Chicken prepared with crushed red-chilies

Different regions of Kerala has different styles of preparing a similar dish. For instance, chicken fry. This recipe is adapted from one of my Aunts who lives in mid-Kerala, a place called Palghat. This preparation is unique to this particular region.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken 1 kg cut into small pieces
  • Dry red chilies 2 handfuls, roughly crushed (Don’t use the store bought one, freshly crushed one’s are always a better option, you could even jus tear them into pieces, but make sure you put on a pair of gloves before you do this!)
  • Onion 2, cubed
  • Tomato 3, cubed
  • Garlic ½ a pod, cut each clove in half lengthwise
  • Chili powder 2 tsp
  • Coriander powder 1 tbsp
  • Turmeric ½ tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Coconut oil 3-4 tbsp
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Mustard ½ tsp
  • Curry leaves 3-4 sprigs

Method:

  • Heat oil, sputter the mustard. Add the crushed red chili (you could use the pulse option on the mixer a couple of rounds). Immediately add the onions and curry leaves. Fry till the onion becomes transparent.
  • Now add the tomatoes and fry till the oil separates and the tomatoes are mashed.
  • Then add the spice powders & salt and fry some more.
  • Add the chicken pieces; mix in well till the masala is well coated on the pieces. Don’t add additional water as it will be released from the chicken itself.
  • Add the garlic and the lime juice. Close lid. Cook in medium heat. Stir every 3-4 minutes.
  • Keep frying till all the gravy dries out and the chicken starts to get a golden brown coating.
  • Serve hot, with rice, bread etc. This is a great side dish alongside alcohol.

Malabar Chicken Biryani

Biryani is a delicacy in India. It’s mainly popular in India and the Middle-East. Of course the preparation and techniques vary. There is probably a hundred different ways that it can be made it, mainly depending on the region it’s from. The color, spice usage, way of preparation etc. can vary widely. The recipe I follow is from Malabar region, in Kerala. I’ve adapted my Mom’s recipe which she taught me by guiding me throughout the process of preparation. Different regions use different kinds of rice for biryani. The Malabar biryani uses a kind of rice called jeerakashala rice or another variety called khaima rice. Basmati rice wouldn’t do justice to the recipe.

Ingredients:

For the rice:

Rice for the Biryani, is cooked with the spice pouch*

1. Jeerakashala rice – 4 cups

2. Ghee – 4 tbsp (to fry the rice) + 2 tbsp (to fry onions for garnishing)

3. Lime – 2 tsp

4. Salt – To taste

5. Water – 8 cups

6. Spice-pouch

7. Rose water – ¼ cup

8. Saffron – 5-6 strands (soaked in 4 tbsp warm milk)

*For the Spice-pouch:

  • Fennel seeds – 1tbsp
  • Cardamom – 3
  • Cinnamon sticks – 2 pieces
  • Cloves – 8
  • Star anise – 3
  • Shajeera /Caraway seeds – 1tsp
  • Bay leaf – 2 leaves

Crush all these spices lightly and put them into a small pouch, made from a soft muslin cloth, and tie it up with a thread.

For the chicken masala:

1. Chicken – 1kg, cut into medium pieces

2. Onion – 4 (for the chicken masala), 1 (for garnishing), sliced thinly

3. Tomato – 1, cubed

4. Green chilies – 5-8 (according to heat tolerance)

5. Ginger – 1 big piece

6. Garlic – 1 pod

7. Mint leaves – 1 small bunch

8. Coriander leaves – 1 small bunch

9. Fennel seeds – 2 tbsp

10. Pepper – 1tsp

11. Lime juice – 2 tsp

12. Curd – ½ cup

13. Turmeric – ½ tsp

14. Salt – 1 tsp

15. Ghee – 1 tbsp

Preparation:

· Wash and soak the rice for about an hour. Drain out all the water, you can move the rice onto a soft muslin cloth, tie it up and hang it somewhere so that all the water it drained out.

· After you have soaked the rice, you can start work on marinating the chicken. Roughly crush together ingredients 4 to 9 (listed under chicken masala). You can do this in the chopper in the food processor or use the pulse option on the mixer. Mix this with the chicken, along with ingredients 10 to 14 and keep aside for at least 2-3 hours so that the masala seeps well into the meat.

· Heat a skillet and add 2tbsp ghee to it and fry the onion for the garnish, add some sugar to it so that it gets slightly caramelized. Keep frying on a medium flame till the onion become light brown in color. Strain out of the ghee and keep aside. Keep the ghee aside too for garnishing the rice at the end.

· To the same skillet add the remaining 4tbsp ghee and fry the rice till it’s almost golden in color, on a medium flame. This should take about 20 minutes. Keep stirring gently, ensuring that the rice doesn’t break. While the rice is getting fried, in a separate vessel, boil 8cups water with the spice-pouch, lime juice and salt. Once the rice is fried add the boiled water, close lid and cook on a medium to low flame for about 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off heat and leave it for another 10 minutes, without opening the lid.

· Now, heat a pressure cooker, add 1tbsp ghee. Add the sliced onions and sauté till it turn pink. Now add the tomato pieces and sauté well. To this add the marinated chicken. Mix well. Cook for about 3-4 whistles. Do not add any extra water. Ensure that the chicken doesn’t get over cooked. Once you open the lid, there will be some gravy. Cook on a low flame till the gravy thickens a little.

· Open the lid on the rice and remove the spice-pouch. Add the rose water, soaked saffron and the ghee that was kept aside for garnishing. Mix well and close lid for another 10 minutes.

· Now for layering the biryani. Take a skillet in which you plan to set the biryani, add about 4-5 spoons of the chicken masala, then add 5-6 spoons of rice, repeat this procedure to make about 3 such layers. Garnish with the fried onions. Cover with a well-fitting lid.

Biryani Chutney:

· Heat an iron pan, or any other pan, on high flame and keep the biryani’s skillet on top of it for about 15 minutes. Turn off heat, and leave it for another 15 minutes. This is for the dum and helps all the flavors blend well with the rice and the meat.

 · Biryani is ready to be served!!! 

· Serve with Pappad, Biryani chutney and Salad or Raita.

Chicken Piralen – Chicken roast, The Malabar way

Chicken is definitely the most versatile meat. And this preparation is one of the most common ones all around Kerala. Almost every would blog has a version of this recipe. I have followed my Mom’s recipe.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken 1kg, medium to small pieces
  • Coriander powder 3 tbsp
  • Chilli powder 1 tsp
  • Turmeric ½ tsp
  • Pepper-Saunf powder* 1 tsp
  • Cumin powder ½ tsp
  • Cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, a little of each 

*’Pepper-Saunf powder’ :

Take black pepper and saunf (fennel seeds) in equal proportions and grind and store in an airtight jar. This masala can be added to almost any non-vegetarian preparation.  It improves the taste immensely. 

 Grind all the above spices together with a few drops of water and marinate the chicken in it for an hour. 

Ingredients:

  • Ginger 2” piece, chopped
  • Garlic 10-12 cloves, crushed
  • Shallots, 10-15, sliced
  • Apple cedar vinegar 1 tbsp (You can substitute with normal vinegar if you don’t get this one)
  • Water 3 cups
  • Salt 1 tsp 

Cook the above ingredients together with the marinated chicken, until the chicken becomes tender. Then take the chicken pieces from the gravy and keep both aside. 

For seasoning:

  • Coconut oil 4-5 tbsp
  • Onion 1, sliced thinly
  • Chili powder 1tsp
  • Curry leaves, a few

Heat the oil in a deep skillet and fry the onion and curry leaves in it. When the onion turns golden brown in color, add the chili powder and sauté for a minute. Now add the chicken pieces and fry well for about 10 minutes on a medium heat. The chicken shouldn’t get scrambled. Now add the gravy which was kept aside and mix well into the fried chicken. Keep cooking on a medium to low flame till the gravy becomes thick. Goes well with Rice, Chapatti, Vellayappam etc. 

Vellayappam – Lace rimmed rice pancakes

In Kerala, Vellayappam is one of the most popular breakfasts. Almost every household has Vellayappam for breakfast at least once a week. But they can pass really well for lunch or dinner as well. The lore is that this delicacy is a foreigner to the Mallu-land. It’s said the Dutch got the Appam into our land ages ago.  I’m really not sure about the authenticity of that tale, but if it’s true, I’m so thankful to the Dutch!!

Traditionally this recipe uses ‘toddy’ instead of yeast, but I really have no way of getting toddy here! So the next best alternative is active dry yeast. I’ve heard that people collect water from the coconuts they use for regular cooking for about a week  or so and store it up in the refrigerator, (In Kerala cuisine uses quite a lot of coconut, I’m sure that isn’t news for most people). The stored up coconut water is supposed to be a good enough supplement for the toddy, but I haven’t tried it yet, so no guarantees on that one. I’ve come to trust the good old yeast by now.

For the batter:

  • Raw rice 3 cups (Soak for 5-8 hours)
  • Coconut, grated 1 cup
  • Cooked rice ¾ cup
  • Yeast mixture ¼ cup*
  • Sugar 2 tbsp
  • Salt 1 tsp or as per taste
  • Baking soda ¼ tsp (Optional)

Method:

  • Grind the raw rice, cooked rice and coconut to make a fine batter (Slightly more loose in consistency than pancake batter).
  • Add the yeast mixture and salt to the batter. Use a bowl in which the batter will only be half full. This is because the batter will rise up in a few hours and there should be space for it to come up, if not it’ll spill out of the bowl and that’ll be a mess to cleanup, and lots of batter wasted.
  • Keep it aside in a warm place overnight or for at least 6-7 hours.
  • Next morning, add the baking soda and sugar (2 tbsp) and mix it in very slowly, so as not to disturb the batter too much. DO NOT mix vigorously, as that will affect the quality of the appam.

For the yeast mixture:

  • Warm milk or water ¼ cup
  • Sugar 1 tsp
  • Dry yeast ¼ tsp
  • Add 1 tsp sugar to the warm milk or water. To this mixture add the yeast. The milk should just be lukewarm. Leave the mixture aside for a few minutes to let the yeast develop.

To make the Appam: 

  • Lightly grease an appam chatti or wok, and heat it on a high flame. Once it’s heated, lower the flame and pour one ladle, or ½ cup, of the batter in and swirl the chatti or wok around so that the batter coats the wok to make a thin crust around the rest of the batter which settles into the center. Close with the lid and cook on low flame for about 2-3 minutes, or till the appam is cooked in the middle (slowly poke with a skewer in the middle part and if the batter doesn’t stick, then the appam is ready) and lacy part around the middle would have turned into a light brown color.
  • Gently remove the appam onto a plate or tray and repeat this process to make the number of appams you need. If there is any batter left, you can store it for about 3-4 days in the refrigerator
  • Appam is best served hot, with a variety of side dishes like stew, chicken curry, pork curry, fish curry, vegetable korma, kadala curry, egg curry and the list goes on and on… in short, appam tastes good with almost any side dish, but i suppose the winning combo is Appam with sweetened coconut milk.

Koondal peera – Squid (calamari) fried with ginger and grated coconut

Squid is a unique kind of seafood. Squid, like cuttlefish, have eight arms arranged in pairs and two, usually longer, tentacles. In English speaking countries, squid as food is often sold using its Italian name calamari. Its rubbery texture and opaque color has led a lot of people to misunderstand it to be tasteless. But those who know about squids, will know that, if cooked in the right way, can be one of the tastiest. It can be cooked in various ways – barbecue, curry, fry etc. The arms and tentacles are edible, the parts that are not eaten are the ink, beak and gladius (pen). Cleaning squid is fairly simple, you just need to know the right technique as with crab, prawn etc.
At home, I prepare squid in various ways, when I feel lazy, I shallow fry it, which is the simplest way. Sometimes when I feel less lazy its squid masala or I fry it with coconut and ginger, which is the recipe I am about to share here. It has a very gingery flavor with a coconut masala. This tastes great with rice.

Ingredients:

Squid – 1/2 kg, cleaned and cut into rings or strips
Kudampuli – 2 pieces
Turmeric – 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Shallots – 8-10, peeled and crushed
Grated coconut, crushed lightly – 1 cup
Jeera (cumin seeds) – 1/4 tsp (to be crushed with the coconut)
Ginger, grated – 1/4 cup
Garlic – 2 cloves, crushed
Green chillis – 4-5, (or as per your spice tolerance) crushed
Coconut oil – 2 tbsp
Curry leaves – A few

Method:

1. Cook the squid with the kudampuli, turmeric, salt and 1/4 cup water for about 10 minutes or till the squid turns whitish from opaque, on medium heat. By this time the squid would have released its juices too.
2. Add the shallots, and cook till the water has almost completely evaporated. Add the coconut-jeera mixture, ginger, garlic and green chilies. Sauté for about 5 minutes.
3. Add the curry leaves and coconut oil, and sauté for another 5-10 minutes and the squid is ready to be served. It’s quite a simple preparation, having a distinctive flavor of ginger.

Kayi curry – Plantain slices in coconut milk gravy

This recipe is a specialty of Mom’s cook. Upon first look, it can fool you into believing that it’s fish curry and tastes equally good too. Thinly sliced raw plantains, simmered in thick coconut milk gravy.

For this curry you’ll need,

Raw plantain 1, thin slanted slices
Tamarind juice 1 cup
Shallots 10, sliced thinly (can be supplemented with 1 onion)
Tomato 1, sliced
Ginger 1″ piece, chopped
Green chillis 2-3, slit in half
Turmeric 1tsp.
Red chilli powder 1/2 tsp.
Salt to taste

kayi curry 1

Boil all the above together, till the plantain is cooked. 

This shouldn’t be over-cooked, b’coz the plantain slices should be intact and not mashed up.

Coconut milk, 1 1/2 cups
Coconut oil 1 tbsp
Garlic 3 cloves, crushed
Curry leaves 1 sprig

Pour the coconut milk in and when the gravy starts to boil and thicken, add the coconut oil, garlic and curry leaves.
Best served with rice.

Quilon Shark Curry

Quilon is a coastal area and they are famous for their unique cuisine, which mainly focuses on seafood. This is a popular dish made from small shark, called “sravu” in Kerala. Shark Curry, or Varutharacha sravu curry. It’s a thick dark brown curry with the taste of a variety of spices flirting with your taste-buds, making it almost impossible to decide which flavor taste’s better. It’s a lil tangy, a lil bitter, lil spicy and very hot! If your tongue has even a little ability to take hot and spicy food, make the best use of it while eating this, coz this is one of those curries which tends to be stubborn on being itself and not being altered at all. Not that it is any less tasty if you make slight changes, but if you reduce the spices in this recipe, it loses some of it original charm. But I’m sure you’d still enjoy it no less.

Ingredients:

  1. Shark 500 gms, Cleaned and cut into cubes
  2. Coconut 1, grated
  3. Methi 1/4 tsp
  4. Turmeric 1/4 tsp
  5. Saunf 1/2 tsp
  6. Peppercorns 1 tsp
  7. Coriander seeds 2 tbsp
  8. Kashmir chilies, the long wrinkled ones 5 (For color)
  9. Spicy dry red chillies 5
  10. Shallots 3 (This is used to balance the smell and flavor of all the spices)
  11. Tomato 1
  12. Green chillies 3 or 4 (You can reduce or avoid this one if your tongue is on the sober side, coz it wouldn’t make a huge difference to the curry’s texture or color unlike the dry chillies or pepper)
  13. Curry leaves 2 sprigs
  14. ‘Kudampuli’ or kochampuli 3 strips or pieces (Soaked in 3/4 cup hot water)

For seasoning:

  1. Coconut oil
  2. Curry leaves 1 sprig
  3. Dry red chillies 2 Broken into 2 or 3 pieces
  4. Shallots 5-6, sliced

Method:

  • Roast the ingredients 2 – 10 together, till the coconut starts to turn golden in color. Let it cool.
  • Once its cool, grind it into a smooth paste and keep aside.
  • Heat a Meen-chatti (Flat earthen pot used mainly or rather exclusively for cooking fish in Kerala), add tomato green chillies, 2 sprigs of curry leaves and the soaked kochampuli (with the water). Saute till the tomato becomes soft.
  • Add the fish pieces, stir slowly and carefully so as not to break the fish.
  • When the fish turns white in color, add the ground masala.
  • When it starts to boil turn off the heat. Don’t let it boil for long coz it makes the gravy watery and looses the texture of the curry.
  • Heat the coconut oil, and add the remaining ingredients for seasoning.
  • Add this to the curry, close lid immediately and keep aside for at least 1 hour before serving. This curry tastes good with plain white rice.

Kerala fish curry, without coconut

Now, let me give you the recipe which is cherished by all the (non-vegetarian) coastal residents of Kerala, but mainly by the visitors of “kallu-shaaps”(toddy shop). This is always served with toddy, as a side-dish at the local toddy shops. Its also known as “thalennathe meen curry” or 1 day old fish curry, coz its usually not served as soon as its made, its heated and reheated about 2 to 3 times throughout the day that its made and served the next day, by when it would have turned into a deep red shade and definitely irresistible! It’ll most definitely not come out anywhere close to its authentic taste if prepared in any other form of utensil other than a meen-chatti.

Its a spicy red gravy, which isn’t too thick nor too thin in consistency.. It may look a little scary to the weak-hearted folks. You might think that it’ll claim your tongue, but trust me its not so bad, you’ll agree with me once u try it. My dad for one hates any food that’s even close to spicy (or so he claims). Everytime and every meal that mom makes this curry (any given meal is incomplete in our house without it) dad has to crib that it’s so hot that he gets hiccups (he says so for everything which has more than a pinch of chilly in it, but still licks his plate, when we’re not watching!) but he won’t let a day pass when he would not help himself to a handsome serving of the ‘notorious curry’. So here goes…

Ingredients:

  • Fish 1/2 kg cut and cleaned
  • Onion 1 sliced
  • Tomato 1 sliced
  • Green chillies 1 or 2 slit in half
  • Ginger 1 big piece chopped
  • Kashmiri chilly powder 4-5 tbsp (Use the non-spicy one which is just for color and texture, DON’T USE THE SPICY ONE IN THE ABOVE MENTIONED QUANTITY!!  If u do, i will not be responsible for any casualties arising from its consumption… & I mean it!!)
  • Hot chilly powder 1 tsp ONLY, coz the kashmiri chilly will have a bit of spiciness in itself, and we’re also adding green chillies
  • Tamarind almost half a handful soaked in hot water and about 1 tea-cup thick juice extracted (its not a a typing mistake, you’ll actually need so much)
  • Turmeric powder 1 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar 1 tsp (to balance all the flavors)

The fish, it’s called ‘Uluva-meen’ or ‘Kadambe’ in Malayalam, no idea what its called in English.. you can use any other fish of your choice

For seasoning:

  • Coconut oil 4-5 tbsp
  • Garlic 8-9 cloves, crushed
  • Curry leaves 3 sprigs

Method:

  • All the ingredients together (except the fish), crush it well with your hands.
  • Then add the fish. Add about 2 cups of water.
  • Simmer for about 1/2 an hour. By then it would be almost a dark red to orange color, and quite thick in consistency.
  • Add the seasoning ingredients directly to the curry. Close lid immediately. Keep aside. Reheat after about 5-6 hours, repeat again in another 5-6 hours.
  • Serve with rice and a couple of ‘’Kaandhari mulagu’ (bird’s eye chilly) . Mash the chillies into the gravy and there you go!! The kallu shop fish curry or 1 day old fish curry is ready to be served.. Enjoy!!