Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


10 Comments

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…

Advertisements


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!


2 Comments

Making Time for a New, Albeit Random Post

Sigh, it is like a jinx. People asked me how I had time to cook when I had a baby to take care of. And then grad school began. It has been grueling to say the least. For the past one week, I’ve been at my computer, trying to edit (not very appealing) pics I clicked in a hurry. All I can say is thankfully I don’t make money off this blog for one look at the pics and my investors and readers would have gone “Whaaaaat!?!”

On the bright side, weekend is *finally* here and I am looking forward to a couple of interesting blog posts. One of them, a first time recipe and the rest are going to be recreated recipes from the blog. I swear I will take good pictures and share ’em. Happy Friday, y’all!
pongalThis here was last Saturday’s breakfast, Pongal, a wonderful South Indian dish that we love like American South loves its grits. It is filled with protein from Moong Dal, carbs from rice, wonderful flavors like whole pepper seeds, cumin seeds, cashew nuts, curry leaves and finished with a generous amount of browned butter/clarified butter. We eat it with different kinds of chutneys. Um, not the west’s version of a sweet and sour concoction but a spicy side that we make with coconut.

puffInspired by my Germany livin’ bro-in-law, I made egg puff for snack last weekend. He makes it all the time but this was my first. It was also the first time I worked with puff pastry (can ya imagine!). Puff is a quintessential bakery product in India and almost all of us have a favorite bakery which makes puff exactly how we like it. They come in a wide variety, ranging from vegetable filled puffs to ones stuffed with meat. Being a dedicated eggetarian, I love the egg puff from the bakery around the corner from our house. Although it is going to take some time to perfect the art of puff-making, this came out rather wonderfully for a first try.

A typical Indian bakery shelf with a whole range of baked goodies.

A typical Indian bakery shelf with a whole range of baked goodies.

egg spinach rollI came across spinach and herbs flavored tortillas last week at my grocery store, found it pretty interesting and decided to give it a try. Verdict: I’ll skip it the next time and buy my usual low-carb pack. For one, I hated the texture. It was slightly rubbery and became gooey when I stuffed it with the egg salad with croutons and Cesar dressing (on a bed of lettuce, topped with chipotle sauce). Not a pleasant taste but fortunately the salad made up for it.


2 Comments

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.

pbm-parotta

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…

Olan

Ingredients:
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

Method:
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!
Olan2
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.


Leave a comment

Cuppa Joe- Drawing Parallels and Finding Differences

I am not going to talk about how much we South Indians love our “tumbler” of coffee. This concept has already been overdone on a million other Indian food blogs because every South Indian blogger is wildly proud of the filter coffee we grew up drinking or watching people drink. Making it is yet another story. If you need more information, Wiki, as always, has answers.

In another land where people are fiercely protective about their cuppa, it is always an adventure to go shopping for coffee powder and deciding whether decaf or extra dark is the right way to go. My taste in coffee hovers between the two extremes. While I prefer good ‘ol Folger’s for everyday consumption in the American South, I am a sucker for the traditional mug of piping hot filter coffee back home. So when Amma came here, she brought with her a huge bag filled with Coffee Day coffee powder packages that is probably going to last us a few months.

Result: I have temporarily migrated back to my strong filter coffee with a dash of milk and Splenda. Life is perfect again!
strong coffeeSo what is it that distinguishes the South Indian coffee from the All-American coffee? Surprisingly, nothing much! The former is a denser and finer sibling of the latter, hence, it feels like it has more flavor. Moreover, the mouth feel varies between the two primarily because of the difference in the coffee powder-water ratio. South Indians make their base, what we call decoction, thicker and “tar-like” which means a quarter cup of the concentrate and three-quarters a cup of milk makes perfectly strong coffee (boiling the milk also helps the consistency and gives it a special, sweeter taste).

Since the American coffee base contains more water, we end up with a watery (yet tasty) cuppa to which we add just a tiny spot of creamer. This works for me because in America, I love my coffee regular, black and with a hint of sugar.

Of course, the apparatus we use to brew coffee should also be mentioned here, for these contraptions literally decide what kind of coffee you are going to have that day. South Indians may talk all they want but the traditional coffee filter they use actually yields slightly diluted decoction; but thankfully most people in charge of making this brew are finished with this often troublesome contraption and have moved on to the more modern (and more effective) electric coffee maker… which is what I bought on my 2011 trip to India. This trusty little piece of equipment has never let me down and I love her dearly.

Now, you may try making Indian-style coffee with Starbucks’ dark roast in an American coffee maker with lesser amount of water. But it will not be the same and may clog up your coffee maker. Tasty it will turn out, for sure. But really, Indian coffee is redundant without the Indian coffee filter as is American coffee without the American coffee powder!


Leave a comment

Mashed!

Okay, this dish is not literally “mashed” but the native word for this recipe (in Tamil), Masiyal, means exactly that. Me-kinda-thinks the name came about because the lentils and vegetables used in this dish are cooked very fine. Think borderline mashed-That’s how well cooked they are. This mixture is then combined with other flavorings and simmered until it reaches a very thick soup-like consistency. Masiyal belongs to the South Indian Sambar family, which means, it can be eaten with rice as a main dish,  as an appetizer in the form of a thick soup (accompanied by bread, of course) or as a side with Dosa, Idli or Upma. The options, as always, are aplenty.

MasiyalMy mother is an ace at making this dish. Give her any vegetable and she can make a bowl of the most delicious Masiyal ever. So it was only fitting that when I made my (long) list of food I wanted Amma to make when she got here, I included this one. She made it with some Senaikizhangu we had bought at the Indian grocery store a couple of weeks ago. This brings us to that wonderful question I’ve been dreading: what on earth is Senaikizhangu? Erm, well, it is called Elephant Yam in English but I am pretty sure that the rest of the world has no clue about the existence of this tuber. It tastes pretty earthy (duh, right?), has thick brown skin and many a person I know is unfortunately allergic to this yam.

So if you don’t find this vegetable, want to avoid taking a risk with your allergies that are probably playing a havoc in your life already this spring, or have tasted and detest this vegetable from the bottom of your heart, you can make it with carrot, zucchini, yellow squash or okra. But if you are a serious foodie and cannot wait to taste Senaikizhangu, I would suggest you go to a big chain like Patel Brothers (if you live in USA). If you are one of those lucky ones who happen to live in India, you probably know where to get it already.

Senaikizhangu (or any other veggie you fancy) Masiyal

Ingredients:
Two cups of the vegetable of your choice, diced into medium-sized pieces

One cup Toor Dal

Two Tbsps tamarind paste dissolved in two cups of water

Four Thai green chili peppers, slit

One tsp turmeric powder

Half tsp cayenne pepper powder

Pinch of asafoetida

Salt to taste

One Tbsp cooking oil

One tsp mustard seeds

A few curry leaves and a sprig of cilantro (optional but recommended)

To dry roast and grind:

One tsp fenugreek seeds

Three dried red chili peppers

Method:
Pressure cook the vegetables, Dal, turmeric and salt in six cups of water. When done, whisk slightly. Heat a pan with the oil. Add the mustard seeds. When they start popping, add the green chili peppers, curry leaves and asafoetida. Pour in the tamarind water. Add a little salt and let it boil on medium heat for a few minutes until the raw flavor of tamarind leaves. Add the Dal/Veggie mixture to the pan and mix in the cayenne pepper powder and ground fenugreek powder. Check for salt. If the consistency is too thick, add a little water. If it is too thin, whisk in some rice or AP flour. Off the heat and garnish with cilantro.

I had it with rice today and have some stored for breakfast tomorrow… and lunch. And hopefully for dinner again.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend, folks!

Masiyal2


2 Comments

Sunday is for Biriyani

I cannot believe this is my first post on Biriyani! It is my all-time favorite dish and can eat it everyday if I had to. Thankfully, this world is big enough for more than hundred versions of Biriyani recipes and this one is from one of my best friends, A. It has a wonderful flavor and the spices can be adjusted according to how you want it to taste. This recipe was for Chicken Biriyani but since we are all non-meat eaters at home, I converted it into a very tasty egg biriyani. And boy! It sure doesn’t disappoint.

The vegetables you add could range from frozen vegetables in a bag or freshly cut ones. You can add mushrooms or Paneer (Indian cottage cheese) also to make it more interesting. But really, even without vegetables other than onion and tomato, this is an awesome dish and one I keep going back to!

Here is how I made it:

Spicy Egg Biriyani

Ingredients
One huge onion, chopped

Two Roma tomatoes, chopped

One cup mixed vegetables (if using)

Four pods of garlic, grated

One inch piece ginger, grated

Four Thai red chilies

One tsp turmeric powder

Half tsp cayenne pepper (this can be omitted or the quantity can be reduced)

One and a half tsp Garam Masala ( reduce if you hate a strong Masala taste)

Two tsp salt

Half a bunch cilantro

Half a bunch mint leaves

A generous pinch dry fenugreek leaves/Kasuri Methi (You could buy this in the Indian store or just omit it. But it does add a wonderful taste that cannot be replaced with anything else)

Spices-
A two inches stick of cinnamon

Two pods of cardamom

Two pieces of cloves

One bay leaf

Four Tbsp vegetable oil (or replace two with butter for extra flavor

One and a quarter cups Basmati rice

Two and a half cups water

Four hard-boiled eggs

Method
Before you start cooking, soak the rice in some water. In a dutch pan or a heavy bottom pan, heat the oil/butter. Reduce the heat to medium, add the spices to the pan and fry lightly. When the fragrance of the spices fills your kitchen, add the onion, ginger, garlic and chilis. Saute for a few minutes and add the tomatoes. This is when you add your other vegetables too if you are using. That includes mushrooms. If using Paneer, add it after the biriyani is completely done. Now mix in the turmeric, cayenne, salt and Garam Masala. While the vegetables cook, drain the rice and add it to the pan. Fry for a few minutes until the water is all absorbed. When done, add the cilantro, mint and Fenugreek leaves.

Pour in the water, give it a swish and check for salt. If it is spicier for your taste, don’t worry. The rice will absorb it as it cooks. Now close 90% of the pan with a lid and let it cook for seven minutes. The rice will be half cooked by then. Give it a gentle toss, replace the lid and turn the heat to low. Cook it for roughly eight more minutes, until the water is all absorbed and the rice and vegetables are cooked. You can add the Paneer now. The South Indian Biriyani is never too flaky. It is a little lumpy but not mushy.

Serve hot with Raita and the egg. Yumm!