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.

 

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Salad therapy – punchy parsnip salad

Shiv and  I have come to love parsnips and are fond of parsnip soup, Parmesan crusted parsnips, parsnip chips and crisps. We found yet another way of enjoying parsnips by making this tasty salad.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 4-5 parsnips peeled, washed and grated in a food processor
  • 2-3 green chillies slit lengthwise
  • 1 shallot thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
  • Few curry leaves
  • A handful of peanuts
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp split urad dhal
  • A pinch of asafoetida
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt to taste

How much will I make?

Serves 4

How do I make it?

Peel, wash and  finely grate the parsnips.  Mix with salt and set aside.  Heat ghee in a skillet.  Add a pinch of asafoetida to flavour the ghee.  Add the mustard seeds.  When the mustard seeds splutter, add the urad dhal, peanuts, finely chopped shallot, garlic, curry leaves and green chillies.  Fry till the peanuts are crisp and the garlic and shallot slices are golden brown and crisp.  Put this on top of the grated parsnips.  Mix well.  Add the lime juice and voila you have a punchy parsnip treat.

Gluten free upma

Upma is a simple traditional South Indian breakfast and tiffin dish which is normally made of coarse or fine semolina.  Since getting on the Paleo journey Anna and I have abstained from eating upma as its made from a  wheat derivative.   On one of our recent shopping trips to an Asian grocery store Anna spotted some cassava powder (gari) which resembled broken wheat in texture and picked it up.  Last night was a voyage of discovery and we think we have found a suitable alternative to semolina and cannot wait to make some of our traditional breakfast fare and sweet dishes that we have avoided off late.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 1 1/2 cups of cassava powder – dry roasted in a pan till light brown
  • 2 mushrooms finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick finely chopped
  • 8 Indian button onions sliced
  • 2 sprigs of spring onion chopped
  • 3 green chillies finely chopped (de-seed if you want to make it less spicy)
  • 1 small yellow courgette finely chopped
  • Handful of fresh coriander finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1″ piece of ginger minced
  • 1 medium tomato chopped
  • Few curry leaves
  • Pinch of asaefotida
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp split urad dahl
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • Few curry leaves
  • 3 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
  • Salt to taste

How much will I make?

Serves 2

How do I make it?

Heat pan and add 2 tbsp of ghee before adding the mustard seeds.  Once the seeds start crackling add the urad dahl and stir till they turn golden brown.  Add the curry leaves, ginger and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes.  Then add each of the vegetables in sequence giving each a couple of minutes to cook before adding the next (first the onions and celery, then the carrot and courgette followed by the mushrooms and finished off with the spring onions and chopped coriander.  Next add the turmeric powder, garam masala and salt and mix for a couple of minutes.   Add 250 ml of water and bring to a boil and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes.   Finally add the roasted cassava powder to the pan while mixing it vigorously to avoid clumps forming.  Cook for 5 minutes while constantly stirring and then remove off heat.  Serve hot with a fresh coconut chutney.

 

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.

 

Quince Chutney

We came across some lovely quince the other day while shopping in Hayes.  They looked like big golden pears and smelt delicious.  The fragrance was like a cross between the scent of an apple and pear.  We have never eaten quince before,   just heard of quince jelly served as an accompaniment to many meats.  An online search revealed that quince had to be cooked and could not be eaten raw as it would be too sour.  So I decided to make a spicy quince chutney (‘thokku’ in Tamil).

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What do I need to make it?

  • 2 cups finely grated quince
  • 2 tbsp unrefined sugar
  • 2 tbsp untoasted sesame oil (get them at Asian grocers)
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds (roasted and powdered)
  • ¼ tsp asafoetida powder
  • 2 tsp dried curry leaves
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • Salt to taste

How much will I make?

250 ml – just enough to fill a jam jar.  The chutney keeps well in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks.

How do I make it?

Boil the grated quince with about 300 ml of water, salt and the sugar.   Let the quince cook so that the water reduces down completely.  Heat the oil in a pan and add mustard seeds.  When the mustard seeds splutter add the dried curry leaves and turn off the heat.  Add the turmeric powder and chilli powder at this stage (residual heat in the oil should be enough to cook the spices).  Add the boiled quince and mix well.  Add the roasted fenugreek powder and asafoetida to the mixture.  Check the seasoning before adding the apple cider vinegar.  Mix well,  cool the mixture before transferring into jar and refrigerating.

We are going to try Bramley apples next as an interesting alternative (seeing we tend to get apples all year!)

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.

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.