Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


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India Trip 2014- A Round-up of Food and Fun

Things have changed around here! WordPress has a brand new dashboard, the colors have changed and I cannot recognize one freakin’ thing. This is bad, you guys- well, bad and good actually. We got back from India a month ago and I hit the ground running the minute we reached home. First, baby A fell sick with a tummy bug. She hit poopy land (erm, sorry for the graphic details. I have to get it off my chest some how) for quite a few days. Although the doc assured us that this will pass, things hit further rock bottom when I followed suit and fell sick with a viral.

Yet another first birthday cake for Aarabhi. This one was for one of her numerous birthday parties in India. It was a chocolate mousse cake with fresh fruits. Yum!

Yet another first birthday cake for Aarabhi. This one was for one of her numerous birthday parties in India. It was a chocolate mousse cake with fresh fruits. Yum!

The hub, the father of my poopy pants daughter spent a couple of very busy days tending to us. As we recovered, my semester started and I had to look alive and start studying, an art I had conveniently forgotten over the summer. Weekends have been spent catching up with friends, promising to clean the very messy kitchen (a task I got done only today. Shudder!) and catching up on the sleep we have been steadily losing since the toddler decided to embark on her purple crying phase.

Kiran's Lunch Box: My mother-in-law is probably the champ of making quick but delicious tasting lunches. This here was for the BIL.

Kiran’s Lunch Box: My mother-in-law is probably the champ of making quick but delicious tasting lunches. This here was for the BIL.

Oh, I forgot the day care fiasco! A had happily forgotten her beloved auntie and friends from daycare and we spent a tense couple of weeks getting her reacquainted. Although we were told that she adjusted way easier than some children do, I don’t think I have the strength in me to take her away for a month again!

Yes, I cooked too. I made my Egg Korma with coconut milk for dinner and watched my mom and sister go crazy! Achievement unlocked.

Yes, I cooked too. I made my Egg Korma with coconut milk for dinner and watched my mom and sister go crazy! Achievement unlocked.

Ah, the month. It was a whirlwind romance for me with the city I love. Hot, humid, complex and cheerful Madras. So much has changed, I realized every minute of my stay there. But amidst the bustle all the new developments had brought, over the blare of the traffic honks and away from the blinking lights of the overly commercialized lifestyle that has become the new identity of my people, I recognized my old city, the one that will always be the love of my life. It was warm, it was inviting and it is a place I want to return to again and again.

One of the best things to ever happen in so long was meeting all my ladies at the same time... after five long years!

One of the best things to ever happen in so long was meeting all my ladies at the same time… after five long years!

Paneer

With my super-cool brother-in-law, drinking Paneer Soda, a local delicacy in one of the oldest cities in the world, Madurai. It happens to be the husband’s home city on his maternal side. Made with rose water, this fizzy drink is the best beverage I’ve tasted in so long!

Another awesome drink from Madurai, the Goli Soda. Perfect for a hot summer day. I don't regret the sore throat I acquired after.

Another awesome drink from Madurai, the Goli Soda. Perfect for a hot summer day. I don’t regret the sore throat I acquired after.

So with all this going on, I forgot that my blog existed. I have been cooking, I have been taking as many photos as my schedule lets me but while trying my best to keep up with Chefette Spicy, I have come to admit to myself the bitter truth- I cannot do this like I used to. This blogging thing became a full time job back when I could afford to spend time on it. But with a demanding course schedule, a baby who makes me want to spend all my free time with her- making dog and cat noises over and over again, and a non-demanding husband who deserves more attention from me than I seem to give, my blogging days might be coming to an end.

I know that I might probably be undoing years of work I put into it. I cannot say it doesn’t make my heart feel cold and lonely. But I need to set my priorities right. So I might keep the blog running but it is going to be slow and updates might become sparse. Ah well, it has been a good run.

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I Love Punjabi Kadhi!

Punjabi food is amazing! Dal Makhani is one of the tastiest (and one of the easiest) Dals I’ve ever made. The Tandoor method of cooking is very common to Punjabi dishes. Made of clay, a Tandoor is an oven that gives food cooked in it a distinct, rustic taste that is seldom found in any other method of cooking. It has a distant cousin, the American barbecue. But which kind of barbecue method is beyond me because I have never barbecued and don’t see myself doing it anytime in the future either.

Although Butter Chicken (or one of those richer gravies) is the most popular dish that rolls out of a Punjabi kitchen, there are so many lighter and equally wonderful Punjabi recipes also. My favorite would always be the Punjabi Kadhi. Made of sour yogurt, this side is spiced generously with dry red chilies, cinnamon and cloves. Channa Dal flour aka basin gram flour is finally whisked in to thicken it for a soupy consistency, perfect for dipping your Roti in or mixing with rice.
kadhiKadhi, as it is with every dish in this world, has many variations and is actually native to many other Indian cuisines like Uttar Pradeshi, Gujarati, Rajasthani and Maharashtrian. The one we made at home had fried chickpea dumplings (Pakoda) in it to make it meatier and wholesome. But I have made Kadhi with potatoes and without anything dunked in too and they have all been wonderful!

Punjabi Kadhi is a wonderful dish to eat when the weather starts turning cold and you just want something warm and comforting for dinner. Fall is here so this is the most perfect time to make Kadhi!

I realized only after posting that I had not given the recipe! I quickly asked Amma for hers and she gave me her nifty little notebook she writes recipes in. This method is a mishmash of various versions of Kadhi, adopted into one tasty dish. Although it has been adapted from different places, it is as authentic as a Kadhi that comes out of a non-Punjabi kitchen gets!

Panjabi Pakoda Kadhi

Ingredients:

For the Pakoda:
One cup Besan flour

One medium-sized onion chopped

One medium-sized potato chopped

One tsp cumin seeds

One tsp cayenne pepper powder

One tsp grated ginger

Half tsp baking powder

Salt to taste

Oil for deep frying

For the Kadhi:
Three cups yogurt

Two Tbsp Besan flour

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

Salt to taste

For Tempering:
Half inch stick cinnamon

Two cloves

Two whole dry red chilies

Half tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp cumin-coriander powder

Quarter tsp fenugreek seeds

Two tsps grated ginger

Few curry leaves

Half tsp cayenne pepper powder

two Tbsp oil

Method:
Mix the Pakoda ingredients with water to form thick dough. Roll into one inch-size balls. Deep fry in oil and drain on kitchen towel. Mix the Kadhi ingredients together in a bowl. Heat the oil in a pan and saute the tempering ingredients until fragrant. Turn the heat to low and add the yogurt mixture. Let it simmer. Switch the stove off when it starts bubbling and the Kadhi thickens.

When done, dunk the Pakodas in. Eat before it turns soggy.

My most favorite way to eat Kadhi is with Papad and a pat of Ghee/clarified butter. Now you know the reason for my generous BMI, dontcha? 😉


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Something Sweet

Phew, I am so tired! This is the birthday weekend- I had mine on Thursday, Aarabhi turned three months today and the hub has his coming up tomorrow. I’ve been trying to get lots of things done this weekend and ultimately ended up doing nothing. Oh I did edit a few pictures, click new ones and made a birthday cake for Kishore (shhh!). I have four huge projects/case studies to complete in Financial Accounting and a paper I should be working on for Information Systems. Yet, I sit here all careless and free and write about the wonderful Kesari Amma made for my birthday. Daredevil much?
semiya kesariKesari is a kind of pudding made with Rava, a by-product of wheat. It has a coarse, cornmeal like texture and a nutty flavor. I once replaced it for couscous in a salad I made and called it semolina salad. Kesari is also made with Semiya or Vermicelli, a kind of noodles we use quite a bit in Indian cooking.

My mother, well aware of the fact that I am mentally-allergic to Rava Kesari (thanks to a gluttonous incident that happened more than ten years ago), made Kesari with Semiya last month. I fell in love with it and nearly replicated the afore mentioned incident (some people never learn!) but good sense stopped me on time. Well, that and a husband who fell equally in love with the dish. So when Amma asked me what sweet I wanted for my birthday (making sweets for birthdays is a tradition quite common in India), it was only natural that I pounced on another opportunity to eat the wonderful Semiya Kesari.

This time, she stepped it up a notch by adding pineapple to it. Before you make unappetizing noises, let me tell you this. It was wonderful!!! So wonderful that I am already making plans to go eat the leftover Kesari after I write up this blog entry.

Semiya Kesari

Ingredients
One cup Vermicelli or Semiya (from your Indian grocer) or broken up angel hair pasta

One and a quarter cup sugar

One cup frozen pineapple finely chopped

Ten almonds coarsely chopped

Ten raisins (any kind!)

One tsp powdered cardamom (or four pods of cardamom, slightly broken)

One Tbsp plus one tsp clarified or melted butter

Half cup milk

One and a half cups water

Method
Heat the clarified butter on medium heat in a pan. Slightly toast the Semiya. Add the milk and the water when it releases a nutty fragrance. When it starts boiling, add the sugar, powdered cardamom and pineapple and mix. Turn the heat to medium-low and cover the pan. Let it cook, absorb the water and melt the sugar. When the Kesari turns semi-solid, turn the heat off. In a separate pan, add the one tsp of butter and fry the almonds and raisins until brown. Mix it with the Kesari. Eat with vanilla ice cream to attain dessert Nirvana.


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Experimenting with Photography

Darkness intrigues me. I am a dark person. When  say that, don’t imagine me with a pound of dark eye make up and a hollow look on my face. I mean that I am very temperamental and until a year ago, I used to have mood swings and all those things that generally makes one fancy oneself to be the deep artsy genius. I am not that, I am just dark.
Amma's biriyaniSo it was only natural for me to be attracted to dark photography with partial lighting and deep background colors. So last afternoon, I decided to experiment with my camera. With all the dark light photography going on around the blogworld, it was time I caught up too! The results were not bad for a first-timer. But I do have a looooong way to go.

Amma made veggie Biriyani. Lots of madness followed, like clicking pics and eating it up like a crazed person. I will update with the recipe soon. Just drool over the pics for now!
Amma's biriyani2raita
Have a wonderful week, good people. Don’t let Monday bother you.


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Comfort Food to End the Weekend

Phew, what a weekend! We finally decided to venture out with Aarabhi so we took her to the Siva-Vishnu Hindu Temple in Atlanta. Um, let me just say it was an, er, interesting day. If you know what happens when you take a normally fussy six-weeks-old on a two-and-a-half hour drive to the city, you would know what I mean. It was one of those days I wished we had lived in a big city instead of our little corner in Alabama.
OlanSince we were going to the Atlanta anyway, we also thought it would be a good idea to show Amma around the city. She shot down our offers to take her to the aquarium (“no way!”), the Coke museum (uh-huh!) and the CNN museum (“are you kidding me?!”). Since there isn’t much else to see in Atlanta, Amma picked a visit to IKEA instead. With a temperamental baby in tow, we visited the temple, then the Indian grocer and then IKEA… and we also managed to make the return trip back home.

pbm-parotta

Paneer-Mushroom Masala and Layer Parotta (Tamil Nadu style): Friday’s dinner is Saturday’s leftover. Such is life, my friend…

Well, all I can say is it is going to take us a loooooong time (and a lot of growing up for Aarabhi) to make that trip again. We reached home at ten thirty and ate Friday’s leftovers for dinner. We took today’s lunch easy too but for Dinner, Amma made Olan.
Olan is a dish native to Kerala, a Southern state in India. This coconutty dish is made with white pumpkin and black eyed peas, mildly seasoned with Thai green chilies and curry leaves. As I’ve already mentioned probably a million times, thanks to my paternal grandma, our cuisine has a lot of Mallu influence. Hence, the family has taken Olan for granted and it has become a comfort food of sorts at home. Amma makes a killer Olan and I’ve been troubling her to make it since she landed here. We had an extra coconut to spare today and a wedge of white pumpkin sleeping in the refrigerator. We were even more in luck when we discovered some cooked Azuki beans (a variant of black eyed peas) in the freezer and realized that the Olan gods were sending us an obvious message…

Olan

Ingredients:
Quarter White Pumpkin, finely diced

Three quarters cup cooked black eyed peas (or in our case, Azuki beans)

Four Thai green chilies

Two cups coconut milk, equally divided. Add two cups water to one cup

Curry leaves

Two tsp coconut oil

Quarter tsp cayenne pepper

One and a half tsp salt

Method:
Cook the diced pumpkin in the diluted coconut milk, along with the chilies, curry leaves, cayenne pepper powder and salt. When tender, switch off the heat and mix in the rest of the coconut milk. Finally, drizzle the coconut oil on top (if you don’t have coconut oil at home, don’t drizzle any oil. The coconut milk gives it the richness it needs). Eat it as an accompaniment to Sambar and rice if you have made a complete Indian food menu or mix it in with rice and eat it with a curry. Coming to think of it, with a little more gravy and a squeeze of lemon, it would also make a good soup. Burp and Happy Meatless Monday, y’all!
Olan2
And once again, I blog something Amma made. But in her own words, “I cook, you blog. It is only till November anyway.” Boohoo, why did you remind me of that, mom?!

Ps: Friday’s dinner was my work of “art”. Two grueling hours in the kitchen was totally worth it when my layer Parottas came out all soft and flaky. It deserves a special blog post and better pictures, which I promise will happen the next time I make it.


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Why Mommy Should Blog Instead…

mixed veg subziThis here is the reason why my mom should be blogging this post instead of me. I seldom go into the kitchen these days and hardly give an idea for what to make for a meal. Hence, when Amma asked me what we should make for dinner tonight, I, being my ever helpful self, suggested Chapati. I brought Mallika Badrinath’s 100 Delicious Curries book to her and asked her to make any Subzi she fancied from it. And then, I went to sleep. At 2pm. In my defense, I had just put Aarabhi down for a nap and I was excited about taking advantage of the quiet house.

This Subzi, my mother informed me when I tumbled out of bed in search of coffee at 5pm, was a fusion of two sides from the book. It is a wonderful option for Rotis, can be made fancy if you are entertaining and a great accompaniment for Jeera Rice or any fried rice/Pulao/Biriyani you decide to make.

Here is how Amma made it-

Mixed Vegetable Subzi
Two cups mixed veggies (as you know, I always prefer the frozen kind)

One huge onion, chopped

Two tomatoes, chopped

Half cup tomato puree

One Cup low-fat sour cream

Half tsp cayenne pepper powder

Salt to taste

Three Tbsp vegetable oil

Cilantro leaves for garnish

To be ground into a paste:

One tsp poppy seeds, soaked for half hour in warm water

One tsp cumin seeds

Two tsp coriander seeds

Six pods garlic

Method
Heat the oil in a saute pan. Fry the onion until slightly brown. Add the ground paste. Fry until the raw smell goes away. Add a Tbsp sour cream. Add the chopped tomatoes and fry until mushy. Add another Tbsp sour cream the puree and the vegetables. Mix in the salt and cayenne pepper powder. Add the rest of the sour cream. If too thick, add a little water. Let it simmer until semi-solid. Garnish with cilantro.

Now I gotta go!

 


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Black Bean Rajma for Lunch

This is probably the most basic recipe for Rajma and I am pretty sure most people are wondering why I am putting it up. Well, it was uber yummylicious and I figured it would be a sin not to click a pretty pic of it and share it with the world! Mom made it and she added a darn secret ingredient to it which made the dish pop with flavor and color. We had some left-over tamarind Chutney from all the food our friends ordered for my surprise baby shower last weekend (the shower was so wonderful that I am not done gushing about it yet. I cannot believe that my family drove all the way from New Jersey, Virginia and Atlanta just to give me a huge surprise! How awesome are they!!).
rajma
Although the spring rolls and Gobi Pakoras (cauliflower fritters) are long gone, the dipping sauces are still gracing our refrigerator in air-tight take-out boxes. So this morning,  after Amma made the Subzi and tasted it, she felt that something was missing. Putting her creative cap on, she quickly emptied half a container of the chutney into the Rajma. The result was a tangy-sweet and spicy curry that we ate with Roti and Basmati rice.

And as always, I have a cup waiting in the fridge for tomorrow with my name on it. Man! Do I love leftover delicious food!