Saturday, May 23, 2009

kerala chicken stew with appam ..comfort food for everyone...

Kerala style chicken stew and appam is one of those comfort meals we look forward to. I am a fan of coconut milk gravies actually. I keep making  a lot of chingri malai curry, vegetable stew, meen molly and Thai green curries with coconut milk. Kerala chicken stew or vegetable stew is a favorite too, more because these curries are so healthy and so tasty too.

What creamy and rich curry would be as healthy as this stew and what crisp bread or pancake would be the beat combination of healthy fermented goodness. A creamy flavorful curry to dunk a crisp pancake, coconut goodness at it's best. To make it even better, the meal comes around in less than an hour even if you start from scratch. Well, if using rice powder and instant yeast and coconut milk powder or coconut milk from cartons. That is what I do as I find them good for my taste. Let the purists work hard for the daily grub.

for chicken stew you need
dressed chicken 500 gm (on bone)
carrot 2 nos. chopped in cubes
potato 1 no. chopped in cubes
tomatoes 2 nos. chopped lengthwise (optional)
onions 2 nos. chopped lengthwise
garlic 8-10 cloves slit lengthwise (optional)
ginger 1 inch piece julienned
curry patta 10 springs (or more)
coconut oil 2 tbsp (more if you are not watching weight)
coconut milk powder 1 cup or milk extracted from a whole big coconut
or tetra pack coconut milk 200 gm

whole spices
cumin seeds 1 tsp
black pepper corns 1 tbsp
cinnamon 2 sticks
star anise 1 no.
black cardamom 2 nos.
green cardamom 4 nos.
whole red chilies 6-7 nos.

powder spices
coriander powder 1 tsp
garam masala 1 tbsp
turmeric powder 1 tsp
red chilly powder 1 tsp ( optional)

to proceed ......

Heat oil in a wide pan and throw in all the whole masalas and let them splutter and release thier throw in the onions with curry patta and stir fry for a while on medium flame (if using more oil you can do it on high flame)...put in the chopped ginger garlic too and keep stir frying till they release their flavors n become soft.....adding salt at this stage will quicken the process...after 3-4 minutes add the vegetables and the chicken and keep stirring till everything is half cooked......add the powder masalas....fry for a while till the masala aroma dissolve 1 tbsp of coconut milk powder in 2 cups of water and pour into the pan, adjust salt.......cover and cook till chicken is cooked through...stirring in between twice............finish with the remaining coconut milk powder dissolved in 1/2 cup water.....remove from heat when it is about to boil again.......the aroma of the finished stew will make you incredibly healthy ...hope you have done the preparations for the appam in the meantime........

for appam you need
1/2 cup rice flour (the recipe called for 1 cup soaked rice made into paste)
2 tbsp cooked rice
3/4 of a fresh coconut (black skin removed)
fresh yeast 1 tbsp (or a packet of dry yeast granules)
1 tsp sugar to proof the yeast
salt to taste

to proceed....

I set the yeast for proofing before I started my stew preparation for this dissolve the yeast n sugar in 1/2 cup of warm water, it gets frothy in 10-15 be mixed into the other things.

Make a paste of coconut and the cooked rice in mixie and mix with rice flour and yeast mixture and some water to make a batter of dosa like consistency....keep in a warm place until it gets frothy. In my case it was ready as soon as the stew finished. Indian summers.

To prepare appams .... 

Mix salt to taste and heat the greased appam pan (mine is non stick) and pour a ladle full of batter in the middle, now immediately swirl the pan, holding the handles, so that the batter coats the sides of the pan, there should be just one swirl and there should be some batter remaining in the middle of the pan.

Cover the lid immediately, it takes about 2 minutes to cook, check by touching in the center, it is cooked if it is firm and spongy. Repeat the process to make more appams. You don't need to use oil after the first appam so the process is easier than it looks.

The first appam is not always the right shape, don;t worry if it happens and feed the first appam to your pet or birds in the garden.

If the appam is too soft to hold the shape after removing form the pan, just add a little semolina and try again. The appam should come out crisp on the edges and spongy in the middle.

I normally keep the middle spongy portion smaller as we both like the crisp lacy periphery of the appams.

The taste of this combination of curry and a pancake like appam is out of this worldly.

Arvind was elated to get this as a dinner, so was I.......

Such meals are special and you don't want anything else to dilute the chicken stew and appam pleasure. Just make the stew and the appam whenever you do this. Nothing else would be touched when this meal is there on the table. Believe me.

Monday, May 18, 2009

sukhe samose

these savory snacks are so addicting that i make them very rarely....made these for holi ......long time back and the photos were lying in the drafts i was contemplating making the regular aaloo samosas which eventually got postponed i thought to post this recipe at least .........for the sake of good old samosas.........

these can be stored in airtight containers for a fortnight but it doesn't last that will vanish before you realize.........making these ones needs some leisurely time as shaping the miniature samosas takes time,so be patient whenever making these...........preparation is easy and you can shape the samosas while watching TV to make it fun........

ingredients and procedure

for the filling you need about 2 cups of soaked chana daal and 1/2 cup of peanuts...
.....grind both of these into a blender with 10 red chillies, 2 tbsp coriander seeds, 2 tbsp cumin seeds, 1 tbsp black peppercorns, 12 cloves and 2 inch piece of ginger ........adding water as required to make a coarse paste...add salt to taste and microwave in a bowl for 2 minutes , stir well and again for 2 this time the paste becomes dough like .......let it rest till it comes to room temperature......this is how it looks like.......

the stuffing mixture should be a little drier than the covering if it remains softer after cooking, increase the microwaving time as this will evaporate some more water from it to make it dough my stuffing looks crumbly , but it binds well to be stuffed......actually it is better if the stuffing is dry n crumbly.........this way the samosas don't open up during frying , and remain crisp for long.

for the cover pastry you need 2-3 cups of all purpose flour( maida), to which 3/4 cup of ghee is rubbed in with salt to taste and a tbsp of ajwain seeds.........knead a firm dough using water as required and let rest for 5 minutes to proceed.........

now comes the time when you need to shape the samosas.................take marble sized portions from the dough, roll to make a round puri, cut into two semicircles, make each semi circle into a cone, stuff a little masala into it and seal well using wet fingers.........

repeat this till you make all the can choose to fill more or less stuffing in each of the samosas..................depending on how spicy you want it to be.......

now deep fry the samosas in oil of your low flame till light takes a lot of time and you can shape more samosas while frying one batch......saves time as you do multitasking .........

drain out the samosas when done , let them cool and keep in an airtight container...........keeps well for a fortnight .........

P.S. if the samosas become soft or soggy after sometime due to moist filling, microwave the samosas till they are very hot...adjust timing according to quantity........they will get dehydrated n crisp again.......enjoy.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

bharwa tamatar bonde or 'tamatar chop'

This recipe of tamatar bonda has a special story associated with it. When I was a research scholar at the department of botany at Banaras Hindu University, in the mid nineties there was a chaiwala at the 'botany crossing'. Usually he used to make samosas and chai , but whenever there was a rain he would always make this 'tamatar chop' as he would call it, and we friends (including now my husband Arvind) used to rush to the shop, as the bondas would disappear fast they were in such high demand. They used to be straight out of the kadhai very very hot and I remember the way we used to dig into the soft tomatoes, so hot to handle that often somebody would get a scalded tongue..

Eating those tamatar chops in the rain is still a nostalgia inducing memory and even now when it rains we both remember that and I have to get going. Food always brings sweet memories.

see how the tamatar bonda a chop gets going when you want it...

Microwave 2 large potatoes and till they are cooling to be peeled, scoop the flesh out of 4 large this......

Chop an onion, few green chillies, 2 springs of coriander leaves and a bit of a ginger root finely. Peel the potatoes, which must be cool enough to handle by now. Mash it and mix with the chopped ingredients. Mix in salt n pepper to taste.......some chaat masala too if the tomatoes are not sour.......

Now stuff this potato mix into the hollow tomatoes and keep aside.........

Heat oil in a deep pan to deep fry these bondas and till the oil gets hot, make a besan batter for dipping the bondas.

For the batter, take 3/4 cup of besan into a bowl and throw in salt n pepper to taste.......
a tbsp of ginger garlic paste, a tsp of haldi, now pour water slowly to make a thick coating batter......

Now dip each stuffed tomato into the batter and dip into the pan to deep fry, turning it to let it fry evenly.

Serve hot with a chutney of your choice. Normally I make a chutney with the scooped out tomato flesh with some coriander leaves but this time being quick  served it with a preserved (pickled) green garlic chutney which tasted awesome with it.

And this is the inside view, the cross section of the tamatar bonda...

For making the process easier, you can halve the tomatoes , scoop out the flesh and fill the potato mix to make a round shape, dip into the batter and fry in the same manner........see how it looks...

Eat it hot to make my phone pictres worth.....with or without chutney.........

Sunday, May 3, 2009

aam malai | a mango and cream dessrt

now this one dish is special to banaras as mangoes of banaras are quite famous and we eat mangoes in many ways..........n keep finding new ways to eat'em..........aam malai is something like a perfect comfert food for all of us siblings and arvind is kind of addicted to it.........he loves sweet dishes n this is one creamy n flavorful cooking involved, just 3 ingredients and it takes just 5 minutes to chop the mangoes to make it...........chill n serve........great for big get togethers as i have always found that this dish becomes a central talking point as soon as it is served...........i am more happy to serve it cuz it is quick n easy n brings me lots of praises ....everytime, without is a high calorie dessert ( arvind can have it for all meals ) and you can limit the portion size , though it is almost impossible to do that......

for making it ..just chop the ripe n aromatic mangoes ( alphonso, or langra in india are the best suited..any lavorful variety is good for this) into neat cubes.....i used alphonso this time.

add 3-4 tbsp of sugar to 2 cups of chopped mangoes n let it sit for 5 minutes till the juices of mango come out....lightly mash with the back of a spoon if you like it more gooyi or runny

now add a cup of heavy cream or fresh malai( fresh cream skimmed off from fullcream milk kept in the fridge).........mix well n chill ..if you want a thicker dish , whip the cream before folding lightly into the mango mixture.........i like it with malai and a bit runny cuz this is the way i have eaten it right from my childhood.

i make low fat versions of this dish too n will post those on my healthy food blog soon..........till then enjoy this........

Saturday, May 2, 2009

besan ka halwa

The husband grew up eating halwa for breakfast, snacks and even for his lunch box many times. His mother never had enough time but preferred to cook nourishing meals with minimal efforts for the two brothers and they grew up eating a limited variety but delicious food nonetheless.

besan ka halwa

Even now the husband demands either atte ka halwa or besan ka halwa sometimes when he comes back from office. Being quite easy to make I just cook halwa while the chai boils on the stove. Both of us are a contrast when it comes to taste. While I always have something savory  with my tea but the halwa is just right for him after the day's work. It gets repeated often and I even have started appreciating halwa more now..

This besan ka halwa I made in a new cast iron kadhai as the tradition is to make a sweet halwa when cooking in a kadhai for the first time.

besan ka halwa

As I said the recipe is easy and though I go by instinctive measurements, I am writing down the quantity by cup measures.

Heat 1/2 a cup of desi ghee into the kadhai and tip in 1 tbsp of rawa or suji into it and then quickly tip in 1/2 cup of besan. 

Now if the besan is coarse, no need to add suji, but fine besan needs some suji to make the texture more enjoyable, the suji besan ratio may be variable though.

Keep stirring the flours on low to medium flame till deep pink in color and aromatic with a well roasted smell. I normally don't use cardamom powder, but it can be used, 1/2 tsp if desired. I like the besan aroma to dominate so don't add any other flavor.

When the besan is nice and brown, add some chopped nuts of your choice and keep stirring till the nuts are roasted too, taking care not to burn them.

Add 1/3 cup of sugar (a little more if you like it more sugary) mix, and pour 1/4 cup of water.

Take care to pour the water in a thin stream and keep stirring the mixture with the other hand, till a crumbly soft ball is formed. Keep stirring for a few more minutes if you like thin pieces of crust into it. Yes if you keep bhunoeing it more and don't urn that often, small crusty bits of halwa get caramelized and some people really love them.

Cooking it more after adding water allows crust formation which is liked by some people as I mentioned, and that's it. Serve hot, no garnish needed.

the besan ka halwa can be made a little softer too by adding a little more water if you like. I like the softer version more so sometimes make besan ka halwa like this.
besan ka halwa

I suggest to keep the portions small as it is heavy on the digestion as well as calories, keeps well in the fridge for a week...just microwave and serve hot again.

Nuts can be added if required, but besan ka halwa is great as it is.