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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My Experiments with Brussels

brussel salad3There comes a day in every food blogger’s life when they make the most perfect batch of roasted vegetables. Food angels will sing, you will shower in a million buckets of conceit and act like you just won the James Beard. Never happened to you? Is it just me? Well, alright then, let me go on. I made the most beautiful batch of Brussels yesterday and immediately let my smugness get ahead of me.

Initially, I had planned a curry with the veggie. When I realized that they were the most perfect shade of caramelized golden-brown with flavors popping every-which-way, I found the intended recipe too normal, very tame for this beauty. So I decided to let the Brussels revel in its newly acquired swag- I decided that a warm salad was the best route to take. What do I say, I was pressed for time and needed to set a few minutes aside for photographing this beauty.  Personally, I was tempted to eat it as it was, off the baking sheet but I kinda had to share it with the hub.
brussel saladI made the salad as I went- I roasted the Brussels Sprouts at 400ºF (205º C) for 30 minutes after coating them with two Tbsp of olive oil, salt and pepper. You could substitute salt with garlic salt if you want but honestly, I never missed the garlic (and I am the kind of person who thinks everything is wonderful with a little chopped garlic in it). I added Craisins and some walnuts. Since I wanted a creamy vinaigrette that would not steal the Brussels Sprouts’ thunder, I made a mild yogurt sauce with a little Chipotle in Adobo and a generous (quarter) cup of milk. I was impressed. Yes, it takes very little for me to feel happy with myself.
brussel salad2The only downside was that I missed Amma while I was greedily eating the salad off the plate after clicking a few hasty photos when I remembered: Amma was so taken by these mini-cabbages although she was not new to them. But then they are pretty expensive in India and not a perennial vegetable like they are in USA so we seldom bought them. She once made a wonderful pepper fry with Brussels when she lived with us last year. We also spoke extensively about making Brussels Fried Rice one day but we never really got down to it. Next time, Amma. We always have the next time.

Nutrition Info:

Serving Size: One Cup

Total Carbs: 15g


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Third Anniversary Deserves Something Sweet

My WordPress Notifications informed me that today is this blog’s third anniversary. As a blog that has evolved over time and become what I did not imagine even in my wildest dreams would become, it is time for some celebration indeed. Hence, I decided to do it with something sweet, Rava Laddu.

You might have seen a Boondi Laddu, even a Motichur Laddu but not even in your wildest dreams would you have come across the Rava (Semolina) Laddu… unless you are India, of course. No, your local Indian restaurant or store is not going to carry this delicate sweet. You have got to go online and find the recipe. Since it is a specialty in the city of Madurai in Tamil Nadu, which happens to be my mom-in-law’s hometown, I did not have to go looking for the recipe anywhere.
rava laddooAfter rummaging through my pantry a month ago, she came across a packet of pre-made Laddu mix (that she had made the year before when we visited home) and was slightly horrified bordering on miffed to know that I hadn’t made it yet. So praying to all the deities that it shouldn’t have gone bad, she ventured into making delicious Laddus for snack one day. The Rava Laddu, what can I say about these beauties? Semolina is gently fried until slightly brown and then sugar is added along with cardamom powder. This is sauteed again on gentle heat until golden brown and aromatic. Fried nuts are mixed into this powder, along with a generous amount of Ghee (brown butter) and this mixture is gently molded into small spheres by loving hands.

The result is a very decadent sweet that is extensively made during Deepavali in India. But Amma made it as a snack at home. Can you blame me for making a dinner out if Rava Laddus?
rava laddoo2


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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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Remembering Brunch and Looking Back

breakfast textIt was the most successful brunch I’ve ever made. A non-descriptive Sunday, fall time and I decided to make brunch to pick things up around the house. I have to admit that the cream cheese-Vanilla danish was not the best. I tried to imitate the creamy danish we buy sometimes from Costco. But my end product was slightly dry and lacked the shiny top. I was slightly disappointed but decided to store it up as an opportunity to perfect in the future.  Vanilla-chocolate parfait, a bowl of yummy fresh strawberries (the last of the bounty for the season I snatched off the grocer’s shelf) and the star of the show, breakfast pizza with an egg on top and seasoned with green onions, corn and Sriracha.

This is certainly my happy place, a morning I would like to remember especially on a cold cold day like today was. With Aarabhi’s three-month old feet tapping the floor, Amma’s ever helpful hands rearranging the table for me and K patiently indulging my requests for closing and opening the patio door, I would call this one of my best shoots for the year!

So we are nearly there, the Christmas season and the end of the year. While brimming with excitement about the holiday season, I also feel a touch of melancholy brought on by the end of the year. But I am tuning all that away by making blog plans for next year. A lot is going to happen on here, beginning with a domain address change. Yes, my renewal is up and I am bidding ladlesandhighheels a final good-bye and migrating to the all new chefette spicy! I am also working on a new banner and other exciting stuff. The reveal will happen in 2014 so stay with me.

And finally, about the 100 likes on the facebook page. To keep up with the spirit of Christmas, I did a free cookie promo yesterday and invited a bunch of friends to like the page. We are 104 strong and counting! We have a winner she has picked a friend to send the cookies to. Overall, not a bad end of the year for Chefette Spicy!
christmas treeThe tree is decked up, the gifts are packed. I will certainly do a post before the year ends but if mid-December is here, it is never too early to wish y’all a Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays, people! Let there be peace on Earth.

 


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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.


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Detailed Post with Pictures: Pori Urundai aka Puffed Rice Balls

Gluttony is described by most dictionaries around the world as over-indulging oneself with food. This is also what we have been doing at home since my mommy and daddy-in-law came from India a week ago. This is where I side-track from the topic of food. More than 75% of this world has a raw deal when it comes to in-laws. They are either the Cinderella stepmother kind or the nonchalant, I-care-a-rat’s-rear-about-what-you-do-in-your-life kind. I am one of the lucky 25% of the population. Coming to think of it, I am the even luckier 2% of the world with the most wonderful parents-in-law (and yes, an equally wonderful brother-in-law too, K!) ever.
pori urundai2I have awesome, bordering on hilarious, story about meeting them for the first time but I am saving that for later. As a girl who lost her father in her life, my daddy borrowed has become that constant father figure and everyone only knows that it is always merrier to have two mothers. And I have the best of em! So a lot of excitement has been happening (and all of them revolving around the baby of the family) since they arrived last Sunday with four huge suitcases, three of which were filled with Indian food! Food! Food! While we are still in the process of demolishing the stock, we had a South Indian festival called Karthigai yesterday which required a whole new and very specific set of goodies that we made at home. Ahem, okay, L Amma made at home and I clicked pics of and pretty much got in her way.

So this post might be picture-heavy, text-heavy and every other heavy there is. I went crazy with the camera, you see! Pori is nothing but puffed rice and Urundai is the process of molding the balls. So we essentially made Rice Krispies balls, a close cousin to Halloween popcorn balls. Instead of sugar syrup, we use jaggery syrup. Karthigai is the day we in the South of India celebrate the birth of Lord Muruga, Lord Ganesha‘s younger brother.

It also marks the beginning of the Tamil month of Karthikai. On this day, we make lots of delicious food, light rows of lamps and decorate the house with flowers. My grandfather used to enjoy watching us beautify the house. After a few minutes of offering our birthday wishes to Muruga, we would dig into the delicious Pori Urundais, reveling in the joy of the warm taste of caramelized jaggery-coated puffed rice.

The picture part of this post commences here. I have recorded the complicated method of making in pictured. Since Amma is a pro at making these sweet treats, she was pretty deft. I did my best to keep up with her. Some of my pics ended up being a complete failure but I managed to capture ’em all!

Freshly scraped coconut

Freshly scraped coconut

vellam

Powdered jaggery mixed with water, ready to be boiled

Puffed rice

Puffed rice

pagu

Boiling the jaggery… waiting for it to reach the right consistency is one of the toughest acts of patience. Ever.

The jaggery is done when  it forms a ball when a few drops are trickled into a cup of cold water

The jaggery is done when it forms a ball when a few drops are trickled into a cup of cold water and rolled with the tips of your finger

The jaggery solution is mixed with white sesame seeds, coconut scrapings and dry ginger powder, and the mixed with the puffed rice

The jaggery solution is mixed with white sesame seeds, coconut scrapings and dry ginger powder, and the mixed with the puffed rice

The mixture is finally shaped with loving hands and made into tight balls

The mixture is finally shaped with loving hands and made into tight balls

Lamps adorning the house

Lamps adorning the house

 

pori urundai

Ta da! They are finally ready to be offered to Lord Muruga for his birthday