Quick fix dosa

Dosa in a jiffy

The husband’s been pining for a dosa for a while now. At other times we would leg it to East Ham for some proper madrasi fare but this particular evening we were in neither the mood nor the shape for the excursion, what with me still recovering from a nasty flu and him too lazy to move after an exceptionally long day at work.

This was a good time to invoke the god of quick fix food- Mr Oliver of the 30-minute meals fame. A few weeks before I had chanced upon (yet another) of his simple recipes on one of his new shows- it was for a speedy dosa.  He promised that it would taste close to the real thing; I was tempted to try. Continue reading

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Onyummmmm redux

While last year Onam was a modest affair, this time on I went the whole hog. So there was kichadi, kalan, erissery and the works… and I am quite pleased to say that the result was quite satisfactory (for a first time elaborate sadya). The meal was certified by two malayalis who polished off two rounds of helpings each! 😀

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Onyummm!

Today was Onam. After we missed our first one as a married couple last year, I was determined to make it a special one for hubby and me this year. So I made it count as the only way i know how to: by cooking something special. This wasn’t too difficult for this festival as it has it has a set menu of some… ummm 11-odd dishes which comprise Onasadya. 🙂 Easy I said?!

Well the beauty of these dishes are that they are easy to prepare (at least the ones I choose to cook!) and take about the usual time you would if you were making the daily fare (I hope I don’t get heckled for this assertion, for in truth it is an elaborate meal but I chose a short cut). While a typical Onamsadya would comprise, pappadum, banana wafers, sarkarapuratti fries, ginger, lime and mango pickles, ‘vellarika’, ‘pavakka’, ‘beetroot’ and ‘ulli kitchadi’. ‘Kitchadi’ made of pineapple and banana splits or of grapes and apple, ‘cabbage thoran’ or thoran made of beans and avial, bread and green peas mix ‘thoran”, kootucurry, ‘parippu curry, ghee, Sambhar, Rasam, butter milk, curd, adaprathaman Payasam, erissery, Kalan or Pulisseri, Olan, Mulakoshyam etc., I could manage only three :/

These were Samabar, Avial and Mambazha pulisseri, accompanied by pickle and chips (in lieu of banana chips and pappadum). There was to be rasam but time restraints and lack of storage space helped reign my enthusiasm in. And also the fact I don’t know what most of these are. Tut tut! Our UK twist to the Onasadya was also that working day meant we had our lavish meal at night instead of day, as it is traditionally supposed to be. And the uperi (or banana chips) were replaced by potato chips. I could tell you that it was my attempt to integrate cultures but the truth is that these crisps made an appearance on the plate because neither hubby not I could leg it to East Ham (the Indian raw material hub in London) to get some. But that sounds so boring so I will settle for the former excuse instead!

It was a happy meal nonetheless, I assure you. What I loved about today’s fare was that it was a gustatory delight as had it all. The sambar was hot and sour; the puliserri, sweet and tangy, with the right amount of heat;  the avial was light and crunchy and oh so coconutty. All these flavours were kept within limits by the all absorbent rice.

Recipe of the day is a sooper easy sambar.

Sambar:

a)      Toor/arhar dal: one cup

b)      Vegetables (I used potatoes, carrots, brinjal, radish): a cup each

c)      onions: one

d)      tomato: two medium

e)      Okra: 250 gm

f)        Tamarind: a small ball (soak it in hot water to extract juice from later)

g)      Heeng/asafoetida: a pinch

h)      Sambar powder: I put two heaped tbsp for this quantity of sambar

i)        Red chilli powder: one tsp

j)        Turmeric powder: one tsp

k)      Curry leaves: a few

l)        Salt: To taste

For the tempering:

a)      Oil

b)      Mustard seeds

c)      Whole dried red chillies

Preparation:

a)      Cook the vegetables mentioned in pt b) along with the dal, tomatoes, onions, turmeric, red chilli powder and curry leaves in a pressure cooker.

b)      In the meanwhile, fry chopped okra in oil  and soak tamarind in hot water. Frying okra ensures you will not get that mucilaginous taste.

c)      Once the dal and veggies are done, add sambar powder, asafoetida, fried okra and the tamarind extract. Mix well.

d)      Heat oil, splutter mustard seeds, followed by the whole red chillies. Once the chillies start fuming, add the tempering to the sambar.

Oh if you were wondering what was for dessert. Normally it should be payasam, we settled for Muller rice pudding instead!

For the Avial and pulliserri, click on the links.

Onatrivia:

  • It is the biggest festival of Kerela, marking the rice harvest season and the return of King Mahabali. To know more about onam, click here
  • It is an all vegetarian fest, and before you carnivores dismiss it, try it at least once. You will be converted (for at least one meal a year), I promise.
  • The food has to be served on a banana leaf, laid with the end to the left hand side. The meal is traditionally served on a mat laid on the floor. A strict order of serving the dishes one after another is obeyed. Besides, there are clear directions as to what will be served in which part of the banana leaf.

Stewing in the magic of ishtu

Happy 60th Dad!

Today is dad’s birthday. Wish as I might, I can’t be there with the folks. So I did the second best thing I could do. Cook a couple of his favourite dishes.

So in his honour I made chicken stew (as we don’t get the right kind of mutton here) and palak (spinach). Only this time I made the latter the way it is made in God’s own country and not the Punjabi way mom does back in Delhi.

I visited Kerala recently to visit amma (my mom-in-law) and took the opportunity to get the recipes of a few of her signature dishes. Both hubby and I are huge fans of her cooking and for very good reason. This is the first time I observed her cooking and loved the fact that she made everything look so easy! Having learnt a few of her staples, when I went back to Delhi to visit my family there, I made sure I showed off. One of the dishes I prepared was mutton stew, a preparation I know dad loves, expect he has always had it with fish as the main ingredient. 🙂 (a fish moilee actually. But as long as the gravy has coconut in it, dad’s happy!)

Even as I write this entry I can hear the merry bubble of the dish cooking and the fragrance of the whole spices working their magic on the chicken is driving me daft. As the aroma wafts in, all I can see floating in my mind’s eye are loaves of white bread. The combination is as inseparable as Jeeves and Wooster, Wallace and Gromit or Karamchand and Kitty. Well maybe not to a true blue malyali; no it won’t be. But I ain’t one so I will maintain this assertion! Though I have to admit, the combo of stew and appam is quite explosive. Another reason I am rooting for bread right now is because I still haven’t tried my hand at appam making, despite all ingredients being present in the pantry.

Anyway to the recipe we go. As always, this one comes with certain improvisations.

Ingredients:

Marinade:

a)      Coriander powder: lots

b)      Pepper: one tbsp

c)      Salt: to taste

d)      Red chili powder: a pinch

e)      Curry leaves: lots

f)        Green chillies: two; finely chopped

g)      Lime juice: three tbsp

To cook:

a)      Chicken: 850 g

b)      Mustard seeds:  a tsp

c)      Cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks**: 4 each

d)      Bay leaves**: one (if big) three (if small)

e)      Star anise**: one

f)        Garlic: 6 pods, finely chopped

g)      Ginger: equivalent to the amount of garlic used

h)      Red chili powder

i)        Coriander powder*: one tbsp

j)        Curry leaves: a few more

k)      Tomato: one (small)

l)        Salt: to taste

m)    Coconut milk: one cup

n)      Coconut cream: half a cup

o)      Oil: two tbsp

Method:

a)      Marinate the chicken for as long as you can (maximum overnight, minimum one-and-a-half hours)

b)      Heat oil, splutter mustard seeds.

c)      Add whole spices and fry only till light brown.

d)      Add onions, fry till brown.

e)      Add ginger and garlic. Fry till the lovely aroma of spices and G&G rises (which should be just a few minutes). Now add curry leaves

f)        Next come red chilli powder and coriander powder. Fry till the powders lose the raw taste

g)      Add chicken and fry for a few minutes.

h)      Now add the coconut milk and tomatoes**. Cook till the gravy is ¾ or so of original quantity/the chicken should be cooked.

i)        Finally put in the coconut cream and cook for another 7 minutes or so.

j)        The final product should have a thickish gravy.

*Of all the spices going into the dish, coriander powder is the star. It gives this dish its distinct taste. This I learnt on the trip back home this summer; made quite a difference as the dish had a more distinct “stew-like” taste than my earlier attempts. But this version is not entirely malayali, or at least they way it is made back at out tharavad. ** I don’t believe whole spices or tomato are used the original mallu stew. However, I did because I love the kick they give any meat dish. This dish sees my Punjabi side making some interesting contributions to the malayali flavours.

Oh and the palak dish, the recipe will follow in later days.

Stew tid-bits:

  • The dish is called Isthu in kerala.
  • You can substitute chicken for mutton or vegetables (carrot, potato and beans. I have never tried using any other than these) if you like. Or you can combine the veggies and one of the meats if you fancy.
  • Believe it or not, it is one of the top-ranking b’fast dishes back home. Goes well with different kind of appams (though bread remains my favourite, esp the sweet kind you get in Kerala)

Back with Avial for dinner

It’s been more than three months that the blog saw any activity. The reasons were many, none of which belong in a food blog; suffice to say most of them were compelling enough to keep entries at bay. But now that the leaf has turned and the resolve is back, so is the blog. So ladies and gentlemen let’s start cooking or eating or maybe just writing and reading about food here.

Since it’s my first day back as GG, I will begin with sharing with you a simple yet delicious recipe which by the way is quite healthy and practically fuss free. I was introduced to the joys of Avial many years back. I have enjoyed many an Onam Sadya where avial featured prominently among many other vegetarian delights. But never did I ever dream that  I would be trying my hand at making this colourful dish on a humdrum Monday evening just because I was feeling especially kind towards the husband who has been pining for this malayali favourite of his for some time now. Of course when I started out I thought I was doing him a big favour by preparing an elaborate dish. So imagine my surprise when my sister-in-law informed that there was nothing to it. Well the recipe below will prove that to you. A word of caution though, I did make some changes to incorporate my laziness J and lack of kitchen equipment.

Ingredients:

a) Vegetables: Well typically, I am told, you need to lay your hands on

Yam, plantain, brinjal, pumpkin, beans carrot, potatoes and drum stick. My fridge had only the last four. Hubby is interrupting to tell me that you can put any vegetable you fancy.     : a cup each

b) Beaten curd    : a cup

c) Coconut (grated or desiccated)*   : half a cup

d) Cumin seeds/powder*  : one tbsp levelled

e) Green chillies  : up to you

f) Red chili powder  : a pinch

g) Turmeric   : one-and-a half tsp

h) Mustard seeds  : one tsp

i) Curry leaves  : a handful

i ) Oil*  *  : one tbsp

Method:

a) Cut the vegetables in 3-4 inch length pieces, and cover them in enough water to cook them. Don’t forget to add salt. Make sure you don’t over cook these.

b) As the vegetables simmer merrily, blend cumin seeds, coconut and green chillies with enough water to make a rough paste. I, however took an easier route, brought about by the fact that I don’t have a blender, yet (hope the hubby’s listening). In case you share my predicament, mix together a heaped tea-spoon of cumin powder, half a cup of desiccated coconut and finely chopped green chillies along with enough water to make a rough paste.

c) Mix the beaten curd with the paste made above

d) Once the vegetables are ready, drain the excess water, if any. Add the paste, while the vegetables are still on the hob. Mix well.

e) Heat oil; splutter the mustard seeds, add curry leaves and a pinch of red chili powder.

f) Add the tadka (e) to the vegetable mix.

My avial debut saw the dish on the drier side, the way we make it back at home, but it can be with more and thinner gravy if you so desire. And since I put a lot of turmeric, it was more of the yellow variety. Reduce the amount of haldi if you want the colours less warm.

Would have loved to put some pictures up but I am happy to report that the preparation was eagerly lapped up as soon as it landed on the dining table, and I sure don’t want to photograph scraps for the image. So borrowing from the internet instead.

**  Believe it or not but I used olive oil because I ran out of vegetable oil. Of course, ideally you have to use coconut oil for cooking. But the olive oil did not spoil the party one bit!

Some TriAvial facts:

  • If I was to give you an analogy for avial, it’d be khichdi. It’s a mish-mash of all the veggies you could lay your hand on.
  • Wikipedia tells me that avial was “invented” by bhim during their exile (agyathvaasa) and he, not a cook, put all vegetables he found together and came up with this Onam Sadya essential.
  • As I googled around a bit, I found that there is a Malayali rock band by the name!