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

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:

for 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.