Jackfruit curry with stir-fried gluten free rice

 

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It is once again Jackfruit season. Like the phoenix that resurrects itself from the ashes, our humble jackfruit too has recently become the star in culinary circles. With its distinct meaty flavour in raw form and its health benefits, especially for diabetics, jackfruit dishes are today experimented with élan by big chefs and home cooks alike.

The jack fruit season brings so many fond memories to the fore. The lazy summer afternoons, with the entire family congregating in the open courtyard, all the action would begin when the huge fruit is struck a mighty blow right in the middle splitting it wide open exposing the golden yellow plump, fleshy and fragrant  bulbs of pure nectar. The elders with their oil smeared palms pluck out the bulbs with so much expertise and as children our job was to fill our mouths and stomachs with as much of ‘Chakka’ as possible. The chakka plucking was indeed the ideal time to chat, gossip, laugh and make merry for everyone- young or old. Time flies as basins fill up with cleaned chakka in some and seeds in another. The prickly outer skin and sticky parts would go to the cows as their meal….no part wasted.

Chakka stories were indeed fun stories. There was this Chakka kallan, our neighbor Narayanan who would sneak up the tree at the crack of dawn and once he saw us would try to camouflage himself by extending his torso to look like a tree branch, but that didn’t work and we would sing in unison Chakkakalla…Narayana. And then there was this tearjerker of a movie called Poombatta starring the cute and adorable Sridevi as child star. People thronged to watch the untold cruelty meted out on such a chit of a girl by her monster step mother. All of us kids were treated to the movie too and we were seated in a row….there is this moment when the angry stepmom plonks a monstrous Chakka on little Sridevi’s head and her head goes into a wild dance in an effort to balance the weight. Instead of gasps of horror from our row in the theatre there emanated a round of animated laughter (maybe our addiction to all the funny comic books was the reason) to which we were chided and shhhed by fellow movie goers.

My jackfruit curry recipe is a typical Punjabi style one. A few minutes of frying of the jackfruit chunks in oil brings out the meaty texture to the curry. The curry goes well with rotis and pulavs. Here I have decided to go full on healthy and have chosen veggie tossed gluten free rice to go with this vegan curry which looks and tastes truly meaty. A safe and healthy meal which helps you feel full and satiated for long, this recipe is surely one for keeps if you want to keep your calories in check. Enjoy!

Ingredients

Jackfruit pieces cleaned and cut : 500gms.

Onion : 1 chopped.

Garlic ; 5-6 flakes, ground to paste.

Ginger : 2” piece, ground to paste.

Green chilli : 1 chopped.

Tomatoes : 3 medium ones, grind to a pulp in the mixi.

Coriander pdr: 1 and 1/2 tsp.

Turmeric pdr: ½ tsp.

Red chilli pdr : 1 tsp.

Garam masala pdr: ½ tsp.

Kasoori methi : 1 tsp, crush with your hands.

Coriander leaves : a few.

Oil : 3-4 tblesp.

Salt to taste.  

Method

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  • In a heavy bottomed Kadhai add oil and place on medium heat. Fry the jackfruit chunks in the oil for about 3-4 mts until you see the edges turning slightly roasted.
  • With a slotted spoon take them out of the oil and place on a plate lined with absorbent paper.
  • In the same oil add the chopped onions and sauté till they slightly turn brown.
  • Add the chopped green chilli, the ground garlic and ginger paste and sauté for 2-3 mts.

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  • Add the tomato puree prepared in the blender. Also add the turmeric, coriander, red chilli powders and salt. Saute the mixture till oil starts leaving at the edges.
  • Now add the fried jackfruit pieces and a cup of warm water and mix everything well. After allowing the mixture to come to a boil, add the garam masala pdr. Cover the vessel and leave to cook for 10-12 mts till the jackfruit is done.
  • Open the lid and give the curry a stir. Crush kasoori methi in your palms and add to the curry. Garnish with coriander leaves.

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For the rice dish:-

Take a cup of gluten free rice ( I used a combination of brown and black rice ) and cook it with a lot of water and strain and keep.

In a kadhai on heat 2 tsps pour oil ( you can use olive oil/butter or plain vegetable oil to suit your taste). When the oil starts heating up grate 1/2 a garlic clove into it. As it turns golden, add 2 tblesps of finely chopped carrots and chopped spring onion and saute for 2 mts. Add the cooked rice and toss well in the mixture. Add salt and keep stirring for 2-3 mts. Transfer to a bowl and serve.

 

 

Pazhapayasam/ Banana kheer

 

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The Nenthran bananas are kerala natives….and how much we love them! We can never ever have enough of our banana chips, our banana halwa or those crispy fried pazham pori. We do try to make almost every possible version of banana delicacies at home but I think the one delectable item that still eludes our home kitchens is the Pazhapayasam. Taste a good Pazhapayasam and these are some involuntary reactions that happen…eyes close on their own in ecstacy, head rolls from side to side as if taking a bow and legs go weak as the ultimate surrender to the masterpiece concocted from such a simple ingredient.

My first tasting of Pazhapayasam, I remember was right after a rather scary encounter with the gentle giants…a couple of circus elephants. A big circus was in town and all kids in the family, right from my crawling baby cousin were taken to watch. Needless to say we had the time of our lives, laughing along with the ridiculously funny clowns and watching the trapeze artists with bated breath. But the one thing that really melted everyone’s heart was the cute little baby elephant that darted into the ring, dancing and fanning its big ears to the playing band music. The show came to a close and as luck would have it, all of us kids were invited to the animal sheds where saw naughty one again. Seeing our excitement, the elephant trainer offered to come to our house if we were ready to treat the tiny one with bananas and jaggery. The next morning was all the more exciting for us…from the crack of dawn we were bathed and scrubbed and waiting with the goodies and we were not disappointed…from the end of the road we could see the little grey ball of fun rolling down to us…but right behind was his mom…a somewhat frightening animal at that. They turned the curve to enter our compound and what happened in the next few minutes played out like a classic comic strip. The little one started happily chomping away at the goodies and coolly trotted up the front steps into our midst….we took flight screaming and squealing and an aunt who tried to come between was butted away by the little tusker…we ran for dear life and took refuge atop the dining table with the baby elephant following, sniffing our toes and going around the table merrily. More commotion was playing out at the entrance when momma elephant started climbing the front steps to come in too. From the dining room window we caught a glimpse of my father, who like a knight in shining armour was trying in vain to close the front door blocking her. The situation was somehow saved as the trainer jumped in, shooed away momma elephant and chased the little one out. The elephants and their keeper left, but we spent the day discussing the different versions of the episode. Lunch was over and to the table came some hot pazhapayasam…a quizzical look at Sankran Nair, the cook and he went…ee pazham sarkara okke chilavavande (we need to use up these bananas and jaggery…don’t we)!

One need not wait for a wedding sadya to relish the delicious Pazhapayasam. Try my payasam recipe… minimum ingredients, simple steps and what you get in result is a payasam that never lets you down.

Ingredients

Overripe Nenthran bananas : 600 gms. Steam them in the idly cooker and keep.

Jaggery : 300 gms.

Coconut milk : 2 and1/2 cups. I used 150 gms of coconut milk powder which I mixed into 2 and1/2 cups of lukewarm water and kept.

Ghee : 3 tblesp.

Cashewnuts chopped : 8-9.

Water to make jaggery syrup.

Method

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  • Take off the skin of the steam cooked bananas, split them in the middle and take off the veins and small seeds as much as possible.
  • Meanwhile in a sauce pan keep the jaggery and 2 and 1/2 cups of water on the stove to melt the jaggery.
  • Once you have prepped the bananas by deveining them,put them into a blender/mixie and grind to a fine paste.
  • Transfer half of jaggery mixture, ground banana paste and 2 tblesp of ghee to a heavy bottomed vessel and start cooking, occasionally running a flat ladle through the mixture.

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  • Keep stirring till most of the water gets evaporated and you get a dark sticky toffee like consistency. it is very necessary to take it to the mixture to a tight toffee stage to get the right result. Keep to cool.
  • Once the mixture has cooled down a bit add the rest of the jaggery water, the dissolved coconut milk solution. Now mix everything well so that the banana mixture, coconut milk and jaggery water is all mixed to form a slightly thick liquid.
  • Strain the mixture through a metal seive so that any hard bits are removed and discarded.
  • Now transfer the liquid to a heavy based vessel and heat till it just comes to a boil. Mix well with a ladle. Allow to boil gently for 2-3 minutes. Take off gas.
  • Keep a small kadhai on heat and add 1 tblesp ghee and fry cashewnuts. Once roasted, transfer them along with the ghee to the Payasam. Delicious Pazhapayasam is ready. Enjoy!

 

 

Oats and Sooji Instant Idlies

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I still remember how I used to just hate the sight of Idlies as a young girl…those busy school days when you are already late for everything, the sight of that mountain of half globes on the breakfast table with a runny chutney by the side would bring angry tears. But there was no way one could escape them…under the ever watchful eyes of the most hateful uncle at the head of the table I would pick on one idly, neatly bite at the edges and in that one second when the uncle gets busy slurping his hot coffee, dunk the middle part in the chutney and run out for dear life.

It is now common knowledge that Idly is one of the most healthy breakfast food.  The merits are many… Idlies are steamed with no trace of oil, the fermentation of batter makes them easily digestible, the udad in it gives the needed protein, etc,etc. But still making idly needs a bit of planning in the kitchen. You need to pre-soak your rice and lentils, grind them, beat the batter and allow it to ferment overnight and that can be, to put it mildly, a bit cumbersome.

That is where these interesting Oat idlies come into the picture. No grinding, no fermenting ….everything instant, and still no compromise on taste. These oat idlies are light as air and truly a joy to eat. For the calorie conscious, they do away with calorie packed rice altogether. A sprinkling of veggies and greens lifts up the taste, elevates these idlies from being bland and uninteresing to airy and colour dotted hemispheres . Try them today and you won’t be disappointed.

Ingredients

Oats : 1 cup.

Sooji/Rawa : 1/2 cup.

Salt :  1/2 tsp.

Mustard seeds ;1 tsp.

Udad//black gram ; 1/2tsp.

Chana dal/ Chick pea split : 1/2 tsp.

Red chilli whole ; 1.

Curry leaves ; 2-3.

Carrots chopped fine ; 2 tblesp.

Coriander leaves ; 2 tblesp, chopped.

Curds ; 1 cup.

Baking soda/ soda bi carb : 1/8 th tsp.

Oil : 3 tsps.

Water if needed to make batter.

Method

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  • In a blender/mixie run the oats to make a coarse powder. Combine it with Sooji and keep.
  • In a small bowl keep all the ingredients for tempering…mustard, udad, chana, red chilli, curry lesves.
  • In a kadhai on medium heat add 2 tsps oil and add igredients for tempering except redchilli and curry leaves. once the mustard srarts spluttering, add tghe chilli broken to bits and the curry leaves.
  • After a minute add the powdered oats and Sooji mix and allow it to roast and be fragrant on very low heat for about 5-6 minutes, constantly moving the mixture with a spoon. Take off gas and keep aside to cool.

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  • Into the oat mixture add the cut veggies and salt. Mix well.
  • Now add the curds and mix well till you get a thick batter, a bit more thick than the ordinary idly batter.
  • If you feel that the batter is too thick, you may add a little water. But care should be taken not to make the mixture runny.
  • Mix the batter really well and keep aside for a few minutes. Use this time to  grease your idly moulds. Keep the idly vessel with water to come to a boil.
  • Add the baking soda and mix well and you can see the batter rising a little and becoming a bit airy. Do not waste any time now..quickly spoon your batter into the greased moulds and keep to cook.
  • Let the idlies steam for 10-12 minutes. Take them out of the vessel and let the mould cool a bit. With a flat spoon take out the idlies from the moulds and serve them hot with spicy onion chutney and creamy coconut chutney.

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  • For the creamy coconut chutney…. grind 1 cup grated coconut with 1 green chilly and 1/2 tsp salt. In a kadhai on heat add 1/2 tsp mustard and wait till it starts spluttering. Add a redchiili broken to bits and some curry leaves. Add this temperd mixture to the chutney.
  • For the spicy onion chutney… grind 2 chopped red onions in a mixi. in  kadhai on mild heat add 1 tblesp oil and add 1 tsp kashmiri chilli pdr. Saute for a second till the chilli powder gives off an aroma..do not burn the chilli by keeping the flame high. Inmmediately add the ground onion paste and 1/2 tsp salt and mix well. Take off gas after a minute and garnish with a tsp of coconut oil.

 

 

Unakkallari/Ricebran rich rice Dosa with Chutneys and Podi

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Life is getting fast and frenetic for everyone. Anyone I see is either rushing out with not a moment to spare apart from a quick hello or is so engrossed in their phones that it becomes a lot painful to just look up and take stock of the world around. For those like me who have all the time in the world, life in this small town opens up lots of avenues for entertainment. Temples, markets, libraries and movie theatres are all a stone’s throw away and on the days you prefer to stay put at home there are portals like the Netflix and Amazon Prime to offer maximum entertainment.  But amidst the madness and frenzy of it all there are times when everything comes to a pause….when you become a bit philosophical and would rather reflect and ponder over the meaning of it all. The passing of our elderly neighbor, all of 100 years, was one such occasion. From the time we moved to Thrissur, we were used to the sight from our 7th floor window of the elderly couple relaxing and reading their morning newspaper in the spacious portico of their sprawling house opposite. Our only encounter with them was when we were invited for their 75th wedding anniversary. Their house itself is a sight for sore eyes with its front garden always in bloom with seasonal flowers and fruits. Letting ourselves into the compound to pay our last respects, we saw the entire family collected around the floral decorated coffin. A steady stream of visitors, mostly octogenarians filed past silently. The entire setting was of grace and poise and also of celebration of the life of a man who had lived a full and meaningful life raising a family and establishing himself as a man of importance in the society.

I look at all this with a sense of wonder and awe. For us Kerala had always been that safe sanctuary, that Shangrila that you would longingly come to spend vacations and short holidays. We never ever had that chance to be a proper Keralite in all those years we were away in different states of the country. But now when we are here for good to spend the evening-years of life, we realize that so much has changed. The simple joys of just being together, sharing and caring for each other, which were the hallmarks of our families have all vanished. This is the times of formal visiting and forced conversations. But then there are a few specks of sunshine too. A hearty meal is still enjoyed and that is the way to revive the long lost happy moments of togetherness and fun. I cook to my heart’s content when I call my family over….the exercise can leave me tired and exhausted but the joy I get when I share a lovingly cooked meal with everyone is enough to get me past my blues.

There cannot be more indigenous a Kerala preparation than the Unakkalleri Dosa. The Unakkaleri is made from  paddy that is  dried in the shade and pounded to remove the husk. Much of the bran is left intact which gives the rice its characteristic reddish brown colour. Highly nutritious and with disease fighting capabilities, the Unakkaleri is often used to prepare gruel/kanji to the sick. The ground rice paste for the dosa has the distinct smell of the soft wet earth of Kerala and add a generous amount of coconut and you get a batter that gives off the the rich and delicate aroma of coconuts and jeera/cumin. If ever I craved for Kerala food in the North it was for these soft and delicate dosas, because those days it was quite difficult to get some Unakkaleri outside of the state. Now with a click of a button you have your Unakkaleri delivered home. The dosa goes well with the coconut onion chutney and the dosapodi. But then who can wait for your chutney to be ready when that hot and fragrant dosa is calling you to just tuck in!

Ingredients for the Dosa

Unakkaleri : 2 cups.

Grated coconut : 1 and 1/2 cup.

Jeera/cumin: 1 tblesp.

Salt to taste

For the coconut-onion chutney

Method

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  • Soak the rice in water for about 2-3 hrs.
  • In a blender/mixie grind the rice to a smooth paste and transfer to a bowl.
  • Now grind the coconut and jeera to a coarse paste and mix in with the rice to a watery free flowing batter.
  • On a medium hot tawa make your dosa by quickly spreading a ladle of batter from the outer edges to the inside and paouing a tsp of gingely oil on top. Once one side is done which takes a minute flip it to the other side and give it another minute or more to slowly crisp up. Remove to a plate.

Ingredients for the chutneys

Grated coconut : 2 cups.

Green chillies : 2 ( remove seeds if needed).

Onion : 1 small.

Red chilli pdr : 1 tsp. ( use kashmiri chilli for colour).

Salt to taste

Oil for tempering

Mustard seeds : 1/2 tsp.

Red chilli whole : 1

Curry leaves : 2-3.

Method

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  • In a blender add 1 cup of grated coconut , onion sliced, salt and the redchilli pdr. Add just enough water to make into a coaresly ground chutney. Transfer to bowl.
  • For the green coconut chutney coarsely grind 1 cup grated coconut with the green chillies and salt. Transfer to bowl. Now in a kadhai pour 1 tsp of oil and on medioum heat temper mustard seeds, redchilli brokren up and curry leaves and add to the chutney.

Ingredients for thr Dosa Podi

Urad/ black gram dal : 1 cup.

Arhar/ Pigeon pea dal : 1 cup.

Whole kashmiri chillies : 15 no;s.

Black til/ sesame seeds : 1 tsp full.

Asafoetida pdr : 1/2 tsp full.

Salt to taste

Method

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  • Keep a kadhai on medium heat and start dry roasting the udad dal till it becomes golden light brown in colour.Keep aside.
  • In the same kadhai roast the arhar Dal till it becomes almost the colour of red ants. At this stage add the chillies and the sesame and roast for another 4 minutes.
  • Grind the dals and chillies and pass the powder through a sieve . Add the Asafoetida pdr and salt. Once cool transfer the podi to an airtight jar wher it can stay fresh for a couple of months.
  • To eat with dosa take some podi in a bowl and mix it with some coconut oil till it becomes a thick paste.

                               

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Vattayappam with Varutharacha Meen curry

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Weddings in Kerala these days are getting more and more big and lavish. The vibrant colours of the flower bedecked mandap, the high octane beats of the traditional drums, the glittering jewellery flashing on heavy silk clad bodies, photographers busy catching candid shots of the macho groom and the coy bride…all these are becoming common at any wedding these days. But amidst the pomp and fervor of big budget weddings, there happen a few which stand out in their refreshing simplicity and old world charm. I was lucky to catch one such last weekend. Tucked away in a corner of the temple town, Guruvayur, the venue was a small sized hall….just enough to hold a group not more than a hundred and odd. Outsiders were few and it was the perfect setting for the entire family converging from far and near to bond and connect. Gay laughter and chatter filled the hall. Cousins who at one time went to school together, now in all shapes and sizes excitedly talking about good old times, their daughters in pretty gaghras and lehengas flitting about like bright butterflies, little naughty kids streaking about and playing hide and seek behind the lace curtains and decorative flower garlands…from my comfy seat in the corner I watched it all. A group of pretty girls were already getting ready to take the Thalam to escort the groom and the bride to the mandap. A close scrutiny of their attire ….and I understood…the days of heavy silk sarees are over. The girls were all in soft silks of pastel colours with contrasting heavily embroidered silk blouses. The ornate patterns in gold and silver zardosi shone in the golden light of the lamps accentuating the beauty of their youthful faces….these moments are the bonuses of attending weddings. The Muhurtam was nearing and as the pretty lasses trooped out to the entrance in a rustle of silks and hushed giggles, I saw the last one shrugging her hair to let those lustrous locks fall into place and I as if on cue couldn’t help patting my own mouse tail of hair. The pretty little mandap aglow with the lighted lamps, the Nadaswaram music that set the mood to the ceremony, the elegant groom and the glowing bride….everything was there to see and enjoy…no photographers thronged in front to block the view, no big grouping of family on the mandap creating confusion…just a simple ceremony in all its sanctity and convention.

Varutharacha meen curry is an authentic central kerala fish preparation. Unlike people in the south of the state we rarely use the kudampuli to give the needed sourness to the curry. Here tamarind, green mango or the irimbanpuli (a sour fruit) are the souring agents in fish curry. But the fresh kudampuli has a flavour and taste of its own ….much milder and bordering on sweetness it has none of the pungent kick of the dried version. Put it in the curry and the soft and deep sour taste blends so well with the oil roasted coconut masala and the unique flavour of ‘Naadan Ayala’(Indian mackerel). There are some scents of food that brings to mind visions of ‘Kettuvalloms’, swaying coconut palms and bright green paddy fields…..this is one such.

To go with the ‘Idivettu’(thunder)curry what better than the spongy, puffy white vattayappam. This one is a kottayam native …but like successful marriages where opposites attract, the fermented sweetness of the Vattayappam perfectly complements the spicy, tangy curry.

The Malayali, wherever he goes, would not trade the tastes of home for anything else. How wonderful it is to recreate that magic of home food in your little kitchen. Start with the easy steps of the vattayappam to slowly pick up pace with the coconut frying …no worries if you don’t get fresh kudampuli (you can always substitute with the dried ones or plain tamarind)…relish the sight of the fish curry bubbling on your stove top and wait for the steamy vattayappam to flop down on your plate. Dig in and let your mind take that solo trip in the tranquil backwaters and you can almost hear the distant strain of a boat song.

Ingredients

For the Ayala(indian Mackerel) curry

Fish: 500 gms. I have used the Ayala. You may use any fleshy fish instead.

Coconut grated : 5 tblesp full.

Shallots : 10-15 or 1/2 cup. Use half for frying with coconut and the other half for sauteing in curry.

Tomatoes : 2 medium, chopped.

Coriander whole : 2 tblesp.

Methi/fenugreek seeds : 1/2 tsp.

Curry leaves : 5-6.

Red chilli pdr : 2 tblesp. You may use kashmiori chilli pdr which is milder.

Fresh kudampuli : 1/2 a fruit. Instead you may use tamarind the size of a small lemon soaked in water and pulp extracted or 4-5 pieces of dried kudampuli soaked in water and torn up to pieces.

Coconut oil : 3 tblesp and another tblesp to pour over the cooked curry.

Turmeric pdr : 1/4 tsp.

Salt to taste 

A few sprigs of curry leaves as garnish.

For the Vattayappam

Raw rice : 1 and 1/2 cups. soak in water for more than 2 hrs.

Grated coconut : 1 and 1/2 cup.

Quick yeast : 1/2 tsp. 

Cooked rice : 1/2 cup.

Salt : 1/2 tsp.

Sugar : 3-4 tsps.

Method

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  • Marinate the washed and cut fish in a tsp of chilli pdr, 1/4 tsp of turmeric pdr and 1/2 tsp of salt and keep aside for 15 mins.
  • Take coconut grated, coriander, methi, half the shallots and curry leaves on a plate. Keep the chilli pdr aside.
  • In a kadhai add 3 tblesp coconut oil and add all the frying ingredients together except for the chilli pdr.
  • Start frying on medium heat stirring all the time till you see the coconut getting roasted and turn brown.
  • Add the chilli pdr and mix in for just a minute more. Your masala mix is ready. Grind it in a blender to a smooth paste.

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  • In a broad based vessel (In kerala we use the manchatti/ earthen pot for cooking fish) on medium heat add 2 tblesp of coconut oil and saute chopped shallots. After 3-4 minutes add the chopped tomatoes and saute for another 3-4 minutes till the tomatoes have somewhat broken down and softened.
  • Now add the ground masala along with a cup and 1/2 of water . Add the kudampuli, salt, turmeric pdr and the marinated fish. 
  • Cook covered till the fish is done and the gravy looks rich and not watery.
  • Take off gas and add another tablesp pf coconut oil on top and garnish with fresh curry leaves.

To make the Vattayappam

Grind in a blender the rice, cooked rice, 1 cup of coconut grated, the yeast to a fine paste.

Pour into a big vessel. 

Grind 1/2 cup of coconut with the cardamom seeds coarsely.

Mix everything together. Add salt and sugar and mix well. Keep to ferment for about 2 hrs in a warm place. The batter would rise up to double in size.

Graese a cake tin with oil and pour the batter in to about 3/4 th ht. Steam in an idli vessel for 15-20 mts till done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decadently Delish Mud Cake

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The monsoons arrive in Kerala once again…and the entire landscape changes as if by magic. The plants in my little garden almost withered and dying in the scorching and unrelenting heat of the summer sun suddenly break into this shivery ridiculous dance as the welcome droplets fall on them. The sky overhead already dark with dense rain-laden clouds gets active with flashes of silver lightning and rumbling thunder. Swinging lazily in the hanging basket in my patio I look outside….the heady scent of rain-soaked earth is intoxicating, the sudden spray of droplets let in by a flutter of wind so invigorating. I feel my gathered age just getting washed away leaving me once again a little child awestruck by the unfolding drama of the heavens before me. How many times have I celebrated this season…as a child making endless numbers of paper boats and letting them sail in the turbulent gush of muddy waters that flow out through the front yard in little choppy rivulets. Or stand under the shady boughs of the jasmine vines as the powerful sheets of rain curtains me on both sides allowing only a stray drop trickle down my upturned face. I step out into the rain and feel the cool wetness of grass for a second and  I venture further allowing the squishy enveloping mud tingle my toes.

Monsoons bring a change to one’s eating preferences too. The Kanji (rice porridge) takes centrestage and comes to the table with accompaniments of a horde of satellite dishes in the form of variety chammanthi (spicy coconut chutney), pieces of fried fish, kondattam (sundried rice/veg crackers) and pickles. The steaming kanji and the spicy condiments bring about a shiny sweat on faces and is said to guard one from sniffles and fevers that attack during the rainy months. With the advent of modernity the kanji is seen making way for hot soups and bowls of saucy pasta. And who wouldn’t love a cup of hot chocolate on a rainy rainy day?

Coming to chocolate indulgence this mud cake recipe is a keeper. Loaded with a good measure of chocolate and cocoa, it has just the right amount of coffee to give the cake its character. The oil and the buttermilk added to the batter gives the cake velvety smoothness and a refreshing moistness. The easy to make cake is a sure hit at parties…pair it with a couple of scoops of ice-cream of your choice and this becomes an after dinner dessert that seems to have come straight from a 5 star restaurant.

With the rains lashing and the winds howling it is understandable if one feels tad lazy to enter the kitchen and cook an elaborate meal. You would rather curl up on the couch with your coffee mug and a book. So why not try the old time Kanji which would bubble away on its own without one giving much attention. The worst part can be how to make your toddler eat it.The ultimate trick of making your youngster down his bowl of Kanji without zipping shut his mouth would be to lure him/her with this dark and handsome piece of chocolaty mudcake. Take it from me… the taste is so addictive that once you get yourself to bake it, it’s going to be a regular in your kitchen.

Ingredients

Dark chocolate ( Compound) : 125gms

Eggs : 2 no;s.

Powdered sugar : 250gms.

Butter : 125gms.

Coffee pdr (instant) : 3/4 tsp.

Vanilla Essence : 1/2 tsp.

Maida/Plain flour : 165 gms.

Baking soda : 1/4 tsp.

Baking pdr : 1/2 tsp.

Cocoa : 15 gms.

Water : 100ml.

Oil : 20ml.

Buttermilk : 60ml ( You can prepare your own buttermilk by adding 1 tblesp vinegar in 1 cup milk)

Salt : 1/8th tsp.

Method

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  • In a saucepan over low flame melt butter, chocolate,coffee, salt and water. Once the chocolate has melted and the mixture has come together, take off gas and cool.
  • Sieve plain flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking pdr. Mix the powdered sugar and keep aside.

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  • Beat eggs, vanilla,buttermilk and oil really well in a mixing bowl.
  • Add the flour mixture in 2-3 batches and mix in well after each addition.
  • Add the chocolate mixture slowly and beat everytime 2-3 spoonfuls are added till everything is mixed in.

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  • Pour the cakke mixture into a butter paper lined tin of 8″ diametre.
  • Bake the cake at 160deg C for 1hr and15 mts.
  • Take out of the oven and let cool. Delicious choc mud cake is ready. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Nostalgic Panjasara/Sugar Dosas and Meetha/Sweet Parathas

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Flipping through the pages of an age old colourful foreign magazine that I had picked up from a street vendor in Delhi, my eyes are transfixed on the image of super-soft, melt in the mouth looking crepes tidily stacked on a plate. I had always wanted to taste a crepe and my wish was at last granted on a trip to the French speaking territory of Belgium …Spa, famous for its mineral springs. Our dear Belgian family friends wanted us to see the beautiful autumn colours, had organized a weekend trip and how spectacular it was! The walks through the golden moorlands, our shoes clattering on the narrow wooden pathways, the biting cold winds lashing making even our brown cheeks turn blushing pink and our hair do a wild dance were times to cherish. The sight of the spectacular golden grassland that stretched right into the horizon and the carefree chatter with our adorable long distance friends, not to mention the umpteen pics we clicked together made the day at the moors truly memorable.

All that exercise of walking miles in the biting cold made us all work up a ravenous apetite. Driving through the maze of roads canopied by chestnut tree branches all afire with flame coloured leaves, we arrived at a quaint town dotted with pretty houses and little eating joints. The restaurant we went into had a beaming waitress in a happy polka dot frock and a matching bow neatly pinned to her made up hair and she quickly showed us to our table right in front of the warm old fashioned fireplace. Francoise, my friend, suggested we go for French Croquettes and there were all variants to suit everyone’s tastes and soon they came…crisp and golden fried and just right for the rainy cold weather outside. The meal was so  very satisfying and as a fitting culmination to the hearty meal came the French Crepes.

For me, those crepes were indeed a revelation…I have had this taste before. Flashes of the little house nestled between the sprawling rice fields in Chelakkara, Thrissur and a vivid picture of my own Ammamma/ grandmom, her ivory complexioned face bright in the dim light of the distant bulb feeding me jaggery sweetened Gothumbu/wheat Dosa from a cracked and lined pewter dish ran through me. Those Dosas were exceptional in taste…maybe because of their mild sweetness, or the pure cow’s ghee that was splattered on them liberally or just because they were so lovingly made by her and fed in the most doting way.

It is magical how food can connect across continents and seas. Crepes in their true form may be French with the batter made rich with milk and eggs, but we Indians too have our own frugal versions. The Panjasara Dosa is the Pahalwan (body builder) version of the soft and delicate crepes. The rice flour batter gives it an attitude of standup stiffness and strength. Allow it to crisp up on the Tawa a little and with each mouthful you feel the crack of the crisp dosa and the ooze of the just melted sugar in your mouth which is hugely satisfying. The Sugar Parathas too are evergreen favourites of kids and the hidden surprise of the melted sugar in the folds would make them finish their parathas at top speed.

Try these easy and fun throwback snack ideas with modern time kids already saturated with store bought sweets and treats. It’s guaranteed that they would wipe their plates in a jiffy and gift you, moms,  a sugary peck on the cheek.

Ingredients

For the dosas                             You can make 20 dosas from this batter.

Idly Rice ; 2 cups.

Urad/Black gram whole : 1/2 cup.

Methi/ fenugreek seeds : 1 tsp.

Sugar : 1 tblesp for each dosa.

Salt to taste.

Gingely Oil/ groundnut oil : a tsp full for each dosa.

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  • Soak the rice and lentils together in water for 3-4 hrs.
  • Grind to an almost smooth paste in mixi/blender. The batter should be of thick pouring consistency. Add salt and keep to ferment in a warm area overnight/ 8-10 hrs.
  • Keep a dosa tawa on heat and once hot, spread a ladle of batter in a round disc. Pour a tsp of oil all over and wait for the wet batter to cook . Once done add the sugar evenly all over the dosa. You would see the sugar starting to melt and slowly mixing with the bubbling oil on the surface.Carefully lift one side of dosa and flip over to the other side and again fold to a triangle and remove from the pan. Serve hot.

Ingredients

For the Meetha Paratha                       makes 8 parathas

Wheat flour : 1 cup.

Salt : 1/4 tsp.

Water to form a dough.

Sugar 1 Tblesp for each Paratha.

Ghee : 1 tsp for each paratha.

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  • Mix the flour and salt and adding water little by little make a dough like a proper roti dough… not too tight or too sticky.
  • Leave to rest for 15-20 mts.
  • Take a lime sized ball of dough in your hand and roll into a ball. Flatten to make a disc and keep in your cupped hands and put 1 tblesp of sugar in the centre.
  • Bring the edges together and shape the dough into a ball again. With a rolling pin, softly roll the dough into a paratha taking care not to press too hard.
  • Cook your parathas on a hot tawa adding the ghee on both sides as you flip over. Meetha Paratha is ready. Serve hot.