Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

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Bhindi Sambhariya

If there is one cuisine (apart from an eclectic mix of many other) I had to eat all my life, I would probably choose Gujarati. Why not? Their spices are mild, every dish is invariably vegetarian, made with fresh vegetables at that, and most of the dishes have a slight sweetness to them. So yes, why not? I first tasted Gujju food in this wonderful little restaurant in Madras called Mansukh’s Sweets and Snacks. It is quite a famous place to eat in my locality back home and the Gujarati Thali you got there used to be unparalleled. Yes, I used the past tense because the quality has pretty much gone down the drain now.
bhindi sambariya2When it used to be an awesome place to dine at, I got a chance to do a feature on them for the Newspaper I was working for. After the interview, the owner of the store gave me and my friend (who was the protographer) some Basundi that s the most decadent dessert I have ever tasted! But apart from a vestige of better known Gujarati fare, Mansukh’s never served anything more native. So I decided to dig deeper and find foods that we can enjoy at home instead of dream about another visit to the restaurant.

My favorite place to look for Indian food, Tarla Dalal’s literature, is where I began. I bought The Complete Gujarati Cookbook off Amazon (thank you very much, Prime!) and proceeded to turn pages, admiring the simplicity of Dalal’s narration and the wholesome Gujarati foods she has featured in the book. I sent her a silent thanks for not including the usual suspects like Khakra and Jalebi and proceeded to examine the book with much care.
bhindi sambariyaMy most favorite dish (and the first I made) in the book is the Bhindi Sambhariya. A close cousin of Bharli Vangi, this tasty side makes okra the star of the show. By stuffing this normally slimy (but very tasty) vegetable with fresh spices(hence the name Sambhariya, where Bhariya means fill or stuff), Gujarati home cooks only hit the ball out of the park. I don’t stuff, no sir. When I get cooking, I am always pressed for time. Moreover, eating stuffed whole okras and the husband don’t go together but let me not go into details on this. You don’t want to know that info on a food blog. Although there are many versions to this Sambhariya, here is mine-

Bhindi Sambhariya (Adapted from Tarla Dalal’s The Complete Gujarati Cookbook)

Ingredients
Two cups fresh okra, diced into bite-size pieces (or one and a half tray, leave it whole and slit a hole in the side)

One fourth cup cooking oil

To be mixed together:
Six Tbsp freshly scraped coconut (no other kind would do)

One tsp ginger-green chile paste

One tsp turmeric powder

Two tsp cumin-coriander powder

One tsp Garam Masala powder

One tsp Aamchur/dry mango powder (substitute with two tsps lemon juice)

One Tbsp jaggery (substitute brown sugar but I strongly recommend jaggery)

One tsp salt

One Tbsp sesame seeds

Two Tbsp ground peanut (optional but recommended)

Method:
If you dice the okra, mix it with the Masala paste. Heat oil in a pan, add the okra mixture, put a lid on and cook it on medium-low heat until the vegetable is cooked. Make sure you give it a gentle mix a couple of times in the middle to prevent burning.

If you slit the whole okras, stuff the Masala into it and cook it exactly like I have mentioned above.

Adapting either of the methods doesn’t alter the taste. I should probably not call mine “Sambhariya” but I exercise my blogger license here since I adapted it from the traditional recipe.

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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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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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Testing for Food52

So I decided to test a recipe for one of Food52.com‘s community contests. I initially wanted to enter a recipe but the mandatory ingredient for the contest was coconut and I had run out of it only the day before I chanced upon the project. Such a weird thing in a household that consumes fresh coconut as much as any vegetable.
toffee

Anyway, I decided to test one of the entries, the Coconut Milk Caramel and boy was I glad I chose this one! It was the first time I tried my hands at making caramel, without a candy thermometer at that. It came out pretty well, although I suspect I should have let the toffee simmer for a couple more minutes because it was a tad gooey. I also skipped the coconut essence because with the coconut milk and toasted coconut layer, I figured an addition of something intensely concentrated like coconut essence would break the dish more than build it.

I don’t know if I made the right decision but the end product was so darn delicious! The next time I make this (and I am pretty sure I will!), I will try it with the essence. Until then, I shall do my best at resisting these lovelies.

I have a feeling I am going to stumble a couple of times…

Oh and I finally got to enter my previous post, the creamy saffron-infused Kulfi for the website’s next contest called Your Best Frozen Dessert. This is not a shameless plug but if you have time, you should check this one out. They have a huge collection of delicious frozen treats on display!


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Comfort Food Done Indian

Holidays and winter: two good reasons to think of comfort food. The holly comes out, the heater drones its monotonous tune, you start craving for some good comfort food. But like every Indian worth his salt, even the confused wannabes who tries to go far, far away from the Desiness, I prefer Kootu to Mac and Cheese, spicy Rasam to Meatballs.

So today, I decided to go ethnic here on LH and record something Indian and tasty at that! For people wondering why I don’t do that more often, I would like to inform you that this is a confused Indo-western blog that is still trying to find its footing (which it may never, I suspect). Hence, I decided to bring on the joy of Indian cooking by making Coconut Thuvayal with some hot rice and Appalum.

For the initiated and the un, here is some Gyan: Thuvayal or colloquially, Thogayal, is made of a combination of roasted Dals (lentils), dry red chilies and a variety of different veggies, roots or veggie skins and tamarind, which is optional. Today I decided on the Mister’s favorite, coconut. Though Thuvayal is generally considered an accompaniment, at home, it gets the special treatment of a main dish. So I made a whole lot.

For the ones still confused with the coconut-dal ratio, here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

Grated coconut 1 1/2 cups

Tamarind water 2 Tbsp (a bit of tamarind rind, 2 Tbsp water- mix together and save the water)

Ulutham Paruppu (Urad Dal) 1/4 cup

Thuvaram Paruppu (Tuar Dal) 1/4 cup

Dry red chilies 4

Salt to taste

Perungayam (hing) 2 pinches

For garnish:

Mustard 1 tsp

Curry leaves a couple

Coriander leaves a sprig

Direction:

Fry everything together except the coconut, tamarind water and salt. Mix with the rest of the ingredients. Add a little water and grind finely. When I say fine, I mean super-fine. Adding more water will not be a mistake because the Thuvayal tends to get thicker when stored.

Fry the mustard and curry leaves in oil. Pour on the Thuvayal, garnish with coriander leaves. I am going to let you in on a family secret. I learned this from my mum-in-law. She always saves the stalks of the coriander leaves bunch she buys and adds them in Thuvayal. This adds extra yummy flavor. Try it.

So result time! (At the risk of sounding like my lab instructor) Hubby came home to the wonderful fragrance of freshly cooked rice, Thuvayal and Appalum. Dinnertime came early, at 6pm. Need I say more?