Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


3 Comments

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!


4 Comments

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!


Leave a comment

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!


1 Comment

Why Mommy Should Blog Instead…

mixed veg subziThis here is the reason why my mom should be blogging this post instead of me. I seldom go into the kitchen these days and hardly give an idea for what to make for a meal. Hence, when Amma asked me what we should make for dinner tonight, I, being my ever helpful self, suggested Chapati. I brought Mallika Badrinath’s 100 Delicious Curries book to her and asked her to make any Subzi she fancied from it. And then, I went to sleep. At 2pm. In my defense, I had just put Aarabhi down for a nap and I was excited about taking advantage of the quiet house.

This Subzi, my mother informed me when I tumbled out of bed in search of coffee at 5pm, was a fusion of two sides from the book. It is a wonderful option for Rotis, can be made fancy if you are entertaining and a great accompaniment for Jeera Rice or any fried rice/Pulao/Biriyani you decide to make.

Here is how Amma made it-

Mixed Vegetable Subzi
Two cups mixed veggies (as you know, I always prefer the frozen kind)

One huge onion, chopped

Two tomatoes, chopped

Half cup tomato puree

One Cup low-fat sour cream

Half tsp cayenne pepper powder

Salt to taste

Three Tbsp vegetable oil

Cilantro leaves for garnish

To be ground into a paste:

One tsp poppy seeds, soaked for half hour in warm water

One tsp cumin seeds

Two tsp coriander seeds

Six pods garlic

Method
Heat the oil in a saute pan. Fry the onion until slightly brown. Add the ground paste. Fry until the raw smell goes away. Add a Tbsp sour cream. Add the chopped tomatoes and fry until mushy. Add another Tbsp sour cream the puree and the vegetables. Mix in the salt and cayenne pepper powder. Add the rest of the sour cream. If too thick, add a little water. Let it simmer until semi-solid. Garnish with cilantro.

Now I gotta go!

 


4 Comments

Creamy Indian Treat

I am not a fan of Indian sweets. There, I said it. You can judge me now.

Personally, I feel that they are too sweet (like they are trying a little too hard to stand up to their name), sometimes too rich and come along with so many varieties at the same time that you can easily OD on sweets during festive seasons. Hence, apart from a select list of sweets, I try to stay away from em as much as possible. One of my exceptions happens to be Kulfi, the Indian frozen treat that  is made with dairy and  flavored with green cardamom, saffron and pistachio.

kulfi1

Every Kulfi lover will have one thing in common: an awesome story or two connected with devouring this tasty treat in the summer. Mine includes sleeping in the terrace with my sister and cousins, stalling the Kulfi-wala who used to come calling at our door at 11pm everyday and buying ice cream every single time… until we got sick of it. What makes Kulfi pretty special is the terracotta cup it usually comes in. The mild taste of earth mixed with the sweet taste of cardamom works so wonderfully in this dish that you end up wanting a sliver more than you got in that small cup.

Sadly, I don’t own earthenware cups to store Kulfi in but the extra creaminess I added to this version compensated for that. My beautiful little ice cream maker (yes, to celebrate summer, I bought a basic ice cream maker. I am in love!) whipped up the most delicious bowl of Kulfi. Ever.

Creamy Kulfi Ice cream

Ingredients:
One cup low-fat ricotta cheese

One and a half cup low-fat evaporated milk

Half cup sugar (or Splenda)

Half cup toasted-salted pistachio nuts

Half tsp powdered cardamon

Few strands of saffron

Special equipment: Ice cream maker (optional)

Method:
Heat the evaporated milk in a pan along with the sugar. Take it off heat when it begins to boil. Add the cardamom powder and saffron stands to it and whisk well. Mix in the ricotta cheese, ensuring that there are no lumps. At this stage, the Kulfi mixture is generally poured into popsicle moulds and frozen. But for a creamier ice cream, cool the mixture in the refrigerator for a couple of hours (I chilled it in the freezer for 45 minutes), pour it in the canister of your ice cream maker and freeze. You could eat it as a soft-serve but I recommend freezing it overnight for a creamy ice cream.

kulfiPs: forgive the messy pics. It was a hot day and I was dealing with frozen food. You do the math!


2 Comments

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


4 Comments

Good-bye, Food!

This has got to be the stupidest post I’ve ever written but it is inevitable. I haven’t cooked anything interesting since my last post. I am not motivated and food turns me off. It’s a phase. And you probably guessed the reason too.

I’ve been struggling to keep up with the idea of food and cooking. It is especially painful when you live away from family, with a man who would do anything in this world for me but cook. Let’s not blame him because even if he did cook, I would not want to eat it. Aversion to things I love eating has been following me around.

I crave Indian food, especially that are not all that nutritious for you like Dahi Puri, Kashmiri Naan and things there is no way in hell I can find in remote Alabama. So, I totally cannot wait to get to India in December. Once there, my mommies will cook for me, I will go out to eat with friends and family and feel loved. Until then, I have to trudge through coursework, housework and make sure I stay sane.

No, don’t feel bad for me. This will keep my endurance in check.

I was talking to K today about the sad state my blog is falling into and he suggested I dig into my folders to find food that haven’t posted about. I did. And it turned up some badly composed pictures. But desperation has left me with no choice and I hate picture-less posts.

so this here is Bhel Puri, a more popular cousin of Dahi Puri that I crave. I made this in March and I refused to make it again because it made me miss home more.

This is Knolkol/Kolrabi Kootu and Curried cauliflower. This Alabama is a strange place. We have a multi-ethnic store which stocks a traditional Indian vegetable like Knolkol but hardly sells eggplant. This Kootu is made of coconut, cumin and Thai chili. If you do find Knolkol in your store, I need to warn you though. Select smaller, tender ones because it is a very fibrous root. It takes extensive peeling and cooking to make this tuber edible. But its taste is unparalleled and this is why I go through all that trouble. Grind the coconut, cumin and Thai chili together with a little water.

Cook the Knolkol until tender. Discard excess water, mix in the paste and salt. Let it boil for a few minutes until you get a semi-solid consistency. Optional addition is soaked Bengal Gram Dal. Two Tbsps soaked overnight (or in hot water for 10 minutes). Add to the cooked Knolkol with the paste. Tada!

So this space is probably going to be done with originals. I will keep it alive with things I eat outside, things my mommies cook up for me and general India posting (sans the Slumdog Millionairesque pics). Who wouldn’t like that!