Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


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Appa’s Sweet Potato Chips

One of the things I miss the most about Appa is his crispy, salty-sweet sweet potato chips. Amongst other things, of course. There have been countless Sundays (his only off day) we used to find him standing over a pot of hot oil and wielding a mandoline in one hand and a chunk of sweet potato, also called VaLLikizhangu in Tamiil, in the process of making the crispiest chips in the world! It used to be raw plantain sometimes but no matter which vegetable, his chips had a huge fan following at home and outside, for I remember fighting over a bag of these yummies with my friends at college once.
sweet potato chipsBut then, I never bothered asking him how he managed to it so delicious, so perfect every time. Or I probably knew the reason already- culinary trance. Although I some how feel he would have disown that term with horror if I had mentioned it to him, I kinda get the feeling that it was exactly that. So when I wanted to make it at home three years ago, I asked my mother for the recipe and she thought I had gone crazy. It was the easiest thing to make: grate the sweet potatoes, heat the oil, fry them and add salt to the container you put the chips it, close the lid and shake the box until dizzy.

I followed the recipe. And I failed. I also had to give up making it because back then, we used to live in a super-tiny apartment and the fire alarm there could weirdly sense when I was about to fry. I swear it would go off the minute I start heating up the pot of oil. But things have changed since then. I have a better command over the kitchen now, have since disowned my grater and finally and most importantly, we live in a better apartment with tall ceilings and better ventilation now. So a week ago, I decided that it was time to put Appa’s recipe to test again.

I was not disappointed this time! I ended up with the crispiest bowl of perfectly browned chips. How did I do it? I ditched the mandoline and “hand-crafted” my chips. Yes, I used a knife (and felt secretly pleased at my gradually acquired knife skills). Moreover, I practiced the art of keeping my hands to myself and resisted adjusting the temperature every time I felt like it. It was at the medium mark all through (after heating it up at high, of course!). And finally, at the fear of breaking my precious chips while mixing in the salt, I sprinkled some as soon as they got out of the oil pot. I have seen people doing this on television. It was bound to be a sensible thing to do, and it was.

I ended up missing Appa extra lot, of course. But I wagged a chip up at heaven as we sat eating our lunch. I am sure he was pretty proud of the chip maker in me!

 

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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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Making Yogurt

Until a year and a half ago, I never knew that you could buy yogurt at the store. At least not the kind you get here in the USA. Yogurt in India is always flavored. If we needed the kind we get here, we would always make it and it was called curd. Curd was available in stores, of course, but we seldom bought it.

Yogurt is one of the simplest thing you will ever make in life but back at home, it was a tradition of sorts. My grandmother always made it look nothing short of a brief ceremony and her grandchildren were seldom allowed to make it. She probably was afraid that we would add a tad too much of yogurt to the milk which would make it sour. My home was always known for a never-ending supply of sweet tasting yogurt in the refrigerator so I kind of understand her trepidation. Now, yogurt in India is a staple part of our pantry. We eat it with rice; add water, salt and sugar and make Lassi, Neer Mor or what we call buttermilk in India and even use it in side-dishes.

Its an ancient belief that the hand that makes the yogurt decides its outcome: When some people make it, it would come out perfectly but when others make it, there will be an overload of tang, which some people savor. And I was not one of them. Hence I should consider myself lucky because I have a sweet yogurt hand which my mother let me develop when she eventually took over the kitchen back in India after my grandmother passed. Let the old wives’ tale not bother you because I think it is your control over the yogurt that really decides its tang level.

Anyway, when I landed here, I got into the habit of buying yogurt, which used to cost anywhere between ¢.99 and $2.99 for a 32 fl.oz. (low fat). I used to buy 2% milk and make it sometimes and it always worked out cheaper at $3.29 for 1 gallon (138 fl.oz) When we got into the organic mode of life, I figured it would be even more economical to make yogurt regularly ($6.29 for 1 gallon vs. $4.29 for 32 fl.oz). It is, look at how much I am saving!

So here is an easy recipe for making yogurt at home. All it requires is a gallon of 2% milk (or full-fat milk if you are making Greek yogurt), which you have to boil on med-low for 30-45 minutes, until it forms a thin layer of cream on the top. Let it rest until it becomes warm. To this, add two Tbsp of store-bought yogurt. Mix it, close it with a lid and let it hang out in a warm place on your kitchen counter (the oven, with the lights switched on works very well). Now, we’ve got to wait… for 8 hours. The yogurt would have set, kind of like custard. Refrigerate it and use it as you would regular yogurt.

Oh yeah, that simple!

Update: Use whipping cream instead of milk if you want to make sour cream. You don’t have to boil or even heat it, let it be at room temperature.

Ps: Ladles and High heels is looking forward to a format change from the next post. I got a crash course from a friend about blog photography and he recommended that I do away with something and add something else on. So here is me looking forward to the newer format too!


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Anniversary Surprises and a Brownie

So the calendar informed me that we’ve been married for a year. I wish I could contradict that by claiming temporary amnesia   but there, the verdict has been declared. Though hurricane Irene played a havoc with the Mister’s surprise plans phase 2 and 3 (which he still hasn’t disclosed to me), we sure had an awesome lunch at Mie N Yu in the District.

As for the gifts, I got a huge bag of baking goodies: a set of 3 spring foam pans, a lush brownie pan and a set of shiny wall decals. The man, I admit, sure knows his audience and he also know how to get assured returns from his investments. Why, you ask me? Well, after bidding good-bye to Irene and reveling in a day of beautiful sunshine and breeze, I broke into my brownie pan, unable to resist the temptation.

My initial plan was to make Ina’s Outrageous Brownies, a universal favorite here in the pad. I first made it when our cousin came to spend a week with us this summer and she made washing up a mighty easy job by licking the bowl, ladle and the cups clean. Today the hubby took over the job and I finished making the brownie.

Soft chocolate, with a hint of vanilla and coffee and a crunch of half-melted chocolate-chips, Ina has done good stuff to the spirit of chocolate and caffeine lovers everywhere. I managed to click pictures before we gobbled up a couple of pieces jealously.

Since I got the recipe from foodnetwork.com/ina-garten (no, I did not copy that from the address bar, I have the link memorized), I am not going to plagiarize or even reproduce it with a courtesy tag. To make things easier, I have linked it to the post. My last Gyan would be this: if you are a wannabe baker like I am, you’ve gotta try this out.

Magic brownie pan or not, Ina’s recipe is unrivaled!


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Das Purple Experiment

A couple of weeks back, the husband pounced gleefully on a pound of pesticide-free beetroot at our grocery store. After I made the traditional curry one day, the half a bag that didn’t make it to the frying pan solemnly returned to the veggie tray in the fridge. Last night, I came-by it by chance and decided to make something out of it. Now, I am adventurous with my food by I knew that making Sambar or such out of it would only reduce it to a mere reserve vegetable. I skimmed web sites as always, for a quick dinner fix but I found out that though people love it, the beetroot is one of the most boring tuber to cook. Long(er) story short, I made a Subzi, ate it with Chapati, we loved it, ergo I am posting the recipe here. Pardon a pictureless post, I forgot to click one in the gastronomic excitement.

Ingredients:

One medium-sized onion fine-chopped

Three pieces of garlic grated Rachel Ray style

One medium-sized tomato fine-chopped

Four beetroots peeled and chopped like you would for a curry

Salt to taste

Kashmiri Mirch powder

One tsp sugar

One cup thick curd

Coriander aka. Kothamalli

To grind:

One and a half tsp Jeera

One tsp rice

Quarter tsp pepper

One tsp Garam Marsala

To saute:

One Tbsp Ghee

Method:

In a saute pan, melt the ghee on medium flame. Fry the onion and the garlic until the onion turns golden. Add the chopped tomato and let it cook. Meanwhile, grind coarse, the spices. When the tomato is half-cooked, add the beetroot, the ground spices, the chili powder, salt and sugar. Let the beetroot cook, it takes fifteen minutes. Add the curd and let it continue to cook until the curd comes together like Malai/Khoa. Switch the stove off and garnish with the coriander leaves. Tada, you now have a tasty Subzi to eat with Chapati or rice.

Now, don’t be greedy. Give him some… like a tablespoon full?