Thai flavoured casserole

Having caught the casserole bug a couple of weeks ago we have been busy experimenting with different ethnic flavours (posted our take on Moroccan and Creole/Mexican casseroles in earlier blogs, links below).   Tonight we tried putting together Thai ingredients to create a casserole which was not as thick as previous attempts as there are no starchy ingredients but flavour and taste wise was delicious.   You need some standard Thai ingredients to ensure you maximize the flavour.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 500 gms boneless chicken thighs (6-8 pieces)
  • 1 large white onion sliced
  • 1 red pepper cut into cubes
  • 1 yellow pepper cut into cubes
  • 2 green chillies roughly chopped
  • 5-6 garlic pods
  • 1 carrot roughly chopped
  • 6-8 button mushrooms halved
  • 5-6 baby corn cut into bite size pieces
  • Handful of green beans chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 200  gms sliced bamboo shoots (small can drained)
  • 6-8 snow peas/mange tout
  • 1 stick of lemon grass bruised
  • 1 piece of galangal bruised
  • 1/2 tsp crush dried birds eye chilli
  • 2 chicken stock cubes
  • 2 tsp Sriracha chilli paste
  • 400 ml coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • Few sprigs of fresh coriander chopped to garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste

How much will I make?

Serves 4

How do I make it?

First marinade the chicken thighs with the Sriracha paste and a bit of salt – set aside for a few hours.   Heat your oven proof casserole dish and add 1 tbsp of coconut oil – sear the chicken pieces on both sides and remove.   Add another tablespoon of coconut oil and stir the crushed birds eye chilli for 30 seconds before adding green chilli, garlic, lemon grass, galangal and kafir lime leaves and stirring for another 30 seconds.  Add the onion and  peppers and stir for a couple of minutes before adding the remaining vegetables, stock cubes, coconut milk, chicken and about 200 ml of water.  Sprinkle a little salt and black pepper to taste and place the casserole in a pre-heated oven at 200 degree Centigrade for an hour or till the chicken is cooked through.   Garnish with fresh coriander and serve on its own or with a bowl of Jasmine rice.

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Coconut chicken curry for kids

If you’ve got fussy eaters as we do here’s a simple recipe for a coconut chicken curry which so far has worked wonders in getting both our little ones to eat without complaining.   We both love our spices and want our kids to start experimenting and appreciating food that’s cooked with flavourful ingredients and developing a varied palate (we are tired of the pasta,  fish fingers and chicken burger routine!).

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What do I need to make it?

  • 250gm mini chicken fillets chopped into bite size pieces (this tends to cook quicker than breast chunks)
  • 2 baby onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Small piece of ginger
  • Small handful of fresh mint leaves and coriander
  • 1 tomato pureed
  • Pinch of cinnamon powder, clove powder, cardamom powder, fennel powder, nutmeg and mace powder
  • 1/8 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tbsp coconut powder
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • Salt to taste

How much will I make?

Serves 3-4

How do I make it?

First make a paste of the onions, garlic, ginger, mint and coriander.   Heat a small wok/kadai and add the coconut oil.   Add the cinnamon, clove, cardamom, fennel, nutmeg and mace powders – stir for 30 seconds before adding the paste.   Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes till the masala loses it’s raw smell.   Sprinkle the turmeric, cumin and coriander powder and stir for 30 seconds before adding the pureed tomato.   Continue cooking till the fat oozes out of the masala or it starts to dry out and turn brown.   Add the chicken and half a cup of water – cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes or till the chicken is done.   Stir in the coconut milk powder, adjust the seasoning and switch off the heat.   Serve with boiled rice or Indian bread of choice.

Spicy mutton with coconut

A favourite dish with many a Keralite, this dish makes a great starter for dinner parties.   The dish is simple to make with many variations but the recipe below is one handed down to us from Anna’s mum and it hasn’t failed us so far.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 500 gms mutton cubed (can substitute with lamb/beef )
  • 1 large red onion sliced
  • 4-6 green chillies
  • Handful fresh curry leaves
  • 2 inch piece of fresh coconut cut into slivers
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil

For the paste

  • 1 large cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp black pepper corns
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 6-8 cloves of  garlic
  • 2 inch piece of ginger skinned
  • Handful fresh curry leaves (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder (adjust to taste)
  • 2 tbsp dhania (ground coriander) powder
  • Salt to taste

 

How much will I make?

Serves 4

How do I make it?

Grind all the paste ingredients in a blender till you get a coarse paste (add a bit of water if needed).   Wash the mutton and pat dry before mixing in the paste ingredients.   Add salt to taste and allow the meat to marinade for a couple of hours (the longer the better).   Place the marinated meat in a pressure cooker and cook for 30 minutes or till the meat is cooked.   Once the pressure cooker is switched off and if you notice liquid build up then place the meat on the stove till all the liquid has evaporated.   Heat a large pan and add the coconut oil, then add the curry leaves and green chillies  and stir for a minute before adding the sliced onions.   Saute on medium heat for 5 minutes before adding the cooked mutton and coconut.   Keep tossing over medium heat till the meat begins to brown a bit.   Take off the heat and serve with a nice ice cold pint of lager or beverage of choice.

 

Garden fresh – warm salad of rhubarb chard and black eyed beans

This is the first time I have grown rhubarb chard in our garden and Shiv and I were pleasantly surprised at how beautiful it tasted.  It tasted similar to Amaranth, a red spinach like leaf that is considered a super food and is grown and eaten widely in India.  After the first time we cooked it, Shiv and I decided that we had a winner and rhubarb chard is going to be a regular yearly feature in our veggie patch. The recipe we used is normally made with amaranth and jackfruit seeds.  We adapted this and swapped the amaranth and jackfruit seeds with rhubarb chard and black eyed beans.  The dish was delicious and I would like to share the recipe with you.

Rhubarb chard  Rhubarb chard and black eyed beans

What do I need to make it?

  • 1 bunch of rhubarb chard leaves washed and finely chopped
  • 1 cup of black eyed beans pre soaked and pressure cooked till soft yet firm
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tbsps coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp split urad dhal
  • 1/2 tsp channa dhal
  • 3-4 dried red chillies broken to pieces (can be reduced or increased to suit tastes)
  • 4 tbsps freshly grated coconut
  • Salt to taste

How much will I make?

Serves 4

How do I make it?

Heat coconut oil in a skillet or wok.  Add the mustard seeds.  When the mustard seeds splutter add the urad dhal, channa dhal and broken pieces of dried red chilli.  Fry for a minute or so till the dhals are golden brown and then add the chopped rhubarb chard and the turmeric powder.  The rhubarb chard should cook in its own moisture.  When the chard is cooked, season with salt, garnish with freshly grated coconut and remove from heat.  Serve hot  as a side with rice or roti of choice.

Garden fresh – fenugreek leaves with coconut and dhal (methi molagootal)

One of my best friends from school Simeen, who subsists on a largely non vegetarian diet has been hankering for South Indian vegetarian food these days and keeps pestering me for some of my vegetarian recipes.  She lives in Scotland and is an avid follower of our blog.  I have promised her that I would post lots of our family favourites so that she can cook them herself.  This one is for her. Though I have made this with fenugreek leaves from our garden, it can be substituted with any spinach.  fenugreek or methi as it is popularly known is widely available with most Asian green grocers in the UK.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 1 bunch of methi leaves stripped from the stems and washed
  • ¾ cup tuar dhal washed and pressure cooked till soft and mushy
  • A small pinch of ground turmeric
  • 1 cup freshly grated coconut
  • 1 tsp urad dhal
  • 2 to 3 dried red chillies (depends on personal tastes)
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • ¼ tsp mustard seeds
  • Few curry leaves
  • Salt to taste

How much will I make?

Enough to feed four

How do I make it?

Roast the urad dhal and the dried red chillies in a little bit of coconut oil till the urad dhal is golden brown.  Add this to the coconut and cumin seeds a little bit of water and grind to a fine paste.  Set this paste aside.  In a heavy bottomed vessel boil the methi leaves with water, salt and a pinch of ground turmeric.  When the leaves are cooked, add the cooked dhal and the coconut paste.  Mix well and let it come to a boil.  Simmer gently for about ten minutes and adjust seasoning.  Now for the tempering, in a skillet heat the remaining coconut oil and add the mustard seeds.  When the mustard begins to splutter, add the curry leaves and take it off the flame.  Add the tempering to the methi and dhal mixture.  Give it one final stir before taking off the flame.  Serve hot with rice.

Two for the price of one

The advantage of growing our own vegetables is that we get to use a wide variety of leaves either in our salads or in our daily meals.   Today I cut a whole bunch of radish leaves to make a family favourite.  I’ve always loved sauteed radish leaves as a child and have introduced Shiv to this tasty dish after we started growing our own vegetables and he has developed a fondness for it too.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 1 bunch of radish leaves
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 green chilies
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated coconut
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp split pigeon peas (channa dahl)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • A few curry leaves
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • Salt to taste

How much will I make?

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

How do I make it?

Wash and chop the radish leaves finely.  Make a coarse paste with the onion, chilies and garlic.  Heat pan and add coconut oil, once hot add the mustard seeds.  When the mustard seeds start to splutter add the pigeon peas and curry leaves and stir till the peas change colour.  Add the paste and saute till the raw smell disappears.  Add the finely chopped radish leaves and season with salt.  Saute for a minute or two and then add turmeric powder and about half a cup of water.   Continue cooking till the water evaporates and then garnish with freshly grated coconut before turning off the heat.

The same recipe can be used for french bean leaves, pumpkin leaves and tender cabbage leaves.

 

Vishu, following a tradition I cherish

Have you ever experienced that feeling, when a particular flavour, a distinct aroma , a special taste makes an indelible mark on you.  A warm fuzzy feeling envelopes you and you think I am going to remember this moment forever?  I have had lots of these moments. The festival of Vishu is one of those poignant memories and a tradition I try to follow to the best of my ability because I want my children to cherish it too.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vishu

For me the sights, sounds, aromas and fragrances of Vishu in Kerala are definitely archived in the recesses of my brain and are opened every year in April when it’s time for Vishu.  At the crack of dawn or even earlier, my mother would lead me with my eyes closed to see our Vishu Kani and my dad would give me my Vishu Kainettam (money) and Vishu Kodi (new clothes).  P.Leela’s rendering of the  Narayaneeyam would be playing in the background with the fragrance of sandalwood joss sticks pervading the air.  Beautiful yellow Vishu Konna (cassia Fistula – Golden shower tree) blossoms are a sight to behold and can bring tears to every homesick Malayali’s eyes.  Then came the special Vishu sadya (feast served on banana leaves).  We always made a simple Vishu sadya at home.  It always included Mambazha Pullisseri (a ripe mango curry made with sour yoghurt), fresh banana chips redolent with the beautiful aroma of coconut oil,  thoran (Sauteed finely chopped beans, cabbage or other vegetables tempered with crushed coconut, green chillies and curry leaves), chena kootu (elephant foot yam curry) and the king of all payasams ‘palada prathaman’.  If we were lucky enough, we got to go watch a new festival release blockbuster of Mammooty or Mohanlal.

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As I write this, sitting in my house in West Byfleet, England on a cold spring morning ( the weather forecast promises bright sunshine and highs of 20’s today) and listening to the Narayaneeyam rendered by Chethalloor Edamana Vasudevan Namboodiri, I can say that I have tried to keep the tradition alive.  Shiv and I went shopping in Hounslow, near Heathrow yesterday and tried to get everything we needed for Vishu today.  I managed to get ripe mangoes, banana leaves, jasmine flowers, Kerala cucumber vellarikka) and vazha thandu (banana tree pith).  Sadly, ‘Best Foods’ the Sri Lankan grocery where we did our shopping, did not have Konna flowers so I had to make do with beautiful, scented, very British daffodils.

My mother is with us this year so she is cooking a simple Vishu sadya which will include mambhazha pullisseri, chena kootu, vazha thandu thoran, palada payasam and parripu vada.  Find below the recipes for mambazha pullisseri and chena and vazhakka kootu.

Mambazha Pullisseri (ripe mango in a spiced coconut and yoghurt sauce)

What do  I need to make it?

  • 2  ripe mangoes peeled, deseeded and sliced
  • 200 gms Kerala cucumber (vellarikka) or white pumpkin (ash gourd) peeled, deseeded and cubed
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste

To be ground to a paste and blended

  • 1 cup freshly grated coconut
  • 2 to 3 green finger chillies (depending on how hot you want it)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 500ml  natural live yoghurt

For the tempering

  • 1/4 tsp  mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp  fenugreek (methi) seeds
  • 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 8 to 10 curry leaves

How much will I make?

Serves 4

How do I make it?

Grind the coconut, the cumin seeds and green chilies to a fine paste, blend with the yogurt and set aside.   Boil the cubed pumpkin or Kerala cucumber in about 400 ml of water.  Let the pumpkin/ash gourd cook till they are cooked through but still firm.   At this stage add the slices of ripe mango with salt, turmeric powder and the chilli powder.  Mango cooks quickly so at this stage add your yogurt and ground coconut mixture. Add a little more water to a get a semi thick consistency.  Lower the flame and simmer for a few minutes. Heat coconut oil in a small pan. When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds.  Add the fenugreek seeds and the curry leaves when the mustard seeds begin to pop.  Pour the tempering into the simmering pot, check seasoning and remove from heat.  Serve hot with rice

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 Chena and Vazhakka Kootu (elephant foot yam and raw banana kootu)

What do I need to make it?

  • 250 gms elephant foot yam peeled and cut into cubes
  • 250 gms  raw bananas peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1/2 tsp  chilli powder
  • 1/4 tsp  ground turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp powdered jaggery (brown sugar)
  • Salt to taste

To be made into a paste

  • 1 cup  freshly grated coconut
  • 1/2 tsp  cumin seeds

For the tempering

  • 1/2 tbsp coconut Oil
  • 3 tbs  freshly grated coconut
  • 1/2 tsp  mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp- split urad dhal
  • 8 to 10 curry leaves

How much will I make?

Serves 4

How do I make it?

Grind the coconut and cumin seeds to a paste and set aside.  Boil the yam and the raw banana cubes in about 500 ml water with the turmeric powder, salt , brown sugar and chilly powder.  When the vegetables have cooked add the coconut and cumin paste.  Mix well, lower the flame and simmer.  Now for the tempering.  Heat coconut oil in a separate pan.  When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds. Add the urad dhal, curry leaves and grated coconut and saute till the coconut is a golden brown and emits a wonderful aroma.  Add the tempering to the simmering pot, adjust seasoning and remove from heat.  Serve as an accompaniment to the ripe mango curry along with rice.