Category Archives: By Cuisine

Kottayam fish curry- Fish in fiery red sauce

Standard

ktm-fish-curry.JPG

Fish is indispensable in Kerala. The way it is made varies from place to place, but it always make it to the table for lunch or dinner. This is how fish curry is usually made in the households in Kottayam. When my grandfather was alive, we had fish every single day. That’s right. Every single day!!

When I blogged an okra recipe recently, I got a lot of requests for the fish curry that was shown in the post. The truth of the matter is that until recently my fish curries never tasted as they should. We started writing down the recipe every time we made it, and made changes to adjust the taste. We believe this recipe comes closest to the fish curry back home. Thanks to Manisha whose initial request started this whole post.

We make our fish curry in a chatti. The chatti in our home has a story to tell. The story that ends with, ” Wives know better”. When we were in Kerala last vacation, I mentioned that I would like to take a chatti back with me. Satish had a big problem with that, and was making all kinds of excuses. He was confident that the chatti wouldn’t make it home in one piece. Thanks to my persistence, the chatti made it home with us. Guess what he wants to bring back this time!! Ha-ha..

Now to the fish. Fresh fish is hard to come by, unless you have a Chinese store with fresh fish. We usually buy catfish from the local grocery store. Mallu stores have frozen fish from Kerala, but some of them lose their taste when frozen. This time we used salmon fillets. Back home, we have meenkarans ( fish monger) that brings fish right to your doorsteps. When I was a kid, they used to come on a cycle, with a basket of fish tied to the back of the cycle. They would honk their horns as a signal, and I was often made to run out of the house to flag him down. Then my mother would look and choose the fish, and sometimes neighbors all gather to discuss fish. If you had a cat, it would be close by, sniffing and rubbing against your legs, hoping to get some heads and tails.

Recipe:

Fish – 1lb. We used salmon fillets this time. We added some salt to the fillets to make them firmer, so that they don’t break easily. If you do this, be careful when you add salt to the curry.

Oil- 2 tbsp ( I use coconut oil)

Curry leaves- 1sprig + 2 or 3 f0r layering in the chatti

Mustard seeds, Fenugreek seeds- 1/4 tsp each

Shallots- 4 or 5 , sliced fine

Ginger- 2 tbsp , finely minced

Garlic – 15 cloves( if the cloves are small, leave them whole)

fish-curry-ingredients.JPG

Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp

Red chili powder- 2 tsp

Paprika – 3 tsp

Kudampuli- 2pieces ( clean in running water and soak them in water with some salt added to it)

Water- 1cup or more, as needed

kudampuli.JPG

Kudampuli soaking in salt water

Method:

Step 1:

Layer a few sprigs of curry leaves at the bottom of the chatti. Layer the raw fish on top of that.

fish-in-chatti.JPG

Step2: Making the gravy

Heat oil in a pan, add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the fenugreek seeds. When the fenugreek seeds starts to change into a deeper color, add the shallots, ginger, garlic and curry leaves. Cook on medium heat till the shallots turn dark brown. Then add the chili powder and turmeric powder. Stir to combine with the oil.

Lower the heat and add paprika. Stir quicky. Paprika burns fast, so don’t leave on fire too long. Add water and the kudampuli which was soaked in some salt water. I usually add the salt water also. It looks muddy from the puli but I think it adds to the taste. Add enough water to make a watery gravy. Bring to a rolling boil.

Step 3: Bringing everything together

Pour this into the fish that has been arranged in the chatti. Cook covered on low medium heat till the fish is cooked ( 15-20 mins). Every 5-8min grab the chatti with mitts and give a slight swirl. This is the best way to make sure the flavors blend without breaking the fish pieces. Cook till the fish is cooked and the gravy is lightly thick. ( some people prefer a watery gravy)

Taste for salt . Just before serving, add some coconut oil on the top and fresh curry leaves to garnish.

Notes:

The curry is good right off the stove, but the flavor intensifies after a day.

The curry can be left out in room temperature, especially in winter. Every night it is slightly warmed over the stove. During winter, our fish curry stays outside for atleast 3 days.

Coriander powder is omitted to increase shelf life.

Adding coconut oil over the fish curry after it is cooked can add a wonderful aroma, and I don’t recommend missing this step.

To serve : My favorite way is to eat this with rice and a thoran.

Also goes well with chappathi, puttu and the perpetual favorite, kappa and meen ( here and here).

JFI Potato- Potato studded with cumin and crushed pepper.

Standard

jfi-potato.JPG

Familiarity breeds contempt. We see it all around us. I think that is what is happened to the potato. Take a lot at these sayings and tell me if I am wrong.

A couch potato — someone who is glued to the TV and never exercises

He’s a cold potato. — someone who is not warm-spirited

Small potatoes — not much

Hot potato — a problem nobody wants to deal with ( Link)

Potato has never been a favorite in our home. We usually buy one or two when we need it. Anytime we bought any extras, they are left to sprout or shrivel, as the conditions in the kitchen permit. Inevitably, they end up in the garbage( the extra ones).

When JFI was announced, I bought 4 idaho potatoes. And after a consultation, this dish came alive.

Recipe :

Boil potatoes in salted water till cooked. Slice into quarters.

Spread cumin onto a surface. Take a potato slice and press the slice onto the cumin gently.

The cumin will attach to the potato. Fry this with the cumin side down on medium heat.

Remove from fire using tongs. Sprinkle salt. Serve warm.

I also applied red pepper on some potato slices.

To make things a little more happening, pour the remaining oil with bits of cumin and crushed pepper over the potatoes.

Serve as an appetiser with some chutney or as a side dish.

cumin-potato.jpg

 

Head over to to Vaishali’s Happy Burp in Pune to give dear potato some well deserved show of affection!

Dried shrimp in coconut sauce – Unakka chemmeen curry

Standard

unakka-chemmeen-curry.JPG

We recently tried a recipe from this blog and it turned out great. And last week we tried this dish from the same blog. It was spectacular. Thank you Shiny for posting these favorite dishes. Her blog is like a cookbook dream come true for me.

The dish is made of dried shrimp. This is available in Kerala grocery stores in the US. Fish and coconut are integral to Kerala cuisine, and this dish is a happy combo of the two. Dried fish are stinky, but taste great. The prepared dish doesn’t smell of the dried shrimp at all. Dried shrimp is cooked with some water and mango, coconut ground to a silky paste is added to it and finally dressed up with shallots and curry leaves in coconut oil.

shrimp-dried.JPG

Dried shrimp

Although I didn’t have fresh mango, I substituted amchur powder as the recipe suggested. It worked quite well.

Recipe: Here

This recipe is a keeper. It is easy to make and tastes great. Thank you Shynee!!

chemmeen-with-rice.JPG

Rice with chemmeen curry and radish saute.

Okra roast or bendakaya vepudu / Vendakka roast

Standard

okra-andhra-style-1.JPG

I received my first Andhra cookbook – Cooking with Pedatha yesterday. It has a green hardcover, pictures in every page, simple instructions – what’s not to like.

In the introduction, the author’s write,

Of course, one thing we never questioned her about was how much time any recipe would take. We already knew her answer tot hat- ” As long as it takes for a good dish to be ready”. ” Don’t look at the time, look at the pan”, she once remarked.

I realized how true it was and how much I had forgotten that concept. Once back home, my grand father’s sister was staying with us for a few days. I remember helping out with sauteing some onions, and I was turning the onions left and right. She came over, took the spoon from me and said,” Not like that, be patient “, and she continued to stir the onions so tenderly and delicately on a low flame. The chicken curry for which the onions were intended turned wonderful, better than the usual. I had forgotten to do that slow stirring for sometime now but this cookbook has reminded me to slow down, and enjoy my cooking.

The recipe is for the lady’s finger roast from the book. Thanks to the many Andhra blogs, some of the terms were already familiar, but there is a list of ingredients in the back page which is a big help for me. The book is a delight!

Ingredients:

Okra 1 pound – wash, dry with paper towel. I cut them lenthwise into quarters. The small ones were halved.

Red chilli powder- 2 tsp ( the original recipe needs 1 tbsp, but that was too hot for me)

Oil 2 tbsp+1tbsp

Salt to taste

okra-sliced.JPG

Ingredients for tempering:

Split black gram dal/ urad dal 1 tsp

Mustard seeds- 1/2 tsp

Asafoetida powder, Turmeric powder- 1/4 tsp each

Curry leaves – 1 sprig

Method:

Heat a pan, add about 2 tbsp oil. Add the urad dal, and when it turns golden, add the mustard seeds. Lower the heat, and add the asafoetida, turmeric and curry leaves.

Then add the veggies, allow to roast on slow flame. Stir occasionaly.

After 8-10mins, when the okra starts to turn brown at some spots, add the salt and chilli powder. Stir to combine. Go easy when stirring so as to not turn it mushy. Add one tbsp or less oil at this point to mix well with the chilli powder. Adding the oil makes a nice chilli coating on the okra. Serve warm.

okra-andhra-style.JPG

This dish is super hot. I didn’t imagine Andhra cuisine to be this hot.

I had this with rotis and some Kottayam fish curry.

Very satisfying meal, but my tongue was on fire. Cooled off with some lassi.

okra-andhra-style-2.JPG

Can’t wait to try more recipes. Thanks Indira for introducing me to this wonderful cookbook.

Mango Ginger Smoothie – JFI Ginger

Standard

ginger.jpg

For the life of me, I coud’t find a dish that screamed ginger. Kerala Fish Curry was in my plans for a while, but then I couldn’t find decent fish. Today I landed on this recipe, and as fate would have it, I am contributing to JFI Ginger. Hurrah!!

Ginger is indispensable in an Indian household. Shown below is a patch of ginger growing at my home in Kerala. Usually there are a few patches of ginger growing close to the house. When you need ginger, take your digging equipment and unearth fresh ginger. The wonderful smell of ginger on your hands is pretty amazing. Of course, as a kid I hated the chore of having to get out and dig the ginger out of the soil. Now, I wish I had some freshly dug ginger.

ginger-plants.jpg

Original recipe here

I followed the recipe exactly, except for using greek yogurt and cold milk.

Ingredients

Yogurt – half cup

Chopped ripe mango – a handful ( I used frozen mango)

Sugar or honey – 2 tbsp or adjust to taste

Low fat milk ( cold) – 1/2 cup

Crushed ice- half cup/handful

Fresh ginger- 1/4 – 1/2 tsp based on your taste. I used a thin slice and chopped it into thin strips.

Powdered cardamom – a pinch

Method:

Just mix everything in a blender. If too thick, add more milk or cold water.

ginger-smoothie.jpg

Adding fresh ginger to mango lassi was new for me. I liked it, but I suspect it could take getting used to.

Hugs to Rosie for hosting JFI Ginger amidst her move.

Tags: , ,

Phirni- Glad I found you!

Standard

pistachios.jpg

Ashwini did a great job of hosting JFI- coconut. Amond the 70+ dishes my eyes were on this white concotion in a cute cup. It was called Phirni. I had no idea what the heck Phirni was until that moment. I was so into Phirni after reading the post that I was searching for more info on phirni on the net. But Ashwini had it all covered in her post. It is indeed a Mughlai dish. I also see it listed as a Kashmiri dish, a Punjabi dish and is also very popular in Rajasthan. How did I miss this delicacy so long?

The Phirni looked so fresh and so full of clean flavors, I just had to try it. Better late than never.

I used a mix of almonds and pistachios for the dish. For the recipe I consulted both Ashwini’s and Roopa’s recipes!!

I understand this dish is served in small terracotta dishes as is shown here . I think I will try to get some when I visit India next time.

As Ashwini mentioned , it tasted much better the next day! This definitely is a keeper.

Tags:

Happy New Year!

Standard

Wishing everyone a happy New Year.

a1.jpg

Celebrating New Year with Ada Pradhaman.

Payasams are the major Kerala dessert. Before the bakeries started with the fancy birthday cakes, this is the dish that made birthdays special. This was the dessert course that followed elaborate sadyas that followed wedding ceremonies.

In the days before the instant ada, ada was made from scratch and this is where a lot of work was involved. Then the ada is cooked, and added to a jaggery- coconut milk mixture. The coconut milk making is also elaborate, but I took the aid of canned coconut milk. Worked just fine!

Final toss in some coconut pieces fried in ghee and cardamom powder. Let it cool before serving.

This dish is such a nostalgic one!

I am not alone in this nostalgia. Other memories about ada pradhaman from fellow Malayalis on the net:

And achamma’s ada pradhaman, rich with pure ghee and whole green cardamom. Oh! That taste. ( Read here)

Payasams, mmmmmm, I love that especially ada pradhaman. ( Here)

Brinjal theeyal

Standard

theeyal-main.jpg

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.

theeyal.jpg

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.

theeyal1.jpg theeyal2.jpg

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.

Radish curry- saute with onions, garlic and chili.

Standard

radish-curry1.jpg

This curry follows the basic principles of making Kerala style mezhukkupuratti. The addition of garlic is not common, but we do add it while making plantain mezhukkupuratti.

Recipe:

Ingredients

A bunch of red radish – contains 6 to 8 radishes.

Onion- one small, sliced.

Garlic- 2 or 3 small cloves crushed

Green chilis – 8 small, crushed

Turmeric powder- a pinch.

Oil for saute

Mustard seeds – a pinch

Curry leaves- a sprig

Salt to taste

The leaves: Roll all the leaves together and slice into long shreds.

Method:

Clean the radishes and cut them as you would slice an apple. Clean the leaves, if you want to use them in the dish.

radish-curry2.jpg

In a pan, add some oil. When it is hot, add the mustard seeds.

When the mustard seeds splutter, add curry leaves and onions. Saute for 3-5 mins till edges of the onions turn slightly brown.

Add the crushed garlic and chilis, and turmeric powder. Saute for about a minute or even less.

Add the radishes, mix well and add salt. Cook covered for about 3-4 mins.

Once the radish seems soft, remove the lid and crank up the heat. Saute on high heat for a couple more minutes. The radishes will be soft yet crunchy.

After you remove the radishes onto a plate, in the same pan quickly saute the leaves for a few seconds and add it to the top of the radishes.

For best results, serve right off the stove. The dish takes less than 15mins. Make this right before your meal.

Coconut ‘sammanthi’

Standard

coco-sammanthi.jpg

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.

chammanthi2.jpg chammanthi1.jpg

Idli with red sammanthi Dosa with green sammanthi

Tags: , ,