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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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.

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!!

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!!