Category Archives: Kerala

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?)

Learning Kerala food- Kaalan.

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I have never had a curry made out of ripe plantains. When I saw a recipe using ripe bananas, I was skeptical and almost repulsed at the idea. But when I finally mustered courage to make it, Satish had already eaten the one ripe plantain that we had as his breakfast. So the recipe was forgotten. Then LG posted a fabulous recipe for the same.

Couple of days ago I finally made this. It tasted so wonderful with rice. It tasted even better the next day. I wasnot sure how this is supposed to taste after I had made it, but S declared that it was perfect. I was overjoyed at the fact that this Kerala dish was finally mastered by me. One more dish under the belt for Onam this year.

Recipe and method:

One ripe plantain , peeled and cubed.

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To the diced plantain, add 6 green chillies (slit lengthwise), 1/4 tsp. turmeric powder, 1/2 tsp. chilly powder, half cup water and about 1/2 tsp.salt. Cook on low flame until the plantains are soft and the water is almost evaporated.

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In a blender, grind till silky smooth a cup of freshly grated coconut and 1/4 tsp. cumin seeds. Add this to the cooked plantain.
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Gently crush the plantain while mixing the coconut paste. On low heat, let the mixture come to a slow boil.
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At this stage add about 2-3 cups of mooru ( yogurt made lighter by adding water and mixing well to make it to a more flowing consistency) . Continue to cook on low flame, stirring continously till the mixture attains a thick consistency.

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Remove from fire and let it cool. You might need to stir it after removing from fire for some more time to prevent curdling of the mixture. Once slightly cooled, add 1/2 tsp. of fenugreek powder.

In a seperate pan, heat about 1.5 tbsp of coconut oil, crack a tsp of mustard seeds. To this add a couple of sprigs of curry leaves and dried green chillies. Remove from fire after a minute on the fire and add it to the kaalan. Add more salt if needed to suit your taste. Stir well and serve.
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I have always dreamed about making a traditional Onam lunch (Onasadya). As a kid my mother made a few of the traditional dishes but never the whole parade. I remember promising her all my help in the kichen on the day of Onam, but after one hour of prepwork I would be tired and drift off. She would then have to slave by herself in the kitchen to make the rest of the meal. This happened too often that my family soon learnt not to take too seriously my offer for help in the kitchen.

After reading Annita’s post today and looking at that sumptous meal, I am determined mone than ever to learn more of the traditional Kerala dishes.I had this with rice and some fish. Oh man! It was so good and so proud to learn this new dish! This sure is a good start.

Recipe source: Mrs. K. M. Mathew ( Lalitha pachakam)

Green Blog Project _ Radish Pachadi ( radish in yogurt)

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Finally after days of eyeing them, I finally decided to uproot some of my radishes. Aren’t they pretty? Radishes are very easy to grow and hardly any maintenance. They mature very fast. These were grown in some organic garden soil with no fertilisers whatsoever. I plucked out 5 plants today to make some pachadi.

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Pachadi in Kerala, or atleast in Kottayam is a mix of fried stuff( onions, ginger, chili and/or any other veg. like carrot,beetroot ) added to yogurt. The dish is spicy and hot, and is a wonderful side dish.
These red radishes arec2.jpg not usually available in Kerala. So, this happens to the first time I am using radish in a pachadi. The whole process takes about 10min and is quite healthy too.

Recipe

Radishes cleaned and cut into small pieces 5 small or half cup

Few radish leaves cut into thin shreds

Onion diced fine 1/4 cup,Chilies 2 or 3 finely chopped, Ginger 1/2 tsp chopped, coriander leaves-i tbsp roughly chopped

Oil 1.5 tsp, mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp, salt 3/4 tsp(variable)

Yogurt half cup or more

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The method is really simple. Heat a small pan on medium heat. Add oil, crack the mustard seeds. To this add onions,ginger and chilies. Stir till it is soft and turns slightly brown (4 mins). Add radishes and leaves, cook for 2 more min and remove from fire. The radish will be just cooked and still have a bite to it. Sprinkle the coriander just before you remove it from the stove.You can let it cool or store it in the fridge if not using immediately.

When ready to serve, take the sauteed ingredients andmix with yogurt. Adjust salt depending on the sourness of the yogurt. Serve immediately. If you let it sit for some time, the yogurt gets a purple hue from the radishes. It is beautiful!

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I had this with rice accompanied by rasam from SH.

My submission for LG‘s Green Blog Project.

Kovakka Thoran for ARF Tuesday

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This is only my second entry to ARF Tuesday, but it is very much similar to my first entry. The method followed is the same, the difference is in the vegetable and of course, the taste and textures. Kovakka or tindora is also known as the ivy gourd.

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This is grown in almost all households in Kerala with some space to put up a supporting framework for the vines to spread. They produce white flowers which gradually change into the kovakka which we use in this dish. I remember nibbling on the tiny and tender kovakkai while strolling through the yard. They are usually picked when they grow to about thumb size. There are many ways to make this vegetable, but this is my favorite.

Is this veggie any good for you?

It is Low in Cals and fat but rich in minerals and B complex vitamins. In view of the low calorie content and low Glycemic index it is advocated for diabetics Further, In a systematic review by Yeh et al (2003) on herbs and dietary supplements for Glycemic control in diabetes they concluded that the best evidence for efficacy is available for ivy gourd (Coccinia indica) and American ginseng. (Link)

So here is the recipe

Sliced kovakka(tindora, gherkin, dondakai) 2 cups( Clean the kovakka, split them into two lengthwise and cut them into slices across)

Shredded coconut 1/2 cup

Onions diced 1 small or sliced shallots 6

Green chilies 5 slit lengthwise

One small carrot diced

Turmeric powder 1/2 tsp

Salt to taste

Combine all the above in a pan with about 1/4 cup water. Cover with a lid and cook for about 10mins till these are cooked. They should retain a crunch even after the cooking.

Oil 2 tablespoon or less

Mustard seeds 1/4tsp

Curry leaves one sprig

Shallots 2 sliced or diced red onion 1/2 tablespoon

 

Heat the oil in a pan. Add the mustard seeds and when they start spluttering, add the shallots and curry leaves. As they start to get brown, add the cooked kovakka. Test for salt and serve.

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Uzhunnu vada

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I love spicy food more than sweet things. Whenever I crave for a snack with tea, I always wish for egg puffs, cutlets (Kerala style) or something spicy. Satish on the other hand is always craving for sweets. I still have Lindt chocolates left over from Christmas…But anyway, without further deviating from my post…I made uzhunnu vada this weekend. Perfect snack for a lazy day. It was hardly time consuming but it was my first time making the vada. Without a recipe, I hugely relied on memory to create the vadas. I am not sure if I had to leave the batter alone for a few hours before frying them. Anyone? Satish says he thinks so but once I ground the dal I couldnt wait and I made them.

The first few turned out beautifully i.e. looks wise. When I bit into them they were rock hard. So I added a pinch of baking soda and let it sit for a few minutes. Tried them again and it was hard to believe the dramatic change. It tasted wonderful…crispy, spicy and delicious. The perfect accompaniment to filter coffee. Satish made some coconut ‘sammanthi’ or chutney to go with the vadas. It was awesome..

This is how I made the vadas…

Step 1

Saok the Urad dal 1 cup for about 3 hrs.

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Step 2

Drain the water off and grind it in a food processor till it forms a smooth paste. Try not to add any extra water. Too much water can make the vadas loose shape.

Step 3

Add salt, chopped shallots or red onions, curry leaves, green chillies and ginger chopped. I also crushed the shallots, greenchillies and ginger together in a mortar and pestle. Then add a pinch of baking soda to the batter. Stir everything together and let sit for 15min.

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Step 4

Apply some water to the palm of your hands and shape the batter into donuts.(Make a round ball and use your finger to create the whole in the centre.)

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Step 5

Add them to really hot oil and deep fry. Remove when golden brown and serve with coconut chutney.

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One cup made about 10 vadas…enough for 2 very hungry people. I was so inspired by the success that I was ready to attempt a second batch today, but alas the dal container is empty. I also attemped to make rasmalai the same day with fair results. Got to work more on that…will post on my first rasmalai attempt pretty soon.

Cabbage thoran- cabbage with coconut

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This is a signature Kerala dish…If there is an event which serves lunch then this dish is a sure thing as an accompaniment. Super easy to make, good to look at,nutritious and delicious are some things going in favor of this dish. Cabbage thoran and fish with some rice is one of those ‘perfect food pairings’.

Usually the cabbage thorans that I make were quite watery…I could never figure out how to make a dry cabbage curry. At a potluck lunch, one of the members at my church had brought this dish and I managed to get the secret from her, and now I share it with you.

Cabbage is rich in nutrients and antioxidants.
And so I guess this post can be be submitted for Stephanies ARF Tuesday.
Ingredients

Cabbage shredded into small pieces- one small or half of a big cabbage head.

I usually cut the whole cabbage into 4 or 8 small quarters, and then slice them at an angle into super fine shreds

Carrot 1 small ,cut or shredded into small pieces
Coconut 1 cup shredded
Greenchillies 5-6( add more or less to suit yr level of spiciness)
Jeera/cumin seeds 1/4 tsp

Shallots or onion diced 1/2 cup
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Turmeric 1/2 tsp
Oil 1 tablespoon
Curry leaves one sprig
Salt to taste
Method

Combine the cabbage, carrots, coconut, salt, crushed green chillies and cumin. Use your hands to mix them well.

Add oil to the hot pan. When the mustard seeds splutter, add the onions and stir for 2-3 min. Add the curry leaves now.Then add the turmeric powder and fry for about 30sec. Then add the cabbage mixture, mix everything well and then close the pan with a lid. After about 2 min, remove the lid, give a light stir and return the lid. Remove the lid and stir the cabbage every 2 min. After about 6-8min, the thoran should be done. There is no need to add any water at all…use a nonstick pan for this recipe. The cabbage will retain some of its color, have a bite to it and wont be all mushy.

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Idiyappam

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pic8.jpgWhen I first read the intro by Amy for the IMBB event on noodles I thought of doing some chinese noodles dish but then last night it suddenly dawned on me that I could write about my dear breakfast noodle. This dish is called Idiyappam, which is a Kerala breakfast item. Made of rice, it is a very light dish and can be had with sweet or spicy side dishes. I am not sure if it is a ‘true’ noodle as it involves no eggs but it sure is a derivative. Atleast as ‘kids’ we had nicknamed the dish as ‘noodle’ and hence it works for me.

To kick off the weekend we decided to make idiyappam for breakfast. Usually this is made from white rice flour but for a healthier version yo can used the rice flour made from unpolished white rice. The color of this kind of rice flour will be kind of a brownish reddish color and is loaded with all the fiber you need. Anyway I used the white rice flour for today as that is all I had in my kitchen pantry. The rice flour can be raw or fried..by fried it doesnot mean that it is ‘fried’ it just means that it is allowed to warm up for some time over the fire so that the moisture evaporates and there is less chance of the flour going rancid when it is stored

Things you will need

Rice flour
Boiled water
Salt
Grated coconut

Equipment

Idiyappam press

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Steamer

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Method

Take rice flour and add salt and hot water to it.

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Using a wooden spoon mix it.

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It will start forming clumps and then when it has slightly cooled use your hands to mix into a dough that will look like this.

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Now you are ready to make the idiyappams. Take a part of the dough and press into the idiyappam presser and fit the lid. Then start squeezing out the dough into already oiled idli thattam. A small amount of grated coconut is added to the bottom before pressing out the idiyappam.
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Alternatively in Kerala the dough is pressed onto banana leaves and then steamed. Then these are placed in a steamer and cooked till done (about 6-8 min)

To serve

This can be served with sugar or with spicy dishes like egg curry or black channa curry or whatever you feel like at the moment….
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