Fish Kabab on A Bed of Butter-Garlic Rice

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Sundays are special, but such a pain in the neck for the homemaker who has to put on one’s thinking cap to hit upon a special menu every time to please the entire family. The British are lucky…they have come up with the idea of the Sunday Roast which is pretty much standard for every household and has been there without slipping off the Sunday menu for ages. For us back in India though, variety is the spice of life. A brief scan of the things we cook for breakfast is enough to get the point….Dosa, Idly, Poori, Paratha….goes the list. So it is indeed a challenge to produce a spread for Sunday lunch which would make the entire bunch of hubby and kids go…Woww!

The Kababs over the buttered rice is sure to catch anyone’s attention and has the power to instantly satiate in terms of looks….the rice with each grain separate has that inviting aroma of butter toasted garlic…. The skewered fish in the kabab with onions and capsicum squares are roasted to perfection…some even having the charcoal burnt colour adding to the appeal. What looks like an incredibly difficult dish to execute is actually one of the easiest. The marinade can be prepared and kept in the fridge overnight, so too the rice, cooked and stored. The rest of the process is just cakewalk…The butter garlic rice preparation would need just about 5 minutes…the time you need to skewer your fish and veggies. Once done, give the rice a rest and lay the skewers in the hot pan… being fish, the whole process just needs 5-6 minutes and you are ready to plate up this winner of a dish.

My Fish Kabab recipe owes its origin to Beera Chicken House, Amritsar. On the plane from New Delhi to Amritsar we (my daughter and I) spotted an article in their in-house magazine describing in detail the gastronomic delights of Amritsar. For us it was like striking gold and without wasting much time we quickly scribbled down all the eateries listed to check out once we reached Amritsar. The next two days we were in food heaven…the lassis and the Chole Batures and the Jalebis…we had them all, ticking almost all places listed in that tiny scrap of paper we had in one hand with the mobile GPS on in the other, meandering through the narrow lanes of the city, much to the chagrin of hubby dearest. It was time to say adieu to Amritsar and still there was this one place to check out…Beera Chicken House, which they said, made the juiciest and tastiest tandoori dishes. Melting imploring eyes and pleading looks got the better of the husband and soon we were chugging along in the Phatphati to Beera’s. If we had missed it would have been a shame…what a feast we had! As I bit into the crisp and crunchy bits of the Tandoor grilled chicken, I was trying to mentally jot down the ingredients that had gone into the making of the mouthwatering dish.

Amritsar is now a sweet memory…but any time I want to fill my home with that Punjabi zest and vigour, I have a way…this super tasty Fish Kabab is sure to make one high on food …and who knows …maybe you would want to break into a Bhangra after eating it!!

Ingredients

For the rice

Basmati Rice : 1 cup.

Butter : 2 tblesp.

Garlic : 6 flakes, chopped fine.

Chilli flakes : 1/2 tsp.

Soup cube : 1.

Carrot; 1 small, chopped fine.

Capsicum: 1/2 chopped fine.

Salt to taste.

For the Kabab

Fish : 250 gms. Choose firm white fish. I chose Kalanji/ Asian seabass which I got cut into approx I inch cubes. Wash fish thoroughly and keep aside.

Hung Curd : 2 tblesp. You can line a strainer with a thin cloth and put curds to it and allow to stand for an hour allowing the water to drain out.

Ginger-Garlic paste : 1 tblesp. I used 5-6 garlic cloves and 1 inch pc ginger and made a paste by passing through the microplane.

Kasoori Methi : 1 tsp. Crush with your fingers and add.

Chilli pdr : 1 tsp.

Coriander pdr : 1/2 tsp.

Jeera/ Cumin pdr : 1/2 tsp.

Garam masala pdr : 1/2 tsp.

Salt to taste.

Oil : 1 tsp.

Butter : 1 tsp.

Lime juice : 2 tsps.

Onion: 1, cut into I inch cubes and separate layers.

Capsicum : 1, cut into 1 inch cubes.

Method

The Kabab…

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  • Marinate the cleaned fish with lime juice and salt and keep in a bowl for 10 mins.
  • Prepare the marinade with the ginger-garlic paste, chilli, coriander, jeera, garam masala pdrs, kasoori methi, salt and the curd.
  • Squeeze the fish as you take it out from the lime marinade and place in another big bowl with marinade paste and the onions and capsicum. Add the oil and mix the marinade well into the fish. Keep covered for 1/2 an hr.
  • Skewer the fish alternating with the onion and capsicum.
  •  Place a heavy bottomed frying pan on heat and once hot, place the skewers. Baste the Kababs as they cook on heat with some butter.
  •    Turn the kababs carefully in the pan allowing all sides to roast well. When done take off gas.

For the Rice…

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  • Cook the rice in 4 cups of water in which some salt and a soup cube is added. When the rice is just about done, strain it and keep.
  • Place a large fry pan on heat and add the butter. Add the chopped garlic and fry till it starts to turn brown. Add the chilli flake and give a quick stir.
  • Add the chopped vegetables and the cooked rice and stir well. Add salt and keep stirring for 3 to 4 mins till everything is nicely combined. Your butter garlic rice is now ready.

Serve the Kababs on neatly stacked rice in a seving plate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crispy Uzhunnu Vada

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Ask any south Indian what he would like with his tea and without batting an eyelid he would reply …Uzhunnu vada/ black gram fritters. Considered to be one of the best ever teatime snacks, the Uzhunnu vada has found wide acceptance in the entire country, very much like its south Indian cousins, the Dosa and Idly. But unlike Dosa or Idly, the making of Uzhunnu vada is a bit tricky. The consistency of the batter, its texture and most of all getting shape right are all danger zones where a slight slip would lead to lacklustre results. So why attempt it at all…when you can get your vadas, all crispy and hot from the tea vendor nearby? But should you let yourself surrender like that before atleast giving it a try?

Uzhunnu vada is by far the healthiest snack you can binge on. Urad/ Black gram is an excellent source of essential minerals and protein and is easy to digest. Home-made vadas are healthier as fresh ingredients go into their making and are fried in healthy cooking oil. Also the making of the vada would give you the chance to work your bicep muscles as the secret of crispy vadas lie in the brisk beating of the batter. Moreover, treat someone at home to your home-made vadas and you get instantly branded as an achiever in kitchen skills.

Most of us South Indians would have their favourite Vada stories and looking back I too have a fair share of them….like the one in which I had unthinkingly thrown in a few chillies too many in my vada batter and the visiting family munched away without a word and suddenly there was a wail from the far end of the sofa where the youngest, all of 3, sat with eyes streaming and lips a beet red still holding up the half bitten vada in hand. Another vivid recollection is the family trip to watch a period movie in Thrisur…the movie had been playing for a while to packed houses and everyone was talking about the beautiful well- endowed heroine who was in costumes showing her midriff throughout in the movie. The film was over and as we stepped out onto the pavement and there was this road side vendor busy frying round and golden vadas calling out…Vyshali (that was the name of the movie) vada, Vyshali vada….

It is interesting how you can make something as delicious as the Vada out of minimum ingredients . You just need Urad/ Black gram, some ginger, onions, chillies, curry leaves,salt and of course, a determined mind to try out the recipe and work that magic in your kitchen. Many have asked me…do you put rice flour to crisp up your vadas?…do you put soda to soften the insides? ….and I tell them everytime.. just go simple, let the lentils soak properly, beat the ground batter a full 5 minutes to aerate it well,  do not crowd the batter with too much onions/ chillies and have your oil really hot before you drop your shaped vadas in. Your vadas may not be the perfect rounds with that quintessential hole right in the middle, but they would be surely be super light …crispy on the outside and extra soft and airy inside.

Ingredients

Urad dal : 1 cup. Wash and soak in water for about 1-1and 1/2  hrs.

Ginger : 1 inch pc, cut to pieces.

Onion : 1 small, chopped.

Green chilli : 1, chopped.

Curry leaves : 4-5, cut small.

Salt to taste.

Oil for frying.

Method

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  • In your small mixi jar, grind the soaked dal with pieces of ginger in batches. Take care not to add a lot of water while grinding. Start with a tsp of water to the drained lentils, adding another tsp full if you find the mixture too dry and not grinding properly. At best you would need just about 3 tsps of water to grind a batch.
  • The consistency of the batter should be tight…a spoonful of it must hold without dropping. If your batter is watery, you would find it impossible to shape the vadas. So extreme care should be taken while grinding.
  • Grind to a somewhat fine paste. It should not feel too grainy to your fingers. Transfer to a big bowl and repeat till all the urad and ginger pieces are ground.
  • Once the batter is made and transferred to the bowl, add the chopped onions, chillies, curry leaves and salt to it. Now with a metallic spoon start whisking the batter. Continue to beat for a good 5 minutes till the batter is well aerated. Care should be taken to beat in one direction only, either clockwise or anti clockwise.

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  • Now your batter is ready for frying. In a thick bottomed kadhai pour oil and keep on gas.
  • Meanwhile take a bowl of water and keep by the side of the stove.
  • Dip your palm in water and immediately take some batter and by moving palms in a rocking motion shape it into a ball. It is easy as your palms are wet and the batter will not stick.
  • Once the shape forms, insert your thumb in the middle to form a hole.
  • Gently drop the vada into the hot oil. The oil should be really hot or else the vada would stick to the bottom.
  • Fry till your vadas are a golden brown. 

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  • Tasty vadas are ready. Enjoy them with coconut chutney, Sambar or just plain tomato ketchup.

 

 

 

 

 

Bharani Soup

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From the Far- east, China, the Cheenabharani/ Chinese pot had sailed with the Chinese traders from as early as the 14th century, to reach the Kerala shores and quickly gained acceptance…rarely would you find a Kerala household today without one in the kitchen or pantry. People here can’t go without their many pickles and what best way to store them other than the Bharani.

This takes me back in time to the hectic summer days in our joint family kitchen where as kids we would stand in awe watching the laborious making of the famous Kadugu manga pickle. The entire group of servants would be engaged…the men bringing the mammoth Uppumanga bharanis from the dark interiors of the kalavara (pantry), the women mixing the pickle spices under the strict instructions of the matriarch. The entire process would culminate in the freshly made vermilion red kadugu manga getting scooped into umpteen little bharanis, warm gingely oil poured over the top carefully to submerge the contents and an oil soaked cloth spread over before the lids are screwed tight. These would go back to the kalavara where they would stay untouched….ie, till the time distant relatives who come visiting would start packing for their return. The Bharani would be opened and the contents emptied to bottles, to get packed in huge cardboard boxes along with tins of kayavaruthathu(banana chips) and sarkara upperi (jaggery coated banana chips). Alas…times have changed…hardly anyone dares to eat kadugumanga nowadays citing high BP and poor stomachs which wouldn’t digest all that red chilli in the pickle. In most households now the empty Bharanis stand in attics as reminders of bygone times.

So it was with a lot of interest that I read this recipe of the Bharani soup …this is a truly innovative way to prepare soup. By letting the soup contents to gently cook inside the Bharani which in turn stands in a vessel full of boiling water, the flavours of the meat and the small piece of liver are allowed to merge with the spices, onions, garlic and ginger and the result is hugely satisfying. There are some foods which make you realize that they really do your body good… this soup is one such. Light to the stomach, a bowl of this clear broth packs loads of essential nutrition your body needs.

Soups do not regularly appear on the dining tables of Kerala. But of late they have grown in favour as they do not need constant supervision in their making and also once made would keep in the fridge for 2-3 days. Soups are indeed a healthy option against fattening fried foods, especially for kids…give them a bowl of nourishing soup with some butter fried croutons and they would  happily gulp it down in no time.

Talking about soup, memory of a family trip to Thekkady many years back comes to mind. Our stay was in Aranya Niwas, a state run guest house deep in the dark thicket covered island of the Periyar River. The stay was exciting and scary too as the sounds of the jungle seemed too loud for comfort with the high ceilinged spacious rooms and verandahs of the guest house adding to the mystique. As we tiptoed into the huge dining hall and seated ourselves around the massive dining table a staid looking waiter came with a tray carrying bowls of steaming soup. All were in a hurry to somehow finish dinner and retreat to our beds and snuggle under the comforting blanket. Amid noisy slurps the soup before us was rapidly receding from the bowls… it was then that we noticed our little cousin sitting like a statue, peering intently into his bowl of soup. Slipping down from the high chairs we silently trooped to his side to see what the matter was….swimming randomly in the clear liquid was a teeny weeny dead spider. The combined shrieks and the thump-thump of  feet as we headed to the wash basins to throw up brought the grumpy waiter with his slanting cocked hat bobbing to the elders who were ready to greet him with grave expressions. Early next morning no one even waited for any breakfast …. getting back to civilization in the first boat itself we happily waved our bye-byes to a small herd of elephants at play in the river.

Ingredients

Mutton : 250gms, small pieces with bones. Crack the pieces up.

Liver: a small piece around 50 gms. Chop to tiny bits.

Shallots sliced : 1/4 cup.

Garlic cloves : 9.

Ginger : 2 tsp full, sliced.

Pepper : 1tblesp, cracked.

Green Cardamom: 1.

Cloves : 3.

Cinnamaon : 1 small piece.

Coriander whole : 1 tsp, cracked.

Water : 2 litres.

1 Shallot sliced thin + 1 tsp of butter for each serving of soup.

Method

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  • Combine mutton pieces and liver and place in the Bharani.
  • Add the shallots, ginger, garlic, spices, salt to it and mix well.
  • Now add the water and give a stir.

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  • Place the lid of the Bharani and insert it into another large mouthed vessel with water. Close the vessel with its lid
  • Keep on gas and allow to boil for an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes on medium heat.
  • Open the lid of both vessels. you will see the cooked mutton pieces floating on the top.
  • Strain the soup by passing it through a thin cloth. You would now get a thin clear soup. At this stage adjust the salt.
  • Store the soup in containers. For serving, heat a cupful till it is just about to boil. Meanwhile in another Kadhai fry a sliced shallot in a tsp of butter till it becomes roasted and brown. Add it to the soup . Also sprinkle a dash of pepper.
  • Healthy nourishing Bharani soup is ready. Enjoy it with some dinner rolls.

 

 

 

 

Kashmiri Murgh

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It’s funny …me penning down a Kashmiri chicken recipe sitting at the other end of the country, Kerala. Funnier still is the fact that rather than etching the stunning locales of beautiful Kashmir in my mind, I have been living all these years with the distinct taste memory of a chicken dish served at a roadside eatery somewhere in Gulmarg almost 35 years ago. The trip itself was a surprise. We were on a family visit to my aunt’s in Delhi for the summer holidays and sitting crowded before the singular water spluttering cooler we heard the announcement that came as music to our ears….a week’s holiday in the Paradise on Earth, Kashmir. So that was how a huge contingent of uncles, aunts and giggly girls landed in Srinagar. Everything about Kashmir was magical….the tall pine trees that lined the roads in Srinagar, the fluffy powdery snow in Gulmarg that made us roll in it till our fingers and toes became numb and stiff, the sledge ride down the snowy hill where we could see our mom and aunt shooting down(both were rather roly-poly) like rockets with the snow billowing behind them, the beautiful Shikaras in Dal lake and the beautiful people who walked around with the Kangri/ fire pot inside their woollens…all of it we took in with wonder and amazement.

The sheer size of our group and the peculiar nature of two of my smallest cousins though made every visit to restaurants during the trip a stressful one. A tight budget was to be followed while ordering food….that was the instruction given by the elders, which meant little plates to be shared by all….but the little brats were ardent chicken lovers and that meant any curry or fried dish ordered would come to us with no chicken, but some bits of masala only. Two days of silent suffering and things came to a head in a cute little eatery in Gulmarg where we had sat down for lunch, ravenous after hours of playing in the snow. As usual all chicken pieces were piled on plates before the two little devils and suddenly the fire of revolt was lit. The rest of us, cousins, declared a flash hunger strike and pushed our plates away. Our tearful expressions and steely determination produced results as very soon a fiery red Kashmiri chicken curry came to our table. It must be the hunger or the triumph of our revolt that rendered that curry its unbelievable taste….as we willed our frozen ramrod straight fingers to yield and slowly directed the luscious curry dipped bits of roti to our mouths each of us had the Zen expression as if we were enlightened by the taste goddess.

The deep red of the Kashmiri Murgh gives a false impression that it can be too hot for some of us… actually the colour comes from the mild and less pungent Kashmiri chilli which are soaked and ground to a red thick paste that not only gives a special flavour, but body to the curry. The use of aromatics like the black cardamom, jeera and saunf/aniseed, their slow tempering in oil to allow the individual fragrances to combine in the most divine way, result in an end product that knock your socks off. The look and taste of the curry makes one feel that nowhere on earth you would be able to cook it at home, but surprisingly, the steps are simple and uncomplicated and the best of all, after a point of its making, you can just pour water, put the lid on the bowl and allow it to bubble away and cook and work its magic on its own as you attend to other chores of making the rotis or whip up a raita.

I have been trying so many recipes from books as well as the net to make Kashmiri chicken….to bring back that special aroma and that distinct flavour embedded deep in my brain somewhere. Everytime something was amiss…either the curry was too thick and too rich for my taste or the visual effect, which is so important as it is that element that draws you to a dish, was not there. Finally my perseverance was rewarded….and here it is…my take on the Kashmiri Murgh, to be shared with you… that divine taste , look and aroma intact.

Ingredients

Chicken without skin : 500 gms ( cut into medium pieces)

Whole spices : 3 green cardamom, 1 black cardamom, 3 cloves,2 pcs cinnamon,1/2 tsp jeera 1/4 tsp fennel/saunf, 1 bayleaf,torn into 2.

Ginger : 3″ pc ground.

Garlic : 6 flakes

Kashmiri chillis, whole : 6. Slit them and remove seeds and soak them in warm water for 15-20 mts. Grind to a fine paste.

Kashmiri chilli pdr : 2 tsp

Coriander pdr : 1 tblesp.

Turmeric pdr : 1/2 tsp.

Tomatoes : 3 medium ( choose red ones). Chop them discarding the middle seeds.

Tomato sauce : 1 tblesp full.

Onion : 1 large, sliced.

Oil : 3 tblesp.

Salt to taste.

Coriander leaves for garnish.

Method

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  • Marinate chicken pieces in 1 tsp of chilli pdr, a pinch of turmeric, salt and 1/2 tsp of ginger and garlic paste. Keep covered in the fridge for an hour.
  • Put a heavy bottomed kadhai on heat and pour oil.
  • Now on slow fire, put the whole spices and allow them to slowly get heated up in the oil and release their aroma. This will take about 3 to 4 minutes. Take care not to burn the spices.
  • Put in the sliced onions and allow to saute and become light golden in colour.
  • Add the remaining ginger, garlic paste. Saute for 3 to 4 mins on slow heat.
  • Add the coriander,remaining chilli pdr, turmeric pdr and salt.

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  • Add the chilli paste and saute for a minute.
  • Add the tomato sauce and continue to saute.
  • After 4 to 5 minutes, add the marinated chicken. Fry in the masala for 5 mins.
  • Add enough water to cover the chicken pieces. Cover and cook for about 10-15 minutes on slow fire. Adjust salt. Take off gas.

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Delicious Kashmiri Murgh is ready. Garnish with coriander leaves.

Enjoy your Kashmiri Murgh with Rotis, Pulav or Bread.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diamond Cuts

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A lazy summer afternoon…an empty house with the kids out with their friends…a good movie playing on tv…it is indeed the ideal time to sink into the recliner, put your feet up, sip on a cool refreshing drink and bite into some crunchy sweetmeats. But here is the catch…a thorough raid of the pantry draws a blank…the kids have wiped the cookie box clean….a perfect situation to start fuming and stomping feet, isn’t it? If you have ten minutes for that movie to start, you can still retrieve the situation and have that blissful time you have yearned for.

Diamond cuts are really a quick bite you can prepare in no time. It needs just 4 ingredients….some flour, salt, oil and sugar. With no resting time for the dough you may as well keep the Kadhai with oil on heat as you knead. Seasoned chapatti makers can roll the dough and cut shapes in a matter of minutes too. Though deep fried, this snack doesn’t come out greasy at all. Also the thin layer of sugar coating on the diamond cuts ensure that you do not end up guilty after belting a big bowl of them. And finally they are hugely satisfying…each tiny diamond cut disintegrating with a noisy crunch as you bite  letting the mild sweetness coat your tongue making you involuntarily close your eyes to enjoy it to the full.

The Diamond cuts were a forgotten snack till the time we got transferred to Viramgam, Gujarat. The few families thrown together in the hardship location was a kaliedoscope of India,each coming from the different states of the country. All of us were miles away from home, but we vowed to make the best of the circumstances. There was no way to access exotic vegetables and provisions as Ahmedabad the nearest city was about 70Kms away. To cook a delicious meal with the local ingredients became a challenge. Thanks to the help of our Gujarati neighbors, exotic dishes like sweet mango Chunda, Khaman Dhokla and Gond ke laddoo became regular features on our dining table. Mondays were fun, when all of us women would collect together during the day for tea, a card game or two and some light gupshup (chit chat). It was on one such day that we were invited to Mrs. Singh’s house for tea. The Singh family was one of the latest arrivals to the colony and Mrs. Singh was on her very first move away from her home state, Bihar. What greeted us all on entering their compound was this wonderful sight…. a kerosene stove blazing in the shady corner of the front verandah with a kadhai of hot oil positioned on it and Mrs. Singh squatting by the side calmly rolling and shaping what looked like the typical Bihari sweet, the Chiroti/ Khaja.(Khaja is a sugar coated multi layered crispy snack.) None needed any invitation to join in and soon we were a bunch of ladies squatting on the floor, some brushing oil on to the spread dough sheets, some frying batches of Khaja and some dipping them in the sugar syrup. The tasty Khajas vanished as quickly as they hit the plates that day. As I bit into one I couldn’t help but wonder at the similarity of it with the simple diamond cuts mom used to make at home…and the conclusion that I arrived at was that if you have a lot of time to kill, go ahead and make the Khaja, but if time and patience is short, better go for the Diamond cuts.

Ingredients

Plain Flour : 2 cups + some for dusting.

Sugar ; 1/2 cup.

Salt : a pinch.

Oil : to fry.

Method

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  • In a flat bowl, take the flour. Add the salt and adding water make a tight dough. Knead for 5 minutes and keep aside.
  • Divide the dough into four balls. Take one ball, coat with flour and roll to a flat thin disc. Make the disc as thin as possible. Cut into diamond shapes with a sharp knife.

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  • Keep a heavy bottomed Kadhai on fire and pour oil.
  • Fry the cut shapes in oil on medium heat till they are crisp and starting to turn a mild brown colour. While frying do not overcrowd the Kadhai. Fry in small batches.

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  • In a separate heavy bottomed kadhai put the sugar along with 1/4 cup of water and keep stirring on medium heat.
  • Keep an eye on the sugar syrup. Keep stirring till you notice that a stage is reached when a swift stir with a spoon results in the thick syrup part to both sides leaving a gap for just a second. This is the 3 string stage which is just before the start of caramelization. Take off gas.
  • Now put in all the fried shapes into the syrup and with a flat spoon start mixing quickly so that all pieces are coated with the syrup. As you stir you would notice the sugar syrup getting dry and a fine coating of sugar on the pieces.
  • Tasty Diamond cuts are ready for you to enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

Mambazha Pulisseri

Photo from Sujatha

Vishu Pulari(dawn) is here…the Kani welcomes you with all things auspicious…the child in you is aroused as you pick your steps carefully towards it with your eyes tightly closed…and then you open your eyes slowly to take in the golden flickering lamps, the beautifully decorated Uruli brimming with a profusion of fruits, the yellow konna flowers, a bit of gold too….all that promise another year of health and happiness.

The Mambazha pulisseri is an indispensable part of my Vishu. The earliest memories revolve around huge cauldrons of honey sweet mangoes in a spicy mix bubbling away over a hearty fire and puny Sankaran Nair( he would appear magically before every festival to head the activities in our joint family kitchen) topless, with just a mundu around his waist, standing on tiptoe to stir the concoction with a gigantic ladle. As kids we used to stay clear of that Pulissery with everyone cracking disgusting jokes about how the poor man’s sweat would have saved some salt in the curry.

Much later by the time we developed a taste to enjoy the Pulissery, Sankaran Nair had receded into the oblivion and there was no way we could know the secret of the authentic Pulissery. A surprise visit to a relative’s tharavadu (ancestral home) around lunch time proved lucky as the matriarch was in her spacious kitchen monitoring the making of the Pulissery. Not one to let go of an opportunity to clinch a cracker of a recipe, I joined her in the kitchen to unravel the secret of the authentic Mambazha Pulissery.

To get the best results while making the Pulissery, go for the right mangoes. In Kerala there is a special variety of mango, the Chandrakkaran/pulimanga which has the perfect mixture of tangy sweetness with a fibrous juicy interior. These little mangoes have thin skins that can be peeled off easily. The distinct smell of these mangoes is captured in the curry as you crush the peels in some water with your hands and use the liquid to boil the mangoes in. A good Pulissery can also be made with store bought dried Alphonso mango strips…only go for some really sour curds to compensate for the absence of tang in the mango.

As the Pulissery bubbles away in my kitchen this Vishu morning, my mind wanders to linger on the precious moments that are past…the excited gleeful faces of us as kids as we count the coins gifted as kaineettam from elders at the end of the day…the thrill of almost touching the rooftops swinging wildly on the crude swing tied to the tallest branch of jackfruit tree in the garden….the sheepish look on the face of Amma as a surprise visit of a grand uncle late one Vishu evening caught us all feasting on Chicken Biryani. (Vishu is traditionally supposed to be a day to abstain from non-vegetarian food).

Ingredients

Mangoes : 1/2 kg. Peel the skins off and collect the peels in a bowl. Add some water and crush them coarsely with hands to extract the pulpy liquid. Now discard the peels.

If using dried mango strips take 10 – 12 strips. 

Red chilli pdr : 1 tsp.

Turmeric pdr : 1/2 tsp.

Salt : 1 tsp.

Jaggery : 40 gms/ 1 piece or achu.

Sour curds : 1/2 litre.

Coconut grated : 1 cup full.

Jeera/cumin : 1/2 tsp.

Green chillies : 4 -5.

Fenugreek/Methi pdr : 1/4 tsp.

Fenugreek/Methi whole : 1 tsp.

Mustard seeds : 1tsp.

Red chilli whole : 2 broken to bits.

Curry leaves : a few.

Coconut oil : 2 tblesp.

Method

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  • Put the peeled mangoes in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the jaggery, red chilli pdr, turmeric pdr, salt and the pulpy water you have extracted by crushing the peels. Bring to boil on medium heat.
  • Keep cooking till the water has almost evaporated and you get a sticky consistency.
  • Meanwhile beat the curds well and keep.
  • Also grind the coconut , green chillies and cumin/jeera to a smooth and fine paste.

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  • Once the water has evaporated from the mango mixture, pour the curd and cook , all the while stirring.
  • When it starts boiling, add the ground coconut mixture and keep stirring till the curry looks thick and creamy. Adjust salt at this point. Take off gas. Sprinkle the Methi/Fenugreek pdr and stir it in.
  • In a separate kadhai pour 2 tblsp of coconut oil and splutter mustard and methi seeds. As they start spluttering add the broken whole red chillies. Now add the curry leaves. Pour the entire mixture into the curry and give a stir.
  • Tasty Mambazha Pulissery is ready. Enjoy it with steaming rice.

 

 

 

 

American Chopsuey

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Summer holidays are here….that time of the year when all hell breaks loose with your kids and their buddies streaking in and out of home like the swish of sweeping winds, pudgy hands leaving their marks on empty cookie jars and you follow dust trails to the fridge to find all water and juice bottles emptied. Also it is that time when you need to up your ante planning snacks and meals that make them squeal in excitement, rather than duck under the table and sneak out silently from the scene.

American Chopsuey is a winner among kids ….they just love the crunch of the crispy fried noodles and that thick silky sauce with the sweetness of tomatoes. So what if there are some veggies (yuck) there…they’re all nicely coated in that yummy sauce and so too the crispy bits of that fried egg. As forkfuls quickly disappear from plates there are saucy smiles all around the table and guffaws as someone has already started licking his plate.

This dish is the best bet to load your young one with the daily dose of healthy veggies…the more colourful vegetables you incorporate, the better. It is so easy to make too…you can fry noodles and store in advance and once all your veggies are cut, you would need only a few minutes to cook them into the sauce. Homemade Chopsuey means, you can avoid Aji-no moto, use homemade stock and healthy cooking oil. Moreover the tantalizing smell of the sauce cooking can bring your kids to the dining table without a fuss and the sight of the bright red gooey goodness on crispy noodles topped with that golden fried egg is sure to bring on ear to ear smiles.

As I post this recipe, I go back in time to those wonderful days in Delhi when I had joined a cooking class run by Mrs. Skaria, wife of much respected senior officer in my husband’s office. Her kitchen was one of the happiest places to be in…with beautiful pots of herbs growing on the sunny window sill, kitchen slab and tiles all scrubbed squeaky clean, a well-used oven in the corner, bright kitchen towels and oven gloves hung at handy places. The first lesson I learned was to do up your kitchen in such a way that you feel like going there and cook. She also taught me not to compromise when selecting ingredients to cook with, asking me to go for the best available in the market. Her passion for cooking was infectious…as the few of us ardent learners flocked around her, she would patiently demonstrate each step in the making of the dish. Back at home as we tried experimenting on our own, there would be hits and misses….enough material to bring on hearty laughter or appreciating pats on the back the next day in class.

The love for cooking brought us close, with Aunty ( that’s how I call her now) coming down to Delhi all the way from Baroda to conduct classes for residents of our company township. Those were hey days for my girl too as she would have Auntie’s mouth-watering pizzas and ice creams waiting for her as she came back from school.

Post retirement, finally settled in Kerala, it is time to bond and we both waste no time, often visiting each other and spending time together. Now all of 75, she still remains passionate about cooking. The other day before she was to come and spend a couple of days with us as planned, I get a phone call….Dear; get some fresh pineapple and oranges from the market. It is summer….perfect time to prepare some squash.

Ingredients

Veg/Egg Hakka Noodles : 1 pk. 1 pk is enough to feed 4 hungry kids.

Cornflour : 2 tblesp.

Oil : to fry noodles.

Vegetable stock : 1 and1/2 cups. ( you may use store bought soup cube. I pk is enough for 1 and 1/2 cups water.)

Carrot : 1 medium. Cut into thin strips.

Capsicum red, green, yellow : 1/2 of each. Cut into thin strips.

Cabbage : 1 cup shredded fine.

Green onions : 1 small bunch. Cut the bulbs into thin strips. Chop the green portion.

Celery : 2 tblesp of finely sliced stalks.

Garlic : 4-5 cloves, crushed.

Red chilli flakes : 1 tsp.

Tomato sauce : 5 tblesps full.

Sweet chilli sauce : 1 tblesp.

Oyster sauce : 1 tsp.

Soy sauce : 1 tblesp.

Sugar : 1 tsp.

Vinegar : 1 tblesp.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Eggs : 4.(1 each for 4 portions.)

Method

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  • Take a sauce pan and pour 1 lit of water, add 1 tsp salt and keep for boiling. 
  • Once it comes to a rolling boil, add the noodles from the packet. Separate with a fork as they cook.
  • Once they are just done, with a bit of a bite in the middle, take off gas and strain into a colander. Keep the colander under a running tap and wash the noodles well to stop them cooking further.
  • Drain well and add a dash of oil to keep them from sticking to each other. Spread out on to a plate and keep in an airy spot for about 2 hours.
  • Once dry, add 1/2 tblsp of cornflour to the noodles and softly coat them with your fingers.
  • Keep a kadhai on the gas and pour oil. Once hot, deep fry the noodles in batches till crisp. Transfer to a plate lined with absorbent paper to remove excess oil. You can keep the fried noodles in an airtight container till you are ready to serve the chopsuey.

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  • Remove the excess oil from the kadhai leaving about 2 tblesp and on medium heat saute the crushed garlic and chilli flakes.
  • Once the garlic starts to brown, add the vegetables and fry them on high heat.
  • Meanwhile in a separate bowl, mix the tomato sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sweet chilli sauce, sugar and vinegar.
  • Mix the cornflour into the stock and keep.
  • Once the vegetables turn bright in colour from the heat and start wilting, add the sauces.
  • After a minute of adding the suces, add the stock cornflour mix and stir. You will notice the sauce getting thick and silky. At this point check salt and add pepper to taste.
  • Your vegetable sauce is ready.
  • In a separate fry pan pour 1 tsp oil and fry an egg crisp sunny side up.

To Serve

  • Take a clean plate and spread some fried noodles at the bottom. You may break them if they look long.
  • Pour the hot vegetable mix on top.
  • Arrange the fried egg on top and sprinklechopped green onions over.

Note…. Non vegetarians can put in strips of shredded chicken along with the vegetables.