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.
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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.

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.

Tomato jam

The most easiest, and my personal favorite of all home-made jams. Its simplicity is probably its best part. It can be served alongside hot rolls or breads.

  • Ripe red tomatoes, chopped – 4 cups
  • Sugar – 4 cups
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Cloves – 3 to 4

Add all the ingredients to a heavy bottomed non-stick pan and cook till it’s mashed and turns into a sticky dropping consistency. When it cools, store in jars. It’s as easy as that!