Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I like this Italian salad for the obvious reason that it is addictively delicious. And that we can use up leftover breads. Especially when there is a little more than usual, after a frenzied bread-baking period.
And I can pretend that I am eating healthy as there are  some vegetables in here --( compare it to bread pudding! another item that I like ). The other day we had to do a lot of work in the yard, including some big time tree pruning. By the time it was done, we really appreciated the crunch and chewiness of this salad. Along with a glass of wine, it tasted like heaven!

I am not going to do the ingredients list for this one. hehe

Let's  go straight to the making. This is what  I did -- dont know if it's the right way, but it worked fr me.

400° F oven. Halve a baguette lengthwise or cut long thick strips of a boule on a baking sheet. Toast in oven for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile heat two or three tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. Medium heat. Add a few crushed - 4 or 5 - cloves of garlic. Let'em sweat in there. (serves them right! ). Now is the time to prepare the veggies you want to add. I had some yellow cherry tomatoes -- about 2 cups, an orange bell pepper, a few diced  red tomatoes, and some arugula. Of course, a sliced red onion should be there. And chopped fresh basil. . Put all these except the arugula in a large mixing bowl. Add a little salt and freshly ground pepper. Check the garlic. Add crushed red pepper flakes to the oil, if you like. I did. You may take out the garlic chunks now, if you prefer. Pour in the hot  garlic oil into the mixing bowl with the veggies. . Toss well. Get the toasted bread out of the oven, and tear  to bite sized pieces. Add that to the bowl. Toss . Add the arugula. Toss. A round of olive oil, if you like. Sprinkle goat cheese on top. Garnish with more basil. Enjoy with a glass of wine. :)

PS: You may add other veggies to this salad, grilled or pan-seared for a minute or two. Zucchini, butternut squash, green beans, mushrooms and asparagus -- all will add spice and substance to the experience. and what if we added various meats or fish? wow.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Kerala yellow split pea & snake gourd stirfry---parippu-padavalanga thoran

A simple Kerala meal has three main dishes to accompany rice. One dish with a sauce that can be mixed with the rice, called chaarukoottan. This could be a lentil-based vegetable stew-like dish, a yogurt-based dish with sauce, a broth-like vegetable dish, a coconut milk based dish, or a fish or meat or egg dish with sauce. The second accompaniment to rice is a dry or semi-dry dish -- this could be a vegetable stirfry called thoran or a mezhukkupuratti, or meat stirfry, or a lentil, or egg. The third side would be a varavu -- a fried something. Again, this could be a fried fresh or dried, salted fish, a fried vegetable or fried meat. Salads like pachadi, kichadi are other sides. Pappadams, pickles, relishes and kondaattams and yogurt are always there, as sides that enhance the whole meal.

This recipe here is a tasty accompaniment to rice and sambar or rasam, or rice and any meat or fish stews. Basically, it is a lentil-vegetable stirfry. It is a "thoran" because it has coconut in it. A really simple meal would be if we had this with rice and yogurt and a hot or tangy pickle.


yellow split pea - 1/2 cup
snake gourd, cut in small pieces- 2 cups approx.
onion, cut in half and sliced, - 1/2 cup
garlic, crushed - 4 cloves
turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
crushed red pepper - 1-2 tsp
coconut, grated - 1/2 - 3/4 cup
mustard - 1/2 tsp
dried red chili, broken into 2 pieces- 2
curry leaves
oil - 3 tbsp

Soak the yellow split pea in water for a few hours. Cook with a pinch of turmeric till tender, not mushy.

Prepare the snake gourds. Cut into pieces, and cook in a little water, till tender but firm.

Heat oil in a wok or skillet. Pop the mustard seeds. Add onion and garlic and curry leaves.Add the dried red chili peppers, and the crushed red pepper. Saute for a few minutes till onion is wilted and garlic is a light brown. Add the grated coconut. Stir well. Medium heat. Saute for a few minutes. Add the cooked lentil and snake gourd. Stir well. Add enough salt. Mix well till everything is incorporated.

Serve with rice along with a chaarukoottaan., or by itself, with yogurt, and a pickle, if you like.

A note about the rice -- all the above dishes go best with Kerala matta rice.


However, the parboiled rice that we use here does the job all right too.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Shortbread thumbprint cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
11/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt

raspberry jam for filling

350°F oven.

Whip butter till fluffy. Stir in sugar + cornstarch + flour.
Beat well -- 3-4 minutes on high.
Make 1" inch balls out of dough. Place each ball 1" apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Make small indentation with thumb in the center of each dough ball. Chill for 20 minutes at this point -- optional.
Fill each indentation with a scant 1/4 tsp jam.
Bake for 10 -12 minutes, till the edges begin to turn a very light golden brown.

Transfer cookies to cooling rack.

adapted from allrecipes.com

Monday, October 29, 2012

The stew in the movie "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly"

This scene from one of my favorite Clint Eastwood movies is a very sad one. It upsets me to see this dangerous intrusion. But for a while now, I've been focused on the food on that table. Now, whenever I see this scene I get real hungry. At such times, anything won't do. I want that same stew in those same bowls, on that rugged table, with the same chunks of rustic bread. I had to make that stew.
Off I went to googleland and of course there is a page where people discuss this. The movie was made in Spain, the director was Italian. A writer on that page points out that the director kept yelling to Lee Van Cleef to "eat the minestrone", so it could be minestrone. I learn from a Spanish person on that site that the stew would definitely be Andalucian -- specifically of the Almeria and Granada provinces, where the movie was made.  The food must have been catered from local sources.

According to the Andalucian recipe  the main ingredient would usually be rabbit or chicken, with some veggies including potatoes, broad beans, leeks, and cabbage, and also dried beans. He also suggests  that the stew would have turmeric, cumin, and crushed black  pepper. There is a recipe there too, which is very similar to some of the stews and soups (so-called curries) that we make back home, the only difference being in the use of stock. We mostly use coconut milk, water or lentils cooked to a paste and diluted. Then I read more about the cuisine of the Andalucian regions. Apparently it had a rich Arabian flavor -- so saffron was used too.

After incorporating all these details, I had to make something that I know the folks around here will eat. So I chose beef as the meat. I couldn't get any broad bean/ fava bean -- so I used lima beans. And of course I made it hot. With the rustic bread I made, the stew was a success. I am glad to say that it was devoured as hungrily and enjoyed as deliciously, as by some of the characters in the movie.

rustic Spanish stew from the movie "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly"

Here's the recipe:


beef for stew -- 2 lb
black pepper, ground -- 1 tsp
paprika - 1/2 tsp
onions, chopped -- 1/2 cup
garlic, 6 cloves, crushed
leeks, 2 stems chopped
green onion, cut at an angle, in 1'' pieces
green chili pepper -- 4 (optional)
crushed red pepper flakes - 1-2 tsp ( as per your preference)
turmeric - 1 tsp
saffron - a pinch or two
cumin - 1 tsp
Yukon gold potatoes, peeled whole - 4
half a napa cabbage, shredded roughly
1- 2 cups lima beans, cooked ( I used a packet of frozen lima)
beef stock -- 3 cups ( I use knorr's)
Olive oil
salt, as needed


Clean meat. Add the black pepper and paprika to the meat and mix well.
Heat some olive oil -- 1 or 2 tbsps -- in a cast iron pot or any other stew pot, and brown the meat. This step is optional.
Remove the meat from the pot. Add a tablespoon ( or as needed) of olive oil.
Saute the onions, garlic, green chili, and leeks in the oil, till they wilt. Medium heat. Add the turmeric, cumin and crushed red pepper flakes to this. Stir well. Now add the meat. Pour in the stock. Bring it to a boil.
Add the potatoes. Reduce heat. . Let it simmer. Add the saffron. Cover and cook for 20 to 30 minutes. Check the potatoes with a fork. Now add the green onions, and the cooked lima beans. Add the roughly shredded napa cabbage. Give the stew a good stir. With a fork, split the potatoes, for that rustic look. Add more water, and bring to boil, in order to get the consistency you prefer.

Serve with rustic bread.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Kerala meat masala

Row 1 from L -cinnamon, poppy seed
Row 2 from L -star anise, fennel seeds, cloves
Row 3 from L -cardamom, ground nutmeg, black peppercorns
Kerala/ Malabar has been the land of spices from ancient times, as early as King Solomon's times. And Malayalis obviously use a lot of spices in their food.

Like I keep saying, the masala mix varies according to the family, the region, the community, the state etc. etc. Google it, and you'll get many entries. But for the Malayali, the most common basic meat masala mix is the same, more or less.

Here I am going to share my mom's basic mix (picture above). We can always add to this, the other usual culprits  -- turmeric, coriander, red and green chili, cumin, asafoetida, fenugreek, mustard, poppy seed, ginger, garlic, bay leaves, curry leaves etc. according to the recipe. Not all recipes need all the spices.

The basic meat masala mix is somewhat like the Chinese five-spice, except that we have about 8 spices in the mix. I have the Malayalam words for each too :

cloves -- karayampu or grampu
cinnamon -- karukapatta
fennel -- perumjeerakam
black pepper-- kurumulaku
star anise-- thakkolam
cardamom -- aelakka
nutmeg+mace -- jaathikka + jaathipathri
poppy seed-- kashakasha

Now, the proportions  -- for one or two ( or 3 -- I am not trying to be difficult, but will make sure next time) tablespoons of masala mix: 8-10 cloves, 3-4 1" flat cinnamon pieces, 1 tsp of fennel seeds, 1 tsp of black peppercorns, 3 star anise, 6 cardamoms, 1/8 tsp of nutmeg, 1 tsp poppy seed, a pinch of mace. ( normally we use 1-2 tsps of the mix for a 2 lb. meat dish.)

Sometimes fennel is omitted, at other times, poppy seeds. So it's kind of personal, you see? Back home, we buy spices in bulk from a wholesale spice store, and get them ground and mixed by the shopkeeper. That's an easy way for  moms to send it with their children who live far away. But when you have the time, the spices are dry roasted and ground and packed in airtight bags. Refrigerating the mix is recommended in such cases, when you have larger quantities. The ideal way is to dry roast and grind your spices right when you are making your dishes -- which is what most households do back home. I do that when I feel like going that extra mile. But for nutmeg, I use the ground version, which is not ideal, they say.- :)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Carrot- Coriander soup

This soup is mentioned in a Betty Neels novel. The recipe I have used here, is by Jamie Oliver. A good Fall soup. It tastes like a simple, Indian soup or "curry", btw.

carrot-coriander soup

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 lb. carrots, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground coriander
2 pints vegetable stock
3 tbsps chopped fresh coriander ( cilantro)
a squeeze of lemon juice
freshly grated nutmeg to taste
salt, pepper
single cream (use whipping cream) for garnish

1/2 tsp mustard or cumin seeds (optional) -- Pls. see my Note.

Heat oil --> onions, carrots, garlic = soft. <---+ coriander powder+ salt+ pepper. <--- stock = boil.
Cover & simmer - 20 minutes. <--- fresh cilantro. ---> all in blender = smooth.
+ lemon juice + nutmeg. Reheat until warm.
garnish with cream-swirl.

Note: Popping some mustard or cumin seeds in the heated oil, before adding the onions would give it another dimension tastewise, and visually.
PS: If annoyed by the way I've written out the method, it's just because I am too lazy some days. and testing out a different way. anyway, for the recipe in real words, you may go to jamieoliver.com.

Actually I would prefer  soups a little less processed, and the vegetables not cooked to death. I like some bite in them -- but that is my preference. Some like the velvety smoothness of the pureed version. Of course the blended version is always better if one is in convalescence or there is something wrong with the teeth, like if there is none left.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Nazrani armadillo eggs

So this is my first "fusion" recipe on this blog, even though this is not the first in my kitchen. My family has had to be at the receiving end of such experiments, many times. The experiments range from pretty simple and obvious to the not-so-common, and so far, my family, let's say, are still among the living. :)

Anyway. the bigger item in the picture above is the armadillo egg. The smaller one is regular jalapeno poppers --a variety of  recipes for which are on the internet. I will post  links to some at the end of this. We are focusing on the armadillo eggs here. On Guy Fieri's Triple D, -- ya, again -- I saw this Texas eatery serving huge armadillo eggs which had brisket meat as an ingredient. They used pickled jalapenos, and did not use any cheese, if I remember right. Since we like things hot, fresh jalapenos is the way to go. In a recipe for poppers, Isaw sausage meat being used to cover up the jalapenos, with no breading, and they were baked. That sounded great too, btw. will post links. oh, there are a million versions out there -- grilled, bacon -wrapped, all sorts of add ons in the fillings..... . this is my version.

Here's the recipe for my Maltex or Nazrani armadillo egg:

I used beef for stir fry. You can get away with ground beef.


6 jalapenos, fresh
4 tbsp cream cheese
about a cup grated cheddar

1/2 lb beef -- stew meat, ground beef, stir fry meat -- doesn't matter
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp Kerala meat masala ( I use my mother's mix - garam masala is ok in a pinch, but there is a difference in taste -- if using "curry powder", it will be a completely different thing)
1/2 tsp red chili powder ( reduce to your preference)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
1/2 cup boiled potatoes (optional) I had some handy, so I used it.
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup bread crumbs

1 egg, beaten
oil to fry

Prepare the meat -- cut into pieces if in strips, clean. In a pot that goes on the stovetop, mix the beef with the cumin, meat masala, chili powder, garlic powder, black pepper, salt, . Pour enough water to cover the top of the meat. Now bring it to a boil. Lower heat and cover and cook. The meat should be tender when done.

While the meat is cooking, you can cook the potato, either in the microwave, or on the stove, if using potato.
Otherwise, start on the jalapenos. Cut each into half, lengthwise. Remove all the seeds. Be careful not to handle it too intimately or too rakishly-- will get burned. :)
Anyway, now fill each pepper cavity with cream cheese. Put some cheddar on top. Press lightly so that they all hang in there together. At this point, you can dredge these peppers in buttermilk, flour, buttermilk, bread crumbs, in that order. And you'll get jalapeno poppers. well, you could've  added some paprika, cumin etc, even onion, to the cream cheese before , But we are not talking of poppers here, are we?

So while that meat is getting cooked,  we can get ready the assembly line. The bowls of all purpose flour, buttermilk, breadcrumbs in a row.

Once the meat is cooked, put that in the food processor and process. If you have the potatoes, you may add it now and process some more.

Otherwise, wait for it to cool a little, add 2 tbsps of the beaten egg and mix well. You may add the remaining egg to the bowl of buttermilk.
The next steps are a bit messy. But they are worth it.

Cover the filled jalapeno half with the meat mixture. Carefully dredge in the flour.
Now into the buttermilk. Let it rest for a while. You can deal with the rest of the peppers at this time.
Now roll the buttermilk-dipped peppers in bread crumbs. The first two steps can be repeated once more before the bread crumb step. That will make everything hold together better. The second method, where we do it twice is better, but I get lazy sometimes.

Now deep fry in oil.
 Serve warm.

recipes i would try:

for armadillo eggs: http://homesicktexan.blogspot.com/2011/02/armadillo-eggs-recipe-jalapeno.html

for jalapeno poppers: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/best-ever-jalapeno-poppers/

Friday, October 19, 2012

oven-fried chicken

oven-fried chicken
The food network channel is one of the channels that I watch while on the treadmill. yep -- ironic.
And most of the time it will be either 'chopped" or Guy Fieri's DDD. well, the other day I saw oven-fried chicken being made, and I wanted to make it. Some time spent on google, I got some ideas.
And here is the result. It turned out to be delicious.

 1 small chicken -- 3 to 3 1/2 lbs.
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 quarts cold water

1 egg
3 tbsp milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/2- 1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
1- 1 1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup butter, unsalted

Dissolve the salt and sugar in the water. Immerse the whole chicken in this and chill for an hour. You can skip this brining, if you prefer not to. But I think this makes the chicken tastier and juicier.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Now rinse the chicken, dry well with paper towels, and cut it up into 8 pieces. Put it back in the fridge, while making the dredging mixes.
Beat the egg in the milk. Set aside.
In another bowl, or ziploc bag, mix the flour, spices and salt.

Add butter to a large shallow baking pan and place it in the preheated oven.

Get the chicken and start the dredging. Dip each piece first in the egg mixture, then in the flour mixture, till well-coated.
Arrange the pieces, skin side down, in the heated baking pan. The pieces should not be crowded.
Bake for 30 minutes. Flip the pieces. Bake for 15 minutes more.

If not browned enough, place under the broiler for 5 minutes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

off the shelf of a naadan chaayakkada or country teashop

The above scene is a favorite of mine. I love the song, the ambience, the setting. The easy-going, slow moving tempo of country life back then, back home. The decor is more or less the same for every teashop. A roof thatched with woven coconut palm fronds, floor made of packed clay, wooden-latticed windows, a few wooden benches and desks, posters of movies and other meetings on the walls, whole bunches of plantain hanging right at the front, with the shop owner right there behind his desk  flaunting his tea making magic, greeting each customer as a long lost friend. There will be a cabinet with its glass doors displaying the snacks,  inside -- sweet and spicy and salty ones. Kerala's teashops -- "chaayakkada" - as they are known, once dotted every corner of the land. They were a place where locals gathered to read newspapers, to talk of the current political issues, and pass on the latest gossip in the village too, all the while imbibing hot tea and snacks. It is from places like these, that the local comrades get sustenance after a hard day's "party" work. "Parippuvada" and a small banana and tea is shared among the political activists and passivists. Tea is served in special glasses, snacks and meals in stainless steel dishes or banana leaf.

All in all, teashops are meeting places filled with camaraderie, and brotherhood.  Much like the pub in an English village without the intoxication. For that we have our toddy shops. The sad part of all this is that usually not many women frequent these establishments in the class and gender-conscious Kerala.

The most common teashop snack is the "parippuvada" -- a lentil patty deep fried in oil. It's cousin "uzhunnuvada" also puts in an ppearance most of the time. "Puttu" and "kadala" is another pair that we find there. Jilebis, halwas and and laddus sometimes grace the shelves., along with boiled eggs, and banana fry -banana fritters- called "pazham pori". Many of these shops provide lunches too, with rice, rasam, sambar, papadams, pickles, a couple of vegetable dishes, such as erissery or aviyal,  mango-coconut chammanthi/relish, and fried and stewed fish, as the main attractions.

A peep into chaayakkada menu:

banana fry/fritters
Bonda  -- (with and without potatoes)
bajji -- different kinds -- chili, plantain, onion etc
eggs, boiled or bull's eye

meen/fish fry and stewed
egg curry
egg masala
biryani (in some tea shops)


most of the breakfast items

Depending on the prosperity and resources of the owner ,and depending on the location, the items vary in each teashop, but parippuvada and puttukadala are some of the classic chaayakkada staples.



Parippu/toor dal - 1 cup
kadalaparippu/chana dal - 1/4 cup (optional)
dried red chili pepper -5
water for soaking lentils
onion, chopped - 1/2 cup
green chili, chopped -2 or 3
ginger, chopped - a small piece
asafoetida, powdered. - 1/4 tsp
curry leaves

Wash and soak the lentils together, along with the dried red chilies in water for 3 hours at the most. Drain. Set aside a tablespoon of the lentils.
Grind  the rest of the soaked lentils and chili coarsely in the food processor.
Mix all the ingredients except oil.
Make the patties. Deep fry in oil.
Serve hot with a cup of hot tea.

puttu kadala


Recipe for puttu

Puttu flour - 2 cups (rice flour)
water -- approx. 1 cup
grated coconut (with a little sugar if desired - if fresh coconut is not available, use sweetened coconut)

Mix flour and salt with water, till the dough is moist and crumbly, kind of like the dough for a pate brisee/short-crust pastry. Add the water gradually little by little. If you add too much, puttu will be hard spheres of dough.
If you add too little, you'll end up with dry as dust puttu. The right consistency of the mixture is important. One trick is to try holding a handful in your fist and press it firmly -- it should hold its shape, almost.
Now put a little bit of the grated coconut into the puttumaker to cover the little sieve-plate in there. Now put in a three heaped tablespoons full of puttu mixture. Do this alternating puttu mixture and coconut till you get to the top, ending with coconut. Steam for 5-6 minutes. Puttu can be made in different molds, even in coconut shells, when it is called chirattaputtu.


Serve with kadala and banana. Eggs sunny side up goes well with puttu, which is a very simple breakfast dish.



Recipe for kadalakkari

There are many versions of  both the dry and curried kadala, as there are kitchens in Kerala. This is one of my favorites.

kadala (black chick pea) -1 cup
coconut, grated - 2-3 tbsp
dried red chili  pepper - 3
turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
red chili powder - 11/2 tsp
coriander powder - 2 tsp
onion, sliced - 1 cup
green chili pepper - 2
mustard seeds - 1 tsp
ginger, a small piece sliced
garlic, 3-4 cloves crushed
tomato, chopped - 1/2 cup
curry leaves
Oil - 3 tbsp

Soak the kadala or chickpeas overnight. Cook till soft.

Heat a tablespoon of oil. Fry the grated coconut and dried red chili in the oil, for a few minutes, till coconut turns light brown and the aroma fills the room.(If using whole spices, those may be aadded to this now -- in this recipe, we are using powdered spices).Now grind this to a paste. You may add a tablespoon of the cooked chickpea to it when grinding.

Heat the rest of the oil in a wok. Add the mustard seed to this. Once they are done spluttering, add the curry leaves, onion, ginger and garlic. Saute till lightly browned. Add the spice powders now. Stir well for a minute. Now add the tomato and stir some more. When it is cooked, add the ground coconut mixture. Stir away for a few minutes. Now add chickpeas along with some water. Bring to a boil. Add enough salt. Let it simmer till it reaches the right consistency.

just a few more pics of teashop fare:

kaapapuzhukku, meenkoottaan,kondaattam, unakkameen,kattanchaaya
trans., mildly spicy mashed tapioca/yucca with salted fish sprinkles on top, fried yogurt chili peppers on the side, hot fish stew and black tea

pazhampori/banana fry

noolappam,mutta masala - rice noodles, egg masala
malabar porotta with the above egg masala is a delicious fixture  in the Malabar area teashops


rice and a few sides --yellow  erissery with yellow split pea and squash, fish in coconut milk, zucchini mezhukkupuratti/stirfry, fried fish

brown erissery with dried red beans and pumpkin or squash
upma, payarukari/cream ofwheat porridge/drid red beans soup
malabar chicken biryani

Friday, January 27, 2012

Nazrani meatballs

Looks like almost every culture has a meatball dish.  Europe, the Middle East, Africa -- the list goes on, with each region in each continent displaying varieties of flavors. India too has its versions. The north Indian kofta is an example. It has its own sauce too according to the part of the world it comes from.

My grandmother used to make a mean meatball that was , as usual, spicy and hot. I have tried to recreate it here, with some modifications. The texture was a tad different, because the meat that she used was not ground to a paste, but kind of manually chopped fine, totally fresh and  organic, as everything was back then. Her recipe did not have eggs or breadcrumbs in it either -- just beef and spices. It was eaten plain, without any sauce. Most Indian snacks and appetizers do not need a sauce, as they are already full of flavor. Still, sauce can add a different facet to the whole experience -- for the eyes and ofcourse, taste.
If she made it into a "curry", the sauce would  be based in  lentil, or pureed onion, or coconut milk.

 I have added a recipe for a sort of "international" sauce catered to my taste.

nazrani meatballs

1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup onion, grated or chopped real small
3 cloves garlic, grated
3 tsps ginger, grated
3 hot green chili peppers, chopped small (optional)
1 tsp red pepper flakes (depending on how hot you like your dish)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Kerala meat masala - 1/2 tsp
1 egg
2 slices fresh bread, broken into pieces
1/4 cup milk
oil or butter to sear the meatballs - 4 - 5 tbsp


350°F oven.
Soak the bread pieces in the milk. Add it to the meat.
Add all the rest of the ingredients, except the butter/oil. Mix well.
Make balls . Apply olive oil on your palms to prevent mixture from sticking.
Melt  butter or heat oil in skillet. Medium to high heat.
Brown the meatballs on all sides. (You could start with just one -- test for salt and spices, so that you can adjust everything in the rest of the mix).
Transfer to baking sheet.
Bake for 20-25 minutes.
Meatballs are ready to be eaten. Garnish with cilantro or Italian parsley, if you like.

Note: The traditional nazrani meatball recipe did not include eggs or milk or bread pieces. So that the meat is cooked through, the meatballs are flattened just a little, and deep-fried on medium- high heat.
No oven time.

for the sauce:

2 tbsp flour
1/2 cup onion, chopped fine or grated
1/2 tsp garlic, minced
1/2 - 1 tsp black pepper, ground
1 tsp red chili pepper powder (optional)
1/4 tsp kerala meat masala
juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 can beef stock


Add the onion to the butter in the skillet. Low heat. If the butter in there is burned, throw that away, and add fresh butter, 3 tbsps or so. otherwise, go on with the stirring of the onion till they are pale. Add the flour. Keep whisking it is a golden brown. Now add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer till it reaches the desired consistency.
Instead of the ketchup, you may use a small chopped tomato, add some asian chili-garlic sauce.
Or, if you like the taste of soy sauce, it would be another variation.
Another option would be coconut milk. In that case, the flour becomes optional.

meatballs with sauce over rice and a drizzle of buttermilk curry(sauce)

These meatballs are good  as starters, with or without the sauce, and also as an accompaniment for of course, pasta, rice, plain, or spiced, as in a pulav. These are delicious wrapped in roti/naan or pita. Or try them as toppings on a green salad.

about Kerala meat masala :  I know I have been mentioning this ingredient often. Malayali stores carry this, but I use a homemade mix of my mother's. The fact is the ingredients and proportions vary from home to home, region to region. But the main ingredients usually are, black pepper, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, mace, and star anise. The mix varies from dish to dish.
Most dishes have  the usual turmeric, coriander, red chili pepper added to the above.

Monday, January 23, 2012



Scones, as expected, are always around in  Betty Neels' heroine's kitchen.


3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup white sugar

5 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup butter

1 egg, beaten

1 cup milk


1.Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease a baking sheet.

2.In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter. Mix the egg and milk in a small bowl, and stir into flour mixture until moistened.

3.Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead briefly. Roll dough out into a 1/2 inch thick round. Cut into 8 wedges, and place on the prepared baking sheet.

4.Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown.
Source: http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/scones/Detail.aspx

Friday, January 20, 2012

lettuce-cucumber soup


 125g spring onions
400g lettuce
200g cucumber
100g fresh or frozen peas
50g butter
750ml light chicken stock
5 mint leaves
Single cream

Trim and finely slice the spring onions. Separate the lettuce leaves, rinse and shake dry. Shred the lettuce. Peel the cucumber, halve, slice into strips and chop. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan, stir in the spring onions and cucumber and a generous pinch of salt. Cover and cook over a low heat for five minutes.

Stir the lettuce through the onions, cover again and cook for ten minutes, stirring halfway through. Add the stock and peas, bring to the boil for five minutes until the peas are tender. Liquidise with the mint leaves for three minutes to break down the fibres. Return to the pan, taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve hot with a swirl of cream.

Source: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/food_and_drink/recipes/article4122669.ece

fairy cake

fairy cake

Another staple in the Betty Neels kitchen,  served with tea.. esp. for children. When I looked for a recipe, I found that there is a serious debate as to whether this is called a butterfly bun/cake or a fairy cake.  Basically, a cupcake. Other usual cakes in her kitchen are the Victoria sandwich cake, madeira cake, and seed cake.

Recipe for fairy cake:

 125g (4.5oz) butter, softened

125g (4.5oz) caster sugar

1tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs

150g (5oz) plain flour

¼tsp baking powder

For the filling:

100ml (3.5fl oz) raspberry or strawberry jam

200ml (7fl oz) crème Chantilly or vanilla buttercream icing

Icing sugar, for dusting

Dragèes (metallic sugar balls), to decorate (optional
1.Preheat the oven to 190ºC, 375ºF, gas 5. Line a 12-hole fairy cake tin, or a 24-hole tin for mini cakes, with 12 (or 24) paper cases.

2.Cream the butter in a large bowl or in an electric food mixer until soft. Add the sugar and vanilla extract and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.

3.Add the eggs, one at a time, beating continuously, then sift in the flour and baking powder. (If you are pushed for time, and the butter is sufficiently soft, put the butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour and baking powder into an electric food mixer and briefly whiz just until the mixture comes together.)

4.Divide the mixture evenly between the paper cases using two teaspoons for mini cakes or two dessertspoons for larger ones. Cook in the oven for 8-12 mins, or until golden and springy to the touch. (The mini cakes may take just 5 mins.) Transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool.

5.When cooled, cut the top off each cake, then cut the tops in half to make the butterfly wings. Set aside. Spread half a teaspoon or so of jam on the top of the cut cake, then spoon or pipe the crème Chantilly or buttercream on top of the jam. Arrange two butterfly wings at an angle on top of each cake. Dust generously with icing sugar and decorate with dragèes, if using.

Note: When you cream your butter and sugar, make sure you do this really thoroughly until the mixture is pale. Do the same when you beat your eggs. This means you've beaten in lots of air and that's a great start for well-risen fairy cakes.

Source: http://www.goodtoknow.co.uk/recipes/450609/Rachel-Allen-s-fairy-cakes

I placed m & ms down the middle of the wings.

Monday, January 16, 2012

beef with green plantain -- irachiyum kaayayumittu vechathu

kaayayum irachiyumittu vechathu

Another Nazrani staple, especially among Trichurians - Thrissurkkaar, is this dish that I am going to serve now. Traditionally served with "kanji" which is rice with the water in which it is cooked, this dish is also interesting with rice, and yogurt. :)

Now I learn that our "kanji" is the same as the Chinese "congee"! curioser and curioser! to learn that in spite of all the differences, we are so similar. anyway, the kanji made out of traditional Kerala rice is superior to the one made out of the parboiled substitute that I buy here. Kerala rice is brown-streaked, and plump. It is rich in thiamine. And add to that melted ghee sauteed with pearl onions! it is ambrosia. Mallus have a ball with kanji -- we have paalkanji, which is milk added to kanji, the above mentioned ghee kanji etc etc. We eat kanji with hot pickles, papadams, and vegetable stirfrys/mezhukkupurattis and of course, the payaru curry -- the red bean lentil curry, as a breakfast dish -- kanjiyum payarum. That was during the good old days of farms and farming. A healthy boost of protein in the morning, before they went out to the rice fields and coconut plantations.

nazranis eat meat, including beef and pork. And they have this whole lot of stirfry dishes that combines meat and a veggie. Like the present beef and plantain. Then there is beef and tapioca/kappa, beef and ash gourd/kumbalanga, beef or pork and koorkka or Chinese potato and so on. Of all of these, I like the beef-plantain combo. well, it is hard to choose, rather!

For my dad, this dish, by itself, used to be a snack with his whisky. It is great with wine, and black tea or coffee, btw.

About plantains -- naturally, there are varieties of plantains. The one I use here must be from South America. Kerala has a lot of different varieties of plantain too, the "naadan"/country "nenthrakkaya", as we Thrissurkkar call it, or "aethakka" , as the Southern Keralites call it, being the favorite. While green, they are used to make chips -- glazed and plain, and stirfries, and other dishes and when ripe, they have a whole different culinary uses. The peel of the organically grown green plantain is full of nutrients, and is used by itself, in stirfries. So are the banana flowers.


1. Beef, boneless, cubed - 2 lb
plantain -- 1 large, green, cubed
onion - 1/2 cup sliced
green chilli peppers - 5, slit
ginger, crushed - 2 tbsp
curry leaves -- 1 sprig
Oil - 3 tbsp

2. whole coriander seeds - 3 tsp
whole fennel seeds - 1/4 tsp
whole dried red chili peppers - 7
black peppercorns - 3 tsp

for final seasoning:
onion - 1/2 cup, sliced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp crushed red chili powder
1/2 tsp kerala meat masala powder
curry leaves, 1 sprig


Prepare the meat, and the plantain.

Remove the peel of the plantain along the ridges. Cut the plantain in cubes, and soak it in water with a pinch of turmeric. Keep for a few minutes. Wash and drain. Cook the plantain in some water. Set aside.

Fry the spices in the second set in a slightly greased skillet, for 3 minutes.

Crush these into powder.
Mix the onion, green chillies, ginger, and the spice-mix and salt in the oil.
Add the meat to this and mix well.

Cook the meat covered, with water to cover the meat. High heat till it comes to a boil.
Then reduce heat, and let simmer. Keep the lid on.
Stir occasionally. Cook till dry. Add the plantain to this. Mix well.

Now the seasoning.
Heat oil in a wok or skillet. Add onion, garlic, curry leaves. Stir well. Fry till onions turn soft and the garlic turns a very light brown. Add the spices.
Fry for a minute.
Now, add the beef-plantain mixture. Toss well. Let it heat through, without burning.

ps: Some, like my mom, cook the plantain along with the meat, before the final seasoning. She adds the plantain when the meat is almost done. Timing becomes important then, because if you are not careful, you may end up with a watery  mush. That is rather nerve racking for me -- this way, I have more control over the whole procedure.

Serve with kanji, pickles and ghee (with sauteed baby onions), or  rice and yogurt.

I got a beef with "curry"! -- the curry story

kariveppu/curry leaf plant
I believe that the all encompassing term "curry" was just an easy and simple way of naming Indian cuisine, on the part of the British. Another side of the imperialist ethic. Needless to say, it is an example of serious reductionism and oversimplification of matters that are complex and nuanced. What if you named the whole of Italian cuisine "marinara" ? ?
Or the whole of French cuisine, "bechamel" ? well, pretty dangerous, I should say!
I won't go into the political and historical motives or situations behind such things, deliberate or otherwise. I have read many versions of how the word came to be used. But I have formed my own theory.

Curry, for us, is any dish which is rather "saucy". By that I mean a dish which has a sauce, sometimes real watery, at other times, rather thick, and at some other times, in between. Curry is not a spice. Nor is curry and turmeric interchangeable. Turmeric is a spice. The curry powder that I see at the supermarket here, is really sambar powder. Sambar, being a South Indian vegetarian soup or stew, and sambar powder, being a mix of various spices, including turmeric, used in that dish. For cooking meat dishes, we have a completely different basic spice mix. As for fish. And the mix varies for different dishes in the same group, and it varies by region too, needless to say. So if you are using the so-called curry powder for everything, and then calling it Indian food, then, you are missing out on the real thing.

I imagine that "curry" for the British, came from "curry leaves", we call it kariveppila, (as opposed to "aryaveppila" which is the leaf of the neem tree). Kariveppila  is a herb that we use profusely in our cooking. (By the way, it has medicinal properties like many other herbs. Kariveppila grows on  "Kariveppu" , the tree. Back home, in Kerala, kariveppu grows lush and tall.. I still remember the trees in my grandmother's yard. I have been trying to grow one here, indoors. Still a baby -- looks like it will stay that way forever. forever young!

And what do we call "curry" ? In Malayalam, "koottaan" is the term we use. Literally it means 'to add". Something that we add and mix with rice. But then we also say "curry" when we mean a  dish that is not dry, but has some sauce or gravy -- not pertaining to any spice, like I mentioned before.

curry leaf tree back home

Friday, January 13, 2012

Chocolate-chip cookies

Simple, easy, got-to-bake, kid-favorite cookies.

1/2 cup butter, room temp - soft
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg, room temp
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup sifted all- purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nutmeats (optional)

375° F oven. Greased, cool cookie sheet.

Cream butter. Add sugar. Beat till creamy.
Beat in egg and vanilla.
Combine flour + salt + baking soda. Stir this into the sugar-egg mixture. You don't have to beat the heck out of it, btw.
Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop batter from a teaspoon onto the cookie sheet, well apart.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes. if you like it chewy, bake till the cookie batter is just set.
If you prefer them crispy, wait till they are a golden brown around the edges.

Remove from oven. Let rest for a minute, then transfer cookies onto a cooling rack.
Cool well before storing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

double-layered chocolate cake with caramel filling

This is one moist chocolate cake with a gooey caramel filling. I found this recipe on the internet, on various sites. One of the recipes for chocolate cakes, that I have used, and liked.

For the chocolate cake:

 -- Ina Garten's recipe:
  1. 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  2. 2 cups sugar
  3. 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  4. 2 teaspoons baking soda
  5. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  6. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  7. 1 cup buttermilk
  8. 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  9. 2 large eggs
  10. 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  11. 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans and line them with parchment paper; butter the paper. Dust the pans with flour, tapping out any excess.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour with the sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt at low speed.

In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the oil, eggs and vanilla.

Slowly beat the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients until just incorporated, then slowly beat in the hot coffee until fully incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean.

Let the cakes cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then invert the cakes onto a rack to cool completely. Peel off the parchment paper.

Source for recipe: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/double-chocolate-layer-cake

for the caramel filling:

makes 2 cups

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream, lukewarm
2 tbsp butter
14 cup heavy cream, lukewarm

optional -- 2 tbsp rum
1/4 cup corn syrup

Sugar + water in saucepan on med- high heat. When the color of the melting sugar changes around the outer edges to an amber-brownish color, remove from heat. Stir well using a wooden spoon.

Now it will be a golden brown colored syrup. While stirring this, pour in the 1/2 cup of lukewarm heavy cream and butter. Will bubble. Keep stirring.

Then add the rest of the cream, and stir till the sauce is smooth.

Transfer to heatproof jar. Allow to cool covered with plastic wrap, for an hour or so. For this cake you will need only half of the caramel sauce. The remaining can be stored in the refrigerator.
Before using chilled sauce, it can be warmed in the microwave for 30 seconds.

Source: http://savorysweetlife.com/

For the chocolate buttercream frosting

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
31/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp table salt
2 tsp vanilla
4 tbsp milk or cream

Cream butter with paddle of mixer.
Sift sugar + cocoa. Mix.
Add vanilla, salt, milk. Beat well - 3 mts.
Thicken with sugar, if needed.
Thin with milk.

Frosting and filling the cake

Place one cake flat side up on the cake board. Make a dam/ridge along the edge using some of the frosting, using a decorating bag attached with a regular wide, round tip.
Pour in the caramel sauce.
Place the second cake, flat side up, on top of this . Press down gently.
Now using an offse spatula, coat the cake with the frosting, just to cover it thinly.
Let it set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Apply the rest of the frosting evenly all over the cake.
You may make gum paste shapes to decorate, or just some sprinkles or sugar pearls.
Let set in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.