Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


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Appa’s Sweet Potato Chips

One of the things I miss the most about Appa is his crispy, salty-sweet sweet potato chips. Amongst other things, of course. There have been countless Sundays (his only off day) we used to find him standing over a pot of hot oil and wielding a mandoline in one hand and a chunk of sweet potato, also called VaLLikizhangu in Tamiil, in the process of making the crispiest chips in the world! It used to be raw plantain sometimes but no matter which vegetable, his chips had a huge fan following at home and outside, for I remember fighting over a bag of these yummies with my friends at college once.
sweet potato chipsBut then, I never bothered asking him how he managed to it so delicious, so perfect every time. Or I probably knew the reason already- culinary trance. Although I some how feel he would have disown that term with horror if I had mentioned it to him, I kinda get the feeling that it was exactly that. So when I wanted to make it at home three years ago, I asked my mother for the recipe and she thought I had gone crazy. It was the easiest thing to make: grate the sweet potatoes, heat the oil, fry them and add salt to the container you put the chips it, close the lid and shake the box until dizzy.

I followed the recipe. And I failed. I also had to give up making it because back then, we used to live in a super-tiny apartment and the fire alarm there could weirdly sense when I was about to fry. I swear it would go off the minute I start heating up the pot of oil. But things have changed since then. I have a better command over the kitchen now, have since disowned my grater and finally and most importantly, we live in a better apartment with tall ceilings and better ventilation now. So a week ago, I decided that it was time to put Appa’s recipe to test again.

I was not disappointed this time! I ended up with the crispiest bowl of perfectly browned chips. How did I do it? I ditched the mandoline and “hand-crafted” my chips. Yes, I used a knife (and felt secretly pleased at my gradually acquired knife skills). Moreover, I practiced the art of keeping my hands to myself and resisted adjusting the temperature every time I felt like it. It was at the medium mark all through (after heating it up at high, of course!). And finally, at the fear of breaking my precious chips while mixing in the salt, I sprinkled some as soon as they got out of the oil pot. I have seen people doing this on television. It was bound to be a sensible thing to do, and it was.

I ended up missing Appa extra lot, of course. But I wagged a chip up at heaven as we sat eating our lunch. I am sure he was pretty proud of the chip maker in me!

 

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Roti- How to Make Soft Roti in an Electric Cooktop- Step By Step Post

I feel rather ashamed to admit this. I used to suck at making Chapatis/Rotis. I have heard from people whose staple diet consists of Roti that every demure housewife is judged by the shape and texture of the Rotis she rolls. I am not demure.  Nor was I a perfect Roti maker. The latter saddend me, of course. So I decided to push things further and tried everything I could think of- every tip food blogs and recipe books had to offer. Most of my experiments ended in roadblocks and rock-hard Rotis.

My father-in-law, when he visited us for a couple of weeks along with my mother-in-law, used to be half scared during dinnertime, thanks to my skills or the lack of in the Chapati-making department. So I trudged on for a few weeks more to realize this: I needed to come up with my own method. The problem was my cooktop. Our environment-friendly apartment has an electric stove. Although it gives off heat and cooks food rather wonderfully, it needs a whole new skill-set to perfect making foods like Roti, Dosa and pancakes. The method of preparation doesn’t affect the latter two but making perfectly soft Rotis starts with making the dough.

Why? This is because you cannot show the Rotis on naked flame on an electric cooktop, an essential step for making soft Chapatis or even Phulkas. So the need to correct the dough arose and this is what I set out to perfect. After mixing, remixing and changing the quantity of  the wet ingredients I used (thanks to diet-conscious Roti dinners every night), I hit jackpot. And I decided that it would be cruel to not share my method with the part of the world that owns/rents homes with electric stove. Since it is a tricky process (haha, just joking!), I decided to add the step-by-step process with pictures. Since I seldom do this, gather around and make the most of it, everyone!

The key to soft Rotis is three-fold:

  • Warm water
  • Use of yogurt
  • Autolyse (autolysis)

When you hit all the aforementioned notes, there is no reason to eat another tough/crunchy/pull-your-tongue-out-and-die Roti again!

Ingredients:

One cup whole wheat flour + extra for dusting

Two Tbsp olive oil (or vegetable oil)

Two Tbsp yogurt (any kind would do)

Quarter (to half cup) very warm water

Quarter tsp salt

Method:

Mix wheat and salt in a bowl. Add the olive oil and yogurt and mix it into a crumbly dough. Now add water gradually as you knead into a soft pliable dough. The amount of water you need could be anywhere between a quarter cup and half a cup (influenced primarily by the humidity in the air). When it forms a rough dough, transfer it to a clean working surface and knead with the heel of your palm. Stop when it comes together into a soft ball of dough.

Wrap it up in a kitchen towel or cheese cloth and let it rest anywhere between 30 mins and two hours (autolyse time!). If you plan to make it the next day, put it in a ziplock and leave it in the fridge. Bring it out the next day and bring it down to room temperature and then make the Rotis.

The Process of Making Soft Roti

The Process of Making Soft Roti

When you are ready to start making the Rotis, heat a pan on the stove top. Pinch the dough into equal size balls (one cup makes roughly 5 Rotis) and roll them smooth on the counter top. Dunk each ball ever so slightly in wheat flour. Gently press into a flat disk. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a thin, round (-ish in my case) circle. Switch the stove to medium. Place the circle in the pan/Tawa/griddle and let it cook. You will see small bubbles forming.

When quite a few of them form, turn it over. While it cooks, bunch up a piece of kitchen towel and use it to rotate the Roti on the pan. This will aid it in puffing up and cook evenly. When the other side has also equally browned, take it off the stove and place it on the cloth that you used to cover it initially. I like my Rotis with a drop of butter so I spread some before wrapping it up. You don’t have to if you prefer non-buttered Rotis.
rotiSo yes, Vaish- 1, Electric Cooktop- 0

 


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Coconutty Egg Korma

I have plans for you this weekend: you are going to make this flavorful egg Korma with coconut milk for dinner. It will pair well with rice, Naan, grits, pita bread, lavash, quinoa or any other bread/grain you can think of! It is crazy good and made me wonder what I had in me to make this out of the blue. I mean, I am bad at making things up as I cook.
Coconutty Egg KormaGrowing up, I’ve had my share of tasty egg Kormas. If I’ve already told you this story, please forgive me for repeating, because my parents’ egg Korma deserves unlimited mentions! I also have very happy memories associated with this dish because egg for dinner always meant we were all alone at home, with no extended family for company. In a household that used to frown upon cooking egg in the kitchen with normal everyday utensils, family time with Roti and egg Korma was a luxury we would always look forward to.

Fast-forward to slightly grown up days, I remember gobbling up hot egg Biriyani with Jan and my favorite cousin, S, in dimly-lit restaurants that specialized in Biriyani from everywhich state. Oh, the taste. Of warm rice induced with every Indian spice imaginable. The succulent grains of Basmati coated with the Masala and fresh cilantro, oh heaven!  I had eggs, coconut milk and other things in my pantry that could make super yummy food. So I made up my own recipe and this is what I ended up with-Coconutty Egg Korma2Coconutty Egg Korma

Ingredients:
Four eggs, boiled, skins peeled and halved

One big purple onion, finely sliced

Two big tomatoes, diced

Half a can coconut milk

One Tbsp ginger-garlic paste

Two Thai green chilies

One Tbsp Dania-Jeera/Coriander-Cumin Powder

One tsp turmeric powder

One tsp cayenne pepper powder

Salt

To temper-
One tsp mustard seeds

One sprig curry leaves (optional)

Quarter bunch cilantro finely chopped

Two Tbsp cooking oil

Method:
Heat the oil in a pan. Add the mustard seeds and let it pop. Add the curry leaves and the sliced onions and saute on medium flame. When slightly brown, add the ginger garlic paste, chilies and tomato. Cover the pan with a lid and let it cook for five minutes on medium-low.

When the tomato turns mushy, add the Dania-Jeera powder, turmeric powder, cayenne pepper powder and salt. Let is cook for a few minutes, then add the coconut milk and one cup of water. Bring it to boil and switch it off. Don’t let the gravy boil for too long, it will change the taste of the coconut milk. The curry will thicken when you add the halved boiled eggs. Garnish with cilantro.

I think S will dig this gravy. I just have to find a way to make it and sneak it to her when I visit home this time…


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Pongal Post- Finally an Update!

pongal kolamI am like the worst blogger. Ever. Okay, that is probably an exaggeration- neither do I update only once a year nor do I leave random burns on other blogs. But I am down there with the ones that seldom reply to the comments you leave on their blogs and the ones that never post recipes to yummy food they put up pictures of. Anyhoo, Happy New Year and Happy Pongal, people!

I have been monstrously busy since 2014 slid in and I am still trying to find time to click pictures of stuff that Amma (or I) cook. No, seriously. I am so behind on blogging that I haven’t even done my post for the monthly Photo Styling Challenge and we are done with two Mondays already this month. I am aiming at getting that up over the weekend. We had good holidays, ate wonderful food, like this Orange Cola Cake (with leftover cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving) that the NJ aunt made-
orange cola cakeI know, crappy pic but it was a rainy day and  I had to click before anyone got to it, which meant switching on the kitchen lights in a very photogenic kitchen. Blasphemy, I know! So we got back down south on New Year day and hence began the same ol’. Preparing for the commencement of semester, running behind Aarabhi and finding a good daycare. All of the above were achieved, I went to school for a couple of weeks, we celebrated a rather important Indian festival, Pongal. We call it the Indian Thanksgiving but during the three days of Pongal, we show our gratitude to the Sun, the hardworking farmers that plow our fields of rice, without which almost all South Indians would starve!
pongal4
The first day of Pongal, called Bhogi, signals the end of one Tamil month (Margazhi) and the beginning of another (Thai). Until around ten years ago, people used to burn leaves and papers amongst other things, signifying the death of all things old and the beginning of everything new (and good). Well, the good news is that we have stopped setting fire to random combustible objects but  Bhogi still means  let the good times roll, baybay!

The second day is the most important day of all four: Pongal. On this day, we make a huge feast which begins with boiling new rice with milk and jaggery. When this concoction boils over, we yell “Pongal-o Pongal”, which literally means “Boiling over, boiling over!” Sounds weird, right? It is actually so much fun at home, when all of us are peering over the brass pot perched on the cooktop, with a metal plate and ladle in hand. And when the white milk rises to the brim, bubbles up and starts overflowing, with clangs and clings, we yell (most of the time into each others’ ears) with all the lung power we can muster!
pongal2After all the screaming (at the pot of milk by the whole family and later, by Paati at us to go take a shower), we get clean, wear new clothes, bring out all the yummy food and thank the sun for being merciful on our farmers and the crops. Phew! That was a pretty long narration. This year, Pongal was special because it was A’s first and for the first ever time since we got married, we had a set of parents at home with us to celebrate with. Thankfully the weather behaved itself too, a surprise since we have been seeing a lot of rains.

So about the blog: the url has changed! You can find us at http://www.chefettespicy.com from now. We have a new banner also. And as always, I will do my best at keeping the updates consistent and constant. Thassal, folks!


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Feel Good Food: Bisi Bele Bath

BisibeleHolidays are here! Can you believe that it is already time for Christmas? I mean, it was only June yesterday but I woke up this morning to a very cold day and it suddenly hit me that we were nearly done with 2013. Last year this time, I was subtly pregnant and we were shopping for our trip to India. Although we are not due for a visit back home yet (or to deliver a baby), we are still shopping. Shopping for Christmas gifts that we would be taking with us while we visit family and friends back in East Coast.

I am pumped about travelling back to where it all- K and my life together, my culinary Eureka moments and ultimately this blog- began. But I am more excited about meeting the family, showing them Aarabhi for the first time and catching up with the awesome family, especially my wonderful sisters and brother-in-law (they range from the age of six to eighteen, so I find it weird to call ’em that).

Anyway, back to food. I cannot talk about Bisi Bele Bath without mentioning that our New Jersey aunt is a pro at making this wonderful dish. It is native to Karnataka, as she is and the spice mix she puts in her Bisi Bele is wonderful. Since I ran out of it last year, I used the store-bought Bisi Bele Bath powder by MTR and I have been in love with it since! But S Chithi did promise to give me the recipe for it this time when we go to Jersey.

Kannadigas around the world are freakishly proud of this dish and rightly so because it is a one pot wonder and nothing can parallel the taste of hot hot Bisi Bele. Especially on a cold day like today. The name itself is an abbreviation. Called Bisi Bele Huli Anna, hot and sour lentil rice, the name is pretty self-explanatory. It is made of rice, Dal and tamarind and generously packed with other veggies and a hot spice mix. Sounds delicious doesn’t it?! So here is how I made it.
Bisibele2Bisi Bele Bath

Ingredients:
One cup white rice

Half cup Tuar Dal

One cup Shallots

One cup frozen peas

A lemon size ball of tamarind (or two Tbsp tamarind paste dissolved in two cups of water)

Salt

Three Tbsp MTR Bisi Bele Bath powder

Quarter cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Two Tbsp Ghee/Brown Butter

One Tbsp Cooking oil

One tsp mustard seeds

Few curry leaves (optional but recommended)

One tsp Asafoetida

Few pieces of cashew nut

Method:
Before we begin, let’s talk rice.

Whatever you do, try to avoid using Basmati rice for this dish. South Indian rice dishes seldom call for Basmati since it is predominantly used in the northern parts of India only. Moreover, and most importantly, using fragrant rice varieties like Basmati or Jasmine would alter the taste of Bisi Bele and that is really not what you want to do, trust me.

If you are using rice bought from the Indian grocer, cook it together with the Dal in six cups of water until it turns mushy and runny. If you are using white rice bought from a store like Costco, cook them together in four and a half cups of water. This is because you generally need less water to cook American rice than you need to make Indian rice, whether it is Sona Masoori or Ponni.

Pour two cups of water to the tamarind and extract thick juice. Heat the one Tbsp of oil in a huge pot. Fry the shallots for a few seconds. Add the tamarind water and peas to this. Let it cook for ten minutes on medium-low. Now add the peas, salt, Bisi Bele Bath powder, coconut and asafoetida. Cook this together for ten more minutes. The tamarind water and peas have to cook and the spices have to mix and blend with the gravy.

Once done, mix in the cooked rice and Dal mix in batches. The result has to be loose, runny and smell like your kitchen has suddenly transformed into Indian food heaven. Heat the Ghee separately. Fry the mustard seeds along with cashew pieces and curry leaves. Add this to the Bisi Bele Huli Anna and mix it up one last time.

Since Appa decided to throw his strict diet out of the window for the day, I (guiltily) made spicy Potato Curry to go with it. Chips and onion Raita made our lunch brighter.

Much yummy noises were made at the dining table. That made me a happy girl!


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Hot Carrot Halwa for Winter

Halwa is the most diverse of all sweet treats/desserts in the world. From the Middle East to South Asia, Halwa finds its rightful place in a whole repertoire of cuisines. Halwa (or halva or sometimes Alva as we call it in the Indian down South) is typically made out of flour, sugar, butter and dry fruits and nuts which are added in the end to the dish. My most favorite kind will forever be the wheat Alva we get in Tirunalveli, a city in Tamil Nadu. Oh my gosh, the taste. I seriously cannot do justice to this wonderful dish on a single blog post that is not about Tirunalveli Alva. Let me just say this: if I had to choose one dessert and I was allowed to eat only that all my life, I would choose this sweet. And I won’t regret it.
carrot halwaiA couple of days ago, we decided to take advantage of the fresh carrots at home and make carrot Halwa. This is one of the easiest sweets I’ve ever made and it is also one of the yummiest. The condensed milk gave it a wonderful depth to the halva. So it really is a win-win situation. My only regret was that we made very little. I cannot wait to make more and eat it hot out of the pan, a kick in Winter’s cold a**.

Winter Carrot Halwa

Ingredients:
Four huge carrots finely grated (I used the bigger holes on my grater because I hate the mushy texture of the smaller side)

One cup condensed milk

One Tbsp Ghee/brown butter

Few slivered almonds and raisins

Five pieces salted roasted cashews (unroasted would do too, just add them with the almonds and raisins)

A generous pinch cardamom powder (or crushed whole cardamoms)

Method:
Cook the carrot and condensed milk along with cardamom powder on medium hear. It is done when the carrot becomes completely soft and all the water from the milk and carrot condenses. Melt the Ghee, add the slivered almonds and raisins. Let them brown. When done, mix them into the Halwa along with the salted cashews.

Carrot Halwa tastes the best when eaten hot off the pan with vanilla ice cream. So good!


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Green Onion Kootu

It is official. Winter has arrived. Yes, we feel the bite of winter’s freezing hands down south here in Alabama too. But I am not as dismayed with the season as I was last year. Nausea all alone in the house was not fun but what is fun is having a home full of people and a kitchen that is always bustling with activity, be it something as simple as making a pot of tea or Amma rustling up wholesome South Indian food!
green onion kootuOne of the best things about my mother-in-law is her innate talent of creating something nutritious with fresh flavorful ingredients. Since Appa has a strict diet regimen, her choices when it comes to selecting vegetables is very rigorous. If you are one of those people who thinks that a diet that revolves around healthy cooking (low oil, lots of green leafy veggies kind) is snoozville, I am very sure that Amma’s cooking will change your mind.

This week’s bounty hunting at our local ethnic market brought to us some beautiful bunches of green onion. Now, this is not a vegetable we generally use in Indian cooking. Or so I thought until our trip to Indian last year. The day we landed in Madras, Amma cooked up some Sambar with green onions which found a huge fan in me. I would not be exaggerating if I said I had dreams about it until last Sunday. And then I found a new green onion dish to haunt my dreams: the Green Onion Kootu.

Although She laughed at me when I said I was going to write about it on the blog next, she agreed that it was a dish that connoisseurs of Indian food should taste! So after hurriedly clicking pictures of it, I decided that this Kootu deserves a big reveal as soon as possible. With the weather turning all frigid on us, I deemed this the perfect timing!

Green Onion Kootu

Ingredients:
One bunch green onions, whites and greens chopped

Two Tbsps Mung Dal, washed

One Tbsp Sambar powder. Rasam, Cumin-Coriander or even curry powder would work but it would give it a different taste

One tsp turmeric powder

One tsp salt

For Tempering:
One tsp mustard seeds

One tsp Urad Dal

One tsp asafoetida

Few curry leaves

Method:
Cook the green onions and Mung Dal with enough water, turmeric powder, Sambar powder and salt. When done, temper with mustard seeds, Urad Dal, asafoetida and curry leaves. If you are serving it as a side, make sure it is thick (thicken with AP/corn/rice flour). This dish could also be served as a soup. Squeeze half a lime and make some Papads (or cut a fresh loaf of bread) to dunk into the soup.

Since we made it for a casual lunch, we left out the cilantro for garnish. You could go ahead and dress it up.

Be safe, y’all! I heard it is going to be a messy week.