Friday, February 25, 2011

Idlis with Chicken Curry

The "Pure Vegetarian" tag for all South Indians is a misnomer - just like all South Indians are not Madrasis. (Yes, Mr Haldiram - please stop calling your product "Madrasi Mixture"?) Husband's maternal side for instance is quite the meat eating family (except for his mother who is a pure vegetarian and hence he - like me- was vegetarian growing up). In many families, meals are not complete with "atleast" an egg - thus leading to the queer combination of (for me) rice, sambar, rasam, porial and omelette!!
Sunday meals then, are usually the ones which have a variety of meat, chicken and fish dishes in . I didn't understand for a long time, why everyone from my in-laws side who used to call us up on a Sunday would enquire about the lunch menu - were they worried about my husband's diet?. I realised later, that it was a blanket question - a way of keeping in touch - if you know what's cooking, you can judge whether everything is fine....or something like that. Well, anyway, there never was meat at Sunday lunch for a very long time in our home (even now its probably just once or twice a month), so not sure what they thought about that.

Growing up, idlis in our vegetarian home, always went with sambar and chutney.  I was quite taken aback therefore when I moved to Chennai and learnt that chicken curry was an option too. I'm still quite happy with our largely vegetarian breakfasts but some Sundays, if I'm organised enough to have ground the batter for the idlis AND have chicken in my fridge at the same time, we have a nice, big breakfast of soft,steaming idlis with chicken curry.

The chicken curry however, can't be any generic curry - it has to be mild enough so that I'm not put off by too many spices in the morning. But it also has to be delicious and not just taste of the chicken in it. Enter a coconut based curry - more specifically, the restaurant style sidedish (try this for a vegetarian option which is equally delicious)I posted before. I had adapted it from Sailu's Kitchen in the first place and now its been modified some more. Its still delicious though and is the perfect accompaniment to idlis or even dosais.

Idli (feeds 4 for two days)

Parboiled Rice - 2 cup
Urad Dal (whole, skinned) - 1 cup
I usually make dosais on the second day from the same batter, so add a pinch of methi seeds to the rice while soaking 

Soak the rice and dal separately overnight or for 4-5 hours

Grind the rice, leaving it a little bit coarse. 
The urad dal needs to be ground till really smooth and fluffly. So grind slowly and adding water only as needed.
If grinding in a blender, grind in batches and give breaks so that it doesn't overheat.
Blend the rice batter and the urad dal batter together incorporating air into it while doing so. I usually use my hands to do this. Add salt to the batter to taste. 

Keep in a vessel double the volume of the batter, because it will double as it ferments. Leave overnight to ferment.

The next day, grease an idli stand and fill each mould 3/4ths of the way up with the idli batter (for idlis, I don't mix the batter and just skim from the top of the risen batter). 
Steam in a pressure cooker without the whistle or in an idli maker or any other big vessel which can accomodate the idli stand - 5 minutes on high and 5 minutes on a low flame. Rest for 5 minutes and then unmould.

Chicken Curry (with coconut and tomatoes)
2 onions, sliced
3 medium tomatoes, in 4 pieces
Chicken - 300 gm, boneless, cut into 1" pieces. I like to marinate the chicken for about an hour in turmeric powder(1/4tsp), salt and ginger garlic paste (1 tsp) - a tbsp of yoghurt is great too

Dry roast and grind:
poppy seeds (khus khus) - 1 tsp (soaked in warm water for 15 minutes)
2-3 cashewnuts (soaked in warm water for 15 minutes)
1/4 cup grated coconut

Grind to a paste :
1 " ginger piece
3 green chillies
4 garlic cloves

1 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder (dhania)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
1/4 tsp cumin powder (jeera)
pinch of garam masala powder

1tbsp oil
curry leaves
1 cinnamon stick
3 cloves
2 cardamom pods (elaichi)

1 Heat oil in a pan and add cloves, cinnamon,curry leaves and cardamom. When they change colour (about 2 minutes) add onions and fry till transparent.
2.Add the ginger, garlic and green chilli paste, fry for 2-3 minutes. Add red chilli powder, turmeric,coriander and cumin powders and mix well.
3. Add the marinated chicken and stir fry on high for 5 minutes.
4. Add the chopped tomatoes and fry for 3 minutes. Put in the coconut-cashew paste and fry for 5 minutes on a low flame, stirring from time to time.
5. Add salt, 2 cups of water and bring to boil; lower flame and simmer for 20-25 minutes till the chicken is cooked and the curry turns creamy. Remove from flame and serve with idlis.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Kadgi Sukke (Green Jackfruit Stir Fry)

Sukke is a Konkani preparation of vegetables - a stir fry with spices which have a coconut and tamarind base. One of my favourites of Konkani cuisine - something I got acquainted with at my best friend's house when I was in college. I practically lived there when I was doing my post graduation - it was like coming home when I went over there on the weekends. And definitely the food was such a relief from the terrible hostel food and then our own cooking when I was living in a flat with 4 other girls.

I simply love jackfruit - have you eaten it drizzled with honey? its like ambrosia. But I have never cooked unripe jackfruit before - so when I saw it all nicely cut and cleaned in packets at my local vegetable vendor, I decided to give it a go. The original idea was to try the kathal biryani I had seen in Pratibha Karan's Biryani book, but then I remembered this dish and suddenly started hankering for that combination of sweet, sour and spicy with the meat-like consistency of jackfruit. This is Sandhya Aunty's recipe for sukke - I love her cooking :)

This was Saturday lunch for us - dal, roti/rice, kadgi sukke, milagu rasam and papad. The milagu rasam (a thin soup which is liberally spiced with black pepper-recipe in another post) was perfect for the weather and for hubby who was coming down with a cold. Happiness on a plate.

Kadgi Sukke (Green Jackfruit Stir Fry)

Tender, green jackfruit, chopped in 1" piecessalt, turmeric powder
jaggery - 2 tbsp

5 red chillies
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
2 tsp tamarind paste
3/.4 cup coconut grated

Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Currry leaves - handful
Coconut oil - 2 tsp

1. Clean and cut the jackfruit pieces in to 1' pieces and keep aside. Cook the pieces till done, in just enough water and turmeric powder - about 8 minutes.
2. Roast the red chillies, coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds in half a tsp of oil, then grind to a paste along with the tamarind and the fresh coconut.
3. Heat the coconut oil in a pan, add the mustard seeds to it-when it pops, add the curry leaves.
4. Add the masala paste and the cooked jackfruit and simmer together till well blended and almost dry. Add the jaggery and mix well.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Spaghetti with Shrimp, Arugula and Sun Dried tomatoes


Recently a dear friend sent me some fresh, home grown arugula (rocket leaves)-she grows it in her garden. Arugula is something I have come to know only in the past 5 years, its not something we saw or ate growing up. It's available in most metros now, though expensive and sometimes not very fresh. I have ordered on occasion from Altitude which supplies organic produce and natural products and its been very fresh. Older leaves tend to have a sharp, almost mustardy flavour while the tender ones are nutty. I had some fresh shrimp at home so I initially planned to grill the prawns and serve it with the arugula - almost like a grilled summer salad.

But then as I got down to make it and was wondering what else to serve with it for dinner, I decided to make it with spaghetti. And then from there the dish just took its own course - sun dried tomatoes seemed a nice combination with the shrimp and spaghetti. I finally decided to braise the dish with vodka and finish it off with some cream. It all came together quite beautifully, though I didn't have a clue at the beginning on where I was heading.

The fresh shrimp was melt-in-the-mouth soft and went very will the combination of arugula and sun dried tomatoes. The only thing to be careful is not to overcook the shrimp, else it will become tough. There is not much added seasoning - the shrimp, sun dried tomatoes and arugula - all lend their distinctive flavour to this dish.

 Spaghetti with Shrimp, Arugula and Sun Dried tomatoes

Spaghetti - 250gms (dried)
Shrimp / Prawns - 300gm - cleaned and washed thoroughly; if using frozen, then thaw well.Marinate in lemon juice and pinch of salt for 15 minutes.
Arugula (Rocket Leaves) - a big handful, washed and torn
Sundried tomatoes - 8-10 soaked in 1/2 cup warm water (or as is if they are in oil)

1 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic - chopped finely
2 tomatoes pureed
100ml vodka (you could use white wine instead of vodka, or omit it altogether and add some lime juice at the end instead)
2-3 tbsp cream (I used the cream skimmed everday from the milk we get)
salt to taste
freshly crushed pepper - 1 tsp

Tabasco sauce - 1 tsp

1. Heat a pan full of water with a tsp of olive oil and a tsp of salt and bring it boil. It should be big enough for the spaghetti to cook in. Cook the spaghetti till just done (al dente) and then drain and rinse in cold water. Toss with a little olive oil and keep aside. (If you are cooking ahead, then this can be done later, in time to serve)

2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a big pan and saute the chopped garlic in it for a couple of minutes. Fry the shrimp for 3-4 minutes, remove and keep warm. In the same pan, add the pureed tomatoes, soaked sun dried tomatoes with its water, vodka and salt and bring to boil, simmer for 5 minutes till there is not much liquid. Stop here if you are cooking ahead.

3. Add the prawns back; tip the cooked pasta, freshly crushed pepper and arugula and toss together on a medium flame till well combined (2-3 minutes). Add the cream and tabasco sauce, season and turn off the flame after a minute. Serve warm.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Chocolate and Macadamia Nut Fudge - the perfect Valentine's Day treat

My own stash of indulgence - chocolate fudge seems so much more decadent than just chocolate. The creamy combination of butter, chocolate and nuts is exquisite! The original recipe from Nigella Express has pistachios in it; I used macadamia nuts since I had them left over from my trip to Australia - but feel free to use the nuts you like. Plus I added dried currants. Not much can go wrong when you combine chocolate, fruit and nuts.

I reduced the condensed milk in the recipe and used dark chocolate instead of semi sweet - still perfectly soft, fudgy and delicious. AND super quick.So, go ahead - make this your Valentine's Day gift....for yourself! :)

Chocolate and Macadamia Nut Fudge 
(Adapted from Chocolate Pistachio Fudge from Nigella Express)

300gm dark chocolate,broken up or chopped (I use Morde dark Chocolate which is great for cooking and now available in most large grocery stores)
1/2 can condensed milk (sweetened)
pinch of salt
1/2 cup macadamia nuts - lightly toasted and broken into pieces
1/3 cup black currants or big, dark raisins
1 tbsp butter

1. Put the chopped chocolate, condensed milk, butter and salt in a vessel which can fit into another pan half filled with water. Put the pan of water on low heat and stir till the chocolate melts and mixes with the condensed milk and butter. Alternatively, you can put the ingredients in a microwaveable bowl and zap it at 40 second intervals till the chocolate melts.

2. Add the broken nuts and raisins/currants into the chocolate mixture and mix well.

3. Take a 8" square pan and line it with aluminum foil. Pour the mixture into it and even out the top with the blunt end of a knife or the back of a spoon.

4. Cool and then refrigerate until the fudge is set. Cut into squares as you would for barfi (an Indian milk sweet).

5. Its cool here now, so I left it outside in a jar, but when its warm, its probably best to store this in the fridge (Nigella recommends keeping it in the freezer and having it without thawing).

This goes to the Forever Nigella Event - #2 - Seduced by Chocolate being hosted by Sarah of Maison CupCake