking) - I have been listed as 'ruchikrandhap' - please cast your vote by clicking on the thumbs up symbol. Thanks in advance! 


Getting our little ones to eat some vegetables seems to be the top priority for us mothers. I am glad that my son accepted these muffin very well both the times - yes, the first time they were loved so much that I made them again for some friends. It was well received the second time around too as our friends as just as health conscious as I am. The use of olive oil instead of butter made these muffins very light & delicately tasty. I also replaced part of the all purpose flour (maida) with whole wheat flour (atta) just to make the health scales tip a little in my favour.


The above picture is from the first batch of muffins where I was extra generous with Nutella. You see, my son has this habit of asking me to buy random things whenever we are shopping & Nutella was one such obsession. Since I love it too, I bought a bottle which went untouched after 2 spoonfuls slathered on bread. We have a saying in Konkani called 'Ghare Kodu' which roughly translates to 'grapes are sour' although the metaphor refers to a case of eating too much of something & then never ever wanting to see it again. That's exactly what happened to sonny boy who ate too much Nutella & gave up one fine day.



That's when I decided to make something out of Nutella and what better than to bake & share it with friends? Psst! Technically I shared the calories too! Haha. But then, I wouldn't mind eating these muffins again as they are far healthier than the other bakery trash that we sometimes buy. Baking muffins (or cupcakes) at home is always a great experience that I look forward to. Although it is easier to bake a cake by just dumping the batter into one single tin & waiting for the cake to rise, it is a more enjoyable task to lay out individual liners in the muffin tin (my son patiently does that) and drop portions of batter into each liner and serve perfect little portions to little ones or those who claim they can't have more than a bite (referring to those who halve even a slice or sliver of cake because they can't or don't want to eat more)

Make these muffins with or without the Zucchini. Skip the Zucchini & add raisins or grated carrots or chocolate chips. You still have a win-win situation on your hands as the Nutella is enough to tickle anyone's palate. You can add melted chocolate or chocolate ganache as a topping if you do not have Nutella. Try these as the festive season is just round the corner and I am sure these babies will be well received by your guests as well!


Zucchini & Nutella Swirl Muffins
Yield : 15-18 medium size muffins

You Need:
  • 1 cup maida (all purpose flour)
  • 1/2 cup atta (whole wheat flour)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (or any odourless oil)
  • 3/4 cup sugar 
  • 1 large or 2 small eggs at room temperature * see notes
  • 1 cup grated zucchini
  • zest of 1 lime (or lemon)
  • 1/2 cup (approx) Nutella (or as required)
Method:
1. Preheat oven to 175 C. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners.
2. Sift together the dry ingredients a couple of times - flours, baking soda & baking powder and cinnamon. Keep aside
3. In a large bowl mix the sugar & oil and beat well until the mixture looks pale. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well. Add in the sifted dry ingredients in parts and mixing well till all the flour has incorporated into the egg, oil & sugar mixture. Mix in the grated zucchini & lime/lemon zest.
4. Use a tablespoon to scoop out the batter into the paper liners. Each liner should be 2/3rd full. Use a teaspoon and scoop out approx 1/2 tsp Nutella each into each of the liners. Add more if you wish.
5. Use a wooden skewer or toothpick to swirl the nutella (form circles with the tip of the toothpick)
6. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.




Notes:
  • The original recipe calls for butter which will result in richer muffins. 
  • The first time I tried these muffins I made a smaller batch with 1 cup flour & 1 medium size egg. For 1-1/2 cups flour you may need 2 medium size eggs. If the batter feels a bit runny after using 2 eggs, it is ok, the muffins will turn out fine. 
  • If you are using frozen grated zucchini you may want to drain the excess water a bit before you add them to the batter
  • On completion of baking time, while inserting the skewer - do so right in the centre of the muffin & go all the way down, if you poke just the surface which has the Nutella it will look as if it is uncooked - so don't be tempted to cook for more time - the muffins will dry up
Adapted from: A Spicy Perspective

Friday, November 4, 2011

Keerl Ani Moog Sukho (Bamboo Shoots & Sprouted Green Gram Sauté)

My blog would be incomplete without one of the most traditional recipes - Keerl ani Moog Suko which is actually a seasonal delicacy so those of you who are familiar with this preparation will wonder why this recipe is making its grand appearance in November instead of July or August. Well, as usual this was pending for a long time and I had prepared it right after the monsoons - the season when you start getting Bamboo shoots in the market. My husband is very fond of it and has an acquired taste for it unlike me. The first few times he prepared it I didn't like it at all. Keerl (bamboo shoots) is something you will either love or hate. The acrid (bitter) taste & smell was what put me off always. Whenever hubs brought it home & set about cleaning it I would find myself sniffing in the kitchen and ask him where the 'weird' smell came from. Anyway, since it's a delicacy that is not found all year round I stopped being so bothered by the smell.


Non Mangaloreans may have heard about the bamboo shoots being famous in Asian cookin and is immensely loved by the oriental people - I am guessing that Mangaloreans must be from the same gene pool (ha ha) cuz we love it too! The best way to prepare it of course is to cook it along with moog/moong (whole or sprouted green gram). Bamboo shoots or bamboo sprouts that come out of the ground are edible and are found in fresh, dried or canned form. It has a distinct taste and is often cooked along with other ingredients. In the Far East it is usually cooked in broths or main courses especially with meat like pork or beef. In India it is famously eaten in its fermented form in many parts of North East India especially Manipur & Nagaland. 


The second main ingredient in this dish is the sprouted green gram or moong as we call it in India. Moon sprouts have a lot of health benefits and can be cooked in various ways. Sprouts can be eaten raw in a salad or cooked in various dishes like gravies or side dishes or can be transformed into cutlets or dosas. Moong sprouts are best known for being a great source of vegetarian protein and is also beneficial for those with a delicate digestive system. 

If you find a can of bamboo shoots you can give this a shot, else, wait for the next season to enjoy this seasonal delicacy :-) 



Keerl Ani Moog Sukho
Serves 3

You Need:
  • 1 packed cup of sliced Bamboo shoots * see notes
  • 1/2 cup whole green gram (moong) or 1-1/4 cups sprouted green gram * see notes
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated coconut
  • 1 tsp (or to taste) vegetable masala powder * see notes
  • 1 tsp tamarind paste or 2 hog plums (ambade) or 4-5 pieces of sol
  • salt to taste
For seasoning/fon:
  • 1/2 tsp mustard
  • 3-4 flakes of garlic
  • 6-7 curry leaves
  • 1 medium size onion finely sliced
  • 2-3 tbsp oil
Method:
1. You can pre-cook the moong sprouts in some water & little salt to taste - cook it till tender but firm (if you press each grain between your thumb & index finger it should not turn to a paste). Alternately you can pressure cook it with water & salt but don't let the whistle go off. Turn off the flame just when the hissing starts. Allow the cooker to cool down a bit before loosening the weight (whistle). Retain the cooked water. Transfer the cooked sprouts into another bowl.
2. Heat oil in a heavy wok or pan and add the mustard, when it splutters add the garlic flakes and fry till golden, toss in the curry leaves and finally the sliced onion. Fry until the onion turns golden in colour.
3. Add grated coconut and fry on a slow flame till you get a nice aroma. Toss in the vegetable masala powder and quickly stir it, you can turn off the flame if you see it getting burnt. Once it has blended well with the rest of the ingredients, add the minced bamboo shoots, hog plums or tamarind and the water from the pre-cooked sprouts. Cook for about 2-3 minutes and then add the sprouts. Check salt to taste & add as required.
4. Cover and cook on sim for about 4-5 minutes stirring once in a way.
5. Turn off the flame & serve hot with rice

Notes
a) Treating the Bamboo shoots:
If you are using readily available canned bamboo shoots you can drain the water & use them as required. If you are using fresh shoots, you will need to slice them and soak them in a bowl of water. Place the bowl in a refrigerator for 2-3 days. Change the water daily - this is done to remove the acrid (bitter) taste & smell. To store fresh shoots for a longer period of time you can either store in a container with salt water or store in an airtight container & deep freeze it for upto 1-2 months

b) Sprouting the Green Gram
Soak whole green gram in plenty of water for about 12 hours. Discard the water and transfer the gram into a thin muslin cloth, tie into a bundle and leave in a bowl or hang the bundle from a hook - leave it undisturbed for another 14-16 hours. You can check in between to see the length of the sprouts/roots desired

c) Vegetable masala powder is a blend of long dry red chillies, coriander & cumin seeds, peppercorns, fenugreek (methi), turmeric, bengal gram (chana dal), green gram (moong dal), boiled rice & gingelly (til). This powder is readily available in many stores in Mangalore especially Don Stores & Konkan Traders near Milagres Church. You may even find it in 'Mangalore Stores' which is a chain of stores having its presence across cities in India.
Instead of the above mentioned veg powder you can use any mildly spiced vegetable powder or even Bafat powder


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Special Surmai (Kingfish) Curry (With Or Without Coconut)

One can create a myriad of flavours with a same set of ingredients ~ Mangaloreans are especially skilled at achieving this. The bounty of our Indian Coast has helped feed generation after generation and authentic recipes have been created, altered & mastered, each one redefined and tweaked to suit a palate or culture. Fish curries need a special mention as there are a zillion different ways to cook fish, curries especially are broadly classified into those that are coconut based and those that use other ingredients to create a base. Again you have a choice of picking a particular style of making a curry depending on what kind of fish you are cooking. Fresh water fish (river & lake) fish & Salt water fish (sea fish) are again the sub categories. For example, cooking Baby Shark (Thato/Thaate) which is a sea fish in a coconut milk gravy is unheard of (at least we don't make it). We have particular gravies that suit certain types of fish. Spicy curries that are loaded with spices, onions, ginger & garlic are married off to fish like Mackerels (Bangde/Bangude), Sardines (Tharle/Boothai), Shark (Thato/Thaate), Silverfish (Erli/Yerli/Bolenjir) to name a few. The more delicate flavoured fish like Pomfret, Tongue Fish (Lepo/) Lady Fish (Kane/Nogli/Murdoshi), Kingfish (Surmai) are often stewed in coconut or coconut milk based gravies. A few preparations include those made in a green masala base made with ground coriander leaves & green chillies. Last but not the least we also prepare salted & dried fish curries that are flavoured with spices & raw mango or bimblies (bimbuli/vilimbipuli) ~ the taste of these curries are simply out of the world!!


We Mangalorean Catholics usually prepare 6-7 specific types of curries that suit particular types of fish. We have the regular Geraal Kadi (Common coconut based curry for most types of fish), the Bafat Kadi (using the Bafat masala suitable for Mackerels, King Fish etc), the Shirko Shindaap (vinegar & sliced onions, ginger, garlic & green chillies), Amshi Thikshi (Hot & Sour curry), Rosachi Kadi (Coconut milk based curry), Losun Miri (Garlic & Pepper curry) and the Jeere Miri (Cumin & Pepper).

Besides the above mentioned styles there are many types of curries that are either coconut based or onion based and their preparation varies from one family to the other. Undoubtedly I loved my mum's way of preparing fish curries. My MIL who is also a superb cook makes her signature dishes which are usually onion or coconut (grated & ground) based. My mum made a lot of Roce (coconut milk) based gravies which were finger lickin' good.

That brings me to the part where I need to tell you from where I picked this recipe. Mum or MIL. Well, neither! In my quest to try out new recipes almost daily, I hunted through my trusted recipe books & randomly picked one from the book 'Ranpi' by Isidore Coelho who has authored many cookery books in both Konkani & English. 


Today's recipe can be prepared with or without coconut/coconut milk powder. If you are brave enough to add the extra chillies that the recipe asks for, you can skip the coconut and enjoy a fiery red curry, otherwise simply add the coconut & enjoy the delicate flavour of this curry. This curry suits Surmai as well as Pomfret and is easy to make.

Special Surmai Curry

You Need:
  • 500 gm (or 3-4 palm size slices) of king fish/surmai/iswon or pomfret
  • 1/2 tsp tamarind paste or 1 marble size tamarind dissolved in 1 tbsp water
  • 1 medium size onion sliced
  • 1 green chilli (optional) * see notes
  • 1 tsp vinegar (option) * see notes
  • 2 tbsp oil for frying
  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander for garnishing (optional)
For the masala
  • 6-7 long dry red chillies (Bedgi), deseed if you wish * see notes *IMPORTANT*
  • 5 peppercorns (kali mirch)
  • 2 cloves (laung)
  • 1/2 inch cinnamon stick (dalchini)
  • 1 pod of cardamom (elaichi)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin (jeera)
  • 1/2 tsp mustard (rai)
  • 1/2 inch ginger
  • 6 flakes of garlic (Indian) with skin
  • 3 tbsp coconut milk powder or 3-4 tbsp grated coconut (optional) *see notes
  • 1/2 onion (optional) * seet notes
Method:
1. Wash & drain the fish on a colander. Using a little water grind all the ingredients mentioned in 'For the masala' to a fine paste. Reserve the masala water from the mixer jar.
2. In a large pan or wok heat the oil & fry the sliced onion till golden brown. Add the green chilli (optional) and fry till it turns translucent. Add the ground masala paste & fry on a slow flame till the oil leaves the sides of the pan.
3. Add the reserved masala water, salt to taste, tamarind juice, vinegar (optional) and bring the gravy to a boil. Add the fish pieces gently and carefully cover them with gravy. Cover & cook on a medium flame for about 2-3 minutes.
4. Turn off the flame, garnish with chopped coriander & serve hot with rice

Notes:
1. I skipped the green chilli & vinegar and adjusted the tamarind juice as per my taste.
2. The original recipe asked for 10 long chillies and 10 peppercorns. I reduced these quantities as I prefer moderately spicy curries. However, you can add the extra chillies by deseeding them. Instead of doing this I added the coconut milk powder & onion (mentioned as optional items above) as they help in increasing the quantity of gravy.
3. If you are using very large slices of Surmai fish wash them carefully as they break easily.
4. If you like moderately spicy curries then make sure you add more than 3 tbsp coconut milk powder or grated coconut. Deseed the red chillies before grinding them. If the curry is still spicy add coconut milk to balance and reduce the spice. Once you do this you will have to check the taste and add more salt or tamarind juice if required.

Updated Notes:
I used 6-7 deseeded bedgi chillies and still found it spicy as the chillies were fresh (new crop). I added some coconut milk to the gravy before adding the fish to balance the spice. A lot of readers who have low tolerance to spice said that this curry turned out delicious but spicy. If you have low tolerance to spice please use just 3-4 Byadge chillies, all deseeded or Kashmiri chillies or a mix of Kashmiri and Byadge. Note that the seeds of the chillies are what give the maximum heat so when in doubt always remove the seeds and use just the skins. Byadge chillies give the traditional taste for curries while Kashmiri chillies are great for their colour but lower on spice than the Byadge variety.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Chicken Ghee Roast


Well, so here we are in the month of November. It's almost the end of the year. Ten full months have passed by and 'time flies' is an understatement! Well, wasn't it just yesterday that we wished everyone a Happy New Year?! I am sure that as you read this your thoughts are wandering back to the beginning of this year and all the events that unfolded as the months rolled by. Have I accomplished anything significant this year? Have I kept up to the promises I made to myself? The New Year resolutions sometimes remain just resolutions. I am glad I don't make any resolutions on Jan 1st anymore. Everyday is the 1st of January if you are serious about  getting something done. Anyway, before I make this sound like a speech usually made on 31st of December, let me tell you that I have achieved many a milestone as far as my blog is concerned. Apart from the page hits & growing list of followers, I have made some great blogger friends. It's amazing how we make more friends sitting inside the confines of our home via the internet than we actually make outside our homes. Friends we have never met check on us out of genuine concern when we disappear for a few days from the blogosphere. Among the many I would like to mention two such co-bloggers who I have never met before. Radhika of Tickling Palates who hosts Blog Hop Wednesdays and Charishma Shetty of Cherie's Stolen Recipes with whom I am paired with for today's hop.

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


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Minced Chicken Kurma

Minced Chicken Kurma or Kheema Kurma..well, I was debating what the name of this recipe should be. Kheema Kurma sounded funny so I vetoed it. It brought to mind many such names of people that rhyme with their surnames - I won't get into the details - I will leave you to think of such names that you've come across in your life. Yeah yeah, a total time pass activity. But then, what are weekends for? To take it easy and relax.


That is pretty much what I will be doing this weekend. Going to finish my housework now & then do my weekly shopping at the supermarket. So without boring you with too many philosophical stories, will leave you with this simple recipe which I found in the Mangalore Ladies Club Recipe book and tweaked it a bit. It's a typical Kurma/Korma style of making chicken mince, so if you are only fond of eating mince in its red masala form, forget about this recipe. The cashewnut paste in this recipe lends this lovely creamy texture and flavour that is a perfect accompaniment to chapathis.


Minced Chicken Kurma
Serves 4

You Need:
  • 800gm chicken mince/kheema
  • 3 medium onions finely chopped
  • 3 small tomatoes finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup curds
  • 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  • 1/2 cup green peas
  • 50gms (or a fistful)cashewnuts ground to a paste
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream (optional)
  • oil for frying
Whole spices
  • 1/2 inch cinnamon
  • 2-3 cloves 
  • 2 cardamoms crushed
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds 
Dry masala
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder 
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder 
  • 1/2 tsp (or to taste) red chilli powder 
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala powder
For garnishing
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander
Method:
1. Wash & drain the mince in a fine slotted colander until all the water drains off.
2. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed kadhai or wok and add the whole spices and fry for a few seconds. Add the chopped onions and fry till pale & then add the dry masala powders and fry for 1/2 a minute. Add the chicken mince and fry for another 2-3 minutes.
3. Toss in the chopped tomatoes and ginger-garlic paste and fry well for another 5- 6minutes until it is almost dry. If the mince has let out a lot of water then don't add additional water. Else add 1/2 cup water and simmer for 6-7 minutes until most of the water evaporates & the mixture becomes dry.
4. Add curds and mix well. Add the cashewnut paste and mix again, allow to simmer on a slow flame for 5 minutes. If you wish to add some more water to make a thick gravy you can add about 1/2 cup water. 
5. Toss in the green peas, cover & cook for 2minutes. Turn off the flame
6. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves & serve hot with chapathis



Thursday, November 17, 2011

Muhammara

Did I ever tell you that I am raising a little chef at home? His enthusiasm in cooking amazes me & pleases me too. Since I definitely don't subscribe to the old school of thought that parents should let their kids play with gender specific toys, I went ahead and bought him a toy kitchen set some time ago. Although a lot of those 'utensils' are lost by now, he borrows my kitchen utensils especially my bake ware (his favourite are the balloon whisk and the bundt pan) and 'bakes' all day long. My guests are often entertained with some fresh from the (imaginary) oven bites that range from pita bread to cupcakes with ginger garlic paste as one of the key ingredients. Lol! Innocence at its best. However, even my baking efforts to entice him to eat what I bake has been falling flat. I have been trying to come up with all kinds of recipes with fruits or veggies sneaked into them so that he gets his dose of nutrition at least from my baking if not otherwise. So these days I simply conjure up an exotic name for a simple dish and hope he will eat it. Most times the trick works and I am happy.


When I picked up the Supermoms' Recipes, a book full of child friendly recipes put together by the moms and for the moms, I found this lovely mediterranean dip called the Muhammara which is a popular condiment & dip in Lebanon, Syria and Palestine, I knew I had to try it for my little fellow. I love making simple eats whenever R travels as it gives me a much required break from the kitchen and I can indulge in some non Mangalorean food. This dip is so easy to make and is lip smacking delicious. Take my word for it. Be generous with the olive oil and you will wipe your plates clean. I say this because my picky eater loved it so much.


Bell peppers are a great source of Vitamin B6, Folic Acid and Beta Carotene & Vitamin C both of which are powerful antioxidants. Walnuts are a rich source of amino acids and Omega 3 which is key in brain development. Adding the french beans or any other green vegetable like spinach or green peas is just an option to make kids eat healthy - you may skip it if you wish & increase the amount of breadcrumbs.

Muhammara can be served along with grilled meats or fish and kababs. Works best as a spread for a bread  sandwich or a dip for pita bread as well. By the way, I tried making my own pita bread and it turned out fab, but didn't have the courage to click pictures as I am terrible at rolling out dough in perfect rounds - so you see I cut them into triangles for the sake of presentation :D

This dip is especially for my two childhood friends Veda Pai & Lakshmi Bhat who had asked me to post some child friendly recipes which are suitable for the lunch box as well. Hope your little ones enjoy this dip!


Muhammara
Serves 2

You Need:

  • 2 red capsicums/bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 2 small cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tsp red chilli flakes/paprika
  • 100 gm french beans or any green vegetable (optional)
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs * see notes
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste
For garnishing

  • mint leaves
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

Method
1. Place the whole capsicums over a stove top flame and turn frequently until the skin has turned black uniformly - similar to how the brinjal/baingan's are roasted for the bharta. Once done, transfer to a large bowl, allow to cool off a bit before peeling off the blackened skin. Remove the stem & the seeds as well. Roughly chop the peppers & keep aside.
2. Heat a skillet/tawa & toast the walnuts for a few seconds and then roughly chop them. Steam/pressure cook the french beans for about 1-2 whistles, remove & refresh with cold water & drain on a colander.
3. Place all ingredients into a food processor and pulse it for a few seconds. Do not make a purée or a fine paste, you need to retain a grainy texture (almost like a coarse coconut chutney). 
4. Transfer contents into a serving bowl, garnish with mint leaves and drizzle extra virgin olive oil. Serve as is or chilled with pita bread.

Notes:
The original recipe calls for breadcrumbs, so if you wish you can skip the french beans and add more of the bread crumbs.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Egg Coconut Curry

Eggs are a wonderful way to transform a boring weekday lunch into something delightful. Known for their versatility they can add some panache to your menu whether you plan to have them for breakfast or lunch or in some baked goodies, sweets or savouries. Having half a dozen of them sitting patiently in the fridge is a blessing in disguise for me especially because most times I turn to them when I run out of ideas to rustle up a quick breakfast or  lunch or even when I fancy baking something on a whim (especially those bookmarked cake recipes that make me droooool!!)


Egg curry is almost a weekly staple in my house - quick to make and delicious when accompanied by rice. R loves egg curries with a thick coconut base and especially if there's a chunky potato to give the egg some company. Well, my taste differs a bit - I like egg Roce (coconut milk) curries - delicately flavoured and lighter (in texture) as compared to the thicker versions. But since R is not such a fan of Roce based curries, I have to make do with other varieties. Sigh! So while I go in search of more egg curry recipes, why don't you try this one? It's a nice recipe shared by my family friend Jenifer who has been kind enough to have shared many a good recipe with me. (categorised as Protestant Cuisine and some continental fare too such as Hummus, Lasagne, Chicken Roast)

Hope you enjoy making & eating this simple egg curry as much as I did!


Egg Coconut Curry
You Need:

  • 4-5 eggs
  • 1 large potato quartered (optional)
  • 1 cup grated coconut
  • 1/2 a medium onion roughly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp poppy seeds (khus khus)
  • 3 tsp bafat powder (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala powder *see notes
  • 1-1/2 tsp tamarind paste
  • 2 cloves garlic with skin
  • 1/2 inch ginger
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp oil for frying
For the tempering
  • 1/2 a medium onion finely sliced 
  • 1 sprig or 7-8 curry leaves (karipatta)
  • 2 tbsp oil
Method:
Hard boiling the eggs:
1.) Place the eggs in a deep pan filled with plain water (enough to cover the eggs) and bring the water to a rolling boil. Continue to boil for 12 minutes.
2.) Turn off the flame, transfer the eggs into fresh water at room temperature and when cool enough to handle, peel off the shells carefully.
3.) Slit each egg vertically just halfway into the egg. Keep aside. Click here to see some tips on how to boil eggs

Preparing the masala
1.) Heat some oil in a wok or non stick pan and roast the coconut for a couple of minutes before adding the roughly sliced onion and poppy seeds. Toast the ingredients on a slow flame until you get a nice aroma of roasted coconut & the colour changes to pale brown (biscuit colour).
2.) Toss in the bafat powder and garam masala and give the mixture a stir and turn off the flame. Allow to cool.
3.) Once cooled, use a little water to grind the toasted coconut mixture, tamarind, ginger, garlic & salt to taste to a fine paste.

Preparing the curry
1.) Heat oil for seasoning in a pan and toss in the curry leaves and the finely sliced onion and fry till the onion turns golden brown.
2.) Add the ground masala paste and fry for a couple of minutes on sim. Add water from the mixer jar and additional water if required to arrive at a thick gravy like consistency. Bring the gravy to a full boil.
3.) Add the potatoes and cook on sim for 3-4 minutes till the potatoes are cooked after which you can add the semi slit hard boiled eggs and simmer for a couple of minutes.
4. Turn off the flame & serve hot with rice

Notes:
Add the garam masala powder only if you are using plain chilli powder or bafat powder without the garam masala added to it. The Bafat powder recipe link I have provided above is for Bafat minus the garam masala, hence I have mentioned 1/2 tsp separately.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Tomato Rice

Sometimes the heart seeks something simple. My taste buds crave for something ordinary, something different. These are times when I randomly pick a bookmarked recipe & try it out. I also try out all the simple no fuss recipes when R is travelling, especially if he is travelling through the weekend, I keep my meals extra simple. Honestly, I hate to cook for survival. I love cooking for someone else and so when I don't have any adult company during meal times, I customise my recipes for the lil picky eater I have at home. Most times I tweak my existing recipes and make it child friendly, other times I just order food from out! Yup! It's that simple! No slogging over something which doesn't get any approval from the little tyrant.


I think the simplest of all meals in my opinion are those involving rice and especially a dish that you can whip up in no time. I came across this really simple & flavourful rice while I was blog hopping in Nisha's Kitchen and instantly bookmarked it. What's great about these typically South Indian style flavoured rice items is that most of them can be made with leftover rice. A lot like how the Chinese rustle up fried rice for breakfast by using up the previous day's rice.


My brief stint in Bangalore (I can never call it Bengalooru - ugh!) saw me frequenting Sukh Sagar, Koramangala and other such veg restaurants randomly named with a suffix of 'Sagar'. I used to have a lot of these different kinds of flavoured rice - tomato rice, lemon rice, vangi bhath (brinjal rice), puliogre (tamarind rice), khara bhath (spiced rice), bisi bele bhath (hot rice & lentils) & curd rice ~ each of them delicious & different in their own way although I had my personal favourites. But as much as I loved them during those days, I never attempted making them in my kitchen. This was my perfect chance to bring back some old memories. One spoonful of tomato rice and I was transported back to the time when I did my month long project work in Bangalore as part of my post-grad curriculum. I used to stay as a paying guest (P.G) along with my friend Rinku (of Rinku's Kitchen Treats) and we would leave every morning to our particular work places (where we did our project work) and many a time we had our lunch alone at such veg restaurants, with only the menu card for company :-( We would wait to get back in the evenings during that cold month of November and have some delicious meals cooked by the aunty who ran the place. With little money in our pockets, we had to 'kaam chalao' (make do) with simple food picking from the variety mentioned above for a whole month (or as long as the project lasted). These along with many other remain to be my most cherished memories of my college days. I am sure you will agree Rinks!


Tomato Rice
Serves 1-2

You Need:
  • 2 cups cooked rice (any long grained rice)
  • 1 heaped cup finely chopped tomatoes
  • 1 small green chilli (I skipped this)
  • 1 tsp or 1 inch finely chopped ginger
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 1 sprig or 7-8 curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp mustard (rai)
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp black gram dal (urad)
  • 1/4 tsp asafoetida (hing)
  • 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds (methi)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric (haldi)
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tsp oil
Method:
1. Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan and add the mustard, when it splutters, add the hing, methi seeds and urad dal. Stir on a low flame and then add the onions, green chillies, ginger and curry leaves.
2. Cook till the onions turn translucent and then add the turmeric and red chilli powders and cook for a minute.
3. Add the chopped tomatoes, mix well, cover & cook till tomatoes are fully cooked. Add salt to taste, mix well & turn off the flame.
4. Add the cooked rice & mix gently till well incorporated.
5. Serve hot with raitha or plain curds.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ginger Wine


'Tis the season to be jolly! Fa la la la la, la la la la!!

So how many of you have gotten into the Christmas mood already? Did I hear you say "me!". Well, I am in the mood for sure and I can't wait to play some Christmas carols and put up the tree & decorate it. Wow! Even the thought of Christmas puts a smile on my face. Now that my little one has reached an age where he can understand a lot of things, I think it is the right time to start some Christmas traditions at home. Things that he will fondly remember all his life. So I thought to myself, what better than to start early with some 'Christmassy' things - like making our first batch of home made wine?? Perfect!

Come October and my kitchen saw a lot of me - busy & excited to jot down recipes, gather the ingredients and kick start the preparations. While I am still preparing the rest of the Christmas goodies and the recipes will be posted in the run up to Christmas, I thought posting the ginger wine recipe would be helpful to all those who want to try making some home made wine. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Zucchini & Nutella Swirl Muffins

My fingers have been itching to type out this recipe & post it for a while now. I just can't seem to resist baking and although I made these muffins in about 10-12 days after I had tried the Zucchini & Choco Chip Loaf Cake, it took a while to actually get the post together. It was my first experience baking with Zucchini and I had more than enough for the cake & so I put away some in the deep freezer to make something else with it. 


Since I have always wanted to bake with my favourite chocolate & hazelnut spread - Nutella, I thought it was the perfect occasion to try out some muffins with dollops of Nutella spread on top. Babble.com which has some great recipes for every occasion & every need published one such article on healthy snacks for kids & I found this recipe from one of the links showcased in that article. Incidentally Ruchik Randhap has also been nominated as Babble's Top Mom Food Blogger nominees for 2011, so please do vote for me by clicking here and then scrolling down to #43 (which is my current ranking) - I have been listed as 'ruchikrandhap' - please cast your vote by clicking on the thumbs up symbol. Thanks in advance! 


Getting our little ones to eat some vegetables seems to be the top priority for us mothers. I am glad that my son accepted these muffin very well both the times - yes, the first time they were loved so much that I made them again for some friends. It was well received the second time around too as our friends as just as health conscious as I am. The use of olive oil instead of butter made these muffins very light & delicately tasty. I also replaced part of the all purpose flour (maida) with whole wheat flour (atta) just to make the health scales tip a little in my favour.


The above picture is from the first batch of muffins where I was extra generous with Nutella. You see, my son has this habit of asking me to buy random things whenever we are shopping & Nutella was one such obsession. Since I love it too, I bought a bottle which went untouched after 2 spoonfuls slathered on bread. We have a saying in Konkani called 'Ghare Kodu' which roughly translates to 'grapes are sour' although the metaphor refers to a case of eating too much of something & then never ever wanting to see it again. That's exactly what happened to sonny boy who ate too much Nutella & gave up one fine day.



That's when I decided to make something out of Nutella and what better than to bake & share it with friends? Psst! Technically I shared the calories too! Haha. But then, I wouldn't mind eating these muffins again as they are far healthier than the other bakery trash that we sometimes buy. Baking muffins (or cupcakes) at home is always a great experience that I look forward to. Although it is easier to bake a cake by just dumping the batter into one single tin & waiting for the cake to rise, it is a more enjoyable task to lay out individual liners in the muffin tin (my son patiently does that) and drop portions of batter into each liner and serve perfect little portions to little ones or those who claim they can't have more than a bite (referring to those who halve even a slice or sliver of cake because they can't or don't want to eat more)

Make these muffins with or without the Zucchini. Skip the Zucchini & add raisins or grated carrots or chocolate chips. You still have a win-win situation on your hands as the Nutella is enough to tickle anyone's palate. You can add melted chocolate or chocolate ganache as a topping if you do not have Nutella. Try these as the festive season is just round the corner and I am sure these babies will be well received by your guests as well!


Zucchini & Nutella Swirl Muffins
Yield : 15-18 medium size muffins

You Need:
  • 1 cup maida (all purpose flour)
  • 1/2 cup atta (whole wheat flour)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (or any odourless oil)
  • 3/4 cup sugar 
  • 1 large or 2 small eggs at room temperature * see notes
  • 1 cup grated zucchini
  • zest of 1 lime (or lemon)
  • 1/2 cup (approx) Nutella (or as required)
Method:
1. Preheat oven to 175 C. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners.
2. Sift together the dry ingredients a couple of times - flours, baking soda & baking powder and cinnamon. Keep aside
3. In a large bowl mix the sugar & oil and beat well until the mixture looks pale. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well. Add in the sifted dry ingredients in parts and mixing well till all the flour has incorporated into the egg, oil & sugar mixture. Mix in the grated zucchini & lime/lemon zest.
4. Use a tablespoon to scoop out the batter into the paper liners. Each liner should be 2/3rd full. Use a teaspoon and scoop out approx 1/2 tsp Nutella each into each of the liners. Add more if you wish.
5. Use a wooden skewer or toothpick to swirl the nutella (form circles with the tip of the toothpick)
6. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.




Notes:
  • The original recipe calls for butter which will result in richer muffins. 
  • The first time I tried these muffins I made a smaller batch with 1 cup flour & 1 medium size egg. For 1-1/2 cups flour you may need 2 medium size eggs. If the batter feels a bit runny after using 2 eggs, it is ok, the muffins will turn out fine. 
  • If you are using frozen grated zucchini you may want to drain the excess water a bit before you add them to the batter
  • On completion of baking time, while inserting the skewer - do so right in the centre of the muffin & go all the way down, if you poke just the surface which has the Nutella it will look as if it is uncooked - so don't be tempted to cook for more time - the muffins will dry up
Adapted from: A Spicy Perspective

Friday, November 4, 2011

Keerl Ani Moog Sukho (Bamboo Shoots & Sprouted Green Gram Sauté)

My blog would be incomplete without one of the most traditional recipes - Keerl ani Moog Suko which is actually a seasonal delicacy so those of you who are familiar with this preparation will wonder why this recipe is making its grand appearance in November instead of July or August. Well, as usual this was pending for a long time and I had prepared it right after the monsoons - the season when you start getting Bamboo shoots in the market. My husband is very fond of it and has an acquired taste for it unlike me. The first few times he prepared it I didn't like it at all. Keerl (bamboo shoots) is something you will either love or hate. The acrid (bitter) taste & smell was what put me off always. Whenever hubs brought it home & set about cleaning it I would find myself sniffing in the kitchen and ask him where the 'weird' smell came from. Anyway, since it's a delicacy that is not found all year round I stopped being so bothered by the smell.


Non Mangaloreans may have heard about the bamboo shoots being famous in Asian cookin and is immensely loved by the oriental people - I am guessing that Mangaloreans must be from the same gene pool (ha ha) cuz we love it too! The best way to prepare it of course is to cook it along with moog/moong (whole or sprouted green gram). Bamboo shoots or bamboo sprouts that come out of the ground are edible and are found in fresh, dried or canned form. It has a distinct taste and is often cooked along with other ingredients. In the Far East it is usually cooked in broths or main courses especially with meat like pork or beef. In India it is famously eaten in its fermented form in many parts of North East India especially Manipur & Nagaland. 


The second main ingredient in this dish is the sprouted green gram or moong as we call it in India. Moon sprouts have a lot of health benefits and can be cooked in various ways. Sprouts can be eaten raw in a salad or cooked in various dishes like gravies or side dishes or can be transformed into cutlets or dosas. Moong sprouts are best known for being a great source of vegetarian protein and is also beneficial for those with a delicate digestive system. 

If you find a can of bamboo shoots you can give this a shot, else, wait for the next season to enjoy this seasonal delicacy :-) 



Keerl Ani Moog Sukho
Serves 3

You Need:
  • 1 packed cup of sliced Bamboo shoots * see notes
  • 1/2 cup whole green gram (moong) or 1-1/4 cups sprouted green gram * see notes
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated coconut
  • 1 tsp (or to taste) vegetable masala powder * see notes
  • 1 tsp tamarind paste or 2 hog plums (ambade) or 4-5 pieces of sol
  • salt to taste
For seasoning/fon:
  • 1/2 tsp mustard
  • 3-4 flakes of garlic
  • 6-7 curry leaves
  • 1 medium size onion finely sliced
  • 2-3 tbsp oil
Method:
1. You can pre-cook the moong sprouts in some water & little salt to taste - cook it till tender but firm (if you press each grain between your thumb & index finger it should not turn to a paste). Alternately you can pressure cook it with water & salt but don't let the whistle go off. Turn off the flame just when the hissing starts. Allow the cooker to cool down a bit before loosening the weight (whistle). Retain the cooked water. Transfer the cooked sprouts into another bowl.
2. Heat oil in a heavy wok or pan and add the mustard, when it splutters add the garlic flakes and fry till golden, toss in the curry leaves and finally the sliced onion. Fry until the onion turns golden in colour.
3. Add grated coconut and fry on a slow flame till you get a nice aroma. Toss in the vegetable masala powder and quickly stir it, you can turn off the flame if you see it getting burnt. Once it has blended well with the rest of the ingredients, add the minced bamboo shoots, hog plums or tamarind and the water from the pre-cooked sprouts. Cook for about 2-3 minutes and then add the sprouts. Check salt to taste & add as required.
4. Cover and cook on sim for about 4-5 minutes stirring once in a way.
5. Turn off the flame & serve hot with rice

Notes
a) Treating the Bamboo shoots:
If you are using readily available canned bamboo shoots you can drain the water & use them as required. If you are using fresh shoots, you will need to slice them and soak them in a bowl of water. Place the bowl in a refrigerator for 2-3 days. Change the water daily - this is done to remove the acrid (bitter) taste & smell. To store fresh shoots for a longer period of time you can either store in a container with salt water or store in an airtight container & deep freeze it for upto 1-2 months

b) Sprouting the Green Gram
Soak whole green gram in plenty of water for about 12 hours. Discard the water and transfer the gram into a thin muslin cloth, tie into a bundle and leave in a bowl or hang the bundle from a hook - leave it undisturbed for another 14-16 hours. You can check in between to see the length of the sprouts/roots desired

c) Vegetable masala powder is a blend of long dry red chillies, coriander & cumin seeds, peppercorns, fenugreek (methi), turmeric, bengal gram (chana dal), green gram (moong dal), boiled rice & gingelly (til). This powder is readily available in many stores in Mangalore especially Don Stores & Konkan Traders near Milagres Church. You may even find it in 'Mangalore Stores' which is a chain of stores having its presence across cities in India.
Instead of the above mentioned veg powder you can use any mildly spiced vegetable powder or even Bafat powder


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Special Surmai (Kingfish) Curry (With Or Without Coconut)

One can create a myriad of flavours with a same set of ingredients ~ Mangaloreans are especially skilled at achieving this. The bounty of our Indian Coast has helped feed generation after generation and authentic recipes have been created, altered & mastered, each one redefined and tweaked to suit a palate or culture. Fish curries need a special mention as there are a zillion different ways to cook fish, curries especially are broadly classified into those that are coconut based and those that use other ingredients to create a base. Again you have a choice of picking a particular style of making a curry depending on what kind of fish you are cooking. Fresh water fish (river & lake) fish & Salt water fish (sea fish) are again the sub categories. For example, cooking Baby Shark (Thato/Thaate) which is a sea fish in a coconut milk gravy is unheard of (at least we don't make it). We have particular gravies that suit certain types of fish. Spicy curries that are loaded with spices, onions, ginger & garlic are married off to fish like Mackerels (Bangde/Bangude), Sardines (Tharle/Boothai), Shark (Thato/Thaate), Silverfish (Erli/Yerli/Bolenjir) to name a few. The more delicate flavoured fish like Pomfret, Tongue Fish (Lepo/) Lady Fish (Kane/Nogli/Murdoshi), Kingfish (Surmai) are often stewed in coconut or coconut milk based gravies. A few preparations include those made in a green masala base made with ground coriander leaves & green chillies. Last but not the least we also prepare salted & dried fish curries that are flavoured with spices & raw mango or bimblies (bimbuli/vilimbipuli) ~ the taste of these curries are simply out of the world!!


We Mangalorean Catholics usually prepare 6-7 specific types of curries that suit particular types of fish. We have the regular Geraal Kadi (Common coconut based curry for most types of fish), the Bafat Kadi (using the Bafat masala suitable for Mackerels, King Fish etc), the Shirko Shindaap (vinegar & sliced onions, ginger, garlic & green chillies), Amshi Thikshi (Hot & Sour curry), Rosachi Kadi (Coconut milk based curry), Losun Miri (Garlic & Pepper curry) and the Jeere Miri (Cumin & Pepper).

Besides the above mentioned styles there are many types of curries that are either coconut based or onion based and their preparation varies from one family to the other. Undoubtedly I loved my mum's way of preparing fish curries. My MIL who is also a superb cook makes her signature dishes which are usually onion or coconut (grated & ground) based. My mum made a lot of Roce (coconut milk) based gravies which were finger lickin' good.

That brings me to the part where I need to tell you from where I picked this recipe. Mum or MIL. Well, neither! In my quest to try out new recipes almost daily, I hunted through my trusted recipe books & randomly picked one from the book 'Ranpi' by Isidore Coelho who has authored many cookery books in both Konkani & English. 


Today's recipe can be prepared with or without coconut/coconut milk powder. If you are brave enough to add the extra chillies that the recipe asks for, you can skip the coconut and enjoy a fiery red curry, otherwise simply add the coconut & enjoy the delicate flavour of this curry. This curry suits Surmai as well as Pomfret and is easy to make.

Special Surmai Curry

You Need:
  • 500 gm (or 3-4 palm size slices) of king fish/surmai/iswon or pomfret
  • 1/2 tsp tamarind paste or 1 marble size tamarind dissolved in 1 tbsp water
  • 1 medium size onion sliced
  • 1 green chilli (optional) * see notes
  • 1 tsp vinegar (option) * see notes
  • 2 tbsp oil for frying
  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander for garnishing (optional)
For the masala
  • 6-7 long dry red chillies (Bedgi), deseed if you wish * see notes *IMPORTANT*
  • 5 peppercorns (kali mirch)
  • 2 cloves (laung)
  • 1/2 inch cinnamon stick (dalchini)
  • 1 pod of cardamom (elaichi)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin (jeera)
  • 1/2 tsp mustard (rai)
  • 1/2 inch ginger
  • 6 flakes of garlic (Indian) with skin
  • 3 tbsp coconut milk powder or 3-4 tbsp grated coconut (optional) *see notes
  • 1/2 onion (optional) * seet notes
Method:
1. Wash & drain the fish on a colander. Using a little water grind all the ingredients mentioned in 'For the masala' to a fine paste. Reserve the masala water from the mixer jar.
2. In a large pan or wok heat the oil & fry the sliced onion till golden brown. Add the green chilli (optional) and fry till it turns translucent. Add the ground masala paste & fry on a slow flame till the oil leaves the sides of the pan.
3. Add the reserved masala water, salt to taste, tamarind juice, vinegar (optional) and bring the gravy to a boil. Add the fish pieces gently and carefully cover them with gravy. Cover & cook on a medium flame for about 2-3 minutes.
4. Turn off the flame, garnish with chopped coriander & serve hot with rice

Notes:
1. I skipped the green chilli & vinegar and adjusted the tamarind juice as per my taste.
2. The original recipe asked for 10 long chillies and 10 peppercorns. I reduced these quantities as I prefer moderately spicy curries. However, you can add the extra chillies by deseeding them. Instead of doing this I added the coconut milk powder & onion (mentioned as optional items above) as they help in increasing the quantity of gravy.
3. If you are using very large slices of Surmai fish wash them carefully as they break easily.
4. If you like moderately spicy curries then make sure you add more than 3 tbsp coconut milk powder or grated coconut. Deseed the red chillies before grinding them. If the curry is still spicy add coconut milk to balance and reduce the spice. Once you do this you will have to check the taste and add more salt or tamarind juice if required.

Updated Notes:
I used 6-7 deseeded bedgi chillies and still found it spicy as the chillies were fresh (new crop). I added some coconut milk to the gravy before adding the fish to balance the spice. A lot of readers who have low tolerance to spice said that this curry turned out delicious but spicy. If you have low tolerance to spice please use just 3-4 Byadge chillies, all deseeded or Kashmiri chillies or a mix of Kashmiri and Byadge. Note that the seeds of the chillies are what give the maximum heat so when in doubt always remove the seeds and use just the skins. Byadge chillies give the traditional taste for curries while Kashmiri chillies are great for their colour but lower on spice than the Byadge variety.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Chicken Ghee Roast


Well, so here we are in the month of November. It's almost the end of the year. Ten full months have passed by and 'time flies' is an understatement! Well, wasn't it just yesterday that we wished everyone a Happy New Year?! I am sure that as you read this your thoughts are wandering back to the beginning of this year and all the events that unfolded as the months rolled by. Have I accomplished anything significant this year? Have I kept up to the promises I made to myself? The New Year resolutions sometimes remain just resolutions. I am glad I don't make any resolutions on Jan 1st anymore. Everyday is the 1st of January if you are serious about  getting something done. Anyway, before I make this sound like a speech usually made on 31st of December, let me tell you that I have achieved many a milestone as far as my blog is concerned. Apart from the page hits & growing list of followers, I have made some great blogger friends. It's amazing how we make more friends sitting inside the confines of our home via the internet than we actually make outside our homes. Friends we have never met check on us out of genuine concern when we disappear for a few days from the blogosphere. Among the many I would like to mention two such co-bloggers who I have never met before. Radhika of Tickling Palates who hosts Blog Hop Wednesdays and Charishma Shetty of Cherie's Stolen Recipes with whom I am paired with for today's hop.