Home-made Pancakes with Maple syrup

Pancakes are something one can have anytime of the day…breakfast, lunch, evening snack, dinner or even as a midnight snack. During childhood days when we used to come back from school, we’d be welcomed by the delightful aroma of hot pancakes & maple syrup that Mom would have kept ready for us. Everyday there used to be a different snack, and since I was never very fond of rice this used to be the bribe for me to eat my lunch or else she wouldn’t let me touch it, and I would have done anything for the snacks, let alone eat rice. Those were the times I used to thank god for a Mom who loves to cook, who would be waiting for us at the front door with a serene smile on her face, who did not run after building a career, and was least bothered about what would happen on her work-front if she wasted half an hour on making pancakes for her kids, and more than God, I guess we should thank our Dad, for insisting that Mom needn’t work, that he would take care of everything, though he’d left the choice to her, thankfully, mom chose us above a job. So today I was looking up mom’s old cookbook when I saw this recipe, and suddenly the good ol’ nostalgia struck again, and I had to have the pancakes with the maple syrup, and I did….

Ingredients:

  • Maida 2 small cups
  • Eggs 3
  • Vanilla essence 1/2 tsp
  • Baking powder 1 pinch
  • Castor sugar as per your taste, I used about 5 tbsp
  • Salt 1 pinch
  • Milk ¼ small cup

For the topping:

Maple syrup

Pancake batter

3 eggs

Method:

  • Add all the ingredients to a blender. Make a smooth, thick paste.
  • Heat a non-stick pan, pour 1 ladle of the batter on to the pan, do not spread it.
  • Cook both sides for less than a minute each.

· Once all the pancakes are ready, take a plate, keep one pancake in the middle, pour a little maple syrup on top, keep another pancake on top of the first one, and pour some more maple syrup. Repeat with about 3-4 pancakes for each serving.

· Enjoy the pancakes, I accompanied it wid some apple juice!

 

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.

Corn flour halva

Halvas are amongst some of the most popular of Indian sweets. Saying that, Indians are not the only ones who make halvas, it is popular with the Greeks, and most parts of the Middle East. Each region has their own versions. The word ‘halva’ has Arabic roots and means ‘sweet’. Halvas are sweet, have a thick texture and are mostly translucent with any color depending on the food coloring used. It can be made of maida, wheat flour, corn flour, semolina and so on.  They could be made solely from fruit pulps too. Some of the very popular ones amongst fruit halvas are jackfruit (known as ‘chakka varattiyathe’) and plantain (banana halva). Both use jaggery instead of sugar. These are especially popular around the Malabar region. A bakery called “Malabar Bakery” in Kannur makes some of the best banana halvas. My Achamma (Grand-mom) used to stock these along with cream colored Barley biscuits and ‘Tea cakes’ (plain sponge cake pieces, cut into about palm ‘s length, 2 inches in width and 1 inch in thickness, with a thin layer of baby pink colored icing along the length in the middle and wrapped like a toffee, in parchment paper) at home, at all times and they used to be a regular snack, amongst others, as tea time snacks and for any guests who appear every now and then, mostly some relative or the other.
Coming back to halvas, the varieties are endless. They can be flavored artificially or with real fruits. Most halvas are time consuming and a bit of hard work.  The version I have made is not too sweet, has much less oil (ghee) compared to most halvas, and is one of the easiest ever  to make. I have used Raspberry essence to flavor the halva, and pink food color to match the flavor, but you can experiment with different flavors and colors that compliment the flavor,  as you like. For instance, you could use yellow color and mango essence or red color and rose essence. If you don’t prefer to use essence, then you could replace it with some fresh or dry  fruits like pineapple, dates, kiwi, figs etc. Or you could use elachi (cardamom) for a very Indian touch.
Corn flour halva has a jelly like texture once it sets. This preparation requires very little ghee, hence making it a healthy halva. I have made it just sweet enough without being sickly and overbearing. I chose to serve it cold, cut it into cubes, but it can also be be served hot, if you prefer it that way. And instead of cutting it into cubes, you could leave it to set in tiny (greased) moulds, in any shape and empty onto plates.
Ingredients:
Corn flour – 1/2 cup
Sugar – 1 1/2 cups
Water – 2 cups
Raspberry essence – 1/2 tsp
Pink food color – A pinch
Ghee – 1 tbsp
Cashews – 4-5, broken into pieces
Golden raisins – 6-8
Almonds – 3-4, slivered1.  Mix corn flour, sugar, water and food color in a microwavable bowl. Mix well to dissolve any lumps.
2.  Microwave this on high power for 3 minutes. Remove from the microwave and stir the mix well with a wire whisk (do not whisk). Microwave again for another 2-3 minutes, remove and stir again with the wire whisk. The mixture will start getting thicker after the second time. Repeat the process, till the mixture becomes a thick (halva) consistency, stirring well after each microwave session.
3. Meanwhile, in a small pan, heat the ghee and slightly brown the cashews. Next add the raisins and when they swell up turn off heat and add the almond slivers.
4. Add this to the halva, mix well. Move into greased moulds.
5. Keep aside for sometime till it sets. Cut into cubes, or if you have set it in moulds, turn it out onto a plate. As I said earlier, this can be served hot or cold, as per your choice. For a twist, I sometimes cut the halva into small cubes when it cools, and give them a light coat of icing sugar. Tastes better this way and also looks better, especially if you are giving it a bright color, like candy pink.

Pazhampori – Banana Fritters

Pazhampori or Banana Fritters is one of Kerala’s most popular evening snacks. Nice and ripe plantain slices coated with lightly sweetened white flour batter and deep fried, it just melts in your mouth after each bite… My love for Pazhampori started since the time I could trace back my memory, we had a neighbor, who made Pazhampori every single day, and she would get me a few… every single day. There came a point when I kind of got addicted to it, then mom stepped in and told me I couldn’t have em regularly, with the promise that she would make it for me once in a while, she kept her promise, but still, I wasn’t too happy about foregoing my daily share of Pazhampori, and was quite sour at that point… it took me a few years from there to put together things like hogging on fried items, putting on weight, the troubles of losing that weight, the health issues and so on and on. I got over the craze gradually, and settled down to rejoicing at the occasions when  Mom made em at home. Later on, when I was on a train journey once, I happened to pass through Palakkad railway station, amongst many other noises around the station, one in particular caught my attention, the monotonous calls of one food vendor, it was none other than the one selling Pazhamporis. Not that you don’t get Pazhampori elsewhere, but I had heard from many that the ones you get at Palakkad railway station are yumm. I had my hubby running for the Pazhampori guy… It is quite good for the store bought standards, but definitely nowhere close to the homemade ones, but I still loved it nevertheless.

Ingredients:

Ripe plantains – 2; sliced slanted or lengthwise into ½” thick, and about 4” long pieces

Maida/All-purpose flour – 1 cup

Rice flour – 2 tbsp.

Sugar – ¼ cup

Cardamom – 1; powdered

Salt – 1 pinch

Egg – 1 (optional)

Baking powder – 1 pinch (Optional)

Water – 1 cup (just enough to make a thick batter)

Oil – for deep frying

Method:

Heat the oil in a deep bottomed pan, on a medium flame. While that is getting heated, you can prepare the batter.

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients, except the plantains. Add the water gradually; the batter should be of thick but pourable consistency.

Dip the plantain slices into the batter to coat it well, and immediately drop it into the hot oil, you could fry 4 or 5 at one time, turn them around to fry both the sides, till they turn to a golden color.

Strain out of the oil onto a tissue paper to remove excess oil.

Serve hot with tea!! Chai and pazhampori!!