Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


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.


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…


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

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!
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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Cooking with plantain


If you have ever been to Puerto Rico or one of those very Caribbean/tropical countries, you might have seen bunches of green fruit hanging from the banana tree. More often than not, they would turn out to be the raw version of banana. If you wait a little longer and make sure the monkeys and birds don’t bite into them, these green beauties will one day turn into luscious yellow bananas that you can’t wait to take home and bake into a banana nut bread or something as exotic.

Photo Courtesy: The Produce Guide

Photo Courtesy: The Produce Guide (this is how uncooked raw-plantains look. Beautiful, no?)

To me, and many people from the tropics would agree, the best thing about banana is its raw form (though the Mexican fried ripe  plantain is something I love to eat!). In Puerto Rico, you might have tasted two wonderful dishes called Mofongo and Trifongo, which are primarily made from pounded raw bananas with pork or bacon. The meatless Mofongo is the closest you can get to a vegetarian dish in PR so the vegetarians in our group practically lived on it for all the four days when we visited the territory this summer. We had nothing to complain about because each restaurant had its own version which came with dipping sauce with ingredients ranging from pineapples to mayonnaise.

India is no different while dealing with plantains. We love it and use it extensively, especially in states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu. In Kerala, the various versions of raw plantain is fried into chips, cooked, mashed and moulded into delicious sides. In Tamil Nadu, we make Kootu (ah, my saving grace), curry with freshly ground spices, sautes and even Sambar out of the raw banana. At home, Vazhakkai, as we call it in Tamil, is a special entity. The diabetics stay away from it due to its high sugar content. Hence, my mother would make it specially for my sister and me. Diabetes didn’t fray my dad’s passion for making chips from this beautiful vegetable. So on a few rare Sundays, we would find him frying huge batches of perfectly mandolined slices of plantain in a huge Kadai of oil that he would lovingly season with salt, cayenne pepper powder and asafoetida. Sigh…

Last night, I made the simplest of all dishes with this beautiful vegetable. The process was not very pretty so I decided to stay away from clicking pictures. The end product was this wonderful, mildly sweet, perfectly spiced, crunchy outside but soft inside dish I had planned to pair with rice but we ate without any accompaniment. Enjoy!

Vazhakkai Crunchy Curry

Four medium-sized Raw plantains (You can find this in any multi-ethnic grocery store or the Indian store)

Two Tbsp gram or all-purpose flour

One Tbsp cornmeal

Half tsp cayenne pepper powder

A pinch asafoetida (optional)                              You could replace all the spices with curry powder and salt

One tsp turmeric powder

One tsp salt

Two Tbsp oil

Cumin seeds

Curry leaves (optional)

Cut the plantains in half and boil them in hot water for 11 minutes. When done and cool enough to handle, peal the skin like you would a banana and cut into thin rounds. For the marinade, mix the flour, cornmeal and the spices together with a few drops of water to make a thick, dry crumble. Add the plantain pieces to this mixture and make sure they are all well-coated.

Heat the oil in a pan, add the cumin seeds and the curry leaves. When they turn golden brown, add the marinaded plantains and any powder left in the container to the pan. Don’t saute. Turn the heat to medium and let them fry. You might be tempted to turn them just once but fight it. Turn the pieces after five minutes and you will understand why patience is a virtue. The sugar in the plantains would have caramelized and turned the curry golden. Let it go for ten minutes on the other side. Once done, the plantain pieces would have turned crisp, soft, perfectly cooked and other things I mentioned earlier. You can eat it just like that.

This can be served as a starter too. It can be grilled (only cut the plantain length-wise into thin pieces) and give it a pineapple glaze for a very tropical feel. First, you need to go find plantains to cook. Chop, chop!



Ps: the only banana tree I spotted in USA was in NOLA. I am sure there are many out there. I just need to keep my eyes open.