Category Archives: Kerala

Brinjal theeyal

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Theeyal was made at our house only ‘ on demand’. It does take a bit of time and is not suited for those ‘curry in a hurry’ moments. When we think of coconuts and some delicious Kerala dishes to go with it, theeyal definitely is the one for me.

We make this with shallots, bittergourd or brinjal. I am sure there are more variations, but these are all I know. I decided to use whole baby eggplants instead of slicing them, only because I thought the baby eggplants would look very cute dressed up in a dark brown coconut sauce. And it did!!

Recipe source: by Mrs. K.M.Mathew

Method:

Step 1: Making the coconut paste

Coconut – 1 cup

Shallots – 1 small sliced

In a pan, add a bit of oil ( 1 tsp). Add the coconut and shallots and fry till dark brown in color. You might need to stir frequently and keep a close eye on them. Add the browned coconut to the blender.

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Dry coriander seeds – 1/2 tsp

Dry red chilis- 3

Fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds – a small pinch of each

 

In the same pan, dry roast the above ingredients and add them to the blender also. ( You could definitely add these to the coconut as it is turning brown and roast them)

Grind all these to a smooth silky paste. Add water as necessary to help with the grinding.

 

Step 2: Dressing up the brinjals

Brinjals – 9 baby brinjals.( Substitute with 2 larger slender asian eggplants)

Turmeric – a small pinch (optional)

Tomato- 1 plum tomato, sliced.

Green chilies 5 small slit.

Tamarind water – add a small piece to 1/4 cup water, use your hands to extract the tamarind.

Make slits on the brinjal ( make the slits as if you were stuffing the brinjal, but leave the stem intact).

Add a teaspoon of oil to the hot pan, add turmeric (optional), followed by brinjals. Then add green chillies and tomato and saute for a few minutes.

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To this add the ground coconut paste, tamarind water, salt. Add more water if needed to make enough gravy.Cover and cook till the brinjals are cooked.

Final step:

Mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp

Curry leaves – one sprig

Fenugreek seeds- a small pinch

Sliced shallot- 1

Dry red chilies – one, cut into small pieces.

Take some oil, add mustard seeds. When they splutter, add fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, shallots, and dry red chilis. Fry till the shallots are dark in color. Add to the brinjals. Stir well and serve.

Another entry for JFI Coconut hosted by Ashwini.

Related recipes:

Annita’s recipe here

Ulli theeyal from Priya here

Inji’s Bittergourd theeyal here.

Coconut ‘sammanthi’

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Sammanthi or chammanthi – this was a debate that was always going on in my head, but till now it hasn’t surfaced to the open.

Coconut sammanthi (thenga sammanthi ) is how we call it in our house, but I strongly believe the real word is chammanthi. All I can say with 100% surety is that this dish is perfect with idlis and dosas.

I was determined to participate in JFI coconut hosted by Ashwini. I felt like I would let myself down if I didn’t participate in it as coconut is something I absolutely can’t imagine living without. For us Mallus, it is a taste you just can’t resist. Anyone who did their schooling in Kerala must have dealt with this question in school:

Write a short essay on coconut

You start writing….Coconut tree is a kalpavriksham ( a malayalam word indicating that all parts of the plant can be used). And then you go on to describe eloquently all the different uses of coconut that you crammed the night before.

This essay writing, for strange reasons, had left me with the notion that coconut was available only in Kerala. When I found out later that it wasn’t the case, I tried to comfort myself thinking that Kerala coconut was the best. It is:)

Anyways, here is a breakfast known to every mallu- idli with cha(sa)mmanthi.

The sammanthi routine in our home always went like this- do you want red or green sammanthi?
Green meant mother would use green chilis and if the answer was red, she would get dried red chilis. They taste different, but as kids our decisions were based on which color we thought was more cool at the moment.

Recipe for chammanthi

Coconut – 2 cups

Dried red chillies – 6 0r 8 . Roast them over flame. They will develop black spots all over. Sometimes they catch fire while you do this, but just snuff the fire and use the chilis.

Shallots- 2

In a blender, grate till very smooth the coconut, shallots and chilis. Add water in small amounts, just enough to make a thick paste.

For tempering

In a pan, add some coconut oil. Add mustard seeds. While they splutter, add curry leaves and thinly sliced shallots (1 shallot). Fry till dark in color. Lower the fire, and add the coconut mixture. Mix water ( usually we pour the water into the blender and give a nice whirl to get all the coconut remaining in the blender), and add salt.

Do not let it boil. Just warm. If you boil, the sammanthi will look curdled.

Traditionally, the chilis are roasted by adding them to the wood burning stove. And then all the ingredients are ground to a smooth paste in an arakallu ( a grinding stone).

Kid favorite: Add some sugar when you eat the idlis with sammanthi. Use fingers to mix everything. Tastes divine!!!

For idlis I used Priya’s recipe. Great results even in winter. Thanks Priya.

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Idli with red sammanthi Dosa with green sammanthi

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Chicken biryani – Malabar ishtyle.

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Chicken biryanis are no longer a lot of hardwork. This was not always the case.

There used to be a time when cooking a biryani at home meant someone special was invited or something special was happening in the house. We would wake up in anticipation of the big day. “Today we are having biryani for lunch”- I would tell this to anybody who would care to listen. Then my father would go the market with the grocery list, of course, accompanied by me. See, it’s different in India. You have to travel a bit to get good quality Basmati rice.

“What?”, you say,”You don’t stock the biyani rice?We usually just buy a big bag from Costco.”

Ah! yes! But Basmati rice is quite expensive in India and unless you are really rich, you usually just buy enough for that one meal of biryani. A few years ago, there weren’t that many supermarkets. So you had to stop at one shop for the rice, another one for the chicken and then another for the herbs and lemon. It would take atleast an hour or more to get back home after a round of shopping.

Of course, things are different now and you can get all you want at any one of the many super markets that are popping all around. Sure is convenient but then you miss the walk in the chantha ( market), with all its varied smells and great display of veggies.

If Mastercard used this theme they would have said:

Biryani rice Rs. 50

Fresh chicken Rs.100
A walk in the chantha ( market ) Priceless

Making chicken biryani is a breeze after coming to the US. Take a few cups of rice from the Costco rice bag. Cut up the chicken in the freezer. Use the herbs that you have stored in the fridge. Chicken biryani is ready in an hour or so. And this is exactly what I did last Friday – actually Satish did go to the store for chicken.

I have had a brief touch with Malabar cuisine. My mother once worked for some time in Kozhikode. She stayed there for a few months or so. We went to visit her once and I had some amazing food at one of my father’s friends. I was convinced Muslim hospitality was the best. There was a whole table of food and all their relatives were in the house to welcome us. Made us all feel real special! I was really young but this episode is still clear in my memory.

Thanks to fellow bloggers Shaheen and Shynee, we are getting to know more about this cuisine.

For the chicken biryani, I followed Shynee’s recipe. I had seen Anita mention it. Thanks Anita!!!

Once you have made biryani you will see that it is more of a method than exact measure ( except for cooking the rice).

Here are some pictures to get you inspired.

Cooking the rice:

Soak the rice in water for 30min or so prior to cooking. Drain off the water.

Add ghee( a must for authentic taste), cloves, cardamon and cinnamon. Add the rice. Stir well. Add water and salt. ( For 3 cups of rice, I used 5 3/4 water). Cook covered. When all water is evaporated, shut off the flame and keep covered for a few more minutes. In the meanwhile avoid stirring. You can fluff with a fork after it has finished cooking

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Cooking the chicken

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Layering the rice and chicken

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Frying herbs to decorate the top

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Also fry onions, raisins and cashews.

Bake for 15- 20 minutes.

Serve warm with raita, achar, ulli surka and pappadam.

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Potato thoran- potato with shredded coconut.

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Potato is a common and indispensable vegetable in most kitchens. At my home this didn’t hold true. The only time my mother cooked potatoes was in sambar. Sometimes in a potato gravy curry to go with appam. The reasons for not using potatoes was never discussed much – ‘gas’ being one of the issues.

My classmates would bring potato dishes galore to lunch and one of my favorite things was the masala that goes with the poori. For me in those years, the aloo masala dish was the best dish that was around. But couldn’t get that home. I tried many times to make the dish by myself, but I couldn’t recreate the colour and the taste. I have pretty much given up on the idea that I can recreate that dish.

This weekend we had gone to Philadelphia to stay with our friends and brought back some home made Kerala style fish curry. Coming home after class yesterday, I couldn’t think of anything to make for lunch to go with the fish. Mostly because there were no veggies at home and I was too lazy to go to the store. There were couple of potatoes starting to sprout in the kitchen and I decided to make something out of it. For me, the best accompaniment to a fish curry is a thoran. My choices for thoran were very very limited and so the obvious choice was potato. A quick look at my mother’s old cookbook confirmed that such a dish existed.

Method

Step 1:

Potatoes – 2 large, diced.

Onion- half of a large onion, diced

Shredded coconut- 3/4 to 1 cup

Chilies- I used about 12 small ones. ( I was pairing it with a spicy fish curry, so adjusted the chilies for a small amount of heat. You can add more or less to your liking)

Salt- 1/2 tsp or adjust to taste.

Combine all the above. Use a spoon or your hands to mix.

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Step 2:

Oil 2 tbsp

Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp

Curry leaves – one sprig, tear the leaves

I used a non- stick pan to cook this dish. Non stick pan is better as the potato doesn’t stick to the pan at all.

Heat the oil. When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds. When the seeds start spluttering, add the curry leaves.

Follow that with the potato-onion- coconut mixture. Mix well to combine with the oil. Cook covered. Be sure to stir it every few minutes or just toss the pan . After about 10-15min the dish should be ready.

Check potaotes to see if they are cooked. Serve hot with rice.

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The cooking time depends on the potatoes. I didn’t have to add any water. But if the potato takes long to cook, sprinkling some water and cooking it covered should help. ( I haven’t done this, but just thinking this might help)

Recipe source:Desperation and Lalitha Pachakam ( Malayalam cookbook by )

Time spent in the kitchen: 30mins.

A simple Kerala meal

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Clockwise from left: Tomato chaaru curry, vanpayar mezhukupuratti, green tomato thoran.

After being on vacation for about a week, we were craving some home cooked food. Owing to delayed flights, we reached home at 3am instead of 9p.m. Las Vegas had some amazing restaurants and we had some great food. But after a week of eating out, it was time for a simple home cooked meal.
Satish had to go to work in the morning. I vaguely remember him leaving, and I was off to sleep again. It was about noon when I finally woke up. I had some toast and then started making some Kerala food. I made a thoran ( dish with shredded coconut), a mezhukkupuratti( curry sauteed in oil) , and a chaaru kari ( curry with gravy). It has been a while since I made 3 dishes to go with rice. I loved the first 2 dishes, but the chaaru kari was not that great. I am hoping that it is going to taste better tomorrow.

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Okra- I miss you!

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Okra was one of my all time favorite veggies. But seems like I don’t have them enought these days, mostly because my husband doesn’t like it much. It is no fun eating something by yourself, but whenever this dish is cooked it is finished off almost entirely by me.

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One of the special requests of my mother when I was a kid was the ‘vendakka chaaru kari’, which is okra cooked in coconut milk and spices. I don’t think anyone else at my house showed the same enthusiasm for okra. The other favorite way to eat okra was a quick saute, on high fire so that they don’t get slimy. I liked it more when my mother used to cut the okra into long strips. I used to make this for my roommates in college and drove them crazy with my insistence to cut them into these long strips. It takes much longer, but I believe they taste much better this way. My husband hates okra, and these days it is not that common on our menu, but anytime I see tender green okra I buy them. This has become a special treat for me. I do miss eating okra every week. Satish has gotten over his extreme dislike to them over the years, and this non slimy dish had a big role to play in changing his opinion.

Recipe method

The key is high heat, and okra that is dried after washing using a paper towel.
Slice the okra into rounds or into strips as shown in the picture.

Slice an onion into thin slices, and few green chillies split lengthwise.

When the pan gets hot, add some oil and mustard seeds. When the seeds splutter add the onion and green chillies, saute for 2 min. Once the onion wilts slightly, add the okra on high heat.

Don’t sir too much and use a lid to get the cooking faster. I usually just grab the pan by the handle and give a slight toss. Over medium-high heat, give it a few quick tosses and remove from fire after about 8 mins.

The time to cook the okra might change depending on the tenderness of the okra. Halfway through, add some curry leaves, torn into pieces. Adjust salt. Serve hot.
The okra cooked this way retains its color and the onions will be kind of sweet and crunchy.

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This is my entry for ARF Tuesday hosted by Sweetnicks.

For a triple-powered punch against heart disease, eat some okra. It strikes first with an antioxidant job to atherosclerosis – that dangerous hardening and clogging of your blood vessels. The top antioxidant in okra’s arsenal is vitamin C which the World Health Organization has linked to a reduced risk of fatal heart disease. One cup of sliced okra has more vitamin C than a whole tomato. Although you cannot rely on okra as a single source of this important vitamin, it makes an interesting and nutritious addition to your diet. ( Link)

Recreating a nostalgic meal

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An eggplant flower

I am the youngest of the two girls in my family. Being the youngest hard its perks, but it was unimaginable horror at some times. I was expected to go along with my elder sister to all her visits to her friend’s houses as an escort. If there was some grocery item missing and was needed suddenly, I was send to buy it. I couldn’t understand why my sister wouldn’t go and get it. She had created this assumption that being the eldest, she did not have to do these menial tasks. I remember how frustrated I felt at these times and no amount of tears would budge her!

When I finally grew up and was her age, I had no escorts and was left to fend for myself. Ah! That is how I learnt that life is usually unfair and you would be better off dealing with it rather than crying about it..especially when it came to family.But anyway, one good thing about visiting her friends was the food I got to ate. It was our ( me and my sister) assumption that any food other than made in our house always tasted better. This was one thing that me and my sister usually agreed upon.

In Kerala, back in the days there were a great many kids being brought up by i grandparents, as their parents were in the “Gulf”.These kids had the coolest toys and outfits that we could only dream of. I had often wished I was one of them ( now I know better). One of my sister’s friends who we visited was one such family, kids living with their grandmother. When it was time for lunch, we realized there was not much to eat. The friend said, ‘Dont worry we will make brinjal fry’. We both had never had this dish before and we watched as she split the long eggplants ( vazhuthananga),added salt and chili powder and shallow fried it in some oil. We had this with some rice ,achar and some mooru. What a delicious meal! We were convinced that outside food was best. We often reminisced about the brinjal fry although the friendship had been long lost. I think we tried making it at home once but decided it was not the same.

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Recently when I grew my first eggplant, the long kind that you see so often back home, I had the sudden inkling to make the long thought of and salivated dish. Got the freshest eggplant off the plant, sliced it thin, applied a paste of salt and chillly powder, shallow fried and had it with rice. Ahh! It was one of the best meals in along time ! All the more tastier just because of the nostalgia associated with it.

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This post if for my sister, remembering all the walks we took to your friends place, the fights we had on the way…and all forgiven when finally we sat for lunch( remember the ambazhanga sammanthi at SB’s place?)