Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


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Third Anniversary Deserves Something Sweet

My WordPress Notifications informed me that today is this blog’s third anniversary. As a blog that has evolved over time and become what I did not imagine even in my wildest dreams would become, it is time for some celebration indeed. Hence, I decided to do it with something sweet, Rava Laddu.

You might have seen a Boondi Laddu, even a Motichur Laddu but not even in your wildest dreams would you have come across the Rava (Semolina) Laddu… unless you are India, of course. No, your local Indian restaurant or store is not going to carry this delicate sweet. You have got to go online and find the recipe. Since it is a specialty in the city of Madurai in Tamil Nadu, which happens to be my mom-in-law’s hometown, I did not have to go looking for the recipe anywhere.
rava laddooAfter rummaging through my pantry a month ago, she came across a packet of pre-made Laddu mix (that she had made the year before when we visited home) and was slightly horrified bordering on miffed to know that I hadn’t made it yet. So praying to all the deities that it shouldn’t have gone bad, she ventured into making delicious Laddus for snack one day. The Rava Laddu, what can I say about these beauties? Semolina is gently fried until slightly brown and then sugar is added along with cardamom powder. This is sauteed again on gentle heat until golden brown and aromatic. Fried nuts are mixed into this powder, along with a generous amount of Ghee (brown butter) and this mixture is gently molded into small spheres by loving hands.

The result is a very decadent sweet that is extensively made during Deepavali in India. But Amma made it as a snack at home. Can you blame me for making a dinner out if Rava Laddus?
rava laddoo2


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A Picture Post for an Old Recipe

Today will not be about word counts or getting my recipe right. It will not be a story about family, memories or life as I know it. Instead, this post will be about a recipe I’ve already made but with a prettier picture that I snapped with with a better camera. If you like the update, drop me a line. You will make me happy!

cookie sandwich revampAnd so I log off before my computer’s battery runs out…


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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!


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Jammin’

You know those random weird cravings you get sometimes? I had that a couple of days ago. For tomato jam. Not any ordinary tomato jam but my dad’s special stash that he used to make on very rare weekends. The last time he made it was a year before he passed and that batch is, well, long gone. This time, I decided to make some but I had a little problem: I did not know the recipe. I called my mother and she gave me a vague and very easy recipe. Though I was skeptical (sorry, Amma. Less sass from now, I promise), I decided to try it out. What could really go wrong with boiling tomatoes and sugar, really?

Nothing. So after an hour of letting it boil and splatter in a pan under a lid, I let it cool and gingerly scooped it with a spoon to taste. If it had been an Indian movie, nostalgic background music would have played. I would have had a montage of childhood scenes rolling on the screen. Instead, I let out a deep sigh and went back to the pan for more. Appa’s spirit was probably smiling down on me 🙂

Here is the short recipe

Ingredients:

Ten Roma tomatoes chopped

Two cups sugar

Two Tbsp lime juice

Method:

Saute the tomatoes until they start getting mushy. Stir in the sugar and lime juice. When the sugar dissolves, turn the heat to medium-low. Stir regularly as the mixture cooks and comes together into a jam-like consistency. As it thickens, the jam will splatter so closing the pan with a lid is the key, unless you want scotch marks all over your arms and a stick cook top.

*I used the tomatoes and two Tbsp of tomato paste for color.

*This makes a semi-solid jam.

*If you like it to be smooth, give the tomatoes a whirl in the blender before you transfer them to a pan.

This recipe can also be used for canning. The lime acts as a preservative.

This is nothing but a basic, unadulterated, tomato jam. It doesn’t have an underlay of other flavors or the kind of depth you expect exotic recipes to have. I can eat a whole jar in a week and come back for more. But I wont… I shall resist.