Hosted friends for dinner 7/4/13

We had fun yesterday prepping and cooking for friends whom we should have had over long ago – better late than never.  Our guests enjoyed the food and were surprised with the variety of South Indian fare on hand versus the stereo typical list of  SI foods ie. idli/dosai/uthappam and sambar!  Our menu consisted of the following (recipes below if interested in trying it out):

Starters

  • Lamb sheek kebabs
  • Masala Vadai

Main Course

  • Courgette Olan
  • Mushroom Onion Theeyal
  • Crispy Bittergourd
  • Chicken Ularthiyathu
  • Coconut Rice

Dessert

  • Instant Homemade Rasmalai

Lamb Sheek Kebabs

This dish was our effort to replicate the delicious kebabs we have at one of our favourite haunts – Mirch Masala  (http://www.mirchmasalarestaurant.co.uk/).  Close but no cigar – Mirch has a definite je ne c’est quoi ingredient which we haven’t quite cracked yet.

What do I need to make it?

  • 500 gm lean  minced lamb
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 3-4 green finger chillies finely chopped (increase/decrease to taste)
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds crushed in pestle and mortar
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped coriander
  • 1 egg beaten
  • Salt to taste

How many will I make?

Should be enough to make approximately 18-20 kebabs depending on size

How do I make it?

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and make sure ingredients are well incorporated into the meat (the egg will help bind all the ingredients together).  Finished article should look a dough ball but a lot softer.  Cover the bowl with cling film/plate and allow the mixture to rest in the fridge for an hour before cooking.  Pre heat oven to 190 degrees Centigrade (we us a fan assisted oven) – might need higher temp for conventional ovens.  Now for the fun bit of moulding the kebabs.  Get a bowl of cold water as this will help.  Wet your hands and grab a golf size ball of mixture  in one hand only and mould the  meat to the desired shape (a small cigar) using your finger.  If this is challenging then roll them into balls or shapes of your desire.  Place the kebabs on a well greased tray and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.  Turn the kebabs over half way through.  Serve hot with fresh mint and coriander chutney.

Masala Vadai

Nothing better than piping hot masala vadais with a cup of desi chai on a rainy day.  There are umpteen different ways to make the vadai and the ingredients can be tinkered with flavours of your choice (mint leaves, chopped garlic, ginger etc.)

What do I need to make it?

  • 1 1/4 cup  channa dahl – soaked in water for a couple of hours
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 3-4 green finger chillies finely chopped (increase/decrease to taste)
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 cup fresh coriander chopped
  • Handful of fresh curry leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil to fry (vegetable or sunflower)

How many will I make?

Should be enough to make approximately 20-25 vadais depending on size

How do I make it?

Drain water from dahl and blitz in blender to a coarse paste.  You should not need to add any water but if necessary add a few drops at a time.   Transfer the coarse paste into a bowl and mix the other ingredients and get ready to fry (wait too long and the onions will let go of water and the mixture will become too soft and splutter a lot in the oil).  Traditionally, one would make little patties on a sheet of plastic or form patties with wet hands bit we’ve found the easiest way is a tablespoon and butter knife.  Scoop the mixture into a tablespoon and flatten (don’t want a thick patty – will not cook through) with knife and push patty into the hot oil.  Cook till golden brown (turn the vadai’s over halfway through).  Serve hot with fresh coriander and mint chutney.

Courgette Olan

This has to be one of the simplest dishes to make but tastes divine.  Shiv did not have Olan before marriage but now swears by it and makes it regularly.

What do I need to make it?

  • 2 courgettes washed and chopped into cubes (can use white/red pumpkin, marrow)
  • 1/4 cup black eyed peas (soaked and pressure cooked)
  • 4-5 green finger chillies slit
  • Handful fresh curry leaves
  • 2 tbsp coconut powder (Nestle’s Maggi Coconut Powder – our favourite)
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • Salt to taste

How much will I make?

Serves 4

How do I make it?

Place chopped courgettes, slit green chillies, curry leaves and salt in a pot and cook with a little water over low to medium flame.   When courgette is cooked, add the pressure cooked black eyed peas and bring to a boil.  Adjust the seasoning and then add coconut powder, stir till dissolved and then add coconut oil.  Done – switch off and serve with boiled rice.

 

Mushroom Onion Theeyal

Shiv hadn’t eaten theeyal prior to marriage but has found it an interesting alternative to sambhar.

What do I need to make it?

  • 150 gms button onions (or small shallots) peeled
  • 150 gms button mushrooms cut into quarters
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • Handful fresh curry leaves
  • Lemon ball size of fresh tamarind (can be substituted with 1/2 tsp of tamarind paste) soaked in hot water
  • Salt to taste

 Paste ingredients

  • 2-3 dry red chillies
  • 2 tbsp oriander seeds
  • 1 tsp peppercorns
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 1/4  cup of grated coconut
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil

Roast the above ingredients in coconut oil and grind to a paste with a little water if necessary.

How many will it serve?

Serves 4

How do I make it?

Heat the coconut oil in a pot and add mustard seeds.  Once the mustard seeds have popped add the fenugreek seeds and curry leaves.  Add button onions and saute for a couple of minutes.  Then add the button mushrooms and saute for another couple of minutes.   Add about a litre of water (should cover the mushrooms and onions).  Add the turmeric powder, salt and strain the fresh tamarind and add to the pot .  Let the mixture boil for half an hour on a medium flame till the raw smell of the turmeric goes.   Add the paste to the mixture and bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.  Adjust the seasoning and serve with boiled rice or Indian bread of your choice.

Crispy Bittergourd (Karela)

If you know someone that hates bittergourd (like Shiv) then here’s a recipe which hopefully will convince them to think twice.

What do I need to make it?

  • 250 gm bittergourd (karela) washed and sliced
  • 1 medium onion sliced
  • 3-4 green finger chillies (increase/decrease to taste) sliced thinly
  • 100 gm fresh coconut sliced thinly into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • Handful fresh curry leaves
  • Salt
  • Oil to fry (vegetable or sunflower)

How much will I make?

Serves 4

How do I make it?

Mix all the ingredients in a big bowl and work the salt and turmeric into the bittergourd.   Steam this mixture for exactly 2 minutes.  Remove allow to cool for a couple of minutes before frying.  Serve as a side dish or snack with drinks.

Chicken Ularthiyathu

This is a recipe that Anna’s mum Saroja has passed onto us.  The beauty of this is that she is a pure vegetarian but used to cook this for her late husband without tasting – wow does it pack some flavour.

What do I need to make it?

  • 1 kg of skinless deboned chicken thighs
  • 1 medium onion sliced
  • Handful of fresh curry leaves
  • 3-4 tbsp of coconut oil

Paste ingredients

  • 4-5 pods of garlic
  • 1 inch piece of ginger skinned
  • 2 pieces of cinnamon (1 inch long)
  • 5-6 cloves
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds (or 2 tsp of coriander powder)
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp peppercorns
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • Salt to taste

Grind all of the above to a fine paste using little water if necessary.

How much will I make?

Serves 4-6

How do I make it?

Wash and cut the chicken thighs into 3 pieces each and mix with paste ingredients, salt and keep aside for an hour at least (the longer the better).  Cook the chicken with marinade and all and add a cup of water.  Cook the chicken till done – the masala should coat the chicken pieces and all the liquid should have evapourated  (if there’s still some moisture, don’t worry this is  not a problem – this should thicken on cooling or you serve a semi dry dish instead of dry!).  Adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Heat the coconut oil in a pan and add curry leaves and sliced onions and fry for a few minutes.   Then add the cooked chicken and roast over medium heat till the chicken forms a crispy crust (about 10-15 minutes).  Done – serve with Kerala Paratha or as a starter with drinks.

Coconut rice

  •  2 cups cooked long grain rice
  • 1 ¼  cup grated coconut
  • 3 dry red chillies
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp split urad dahl
  • ½ tsp channa dahl
  • Pinch of asaefoetida (hing/peringayam)
  • Handful fresh curry leaves
  • 2 tbsp Sesame oil (not the toasted Chinese stuff – Gingelly oil or any neutral oil)
  • Salt to taste

Garnish

  • 12-15 cashew nuts (replace with peanut if you want)
  • ¼ cup sliced coconut pieces
  • 1 tbsp Sesame oil or vegetable oil

How much will I make?

Serves 4-6

How do I make it?

Place cooked rice in a large mixing bowl and allow to cool down a bit.  Heat sesame oil in pan and temper the mustard seeds, red chillies, urad and channa dahls, curry leaves and asaefoetida.  Once the dahls turn golden brown add the grated coconut and heat through for a minute.  Add the tempering to the rice and salt to taste.   For the garnish, heat the oil in a pan and add nuts and fry till golden brown – add sliced coconut and toast till brown.  Add the garnish to the rice and serve hot.

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