Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


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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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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!


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Beautiful Bharli Vangi aka Bharwa Baingan

I crave eggplant all the time. No, not the huge western kind or the thin, long Asian kind. I mean the mini, fleshy Indian eggplant that is the star of many of my successful recipes. Every region in India has its own signature eggplant dish and the most popular method of making an Indian eggplant curry is stuffing the hell outta these purple lovelies. But what are they stuffed with, is the question. In Southern India, we use a combination of roasted, freshly ground lentils, red chili peppers and a few other condiments. In the upper part of India, they love stuffing them with pickling spices, a puree of onions and tomatoes. In the West, things get more interesting and you will understand why as you read on.

baingan

I found this recipe of Bharli Vangi/Bharwa Baingan (stuffed eggplant), a very tasty Maharashtrian Subzi in one of my recipe books. I’ve been meaning to try it out for such a long time. We had an Indian eggplant scarcity at our ethnic store for most part of winter. The minute they stocked it back a month ago, I’ve been buying them in huge quantities like a crazed person and making different types of stuffed eggplant curries. First came the Enna Kaththirikkai (Oil fried eggplant or as we call it, brinjal), then the Achari Baingan (eggplant gravy stuffed with pickling spices) happened and today, I had to finish off the last of the vegetable in stock. Hence, I made Bharli Vangi and it did not disappoint!

This succulent dish utilizes the Indian eggplant rather wonderfully. The combination of condiments used for the stuffing Masala works surprisingly well together and if you haven’t tried cooking with Indian eggplants, this is your cue. And if you love peanuts, you’ve really got to try it out! It was so good that I am already pining for tomorrow’s lunch…

Bharli Vangi

Ingredients:
Ten baby Indian eggplants

Three Tbsp grated fresh coconut

1/4 cup peanuts

Two Tbsp white sesame seeds

Two dried red chili peppers

One tsp each of cumin and coriander seeds (you can just go ahead and use cumin-coriander powder like I did)

One Tbsp tamarind pulp

Two tsp jaggery (or brown sugar)

1/2 tsp turmeric

Two Tbsp chopped onions plus one head of onion, sliced into strips (I used vidalia but anything is really fine)

Two tsps salt

One tsp mustard seeds

Two Tbsp vegetable oil

Lime wedges and cilantro leaves to garnish

Method:
This dish requires some extra knife work for slitting and stuffing the eggplants so I’ve done my best at photographing the process. I hope it works! 

(L-R) 1. the glorious Indian eggplants 2. Slit the botton, while keeping the stems intact. Stuff the ground Masala generously. 3. Fry it crisp on all the sides in a pan 4. Simmer in the gravy until cooked

(L-R) 1. the glorious Indian eggplants 2. Slit the bottom, while keeping the stems intact. Stuff the ground Masala generously. 3. Fry it crisp on all the sides in a pan 4. Simmer in the gravy until cooked

Slit open the bottom of each eggplant deep enough to stuff the Masala. Leave the stems intact for easier handling. Soak the eggplants in salted warm water for ten minutes. Meanwhile, make the spice mix: Dry roast the grated coconut, peanuts, sesame seeds, chili pepper and cumin-coriander seeds (don’t roast if you use the powder mix) until fragrant. When done, mix in the tamarind pulp, jaggery/brown sugar,  turmeric, two Tbsps of chopped onion and one tsp salt and blend it in a blender until you get a fine paste. Take the eggplants off the water and pat them dry.

Stuff the eggplants with this mixture. Reserve the rest of the mixture for the gravy. Heat a pan with oil, pop the mustard seeds. Add the sliced onions and saute on med-low heat until slightly brow. Add the stuffed eggplants to this party and let it brown on all the sides. You can use the stems of the eggplants for easy navigation on the pan. When the eggplants are brown, add the rest of the Masala, and salt to the pan, pour in a cup and a half of water, turn the heat to low and cover the pan. The eggplants will steam and cook in the gravy. If you notice the gravy drying up, go on and add more water.

The idea is for the eggplants to cook up until nearly mushy and for the gravy to come to a nice thick consistency. It will probably take around twenty minutes to half hour for that to happen. When done, squeeze the lime wedge and garnish with cilantro.

Suggested side for: Chapati, Phulka, Plain Basmati Rice

baingan2


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Best Indo-Chinese Ever!

Oh yes, there really is a cuisine called Indo-Chinese and it is big in India. No, I am not making it up. Being neighbors and all that, Indian and Chinese cuisines share a similar spice palate and a lot of Chinese dishes have been Indianized and cooked all over the country. Every multi-cuisine restaurant worth its salt has a column in its menu solely dedicated to Indo-Chinese food. Beauties like Gobi (Cauliflower) Manchurian, Schezwan Chicken, Egg Fried Rice and Spring Rolls are a few gems from the Indo-Chinese trove. We love it at home because the cuisine offers a lot of vegetarian options.

I have never made a mean Indo-Chinese curry and never thought I ever could. But today, when my culinary creativity was at its lowest and I had this desperate craving for something Indo-Chinese, I decided to make my own version of a family favorite during our Madras Race Club frequenting days: Veggie Balls in Garlic Sauce. The chef at the club restaurant rocked the gravy like no one ever can. And since we were a family full of garlic lovers, we would order it every time we visited MRC. I cannot claim that I made the dish exactly how I like it but the husband loved it and he claims this is the best chow I’ve made in the recent past. I took the compliment rather reluctantly.

So here is how I made it.

Veggie Balls in Garlic Sauce

Ingredients:

For the balls-
One cup shredded cabbage

One cup shredded carrot

One cup chopped onion

(You can add any vegetable you want as long as all of them together make three cups)

Half a cup fresh bread crumbs

Two Tbsp Cornstarch

One large egg

Half tsp Ajino-moto (you can find this in any Asian store)

1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce

Pepper to taste

Oil for deep-frying (or you can make this in the oven. 400°F or 205°C for 30 minutes)

For the gravy-
Eight garlic pods finely chopped

1/4 onion finely chopped (to make it better, replace with a bunch of scallions. Chop and separate whites and greens)

Two Thai green chilies finely chopped

One Tbsp grated ginger

1/4 cup tomato ketchup

Two Tbsp soy sauce

One Tbsp cornstarch

Two tsp brown sugar

Two cups water

A dash pepper

A pinch red chili flakes

Method:

The balls-
Slightly saute the vegetables with soy sauce, pepper and Ajino-moto. Switch off and let it cool. When cool enough to handle, mix the other ingredients. The mixture must be semi-solid which you must be able to mold into balls. Add more bread crumbs if it is a little loose. Make 12 medium-size balls. Deep fry in oil or bake in the oven.

The gravy
Mix together ketchup, soy sauce, cornstarch, sugar, water and pepper. Heat oil in a wok. Add the chopped garlic, onions/scallion whites, chili and ginger. Saute for five minutes on medium-high heat. Add the gravy mixture and switch the heat to low. Let the sauce cook for a few minutes. Increase the heat back to medium-high and let the sauce thicken. When done, add the chili flakes and then turn off.

Add the balls to the pan and let it soak up the good gravy. If you used scallions, garnish the dish with the greens. I did not have scallions so I used normal onion and garnished with cilantro. Very Indian, no?

Ps: This gravy is traditionally eaten with white rice or fried rice but my mom loves it with Naan/Roti or any other Indian flatbread.

I went blog accessory shopping over the weekend. And now, I am in love with my black soup/serving bowl!


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Garlic Kuzhambu à la Chettinad

Saying that Chettinad cooking is the South Indian alternative to Tandoori is a mere understatement. For the uninitiated, Chettinad(u) is a region in Tamil Nadu, native to Natukottai Chettiars, a sect of Tamil-speaking people, primarily (wealthy) entrepreneurs. Chettinad is famous for its cuisine amongst other beautiful things like art, architecture and sarees.

Contrary to popular belief that meat rules Chettinad cuisine; garlic, eggplant (knows as brinjal in India) and a vegetable knows simply as drumstick back home also form a major part of Chettinad food. This cuisine is specifically spicy and every dish that comes out of a Karaikudi kitchen bursts with flavor. Needless to say, many cities all over India  have Chettinad restaurants that serve dishes like Chettinad Chicken, Kara Kuzhambu (spicy gravy) and Paniyaram (little pancake rounds) and people throng these establishments.

I am not from Chettinad. I have never been there. But I have read about it, I have friends who are Chettiars and most importantly, I am a huge connoisseur of Chettinad food. I love the food so much that I strongly wish Antony Bourdain had visited this part of the world before he decided to bid his good-bye to No Reservations. Ah well, his loss.

So, I have collected a lot of vegetarian Chettinad recipes in the past two years but my favorite will always be the garlic Kara Kuzhambu. No matter what, I always come back to in when I need a Chettinad fix. Disclaimer: This recipe has been picked off the internet, modified for spices and flavoring over the past two years. The end-result may not be an authentic, straight from a Chettinad kitchen gravy but it is close enough.

Spicy Chettinad Garlic Gravy

Ingredients:

Ten small shallots (plus two to grind into paste)

Ten garlic pods (plus two to grind into paste)

One huge tomato, chopped

3/4 Tbsp Tamarind paste dissolved in three cups of water (add more tamarind if you like more tang)

One tsp salt

One Tbsp sesame/vegetable oil

Half tsp mustard seeds

Half tsp Channa Dal

A few curry leaves

To be dry roasted:

One tsp Channa Dal

One tsp Tuar Dal

A few peppercorns

Two dried red chilies (the kind you get in Indian/Mexican stores)

1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds

One tsp cumin seeds

(you could replace coriander and cumin seeds with one tsp each of coriander and cumin powders. Just add them after roasting the rest)

Two puffs of Asafoetida (optional)

Method: Dry roast the spices. Mix the shallots and garlic reserved for grinding and give it a whirl in the food processor.

In a pan, add the oil, mustard seeds, Channa Dal and curry powder. Let it splutter. Add the shallots and the garlic and saute for a few minutes. When they start getting soft, add the tomato and saute for a few more minutes. When the tomato begins to turn mushy, add the ground mixture and fry. Now add the tamarind water and let it come to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover the pan and let the gravy create magic. It is done when the gravy loses its raw tamarind taste and  condenses into a semi-solid mixture. At this stage, you can check for seasoning. If it is too tangy, add a little more water. We eat this with rice and a curry on the side.

My mother’s secret weapon is jaggery. This is an Indian sweetener, made from sugarcane. We use jaggery extensively in our sweets and wherever recipes call for sweeteners. My mother adds a tsp of this ingredient to any spicy gravy she makes. You could do that. If you don’t find jaggery, use brown sugar. It is a great substitute.

The beauty of this gravy is that it is so thick that you can use this as a sauce. No kidding. I wonder how it tastes with biscuits…