Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


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Pumpkin Pie Spice and Pumpkin Spice Latte

If you have been following the fan page on Facebook, you would be very aware of the fact that I am obsessed with pumpkin at the moment. It is as much a fall thing as it is my personal palate thing. Although I am pretty late getting into this pumpkin everything game, I can tell you that I am fully committed. In fact, I took a pledge to get out there and try everything there is to try with pumpkin! Now, my house plays host to the spicy sweet fragrance of a pumpkin-spice candle and it is only the beginning. So before I begin to tell you about the goings on in my pumpkin perfumed home, let me paint you a picture about the first time I tried this wonderful warm flavor that has become the fall colors equivalent of the culinary world:
Pumpkin spice mixIt was a warm (what else did you expect from the south?) fall day in 2013, we hit the park with a surprisingly cheerful four month old. After walking for a bit, Kishore, Amma and I decided to go to Dunkin’ Donuts because Amma needed  to taste a proper donut, the American pride. Krispy Kreme was out of question because, well, it was further away compared to DD. I decided to bring fall into my tall glass of cold latte and opted for the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Needless to say, I was hooked proper for not even a crying baby could pry me away from my latte. And thus began my experiments with commercially made pumpkin latte. I tasted it in Starbucks, the official home of the PSL; I had it at Einstein Bros Bagel (aka, my favorite spot at college) and then some more at DD.

Although Starbucks does make the best PSL, I, like a good (erm, the jury is still out on that!) enthusiastic blogger, just had to try my hands at making some. So before I began the experim-erm-cooking, I had to find some spice mix. So instead of buying a box, I decided to make mine. I mean, there are a zillion blogs out there that give you the recipe. You must be cuckoo to actually go out and buy that stuff!

My favorite recipe is from The Kitchn and it is perfect as it is. But the mix is so accommodating that you can play around with the quantity of the spices and personalize it according to your preference. The one advantage of running a predominantly Indian kitchen is how easily available each of these spices are. My pantry already had ground ginger (also called Sukku Podi in Tamil), ground cinnamon, ground clove, all-spice powder, ground nutmeg and mace! Talk about luck and the lack of need to substitute with some random spice!
Pumpkin spice mix2 Thus the pumpkin spice was born, the primary reason I ditched my boring old coffee this morning and whipped up some pumpkin spiced latte (with ice, of course!). Since a few of my friends and faithful fan page followers (hem-hem, take the cue, people, and go like it!) asked for the recipe, I decided to put it up here. I adopted it from The Kitchn‘s recipe but made quite a few alterations to suit my taste.
Pumpkin spice lattePumpkin Spice Latte

Ingredients:
Two Tbsp mashed pumpkin (I used it off a can)

One tsp pumpkin spice mix (and more for sprinkling)

Two Tbsp sugar

One cup milk

Half cup ice cubes

One Tbsp vanilla essence

One tsp instant coffee powder (I used Nestcafe Clasico but you can actually brew your coffee with water and freeze it in an ice tray. Just eliminate the ice in that case)

Whipped cream (optional, I didn’t use it)

Method:
Place the mashed pumpkin and the spice mix in a saute pan and cook them for a couple of minutes. However, I skipped this step and didn’t think it made a difference to the taste. Pour all the other ingredients into a blender. Add in the pumpkin mix. Process until the ice is crushed and the latte turns frothy. Transfer to a glass and enjoy the pumpkin-y goodness all season long!

Mmm, don’t mind if I do!

Ps: So about the spice bottle- I’ve been getting questioned about it. Although I haven’t branched into commercially producing spice mixes, I do have future plans to. I have a store on etsy.com but don’t search for it since it has literally nothing in it. I have stowed the idea away for the future when my schedule is slightly free and I don’t have to bend over backwards to get my very basic-daily chores done (I hear laughing in my head).

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Ginger Snap Memories

I have always loved ginger cookies. Back home, we call these ginger biscuits. We have this bakery called McRennett in Madras which has been around since pre-Independence days (which is why the English/Scottish name). When I was younger, my mom used to work and she would bring us back tasty McRennett treats from an outlet near her work. The store expanded as I grew up and quite a few of them popped up near where we lived.

It was at McRennett that I tasted my first cinnamon bun, Swiss roll and other yummy pastries. My paternal grandfather (Thatha) used to love ginger biscuits and people would buy it from McRennett when they used to visit him. His personal pantry was always open to his lucky granddaughters and he would indulge us in rummaging through it on weekends and summer holidays. My favorite treats from my Thatha’s stash would always be ginger snap cookies and orange sugar candies.

I had quite a volatile relationship with my grandfather while I was growing up. My grandparents lived with us and Thatha disapproved of quite a few things I did in my growing up years. Those dark years didn’t really stop him from indulging me in the weekly treats. Thankfully, all that passed and we formed a strong bond for the last seven years of his life. So after Thatha passed away, a few of us grandchildren got together in his room one day, rummaged through his pantry and feasted on what was left of his goodies while sharing wonderful stories about him. So these gingersnap cookies might as well be a tribute to my Thatha. Only thing is, the store-bought ones were always darker in color and crunchier in texture. But they had the same wonderful ginger taste.

Ginger also happens to be one of those doc-recommended flavor for me so I am all on board!

This time, when I go to Madras, I will make sure I stop at a McRennett outlet and buy a few goodies.


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Summertime is Pickle Time

I have the most amazing recipe to share today and I am bursting with excitement. Summer is officially the pickle and crunchy things making month back home. Come May, you would find women and (as it is in my family) men up in the terrace writing Vethal (the South Indian version of Papadum) with their wonderfully flexible wrists. Since ’tis also the season for mangoes, lemons and lush ginger, you would also find them relentlessly busy, making spicy pickles in the kitchen. My grandmother used to be the queen of summer food and my aunts and father followed her well-trodden footsteps. On the way, they made their own changes to the well-established recipes but during family get-togethers, they would always talk about Paati’s pickles.

The other day, I was out grocery shopping (what else is new, you ask me?) and stumbled upon wonderful ginger roots. They were juicy, fragrant and brazenly calling out to me. I had no other choice but to buy three gigantic roots of ginger. Don’t look at the screen like I’ve gone crazy because I had huge plans for the root. When I got home, I cut one of the gingers into huge chunks, sealed them in Ziplocks and stored them in the freezer (Rachel Ray, thank you very much!). I packed the other two in another Ziplock and put the bag in the fridge… because I was planning to use them soon.

Coming back to the story, while Aavakkai (a pickle made of raw mangoes, mustard and chili powder) was our all time favorite, we found space for gems like Mavadu (baby raw mango pickle), lemon and ginger pickle in our palate. One such pickle is the Puli-Inji (Tamarind-Ginger) pickle. It is a native of Kerala, one of the southern Indian states. Since my grandmother spent most of her teens in Kerala, she adopted the lifestyle, food, language and all, and was very proud of it. Hence, we took wonderful Kerala dishes like Avial, Eriseri and Puli-Inji for granted.

When I saw the ginger in the store, it struck me. I was going to make Puli-Inji. While this is a spicy little side-dish, I assure you that you will fall in love with it. You can always play with the quantity of each ingredient to make it less-spicy, more tangy, etc. I researched online, adapted the recipe from nearly five websites (Puli-Inji is famous!) and ended up with my own. So here we go:

Ingredients:

Two and a half cups of ginger (One huge head of ginger yields that much), peeled and roughly chopped

Five Thai chilies (this makes a very spicy pickle)

One Tbsp tamarind pulp (Indian store, it comes in a bottle. That is the easiest way to deal with tamarind)

One cup water

One tsp salt

One and a half tsp chili powder (again, spice quotient will be high so this is optional)

Three Tbsp jaggery (this is the Indian substitute for sugar. Has high iron content. It is easily available in Indian grocery stores. If you don’t want to buy it, use brown sugar), grated

One tsp mustard seeds

A few fenugreek seeds (Indian store again but this is optional. These seeds are very bitter and used sparingly in Indian cooking)

A few sprigs of curry leaves

Half cup oil (I used sesame oil because I love the taste. You can use any oil other than olive. And don’t worry, we will not use all that while cooking)

A shake of asafoetida

Method:

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottom pan. When it is hot enough, add the ginger pieces and fry on medium-high. When it turns golden brown, with darker brown edges, add the chilies and toss once. Switch off the heat and scoop the fried ginger and chilies out. When cool enough to handle (I gave it an ice water bath), grind it smooth in the mixer. Discard half the oil. Heat the oil again, add mustard. When it starts to pop, add the fenugreek seeds, curry leaves and the asafoetida. Now add the ginger mixture, salt and chili powder (if using). Dissolve the tamarind pulp in the water and add it to the mixture along with jaggery.

When the mixture starts to boil, turn the heat to medium-low. Let the pickle cook until the water is 80% absorbed and the oil separates from it. Switch the heat off, check for salt and let it cool. Transfer to a container, seal it and store in the refrigerator.

What can you eat this with, you ask me? Use it as a spread, dip, add a little water to two tsp of the pickle and marinate veggies or meat. Use it as a glaze for not-so-sweet dessert. Go crazy!