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.

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.


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.


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:

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.


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.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Yellow split pea curry -- parippukoottaan

One of my favorite dishes is parippu curry, a lentil soup, actually. Each state in India has its own versions of daal. Each home has its own favorite version. Some add cumin, others mustard, yet others cilantro, or all of those.
This, here, is my favorite.


yellow split pea/ toor daal -- 1 cup
onion, sliced - 1 cup
garlic, crushed -- 4 cloves
4 green chillies, split
turmeric powder -- 1/2 tsp
crushed red pepper -- 4 tsp
tomatoes, diced -- 1/2 cup (optional)
curry leaves
Oil - 3- 4 tbsp

Cook the lentils with a pinch of turmeric powder.
Heat oil. Saute onion, garlic, green chillies, curry leaves, till onions are soft and the garlic gives out its aroma.
Add the turmeric, crushed red pepper. Fry for a minute. Add the tomatoes. Saute for a couple of minutes, till they wilt. Add the cooked parippu with enough water to get to your preferred consistency.  Stir well. Bring to a boil. Add salt to taste.

Note: If you like, you may add a couple of pearl onions, a crushed clove of garlic, and a couple of green chillies to the lentils, when you cook it. I soak the parippu overnight in water,(kind of an overkill) and use a pressure cooker to cook it.Instaed of oil, you could use ghee, which is heavenly, but not as healthy. :)

red chori(dried red beans) or payaru -- top left/ parippu or yellow split pea--bottom right
The same recipe can be used to make other lentil curries/soups, like payarucurry, which is a variety of tiny dried red beans, called red chori in Hindi. And this one takes a lot of soaking.


Very good with rice, and Kerala fried fish, and mango pickle.
parippu curry, kerala fried tilapia, dried shrimp fry

Monday, January 9, 2012

Buttermilk curry or Morozhichukoottaan or morucurry

Now to the buttermilk curry! As usual, the recipe has many variations, depending on the occasion, and taste preference. For instance, if it is for medicinal purpose, as in for indigestion, the buttermilk curry will not have onion or coconut. And also, it will be totally fatfree.
moru = buttermilk. koottaan = to add/side dish/accompaniment/add-on. so, meenkoottaan is fish curry.
ozhichu= to pour. thus, morozhichukoottaan is a dish made of buttermilk, that is poured on rice, which is our main food.


Buttermilk - 1/2 gallon
Oil - 2 tbsp
Onion, chopped -- 1/2 cup
Ginger, crushed -- 1 tbsp
Garlic, crushed -- 1 tbsp
5 green chillies, slit
turmeric powder - 1 tsp
red chilli powder -- 1/2 tsp
fenugreek/ methi powder - 1/4 tsp
cumin powder - 1/2 tsp
black pepper powder - 1 tsp
Coconut, grated, fresh or dried coconut powder -- 1/2 cup
mustard seeds, black - 1 tsp
dried red chillies - 3
curry leaves -- 1 sprig
Salt, as needed

Heat oil. Add mustard seeds. Let'em pop. Reduce heat, we do not want it burned. Add the onion, ginger, garlic, green chillies. Saute for a minute or two, till soft and you get the aromas. Add the dried red chillies, each broken in three pieces ,and the curry leaves.
Now add the spice powders. stir and fry for a minute. Add the coconut.
stir and fry for amother minute or two.
Pour in the buttermilk. Keep stirring. Low to medium heat. Add enough salt. Do not let it come to boil. Should be just warmed enough.

Note: You may make this as thick or thin as you like. Add boiled and cooled water.
If you are in a really nutritious mood, you may add some veggies -- say, zucchini, cucumber etc. cubed and cooked. Or you can add them right before pouring in the buttermilk, cook, and then finish off.
I ran out of curry leaves, so you don't see any curry leaves. :(

rice withbuttermilk curry, nazrani beef fry, baby mango pickle (hot)

Serve with rice, pickles and Nazrani style mutton or beef fry, or Malayali "thorans" and "mezhukkupurattis" -- vegetable stirfry, or spicy lentils.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Nazrani mutton fry - aattirachi varattiyathu

This is a favorite nazrani dish. Obviously, we make it spicy and hot, so if you prefer it less spicy, you may have to reduce the amount of spices. Lamb can be used instead of mutton which is  goat meat.
"varattal" is a common method of stovetop cooking in Kerala. It is a mix of braising and stir-frying. There is also thaalikkal where the spices are sauteed first and then the meat is added., and cooked. You may use tomatoes instead of vinegar.

aattirachi varattiyathu after the final seasoning


bone-in or boneless mutton cubed -- 2 lb.
1/2 cup onion, sliced thin
 2 tbsp ginger, crushed
5-6 green chillies, split lengthwise
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
4 tsp coriander powder
2 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
3/4 tsp cumin powder
1 1/2 tsp Kerala meat masala powder or garam masala powder
1 or 2 sprigs of curry leaves
1 tbsp vinegar
2 -3 tbsp cooking oil

 final seasoning or "kaachal" - noun, "kaachuka"- verb:

3 tbsp oil
1/2 to 1 cup onion, sliced thin
3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed
scant 1 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp kerala meat masala
a pinch of cumin
curry leaves


Clean the meat thoroughly.Drain. In the pot you would be cooking in, mix all the ingredients in the first set, except the meat and vinegar, with enough oil (traditionally, coconut oil, but now, any vegetable/olive oil) to make a moist mass. Now add the meat and mix well. You may marinate this for half an hour, if you like. But not really necessary.
Cook with enough water to cover the meat. Give it a stir. Cover. Start with high heat till it boils. Pour in the vinegar.Then reduce heat. Stir again. Cover and cook till meat is done. If the meat is real tender, it will be done sooner than if it is tough. Usually it will take an hour or more. Check and stir occasionally. Test with fork, if the meat comes off easily from the bones, it is done. (Pressure cookers save time, by the way.) All the liquid should be gone at the end. (If meat is still not done, and water is gone, add more boiling water. If there is too much liquid, and the meat is almost done, leave the pot open, turn the heat high and let the liquid dry out. Meanwhile do not forget to taste and see if the seasonings including the salt is balanced and to your taste.

Once the meat is done, we go to the next step of "kaachal" -- it is okay to eat it now, but the next step makes it even more delicious.

Heat oil in a wok or skillet. Add the onion, garlic and curry leaves. Saute till almost brown -- do not burn --
Now add the prepared meat. Stir well. Reduce heat. Keep stirring.
Be careful about the center -- things could get sticky and burn.
Trick is to stir well and all around and under.
The longer you do this "varattal", the tastier the dish.

Serve with rice or roti. A simple, good accompaniment is morozhichukoottaan or buttermilk curry. Or if one feels real lazy, yogurt-onion sallaas.
buttermilk curry